Skip to content

Some knitting

September 17, 2010

Once Jan started with her flax spinning series, I just wanted to let those be out there for awhile without jumping to the head of the screen.

But there has been knitting here. I am shockingly behind on showing what I’ve knitted this year so let’s catch up.

A long time ago I showed a partly knit Azami. Not long after I took those pictures I went and read the part of the pattern where the hood is knitted in, and realized I’d overlooked that the edging of the hood goes down all the way down into the neckline, thus producing the V shape that was puzzlingly absent from what I had already done. So I ripped out the back neck and finished it with the same lace that would have been knitted on as the base of the hood, then put a garter border on the front neck, using some short rows to make it shaped correctly without it being attached to a hood. It’s a pretty sweater that I’ll start wearing as soon as the weather allows for long sleeves.

I finished this in June. Wow, that feels like a long time ago. The yarn was Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Linen, which is 50/50 cotton and linen. I was hoping to be able to machine wash and dry this, so it would not become stiff, but when I washed and dried my swatch, it shrank up vertically to an alarming degree, so I’m going to have to find another way to make sure this doesn’t turn into burlap.

I never did post much of anything here about Cable and Lattice. This was a Vermont Fiber Designs pattern that I have had for ages, set aside with some Cascade 220 that I bought especially for it. I finally finished it this April. I hope we have cold enough weather that I can get some wear out of it.

I submitted this to the skein and garment competition but they did not like my sleeve seams. Which I can understand, as doing mattress stitch on reverse-stockinette is a thankless job. Any brilliant ideas on how to make attractive seams in reverse-stockinette fabric?

I finished this in April, but I started it in December. There’s no good reason it took so long, as it was not a difficult pattern. I guess there were just too many other projects happening.

After getting these projects off my lap I was able to embark on some summer knitting.
Rosemary started releasing a series of small shawls, intended to be made with a skein of sock yarn. I liked the first one, Merope, so much that I knitted it in less than three weeks. I had just spun four ounces of delicious bluefaced leicester and tussah fiber from Wool Gatherings that I got from my local yarn shop’s MS&W stock, which was just about fingering weight, and I couldn’t wait to knit with it. Here it is, photographed with the Frederic Bordua wheel that spun the yarn.


The pattern was cleverly designed, beginning at the bottom point and creating its border points by increasing and decreasing within the border pattern while at the same time increasing the center section to grow the triangle. It may not have been ideal for a variegated yarn, but frankly, nobody has to like it but me, and I do. It’s a nice size to tie around my shoulders if the office is cold.

Emmy is growing and it’s time for another hoodie. She likes her clothes big and roomy, so I got a copy of the classic Wonderful Wallaby pattern – it has sizes from toddler to big adult, so I’ll be able to make her sweaters from this as long as she’s willing to wear handknits. She wanted it in her school colors, so while that makes somewhat unfortunate knitting for me, it’ll make her wear it more! And really this is the nicest orange I have ever seen. It’s Cascade 220, in the colors “tangerine heather” and “jet heather” and it’s working up quite nicely. The body is complete to the armholes and awaiting the sleeves.

This project sat around most of the summer because for quite awhile it was just too hot to think of picking up worsted weight wool, but now it’s moving along again.

I was kind of pleased to see that the way they do the front pocket was quite similar to the way I threw a front pocket on her blue hoodie some time ago.

Since mid summer I’ve been working on the intricate Lissajous knee socks, by Cookie A. from the first issue of Twist Collective. They were something I put off starting because they use twisted stitches (twists on every row, ouch!), but at last their beauty overcame my desire to avoid twisted stitches. I had some handspun that I’ve been saving for knee socks for quite awhile now – some Lisa Souza bluefaced leicester fiber in the Peacock color – so I set off.

They do take time.

Some parts hurt my hands to knit, and I can’t do too much at once, but for the most part it isn’t too bad. I can’t do it without a cable needle because the stitches have to be twisted, which I can’t do correctly without a cable needle. Still, I have one entire sock done and about 1/3 of the second.

