Category Archives: knitting

Like Christmas in July

I had to travel back to France in a hurry a couple of weeks back for less than happy reasons, but when I came back home, the postman had left me some amazing parcels, it was like Christmas in summer.

First of all, thanks to Shiela of HandSpinner.co.uk, which had put an offer in her June Newsletter, I received a lovely sampler box of fibres. Each of them feels softer than the next and I might  even have let out a few indecent noises when I took some out of the pack for a quick feel. There’s Cashmere, Camel, Mohair, Dehaired Yak, Baby Alpaca and Angora, and believe me, they all deserve their capital letters.

1: Mohair; 2: Camel; 3: Cashmere; 4: Baby Alpaca; 5: Dehaired Yak; 6: Angora rabbit

There is a good sample for each, which I think is incredibly generous and will allow me to fully experience each fibre. I have yet to work with these (except for alpaca, but I have never tried baby alpaca) so I’m really looking forward to trying them out. I will report on my impressions. But it will have to wait a few more weeks unfortunately.

The other happy thing waiting for me on the coffee table was the long-awaited but well worth it Little Red in the City by the talented Ysolda Teague.

I am so happy with this book you wouldn’t believe. I love the scrap book style of the whole layout. I have only had a cursory glance through it so far but I have to say I’m really impressed. It looks beautiful, fun and has what seems like a ton of information on fit, swatching and making your knitting work for you. Plus lovely patterns with a fairy-tale feel which still manage to look very wearable in real life.

At the moment both knitting and spinning time are extremely scarce in my schedule, so I truly cherish the prospect of having the time to properly experiment with the lovely fibres and explore the book fully in a week or so.


Hands down my favourite gloves

In my last trip to Paris I was very restrained in my yarn purchases but I really couldn’t resist some gorgeous indigo alpaca at La Droguerie. I only took a 1oog ball, I didn’t have any specific project in mind, I just loved the lo0k and feel of it.

I’d been admiring Ysolda Teague’s Veyla for a while, and wanted to make myself a pair of these cuties. My only reservation was that I already have a few pairs of fingerless mitts, but I haven’t got any handknitted gloves of my own, it seems I have gifted away the few pairs I have knit in the past few years… So I just decided to alter the pattern a bit by knitting myself some fingers.

Veyla (Ysolda Teague) with fingers

I found the buttons in a car boot sale and I love the mother of pearl look and the contrast with the dark yarn (the color is truest on the photos of the gloves themselves). I think the fingers partly take away the edgy/lacy contrast of the original design, which is a shame, but I love them nonetheless. They might just be the classiest pair of knitted gloves I own.

The yarn was absolutely gorgeous to knit with and is gloriously soft to the touch. The gloves only used up 50g, so I’ve still got another 50g to use. Any ideas of what I could do with my remaining 170 yards of gorgeousness? Oh and I’ve still got 2 of my cute little buttons left…


La chanson du hérisson / The hedgehog song

La chanson du hérisson takes me right back to my childhood, it’s a sweet song from a French children musical: Emilie Jolie (1979)… It tells the story of a little hedgehog who’s really sad because no-one wants to stroke him because he is too prickly… until Emily comes around and saves him. I quite like this sweet cover version:

But beyond the fondness for the prickly beasty and the song, I have a good reason for mentioning hedgehogs here. A little while back, I took part in a contest on Ysolda Teague‘s blog and went on a hunt for hedgehogs in her photos. I counted all her little hedgehogs and for the first time ever, I won a prize: Yipppeee!

It was not only the Smith pattern, which produces the cutest little hedgehog, but also the wee mushrooms one, to create a small habitat for Smith… I was wondering what yarns I’d use, but then remembered that one of my aims for this year was to knit more with my own handspun. And the small amounts of yarn required for these two patterns are ideal for using some of those sample skeins I keep doing to try out different methods of drafting or plying…

White merino and Brown Blue-Faced Leicester, navajo plied on the fly.

I have been trying to practice spinning consistently thickish lately and I still have quite a bit of Bluefaced Leicester in a yummy humbuggy brown, which is slightly felted (shouldn’t have carried it around in a plastic bag for ages). I was finding it a bit easier to spin the BFL thick than the merino, I spun a few yards of each and turned them into a cute practice mushroom.

The pattern is really clever and uses a completely flat cast-on to provide a good base, and you then stack pennies at the bottom of the stalk before stuffing it so it can stand on its own: genius!

