Finished handspun hat

It did take a little bit longer than I expected, but this has been a busy time of the year... Christmas caroling, Christmas shopping and, well, Christmas generally have been getting in the way of spinning and knitting.

Here's mum modeling it beautifully - it suits her much more than it does me!

It did surprise me just how much material there is in the main part of the hat - like cardy sleeves, you don't appreciate the area you've got to knit until you see them opened out flat. I moved to circular needles once the increases started to pack the stitches very tightly onto the straight needles! As with all hats, though, once you start on the reductions, it all starts to move much more quickly.

I've learned a great new stitch with this hat. 'k1b' is sometimes 'knit one into the back of the stitch', but in this case it's 'knit one into stitch below'. *k1b p* produces a very chunky and surprisingly elastic rib. As I mentioned in a previous post, when you slip the stitch off the needle, you hold your breath for a second expecting a run to start, because you don't feel you've knitted into the stitch, but somehow it works.

This was also the first time I've had to p3tog - purl 3 stitches together! It produces the mother of all stitches, but very effectively reduces these massive ribs. The pattern doesn't say so, but on the row following p3tog reductions, I couldn't easily knit into the stitch below those large reducing stitches, and so I resorted to an ordinary knit into those particular ones. I don't know whether that was what the designer intended, but it seems to have worked well.

The size is just about perfect. For the required chunkiness, I plied the wool using Navajo method (3 ply) - for speed I just plied it straight off the spinning wheel using a drop-spindle.

Because the wool came from Mum's friend's sheep (again see earlier post), I used it 'neat'. It's very coarse, the resulting yarn is a bit harsh and hairy, and so the hat doesn't feel very soft. I do like the the fact that it's a beautiful colour undyed though (very dark brown, almost black), and so if using the same wool in future, I think I'd blend it with something similar in colour but softer, such as alpaca. I think I'd like to make another of these hats using pure alpaca.

First finished handspun project

This is what the pink fizz was for. I've been wanting to knit this anatomical pattern from Knitty for a long time, and never found the right wool. I'm not sure I've got it right here. The colour is perfect (more luck than judgement) but I don't think it's chunky enough. I thought it was quite chunky when I was plying it, but I guess that's just experience!

It was quick to knit. In my terms, that means just a couple of sessions. It was really interesting to knit too - all on double-pins, in the round and i-cord.

The pattern says that anatomy isn't always pretty, but I think this is quite beautiful!

(It's a womb in case you've not got it yet.)

More of the pink fizz

Lots of pictures, but no apologies because I'm dead chuffed with the way the cerise yarn is turning out. Now that I've plied a bobbin-full it's certainly the best yarn I've spun.

My rolags are getting neater all the time. The carded dyed-pink wool looks just like candy floss.

This particular wool was some that Alison gave us on the spinning weekend, so I don't know what type it is, but it's a joy to spin. It's fine and very crimpy, which means that without blending it, it makes a soft and very smooth yarn.

This is the first bobbin of 2-piled yarn - I'm so pleased with how neat it looks. And perfect in colour for the project I have in mind...

Hat progress (a race against the weather!)

I'm thinking this could well be finished before the winter's over!

It's taking longer than it would if I were just knitting it, because I'm spinning the wool at the same time as knitting it (100% black fleece - see earlier post). That keeps the work from becoming repetitive!

The picture above isn't very good, but I don't think that black wool comes out well on any photo! I'm close to starting the reductions now - I've done several long rows now of the 'fisherman's rib' - for this project I've had to learn how to 'knit into the row below'. It's quite scary slipping the stitch off, because you don't feel as if you've knit into it! But somehow it works, and produces a chunky rib, made chunkier by my Navajo-plied (3-ply) handspun. Another skein of the yarn is lying there, hot off the wheel, waiting to be washed and wound into a ball.

Pink fizz

What's this? Blackberry and apple pie in the making? No, it's some neutral-coloured fleece being dyed 'cerise'. (Along with bits of my kitchen and bathroom.) I have a very special project in mind - something I've wanted to knit for a long time but never found the right yarn. Spinning up my own seems to be very apt for the project.

It's interesting how the tips of the locks have taken the dye best, and the animal end remains much lighter. I'll start to spin this up when it's dried out a bit, and will also post some news of my hat (first handspun project) very shortly.

A Baby Hat A Day

All last week, I set out to knit a baby hat a day. It may seem an odd goal, especially since I don't know any babies, but I like to knit. In the evenings, when the chores are done, mostly, and it's time for sitting with your feet up in front of the TV or relaxing in your favorite chair, making something simple and quick like a baby hat is just the ticket.

I have a pattern memorized, and I have tons of yarn squirreled away, so all I had to do was get to work. After I finished these hats, I began an online search for a charity looking for knitted baby hats. I found charities that wanted money and charities that wanted ball caps autographed by celebrities, but it took me a while to find the group I was looking for. I will be sending this collection of hats in unconventional colors to the Akron Children's Hospital.

With the goal reached, I'm inclined to keep going. Why not, I ask myself. The last thing this house needs is another scarf, and I don't have the attention span for a sweater or blanket, so why not keep making baby hats? I will be using a variation on this pattern instead of the one I have memorized, although I don't care for Red Heart yarn. I'll spell out that variation below

You may have noticed an oddball hat in the top photo. That's from this new pattern, and it looks like this:

Hat Pattern:
Using all-cotton worsted weight yarn on size 8 (US) needles, cast on 57 stitches. Knit 2, Purl 2 to end. Continue ribbing for 1 3/4 inches.

