Thursday, October 8, 2015

No Witchcraft Here!

1. Petrova is back in the lineup.

The new recommended yarn is Cascade Eco or Eco+. The pattern has been completely re-worked. This is a more technical knit that Glenora. If you've never done a bottom-up saddle-shoulder sweater, then Glenora is an easier option. It's also less fitted, which makes it easier to wear. I'm not trying to scare you off; I just prefer knitters to be realistic when selecting a pattern to knit.

2. The tea-dyed fingerless gloves are done!

The colour is a sort of caramel. They look best on, but I can't get pics of both hands at once, so you'll have to take my word re completition.

3. Bill completed and returned his jury selection questionnaire yesterday. It's a delightfully archaic bit of bureaucratic business. Good to know that if one has been convicted of "pretending to practise witchcraft" one is still eligible for jury duty (it's not an indictable offence).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tea Party: Dyeing Wool with Tea

Well, I managed to spin 50g of my lovely alpaca/merino very quickly. Everything was plyed before breakfast yesterday. That's when the fun began. The evening before, while the singles were resting (to set the twist), I did some research on the subject of dyeing with tea.

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Why? I like the idea of a natural dye product. There's something about the soft, natural colours that has tremendous appeal. Secondly, tea is what is known as a "substantive" dye. The tannins in it cause it to bond to the yarn without the need for a mordent, such as vinegar or other more toxic additions.
Here's how I proceeded:
1. I measured the weight of my spun and plyed yarn, before washing. FYI, a Cuisinart kitchen scale is one of the most useful tools a spinner/knitter can have.
2. I measured out an equal weight of tea. 50g of tea is quite a bit of tea, so I chose to use an inexpensive quality, namely, Red Rose, available everywhere in Canada.

This worked out to about 14 tea bags. I could have used loose leaf tea, but this was what I had on hand.
3. I filled a large pot with water and the tea bags, brought the whole thing to the boil, then turned down the heat, covered the pot, and simmered the concoction for one hour.
4. While the dye pot was brewing, I washed my spun yarn in a bit of Sunlight dish soap and water, then rinsed it and left it to soak in warm water once it was clean.
5. At the end of its hour of simmering, the dye pot mixture was potent. The tea bags had disintegrated and the tea leaves had formed a fine sludge. I strained the whole thing into a large bowl, washed out the pot, then returned the dye mixture back to the pot. I let it cool until it was just warm--about an hour.
6. Next came the moment of excitement. I lowered the skeined yarn, loosely tied in 3 spots, into the dye pot. I brought the whole thing back up to the boil (no sudden temperature changes for wool, remember!), partially covered it, and let it simmer very slightly for another hour.
7. At the end of the hour, I turned the heat off, removed the cover, and allowed everything to cool down to warm--another hour. THIS IS NOT A QUICK PROCESS. Note: when dyeing with tea, the dye mixture does not clear when the dyeing is done, but remains quite dark.
8. Finally, I removed the yarn, washed it again, and rinsed it several times to get out all the excess dye. I really love the colour.

This morning the wool is dry, and I'm ready to launch into the knitting portion of this little adventure.

Along the way, I discovered some blogs I really loved, especially The Bluebird's Diary from Finland.
You really must see this amazingly lovely purple coat!
Our mild September weather is gone. The furnace has kicked on for the first time this season. It is the end of warm, I fear. Maybe I need to knit a coat too...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I need a little break from knitting. My Petrova is done, except for the I-cord and blocking, and after teaching a spindle class last weekend, I'm in the mood for a small spinning project. The challenge? To spin AND knit a pair of Bibliogloves in one week. I challenge other spinners, especially spindlers, to do the same. This is a perfect project for such a challenge--small, good for luxury or exotic fibres, easy to knit, fun to wear.
Q & A:
1. What fibre will I use? At first I was going to make my new Bibliogloves in a beautiful green merino I found while teaching at Rosehaven Yarns last weekend. Then, once home, I realized that I desperately wanted some alpaca content and perhaps an undyed natural colour. Upon scrounging around in my fibre stash I came across 100g of Ashford merino/alpaca in a creamy white. The thing about alpaca white is that it doesn't have the yellowy cast so many sheep wools have. OK, so white is supremely unpractical for fingerless gloves. I know that, but for some reason I crave this regardless. It's emotion, not reason, that's ruling the day.