As soon as I was done I realised I couldn’t really just stop there… Navajo ply on the fly on the spindle is like magic: you have fibre in one hand and finished 3 ply yarn in the other. Before I knew it (and before the yarn had even been finished) I had started knitting a Smith in the same combination of yarns. Here he was in Paris discovering the world before I gave it to a friend for her baby son…

Since I’d forgotten my wee mushroom in my English home, Smith and the wee mushroom never actually met… I still have a very dark brown in unprepped Black Welsh Mountain which would make lovely hedgehog spikes… This mushroom definitely needs a hedgehog to go with it… can you see where this is going?

Oh and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but as soon as I wrote the title of this post it struck me how the two languages yield two very different sets of associations. The Hedgehog song might be familiar to Terry Pratchett fans: it is the mysterious rude song which Nanny Ogg seems to regularly break into singing when drunk. Its lyrics are never disclosed, to my knowledge at least, but it never fails to offend the people around her at the time.

I like the contrast between the sweet children song La chanson du hérisson, and a good bout of sweariness…

PS: I’m not done with the natural dyeing posts yet, just need to finish writing up the last two types of natural dyeing we did…


Behind the scenes

Lately, I’ve had many things on the go and they’ve all been taking longer than planned to complete. Rather than rushing them to finish them off to show them here, I’ve decided to show you some photos of the work in progress.

First, some resin casting, with some birdy whorls soon to be drilled on my brand new press drill to become top whorl spindles:

Magpie whorls in 6 and 7 cm diametres, weight ranging from 27g to 38g.

In terms of spinning, I’ve been spinning tussah silk on my Russian spindle Annia for the last couple of months, and loving it. I’m aiming for a 2-ply laceweigt, which I’ll probably leave undyed and plan to knit into a stole. I didn’t do a sample and I’ve just been spinning without much control, as I was still getting to know Annia, so I’ve no idea of the yardage I’m going to have when I’m done:

Tussah silk: Fibers, one cop spun, another in progress on my Russian spindle Annia.

Also on the spindles: I’ve got quite a bit of Blue Faced Leicester in yummy browns spun on my little Grace and on Jarod, destined to be a 4-ply. I’ve done one Turkishful and almost twice as much on Jarod, which I’m going to make into an Andean bracelet to ply once it’s exactly double the weight of the first cop. For the last of the singles for the 4-ply, I’m currently spinning a second Turkishful:

Blue Faced Leicester, including knit swatch.

On the knitting side of things, I was waiting on some T-pins I ordered to get the Echo Flower shawl a second blocking. They finally arrived this morning, so I gave my shawl a soak of Eucalyptus Eucalan bought at Unravel, and it is now blocking again.

I suddenly realised last night that I needed an instant gratification project. So I decided to take some merino I spun a little while back as an attempt to spin thickish, and I cast on an improvised cafetiere cosy. When Eddie comes round and the expresso machine is just not right for the amount of coffee we drink, but the cafetiere always goes cold before we’ve had the time to drink it all… This, I hope, will be of help. And in the meantime I’m having fun with braids and making things up… Here is last night’s progress, I think it’s already half way there:

There are always a few more projects on the needles and the spindles in the background, but those are my main points of focus at the moment.

How about you? Are you quite monogamous in your projects or a bit of a philanderer like me?


Unravel

On Sunday, I went to Unravel, a fibre festival held at Farnham, Surrey. It was my first time there and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I loved the whole atmosphere, the knitted interior, you can see it on their website (I particularly liked the knitted lampshades), the friendliness of the vendors, the lusciousness of the fibres and the colours, oh the colours. It was like being in a giant candy store! I didn’t take any photos there, but Eddie of Grey Duckling did and kindly allowed me to share some with you. She’s also blogged about it here.

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The stall of the Natural Dye Studio, photo courtesy of the Grey Duckling

I wanted to show you pictures of some of the lovely goodies I brought back with me, and when I set out to take some I suddenly realised I didn’t get any colours in my hunt. I wanted to get fibres primarily rather than yarn, and unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any solid color tops left on Sunday. While I do love the look of variegated yarns in the skein, I just don’t particularly love the way it knits up most of the time. So, just natural fibres here today I’m afraid…

Although the first one I’m going to show you is not white. The first thing I knew I absolutely had to get was a lovely bit of unprocessed Gotland fleece from Well Manor farm. My hand accidentally plunged into one of their bags and I knew I was doomed. The moment of my demise was documented here. It feels soft as a cloud, buttery and yummy with a highly distinctive smell of sheep. I love it.

