Review - Hand Spinning - Essential Technical and Creative Skills by Pam Austin



My first impression was that the book undersells itself. The cover certainly could be more eye-catching.

But it's a very well-produced book. 10.5" x 9", glossy, hard-covers with 144 pages and 200 illustrations.

It is aimed at the beginner, with some value for the intermediate spinner too.

Pam runs the Spinning School www.spinningschool.org; she gave me an impromptu lesson in longdraw spinning once at Fibre East and I like her very much.

I associate her with longdraw (woollen) spinning so it's no surprise that there's an emphasis on this technique. It's the first draft that she covers in the book, followed by several others; worsted, short forward, semi-worsted, core-spinning.

I asked myself whether it would be possible to learn to spin using the book and the answer is yes. It begins with an exercise in spinning a small piece of yarn without using a spindle, which helps you to understand how the fibres hold together when twisted and the construction of yarn.

It then proceeds to teach you how to spin using a spindle (which I believe any good teacher would do before going to a wheel) with plenty of pictures.

Much that you'll need to know is covered; the anatomy of a wheel and choosing the right one, recognising a good fleece, other fibres, animal and plant, carding, plying, Andean plying, colour theory, dyeing. It finishes with the spiritual 'Mindfulness and art'. The list of chapters below doesn't tell the full story, for example, carding is well covered; rolags punis, hand carders, flick carder, blending board, drum carders. But this is within chapter 4 and not mentioned in the chapter title.



While imagining myself as a new spinner, I did notice that it may be necessary to skip around a little bit. As I mentioned, the book begins with the first steps toward producing your own yarn. But it's then necessary to move forward several chapters (or read them) before finding plying.

Colour theory has a whole chapter. Dyeing has a chapter too. It covers commercial dyes and some techniques, and then two natural dyeing techniques: indigo and walnuts. Pam explains at the end of the chapter "The techniques in this chapter were chosen for their ease of use and satisfying results."  This desire to convey the magic of the craft is clearly something that Pam feels, and I did feel that running through the book.

"Bewitched and bewildered" is an intriguing chapter title. She says (quite rightly) "It's so easy to become bewitched by beautiful wheels and bewildered by conflicting advice." The chapter aims to help steer you through all of this and make the right decisions for you.

The style is reassuringly formal. Not too matter-of-fact and not too casual. Something that I found satisfying is that each chapter begins "The aim of this chapter is..." and ends "In a nutshell..." with a summary.


Chapters:

Introduction
1. One thread at a time
2. Bewitched and bewildered
3. Essential spinning techniques
4. Sheep fleece: nature's best
5. Fibres for hand spinning
6. Plying and finishing yarn
7. Colour in spinning
8. Dyeing to dye
9. Yarn structure
10. Mindfulness and art
Further reading
Glossary


Natural colours and natural dyeing are part of Pam's outlook but I'm sure that it would have been possible to have conveyed this with a more eye-catching cover. This goes for some of the photographs in the instructional section, which lack a bit of brightness and clarity.

That aside, it's a large, glossy, hardback book It would be a good companion to a new spinner, Pam's attitude as a teacher is evident and she aims to inspire mindfulness, art and creativity in her readers.

I've tried to be objective. I have a copy which I'm giving away in August's Hand Spinning News.

You can buy a copy of the book directly from Pam's site:
http://www.spinningschool.org/product/hand-spinning-essential-technical-and-creative-skills/


Nudibranch socks in hand-dyed yarn


I think this is my first project in a very long while which uses commercial yarn. Having said that, it is hand-dyed, an indie collaboration between babylonglegs and riverknits in a colourway they called 'Shlurple' (yes the name helped me to make the decision to buy it).

I wanted a pattern with lace over the foot and up the leg. It had to be toe-up (so that I could divide the yarn in half and knit until it ran out) with a heel flap and gusset. The pattern I chose is Nudibranch, which happens to be free. It was a very easy knit, with charted lace patterns.

Blanket from Zoom Loom squares

As a spin-off (see what I did there?) from last year's Spinzilla, the Hand Spinning News team have been taking part in a 'treasure chest' game which will ultimately raise money for our chosen charity.

It worked a little like a 'pass the parcel' where one team-mate would provide / prepare the fibre, the next would spin it, the next dye it etc.
 This particular yarn reached the 'make' stage but fell back into my hands. As organiser of the game I shouldn't really have taken part, but loved the dyed yarn so much and could see what I wanted to make from it, so commandeered it!

When I saw the yarn it had been balled, and so these contrasting colours were criss-crossed and looked amazing. It was clear that it should be woven. I decided to make squares with the Zoom Loom, which is fast and addictive.
Happily the yarn made exactly 60 squares, perfect for a blanket.
I learned to crochet the edge using a video by Benjamin of Schacht.
The yarn for the edges is Shetland spun during a previous Spinzilla.
 Stitching the edges and crocheting them together took as long as making the squares!





