Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In today's politically correct child rearing climate is it considered ok to ....

give a baby Hemlock?
Jarad Floods (aka Brooklyn Tweeds) Hemlock Ring Blanket that is, which is what I'm doing. Occasionally I wonder if I'll tell the expectant mother the name of the design ... I'm not sure. By now you will have realized this is the introduciton to my next new project, yet another baby blanket, round this time and not square, and today I've also got a new toy to share.

Hemlock ring, I've admired this blanket for ages ... JF posted his way back in August 2007, and I was a confirmed internet-knitter at that stage, well and truly. I had been blogging for 18 months prior to that, and on KR for at least a year or more before I blogged. Which means that Hemlock Ring has been in my queue for around 2 years .. it is a beautiful blanket - shawl - doily, whatever it is in the gauge it is knit. I suspect that part of the charm lies in the contradiction of the lace pattern traditionally used for fine yarn being subverted by heavy thick tweedy yarn, and the name. Oh that name ... gotta admit the name has a certain appeal. There is a new baby on its way at work .. Pip is having a boy to join her little girl (named Stella, the girl not the boy), and Pip is amazing, so worth knitting a lace blanket for. I'm using my handspun gotland. I had spun a heavier blue gotland fiber for Pip's blanket ... and so as you do Saturday 30 minutes before going out to the guild meeting set about turning the skeins into tidy cakes of yarn. I checked the pattern ... and didn't have enough, stash-diving I found a beautiful dark grey gotland handspun that would compliment the blue beautifully. With 15 minutes to go - I wound 3 skeins of grey into cakes and threw that into my knitting tote to take.

Center out things are quick starts ... a few rounds and the pattern makes nice shapes. This blanket is no exception ... 2 sessions and I've completed the center, the flower petals and almost all the the transition section to the feather and fan lace. The gotland is fuzzy ... so you can't see much detail ... but the grey is dark and warm and soft and seems to me perfect for a little boy baby. My plan is grey center and blue edges.

Do you remember that I made myself a hackle with a little help from the cubs? On line resources for DIY hackles commonly show people making use of long tined plastic combs ... but a fellow local knitter and spinner A had tried that and reported that plastic combs don't stand much wear and tear. Hearing that I decided to make mine from the longest smooth nails I could find. It worked, but it was wobbly. My home made hackle is still functional, and intact ... but some of the nails are wobbly, they have not fallen out but the feel like they might. Bear and I planned to make a second, an improved model but needed to find tines longer than the nails we had access to locally. I approached Majacraft about selling me tines, and as an afterthought asked them also to price making a hackle. Several emails back and forth discussing sizes, and types of wood and tine prices and clamp systems ... I realised that Majacraft's wood-meister Baz would make it quicker and neater than I could even with Bears help. So I ordered a custom made Hackle ... which arrived very quickly, and once I sourced clamps to fit has now been tested ....

and approved of. This is hackled and diz'd Tally-Ho Romney fiber. Now Tally Ho are a local, Otago fiber supplier, and their product is priced well. Very well - the catch is that the processing they use retains a lot of vegetable matter, and well there are noils and neps, many many noils and neps. Noils and neps are what little tangled bits of fiber are called and they are ok if you want to spin a rustic yarn, not so much fun to pick out if you want a smoother more even yarn ... but as I said the fiber is very very well priced. The hackle was perfect ... I followed the proceedure shown in many online videos ... here, and here. My Hackle is 85 cm long with a single row of tines, and while this is a large hackle it allows me to load up and diz off a reasonable amount of fiber in one go. My theory was a longer hackle would allow more consistant blending of fibers, I've tried to blend on the drum carder ... but that isn't as straightforward to do and even a result as you would think, this will allow me to blend nylon into merino or perendale so I can spin durable sock yarn.
Hackling and diz'ing seems almost to easy, and while I admit this will add extra time to my fiber prep, and so slow down my spinning, for now its seems totally worth it to spin even smooth yarns. Besides its not a hard thing to do, and there is a peace about drawing fiber off a hackle through a diz. It is a calming activity despite how dangerous the hackle looks. One thing I've come to accept with age is that preparation really is a key ingredient in getting good results, with painting, with pattern cutting, with photography, with wallpapering and painting, with knitting ... and so I accept it is the same with spinning.

Take care
na Stella


Knitting Linguist said...

Ooh, gorgeous fiber. And you're right -- the prep is everything. Right now I've been spinning from top to make smooth yarns, but I just know that the time will come when I need to start getting my fiber closer and closer to the sheep. It's nice to have you breaking the trail!

And I love that hemlock - -the yarn is just perfect for it, and it will make a wonderful blanket. I'd say to go ahead with the name; it certainly wouldn't bother me, especially if it came along with such a gorgeous and thoughtful gift!

KathyR said...

There is an evergreen tree, Tsuga, which has a common name hemlock ( It is not poisonous but does smell similar to the poisonous hemlock, hence the common name. Perhaps this is where the Hemlock Ring got its name? The cones of the Tsuga have a pattern reminiscent of the feather and fan pattern in the blanket. I really love this blanket and have thought of making it. Did I show you the Arapawa I had spun? I was thinking of using that - maybe.

Love your new hackle, too. I heard a while ago that Majacraft would make one to order but didn't want to find out how much they would want to sting me for one! Brave you!

Sam said...

oh wow .. wonder if they will do another custom made hackle :)