Thirteen years ago I took up an offer from a little shop in Montreal called Ariadne Knits (may she rest in peace) to come and teaching some spinning classes (the yarn kind, not the crazy people on stationary bikes). I remember that first trip well, the train from Ottawa (including the nervousness as the train slowed down past the Farine Five Roses sign and past the old decrepit Dow Brewery brewery building and how I was reviewing my class notes over and over, never having really formally taught before, and then the train arrived in the station and I pulled my bag out of the car and was off on this new adventure), the whirlwind delight of the first class, a long walk down Laurier in the orange snow-light of evening to my accommodations in the Plateau, the friends I made, how it would all lead to more teaching, future stays and a close friendship with one of the owners of Ariadne (and an unexpected fondness for the most unlikely of Montreal neighbourhoods, NDG), adventures further afield, a career change, then another, then in Toronto and teaching here, then teaching as a career albeit at a very different capacity (graduate level, clinical field) but that same delight, that same joy in teaching and accepting adventures (and job offers) as they come.

And how I miss it all so much now, the friends who have left Montreal, the ability to travel back to that city on a lark (saying fuck it, let’s get in the car and GO somewhere, pre-pandemic), meeting strangers, seeing friends, ending up in a parc somewhere on a blanket under blue sky

(an early attempt at a one-handed promotional photo)

I’ll get there again, before too long.

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It’s the future, apparently

Welcome to my moribund blog! I hear blogs are dead anyway, but since this site seems to provide useful information (especially about spinning wheels from Quebec), I’ve decided to leave it be for a while longer.

I hear all the cool kids are at Medium or Substack or something, but I still post a lot of fibre arts content on Instagram (mitoticspindle) as well as some of my film photography (frontoparietal).

Or maybe I’ll reanimate this into something new. In a few days, or months.

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New workshop in Toronto







Along withthe great folks at Common People Shop, I’ll be hosting a learn-to-spin workshop on October 21 from 1-3pm. No experience necessary, and you’ll go home with your own drop spindle and your first handspun yarn(s)! Register here, and comment if you have any questions.

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Yarn review: Bernat Baby Blanket Stripes

If you know me, then you know that I rarely knit with a) synthetic fibres, and b) chunky yarns. And yet, when the lovely people (truly, they are a great team of folks!) at Yarn Canada contacted me and asked if I’d like to try a new synthetic chunky/bulky yarn, who was I to say no? I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked their last offer (and even have ended up buying more), so I was happy to take them up on the offer again. They gave me my choice of colours in Bernat’s new Baby Blanket Stripes yarn, and I went with Above the Clouds. A couple of weeks later, and I had three monster cakes of the stuff in a box at my door.








Essentially it’s a machine-washable polyester chenille, in a self-striping colour way and as the name implies, intended to be used for baby blankets. First I had to dig through my needle stash to see if I had anything large enough, but some US 11s (8mm in Canadian sizing) showed themselves and I cast on with a free pattern provided by Yarn Canada.

You know, as much as I like knitting with finer yarns, there is a real instant gratification factor with a chunky yarn. Knitting goes FAST. Well, faster… I’ll admit I’m still not done the blanket yet, though my cats (or perhaps a new baby in my circle of friends; I’m at that age…) will no doubt appreciate the finished product.








I also am finding the experience of knitting with it quite pleasant–I tend to associate syntheticyarn with squeakiness (a trade-off for the fact that you can punish it with machine washing), but it’s not bad. I’m also very impressed with the lack of shedding or pilling, which can be a real issue with chenille yarns.








The colours are nice and they have some good gender-neutral choices in addition to your standard blues and pinks. One aspect I don’t like is the colour changes–they are abrupt and the different colours are quite obviously and sloppily sewn together with white thread. It doesn’t end upshowing in the blanket I’m knitting but I would expect a bit better quality in that regard for the price (takes about $35 worth of yarn for a baby blanket).







Will I knit with this again? Likely not, given my yarn proclivities, but if you do like quick projects, chunky yarn, and the ability to machine wash your finished object, you’d probably like this yarn. It’s soft, sturdy, and cute. Check out the full line here.


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Recent yarns for sale


See something you like? Send me an email: lordal (at) gmail (dot) com. Prices are in USD and I accept PayPal, Venmo, and Interac e-transfers.








‘Sugarplum’ — I’m not sure about the yardage but likely at least 700-800 yards, light fingering-laceweight, pure Merino wool (same source as Malabrigo yarn). $60 + shipping. Patterns using this weight/amount of yarn.








‘Mirkwood’ — approximately 190 yards (split between two skeins) of gradient-dyed wool, worsted weight. Colours gradually shift throughout the yarn. $40 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn. SOLD








‘Katahdin’ — 200 yards, sport/DK-weight, overdyed natural grey Bluefaced Leicester wool. $40 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn. 








Yorkshire Rainbow’ — 225 yards, from naturally black Shetland sheep with highlights of dyed merino and silk, sport-fingering weight. $45 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn. SOLD






‘Muskoka’ — 180 yards, DK weight, 100% wool (sheep is a cross between Finn and Newfoundland, a rare Canadian breed). $30 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn.







‘Bellini’ — 1000 yards, lace weight, 100% Cheviot wool (rare English breed). Hand dyed. $60 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn. SOLD


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Coming soon…

I’ll be selling my handspun yarns and handmade project bags (also suitable for other uses–the spindle bags make very fine wine bottle carriers!) online. I’ve been selling at various pop-ups and fairs in and around Toronto but it’s time to branch out. Stay tuned, and feel free to send me an email (lordal at gmail dot com) in the meantime if there’s anything in particular you’re looking for.


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Indigo, collaboration, science, and new adventures

Last night I gave an invited lecture on indigo dyeing practices throughout the world at the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild. I drew from a couple of articles I had written on the subject for Interweave Press (including this one) and was very well received; as an added bonus, there was a colour chemist in the audience who came up afterwards and struck up a conversation. We had marvelled at how the incredibly complex and non-intuitive process of indigo dyeing (which involves several steps, rather specific chemical reactions, and starting off with plants that show no sign whatsoever of blue-bearing potential) had been discovered independently multiple times throughout the world. I mentioned in my talk that several indigo dye plants (and there are several, if not hundreds!) are used medicinally as well; I wondered if their treasured status as a producer of the rarest of colours–blue–helped foster belief that they held healing and other beneficial properties too. The chemist offered, well, what if it happened the other way? What if the plants were first used medicinally and through the grotesque processes of the human body (her words, not mine, though sometimes apt) people noticed the occasional tinge of blue? (I had ended my talk with a clinical anecdote about the occasional appearance of indigotin, the indigo pigment itself, in certain pathologies in the human body.) And that got me thinking… that makes a lot of sense. And how great is it to have this kind of conversation, about art and biology and organic chemistry and dyeing cellulose?

I’ve missed being in a guild for a long time. I was in a great one in Colorado, where I learned a great deal, but was a bit soured on the endeavour when I found myself among a rather unfriendly group when I first came to Canada. I really enjoyed the people I met last night, though, and was impressed by the knowledge amassed in the room. And did I mention the guild sits out in a small natural preserve with its own dye garden, including a butternut tree?! I do believe it might be time to start connecting with my local artisan community again.

Posted in dyeing, teaching | 4 Comments