Sunday, 11 April 2021

Away wi' the Fairies in the Springtime!

This is one of my most popular colourways at the moment: Away wi' the Fairies. I love it. There are only three basic dye colours in it, but they spread and run into each other and make lots more wonderful brights as the fibre dyes. This was done on Rambouillet, for me. 

One of my favourite ways of spinning a fine wool top is to break it off into staple lengths, wrap them round a thickish stick like a big knitting needle or a nostepinne, and then spin the resulting prep long draw, at speed. I don't call these rolags, as they're much denser than a true rolag and the wool fibres themselves are still in a combed aligned form. But the resulting yarn can be spun to a very high twist, pulls out to a fine yarn, and is much bouncier and more elastic than a true worsted/short draw-spun yarn.


I spent an entire evening making these punis. I split the top down the middle as evenly as possible, and as each staple length was pulled off I carefully wrapped it round a 10mm knitting needle pulled it off and laid it in order in a box. And then did the same for the other half. When these are spun, they should (if the halves were even, if the punis are the same size, if my spinning is consistent) produce two matching singles that will ply together beautifully. 

I then went to bed, latish. I forgot to cover the box. 
(I always tell people, when I'm teaching long draw woollen spinning, that the attraction of your cat to your finished fibre prep is in exact relation to how long it took you to prepare that fibre).

This is not the cat who sat on the fibre (I think. I have four cats). This is Goblin. 

So I ended up making a pile of all the punis and arranging them in one long line by colour. It was fun. There was quite a lot of them. 

I then split the one long colourway into four. So instead of my yarn changing colour as the original dyed top changed colour, I would end up with two singles that went from purple to magenta and then back to purple along its length. I have turned it into a mirrored gradient. 

Each half was laid out in a box, in order, and spun in order. And then plied. 

I did the plying watching a rather fabulous documentary about the Clydesdale horse. 

I was planning to weave this on my rigid heddle, and of course it's not going to go far by itself. I had two bobbins full of a similar yarn (undyed Rambouillet spun the same way), so I would them off and stuffed them in a dyebath of greens.

Of course, because I'd spun these long draw and they were elastic and bouncy, the hot water revealed quite how bouncy and squishy the finished yarn was. (This also applied to the Away wi' the Fairies when I washed it after skeining.) Quite unsuitable for weaving easily. I ran all three skeins back through the wheel, tightening up the plying enormously. The photo below shows the skein in its original state and the two bobbins re-plied. 

And here, after re-plying and a very hot bath. When I'm finishing a yarn, whether as a single (to be used as a single) or a plied yarn, I always dunk in really hot water, too hot to put my hand in for long even in a thick rubber glove. This allows the wool fibres to relax completely and resets the twist. I tend to spin high twist yarn and the first plying balanced that, so you'd think the second plying would lead to overtwisted yarn. But woollen spun yarn will take an enormous amount of twist because of the way the fibres have space around themselves in the yarn, and there is not a trace of overtwist in the finished yarn here. 

So all I need to do now is ball it up, stuff it onto the rigid heddle (cutting off the thing on it that's been there since before Christmas and isn't working) and weave it up! Still thinking about what to use as a weft though. I have a bag of a pale grey fibre blend somewhere that may work well...

Sunday, 4 April 2021

New Year, New Start.

Right, here we go. With the demise (or as good as) of Ravelry, why not revive our blogs? I used to keep this one for mainly dyeing and knitting with another one on Livejournal for everthing else, but that one's not been used for years. 

There's a new post in progress on spinning a handdyed braid.

All the previous posts on fibre sales are now out of date - my last bits of fibre are up on Instagram or FB and heavily discounted. 

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Freyalyn's Fibre ON SALE!

Goodness, it's nearly Christmas, and where has this weird year gone? In some ways it seems no time at all since March and the world closing in on us, and then I look in a different direction and it's so long ago I can barely remember. 

I've decided to have a restart of all my colours, 
so everything here is 10% and free UK postage! 

Please don't leave a comment on the blog asking for fibre - I'm unable to get back in touch with you when that happens. Email me at with the one/s you'd like and I can come back to you with a price and a paypal invoice. 

I shall keep the availability as up to date as possible.

Both Away Wi' the Fairies now gone, sorry.

Lower Festival obfl now sold


This Full Circle now sold, sorry 

This Macaw is now sold! 
And this one. The parrots are flying away!

All this Peacock now sold, I'm afraid.

Lower right, Pinewood/ExBF is now sold. 

Thistle/Suffolk now sold. 

True, bottom left is oatmeal BFL, £14 NOW SOLD; bottom right is pale grey Shetland, £14. 


