Spellcaster socks - finished

When Pantone announced the colour of the year for 2024, I realised that I had to get a wiggle on and finish these socks before Viva Magenta stopped being the colour of the year.

I love the colour and the pattern. The problems have been distractions by other projects and a new craft and the fact that spinning a 3-ply yarn by spindle took a long time. (A habit such as #spin15aday could have really helped here.)

The fibre is 'Aries' from the Fibre Hut, a wool/silk mix (which I can no longer see on the Fibre Hut site but is available from World of Wool). It was the closest colour I could find at the time to Viva Magenta. Hopefully the silk will give the yarn some strength. It's 3-ply and I tried to spin the singles more tighly than usual.  

The pattern is Spellcaster Adventure Socks by Clair Wyvern. Many of the pattern choices are made with the roll of a die, so no two pairs will be alike. This is a great idea which I enjoyed very much and I'll look for more such patterns.

I did make a mistake on the second sock, the very last of the triangular patterns isn't the right one. That's not very obvious and I was so keen to get them finished in time for the holiday that I didn't want to rip back and repeat so many rounds. 

A tip for anyone making these socks is that if you roll the 'added chaos' option of knitting the charts upside-down as I did, then the cable crossings as charted don't work. It's kinda noted in the pattern and obvious with hindsight but I didn't spot that when I started. I *think* left crosses have to be right crosses and vice versa, but it makes my head hurt to try to visualise it.  Either way, I didn't reverse the direction of my cables and they didn't really work as intended. I didn't realise this until halfway down the first sock and continued with what I was doing. 

West of House, a cross stitch pattern by Clue of the Broken Needle

 I wasn't able to share my progress with this because I made it for my partner's birthday. He now has it, so I'm free to tell you all about it.

Here's the finished project in daylight (above) and in the dark (below)

If the location 'West of House' and the hidden warning about being eaten by a grue mean nothing to you, this is all from a text adventure game called Zork from 1977.  

The pattern is called West of House and is by The Clue of the Broken Needle

This is my first foray into cross stitch. Luckily I had a couple of cross-stitching friends who were willing to give me lots of advice and of course Youtube has all the help you need on any subject.

I did buy things that I didn't need though. After buying a hoop and then buying a q-snap frame I then heard someone use the phrase 'stitching in hand' and discovered that you don't need a hoop or frame at all and that holding the fabric in your hand is way quicker and easier.

The title and first few stitches seemed to go very quickly and so I entertained ideas about finishing it in good time and then making another for myself. 

However, there are 4083 stitches altogether and I only just managed to finish it in time for the birthday!

The hidden message is very clever. You can buy glow-in-the-dark embroidery floss, which looks white in daylight. 

Then as you fill in the space using regular white floss, the letters disappear! 
I loved doing it. I became better at the stitching as time went on and will definitely do more cross-stitching!

Leaf Cravat by Teva Durham in handspun yarn

 This can be made to wrap once or twice around the neck and worn tied or untied.

This is quite popular with handspinners and there are some examples here.

I have some yarn that I spun for socks. The details of the fibre are lost to time but I think it's a wool/silk mix. I spun the singles finely and made a three-ply, aiming for sock-weight but it's probably closer to DK and this is probably the reason that two attempts at making socks from it failed.

This pattern calls for a sport-weight ('5-ply'). My yarn probably isn't far off and I think I have the right amount - we'll see when I reach the end. 

The leaf cravat has a shaped leaf at each end and to make them match you knit the first one from the blunt end and then pick up stitches at your cast-on end. The scarf section isn't a quick, plain knit but requires some concentration. I appreciated the more interesting knit and it certainly makes a more attractive scarf. 

For these unusually short rows I tried three types of needle before settling on the 8" Knitpro Zing DPNs. SPNs were unnecessarily heavy and unwiedly. A circular was awkward because the cable had nothing on it and kept springing into the way (I should have tried a shorter cable). The Zing dpns are perfect, they're very light, just the right length and the rounder points work well with this yarn.

