Category Archives: 100-mile clothing

Gotland/Shetland sampling

In my last post, I wrote about the important things I learned from sampling a small amount (80 grams) of the Gotland/Shetland fleece from my neighbour’s sheep named Aubrey.

Here are photos of processing and spinning the fibre to make a sample skein for knitting. The teasing took longer than it normally does because many of the butt ends were fused from my handling. See previous post.

I started out by hand carding some rolags. However, this fibre, and probably the Gotland part of it, is sleek and smooth. When I tried to roll the fibre into a rolag, it just wouldn’t stay rolled. So I ended up using my drum carder to make two, roughly 40 gram batts.

I spun it with a short backwards draw, re-wound the yarn onto weaving bobbins and let them sit for a couple of days. Then I plied them into a two-ply yarn. I skeined and washed the yarn, finishing it in a cold water bath to fuse some of the fibres, yet keep the drape. It is a lovely yarn and my neighbour loves it. So much in fact she’s not yet knit a sample swatch.

My next experiment with the yarn is to make a three-ply. It will be rounder and I think more durable for the sweater function.

Stay tuned.

A small pile of teased light grey fibre. Shows the shine and curly nature of the wool.
Washed and dried fibre all teased and ready for drum carding
A twelve inch by twenty-four inch batt of drum carded fibre.
Drum carded batt – two passes
Two weaving bobbins wound with grey singles yarn.
Two bobbins of singles yarn – approximately 35 grams each
A finished skein of two-ply yarn.
Two-ply yarn, 125 yards, 75 grams.

Harvesting flax – Summer 2018

There are few tasks easier than harvesting flax. You grab a handful of it right down near the base and pull. Roots and all. Give it a good shake to remove all the soil and put it somewhere to dry out. That’s it.

The trick, and yes there’s always a trick, is to decide WHEN to harvest the flax.

Let’s take a look at flax. The flax in the photo below is in full bloom. It’s an amazing sight.

You can read a lot of things about when to harvest flax, and some of it is different. In essence, you want to harvest the flax then the plant has reached a certain level of maturity. The older or more mature the plant, the stronger/thicker/coarser the fibres. When a plant flowers that’s a sign that it has reached a particular stage. After the flowering, the seed bolls form. Another stage you witness. After that, the leaves start to dry out moving from the bottom of the plant up to the top.  Many sources suggest you harvest the flax when most of the plants have stopped blooming. The thinking is that if you wait too long, the fibres will be too coarse. But if you don’t wait long enough, the fibres won’t be strong enough to withstand the breaking, scrutching and hackling to get the fibres.

I decided to harvest bed #1 when most of the flowers had stopped blooming and the bottom half of the plant started to dry out. See below.

 I’ve had best results drying my flax by leaning it against something – like a post or fence. I think it helps with the initial drying as the air can circulate.

I waited a bit longer to harvest bed #3. All the flowers had stopped blooming, the seed bolls starting to form and most of the plant dried out.

Our days were still long and hot so after a few days drying against the fence, I spread them out on the ground. The other two beds had already been harvested, dried, rippled and bed #1 retted. So I felt I was a bit behind with this one. I had to stave off that feeling as I was trying to do different experiments.

This is bed #3. The last one harvested, drying on my front yard.

If you want to see a really quick video on harvesting/pulling flax, check out my Instagram feed. I can’t figure out how to embed videos – so that will have to do. I’m @dianatwiss on Instagram.

Growing flax – Summer 2018

I planted my three flax beds on May 19. The Fraser River had still not crested, the berm was still in place in the event of flooding, but I took a chance. The beds had been covered with landscape cloth for a few months, so there were no weeds, and the soil was not compacted from the winter rains. I raked up the top few inches and measured out three beds.

I had seeds from three different sources and a deep desire to learn more about growing and processing flax. We have a good amount of space out here and I had time off from my day job, aka Holidays.

Working from right to left – bed #1 (5′ x 13′) was sown with seeds (Marilyn variety) purchased from Wild Fibres in the UK. Bed #2 (3′ x 13′) was sown with seeds purchased from Richter’s in Canada, and bed #3 (2′ x 13′) was sown with seeds from my own harvest a couple of years ago.

Germination occurred on day 4! Seriously, only four days to germination. The weather was warm, the soil nicely warmed up, and I kept the soil moist – not wet.

Three weeks later, they continue to grow. There were some patchy spots that I tried to re-seed. Those plants never caught up.

The weather continued to cooperate. A little over a month later, on June 21, the flax beds were very well established and mostly measured 12′.

Six weeks later, the flax was well over two feet tall. My cat discovered that a flax bed is a nice place to escape the heat. She tunnelled in and made herself a small bed. It caused several of the plants to bend and those plants stayed thin. Next year, I figure out some kind of fencing to keep her out.

