Fear of felting…

So, the fibre I dyed has been spun and plyed and is rapidly turning into a bag.  The handle seems to be taking forever – I wanted it to be strong so it is a tube of seed stitch, but I can’t decide when to stop knitting.  I’m going to felt the bag so the handle will get shorter, but I bet it will stretch with use…

I knitted a Booga Bag a couple of years ago and remember that it got much shorter but not a lot narrower so I’ve tried to take this into account when making this bag.  Hopefully I will finish the handle today and get it in the washing machine – I hate that bit, what if it eats all my hard work and turns it into something the size of a thimble?  Then I’m on a button buying mission tomorrow so I can get it finished and use it on Sunday!

Using old dye solutions

When I dyed the last lot of fibre I used up some old dye solution, which had been sat in its squirty bottle for a couple of weeks.  I was just curious to see if it made any difference. 

It worked fine, but it did look as if the dye had crystalised a little in places, as I got a few green granules appearing here and there – they are just about visible in this picture.  They aren’t apparent in the finished fibre, but I guess there’s a limit to how long the dye would stay useable?

Candy Floss


Another Tour de Fleece project – pink merino, BFL and sugarplum angelina carded together and spun as singles.  I did several hot/cold/hot/cold soaks to set the twist and felt the yarn slightly so it would all hang together, which it seems to have done, even if it is still a bit curly wurly!

I have a plan…

I don’t often have a plan, things tend to just sort of happen!  Here’s the plan – I want to make a bag, a green grassy sort of coloured bag.  It’ll have a shoulder strap and I’m going to felt it.  Then I’m going to find some lovely buttons in the shapes of flowers and sew them on.

So I needed some yarn.  Which meant I needed fibre.  So I had to dye some:


200g of falkland fibre, in various shades of grassy green.  Just got to spin it now…

Tour de Fleece – Black Welsh Mountain Fibre

Here’s my first finished spinning for the Tour de Fleece:


It’s 100g of Black Welsh Mountain fibre that I bought from World of Wool.  I wanted to try out this fibre as I’d been promised a fleece, but apparently the poor old sheep are still wearing it (and must be sweating away given the weather at the moment).  It was my first go at using my Ladybug in Double Drive and it worked out OK, althought I found the takeup a bit light for my taste.  Thanks to the Schacht Spinners group on Ravelry for helping me to get all my string and whorls the right way round – I will try and write up what went where soon.

How much yarn can you get on a bobbin?

Lots!  Lots and lots and lots and lots…

This is the purple shetland fibre that I dyed in my second attempt at dyeing, plied with the various blue/purple/teal/green/angelina fibres that I carded together.   This measured up to be around 700 yards of somewhere between lace and fingeringweight yarn.  The purple has dulled down the brighter colours somewhat.

I had ideas of making a lightweight cardigan, knitting a thin yarn on big needles and weighing the cuffs and edges down by adding beads.  I’m not so sure now, this might become a wide stole, maybe based on a feather and fan stitch.  I tried a swatch, just to see how it knit up.


Thanks for stopping by – you’ll find my experiments with dyeing, spinning and knitting here. Come and watch me make mistakes and save yourself the trouble!  

Summer Flowers

I am much happier with my second attempt at dyeing this weekend.  It’s cheerful and bright – my daughter said it was like summer flowers.  The fibre was what was left from my original purple sock yarn project – around 150g of superwash merino/nylon mix.  I think this will again turn into sock yarn, possibly turning into some socks with a feather and fan pattern. 

A brief thank you to the local Brownie pack – again I was able to spend dyeing as they were keeping me child-free for the day!  It’s a hundred years of Guiding this year, so I get another day to play in a few weeks time when it’s ‘Party in the Park’ – just in time to top up with fibre for the Tour de Fleece.


I also dyed a silk hankie – I’m not so sure about how that turned out.  I might have a go at spinning the silk on my drop spindle rather than my Ladybug.  I am eyeing up buying a new drop spindle from IST Crafts (http://thewoodemporium.co.uk/dropspindles.php) who will be at my local Rare Breeds Show next month.  I’ll have some time away from home later in the year, so will be wheel-free and it would be good to keep spinning.  Have I given myself enough excuses to spend money yet? 🙂

Here it is, in all its orange glory…


It doesn’t look too bad (does it?), it just doesn’t look like I thought it would.  Maybe I just need to put it in a cupboard for a while and get it out later when I have mastered making chocolate ice cream brown and the orange isn’t bugging me?

