The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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There are no words

There are no words for the crazy awesome generosity of Fibergal.  Let me just show you.

It is all natural cotton that Fibergal has grown, and is gorgeous.

Remember my gushing over spinning cotton from the boll this Tour de Fleece?  Fibergal offered to send me, and this is important to quote her directly:

…a little colour sampler of bolls just to play with.

She was wonderful to correspond with, and closed simply with, “Enjoy.”  As Fibergal knows, I could not have hoped to acquire such beautiful cotton much less with such a variety of seeds.  I thank you, and am already enjoying the cotton adventure.

This green cotton has a long staple-length, and is so interesting to spin!  See the seeds?  They are being kept for what I hope can be future planting.

I am, Brace for it…

… as of Monday, also learning to weave.  After this summer of unhappy medical stuff, I just decided to look for a backstrap loom already and found this one.  Told N up front that it was a purchase of sticks.

I am using the only mercerized cotton yarn in the house, Estelle Young Touch Cotton dk.  That was made on Monday.  I thought a bit, and re-warped, yesterday.

This 14″ band looks well, like a band.  I used the heavier sword that came in the kit and got better with making & using a continuous string heddle.  It also helps to understand what you are supposed to be doing.

The best adjustment was to use contrast yarn for that heddle, and to tie it to a chopstick.  I might be loving this thing called weaving.

We saved the date!

My little cousin’s wedding was this past weekend.  I will skip the weekend-of-yarn-dyeing that I worked in (for now), and just show the knitting.

Knit with gratitude for another cousin, Cat.  It’s the Prairie Rose with beading and she loved it!  I owed her big-time for saving me from wardrobe failure at the last family wedding…

The reveal was like giving my relatives a proof of concept for, “Lara knits.”  Also helping that cause was a new, shrug adapted from Tappan Zee.

It’s made in Hempathy.  With no time to spare, I decided to live on the edge.  Why not give it shaping, I thought late at night.  That became a series of slightly stepped short row shaping inside the front garter bands.

Early on I had this bright idea that the diamond pattern should sparkle… with leftover 8/0 seed beads.  Not a huge deal because Hempathy is conveniently constructed for clean splitting for the bead placement with a crochet hook.

And now for some Mindless Knitting

Just as the Avengers movie released, Mandie of Sheepy Time Yarns offered a super cool series of yarns inspired by each super-hero.  I scored Iron Man in her Sheepy Feet base.

 It’s perfect for down-time knitting – a plain sock.  I am not even guilty that the Bavarian Cable socks are not getting any love right now.

These should make me Invincible for the cold weather.  Winter is coming, folks.  Winter is coming.


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A Tour de Fleece with results

The mountain stages were where I dove into my 15 oz of Horned Dorset roving.  The goal was to keep practicing longdraw on my newly refurbished Watson Martha wheel.

Soon every saved toilet paper roll had been pressed into service.  In spinning all of the singles first, I did get a more consistent long-draw action going.  I also learned just how physically draining even a supported long-draw is over time.  It was a push but I finished in time for 7 skeins of squoosh plied before the end of Le Tour.

It was an extra push after my Dumb Mistake.  Which is to say, I managed to ply 78 yards of oops! before I saw it was 5 and not 4 bobbins on the darn lazy kate.  That hurt.

It’s what happens when you are me & try to start plying after 10 pm.  So we have some potholder yarn, and also 308 yds of my 1st proper 4-ply woolen yarn!

Beth Smith deserves big props.  She gave me respect for sampling and a new drafting method.  Beth is a wonderful instructor and hilarious besides!

To wit, these Mystery Fleece samples are curious.  The carded 3-ply (top) has the better hand.

 

But wait – what is this?  The 2-ply combed number knits a pretty sweet swatch!  The Shetland lace does have crunch but is still a keeper, I think.

Not that I am biased  or anything.

On a whim, I also made friends with 3 bolls of cotton that I picked up at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar last month.

