Violent Violet’s socks

Sometimes (OK, quite often) I run before I can walk. I have a good idea, which is overtaken by a better idea, then I tweak it a bit more and see further possibilities. It all gets too complicated, too ambitious and nothing actually comes of it! After a spell of ill health last summer (if you have a kidney stone, make it a small one, having a 3cm one removed is not a great deal of fun…) I thought I had found a fun project, spinning and knitting socks as a gift for someone.

It started so well, we agreed on the pattern and the colour and I set to work. These socks were going to brighten anyone’s day. The fibre became affectionately known as violent violet:

IMG_1179 Worried in case I ran short of yarn, I spun 200g of fibre into a 3 ply – making something for someone else made me feel I needed to do things “properly”, none of that chain plying, what if they felt the bumps??? So far so good.

The knitting started and then life just kept getting in the way. Then the guilt set in, they sat staring at me every time I sat down, still with just the toes completed. Another spell of ill health and more guilt because I was at home all the time and still the wretched things weren’t getting any further along.

Eventually progress was made, and after I gave myself a stiff talking-to I managed to turn the heel at Christmas. I kept thinking ‘if I just did one pattern repeat a day they’d be done by the end of the month’… I kept torturing myself with thoughts that after all the effort they wouldn’t fit – we have the same size feet, but mine are unusually narrow so every time I tried them on they flopped about and it all looked wrong!

Finally, finally they are winging their way to their new home. I hope they are worth the wait!

IMG_1885 The pattern is Coming Together Socks and Violet is not really violent at all, in fact she is generally known as Violet Merino from World of Wool.

New pattern – With a Twist Cowl

My first pattern of 2015 is published today in Knit Now Magazine (Issue 44).


Photo: Dan Walmsley – Practical Publishing

Ravelry Pattern Page

It’s a neck-hugging cowl, perfect for the snowy weather we are having in the UK at the moment! It features reversible cables, so you can fling it on in a hurry, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be wondering around with it on inside out :)

With a Twist Cowl

It can be worn with the top folded down, or as a tube to keep as much of you warm as possible.

The cowl was knitted using Emrys Bluefaced Leicester Aran by Triskelion Yarn and Fibre. The yarn was a delight to knit with, a great colour (Hafren) and very very squishy.


From the original prototype that I made I thought that it would be touch and go to make the cowl from one skein. There was an awful lot of knitting a round, weighing the cowl, weighing the remaining yarn, crossing fingers etc. When, after all that worry, the finished cowl used 90g of yarn, I was mightily relieved!

New Free Pattern – Christmas Jam Jar Jumper

I added another free pattern earlier in the week – it didn’t seem right to plug it in amongst my ratings about VATMoss, so here’s the link and a picture of what you could create:

Jam Jar Lantern

It’s a quick knit and a good way to use up some leftover DK yarn so you might just rustle one up by Christmas…!?

The #VATMoss sledgehammer cracking tiny creative nuts

I enjoy writing patterns.  I have several waiting to published, some of which I am planning to offer as paid patterns.  I have no way of knowing whether I will end up selling no patterns, a few patterns or, in the words of Del Boy ‘this time next year we’ll be millionaires…’!  My income as a fledgling self-employed designer, is (very, very, very) unlikely to edge over the threshold for income tax in the UK (about £9,500).  A typical pattern price would be £3 – £4 so that represents sales of 2,400 pattern sales in a year!

Just as I was about to publish my first paid pattern VATMoss/EUVAT raised its ugly head.  The rules on dealing with VAT on sales to Europe are changing and it seems that the smallest businesses have been totally disregarded and are about to be hit hardest – and everyone has to start small at some point!

The VAT changes will mean that giant firms, such as Amazon, will no longer be able to take advantage of being based in low-VAT EU countries in order to sell their digital products at cheaper prices (the VAT at present is charged at the rate of the country of the supplier).  From 1 January 2015 the VAT has to be charged at the appropriate rate for the country where the person purchasing the digital item is based.  This in itself doesn’t seem too unreasonable – but tiny businesses are being treated in exactly the same way as the giants.