I dyed some more fibre today – same green and pink dye solution (using it up) and the last of the purple from the previous dyeing session.  150g of superwash merino/tencel and a silk hankie (never spun one of those before – if you have any advice, do leave me a comment).  More pictures tomorrow when it’s all dry.

Two out of three ain’t bad…

So, I can do pink.  I can do green.  I still haven’t quite sorted out the paler/darker thing.  But brown???  Dye powder + vinegar looked good.  Started with neat ‘Rust’ then added a (tiny, I remembered that about that) bit of green and a bit of scarlet.  Little bit on a paper towel still looked good:

Looked pretty good on the fibre too.

Then it went orange.  Not brown, but orange.  I now have 300g of an orangutan hiding amongst pink tulips.  It may look better when it dries? Hmmmmmmm…

I’m about to dye…

I need some fibre for the upcoming Tour de Fleece – I’ve joined Team Social and Team Schacht Spinners.  I have 300 g of BFL soaking in a bucket.  This time round, I am:

Not going to dye my feet purple (put socks on – check!)

Use a tiny tiny tiny bit of dye powder at a time.  Really.

Leave some white fibre because I want to go all pale and pastelly this time

Going to try to achieve particular colours – I made this pallette on www.ColourLovers.com.  No doubt, the end product will be cometely different, but this is the plan at the moment.  No sniggering when I post the end product please.  Especially if it turns out purple again…

Color by COLOURlovers

Thick and thin

Not so long ago I ordered this fibre.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but thought I’d have an arty moment and try out spinning thick and thin yarn. 

The fibre just flew onto the bobbin!  I used my new slow speed bobbin and the thick bits turned out lovely and squishy if a little bit overly plumptious and the thin bits were, well, to be honest, rather too thin and twisty.  I wasn’t sure how to set the yarn so just gave it a soak in hot water and swirled it around a bit hoping it might felt a bit.  Picperfic (who sells somes very pretty fibre on http://www.etsy.com/shop/picperfic) suggested alternating between very hot and very cold water, so I will give that a go next time.

This is how the yarn ended up and how it looked when knitted.  I started a hat, but it was a disaster because it was sunny, I was outside and not paying attention at all, so it got frogged!


Sock update

My Leyburn socks are coming along now.  I had to rip it back to the start of the patterned section once as I had too many stitches and it was a bit too big.  I’m quite proud that I ripped it – once upon a time I would have blindly carried on and ended up putting a lot of effort in to get something useless out, or just put it on one side.  I’m getting better at admitting mistakes and putting it right.

I’m knitting these two at a time on a circular and I think this technique is growing on me.  I love DPNs, but the idea of finishing knitting and having two socks all done and ready to wear is a winner.

I am overthinking this pattern.  To get the latticework pattern you slip stitches and carry the yarn in front.  So for most of these pattern rows you are not actually knitting any stitches – but you do knit all the way across the sole.  So you are knitting more rows on the sole than on the top…  Am I going to end up with a short top and long sole?  I’m not dwelling on this as I will have enough to worry about when it gets to the heel!

Twinkle, twinkle…

I’ve been dyeing fibre lately, but still have all sorts of bits and bobs of commercially dyed fibre around.  I spent a happy hour or so carding merrily through a mix of green, teal, blue and purple fibres, mostly merino and corriedale, with a bit of angelina fibre thrown in.

Photos don’t seem to pick up the twinkly effect that the angelina adds, but trust me, it’s shimmering away nicely.

At the moment, my plan is to ply this with the bobbin of laceweight singles I have from my second attempt at dyeing and (if there is enough yardage) to knit a cardigan of some sort using biggish needles to make it very lightweight.  But that could all change…

Another year older, another year wiser?

Today’s my 42nd birthday.  How did that happen, eh? 

The last year has been a real mixed bag with some almighty lows, but the odd high too.   Probably the best thing to come out of the last year is spinning. 

It’s only a year since I started fiddling around with a spindle, then I bought my Schacht Ladybug last November and used it pretty much every day since.  I have fibre falling out of boxes and bags, and skeins of handspun here, there and everywhere. 

