30 November, 2011

29 November, 2011

The Sequel


Am knitting a band to warm my ears and match my Susie's Reading Mitts.  Am amusing myself by calling it Susie's Audiobook.

Have run out of this handspun.  I have a plan.  Well, there are three options for finishing up this project but I know which one I want to take.  For now, this goes into a project bag to wait.

28 November, 2011

Susie's Reading Mitts


So pretty.

It's a rare knitting pattern that has sample photos I take to immediately, where I want to wear the finished product or incorporate a detail from it into something else.  This is one of those patterns.

I didn't follow the pattern construction exactly but the essential details are there.  My handspun yarn worked out very well.

ETA: I made a matching ear warmer band.

26 November, 2011

Finishing up a Hem My Own Way


My Susie's Reading Mitts are nearing completion.  One's waiting for a thumb, the other for its picot top to be folded over and its live stitches grafted to the inside surface.  The pattern says bind off and sew.  I'd rather not.

25 November, 2011

one hundred, thirty-ninth skein


While every American woman I know was stuffing a turkey, I was stuffing lots of yarn onto a spindle.  Fifty-six grams, 102 yards.

The one hundred, thirty-ninth skein was spun to match the one hundred, thirty-seventh.  I am thankful to be done.  This yarn is for the single Christmas gift I've committed to making.  Considering when I started spinning and when the knitted hat needs to be mailed, my progress is slow.

23 November, 2011

one hundred, thirty-eighth skein


This is my first tweed yarn, and my first skein spun from a batt.  The art batt was created by Gale's Art and contains "mostly wool with a little pink mohair and chunky felted bits in purple, yellow, and orange."  66 grams, 64 yards.  The singles were spun around 16 wpi.  I spun thick yarn because I wanted the large tweed bits to stay in.

At this time I am not sure what I will make this skein into but I'm pretty sure that a whatever it is will be meant for a small girl.  Which one I'm not sure.  I know several little girls and at least two of them adore pink.

22 November, 2011

The Bookstack Is Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

I applied and got a library card in a neighbouring library system.  Why?  Because their collection has some fibre arts books my system doesn't.  I feel silly for going to these lengths but I feel sharp for getting what I want.

Also on the topic of libraries and opportunities, my system used to have Alice Starmore and Anne Matheson's Knitting from the British Islands.  Now the catalogue no longer lists it.  Someone, somewhere got to buy the discarded book for fifty cents and it wasn't me.  A Starmore!*  That Starmore!

I like one of the pattens in the book, despite two aspects that concern me.  I don't know if I have the high level of understanding and stern degree of determination I would need in order to alter it to suit my taste.  Cullercoats is written in a way that does not mesh with the way I like to read and understand patterns.  Moreover, it is shaped in such a way as to make a person look lumpish and to bruit to the world that the wearer stopped paying attention to the fit of her clothes decades ago when dropped shoulders were cool.  The book was published in 1983, so that's understandable.

The look of Cullercoats is a wee bit like Susie's Reading Mitts with thin lines of purl stitches at the cuffs.  I am back to knitting on those mitts after revising my ideas about modifying the pattern.  Good to be moving forward with a project.


*Her books, used, can sell for huge amounts of money.  Fortunately I got a copy of this one for $20.

21 November, 2011

one hundred, thirty-seventh skein


My one hundred, thirty-seventh skein.  Singles spun to 32 wpi, three singles plied together.  Ranges from about 14 wpi to 10 wpi, so it probably falls short of the worsted weight I was going for.  66 grams (a little over 2 ounces) and 114 yards.  BFL wool dyed by Gale's Art in turquoise.

19 November, 2011

Tiny Castle Spinning Wheel


Saw this tiny castle-style spinning wheel at the West End Antiques Mall, booth JWM, labeled "spinning wheel, as is."  It's about one yard high, top to bottom.  It must have been quite cute when it was new.

I have no idea what this part is for.  I'm also not sure what the white finials are made from; I've never seen ornamentation like this before on a wheel.


I know from reading books that this bit of metal inset in the rim is meant to give the wheel more momentum than it would ordinarily get (being small), and thereby make it more efficient.  I assume originally there were more pieces all around the wheel.  You can see the footman behind the hub has split along the grain, damage that must have been inevitable given the nature of wood and the use this wheel probably saw.  The treadle is in worn condition.


The flyer and bobbin are not set where they should be, which is understandable since one of the leather bearings is missing and therefore can't hold them anyway.  But the function of the crosspiece they are set into is a bit of a mystery to me.

