Sunday, March 17, 2013

EEEEK! Steek!!

Last May I started a blanket called Rams and Yowes by Kate Davies. I have thoroughly enjoy knitting the little rows of ewes and rams in the beautiful natural tones of shetland wool. This lovely lap blanket was my first major fair isle project and I am totally hooked!

In true fair isle style, the square blanket is knit as a tube and then steeked. Steeking is basically cutting your knitting, strategically. You can imagine it is a little nerve wracking. After putting months of work into a piece of knitting, I didn't want to screw up!

I followed Kate Davies' tutorial and it made the process much easier!

After tucking in a million ends (2 hours!!)...

 and reinforcing the steek....
 I started to cut!!
 Voila! A square blanket!

Shetland wool is perfect for steeking because it grabs onto itself and doesn't unravel easily. It's a little scratchier than merino but it has a great character! (as do the sheep :)

Now to pick up the 700+ stitches for the border.....

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spinning like a crazy woman!

During the winter of 2009, I learned to spin yarn on a spindle. I've posted a number of times on the topic and I was adamant  that I would not buy a wheel. I spun on spindles and that was that. I liked to be different and buck the spinning wheel trend.

Well I still like my spindles, but I came to a realization.

I am a knitter first. Spinner second. Don't get me wrong, I love spinning. But I love knitting with handspun yarn even more than I love spinning it and I just wasn't productive enough on a spindle to be able to knit with my handspun on a regular basis. 

So I broke down and in February I bought this:

A lovely Lendrum, Canadian made, used from a spinner in B.C. I've had it for about a month and I've spun about 700g of fibre on it already! 

I spun some 200g merino/silk that I got from Oregon in 2010.

And then I spun 300g of Alpaca to make a chunky 3 ply.

One of my favorite things about this wheel is that I comes with a plying head and HUGE bobbin.

This makes for some seriously large quantities. I think I'm going to make a chunky shawl from this stuff. (I have another 300g to go...)

This huge bobbin is also great for chunky singles and art yarn. I spun this batt from my friend Susan (soft and fluffy as a cloud!). The photo really doesn't do it justice. It was so fun to spin. I might turn this into a moebius scarf.

The next thing on my wheel is some corriedale pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms. I started spinning this a few years ago on my spindle and I've been wanting to spin enough for a pair of socks. I'm just plying the second batch of 50g (50g more to spin, just to be safe with the yardage). I can't wait to knit socks from handspun!!!

One of the big reasons I wanted to get a wheel right now is that I may be getting some fleeces from the Blue Hills Fibre Festival (which incidentally I'm helping to organize) in June. A wheel will allow me to get through some serious quantities of wool! Maybe enough to knit a handspun sweater someday...

Today I read an article in KnittySpin that summarized my feelings precisely. I'm hoping that by getting a wheel, I will be able to go even deeper into my love of knitting through greater control over and creativity in the yarn I use in my projects!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Knitting Retreat!

At the end of September (wow was it really a month ago??), I went on my first knitting retreat ever.

Actually I didn't just go, I led the half the workshops. :) I don't just do things half-way. Jump in with both feet, I say. (I kind of feel like the Yarn Harlot, but on a smaller scale.)

It was the Ram Wools Annual Knitting Retreat in Pinawa, Manitoba, September 28-30. Eleven knitters came and we had a blast!

Everyone arrived Friday night and we went for supper at a nearby country club restaurant. Then we got to know each other over some knitting, of course. They asked me how I became an expert knitter. I laughed and said I wasn't. I just knit. And spin. And dye yarn. A lot. And I like to bring other people over to the dark side share my love of knitting with others. ;-)

Bright and early Saturday morning we started up some dye pots and dyed some sock yarn and rovings with food colouring.

Everyone had way to much fun.

The colours were fantastic.

We used the techniques in this video.

Then in the afternoon, I taught some knitters how to spin their own yarn using spindles.

A whole new group of spinners were born!

On Sunday, we took those beginner spinning skills to another level and made coil art yarn like this:

The lovely ladies in my class were so enthusiastic that they all picked up this new skill with ease!

There was also some outdoor knitting, because the weather was gorgeous and the fall colours were beautiful along the Winnipeg River. 

What a lot of fun! Can't wait til the next one! :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Summer Natural Dye Round-up

Well it's September and summer will be shifting into fall: knitting season! I've been busy busy all summer with work, but I managed to squeeze in a few days for me!

In May, I made a summer dyeing plan. I bought yarn from Acme. I bought dyestuff from Maiwa. I even scored a big pot at a garage sale. I had BIG plans. And I followed through with spectacular results.

You may remember last year, I managed to get pinky-beige from St.John's wort, peasoup green from goldenrod + iron, and a grayish blue from black beans. These results were less than thrilling to me, and they were not the rich jewel tone colours I enjoy wearing. I almost quit dyeing with natural dyes altogether.

After spending the winter thinking it over though, I decided to try some pre-packaged natural dyes, in the hopes of getting the rich jewel tones I adore.

