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Archive for Knitting

Tweed-like handspun

This technique was developed when spinning my Féth Fíadha shawl. A féth fíadha is a magical veil that blurs the borders between our mortal world and that of the Sidhe. I envisioned a knitted handspun wrap reminiscent of a blanket of fog. 

To this end, I chose to work with Gotland. My first handspun and knitted samples in white Gotland (seen in the photo) rendered a lightweight, crisp fabric with incredible hand and drape. Further, Gotland’s slight halo added to the misty feeling I was attempting to conjure. A good start, but the fabric needed something more. A bit more surface interest. Something that would add to the mood. Thus was born a simple technique I call “frosting”.

Tweed-like frosted skein and ball alongside the plain white handspun.

In a nutshell, to spin this 2-ply yarn, the fibre is divided into two equal lots, one for each single. One singles is spun as is, the other singles is “frosted” with a gossamer layer of attenuated coloured fibre. In the case of this shawl I used a lovely, soft dark Finn. The “frosted” singles is spun by alternating between spinning only the white, then frosting for a bit, and then going back to the plain white. Once the frosted singles is plied with the all-white singles you end up with a handspun yarn with a lovely tweed-like effect. The photos below help to demonstrate the process. 

And yes, this is an amazing technique to use with dyed fibre! And a little bit of frosting goes a long way. For my whole shawl, about 10% of the fibre was dark Finn. Enjoy!

Thin sliver of attenuated dark Finn frosting on top of attenuated white Gotland.
Frosted singles.
Frosted singles to the left. Plain white singles to the right.

Spinning for Gotland, Finn and South American Shawls….

In December of 2016 our family home of 26 years sold much quicker than anticipated. The condo we had purchased was not scheduled for completion until April of 2018. Deciding to make the most of it, we packed up our little teardrop-style trailer and headed off to explore Canada and the United States while we awaited the completion of the condo. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that almost 2 years later, we would still be travelling and waiting for our home to be finished. 

On the one hand, this adventure afforded me the gift of time. Time to read, time to daydream, time to knit, time for spindle spins and time to explore designing my own patterns. On the other hand, however, the fibre related items I could take along had to fit into the small compartment under my side of the bed. There was no room for fleece or a spinning wheel. I started the journey with enough commercial yarn for two shawls I had been planning to knit for some time. Without life’s usual distractions however, they were knit in record time and, I was soon searching out local yarn shops along the way in hopes of filling the void I felt.

When I got right down to it, I realized I missed working with fleece; scouring, preparing, spinning, plying, and dyeing; the activities that bring a certain rhythm and grounding to my daily life. Friends had tried to convince me before we left, to take my wheel and some fibre along but I ignored their sage counsel. We did not have the room for a wheel let alone all the other equipment that goes along with spinning. I’d be fine. Or so I thought. By October I knew I had made a gross error in judgment. Thank goodness for Etsy and on-line stores. I placed orders for some commercially prepared fibre and a few spindles. The whole lot was shipped to my sister-in-law’s, so I could pick them up on our way to through to the Maritimes.   

Most often my projects start with raw fleece, which I scour, comb or card and then spin. I have over the years spun some commercially prepared non-superwash wool, but to me they seem lackluster compared to the fibre I prepared from scratch. As I started working with the natural-coloured commercial roving I had ordered, I wondered why my own hand painted commercial sliver seemed to be a little nicer to spin than the undyed sliver. A niggling voice in the back of my mind urged me to give the commercial sliver a soak in warm water and see what difference, if any, that made to how it spun up once dry. To my delight I found the South American, Finn and Gotland commercial sliver I had ordered and then treated with a soak responded more like my own hand prepared fibre.

With the fibre responding nicely to my touch, I set to work to design a yarn that would provide surface interest simply from the manner in which it was spun. Over the next few posts, I will share:

  • how I prepare commercial roving for spinning
  • how to spin a tweed-like yarn
  • how to spin a lightweight, airy yarn that lends the finished knitted fabric incredible drape and
  • (if I can decipher my notes and put them into a legible format for a knitting pattern) share my Énbarr shawl pattern.

Énbarr

Bluefaced Leicester (white) and Shetland (nature dyed, natural fawn and natural brown)
Énbarr

This is the fourth in a series of handspun hand knit shawls. Each shawl was spun using the forward worsted draft.

