The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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August Challenge Spin with Spindlers

The August challenge theme in Spindlers group on Ravelry is “fantasy,” and I took the plunge!

Alpaca/merino/silk handdyed combed top with irieknit's Spanish Peacock top whorl drop spindle flame box elder

Not going with Outlander, read ahead!

This 5 oz braid of combed top from Corgi Hill Farm is in my favourite blend, alpaca/merino/silk.  The spindle choice is my 22 g Spanish Peacock spindle, Flame Box Elder.

The group challenge is to spin at least 1 or more oz (or ½ oz lace) during the month on spindles (of course!), posting a skein in the thread by EST end of August.

Inspiration hits!

Alan Lee illustration of Lord of the Eagles from Hobbit inspiration picture by irieknit

The Lord of the Eagles, Tolkien

The fibre brought to mind a single thought – Gandalf’s Eagle!  I went for our illustrated (Alan Lee) copy of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, found page 108, and headed for the passage that took my breath away so many years ago.

Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted…

Letting the curious Lord of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains take me out of my tree perch sounds like a good way to crack through that oh-so-pragmatic decision to miss the Tour de Fleece this year.

So far, I am the only fantasy Eagle Lord entrant but the past 2 days have brought some wonderful interpretations into this month’s theme.  Join us or just lurk for the fun, will you?

Asiatic Lily July blooming irieknit garden

Rocking late blooming Lily!

This past camp week for T was also a treat for my fibre projects.  Wrinkles aside (I answered their survey this morning…), I used the daytime hours to have the coveted dye day, spin for the fun of it, share online, and best of all open the floor loom!

Yesterday brought a new tool into the kit – first pair of eye-glasses.  Slight correction later, and I am far more comfortable on-screen.  The 5/2 cotton threads on the loom are much easier to work with now, phew!

Another week of camp will start after our civic holiday weekend.  I am looking forward to sharing the pictures/project stories with you!


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Spindle spinning along – in progress jar

This week, I answered a question about spindles – what if any pause is there between spinning singles (first elements) & plying.  It’s a great question!

Glass jar with handspun singles yarn by irieknit for spindle projects

Mostly function; part decor

The original Q&A is in the Ravelry group, Spindlers in the decade-old Stupid Questions thread (post no. 8,515 starts) if you want to check it out.

You can imagine my jar in its usual home of our fireplace mantle.  There are 5 singles balls of Targhee, the bright blue in this jar that are an example of a 2018 work-flow with a single spindle.

Blue Mahoe blue Targhee project arc

My last TKK post had this project’s 6th cop shown on a park bench.  Let’s go back to the beginning, a very happy mail day in January.

Bosworth skinny Midi in Blue Mahoe delivery

Two happy deliveries

A wonderful ending to a long & at times frustrating search was being quietly offered this good-as-new Bosworth skinny Midi 22 g spindle in Blue Mahoe.  Thank you, kind Raveler!

When I decided to add a second wood-whorl Bosworth it had to be one of their Blue Mahoes.  This tree, Hibiscus elatus is indigenous to Jamaica, is our national tree, and we planted one at our childhood home.

Spinning Targhee wool on Bosworth skinny Midi top-whorl spindle by irieknit

Impulsive thy name is new-to-me spindle

One short skip later, I was spinning from the 8 oz of Targhee dyed in “The Water” by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits for the Hobbit Club.  The notes have my timeline, starting January 9, 2018 wind-off dates & weights are:

  1. February 9 – 24 g;
  2. February 19 – 26 g (prize for most spinning!);
  3. March 28 – 26 g (aquas showing);
  4. April 30 – 25 g
  5. June 13 – 27 g

No top is being weighed and parceled out.  I am just spinning by feel – when my hands feel a difference in the spin, I wind-off.  The how is by balancing the spindle in a shoe-box, pushing it away, and winding myself a ball.

Handspinning Targhee wool on Bosworth skinny Midi in Blue Mahoe by irieknit

Spinning the 5th cop this May; bag by Knit Spin Quilt

Using a single spindle for a longer-term project takes an important bundle of skills.  It means managing those singles tangle-free over time.  Developing different paths from a full spindle to re-filling the spindle to completion is a personal journey.  It boils down to achieving consistency.

Here, I kept my options fairly open with separate singles balls.  After lunging to start, I pretty much had to.  Besides, winter is not my best planning time.

