Thursday, 4 October 2012

New skills

In the middle of July, something new came into my life.

A lovely Ashford Traditional wheel.
I've not had a great deal of time to really play on it yet as I went on holiday a few days later and have had plenty of other demands on my time recently, but in addition to playing a bit to get the feel for it, I've completed one spinning project.

This yarn came together as a bit of an accident. I got a lovely pink and blue 100% bamboo Yarn Yard roving in a p/hop offer and bought the dark grey Jacob roving from HillTop Cloud.  I didn't intend to ply them together, but it worked out well.

I originally tried to spin the bamboo on a drop spindle, but the very long staple was killing me and the yarn kept drifting apart. Once I got the wheel, I tried on that and as the wheel provides a 'spare hand' of sorts, the spinning was much easier.

The jacob spun up beautifully on the wheel and really quickly.

I plied the two together and realised that I had loads of bamboo single left, so I spun up some cream 100% merino roving that I had in stash to ply with the remainder of the bamboo.

The finished yarn is a light DK weight and has a lovely sheen from the bamboo without being to shiney. I'd like to make something for my daughter with it. I think that the cream/bamboo ply will make a good accent or edging.  I think that I have about 500m all told.

 Just need to find the right pattern now - possibly a dress...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tour de Fleece

No knitting of any meaningful nature took place for me between April and August this year. I just lost interest for a while and life (and tennis) took over.

I did however manage to keep my interest in spinning going and took part in the Tour de Fleece this year for the first time...

I cleared the decks of spinning already started, plying up a couple of experiments I'd been playing with:
Some fractal-plied BLF (top) and a sampler of grey BFL plied with 100% bamboo.

I then cracked on with the main event: a sample pack of British Breeds from Hill Top Cloud.
These were spun on my modular spindle and plied on my heavy bottom whorl.
From l - r: White Shetland, grey North Ronaldsay, grey Shetland, oatmeal BFL, brown North Ronaldsay, moorit Shetland, brown BFL, grey Jacob, Black Shetland.
 The finished yarns are all approximately 15g and 30m of fingering weight. I hope to knit a SheepHeid with these in the future.

Finding myself with several days to go before the end of the tour, I dug out a beautiful braid of gradient dyed BFL from The Yarn Yard.

  I split this down the middle then spun each half onto my modular spindle. I plyed to try to maintain the gradient and ended up with approximately 300m of sport weight.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Easter Bonnet

I'm a bit behind on my posts as will become evident - forgive me!

The week before Easter, I took a week off from work to kick back a bit, relax and generally catch up with non-work life. The first day was fantastic, the weather was beautiful and I spent the entire day working in the garden. The next day was awful - raining and cold with no sign of a let up. Mid-morning the Resident Radiologist called me to say that he'd noticed a sign and DDs nursery that morning requiring parents to provide and Easter bonnet for two days time... In addition to this he wasn't sure what constituted an Easter bonnet...

I took a deep breath, gathered the crafty materials I had in the house, made a cup of tea and reflected that it wasn't a bad way to spend a revoltingly wet day off work!

Since time was short and DD is still too young to have (or at least to express) and opinion on what she wanted, I decided to make a near-replica (materials allowing) of a bonnet my mother made for me about 30 years ago.

Little rectangles of tissue paper were stacked, concertina'd and teased out into roses, with bright button centres peaking out,

A large piece of card was cut to form the brim, then covered with more tissue paper,

The crown was a bit of a problem. When my mum made this bonnet for me, she cut a circle of crepe paper and (I think) eased it into the head circle pleating it slightly and securing with staples. I didn't have crepe paper and the tissue paper was too delicate to use in the same way, so I improvised.

I cut lengths of cheap silver ribbon that had been tied round a bale of towels when I got them (I never throw this sort of stuff out) and fastened them loosely cross-wise accross the head hole to form a loose cage. I put a stitch through the centre point where all the ribbons crossed to stop them sliding about.

I then got out some good pink organza ribbon and wove it in and out of the silver ribbon 'spokes' to fill in the crown. I used some good blue organza ribbon to make the ties to hold the bonnet on and them secured the pink and blue ribbons in place with a stitch every time them crossed the silver spokes.

Finally I attached the roses to the brim with wire freezer ties.

