Saturday, June 29, 2013

Meet Thelma!

We got a new guinea pig!

Monday, July 09, 2012

What Do You Call A Sheep On A Trampoline?

A woolly jumper :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's a Yowe?

Guess what I'm going to knit???

Did you guess Rams & Yowes (ewes) by Kate Davies? Cuz I'm going to knit that.

I popped into Black Sheep Yarns today to say hi to Helen and generally be a nuisance. Helen had just got in a bunch of Jamieson & Smith Shetland wool yarn in natural sheep colours, and she showed me the pattern for a blanket called rams & yowes by Kate Davies that she was planning to knit. When you own a store called Black Sheep yarns, and a pattern comes along that features black sheep, and it is awesome, then you have to knit that thing. And so do I,  copycat that I am. I have to have that blanket. And to get it, I'm going to have to knit it. No one else is going to make me one.

You need all nine colours of the Jamieson & Smith Shetland to make the blanket, and this yarn has super funky names like yogely and frugworth and gilgamesh. Ok, I'm kidding, but the actual names are pretty funny. This is lovely wooly yarn with the right amount of toothiness and earthiness. And the colours are very appealing too.

I teased Helen that I would race her to finish it, but the truth is that it will probably take me a while to get this done. I wasn't looking to knit a sheep blanket when I walked into Black Sheep today, but I am looking for a few other things to do this summer besides working on my Etsy shop, keeping up with my two teenagers, and working my way through a mile-long to-do list for the house. I'm determined to remind my not-so-flexible body how to do yoga (neglected for years), and I want to knit something cool -- like that sheep blanket.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mawata Silk Hankies -- Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much mawata fiber do I need to knit a ________ ?

People often ask me how many yards of mawata they need to knit -- a hat, a scarf, mittens. Or they ask how many hankies they need (keeping in mind that a hankie can be one layer or a stack of layers). The best way to determine what you need is by weight, not by yardage, and not by number of hankies. Most people sell mawata fibers by weight. This makes sense since yardage is determined by how much you stretch it. Number of hankies is unhelpful because of the confusion over exactly what a hanky is, not to mention that different stacks can come with widely different numbers of layers. Even individual layers can vary as these are cocoons. Some have more fiber than others Weight is your best measure, and so far this is what I can tell you:

A pair of mitts to fit a small woman's hand will take approx 30grams of mawata silk. To fit a medium to larger pair of hands, you will need between 30 and 40 grams of fiber.

I knit a women's medium pair of bulky fingerless mitts with 30grams of fiber. I will write a post and even a recipe for those one of these days.

My multicolored Hitchhiker scarf (shown above) -- pattern by Martina Behm -- is a shorter version of her full pattern. I knit it in fingering to sport weight on 3.25mm needles. It has 34 "teeth" as opposed to 42 teeth for the full pattern. It measures 52 inches from tip to tip and 9 inches at the widest part. All finished it weighs exactly 40grams. Even though it is striped, I only had two tails to weave in as I simply overlapped each new hankie and knit them right in. I am knitting a second Hitchhiker scarf in oranges, and I expect this one to take 50 grams since I want to make it a bit longer. I bought my Hitchhiker pattern on Ravelry as a download.

I'm selling my mawata silk fiber in 10gram packages so that people can mix and match colours if they wish to without buying a large quantity of each colour. I used many many different colours in the multicolored scarf. For the orange scarf, I am using three different colorways: Psychotic Pumpkin, Silken Sunset (lighter), and Silken Sunset (darker).

2. Why does the fiber look so pale and washed out when I stretch it -- and will it have a sheen again?

Yes! When you see the silk fiber in a stack, it is all glorious, concentrated colour and silky sheen. When you stretch out one hanky, it looks a lot more pale and, well, a lot less exciting. But when you knit it, ah when you knit it, it all comes together again. The colour concentrates and shows off its lovely sheen. It becomes super soft, super light weight. You really can't keep your hands off of it. Which leads me to number 3.


Yup, the one downside of working with mawata silk is that it sticks to everything. If you have dry skin, it will drive you crazy. It will find every tiny flaw in your fingernails. It will stick to a person walking by and walk off with them. Maybe have the cat in another room when you're working with this stuff. What I do, is file my nails and use a good quality barrier type hand cream. Glysomed is my hand cream of choice. Otherwise, it really can drive you crazy. I've also noticed that after I've been knitting it for a while, the silk itself seems to wear off the catchy bits on my fingers. But I still use lots of hand cream.

4. Will it be less catchy when it is knit up?

Yes, it is awesome when it is knit up. Soooo soft, so light, so airy, and so so so comfortable.

5. Can I frog and re-use it after it is knit?

Yes, it frogs really well actually. If you're frogging a bunch, you might want to wrap it around something. A friend of mine frogged her swatch and used it to knit her mitts, and then she frogged the start of those a couple of times, and it all kept working just fine.

6. What else can I make with it?

So far I am aware of the following uses: People are drafting it to spin on a spindle or wheel; people are combing it into their batts with other fibers; people are drafting it and spinning it with other fibers; people are using it in handmade paper; people are felting -- wet felting and needle felting -- it with other fibers...and people are knitting with it without the need to spin it at all.

I have considered hanging some individual hankies from threads to create an awesome jellyfish/sea creature mobile, but I haven't done that yet.

