The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Tibetan Clouds Shawl, Interpreted

As they rode eastward along the water’s edge, they watched birds foraging and playing.  A few thin clouds were scudding in the pure blue sky and swooping birds united the heavens and the earth.

Sky Burial: an Epic Love Story of Tibet” by Xinran, p. 146

This Sivia Harding design, the “Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole” has drawn my lace knitting up a level.  No matter how many times, I saw the word “Experienced” on p. 173 of “The Knitter’s Book of Wool,” I kept leafing back to the chart, and thinking what really boil down to being covetous thoughts.  The best designs do that kind of self-promotion under your skin.  You have to, and the skills will come because you had to, right?  

The shawl is constructed from the middle with 4 triangular repeats around to form a lace counterpane.  In the design’s introduction we are told that the centre evokes the mandala motif of Tibetan Buddist art.  

 My stole includes the beads as written in the pattern but I used Japanese Toho size 8/0 seed beads for my finer laceweight yarn.  The centre beads are purple, and the wing panel beads are orange.  Instead of making purl bobbles at row 45 of that centre section (Chart A), I knitted in orange beads.  

The yarn is my handspun from a single braid of Yarn Hollow top.  Sivia Harding chose a worsted-spun fingering-weight yarn that is an even blend of merino and silk.  My yarn is lighter, and has slight halo from the 50% alpaca; 30% merino; 20% tussah silk.  

There was variation in my spinning.  How could there not be?  I made 979.6 yards over 6 skeins.  The singles were spun first, wound into plying balls, and plied together.  This part of the project – all on spindles – ran between May 1, 2012 and October 25, 2012.  

Fibre as it was in the 2012 Tour de Fleece

The method to my madness in spinning a 3,919 yards per pound large project is to isolate colour.  I unbraided a length at a time, and alternated spindles.  With an eye to the colour shifts, I was able to build shades from the dyed top.  The ochre sections have warmer tinges of pink, and vice versa through to my favourite mostly-solid purple at the centre of the shawl.  The little that barber-poled came up in either the panel transitions or on the edge.

The shawl is wider than I am tall.  With draping and a measure of chutzpah, I wore it to my cousin’s wedding last Saturday with a black dress.  It came into its own as the day cooled into a Boston September evening reception on a windy patio.  Others shivered, and the Cousin Who Knits did not.  

My philosophy is simple – if I am too shy to wear this at a formal wedding then what’s the point?  My knits are here to live in the real world.  The hours of making deserve that much.  As I tweeted:  Self-esteem, thy name is handspun knitted lace.  

You wrap a large stole thusly

This is my first knit made entirely from spindle-spun yarn.  It was an intentional project.  It went on my needles February 24, 2013 and was completed in early September 2013 with a few months’ break for other knitting.

A side panel, detail

The side panels of this stole were the difficult part for me.  The shifting of the lace felt like architecture, and took both focus and time.  I knit while listening to Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle on Audible.  Daniel Waterhouse had a hand in this too, I think.

Why I spin

 America Knits includes this Selma Miriam quote on p. 50.  I not only love it but her design the handspun, “Kousa Dogwood Shawl” inspired me towards both spinning, and lace counterpanes.  

When people ask about the time needed to produce a handmade object, it means that they do not see that it is the act of making it which provides the “grounding,” the stitch after stitch that are individual moments of possibility.

I sometimes get lost in the spinning of yarn.  There really is nothing quite like working with your own for-better-or-worse unique yarn.  Each skein was a new exploration in lace making, and the alpaca/merino/silk blend is just fantastic.


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Winter is Coming – shawl edition

Apologies in advance for the sheer pinkness of this post.

One of my first impulses after the last day of work was to get back to knitting this lace shawl.  Quietly started back in January, it was at the knitted-on-border stage when I picked it back up last month:

The big fear was that I would never finish it!  The pattern is Jane Sowerby’s Large Rectangle in Spider Net from Victorian Lace Today.  As I said back in January, Teresa is at the root of the whole attempt.

Finally caught a good rhythm for the wide border.  It was all groovy until I noticed that the yarn ball was too small.  And this a special dye job of Indigo Moon wool/silk for her stall at the 2009 Knitter’s Frolic.  This knitting on of a border gives you 2 choices – rip it off or keep calm & carry on.

Gasp all you want.  Ripping out wasn’t an option.  I also wasn’t into pausing to seek another 1,000+ yards.  So the last half-corner became the natural insertion point for another Canadian yarn, Handmaiden by Fleece Artist.   I am not pretending this is either a design element or high art.  It is Former Tom Boy Does Lace.

That was blocking attempt number 2, by the way.  The dog chasing the cat over attempt number 1 was spectacular.  In the disastrous second, I caught Toby mid-run & stopped the tear of yarn courtesy of his claw.  No rest for the wicked?

I’ve called the project Lord Varys’ Little Spiders since we’ve found the Game of Thrones in the time it took to knit this.