There was a short trip to Quebec in the summer, accompanied by some spinning wheel action, but that will have to wait for another day.

Oh, yeah, and the haircut people keep asking about:


2010 TdF – Second half: plying and knitting my handspun linen yarn

August 31, 2010

The next step in my TdF project was plying Serena’s singles. Serena had trouble with the 2 ply snagging on her tiny hooks, so I called in Suzanne, an antique Quebec saxony, for the assist. Serena’s Little Sister wound the finished skeins.

Suzanne is wearing her red Team TRU driveband and a jaunty Quebec blue tassel. Little Sister sports herTeam TRU red tassel, and a white novice tasse because this is the first time I have reeled yarn on her.

To prepare Suzanne’s 2-ply linen yarn for knitting I skeined it, washed it, boiled it for two hours, dried it and wound it into the final balls. The ball in front is the main batch of linen that Serena spun. It is 108 yd. at 2199 YPP. The yarn on the tp tube was spun from the same strick, but using a different style of dressing the distaff. It is 19 yd. at 1394 YPP.

On the very last day of the TdF I met my final goal, knitting with the linen yarn. After considerable swatching for both pattern and needle size, it went on the needles, committed to becoming a neckscarf in New Shell Shetland lace. That day I wore a yellow t-shirt and a big, happy smile.
We did it! I am mighty proud of our flax Team TRU: Serena, Little Sister, and Suzanne.

After the TdF the next step was to finish the neckscarf by the traditional method of cold mangling. After a gentle wash in tepid water, it spent the night rolled in a towel. The next morning I spread the barely damp scarf on an antique linen mangling cloth. Using a rocking motion I pressed down on it HARD with an antique oak roller. I worked along the scarf in short sections, rocking and pressing as hard as I could. Under the pressure the fabric began to smooth out and take on a sheen impossible to attain with a heated iron. The lace became unbelievably thin, with a texture that was at once crisp and flowing. Reflecting the morning sunlight, the linen seemed to be lit from within.

Spun silver–Serena’s linen scarf:

What a lovely souvenir of the 2010 Tour de Fleece.

2010 TdF – Serena Spins Flax

July 20, 2010

For the 2010 Tour de Fleece, I joined Team TRU, fielded by the Ravelry Antique Spinning Wheel and CPW Lovers groups. My goal for the TdF is to put several of my antique spinning wheels into working order and then spin some challenging yarn on them. I also decided to have fun playing with with all the colors and ribbons of the real Tour.

Serena is an exquisitely turned double upright Scandinavian wheel from North Dakota. She came to me accompanied by her own diminutive yarn reel, very like a princess and her lady in waiting.

As ethereal as she looks, her treadle (here tied up for the ride home), says a lot about her. The heavy treadle bar and double pivot bar suggest that she was made in northern Sweden, and was intended to be a working wheel. The wear on her footpad says that indeed, she has seen much use. I wanted to put her to work again, but time, and a heavy coat of shiny varnish, had frozen every moving part in place. Days of squirting turbine oil into her stiff joints and some strategically placed matchstick shims put her back into alignment and working order.

My project for Serena, once she was up and going, has been to learn to spin a strick of long line flax from her distaff.

A strick is made from the longest, finest fibers of the flax plant, carefully combed and bundled.

This is long line Belgian flax; the fiber length is more than a yard. It is a magnificent preparation, befitting a princess.

Because of the fiber length and my inexperience, dressing her truncheon distaff was a daunting task. Dressing the distaff involved tying the end of the strick to my waist and fanning it back and forth on a table, then rolling the distaff up in the flaxen web and securing the fiber to it with a satin ribbon.

At last here is Serena, shimmed and oiled, and tensioned and dressed in her finest, ready for the TdF.

She is wearing her red Team TRU tassel, and a winner’s yellow tassel for the victory newly gained: coming back to life after so many, many years. Her distaff is wrapped with a white ribbon, identifying her spinner as a novice at spinning strick.

