Thursday, 16 February 2017

Dyeing and dates for 2017.

Oh dear, this is rather late for my first post of 2017. But it's been a slow start, fibre-wise, and trying to find time to fit everything in isn't easy.


I have a new fibre blend for this year - Northern Isles. It's a mix of Manx, Shetland, and Gotland, with a touch of tussah silk. It's a warm grey gold colour, with a sheen from the silk, and a lovely soft hand with a deceptive bit of texture and bite. It's just as good as I hoped it would be. This is it above, dyed in my Littleheart colourway; given the reception, I'd better dye a bit more!



I dyed up a big Gotland x Shetland fleece at the weekend, and I'm teaching this weekend (drumcarding at Tynedale Guild), but more will be done.

This year's shows are:

Wonderwool Wales 22-23 April
Leeds Wool Festival 3 June
Bakewell 14-15 October (though this is yet to be confirmed)

I'm also teaching a dye workshop at Eden Valley Guild in June, plus a couple of other events yet to be finally organised.

As usual, photographs of dyeing will go up on Instagram, FB, and probably Twitter too - even if they're not listed in the Etsy shop, they are all available for sale if you get in touch.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Fibrery Review of 2016

The year just finishing has been a bit of a busy one, woolly-wise, and it's been rather hard to keep on top of, now that I have a full-time job rather than the part-time one I had for such a long time. But heigh-ho, can't complain when so many people haven't got one at all.

February was the Spinzilla Team's day out at Curtis Wools/Haworth Mill in Bradford, at the kind invitation of Martin Curtis who sponsored the team, to see their enormous scouring and combing set up. Eye-opening to say the least. They process nearly all of the British wool clip, which is a small portion of their total through-put - there are wools from all over the world (the stuff from Saudi had a little pile of sand underneath it). Not to mention Jamieson & Smith's lovely, lovely Shetland.

In March I spent a weekend with Lancs & Lakes Guild, giving a talk on the first day ('Stuff Wot I Have Made') and a dyeing workshop over two. And then Mark and I treated ourselves to a long weekend in Edinburgh, to visit the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and catch the Celtic Exhibition at the NMS (we'd missed in it London in 2014) which included the astounding Gundestrup Cauldron. And we visited The Kelpies on the way home.

April was another busy one. I taught at Hallamshire Guild - my longdraw workshop, which is my oldest one but also my most popular. I love teaching this one! And then of course there was Wonderwool - we go down to Wales for over a week, taking a lovely dog-friendly cottage - with the show in the middle. And once again I was teaching there, an hour's workshop on hand-carding on both days. This was the month we exchanged our small white van for the Big Blue Beast!

During May we had two shows, the little one-day Wharfe Wool early on, and Tynedale Guild's Spinners' Open Day later on, both opportunities to catch up with friends as well as sell woolly stuff! And then teaching at North Cheshire Guild at the end of the month - long draw again.

June - the pace slowed down a little, just Armley Wool Festival - another treasure of a one-day show, with the various stalls tucked in amongst the displays in Armley Industrial Museum at Leeds. And beautifully local too (we forgot something Mark had made for display, but he could actually whizz home and collect it before opening!)

July is Fibre East month, which always takes a bit of organising because it's a camping one. We have to fit all the stall stuff plus tent etc in the BBB, but we managed.

August was just one workshop, but it was in Peterborough, so we re-traced nearly the entire route to Fibre East onlly a week after the show. But that was a a really nice group of people (and Mark took the pups to a nearby park for walks and train-rides!) and we did my Woollen/Worsted workshop, exploring the differences between the two techniques.

Bowland Guild in September was the first tryout for a new workshop - Combs, Cards, Drums and Hackles. That seemed to go well, and it's one where we know everyone well. We had a holiday in Somerset in the middle of the month, the day after we returned I demonstrated spinning at a flooring show in Harrogate at the behest of Martin Curtis (to show what a wonderful thing wool is!), and then of course there's Yarndale at the end of the month. It always strikes me as terribly decadent, doing a wool show from home with our own bed at night!

October is the really tiring one. Spinzilla Week at the beginning (and our Hand Spinners Newsletter team was joined by another UK team this year). Then it's Bakewell Wool Gathering immediately followed by Kendal Wool Gathering. Phew!

Once again, I failed miserably to get fibre and yarn photographed and online at the end of the year. This is the main casualty of the full-time job, just not having the energy or the daylight after October.

So there we are. And now the dawn is slowly lightening outside on the last day of 2016; wonder what's coming next year....

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Diarising knitting

Everything I knit tends to end up on Ravelry. All well and good - it's an absolutely vital tool for noting down yarn, needles, how a particular yarn behaves while knitted, what I've made and when. But it's also handy to keep notes outside of Ravelry too. And sometimes I just forget to take photographs. So this morning, it's been heavily frosty and cold outside, and I couldn't go to the gym as I was waiting a delivery (yak down and black shetland/silk since you ask), so I got organised and took photographs of the last few things I've knitted.

