Tomatoes & Spinning, Oh My!

Harvested Tomato ‘Dubrava’ fruit

It is finally the beginning of tomato harvesting season here in Alberta. I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever! In reality it’s only been three months, we don’t plant out tender plants until May long weekend here in Edmonton because of the risk of frost, but watching these guys grow for three months and having to wait to eat them is a serious tease.

To say I love tomatoes is an understatement. I grow around 30 plants every year, all of varying varieties, and have converted a not inconsiderable amount of my yard to tomato patches. I grow them, I save as much seed as I can, and I share them around the world with other gardeners (The Populuxe Seed bank has been my pet project for the past 10 years, and I have hundreds of varieties preserved).

I know, I know, this is a knitting/spinning blog right? Well, that’s a bit of a explanation for you why it’s been so long since I posted! We’ve been enjoying the summer here (when I’m not hiding from the 30C temperatures that is), and the garden does take up a lot of time and care through the summer.

Not to say I haven’t been knitting and spinning of course!

1221 yds of Merino/Romney 2-ply.

I’ve finished up my Merino/Romney spin, which I started for Tour de Fleece, and continued on after that. I wanted to get around 1200 yards so I could have enough to knit two 600 yard shawls, and I accomplished my goal. There’s 5 skeins, all totalled after finishing, at 1221 yards.

The Stats

Grist: 1039 ypp
Twist: 40°
WPI: 15/16
Weight: Light fingering
Draft: Short forward draw
Ratios: Spun 14:1, Plied 14:1

I plan on dyeing this yarn, but I haven’t decided how much and what exactly. I purchased some natural dyes from Maiwa in Vancouver that I’m very excited to start experimenting with.

I bought logwood, osage, and chestnut, along with some iron. I think out of these three colours plus what I can scrounge around me I should be able to make a few different colours that I’ll be happy with. It’ll be an interesting experiment anyway.

I’m leaning towards dyeing these skeins (or at least a few of them) with logwood, and giving them an after-bath of iron. But first I’ll be experimenting on some mini-skeins I spun up exactly for this purpose. Part of me is really scared of screwing them all up and I’ll just despise the colours I dye them, so taking that leap is a bit of a scary prospect.

I’ve been knitting too – but I’ve been mostly keeping that under wraps for now. These are a few designs that I feel like I’ve been working on forever. It’s mostly been starting to knit, ripping out, rejiggering the pattern (technical term), and then re-starting them. But now, I’m almost done the first pattern, and the second will be started imminently. I’m really excited about these designs, and if you liked Inis Oirr, I think you will too.

Inis Oirr is available for free on Knotions, so head on over to the pattern page here to find that link to tide you over until the new knits are ready to be released.

A Week (Or Two) In Review – Part Deux

Light Fingering Cheviot 2-ply.

You can hear the wind whistling through this blog it’s been so quiet the past few weeks; but not for lack of anything to talk about.

In fact, I’ve been so busy, there hasn’t been much time to sit and compose my thoughts into coherent sentences – and it’s almost all been yarny/fleecey/fibrey goodness.

Also it’s summer, and that means a lot more outdoor time. We get lots of indoor time in the winter, so here in Central Alberta we have to soak in the warm rays of the sun as much as we possibly can during the summer.

But I digress.

I was going to write one big giant blog post, but honestly that sounds like a chore, and you wouldn’t want to read a bunch of disjointed thoughts anyway (right?). So let’s do it this way – brief overview, and then I’m really going to drill down into some topics in their own posts, because whew boy, I have some things to say.

Super-Secret Shenanigans

The first thing I want to talk about, or rather, allude to but not really talk about, is my new super-secret project I have in the works. It’s been something bubbling in the back of my mind for some time, and the pieces now are falling into place for it to happen. Unfortunately, that’s all you’ll get for now – but in approximately four to six weeks I plan to announce my devious (not really) plans. It’s been taking up a fair amount of my time, and I can’t even talk about it! But it is fibre related, and it’s something I hope a lot of my fellow Canadians will be excited for (mysterious, eh?)

The Merino/Romney Fleece

I swear this is the never-ending fleece. Not that I’m complaining because it’s an absolute dream, but I’ve been a washing/combing madwoman the past few weeks, and the fleece is looking like I barely touched it. I originally thought I’d wash, comb, and spin bits at a time, but turns out I wanted to wash and comb it all and then spin. I did, however, get my first samples spun up, and I’m over the moon about them. The impetus for buckling down on the prep as much as I can before July, however, is because it’s…

Tour de Fleece!

That’s right, I’ll be participating in my first ever Tour de Fleece, and I’m pretty stoked. I’m part of Team Wool ‘n Spinning, and I want to spin as much of my Merino/Romney as I can, hence all the prepping. If I run out of Merino/Romney that’s prepped, I’ll move onto my 6 lbs of various breeds I bought from Custom Woolen Mills in May. Don’t worry, I’m certainly not going to run out of anything to spin.

