The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Wensleydale Wednesday, and TKK featured for spinners

While in progress this Wensleydale commercial top has been very mobile.  The ‘Hello Sunshine’ colourway by Spunky Eclectic blurring on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle got many conversations going as it went from near to as far as New York city this summer.

Spinning Wensleydale top on Jenkins Turkish Delight in carob wood

at Stage 19, 2015 Spindlers Tour de Fleece

The singles were all drafted from the fold of the long Wensleydale wool staple.  This breed has locks that are as long as 7 – 12″, and I wanted the loft from folding as well as some texture.

Wensleydale wool handspun singles cop on Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle Tour de Fleece 2015

Full – at stage 20, Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

The carob wood of the 28g Turkish Delight spindle brought out the fibre’s luster so well!

Looks aside, this became a slow spin over 2 years of 4 ounces of Wensleydale wool top.  There was no rush but 3 factors combined to slow it down somewhat.

  1. Minor but there was kemp in the top.  It was like an itch to remove every last stray opaque fibre.
  2. Over time the braid started to full (like matting; a step before felt) together.  This meant lots of tugging before the kemp hunt.
  3. Spinning from the fold took getting used to, and this is a slower spindle that also has an upper knob to navigate around.

In short, I had to be in the mood.  First singles were wound-off on December 23, 2013, and last were spun on August 3, 2015.

Handspun Wensleydale singles sample by irieknit

Ruling a spinning thought out

The upside of extended spin time is that you have a chance to consider your options.  In this new world of me actually sampling, I decided that it had more twist than I would like as a finished singles yarn.

It also became a teaching material for my Learn to Spin on a Drop Spindle students this fall at the Art Gallery of Burlington.

Handspun Wensleydale yarn by irieknit

Wensleydale Wednesday!

Now that my class is completed we have approximately 450 yards of 2-ply Wensleydale handspun in my stash.  The operating presumption is that I will weave something small with this yarn.

Ball of Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair boucle yarn

Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair yarn

If possible, I would love to use it together with this 200 yards of Cushendale bouclé yarn.  Such a delightful gift from my cousin – she visited the mill in Ireland, and thought of me!  Other projects are ahead in the loom’s queue but this is the start of a plan.

Signal boost!

It has been wonderful to see some of my blog posts included over successive editions of Hand Spinning News.  The story of E’s project using Babydoll Southdown wool is featured in the News & Events section of the latest November 2015 edition of Hand Spinning News.

Welcome to new visitors, and as always thank you to Shiela Dixon for your recognition.  I hope that you continue to enjoy the blog!

A small note 

In writing about E’s work in a fully public TKK post, I struggled with a balance for sharing & her privacy.  E did all of this in Grade 8 at age 14, and within a small local school.  As far as I know there was no outside publicity.  In taking, and later working with the images, I wanted to be careful not to identify E, the school or the other kids in her grade.   It is after all, a small world.

The privacy tangle, being a guest of her proud family, and my own joy at seeing her hard work positively shine all resulted in the single long shot for the post.

On the back-end, I happily do have a new light camera model as of last weekend.  It will make my editing life easier for events like this with 14.2 more megapixels than the older mode.

November oncidium orchid blooming in morning light

With thanks for everyone who gave feedback on E’s project & the great Babydoll Southdown wool adventure!

(edit for name spelling)


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When plying sings

Plying the 980 g of natural white Romney lamb’s wool is making my week.  You may have heard me use the word, ‘obsessed’ when I posted this picture on Twitter?  It has come as a surprise.

Plied hand-combed Romney lamb's wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

Plying two good things together

For one thing the singles flow evenly from the plying ball.  Both strands feed together to my hands.  The holding pen for the ply ball is a tall Piroline cookie tin to my right.  Quiet, gentle, stream-of-spinning time.

This is the smaller whorl for my Watson Martha wheel.  The larger of the two ratios is working well with the Scotch tension braking the bobbin.  The rhythm slows a little as I get to the bobbin’s capacity of around 110 g of the yarn.  It’s just a matter of paying closer attention to the winding-on since the yarn can jump out of the hooks as the bobbin gets full.