18 November, 2011

Working on Something Frivolous


I've been working on something frivolous, a pair of arm warmers out of the Fleece Artist wool I spun recently.  Uses the edging from Janelle Masters' Susie's Reading Mitts and combines it with the unshaped thumbless design of Leslie Friend's Toast.

Well, I was working on them.  Now I'm procrastinating.  I knit this far, started its mate, knit the same amount again, and stalled out on that one too.  Something about them is bothering me.  Perhaps there's not enough ease.  Perhaps I don't want arm warmers as much as I thought.

17 November, 2011

Jerusalem Garter

Went to Colonial Williamsburg and saw the Jerusalem garter.  It appears in chapter twelve of Peter Collingwood's Techniques of Tablet Weaving.

You can see a good photograph of it here http://www.history.org/history/museums/clothingexhibit/museum_accessories_timeline.cfm?section=acc1600_1700#12.

By examining the structure, I was able to see that when the piece was woven at least some of the cards must have alternated S and Z threading because there are small black chevrons in the warp-faced fabric at the borders.  According to Collingwood, alternated S and Z threading is common practice and is done to prevent the narrow fabric from corkscrewing.  Every so often the cards at the border were turned in reverse: you can see where the direction of the black chevrons changes in the photo below.  However, in the centre of the band the outline of the large red arrow in the middle remains smooth.  The centre would have been turned forward and reverse much more frequently to get double-weave.

The yarn is very fine silk.

doubleweave pattern down the centre: front and back
have the same pattern but the colours are reversed

15 November, 2011

Doukhobor Discovery Centre

Went to the Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society's Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar, B.C., Canada in search of exhibited tools and textiles.  Found them.

The Doukhobor are a people group that immigrated to Canada from Russia in 1899.  For decades they lived communally and met almost all of their own textile needs themselves.  I find it impressive what they got done.

This is a long blog post.  I will start out with some clothes, go on to fibre arts tools for processing, spinning, and weaving, and then finish with examples of woven textiles.

First, something not strictly a textile: a sheepskin coat.  If you remember your Canadian post-Confederation history, Laurier's Minister of the Interior Clifford Sifton went against public expectation that settlers in the Prairie provinces would preferably come from Britain and places like it.  If they could do agriculture, they were in.  He said, "I think that a stalwart peasant in a sheepskin coat, born on the soil, whose forefathers have been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half-dozen children, is good quality."


I'm guessing that the sheepskin coat came from an early period, as later the community adopted vegetarianism right down to their shoes.  There are quite a few pairs of shoes made of cordage on display.  There's a slip-on pair that is very coarse and bristly.  This pair is made with particularly fine materials.


Here's a spinning wheel.  There are several, and they looked very similar to each other.  Note that the maiden supporting the orifice is considerably thicker than the other maiden, a design I hadn't seen before.  Burnham's Unlike the Lilies: Doukhobor Textile Traditions in Canada states that the community received gifts of spinning wheels from the Quakers and the Canadian Council of Women, but since Burnham identifies this style of wheel as Russian, the one below could be imported.  Most wheels on display were of this design.  Burnham believes the gifts of wheels explain why there is rare evidence (one photograph and one memory from interviewees) for the use of hand spindles.


I found a spindle on display.

weft beater, spindle, tool for pressing linen

Here are fibre preparation and weaving tools: paddle combs bottom left and at top, bobbins, flax comb-type distaffs and matching small combs, boat shuttles, hand cards, and pulleys from a loom.  I think the proportions and the curve detail on the flax combs in the middle are beautiful, and I really wish these were commercially available.  Want to know how much?  Earlier this year I gave information about flax combs and distaffs to three different professional fibre arts tool makers in hopes they would consider adding these items to their line.  Every other tool on the table you can get new.  I know this makes sense given how many people weave and comb and card wool compared to how few work with flax, but the heart knows no reason.


The long stem of the flax distaff fits into the same sort of board that supports paddle combs for wool, holding the fibre at convenient height first to comb the fibre out then to draw the fibre off for spinning.

Board and post supporting paddle combs set in distaff position
There are two looms on display, a horizontal loom with treadles and an upright tapestry loom.  The rough construction is interesting.  Makes you feel like anyone who's handy enough could have a loom, not just folks with hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy one.  See how the shafts are made of bowed wood.  See how a metal bracket braces the top corner of the tapestry loom.  Also of note, at the right side of the horizontal loom on the floor is another board for holding combs or distaffs, one that I think has nicer lines than the one in the photo above.


