The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Shopping the stash – fall handspun knits

We’re fresh-off our Canadian Thanksgiving, which started a little early with my impulse to bake a cranberry/ blueberry crisp and finished with our first turkey dinner at home.

Yellow tulips on handwoven cotton silk table runner by irieknit

T-kiddo made a good choice on the supermarket cut tulips… they are still fresh & brightening the table runner that I wove in spring 2014, sari silk on 5/2 mercerized cotton warp.

Weaving sari silk cotton table runner by irieknit

The weft is Himalaya Tibet recycled silk, a long-ago gift that could keep giving – the 14″ x 42″ runner used only approx 80 yards.

As weavers can tell from the I Wove This pic a lot of learning was going on at the time.  Up to & including confusion when tying up my treadles for plain weave that worked in my favour.

Our front hall has its 2 handwoven table runners now, and this is the cheery one of the pair.

Cranberry crisp in baking tin by irieknit

Not a long-lasting crisp

Thanksgiving being just this past Monday is hard to believe.  We ran right into an energy audit + furnace replacement job, and handspun yarn has been heavily on my mind!

Handspun happenings

We are at a 4th handspun knit casted-on since mid-September.  That is more than usual & 3 are ready for sharing on TKK.  The quartet has 2 things in common – smaller-scale projects; and all existing stash.  They are a slice of how leaps in spinning can & do become finished objects.

At the centre is this truth – my handspun was not always flowing into queued projects.  This is an almost constant concern in spinning spaces:  how do you use your handspun yarns?  In these 3 projects today the work is a lattice & not linear.

What is not shown here is that I also will design from scratch for my yarns & work from sampling in a straighter course both for knits and handwoven items.  This slice is to show that creativity isn’t always caught in a web of control.  Patience, skill and circling back all can be fruitful.  In order of last to first the 3 new knits are:

Overall lace shawl

This Lacymmetry by Naomi Parkhurst is 1-day into its progress.  It is making me very happy.

Unblocked knitted lace shawl in progress Lacymmetry by irieknit in handspun handdyed BFL/Silk

This BFL/silk yarn is another 2014 story.  In mid-July that year, I used my 127 g of fibre to spin with the newly acquired William MacDonald antique spinning wheel.

Sugar maple tree fall colours in Ontario

Sugar maple cues the shawl this morning

It is 646 yards that I used in a first madder dye experiment later that year.  The burnt orange colour was an improvement but what to use it for?

Until Naomi’s release this week I was fairly stumped.  The suggested yarn is one I know well, Valley Yarns 2/14 alpaca/silk.  My BFL/silk is a pretty good fit, and with that plugged I had to start right away!

Takeaway – you will see curated pattern lists for spinners but keeping eyes forward on new releases lets you find your own gems.  This designer also spins, and that right fit for handspun is an excitement she knows well.

Hold the front page – spindle-spun socks!

Before the shawl answer fell into my lap, I started a new pair of socks this month.  It is with my most viewed spinning project the Pyrenees Delight Cheviot yarn.  The 1,529 views; 26 favorites came after being featured in Ravelry after the 2017 Tour de Fleece.

The 650 yards of 2-ply is not that old at a January 2018 finish.  It was a puzzle though… would I split to get the socks I had dreamed about while spinning or should I use all in a weaving project?  Here’s my current answer & sock knitting guide.

Starting to knit handspun Strie sock in Pyrenees Delight Cheviot by irieknit

When I dive into the handspun stash it is a mess of pulling yarns & looking back at the records.  This month I was weighing sock, colourwork mittens or sweater.  Measurements help but as a starting point.  This is part of the note I made when looking at possible mittens:

Thicker than idea in Drachunas (The Art of Lithuanian Knitting, 2015 with June Hall)

Will they look good?

When swatching the Cheviot, I knitted lots and measured twice.  The 2.25 mm needle gave a good fabric, 9 stitches per 1″ in stockinette around.  The guide is Lara Neel’s excellent “Sock Architecture, 2014.  I chose her Strie for its garter rib pattern with my lighter 2-ply.