If I were offering to print and post my patterns to you and I could guarantee that people from elsewhere in the EU wouldn’t buy my patterns, the legislation wouldn’t apply at all and I could go on my merry way earning up to £81,000 before having to worry about registering for VAT in the UK.  Thresholds like this are meant to encourage small businesses, enabling them to concentrate on ‘doing business’ not ‘spending all their time on admin’.

There is debate as to whether I could possibly avoid all this by sending you a personalised email with the pattern attached (yes, this is the 21st century…)   But who wants to buy paper patterns or wait for an email in this digital age?  We have all got used to the luxury of having an electronic version of a pattern within seconds of purchasing it and using websites such as Ravelry to keep them secure. We’re all meant to be going green and saving the world by not chopping down forests and using paper…

The legislation has existed since 2008 – which is a very long time in terms of digital sales development and thousands of business have come into existence because of the advent of online publishing, payment processors and shop-window websites charging minimal fees.  Often these businesses are run by people who cannot work in traditional jobs due to the commitments of caring for family or health issues.  Sadly, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the tax department in the UK) do not seem to have communicated at all with the smallest businesses.  They do (or did, we are quite a noisy bunch when we put our mind to it!) not know we existed, had no idea how we operate and in return we have been left unaware of their expectations about paying VAT.

It’s not just the VAT.  If I sell directly I need to keep records to prove where my customers live (in two different ways) so I can hand over the VAT to the appropriate government (the fact that this data is not actually available to small scale sellers seems to have bypassed HMRC). If I keep this sort of data (for ten years as required) then I may need to register with the relevant data agencies – and they may wish to audit me at some point.

So I have a few choices:

  • Do nothing and wait for the VAT inspectors from various parts of Europe to spot me with their web-bots and imprison me for non-payment of a couple of euros worth of VAT (that’s worth everyone’s time and money, isn’t it)?
  • Become VAT registered, join MOSS and wait for the few EU sales I am likely to make to roll in, then savour the delights of completing returns on a largely untested system (yes, tested by four people, who were already conversant with VAT returns…)
  • Stop people in the rest of Europe buying my patterns (possibly leading to discrimination police on my doorstep)
  • Make my patterns available via a third party platform who will handle all the admin/VAT on my behalf.  This appears to be what HMRC assumed everyone does.  However, many of the platforms do not work in the way that HMRC anticipated and do not see themselves as being the ones who should have this extra workload given to them.  Ravelry and LoveKnitting have come up with a workable solution, but there is still no confirmation that HMRC believe that Ravelry are not responsible as a platform.  Also, selling via a platform means that they will want an (entirely reasonable) fee from me, but that eats into any income I might gain from sales.

It does make you think ‘is it all worth it?’ – but that’s the easy way out!

These changes will affect anyone who buys/sells digital products – patterns, instructional videos, illustrations, web adverts – whether they are in the EU or elsewhere (yes, if someone in the USA sells a pattern to someone in Europe they should be remitting the VAT to the appropriate country too).  If the VAT has to be paid the seller needs to factor it into their pricing, as well as the cost of their time in administering it.  Prices are bound to increase and some businesses will just opt out of the madness altogether and cease trading.

Digital products are just the start, physical goods are next on the horizon, bringing this nonsense to a whole new range of nano-businesses and their customers.  So much for encouraging small businesses and as for the current campaign to #DoMoreOnline…!

Today there is a TwitterStorm using the hashtag EUVAT.  Previous Twitterstorms have raised awareness and brought about some communication with HMRC, this one is aimed at the EU.  If you want to know more I’d suggest looking at EU VAT Action and in particular completing their survey  or signing this petition.


Of Friends and Sheep

When I was little I had a friend who was a few months younger than me – at the age of six the age gap was very important! As we grew up the age difference meant she was in a different school year to me, but we had similar interests – beer, music, motorcycles ;) (we were older than six by then…). Eventually our lives went their separate ways.