The garish corner (yes, I can admit it) is easily covered by the sheer size of this shawl.  Winter may be coming but I’ll have a warm & super-bright shawl!  Canada is Winterfell without the wall, trust me.

All the friends assure me that fuchsia is my colour… uh-huh, right.

Layers of the warm:

And lastly, the leg o’ lace:

I’m looking forward to this afternoon – meeting up with Megster at a local cafe for fun knitting in public.  If you take a peek at her blog then you’ll know that Meg’s expecting!  Any day now there shall be a Junior in the house!


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Shawls are for tomboys too

Spending 6 days home in Jamaica for my Toronto cousin’s wedding was every-minute-amazing.  A&W had a sea-side wedding in Discovery Bay.  We sandwiched this ‘country trip’ by staying with my parents in Kingston.

In my carry-on was the just, just finished lace shawl – Oslo Walk by Susanna IC (publisher pics here).  Lace novice that I am, this was a huge 3-week challenge.  What possessed me?  Well, having to re-wear a dress for the wedding is what.  Also, thanks to the best sort of encouragement from T, my spinning angel lace expert, I happened to have matching indigo lace-weight yarn stashed, together with Japanese seed beads & even a small crochet hook.  To reconstruct the scene (plans fail, what can I say…):

Here I am posing with the intended dress for the maker of my intended necklace:

And this is the finished shawl blocking the eve of our flight home:

And close-up for the detail:

The beads are Tojo #6, and the yarn is 1 skein of Fantastic Knitting’s Zephyr Lace-weight in Indigo.

At the top left of this pic you can see where one of my eyelet lines veers off.  To show that I am a hapless lace knitter who was under a deadline.  This shawl, now called Blue Lagoon, is easily the most delicate thing that I own.

The first rows of the pattern were difficult – I was learning how to knit in beads for what felt like the greatest expanse of knitting.  Mistakes were made.  All over the place but I stuck with it for the idea of bringing it to this wedding was strong with me.

This best laid plan had a hitch.  Literally.  Our hotel was 40 mins away from this 4:00 p.m. wedding, and I had been swimming in the sea just hours before.  So, there was getting ready to be done.  As DH was doing up the side zipper for me, it burst.  Burst, I tell you.  At the ribs.  Instant panic & cursing followed by tears.  Would the thing budge?!  No!

Eventually I got the thing to run again but the zip’s teeth were mangled [DH wants to say he didn’t cause it… yea].  Since yours truly was also a Reader in said wedding, this was a calamity.  Luckily another cousin, C, had a dress to loan me.  The shawl still worked with the turquoise but not the necklace.  Except C wears a size large & I wear – well, I wear a small… With help from C, and bossing from the bride’s Mom, I pulled myself together.  The bride had everyone waiting a long while due to some serious hair issue.  Not what I planned but here is Blue Lagoon as I wore it:

In a more relaxed mood the following day at Shaw Park Beach Hotel:

We took many other trip pictures – soon come with those!

Happy Friday!


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October in San Fran

San Francisco rocks!  It was wonderful to finally see my brother ‘in situ’, and meet everyone who is everyone in his life.  The city itself is so vibrant.  I expected the artsy, hard-core & touristy vibe but those Union Square high-end stores were a big surprise.  Made Toronto’s Yorkville look like a joke (or three).

This is a 1st run from our pics of the happy trip.  My machine has been acting up of late, so I am rushing to post before it decides to crash on me.  Getting a replacement is now priority no. 1.  I can’t tell you how many times that this workhorse has stopped dead in its tracks mid-keystroke.  So, in the interests of posting something, I’ll keep it simple for now.

Biggest take-away?  I am someone’s sister-in-law!  She was a beautiful bride, and I loved all of her other bridesmaids.  Couldn’t be more proud!  It was a great blend of traditional & their style.  She was a vision in ivory & his tux was balanced out by the very dope sneakers.  It was all expertly planned & executed.  I even liked their wedding planner, which is saying a lot.  The highlight for the reception was the live blues band.  The lead singer was a vision in red velvet.  His life partner had such a clear voice.  Even with my bruk-foot, I was out there dancing the night away (under vodka’s influence).

Brother Man picked us up from SFO & we headed for brunch.  You need mad parking skills in that city, man!

At last, a parking spot!

At last, a parking spot!

Street View

Street View

Brunch great – everyone knew their names & the waitress was a bit toooo keen on Brother Man.  Next stop was Golden Gate park.  We hit the gardens.  The plaque:
In Golden Gate park

The hokey $5 donation guilt trip:

GGdonationpyramid

Little big brother & me

Little big brother & me

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

How to feel small in this world

How to feel small in this world

Patron Saint perhaps?

Patron Saint perhaps?

All admiring this:

Until my brother notices & points to this:

Obtained from Mexico City...

