Category Archives: Knitting, Spinning, & Weaving


Sparky’s beginner watercraft course is from 10 to 12 every weekday in Lachine. This means I don’t have time to come home again after dropping him
off. Well, I could, I suppose, but then I’d have to turn around and drive back. (Why Lachine when we live on the South Shore? Because they were the cheapest and have a terrific reputation.)

Yesterday I tried to set up in a cafe with my laptop to work. I had great hopes for this. People seem to have excellent success with this sort of thing, and it was my fervent hope that I could get work done while I had to be out there.

Reader, it did not go well.

I’d forgotten that standard chairs are all wrong for me. They’re terrible for my back, and cafe tables are all the wrong heights for typing. My energy was taken up feeling that my feet weren’t flat on the ground like they’re supposed to be for stability, my lower back was tipped backward and stressed the exact way every osteopath has told me *not* to do, the table was too high, my wrists were super awkwardly angled over the uncomfortably high keyboard. More energy was used trying to ignore the music being piped in despite having earphones and my own music, the unfamiliar food smells, the *people* all around… it was kind of nightmarish. I was very glad Sparky had an amazing morning. But if I kept doing this, I would accomplish nada this week because I would be coming home exhausted. I got next to nothing done in the cafe, and was so drained when I got home that I couldn’t work then either, let alone after picking Owlet up from camp. It was, in short, a disaster, and not sustainable.

I decided that today would be different. Last night I pulled out and prepped some SweetGeorgia BFL (Songbird! I’m planning a two-ply: one ply spun end to end, the other ply a four-repeat fractal!) and packed my spinning box. I would bring my small spinning wheel and sit by the water, spinning and listening to an audiobook.

My view across to the canoe club.

Finn! One of my comfort fibres to spin.

And that is exactly what I did. Apart from a tiny bit of social anxiety about spinning in public and possibly having to field people, it was lovely. I sat on a park bench that was the perfect height, right by the water next to an oak tree that gave me dappled shade. There was a perfect breeze. I listened to Pride & Prejudice. I finished the Finn I was spinning to make up the missing yardage for a cardigan (it’s only two or three years after I spun all the rest of the yarn; maybe I’ll even knit the sweater someday) then started the Songbird after sampling to see what whorl and drive and braking methods I wanted to use. I have come home relaxed, and psyched to attack the project I’m working on that’s due by the end of the week.

It’s such a major shift from yesterday that I’m really excited about this plan, and I intend to do this every day that it’s nice enough to be outside. Adjusting my expectations of when to sink energy into working for the maximum output has made an enormous difference.

I had forgotten how much I love the sound of water against jetties, buoys, and the sides of boats, and the smell of the lake, too. Part of me is already hoping Sparky will do this again next year.

Lammas Report

We are halfway through summer!

1. The Tour de Fleece happened. I co-captained the Clan Kromski team again, and while I feel I was not as engaged as in previous years thanks to work and kids, I got some nice spinning done.

TdF 2017 yarns!

2. HRH came home from basic training, and everyone was very happy. He did excellently, of course. Now he’s full-time at the unit for three weeks to finish up the last block of training, and if that goes well, he’ll graduate to being an official qualified naval reservist. Next up will be his ship training, which will probably be next summer, although there’s plenty of theory and study to be done along the way.

Dad’s home!

3. The kids have completed two two-week sessions of day camp. Sparky did guitar for the first session, including a lovely improv with the teacher at the open house, and violin for the second session, with a lovely solo performance with that teacher as well. Owlet is loving it, hugging every counsellor she passes there while protesting at home that she hates camp. Uh-huh.

4. Owlet is back at day camp for one extra week, while Sparky has started a two-week session of mornings doing an Intro to Canoe & Kayak course at the Lachine Canoe Club. He kayaked for the first time at the grade six sleepaway camp long weekend he did in mid-June, and raved about it, asking if there was some way he could do it again. He is wildly loving it. He’s never expressed interest in any sport before; he may have found his thing.