I bought the Ladybug blind – nigh on £400 in one go, just like that – not like me at all, usually I am so careful and analyse, compare, make lists etc.  Ladybirds have featured in my life before, I painted the tank of my GS400 (motorbike) as a ladybird many moons ago – it seemed a good sign and thankfully this time round it worked out perfectly.

I’m still far too easily distracted by shiny pretty things (can you ever have too much angelina)?  I flit from one project to another, rarely achieved a truly finished project as new ideas keep on coming and interrupting.

I must take stock some time soon and see if there is any way of making spinning/knitting a bigger part of my life.  If there was a magic way of making my living doing it, perhaps it would take all the fun out of it?  Be nice to find out though…

It’s a wrap…

This project seems to have been on the go forever.  It started it’s life back in February, when I purchased some Stoney Shores fibre from www.wheeldalewoolcrafts.co.uk.  I spun this as thinly as I could to try and get somewhere near the finishing line of Ravelry’s LimeGreenJelly group’s 800 yard race (I got just over 500 yards which amazed me, but shows I have a way to go when it comes to spinning fine)!


I decided to use this pattern http://shop.sweetgeorgiayarns.com/products/cashsilk-fern.  It took about 5 months of knitting here and there to get it to what I thought was the right length, and yesterday I finally cast off.  This gave me a chance to play with some more new toys – I had bought a foam hopscotch mat and some blocking pins and not had a chance to use them until now.  As you can see, it certainly grew a little:


I thought it was all done, then remembered I had ends to weave in – here is the finished article:

More dyeing


Childfree time + Sunshine = another go at dyeing!

This attempt looks slightly more like I had in mind first time round, in that the colour is much nearer the purple I was planning.  As you can see I have gone wild and purchased a new steamer and a pack of squirty bottles, both of which made the process easier.

I mixed up some hot pink and blue dye powder in an old yogurt pot and added the vinegar.  I used a funnel to pour this mix into the bottle, then added water.  My plan was to put some dark purple stripes on the fibre, then add more water to dilute the colour and add more and more progressively lighter stripes.  Next time I will believe the instructions – the colour of the first stripe and the next diluted stripe were pretty much identical.  By the time I got to a pale purple there was so much liquid on the fibre it was swimming in the stuff, so I think it all blurred into one by the time it was cooked! 

There are some positives – I like the colour, it hasn’t felted and the dye has gone all the way through the fibre this time.  Also, I have some purple freckles on my right foot – covered up everything else despite the baking heat, but forgot I was wearing flip flops!

Socks with a hug

My daughter’s off to Brownie camp today – she’s been away overnight before, but this time she’s away for three nights.  We’ve packed what feels like most of the house (and they’re in a village hall, not tents, so no camping equipment beyond a sleeping bag)!

I wanted her to have a little something if she felt a bit homesick and was inspired by this project on Ravelry http://www.ravelry.com/projects/batfink/sock-buddies.  Both socks have pockets, one has a bear to hug and the other a little crochet heart tucked inside. 

I’m not sure what it will take Brown Owl and Tawny to get through the next few days – rather more than a pair of socks I suspect!

You win some, you lose some…

Being the grown-up knitter that I am (!) I did the right thing and knitted a swatch to get guage for the Leyburn socks.  Apart from anything else, I wanted to be sure that I could cope with the unusual patterning, which turns out to be quite simple but effective.

The swatch was the good news…

The bad news?  Yet again I have wrecked a pair of wooden Knit Pros.  I bought a starter pack last year and the tip of  a 4mm one split.  I just thought I was unlucky, so got out the sandpaper and blobbed a bit of clear nail varnish over the end and got on with things.  In the last month I’ve had another needle break straight off at the end which joins the cable, then, having done the tricky twisty starting stitches for toe-up-socks-two-at-a-time-on-a-circular-needle, my new 2mm needle split all the way along the grain. 😦

To end on a postive note though, the lovely Val at Woolstack has said I can return my needle for a replacement and I’ve decided to swap it for a Nova metal tipped circular – hopefully I can’t do the same sort of damage to one of those?!  So, these socks are on hold until the new needles arrive.

A sock’s-worth of yarn


The fibre I dyed at the weekend was surprisingly lovely to spin.

I have spun one braid (about 80g) and navajo-plied it, which gave me about 200 yards – hopefully plenty for one sock!