Winding handspun wool yarn on an antique wooden click reel

Antique yarn reel in action!

My blue click reel from the Ramer Collection has made winding-off, and counting such a breeze.  The click still makes me jump (and Melvin glower) but she has a beautiful logic!  Each round is 90″, and the click is at 120 revolutions.  That measures 300 yards or a linen weaver’s lea!  One lea in the yarn count system is 300 yards per pound.

Cleaned wood antique click reel from the Ramer Collection

Brace that elbow!

A small hurdle after cleaning her up lightly with diluted Murphy’s Oil soap was the floppy jointed spoke.  My substitute collar is 3 strips of Velcro.  It’s yet another application of Janet Dawson’s floor loom weaving class on Craftsy!  So far with the braced reel’s help, I have around 1,500 yards of 2-ply with more to come.

Plying with Andean pushkas

The medium and large size Andean turned low-whorl spindles are my plying tools of choice for my spindle projects.  With practice, I am getting better at using them comfortably with larger cops.

Finished handspun yarn from blended Shetland, Merino, Tussah silk

Mulled cider set in skein form

This is the plying that I started in early September.  It was a 3.2 oz set of batts from Enting Fibercraft (shetland/merino/tussah silk blend), and I made 497 yards total here.  The larger skein at the top is 304 yards.  This yarn measures 24 wraps per inch or what I class as a light fingering weight.

Melvin the cat with tulipwood Moosie and handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Hello, Moosie spin

The leisurely spin of The Painted Tiger’s hand-dyed braid of Shetland wool with my new Moosie came out at over 2,900 yards per pound!  The first plying ball gave around 249 yards.

Handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

A full-for-me plying Pushka

The second skein came in at 494 yards!  I was also giving a high plying twist because I would like to weave with the yarn.

I launch these spindles in the Andean style that Abby Franquemont taught me in her “All Spindles All Day” class.  Winding is more efficient as the cop grows, and the spindle goes amazingly fast as well.

Handspun Shetland wool 2-ply yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Cherry Fudge in yarn form

Fast-forward these few years, and my set-up is still very simple.  I place the plying ball in a small clay flowerpot that is on the floor behind my left hand.  I ply standing-up on an anti-fatigue mat.  When I came to Abby’s class, I was (barely!) able to butterfly with my non-dominant left hand.  Switching the butterfly was key, and Abby taught me the next steps:  set & release the half-hitches with my right hand; and the launch for my typical Z-ply twist.

To compare a large shawl project that I spun with spindles, and is on our current TKK banner, above – the largest skein measured 366 yards.  It is the fluidity that has improved.  This is what I look at with expert spinners.  Even watching another spinner’s motions can give your practice a subtle shift.

Getting to the place where plying sings is helping me complete even less-focused projects.  At least these past few weeks it hasn’t been akin to watching paint dry!

Speaking of seeing spinners, are you going to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on Saturday?  It’s a great consolation for not going to Rhinebeck.  Hope to see some friends, and to succumb to fibrey temptation!


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The quiet campaign – Tour de Fleece 2013

In the days before this year’s Tour de France, I joined teams and prepared Hebridean – also called St. Kilda – locks.  The dark fleece, and story in the Summer 2013 Wild Fibers by Margaret B. Russell egged me on.

Taken today – the Hebridean rolags, intact

Other spinners on Ravelry were also interested to see how this rare breed’s wool would spin up.  I even had my sample card, and shared the problem with a break near the butt end of the locks, and dandruff.

Hebridean lock and sample card

However, raw enthusiasm was not enough.  The rolags from this “tiny black sheep” with its many horns still await my spinning pleasure, and the Tour ends today.  I say this without a stitch of self-reproach.  It was a conscious decision to follow the Tour in private and on my own terms.