Recently we were reconnected by the power of the Internet. However, we are now many miles away from each other, I’m still on the Sussex coast whilst she’s in Shetland – but she pops back down south to see her family, so we’ve met up a couple of times over the last year. The icing on the cake to rediscovering an old friend is finding that your old buddy keeps sheep and has no qualms about popping a homegrown fleece in her hand luggage when she flies back to visit family! I guess apologies are due to the other passengers, no matter how clean fresh fleece is, it does have a certain perfume to it…

The first bag of fleece was from a fine chap called Black Boy. I’m no expert at washing fleece, but managed not to felt it, then combed it, spun a small two ply skein which was awarded a third place rosette at the local Rare Breeds show in the summer.

Black Boy's fleece



Currently I’m working on some white fleece from another sheep in her flock, Suzie the Shetland. This is slowly going through my drum carder – I had forgotten how much time and effort goes into feeding locks in and slowly turning the handle.




There’s still a fair amount of Shetland scenery embedded in the carded fleece, but hopefully that will fall out when I spin it – I want to make something for Suzie’s owner and it probably would be more comfortable if it was made of wool not thorns!

Colour Splash Blanket

Today is a bit of a milestone for me, my first magazine pattern has been published :)

Knit Now were brave enough to commission my pattern back in the spring and today issue 39 hits the newstands.

The Colour Splash Blanket is knitted entirely in garter stitch, one colourful stripe is expanded upon to form a square, giving a small blanket ideal for a baby.

The blanket used Peter Pan Merino Baby DK and the colours of yarn used certainly provided a vivid splash of colour:

Colour Splash Baby Blanket

The official magazine photos include a rather charming baby:

(Photo credit – Rachel Burgess, Practical Publishing)

Click the photo to go to Ravelry to see more information about the pattern, or, if you feel inspired to rush and order a copy online, the Knit Now website is here.

Ch ch ch changes…

If you’re reading this, hopefully you’ll see my shiny new website address at the top of the screen, my very own .com :)

I have been busy putting together knitting and crochet patterns, which I will start shamelessly plugging telling you about over the next few weeks – watch this space!

It’s not a tablecloth!

This could be one of the least challenging things I have ever created :)

August 2014 050

Stunning huh?  Yes, it’s two whole metres of rather fetching purple one inch checked gingham fabric, with a hem all the way round.  I even ironed it, not that it looks like it here.

But it’s NOT a tablecloth.  

It’s a blocking cloth (cue action shot…)

Snowflake scarf blocking - Blog pic

I am hopeful that this will help me line things up evenly when pinning them out and for projects that have been blocked to look better afterwards, not worse…  It seems to have worked for this project, you can see that the flowers line up quite neatly.

Is anybody out there?

There’s not been much happening here for a while, has there?

Due to the miracles of medical science (aka a man with a scalpel, hammer and hoover, who kindly relieved me of a massive kidney stone) I have begun feeling much more like my old crafty self :) I have started having ideas, trying things out and making things. I even had a day out at Unwind in Brighton. It’s like startitis on steroids…

For the moment, I’ll leave you with some photos of yarn, mostly spun during the Tour de Fleece using fibre from Katie at Hilltop Cloud




Blending Board

Another long blogging break…  but a new toy brings me back with pictures.  I recently purchased a blending board.  They are a sort of cross between giant hand carders a drum carder – you can fit more fibre on them than hand carders but they are not as heavy or large as a drum carder.