5. I was asked back for Part 2/the expansion of the scriptwriting project I handled this past spring. That was terribly nice. Although the can-you-do-this-by-the-end-of-the-week deadline wasn’t as enjoyable. I hit it, though, because I am awesome. And then had to rush to handle the stuff that had to be displaced on the schedule because of it. Sigh. My other ongoing contract carries on apace as well.

6. I now have green hair. Part of it is green, anyway. I did it for my birthday, and I love it.



Spinning October 2016

While I was at Rhinebeck (there’s a post I still need to write; the good thing is I have notes) I picked up a couple of braids of fibre from Spunky Eclectic, a dyer I’ve heard a lot about but haven’t had the chance to try. This is the one I chose to spin first.

The blend is called Panda; it’s 60% superwash Merino, 30% bamboo, and 10% nylon. This colour way is called ‘No Pimiento’ and is a gorgeous blend of pale and spring greens. The braid looked almost golden in places, but that was the reflection of the bamboo.

Spunky Eclectic Panada blend in 'No Pimiento'

Spunky Eclectic Panda blend in ‘No Pimiento’

I spun it on the Symphony in double drive at the 16:1 ratio for a 32 wpi single, and plied it in scotch tension. I ended up with 316 yards of traditional three-ply yarn at about 20 wpi.

'No Pimiento' yarn

‘No Pimiento’ yarn

I’m really happy with it. It reminds me of the colours of the green curtains my grandfather wove, which are currently packed away because all our windows are too big for them.

Tour de Fleece 2016: Day 1!

They ride bikes, we spin yarn. It’s all wheels, right?

I wanted to have my wheel clear for the first day of the Tour, but yeah, that didn’t happen. I handed the manuscript of the book in Thursday evening, and Friday was a blur, really. I slept horribly and so I was having trouble staying awake in the afternoon. And then there was that concert thing Friday night, it being Canada Day and all. (It was excellent. Really great. And our replacement principal cellist asked if we’d be interested in a cello club, a monthly get-together for playing stuff. Um, yes? Sign me up. I love group classes and cello choirs.)

So Day 1 of the Tour had me plying the last 3/4 of my FatCatKnits BFL in the London Fog colourway in order to clear bobbins.

It went from this:

To this:

Before a wash to finish the yarn, it’s 466.5 yards, 20 wpi. I loved the experience and the feel of the finished yarn, but I’m not thrilled with the colour. The three-ply barberpoling from a randomly applied colourway… I’ve got a greenish pinkish greyish yarn. If I do this colourway again — and I probably will, because I loved the original braid and it was on my wish list for over three years — I’m going to either split it lengthwise so the plies match up, or spin end to end and then chain ply it.

Whatever. It will make a nice shawlette to tuck into the neck of my velveteen fall coats. I was hoping for socks, but I think it’s too soft. Even though I plied it super tight.

Catching Up

[Good grief. This has been sitting in a drafts folder since April 12.]

I had a concert. It was brilliant. The Grieg piano concerto was fantastic, and the Schubert ninth symphony was better than I expected it to be. (It was also REALLY LOUD.) Right up to the week before the concert I was still thinking I should have dropped out at the beginning of this rehearsal session when I was having so much difficulty with the material; I’m glad I stuck with it. Next: my recital in June, and then the Canada Day concert.

Yesterday I had my second meeting with the team I’m working with on this project. It was just as excellent as the first one was. We reviewed the first two chapters I’d written, and the feedback was so positive. It’s really nice to be so comfortable. The packaging guy was in town for this one, and it was good to meet him too; he said a coupe of very complimentary things about how I was functioning in the meeting and how pleased he was that the team had coalesced so well. And he suggested that if I was interested, if there were any projects that came across his desk that he thought I’d be good for, that he could call me. (Yes! Yes, please do that!)