On a very personal front we are ending a long journey ourselves.  Added pressures to perform got ditched.  It’s as simple as that.  To anyone also facing trial & tribulation of any sort or degree:

Be it chronic illness, returning to work, raising children, the economy, a disability

My Grandmother gave me her counted cross-stitch sampler to complete when I was a teenager.  Arthritis of the hands stopped her work after only part of the upper flowers.  It stretched me & took years, has a mistake in the fence posts, and the duck pond corner was fodder for a dog (hence the deep mat).  There was as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich would say, “ego enough to sign their work” (“The Age of Homespun“, Alfred A. Knoph, 2001, p. 247).

I love this piece but moreover, I love the words.  It hangs in my studio now, so I share this saying as we go through what we have to.

Even morning glories need support

Fruits of the Tour

Has the 100me Tour not been thrilling?!  Here is what I stopped to photograph – some but not all of my comfort work.

Not your average socks!

The strange & wonderful beast of opposing ply yarn is fast becoming a pair of socks.  A pair of very marled socks that is!

Wait a Bit sock, selfie

Due to the extended period of creation from braid to sock, I named this after the town in Trelawny, Jamaica – Wait a Bit.  See here for the iconic picture if you don’t believe me.

No elastic

The extra-springy opposing ply makes for a very elastic 2×2 ribbed cuff.  I also added my first sock-cuff gusset when it sunk in that I was getting a rather tall sock on the needles.  This was where having Erlbacher’s “Twisted Stitch Knitting” book came in handy.  I penetrated her chart on p. 119, and it worked!

Off the spindle!

Talk about happy-making fibre!  This doorprize braid of BFL from FOAY, Musewings has gone everywhere with me since mid-April on my purpleheart Bossie.

Finished Musewings skeins of citrus joy

Splitting the braid led to one obviously longer single, so I decided to chain-ply each on my Watson Martha.  The skeins are 180.44, and 228.02 yards, respectively.

[Aside: one major advantage of winding outer-pull balls with no core is you can see the longer single = larger ball]

So many thanks, Nicole!

I’ll be watching Nicole’s store in case she comes off her dyeing hiatus.  It was such a relaxing spin, and exactly what I needed to work with.  Also very happy that I didn’t overcook the chain ply on the wheel.

Quick pic was for twitter – Ent Batts

Enting is another talented FOAY whose fibre has been in heavy rotation here since April.  Naomi handcarded corriedale, merino & silk to create her Mixed Berries blend.  They are no more.

Ent batts converted

No need to be coy about that new spindle in the back, right?  A good 4 years on the Hatchtown Farm spindle list paid off with impeccable timing!  It’s a Kaari in Rosewood & Maple, and gives my kind of spin. LOVE.

The other spindle is a Spanish Peacock in Flame Box Elder.  It also spun the single in the plying ball, which I wound with a silk single.  With the batts decimated, I need to spin more silk now!

Teaser

The loom is dressed!  I have done some weaving this week but hit some snags (literally – looking at the reed…)

Warm heddles on 4 shafts!

I am flipping between Janet Dawson’s Craftsy class, and Peggy Osterkamp’s “Weaving for Beginners.”  It has been so good to fold myself to the task of learning, and problem solving at the loom.  Some days needed just that kind of absorption.  Some more will too, I imagine.


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A weekend to remember: the Sarah Swett Workshop

This past weekend was a high note.  It was Sarah Swett’s The Value of Wool” workshop in Brighton, Michigan.  The Spinning Loft brought this talented & prolific fibre artist together with 19 spinners to teach us to use the degrees of lightness or darkness of natural wool in 3 different techniques.

Sarah C. Swett having taught & inspired

It was as far back as January 2010 that I learned about Sarah’s work.  I was a new spinner (see the posts!), and grabbed a copy of America Knits by Melanie Falick from a second-hand book store.  

Taken back in January 2010, America Knits!

The chapter on Sarah Swett features her stunning Kestrel’s Alight handspun, colourwork, knit kimono.  The dead-pan description leaped off the page & slapped me in the face:

Sarah knit this sweater with her own handspun, naturally dyed, three-ply yarn (two plies from a Cormo fleece and one from a Merino fleece)… Sarah graded the colors in the original version… The name of the sweater speaks to both the birds that were the inspiration for the design and to the birds that “alight” on one’s shoulders when wearing the garment…”

Last weekend, I soaked-up every word of How.  We were all quite happy.

