24 December 2008


To all who read this MERRY CHRISTMAS Reindeer

I have quite a bit to blog about, but am just off to my parents for the next few days to celebrate Christmas with them, so I will blog upon our return.

Good wishes to all .... are you all thinking about your new years resolutions?

12 December 2008


Yesterday it was the East Herts and West Essex Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers' Christmas party.

For the first time this year Hubbies were invited - about 4 other halves arrived (mine included) which added nicely to the atmosphere.

As usual it was well organised - we all take some food/drink to create a buffet and various members organised fun things to do. There was a little quiz - guess the contents of the packet, with dried dye plants and fibre and later in the evening there was a fun make. Most of us joined in and we made the hempen angels that were in Spin Off last year.

After the angels were made we had a little show and tell - I stupidly didn't take my camera so can't show you the lovely things that were shown. One of our members - an expert knitter brought some knitted shawls that she'd spun and knitted - she had a lovely alpaca version of the morning surf scarf - and another lovely scarf/shawl that was very simply knitted but in gorgeous colours.

Then another expert knitter showed us a beautiful polo neck aran style jumper that she'd knitted for a friend with Alzheimer's - it was made from some stash yarn that she'd spun from one of her own sheep a few years ago - the sheep is no longer in this world but his legacy goes on.

She'd also made some bits and pieces for another friend from the fur of their, now deceased, dog - a very welcome pressy I expect.

It was a really fun evening with lots of chatter and nice food. We came home with a candle making kit for my Hubby - who'd expressed an interest in candle making (motivated by annoyance at the inadequacy of many wicks) - given to him by a friend who is now too busy to enjoy candle making - she spins and knits and has a horse to care for besides working long hours. She also insisted we brought home the leftover Christmas cake that she'd made for the guild party - I resisted slightly but didn't want to be rude - anyway it would've been selfish to say no knowing how much DH enjoys cake :-)

10 December 2008


On Monday a group of 8 of us knitters got together for the first time to form a Knitting Group for Bishop's Stortford. We met in the Half Moon Pub at 7pm and knitted until gone 10pm, and chatted, and had an occasional beverage. It was a very nice evening and, hopefully will lead to many other happy knitting occasions.

Quite a few of the group are already on Ravelry and, no doubt, the others soon will be Thumbs Up.

Two of us had our hubbies with us - who immediately hit it off - and, I think, were relieved to be able to have a bit of man talk (beer, sport etc Smile ) while we ladies discussed - well all sorts of things - not all knitting related.

6 December 2008


Last weekend I finally got around to making something from the Blue Faced Leicester fibre dyed in the workshop at the Middle Essex Guild a few months ago.

I'd spun it during the week and was really pleased with the two balls of yarn I had. (In the picture the two bigger balls are the two ply ones spun to match - the little ball is the leftover singles - navajo plied)

Needless to say I was itching to get going - I actually started knitting in bed when we went to stay with friends! By the time we left I'd done one cuff.

I just measured my wrist (six inches) did a quick swatch and worked out that with size 10 knitting needles my rib was 61/2 stitches per inch. As I was doing K1P1 rib. and needed and even number. I cast on 38 stitches and worked a couple of inches of rib. I then cast off all bar one stitch.

Next I did 2 chain and then picked up along one edge with a 3.5mm crochet hook - I picked up using double crochet stitches - enough to open it up a bit but not so many as to make the edge of the cuff start to flute.

At the end of the first crochet row I joined with a slip stitch, then again did 2 chain and worked in double (american single) crochet increasing every 2 or 3 stitches over this row, once again joining with a slip stitch. I did the same for the next row by which time I had enough stitches. (basically I just tried it on with every row and had a look to see how much I needed to increase) I now carried on in double crochet until I reached the thumb knuckle.

At this point I changed to crocheting back and forth missing the 5 stitches at the end of the row. I worked like this until I passed the web between thumb and forefinger.