The current idea is to move towards a 3-ply yarn when I am finished with singles.  The yarn is under tension, all in one spot, dust/pest-free, and encourages me to keep going.   The outside of each ball is the first-spun of that batch.  You can even change that if you please.

Late summer blooms by irieknit

Also in progress

One point in my answer this week was that it’s worth noting our whole process.  All of the singles in my jar have been “resting” – some all year.  When I get to the last of this fibre it will get some “rest” too, typically overnight.  When I get to the plying steps – there will be more than 1 skein for sure – is anybody’s guess.  I can pace that too as the boss of my own yarn!

 


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Months of making… quietly

It is fabulous to sit down placing words in TKK’s editor this morning.  Over the long stretch we did live with those new challenges I mentioned (words “cancer patient & break-up”) but were knocked back by a sudden loss mid-November also in our immediate family.  That side had just buried another older family member the month before.

Kingston 8 sunset Jamaica

 

This is one of the new views we enjoyed from a balcony overlooking St. Andrew & Kingston but after the most difficult day.  The grief meshing with a long-delayed trip was tough, and we all have needed the comfort of time to reconcile these very different feelings.

North Coast shore, Jamaica

At the North Coast, briefly

One night on the North Coast was with rough seas.  The reason for leaving Kingston at this point was also a painful but necessary chore that was handled well in the end.

It absolutely did not help that N was sick or that almost everyone was overwhelmed.  In addition to explaining this TKK break the pictures are helping me to re-think my assumption that at least 1 image can go in on T’s big school project.  Pausing to reflect is a good thing in such a busy week.

Handspinning cotton on African bead whorl support spindle by irieknit

African bead whorl spindle in the island

The clay bead whorl spindle from West Africa came with me in the carry-on bag.  Cotton is basically what I love to spin in Jamaica but this combination was the best plan yet.  As of today, I have a 12 g plying ball from this project + a fairly full new cop.  The dish stayed behind but is by a Jamaican artist, and was surprisingly awesome as a support bowl.  I have asked for one!

When I started learning to spin cotton, I had no clue that it is SO very good for the exhausting, emotional seasons of life.  That should be said loudly enough for those of us in the back to catch-on.  It’s SO GOOD, everyone.

Looking forward

Irieknit's Kissing Cousins handknit socks in Tiberius yarn by Turtlepurl

Irieknit pulls her socks up

We have now finalised the formal family steps, thrown our first birthday party (T is 6! It went well!), and are planning a new event with family visiting us for June aka the best month.

Of course, the grief is still with us but its edge has lifted a little.  The prognosis for our cancer patient is thankfully encouraging.  The other difficulty of the break-up is still unfolding but as well as can be expected.  I am making my way through the to-do list logically, and that’s also a good thing.

Weaving with irieknit handspun Gulf Coast Native wool yarn on Louet Erica table loom

New year; new small loom!

This January brought the wonderful gift of a new Erica table loom kit from Louet NA.  Shafts 3 & 4 are on order.  The threads for this plain weave are handspun Gulf Coast Native dyed in the wool by Sheepspot.  The combing portion appeared on TKK here and gave a lovely 164 yards of 3-ply.  The warp is 9″ wide in the reed, 2.5 yards long.

Let’s skip my back beam mistake because it worked out, and Warped Weavers’ members were ready with good explanations for me.  The weft was the carded waste (yes, I have a Pat Green blender/carder!) spun on spindles for the Tour de Fleece last July.

Carded wool/silk blend handspinning on top whorl Tabachek in Holly and Wildcraft bracken spindles by irieknit

Tabachek Holly, and Wildcraft spindles in July 2017

The combed waste is blended with white Polwarth X Port locks & Tussah Silk for 151 yards of 2-ply.  It was a great whimsical spin, and I wanted them both together in a project.

Weaving with T on the Erica was the most special part of the weekend project.  This was in January, and tiring but totally joyous.

The Devil has been in the last steps for projects, weaving & otherwise.  This cloth & 2 scarves that I wove a week ago on the Mighty Wolf are in queue for pressing.  I wet-finished all 3, and have other projects working on.

Some WIPs finish quickly, especially the utility knits like mittens, spinning.  The pulling-up of new socks is to tighten that drift, and to write more often.

Handspinning Romeldale/CVM wool by irieknit on a Wee Peggy spinning wheel

Night is the spinning time – Romeldale/CVM from Spirit Trail Fiber Works

Shorter bursts are an option I don’t quite stick… This was after all going to be a short post & look at the time!  We have renewed TKK’s no-ads purchase, and I am considering the angles.