The team sent me home with swag for the family, too. It was heavy to haul home — there’s just over half an hour of walking involved in my commute to and from downtown for these in-person meetings — but everyone here was delighted. In theory the two huge hardcover books are for my reference use, but HRH buried himself in one right away because it was directly applicable to something he’s doing right now.

We outlined the fifth and sixth sections of the book, so now I have the second and third to cover and have these two on the horizon as well. I am hitting the right tone and level of detail they want, which is good to know; I wanted to have this review meeting of the first two chapters I finished rough drafts of before going into the next set, just in case I was really missing the point somehow.

In non-work news, I am finally going to get to Rhinebeck, which is an enormous fleece and fibre festival in mid-October. (The actual name of it is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, but no one calls it that.) Ceri, Megan, and I and a bunch of my online mums group are going to meet there; we’re all renting a house for the weekend! (A few houses, actually; people kept saying they were going to go, too, and more houses had to be booked. It’s crazy, and so exciting.) It’s going to be a ridiculous amount of fun, and my phone already knows how to autocorrect Rhinebeck to RHINEBECK, all caps; that’s how exciting it is. For some reason I thought Rhinebeck was much further away. Google tells me it’s just about four hours. That’s not taking border-crossing times into account, but still — that’s closer than driving to visit my parents. And there’s a Rhinebeck thing; people knit sweaters to wear while there. So I am going to knit a sweater. An easy one, mind you, but a real sweater. Once this book is done, that is. I’ve already swatched two different yarns, even, and know which one I’ll be using.

Cello, work, yarn stuff. That’s a pretty decent summary of what’s been going on.

Recent Spinning

I’ve been so busy with work these past two weeks that my yarn-making has slowed to a standstill. Yesterday my cold was so bad that pretty much all I could do was sit on the chesterfield, so I dragged the wheel over, set up some BBC living history documentaries on the iPad (Victorian Pharmacy, only four episodes, but traces the evolution of sixty years of medical and general services offered by the local pharmacy; I loved it), and spun all afternoon.

The braid was destashed unidentified domestic wool, dyed in a great colourway I dubbed “All Hail the Mantis Shrimp.” My guess is Falkland, possibly a lower grade of Polwarth. It was a joy to spin. No splitting or predrafting, just end to end spinning across the top.

I’m chain-plying it; this is an earlier photo, it’s about three-quarters done now. I like the slight heathering that’s happening.

Just before this one, I was feeling pretty run down, which is typical of early January after the holidays. I needed something that was kind of a mindless spin, so I grabbed a packet of the KnitPicks fibre I’d ordered to try in the huge November sale. This was ridiculously easy to spin. No matting or felting, and while it’s not the absolute softest stuff I’ve ever spun, it’s softer than I expected it to be. (Apparently I am a bit more of a fibre snob than I’d thought.) 28 wpi singles yarn; no idea of the yardage, because I haven’t skeined it off yet (it’s my least favourite part of spinning). The colourway is “Tidepool,” and is a greeny-blue. It’s really hard to capture in photos.

The colour is closer to this picture:

Kromski Mazurka Prototype Modification

I was recently asked on Ravelry about my modifications that turned a prototype Mazurka (with the wooden orifice cup, domed bobbin, single pulley/whorl, and small flyer) into one that accepts the current Kromski flyers, bobbins, and whorls, at which point I realized I hadn’t actually written up the process HRH and I went through one year ago. So I’m putting this here because it will probably help someone other than the people on Ravelry who own prototype Mazurkas and who can’t use them for whatever reason (broken flyers, bobbins, whatnot).

This was done just about a year ago, so my memory may be a bit off on some steps. I hope there’s enough info here to give you a decent concept of the process, however.

We didn’t attach the MOA extender permanently because I wanted to be able to reuse the original maiden and flyer. (I don’t know, historical value? I haven’t swapped the flyers out since this modification was done a year ago, so I may make the modification permanent.) If your flyer is broken, go ahead and make the MOA extender permanent by screwing/gluing it onto the original MOA. I suggest not doing the permanent thing until you’ve tested the new setup and know it works, though.