Using the shell as a ground for the tahkli helps me to feel the spin better than ceramic or glass bowls.  Straight from the boll this cotton had so much crimp!  I got the knack of fluffing the staple crimp a little, and also not spinning to the short linters.

Easily my fastest work of any cotton to date, and very encouraging.  The cream singles on the tahkli is from organic Peruvian top that I have been carding into punis on my Schacht cotton cards.

The Tour was filled with inspiration, fun and best of all, real leaps forward in my spinning.  I just love the fiber community.  Yesterday, I built on this and got a little farther along by watching “Spinning Gossamer Threads” with Galina Khmeleva.

Sitting and spinning just feels so zen.  Also new but on the needles,

About 2 of 5″ of ribbing to start a handspun Redhook by Jared Flood!  The yarn is my Corriedale Christmas 2-ply.  It’s so exciting to see Diane’s colourway pop!  I’d love to wear this vest when I am at the Spinning Loft for Deb Robson’s classes in September.

Lastly, love & thanks to Deb.  You made my day with your thoughtful, so generous gift.  I hope you have many hours of fun on your new wheel – it’s a slippery slope!

 

 


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Day of Rest, Tour de Fleece 2012

Vive le Tour!  This year I am racing in Team Suck Less as a Friend of Abby’s Yarns, and also posting in the 66 page long Peloton.  It’s been great because this year I am both spinning for myself and taking my mind off some pretty intense stuff.

My Prologue came with not feeling well, so I took it easy with 2 spins in progress.  The spindles are resting on my Yarn Hollow alpaca/ merino/ tussah silk top and the white fiber is my hand-carded Romney lamb’s wool.

 

The Schacht cotton handcards are worth their weight in gold.  I got my pair from the Spinning Loft for Christmas.  206 tines per inch are all the tines I need.

The plying was also in progress, so I soon had my first skein of the Tour!

May as well bust the already-combed Romney while I was at it right?  This is still in progress for the rest of the Tour.

My small stage challenge of choice was to spin 100% flax on Chella.  This is after all why I said that I needed an antique flax wheel.

It was so different to anything else I have spun.  Even hemp.  The new changes were to:

  • Wet spin the life out of that flax.  It wanted more and more water, it really did;
  • Re-jig the pegs.  Steam punk for life, y’all.  No animals or plants were harmed in the operation of the flyer array;
  • Switch to a plied crochet thread drive band.

Oh, and spinning with a distaff is weird in a good way.  Mine is only ½ intact, so it meant putting the old chair rail to a new use (as opposed to resident nostepinne).

The single came off the bobbin ASAP.  It dried nicely on my coffee tin with nail punched holes.  So, if you are keeping count at home that 3 instances of tools improv for one spin.  Just the way I like it.

As at this morning the Yarn Hollow spin is down to:  a plying ball; 1.7 oz left in the braid; and 2 singles balls we hope will match up nicely.  The idea is to stop ochre & purple from barberpoling at all costs.

My second skein of the Tour is about 42 yards, a 3-ply sample.  Hand-combed from this 10lb longwool fleece that I bought on pure auction fever at last year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  [There was another but let’s not talk about that…]

Proving that my Stringtopia teacher, Beth Smith of the Loft is absolutely correct – the only way to tackle such a beast is to sample, kids.

The beast is tamed!  I’ve also carded the combed waste, and spun up the 11 rolags between this Tabachek & my first Kundert.

It’s great to go after my own goals this year, and I have let go of the need to be totally structured about posting or going after crazy challenges and acclaim.  It really is good enough to be along for the ride, healthy and free.

See you on the road?

 

 


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Stringtopia the Second!

Stringtopia 2012 was a blast!  It was April 27, 28, 29 at Ohio’s oldest hotel, The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio.  The best view I have yet to see from a hotel parking lot…

 It was a wonderful weekend.  I took off my blogger hat shortly after arrival but not before I took pics of the Golden Stringtopia Welcome waiting in our room.

As you can tell Sandi was also pleased with hers…

… after 11 or so hours navigating with me from Ontario to Lebanon.