S-Twist and Z-Twist… What’s the diff?

I spin S (wheel goes counterclockwise) and then ply Z (wheel goes clockwise), which is the opposite from what most other spinners do. Why do I do it that way? No idea, but when I taught myself and that’s what came naturally, and I’ve just stuck with it. Is there a difference at all? That’s what I set out to figure out, because I couldn’t really find anything definitive online – and I’m not one to leave a question unanswered. So that’ll be an upcoming blog post with what I found out from that mini experiment.

Also Natural Dyeing

Lilac dye test

Oh ya, I did that too! I did a test sample, and then went whole-hog and dyed 700 yds of my Cheviot light fingering weight 2 ply that I spun up last month. I used lilac with an alum mordant – and I’ll save the specifics of it for another post, because I’m going to get all technical about it (sort of).

Pictured left is the mini-skein dye test I did before jumping in with both feet.

And a Lazy Kate

I finally got myself a tensioned lazy kate so I can make traditional 3 plies – which I really wanted to do because my chain plying game sucks. Eventually I’ll get that up to snuff, but frankly, it’s not top priority with everything else on the go, so a lazy kate was necessary. I’ve already sampled using it, and I love my itty bitty 3 ply skein. I cannot wait to spin more.

Farm Visits!

I’ll be visiting a few farms with sheep flocks within the next few weeks, and I hope to expound a bit more on that after I come back (and also show off my new acquisitions), so stay tuned. I’m really looking forward to these visits, looking forward to some new fleeces, but maybe most of all, looking forward to petting some sheep. Who doesn’t want to pet some sheep?

I will totally be posting pictures on Instagram by the way, so come and find me to get in early on the sheepy goodness.

Let The Spin Party Begin

I’ve had a spinning wheel for some 10 years (or thereabouts) but I still consider myself a new spinner.

I originally received my Kromski Sonata as a birthday gift, and was ecstatic. I spun like crazy, and got reasonably good at it – I was able to spin relatively consistently, and I was getting the yarn I wanted.

Then, the unthinkable happened (queue dramatic music) – I suffered a truly ridiculous injury that caused some tendon and nerve damage to my wrist. Now, when I say ridiculous I don’t mean that it was trifling. I actually had to wear a brace for months, and had all sorts of doctors appointments and physio along with nerve testing (where they zap the nerves with electricity – that was fun). No, when I say ridiculous I mean I fell in a really dumb way, and if I hadn’t tried to grab something when I fell, it probably would have been, at most, a mild sprain.

So, that put the kibosh on spinning (and knitting for that matter) for a while. I took up the knitting again a lot faster than the spinning. The whole escapade was years ago at this point, but I didn’t start spinning again until just a few weeks ago.

And my god, spinning, how I have missed you!

Handspun natural brown alpaca – 226 yds of sport weight delight.

I felt like I had gotten to a pretty good point in my spinning before my sabbatical, but those skills have waned a bit, so I’m trying to re-learn techniques over again. But, I’m nothing if not stubborn, and I’m hell bent on getting back to where I was (and surpassing it, for that matter).

I have a bit of a longer game planned though.

I’ve also purchased two pounds (1 lb Corriedale and 1 lb Cheviot), not only to further practice on, but with the hopes of trying my hand at natural dyeing this summer.

I don’t recall exactly what sparked the interest, but a few weeks ago I decided that this would be my new project (and skill) to learn this summer. Actually, I’d get started now, but I find it easier to air dry hanks of yarn outside, rather than inside the house, and right now it’s -15C and snowing, so that’s not going to happen.

Some sport weight corriedale slated to be dyed.

I do have plans for starting some experiments soon though with colouring – I’ve enlisted family members to start collecting their onion skins, and I’ve started lists of plants I can start sourcing nearby.

My goal is to use plants I can get either locally, either from my garden or in the wild, or things I can get at the grocery store. I don’t plan to actually buy any specific natural dyes. This is partly because I’m cheap, but also the sourcing and experimenting with what I can find myself is something that gives me a bit of a thrill.

The end goal of all of this, the spinning and the dyeing, is to design some knits with these handspun yarns. I love the idea of completely creating something from scratch, and if I lived in the country you’d bet I’d already be looking at animal husbandry. Me living in the country will probably never happen (I’m just not a country person), but sourcing some fibre, spinning it, dyeing it, then designing something special that the yarn speaks to is a process that is really alluring to me.

Stay tuned – this will be a learning and experimental process for me as I go. I’ll be endeavouring to be quite thorough and take lots of notes, which I’ll be sharing here on the blog for those that might want to follow along and experiment themselves.