I now made three chain at the end of the row and slip stitched to the other side.

Then I carried on working in the round until the work reached just past my knuckles.

Finally I picked up double crochet stitches around the open square around the thumb and worked in the round decreasing several stitches each row and trying every row for fit.


Hubby and I have been doing an advent calender with pressies - He's odds and I'm evens - so it was my turn on Thursday - look what I got.......

It's a shower lily - ahhh sooo cute :-D

30 November 2008


In October I joined a swap - it was colour themed and one of the items to be included was something hand made. I had a forward partner who loves pink and is a keen knitter so I decided that the hand made item would be a specially designed hand dyed and hand spun yarn - well what else from someone who's number one favourite craft is spinning?

I had originally thought that I'd dye some alpaca that I had, but I couldn't find the right dye for it - in fact I'm quite certain that fate intervened and made the decision for me - whilst rummaging for the pink acid dye I found a 100g bag of glossy tencel fibre - obviously I kept looking for the pink acid dye - and found a cone of sparkly pink lurex - so I kept looking - still no acid dyes - aha some soft, fluffy angora - but still no pink acid dye - then.... I had it pink dye - not acid but direct dye suitable for cellulose fibres - at this point cogs turned, pennies dropped and I realised I had all the ingredients for something unique, pink, shiny, sparkly and ever so girly!

So off I pottered and dyed the tencel pink.

Then I carded it with a smidge of the white angora bunny fluff into masses of light as air rolags. This took a couple of weeks, but the rolags were a delight in themselves - everyone who saw them cooed and ahhed!

The next phase was to spin - I spun long draw style and tried to keep it reasonably fine.

Then on to the plying - at this stage I added the lurex thread.

Finally it was all spun - I wanted to wash it and measure it, so I put it into skeins with my swift - (it was almost 100m worth). Then I washed it and left it to dry.

At last it was ready to be wound into balls - at the end it weighed 140g (if I remember rightly) with the addition of the angora and the lurex.

This is the first time I've ever 'designed' a yarn with a specific aim in mind (to please a knitter who loves pink and sparkly things) - in the past I've just spun - often without a great deal of thought - so I've learned something i.e. if I can do it for someone else and take that much care over it, then I could quite feasibly do it for myself too.

23 November 2008


I meant to post this earlier but have had flu all week. I'm still not right, but, at least in terms of relativity, am feeling much better.

Last Saturday I had a lovely day out at the Middle Essex Guild, at a silk paper making workshop run by Claire Sylvester.

We started off with decorating Christmas baubles with silk - quick and easy, we all made at least two - some made several. (I've only kept one of mine - a friend has the other). It was done using silk throwsters waste and a cellulose paste - we arranged a small square of fibres, painted the paste onto the bauble and then put it all together - then there was a certain amount of fiddling 'til it looked right (or otherwise).

Next we made sheets of paper. We used a different method for this, it was a method I've not used before so I was quite excited to try this. It was also a lot quicker and easier than I expected (I made two sheets). First we laid out a layer of gummy silk fibres on a sheet of baking parchment, then we laid another layer on top in the other direction (like wool for felt making). Next we damped it with a water spray and then sprayed dyes onto it. To finish we made a sandwich of it with another sheet of baking parchment and ironed it - the moisture and heat work with the seracin (gum) in the silk to glue it into a sheet of paper. Great fun.

The final part of the workshop was to make a bowl, this used the same method as the bauble except using more of the silk. I decided not to make a bowl and to make another sheet of paper/fabric instead. But there were many lovely bowls made.

I was also rather chuffed to find an old paper making kit on the sales table, which I brought home and am looking forward to trying when I feel more like a human being again!

13 November 2008


This evening was our guild meeting and we had a wonderful talk on tassel making - the lady doing the talk is based quite locally and did a talk and demonstration of what she does.

