Blocking with Rods: a yarn artist’s best friend

Today I completed my very first knit shawl.

It was ordered by a friend back in October and I have to say thank goodness she was so patient with me as it took some time!

I had no idea how long a knit shawl would take me and expected that it would be similar to my various crocheted projects.

Yeah, not so much.

It didn’t help that I chose 5mm circular needles to make it…perhaps larger would have been better for my first large knitting project….but regardless, I washed and blocked it two days ago and today, it is finished!

Completed knit shawl!
Completed knit shawl!

 

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post.

When I blocked this piece, I decided to use these metal rods that I picked up at a hardware store months ago.  They are heavier than the rods you use for blocking lace, but for this worsted yarn and open edging, they were perfect!

I saved so much time by weaving the rods through the edging and then simply pinning them out with my T-pins.

Close up of the metal rod I used for blocking
Close up of the metal rod I used for blocking
Metal rod pinned by T-pins
Metal rod pinned by T-pins

You can find these at any hardware store I believe and only cost me a few bucks.

The only downside that I could see was that the edges were somewhat rough, so I had to be careful when weaving them through the stitching.

Otherwise, a perfect time saver!

Spinning: A New Addiction…and zombie wool!

(This entry is a bit picture heavy…gallery at the end for the post)

Did I pull you in to read this post with the “Zombie Wool” comment?

I did, didnt I!

It’s an accurate reference…and is explained somewhere in this post ;).  I promise!

In November 2015, B and I went on a weekend trip to New York State to visit friends and their farm.  They were folks known to B but it was to be my first time meeting them. I knew that the wife of the couple was somewhat of a fibre freak like me so I was really looking forward to it.

I had no idea on our way there that she and I would become fast friends and that I would leave with a new impatient addiction to feed!

First off, I must set the stage by mentioning all the animals on the farm who shared our space that weekend.  They were all so freakin sweet…well maybe with one exception ;)…

Sweet and rambunctious ...I Just wanted to snuggle him and take him home with me!
Sweet and rambunctious …I Just wanted to snuggle him and take him home with me!

 

Spent much of the evenings snuggled up to next to  on the couch.  I have never had much of an opportunity to spend time with a pit bull and this was a good first time!  So sweet and quiet!
Spent much of the evenings snuggled up to next to on the couch. I have never had much of an opportunity to spend time with a pit bull and this was a good first time! So sweet and quiet!
Three cats on site...though only a picture of one.  Made me happy.  Love felines!
Three cats on site…though only a picture of one. Made me happy. Love felines!
  Beautiful yet sadly not too friendly with those she didn't now.  "LOOK AT ME!" "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!" "BUT DON'T TOUCH ME!!!!" So, yes....very pretty! ;)
Beautiful yet sadly not too friendly with those she didn’t know. “LOOK AT ME!” “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!” “BUT DON’T TOUCH ME!!!!”
So, yes….very pretty! ;)

And this brings us to their awesome, lovely Shetland sheep!

A couple of the regal looking males
A couple of the regal looking males
IMG_7920
Awww, loving the scritches!
A few of the females who ventured closer to me to check me out :)
A few of the females who ventured closer to me to check me out :)

 

So, now that the stage has been set…on to spinning!

When I arrived, I was introduced to  this lovely lady and told that she was mine for the weekend.  An Ashford Traditional spinning wheel from the early 1980s.  I fell in love!  Absolutely gorgeous….learning on this wheel was a pleasure! I couldn’t have asked for a better intro to spinning.

Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel from the early 1980s
Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel from the early 1980s

I had no idea I would enjoy spinning so much.

On a practical note, although crochet and knitting are awesome and I spend a lot of travel time and tv time working on projects, my wrists and arms tend to get irritated with the constant repetitive motion.  Spinning breaks up that repetition with something completely different that gives my arms a break.

But from a more spiritual and ancestral perspective, I found spinning incredibly grounding and meditative.  As I spun, it felt as though the yarn moved forward, from my hands, through the flyer and onto the bobbin, as well as stretched backwards, through my centre, through time, reaching back and connecting me to all the women over the centuries who have spun yarn for their families and communities.

It was an unexpected and moving experience.

Needless to say, most of my weekend was spent sitting at the wheel trying to multi-task….

Treadling while drafting the fibre using both hands isn’t necessarily as easy as it may look.  It was really hard to get my foot moving and then forget about it to focus on my hands.
(Now I have more of an appreciation for what drummers must go through as they learn the drums! ;)

The yarn already in process on various bobbins was beautiful! And so thin!

Top: Spun Shetland wool Bottom: Spun 100% silk
Top: Spun Shetland wool
Bottom: Spun 100% silk

 

Yeah, I’m not getting close to THAT for a while yet!
But I did manage to create a small skein over the weekend…which was made even more awesome by the fact that the wool I was using was from the sheep on the property!