Strie sock in progress by irieknit in handspun 2-ply Cheviot yarn

It is going well up to the heel now.  This z-plied yarn is untwisting a bit as I work & I may cross the foot stitches for firmness.

Takeaway – As one who has more socks than she needs, I will just quote Jan Viren (Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools, ed Deborah Robson, 2000, p. 77):

If you want boring, predictable socks, there are plenty available through standard outlets. These [California Variegated Mutant] have character…

The Handspun Treasures book has a highly entertaining & inspiring juried group of handspun projects.  I snagged my copy on a trip to the Strand bookstore in NYC.

Headwarming in fall

This Calorimetry headband in Targhee was a 2-day knit of joy.

Handspun Targhee Calorimetry headband by irieknit

In this second selfie view you can see the hint of its Corgi Hill Farm gradient, Inverness, properly.

Handspun Targhee Calorimetry headband by irieknit top

Using a single clay button, I have a 21″ long Calorimetry.  It is my 2nd version in handspun.  Working 1×1 ribbing helped cinching in areas with thinner yarn.

Spinning handdyed Targhee on Rappard Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

2015 Wee Peggy spin-along

This was from a 2015 fall spinalong in the Wee Peggy spinners group on Ravelry that went fairly quickly.  The blues went to N as a pair of plain mittens this winter.

Handspun Targhee men's mittens by irieknit

Made, used but not blogged – N’s mittens

The pattern guide was Knit Mitts by Kate Atherley, 2017 & used approx 170 yards of the blue.

Handspun Targhee wool yarn by irieknit from Inverness colourway dyed by Corgi Hill Farm

This is what I kept around since February waiting for inspiration.  It wanted to be a headband!  The orange is still on the couch waiting for the hat-trick.

Takeaway – gradients are not set in stone.  The 390 yards has made 2 people happy so far, and I am not sore about giving half to N for mittens.

Plying merino/silk lace yarn on an Andean low-whorl pushka spindle by irieknit

Last plying of a long merino/silk spin

As I am this close to finishing my 4 ounces of merino/silk with this medium Andean pushka, I have thought of a lace shawl.  Which lace shawl will depend on my bandwidth & how much yarn we have here.

There surely are spinners who in Beverley Horne’s words never ever sit with fibre to spin (Fleece in Your Hands – spinning with a purpose: notes and projects, 1979 U.S revised edition, p v):

… without having planned beforehand what you are going to do with the yarn.

Knowing how to do forward planning is important, I agree.  If like me ‘what ifs’, new tools, techniques beckon & good yarn results then you can still move forward.  Sometimes frustration kicks in, of course.  More often you go in a latticework of time spent on the project instead of the good old bossy line.

A side benefit has been letting new skills like weaving catch-up to those good yarns that I still love to spin.

Just think of it as a long run up to the crease (cricket term & to mix metaphors oops)!

 

 


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Female Heroes, a club

The creative forces at Sheepy Time Knits have been keeping my spinning & knitting life very happy in one way or another since I first put together that Mandie is a dyer when we met at Stringtopia these many years ago.  You may have noticed that they come up a lot on TKK, and never in a bad way.

When sign-ups for their 2018 brand-new Female Heroes Club opened the happy experiences made it fairly easy to think through.  This time I swallowed the fear of over-stashing fibre and joined on that side of the club.

Turns out I made a swell decision there.  Not a single braid has come near the stash bin, and I have found inspiration for more than 4 ounces a couple of times already.  How it shakes out in features of a good fibre club in my humble opinion:

  • Highly reliable;
  • Colourways, oh the colourways!
  • Rocking the breed selection;
  • Generous braids; never underweight;
  • Reorders sing from the same songbook.

This can’t be easy to execute for an indie dye business but execute it they do.  This club round-up is my simple appreciation.

