WWW: the *real* sea silk; when a yarn shop closes…; American superwash wool

Chiara Vigo, spinner of sea silk (byssus). Photo by Eliot Stein

Thanks to the BBC, meet the last surviving sea silk seamstress. Yes, yarn from a sea creature. What she does is painstaking to a degree few could imagine. And so beautiful.


It’s a great loss when we lose another yarn shop. Amelia Hodson has put it in words here. (No, it’s not about grabbing yarn for cheap.)


Did you know that “the American wool industry has been revitalized because of the superwash process”? Krista McCurdy sings the praises of American superwash wool. Read on.

A Stash of One’s Own Is Out Today!

Go hug your stash today!

 

Clara Parkes new book of essay A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with and Letting Go of Yarn is out today! It should be a fiber world holiday. We should all get the day off to read the book, eat cake and frolic in our stashes.

Go buy this book, read it and then contemplate your stash, cake is optional.

This is a book of essay, but Clara isn’t the only writer examining their stashes and feelings in this book. Check out the list of authors:

Stash authors – Spinning stash too!

 

As you can see with my subtle added artwork that it’s not just knitters writing in the book. I am a knitter too, but my essay is about my spinning stash.

The topics in this book vary wildly, it’s not just “I have a huge stash (or a tiny stash) and you should too”, every author poured their hearts through their fingers as they wrote their essays.

If you read the book, let me know what you think!

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WWW: moths ain’t so bad; the gritty glory of British Wool; knittit on Reddit

Moths, by Emmet Gowins.

This week, WWW is all about visuals. And words. Visuals and words. Yeah, that’s it.


First off, moths. Knitters hate ’em, but dang, they’re beautiful. Take a look


Some really striking images and short videos from the British Wool industry by Jonas Bendiksen. Doesn’t work well on mobile devices.


Did you know there’s knitting discourse on Reddit? You’ll find it in knittit. Of course that’s what they call it.

There’s a nice vibe going on there…looks like a friendly spot.

Lorna’s Laces New Fiber

Top to bottom: Angora/Wool, Alpaca, BFL

 

Have you heard that Lorna’s Laces has new spinning fiber?

 

I got a little surprise box in the mail and had to share before I’ve even spun any. I think it’s just beautiful. There is 100% BFL, 100% Alpaca, and a 70 Angora/30 Wool blend, all are top.

I’ll report back after I’ve spun these beauties in the meantime let me know if you spot any in the wild!

 

I’m heading off to teach at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool tomorrow and it’s my first time at that show. Is there anything I shouldn’t miss on the road, any must-visit vendors or any restaurants I should try?

 

WWW: Yarn bombing, Yarn batteries, Yarn allergies, Yarn bridges and Embellishing a Yarn

This delightful story about 104-year old Grace Brett landed in my inbox last week, describing her role in helping a group of “yarnstormers” decorate the burgh of Selkirk in Scotland and claiming she “just might be the oldest street artist in the world”.

The town of Listowel in Ontario, Canada – home to Canada’s largest mainstream yarn manufacturer Spinrite – is also building a yarnbombing tradition including a town-wide scavenger hunt and selfie contest.

Both of these stories had me recall a thoughtful essay by crochet activist Hinda Mandell. Mandell makes a case for dropping the term “yarn bombing” in favour of “yarn graffiti”, or even “yarn installation”. As a metaphor, “bombing” is too violent a word for the sort of transformation of public spaces and thoughtful commentary sought by these yarn artists. Can we collectively come up with a better term for these “Random Acts of Yarn”?


Under the heading of science is awesome, a team of Chinese researchers have developed a “rechargeable and flexible yarn-based battery that could be produced at scale on existing industrial knitting and weaving machines”. Holy doodle, but that’s cool!


Nothing can get yarn folk’s dander up faster than saying “wool allergy”! As a yarn-seller for nearly a decade, I had lots of experience with customers who said they’re allergic to wool or would never use wool for a baby item. Knowing that the actual prevalence of a wool or lanolin allergy affects only a very small percentage of the population (including Knitty founder Amy!), I attributed  some reaction to a bias they may have developed from experiencing rustic wools in the past, which are nothing like the modern finewools or the de-cuticled super wash wools in today’s marketplace. Many of those folks happily went on to fondle and enjoy working with wool-based yarns, and some continued to use only plant and man-made fibres. I was interested then to read a post from Topsy Farms that stated that wool allergy reactions often come from the chemicals – like sulphuric acid and insecticides – that have been used in processing the fibre. Indeed, your doctor or a qualified allergist is the place to go if you have had reactions, but note that you may need to test not just wool, or lanolin, but perhaps other things that go into the making of the end product.


Anyone who’s been part of a crafting group that meets regularly knows the support that comes from sharing and making together. How heartening then, to read of a weekly craft and yarn-based program at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan that’s offered to women who are refugees and new arrivals. The workshops provide an opportunity to share their stories while learning life skills such as accessing health care and transit in a safe space. “We base what we do on Canadian Mental Health Association’s recommendations for immigrants. What they tell us is most important is first of all belonging and developing a connection and a group where everyone feels comfortable.”


Yes, please, to living in a world where “principal embroiderer” is an actual job title. (Hey, this might be a tad spoiler-y if you only just started watching Game of Thrones.)


 

Knitting a Net

Bare Naked Wools roadtrip

So much is going on in the world right now and I’m really feeling it. Plus, my oldest just left for college,  5 hours away. I’m feeling a little lost and a little sad. So I’m knitting, just swatches.

BNW Better Breakfast worsted

I have a project coming up that needs swatches and I have gorgeous Bare Naked Wools yarns to use. So I used them for more than just my project-to-be.