Thursday, 22 October 2020

Chopping Fairisle

So just a quick post to show what I ended up doing with this colourwork sweater, after I decided I really wasn't happy with the first two pattern bands. I chopped it up! 

The first round of each pattern band is a plain row of one colour (these are the only rows in the entire patterning that are just one colour). So, with good light and without my glasses, I carefully ran a 2mm circular needle through about 20 stitches of the red row then unravelled/snipped the stitches below, then another 20 or so picked up and unravelled below. Eventually I got back to where I started from and the entire bottom section had been removed.

At which point I reknitted the live red stitches onto my working size needle (3.25) and reknitted the ribbing downwards. In orange. I just about had enough of that gorgeous heathered orange to do a long enough ribbing, then cast off (using a very stretchy cast off) in the brighter plain orange. 


As you can see, the colours look much more planned and logical now. There are a three more bands above this now (I meant to do this post a week ago) and it all looks much better. 

I didn't get any done over the last weekend as it was Britspin, but it was picked up again last night and off we go. Mind you, I have several other projects that are bumbling along in the background, or about to be picked up, so it may not grow as quickly as I'd like. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Knitting from Fair Isle, and how to get colours wrong. And right.

Just a few comments on the latest thing on the needles. The other day a long awaited book arrived: Knitting from Fair Isle, by Mati Ventrillon. Lovely thing. And I've been meaning to do something about my stash of pretty random Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumperweight yarns. These have been collected for a while, picked up from sales baskets or left over from previous projects, and I really wanted to do something about lowering the pile. (If you look in the picture below, you can see they are in a lovely wood cabinet. I can remember this from my grandparents' home in Devon when I was growing up, then in was in Mum's house for years until she gave it to me. I filled it with yarn - obviously. 

I pretty much cast on colours at random, and the bottom two pattern bands (Mati has an interesting version of 'traditional' Fair Isle patterning, clearly based on her machine knitting - deep bands of 24 stitch repeats) were just knitted as they came, with the only proviso that the pale colours were the patterning and the darker the background.

Then I realised it just wasn't working. I thought about the colours for the next two bands, grouping first orange/reds and then greens, and you can see how much more clearly it shows that the patterning is actually in bands and not just generic pale squiggles.

So I will do another band, in purple/blue, and then unpick the row below the first red row and knit the ribbing downwards from there. 

So this is an example of how random colours just don't work unless you have a carefully curated group of colours to randomly pick from first. This selection of yarn is interesting anyway; there is lots of green (no surprise to anyone who knows me) but surprisingly little grey or blue. No pink, naturally. I have now started pulling the six colours I need for each band out before I actually start the band - three pales and three darks/mediums, making sure that the contrast colour properly contrasts. It'll be interesting to see what's happening by the time I get to the top of the body.

I'll probably do the sleeves together with steeks between them, just so I make sure the yarns match and I don't run out of any.

This was cast on 30th September, ribbing on 2.5mm, and the body on 3.23mm (I've already broken one circ (the nice carbon-fibre one) and I'm back on the ordinary but reliable Addis).

Saturday, 26 September 2020

So much stuff is on now!

 The world has drawn in on itself with the virus sweeping through us. Or you'd think.

But so many things have opened up as we've all gone online and looked outwards, away from our immediate friends, family, and usual visits. We haven't seen much of my mother this summer, as she's split her time between her home and her 'gentleman friend' who is about five miles away in a very nice house with a tiny swimming pool. Which of course we haven't been able to use. Mark's parents have kept themselves to themselves, so we've been over there occasionally, without going in of course. I've been working from home or on furlough since April - and to be honest, have loved not having to actually spend time with people. 

Shetland Wool Week isn't happening as usual this year. Of course not. (Like all of Scotland, and especially the islands, people are torn between wanting visitors to keep their economies going, and not wanting visitors for fear of overloading limited medical facilities. But it's gone online this year, and some excellent events are happening in the next week. I signed up as a supporter earlier this year, and then forgot to use the discount at the various businesses until it had expired. 

Lambtown Wool Festival is one I'll never get to in person, what with it being on the other side of the US, but this year it's gone virtual and I've booked myself on three workshops! Possibly not the most sensible idea, as I'll be finishing very late on Sunday evening and getting up early for work on Monday morning. 

Yarndale is live this weekend. Wonderwool Wales was the first big wool festival (here in the UK) to be cancelled this year, so they took it online and made an excellent success out of it. Every wool show since has built on that, putting more events on, allowing vendors a little live slot... I shan't be taking part as I didn't book for Yarndale, but I'll be watching to see what happens. It will be very strange not being there; I'll miss it. 

