11 December 2010

Dunmow Christmas Tree Festival and Craft Fair

This weekend there's a Christmas Tree Festival being held in my local town and a friend & I were invited along to demonstrate hand spinning.

Yesterday we went along for a day of spinning and chatting - all very enjoyable. We started at 10am and were immediately surrounded by children from the local schools who were fascinated by what we were doing - especially when we told them we were spinning dog fur!

In fact we were both spinning Samoyed fur which spins into a beautiful white fluffy yarn. We had a selection of samples on the table - including German Shepherd hats, Newfoundland scarves and little samples of Poodle, Labradoodle, Bichon Frise, Border Collie and others.

We were there for 6 hours - spinning fairly continuously - when I got home I measured the 2ply yarn I'd spun and plied, and it was 82m in length, and weighed 30g (approx 1 oz) which means it would be approx 328m per 100g or roughly a 4ply weight yarn.

I took photos of the chrismas trees on my mobile - if I can work out how I'll post them here later.

The Bothered Owl Christmas Yarn Party

Last weekend Sophie of Twist Yarns got a late invite to The Bothered Owl Christmas Yarn Party and wanted some help with her stand, so Monday evening after work I headed into London to give her some support.

It was a fun event with several Indie dyers and a selection of other knit related stalls - oh and lovely mince pies and nibbles.

Twist Yarns were set up just as you came in through the door, and next to Fyberspates - (what temptation). In fact it was a room full of temptation (and I didn't spend a penny!) with luscious yarns in every hue and combination of hues - there was silk, alpaca, merino, bamboo, angora and more - dyed as semi-solids, random dyed, hand painted, kettle dyed, naturally dyed and probably some other methods as well.

There was a lovely hubbub around the room with people chatting, and eating, and buying soft, colourful, wonderful yarns and fun knitty cards and patterns and stitch markers.

29 November 2010


Last weekend (19th/20thNov) was a good woolly weekend - on Friday evening a new experience - I'd been invited to a Yarn Party held by one of the knitters in the 'Stitch in Bishop's Stortford' knit group. I was one of the first to arrive - well I was very excited by it all - I'd been saving my pennies and was really looking forward to a night out with knitters and loads of wool. I wasn't disappointed - when I arrived there was yarn everywhere - in soft, colourful, squishy piles. A heap of knitted & crocheted samples on the table, a bag of zauerballs here, a basket of Natural Dye Studio there .....sigh

The lady running it all was Sophie of Twist Yarns - she entertained us (it wasn't very difficult) with talk of yarn and then showed us all how to do Tunisian (afghan) crochet and then let us loose on the bags......sigh

I bought 3 zauerballs and a crazy zauerball, a NDS precious and angel, and a skein of Louisa Harding Grace.

The photo below is what one of the zauerballs and the crazy zaurball look like now ;-) nearly finished - one row left plus blocking - look for the finished version soon on Ravelry. it's called seraphina and is a free pattern by grumperina - there are a few hiccoughs in the pattern but once you get the hang of it - it's really straight forward.

Then Saturday

I went to a workshop at the Middle Essex Guild of weavers, spinners and dyers. The speaker was Tricia Holman talking on the Elizabeth Zimmerman way of knitting - Tricia is Elizabeth Zimmerman's niece so is well qualified to talk on the subject, and indeed was extremely informative and very approachable. She talked about (in hushed voice) cutting your knitting, knitting with different coloured yarns in each hand, and a host of other techniques aimed at speeding things up and making them less complicated - very inspiring.

Then we had a little go at stabilising the edges and then cutting a piece - I'm really up for learning more of this - hopefully a workshop or two next year - I've always wanted to knit with more than one colour at a time, it's so easy in crochet, but I get in a complete pickle with knitting - I have one project that's been hibernating for over 20 years because it became such a nightmare.

If only all weekends could be this much fun.

3 October 2010

Spoonflower Fabrics

This is a slight divergence from the things I normally talk about - It has nothing to do with fibre - although there is a crafty link in that I can use the fabric I design for finishing/lining other knitty/crochety/felty projects.

