Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Britspin 2019

This year, I've managed to get organised enough to take part in the Britspin event. I failed completely last year, and had to make do with watching vicariously from the sidelines.

I've joined The Towpath Twizzlers group on Ravelry, having a tenuous connection to the canals by living very near the Leeds-Liverpool canal and walking and running along it with the boyz often. In fact, I did that today; I was out between five and six, with the sun setting and a clear transparent blue sky. At seven it started chucking it down, but I was inside baking by then and it didn't matter.

So I have been organised, and started some serious fibre-prepping for a change, instead of a random dive into the wool piles. This first photo is 80g of some of my own dyeing, Summersky, dyed on pale grey Shetland top. I've split it in half lengthways, pulled it off into staple-lengths, and then wrapped each piece around a Sharpie pen to make what could either be called a dense rolag or a loose puni. There are two matching halves here, if I remember which end to start from. (The little coil in the middle is a small part that I didn't process). 

This pile of stuff is about 600g of a blend of Manx/bamboo (about 80/20, I think). It was a one-off blend that Adelaide Walker's did last year, and only did it once; this is the last of it. I love it, the bamboo gives a lovely silver shimmer to the moorit-coloured Manx wool, though I have blended it further on the drumcarder (hours on Sunday afternoon, listening to Skipinnish and Runrig).

The plan is to spin a fine 2ply yarn from the two fibres above and knit a sweater - either a plain garter stitch yoke in the colour and the rest in the plain Manx, or a Fair Isle patterned yoke. I won't have to spin all the Manx if that's the case, as that will only need about 300g or so for a whole sweater. But we will see.

Now this stuff below, processed in the same way as the Shetland above, as about 50g of white BFL/tussah blend dyed in Away Wi' The Fairies. 

I may or may not get round to this - it's a quick drumcarded gradient blend I whizzed up on Sunday afternoon too. This may be spun, or I may leave it as an example of what can be done for next weekend's workshop I'm teaching on colour-blending. 

The advantage of processing the tops into the 'rolags', fauxlags as some people call them (cringe), is that I can spin these long draw into a woollen-type yarn, and far faster than other styles of spinning. A woollen-type yarn is much lighter and airier than a worsted-style one, and better for knitting (IMO, of course). If I was processing fleece, of course, I would be using hand-cards and making proper rolags, but I haven't got around to actually pulling out any washed fleece. 

I may be desperate enough for some other movement with my arms and shoulders in a day or two that I would welcome the chance to do something other than spinning.

My Timbertops Leicester wheel is out of action at the moment, but all is not lost! The Manx will get spun up on my Majacraft Suzi; it's my workhorse wheel and, as this is the biggest job, it needs consistency. 

My Haldane Lewis wheel will come out for, I think, the Summersky Shetland. It's got five bobbins, so I should be able to spin all the singles before plying.

The Away Wi' The Fairies may end up being spindle-spun. We will see, but I do want to do the Spring Challenge on both wheel and spindle to see exactly how well I can do on both. This challenge involves seeing the total amount of yarn that can be both spun and plied within an hour,

I don't work Fridays anyway, and I have booked Thursday off work. Let's see how much I can do!

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Masham Sheep Fair - a Grand Day Out!

Nothing like a day out with Mark and the boyz. Especially if it doesn't rain. I have a list of twelve things to complete this weekend, and I only did two of them yesterday. We were planning to go to Masham tomorrow, the Sunday, but the forecast is appalling. So we toddled off there today, and didn't get rained on.

We had lunch at the Kings Head.

This lot were very friendly - Suffolk rams and big enough not to be bothered by Arthur and Hector at all. I think that's my hand lower right. The lad in front had a very open face and was quite happy to accept scritches on his head.

Mules, I think. Very nice wool.

And Blackfaces of some form, very smart in their yellow showing dye.

Today was the main day for commercial showing, so the all the main breeds were here - BFLs, Wensleydales, Mules, Down breeds, lots of Texels. Rare breeds tomorrow, so sadly we'll miss them this year. Mind you, if the cycling even hadn't caused the Sheep Fair to be knocked back a week, we'd have missed the whole lot anyway, as it usually coincides with Yarndale.

