Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Can we start the year again?

It's been a bit of a horrible week and a bit so far, and very little creative has been happening.

I put a new neck on my Lopi tree sweater - the i-cord is much neater than the ribbing. The cuffs have the same, as will the bottom when I get there. It's rather in abeyance at the moment until I bring myself to finish it.

This fell off the needles the other day, and I'm rather pleased with it. It's Woolly Wormhead's Scourie pattern which I've already done as part of a kit from Ripplescraft. I did it in exactly that blue and gold originally, but I thought this might look rather interesting in a long gradient yarn. This was spun up from some of the sponsored yarn at last year's Spinzilla, and has come out well. But I don't need more hats, and it's a bit bright for me, so it may end up being sold on the Air Ambulance stand at Fibre East. Unless someone makes me an offer!

The colourwork sample is me trying out yet more yarns for Kate Davies' The Oa, from last year's Islay collection. I adore this design, but I'm of the opinion that Kate's otherwise wonderful yarn, Buachaille, is a tad heavy for colourwork. That's my opinion only, I hasten to add. I've tried various yarns without success, but this might do it. It's a non-superwash sockyarn in the shop stock, a blend of wool and alpaca; it's a natural pale grey, soft, but some long fibres and a nice halo. The blue is dyed with Saxon indigo. The top half of the sample is better - blue background, and on 3.25mm needles - the lower half is on 3.5mm and it's a tad too drapey.

The other sample is a quick check of needle and pattern for Karie Westermann's Purslowe, in a skein of Blacker's Tamar lustre blend that again, oddly enough, is the same colour as the background. It would fit in with both Karie's Thing of Paper KAL and the Blacker pre-EYF kal.

Really can't face the dyepots just yet, though I'm getting on with organising this year's workshops and woolshows, and will be doing a post on what Freyalyn's Fibres will be up to in 2018.

And this is why I want the year to start again; my beloved Lunil was put to sleep last Monday. This is my last photograph of her. My precious girl, I've barely been parted from her since she was six weeks old. There is a huge hole in our family.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Last year's last spinning (and more swircles)

Bit of a challenge here. I was offered this fleece to spin earlier last year, while it was still on the sheep, for the cost of a small sample of yarn back to the owner. It was unusual, and I'd been interested in spinning the fleece since I'd discovered these two lambs existed.

I was offered a choice of both fleeces when I picked it up in September. Sadly, they'd both been a victim of last year's heavy rain, and were pretty felted. They'd also been shorn just after the rise too. Not the owner/shepherd's fault at all, just weather. I've had a couple of other fleeces last year that have suffered in the same way, from different parts of the country, and different breeds.

This is the fleece raw:
Soft, lovely wool, but felted almost into a blanket in places. It washed up into a creamy white with a few beige-ish streaks.
At which point I had a think about how to prepare. Normally I'd have carded a fleece like this, but with the semi-break at the rise, and the felting at the butt end, there was really no option but to hand comb it on my 2-pitch Viking combs. I also have a bit of a dodgy elbow at the moment (mouse at work, I think), so found it really painful to comb, so I trained Mark!

Actually, he really rather took to it. I demonstrated a couple of times, passed it over, and he sat there combing the chunks I was separating out of the fleece for him. I ended up still pulling it off the combs (he was a little over-enthusiastic and pulled chunks off). 

And this is what it turned into - 63g of a light 3ply yarn, about 135m.

And the breed? Hebridean.

Of course, everyone knows that all Hebrideans are black. You used to get Hebrideans in all sorts of colours, like Shetlands. Manx Loughtan sheep, too, once came in all sorts of colours, not just the moorit they're known for now. In the 19thC both breeds were bred for just one colour and that's what stuck. So rare white sheep do pop up in purebred flocks of Hebrideans, and this was one of them.

It would be interesting to compare to this year's fleece, if the sheep are still around and I can get hold of it. I'm not sure whether the extreme softness is due to the colour or the fact it's a first fleece - probably a bit of both.

This is another photo of the yarn with the last day's project - three Leicester Longwool 'swircles' and the leftover yarn.

I was involved in a project last year that was researching the extant Tudor-period caps in Europe, how they were made, and what wool they were likely made from. It involved me sourcing yarn for and knitting lots (and lots) of these swircles, a 5" diameter dense circle knitted outwards, which were then fulled/brushed/cropped to produce a piece of napped fabric to compare against the surviving caps' lining.

They're hard on the hands. 2.5mm dpns, and the yarn (both the stuff I've bought and more I've spun from specific breeds) is dk-aran weight, to make a solid fabric even before finishing.

The last three from this longwool breed went missing just before they were needed. Naturally, they've turned up just as I was finishing these this afternoon. Drat.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year, new start

So the blog has been abandoned since September - and after the fungi-inspired dyeing I had such hopes of keeping up a weekly posting schedule. Ha ha ha!

This was the last little bit of dyeing I did. A work colleague has been covetuous of my tassled hats recently, and asked if I'd knit her one. I don't mind doing this occasionally, but I didn't want to knit it in thinner yarn or spend much time on colourwork. So I found Rowan Superwash Wool in a funny beige shade going cheap at Hobbycraft a day or so ago. (It was the only wool they had).

And the request for the hat was purply-blue 'ombre' through to jade. This was knitted yesterday - starting at about 2pm and the i-cord being finished just after the end of the year. I put the tassle on this morning.

And this was my spinning equipment purchase for myself just before Christmas: a hepty spindle. I came across them on Sarah Swett's blog and as she does vast amounts of spindle-spinning, I thought they'd be rather good. They're made by her son Henry, who is a boat-builder, and are only made occasionally. I was surprised when I came to the top of the list  as quickly as I did.

It's a lovely thing - seven-sided so it doesn't roll off tables, sturdy hook, and this one's made of sapele wood. Spins fast and long, exceptionally well balanced, and can take a well-packed cop. Very pleased.

So the intention is to try and blog a couple of times a month, covering things I've made, dyeing I've done, shows I'm doing. At least I'll remember I've done it then.

And we're about to watch a bit of Wolf Hall - worth the BBC licence fee on its own. Perfect historical and dramatic telly. Spindle and wool out, I think.