She demonstrated wrapping the mould, then she showed how to make a netting decoration. She also showed us how she makes the skirt and ruff and a variety of embellishments including pom poms, bundles and bows Turks head knots and wrapped shapes and drops.

She also had an amazing array of samples that she'd made which were mind boggling in their detail. She'd made tassels for Windsor Castle & Brighton Pavilion, for Elton John, for rich Arabs and famous designers amongst others. The sample for Windsor Castle was rich gold and red, but there was every colour imaginable in the box.

I went along thinking hum har I'm not too sure about this talk, but it'll be nice to see the girls - and I was blown away by the tassels. Whatever you may have seen in the shops, no matter how fancy they may seem, these are on another level entirely - I so wish I'd taken my camera. Every stage is hand made, the moulds, the weaving and the cords - and almost everything is sourced in the UK - most of it reasonably locally.

We've had many talks over the years, but I'd put this right at the top - really interesting.

Of course it was nice to see the girls - and I also came away with a bag of green tomatoes and a bag of apples (Chutney making tomorrow). and two carrier bags of lovely alpaca fibre (woohoo). I've also been lent 'Three Bags Full' by Leonie Swann which I'd been hoping to read - so a good night all round.

10 November 2008


Well I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front but have been quite busy in other ways!

I've made another BIG knitting scarf and a BIG crochet cushion cover. Yes I've really got the bug!

My original cushion cover has been hijacked to become a seat warmer - my collapsible chair can be quite cold in the nether regions when demonstrating at events, so I now have a solution.

This is the next project in progress (I've wound the ball anyway)!

I'm also interested to find that all the modular knitting and now the super quick BIG knitting has regenerated my interest in knitting in general - these in conjunction with looking at all the amazing work on Ravelry - anyway, I've started my first non-scarf knitting project in about 22 years - and I'm enjoying it - in fact doubly so, as I know there's no joining - it's knitted in the round - Hussah! :-)

26 October 2008


On Friday I was playing around with a few knitting ideas which led to an idea for a chunky scarf - so I thought why not do it really chunky and make it a BIG knitting scarf. so I grabbed several balls of yarn and off I went.

It knits up beautifully and is surprisingly easy to do - tuck the left needle under the left arm and work the right one with the needle resting on the sofa at your side - it's (surprisingly) not a problem for the wrists because it's so big that you use your whole arm to wind the wool around the needle and not just your wrist.

It took just under two and a half hours - and it's a really long scarf. It's also really soft and warm and lovely to wear.

18 October 2008


My brain is scrambled and I'm all overexcited having just arrived home from a workshop at the Middle Essex Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers. It was run by Elizabeth Kendrick & Sarah Howard - it was so much fun.

The idea was to dye sock yarn in order to be able to knit two matching socks - being slow on the uptake I read the list of items and where it said 150gm of wool I took 150gm of roving instead of woollen sock yarn - ho hum!

The idea is to wind out a 40ft hank which is well tied, then to fill various jam jars with acid dyes, poke the yarn into the jars (which are sitting in a pan of simmering water) and then at the end of the dyeing process to re-stretch the hank as it was at the start, and divide it into two - both lots having the same dye repeats - obviously I didn't wind my roving into a hank, I just poked it into my jars, heated it, rinsed it and brought it home - I suspect that a similar repeat effect could be achieved this way as with the yarn, if one was careful enough (I wasn't).

Winding the yarn

Jars of dye ready to be filled with yarn

Yarn in jars dyeing

I'm quite excited about this method as the protection the jars offered from the bubbling water in the pan meant that the roving didn't felt at all (of course the fact that you can't prod and poke at it when it's tucked away in a jar might also help).

It occurred to me on the way home that this would be a good way to approach natural dyeing in order to get space dyed yarn/fibre with natural dyes. I am now plotting this as a project for the (hopefully near) future.

My dyed roving

15 October 2008


This is nought to do with fibre crafts but interesting anyway (or at least I think so).

