Christmas swapping

I have braved the world of Ravelry swaps for the first time this Christmas – a girl’s got to do something to ensure she has a present to open on Christmas Day after all! 

My British Banter buddy excelled herself in the glitter category:

and my present was great too:

My UK Spinners Secret Santa really came up trumps:

Turns out that it was a good idea to organise my own pressies – so far today I have a jotter pad and two packets of salt and pepper pistachios!  My MIL is on her way and will probably give me money (=knitpro DPNs I think) and my Dad is stuck in the snow but has sent a hamper.  I just hope the goodies I sent out were equally well received!

And then there were three…

The third pair of mittens are complete:

These were a scaled down version of this pattern:  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/nalu-mitts.  Now I need to find something else to create, the Christmas projects are at an end!

Knitting with glitter

Yay!  Second pair of mittens is now finished – just one more to do and Christmas knitting is sorted:

Mittens galore

Knitting gifts for Christmas always seems such a good idea – but why does it always end up taking more time than you have?  The snow and ice has returned and it meant a day of going nowhere and an excuse to do nothing but knit.

I’m doing three pairs of mittens and have finally finished one pair, the other needs another three rows per hand and I have finished one of the other pair (which was the pair I started first…).

This pair are for my mother-in-law, a lover of animals.  The yarn is spun from a batt made of merino, alpaca and angora so represents a good selection from the animal kingdom.  I’m not sure I carded it very well, the angora went into little clumps, but it made an interesting tweedy effect so I’m going to claim it’s a design feature.

Corespinning

I am amazed that there are so many things you can do with fibre.  I seem to have so many things on the go, so many unfinished projects and somehow no self-control when it comes to trying things out on the spur of the moment!

I have wanted to try corespinning for a while, having tried spinning coils earlier in the year.  I sat down last night to ply some singles to make gloves for a Christmas present, but somehow I accidentally ended up corespinning…

I bought some fibre from Helen and Angelica at http://www.folksy.com/shops/myheartexposed a week or two ago.  They specialise in using natural dyes and come up with an amazing range of colours.  Helen and I seem to share a love of autumnal colours, so this mixed lot of fibres particularly appealed to me.  I put the fibre through the drum carder and threw in some gold nylon to add to the autumnal feel, ending up with a mix of burgundy/pink/rust/copper colours.

I then spun some white shetland singles, adding lots of twist.  Next time I’d use something closer in the colour to the fibre I was using to wrap my single – in some places in my yarn the core peeks though, but you live and learn.  The end result is rather twisty – not as curly as some singles I have produced, but maybe another time I can get it to balance a bit better.  I love the end result and hope to use the rest of Helen’s fibre in this way (when I have finished the Christmas projects…).  It’s currently drying on top of the woodburner, but I am impatient to try knitting a swatch, just to see how it behaves.

 

Snow!

Many other parts of the UK have been experiencing snow over the last few days and unusually it has now made it down to the south coast.  It has been snowing slowly but steadily here since yesterday and now there are several inches, the roads are quiet, schools are shut and most people are not attempting to get to work.

I’m not entirely sure that the dog was looking forward to going out this morning though…

Advent Calendar

I have to admit that Christmas is approaching – despite my lack of present-buying, card-writing etc to date.  The advent calendar has come down from the loft and, as happens every year, we are going to have to buy more chocolate coins to put in the pockets.  Every year we buy a bag of coins here and a pack of chocolate Santas there but still there are never enough for 24 pockets x 3 people.

Warm and toasty

My first project using a batt I created is now finished:

I made three batts of various orange/rust/gold/brown shades of merino blended with some copper coloured trilobal nylon.  Each batt has a slightly different style – one was layered, one was randomly blended and the other graduated from dark to light across the batt.  Each batt became a single and resulted in a worsted-ish three ply yarn. 

The colours lent themselves well to the Candle Flame cowl (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/candle-flame-cowl) – I managed to complete two and a half repeats of the pattern and squish in a couple of purl rows and end up with a yard or two of yarn left over – result!

