Monday, 19 June 2017

Dyeing workshop at Eden Valley Guild of WSD

Once again I've taught a workshop that had some fabulous results, and once again I failed completely to take a photograph.

This is what it looked like before we started:

I had nine people doing the workshop 'Dyeing Repeatable Colourways', and after not long at all those pristine sheets of newspaper were covered with fibre and yarn, clingfilm, splashes of dye, discarded gloves, and lots and lots of pots.

This workshop involves consideration of measuring small amounts of dyes, and how to record a particular colour/range of colours in order to duplicate it on another occasion. Which means you have to take into account the amount of fibre and strength of dye too.

It was all rather fun, and some fabulous dyeing was done. Because Cecilia had very kindly offered to bring her spindryer from just down the road, I didn't have to bring mine, so the freshly dyed yarn and fibre could be spun out and hung out for display. I brought one of my 'vintage' clothes airers to hang things on, and indeed it looked lovely. But I was far too busy supervising the four large pots steaming away, and getting very hot and bothered, to get round to taking a photograph. (I've seen some of the dyeing since, on FB, and it's lovely)

Mark came with the pupz, planning a day out walking on a mountain somewhere. But it was bucketing it down all day, so in the end he just took them down to Glenridding and they pottered around in the rain for an hour or two, before he mopped the pupz up, stuffed 'em in the car, and came back to Mungrisdale.

I did bring all my fibre as people had asked me to do so, and it was rather nice to see it all spread out like this.

So, I've just had a weekend at home. This Friday we'll all pile into the Disco again and drive over 039 miles up to Aberdeenshire - I'm doing a two day spinning workshop at Grampian Guild of WSD. Not somewhere I've taught before, and I'm looking forward to it tremendously.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Leeds Wool Festival

This Saturday just gone was one of our favourite wool shows of the year, Leeds Wool Festival in Armley Mill. Beautifully organised, with a select gathering of vendors tucked in amongst all the exhibits.



We're all given a table each with the instruction not to block the gangways - as you can see, I was in the corner of the Tailor's Shop, so I took full advantage of all the space! And we had a nice corner behind too, for all the bags and boxes.

It's too long to leave the pupz at home on their own, and they can't come because the parking is not nearby, so Mark brought everything in with me early on and then went home for the morning. Of course, the morning was extremely busy. Lots and lots of people through the door first thing, including a Scottish contingent which included Jeni Reid, KnitBritish, and Old Maiden Aunt! I was appearing on other people's Instagram feeds before the day was over.

The day was very successful for me,and the Shetland 2ply yarn took a tremendous battering - the dark green is nearly cleared out!

The weather was excellent, the WI were providing excellent cakes and food, and there were alpacas on the lawn.

And we were home and unpacked and feet up by not long after 6pm. Lovely friendly little show - did I see you there?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Full Circle colourway

Full Circle has been one of my most popular colourways recently, and I keep meaning to keep one of the sets for myself. And failing. So this time I had a not quite 300g lump of Captain Poldarles fibre (John Arbon) that I dyed up just for me.

So I spindle-spun all the singles. I tend to use my spindles in pairs these days, which works well for handdyed yarns. A matched pair of spindles and coloured top split down the middle as near as perfect as possible does lead to singles that will almost always match. It's very satisfying to spin consistently enough to achieve this. It's about a week's worth of spindling, and I didn't take it to work so it's only a couple of weekends and a few evenings. 

Quite a bit of spindling can be done while I'm walking the dogs. This was taken at the far end of the nature reserve, when I'd just finished the second orange spindle and was about the start the first purple one.


This is the next spindle along - both oranges and one purple done. The orange singles were spun on a pair of Bosworth spindles, and you can see the purple is about to go on a pair of IST ones.

 And this is all six spindles full! The last two aren't the same make, but are nearly the same weight (in this case, all six are between 26-28g). One's a Dragonfly, the other's a Grafton, I think. The bag is made from a gorgeous handwoven scarf given to me a few years ago; too short for a scarf, perfect for a bag with secret pockets and a fringe!