It is true that the fibre work has trimmed itself down but the same categories are full of promise.  Dye gift from N & don’t forget the fleece to be cleaned!

Botanical Colors natural dye kits for home dyeing

Right up there with washing my October fleece!

The larger projects are still WIPs and not sleeping even though I fell behind on sharing as a log of that work.

For today we have a post, and the socks on my feet/in the post are the Kissing Cousins pattern by one of my favourite designers, Sarah Jordan.  They are ingeniously conjoined!


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Spindle spinning with others

At the tail end of the last post, I very quickly mentioned the spindle project that I called ‘Pyrenees Delight Cheviot.’  The spin dates back to the night of the 12th stage of the Tour de Fleece when I needed a completely portable spin for summer days with T.

Cheviot wool top dyed by Sheepy Time Knits for irieknit's 2017 Tour de Fleece

Inspiration in green fibre form – STK Cheviot wool

The Tour falls nicely behind my birthday, and Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits had a well-timed spinning fibre promotion for the event.  Don’t you love when fibre barely even grazes your stash?!

Handspinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight drop spindle by irieknit

Jenkins Delight spindle to the rescue!

This Cheviot has been the single best pairing for my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle.  Before now, I had used this spindle for a BFL/silk that is now socks, Wensleydale & took a wrong turn to Merino finger roving.  It’s been reliable but only now have I really found the groove with this Cheviot wool.

Cheviot is an old breed developed in the south Cheviot Hills of the UK.  Mandie’s dye colour is so clear and saturated on this wool.

The feel of this ‘three-dimensional’ crimp is amazing as I use the Delight.  In the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook the crimp is described as “unique” within this breed family (p. 55).   My hands agree, and I would love to spin Cheviot locks after this experience.

In Ravelry’s 2017 Tour de Fleece Feature!

Spinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight by irieknit

Community eye candy!

Each year, Ravelry.com supports the spinning community’s celebration that is the Tour de Fleece.  We know this, and in 7 years of spinning, I have always looked forward to the home page’s blog post.  It was FluffyK who let me know via tweet that my spinning was featured in the round-up.  Hers was too!

This is the beautiful post, Eye Candy: Tour de Fleece, written by onestitchshort that includes my project.

Plying balls, Cheviot fibre and Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle by irieknit

State of the Pyrenees Delight Cheviot spin

When I updated the project this week, I was stunned to see that it has 26 people who call it a favourite, and was viewed 1,458 times & counting.  That is a major leap from the peak of 5 favourites, 68 views on another Team Spindlers project, the CVM sweater spin.

The post lifted my spirits – I was trying to cope from here with difficult health news for my Mom who lives in Jamaica, and the non-stop adulting.  That uplift was important but I am also very happy that two spindles were shown as beautiful tools riding in the Tour.

Last word – project specs

The spindle weighs 28 g, and is in Carob wood.  Two-strand-ply balls shown in the calabash bowl are 37 g, 43 g, 37 g, respectively.  All singles are spun on the spindle, wound-off, and re-wound to a two-strand-ball that I will ply from when the fibre is all spun-up.

Start:  July 13, 2017 to morning of October 4th, today.

Last last word

Although I had to duck out at the very end of the Tour, I rode most of this year’s Tour de Fleece as a co-captain in Team Spindlers.  It was like riding a wave that floated all boats.  Spindlers is a mixed group of all skill levels, and the discussions are advertising-free.

I also joined a relaxed & fun Team Bosworth.  It was an all-spindles year for me!

Morning glory in bloom

Dappled morning glories

It has led me to hope that we can keep both big & small tent spindle-friendly spaces flourishing.  These spaces are:

  • how I & others learn about spinning in the first place;
  • a look at how modern folks with busy, stressed lives keep spindles in motion;
  • where I made friendships outside of my silo; and
  • a very good coping mechanism for staring, snide comments and worst of all deadpan reactions to spinning in daily life.  After all, your beloved spindles don’t make much yarn unless you are spinning with the spindles in daily life.

If any reader has thoughts to share about how we can either sustain the existing spaces or bring our tools to new spaces, I would love to hear from you.  It is something I have been speaking about with friends whose work I have seen but aren’t local and now prefer to step back a little from the fray.

Writing is more my speed than video/ audio but all thoughts are welcome.


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Reviving Ramie on the small saxony wheel

In the final days before welcoming T home last summer, I opened my 151 g of Ramie top, and started spinning on my painted East European saxony wheel.