Here's what I dyed this summer:
 Left to right: Onion skin/coreopsis/cosmos on wool, madder overdyed with goldenrod on bfl, madder on merino silk, cochineal on cashmere/merino. YUM!
In case you are wondering I grew the coreopsis and cosmos last summer, and collected the onion skins and goldenrod. The other stuff is from Maiwa. The yarn was mordanted in Alum and Cream of Tarter based on Jenny Dean's recipes.

Then last weekend I tried my hand at indigo dyeing. I did some pure indigo and some overdyes. Indigo is SO COOL. Here's a video:

and here are my results:

 Top to bottom: Cochineal overdyed with indigo on bfl/silk, indigo on wool, indigo on merino/silk, goldenrod overdyed with indigo and on the side logwood over black bean.

Just awesome. I'm so pleased with my results, especially the indigo!

Now I get to spend winter knitting it all up... where to start?? :) I'm thinking some scarves, like Pogona with the cashmere. And something striped like Daybreak or Light in Shadows with the indigo and madder merino/silk. Maybe socks with the bfl. I have no idea what I'm going to do with the Onion and Indigo on wool.... What do you think?

P.S. I used the dye technique in this video get cool variegation in my overdyes!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Wow, it's been a while since my last post. I think I have a pretty good excuse though. I moved to a different city and started a new and very satisfying job in May. My knitting time has suffered a little and I've resorted to knitting plain socks most days.

This sock may be plain but that heel is extraordinary: Sweet Tomato Heel by Cat Bordhi!

I've made a little time to dabble in a summer pastime that began last year. Dyeing yarn with natural dyes. So last summer I had some success but I wasn't totally impressed with the colours. I don't wear pastels, peaches, lime green or yellow... I love vibrant, rich deep colours. My favorite colours, red, purple, blue and teal, are the most difficult to get from natural dyes! The colours I got last summer were not those ones.

This year, with the move an everything, I didn't get a chance to plant any dye-plants in my pots. I cheated a little and bought some natural dyes from Maiwa.  I bought Madder, Cochineal and Indigo. I had Logwood as well from my initial trip to Maiwa when I was in Vancouver. These should give me the colours I craved.

I started with logwood, and some copper-acetate liquor I made using copper pipes, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. I mordanted my Polwarth fingering yarn (from Rovings near Winnipeg) in the copper and then put it in the dye pot. When I pulled it out this is what I got:

Gorgeous navy and purple mix! I'm knitting it up into a Travelling Woman shawl. 

Then I had some merino sock yarn from Acme Fibres that I had dyed with black beans. While the process was fun, the pale grey blue just wasn't doing it for me anymore. I put that in the dye bath, thinking it would turn a medium periwinkle or something. When I pulled it out though:

A dark denim-y navy! Almost black but definitely blue overtones. WOW. That was unexpected but really cool. I know black is hard to get with natural dyes. This came close.

Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A tale of two thumbs

When I began knitting, I knit mostly for myself. I felt had to learn how to knit before I felt that the things I made were worthy of giving away. I've been knitting (obsessively!) for about 7 years now, and lately I've knit more for other people than I have for myself. I love seeing the expression on the person's face when I give them something handmade. Knitted gifts are a rarity nowadays. I like to knit patterns with interesting details: cables, lace, colourwork. However, sometimes the simplest thing is the most appreciated.

My friend Mark is the Mennonite chaplain at the University of Manitoba. I've spent a fair amount of time there over the course of my two degrees. It's well known in the "Menno office" that I'm a knitter. One day Mark came to me and said he had worn through the thumbs of a pair mittens that his mother had made for him. Those mittens were especially important to him because his mother could no longer knit and therefore she couldn't repair them or knit him new ones. He wanted to know, could they be fixed?

Well if there's one thing I love to knit, it's mittens. Mittens in are an essential item in Manitoba and no friend of mine would have cold thumbs if I could help it! I said I could probably attach brand new thumbs in an hour or two! Mark was ecstatic!

So one afternoon I brought yarn and needles to school with me and attached some new thumbs. This is the response I got from Mark:

Such a simple thing, but I made his day and I was happy do to it. He said now the mittens were even more special now because they were made by his mother and fixed by the "queen of knitting", as he put it.

In this throw-away world, it feels great to know that some people still value hand-made items!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I know I haven't posted in awhile. I've been busy writing a hundred page thesis so I know you'll forget me :) Despite not posting, I have still been knitting! My current obsession is knitted toys and monsters.

Back in September I ordered 5 patters from DangerCraft. Wow talk about addictive. I'm so addicted I ordered her Big Book of Knitted Monsters with my Christmas money!

First I knit a monster chunk:

Then I knit a little boucle monster that hubby named Mortimer:

Then I knit Sammie the sock monster, complete with his own little socks:

Then I knit two little monkeys for my niece and nephew for Christmas. I put little magnets in their hands and I'm told my niece wears her monkey around her neck! Adorable!

Then this week I decided to cast on Penelope. She is super soft and adorable. I know the little girl who will get her (it's a surprise) is going to LOVE her! :)

Going to cast on another right now!