Did you notice, on the tableful of tools, that underneath was a linen tablecloth?  There are handspun handwoven linen cloths everywhere in the museum.  The rug on the wall is one of many as well, and there are not only weft-faced tapestry rugs but pile rugs.

Hemp camel bags, probably purchased in Russia
drum carder

Thanks to curator Netta Zeberoff who gave me permission to post these photos.

14 November, 2011

Blanket Mill Reopened



"Neighborhood Revival," NBC Nightly News, Nov 6, 2011

A news story about the reopened Faribault Woolen Mill Co in Faribault, Minnesota.  Nothing to do with handspinning, but does have to do with domestic production of woolly goods and preservation of tools and skills.

According to the report, the factory equipment would have been exported to Pakistan if investors hadn't bought it.  The equipment is extensive.  Along with looms, the video shows industrial wool carders.  You can see their yarn spinning machines at rest on the company's promotional video on Vimeo here,


About The Mill from Faribault Woolen Mill Co. on Vimeo.

and in motion on another news report embedded in the mill's blog.

There are good still shots and captions that show processing on their equipment in the "Lost Art of Wool" slideshow at http://faribaultwoolenmills.com/wool.php.  The mill's website states it is "one of the only mills left in our country fully integrated to produce product from start to finish under one roof."

The report underscores the importance of retaining skilled workers with experience and listening to old timers.  The new owners acknowledge they are depending on former employees, one of which is past retirement age.

12 November, 2011

Maplelea Girls Dolls

According to the product description, you get pages explaining how yarn is made when you buy the Close Knit casual fall outfit (item KT40) for the Maplelea Girls doll Taryn.  The tie-in is that Taryn cares about the environment and repurposed yarn to embellish her clothes.

The doll company, Avonlea Traditions, used to make Anne of Green Gables dolls.  The Maplelea Girls dolls are 18 inches, and their concept is similar to American Girl dolls only with all contemporary themes rather than historic ones.  And Canadian themes.

Another doll, Saila, has some accessories that are made in the province of Nunavut, such as the Pang hat and the Amazing Amauti.  The amauti is "made according to traditional design" and the shape looks much like Inuit clothing I once saw in a museum exhibit.


ETA: if you found this post using search words for this type of doll, you might enjoy my post about the handspun, handknit hats I made for a friend's daughters' dolls.

11 November, 2011

one hundred, thirty-sixth skein


Here's an example of a skein that I didn't see coming.  My first experiment in Navajo plying failed to make the yarn I was hoping to get.

I planned to make a slouchy hat with large sections of stockinette interrupted by knitted lace, with long colour repeats.  Because the roving had short stretches of colour, the skein's repeats are short.  This would obscure the lace.  Back to the drawing board.

I need to find a use for this skein someday.  It is one ounce of worsted weight BFL yarn in the Velvet Elvis colourway from Gale's Art.

As for Navajo plying, I'm sure it has its uses but I wasn't crazy about doing the technique.  At least I can say I've tried it.

10 November, 2011

Home Weaving

I picked up a book published in 1939 by the Department of Agriculture, Quebec, Home Weaving.  It has many delights: erratic spelling, quaint views on asbestos, dimensional drawings of a loom and squirrel cage swift, curious instructions to use hand cards like paddle combs, beavers mentioned in a list of fibre animals, the success story of Mme deRepentigny's Montreal workshop in the 1700s, stats on the revived home handspinning industry.  Four million pounds of native wool were spun annually in Quebec farmhouses at the time of publication.  That's a lot.

The authors expected weavers to spin novelty yarn rather than purchase it, as it would be easier, but to send cloth out to country mills for finishing, as the price was so reasonable.  Must have been an interesting time to live, if that was the case.

Home Weaving contains recipes for bleaching wool with sulphur, hydrogen peroxide, hydrochloric acid, potassium carbonate, and ammonia.  It outlines considerations, such as which makes poisonous gas (sulphur) and which reduces dye uptake afterward (sulphur again).  Amazing that the provincial government considered this part of home industry.  The dawn of better living through chemistry and all that.  Or possibly this was traditional cottage industry practice.  I read in Alice Starmore and Anne Matheson's Knitting from the British Islands that Shetland knitters bleached their shawls over sulphur smoke.

I had a chance to buy some washed locks of natural light Romney hogget and I passed it up.  I was so used to perfectly bleached wool.  I don't like to wear off-white and I worried that the wool would have a homemade, blotchy look when spun.  Someone else at the trunk show bought some to spin on the spot.  I half-regretted my choice when I realized that once the locks were carded up, the colour looked better and more homogenized.  Often I fail to make the leap of knowing what a fibre will look like when spun.

