29 June 2008


I've been rambling through various blog rings and such like and have come across some fun and useful stuff to look at - see below:

This links to a blog with some good instructions on how to use cool aid

This is a blog with some excellent instructions on space dyeing

more dyeing instructions

a useful page showing how to estimate yarn length based on wraps/inch plus recommended needle guage

another useful page from the same website on needle sizes english/american etc - this website also has all sorts of other useful information in the same vein

28 June 2008


Last Saturday the Mid Essex Guild held a fleece to garment day at Grange Barn near Coggeshall - the same event had been held last year and was a great success. It was a cold and miserable morning when I left to make my way there and I had that sinking feeling you get when it's an event open to the public and the weather has turned on you.

Upon arrival it was clear that fewer people were there than at the previous year's event and then Leslie - their Chairman - announced that the Lavenham guild had been called upon by the National Trust to demonstrate at another event so we were a team down as well. The upshot of all this was that a decision was made that due to lack of numbers we wouldn't attempt the scarves that we'd done the previous year - instead we were all to make 9" squares for a project by Oxfam to make a huge patchwork blanket to be sent to the government as a patchwork petition - as a protest against the number of women who die unnecessarily in childbirth every year -


These would later be broken up and sold in Oxfam stores to raise money. We were all up for this as it's such a worthy project so off we went in our little teams and started spinning the beautiful dyed fuzz that was available for us - all provided and prepared by one of Mid Essex's members.

Grange Barn is an amazing building and it has a wonderfully calm atmosphere - it's a great place to spin, especially with like minded people with whom to chat while working. There are a couple of old carts and some weird and wonderful farm equipment as well as various displays about the history of the building and others that are similar.

The day gradually warmed up - the atmosphere was already very warm and welcoming - and as time went on more people arrived - some to join in and some to watch. It was nice to catch up with another guilds news and swap tips and stories. There were some fantastic displays that various members of the Mid Essex Guild had set out Jackie Crook had a table full of luscious samples of all her natural dyeing plus signed copies of her book for sale. Jill Goodwin was there with more naturally dyed samples. There was a truly fabulous selection of hand made items for sale at ridiculous prices - truly made for the love and not the money! I bought my first christmas pressy here - a beautiful little bag made with deliciously soft and silky angora - the fibre was also for sale. I also saw two items of clothing that I WANTED..... a grey angora sweater which turned out to be slightly too small and a wrap around serape thingumy in amazing reds (made by Lesley - see below, also her lovely blue woolly).

photo of serape by Lesley Ottewell

Becky Poynter of was there and being very helpful with us novice knitters. Rather fortuitously she had a selection of bamboo knitting needles for sale - which we needed for the squares as they required a different gauge to the scarves that we had been preparing to knit. I actually borrowed Hazel's needles, she then borrowed Hillary's needles and Hillary went and bought some bamboo needles from Becky!

There was also a display from Melford Alpacas - the fleece in the middle of the table was the softest I'd ever felt - I just wanted to make a nest in it! There was quite a selection of yarns and fibres available from super super fine to moderately coarse for felting. We were told that alpaca fibre is non-allergenic which I didn't know previously.

Oh gosh there was lots more to see and so many people to talk to - it's amazing that we got any work done at all. We did though - in our little group only Hilary finished her square - through sheer bloody mindedness - she was still working whilst we were packing up around her! I've almost finished mine - I need to put a border on it as it's not quite 9". There were a few squares handed in towards the end of the day - by the quicker knitters (or maybe they spent less time nattering and more time focusing on the job at hand!) - well done to all those who finished.

It turned out, once again, to be a wonderful day - full of interest and we were made very welcome - bring on next year's fleece to garment day!

17 June 2008


Every year in May our guild is invited down to West Dean Gardens to demonstrate natural dying at their Wholly Herbs weekend. This was our 4th year there and four of us (plus one hubby) went 'down south' for the weekend - full of anticipation for another two days of playing with fibre and yarn.

The first of the two days was fairly grey and misgog and consequently quiet - We had a good day though with some pleasing results - in particular we were delighted with the rich, warm oranges and rusty colours on the batch of yarns that came out of the coreopsis dye bath.

There is a lot of preparation done in advance of the show, growing dye plants to sell, preparing kits for people to try spinning and dying, and skeining wool and mordanting it ready to be dyed at the show. One of our members skeined 30 sets of skeins, 5 in a batch mordanted with - alum, chrome, copper and tin plus one un-mordanted which we afterbath with iron. This means that we put 5 skeins into each dye bath and get 5 different colours out of each single dye bath.

The second day was a sunny spring day and there were a lot more people many of whom were very well informed and extremely interested. We also started an indigo vat on the second day and dyed several batches of un-mordanted wool yarn and fibre - and a pair of cotton trousers!

Among the dyes used were Avocado skins, weld, coreopsis, madder, rooibosh, daffodils, cow parsley, nettle, hopi black sunflower seeds, logwood, yorkshire gold tea, dyers chamomile, rhubarb root, juniper berries, dried lavender and several others that I can't call to mind.
I now have quite a bit of work to do as it is my job to turn all those skeins into a sampler for next years show - I crochet them up into 5 colour medallions which become, when joined, a sort of mini throw to go on our show table - the first two years I used a hexagonal patten from the harmony crochet book - last year, and probably this year too, I used a square pattern.

This year I thought about things in advance and got some fibre lined up ready mordanted with alum in 10g batches to go in some of the dye baths. I also had some un-mordanted fibre for the indigo vat. We achieved some lovely colours in both yarn and fibre and had a generally good time talking to people and visiting the other stands. It's also nice to meet up with people that we've seen in previous years - it's getting to be quite a little community in it's own right -in fact I'm already looking forward to next year.


A while back I decided that I would like to make my dad a scarf for Fathers Day. I thought about the colours my dad wears and decided that blues and greys would be good colours for him, so that gave me the perfect excuse to scour Etsy for fibre. I chose superwash merino fibre, as I know my mum is unlikely to want to handwash anything (actually Im with her all the way here!). I found two lovely fibres, a blended grey. from

and a space dyed mix of bluey colours from

I spun them on my millefiori drop spindle from butterfly girl designs (also on Etsy) and then Navajo plied them on my Ashford Joy spinning wheel to keep the colours separate.

I particularly enjoyed spinning the blue yarn as it was so lovely to handle and it spun into a beautifully soft yarn. The finished yarn was 12 wraps per inch. The Grey yarn was silkier than the blue and was lovely enough that it almost won me over even though it was grey.

To make the scarf I chose to use a modular knitting technique which shows the colour variations very well and is easy for a dodgy knitter to handle - I learned this technique at a guild meeting earlier this year - it was taught by Rosie Sykes who inspired me so much that I picked up my knitting needles for the first time in years for this project. It uses only knit stitches and no purl which I liked a lot. I knitted 19 squares in the first row using size 5 mm needles then picked up all along one edge and created a grey stripe down the middle, then knitted the next row of blue squares. I finished by adding a grey stripe at either end and then did a single row of crochet as a border.
I washed and pressed it and marvelled at how much softer it was after washing - and breathed a sigh of relief when it didn't shrink or felt and in fact stretched slightly back to the length I'd hoped it would be when I started knitting (scarves always seem to shrink as they're worked I find).

The finished scarf weighed 4.5 oz or 135g and it took 16 hours to spin, ply and wind the balls and 22 hours for me to knit - probably very slow compared to all you super knitters - but hey I did it and got it posted in time for Fathers Day!