Spinning Ramie on antique Eastern European flax wheel

For Twitter and my only record of the start (please excuse the mess!)

This is my first project with Ramie & was love at first spin.

Priorities soon made themselves known.  The night that I had given a Lecture on not touching Mom’s tools, I took this wheel and its Ramie up to my studio.  The fibre stayed downstairs but it was a pretty vain hope.  With everyone under strain family bonding was clearly more important.  What I didn’t know then was how long that takes when your child is aged 4, and circumstances are what they are.  Sitting at wheels took a back burner as we navigated our long, early parenting days.  Others came out but this easiest-to-knock-down wheel was up until just last month.

irieknit spinning Ramie fibre on antique painted East European saxony wheel

Dust-gathering no more!  Ramie stash spinning again.

Small note It is a crazy peg array.  Safety first, and I am not telling anyone to follow this particular flight of fancy.

While she was up & out of dear T’s reach, I saw quite a few questions in Facebook spinning groups about similar wheels.  The questions boil down to:

  • Should I buy this?  A: maybe – do you know what you are looking at; do you like to spin fine?
  • Did I make a mistake in buying this?  A:  it depends; I love mine.
  • something something ‘gypsy wheel’… A: no, seriously, all of Eastern Europe

Invariably, 1 or more voices on the thread cry down that these small wheels make you “treadle like a hamster even if it operates.”  Well, mine operates and that is not my experience.  At all.

The wheel has such a gentle action in terms of the draw-in of the yarn, and the old leather hinges on the treadle bar.  It is also an almost wheel-less feeling as I work since she stands below my torso.  With the band fitted and at the right angle with the mother-of-all, this is smooth and easy spinning now that my (yes, crazy; do not do) pegs are worn in a bit.

irieknit's antique East European saxony spinning wheel drive wheel detail

Small drive wheel = light drive wheel

Sometimes, I do need to fiddle with the mother-of-all screw tension.  Most times it is fine with my Hempathy yarn band going strong.  When running these wheels have a sweet spot of momentum.

We are at around the half-way mark to what experts call the family equilibrium.  Supports have come and gone; other supports are tremendous.  Not only is this & my Martha wheel now carrying spins-in-progress but I got myself an afternoon away this weekend as a real break.

irieknit's Kissing Cousins sock in progress and spinning Cheviot on Turkish Delight drop spindle

Mobile comforts – mindless sock and Cheviot spin

This top-down to toe-up piece is a March pattern release by Sarah Jordan called Kissing Cousins Socks.  It is in a Turtle Purl yarn, Tiberius.  The Cheviot wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits is my ‘Pyrenees Delight’ Tour de Fleece project.  It was such a thrill to have my spinning picture featured by Ravelry and this has stayed in my spinning rotation ever since.

Progress and respite.  I wish the same for you!


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Getting more patient: up-noting my weaving, and cotton

The Elin towels from my last post were fully finished by the start of June.  This was the last daylight they have seen!

Handwoven cottolin kitchen towels Elin kit from the loom of irieknit

Four handwoven Elin towels – cottolin; 8-shaft broken twill

The gaps in attending to weaving, writing, and the old craft approaches have been wearing on me.  This cliché assumption all spinners hear now has hit a new chord:

You must be very patient!

My stock response of no and pivoting to the true family trait of stubbornness no longer sounds even technically correct.  There is a new need to cultivate patience.  Life is catching me behind my natural pace for new skills and challenge projects.

Sewing hem for cottolin Elin kitchen towels from the loom of irieknit

Hemmed 2 months after weaving

In between cutting this warp from the loom, and finishing steps, I learned that a good acquaintance who lives near to us was seriously ill.  We were high school friends, and she had moved to Canada before we did.  Even with overlaps in circles at home, I only realized at the end of April that she had been in hospital for most of winter.  This arc of being able to rise to the occasion has been fulfilling in many ways.  It has also shown the upper-limit of my time and energy is not that far from resting state.

With the new awareness of how slim my margins truly are (as opposed to wishful thinking), I will focus on sustaining my home practice.  This meant answering with a no thank you for a teaching opportunity.  It’s a new and frankly unexpected patience.

Andean low-whorl drop spindle with Corriedale wool

Teaching T to spin with an Andean Pushka!

It has meant that I could participate in the Tour de Fleece even as it crossed both of our mothers visiting this summer.  The guest bed does close my loom… Patience is a virtue, right?  That too passed, and the Mighty Wolf breathes again.  This dug into my brain a little – spring sampling and all – and is a set of 2 rosepath combination twill baby blankets from a 5 yard warp.

