Category Archives: spinning

A Thorough Update

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger lately, and I haven’t been thorough whatsoever in detailing my knitting projects.

Project the First:

The buttons weren’t sewn on when those pictures were taken, but they sure are now.  I’ll take another picture tomorrow, so you can see how awesome these are in person.

I knit the armbands with the handspun and hand dyed yarn that I got from a friend of a friend of an old woman who used to live in my borough.  Look at the tag;  that yellow yarn was dyed with turmeric and alum.

The yarn was over spun and dyed in an odd way.  I love how you can see her learning process.  As she learned, her yarn became more delicate and more consistent.  The dyes took better and you really got to see what she was going for.  That yellow yarn was all in pieces when I got to it.

I really like the symbolism of using her work as well.  The idea of a person becoming fascinated with creation (as opposed to participating in consumerism) at a late age at least twenty years ago simply points to how separated most of us have become from the creation of tangible and useful textile art.  I love that both she and I have had the same yearning to make cloth.

Project the Second

I’ve knit quite a lot of the ribbing, but I won’t know if I’m ready to bind off the ribbing until I try it on.  I’ve been crazy busy as of late, so I haven’t plunked myself down to slip all those stitches onto waste yarn to try it on yet again.  I think I’ll aspire to do that tomorrow.

Project the Third

The neckerchief is 7 inches long, and I think I’m going to knit for at least another inch.  I went to a bluegrass night at the Barfly in Montreal, and I dropped a bunch of stitches.  I ended up having to rip back about 3 rows to figure out exactly where I was supposed to be.  It’s looking lovely, though.

Project the Fourth

I don’t have any pictures of this project (my awesome flaming tea cozy) because I haven’t made any progress on it.  Alas!  I am dreaming of needle felting all over that thing.  Yeehaw!

Project the Fifth

I’ve recorded the first song I’ve ever written on my music project blog, ClairelyNow.  Please listen and let me know what you think!




Is it still the holidays?  Is it?  Really?

I often refer to this time of year as the ‘holler-daze’ since it makes my head feel all static-y while everything lumbers past me with holiday gusto.  I’m pretty excited for this to all be over and for me to resume my relatively dull routine.

But, in exciting news, my partner has dazzled my cats with holiday cheer!

That’s Patrick Purrswayze elegantly showing off the utility of this gift.  The cats love it.  They sleep on it and scratch it all to hell and gosh – it’s pretty cute.  Show ’em, Bazzy!

I like it, even though it impedes access to my fridge – and in the winter, that means something great, doesn’t it?

I’ve spent a lot of time spinning as of late (and I don’t mean mindlessly in circles).  It’s still blue faced Leicester top and I think I’m getting better.  At least, I’m getting more fine.

I’ve been scoping out patterns for thick and thin yarn.  I want to make something for myself out of this first handspun (because it’s just special in that way, y’know?) but I don’t know what.  I’m thinking about dying it with strong black tea and making somewhat lacy fingerless gloves.  Perhaps something along the lines of the Spirogyra or even the Verdigris, both from

In the meantime, I’m chugging away at my sweater.  Unfortunately, it basically looks the same as last pictured, so I’m going to wait until I’ve finished the yoke until I show it off again.  Experiencing second sock syndrome with a sweater is a new one for me, but I guess it makes sense when you remember that I did knit the same sweater but two months ago.  I think my next project will have more colour work than cables, but who can predict anything at this stage in the game?  I just keep reminding myself that this sweater has sleeves that are completed already, so after the yoke is done all I need are button bands.  Tricking myself by sewing the ends in as I go has been necessary.

Regardless, the yoke is 1/3 done, and I’m hoping to have the entire sweater sewn up and blocked by the 31st.  Think I can do it?

Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed

This morning, my head was full with some sort of grumbling bear.  It rustled and growled and rolled around, and scraped the inside of my frontal lobes with its huge beastly claws.  In short, I have a mild head cold.

I rolled out of bed (with much cajolement from my cats) and immediately set myself up with my drop spindle and my Bluefaced Leicester top and decided to continue spinning.  I had started some last night, and wanted to see if I could fit more yarn on the spindle than I had previously.

Step two was coffee.  Life without coffee is a shallow thing that I can’t think about while this bear is still in my head.

I sat, and spun, and read, and spun, and after about 4 hours, this is what I had.

I started wrapping yarn around my hand in an Andean bracelet.  Video tutorial is here.  (By the way, I really like theartofmegan tutorials.  She’s very articulate and knows what she’s doing.)

The long and short of it is to wrap the yarn around your hand so that, when removed from the fingers and slid down to the wrist, you can ply your newly spun yarn against itself.

Then I wrapped the yarn around my forearm like I was winding cable – I’m tough like that.  Grabbing both of the ends of the resultant loop and twisting gave me the skein before me today.

And that is my fourth attempt at spinning and plying yarn.  It’s gorgeous!  And it looks like real yarn.

My cats, though, seem unimpressed.

Bumblingly Busy

I’ve been much busier than usual as of late.