Note that this is knitted lace and my pictures show unblocked pieces. There will still be some shape / curl to them after light blocking. 

It is a quick knit. I'm not a fast knitter but expect to finish this in four or five evenings.

Spellcaster Socks - a milestone

At the start of the year I was really inspired by the colour of the year, viva magenta, and also by the Spellcaster Socks by Wyvern Knits, a pattern that allows you to "Embrace spell casting whilst playing with the chaos and magic of the dice". Yes, you throw a die to determine various pattern choices, so no two pairs of Spellcaster socks will be the same. 

I decided to spin the yarn. I looked around for some magenta fibre and the best (bearing in mind socks) was this merino / silk from Fibre Hut called Aries. Soft and (hopefully) strong.

I didn't rush! I took 6 months to make a good skein. In my defence, it is a 3-ply, so whatever the yardage was, I'd spun three times that much in singles.

The knitting went more quickly than the spinning. I wasn't sure whether I'd have enough yarn for both socks or not. In fact I had almost enough to make the first. I ran out of yarn when on the toe decreases!

As I'd made a true 3-ply, I naturally had some singles left on two bobbins, so I navajo-plied a few yards to finishthe first sock.

This isn't blocked, I think it'll look better still after a soak and a set on the sock blocker.

Remedial work to the handspun BBC Micro jumper

 A while ago I finished this project,  

You may think the neck looks a little odd or a little wide. It certainly felt that way to me. The truth is that I ran out of yarn with maybe a a few rounds left to go. I'd used all of the John Arbon fibre and didn't think it worth ordering another 100g just for that tiny bit of extra yarn.

I haven't worn the jumper much, and I think that's because I wasn't entirely happy with it.

One great thing about the John Arbon blends is that they are very consistent. So I was able to order another 100g and it's an exact match. I didn't snap a shot while I was spinning the singles, but here's the plied yarn. 

It's a 4-ply with one of the plies being this pink silk. I probably had enough on the bobbin but still had some of the fibre and enjoyed using my John Brightwell wheel to spin a little more of that. 

And so onto the remedial work.... 
Here's the neck as it was. There are only two or three rounds of 2x2 rib there and it needs a bit more. It was easy to retrieve the woven-in end, undo my final knot and pull out the bind-off giving me a round of live stitches. 

Here's the result. You can see that the new yarn is indistinguishable from the old, and that the neckline looks much better. I decreased a couple of stitches at the point of the V.


Finished handspun project, Mango and Family Bottle Sock by Vivienne Morgan

I'm a recent convert to Soda Stream. I was buying big bottles of fizzy water regularly but felt that I was creating plastic waste.  

I like to take one of these bottles walking with me, but the bottles get scuffed while rattling around in the rucksack.

That's where Vivienne Morgan's bottle sock comes in! 

It's like a sock without a heel. She has three bottle sock patterns to choose from. For my first I chose Mango and Family, based on a real-life tortoise, which seems appropriate for my walking. It reminds me of an Aztec design, hence the bold colours I chose. I later felt that they look too Christmassy but hey ho. 

I spun the white yarn especially. I had some white Real Shetland from Adam Curtis. It's very silky and a pleasure to spin.  The green and dark red were handspun yarn from stash, I think these would be Spinzilla or Tour de Fleece spins from a year gone by. 

I spent some time on the early part while waiting for my car MOT at the end of October
The main part of the pattern went very quickly. It was a pleasure to knit. I don't think there were any floats longer than 5 or 6 stitches, so no need for faffing around crossing the yarn. 

I was curious about whether it would be wide enough. In Vivienne's pictures, it looks as if she's using a bottle which is slimmer than mine, so I was ready to add stitches or go up in needle size. But after reaching the body, it did seem about right. It went over the bottle for blocking and now slips on and off easily. 