This last photo was taken July 20 – two months since planting. And the flax is starting to bloom. It blooms in the morning and closes in the evening. Lovely blue flowers. Bed #1 was the tallest, #2 the second tallest, and #3 the shortest – but still of good length for processing to linen. 

More coming on harvesting, rippling, and retting.

Stay tuned.

100-Mile Skirt – Complete – the photo shoot

I started this project in October 2011. Inspired after a spinning workshop with Abby Franquemont, who had plans to make her own pair of jeans from hand woven fabric from her own hand spun cotton, I thought I could do something similar.
I was in love with the Claudia Evilla skirt. While a bit of a knitting marathon, it was an easy knit. I had made one already, knew that the style looked good on my shape, and knew roughly how much yarn it would take.
So I started. Through the course of 2011, 2012, and yikes, 2013 I blogged about it. I combed the alpaca, spun 4 sets of singles, plied the yarn and then plied it again to make a strong cabled yarn that could withstand the wear and tear that a skirt, especially the bottom, gets.
And then I started knitting. I ran out of yarn and had to go back to the combing, spinning, and plying. I combed all the alpaca I had, make all the yarn I could make and got back to knitting. And then I was stuck.
Stuck because I just didn’t have a good plan B if I ran out of yarn. Fast forward to late December 2013.  Local Yarn Store 88 Stitches hosted a KAL (knit along) on Ravelry to help us finish UFOHs (Unfinished Objects with Hope). Among the three things I listed, one of them was the 100-mile skirt.
And I finished it. All that worrying about plan B was all for naught. I ended up with a small ball of yarn about the size of a loonie, 8 metres to spare. 
And here are some photos of the finished, washed and worn skirt.  It is an incredibly warm skirt. And the fact that it requires a second layer under it because of the lace. . . . well, I’ll only be wearing it in January and February. We’re moving into a wee cold spell here in so I’ll wear it to work this week.
Here’s a photo of it being blocked.
After it mostly dried, I hung it over the stove to finish it off and to get the drape going.

The first time I wore it, it was full of static.  It bunched around my legs and drove me crazy.  I was so upset! After all that work and the damned thing is full of static!?!!

Then whilst in the laundry aisle looking for something to remove hair dye from upholstery, I saw something from my past called “Static Guard”.   INSTANTLY ELIMINATES STATIC CLING! was the claim. I bought it. And yes, it has saved me and my skirt from annoying static cling.

Ta-da!

I wore it yesterday to an event at 88 Stitches and was happily reminded about how much I love this skirt. It flows beautifully, is the perfect length, and yes, I have the satisfaction that I made the entire thing.

Figuring out what’s left

Ever get to the end of a knitting project and want to have enough to cast off and at the same time make sure you use all the yarn?

I have figured out a way to do this.

Prior to this I would do the “three times the length” and add another length for good measure as a way to make sure I had enough yarn to cast off. This doesn’t always work and I have found that out the hard way. It is also really difficult to do with pieces that are being knit in the round and are all scrunched up.

So this is how I’ve solved the problem. I used my scale. I have a very sensitive scale that measures grams into the decimal points. So at the beginning of a row for my 100-Mile Skirt, I weighed the yarn. Knit all around and weighed it again. Got a measure. Did this a few more times and came up with an average. and rounded up.

I have 14.7 grams of yarn left. It takes approximately 4 grams per round. So that means I can do 3.675 rounds. That means two more rounds and a cast-off round with confidence.

That’s a switch.

And here’s what’s left as I started the bind-off row.

Yes, the bind-off row. Photos later on the FINISHED, blocked skirt.

A Recurring Theme – The 100-Mile Skirt

I was looking over my blog, reviewing 2013 and I noticed a recurring theme. The 100-mile skirt. This year I have several posts about it, all promising some kind of progress and completion.  Here’s the short story of it.
In October 2011, inspired by Abby Franquemont at the Taos Wool Festival, I decided to make a 100-mile skirt. That meant that I would source the fibre from my area, prepare, spin and knit it. I already had a pattern, from a knitted skirt I made and finished in August 2011. 
Here’s the fibre I chose. Local alpaca – nasty stuff, full of brambles, twigs and other things that stab you. And a braid of fibre from Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.

I did a few samples and settled on the look that the skein on the far right gave.

The yarn is a 2 x 2 cabled yarn. That means one ply of grey alpaca and one ply of the blue stuff made into a 2-ply yarn. Then you take that 2-ply yarn and ply it again. That meant spinning up yards and yards of each – it was a 4-ply cable to that was a lot of fine spinning.

Here it is being plied again to make the cabled yarn.

And here are the first two skeins, washed and ready for knitting.

I got this far with the skirt and then ran out of yarn, so I had to go back to combing the alpaca and spinning up more singles of each – the alpaca and the blue wool.