I need to spin the rest before starting the socks, as I want to try knitting these two at a time on a circular needle.

Dyeing to be purple

I tried out my Ashford Dyes this weekend and this is how the story ended, with around 160g of bluey/pinky/purple fibre.

I learned a lot by trial and error (there’s a blow-by-blow account below in case you are thinking of having a go) and I have added some links to other sites with dyeing info that I found useful.

Top tips:

• A little goes a long, long way
• It doesn’t always do quite what it says on the tin
• No matter how hard they try, dogs are not helpful assistants
• Dyeing outside avoids mess and is therefore a good plan
• Dyeing outside on a windy day will make you curse
• Collapsible steamer insert trays are a bad idea
• If you’re impatient you can dry fibre with a hairdryer

Down to specifics…

I wanted to end up with yarn to make socks – specifically these Leyburn socks  www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/leyburn-socks for a SAL/KAL in the LimeGreenJelly group on Ravelry.  I’d already spun some lovely BFL/Sparkle fibre but got nowhere near enough yardage.  I knew I wanted something purple-ish and wanted fairly rapid colour changes.

I bought 300g of superwash merino/nylon blend from www.worldofwool.co.uk  in the hope that I couldn’t destroy superwash!  I decided to use around half this amount for my dyeing experiment. 

I decided to tie the fibre into two skeins.  I was going to work on an old round garden table so didn’t have enough space to lay the fibre out in lengths.  Instead, I split the fibre into two lengths and lay them in circles, then tied them with acrylic yarn.

I soaked the fibre in warm water in a bucket for about half an hour, then gently squeezed it out until it was damp rather than sopping wet.  Handling the wet fibre was tricky – it suddenly seemed all thin and slippy, like a fluffy cat caught in the rain!

I had all my equipment at the ready (I bet Morrisons never considered using cling-wrap for dyeing when they put ‘multi-purpose’ on the box…)  With hindsight, some sort of squirty bottle would be better than a cheap wobbly jug, or maybe a syringe without a needle might be useful for applying the dye solution.

I rolled out two strips of cling-film, then plonked the damp fibre on them.  At this point it was a bit like slapstick comedy as the wind was making the cling-film flap all over the place and as fast as I unstuck one piece so another would tangle.  Around this time I also decided the dog was far too interested and put her inside the house, much to her displeasure – but explaining a pink and purple dog would be hard to do!

I had decided to use these three Ashford dyes (the pots are tiny, about the size of a pot of nail varnish).  I had envisaged an all-over navy/purple yarn with small highlights of teal.  Each pot is 10g which it says is enough to dye a kilo of fibre to full intensity (or one flat teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons of vinegar will dye 200g).  Despite my cynicism, I can now tell you that this is definitely true – the colours were amazingly vibrant. 

I used three plastic jugs and added half a small plastic teaspoon’s worth of dye powder to each one and then two tablespoons of white vinegar.  Here’s the dye liquid at this point – a jug of purple, then navy blue, then teal.


The dye pot definitely said purple on it, but the result looked very pink to me…  I added warm water to each jug – I dithered for a long time about how much to add and in the end made it up to the half-pint mark on each one.

Then I started adding the dye to the fibre.  Easier said than done!  I realised that pouring it would end up with great big patches of colour, so I used a very professional technique – I spooned it on with an old scoop from a Horlicks tin!  I added narrow stripes across both bits of fibres wherever I fancied.  I was taken aback by the strength of the colours and the non-purpleyness of the purple, so then started mixing the jugs of dyes together – adding blue to the ‘purple’ improved the colour a great deal.  I now appreciate why indie dyers say ‘unrepeatable colourway’!  Maybe another time I would try mixing the colours once I had mixed the dye and vinegar.  Having spooned more dye onto the fibre, I diluted the dye mixes further with more water and filled in the gaps that remained on the fibre.

There were some bits where the dye hadn’t soaked right the way through, but at the time I thought the whole thing was going to look very gloomy and sombre coloured, so figured that a little white here and there might soften up the colours when it was spun.

I then folded in the long edges of the cling-film and rolled up each fibre sausage.  I wrapped each parcel inside more cling-film and cleared up the equipment.  I had dye left over and was not sure how to dispose of it, so at the moment it is in an old plastic milk bottle – maybe it will keep and can be used to dye more fibre?