Distaff dressed, water cup filled, she is ready to go.


It didn’t take long for Serena to announce that she preferred spinning Z, and that she would condescend to cooperate in this S business **ONLY** if her pretty red Team TRU driveband was crossed in the direction opposite to what every other S-spinning wheel in the fiber universe wants and needs.

Furthermore, if her spinner slighted her by letting up even the least little bit on her gorgeously carved treadle, Serena would whip around Z-wise and fling 5 or 6 flyer turns of loose yarn all over her hooks.

It was a slow slog at first, but by the end of the day everything changed.

Fiercely independent and enormously talented, Serena spun fast and well, once the two of us learned to maintain constant contact and communication with each other. Yarn began to build steadily on the bobbin. Spinning became a pleasure.

FO!!! – Wet-spun linen singles.

One and a half ounces of real linen yarn. What a joy.

Serena bedecked in ribbons–

She earned every one of them! Team red and triumphant gold, a snippet of her white novice ribbon, and a multicolored bow for mastering the climb up the learning curve. A beautiful princess, proudly wearing her own beautiful yarn.

Way to go, sweet Scandi girl!

Serena, I love you. Flax, I love you too.


July 6, 2010

Believe it or not, I finished something. That’s not happening much lately, I feel like I knit and knit and get nowhere. Maybe it’s the continued stifling weather.

Anyway, I ran across this pattern on Ravelry not long ago, looking for shrugs for fingering weight yarn. It caught my attention for several reasons. First, it was a sampler of real lace patterns, not just an all-over lacy-looking thing. Second, it didn’t look like a shrug – most shrug patterns I see nowadays are to my mind rather silly-looking things that don’t even come down to your bra in back. This looked like it would come down nearly to one’s waist in back, and look like a bolero in front. Third, it used close to the amount of yarn I had earmarked for such a project.

I didn’t have QUITE enough yarn. I had some old Wooly Wonka cormo/angora fingering that amounted to about 650 yards, in two radically different dye lots. On the other hand, I didn’t need those sweepy knuckle-length sleeves. So I set about replanning the lace. I was going to have color asymmetry, as well as the asymmettry of different lace on the two sleeves, so I decided to do away with the asymmetry of having the center pattern not lie in the middle of my back. I reduced the number of repeats on all the repeating lace patterns, and when I was done I had cut almost 25% out of the length of the body as well as centering the zig-zag pattern on the back. That seemed like enough to get going.

The knitting was easy and the yarn was appealing. The challenge was in the finishing. There was a lot of it.

First, you knit two cuffs – they are an edging pattern, which you start from a provisional cast-on. When you have repeated the pattern the required number of times, you put the last row on a holder, pick up from the straight edge of one cuff, then begin knitting the body, which proceeds like a stole. When you have completed the length of the body, you take the second cuff and graft it onto the end. Then you have a big rectangle, and at each end you have a stitch holder on one side of the cuff and a provisional cast-on at the other side..

Next, you begin again with a provisional cast-on and knit the edging pattern, but a lot more of it this time, till you have a very long piece about 3 times the length of one cuff. At the end, you stick the last row on a holder, so one end has a holder and one end has a provisional cast-on.

Then you block. I followed a steaming method to avoid this thing getting skinny – after washing and pinning it out, I laid a wet sheet on top and ironed it so that it steamed.

After THAT, you sew. Here is a picture to break up all the words and show you why this was all worth it. (It looks like the sleeve lengths don’t match, but it’s just how I”m wearing it – the vertical lines of eyelets are supposed to lie approximately at my shoulders with the pattern centered on my back.)

Pretty, eh? Good thing, or I’d have gotten very discouraged at this point. The invisible joins of the cuffs and the edging. I followed her directions, which I don’t even want to repeat hear as I still feel faint when I think about it, and I got something like an invisible join, which is a miracle.