But wait, are there backroom happenings?  No.  I am sharing something that has been consistently good, period.

Minerva on Masham

One ply ball is 35 g, and I last wound-off the Jenkins Lark spindle on in mid-May, 2018.

Jenkins Lark turkish-style spindle and Masham wool Minerva dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

A come-with-me project

The 2 Turkish-style spindles are grabbed alternately each time I head out the door.  It’s a slower but still steady way of spinning a project.

Bravest Girl in the World on Targhee

A quick 2-ply that I spun as a fractal on the Watson Martha spinning wheel over 10 days in April.

Handspun Targhee wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Seriously smooth spin

The yarn was spun and plied in double drive, and the second braid is a dead ringer for the first.

As a big fan of Targhee, I was impressed with this fibre in particular.  It was open, fluffy, and a joy to spin.  The 635 yards of 2-ply is lovely (2,540 yards per pound) and so soft.

Mother of Dragons on Blue Faced Leicester

Imagine my squeal when this came in the mail.

2018 Female Heroes Fiber Club yarns at irieknit

Good mail day this

One good BFL spin has deserved another.  Again this went on the Watson Martha in double drive but this time I wanted a 3-ply yarn.

Handspun 3-ply Blue Faced Leicester wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Stormborn as it were

They are in the DK-weight range, and with the re-order, I now have approximately 394 yards (787 yards per pound).  The second braid was my ah, we are home again 2-day blitz spin.

Furiosa on Shetland

It may have been a little Mad Max to start this while also plying the beautiful Mother of Dragons.

Spinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Lower ratio; light touch

This will be a conventional 3-ply yarn, and I am looking forward to seeing it off the wheels.  The Wee Peggy is in Scotch Tension spinning a light 5:1.  It’s been very, very relaxing with an audiobook after long days.

That happened quickly

Spinning is in-between other projects – I have finished T’s colourwork sweater & am spending other nights weaving a band in my backstrap loom.  There are loose ideas for how I will use the handspun but for now I make the yarn.

The trip was very good for my focus, and I am happy to be working again.


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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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Summer dye baths – avocado now; Queen Anne’s Lace then

Early Sunday morning, I took a knife to some of the stored avocado pits.  It was a way to think of my spinning friend Mary before her memorial service that day.

Extracting natural dye avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 1

The bowl includes 4 pits from Jamaican avocado pears brought by my Mother-in-law – they gave colour instantly!  It’s no rush, and is just a moveable feast around the backyard as I seek the sun.

Extracting natural dye from avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 3 (boiled)

This is after 1 boil, and cooling on Tuesday morning.  While it sits, I am debating using ammonia again to boost extraction.

Handspun BFLxShetland lamb's wool by irieknit

Meet the target – handspun BFLxShetland wool

Slated for the dye-pot is this approximately 285 yards from 100 g of roving from Hopeful Shetlands.

I carded the roving before spinning.  The rolags hit the CPW at a good clip in the month after our houseguests left.  It is spun supported long-draw, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Throwback to last August

We took a walk last Emancipation Day to gather Queen Anne’s Lace.  T was game, and now understands about dye-plants.

Ontario Queen Anne's Lace prepared by irieknit for dye extraction

Thrilling 2017 Queen Anne’s Lace

We gathered 204 g in a local ravine.  I might have been more into this than young T-ster.

Canadian Targhee wool preparing to mordant for natural dye by irieknit

First we soak the wool top

The target was 98 g of Saskatchewan Targhee wool top from Sheepspot.  Mordanting with alum & cream of tartar is where T lost a good deal of interest.  Luckily, Mom was on hand to keep him occupied.

Handdyed Targhee wool top with Queen Anne's Lace, carrot tops by irieknit

Dry, beautiful top, dry!

After a first boil, I got 145 g of carrot tops from the supermarket, and added them for a 30 min boil.  The wool cooled in the pot overnight.