To the point - for years now I have been playing around with different programmes to make repeat patterns. I used to use a lot for 'teabag papers' and backing papers for card making, but I'd always wanted to be able to use some of the designs to create fabrics - I had a little dalliance with crafty cumputer papers where you can buy fabric backed with paper which goes through a home printer - but the biggest you can do is A3 (unless you pay a lot for a fancy printer) and in reality not many printers go bigger than A4.

Recently I discovered Spoonflower an American company that will print your designs for you - and even better sell them to other people - hurrah my dreams were answered :-D I couldn't wait to set up my own shop.

I've been playing around and I now have my first handful of designs for sale - first you have to order test swatches to check how they print out - I've had a few surprises. Often the designs about which I'm most confident surprise me by not printing as I'd imagined and the ones about which I'm not sure turn out better than expected! Ho hum.

Any way yesterday I took all the swatches I've received so far outside and photographed them - so here they are.

17 September 2010

Spindle Spinning With The Leonards

Last Saturday we had a fabulous guild workshop with Carol & Pete Leonard. I can't express how much I enjoyed the day, and it's funny because it wasn't a bells and whistles sort of day - but very informative and incredibly satisfying.

The day started with a little talk about, well, all sorts of spindle related stuff including what makes a spindle a good spindle, and an introduction the The Leonard Collection of spindles. (Of course I DON'T have a collection myself - 5ish spindles doesn't count as a collection).

After the talk it was time to have a go - I picked a fairly heavy spindle from the ones handed round, with the intention of practising spinning a chunkier yarn than I normally do - and was moderately satisfied with the results.

Later we were shown two new (for me) techniques - first Andean plying and second how to wind a ball on a nostepinne. I was chuffed to bits to try the Andean plying - Pete made it so easy to understand. I chickened out of practising the nostepinne method - I felt that if I tried to do both, then I'd forget one small thing from each and not be able to do either! I shall save the noste for another day.

After lunch we split into two groups and those of us who had a little more experience with a spindle went off to a smaller room to learn cotton spinning on an Akha spindle - again brilliantly communicated - so I have a small piece of hand spun cotton made on the day.

The Akha spindle is interesting, because it's not just a 'drop' spindle - we started by hand twizzling until the thread had enough strength and then we dropped and spun in more twist. We were using spindles from Michael Williams which felt lovely in the hands - so I've asked for one for Christmas (I wonder if I can have it early).

At some point during the day Carol & Pete put out a display of beautiful spindles and fibre for sale - which I wasn't going to look at - but I weakened - I bought some fibre (merino/tencel from Bonkers and pure bombyx silk from The Royale Hare)

and I saw a spindle - it was made of Ipe (pronounced ipee) & Birch and had a pyrographed design that looks like giraffe skin. Sadly not enough money to buy the spindle :-( so I went home without, but I kept picturing it in my mind wistfully.... and then I awoke at 6.30 the following morning and my first thought was this blooming spindle - so I told my hubby about it - and he suggested that I could have it for Christmas as well - it must have taken all of three seconds of persuasion - so that's Christmas settled then!

31 August 2010

The Samoyed Rally

On Sunday a friend & I went to Potten End for a Samoyed Rally and fun day. We arrived early to set up, and were immediately greeted by the sound of excited sammies! The first ones we saw were in a heap at the entrance - one on top of the cage and two inside.

We each received a big bag of fur to spin and got straight to work - my it's lovely stuff - pure white and soft and fluffy.

The day went off well with lots of competitions - many of which were very entertaining to watch, like the sausage competition where the dogs had to fetch a sausage and carry it back to the start line - the winner was the dog who had the most sausage (or any sausage) left!

The owners of the dogs at the rally were very interested in our spinning, and we had a lovely day talking to them. Many wanted to buy things made from Samoyed fur, or even just the yarn - sadly, as it was our first time, we didn't have anything available for them - maybe next time.

The rally was organised and run by Linda Brasier who organises a rescue centre for neglected Samoyeds - where people have bought dogs not understanding what is involved in keeping them. There were some awful stories, but, in this case, all with happy endings. This largely explains the excitement of the dogs, as they've all come back to their rescue home - and many of them know one another. Having said that - it was suggested that they are 'talkative', and there certainly wasn't a quiet moment the whole day! even when the rain came down for about half an hour. But they are beautiful, happy dogs and it was great to see them having fun with their owners.