This is the Icon Dress I knitted during this summer's Olympics. I'd originally bought the kit at the K&S show in 2012, then it kept slipping down the priority list. I wasn't happy with the way the pattern was written anyway - there are very few reasons not to knit in the round, and this wasn't one of them. So I cast this on as one piece (lots of stitches), and reversed the ss/reverse ss on the skirt to emphasise the pleats. And also de-emphasise the braids, which are now against a flat ss background.
I also changed the neck to a plain round finished with applied i-cord, which I much preferred from the square neck with ribbing and a false button placket, which is too susceptible to stretching out. I made deeper armholes too, as I'll be wearing this over t-shirts.

And then my Hoodie-in-a-Week, made back in September, finally got photographed too:
This yarn was spun up for Spinzilla 2015, from some CVM fleece I had squirrelled away. It wasn't a nice fleece, a bit short, so this was drumcarded and spun long draw into a 3ply yarn. It will pill, and is already.

I cast on the night before we left to go to Somerset on holiday, knitted furiously for all car travelling, on Porlock beach, most evenings, and finished it in less than two weeks (over the week itself it was mostly finishing). There are no seams here, just three needle cast-offs. The only stitching is the edge of the narrow hood facing. It's very warm and cosy if a tad short, but there's no more yarn.

This is the Flamborough cardigan, knitted up in July and August from yarn I bought at Baa Ram Ewe in January for an entirely different purpose. (It was supposed to be an Epistrophy, but the fabric just wasn't working.)
It's a very basic cardigan, no fastening at the front unless I use a pin, but the collar is lovely. Very nice construction, again no seaming, just picking up. The original inspiration for the pattern (not mine) was gansey knitting, but the green is so lovely and leafy that I couldn't resist finding a leaf pattern for this sailor-collar shape. It's been getting quite a bit of wear, and the Dovestone yarn, though it pills a little, picks off nice and will wear well.

This one's been on-going for much of the summer. I have a terrible habit of diving into Blacker Yarns' sale bins at the wool shows, and had found myself with an embarrassingly large amount of their 4ply yarns, mostly in olive green and grey. So most of the little circles-in-squares here are grey centres and green outsides. There is a bit of my dyeing too (over Blacker white), two shades of purple, and the occasional bit of handspun too. It's been being assembled over the last few weeks, and was finally edged off last weekend. It has used up all the yarn I wanted it too, and I have discovered the addictiveness of crochet blankets. There will be more.
Very satisfying to do. Though of course it does help that there is a sort of a colour-scheme, rather than just random leftovers.


And these are the current knitting. Both have already been knitted nearly to finish, then pulled back and re-started. The Miss Rachel sweater at the top was originally for me, but I wasn't really happy with the shaping and was about to run out of the grey Buachaille. Mum liked it, so I pulled it back completely, and have re-knit from the top down, in a smaller size, with no shaping. It's now simple knitting, just round and round, until I've finished the body and pick up the sleeves.

The Shornies hat below, from Ann Kingstone's Tups collection, has again nearly been finished, but the tension lied! I used the suggested needles (3.75) with Dovestone and it came out enormous even though my tension was apparently correct. So I've dropped to 3.25 for a much denser fabric, done one less sheep around than before,and it's coming out well.

Though I feel the urge to cast on even more stuff. And I need to do some spinning soon. But we've been without hot water for nearly three weeks now (repaired once, but our boiler is ancient and needs a new (old style) themostat, which will happen eventually. And I'm not boiling kettles to wash fleeces (though I have three new ones in that need doing soon). And three kilos of yak down arrived today.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Online sales updated at last!

So here we are: finally, I've managed to find time and energy (in daylight) to start getting this year's fibres and yarns photographed and listed in my shop.

So far, I've got all the Full Circle sets on, plus some of the other gradients.

No yarn as yet, and lots more fibre to go.





Saturday, 5 November 2016

Last shows of 2016

So just a few words to cover the last few shows of 2016. We had to have Bil put to sleep the week before Bakewell Wool Gathering, so that rather put the dampers on everything before we started, but hey-ho, life goes on...

This was our stall at Bakewell. It was rather nice to have a wall behind us, and I complete rejigged the stall at the last minute as I thought I'd booked tables. In error, as it turned out. We were able to borrow one from Denise, and it turned out that one was all I needed. Look at the extra height I managed to get Gladys the Sheep up to!


Once again, the Full Circle sets were popular. And I'd dyed up a couple of orders for people to collect from me here. 


We always go down to Bakewell a day or two early and stay in a cottage just above the town. It was very strange only having one dog, but we still had a lovely walk on Stanton Moor, and went to say hello to the Nine Ladies dancing up there in the ancient oak woods.