Kathleen, Jillian, Julia & Cynthia

Sitting to my right were Sasha & Beth.  We laughed a lot.

Also happy: Beth & Sasha

One of the best things about attending a good workshop is meeting hugely interesting people & seeing friends.

Greg, Marilyn, Janine & Sandi

There was also She Who Shall Not Be Named.  Cracking me up, and taking each joke in style.

Handspun colour gradient in the wild!

The work path followed an internal logic, and was both highly disciplined, and free-form.  We learned to blend 4 colours from a single California Variegated Mutant (CVM) fleece.

CVM wool 5-value progression

The pop of white as it leap-frogged to the lightest value from the grey blend was a huge revelation.  The degrees of darkness blended far more easily in the 5-steps.

Second blending pass: combed CVM spun 2-ply

Sarah asked us to change our blending tools.  For me this meant taking out my new Valkyrie extra-fine handcombs.  The 3-value skein now includes Sarah’s indigo-dyed ‘mystery fleece.’

Fair isle swatch – when is yardage not my problem?

This is an exercise that I will revisit.  Having run low on yarn, I couldn’t complete the gradient change as charted.  Nor could I cast-off all the stitches!

Now’s a good time to show you some of Sarah’s work 

Sketchbook by Sarah Swett: embroidery

Our second (Second!) task for Saturday was to embroider linen.  Again we tackled blending but specifically for a smooth 2-ply yarn with aligned fibres.

Needlepoint in progress by Sarah Swett

On Sunday, Sarah used the top small tapestry to show how changing the contrasting values affects our perception of an object.

Tapestry & needlepoint by Sarah Swett

Sarah uses cartoons in her tapestry work.  She shared that you need to draw the actual coffee stain or splash or else it always looks contrived.

Sewn needlepoint comic “Slow Literature” series by Sarah Swett

The marriage of the comic book form and needle arts tells the reader a story.

More classwork & fellowship happened

Quietly embroidering a hummingbird on linen cloth was centering.  I sewed its outline during class.  The green satin stitch uses Sasha’s handspun (left on my bobbin), and was homework.

Handspun hummingbird embroidery

All around the room people re-connected with their childhood craft.  I did too.  Sarah graciously allowed some of us to work outside of the classroom (it was too loud for me).

Oh, the fleeces!

On Saturday evening, Beth had an open house & pizza party for everyone.  All of the raw wool is organized!

Sasha, Julia & Jillian at Beth’s

There was spinning, knitting, and lots of stories.  Almost everyone came, and it was grand.  Beth’s family was especially charming, and you know that I love Maggie!

Bye, bye wool

Resisting wool was one thing.  Sitting at Beth’s floor loom was another!  Her Schacht Mighty Wolf has amazing patina & history coming as it does from Jillian originally.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me make the big decision!

Sarah teaches key & value

We got back to work on Sunday with more information about creating mood with fibre & colour.  Using our selfies, we all started our needlepoint self-portraits.

Needlepoint portraits by Sarah Swett

The exercise was fun, and really instructive.  I enjoyed finishing mine at home.  N thinks it is a very good representation of President Obama!

I have come away with many creative sparks – indigo, linen, embroidery, weaving!  Sarah’s Artist Statement begins with these powerful words:

Frankly, there is no point in making anything unless one is thoroughly attracted both to the subject and its form.  There are too many ideas and too little time for anything else.

Now, I know how she would sound saying those very words.  Thank you, Sarah Swett.  May there be many more panic sweaters!


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String Thing 2013 – my hat trick, continued

hat trick n. 1 the scoring of three goals, points etc. by one person during a game. 2 three successes

◊ Paperback Oxford Canadian Dictionary, 2004

It hit me that in this 3rd of 3 years of attending this Stringtopia event, I was most at ease.

Plain weaving with the Tanka design

This simple band or jakima represents this for me.  The length of kata, plain weave is where I re-learned how to weave.

