knit | spin

Raiment of the Tortoise

October 22, 2019

Some projects seem to take forever. This one I began in January 2018 as a summer make. Two summers past before it was finished and a third is on its way as I am just sharing it with you now.

This linen and wool blend top is knit from Yoko Johnston’s Ginga Top design in the smallest size. The pattern is quite a complex one, Johnston’s design is architectural in its approach. There are many sections which join in curious ways with short rows shaping an elongated back and clever sleeve caps. Despite its complexity, the knitting was the easiest, most straightforward part of the project as I decided to make the linen and wool blend myself.

I sourced an Australian supplier of European flax in top form. I thought this would be an easier preparation to spin with rather than using line flax which is fine but tricky to spin with. This preparation feels like a standard wool top but all the long lengths are mixed in with the short lengths of flax and the long bits end up getting spun first and you get left with short bits. Anyway, I didn’t know that then, I just wanted something that would blend well with wool and this certainly did.

For the wool component, I used a Lincoln x Merino white fleece my spinning group had been given. It was from a backyard lawn mowing sheep which surprised us with its fineness and springiness. Naturally, I sampled some different proportions in the blends but eventually settled on 20% wool and 80% flax.

The wool and flax were weighed out and blended on a borrowed Schacht drum carder over three passes. This machine was truly brilliant and prepared exquisite batts.

In August, I then spun a two ply yarn to a fingering weight. Two singles were worsted spun Z using the 15:1 whorl and wet fingers and plied S on the 19:1 whorl.

I think I finally knit this up around November 2018 but didn’t post it because I was going to dye it in an indigo vat. I spent a couple of months wrestling with how to get an even dye with the protein and cellulose blend using different temperatures in the vat. Fortunately my spinning group convinced it was just fine as it was and it is now a functioning part of my wardrobe.

It is a very useful piece of wardrobe. It is cool on a hot day and a surprisingly warm layer on a cool day. I remain unconvinced however about combining cellulose and protein as consistent dyeing is very complicated.

This was a long, slow make for me but it befits the tortoise I have become.