The singles were then wound off from the spindles into a ball, each set together, so it's ready to wheel or spindle ply straight from the ball. This has to be done carefully, so you don't end up with odd little pigtails, but it does give you the opportunity to cut and paste if the colours don't quite match up.



And this is the yarn plied. Because I spindle-spun the singles, it was much easier to make it a fine high-twist single. This had to be balanced by lots of twist in the plying. And yes, I just about managed to get it all one of my standard Majacraft bobbins. At the moment, the 2ply yarn looks like a scrawny and underplied thread!


And here it is after a very hot and soapy wash, a good spin, an equally hot and slightly vinegary rinse, and another spin. The plies have plumped up, relaxed and bloomed, which has the interesting effect of making it looked slightly more twisted. All the green in the colourway has vanished inside the skein, and won't come out until I unwind it and see what I'm doing with it next.


 This is the yarn I spun on holiday in Wales, once Wonderwool was out of the way. It was a series of batts I made up from black and white Shetland tops and some angora fibre. Tightly spun on my Suzi, with the accelerator head and baby bobbins. Each ball is a single, which I wound off into a centre-pull ball and plied on itself.

This is it plied, the other week. I had to run it through twice the first couple of balls to get it sufficiently high-twist. Again, before it has a hot bath it looks like garden twine. Not a trace of the angora yet. 
And now here it is, washed. Very hot water, washing-up liquid, equally hot rinse. I'm intending it for weaving, and you can see the angora just starting to think about making a halo.  The green is BFL I spindle-spun at the Tynedale Spinners' Gathering last Saturday, plied on the wheel. 

So there we are, a bit of yarn biography. I just have to work out what to do with them now. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Wonderwool 2017

So there we are, another Wonderwool rapidly disappearing into the distance, just a few memories and a lot less wool to show for it. We drove down to our lovely little cottage at Llangammarch Wells on Thursday afternoon, unloaded our seriously stuffed Discovery then, and reloaded the stall things on Friday afternoon. This was the empty space that faced us:

And this was what it looked like a few hours later. I was rather pleased, even if I say so myself. Especially the tree at the back! (This was a printed fabric panel from Ikea, and doesn't it look like a real tree? People saw it on IG and Twitter and came to see how I fitted a fir tree in!)
Normally I share a bigger space with another fibre-supplier, but this year we decided to have a space each, and I'm really pleased with how it looked now I had three walls to cover. The stapler-gun came in very handy. And now I have to finish that Welsh wool quilt hanging on the left wall.

I taught a workshop at the Wonderwool Woolschool both days - Chain-Plying. There were only a few people each day but that was just as well, as it meant I could really pay attention and help people get to grips with it. I got good feedback.

This is a new line this year - limited edition grey Shetland yarn, a 2ply coming up in a fingering weight, in eight colours. 25g skeins, which gives 114m, just perfect for colourwork. I shall dye up the remainder for Tynedale Guild's Open Day on 20th May and Leeds Wool Festival in June, and then that's it.
The sock yarn took a bit of a bashing too. I actually remembered to take a photograph just before end-of-show-packing-up, to see what colours I need to dye. Lots of blues and greens needed, plus some warmer colours and bright mixes. I did a few more Full Circles on various wool tops this weekend just gone, and yarn will be dyed next weekend.
And after Wonderwool, as we've done for a couple of years previously, we now stay in Wales until the following Saturday. It's one of our favourite places in all the world! We went walking (this is us with Cecilia and Graham Hewitt at Elan Valley), toddled around Builth and Brecon, had lunches out, paid our annual visit to Penderyn Distillery (buying gin as well as whisky this year) and just rested and had a wonderful time. 
I also managed to get quite a bit of spinning done, just for me. Having had to bring my wheel with me, I got some serious use from it. I meant to cast on a hat using the new Shetland yarn to show with the yarn, but that only got cast on on the last evening. 

So now we're home, and the dye-pans are hard at work again. As mentioned above, the next shows are Tynedale Spinners' Gathering and Leeds Wool Festival. See you there?


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Dyeing and dates for 2017.

Oh dear, this is rather late for my first post of 2017. But it's been a slow start, fibre-wise, and trying to find time to fit everything in isn't easy.