Weaving cotton rosepath 2-colour blankets by irieknit

Colour and weave (and treadling mistake) rosepath plus in 8/4 cotton

This is the first with the entered colours reversed as weft.  It is a 14-thread repeat, and was a joy to weave.  I used a new Leclerc temple, and have Beam me Up Scotties finally on the cloth beam.  Black lacing is banished forever!

As patience has its limits, I also bought an electric bobbin winder that I used in weaving the 2nd blanket on this warp.

Time for this post is slipping away, and I best get to the cotton spins.  They are the very soul of a patience I never had.  Good thing that I am both stubborn and thrilled to have something meditative for these nights after navigating the unseen special needs of our home life.

Handspinning cotton three ways Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

The state of these 3 cotton spins has moved since this June 21st picture albeit slowly.  The Rosewood spindle of the Atoni people, East Timor has not changed much & should be wound-off.  The takhli has a 2-year spin of Egyptian cotton top that sits as singles today:

Handspun singles balls by irieknit Egyptian cotton

Hard won 50g of Egyptian cotton top in singles balls

The loose goal is to perhaps use these as weft singles.

Handspun cottons Pima seed, brown cotton seed on Atoni Rosewood spindle from East Timor and African bead whorl spun by irieknit

Pima seeds and singles ball, brown cotton on Atoni spindle, Egyptian cotton puni on African bead whorl

The goals are even more loose with these.  It starts as ideas to spin with new tools, and I let it lead me.  These are closer to my new pace but also to hearing our friend’s advice to parent for the long haul.  None is overblown – we are going to do well if we can.  This summer it meant 1 short day-camp, 2 house guests, no break from the home, and hitting our prime family outings.  Much like blog posting was left undone.  I am trying to embrace both WIPs and the progress that lives in them.

As tiring as this phase has been on different levels it is helping so much.  We can see new things are possible, and add them as we can.  It’s not just short, silly projects as I feared.  It’s also not going at my own way and pace.

Hibiscus flowering by irieknit

End of summer blooms!

 

 

Plying ball and spin-in-progress of Sheepy Time Knits merino/silk blend for Spindlers monthly challenge by irieknit


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Luck of the draw for my spindles

A new spinning project was inspired by this month’s challenge theme in the Spindlers group on Ravelry:  favourite places.

Favourite places spinning project with merino silk dyed top, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

So much good in this

This special 50% merino/ 50% silk braid is hand-dyed by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits, and was a door prize that I amazingly won at the 2013 String Thing event.  With some more discipline to keep equally special spindles clear, I was able to leap to a plan of action!

The Plan

It was actually a half-plan.  Off, I ran with the fibre & my 28 g Moosie to a spinning morning visit with my good friend, Margaret.  We last saw each other sometime last year with one thing & another.

Even with every confidence in what my eyes can see of this braid plus Mandie’s known skills as a dyer, I was floored.  It’s that open &  fabulous to spin almost 4 years later.

Simply put, this is the best of its kind that I have been fortunate enough to spin.  The spindle was hard to put down at Margaret’s – sorry if you were behind on your day!

For such a gentle gradient, I am tearing fairly fat strips of fibre consistently across the top.  When that length of top was spun, I arrived at the second half of planning.  Out came this 26 g Tabachek with a Lacewood whorl.  The rhythm is to alternate spindles at the end of each width of top.

Spinning project with handdyed merino silk fibre, plying ball, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

Current situation: favourite place deeply imagined

The inspiration place is again, Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  Specifically, where the river meets the white sand beach.

Marcel Holyoak Frenchman's Cove, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Credit: Marcel Holyoak under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

This image shows the rope swing.  It was the best fun to swing off into the confluence of river and Caribbean Sea as children.

The plying ball is of the two singles wound together by hand.  It is 27 g.  So far, the plan is a good one.  I go by feel for the lengths that I spin in each round.  There was only a small amount left on one spindle after winding this plying ball.  It is kept with the project, and off I went with clear spindles again.

With pauses for knitting, I am happily spinning along.  Other Spindlers members have shared beautiful places with just lovely projects.  It all adds up to a very lucky thing to be doing this month.

Play doh design at irieknit's

New family creating

Happy Family Day weekend, Ontario readers.  Unless T returns from school with the missing Peace Fleece mitten, I may be back to the remnants with a purpose!

We have coughs due to colds, and our own outings may take a hit – be well!