This concept uses the distaff bar as part of the support system, which you probably won’t need to do if you make the extender bar permanent. If you don’t have a distaff, don’t panic; you’ll be strapping the old and new MOA bars together anyhow.

Note that this mod reduces the amount of tensioning play you have, since the new flyer is wider than the original one included with the prototype, which reduces the amount of up-and-down adjustment you can make with the tensioning and support screws. I haven’t noticed a critical difference; I just made new drive bands.


New Minstrel flyer
New Minstrel front maiden
New Minstrel whorl(s) (NOTE: We’ve ascertained that the Symphony/Polonaise/Minstrel whorls are pretty much all the same; the ratios just change according to which drive wheel is being used)
Mazurka distaff support (optional; if you’re making the new MOA bar permanent, you won’t need it)
Hand saw
Metal saw (optional)
1×2″ lumber, length about 8″
Wood glue
Drill with large bits
Stain/wax (optional)
Velcro strap or small D-ring strap (cable ties would work, too)

New Minstrel flyer and front maiden. And more bobbins, because who doesn’t need more bobbins? Especially if you’re about to have a wheel that will be able to share your current bobbin stock?

1. Cut off the original all-wood maiden. Just the upright part; saw it off level with the MOA bar. Sand it down a bit to get rid of any scratchy bits.

Please use proper safety equipment and don’t cut toward your hand, as HRH is doing here. He is a trained professional and moved it after this shot. Also, respect your tools and just be extra safe while you work, okay? I don’t want to hear that anyone lost fingers doing this. That could negatively impact your spinning performance, after all.

(Optional: At this point, we inserted a wooden peg into the base of the original maiden, and drilled a corresponding hole in the MOA so I could insert the original wooden maiden and use the original flyer. This is beyond the capabilities of the average toolset, though, so I’m not going into it here.)

2. For the new MOA extender: Decide how long you want it to be. The rear end of my 6″ extender goes about halfway back along the original MOA bar, but an MOA extender that goes further back would probably provide more stability. Just give yourself enough clearance at the front to sink the new maiden into it. Hold your piece of lumber up next to the original MOA bar (making sure you leave about 2″ extending past the front of the existing MOA) and mark where the guide hole for the support screw should go. Measure the diameter of the support screw and drill a correspondingly-sized hole all the way through, at least 1″ from the end. It doesn’t need to be threaded, but it does need to be big enough for the support screw to fit through. Don’t make it too big, or it will rattle around a bit. (I know, I know, this is super imprecise. Drill small, because you can always enlarge a bit.)

(Look, HRH now has protective eyewear.)

Below you can see the MOA extender, well, extending way past the front end. We didn’t trim it down till later, because the new flyer is longer than the old, and we wanted to make sure we had enough structural integrity at the front end to support the hole for the new maiden. (Note also that this picture shows the front maiden is in; I’m putting it here to show the next step as well.)

3. Lay the new MOA extender against the current MOA bar. Take the new flyer with a whorl on it (important, as it changes the spacing) and insert the flyer shaft into the existing hole in the Mazurka’s back maiden. Slip/snap the new maiden onto the flyer orifice (you’ll probably have to hold it with your hand). Rest the bottom of the maiden screw on or against the new MOA extender and make sure it’s relatively vertical and straight, as well as centered on the extender bar. A level is helpful here. (You may need to play with the tension screw at the back that raises and lowers the Mazurka MOA in order to ensure the flyer has clearance. The bar is going to go under the existing MOA when it’s finished.) With a pencil, mark where the base of the new maiden has to go on the extender. Set aside the flyer and maiden.