Then, you mark the edging so that you know where the four quarters of it lie, and place the center of it at the center of the top of the back, and start sewing it to the edge of the body. When you get close to that quarter mark, you stop, and begin mattress-stitching the edges up from the cuff to make the sleeve. When it looks about right, you stop, and continue sewing the edge to the body, across the seam. At that point I stopped and went back to the center top and went down the other side and did the other sleeve. Then I finished sewing the edging from both sleeve seams across the lower back so that it fit.

Phew. This took for EVER. And I probably had about 3 yards of yarn left. But the result is really beautiful.

This is the only way I could come up with to fold it safely for storage – straight across the center back and tops of the sleeves.

Yes I feel very virtuous to have completed it. No, I don’t think I want to do it again! If finishing doesn’t make you want to crawl under a table, this pattern really makes a beautiful result, and I am quite happy with the shorter sleeves. I will get a lot of wear out of it in the over-air-conditioned summer office.


June 20, 2010

Socks with holes under the heels, meet office chair arms chewed up by cat.

On the left, “Widdershins.” On the right, “Dublin Bay Socks.”
Scheming to use old sweatshirts as seat and back covers…

Out with the new, in with the old

May 16, 2010

Part One – The Tale of the Hoard
Once upon a time in Genesee County, Michigan, there were two brothers named Mott. They started a hardware business in the 1940s, but apparently they had a sideline as an informal pawnshop, giving people cash for stuff when they were in need. Thus they accumulated an eccentric mass of miscellaneous stuff. When they died, their large and eclectic estate went up for auction.

Oddly enough, it seems a lot of people brought them spinning wheels of Canadian origin. A collector in central Michigan ended up with a barn full of these. They were partly disassembled, jumbled up, and very dirty. There must have been another batch that ended up somewhere else, as will be seen.
When a couple of these wheels turned up on eBay, a member of the Ravelry forum for lovers of Canadian spinning wheels investigated and found out about this cache of wheels that needed cleaning and sorting to be made saleable. Before too long, five spinners (and one kid) from Baltimore were making a spring break drive to central Michigan to help the owners of the cache sort and match parts and see what was to be seen.

Two days were spent at what became known as The Hoard. By the end of the second day, the wheels and parts had been sorted – yellow tables and yellow drive wheels in one place, orange ones in another, screw-tension wheels in a third place, large wheels with cast-iron fittings somewhere else – so that at least matching had a fighting chance of happening. Some wheels that were fully put together were tried out by the five spinners, and five wheels came back to Baltimore. Other wheels just could not be put together. Sometimes, a very attractive table just could not be matched to a wheel that was the right color and also fit between the uprights. Sometimes there was no flyer that would go between the maidens. We could not escape the feeling that there was another Hoard someplace else, and that Hoard included dozens and dozens of FLYERS.

It made for an interesting vacation. Here are a few photos from the Hoard itself.

But what I know YOU want to see is – what’s the wheel that came home with ME?

Bordua wheel

This is a marked wheel made by Frederic Bordua, and probably dates from between 1890 and 1910. It was a dirty little bird – half the shellac was pretty much gone, and the remnants of it were decayed to a dark dark brown. There were some cracks in the table that probably came from drying and climate extremes, and rust and dirt coated the iron parts. But it spun. We threw a driveband and some oil on it and a makeshift footman, and I spun a whole bobbin of singles in a couple of hours. The flyer on it probably wasn’t the one the maker originally made, but it was definitely a flyer from the same size wheel, and it fit fine.

Maker's mark - covered with crud but intact

Wheel spokes - very little finish!

There were some cracks in the table, but there was no weakness – the cracks evidently were very old and may have come from the use of insufficiently dried wood.

Underside of table

Following the lead of other antique wheel lovers on Ravelry, I bought a bunch of rags, a jug of denatured alcohol, and some Danish oil, and went to work on it. The denatured alcohol dissolved the old shellac and probably left a thin uniform coat of it in places there was any to get off. The Danish oil coated and sealed the wood without changing the color. After a month or so, it looked like this.