Énbarr is a white horse, owned by the Celtic sea god. Depending upon the source, her name is said to mean frothing, flowing mane or imagination. If you let imagination take you there, you can see the sea foam tripping over itself as it rolls onto the sand coloured shores.

Shorelines. Constantly shifting and changing. Re-shaped by time, the ebb and flow of the ocean and storms weathered.

Forward Worsted Draft Twist

The next three spinning workshops I teach in Kelowna, Victoria and Maple Ridge explore the Forward Worsted Draft Twist. This draft twist technique is often called the inchworm draft and thought of as a technique for beginners when learning to spin. Many use this technique to spin nice strong yarn for warp and socks. But this technique has much more to offer than strength alone. Subtle adjustments to your spinning technique and your wheel can result in a beautiful lightweight yarn with the most incredible drape.

The three photos below are shawls knit from a forward worsted draft twist yarn. The differences in the hand of each shawl is solely the result of breed choice.

The Sidhe Shawl – Dark Finn
Dearg Corra – South American
Féth Fíadha – Gotland “frosted” with Dark Finn

Who woulda thunk it?

Spinners are such a creative, innovative, curious and inspiring group. Two ladies who made me stop and take stock recently are Diana Twiss, of 100-mile wear and Rachel Smith of Welford Purls.

 

Diana recently got all fired up about Debbie Held’s article in PLY magazine on using crêpe yarns for socks.  And Rachel has been passionately experimenting with the oppositional ply and Hawser yarn techniques presented in Sarah Anderson’s book, The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design.

 

Mea culpa Diana and Rachel, but my initial thoughts were:

  • Hmmmm….nice novelty yarns.
  • I’ve seen them before.
  • A lot of fuss about something that is not really that functional.
  • Pretty, but what can you make with it?

 

Boy, was I wrong. When I held their skeins of yarn in my own two hands, I was gob smacked and thought “Oh my goodness, the possibilities…..”

 

Check out Diana Twiss at http://100milewear.com/ and Rachel Smith’s Wool ‘n Spinning blog and her youtube podcast episode #111.

 

Thank you to all fibre artists who allow us to light our flame in their candles. And a special thank you to Diana and Rachel for sharing their talents, insights and passion.

 

Cheers, Kim

Gypsum Flowers and Lilac Blossoms

Hat Box

 

I had a hat box filled to the brim with nature dyed yarn samples. What a shame to tuck those astonishing nature dyed colours away in a black and white box. This was the impetus for the knitting of my Gypsum Flowers and Lilac Blossoms shawl. I wanted to find a way to use my small sample skeins, no one weighing more than 10 grams, in a project.

 

Once I took all the skeins from the box and separated them  into colour families, I was particularly drawn to work with the neutrals. Colours I often hear referred to as muddied, dull or “blah” colours. Yes, these colours may pale a bit, when seen next to a red, yellow, rust, or rich brown. But separate them out and compare them to one another and your neutrals will start to sing. These are the colours that hold the power to make or break a piece. These are the colours with both rich complexity and subtle nuance. These are the colours that have the potential to bring unity to your work.

Nature Dyed Neutrals

The skeins I decided to use had been dyed with the likes of logwood chips, black beans, magnolia seed pods, deep maroon hollyhock flowers, black-eyed Susan petals, Royal Sunset Asiatic lilies, birch bark paper, and Chianti sunflower petals. Once all laid out the bands of soft, warm, earthy colours reminded me of white basal sandstones and marine shales, muds and clays. Adding a single skein of a brighter, cleaner green dyed from lilac  blossoms (third skein from the right) completed the mix; lending the line up of colour just the right balance.

Then the knitting began…..to be continued next blog. ​ ​

Following Glimmers of Inspiration……

It is always so interesting to see where one wee twinkle of an idea can lead us.  As I set up for one of my workshops last year, I took a hat box filled to the brim with nature dyed sample skeins and spilled them all out onto the table.

The intent was to inspire; to help students appreciate the potential in those sprays of leafy branches and bouquets of flowers waiting to be dyed on the table before them. To give them a sense of some the beautiful, rich colours to be coaxed from nature’s bounty. 

 

Looking out over the table I noticed three distinct divisions of colour. There were: soft neutrals that went beautifully with the greens; a band of yellows and yellow golds that complimented the greys; and a vibrant series of reds, oranges and pinks. The jumble of a hundred plus 10 gram skeins morphed; distilling into three colourways and better yet, three potential projects.