On Sunday I was standing admiring the garden when I noticed the contents of a bucket of water moving - I looked closer and realised that there was a pair of toads in there. Of course I grabbed my camera and took a picture, only to realise that they were trying to get out, but because of the smooth sides of the bucket they were stuck. They'd obviously come in via a pile of compost next to the bucket not realising there wasn't a way out.

I called my hubby who topped up the bucket and added a pole (as a sort of toad ladder) and sure enough one climbed straight on to it - the other one was too tired and was beginning to sink so he gave it a helping hand.

they both sat and recovered for a while and have now moved on - hopefully to devour the slugs abiding in the shrubbery!

12 October 2008


I thought that the Middle Essex Guild members who set this up did a lovely job of setting up the stand at the knit & stitch show, and it looked great - a good advert for what we do. It was a shame that the area was a tad small this year - especially as the stand next door had a small display and no people manning it at all! however, we managed.

My goodness what a lot of interest we had on the day I was there - we had a lot of people from guilds around the country popping in to say hello, which is always fun. This year though we had an enormous resurgence of interest from people interested in taking up spinning or developing skills that hadn't been used for a while - in previous years I've never been aware of this much interest, so it's really exciting to find this happening now. In fact people were practically falling over one another at times trying to get close enough to ask questions and I'm pretty sure that it was like that on the Friday too.


Yes I know I probably shouldn't have, but when you see lovely Blue Faced Leicester tops at £8 for 500 grammes you just have to don't you? This was from Laughing Hens.

I also found a Finnish stand called Piiku selling fibre mainly aimed at felters. They had batts of fibre, spun yarn, fine pencil roving and sheets of machine needle felt all in undyed and multiple dyed colourways.

I bought 2 metres of the needle felt which is at a stage I think of as pre-felt (ie you can finish it or pull it apart still).

I also bought a big cheese of undyed pencil roving (see pic above with bfl tops) - I've had a small amount in the past which I made a lovely sample from, but have never found the same stuff again to make an actual 'thing' from - so now that I have it would have been completely potty not to take the opportunity.

And yes - me a yarn maker bought yarn! It was however something I can't make - fair-isle style, self striping, cotton, sock yarn along with a lovely pattern for a little tank top. I shall save this for my next holiday break - I think it would make a lovely relaxed holiday project. It came from Web of Wool who seem to specialize in that sort of thing. I was also nearly tempted by a lovely bamboo/soy yarn which was only a little more expensive, but it was only self striping not self patterning so (with a little difficulty) I resisted!


I have now recovered from the previous two days of manic enjoyment. I went to Alexandra Palace on Friday for a mammoth, crafty shopping spree and yesterday to help out on the association stand.

I bought lots of fun things and found all sorts of wonderful stands - my favourite purchase, at the moment, is the giant crochet hook that I bought from Rachel John Extreme Textiles.

I've named it The Stashbuster because you have to use a multitude of yarns to create a single strand to work with - However - boy is it quick - I'm on my way to making a cushion cover which by the time I've finished will take approx 2 hours or maybe a little more with the finishing.

For the first few rows it was a little awkward to use, but then I adjusted and I was away like the clappers and, seeing as a project can be completed in so little time, it's not a problem for the wrists either. I also bought some matching humungous knitting needles and a normal, sensible sized, double ended and rather pretty crochet hook by knitpicks (from Get Knitted) - it's the little one in the pic above.

This picture is showing some tunisian crochet (Left) and some garter stitch knitting (Right).

Some of the samples on the stand.

Finally in the tools department (loosely speaking) I bought some miniature, wooden knitting needles with hand painted blobs on the end - I don't particularly intend to knit with them - I wanted them, in the main, to be hair sticks. They came from a very friendly stand called Knitting 4 Fun, who also stocked an interesting array of fine fibres and posh yarn.

These are size 5.5 mm needles and they're about 6 inches in length