Not much dyeing happened here over the summer. I was at home on furlough for four months from April, but my oven broke down at the same time and I didn't really want strangers in the house to replace it. (Our hot water also conked out at the same time, but our shower heats its own water so that wasn't so vital). We had three rings on the hob working, and I have a remoska for baking, but I dye in the oven so that wasn't happening. We have a new cooker now, but of course it's a fraction smaller so my dyepans don't fit! 

I've never done quite as much natural dyeing as I'd like, though I have read wide around it and always have the basics in. This is a rather lovely website I've found recently: Maiwa's Natural Dyes

I've knitted more than a few tiny bunny sweaters over the summer, but no socks. And apart from a plain gansey in June and July, no large projects have been on my needles. I've cracked my rigid heddle (literally and figuratively; just before lockdown Goblin knocked it down and broke off a part, which I managed to replace but then promptly lost, but it works without and I've been churning out lots of strips of fabric from handspun yarn.) None of which I've photographed yet.

It's still dark outside (Mark's just left for work), although it's cold and clear and not raining outside. But it's only going to get darker from this point onwards. The current Week in Politics blog post gives us something to think about - short but to the point. 

It's just before 6am, and still pitch black outside, Venus is glowing brilliantly but nearly washed out behind the overly-bright streetlamps that were put in in 2012. Yoga's another thing I've been doing this summer, so I'll set myself up and do an hour while the sky gradually lightens. It's a very different feel, doing my practice in a dark room as the dawn barely begins, to the brilliant sun I had only a few month ago. Goblin and Sirius often participate. 

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Summer of Gansey kal

All the ideas I had for the next blog post. I have photographs and yarn and bits for one of different types of spinning from top, but it's still not sorted through in my mind, so I'll continue to look at the little skeins hanging up on the creel for a while yet.

So - there's a gansey kal going on this summer, over at the Guernseys, Ganseys and Knit-frocks group on Ravelry. I have more than a few things already on the go*, but I joined in.

I discovered the Manx gansey a few years ago - there's one example in the Isle of Man museum, and when I contacted the museum for more information, they very kindly send me a scan of a pattern for the gansey. I've subsequently (with permission) uploaded that to Ravelry, as the book is long since out of print.

The pattern itself is slightly more elaborate than the photograph here, from the museum. This image shows a very plain gansey, mostly knitted in navy gansey-tytpe yarn, which looks to be naturally-dyed with indigo given the variation in colour. The sleeves are grey, which along with the repairs and hard-wear to the gansey itself, make me thing they are replacement sleeves when the original ones were worn and fraying.

There is ribbing from the upper waist upwards on the body leading straight into the neck, and for the top few inches on the sleeves. The cuffs, welt and collar are all in double rib, finished with a few rounds of stocking stitch.

I can't find an example of the pattern knitted up. There is some difference between the gansey photograph above and the pattern - there is no welt to the body, just straight into stocking stitch. The ribbing starts much higher on the body and there there are a few horizontal ribs between the stocking stitch and the double rib on the body and sleeves. I have found myself wondering if there was one another gansey in the museum once, which would explain the differences.

For the gansey kal I thought I'd knit this pattern exactly as written, insofar as it makes sense. The pattern gives a tension but no needle size or yarn. But 7sts to the inch/28sts to 10cm is a good gansey-type gauge, and would give a sweater of about 38". I'm planning to do a slightly looser gauge, which will be easier on my hands, a bit quicker, and give a bigger finished sweater.

This is my stash of gansey yarn (part of the general reorganisation shortly after I was put on furlough from work):

This is what the two smaller cones of the Frangipani Herring Girl Pink turned into:

I don't do pink. I got these four cones of pink Frangipani cheap a while ago, as they've been stored in daylight at some point, and faded. So on Thursday I wound it into four skeins of about 180g each and spent the afternoon layering up navy and teal-green to give me this sea colour. It would probably have been easier to dye the white up, but I did buy the pink to dye anyway, and I thought the pink would add a nice warmth under the blue-green, which indeed it has done.

It's after nine on Sunday night. I shall put the colourwork shawl in Millarochy Tweed aside for the time being (but not for long, there's a lot to do for it and it has to be finished soon) and play with needle sizes tonight.

Quick update on Monday morning - swatch to see how the 3mm needles work. This swatch has been washed with soap and cold water, dried and measured, and then chucked in a 30 degree wool wash with a sweater. It's snugged up slightly, and the new gauge will give a final sweater size of about 42". Which will of course go smaller with a hotter machine wash. Nice easy fabric to knit too.

*Things on the go: Mark's peacoat, which only needs sleeves and lining and buttons attached, but it's hot and he won't need it for months; aforementioned colourwork shawl for a Kate Davies Design challenge; weaving that needs to be finished and off the rigid heddle loom so I can put something else on it that i've been asked to do, but there's 300g of spinning to be done for that other thing too.