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Making the Glenfiddich Cardigan

In mid-September I took a trip to Ireland. I attended a conference in Dublin and following that, toured around for another six days before heading home.

On day three I found a local yarn store called The Constant Knitter. It’s on Francis Street, a part of Dublin that was on my way home every day! To celebrate the spirit of local, I wanted to buy some locally made Irish wool to make something that will remind me of my trip.

The only locally milled yarn that was made with a good percentage of Irish wool that she carried, was Cushendale Woollen Mills. There were all kinds of colours, but I fixated on “Butter”. A gentle, warm yellow with wee shots of orange in it making it ever so slightly heathered. I had no idea what I wanted to make, just that I wanted to make something memorable. Long story short, before long I settled on 7 balls of yarn – 100 g and 200 m. Giving me a total of 1,400 m of yarn to work with. Whatever the pattern.


So the search for the pattern started. By this time I had convinced myself that I would make an Aran style sweater – which is quite an interesting thing as I hardly ever make sweaters. And those I made for myself, didn’t end well.

Ravelry has a fantastic search engine. I put in the amount of yarn I had, the yarn weight, the kind of sweater I had in mind, and before long I had several pages of options to explore. During my time in Ireland I viewed them (easy to do as there is free-wifi just about everywhere, even on the tour buses) and made my decision when I came home.

Glenfiddich by Annamaria Otvos. That’s it at the top of this post. Have a closer look at it on Ravelry by clicking on the name.

The following posts will be progress posts on this cardigan. I am knitting at the far edge of my knitting skills, but thanks to Ravelry – an amazing knitting community, and a designer who answers questions with photographs to help you figure out how to pick up stitches. I will get this done.

Spinzilla 2015

For a third year in a row I joined Team Sweet Georgia for Spinzilla 2015. At the outset of this wonderful spinning challenge I decided two things:

  1. I was going to spin for a project or two. You make an enormous amount of yarn when you do nothing but spin for an entire week. This was a good chance to spin for a blanket or a sweater.
  2. I wasn’t going to kill myself or make my life miserable. I was just going to spin whenever and where ever I could and hope I’d at least match my total from 2014 – 6,574 yards.

So with those decisions made, I set out to get my fibre ready. First this was to card all the rest of the beautiful, white Targhee wool I used in the Blanket Project post. Over a couple of days I made 15 – 50g batts. That’s a decent amount of fibre. I would spin this in the same way I spun for the Blanket Project, with the goal of making my own blanket – warp and weft.

I also rooted through my fibre stash from the Sweet Georgia Fibre Club and came up with three braids that looked a lot alike. Not exactly, but all three had purple, a fushia and a strong red in them. I decided that I’d spin each on fairly fine and make a three-ply yarn. Twelve ounces of fibre, that would make a decent amount of yarn.

And here are the results:

By the end of day #5, I had most of the white wool spun and some of it plied. I finished plying it on Saturday morning (day #6)

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Then on day #6, I finally started spinning colour!  Here’s the first braid – it’s superwash Targhee and the colourway is called “Open Hands.”

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Here are all three being plied on the evening of day #7. From top to bottom: Open Hands, Modern Mandarin, Bougainvillea – all from Sweet Georgia Yarns. Word of warning: plying three bobbins that were recently spun is a recipe for disaster. The twist in the newly spun singles was fresh and quite active. I wasted a lot of time untangling things. In hindsight, I should have spun these three braids first, then all the white wool. That way these bobbins would have rested for at leave five days before plying and wouldn’t have been such a nightmare.

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And here is the final result. 8,627 yards, that’s 4.9 miles. That’s a lot of yarn. That small blue and gold skein is 185 yards of singles from my spindle. I took it to work with me on day #3 and got a lot done during a 2.5 hour meeting.


Learning to spin faster

I love spinning, especially spinning on my spindles. They are beautiful tools and I take any excuse to spend time with them. I love all kinds of fibres, but especially the variety of wool we have available to us these days. It seems though there are not enough hours in a day to play with spindles, play with fibres, make yarn, and then do something with it, like knit.

I figured that I needed to start spinning faster. What would it look like if I only worked on one project from start to finish? And during that period, tried to spin as quickly and as efficiently as possible? How fast is fast? At least for me.

I work full time, Monday to Friday. So my fibre arts happen in the evenings and on weekends. On Wednesday evening I pulled out the March 2015 Sweet Georgia Yarns (SGY) fibre club installment. It was a 100g braid of 100% corriedale – the colourway is Beginner’s Luck.

Here’s the photo shoot:

This is the fibre opened up so you can see the colour way. It’s blue with several gradations of green. All the colour changes are gentle and not dramatic. I decided that I wanted the colours to blend as much as possible, so I split the entire roving in half, weighed them to make sure I’d have equal amounts, then split the fibre further into pencil rovings and started spinning.