I had an early dive into the fleece tent, as there had been too many people walking back down to cars, as we were walking up, clutching more than one fleece under their arms. I succumbed to a small BFL (lots of ringlets, it will be lovely dyed up and in little bags), and a Kerry Hill (I bought one from the same seller last year, and was really pleased with it. It may even be the same sheep). 

I was a bit extravagant and also bought a sheepskin from one of the stands in the square. I haven't got one in at the moment, and I wanted one for my chair in the sitting room. They're also extremely useful camping, or anywhere where you're going to be sitting outside. This one's a fabulous limestone-grey Herdwick, so nice and bouncy too. 

More slippers have been felted and will be need to be documented. Back to the weekend's list, I think. 

Friday, 27 September 2019

Ready for Yarndale!

All set up and ready for Yarndale tomorrow morning!

Not quite used to the decadence of doing a major yarn festival from home. No strange beds, no money spent on acommodation, and if we forget anything vital on set up (we didn't this time) it can be fetched the next morning.

So there we are, all set up. Hope to see some of you tomorrow or Sunday.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Birthday post!

Today is my birthday, so I thought I'd seize the opportunity of a new year and do something with my blog again. There are also several fibrery things on the horizon which could do with noting down and putting out into the world too.

I have Yarndale in just over a week's time. I seem to alternate years with Yarndale; it's not the most successful show for me (well, it is predominantly geared up for knitters and crocheters rather than spinners and felters), but on the other hand it's only half an hour away and no overheads are required. This year was almost an accident - I decided to apply on the spur of the moment, actually the day after applications closed, but much to my surprise I got in! So dyeing has been happening, both fibre and sock yarn.

A few new colourways as well as the old favourites. The top middle of the fibre photo is Northern Lights - that's one I've had right from the beginning. Always amazes me when it's spun up - in the fibre it seems to be mostly primary colours, but as you attenuate the fibre and spin into yarn the oranges and greens and purples appear as if by magic. There's a whole spectrum hidden in there.

The colour tucked away on the right in this photo really needs one of its own in proper light - it's me having another go at getting a good Brandywine colour - trying to achieve the colour of a still river running off moorlands, deep peat brown in the shadows and deeps and copper and gold over the shallows.

From underneath the drying rack.

I had today off work, planning to get all the dyeing labelled up. It hasn't happened, but I had a lie in, a trip to Hobbycraft to sort out the last bits of stuff for the weekend's workshop, and two lovely walks with the boyz.

This is the same colourway over two different wools (both coloured). It was very similar to the sunset from Baildon Moor this evening (I've driven up and watched a couple this week, as it draws back towards 7pm, with the skies being so clear and Autumnal.)

I'm teaching a new workshop for me this Saturday - Felted Slippers. These are my samples. I really ;would recommend not doing more than one pair in a day if you're not used to it; hands tend not to work properly the next day, which can be rather alarming until you remember why. Numbers went up after I'd stocked up on supplies, so a bit of swapping around may be required. But it should be great fun - water and soap and wet wool splashing everywhere! 

In November I'm teaching a workshop I haven't taught for ages - Spinning and Knitting with Beads. I have various beaded yarns in my box of teaching samples, but I've lost one of the little knitted shawls I had for this workshop, so I needed to replace it. This yarn is spun from a blend of Manx and bamboo dyed in my Selkie colourway, and is threaded with tiny golden seed beads. It will be knitted up into something plain, open and garter-stitchy, so the beads show through on both sides.

And in October I'm up at Durham Guild, doing my Fibre and Colour Blending workshop. That one's always fun to do, as I basically do a bit of talking, then a bit of demonstrating, wave some samples around, then stand back and let people loose on the drumcarders. This is good example of what can be done. The braid at the top of the photo is my Away Wi' The Fairies colourway, done on white BFL/silk. But it wasn't a single length of braid so it was intended for me from the start. I took half of it, broke it up into chunks in the constituent colours, and then blended each colour into its own little batt. Not only are the colours gorgeous in their own rights, the fibre has been opened up into something even easier to spin, the silk has been blended evenly with the wool, and each colour will go beautifully with the others as they all have a tiny amount of all the other colours within them. They are magically heathery close up. (They've already been spun and plied into a fingering weight yarn - they are destined for a carousel hat).
It's been a busy year so far - I've already taught at three Guilds, plus the workshops at Wonderwool and the wool shows I've done. Next year is already well underway in the planning - I am teaching spindle-spinning at Wonderwool again (by popular demand!!) and there is the possibility of something foreign and archaeological happening next September. 