4. Now, you have a choice, and it may depend on the measurements of your particular wheel. (And this is where my memory goes murky, which doesn’t help.) The screw of the new maiden is too long, so you can’t just put the screw alone into the new MOA extender, or the orifice cup will be too high for the flyer to be level and still maintain room for the tension to be increased or decreased. You can (A) measure the depth of your MOA extender and cut down the wooden peg and screw (yes, the screw base goes a long way up into the maiden; if/when you cut it, you’ll need to use a saw that can cut metal) of the new maiden to that depth with a metal saw, or (B) leave the bottom of the wooden peg and/or the screw sticking through the bottom of the MOA extender. (As you can see in the photo above. You can cover it with something. A decorative wooden cube? Pipe cleaners? Plasticine? Felted fibre? I don’t know; you’re artistic, right?)

Measure the width of your maiden peg and drill a hole that size in the new MOA bar where you marked it in the previous step; sink the bottom of the wooden peg into it, and secure it with wood glue. Let it dry. (We cut the screw off, as we didn’t need it, and we needed nothing to be in the way of the distaff bar that was going to serve as lower support for the new MOA extender. And when I look at the bottom of the MOA extender, I can definitely see the base of the wooden peg as well, so we sank the entire base into the MOA extender.) You’ll probably need to do some filing or sanding down of the new maiden’s wooden peg to fit securely into the hole; we had to sand/file down the bottom set of turned rims so it would fit into the MOA extender. And before we set the peg, we also filed some of the wooden base away where it was fitting against the front of the original MOA to create a flatter surface to fit more snugly against it. (That last bit is also optional, if you plan to make this permanent.)

6. Unscrew the Minstrel’s front support screw. Twirl the distaff support bar down a couple of inches, but keep it on the support screw. Place the MOA extender against the bottom of the existing MOA bar and rescrew the support screw up through the hole in the back of the MOA extender. If the distaff support bonks into the MOA extender before the support screw hits the original MOA, twirl it down a bit more. Once the support screw reaches the original MOA, keep holding the extender against the bottom of the original MOA while you twirl the distaff support up the screw again until it’s snug against the extender bar. If you don’t have a distaff, that’s fine! Use a Velcro strap or cable tie to keep the MOA extender snug against the bottom of the original MOA bar. (I use a Velcro or a D-ring strap to keep all three bars centered and snug together, anyway.)

7. Play with the tension screw at the back until the new flyer is relatively level. I find the front tends to be a bit higher, since I have the distaff support bar tight against the MOAs.

Finishing touches!

Sand the square edges of the extender to round them a bit, and do the same to the front of the bar. HRH works in a woodworking shop, so he cut the MOA extender in a fancy rounded shape, using the distaff base as a guide.

Stain and/or wax your new MOA bar to match your Mazurka prototype’s finish (and the new flyer and maiden, if you got them unfinished), let it all dry, and reassemble it.

Want to make the extender bar permanent? Attach it to the original MOA with good wood glue, clamp it, and leave it to dry. (I’d sand the bottom of the original MOA first, to get rid of any finish or coating. And I’d probably screw the new MOA bar into it, too, because I’m nervous. Except HRH would probably drill holes and peg it in instead, using wood glue in those as well as on the matching surfaces.)

Want scotch tension? Place an eye screw at the back on either side of the original MOA roughly even with where the bobbin groove is (or on your MOA extender, if you made it long enough that it reaches all the way back there), then drill a hole for a tension peg in the new MOA extender on whichever side you prefer. Set the peg in the front hole, tie a string to it, run the string back through the eye screw on that side, over the bobbin groove, and down to the opposite eye screw. Watch out; a large spring or elastic will bonk into the flyer arms. You may want to fiddle with this. I’m still not a hundred percent happy with the placement of mine. My MOA extender doesn’t go far enough back to place the second eye screw in it in line with the bobbin groove, but you might be able to place a third eye screw in it toward the front and hook the screw or elastic onto that. (I just thought of that, and it’s not a bad idea. I should try it.)

This photo taken on the day show the temporary jigging of a scotch tension with keys hanging off a paper clip while I tested it out. I’m so classy.

I hope this helps! Feel free to ask me any questions; if I can answer them, I will.

Happy spinning!