I have a new fibre blend for this year - Northern Isles. It's a mix of Manx, Shetland, and Gotland, with a touch of tussah silk. It's a warm grey gold colour, with a sheen from the silk, and a lovely soft hand with a deceptive bit of texture and bite. It's just as good as I hoped it would be. This is it above, dyed in my Littleheart colourway; given the reception, I'd better dye a bit more!



I dyed up a big Gotland x Shetland fleece at the weekend, and I'm teaching this weekend (drumcarding at Tynedale Guild), but more will be done.

This year's shows are:

Wonderwool Wales 22-23 April
Tynedale Spinners' Gathering, 20th May
Leeds Wool Festival 3 June
Bakewell 14-15 October (now confirmed)

I'm also teaching a dye workshop at Eden Valley Guild in June, plus a couple of other events yet to be finally organised.

As usual, photographs of dyeing will go up on Instagram, FB, and probably Twitter too - even if they're not listed in the Etsy shop, they are all available for sale if you get in touch.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Fibrery Review of 2016

The year just finishing has been a bit of a busy one, woolly-wise, and it's been rather hard to keep on top of, now that I have a full-time job rather than the part-time one I had for such a long time. But heigh-ho, can't complain when so many people haven't got one at all.

February was the Spinzilla Team's day out at Curtis Wools/Haworth Mill in Bradford, at the kind invitation of Martin Curtis who sponsored the team, to see their enormous scouring and combing set up. Eye-opening to say the least. They process nearly all of the British wool clip, which is a small portion of their total through-put - there are wools from all over the world (the stuff from Saudi had a little pile of sand underneath it). Not to mention Jamieson & Smith's lovely, lovely Shetland.

In March I spent a weekend with Lancs & Lakes Guild, giving a talk on the first day ('Stuff Wot I Have Made') and a dyeing workshop over two. And then Mark and I treated ourselves to a long weekend in Edinburgh, to visit the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and catch the Celtic Exhibition at the NMS (we'd missed in it London in 2014) which included the astounding Gundestrup Cauldron. And we visited The Kelpies on the way home.

April was another busy one. I taught at Hallamshire Guild - my longdraw workshop, which is my oldest one but also my most popular. I love teaching this one! And then of course there was Wonderwool - we go down to Wales for over a week, taking a lovely dog-friendly cottage - with the show in the middle. And once again I was teaching there, an hour's workshop on hand-carding on both days. This was the month we exchanged our small white van for the Big Blue Beast!

During May we had two shows, the little one-day Wharfe Wool early on, and Tynedale Guild's Spinners' Open Day later on, both opportunities to catch up with friends as well as sell woolly stuff! And then teaching at North Cheshire Guild at the end of the month - long draw again.

June - the pace slowed down a little, just Armley Wool Festival - another treasure of a one-day show, with the various stalls tucked in amongst the displays in Armley Industrial Museum at Leeds. And beautifully local too (we forgot something Mark had made for display, but he could actually whizz home and collect it before opening!)

July is Fibre East month, which always takes a bit of organising because it's a camping one. We have to fit all the stall stuff plus tent etc in the BBB, but we managed.

August was just one workshop, but it was in Peterborough, so we re-traced nearly the entire route to Fibre East onlly a week after the show. But that was a a really nice group of people (and Mark took the pups to a nearby park for walks and train-rides!) and we did my Woollen/Worsted workshop, exploring the differences between the two techniques.

Bowland Guild in September was the first tryout for a new workshop - Combs, Cards, Drums and Hackles. That seemed to go well, and it's one where we know everyone well. We had a holiday in Somerset in the middle of the month, the day after we returned I demonstrated spinning at a flooring show in Harrogate at the behest of Martin Curtis (to show what a wonderful thing wool is!), and then of course there's Yarndale at the end of the month. It always strikes me as terribly decadent, doing a wool show from home with our own bed at night!

October is the really tiring one. Spinzilla Week at the beginning (and our Hand Spinners Newsletter team was joined by another UK team this year). Then it's Bakewell Wool Gathering immediately followed by Kendal Wool Gathering. Phew!

Once again, I failed miserably to get fibre and yarn photographed and online at the end of the year. This is the main casualty of the full-time job, just not having the energy or the daylight after October.