There are endless ways that you could apply fibre to the board, I picked a range of different bits of fibres in a range of different blue/green/purple colourways and added them in thin stripes:


Eventually they made a thick layer on the board:

Blending Board (5)

The board comes with two dowels, like giant DPNs – I pinched the fibre between them and started rolling and pulling the fibre up, away from the board:

Blending Board (4)I experimented with making one huge fat rolag, but decided it was more manageable to make two or three smaller ones by breaking the fibre after a few rolls of the dowel:

Blending Board (3)

Eventually all the fibre had been used:

Blending Board (9)

I then had a load of pretty rolags to experiment with:

Blending Board (7)I chain plied the yarn and ended up with an aran-ish weight yarn, about 200 yards:

Blending Board (2)       Blending Board (1)

I am enjoying using this board, it does ‘what it says on the tin’ and lets you blend different fibres together.  I know my drum carder would also do the job, but the board is is just less cumbersome and less noisy to use. It is also rather addictive, all those bits of random fibre and being dusted off and combined to make multicoloured blends!

Wonderful Wensleydale

I haven’t used many longwools in my spinning before, but I have been really enjoying spinning these:

wensleydale locks

They are Wensleydale locks, purchased from PippaJo’s Fantastic Fibres on Folksy.  These sheep must have been kept in a luxury hotel and given regular hair conditioning treatments – the locks are lovely to work with and virtually no VM to pick out.

I just flick carded the locks to change them from this:

wensleydale locks and flick carder

to this:

wensleydale fluff and flick carder

Beautiful fluffy clouds:

wensleydale fluff

Spinning with fibres this long has taken some getting used it, my hands seem to be miles apart when drafting.  I have set the Ladybug up so it is on the fastest whorl with a high speed bobbin and one lock seems to be producing huge amounts of very fine singles with a slight halo to them.

Spring has sprung

There are finally hints of spring, some blossom is appearing and flowers are determined to add splashes of colour to the bomb site that is the back garden.

In an attempt to help bring a little more colour to my world I dragged out my sewing machine and made something.  With a proper pattern and everything!

This fabric caught my eye.  It is impossible for it not to catch your eye :)

bright handbag 002

I have been looking for the perfect bag for a while and this free pattern for the Phoebe Bag looked like a good place to start.  I cut out the pieces and even used interfacing, I did a good job of pretending I knew what I was doing:

bright handbag pattern pieces

I came to a bit of a halt for a while when it got to the stage where the inside and outside of the bag need joining together.  I had visions of ending up with the closure flap being on the wrong side, or being stuck between the two layers of the bag.  It took about two days of picking it up, sticking more pins in and thinking very hard before I got the courage together to sew the seams.

Eventually, I ended up with a finished bag:

bright handbag complete

I even managed to add a pocket inside and a clip on a ribbon so that I don’t lose my keys in the bottom of the bag:

bright handbag inside

My local fabric shop has a sale on this weekend, so having got this far with my sewing machine I may see if there is any other fabric that tempts me.

More squares

The obsession with squares is continuing – too many ideas and not enough knitting time is, as always, a problem.

I have just about overcome my dislike of garter stitch.   Somehow it now seems very squishy and just right for knitting squares.  I keep looking at sewn quilts and seeing all sorts of possibilities for making something similar out of wool. These squares

Flying Geese

will hopefully develop into a blanket something like this:

flying geese mock up

Yes, I’m cheating, I have done a bodgy copy and paste job, instead of lots of knitting, but it gives you an idea :)

I’ve also been experimenting with stripes, I have an idea for a baby blanket with this sort of stripe running through it:

April 2013 044

Not every square works out so well, I have a pile of pink, white and black shapes which are definitely NOT square at all, but I’m still working on them.


I have been involved in knitting squares for various blankets recently, usually a group effort to give a warm hug to someone who is unwell or having a tough time.

It gave me an excuse to try out some different stitch patterns.  No matter what the samples look like in photos from stitch dictionaries they take on a new look when you actually knit them up.

Then I had an idea.  I have a notebook full of pattern ideas and they rarely make it into a knitted version, but this one worked out better than I thought:

Four Cables

An idea, knitted up that actually worked!  I may need to lie down :)

Easily pleased

Somehow six months has slipped by since I last posted.  Crafting has become more difficult as the various bits of my body conspire against me, but I made something very simple recently that greatly pleased me.

