Saturday, 21 December 2019


As seems to have become a tradition over the last few years, I have come down with a cold just after finishing work for the year. For the last year I've been working four days a week only, and because I don't work Fridays I don't have to take Fridays as a holiday when I do wool shows. So I have had far more holiday this year than I've had for years - I'm not due back at work until Monday 6th January. Plenty of time of languish with a cold instead of running, sewing and knitting.

The main knitting as of late has been my Carousel Caps. I've now done six of them: three with carousel horses and three with unicorns. All commissions, they've gone out into the wide world and I haven't got one for myself. I really think I ought to make myself a unicorn cap! 

Unicorn caps have a star on the top, the carousels have a lines spirally inwards.

The colours in these hats are from my Away Wi' The Fairies colourway on white BFL/silk, which has worked so well. The black/grey background started off at J&S Supreme, but the latter few have been Kauni Effetgarn. Once it's had a good wash and block the fabric is gorgeously soft and squishy.

I've developed a tradition of knitting tiny little socks for people in my team at work. This year I'm in a completely different team, so four new socks were needed this year.

I am intending to cast on something big and complicated over my days off, and sew a pea jacket for Mark, and do lots of creative things. Nothing has happened yet.

A few days ago we went up to Grasmere for a talk at the Wordsworth Trust. There was snow on them there tops, and it was very windy, driving ribbons of hail across the valleys. So beautiful, but Hector was convinced we were torturing him with the cold and damp. Arthur couldn't wait to jump in the mere again.

For the first time in quite few years, I've got all of my long-collected Yule decorations out and up. I've cleared the creel off everything that usually hangs off it, and fastened up rows of reindeer, bears, trees and stars, with the odd robin, dog, and various woodland creatures.

This little chap was new last year. Many of these come from Salts Mill Christmas shop, but I keep my eyes open and find all sorts of things in odd places. Museums are good sources.

This tree was bought two years ago from a charity shop in Ilkley. It stays up all year, but is particularly appropriate at this time of year. Mum found me the five green glass drops.

I took the boyz into Buck Wood this lunchtime to gather holly and ivy, which I tuck behind the big mirror and thread through with lights. It's something I really enjoy seeing; greenery in the house is a good thing at this time of year. I thanked each tree or plant as I clipped a branch, and I'll take it all back to the woods early next year. This was Arthur, demonstrating that he actually knows what 'Stay!' means.It was horribly muddy underfoot, and the river was high.

Sunrise was supposedly 8.23 this morning, but as we're so low down in the Aire valley, with a hill to the east, from late October to February the time sunlight reaches us it's an hour later. And we have Baildon Moor to our west, so we lose direct sunlight quite some time before official sunset at 15.47. One of these days I'd really like to live somewhere that's open to the west.

Solstice blessings to all; let's hope we all do better than expected before the next one.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Leiden, the Textile Research Centre, Historic textiles...

A month after the event, some assorted photos of my visit to Leiden for the Knitting History Forum's event on the Texel Stocking, several trips to the Textile Research Centre, and a wander around Leiden.

There was a fascinating exhibition on socks at the Centre, tying in to the conference which was mainly about the Texel Silk Stocking project, which I got a good wander around on the Friday afternoon on our day of arrival. On the Monday afternoon (nearlyeverything in Leiden is closed on Monday) I spend several hours sewing labels on new arrivals for the collection, and gawping in wonder at the Leiden Hat and a tiny fragment of carbonised textile from Catal Huyuk.

I also spent the entirity of my Sunday in Leiden at the main museum there. Excellent collection of Egyptian stuff, a good cross section of European stuff, lots of Roman things (as you'd expect given Leiden's geographical position), and a really good timeline of the area from the Ice Age to early Modern. A special exhibition about prehistoric Cyprus too.

I was perhaps a little too tired to make the most of it. In October I'd had something on or been away for nearly every weekend, and it all got away from me somewhat. A November catching up with myself was rather necessary (and probably why this post didn't even get done until December).

I am currently in the throes of churning out a handful of hats with either carousel horses or unicorns on them - fun, but time-consuming. We were at a wonderful and touching gig in Halifax's Square Chapel last night, O'Hooley & Tidow, and this evening we're off to the very different Peatbog Fairies in Settle Victoria Hall. I'm knitting and spinning quietly this morning, enjoying the morning when I get the sun in our living room.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Carousel cap, Edinburgh and archaeology.

So this is the Carousel Cap I was working on the other week. I'm really pleased with how this has come out, especially fabric-wise. The J&S Supreme blooms beautifully with a bath in very hot water and a good rub on itself. The BFL/silk shines against the matte of the Shetland. This one is being traded with a friend; I've already got an offer of a bottle of nice gin in exchange for another one but with unicorns instead. (I think I want one with unicorns too).

Last weekend we had a furiously fast visit to Edinburgh, staying in our usual flat on Easter Road, and wishing we'd brought the dogs too this time. The flat is dog friendly, albeit on the third floor, which is why we chose it originally. (We've been going to it since EYF in 2016).

