New class!

I’m pleased to announce I will be holding my Beginner Spinning on a Drop Spindle workshop in Toronto later this month. As part of an event hosted by The Stop at Wychwood Barns, I’ll be teaching this workshop from 10a-12p on October 21. Drop spindle, fibre, and notes to take home are included in the class fee of $50. Spots are very limited so email me at lordal (at) gmail (dot) com to reserve yours!

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How many yards in this skein? Time for some MATH

I’m now a semi-frequent recipient of Chinese yarn, which is notorious for listing only the weight of the skein/ball on the label, and not the yardage. Chinese patterns seem to rely on weight-based requirements rather than the Western preference for yardage, so deciding whether the following heap of fine merino is enough to make Alcomar can be tricky:








I thought I might grab a clever little tool called a yarn balance, which helps you calculate yardage per weight of a particular yarn, but at $54 each, uhhhh… no thanks.

Fortunately, intrepid knitters before me have published a set of instructions for a DIY yarn balance, and I will quickly be acquiring the scrap bits of bamboo and plastic to make my own. I suspect that there’s about 400 yards in each 100g skein, given its light fingering weight, but I’ll report back once there’s been some sciencing…


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New classes!

Hey all, I’m thrilled to announce the return of my beginner spinning classes in 2017–check out my Workshops page for more info!

As always, I can do private workshops on other topics (or even a private beginners’ classes with you a friend, for example) as well. Just contact me and I’ll see what I can do!


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Yarn review: Red Heart – Heart and Sole

A while back I got an email from Yarn Canada asking if I’d review a new yarn they are carrying. Of course I said yes (I mean, twist my arm), and was sent a few skeins of a new sock yarn by Red Heart, called Heart and Sole (of course):









I know what you’re thinking: Red Heart? Really? And yes, it’s true that I long thought of it as “that stuff I knit with when I was a raw beginner” but it turns out they are making inroads on the yarn snob demographic, or at least attempting to. I was definitely skeptical but I’m not going to lie–I actually like this stuff. What first caught my eye was the colour ways:








This is “Riverstone.” I also picked out “Lakehouse” (or “Mason du Lac” in the mangled French on the label, hehe). Both are pretty gorgeous colour combos. One thing I would change is to make this self-striping, rather than variegated, but I’m not a variegated fan anyway. When you knit up even small samples, you can see how quickly the colours change, so I bet it would pool or flash:








And how does it knit up? It’s ever so slightly splitty, and isn’t the softest yarn I’ve ever worked with, but the hand is decent and it’s not scratchy. It does feel softer after blocking. Overall, I’d say I was pleasantly surprised, and if they ever come out with self-striping colour ways, I might just be tempted to pick up one or two.

Thanks to Yarn Canada for the opportunity to try out this yarn! As I said, I was pleasantly surprised.

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New article in Spin & Knit

There’s a new issue of Spin & Knit from Interweave/F + W, and I’m happy to say I have an article in it. Using my own experience of knitting with my handspun for ten years, as well as some tips from Ann Budd, I write about handspun yarn and gauge to get the best possible result in your finished knitted piece. Check it out!

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Exciting news – the return of spinning classes/workshops!

After a hiatus, I’m proud to announce I will resume teaching spinning in early 2017. Exact dates to be decided, but I will be teaching everything from the basics (raw beginners) to more advanced spinning and fibre prep techniques. Much thanks to the fabulous creatives/indie dyers The Blue Brick, who will be hosting the classes in Burlington, ON, easily accessible from Toronto and other parts of the GTA.

Interested? Feel free to comment or drop me a note at lordal @ gmail (dot) com for more info.

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Spindle showcase: Enid Ashcroft

I’ve become such a collector of spindles that it seemed appropriate to show them off here, as well as give them a review from the perspective of an experienced spinner. I’ve also been learning a tremendous amount about different types of wood, and while I’m not in the market for my own lathe (yet…), I’ll be adding some info about the wood(s) in each spindle as well.

I’ll start with one I received in the mail today–a Mini Turkish (measuring about 3.5″ x 4.5″) by Enid Ashcroft. I’d heard nothing but superlatives about Enid’s spindles, both in terms of their usefulness and their beauty. I particularly love her “boardwalk” designs that incorporate squares and rectangles of differently patterned woods in eye-catching combinations. One came up for sale and I snatched it up:









The shaft is redheart (which came with a warning to keep it out of light as much as possible, or else it will fade), while the arms are a mix of redheart, bocote, and spalted beech. (I’m also learning quite a lot about different woods and woodworking through this little habit of mine–“spalted” refers to a particular type of discolouration caused by fungi, usually presenting in wavy dark lines).

IMG_5718It’s a mere 14g and a speedy little thing. I can’t find faultwith the balance! It spins just about perfectly and for quite a long time. Absolutely zero wobble, with and without fibre on board.






If I can find one flaw, it’s in the finishing of the lower arm. My other Turks have all been nicely sanded down around the shaft holes, but this one shows a few splinters sticking up. A minor quibble, but I was surprised given how highly regarded her spindles are.









As I mentioned above, redheart will fade from its starting colour (anything from true red to pink) to a more brownish colour with exposure to UV light. Check out this little experiment to see the change. Redheart (Erythoxylon mexicanum) is a hardwood grown in Mexico as well as a few countries in South America, and is highly sought after because of its colour, despite its vulnerability to sunlight. Fun facts: the nameErythoxylon literally means “red wood”, and the genus is also home to the plant from which cocaine is derived (don’t think you can get high off redheart, though, unless you’re really enamoured with the colour).

Bocote (Cordia eleagnoides) is also a South American hardwood, and is apparently becoming more popular for turning small items due to its highly figured wood (it’s rather a small tree, so best suited to more diminutive items such as spindles, handles, and pens rather than larger pieces of furniture). Other trees in the Cordia genus bear edible fruits, which are apparently a bit gluey (one is nicknamed “snotty gobbles”… yum).

Beech can refer to any number of deciduous trees in the genus Fagus, and if you live in the northern hemisphere there’s a good chance you’ve come across them whether you realize it or not. Spalted beech refers to beech wood that has been attacked by fungus (that’s what the term “spalted” means) and while it may not be great for the tree, it can create some pretty fantastic designs in the wood, if dried before it gets too soft and broken down. The process can be encouraged in dead trees but to get the stunning wood effects you have to arrest it at the right time, before the whole thing rots away. Who knew fungus could be so beautiful? (Don’t you mycologists all chime in now…)

Alright, time for a bit of spinning!

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