My daughter has reached the age where she ‘cannot live’ without a mobile phone.  Possibly she will have to be operated upon to remove it from her person at some point…  She had her eye on a rainbow coloured phone sock – which cost about £6.  The miser in me came to the fore, no way was I going to see her spend money on that when I could make one!

I had read this post about the problem of ‘icky dots’ when you change colours in knitting.  It struck a chord with me!  When colour changes look like this:

Jan 2013 033

with all the mixed bumps of colours I just can’t cope with the untidiness of it all.  OCD?  Me? (This is the inside of the finished phone case – the outside is beautiful by comparison!)

As TECHknitting suggests, the solution is really very simple.  If you are knitting ribbing and change colour, you get ‘icky dots’ when you make purl stitches .  So if you don’t want them, don’t purl, knit instead.

For my project, I was using a twisted rib – K1tbl, P1.  When the time came to change colours, I did K1tbl, K1 for that round only.  Result?  Not an single icky bump to be seen :)

Jan 2013 037

Rare Breeds Show 2012

I think this was my fourth year of entering the handspun class at the Rare Breeds Show at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, so I must have been spinning for four years and two months and had my Ladybug wheel for nearly four years – it seems a long time since I started spinning!

I had all sorts of plans for projects, but in the end I only entered two classes this year – but both projects attracted a rosette, and the white wool skein won First Prize and Reserve Champion (and a massive £5 in prize money)!

I was going to add some more detail to the label about yardage/weight of the skein, but when I weighed it on my digital scales it came in at a massive 6g – certainly under the required limit of 50g – and I felt such a tiny weight made it look like I hadn’t bothered to spin enough!!

I finished the spiral project I blogged about last time and turned it into a cushion – that attracted a sixth place rosette.

At least the weather was much kinder this year – a gloriously sunny day, instead of last year’s mud-bath.  I will try and start planning projects earlier this year – I keep hoping to produce a huge circular shawl, but finishing it might be a lengthy process!

Going round in circles

I have had an idea in my head for a long time about a rainbow coloured spiral.  Finally I have managed an attempt at it, using the Hilltop Cloud fibre I spun a couple of months ago – I am quite pleased with it, but can see lots more variations on this theme, perhaps with a wider spiral of colours and a thin line of black?

I’m now spinning up more black shetland fibre in the hope that I can make a plain black circle, join them together and make a cushion cover.  It’s all rare breed fibre so, if it gets finished in time, it might become an entry for the Rare Breeds Show this year.

Spinning on a small scale

I recently acquired a flick carder.  I have now got a pretty good selection of tools – hand carders, drum carder and mini combs.  I bought a Jacob fleece last year and have washed and combed some of it.  I looked at again and managed to wash and dry some more locks (which with the summer we’re having so far this year is quite an achievement)!

I am not particularly good at washing fleece, but there were some white locks which managed to survive my processing attempts without turning into a mangled mess.  I had planned to comb them to spin a skein for the local spinning show (it will probably be my only entry this year – so many plans that have fallen by the wayside over the last year).  Instead,  I tried out my new flick carder.  I found that bravery and a firm hand was the key to success and ended up with a small bag of fluffy white fibre (and plenty of waste and vegetation).

I am aiming to spin a very fine yarn.  Earlier in the year I had worked on fine spinning on my Ladybug, but that is still set up with the bulky flyer for some art yarn experiment I started a while ago, so I went back to basics with my tiny little turkish spindle:

It’s a long time since I used a spindle, but it came back to me.  The tiny spindle is great for getting a fine yarn – it just keeps spinning and spinning.  I’m not quite sure how I will go about plying from two balls of singles yet, but I’ll worry about that another day!

Neat and tidy

I live in a two bedroomed bungalow.  There is enough space, but it is not vast.  Yet somehow I can never find what I am looking for, especially when it comes to craft projects – I have too much stuff crammed into too many different places!