I then steamed the fibre to set the colour.  I had bought a collapsible steamer tray that fits within a saucepan, but next time I will invest in a proper stacking steamer – if you’re not careful the ’petals’ of the collapsible steamer rip the cling-film and the dye starts to escape.  The fibre sausages swell up as they cook and luckily I didn’t poke a hole in the cling-film until after about 40 minutes of steaming – I decided that must be a sign that it was ready!

I let the fibre cool for about an hour, then ripped off the cling film and rinsed the fibre in a bucket of warm water – the water remained completely clear.  I wrapped the fibre in a towel and squished out as much water as possible, then hung it out to dry.  (Eventually I got bored and dried it with a hairdryer, I’m sure this is not on the list of things you should do, but I wanted to see what the finished fibre was like)! 

Finally, I played with braiding it – one piece I crocheted into a chain, and the other I made into a plait.

Now all that’s left is to spin it and knit those socks!

What’s on the wheel?

Earlier in the year I bought a pack from http://www.thefibreholics.co.uk/.  The packs give you a range of different fibre (or yarn) samples – usually about 20g from five or ten different suppliers.  There were lots of lovely goodies, but one of my favourites was called ‘To My Valentine’ by Juno Fibre Arts and I bought a full 100g from her Etsy shop.  It’s combed Wensleydale top in lovely violet and green shades and stood out because it was different from the pinks that most of the others had gone for (there was a Valentine theme to the pack).

I’m spinning away at the moment and will probably navajo ply to keep the colour changes. 

If it looks good when it’s done, I think I’ll enter the yarn in the Rare Breeds Show at the Weald and Downland Museum in July.  There is a category for ‘fancy’ yarn (I love the use of the word ‘fancy’ here, it hints that it’s not proper wool, it’s been mucked about with and is an insult to sheep).

Sheep in transit

Someone told me that every spinning wheel needs a sheep to look out for it.    I used this pattern:  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sheep-in-sheeps-clothing# to create the sheep on the left of the picture, who sits in the handle of my Ladybug, keeping an eye on things.

The sheep on the right is on a long journey oop north to make sure all is well with a wheel and it’s new family.  It arrived today (so much for first class post, it was posted on Thursday and arrived Tuesday…) and is currently having a name chosen in a very democratic manner!

Update:  Names were drawn from a hat and the sheep is now named….  Corynthia

What a lovely postman I have…

Nice chap brought me two parcels today – goodies from www.handspinner.co.uk and www.wheeldalewoolcrafts.co.uk.  Hopefully I will have time next weekend to make a start on dyeing some fibre.

Prize-winning daffodils

I recently entered a competition on www.handspinner.co.uk, Shiela Dixon’s (the self-titled ‘dealer in addictive substances’) site – the aim was to produce something that captured the daffodils in her photo.  My entry was a first go at using thick/thin yarn with a bit of corespinning and wrapping thrown in for good measure – all things I had read about and seen elsewhere, but never had tried out myself. 

This was the end result – and it won!!

The competition was judged by Alison Daykin of http://www.alisonyuletextiles.co.uk/, so having a professional textile designer say lovely things about my work made my day – my entry “was by far the best, almost achieving the look and feel of a daffodil”. 

My prize was £40 of goodies from Shiela’s shop – I’ve gone for some Power Scour and Fibre Wash for use with some fleece that should be with me soon, some dyes, silk and 3mm needles.  I also ordered some superwash/nylon blend fibre from www.worldofwool.co.uk which I hope to dye and spin to make socks – I ordered plenty of it as I got nowhere near enough yardage from my recent attempt at spinning sock yarn!

Even prettier…

I really enjoyed spinning this – I now understand what people mean when they say ‘it almost spun itself’, it was like pouring the fibre into yarn. It twinkles, it’s lovely but it’s nowhere near enough yardage for the socks I had in mind.  Maybe a hat…

Pretty isn’t it?

Here’s some lovely fibre that arrived this morning – so lovely I had to start on it today and have spun about 25 g already.

It’s from FeltstudioUK on Etsy – you can see how it sparkles in the sunshine.  I’m planning on making socks from it, but it depends how much yardage I get.  It’s pretty – maybe too pretty for socks that won’t be seen – but I don’t mind having secret fancy socks!