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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Supported spindle in Blue Mahoe (aka, new toy)









I recently discovered the spindles of Ken and Marilyn Mocker, who run Silly Salmon Designs. I’d never heard of them, but a well placed ad on Etsy (advertising works, yes) caught my eye and soon I was down the rabbit hole. Silly Salmon works with sustainably produced woods that are either unusual colours or highly figured, and they combine them in extremely strikingarrangements in both drop and supported spindles. Through them, I’ve had my first exposure to blued ponderosa pine (its blue colour is due to a fungus that attacks the tree while it’s growing), the almost unnaturally white American holly, and my personal favourite, blue mahoe. So what the hell is blue mahoe? Well, it’s a tree that grows only in Jamaica and Cuba, and produces wood that can vary in colour from blue grey to olive green to cream to purple to brown, often all in the same specimen.I can see the appeal of working with it, given the surprise colours that come outwhen it’s turned.

The spindle above has a whorl made of blue mahoe and curly maple–if you look closely, you can see that while this piece of blue mahoe is a deep purplish brown, there is a little creamy streak. That apparently didn’t show up until the whorl was turned; it makes me think of a meteorite in a dark sky. This spindle is also on the heavier side, which I prefer, and is about as close to perfectly balanced as I’ve found in a spindle.

(I, uh, may have bought three spindles from Silly Salmon recently. This is the last one… for now.)

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FO: Boreas sweater

So what the hell happened between the end of 2013 and now? Well, I finished my thesis, graduated, got a job, got another job, and finally brought my beloved pony up to Canada. She has adapted quite well to the cold by growing a shaggy yak-like coat; I, however, must resort to other options to keep from freezing when it dips to -20 C (which, to be honest, it hasn’t much, since… global warming?).

Anyway, my biggest project and proudest stash-busting event of 2015 was the knitting of this gorgeous sweater to ride in on cooler (not cold…) days. I used up about six skeins of Philosophers Wool that had been sitting in my stash for 10 years or so, and ended up with a warm, slightly itchy (that’s what turtlenecks are for), and cute sweater for riding. It’s perfect, except of course my partner wears it better. But here it is with me, and the pony:









Action shot:








I would have done close-ups, but I prefer the pony pics. Feels good to blog again!

Posted in finished object, horses, Knitting, twist collective | 3 Comments