The first ray of light was learning the Quechua term for lease cord – sonq’opa.  It is derived from the word for heart, “son”.  This drove a truth home to me.  It is what Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez says in “Textile Traditions of Chinchero:  A Living Heritage” on p. 85:

In the process of making textiles, the weaver devotes part of her life to her weaving.  That is why a weaver can tell stories about happy or sad times, and different life events according to the time it took to weave a certain textile.

This was the best devotion of my time.  To answer the US border agent – no, you cannot just learn this on Youtube.  I am the case in point.

Mahogany, folks.

As I suspected my backstrap loom management was awkward, and therefore, flawed.  Working with my waist as the front warp beam & my shod foot as the back beam, Abby gently corrected my process.

“Use both swords,” she said.  “You will need them both for the next step.”  With Abby’s help, and intense focus, I turned the first ideas on their heads.  The solution was less taxing, and completely elegant.

Friends in class had different problems, and revelations.  We walked the cliff edge of adult learning.  No-one fell into the gully of frustration.  I was very grateful when a more experienced backstrap weaver, Janie Yates pointed out that I was sawing my shed open with the yllawa or string heddles.  Janie helpfully guided me back to tensioning the warp open.

Where our spirits soared was after lunch.  We had hit the objectives.  Abby spoke to her identity as a Chinchero weaver, teacher and studio owner.  It was pure heart, and so very moving.  My culture is also rooted in the oral transfer of knowledge.  It’s something I deeply respect.

Abby knows what this means for me because I had to tell her, thank her.  I will practice and build on this foundation.  It was my best takeaway of any Stringtopia.

With thanks, Abby.

Studio, what studio?

Walking through Stringtopia’s doors the next day made me want to click my heels, or tear-up.  Or something.

Bricks & mortar matters for carrying textile arts forward.  It’s a lifetime achievement to create such a space in this day.

A spindle was removed before taking this shot

Canadian Production Wheels get around.  This one is safely out of the direct sunlight!

Frederic Bourda CPW

Having taken Abby’s backstrap weaving class the day before, I walked right up to the hanging jakimas.

They are pretty.  Carol told me that the jakima de kata on the left was woven by Abby’s son.

Back to the fun & games

How much of a textured batt can you spin on a drop spindle in 2 minutes, you ask?

This is our friend, Janet in the foreground helping Mandie pace out her yarn.  Taking classes & hanging out with them both was super fun as usual!

Beth was happy

Respect due to each & every long-draw competition team on Saturday night!

Win! Jane, Erin & Michelle

They used an e-spinner!  Other brave teams were…

Kathy, Lisa & Martha

Amy, Kim & Caroline

Serious kudos to Enting, Laura & Tracy who competed with a drop spindle.  I bow to the prowess!

Proof of concept: sideways draft on a drop spindle

I am now home, and rested.  I miss being able to rush to classes, hang out in Morgaine’s space, turn around & speak with spinners.

If you live close to Stringtopia then I am a touch green with envy.  Support them!  Until next time I have skills to practice and yarn to make.

New wool combs doing what they do

For example, this 1.6 oz of luxurious Muga silk will also keep me happy and engaged.

Thing of beauty: Muga silk for spinning

 

 

 


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A little bit warmer

Cold, drab February days inspired more all-over Staghorn cable knitting.  Now, a whole year of on & off knitting has paid off!

The design is the Beach House Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, Interweave Knits Summer 2010.  The size is 38¼” bust circumference, which gave me a 2″ +ve ease.

Not surprisingly, the Cascade 220 worsted yarn was a trouble-free choice.  So was this pattern – I was able to just follow it to the word.

Suitable for wearing with the stretch jeans

Thanks entirely to this lesson in cable knitting, saddle shoulders and a shawl collar, I am looking forward to the late-February snow forecast with some glee.

Believe it or not, this is a sweater-in-progress.  It started life as raw CVM wool from the Spinning Loft, and I love it.  It’s a *flick & card 2 rolags per spindle, spinning, and repeat from * end deal.