Postcard from Wonderwool Wales 2018

As usual, the three halls are filled with delights for the knitter, spinner and felter. Tools, materials, patterns and finished items. 

The selection of food on offer seems particularly good. My only complaint is about the temperature (which is no-one's fault). I'm pleased that I put on as many layers as I did, and wish I'd put on more. 






 The Blyth tall ship / williams gansey project is setting out to re-create the discovery of the Antarctic land mass 200 years ago. The gansey project aims to knit a gansey for each of the crew.
 This crocheted crocodile was made by Bristol volunteers and is shown for the first time at Wonderwool. He was inspired by a legendary Bristol crocodile.


The 'sheepwalk' fashion show is set against the backdrop of this amazing curtain of poppies which has been made in support of the Royal British Legion in this the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. The young man in WW1 costume doesn't look very impressed!




Makers' Month at Norwich Forum

Makers' Month at the Norwich Forum has become an event to look forward to each year.

The forum has a very large open space with a gallery and also within the building are places to eat and drink, BBC Radio Norfolk's studios and the library (remember those?)

During Makers' Month it's filled with demonstrations, 'have a go', bookable workshops, art and craft exhibits and this year the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize Exhibition. They sometimes have fibre contributors such as alpacas for you to meet but there were none there on the day that we visited this year.

Here ares some pictures that I took this time.

On the theme of 'nostalgia', the centrepiece is a life-size sculpture of her Majesty (coronation era) in mixed media (mostly knitted).  She was made by Petal and Purl, a craft group from Caston, Norfolk. The dress was originally white satin and included seed pearls, crystals, silks and gold and silver thread. This replica has been crafted from knitted strips, fabric painted emblems, crocheted leaves, pearls, beads and threads of many sorts. The facial features are needle felted.
 This knitted scene contains characters of all sorts, good and evil!
 This huge crocheted mandala topped the roof of the 'Nudiknits' cinema. Yes, they were showing the Nidiknits film and there were many of us old people giggling at that. The mandala was best viewed from the gallery.
 Also from Petal and Purl on the theme of 'nostalgia' this mixed media 1950's scene has flowers, cakes, sandwiches, even flying ducks on the wall

Second Beatrice Gansey - major setback!

Mistakes can be so costly in terms of time.

Which is absolutely fine if you're into knitting for the journey rather than the destination. But in this case I wanted to present this jumper to my Dad as an anniversary present. With a week to go I started to spend whole days knitting and then one night I went through all the way through the night till 6am!

I presented it to him 'unfinished' but blocked and it was mostly all there. Something wasn't right with the neck which I wanted to take out and work again. The sleeves were different lengths (a long story) and I decided to let him try it on before deciding whether to make one shorter or the other one longer.

The fitting was a little disappointing. The length wasn't quite right. They're not meant to be long, but this did need an extra couple of inches in order to look right on my Dad. The sleeves were a little tight. Yes, these jumpers are worn tight but there should have been a little more room in the sleeves, particularly at the top of the arm.

Only after performing some surgery and correcting what I thought I'd got wrong with the shoulders and the neck did I spot what was really up. I was looking at an old blog post about my red one and realised that I'd missed a whole section of the pattern on the front and back! Can you see it?

What an idiot.

Well, I'm not going to do any more all-nighters on it. I'll work on it as I would any project, ie a little each day, and it'll be done when it's done. Maybe before his birthday in August!!


Beatrice Gansey (Moray Firth Gansey Project) - shoulder straps

Having finished the back and front of the gansey, I had expected the shoulders to ultimately be grafted together but without the aid of diagrams (to be fair, there is a picture of the finished shoulder at the end of the pattern but it didn't entirely help) I was scratching my head a little over the written instructions before realising that this was a saddle shoulder, which I have come across before.

Googling 'shoulders for Beatrice Gansey' didn't turn up anything helpful, so I'm posting these pictures in case they help someone at the same stage.

This is my first finished shoulder, which I'm pretty proud of!
 So after finishing the front and back, those have markers placed to mark the shoulders and neck (in my case, pattern A, 27/43/27). The pattern asks you to cast on 17 on a separate needle. This is where they'll fit, 'bridging' a space between the front and back.
 First, join that last cast-on stitch by knitting into the first stitch of the front/back (they're the same) and slip the last cast-on stitch over it. (makes a nice secure join).
 turn the work, slip that stitch you've just made and then purl across those new co stitches. Purl the last of those together with the first stitch from the other shoulder.
Then turn the work again and start working chart D.

A tip that would have been helpful is that the first stitch of each knit row of chart D is the one that you slip, and the last on that chart is the one that you 'slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over' together with the next shoulder stitch. On the purl rows, again the first stitch of the chart is the one that you slip, and the last stitch of the chart is the one that you p2tog with the next shoulder stitch.

This way, you 'eat up' the shoulder stitches of the back and front one by one until you reach your markers.

I now know that Googling 'saddle shoulder' would have turned up some videos (some of these use a provisional cast-on which does complicate things a little further, but it may be a good idea if, like me, you don't like picking up).