Look what was inside the mug!

We shared the John Quincy Adams room.  Our welcome letter says that he stayed at the hotel on November 7, 1846.  I bet our view was better than his!

My first class was All Spindles All Day with Abby.  I am more excited than ever about spinning with spindles for All the Things.  Abby masterfully took us from how an Andean child learns to spin to plying.  She gave us equal parts passion, instruction, and jokes.  It was amazing.

Proof of concept:  low whorl spindles do not need a hook, a knob or a notch in order to function perfectly well.  We won’t talk about Woolwine’s feats with cotton during this class.  Let’s just say she was giving trouble.

This year’s Kick-Off Bash was on Friday night, and little did I know what Feorlen aka Andrea (sitting) had in store for us.  She has a Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning from the HGA, and brought all of her materials for us to see.  It was astonishingly masterful work, and her presentation on Saturday was very interesting.

 The highlight of the Bash was when Janet won her maple Bossie!  This kicked-off epic spinning of an entire Abbybatt in a cool 48 or so hours.

Hands-down the best part of the weekend was the Friends of Abby’s Yarns super surprise presentation of Abby’s new hand-everything kimono.

Ellen filmed the entire presentation

.

This is what I mean about the singular generosity of the spinning community.  Two years in the making, and Abby didn’t even suspect a thing!

All the remaining door prizes were thus handed out in style.

Angela received that one, and was seriously Over the Moon.

My prize was generously donated by Musewings aka Nicole the Hot Blonde, and I love it!

N, who is not known to gush over fibre, praised the colours on sight!

My other classes were with Beth Smith who was also the event’s vendor.  I took Spinning for Lace, Drafting, and also Long Wools with Beth, and am so happy that I did.  She not only helped me with my Martha spinning wheel but expertly took us through many breeds with different preparations.  And by many, I mean…

Uh-huh.  Yes, Qiviut came with the Spinning for Lace materials!  It was glorious.

I did have a cry-worthy time of it with the cashmere though.  This is how I know that Beth is a superb teacher.  She did not push.  She did not single out.  She let me into her already-full Drafting class to learn me some long-draw.  As she said, “Because of Love.”

She sold us some of her Horned Dorset so that we could keep practicing long-draw.  And seriously, in the Long Wools class, Beth Smith Pink got me to sample my yarn!

If that’s not one superb teacher, then I don’t know who is.

It was a totally awesome event.  I’ve met people who are, as Brooke put it, part of my tribe.  We learned.  We teased Josh.  We made Abby cry, and now she has her pockets.  And now, we are home again.


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A gathering of knits

Wherein I try to bridge the yawning gap between the knitting and the blogging of the knitting.  You could call this a retrospective with some currents to start with.

If you move in my circles you may have seen this fall’s triumph – the lovely stranded Pinked Socks designed by Judy Alexander.  My feet have often looked like this:

They certainly did for the Yarn Harlot’s book launch.  I kind of skip when I wear these socks.  Apart from my pride in knitting sock-weight yarn in both hands all the way to the end, I adore the garter tab on the slip stitch heel.  Adore is not too strong a word.  Obviously because I am now knitting another pair.  That are by necessity larger.  For the current pair is being made to fit not just any man but my man.

To wit:  an 11 ½” circumference leg.

The yarns are both Cascade Heritage (solid & quatro).  The MC is the navy held in my right hand.  My gauge on 2.25 (Dyakcraft!) needles let me make the 80 stitch cast-on size.  The only modification is that I ditched the CC strip in the cuff again.  Honestly, cutting sock yarns just for show is not so cool in my books.

It’s a simple but captivating 5 stitch stranded pattern.  I’ve sped up in knitting it again.  The first was finished January 15th, and the second is here now:

DH also received a longer-than-me mosaic scarf this Christmas.  It was not supposed to curl by design (mine) but makes up for that in the aforementioned length.  If I get him to agree to pics you guys will be the first to know.  My argument is that it was that long.  

Speaking of winter wearables, I also have a new hat.  This friends is a hat by twined knitting, and I love it.