Here is a photo of the first project. In the next few posts I will share the glimmers of inspiration the colours aroused, the steps I was compelled to take and where this simple shawl has led me.

Gypsum flowers and Lilac blossoms.

Stash Control for Living “Small”

Yarn Swatches

Last year we decided to sell our family home of 26 years and downsize to a condo. The one hitch to our master plan? The completion date for the condo’s construction was scheduled for the fall of 2018. Not relishing the idea of moving into a rental and moving a second time once the condo was ready, we decided instead to embrace the opportunity set before us and head off  in our wee T@g trailer.

Living “small” with my fibre arts passion is not anything I have ever had to face before. As each child moved out, I simply expanded into their vacated space. Why not? Right?

T@g trailer galley.

To date we have 18,000 km under our belts with our T@g trailer; which is not much more than a queen sized bed on wheels with a small galley in its trunk, but I love it.

T@g

Seeing as the only room I have for my fibre supplies are two small storage boxes and a small space under the mattress, I decided knitting would be my best companion for the next year and a bit. And now, for the first time ever, I have a knitting stash. To date, I just spun enough yarn at the tpi and wpi Required and then dyed the colours I needed.

It did not take long before I realized things could easily spiral out of  control. I needed a system to help me keep track of my growing yarn stash, especially those yarns stored under my mattress. My solution? I wrapped lengths of yarn around clothes pins (embroidery bobbins, tongue depressors or popsicle sticks would also work). Now I can see at a glance the yarns and colours I have on hand. No more rummaging through bins or under the mattress. They are also easy to take along to yarn shops and serve as colour swatches when I am working on colour schemes.

Each clothes pin is numbered and relates to an excel spread sheet that records information such as: yarn company, fibre content, gauge, the needle size I used, the amount of that yarn left in my stash, etc. To help me when designing, I use the same number to label the colouring pencil that best matches each yarn.

And last but not least, I keep one label from each yarn type, just in case I need any additional info down the road.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

 

Lace Blocking Wires

www.inspinknitty.com blocking wires

www.inspinknitty.com blocking wires

My thanks to Janice and Shelley for putting me on to these lace blocking wires.  A little dear, price-wise, but worth every penny.  They are well used for blocking my lace and today I decided to use them to re-block a shawl I knit a while back.

Caroline’s French Cancan design has a beautiful cable that winds its way through a lace panel at the bottom of the crescent shaped shawl.  When I blocked the piece the first time, blocking flattened out the nicely sculpted cable.  The shawl was still beautiful…but the cable needed more umpf.

It was a nice warm day today with a gentle breeze and the shawl due for a wash.  I soaked the shawl for 4 hours in water with a bit of “Soak”, lifted it from the soaking solution, gave it a gentle squeeze to remove the excess liquid, placed the shawl between two thirsty towels for 3 hours and then blocked it using the “deluxe ultra fine lace blocking wires”.

One wire was positioned along the top and the other along the bottom edge of the garter stitch ground (which makes up the main body of the shawl).  I blocked the garter stitch area out nice and tight, left the cable that winds its way through the lace panel alone, and used a t-pin to pull out the points along the curved edge.  The result….a nice plump cable that gently carves its way through the woollen landscape.  Much better!

Extremely thin, flexible, rust proof blocking wires threaded through knitting and held in place with pins.

Extremely thin, flexible, rust proof blocking wires threaded through knitting and held in place with pins.

Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild

Spinning for Aran knitted fabrics.

Sept 9 – 11 the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild are hosting their annual retreat/fibre camp.  As well as the retreat there are three workshops offered this year.  The line up of instructors and workshops include:

  • Jessica Silvey’s basketry workshop where students weave a Wool Trimmed Cedar Bark Basket.
  • Sylvia Olsen’s knitting workshop on Coast Salish Colourwork Techniques.
  • Kim McKenna’s spinning workshop on Spinning for 4-ply yarns used in Aran/Cable Knit Fabrics.

 

To register go to  http://ronmci.wixsite.com/sc-fibre-camp/sunshine-coast-fibre-camp-registration

For further information regarding events, workshops and venue check out the SCSWG website below https://scswg.wordpress.com/fibre-camp/