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It took Wednesday and Thursday evening to fill spindle one. And Friday to spin spindle two.
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On Saturday morning I wound the singles from both spindles into a double stranded ball for plying. And brought out my Steampunk spindle by Scott Snyder for the job. I wanted to try to make one skein of plied yarn.

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And here is the spindle, as filled with yarn as you could get. It was getting heavy and I was in danger of running out of shaft to spin. 2015-05-16 19.49.14 2015-05-16 19.49.29

After plying I let it sit overnight and this morning wound it off into a skein.

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One nice skein – measures 241 yds or 223 metres and weighs 109 grams. A decent amount of yarn produced in three evenings, one day and a morning. All found time.2015-05-17 08.16.21 So what did I learn? Here are some things I noticed that can help me spin faster into the future:

1. Have a plan

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this yarn, how I wanted to spin it and how I wanted to play with the colourway. I wasn’t making decisions every time I picked up the fibre. The experimenting was over and I was just down to spinning.

2. Just spin

Yes, just spin. Don’t stop and admire your yarn in between each piece you complete and when you pick up another to join on. I tend to do that and it’s a time sink. Just spin, and spin, and spin.

3. Notice where you are using your time

Take note of how long things take you to do. Getting the fibre onto the wrist so it’s out of the way was taking me too much time. I had to put down the spindle, grab the new fibre, wrap it around my wrist, pick up the spindle and get started again. I figured out a seamless way to grap the new fibre and tuck it into a knitted wrist distaff without having to stop and put down the spindle. That saved a minute or less. But when you figure that you are doing that several dozens of times – it starts to add up.

I also noticed that winding on takes time. And there is the temptation to spin a long amount, but then when you wind that on, in order to keep it under tension I’d have to butterfly it until I can comfortably grab the spindle. So for me, I was more efficient to spin an amount I can comfortably manage and then wind that on.

4. Work with more than one spindle

Now here’s a rationale for having more than one spindle on hand! You can and I have on several occasions spun yarn using one spindle for the entire project. I spin singles one on the spindle and then wind it off into a neat, hard ball. Then I spin singles two using the same spindle. When that is done I wind that singles, along with the singles from the first spinning (the one that is sitting neatly in a hard ball) into a double stranded ball. It is this ball I use for plying.

Working with more than one spindle allowed me to save time winding off the singles yarn. I filled spindle one. Then I filled spindle two. I put both of them into the lazy kate and wound my double stranded ball from both spindles – it took 20 full minutes.

I am sure I will think up a few more things that made this go faster. But that’s it for now. I am going to wash the skein and will measure it again for the final total.

Have a great long weekend, and thanks for reading.

Haida Gwaii workshops 2015

Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Haida Gwaii to deliver two full-day spinning workshops. I had visited there for fibre arts teaching in 2010 and again in 2012. It is a magical place with creative, generous, big-spirited people. I can’t wait to go back again.

I landed in Sandspit and then traveled by bus/ferry to Queen Charlotte. Here’s the view from the ferry as we head south.

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A week earlier I received my new Navajo spindle from Dave, my spindle guy. I spent the week learning how to use it so I could teach the people in my spinning class how to use this amazing tool. It is quite similar to the kind of spindles their ancestors used. Two days before departure it dawned on me that I had to somehow get this on the plane. At 31″ long and 6″ in circumference, it wasn’t fitting into my large suitcase. After calling Air Canada and getting assurance that I could take it onto the plane, I set out to package it up.


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And here I am, past security waiting for the flight. I carried it to the plane and gave it to the “sky-check” guy who promised that it was going to sit at the very top of the pile, and not be crushed. And the picture below is all the equipment and materials I needed for the full-day workshops. In these bags are several pound and varieties of fibre, several top-whorl spindles bottom-whorl spindles, supported spindles and even a Turkish one. Also inside are three pairs of hand carders, wool combs, knitting needles, resources books and handouts.


And to top it all off, here is the view from our workshop. The weather was grand – full sun and medium heat. The participants made skeins of yarn, stretched their skills and had a lot of fun. I’d go back there in a heartbeat. Thanks Haida Gwaii.


Exploring Fibre Preparation Techniques – Fibreswest 2015

wool combing 003wool combing 005wool combing 009For more information about Fibreswest and how to register for class, visit here.

Exploring Fibre Preparation Techniques – Diana Twiss. Half day, Fri.Mar.13/15. 8:30-12:30. $65#106

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a carded roving and a combed top? A batt and a rolag? If you are keen to know, then this workshop is for you. In this 4 hour workshop, you will learn a variety of fibre preparation techniques that will help you understand one of the elemental factors in making the yarn you want to make – fibre preparation. You will learn how to flick card, hand card, comb and drum card a variety of fibres. In addition to learning how to use these tools and creating samples with them, you will also play around with fibre and colour blending.