"Obtained" from Mexico City... nice

Definitely Entish

Definitely Entish

GGparktreespond

The wedding was at the Legion of Honour, a working museum.  Views of the GG bridge & a golf course.  It was the perfect setting.

The Happy Couple & a the shoes

The Happy Couple - check out the shoes

Seriously good blues

Seriously good blues

My Wisp wrap & the onyx necklace:

All dressed up!

All dressed up!

In from the cold...

In from the cold...

It’s a snazzy wrap that now has a second life as a snazzy scarf.

If you remember, my neighbour made the necklace & matching earrings.  It’s her original design and my first piece of custom jewelry.  I usually wear small, light jewelry but wanted to go all out.  This necklace is so well made for me and this dress that it was a dream to wear.  Coping with all the compliments wasn’t too hard to bear!  Sonja truly worked wonders!

Sonja shows her jewelry privately as well as at craft shows.  Let me know if you would like to get in touch to see more of her work.  I’ll be happy to pass her contact info. on.  She offers a variety of styles at different price-points.  It really is good value for the quality of her materials, which she sources in Asia.

Now that I’m back home, I haven’t stopped knitting.  More to come on that front…


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Mohair & other Pitfalls

Where did the week go?  Just one big blur of frenzied knitting.  I’m not quite wedding ready but am getting there.  The Wisp wrap was painstakingly slow.  Working with 2 yarns is usually not a big deal but mohair?  Keeping it all straight meant stopping each row change.  And the dark colours did not help matters at all.  Take my word for it, overcast fall days are not the best time to use black Silk Haze mohair.  A few hours in & I was running upstairs in search of white clothes.  Contrast matters with this stuff.  It just does.  

Oh, and the dropped stitches!  Thanks to Macwinger, I managed to get those under control.  There I was with open stitches & no idea what to do about that when she suggested I thread in yarn instead of a needle.  Yes!  Yes! Yes!  A lifeline.  Smart knitters use lifelines in lace.  That was the turning point in this project.  Shocking pink Jitterbug yarn saved the day.    

Up close & personal - Wisp 'o Necessity

 And the full monty:

To set all of this off, I will have a custom necklace.  Just this summer I learned that my neighbour, Sonja makes jewelry.  She uses materials from Asia, and her pieces are exquisite.  I tried it on this morning & am very excited.  It’s black onyx with a drop of coral.  The dress is black, so the coral will stand out beautifully.  Sonja has final touches to make but I will definitely post pictures of the final piece!  

The continued knitting is because I would like to wear the Purple Cocoon Cardi.  It’s a U.F.O. from this summer that would be perfect for San Francisco in October.  Except, I really went & did it on this one.  Instead of just ripping back the wonky tops, I went & frogged both front sides down to nothing.  Yea.  Even I can see that finishing this is impossible if I hope to do important things like pack for the trip…  Perfectionism is a terrible thing.

On the brighter side… Here’s proof that I have company in the stubborn department:  one of our daylilies has said to hell with the fall & bloomed today!

Sight for sore eyes


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Sneak Peeks

I haven’t been able to post lately because my computer is on a rampage.  It’s slower than ever & crashes whenever it wants to.  It might just be hung up on a major MS update like DH says but we bought it 5 years ago to the month.  The 1st hard drive crashed months ago & this just seems like the last throwes of a tired Dell.

This weekend was all about organizing my many WIPs.  Then I put everything else away & had at my baby gift.  I love the border motif & hope (really hope) that it will even out on blocking.

Sweetie Pie to date

Sweetie Pie to date

Still very much in the development phase, and that’s all I have to say about that – for now!

After a long engagement, my brother’s wedding is really almost here.  This has official Wedding of the Year status.  I am even more excited because both DH & I are in the bridal party.  It’s all happening one October evening in San Francisco.  Do you see where I am going with this?  Sleeveless bridesmaid dress; night chill.

I kept ignoring the thought that I will need a cover-up for this wedding too.  The issue is that just this past May, I flaunted my silk Wedding Guest Shrug before a lot of the same people.  I know that a reprise might just make me that gimmicky knitter… Anyhow, I was being a dolt & am big enough to admit it.  Solution is the Wisp by Cheryl Niamath.  It’s a free Knitty pattern here.  The designer blogs as Fetching Knits.

The bridesmaid dress is all black & here’s what I am doing with the pattern:

Wisp of Necessity

Wisp of Necessity

I am using the recommended Rowan mohair & silk blend yarn in black on larger needles (size 10).  The blue yarn is not just an accent.  It’s 100 yards left of a skein of Alchemy mohair that the happy couple gave me for Christmas 2006.  Not enough for the full pattern.  I would love feedback on this one – DH’s nods are just not very convincing at this point…  Thanks!

By the way – mohair is a beast to work with.  The pattern is easy cheesy but the mohair is already giving trouble!

I have to run.  Toby has a vet appointment this morning & I am faaar from ready – happy knitting!