The main reason for going was the Late Prehistoric Group's conference on Crafting Identities on Saturday, but I also really wanted to see the National Museum's Wild and Romantic exhibition. We scorched up the motorway and the A7, getting there for not long after 11, and after dumping stuff in the flat (uncleaned, but we get leeway as we've been going so long) charged up the hill.

Excellent exhibition. As you'd expect really. A wonderful overview of how Scotland's become regarded as the wild and romantic country par excellence since the 18C.

There was clothing, in good enough light and in a small enough case that you could get a really close look.

There was a very old suit of tartan that is supposed to have been booty from Culloden (very small, and different tartan/fabric for the hose and jacket), that wonderful 18C wedding dress that's been worn by every bride in the family since it was made, and I subscribed to the crowdfunder when it was replicated in a day at the museum earlier in the year), and various jackets and costumes right up to the 'classic Victorian Scottiana'.

And some of the random stuff was interesting too. More than one of the cartoons satirising Scotland from the mid 18C to the early 19C showed Scotsmen like this - tartan or checked jackets but a plain plaid/kilt, yet now we think of the jacket/top being a plain wool and the kilt always tartan. 

I could have spent far longer at the exhibition, but we had to meet someone off a train. And then we were tired, so went back to the flat for lots of tea. And a yummy meal at the Mash Tun just downstairs - local, good value, excellent food, lots of gin and whisky.

After the conference on Saturday, which was all day and such a pity to be inside on such a gloriously clear and chilly Autumn day, I met Mark at the Deacon Brodie's. It was furiously cold and breezy (Mark had bought me a beautiful Black Watch blanket as a late birthday present, so I wrapped myself in tartan wool and was happy) and this was the view back down the Royal Mile, all the way to the Firth, the last of the orange sunlight just catching the top of St Giles.

Autumn is firmly upon us. Some trees are nearly bare and I've hardly noticed the leaves changing on some. I could really do with a weekend at home, as before Edinburgh we were charging around to Durham and Grasmere. But this weekend (in fact, ridiculously early tomorrow morning) I'm off with a friend to Leiden for the Historic Knitting Group's conference. Which is going to be vastly interesting, and I should manage to get visits in to the Textile Research Centre (normally closed on Friday, but we have contacts!), plus the Weavers' House on Sunday afternoon, and hopefully the Archaeology Museum in Leiden on Sunday morning. Our flight home is late on Monday, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed we can manage the Rijksmuseum on Monday.

Phew. And then I'm teaching at York Guild in a fortnight and need to knit up a beaded yarn I spun weeks ago before that. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Knitting at the Wordsworth Trust, teaching at Durham Guild.

It has been a very long weekend. We had a desperately early start on Saturday morning, got up to Durham in plenty of time for me to teach a colour blending/drumcarding workshop at the Guild, then whizzing down to Settle for a concert at Settle Victoria Hall with Kris Drever, and home at midnight. 

Then we were off early on Sunday morning, up to Grasmere where I had a lovely few hours in the library at the Jerwood Institute, Wordsworth Trust at Dove Cottage, in a talk and workshop by Esther Rutter. Esther has recently published This Golden Fleece, and has been giving talks and workshops around the country. This one was looking at the magnificent 19C gloves, typical of Westmoreland and the Yorkshire Dales, in the Wordsworth collection. There were about twenty of us in the group, and we got to look at wonderful things.

These were on the shelf immediately behind my chair. I nearly fell off it! 

These are a few pages, with sewn in samples, from Wordworth's niece's commonplace book.

The Wordsworth Trust is rightly proud of having nearly all the papers and the family documents in the area where they were written, and around the places they were written about (instead of tucked away in the British Library in London).

There is a selection of knitting sheaths/sticks in the collection too. 

And the gloves! Beautifully detailed gloves. I've seen photographs, but it was amazing to see them 

A hand-knitted rug/blanket, dyed with natural dyes, made for William himself. Much brighter on the back, it was on display until the 80s and has been rather light-faded. One particular square looked like it was knitted in stripes of browns from the right side - on the reverse it was much darker and in shades of purple, so probably various yarns dyed with logwood that looked much the same when new. 
And after this we were provided with yarn and needles and handouts, and we all started knitting a version of these gloves ourselves. Esther had not only brought all the samples that she knitted as she wrote her book, she'd done an excellent handout for the gloves. I got most of my ribbing done, but I have to finish the Carousel Cap first.

And then I met up with Mark (who had been pottering round the village while I was busy, and we walked around the lake with the boyz. Arthur was utterly delighted at being able to play in the waves (it was windy) and launched himself into water with gay abandon.


Posing. (There is a stick just out of shot.)

There were supposed to be photographs of me teaching at Durham on the Saturday, but Mark hasn't sent them to me yet. The workshop went really well, and I've already been booked for next year. It was very strange actually teaching there - I must have walked past St Oswald's Church Institute dozens of times on my way up to the library from my college, back in the 80s, but I can't say I'd noticed it. (They didn't buy much fibre though.)

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!