Knit in a stockinette stitch (knit a row/purl a row) for 16 rows.
Next Row (odd): knit 10, knit 2 together, knit 10, knit 2 together to end.
Next Row and all even rows: Purl
Next Row (odd): knit 9, knit 2 together, knit 9, knit 2 together to end.
Continue decreasing until you complete a row knitting 1, knitting 2 together to end.
Purl a row.
Knit 2 together to end. Thread yarn through remaining loops and cinch up tightly. Sew seem.

First handspun project

So much news.... Shiela's wheel is working well, I've produced the first yarn from Mum's friend's sheep's fleece, and I have found a nice project to start.

This hat is one of the patterns in a recent issue of 'The Wheel', Ashford's magazine ( ). it's a real inspiration - I got a copy when I ordered some bits and pieces from the Alpaca Spinner ( )

I love the statement on this pattern 'Size: to fit average head'. I might need to make mine a bit bigger.

This is my first little sample of yarn from the sheep pictured in an earlier post. My spinning is getting better, it's thinner and more consistent. (I made this first sample on the drop-spindle, but you can see that I've done quite a bit more on the wheel now.)

Spinning a yarn

After a bit of a lull on this blog, and with the long Winter evenings heading our way, perhaps it's time to pick up the needles again.

Whippetsgalore and I decided to take an activity holiday with Skylark Holidays. They offer self-catering and B&B accommodation and tuition in a range of activities. The accommodation couldn't be more attractive. This is the Chop House at Willington, Derbyshire. It's beautiful inside and extremely comfortable.

Our tutor for the weekend was the lovely and very talented Alison Daykin. Here she's demonstrating spinning on her wheel.

We started the weekend by learning how to select and wash a fleece, and then began to spin using a drop-spindle. It's a very simple, inexpensive and effective device.

We finished the first day by learning to use a treadle spinning wheel. The gentle, almost hypnotic rhythm of the treadle and simple action of drawing the fleece make this a very relaxing hobby.

Here are some of the results of our labours! I hadn't expected to produce very much yarn (though I had taken some needles with me just in case!) but even using the drop-spindle, the yarn grows quite quickly. The fleece on the drainer is some that we washed at the start of the day, and the yarn hung over the tap is that which we made using the drop-spindle on the first day.

This young lady belongs to a friend of Mum, who was kind enough to give us some of the fleece from her sheep.

You can't tell from the photo, but this raw fleece smells quite pungent. (They're not clean animals.) There are some lovely tones here, from black through brown to cream.

I've been practising using my drop-spindle, but I decided I'd love to have my own wheel. After just a short time I found this eBay bargain. I love my new wheel, though it will take some love and care before it's usable. It was listed as being 'for decorative purposes'. All moving parts move; some bits and pieces are missing or broken, but nothing that can't fairly easily be replaced or mended. It's dull and dirty, but I'll enjoy cleaning, oiling and polishing it.

Some initial research (a lunchtime spent googling 'spinning wheel') told me that this is an upright design, or 'castle' design (on account of its looks). It's a double-drive and has a distaff (the tall vertical bit which goes way off the picture). This can be set to the left or the right and holds your fleece for you.

Cozy Poncho

I have been snowed in, and along with cooking and watching movies, I have been knitting like my life depended on finishing this project over the weekend. The pattern called for a double strand of worsted weight yarn, but I used a single strand of chunky instead, Encore Chunky which is 75% acrylic and 25% wool, washable. I especially like that it's washable because of the light color. I can imagine spilling all kinds of things on this poor poncho. I had an extra leather-covered button, so I sewed it to the front just to add a little something extra.

Usually when I finish a project, I am so sick of the pattern and yarn I never want to make it again. But this was so quick and easy, and the simple cable pattern made it interesting. I would definitely make this again, although I wouldn't want another snow-bound weekend, at least not until next winter. Here is the free pattern.

added later: I forgot to mention that instead of using two strands of worsted weight, I used one strand of chunky weight. I also made it slightly smaller than the pattern suggested.

Ruby - Finished

Here's Mum (whippetsgalore) modeling the finished ruby bolero. A project seems to expand to fill the available time and this was no exception. We were still weaving in ends as the guests started to arrive! I'm so pleased with the finished item; it fits perfectly and looks very good.

This picture was taken exactly 40 years ago, and had been cleverly added to the top of the anniversary cake so that everyone could see what a fantastic looking couple they've always been! Thank you both for being such great parents and role models. And for a lovely night on Saturday.

Button Scarf

I have been passing the time by knitting a scarf, as if I needed another one. My daughter gave me a couple of skeins of some wonderful wool yarn, so I matched it with a simple basket-weave pattern—just a series of knits and purls—and knitted until I ran out of yarn. To embellish the ends, I sewed on a line of sea shell buttons on each end. It's now my new favorite scarf.

On to the next project. I've got a bag full of yarn that needs to be matched with projects.

Ruby - update

Phew! nearly finished the second sleeve, and on target for finishing the garment in time.

Ruby, ruby, ruby

No, I've not pulled out the Lolita Legs, they're now on hold. I'm so pleased that a very special person has asked me to make her a bolero like my black one.

I'm worried that I don't have long to make it. She'd like to wear it at her ruby wedding celebration, hence the beautiful deep red wool. Trouble is, that only gives me about 3 weeks! I can feel some late coffee-assisted nights coming on!

The back's done, and that's the first sleeve just started.