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2. What spindle will I choose? I'm going with my new Akerworks modular spindle with a 10" shaft and a large whorl. Last summer, after the Yarn Harlot blogged about these, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered one.
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I'm in love! I love the way the whorl comes off and the whole thing packs flat. I love that when you lay it down on a surface, it doesn't roll off onto the floor. I really, really love the cover on the hook which not only keeps the hook from grabbing hold of everything in your bag, but also acts as a stopper on the fibre when you take a break (see above). The only thing I didn't love at first was that the carbon shaft was slippery and it was difficult to get enough grip to initiate a good spin. I've solved that with that little rubber band you see wrapped around the base. 
3. Will I dye the fibre? No intention to do so at this point (see 1 above). Of course, that could change. FYI, did you know that Kool-Aid unsweetened crystals are no longer available in Canadian supermarkets? I looked up mail ordering, but unless you want to order 150 packets of Grape in bulk, forget it. 
So, join me in my pre-Thanksgiving (remember, Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October) challenge. I'll be wearing mine at Rhinebeck. 

Unless it's too hot.

Monday, September 28, 2015

That Time of Year

It's a knitter's favourite time of year. What more is there to say?

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Bill checking out the apple options at  a local orchard.
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Pumpkins at the Glenburnie grocery.
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View out my bedroom window.
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Chorizo and white bean ragout, from "Good and Cheap"--what a great cookbook!
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My charcoal Petrova, almost done.
Good night moon: view of the pre-eclipse moon from Battery Park.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Join Me

I've organized an impromptu drop spindle class next Saturday from 11-1 at Rosehaven Yarns in Picton. Bill is going to a wine tasting event at the Crystal Palace and I'm the designated driver. I have time to kill and I'm going to do that with this class. If you've always wanted to learn how to make usable yarn this is your chance. I'll cover basic spinning of singles, as well as how get from there to plyed yarn using simple equipment like a ball winder and a shoebox kate. Everything will be demonstrated with lots of hands-on opportunities. Cost is $10 cash. Bring a top-whorl spindle with a notch if you have one. I'll bring a few extras to lend for the class. Call ahead to the shop at 613-476-9092 to let them know you're coming and whether you need to borrow a spindle from me.

See you there!
P.S. If you're coming from the east, the wine event is a big draw and makes for extra traffic and wait times at the Glenora ferry. Allow a bit of leeway. Still worth the wait, though, because it's much more scenic and relaxing than the alternatives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Separation Anxiety: Adventures in Double Knitting

I've been working on the lower body of my re-vamped Petrova. The double-knitted pockets always seem to take forever, but at the same time they're so much fun it's easy to forget to be careful. One lapse of concentration and the two layers could end up fused instead of separate. Usually, every now and then during the knitting I pull the two pocket layers gently apart, to test that fusion has not occurred. Still, I hold my breath when it's time to separate the layers. First, I thread a length of waste yarn through the front layer of stitches. These are the ones destined to be finished off for the outer top of the pocket.

Next, I knit across the back layer, dropping the front layer of stitches off as I go. Then I gather both ends of the waste yarn holding the front layer and tie a knot.

When the rest of the garment is done, I'll come back and finish these pocket tops by simply returning them to a dpn and casting off loosely (I'll use a needle larger than the size I used for the body.)

Made a trip up to Westport on Sunday. Gorgeous early fall weather--sunny, low humidity, comfortable temps in the high teens, crickets chirping gently in the background.

 I restrained myself and didn't touch that ripe tomato in the foreground.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What a Pill!

I've fielded a few queries in the last few days regarding Cascade's Ecological Wool and Eco+, the wools I've recommended for both Glenora and Petrova. (They work well for Harriet's Jacket too, but at a different gauge.) I love Ecological Wool and Eco+, but some knitters have concerns about the way in which they pill. First off, yes, they pill. BUT, all wool pills, especially soft wools, and one of the things I love about Cascade's Eco line is its softness. It's lightly spun and airy, making for a comfy, lightweight garment. Lopi pills too, even though it's fairly scratchy (or "crunchy", as one knitting friend describes it), but that's because it's really just unspun roving.
What to do? I suggest that you invest in one of these.

Lint Shaver

It's a little lint shaver. The same model used to be sold by Dritz, the sewing supply company. It looks as though Knitpicks may have bought the rights to it, because that's the only source for these that I can find these days. I like the little ones, not the great honking big ones that I've occasionally come across. I have two, in case one breaks, and I keep a supply of AA batteries to keep them running. These little gizmos do a fantastic job of refreshing pilled knits. After the first few cleanups, the garment won't shed very much. Keep that in mind.
And, oh yeah, don't do what I did once, and use a lint shaver on cotton. The fibres aren't meant to be knicked off like wool. I destroyed a baby sweater once that way, and had to re-knit the whole thing, which was intended as a gift. Live and learn, as they say.