Materials fee: $15 payable to the instructor

Skill Level: intermediate and beyond. Must be able to spin a continuous thread and be comfortable with plying.

Equipment required: spinning wheel in excellent operating order, lazy kate, three bobbins, any and all fibre preparation tools you may have – flick carder, hand carders, wool combs, drum carder.

The Night Owl Shawl – complete

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The yarn for this shawl is from Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club — January 2014 .The colourway is called Night Owl – reminiscent of the night sky with a large moon. It is 75% Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) and 25% silk. It was beautiful fibre to work with and to spin.

This braid presented an interesting challenge because it used purples and yellows. If I did a 2-ply fractal spinning, there would be moments when those two colours would be plied against each other, and I am not sure that I wanted that look.

I decided to spin it ombre style, to have long, long colourways that slowly move to the next one and then the next one and so on.  To do this I separated that colour sections into piles and hand carded them into rolags. Once each one was carded, I carefully put it into an order that would move the colourway from one end to the other. You can see in the photo below all the carefully carded rolags for my first experiment with ombre. This is not the Night Owl colourway, it was another colourway from the fibre club a while back. But it shows what the colour gradations look like within each rolag.

OmbreThe ball of yarn on the right is the product of those rolags. They were spun for Spinzilla 2013, into thin singles and then Navajo plied to keep the colour intact. The ball on the left is the Night Owl colourway. You can see the intense yellow, then the how it gets lighter, then moves to purples and gets finished off with blue. Just like a night time sky with a big moon.

2014-04-04 11.35.27It took me a while to find the right project. I wanted something that would show off the colour gradations. I also wanted something that was easy to knit because I am working on knitting Continental style after 40+ years of throwing my yarn with my right hand. The Boneyarn Shawl by Stephen West was the perfect solution.  Here it is, fresh off the needles with about 2 meters of yarn to spare.

shawl 1And here it is later in the morning being blocked. The lighting really changes the colours. The shawl ended up being 42″ across and 24″ deep. A very nice sized neck scarf. Enough to wrap around your neck, but not too big that it makes you fuss with it because you have too much around your neck.

shawl 2A word about blocking – whomever invented blocking wires most certainly has a place in heaven. At least the heaven that knitters know about. Blocking wires make it easy to have crisp lines and to make both sides equal. It is frustrating trying to do that with pins.

And you can see from this photo that I really stretched it in the blocking process, thus opening up the stitches. It is soft and has a lovely drape thanks to the silk. I’m not sure about these colours for me, so watch for it at next year’s guild sale.

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Goodbye to the 100-year oak

A couple of Sunday’s ago, a third of the 100+ year-old oak in our front yard came crashing down. You can see from the photos that the damage was due to rot which had been going for on for quite a while. It’s a huge limb and we were lucky that it missed the house, or considerable damage would have occurred. And so sadly enough, the rest of the tree had to be taken out.

And here’s the stump. There’s tons of wood, huge pieces of it that will need heavy machinery to move, and I’m not sure how that’s going to happen. That tree provided an abundance of food for the (nasty and pesky) squirrels and the canopy provided shade. 

I’m going to miss that tree.

This skirt ain’t gonna make itself. . .

So very true.

I made a claim last year that I was going to make a 100-mile skirt. I am going to use the pattern from the Claudia Evilla skirt by Ruth Sorensen. I featured the finished version of my first skirt back in August 2011. It’s a great skirt and I love everything about it.

Since then I’ve been making the yarn. Or thinking about making the yarn, mostly thinking about it to be honest.

I had a lot of work to do to even get to the spinning stage — first I had to comb all that nasty alpaca; then I had to get more of it which required asking a friend to return I gift I had given her. Then in another panicked moment of “I don’t have enough fibre to make this skirt”  I had to ask another friend to give me her March 2011 fibre club braid.

Then there was the spinning. Here’s what I’ve spun up this far. It may not look like a lot (she writes defensively) but it’s spun really fine and it’s a lot of yardage.

I want to start plying these singles, but I want to be absolutely sure that I have more blue yarn than the grey — so I”ll make one bobbin of a two-ply blue and grey using every inch of the grey.  Any left over blue will be added to and used to ply with the second grey bobbin.  My plan is to make a 2 x 2 cabled yarn, using blue and grey singles.  I blogged about it in late January, here’s the result of my experiments.

So while I watched the repeat of the Canada/US junior hockey game this morning, I got spinning some more of the blue.  I said a while back this was going to be a spinning marathon, I just have to get down to it, because as I noted in the title of this blog post, this skirt ain’t gonna make itself.

And if, but probably when I run out of yarn, I still have all of this fibre waiting to be processed and spun. This is the only project I am going to do for the next two days. Let’s see how far along I get.