Finished Riddari

I enjoyed every minute of making this jumper, and it's one of my favourite handspun / hand knit projects ever.
It's the most ambitious colourwork I've tackled so far (3 colours to some rows). A friend suggested that I try 'pick and throw', one colour in each hand. That worked well, and getting pretty proficient by the end of this.

The pattern is Riddari by Védís Jónsdóttir, my Ravelry project is here.

I'm very grateful to Adam of The Real Shetland Company for sorting me out with real Shetland combed top.

Fixing messed-up sweater cast-on

I'm really enjoying making my Riddari (Lopi book 28).

This is the first time I've seen this 'rolled' edge. I wasn't keen, some knitters have knitted ribbing instead, but I went with it. Unfortunately I messed up.
I used the larger needle size by mistake, and somehow I managed to flip things around during the ribbing, so the first few rows are purl-side-out and curl the wrong way (my excuse is that I took the project out with me, so it went in and out of a project bag a couple of times in the early stages).

I did wonder whether to just make sure that the cuffs and neck match, but I wasn't happy with it. It would have annoyed me for ever afterwards.

Removing those first few rows was much easier than I expected. It was like removing a provisional cast-on.
I caught the live stitches on the smaller, correct needle, so it was easy to begin knitting with the black yarn and knit those 4 rows the correct way round.
The only thing that's wrong now is that the stitches are the wrong way round (they're knitted towards the bottom and cast off, rather than being knit bottom-up). But that's not noticeable, especially as the curl is working as it should.
Now I really like this edge. It looks a bit like an iCord bind-off.

More dog spinning

Previously for the same owner I spun this light fur. From the darker dog is this extremely downy fluff, not hairy at all.

I found that it made good punis using regular carders and a dowel. Using unsupported longdraw (with a good 'pinch'!) worked very well, and made quite an even yarn. 

 The smell was very doggy while spinning, but washing in a delicate wash gave the finished yarn a very pleasant scent.
 These are the very dogs.

Spinzilla Team HSN UK Visit to wool processing mill

From a crafter's perspective, it's fascinating to see the familiar scouring and combing processes happen on an industrial scale. It's also heartening to see a large business working so ethically. They're proud of their environmental credentials, with all waste (dirt, grease, noils) going off to serve useful purposes elsewhere.

Friday's visit to Haworth Scouring Co was a 'spin-off' event from last year's Spinzilla.

The first year that the yardage competition was open worldwide (2014) I spun 'rogue' because there was no UK team. For 2015's event I registered a UK team linked to Hand Spinning News. What happened next blew me away. The team filled up within a couple of days (25 spinners max). There was such a spirit between team members during a gruelling week's spinning (the most active team forum by a long margin) and we ended up coming seventh out of around 70 teams worldwide, all of us meeting the 'monster mile' and a grand total of 146,336 yards or 83.15 miles.

Martin Curtis of Curtis Wools Direct / Haworth Scouring Co sponsored our effort by providing real Shetland top for us to spin,

He very kindly also offered us a tour of his mill. Besides being a fascinating day, it was the first time that many team members had met in person!

We saw fleeces being opened up, shaken out and then being passed through a number of tanks of detergent.

The mill also has a combing plant, turning the snowy-clean fleece into beautiful squishy top for spinning. I gather that most of this goes to the carpet industry; wool carpet being more environmentally-friendly, healthy, comfortable, non-compacting and not necesarily more expensive than synthetic fibres. Some of the wool goes to make garments and the noils (shorter fibres) into bedding.

Longdrawjames and Freyalyn testing the wool by twisting small amounts between their fingers. There was a funny moment when Martin did the same and looked around expectantly. "Usually when I do this, people are impressed", he said "...but you lot being hand spinners, I can see that you're not...."

potamousse's other half took this excellent picture of the team, or most of those that were present, with our Spinzilla team pinnies.

We had the opportunity to buy some real Shetland top and other fibres. I'd gone intending to buy more of the white to spin, dye and weave into a tartan blanket-scarf. However, after seeing how the natural fibres look when woven, I chose a selection of natural colours.

For the genuine 'real Shetland', contact Martin's son Adam of the Real Shetland Company. They're not really geared up to supply smaller amounts for hand spinning, but depending on what you want, Adam may be able to help or to pass you onto a retailer.


Hi Shiela…

You are as clever as ever I see!

Have just knitted this thought of you when I bought the wool, long time since I have knitted…

Sending love as always… Beryl xx

Dew-retting nettles, not a success

After a number of weeks, things appeared to have worked well.

This stem snapped easily and the fibrous outer peeled away. By my index finger there are some quite fluffy fibres. All good.

After separating what fibres I could from a number of stems, it became clear that the first one I picked up wasn't representative. Some peeled like rhubarb, the fibres in a thick ribbon, like blades of grass (I assume the retting hadn't worked well in those cases) and other stems had nothing, or a black mush that wasn't fibrous. Maybe in those cases the fibres had been eaten / rotted away, or the stems weren't good in the first place because I harvested late.

I noticed that the best ones felt slimy. This is backed up by the fact that when I left all the fibres I'd collected in water, they all turned slimy. I take this to be the bacterial / fungal action that we're after with the retting (if anyone reading this knows about these things and can confirm or deny this, please comment).

After soaking for a bit longer, I did have a fibrous material. But there were too many thicker fibres in there (maybe not separated / broken down) and trying to draft and twist them between my fingers produced what looked and felt like twisted grass - not what we were after.

When dry, they felt brittle and coarse. I decided to cheat on the 'apocalypse' idea and see what happened with carders (hoping the fibres would separate).

There are a few fibres on the carders. But a lot has just broken and flaked. I think it's fair to say that this hasn't been an unmitigated success.

I'm going to try again in the autumn, harvesting earlier and trying the quicker retting method in a trough or the bath.

Sheep Emotion Chart

Many pictures of sheep face (identical) labelled with different emotions.

 Yvonne now has her own Cafepress shop, so that you can support the author and at the same time, get some great sheepy kit; mugs, clothing, bags, mousemats, postcards, greetings cards and much more. If you don't see the design you'd like on the item you'd like, just contact me!