09 November, 2011

Spun Sample of Romney Hogget


I spun samples of a teased lock of hogget wool to get an idea of the yarn I can get from it.  The wool is undyed Romney, from Vancouver Island, B.C.  If I read the label correctly, the sheep's name was Dewey.

Suitability of yarn depends on its end use so when I pick I need to consider that as much as what's pretty.

Let's set end use aside for a minute, because my mind shies away from pinning down exactly what I want to do with the wool.  I got four pounds of brown hogget plus another pound of darker Romney hogget.  Have never bought anywhere near this much of any one fibre before.  With this and an additional five pounds of white Hampshire cross, I probably doubled my wool on hand.  I'm somewhere between "whoa" and "now we're getting somewhere."

I think the thick sample looks nice.

When I bought the Hampshire cross (not shown), the miller brought out a selection of down breeds for me to choose from.  If memory serves they were Dorset, Dorset cross, Clun Forest, Suffolk, and Suffolk crossed with Rambouillet.  All locally raised.  All pre-washed, a feature I love.

When I've bought from shepherds I've gotten fewer wool breeds to select from.  When I've bought from a store-front or online supply shop I've paid more per pound.

ruler, for scale

08 November, 2011

Katharine Jolda's Cyclocarder™



A hand-cranked wool carder converted to bicycle power by Katharine Jolda.  According to the video, she finds it more comfortable and efficient to operate the carder by turning pedals.  Video is "Cyclocarder: Katharine Jolda" by Maker Faire, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSmSVI87zI4.

There are table-top sized carders that can be hooked up to a motor run on solar power (or regular current for that matter) but this is a much more direct way to use alternative energy.

It's also a way to repurpose used equipment, such as bike frames, rather than cause the manufacture of new materials such as photovoltaic panels.

Must work very well for promotion and awareness-raising at public events: it's so eye-catching and unusual.

Jolda sells Cyclocarder™ plans and kits on the Fibershed marketplace website.

07 November, 2011

Entwined Mittens


Entwined mittens.  Pattern by Tera Johnson, modified to go full-length and to put purls up the centre of the cable.  Five-strand yarn is the secret sauce for the deep cables.  I made just enough yarn to finish, too.

05 November, 2011

one hundred, thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth skeins


The remainder of the Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester wool, 132 yards and 37 grams, 114 yards and 40 grams, which means one is spun a little thicker than the other.  Three ply.

The original roving had some very dark red splotches which I liked.  They look diluted now that the wool is spun up.  Pity that got lost.

04 November, 2011

Salt Spring Island Weavers & Spinners Guild 2011 Guild Sale


I got to see the Salt Spring Island Weavers & Spinners Guild's 2011 guild sale.  This is a show and sale of finished goods.

There was much more in the way of woven goods for sale than knitted items.  Am not sure whether this is indicative of a strong weaving focus in the guild or if this means weaving is more viable for making items for sale.

I enjoyed reading the labels on the goods.  Some, and not just the skeins for sale, said handspun.  Some did not say handspun but said local yarn from local sheep.  Presumably the yarn was milled by machine at the island's local custom fibre mill, the Gulf Islands Spinning Mill.  I'm sorry now that I didn't verify this.  Family members were waiting outside for me to finish looking so I didn't linger to chat with any of the guild members manning the sale.

You may find it interesting to go the guild's website and read the pdf that gives the standards all items have to meet to qualify for exhibition and sale.  The link is under the News tab, in April 2011's note about guild sale preparation.  Always good to know where the bar is set, even when making things for fun and not entering them in an exhibition or competition.  Even when looking to make something wildly non-conformist and outside the rules, hah!  Neatness comes up more than once in the list.  Some of the criteria are straightforward, such as "tension should be even," and some could launch a year of study, such as "appropriate weave structure for intended use" or "smooth yarns should be consistent in size, twist, and ply."

The guild states in the publication that for the sale, "we encourage the use of natural fibres and, where appropriate, fibres produced on Salt Spring Island."

Salt Spring Island is an island accessible by ferry from Vancouver Island.  It has been an agricultural producing region for a very long time, that is, long as far as European settlement goes on Canada's West Coast.  The island is known for its lamb.  There are small stands with honour boxes at farm gates where you can leave money and take produce.  There are sheep at a private farm within the boundaries of Ruckle Provincial Park.  I took a photo of the Ruckle family's flock in front of a picturesque Victorian house there but it came out blurry so this other photo will have to do.