The following weekend was Kendal Wool Gathering - and this is where I start to get exhausted, not having any time off. We set off just after 6am on Saturday morning to set up in plenty of time before opening, and were very pleased with out spot, just before a nice big window for natural light.


Lunil came with us, and assisted in the setting up. She's really rather good at this sort of thing.


So, that's another fibre-y year over with, and now I can settle down and hibernate for the winter, or could if I only didn't have the day job. I'm typing this up a week later, enjoying the decadence of a Saturday at home, finishing up a crochet blanket after a scamper through the woods with Lunil in the hope of wearing her out before tonight's fireworks banging.

New lamps are being bought at Ikea tomorrow, so I'm not reliant on daylight at weekends to photograph all my dyed fibre. The Etsy shop will be updated soon.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Spinzilla 2016

For the second year running, I have been part of Team Handspinning News UK for Spinzilla. Although we're spread all over the UK, we have a rather good camaderie going over on Ravelry, and we had such an excellent team spirit going last year that we all signed up, en masse, for this year's team.

I was rather looking forward to making a serious attempt at some mileage, but then work decided that there was overtime available - for one week only. And as I was short of holiday anyway (these wool shows really eat into holiday) I offered to work an hour and a half extra each day, to add up to a day in lieu by the end of the week. So I lost spinning time, and ended up over-tired too.

I'd had a plan to try and spin a garment's worth of yarn on spindles over the week, but Spinzilla rather caught up on me. And I had a black Shetland fleece that I'd offered to spin up for Deb Gillanders of Propagansey fame, and very little inroad had been made into it, apart from getting it washed before we went on holiday to Somerset.

So, I cracked on and got the fleece combed up the day before Spinzilla started - midnight on Sunday 2nd/Monday 3rd October.

It's a fine, soft fleece, and took a lot of spinning. I ended up with about 1500m of this before washing (my spinning tends to make very elastic yarn - it's lost about 10% of length on washing, but gained bounce and cushiness).

I did, however, manage quite a bit of spindle-spinning over the weekend.


This is what I took to the cinema on Sunday afternoon, appropriately enough to see YARN the movie. Which was quite lovely and moving and inspiring - really I can't encourage people to go and see it enough.

And this is what I brought home from the movie:

Three more or less equal weight spindles, and 50g of fibre more or less split between them. (The slightly bigger piece of fibre had the slightly heavier spindle, and that worked well). And there's two Bosworths and an IST spindle there.

This was half a 100g of grey Shetland which I'd dyed in my Macaw colourway. (I'd done a special offer on this colourway on white or grey Shetland for other Spinzilla spinners) with a view to making a plain 3 ply yarn with it.The other half I wheel-spun and chain-plied. I'm doing a workshop on chain- or navajo-plying at next year's Wonderwool Wales, and thought these two similar yarns from the same fibre would be an interesting teaching sample.
This is what I ended up with - you can see how clear the colours stayed in the chain-plied skein. Annoyingly, I think I spun one of the spindled thirds in the opposite way from the others, and didn't notice til I'd plied it. The perils of spinning in the dark!

And this was spindle spun on Sunday evening:
Three colours of John Arbon's blends, the bright blue one being a Spinzilla special for our team.

All the spindled yarns were wheel-plied late on Sunday evening, even the white Wensleydale blend that I'd been doing in odd moments during my truncated lunchtimes this week. And by late, I mean that the final bit was whizzing through about five to midnight.

This was my final spinning over the week:

My final yardage was 7063*, which equates almost exactly to 4 miles. I wonder how much I could crack through if I didn't have to go to work, and got perfectly organised and prepared beforehand?

I'm rather pleased that the bulk of this year's Spinzilla yarn already has a home to go to. Some of mine from last year is still unused, though I turned a CVM fleece's worth of yarn into a hoodie-sweater in just over a week when I was on holiday in Somerset a month ago. You can get lots of knitting done on long car journeys - provided someone else is driving!

Given that the two Macaw skeins are going to be teaching samples, only the white has no end use in mind. I was at a We Banjo 3 gig in Saltaire last night, and filled up two spindles with more of the John Arbon blends to make more of the blue/green yarn.

*This is not yardage of usable yarn. Spinzilla has a special system of measuring that allows for all the yarn spun and also the time spent plying singles together. So we claim for each single spun and the plying done.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Full Spectrum sets

Latest colourways to come out of the dyepan. These are three separate pieces of tops, making a full range of colour between them. And I'm so pleased with them I think I'll keep them in sets and see how they sell. 

This is a rather gorgeously soft Wensleydale, from Devon rather than Yorkshire, and it's taken the colours quite brilliant. 


This is white BFL - pure brilliant colour.

And oatmeal BFL - rich, muted colours. Hard to imagine this comes out of the same dyepan as the other two.


These will be priced at £33 for each 300g set. They won't be going up on Etsy, as I'm planning to take them to the remaining shows. Unless someone gives me a shout beforehand, in which case I'll have to dye some more! Which I can, of course.