And by “much busier than usual”, I mean “I work more than one day a week and am therefore required to wear real pants.”

My partner went away for the weekend, and I was forced to entertain myself for about 28 hours.  Unfathomable, isn’t it?

I went to work last night and came home reeking of restaurant.  This morning (because of the time change) I woke up an hour earlier (I love DST) and cleaned all the things.  I normally get up and clean things, but I was in an exceptionally good mood because I know I’m going to see my partner tonight.

I’m busy in the evenings, but my partner gets up really early and comes home exactly when I’m leaving.  And I miss him.  He misses me too.  It’s crummy, but it feels like we’ve just met again.  I almost had forgotten how funny and smart he is, or how handsome he is.

He’s headed home now, and I’m making dinner.  I’m hoping for a garlicky oniony beany stir fry thing.

I’ve also been knitting mittens for a houseless man in my neighborhood named Greg.  He’s 61 years old, and has been without a house for over 25 years.

I was going to use my Superfine Alpaca from Estelle, but then I thought about it and I figure that a 61 year old man isn’t going to want to wear a green that, well, feminine.  So I’m using the Ultra Wool, and I’m thinking about putting green Superfine Alpaca stripes.  Alpaca is so warm and soft, it’d be perfect for cold nights.

the start of Greg's mittens

I just can’t understand why this man has been without a home for so long.  He doesn’t drink or smoke, he’s sociable, and he’s just a very sweet person.  Obviously, being without a home and without much companionship makes it hard to stay… I don’t know how to say it.  I guess cohesive?  Practice makes perfect with most things, and conversation is one of those things.  I’ll leave it at that.

He just impresses on me the importance of keeping your friends close;  you’ll never know when you’ll fall and need some help getting back up again.

But then again, as I was walking to the grocery store this afternoon, I saw a young woman take a picture of a squirrel that had been hit by a car.  Another young woman was absolutely disgusted, and the aspiring photographer was laughing at this reaction.  I don’t understand that interaction, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Yes, the afternoon sunlight can make most colours blaze, and yes, death is a fascinating thing, and yes, it’s incredible how man-made things can destroy what used to be alive in an instant, but what’s artistic about taking a picture of some poor animal that isn’t alive anymore?  It’s also not the most original idea.  Seriously. And one more for the road. Is there a sanctity to the lives of squirrels that we would otherwise disregard?  Or maybe they were both missing the point of either being fascinated or sanctimonious, because, after all, Greg usually sleeps on a park bench immediately across from where that unfortunate squirrel died.  I think that someone should do more art for and about these disenfranchised people.  And that more people should be up in arms for their rights.

And in a final note, here’s my third skein of handspun!  I’m kind of proud of myself.  It kind of looks like real yarn.

third try!


Yesterday was awesome.  I went to Ariadne for a spinning class!  Oh, I had so much fun and learned so much, and by the time I got home I was excited enough to keep spinning.


yes, that is a beer in the background


I love it.  It absolutely astounded my partner and my cats, and it’s so exciting to learn something new about fibre work.  I was working with undyed sheep’s wool because sheep’s wool is crimpy and has a long staple length (and is therefore easier to spin).  Mollyann even let me play on her S17 from Louet, and I made some fairly lofty yarn!  It was so.  cool.

I also bound off my cabled hat for those with big heads.  I modified the decreases and updated the pattern .pdf, so if you’ve already looked at it, I recommend checking back for the upgraded crown.


pretty spiral crown


The hat is so cozy and soft!  I’m glad that the ribbed panels add so much stretch, and that the cabled pattern looks so crisp with this yarn choice.  I really love that yarn, and I’m almost thinking about incorporating it into a bigger project.

That picture really looks like November, doesn’t it?

But I can’t stop staring at my new handspun.  Wow!


left; second attempt, right; first handspun ever


I’m really happy about this!  Heck, that handspun is even plyed!  But, life goes on, and I have to get a shower before getting some stuff done tonight.

Happy autumn, everyone.


this morning

This is a picture of my cats this morning.

Our old fridge has sat in our living room since last Sunday.  The cats have slept on it, played on it, and were generally adorable rolling around on top of it.

There is a program in Montreal called Recyc-Frigo where (if you have a fridge that is at least 10 years old, that works, and that consumes too much electricity) they’ll come and pick up your fridge and recycle it.  They came today and took away the cats’ new favourite toy!  I’m so pleased to have my living room back, but the cats look heart-broken.  I think we’ll have to get them a new climbing device soon.

Thursday night was knit night at Ariadne Knits, and it was super fun.  I’m always blown away at how a skill like knitting can bring together so many diverse people, and how we can all get along so nicely.  After all, there are a myriad of reasons why someone might pick up the needles and knit, and it’s no requisite that all knitters be nice and respectful.  But (at Ariadne at least) everyone really makes sure that they’re not stepping on toes even when the conversation breaches topics that are a bit uncomfortable.  I really like that, and I don’t think it’s odd that knit night makes me like knitting all the more.