In an attempt to regain some control over my elusive knitting needles, I dusted off my sewing machine and, after much thinking about which bits needed to be sewn together in which order, came up with this:

Ignore the fact that the bottom ribbon ended up a bit lower down than I intended!  It opens out to look like this:

A place for everything, and everything in its place:

Happy Hexagons

I am still having problems with my joints, which has limited the amount of craft I can cope with – my knees complain if I spin for too long and my hands don’t cope with knitting needles very well.  I have fallen back on crochet and found I can manage that, especially as I treated myself to a new Clover hook which is shorter and chunkier to hold than my normal metal hooks.

Whilst in shopping mode, I also made the mistake of visiting the Kemps website and a few bargains just sort of fell into my basket…  I am using Twilley’s Freedom Gorgeous DK yarn, which is a bamboo/nylon mix to crochet hexagons to make a blanket, which gives me some sense of achievement as each finished hexagon feels like I have completed something!  At first I thought it would be a disaster because it is a four ply yarn and looked as if it would be rather splitty, but it didn’t turn out to be that much of a problem.

I am using Attic24’s idea of joining the hexagons as you crochet the last round so there is no sewing up at the end (although there are still plenty of ends to tidy up).  I have almost half the yarn so far, so should end up with enough of a blanket to keep away the chilblains next winter (or this summer, given the current weather)!  It’s a colourful creation:

Next time, I’d buy a couple more colours – I have six and could really do with at least seven so I could have a central hexagon and six all round it all with different edge colours.  (Yes, I am a control freak, I could not cope if I ended up with two the same colour touching!)

Crocus Yarn

I recently bought Jacey Boggs’ book Spin Art.  I’ve experimented with corespinning and tailspinning in the past, but my attempts at producing beehives have always been a hideous disaster as I was guessing how they were made.

The book arrived at about the time Shiela announced her annual spring competition, based around spinning a yarn inspired by a photo.  This year’s photo was of some beautiful white and purple crocus flowers.

Here’s my entry, using a mix of the techniques in the Spin Art book:

I was really pleased with the beehives and got more daring as the yarn went on.  I started with small beehives, but when they managed to make it onto the bobbin without getting caught up in the orifice or the sliding hooks on my Ladybug’s bulky flyer, I kept increasing the size.  The big white ones do look alarmingly like whitchetty grubs (or alien brains, thank you SulkyCat…)!

I love the look of some art yarns, but always wonder what people actually make with them.  There isn’t a huge amount of this yarn, so I am going to try using it in weaving – I’m thinking of a black bag with this yarn making a stripe across the flap?

Purple Peacock Scarf

I have now completed a couple of projects on my new-to-me 20″ Ashford Knitters’ Loom. I’m finding it interesting how yarns that I have previously spun, but couldn’t match to a knitting project, seem so much better suited to weaving. This Purple Peacock Scarf is a good example:

I hand carded some of the the fibres for this about two years ago, long before I had a drum carder.  I loved the rich blue/green/purple colour combinations, with just a little angelina included to give some sparkle.  When I half-heartedly started knitting a cardigan with the yarn it just didn’t look right.   I think plying the multicoloured single with another of plain lilac colour made the resulting yarn lose its bright glow.

It has sat in the WIP pile for a long time with only a couple of inches knitted up. A month or so ago I spun up 100g of aubergine merino from World of Wool to use as the warp yarn.

I attempted some maths and figured that I’d just about have enough to create a scarf using the full width of the loom if I used the 5 dent heddle and didn’t make the scarf too long.

Now, the Knitters’ Loom is meant to be a space saver.  However, you do need quite a bit of space when you are warping it!  I followed the instructions in the Ashford video, but used the back of a chair as my warping peg:

My maths wasn’t too bad, I only had a couple of rounds left on the swift once I’d completed the warp.

I tried a different way of fastening the warp threads than I had used in my first project, tieing them directly to the front warp stick rather than knotting them in bunches and then attaching the bunches to the stick.  It started well, but after weaving about 5 inches, the tension was all over the place :( .  I kept trying to convince myself that everything would be fine, it would all look better once it had been washed and finished, but eventually I did what had to be done – ‘unwove’ the scarf, and retied the ends.  It made a great deal of difference, so was worth the effort in the end, even if I grumbled to myself for a long time about doing it!

