Amazing Alaska hat pattern with handspun yarn

When I first saw it I knew I had to make one. The pattern is Alaska by Camille Descoteaux
This pattern looks fabulous in a colour-changing yarn paired with a dark solid colour for the silhouette trees. More comments about the pattern after the knitting pictures.

Usually I spin especially for a particular project, but this time I had the perfect yarn. It’s a Freyalyn long gradient I bought at a show and then spun during Spinzilla 2017.

The dark colour was also spun during Spinzilla, possibly not the same year. I think it’s real Shetland from Adam Curtis.

There follows a bunch of pictures of the fibre, the spinning, the finished yarn and 'in progress' shots of  the knitting.

Above is the fibre as I bought it. Below is me preparing it in advance of Spinzilla 2017. I like making 'fauxlags', it's a very fast way to spin. You open up the fibre into a flat sheet and then roll the fibre around a dowel or large needle to form a rolag or puni shape.
I spin these longdraw. Pinch off about an inch while treadling madly and using a high-speed ratio. Pull back about a metre at a time as it gains twist. I spun this pretty fine because I wanted to chain-ply aka navajo-ply

 The navajo plying produces a neat, round yarn. It also concentrates colour and preserves colour changes like these.

 So that's the finished yarn in a photo from 2017.

I began knitting a month ago.

I've not made a pompom for about 45 years.

I found the pattern a delight to knit. The only thing that annoyed me a little is the long floats as you near the end of the colourwork, but I became quite slick at crossing the yarns every 4 stitches to anchor the floats.

Ravelry project here.

Finished handspun Hafgufa mitts

Mostly photos this time. This project started as some alpaca fleece that I've had for some time; some really beautiful fleece in an inky black, and some equally beautiful locks in a creamy white. I carded batts from both and also mixed the two for a third colour, mid-grey.

It spun nicely, I went for a 3-ply but it was still pretty thin. That was almost perfect. I used 2mm needles but still had to adjust the pattern by a few stitches to get the right size.

Makers' Month, The Forum, Norwich, 9 to 24 Feb 2019

The Makers' Month at The Forum, Norwich, is now a well-established event which gives makers the chance to exhibit their work and demonstrate their skills, and gives people the opportunity to try a variety of crafts. There are different activities each day, here is a programme.

Seen here are members of the five Norfolk guilds of Spinners Weavers and Dyers.
The star of the show this year is a knit/crochet diorama featuring Yarmouth's Golden Mile, set in the '70s. There are so many memories here, from the Joyland snails to the acts on Wellington and Britannia piers. It was made by Margaret Seaman and friends. She has made it to raise money for a palliative care charity. There is a wonderful video report here on the ITV news site.

Many other works are on show, including the Norwich Castle Tapestry Project, which aims to create the story of East Anglian rebellions in the style of the Bayeux tapestry.
 This was the first time that I'd seen tablet weaving in real life, I found it fascinating and was pleased to be allowed to have a go. This is something I'd love to do at home. Part of the appeal is that the tools are very simple and can be home-made.

Spinning alpaca fleece

I've been spinning like a demon this week, partly to use some alpaca that has been in the stash for such a long time that it's a miracle that it hasn't become home to something nasty. And partly so that I can have a knitting project started in time for a trip.

   For speed I decided to run it all through the drum carder and either make that into punis or put handfuls over my finger and spin from the fold.
Neither of those methods worked out. The best way seemed to be tearing off strips, pre-drafting a little and then just spinning from the end of the strip. This made a very smooth and close-packed yarn (as worsted as it was going to be from carded fibre). As you can see it spun very fine, and I needed to 3-ply to get a yarn with any thickness.
 I have three colours. The black is the best, very soft and very black. Not dark chocolate but inky black. The white is also fine and soft but after washing, not quite white, I've got to accept that it's more of a creamy or off-white. The grey is a blend of black and white. It was made from a bag of fleece that was terribly short, almost all of it was like second-cut. I doubted that it would be possible to card and spin, but with equal parts  of a better white fleece, it did card and spin very well and has produced a nice yarn, although more prickly than the other two colours.

That's about 500g altogether, of something between fingering and sport, I guess.  Ready for knitting!

Spindle spinning silk hankies / mawatas

One of my many purchases from Wonderwool Wales 2018 was this beautiful silk from Sealy MacWheely. I only bought a small pack but it goes a long way, Sealy had a scarf on display made from one of these packs.
The silk is in the form of hankies / mawata. You separate the thin layers (each made from a single cocoon, which in turn is in theory a single strand), poke a hole in the middle of the hanky, streeeeeetch it out almost to the thickness you need and add twist. I've long wanted to try stretching and then knitting / crocheting without adding twist, which does work.

In this case I did spin it, and then navajo plied (my first go at n-plying with a spindle, I think). The picture isn't great. It looks a bit neater in real life than in this picture.

If you're interested in trying this, here's Sealy's own video showing everything I've just said.

Review: Spin + Knit 2017, a Spin-Off special issue

Although it's a year or two old now, I learned about this collection of patterns via Kate Larson's blog post about her visit to Shetland, which is a good read.

During that visit she bought a pack of Shetland wool in various shades, which she spun and made into the North Road hat, her own design. The hat is featured on the cover.

I don't generally buy pattern books but I have a few. Usually there are only a few patterns in each that I would actually make and only one or two that I end up making. But it's unusual to find a collection of designs specifically for spin and knit and as usual there were a few that I could see myself making. I almost always spin for a project.

The print edition is sold out, but the digital edition is available. However, it's $14.99 which seems very pricey.

It contains 20 patterns and a number of articles. You can see all of the patterns here. There are hats, mitts, scarves, cowls and shawls. They tend to be smaller projects, which you'd expect in a handspinning collection, but there are a couple of bigger projects too, a colourwork bag and a cardy. I really like the Basketcase Cardigan and it's one of the projects that I have firm plans for.

It has 120 pages and the articles that accompany that patterns are well-chosen for a spinner/knitter. Or maybe even a knitter who's curious about spinning, because there's a good 'Spinning Basics' article by Maggie Casey. There's plenty for the more experienced too including several 'How to's and a long run-down of sheep breeds.

Here's the link to Kate's blog post once again, and here's the link to buy the digital issue.

Twelve Months of Plant Dyes 2019 calendar

It has been two years since Fran's first calendar, Plant Dyes for All Seasons 2017. Each page showed a different dye and activities appropriate for that month.

It has taken Fran two years to prepare her second calendar, Twelve Months of Plant Dyes. It contains details for extracting and using particular plant dyes, along with ideas and advice for growing your own plants, harvesting and using them and saving seeds.

The photography is better, there's more information and the print quality is better (while still claiming FSC accreditation and some other initial letters pertaining to environmental impact.)

The calendar is a brilliant idea, well-produced and is available in plenty of time for Christmas shopping. Use the link below to see more pictures of the pages and find the 'buy' link.