Handspun natural dyed Targhee wool yarn and Watson Martha spinning wheel by irieknit

We quickly had yarn

By the notes taken, I had approximately 173 yards of 3-ply by the end of that week!  It was spun and plied in double-drive on my Watson Martha.  It is a 690 yards per pound yarn.  That would be in an aran-weight range but the wraps per inch is 12 or worsted-weight range.

A small facelift

There are subtle changes for the TKK blog appearance, and I also re-worked the About page.  The break that I have taken this year from the Tour de Fleece is as much for focusing at home as it is for this re-tooling.

Spinning Targhee wool dyed by Sheeptime Knits on Bosworth Blue Mahoe skinny Midi by irieknit

Another Targhee spin in the park, yesterday

The memorial for our friend, Mary, was small but very touching.  I went with our “not a teaching group” friend, Nancy, and other spinners were able to join as well.

On Sunday night, I started a new 3-ply project on the Martha spinning wheel.  It was Mary’s custom wheel before she surprised me with her offer to sell.  I hope that her family knows how much her spinning life’s work mattered in the community.


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Celebrating with knits

Whichever stars have aligned, we are in the midst of much change.  A lot, actually.  Only one fell to be met with knitting, and it is the happiest of them all!

Welcome to the Flock baby cardigan

He is now just over 6 weeks old, and oh, joy I am an Aunt!  The design is Welcome to the Flock by Julia Farwell-Clay.  All variations of this sheep cardigan are adorable.  It was so much fun scrolling through that I did it twice!

My version is knit heavier than the pattern suggests.  The yarn is Diamond’s Luxury Collection fine dk-weight yarn in superwash merino.  With 3.5 mm needles, I got 21 stitches & 26 rows per 4″.

Welcome to the Flock baby knitted cardigan yoke detail

The substitution made for yoke changes. The single row of sheep ends with a 7-row open heart in black.  I added a 3-row peerie from Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting (page 49) into a 1-row peerie pattern.

Handspun-worthy boy

It wasn’t all blue but nearly so!  How could I not spin for this? Seriously.

Targhee handdyed wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

This Targhee wool top is from Corgi Hill Farm, and was spun in just a few days at the end of March.  It was 5 oz/ 140 g in her “Frozen Fjord” colourway.  Spinning was on the Watson Martha in double drive on the larger whorl for a 2-ply yarn of 382 yards.

Knitted Mario the Artistic Rabbit stuffed toy in handspun yarn by irieknitSome gifts are just a joy to make.  A first Mario the Artistic Rabbit by Jenna Krupar in Noro Silk Garden yarn went to my cousin’s 2 year-old this Christmas.  This second version used approximately 130 yards of the handspun Targhee wool.

Knit Mario the Artistic Rabbit stuffed toy in handspun yarn with mohair locks in tail

Needle-felting for a tail with kid mohair locks was my favourite part.  The new parents agree, and are keeping the toy well out of their dog’s reach!

Knit Mario the Artistic Rabbit in handspun Targhee wool by irieknit face detailIndefensibly perhaps, I knowingly went with these mis-matched button eyes.  Let’s chalk that up to character.

Give the baby a vest!

Maybe you are starting to see how my hands were a little full with the baby knitting?

Stripey knit boy vest by irieknit in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Shopping the stash resulted in a lot of ends to sew in!  This is a pattern from Sirdar’s baby bamboo knits pamphlet 323B.  After some other tries, I decided on this as the best colour sequence:

A =  Neutral:  col. 141

B = Dark blue:  col. 150

C = Kelly green:  col. 122

D = Light blue:  col. 138

It was all going fairly swimmingly (literally – four colours to juggle) when I realized about the square armholes.  They ought to have been shaped… With a shortage of yarn & patience that mistake took it to a very preppy level.

Summer blooming clematis

We are planning our trip to meet this little one & celebrate his birth in person.  It means a second short trip in 2 months but will be more than worth it!

The clematis is in full bloom now but you see, I was thinking of posting in June but just got swept away by all the things.