I really like the combination of purple and peacock coloured variagated yarns, the inclusion of a darker purple really changed the appearance of the woven cloth when compared to the knitted fabric.


I was sure I would never be interested in weaving.  However, I am seeing all sorts of possible projects for yarns I have spun in the past – and it is letting me continue some sort of hobby whilst my knees and fingers are not letting me knit and spin as much as I would like.

The wonders of the internet

I live on the south coast of England.  I blog now and again, and I’ve published a couple of free patterns via my blog.  I am intrigued by the new WordPress map that shows where in the world visitors to my blog come from.  I had no idea that people from all over the world were stopping by – this map shows where people came from over the last month:

World domination is within my grasp!!

Over three thousand miles away in Essex Junction, Vermont is Barb.  Barb used my Rectangly Hat pattern last year  to make a hat for display in the Kaleidoscope Yarns store.  Apparently the hat attracted a fair amount of attention and this month the shop ran a double knitting class using my pattern.  Thankfully it looks like it went well!  The internet really does make the world a smaller place.


I’ve made a start on spinning a rainbow.  This fibre:

has gradually been filling my Ladybug’s bobbin, with  lovely colour changes:

I’m intending to crochet this yarn when it’s finished, so I am spinning it in the other direction to normal (drive wheel going anticlockwise).  I have to keep reminding myself about this, it just does not feel natural!

YarnMaker/Wingham Wool Work competition

I’ve bought YarnMaker from the first edition and this Christmas my Dad kindly bought me an annual subscription.  There are always competitions but I tend to forget to enter them.

In the last edition the competition was for a two-night holiday in one of the cottages owned by Wingham Wool Work.  Which, of course, just happens to be very close to their enormous fibre mountain and provides a great opportunity for sampling and purchasing :)

I was lucky enough to win the competition, so will be off to Yorkshire later in the year, something I am really looking forward to.  I live on the south coast, so it’s a long way to go – about 250 miles away.  I imagine that we will make a longer family holiday of it, either booking more days at the cottage or stopping elsewhere en route and doing a grand tour.

Things are looking up for a change!

Hello again…

My poor old craft blog has been rather quiet, whilst my body is refusing to provide me with enough energy to do very much beyond the essentials for home and work.  But, I have been doing a few bits and pieces over the past couple of months, so here’s a little update.

In a spirit of optimism I have been buying materials that I can look forward to making full use of in the (hopefully) not too distant future.  I bought a Jacob fleece last year and added some Valkyrie combs from The Whorl’s End to my tool cupboard to process the fleece – they are fearsome looking things:

I combed some of the Jacob fleece and they did a great job of detangling the fibres, loads of bugs and leaves fell out (I didn’t realise quite how much mess it would make, next time I will put something on the floor underneath combs) and it blended the colours well.

I used the combed fibres to experiment with some fine spinning.  I would like to make a circular shawl using laceweight yarn, but that project might be a while away yet. I only knitted up a tiny amount, but I was pleased with it:

I accidentally bought a 20″ Ashford Knitter’s loom and stand.  It was too good a bargain to pass by and weaving puts less pressure on knee and hand joints so I could sort of justify it to myself.  I have completed one project on it so far, not particularly exciting to look at as I just grabbed some plain coloured yarn to see how it worked.  As always, the first project taught me quite a few things to avoid in future, but it resulted in a functional scarf:

I am hoping to still be able to enter something into the annual show at the Weald and Downland Museum this year.  I bought this shetland/silk blend fibre from Hilltop Cloud and have grand plans for it.  I am a sucker  for rainbow blends and have had a spiral pattern in my head for a couple of years and this looks like the perfect fibre to use for it:

And finally, there is this creation:

Her name is Valentina, and it’s a long story… but she made someone smile which is what it’s all about really, isn’t it?