And here is the last skein of this yarn. Once this is all used up, I have to go to plan B.
And here it is in progress. This is where we are today — 8 repeats of the lace pattern. I’ll knit until it’s gone and then if I need more length I’ll make a cabled yarn from the blue wool singles that I have left over. Right now it reaches to about an inch above my knee.

Here’s a close-up of those sweeties.

Plan B:  There’s a lot of yardage on these bobbins, so I think, if needed, I could make enough yarn for a half repeat. Enough to give a finish. We’ll see.

88 Stitches, our local yarn shop is hosting a Knit Along (KAL) for the month of January. I have openly announced that I will work to finish this project. I am so close – so very close. So I’ll have some incentive to get this done. . . . of course I have the Norwegian mitts to finish first. When they are done, I’ll re-acquaint myself with this pattern.

Happy New Year’s to all and best of luck and love for 2014.

100-mile skirt update V

Here’s the last skein of yarn for the 100-mile skirt. It is 189m and I hope this finishes the skirt. 400m took me to about 3 inches above my knee, and while the pattern does start to flare out quite a bit, I think this last 189m will do the trick.
Here it is on the niddy-noddy:

And here it is, nicely dried after a good soak in hot water.

 Now I have to find the pattern and try to remember where I was. . . .

Skirt Update IV

I blew my right knee spinning so the skirt won’t be ready for FibresWest. It’s true. The story is pathetic because it was an entirely preventable injury.

In a short while, I did a marathon amount of spinning to get enough grey alpaca and blue merino/silk onto 4 bobbins. No problem, knee was fine. Then I started plying them last Thursday evening. Remember, this is a cabled yarn so this stage of plying has a lot of twist in it, which required a great deal of treadling. I got this one above started, and then realized that I had a “Wild Silk” spinning workshop on Saturday and needed the wheel, so I had to madly finish the plying on Friday night. I was sitting on the couch and it’s too low so my knee was doing more of the work than usual. But in my frenzy to finish I ignored the pain and never even considered moving to a better chair or position. What’s wrong with me?

And then to add to the problem, I spent the entire next day at a silk spinning workshop. And if you know anything about spinning silk, it’s fine and requires a lot of twist – ergo treadling. Nothing that a couple of Advil couldn’t handle. After the workshop I wanted to get back to the yarn for the skirt so I spent the evening plying the second bobbin.  My knee was aching, but I kept at it because I wanted to finish the yarn, so I could get back to knitting the skirt.

The next day I was limping around the house and couldn’t go for my morning run. In fact, I haven’t been able to do any running since — well it’s only been a week, but I miss it. It’s on the mend, but I’ve learned a good lesson:

Pay attention to PAIN. It’s a signal that something’s not right.

100-Mile skirt update III

I’ve been faithfully knitting along on my 100-mile skirt until yesterday, when between Scott Road and Gateway Skytrain station, I ran out of yarn.

I’ve done 6 pattern repeats and have just increased in the purl ditches. In my other knitted skirt, I ended up with 14 pattern repeats, and I imagine I want the same length. But that’s all the knitting for now. I have to go back to the very beginning and comb some more of that nasty alpaca and do a whole bunch more spinning.  I figure I am slightly less than 2/3rds of the way through. But it does get wider as it gets longer, so I may actually need almost as much as I started with. Wow, that just knocked me back — that took a long time to make.

Not that I mind the combing or the spinning. It’s easy and mostly fun. It’s just that I was really enjoying the knitting. I was at the stage of knitting the pattern where I had it memorized — believe me it’s not a difficult pattern, but I have it all in my head. If I take too long a break, I’ll loose my rhythm with it. Which is why I am being boringly disciplined with myself and am spending the day combing the alpaca — here’s a close up of it. You can see all the vegetation and nasty bramples just waiting to stab me as I reach in for a lock.

To cheer myself up, I’ll move my lovely bouquet (thanks Davy) into my newly tidied studio to keep me company.  Flowers, Bizet’s Carmen on Radio 2 and maybe a wee glass of bubbly.

Happy Saturday everyone.

Progress report on the 100-mile skirt

It’s coming along nicely. The yarn is lovely to work with and the pattern is mindless. So far it’s just a wide rib stitch with gentle increases every 8cm. Right now it’s 10 inches. It barely and yet completely covers my butt. But alas, I am not of the age where I am comfortable wearing or being seen wearing a mini-skirt, so I knit on. I have a bit left of the first ball and then onto the second.

I know I will have to spin up more of this yarn. My thinking is that with so much of the skirt already knit, I will be duly inspired to get right to it.

But it’s coming along and I’m excited to be at this stage of the project. Hoping I’ll be wearing at Fibreswest this year. Nothing like a deadline to get things in focus.