So there we are. And now the dawn is slowly lightening outside on the last day of 2016; wonder what's coming next year....

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Diarising knitting

Everything I knit tends to end up on Ravelry. All well and good - it's an absolutely vital tool for noting down yarn, needles, how a particular yarn behaves while knitted, what I've made and when. But it's also handy to keep notes outside of Ravelry too. And sometimes I just forget to take photographs. So this morning, it's been heavily frosty and cold outside, and I couldn't go to the gym as I was waiting a delivery (yak down and black shetland/silk since you ask), so I got organised and took photographs of the last few things I've knitted.

This is the Icon Dress I knitted during this summer's Olympics. I'd originally bought the kit at the K&S show in 2012, then it kept slipping down the priority list. I wasn't happy with the way the pattern was written anyway - there are very few reasons not to knit in the round, and this wasn't one of them. So I cast this on as one piece (lots of stitches), and reversed the ss/reverse ss on the skirt to emphasise the pleats. And also de-emphasise the braids, which are now against a flat ss background.
I also changed the neck to a plain round finished with applied i-cord, which I much preferred from the square neck with ribbing and a false button placket, which is too susceptible to stretching out. I made deeper armholes too, as I'll be wearing this over t-shirts.

And then my Hoodie-in-a-Week, made back in September, finally got photographed too:
This yarn was spun up for Spinzilla 2015, from some CVM fleece I had squirrelled away. It wasn't a nice fleece, a bit short, so this was drumcarded and spun long draw into a 3ply yarn. It will pill, and is already.

I cast on the night before we left to go to Somerset on holiday, knitted furiously for all car travelling, on Porlock beach, most evenings, and finished it in less than two weeks (over the week itself it was mostly finishing). There are no seams here, just three needle cast-offs. The only stitching is the edge of the narrow hood facing. It's very warm and cosy if a tad short, but there's no more yarn.

This is the Flamborough cardigan, knitted up in July and August from yarn I bought at Baa Ram Ewe in January for an entirely different purpose. (It was supposed to be an Epistrophy, but the fabric just wasn't working.)
It's a very basic cardigan, no fastening at the front unless I use a pin, but the collar is lovely. Very nice construction, again no seaming, just picking up. The original inspiration for the pattern (not mine) was gansey knitting, but the green is so lovely and leafy that I couldn't resist finding a leaf pattern for this sailor-collar shape. It's been getting quite a bit of wear, and the Dovestone yarn, though it pills a little, picks off nice and will wear well.

This one's been on-going for much of the summer. I have a terrible habit of diving into Blacker Yarns' sale bins at the wool shows, and had found myself with an embarrassingly large amount of their 4ply yarns, mostly in olive green and grey. So most of the little circles-in-squares here are grey centres and green outsides. There is a bit of my dyeing too (over Blacker white), two shades of purple, and the occasional bit of handspun too. It's been being assembled over the last few weeks, and was finally edged off last weekend. It has used up all the yarn I wanted it too, and I have discovered the addictiveness of crochet blankets. There will be more.
Very satisfying to do. Though of course it does help that there is a sort of a colour-scheme, rather than just random leftovers.


And these are the current knitting. Both have already been knitted nearly to finish, then pulled back and re-started. The Miss Rachel sweater at the top was originally for me, but I wasn't really happy with the shaping and was about to run out of the grey Buachaille. Mum liked it, so I pulled it back completely, and have re-knit from the top down, in a smaller size, with no shaping. It's now simple knitting, just round and round, until I've finished the body and pick up the sleeves.

The Shornies hat below, from Ann Kingstone's Tups collection, has again nearly been finished, but the tension lied! I used the suggested needles (3.75) with Dovestone and it came out enormous even though my tension was apparently correct. So I've dropped to 3.25 for a much denser fabric, done one less sheep around than before,and it's coming out well.

Though I feel the urge to cast on even more stuff. And I need to do some spinning soon. But we've been without hot water for nearly three weeks now (repaired once, but our boiler is ancient and needs a new (old style) themostat, which will happen eventually. And I'm not boiling kettles to wash fleeces (though I have three new ones in that need doing soon). And three kilos of yak down arrived today.