I was running rather severely short of yarn on my cabled hat, so jumped out of the river denial (see what I did there?) and bought a new skein of yarn from Ariadne.  This skein has more than twice the yardage of the previous skein, although it is a 50/50 combination of wool and superfine alpaca as opposed to 100% superfine alpaca.

super alpaca on the left; ultra wool on the right

I think it’s an upgrade, really.  Both yarns are from Estelle.  The first was their Super Alpaca, and the new one is their Ultra Wool.  The wool adds a delicious springiness to the yarn that I adore.  I showed the yarn to my partner, a new knitter, last night, and he described the difference perfectly.  He said that it was warm and soft, and less fluffy (but that’s not a bad thing at all) and weightless.

And what a deal!  The price was $20 for 280 meters for a pretty chunky yarn.  I have this problem where I’m a bit spendthrift and have trouble spending any kind of money on anything, but when I wound the skein into a ball, the ball winder actually got stuck because it was too big.

I went with a blue/purple shade and I just love it.  I don’t often wear anything, well, that isn’t grey or green, but it’s gorgeous.  I was wary of looking like a grey-green super heroine, you see.  I’m much more of a Jennifer Susan Walters than a Savage She-Hulk; never mind my behaviour when I can’t find my sewing needles.

But enough of that;  now I’m reading an article about Bangladeshi garment workers.

As someone who actually can’t remember not knowing how to ply at least some kind of needle to cloth, I have a hard time relating to the idea that all garments should be ready-made.  To me, ready-made clothes are for when you don’t have time to make something, or don’t have the equipment at the ready.  Other than that, there’s no reason to wander around colossal malls that aren’t interested in providing clothes with a good fit or with longevity.  Making clothes doesn’t feel so much of a privilege as common domestic labour.  I sweep the floor, I patch my pants, I wash the dishes, I knit my own mittens: it’s all the same to me.  And yes, it is luxurious to have pants that will last more than six months, but if you put the work in it’s not so much of a luxury as something to take pride in.  And I think that we should all take pride in taking care of the basics.

Reading this makes me so upset:

The calorific intake of ready made garment […] workers is deficient, causing stunted physical development. With income reduced by static wages and rising costs of basic foods, malnutrition has become so widespread that in 2008 some workers were reported to be hallucinating in a delirious state during long shifts.

It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  And it seems as though there’s no escape, because workers like these are the people who spin our thread and weave our textiles.  Why should they starve for our fourth pair of pants?  They’re so malnourished, their growth rates are stunted and they’re hallucinating.  I can’t fathom being that hungry.

Living sustainably seems so far away, and yet, I think it’s inevitable.  This recession has affected so many aspects of daily life that I think most people have started to scale back, but not enough.  I know that I still do things like shop at discount stores, even though I know the labourers that manufacture my socks and clothes hangers weren’t paid enough.  I hope that we can figure this out;  until then, I’m going to try to live as reasonably as possible and not buy ready made garments unless my current clothes are falling to shreds.

Excerpted from the article:

As a female garment worker explained;

‘You see, as women, one of our wings is broken. We don’t have the nerve that a man has, because we know we have a broken wing. A man can sleep anywhere, he can just lie down on the street and go to sleep. A woman cannot do that. She has to think about her body, about her security. So the garment factory owner prefers to hire women because men are smarter about their opportunities, you train them and they move on. Even when he compares a small boy and an older girl, he will think, “She’s only a girl, she can’t wander too far away.”‘

Naila Kabeer – The Power to Choose, taken from article.

Sock it to Me

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  I went for a walk today and got my kittens some new toys.

I don’t know if you can tell, but the top mouse is green.  I also got them a little grey mouse on a string with a bell that hangs from a claw that hooks on the bedroom door frame.  It’s the perfect combination of furriness and bounciness that our cats love.

I think it’s sweet and the cats enjoy it.  I love autumn, and I love how different root vegetables are filling up the grocery stores.  I also love this picture of my kitchen counter.

There’s something about cookies in an old hummus container that makes me smile.  And that pumpkin is going to become a delicious pumpkin pie. Yum!

Knit night is tomorrow, and I don’t really know what to bring.  I’ve been trudging along with some socks that I improvised for a while now;  every time I pick them up seriously, I just get excited about something else and they end up on the mantel, waiting for some attention.  I’m hoping to get them done before the yarn shows up for my new sweater.

I also really want some undyed Cascade Eco wool for a cardigan with a shawl neck.  Something with a beautifully simple stitch pattern that will show off the sheepy wooliness and elbow patches.  Now the temperature is getting so chilly, I just want to wrap myself up in yards and yards of yarn.

I’m trying to be as grown up as I can be and hold back from buying all of the yarn at Ariadne.  There’s a spinning class this Sunday, and I’m so excited!  I’m finally going to be a part of making the yarn that I work with so much – and I feel like I’m going to learn an exciting secret from my best friend, if you know what I mean.  We got some candy for this Sunday as well, just in case there are trick-or-treaters.  This weekend is going to be awesome.