 

On the drive to college I hand wound all of my yarns. One the way home I knit swatches. Spinning, knitting and fiber don’t always work for me when I’m agitated and emotional, but this time it was perfect. It was both mindful and mindless.

The yarns were all smooth and spun from interesting blends and the swatches were straight stockinette. This time a little merino/alpaca blend is just what I needed to knit a little net for my heart.

 

WWW: Knitting as exercise, Brontës, socks in history, more poppies, real body templates

New South Wales extreme knitter Jacqueline Fink is renowned for creating brilliant knit textiles at an impressive scale. She says “giant knitting requires whole body movement and a lot of weight bearing.” That sounds like an attractive way to skip the gym. Jacqueline works and teaches at her studio Little Dandelion – check out her gallery for some really gorgeous pieces.


We love any intersection of literature and knits – Welsh knitter Denise Salway has knitted the four famous Brontë siblings, based on a recent television production.


New Zealand newspaper Otago Daily Times runs a “100 years ago today” feature, which popped up a reference from August 15, 1917 to a knitter who’d worked out how to create two socks at a time, the better to speed up production of socks for servicemen fighting in WW1. I don’t know that Miss Cornish was the first to work this technique, but she was mighty clever, and generously offered to share her instructions with others.


We mentioned last week a drive to collect handmade poppies for a memorial organized by Wonderwool Wales. Australian knitters can knit their bit for a centenary commemoration for the Australian War Memorial as well.


“Croquis” are body outlines used by makers to sketch and design attire and accessories, and they’re often generic and based on “standard” proportions. My Body Model is running a Kickstarter campaign for their software that allows designers & stitchers to use their own body measurements to create custom croquis. How wonderful to see a full range of real body sizes and proportions, and to “try on” designs before making them!


 

3 Tips for Drumcarding Top

This weekend I managed to combine two things, getting to know my Struach Finest Motorized drumcarder a little better and working on fiber prep for my Knittyspin column for the next issue – spoiler alert, there are batts.

I’m using dyed Corriedale top from Louet in my batts, and here are three things that made carding easier for me.

Think thin layers

 

 

Fluff top until it’s sheer. I fluffed my top until I could see through it. Lots of thin layers make batts more even, and it’s kinder to your carder. I make sure I can see the yellow warning sticker through my fiber.

 

 

A little guidance

 

 

Long pieces of top need a little help. I just rest my hand on the fiber when I use a long piece. If I let it go on it’s own it would bunch and become uneven. If I pull or add too much pressure I play tug a war with the fiber (and the motor). I make sure not to push (more bunching) too.

 

 

 

One pass is all it takes

 

Using little bits? Handcards are a drumcarders best friend. For some of my batts I used just little bits of top (3″-4″), I found that if I did just one pass on my handcards first, just opening the fiber, the color spreads much more evenly in the batt.

 

What tips do you have for drumcarding top?

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WWW: Knitting Conversations, poppies for peace, community visible from space

It’s been a stressful few days in the news, which makes us look to those who seek to draw people together – particularly people from different races, cultures and languages.

Textile artist Movana Chen recently held an exhibition at Los Angeles’ 14th Factory called “Knitting Conversations”. Chen asks friends and audiences to bring books they have read and found meaningful. She reads them, shreds them, and turns the resulting “magazine clothes” into fabric. She often teaches these participants to knit a few stitches and contribute to the whole. The garments and projects made from this fabric are then an ongoing cross-cultural, poly-lingual conversation.


Welsh fibre and stitching show Wonderwool Wales is asking crafters to contribute poppies – knitted, crocheted, woven, sewn, or felted – to a large-scale commemorative WWI display to be built in 2018. The aim is to create a “Curtain of Poppies” made up of 887,858 flowers, one for each person from the UK who died serving in the conflict. The Wonderwool Wales site is keeping a running tally of the poppies contributed to date.


Prisoners in South Africa’s Zonderwater Correctional Centre are knitting blanket squares which when laid together will form a portrait of Nelson Mandela, in commemoration of what would be Madiba’s 100th birthday. Over 150 inmates will participate, with the blankets going to others in the community in need.


 

New to Me: Jeri Brock Spindles and Hobbeldehoy Battlings

Hobbeldehoy battlings on a Jeri Brock Turk

The marketplace at the Super Summer Knitogether was one good sized room (22 vendors), but it was mighty.  I found many vendors I’ve never seen in real life and some completely new to me. This weekend I spent time with a couple that are new to me. I spun Hobbeldehoy Battlings on a Jeri Brock Turkish Spindle.

The battlings come in a pack of 8 and totaled 2 ounces. These were a blend of Polwarth, silk, bamboo and sparkle. The colorway is Banned Books. They  were like candy to spin, the perfect amount in each battling for spindling without tangling and so well prepared that I could just shake and spin. The colors blend beautifully into a tweedy yarn.

You can tell from the photo that I’m still a newbie on Turkish spindles. I buy them and then don’t use them much. I find them a little intimidating. I dream of having beautifully wound cops like Evanita Montalvo. I have a lot practicing to do.

 

 

Fly, pig, fly!

Jeri’s spindle begged to be spun, so I spun on it this weekend. It’s easy to flick and it spun for a long, long time. The wood is silky smooth (mine is Sycamore) and is finished with the same delicious smelling oil that Schacht uses on their wheels.

Her spindles all feature scrollwork cutout designs, many with a sense of humor.  Besides being an excellent spinner the spindle I bought from Jeri reminds me not to take my spinning self so seriously.

What did you spin this weekend?

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