Cranford Mitts

They are complete…

The thumb construction is deviously clever – instead of increasing to make the extra stitches you just stop decreasing within the pattern.  These are a gift for someone, but I think I’ll make another pair for me!

p/hopping with Cranfords

If the title makes no sense, read on…  ‘p/hopping’ was new to me, but is a simple enough idea – you give money (p is for pennies) for the hours of pleasure that you get from something knitting-related.  p/hop acts as an official knitting fundraiser for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)/ Doctors Without Borders.  You can donate just because it’s a good cause, or you can donate as much as you want to in return for using one of the many patterns available on the p/hop website:  www.p-hop.co.uk.

During November, a knit-a-long is taking place using the Cranford Mitts pattern.  I was planning to use some of the tealicious yarn I spun from one of the many batts I’d created, but I want some purple contrast yarn for the cuffs and I haven’t quite got round to that yet.  Instead, I decided to use some lovely sparkly yarn in shades of pink that I made back in the summer using fibre from http://www.etsy.com/shop/FeltStudioUK – it was one of the nicest bits of fibre I’ve ever had the pleasure of spinning.  So far, so good:

 

Elegantly Wasted…

The quest to put more and more fibre through my carder is continuing.  I began to worry that I might not have enough fibre to keep me going.   (I ignored the boxes of stashed away stuff.  Variety is what I was after…)  In need of an instant fix I ordered a 500g mixed waste bag from World of Wool http://www.worldofwool.co.uk/products/36/special_offers.htm

A very well stuffed bag arrived a couple of days later – it must have had the air well and truly squished out of it as once I undid the knot at the top it pretty much tripled in size.  Here’s what I got:

Mostly merino (I think!) – there’s over 100g of the green merino in the bottom right of the photo, but also some humbug looking something (shetland or BFL) shown on the bottom left.  Should keep me carding for a while?

Batty…

Maybe I am too keen on my drum carder, I seem to have fluffy fibre batts everywhere..

Pop!

The yarn is now a hat…  After hunting through the pattern pages on Ravelry I found Pop! I kept weighing the hat and the yarn so I could get as many repeats of the pattern done as possible – the pattern suggests 12 and I managed 7 so it’s not as slouchy as the original. 

You can see the colour changes in this picture – I think I will experiment again with graduating colour through the singles, maybe the next four ply project?

I have yarn. What next?

Having carded and spun the batts I’ve made I’m ending up with smallish skeins of yarn which are pretty but need to have some sort of purpose.  Perhaps if I put a bit more thought into what I was making right from the start it would work better…

The pink sparkly batt is now half an adult sized hat, one that won’t work because there just isn’t enough yarn to finish it.  It needs frogging and reworking in a smaller size but I just haven’t got the heart to do it at the moment.  So I’m starting another hat with some of the other yarn. 

The new hat’s yarn was a mix of some dyed fleece in all sorts of autumn shades which I bought at the East Sussex Guild Textile show last year – I think I paid something like £2 for a carrier bag full.  I blended it with some plum and dark green silk and threw in some mid-brown merino.  I made two batts, one with more of the  dark fleece the other with the lighter, brighter shades in it.  Then I spun one bobbin that was 2/3 dark then 1/3 light and the other 1/3 dark and 2/3 light,  my theory being that it should the finished two-ply would have a gradual colour change.

The thing I am really impressed about is how I can wind a centre-pull ball – this one is very neat!!

I just need to find the right hat design now for 100 yards of bulky-ish yarn…

My New Drum Carder

I’ve been saving  for a few months now, waiting to get a drum carder.  The time finally came and a decision had to be made…  I compared several carders in my price range, including the Ashford carders, particularly the Wild Carder which appealed to me because it was a compact design.  However, I eventually plumped for a Minty carder, 72 ppsi with extra-deep sides and a packer brush (http://mintyspinningsupplies.com/page3.htm).  A couple of factors swung it for the Minty – the deep sides mean you can put the carder on the floor or a table and there is room to turn the handle without it crashing into the surface and crushing your fingers, and it’s good to support a local craft supplier instead of the big guys for a change.

It arrived by courier a couple of days after ordering, well-wrapped and the only construction needed was adding the handle.  Since then, nothing has been safe from the carder – the dog is looking nervous again, after having escaped from the purple dye earlier in the year!  I seem to have an addiction to angelina sparkle and have added it to two of the three batts I have made so far.

 

I’ve thrown merino, shetland, angelina, washed/dyed fleece and silk into the mix so far and it’s going fine.  Putting the fibre through twice helps and I’ve learned the hard way to be patient and only add a little at a time.  I’ve also discovered that there is a fine line between having a range of interesting colours and everything turning sludgey…

How many plies does a girl need?