DD wore her hat to nursery on the required day, looked really sweet in it and happened to win first prize in the bonnet parade. Proud mummy!

After easter, the stitches holding the good ribbon in place were unpicked and the ribbon reclaimed and carefully rewound for the next project (I deliberately didn't cut either of the good ribbons) and the roses have been reused as decoration on birthday presents, so all in all, it was a pretty green project in more ways than one.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Recently, I've found myself only blogging when I have a finished object to show and tell. Today, however, I'm blogging to share the sheer joy of something that took my fancy the other night.

I was sent a small pile of hexipuffs and a Fyberspates BFL sock blank from Shetland via the p/hop group on Ravelry. The hexipuffs went into my pile of the same and I decided to rewind the sock blank into a hank and soak it to remove some of the crimp (it's perfectly possible to knit straight from the blank, but the crimp messes with my tension a bit).

I set up the lovely new swift that I got for Christmas (thanks Mum, Dad and Sis) and ripped out the blank and wound it on (yes, that is a toy tricycle supporting the swift!). Hmm, I thought, there doesn't actually seem to be much crimp (not allowing for the tension the yarn was under on the swift).

Ha! Then I released the tension and took it off and it made me laugh out loud.

The hank pulled in to less than a quarter of its previous diameter and went all crinkly. There was serious crimp in the yarn.

It had a bath and is now drying in the bathroom - I would have put it under tension to straighten it out totally but I couldn't find the hook I normally use to add weight.

I'm planning to knit more hexipuffs from this skein.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Gift Knitting (Part 4)

Whereas some of my spinning-to-knitting projects in the past have been from ALMOST first principles, this one could not have started at an earlier point in the process without owning livestock.

A few years ago when I was first learning to spin, a friend of my in-laws sent me a raw fleece from one of her alpacas. It was a beautiful caramel colour and wonderfully soft. I consulted You Tube, decided not to try to wash the fleece but spin it dirty instead, purchased a pair of hand carders and set to work.

I still don't really think I'm carding properly or efficiently, but I managed to produce some rollags from which I could spin and produced a reasonably respectable single (if a little thick and thin in places).

This was N-plied to form a 3 ply which was approximately DK weight and given a good wash. And here the yarn sat for a couple of years until December last year.

We were going down to my in-laws for Christmas and for the first time since I received the fleece, the friend who had sent me it would be there, so I decided to knit her a Christmas gift from her own Alpaca.

A little swatching told me that the Basic Cable Hat by Christine Quirion would be a good match for the yarn so I crossed my fingers that I would have the yardage needed and started knitting.

I knitted the hat on 5mm DPNs and gave it a good wash post-knitting in soak. I sqeezed in on the yardage front with less than a metre left over. The wonderful caramel colour of the original fleece had been a bit obscured during the prep and spinning process by the dirt and oil on the fibre, but it really came out again after a good wash.

Sadly, the remainder of the fleece that I had stored unprocessed was discovered by some mice who found that it made a wonderfully soft and warm winter home. It's now becoming lovely rich compost in my compost bin!

Monday, 5 March 2012

A monster from the deep...

... or at least that's what it looked like when the Resident Radiologist fished it out from beneath his boot last week.

Can you guess what it is? Yep - it's one of my Chrysanthemum mittens.
It must have dropped out of my bag one day when I was getting my daughter out of her car seat. Subsequently, it languished in the gutter for a few days in some truely horrible weather, right up until the RR stood on it and it went squelch.

I have to admit, I had a serious think about whether it was worth trying to resurrect it. I even considered knitting it again, but I don't have enough yarn left and don't want to buy more. Eventually, I rinsed off the worst of the mud and soaked it in a large basin of water overnight. In the morning it went through a wool wash in the machine with delicates detergent.

It will never be the same again, but it's wearable and warm and the pattern is still detectable. It's also considerably greyer than it was, slightly hairier, and a centimeter smaller, but with wear it's stretching out a bit.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Clearing the decks.

I don't have anything on the needles... not... one... single... thing! I hardly know what to do with myself, but at the same time, I'm not in a rush to get going either. It's a bit like hanging in a limbo where I can't quite get my thoughts straight about priorities and patterns. The absolute opposite of startitis!

