Tag Archives: Yarn

My day job (during tourist season)…

Asselstine Woolen Factory- Upper Canada Village

Asselstine Woollen Factory- Upper Canada Village

I work in the Asselstine Woollen Factory at Upper Canada Village.  I have been working at the village for 7 years, and in the Woollen Mill for 4.  We are a fully operational, water turbine driven woollen mill.  We have all the machinery necessary to make blankets and knitting yarn.  Our spinning jack and our set of 3 carding machines were manufactured in Massachusetts in 1867 and we also have a blanket loom from the 1840’s.

I work with two men, Mark and Ron who maintain (read constantly have to troubleshoot) and run the machinery.  I do the handwork…mending the blankets, tying the fringe on the ends of blankets, etc.  I also run the doubling frame (plying machine) to make the knitting yarn over the lunch hour most days.

Ron in front of a carding machine

Ron in front of a carding machine

Mark at the spinning jack

Mark at the spinning jack

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Some of the things I like about my job:

1) I am paid to talk to people about wool

2) Sometimes I get to knit at work, if I have no blankets to mend or fringe

3) As I mend the blankets, I hear people hit the top of the stairs and say ‘wow’

4) I have not given up hope that Ryan Gosling will visit his family in nearby Cornwall and come for a day trip to the village.  Then he would stand in front of me and say ‘hey girl, would you explain 19th century textile production to me?’

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Here comes Peter Cottontail

Sarah in a fluffball hat

Sarah in a Bunny Tails hat

This yarn is called Bunny tails by Loops and Threads.  I couldn’t resist its weirdness…and it was on supersale … it may be discontinued…go figure!  This is the best I could do with it and I couldn’t really think of anything else to try. I remember that I did try putting them closer together, but it didn’t look any good either so I ripped it out to get my normal yarn back.   I used virtually none of the ball, so I have lots left  if I ever want to try again.  These novelty yarns often go on for hat after hat.  I remember a spinning instructor saying “really good knitting can sometimes hide really bad spinning”.  I think that bad hats can sometimes appear not so bad with a good model like my niece Sarah.

A couple of hats with handspun

Hats made with handspun and commercial dk yarn

Hats made with handspun and commercial dk yarn

Meg and Sarah wearing hats featuring handspun

Meg and Sarah wearing hats featuring handspun

These are two of the hats I made when I was taking my Ontario Handspinners Certificate.  The one on the left was made with practice yarn for the ‘Snarl Yarn’ in the novelty yarn unit.  The other hat is made with a 4-ply from the fictitious line of yarns I made for my final project.  The plain pink yarn in this case was my then favourite yarn, King Cole antitickle DK.  My concept was to use a commercial yarn to showcase the handspun.  This serves a second purpose of stretching the handspun, which is, of course, pretty labour intensive.

Cables in the Dark

cables in the dark

cables in the dark

Sometimes, for me, knitting seems to be a biological imperative.  A while ago, we were driving to Toronto and it started to get dark.  The only knitting I had was this hat, and I really wanted to keep knitting.  I decided that I would keep going and if I screwed it up, I could rip it out when we got there and there was light.  I was amazed that I could actually tell when the cables were ready and that I could still manipulate the stitches on a dark highway in the middle of nowhere.  It turned out that when we got there, it was all OK and I only had to do the decreasing and the topper.  Granted, they are pretty simple cables.

I was again playing with how the colours come out from the variegated yarn.  This is another colourway in Patons Classic Wool.  In this hat, instead of separating out like they did in the hats in the  Playing with Variegated Yarn post, they overlap in swirls  According to my notes, I cast on 10 fewer stitches for this hat (100 stitches) than the ones where the colours separated.

less stitches (too few) makes wider swirls of colour

less stitches (too few) makes wider swirls of colour

I tried this other hat with yet fewer stitches (96..so more overlap), but it is getting small for an adult.  You can see it was too small for the bowl we had used to display all the other hats.  It would be fine for kids though. You really are limited in how many stitches a) will work for your hat and b) will give you the effect you want.