It’s almost a year since I started spinning on a wheel.  I’ve been stocking up on bobbins and whorls as the membership discount that I purchased when I bought the wheel runs out pretty soon.  I’ve now got 5 standard bobbins and 4 high speed ones, which should be enough to keep me going for a long while.  At around £30 per bobbin that’s a lot of money on bobbins – one of the (few) downsides of a Ladybug wheel.

I decided to put the bobbins to good use and try a 4-ply yarn.  I had 100g of grey cheviot which I had already made a start on – I was impatiently trying out double drive and waiting for the high speed bobbins, so started on a standard bobbin, then put it to one side when the exciting new shiny high speed bobbins came along.  Fickle, me???

So, there was about 35g on the existing bobbin so I split the remaining fibre into roughly even sections and spun three more bobbins worth. So far, so good!  I went and fiddled with the inbuilt lazy kate, adjusting everything so all the bobbins sat nicely and the tension bands went where they should.  I think I overdid it as it was hanging onto the yarn a bit too much whilst plying, so I’ll have to go and tweak it again.

Plying four singles at once was interesting…  I tend to ply using a whorl which is a couple of sizes larger than the one I used for spinning the single, but even this resulted in a somewhat overplied finished yarn.  I think it was a combination of trying to keep four singles under control, them all fighting the lazy kate and me treadling like a demon.  Although it wasn’t perfect it did make a lovely round yarn.  Of course I ended up with three bobbins with varying amounts of singles on them, so made some more 2 ply to use it all up.  I have a picture in my mind of a hat I’ve seen somewhere with a seed stitch brim, then plain stocking stitch and a knitted flower on it.  Despite looking in many place I can’t find it online, so maybe someone wore it in a TV programme.  If the yarn isn’t too wire-like it may turn into something like that.

I want to try this again though – I have a vision of a lovely fat squooshy yarn which I could make into a great big wrappy round scarf.

Hanging on to summer

The weather is definitely changing.  I am managing to stick with my running but getting up and going running at 6.00 am is getting harder as the mornings get darker and the temperature keeps dropping!

In an attempt to stop the sunshine becoming a distant memory, I spun up the Summer Flowers fibre that I dyed earlier in the year.  I’ve been using double drive on my Ladybug again and I’m enjoying experimenting with spinning this was and am gradually achieving thinner and thinner yarn.  This yarn is just starting to become a pair of socks.

  

A really big wheel…

Another day out at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton today.  It’s the Ruby Anniversary of the Museum this year, which is worrying as I am older than the museum…  Last night I went to the bonfire party and today there were more special events. 

There seemed to be relatively few people at parts of the weekend I attended, possibly as the Musuem made everyone buy tickets, even members who had already paid for year-round entry – the cost to attend the full weekend would have been more then we paid to become members for a year!  It’s understandable, but also a shame as there were plenty of new things to see and do, including the Red Devils parachuting in this afternoon.

This lovely spinner let me attempt using this wheel.  I’ve never done long draw before, and this enables you to have a really long distance between the fibre and the spindle!  She turned the wheel so I could concentrate on the fibre – it was OK to begin with and I kept backing away from the spindle-tip, and further away, and further away – I was almost in the next county, then the fibre broke.  I had another go trying to spin the wheel myself and nearly took the top of my finger off, and produced a snarly bit of yarn which she kindly plied for me to keep as a souvenir.

I wore my finished Liesl today (which I think gave the game away that I might be a spinner and got me the offer to try out the wheel)!  I found some buttons at www.eternalmaker.com that I thought were just the job:

I think I did quite well to come out of the The Eternal Maker with just these three buttons – it’s too tempting in there sometimes, not good for my purse!

Rectangly hat

The response to my pattern being added to the blog took me by surprise!  There have been loads of visits and downloads and it’s now in 50 queues over on Ravelry – I will be so pleased as and when anyone knits one up.  It must be really amazing if you are a proper designer and see people walking around wearing things that you have designed – I wonder if the novelty wears off?  I’d be unbearable if I saw someone wearing one of my hats! 