Gotland fibres

And Well Manor farm is fairly local to me, which is brilliant beyond belief! Plus I got to fill my little baggy of fibres myself, oh the joy of foraging in that load of fleece…

Next, I got a whole batch of combed tops from John Arbon Textiles. Some Organic Merino/Silk (75/25) blend which I’ve already started to n-ply on the fly on one of my resin spindles as soon as I got home:

Cat spindle, Organic Merino and Silk blend, n-ply on the fly, combination made in heaven

I also got two blends with nylon there because I wanted to try my hands at spinning for socks so I chose one Alpaca/Merino/Nylon, and Exmoor Blueface/Nylon, both white clouds of lovely fibres, no pics here, but there are some on the website.

All the fibres I bought were white, but might not stay so for long. I had a good long conversation with Bob and Michelle Green and ended up buying one of their Natural Dye Kits.

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Bob Green in his stall of vibrant natural dyed yarns, photo courtesy of the Grey Duckling

It contains some Alum mordant, some Logwood, Brazilwood and Fustic chips, some Chamomile, some Golden Rod and some Madder root. I can’t wait to try these out next month… got some clean fleece lined up for it.

And finally, I spent forever trawling through buttons and pins there and got home with this assortment:

Buttons and pins, cute classics

Now that I’m seeing those at home I’m wondering if the largest silver button wouldn’t make a great Tahkli whorl… I haven’t tried Tahklis yet…

It was my first knitting event since starting spinning and I absolutely loved it. It’s a shame I won’t be in Britain for Wonderwool Wales or I would probably have booked a ticket straight away.

I’m only showing you a few things I bought, but the day was a huge source of inspiration, full of people sharing the fibre obsession, I loved every minute of it. How about you? Do you attend fibre festivals? Which one is your favorite?

And finally, a link to the Bjork song which has been in my head ever since Unravel…


Blocking take 1…

I finally completed the Echo Flower Shawl at knit night last Thursday, and washed and blocked the shawl as soon as I got home.

 

Echo Flower Shawl, with just a few rows to knit

It was the first time I blocked anything so fast, I usually keep putting off blocking because I don’t have the space, the time or any excuse really… I love the magic of blocking, but I’m always a bit put off by the process. But this time I’d been wanting to wear the shawl every time I was picking up my knitting for the past couple of weeks, so I couldn’t wait for it to be blocked, and had to do it immediately.

I tried a couple of things I’d never done before, and which I’ll definitely do again. First, after washing the shawl and finishing it with a vinegar rinse (the water was a beautiful turquoise after the wash), I put it in the spin programme in the washing machine. I’d never even thought of doing that, fearing it might felt the yarn or something similar, but Eddie told she did it all the time with her handwash only knits. It was magical, the shawl came out ever so slightly wet but dried so much faster than usual because most of the water had been spun out of it in the machine. Definitely will do that with all my hand washing in the future.

New thing the second: I blocked my shawl on the floor, on my carpet (with a layer of towels to protect the shawl from any dirt that might be in the carpet and the carpet from any dye that might still come out of the shawl). This worked out well too, except for the fact that I couldn’t find my T-pins anywhere which are my only pins sturdy enough to keep my blocking wires well in place for a taut blocking. The shawl was dry in time to take with me to Crafty Coffee, even though I hadn’t even yet woven it the ends. I did that there and wore it all day but I have to admit I didn’t think it was open enough and I decided to block it again.

Echo Flower Shawl, a week after first blocking

I’ve been wearing it almost every days for almost a week now, and it’s shrunk back quite a bit… That’s made me realise a second blocking was not just a good idea, but a necessary step. I’m not very patient, and not a great fan of putting pins in, but a full size shawl represents so many hours of knitting it deserves a tiny bit of patience in the finishing stages.

Just another close-up of the nupps just before I finished the shawl, because I can’t help it:

I’ll try and take more pictures of the second round of blocking, if my camera behaves…


Crafty Coffee Love

Another contribution to the World in Love project.

Another seamless heart knit in Cashmerino Aran by Debbie Bliss. I love how the yarn knits up but my first experience of knitting a garment with it and the pill disaster which resulted have warned me against ever again using it for a large project or at anything but a tight gauge. For quick knits that will not get a lot of wear: good yarn. And for a heart, the deep red is absolutely perfect.

 

Crafty Coffee, Trago Lounge, Southampton

Trago Lounge, home to A Crafty Coffee, Friday morning craftiness galore, this photo was taken from the nice comfortable armchair where I spent most of that morning session spinning tussah silk on Annia (seen here in the foreground).

Half hiding being a coffee mug at the back you can see a bit of Eddie’s heart garland, which is incredibly cute.