I was trying to branch out a bit on the topper, so I used an idea which I modified from (I think) Knitting on the Edge, but I can’t find my copy to double check. It makes spirals.  I started the topper when I had decreased to 21 stitches. I started with the first three live stitches, did a slip 1, k2tog, psso, then cast on another 11.  I then knit all 12 back to the base and then, on the next row out,  I did a k1, p1, k1 in each stitch.  Finally, I cast off as I returned back to the base.  I went down to 1 stitch at the base, picked up two more live stitches did the s1, k2tog, psso and cast on another 11, etc.  I kept doing this, picking up stitches until I ran out of live stitches (10 swirls). The whole thing was corralled to make it hang together in a similar manner to the i-cord rose. I find you may have to play with the arms so the spirals will straighten up and fly right…oops I mean curl up and lie right.

When seemingly innocent design choices go horribly wrong….

I am not in the least averse to ripping out knitting if it is not working. In fact many hats I have done have had way more stitches ripped out than exist in the finished product. If you are not starting with a pretested pattern, things sometimes just don’t pan out. I sometimes have a few false starts before I knit to the finish. I have a philosophy that we are supposed to be knitting for pleasure, therefore the act of knitting itself should be pleasurable, right? Following this to its logical conclusion means that it shouldn’t bother us to rip out
knitting and start again if things are not going well. Even though this technically should be the case, I think sometimes we tend to be goal oriented and finishing the project becomes too important. We start to think about the time investment, etc..

The nice thing about hats is you have almost never wasted more than a few hours of work.  I have found over the years that if things look like they are not working out, doggedly knitting more of the same almost never improves things. Sometimes, however, you get to the very end before it becomes apparent how badly you have gone wrong.  Consider this hat. This is an example of when, what seems (to me anyway) to be a series of perfectly rational design choices, ends up going horribly wrong.

Laura, Jay and Jeremy

Laura, Jay and Jeremy

I was working on a series of work sock based hats (I know, I know it’s been done anyway but my husband Alan wears worksocks every day and I like the colour scheme). ANYWAY, I thought why not end at the top of the hat with an actual sock? Then, because the top of the hat is much bigger around than an actual sock, I thought why not have three heels around and do each one with a different heel turning method making it like a heel turning sampler, then finish with the foot of a sock so that the common foot part is shared by each of the three turned heels?

It wasn’t until I put the ‘toe’ on the sock that the reality of my mistake bit. Unfortunately, no matter how you look at the sock, the foot part seems to always have two very obvious heel parts at the base. And the foot almost always flops. I keep it as a joke, because there was no point in ripping it out at the very end. When my 13 year old nephew Jay (wearing the hat in the picture) put on the hat he said ‘and which side would you like me to wear the ….. on?’.  When Heather first saw it she thought it looked like someone giving you the finger…equally inappropriate, but in a totally different way.

...poor design decisions

…some very poor design decisions

Oh well, back to the drawing board…good thing I enjoy the design process, sometimes right until the bitter end.

Playing with variegated yarn

3 out of our 4 Sarahs

3 out of our 4 Sarahs

 

top view

top view

I have found that if you play with many variegated yarns you can find the sweet number of stitches to make them separate into their individual colours.  This is a Patons Classic Wool variegated yarn. To get this effect, you have to play a bit.  Cast on the number of stitches you would normally do for your hat.  On your second round, you will see how close or far the colours are from lining up on top of each other.  If they are only one or two stitches out, back up a bit and either increase or decrease a couple of stitches before the beginning of the second round.  If they are way out, you may have to start over again.

As I was knitting, I periodically had to adjust by increasing or decreasing stitches here and there to keep the colours lined up.  I am not sure how successful any of these hats are but as you can see I did three before I gave up.