In process: my very first handspun skein of yarn!
In process: my very first handspun skein of yarn!

Obviously it turned out uneven, bumpy and bulky/lace weight all-in-one but it was made by me and I was pretty darn proud!

Washed, weighted and left to dry!
Washed, weighted and left to dry!
My very first handspun skein!!
My very first handspun skein!!

Hooked from the moment I started, I knew when I left a spinning wheel would be making its way into my home very soon!

It didn’t help that, to encourage this new addition, I was sent home with a large bag of zombie wool from their sheep!

Shetland Wool, gifted to me to feed the addiction! ;)
Shetland Wool, gifted to me to feed the addiction! ;)

Yep…I did say Zombie Wool! ;)

The story is that initially there was an attempt to try shearing the sheep without the help of a proper sheep shearer…the person, not the shears ;)  (Say that sentence 10 times fast, I dare you!)

The initial attempt was made…on a dead sheep…which resulted in quite a bit of wool, including the bag I brought home.

So…

I have taken to calling it Zombie Wool and have decided that, once spun, I will have to use it for some type of suitable theme-matching project…

I just don’t know, yet, what that project will be!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Below are more pictures of our trip, the spinning wheel I used and the sheep!

 

 

 

Traveling with Crochet Hooks & Knitting Needles…it’s doable

I recently went on a European trip from Canada.

Before I went, many friends warned me that I would likely have my crochet hooks and knitting needles confiscated if I brought them.  So initially, I started packing without any projects to work on.

But the more I thought about 6 hours on a plane with no yarn and no crochet, the more annoyed I got. :)  I wasn’t willing to bring along my lovely wooden knitting needles as they are fantastic (and were expensive!).  I also wasn’t willing to bring along my handmade ergonomic crochet hooks as I order those from the states and they too aren’t cheap.

So, I put together a small traveling crochet pouch with new bits and pieces as an experiment. Throughout the trip I went through four security checks in three different airports (Pearson Airport in Toronto, Ontario Canada, Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris France & Keflavik Airport in Iceland) and not once was I questioned or stopped.

Of course, every airline, airport and every security employee is different so there is no *one* way to ensure that you’ll never be asked about your hooks and needles, but I though I would share what I did because it seemed to work….in January 2015 at least ;)

First of all, I researched each airport for security regulations.  Some were easy to find and others were a bit harder.  I also asked my airline via Facebook what they allowed on their airplanes.  I was told 2.5mm and smaller were acceptable which didn’t work for me as all my projects were  on hooks and needles 5mm or larger.

So instead I created this pouch….

Traveling crochet pouch
Traveling crochet pouch

I went out and bought plastic hooks and plastic needles, as well as the smallest pair of scissors I could find.  Initially I was looking for scissors for children as I figured they would be even less threatening but I came across these for quite cheap and figured I’d try them.

I also purchased a replacement set of circular knitting needles for a project I was working on.  These are aluminum:

Aluminum circular needles size 8
Aluminum circular needles size 8

The key to all of this was that I made my purchases with the knowledge that they all could be taken away and I was okay with that.  If I had lost my plastic hooks or scissors…they hadn’t been too expensive and I still had my preferred ones at home.

Prior to going through any security, I pulled a string through the stitches of my knitting project along the needles and tied it together. Every time.

I only had one knitting item with me….so if you have a few this could be annoying BUT you just KNOW that the one time you think “I haven’t had a problem so far, I’m sure it’ll be fine” is the time when someone will decide that your needles are not acceptable!  :P So do it every time!

IMG_2882Of course, if they had decided to confiscate the needles, I may have lost the project as well…I have heard of that happening before….but this way, if I had been given the opportunity to keep the project, the needles could have been easily pulled out and all the stitches saved.

Lastly, each time I went through security, I purposely pulled out the crochet pouch and the project with the needles in it and put them in a tray to go through the scanner.  That way they were clearly seen and could be checked easily.

Four security scans later, I wasn’t asked once about them.

So there you go! :)  Hopefully this helps my fellow fibre freaks out there who also like to travel with their yarn art!

NOTE: One additional note….I was also working on a project with 15mm needles.  Mine are plastic and I assume pretty non-threatening but I didn’t chance them due to their size and always put them in my checked luggage.

ANOTHER NOTE (Later…same day):
I had to add another note to share some of the awesome ideas that are being shared with me on social media!
One person suggested taking along small nail clippers for children instead of scissors and another person suggested floss…because floss packaging  usually has a small sharp edge to cut floss…or yarn!

Brilliant!

How do you travel with your needles and hooks? Leave a comment. :)
Would love to hear more ideas and suggestions. :)

KNITS FOR LIFE

Lorna and Jill Watt.

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