21 July 2010


Earlier this year I saw a Lets Knit magazine in my local supermarket - it had free bag handles in it and I stood transfixed thinking about whether I could justify spending the money. My hubby saw me holding this magazine and gazing at it wistfully - so he came over gently removed it from my hands - and placed it in the basket - saying 'I'll get it for you'

Well having the handles inspired me to come up with an idea for a little bag. I decided that I wanted to use felted crochet so I popped along to Hobbycraft and browsed the woolly section for a happy half hour or so. I finally chose two shades of Twilleys Freedom Spirit - a red and a purple.

I made a little swatch using a 3.5mm crochet hook - 10 stitches wide by 12 rows - and then I shoved it in the washing machine on 40 degrees and waited impatiently.

I used my swatch to work out the number of blocks required for the bag. It turned out that two blocks fitted perfectly into my handles and I added a block either side. I decided that the bag would be three blocks high and a block deep, so 4 blocks by 7 plus 2 blocks added on later at the top on either side. Finally I crocheted two plain side pieces a block wide by three high and felted the lot in the machine (that bit was scary - even though I'd already swatched it)!

I have been looking at the fabulous bags made by Lisa at U-handblog and had wanted to make something a bit more finished, so I bought some grid bag bottom, some bag feet, an invisible snap and two types of iron on interfacing, which came really quickly.

I then thought I'd make a start on piecing it together - well once I'd started I just kept doing the next bit, and the next bit - and then it was done - all hand pieced (I'm not terribly comfortable with things that go whirrrr and have pointy things attached - my minds eye sees horrible things)

Then I took it to the guild to show off and was promptly requested to do a workshop on it - hopefully one day I can add some pics of the other guild members' finished bags - watch this space!

6 July 2010

My First Knitted Lace Shawl

Well this is going back a bit now - but I am still very proud of it so I shall tell you all about it.
Last year (February to be exact) I dyed a wodge of blue faced leicester fiber with some Kool-Aid - four colours, a yellow, a green and two blues.

Once it was dyed I admired the pretty colours for a week or two and then I started to spin. I set myself to spin a lace weight yarn, and I was hoping for enough to create one of the shawls that I'd favourited on Ravelry.

When I finally finished spinning - a couple of months later - I had about 980 or so metres - this narrowed the field for choosing shawls, as a couple took 1000m or more.

I settled on the North Roe Shawl by Dodile as it was soo pretty and didn't look too difficult.
I started knitting in May and really enjoyed the pattern - it's essentially a diamond, so when you reach the middle the other half is the same, therefore after 6 rows of the main pattern I pretty much knew what I was doing. It was so satisfying watching it grow - and I loved the way it formed bumps, as each motif was formed, that looked like mermaid scales. The only slight fly in the ointment was that the instructions were translated from French and were incomlete - however it was easy enough to work out what needed to be done - basically follow chart one, then chart two, then chart three. I did an extra repeat or two here and there - I can't remember now exactly what I did .

I knitted on a pair of quite long bamboo needles, which were ideal as the yarn was quite fine and light - by the time I got to the outer rows it was taking an hour or so per row! Anyway - finished in July. This was the first project I ever blocked -I'm not entirely satisfied with the blocking but am proud as punch with the finished shawl.

I've finally worn the shawl - it spent 11 months wrapped in tissue in my bottom drawer until I suddenly realised that it's really daft to put all that effort into something and not use it - so this summer it's had a few outings at last.

29 June 2010


Well - is that a record?

It's a year and a quarter since the last post - I was almost scared I wouldn't be allowed in any more!

I've done quite a lot over the year - it's funny how I always think that I've not done much - but once I start to add it all up I realise I'm just being hard on myself and actually in a list it looks more impressive than it does in my brain.

A short summary:













I solemnly pledge to blog weekly - it's not as if I haven't got things to witter on about, as evidenced by the above list.

Besides the above, it was my birthday this month and I received lots of lovely, exciting fibrey gifts.