So I've been clearing the decks. Sorting through patterns and putting them away. I need to sort through my needles too and work out where all the tips and cables have gone. I have a strong feeling that once everything is in order, the right project will present itself and I'll have the necessary resources to hand.

That said, there are a few beauties out there that are starting to tug at my attention...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Gift Knitting (Part 3)

While I was on my mitten kick, I thought I'd also knit some for my mum for Christmas. This idea was modified slightly when she saw the ones that I was knitting for my mother-in-law and didn't seem particularly enthused.
Close consideration of when she'd wear them quickly made me realise that gloves would be a much better gift for her, so I cracked out Knotty, a pattern that's been on my waiting list since it was first published.

The yarn is Fyberspates Sheila's Sock yarn in a glorious, vibrant purple. It's a very smooth, high twist sock yarn which works well with the design of this glove.

I made some modifications to the placement of the fingers while I was knitting - these are obvious from the orange lifelines. I don't like when the fingers of a glove are all picked up off the same round of stitches - the little finger never fits properly. What I do is to put all the stitches on waste yarn and knit the little finger, then pick up the rest of the stitches, knit another 4 rounds, put the stitches back on waste yarn and knit the remaining fingers. I leave the waste yarn in as a lifeline as it also makes it much easier to count the number of rows in each finger so the two gloves match.

This yarn haemorraged dye during it's first soak, but the colour remained unchanged - whew!

The stitch definiting on the cable worked out beautifully with this yarn and I've got enough left over from the skein for a little highlight in my current project.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Gift Knitting (Part2)

Some time ago, I suggested to the Resident Radiologist that I might knit his mother some Scandinavian-style stranded mittens for Christmas (I had just finished my Chrysanthmums at the time and was on a mitten kick). The response was distinctly non-committal until he saw the pattern, Cavaleras by Pamela Schwab, at which point the enthusiasm picked up considerably...

In case some of you know the Cavaleras pattern and are starting to think that this is an odd choice, I should probably explain a bit about my mother-in-law. She studies funerary monuments and is a member of the Church Monument Society. The senior women in that society pride themselves on the procurement and wearing of garments or accessories adorned by sculls. Not scull-and-cross bones, just skulls. The more (discrete) skulls you have, the better... which is why Calaveras was perfect.

The yarn is Drops Alpaca (which I love, love, love for colourwork), knitted on 2.5mm DPNs. The pattern was wonderfully written and charted and very simple to follow (and memorise). I altered the cuff slightly so that the corrugated rib wasn't actually a rib, just stocking stitch. My stranded colour-work still leaves a bit to be desired, but there is a definite curve of improvement from my first Chrysanthemum mitten, to the last Calaveras one.

When I wrapped them, I put them with their backs together and the palms facing out. When my MIL unwrapped them, she looked pleased, thanked me for them, then separated them out, saw the pattern, and laughed out loud (in a good way). I hope that they'll come in useful in many cold and draughty Church visits in the coming years.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Gift Knitting (Part 1)

Happy New Year.

In the last few months of 2011, I was knitting pretty constantly on gifts for Christmas and the Resident Radiologist's birthday. Now that the wrappings have been opened and surprises revealed, I can post some of the projects here.

First up in chronological terms was the RR's birthday. He received the statutory pair of socks and in addition, a new hat to keep his ears warm in the Glasgow autumns and springs (it's not really thick enough for winter proper - not that we're having one of those at the moment).

The yarn for both projects was Colinette Jitterbug in Velvet Leaf. I bought this yarn about six years ago, back when Colinette was pretty much the only show in town when it came to beautiful yarn from a UK dyer. Now of course, there is such a huge availability of indy-dyed yarn, we hardly know where to start.
At the time I bought it, Jitterbug was sold as superwash but I'm proceeding with care in that respect as I vaguely recall hearing felting horror stories from others. The yarn is lovely and springy and the varigation in the colour is really subtle.

The socks are my usual basic top-down, heel-flap pattern, knitted on 2.25mm DPNs.

 The hat pattern was a 2x2 rib pattern by TinksDarkerSide that works the decreases at the top to form a lovely simple swirl.

Both the socks and the hat appear to have entered into regular use which is all a knitter can ask for really!