I can see from the magic stats thingy on here that this blog has started coming up in response to people searching for free patterns.  I could understand people being directed here when they search for ‘free knitting hat pattern’ or ‘free chemo hat pattern’.  I am still trying to understand  what the person (or people?) were truely seeking when they typed in ‘fruit free hat knitting pattern’ though?  A hat free from fruit?  A free pattern for a hat to go on a banana?  There could be a whole new market out there…

Free Knitted Hat Pattern

My first attempt at a written knitting pattern is now available via the FREE PATTERNS link at the top of the blog.

The pattern’s for this very cozy and totally reversible double-knitted ‘Rectangly Hat’.  The concept of double-knitting (knitting two layers at the same time) fascinated me.  This hat was made after knitting a swatch to find out how the technique worked and wanting to experiment with a larger project.

Hopefully I’ll get this pattern set up on Ravelry tomorrow.  If you decide to give it a go, do let me know how it works out!

Liesl – finished at last!

You know how some projects, through no fault of their own, just don’t want to come together?  This was one of them.  I spun some yarn months ago, started knitting and it was the most hideous creation I have ever seen!  The yarn was a multicoloured pink mix which combined with the feather and fan pattern was just way, way too busy.  For a while it stayed on my Ravelry pages headed ‘Barbie and My Little Pony in the blender’…

This version is much calmer.  I managed to use up almost all the yarn I had spun (about 400g of arun/bulky weight) – literally just a couple of yards spare.  I knit the yoke and a fair bit of the body then started wondering when to stop.  I went back and knitted the arms, then kept going on the body until the yarn ran out.

I’d like to knit another one of these – maybe a calm mix of colours, and a slightly lighter-weight yarn (this version is certainly warm and weighty)!

Holiday Knitting and Spinning…

It has been a little quiet on the blog as I haven’t been around for a week or so, having been sunning myself on holiday.  Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I have been self-catering, getting soaked and doing routemarches round places of interest to 9 year olds for  a week.  One day I will get to do as little as possible in the sunshine with someone else doing the cooking…

However, I did take the essentials with me – some fibre and my spindle, my copy of YarnMaker magazine, my Leyburn socks and a Liesl cardigan (if I could have got my wheel in the car I would have done)!

   

Back to reality now, well a mountain of washing and ironing, but I do have another week off work.  Amongst the many things I’d like to do this week is get one of my patterns written up and available via my blog, so watch this space!

YarnMaker

A new UK spinning magazine will appear next week – YarnMaker.  I’m looking forward to getting my copy.  The YarnMaker website now has a ‘pay by PayPal’ button, making it easy for you to get a copy too…  www.yarnmaker.co.uk

A Haldane has come to stay

My jammy daughter has been given a Haldane wheel by a member of our spinning group! 

 

It has taken several hours of jiggling, adjusting and oiling but it is now working much more smoothly than it was.  It is much harder to treadle than my Ladybug, but is growing on me.  I look forward to finding out more about this wheel.

I also managed to get half an alpaca fleece for a huge £2.50 so I don’t feel left out in the goodies stakes!

Washing a fleece

I have been given a Black Welsh Mountain Lamb fleece.  It was offered to me months ago and I’d got to the point where I thought it had been forgotten about, but it arrived on Friday, much to my delight.  I have attempted washing small bits of fleece before with no great success, whether this was due to my ineptitude or a free but not very nice fleece I don’t know!  This time round I had a new weapon, courtesy of www.handspinner.co.uk – Power Scour! 

The fleece was packed into a plastic feed bag – I was really surprised that it didn’t smell more strongly.  The last one I had in a plastic bag nearly knocked me out when I opened the bag!  Here’s the fleece straight out of the bag, and then rolled out flat:

 

I thought that once I’d rolled the fleece out I would be able to tell which was the head end and which was the tail.  I was still clueless.  I thought one end might be (erm, thinks of polite description…) ‘messier’ than the other, surely that would give the game away?  Nope, it was equally revolting either end!    Using rubber gloves, I stripped away the manky bits and then trimmed it down so I was left with the nicest bit in the middle to deal with first:

 

I pulled off a section of the fleece and put it in a net laundry bag, then filled a bucket with very hot water and a squirt of Power Scour and left it for about 15 minutes.  Yum!