It’s warm but elastic and fits loosely enough for a person with my hair issues.

The design is the Traditional Textured Hat in Laura Farson’s New Twists on Twined Knitting.  After some wrong yarn turns, I ran out and bought 2 skeins of Ultra Alpaca Tonal.  The fuzziness at the top is a bit of Sublime Angora Merino that I dug out of the stash.  I used just 9 g from the ball.

The technique needs the right yarn.  For example, this Akapana by Mirasol Yarns was in the direction of madness.  All stabs at texture were lost.

Casting on in the twined way is not full-on fun, so I thought I would share the what not to do pic.  As much as it pains me.

The upside of relatively mild weather is that the fall knits have stayed in rotation.  In order of their knitting…  The FO pics of my Monday Morning Cardigan by Laura Chau:

I am royally ashamed to say that was completed in May 2011.  It was shy about the wonkiness in the collar area but has grown in confidence over time.

About that collar:  knitting in a car while chatting with Sandi Wiseheart is dangerous.  That is all.

Next up is my Tappan Zee by Amy King.  Yes, a blue phase was happening.

  The pictures do the project little justice.  I used my Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool (4 skeins) for the 36″ chest size.  The mistakes are my own – it’s a great design!

 

My 5 ridges of garter at the lower edge were started 15″ below the armhole.  I also added 15 rows of stockinette after picking up at the arm and sewed all the bind-offs.  The yarn knitted very well, and is wearing beautifully.  It was so lackluster in the skein!

Another Knitty.com score was Leaflet Cardigan by Celcily Glowik MacDonald.  Knit in 4 days flat.

Business on the front.  Party on the back.

My yarn is Rowan’s Felted Tweed Aran, and I knit on 5 mm needles with 6mm for the binding off.  I had to make adjustments due to the gauge differences for a medium size.  My main modification was to use the rick rack rib from Barbara Walker’s Treasury.

This was my choice for the Woodstock fair in October, and many times since.

Garments – both knitting and designing – have been a goal for me of late.  I was able to stash sweater quantities from Main St. Yarns’ closing out sale, and am spinning away as well.  After speaking with Sandi, I’d also like to incorporate her Wise Sweater project into the learning curve.  I have also been adding to my library with books like Maggie Righetti’s Sweater Design in Plain English.

My big WIP that hasn’t been photographed is a Laar Cardigan by Gudrun Johnston.  It is giving me a run for my sanity with the miles of lace-weight knitting.  I love the result but am probably not wired for this sort of project…  Unlike some people that I know.

Lace is also a part of my knitting life.  For I keep stashing more!  I’d like to make the Prairie Rose Shawl by Evelyn Clarke with this new cone of Habu Tsumugi 100% silk:

We’re on the same page now!  How’s that for some progress?!?


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Happy Holidays!

All odds were stacked against it but this is our happiest Christmas ever spent in Canada.  It snuck into what’s felt like a very tough year, including my day surgery 3 weeks ago.  As family rallied & recovery progressed, I slowly felt the pull of the season’s spirit.  Things have worked out.  In spite of the big worries.

It’s been a tough year for many of our friends, and probably many of you.  Kane, a friend from knit night pretty much summed it up on her gift tag:

Baaaaaa joins the flock at our house.

I am a sucker for all things sheepy.  Surprised?

There’s a whack of yarn, knitting and other fun stuff that hasn’t quite made it to publication as I navigated the past months.  Instead of being all mea culpa about it, here are my thoughts…

  • May your bobbins always be full.

I will allow that Masham wool is majorly fun to spin.  This is top hand-dyed by Waterloo Wools, and spun this week on my Watson Martha wheel with double drive tension.

  • New spindles always help for the rough spots in life.  Even if you aren’t well enough to use them as much as you would like.

She’s a Hounddesign lace spindle from The Fibre Garden.  Their spin-ins are stash enhancing events.  It is 20 g of Pau Amarillo spinning magnificence wearing a little bombyx silk.  Since I was also put in charge of getting some of my Christmas presents, let’s just say a couple more are in transit!