Frederic Bordua wheel after cleaning

Maker's mark after cleaning

Hub and front upright

Spokes and uprights after cleaning

If you like this kind of thing, the before and after photos are all here.

I’m not a wheel namer like some people. My cars don’t have names either. I call this one Fred just because that’s the name stenciled on the table! This wheel is identical to the one in the last entry, photographed at the Merlin Tree booth and refurbished by Dave – the only difference is, I believe that one has the original flyer. And, Dave takes a more conservative approach to finish preservation. I had no finish to preserve!

Fred has been spinning a pound of Corriedale I had lying around.

There was a wheel I wanted that I had to leave behind – no flyer could be found to fit.

Amable Paradis - no flyer

It was a little screw-tension saxony wheel made by Amable Paradis, who lived from 1811 to 1893 and was the first of at least three generations of wheelmakers in St-André, Quebec. Waah. The one that got away. I still want one like this.

Part Two – The Winder’s Tale
Having lined up a buyer for the Prelude, I wasn’t feeling bad about bringing Fred home – he cost a bit less than a Prelude costs. I had been coveting an antique skein winder for some time, but not seeing any that were the right price and accessible to me. Then one popped up on eBay that was just about the right price even taking shipping into account, and was different from the ones I’d been looking at. I pondered it for nearly a week, and then about 2 days before it was going to end I emailed the link to Jan and asked her opinion. The opinion came back: “BUY IT! It’s worth more than the seller is asking! New England style, as opposed to the more common six-armed Pennsylvania style.” So I did. When it arrived, FedEx ground in a HUGE box from upstate New York, it was stunningly gorgeous.

Antique click reel

Although it is in really good shape (maybe refiinished?), it’s really old. It’s pegged together everywhere. A peg holds the two arms onto the axle, pegs hold the legs into the base, pegs hold the top assembly onto the base, there are even pegs holding the ends of the arms on.

Reel arms and handle, pegged onto axle

The clicker clicks, and is held on with old-looking nails.

Gear assembly and clicker

It clicks every 40 turns and has a two-yard circumference, so 40 turns is 80 yards. Apparently, a knot was created every 80 yards, and 7 knots was a full 560-yard skein.

It creaks a little as you wind on it, like an old ship. I love it.

Part Three – The Tale of the Goodies
I didn’t buy much at MS&W, partly because I had just done my out-with-the-new-in-with-the-old shopping, but there were a few lovelies I couldn’t pass up.

I bought a nice big sturdy bag from Merlin Tree – they are meant to haul Hitchhiker wheels around in, but they were willing to sell it to me by itself. I promptly put my inconvenient backpack into it and was much more comfortable for the rest of the day. I also love the maker’s mark that is very like the mark on my Cadorette wheel.

I bought two skeins of sock yarn from the booth of my LYS, Cloverhill. Every year they bring in loads of wonderful stuff from indie dyers for MS&W. I got very lucky and got a skein of Three Irish Girls sock yarn in a color I loved (there was not much left there by the time we arrived at the booth at something like 10am…), and a skein of purple from Serendipitous Ewe. Finally, 8 ounces of sky-blue bluefaced leicester/tussah silk top from Bullen’s Woolens. I have never really noticed that vendor before although their name is always on the list of vendors. But this year, they had a big rack of top on the outside of their booth, which took great advantage of the fact that they were on the end of a section next to a side exit door from the main building. They had beautiful top in it, the blend that I bought but also merino/bamboo and a couple of other luscious things, and gorgeous colors. As you walked up that aisle of the building, it caught the eye and for me it was like a magnet. I wanted a lot more than I finally bought. I hope they do it again!

Part Four – Of Knitting
Socks were knitted amid all this.

This was Socks That Rock mediumweight in the color ‘Rockstar’ that I was lucky enough to snag, with no effort, lines, or waiting, at MS&W last year. I used Cat Bordhi’s Upstream architecture and did some garter stitch stuff in the gusset area.