It's a breeze to knit if you already know stranded colourwork. As Vivienne says, there's no second sock syndrome, although if you're like me, you'll enjoy this so much, you'll immediately want to make another.

Converting an Ashford Traditional from single-drive to double-drive

 Almost ten years ago to the day, I published this blog post in which I said that I'd converted my Traddy from single-drive to double. I said that I would publish instructions. If I ever did so, I can't find them now.

I won't go into the whys and wherefores here, only the how. Suffice to say that I did this ten years ago and have been using this wheel for almost all spinning since, and I way prefer double-drive.  As with all Ashford double-drive wheels, it can be switched to single-drive if desired. (you can see the brake band in my pictures.)  This conversion is reversible (as long as you keep the single-drive flyer and bobbins) in case you want to return to single-drive-only.

First of all, this isn't perfect. My drive band doesn't quite line up with the drive wheel, but it's near enough.

If you have a single-drive Traditional in front of you, you'll see that the flyer whorl is closest to the orifice, and that the mother-of all (the oval plate) 'hangs over' the back.

In the picture above you'll see that a double-drive flyer has the flyer whorl at the back, alongside the bobbin whorl. In order to line these up with the drive wheel, we need the mother-of-all to 'hang over' the front of the wheel.

I've done this without a replacement mother-of-all, just made new holes in the existing one.  I think there used to be a conversion kit, which included the mother-of-all and maiden uprights as well as the flyer. I can't see that on Ashford's site now, but maybe they still exist. This would be a better (if more expensive) conversion.

Disclaimer: I'm writing this with the best intentions and it worked for me. Obviously you modify your own wheel at your own risk. I accept no liability.

You will need:

  • double-drive flyer with whorl and bobbins
  • drive band
Ashford do sell the double-drive flyers and any Ashford retailer should be able to order one if they don't have one in stock.  My preference (see the photo above) is for the older-style wooden flyer with cuphooks.  For most spinning I use the high-speed whorl, along with high-speed bobbins.  Ashford also sell the 'sliding hook flyer' which takes larger bobbins. 

The important point here is that the whorl you use needs to be compatible with your bobbins.  The bobbin whorl should be a little smaller than the smallest pulley on your whorl (see my high-speed setup above)  otherwise your yarn won't 'pull'.

Ashford do sell drive band suitable for double-drive wheels. But this is no more than smooth cotton string. Any strong, non-stretch cotton string will do.  Seine twine was once recommended to me and it does work very well.  Important: don't try polycord drive band.  That stuff is fantastic for single-drive but you need 'slip' with double-drive. 

So the first part is to unscrew the hinges from the mother-of-all. They need to go roughly inline with where they were, but as far to the back as you can comfortably get them. See my picture above. You may want to drill tiny pilot holes for these, or maybe just push an awl into the wood - making a little pilot hole will help to avoid splitting the wood. 

The tensioning knob needs to be moved too.  After fitting the hinges to their new position, you should be able to see where that knob needs to go (so that it sits on the metal tack.) 

Drill a hole big enough for the threaded part to slip through easily. Then recover the nut from the previous hole. (You may be able to lever it out with a screwdriver, or screw in a bolt with the same thread from above and carefully tap it with a hammer. If this fails, find a matching nut. It's M6 I do believe.)  You'll need to drill a larger hole from the underside, just wide enough and deep enough for that nut.  I think a 10mm bit will do it - the important thing is that you can hammer the nut in there and that it is then wedged tightly and doesn't spin.

Your drive band is one long piece of string which goes around the drive wheel twice. As you can see in my pictures, it goes once around the bobbin whorl and once around the flyer whorl. As with a single-drive, make sure the tensioning knob is fully unscrewed and get the band reasonably tight when on the largest flyer whorl.

That's it.  

Finally here are a couple of pictures of my wheel with a double-drive sliding-hook flyer in place.  The bobbins take way more yarn, the hooks are supposed to fill your bobbins evenly, but I tend to only use mine for plying.