Sidebar Footer
The Knitting Pen

Spin a Sweater Challenge

November 9th, 2014 by BJB

Last winter I embarked on the Knitmore Girls Spin a Sweater Challenge.

I had 450 grams/1 lb. of some soft, cushy Merino roving I had purchased from Birkeland Brothers in Abbotsford, B.C. while visiting my daughter the previous summer.


Since it was such a well prepared roving I spun it worsted and plied it as a 2 ply yarn. I was so anxious to begin knitting with my newly created yarn that I completely ignored the Knitmore girl’s advice to spin up all of the yarn needed before casting on. This enables you to have more control over evening out the inconsistencies that occur in handspun yarn.

Not me! As soon as I had enough I cast on for  Laura Chau’s Easy Top Down raglan cardigan. 

I knit until I ran out of handspun yarn, I spun some more , knit some more, spun some more… until it was done.IMG_0967

I modified the pattern for a short sleeved cardigan so I could wear it comfortably in summer, over a sundress or tank top. This is a great (free) pattern that knits up easily with lots of room for personalization and modifications.

Laura Chau has many wonderful designs.  Find her here on her site or on Ravelry.

For a first attempt at spinning a sweater I’m very pleased with my results. I’ve worn it a number of times and had many compliments. Next time, I might  spin up all the yarn and level out inconsistencies before casting on but then, that might be just too perfect and the ‘handspun’ quality might be diminished. We’ll see.


On a different note I’ve been listening to a great podcast that I’d like to mention here. If you haven’t yet discovered TwinSet Designs head over to their site and check them out. Their podcast is super informative and loads of fun!

Happy Knitting!


Posted in knitting, spinning · No Comments »

My Spinwell Drum Carder is a thing of beauty!

July 16th, 2014 by BJB


I purchased this Spin Well drum carder, circa 1930’s, from a woman advertising on Kijiji. She was selling off the contents of her in-laws’ estate. Judging by the smell, this carder had been languishing in a barn for many years.

For more information on Spin Well (later became Made Well) carders, check out this article at dawningdreams.

IMG_0999With the help of my sister-in-law, Dianne; furniture refinisher extraordinaire, I took it apart, cleaned, stripped and refinished it piece by piece.

IMG_1004My big brother graciously drove me to  Shuttleworks Fiber Arts, in Okotoks, Alberta where I purchased new carding cloth. The owner was very helpful in providing me with plenty of tips for installing the cloth on my carder.

After much stretching, tine removal and stapling, the carding cloth is installed and my carder is fully restored. The wood is gleaming and the paint is fresh, yet it retains its historic design and beauty.

IMG_1003One complaint about these carders is the way the small drum grinds on the metal tray–like fingernails on a chalkboard!

My husband and I were able to correct this by raising the wooden side blocks (holding the small drum) with metal washers and raising the wide end of the tray with rubber washers. No more scraping- it runs very quietly now.

The final step was to get a belt to turn the wheel. I headed over to a machine shop in the hopes of finding a new belt, most likely rubber or nylon. What I got was much better. As I walked in with my carder in hand, an older gentleman who was just leaving the shop turned on his heels and followed me up to the counter exclaiming ” a drum carder”! He knew all about these carders and  proceeded to provide a multitude of  tips on how the carder was designed as well as how to shorten the original leather belt and rub the wheels with beeswax to get things turning again.

What incredible luck that this man was in the store at the same time I was and took an interest in my project ( the shop attendant had no idea although he was interested in the ‘history lesson’)

I followed the advice I was given by this lovely man and my Spinwell drum carder is now running smoothly and producing beautifully carded batts, ready for spinning.




Posted in knitting, spinning · No Comments »

Hats for the Homeless

October 17th, 2013 by BJB

transparent-icicles-2-1417653-sMy city is significantly north of the 49th parallel and winters are cold. Minus 25 C to minus 30 C is not uncommon from December to February. That’s 13 to 22 below F.

Our local weatherman collects warm hats every fall to be distributed to the unfortunate men and women who find themselves homeless during these frigid months.

This is my donation for this year, 21 hats, mostly crocheted, some knit.

It’s a great way to use up smaller amounts of yarn in my stash while trying new patterns and modifications, and I like knowing that my efforts will keep  heads warm this winter.

Most of the patterns come from  Afya Ibomu’s book: Get Your Crochet On! and some are my own inventions using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s hat formula in her

Knitting Workshop.

A big thanks to my daughter for allowing me to raid her stash when we visited this summer and take home a bag full of yarn to use for these hats.

Happy Knitting Trails

Posted in knitting · No Comments »

Simple Slouch Hat

September 18th, 2013 by BJB

This is a quick, easy to knit slouchy hat pattern, using chunky weight yarn. I used Elizabeth Zimmermann’s guidelines, from her book Knitting Workshop,  to design the hat.

It can easily be knit in an evening or two.

Here’s the pattern: Essence Slouch Hat

Posted in knitting, Patterns · No Comments »

My Plumeria Color Affection

May 2nd, 2013 by BJB



I hand dyed the yarn and knit this Color Affection shawl using the colours of the Plumeria flower as inspiration.

After spending 2 weeks in Maui last August I had to find a way to keep a bit of the island alive here in my cold Northern climate in Canada.



Our condo in Maui had these plumerias growing everywhere. I’d never seen anything like it.


The yarn is Knit Picks Bare sportweight 100% wool; a soft, lightweight yarn that takes dye very well and knits up with lovely drape.

This shawl is pure comfort. When I’m wrapped  in it I can imagine the Maui sun and feel the ocean breeze on my skin once more.




Posted in knitting · 2 Comments »