I’m nearly done with Vilai from Cookie A.’s book. These are beautiful socks and you really have to pay attention to the chart and directions or you will end up doing a lot of frogging. The yarn, I’m editing this to add, is Shibui Sock in the color ‘peony’.

I’m also half done with Azami from the spring/summer Twist Collective. I am using Creative Focus Linen, which is 50/50 linen and cotton. It’s working up really nicely. I had to raise the neckline a little by making the armholes shallower, and I don’t want a hood so I faked up some mitered garter stitch for the back, which looks nicer on than it does lying on a table. It was the lace neckline that made me fall for this sweater.

The other thing I knitted this winter was Cable and Lattice pullover from Vermont Fiber Designs. I have wanted to knit this for a long time and it was just the thing to start in January. I don’t have photos of it yet, but this entry is long enough as it is! Emmy wants a hoodie in her school colors (orange and black, meh), and I need to make teacher mitts as the school year is, unbelievably, ending. So there will be some knitting of obligation going on once I finish those socks, which should be today or tomorrow. The next knitting I want to do for myself is this (Ravelry link)….

Blog? what blog? MS&W, and other stories

May 5, 2010

Oh yeah. Well. Lots of pretty things to show and some changing and rearranging to report.

The Kromski Prelude that appeared in October has gone to a new home, because shortly after I bought it, I also bought that antique flax wheel, and fell into an antique wheel rabbithole where I’m still rattling around to this day. I sold it at MS&W because all I want to do now is play with antique wheels. My Symphony will be with me forever, it’s a great spinner and a workhorse and my go-to wheel for plying, but I never really fell in love with the Prelude because I was so preoccupied. It deserves better.

I finished knitting some stuff but never really got it photographed. Hopefully that will be remedied, as one of the things Ravelry is good for is spurring me to photograph – those little blank squares with no photo for a project are strangely irritating to me.

I do have a lot of photos, despite the fact that the knitting content is sort of absent and there are only more skeins of the spinning you’ve already seen.

There are just too many photos for one entry. So first, Sheep and Wool.

It was hotter and more crowded than it’s ever been. I bought a couple of pretty things that of course have not been photographed yet. (Three Irish Girls and Serendipitous Ewe sock yarn, 8 ounces of turquoise BFL/tussah top, and an adorable little 3 pound silver Romney lamb fleece – fairly short staple but color, shine, and crimp to spare – I’d love to see the hogget fleece off that little guy.)
There were alpacas again. This guy and his friend were very talkative, making their little mews to one another and to us.

There were lots of sheep. This one had a particularly pretty face.

This pretty and unusual little wheel was sitting quietly outside a booth in one of the side buildings.

I noticed for the first time this year that Pat Russo’s Vermont spinning wheels are based upon the tension mechanism of the yellow Paradis Canadian production wheels of the 1920s and 30s.

This year I had the presence of mind to take pictures in the skein and garment building.
This was the best in the knitted shawls category.

I’m sure it’s very beautifully done and all, but its brownness put me off. I dislike brown. I mean no offense to the knitter who came away with a blue ribbon and a rosette.

This was the second prize winner in the knitted shawls category. Unfortunately it was difficult to see whether it was intricate or plain.

This was mine. From the display you would never be able to tell what it looked like. It is this.

It was the third prize winner in the knitted shawls category. Whereas a few years ago I would have been honored, this year I was sort of hurt. They had nothing but praise for the knitting and blocking, and it was huge and ornate and…. well, not brown. I don’t think I can do any better than this, as I don’t knit cobweb yarn. Maybe another year.

Someone submitted a very cute felting project.

And some friends of mine from our spinning group did very well indeed!

That last skein is fingering weight 4-ply cabled.

In keeping with my current obsession with antique wheels, especially Canadian ones, I had to admire the two refurbished antiques in the Merlin Tree booth, both of which were sold by about 9:30 Saturday morning.

That first one is a sibling to something you’ll see here in the next installment….