A good, relaxed tortoise’s pace. I shall keep you posted.

Why leave Martha idle when I could have some fun?  Last night I dug deep into the fibre stash & got this Miss Babs Polwarth dyed top out.  I have 8oz, and am tempted to spin a 4-ply yarn.

It is driving out some discontent.  As anything that looks this much like the Caribbean sky on a sunny day is bound to do for me.

Lace in its crumpled infancy.  Starting this Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole ate a chunk out of my Saturday.  The blue yarn is TechKnitter’s Belly Button technique for starting a centre-out piece.  Sanity saved!

Knitting my spindle-spun Bronzed Chai yarn is just so interesting!  I love how Sivia Harding has designed the beading, and this is my first counter-pane pattern.

Housekeeping 

Thank you to everyone who sent wishes for Toby.  His eye healed in a few days.  Apart from needing eye-drops x6 per day, he is much better now.

There’s no concern about any neurological damage.  It took him a bit to drop the act but his walking is back too.  All it took was the doorbell to be rung at night, and he flew up the basement stairs in a flash.

This spring is going to be for learning!  The 2013 Spring String Thing is Friday, April 26, 2013, through Sunday, April 29, 2013 in Lebanon, Ohio.  I’m very excited about my classes, staying at the Golden Lamb again, and getting a tour of the Stringtopia studio.

Right after that, I am also going to Sarah Swett’s Weekend with Wool presented by the Spinning Loft.  It’s Friday, May 17, 2013 to Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Brighton, Michigan.


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Winter Wears On

… also the title of Chapter 2 in “The Country Kitchen“, 1935 by Della T. Lutes.  Here on Day 3 of an Arctic Air Mass, I have to agree with Della:

“As the days begin to lengthen, then the cold begins to strengthen.”  That was in the almanac.  We stay closely housed.  There is little to be done outside except chores…

‘Closely housed’ in this context is not a bad thing.  For there are knits & spins to speak of!

A Lace-weight Mountain Climbed

The Laar cardigan pattern by Gudrun Johnston was love at first sight.  It’s beautiful, and like any of Gudrun’s other designs is very, very well written.

 Knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr, I used US #0/ 2.0 mm needles to get gauge.  I tackled this project on & off for just over a year.

This was a tough knit in that it tested both skill and my personal endurance.  The lower body’s miles of stockinette worked flat & fine nearly undid me.

What drew me on was knowing how much I would love wearing this.  And I do!  The side benefit?  It’s charmed the commercial socks off each non-knitter that has seen me flaunting it.

A Sock-weight Mountain Climbed

… or how a good book can avert a knitting crisis.

The pattern is Wendy D. Johnson’s Bavarian Cable Socks.  I cast on in June last year with really nice Indigodragonfly SW merino yarn.  Using an improvised cable needle (i.e. broken DPN) for each twisted-stitch row was not fun.

By September, I was flat-out frustrated.  “Twisted Stitch Knitting:  Traditional Patterns & Garments from the Styrian Enns Valley” by Maria Erlbacher is what rescued me.

I gladly ditched the extra needle, and found a version of the motif charted & named the “Small Chain, #1” Kleines Ketterl.

Thanks to plane knitting (plus), I have a great new pair of textured socks.

Sweaters in Progress

Sleeves!  They are giving problems!  This is my Beach House Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.  I love knitting it.  Just not the sleeves.

In early December when I had no business casting on for a sweater, I did.

Sweet Georgia SW Worsted, Botanical

The yarn made me do it!  Can you blame me?

It’s Amy Swenson’s “Mr. Bluejeans Cardigan” for Knitty’s Deep Fall, 2012.  And yes, I bought the yarn on impulse.  From the beautiful new Toronto yarn store, Ewe Knit.

Remember Toby?  He likes my CVM wool sweater project.

A super-springy swatch tells me that this is not as crazy-pants as you think right now…  Tools of the trade = 2 Andean, and 2 Tabachek drop spindles.

Hey, there’s no rush – next year will have winter too, right?!?