Roll on 2012…

It’s been a while since my last blog post – several months in fact. I’m hoping that 2012 will bring about a return to more regular craft blogging, but the reason for the lack of posts recently is ill-health.  I won’t bore you with the details, but after eight months of feeling decidedly off-colour it seems likely that I have Coeliac Disease.  I’ve started another blog to record my journey into the gluten-free world that should bring me back to normality.

Back in the world of knitting, here’s a photo of a rather cute creature who came off my needles this Christmas:

If you haven’t met one before, this is a Pookie (pattern here).  Every home should have one!

Test-driving my new toy

Back in the spring, I entered Shiela’s competition on the Handspinner website to create a blossom themed project.  My hat was selected by the judge as a winner and the voucher I was given has been burning a hole in my pocket for a couple of months.

Now, I love my Ladybug wheel dearly, but have never been too happy trying to ply multiple singles from the inbuilt lazy kate.  I tried a four ply.  Once was enough…  So, I decided to use my voucher to buy an Ashford Competition Lazy Kate.


I’ve only used it once, but what a difference it makes!

I had been working on spinning a consistently fine yarn.  About a year ago a group of us on Ravelry were trying to spin 800 yards of two ply from 100g of fibre.  I had been spinning for about six months back then and got to about 500 yards and was pretty chuffed with that :)  I didn’t start spinning this fibre with a goal in mind, but I ended up with around 550 yards of three ply – so that’s 1650 yards of singles and if I’d made two ply I’d have got just over the magic 800 yards.

The fibre is Whisper from World of Wool – £3.50 for 100g:



Natural Dyeing

I spent a lovely day this week learning about dyeing using plants, flowers – and anything else that came to hand, to be honest!

The course took place at the Weald and Downland Museum, which I seem to write about fairly regularly.  The tutor was Caroline, who has her own website Knitnaks where she sells her handcrafted items, some of which she brought with her:


We tried using lots of different combinations in our experiments – probably the hardest part of the day was keeping track of the ‘recipes’!  We tried onion skins, rosehips, privet, golden rod as well as more everyday items such as tea and frozen berries.  The Museum’s gardener, Carlotta, provided a tour of some of the gardens and we made good use of some freshly picked flowers.

Having made our dye solution, we all added our yarn/fabric/fibre samples to the pot.  You can see in the photo on the right that despite all going in the same solution for the same amount of time the way the colour came out varied enormously.


We were constantly surprised and possibly a little over-excited by the end results, as you may be able to tell from this video

By the end of the day we had all built up quite a range of colours – I used some mohair that I had spun which seemed to take the colour quite well:

Apart from the dyeing, it was lovely to be able to walk around the Museum without having to be responsible for anyone else!  Here’s another collage, just because I had the time to take lots of photos for a change:


A little luxury…

It’s the last week of the Tour de Fleece this week and I have saved some luxury fibres for the final sprint.

Shiela from made a ridiculously generous offer in a recent newsletter – she was sending out sample packs, containing a selection of the luxury fibres she stocks in her shop, completely free of charge!  I think it was rather a popular offer, and when mine arrived I was delighted (but I also felt rather sorry for Shiela, who must have spent hours and hours doing nothing but stuff fibre into little bags and label them).


In the pack there is around 20 to 25 g of each fibre – white baby alpaca, white angora, white kid mohair, cream camel, coffee coloured cashmere and darker brown yak.

I thought I’d start with the yak.  It was so soft and fluffy!

However, Mr Yak and I had a bit of a dispute about forming a yarn that didn’t fall apart.  We agreed to have some time away from each other and review things in a few days.  If he hasn’t come round to my way of thinking by them, he might have to have a trip through the carder and blend with something else!

The baby alpaca is far more amenable, and is slipping smoothly through my fingers, truly a luxury fibre.  I have a vague plan about creating a luxury scarf, perhaps a striped feather and fan pattern?