Please feel free to ask questions here -- or by sending me a convo through Etsy. I'd be happy to try to answer your questions or to direct you to a link that might help.

More Mawata

I don't know if anyone follows this blog anymore, but there was a day when I was a cheerfully prolific blogger, and then I got into doing other things and the blog collected dust. A lot of dust. I'm blowing off the dust and seeing if I still have anything to say. My inspiration for doing this is...

Mawata Silk Hankies!!

I have been dyeing these and selling some locally through my favorite LYS Black Sheep Yarns in Port Moody. Now I want to sell them in my Etsy shop. You can access my Etsy shop at any time by clicking on the mini Etsy on my side bar to the right.

I find the number one thing that gets people hung up on working with mawata silk hankies is that they don't know what the heck to do with them. Remember how intimidating cable knitting is until you knit some cables? It's the same with mawata silk hankies. And the great thing is that mawata fiber is really fun, forgiving, and difficult to ruin, so you can play away with little risk. The number one reaction I get from people trying it out for the first time is, "hey! This is fun!" And that, I think, is the point of it all. So I'm dusting off the blog to share the fun, to give some help with a new (to many) knitting adventure, and to get talking about knitting again. It's all good.

Some Basics:

When you buy mawata silk fiber, it usually comes in a nice tidy square stack. I'm selling mine in 10gram packages that yield approx 10-12 individual hanky layers. The thing looks super neat and tidy at first:

But once you get them out of the package, they can quickly turn into a small mess:

But don't let that intimidate you because no matter how messy they seem to get, you can always separate out the layers you need. When I'm working with mine, and I'm ready to put it away, I just gather it up into a handful and shove it into a ziploc baggy.

So no worries about appearance. When you are ready to knit your mawata, here is what you do. First off, you'll notice that each stack has a bunch of layers. You can tease apart the layers at a corner, and it will look like a bunch of really thin cobwebby squares with slightly thicker edges (that can resemble a selvedge edge of fabric).

You want to get the top selvedge layer separated from the others and peel off the top square.

Don't worry about ripping it or breaking it. Silk is surprisingly tough. The square will distort and maybe turn into something that looks more like a jellyfish, but you will peel it off. You might even have to give a sharp yank at the end to get it to let go of the stack.

And now you have one layer of silk to work with.

If you accidentally get two layers and you can't get them apart, it's no big deal. You will end up with a longer piece to knit. The only downside is that it can take a bit more work to stretch two into a knittable string than one, but it really is no big deal. Ok, now that you have one layer, the fun begins. You poke your fingers through the thin cobwebby part in the middle and make a hole.

Then you get both hands in there and pull and pull and pull the square into a long wide loop.

The longer and thinner you make your loop, the longer and thinner your yarn will be. When your loop is stretched the way you want it, you'll pull it apart to create a string. At that point it is yarn. You can tie a knot in it. You can cast it on. You can knit with it. You can spin it, but you don't need to. Just try holding it only a few inches apart and then see if you can break it. It's easier to stretch out if you hold it much further apart (one or two feet apart). They make parachutes with this stuff. It's strong.

Some people get a little hung up on this part: How big should my loop be?? How thick should my yarn be?? Well, it all depends on what you want to knit. If you want reaaaallllly super thin yarn to knit spider web lace, then you can make it as thin as you want. Silk can go a long long way before it breaks. If you stretch it only a little, you'll have thicker yarn. If you're terrible at judging how thick you want your yarn to be, you'll need to experiment a little. Get out different sizes of knitting needles and see what happens. I found that I liked to stretch it to sport weight and knit it on 3.25mm needles for the scarves I knit (more on them later). Yarn Harlot stretched hers to DK/light Worsted to knit mitts. I stretched two layers together into bulky for a pair of fingerless mitts. It's all up to you. If you stretch it too far, then overlap it, double it up, fold it in half. If it's not thin enough, then stretch it some more.

The best part is knitting with it. You use it just like regular yarn, and when it runs out, you stretch out another one, overlap the ends a few inches and carry on. No fuss. No tails.

And if you want to watch a really helpful YouTube video on how to do what I've described above, you can check out This one from KnitPicks.
Mawata Madness!

What is Mawata, you ask? Well, I wondered that too until a few months ago. I kept seeing references to it popping up in yarn shops, on Ravelry. I ignored them. It was a weird word. Finally, I had to find out for myself.

Mawata is a Japanese word that means "to spread around." Mawata silk hankies are 100% silk cocoons that have had their glue removed, and then they are spread out on square frames in stacks. One hankie can refer to one layer of the stack, or it can refer to the stack itself. Gets confusing sometimes. Apparently in Japan they were used to line winter kimonos. Silk is very warm as well as very comfortable to wear.

Ok, so what does this have to do with anything?

In my Googling, I came across a post by the Yarn Harlot. She had knitted some amazing and instantly desirable Mittens.

I saw that, and I had to have some of that. Like NOW. I ordered a pile of these mystery hankies (not the kind you blow your nose with) from a supplier in the UK. Oh happy day when they arrived!

 I wasted no time getting them dyed
And dried

And, later that evening -- yeah the evening of the day they arrived, I had a few dry in time to see how fabulous they are when knitted. And I was instantly addicted.
I'll say more about that scarf in my next post. Can I just say that Mawata silk is amaaaaaazing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010