But there we are. Now, can I continue the momentum?

Sunday, 28 April 2019


Bit of a bunny theme this year...

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

2019 Workshops and Shows.

Oops, I haven't even done a post of events for this year yet, and I've already whipped through one little wool show and one guild workshop so far.

WonderwoolWales - 27-28 April
  • Not only do I have my usual stand at Wonderwool, I'm also teaching again: I have a workshop on spindling for beginners on both days. Already sold out - sorry!
Tynedale Spinners' Gathering - 18 May
  • Off to Stocksfield again this year, after missing last year. It's always fun to catch up with friends in the guilds up there, and it's such a lovely drive up apart from the motorway.
Leeds Wool Festival - 1 June
  • The usual lovely little show at Armley Mills Industrial Museum, when all the vendors are tucked amongst all the exhibits. I always look forward to seeing where I've been put, and for a one day show this is very well attended. In previous years we've had alpacas to pet and walk, and a gin palace! Not to mention re-enactors, the mill equipment running, and interesting films being shown in the perfect tiny cinema.
Craven Guild of WSD - 15 June
  • I'm teaching my long-draw workshop here again. 
Gwynedd Guild of WSD - 13 July. 
  • This is a new one for me, and I'm looking forward to indoctrinating a new gang of spinners with the delights of spinning woollen yarn long draw. This one's going to involve an overnight stay because of the distance, so we might manage a walk up a hill on the way home.
Summer School market 9-10 August 
  • For the first time I'm vending at the Association's Summer School market. 
Eden Valley Guild of WSD - 21 September
  • New workshop for me this time - Handfelted slippers. Samples for the workshop are being produced and embellished and protected from Arthur who thinks they are particularly good for chewing. 

Yarndale, 28-29th September 

  • Bit of a late one. I applied at the last minute and was pleased and surprised to get in. 

Durham Guild of WSD - 19 October.
  • This is my colour and fibre blending workshop, where I turn up with handcards and drumcarders and talk about processing fleeces, blending different wools and fibres, playing with colours, and then stand back and let people loose! 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Yarn restraint!

I was restrained in my yarn buying at this year's EYF, as I have two sweaters' worth as yet unknit from last year (Uist Wools and TJFrog, since you ask.

But this year I succumbed right at the end of Friday to 400g of Uradale's 2-ply jumper weight, in dark purple to pale blue.

I see a top down, yoked colourwork sweater, fading from dark round the neck and shoulders to pale cuffs and bottom, so I need another colour.

Here are three quick spindle-spin samples I whipped out today.

The top one is Merino d'Arles, very soft and squishy, ridiculously elastic as yarn, and a rich cream colour. Very matte and smooth - a good contrast with the heathered blue Shetland.

Next one down is BFL and silk. Beautifully shiny, but both fibres are flat and have a habit if crushing in use; too different from the Uradale to make a consistent knitted fabric, though it would look glorious to start.

Last one is one of John Arbon's blends, Devonia Cream I think. It's mostly longwool but much fluffier and whiter than the BFL. I could get a more airy and woollen-like yarn with this, and it would glow against the blue. There's a halo too.

Cream and blue looks surprisingly different from white and blue. I shall knit up some samples to see what it looks like, but nothing fussy as I'll probably have to unravel. Flat and matte with a consistent fabric, or bright white and haloed?

However, I'd better finish at least one thing before I start this. Currently ongoing are socks (in raggsock yarm from Midwinter Yarns, addictive stuff for cushy socks), a colourwork vest (Carraig Fhada in Buachaille) and a big semicircle shawl (Knowth, in my handspun, for a trade at Wonderwool).