I drained this off, soaked it again in more Power Scour solution, then soaked it again in just water, then one more time in a Fibre Rinse solution.  It has dried and hasn’t turned itself into a felted ball which is a good start, in fact it is still in the same piece as when I started.  I’ve carded one handful:

 

I’m not hugely experienced in using fleece, but it certainly was less tangly and smoother to deal with than my previous attempts.  There’s a lot of carding ahead of me, the drum carder fund has been started…

The Tour de Fleece is at an end…

I had quite a productive time.  I didn’t complete the projects that I had planned, I’m too easily led astray, especially with shiney new fibre and spindles.  I’m pleased with what I achieved though, especially the coils!

 

Rare Breeds Show 2010

I had a lovely day yesterday.  The sun shone, I enhanced my stash a bit and bought two spindles from IST Crafts. 

  

I started spinning using a spindle, an Ashford one that is about the size and weight of a small country by comparison to these!  I made a few spindles myself out of wooden wheel, CDs and bits of dowel and they all worked well enough, but weren’t that well balanced.  When I first got my Ladybug wheel I put the spindles to one side, but these are so pretty and spin forever.  I’ve had a quick go with both of them – I bought some oatmeal BFL/silk blend which I tried out on the drop spindle after a rather nice picnic, then tried a silk hankie on the turkish spindle (after a few hours on one layer I had to admit defeat and go to bed, leaving it for another day).

I did manage a rosette yesterday – my Shetland Fern scarf as awarded sixth place which I am delighted about!  The fancy yarn class was great, and it was a skein of coiled yarn that picked up a first place so I will have to keep in training for next year!

It felt so good!

This was an odd project – it sort of came from nowhere and all worked out right.  I’m sure something suitably disastrous will happen soon to rebalance this in a karma sort of way…  Meanwhile I’m really happy with my new bag!

      

It’s lined with pink corderoy fabric and even has a magnetic fastener to keep the top shut.  I’ve managed to fit my purse, camera, diary and a little bag of fibre inside it (just in case I need to try out any spindles today, you understand) and am off to test it out.

Rare Breeds – Handspun Entries 2010

I’m lucky enough to live near the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum which has a Rare Breeds Show every July.  I’d been regularly, but last year it took on a whole new slant as I had been spinning (spindling?) for … at least six weeks!  I didn’t let that put me off, I entered two items in the novice classes and came away with two rosettes.  I guess I better point out that there aren’t too many novices out there, so the competition was not exactly fierce.  I got prize money too – I think a first and third place earned me about £4.50 (so I made a profit – it was £1.5o for each entry)!

I’ve upped my game this year and am entering three classes – Shawl/Stole/Scarf, Natural Skein and Hat/Gloves/Other.  I’ve just put the tags on and am ready to roll in the morning.

I agonised over how to attach the tags.  Is it bad form to use a safety pin?  Would it be showing off to use more handspun yarn – or should it be co-ordinated with the item?  I hope I can’t hear them sniggering as I leave the display tent…

I’m hoping I will manage to buy some lovely spinny things too.  I have my eye on a spindle from IST crafts and there were quite a few other fibre stalls last year so I’m sure that won’t be all that I come away with.

I bought some buttons today and am about to start frantically sewing them onto my newly felted bag (then adding a lining and some sort of closing device).   I couldn’t find any flower shaped buttons, I had a picture in my head but maybe I saw them at the Lewes Guild show in October, not in the shop I went to?   I want to take the finished bag on its first outing tomorrow to a suitably fitting event, so hopefully I can post a picture of the finished project tomorrow morning before I go.

Supercoils

I was struggling at making coiled yarn and by happy coincidence Vampy posted a great guide on the UK Spinners’ group: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/uk-spinners/1220078/1-25#13.

The highlighter pen is not just a random object… To make successful coils you have a core yarn which is suitably strong (I used embroidery thread) and the other single wraps around it. If you do a normal 2-ply, both singles wrap around each other, but here the core yarn doesn’t want to get tangled up with the other single at all.

I tied both the thread and the single to the leader and then let the pen dangle down so as the thread twisted during coil spinning all the twistyness just went down the thread and made the pen spin and just sort of oozed away. When I had used up the thread that was available I just unwound a bit more and locked it under the pen clip to keep it all from unwinding too much.

It took ages to spin the two together and after an entire evening’s work I had a grand total of… about 12 yards – wooohooo!