  • When in doubt, learn a new way to knit.

It’s twined knitting, my new love.  It’s a traditional knitting technique from the Dalarna region in Sweden.  Strands of yarn held in the right hand are knit by ‘throwing’ (English) and twisting around to exchange for the next stitch.  This cozy is the Media Case pattern in Laura Farson’s “New Twists on Twined Knitting” book that I found in October.  I also have a new twined hat that is begging for her picture to be taken.

  • Sometimes (even in Canada) the weather eases up on you at exactly the right moment.

A single bloom from the fragrant viburnum that I planted this year.  It looks as happy as I am about the mild weather.

  • Giving to the Spin-worthy is a good thing.

I got to surprise my friend, Teresa with her lace-weight yarn that I spun on two Ethan Jacob spindles and plied on another Greensleeves, a Katherine’s Cup spindle.  It started life as an Alpaca/ Merino/ Silk blend hand-dyed by Corgi Hill Farm, and is now approx. 1,049 yards.

Teresa is a very talented lace knitter.  If you have seen beautiful shawls modeled gracefully and long, black hair is someplace in the photo, then that is my friend.  She prefers to knit and contribute quietly in our community, and I am very happy to call her my friend.  I really am excited to see what magic she will work with my spun-in-the-other-direction lace.  These are also her colours but not the comfort solids!

It also was a hoot to ring the girl’s doorbell early on Christmas Eve morning, and RUN!   DH and I laughed that only a Canadian wouldn’t look up the street before taking the gift bag inside.  A Jamaican’s first thought would be to catch the culprit!

Her thank you is both the best email ever, and confirmation in writing of her spin-worthiness.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and happy holidays for your own traditions.  With a full heart, and love.


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A Handspun Juneberry Triangle

My only FO of the season made from my hand-spun yarn is Jared Flood’s beautiful Juneberry Triangle design.  I’ll sum up my post for you now:  I loved this project from start to finish!

It all started with 8 oz of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) top dyed by Turtle Purl in Quebec.  I split the 2 braids of fibre to keep the colour progression through the 2-ply yarn, attenuated (i.e. pulled), and spun to my heart’s content on my Watson Martha spinning wheel.  At the end of this adventure I had 523.6 yards of hand-spun goodness.  As I put it in my spinning notebook the largest skein was “mostly DK-weight with fingering”.  The other 2?  “Mostly sport-weight.”

This was my 1st Jared Flood design.  I figured that going with a pattern sub-titled, “Textural lace shawl” by a star of the knitting world was the best I could do by this sweet teal yarn.  The pattern is totally clearly written.  His lack of spoon-feeding was a boost for my lace knitting self-esteem as I pieced it together in just 12 days.

I am calling it my Tealberry Triangle.  The centre triangle was lovely to work.  It doesn’t follow the convention coughfadcough of symmetry, and had some lace knitting on both sides of the work.  Not too much & not too little but just right.

I did a few repeats with the bobbles-as-written, and quit.  It seemed like an awful waste of hand-spun yarn.  With much shoving and hauling I managed to add beads for a bit.  It was a lost cause, so I knit the rest of the centre triangle plain.  The border has popcorns, which are bobbles-lite, and worked over 2 rows.

Any of my knitter friends can tell you I did have a big issue though – yardage.  I used a 5.0mm needle because that worked with the varying yarn grist, and dove in.  If there is a way to reliably gauge swatch for a non-standard yarn, I wouldn’t know.  My approach was to use the metrics of his suggested yarns & squeeze in between.  This resulted in an epic nail-biter with 2 border edge attempts frogged.  And wailing at knitting groups.

In spite of it all, I still love that edging pattern to bits.

The final stretch of border got knit on with double joins.  Which is far better than not getting finished if you ask me.  This is where I drew on my experience from the Spider Net shawl in Victorian Lace Today.  Sometimes we make things happen, cast-off and block out the difference with vigor.