This is not my knitting, my sister in law just made it for my Christmas Present. Thought it worth putting on here as am very happy with it.

The wool comes from my cousin Janet's needlecraft shop which she runs with her friend Joan, and they have marvelous wools in..

Hope everyone has had a great Christmas Holiday xxxx

Can I go back to bed?

The downside of being self-employed is that you don't stop being at work, even when your head has turned into a snot production machine but one of the upsides has got to be working in front of a fire in your dressing gown and no-one knows or cares.

Stitching for Sanity

I've borrowed the title from a favourite knitting / spinning blog but it's very apt.

These last few weeks have been incredibly busy, too busy to sit down and take a break, but this beautiful yarn and growing project have been calling to me and insisting that I take half and hour here and there (usually very late at night!) to knit a few rows. Without that I'm not sure I would have coped.

I love the way this is turning out. The bought trekking sock yarn is a real joy to use, I love the colours in it and the way it's striping.

For the record, that's five pattern repeats, I'm at the instep and about to turn the heel.

Creature of habit

I'm finding myself waaaaay too busy to sit and knit for long, but I've snatched a couple of short late-night sessions (as my bleary eyes will attest) and have got as far as a toe and one pattern repeat.

I lurve the yarn, and very pleased with how neatly it's stitching up. You can see how it's starting to stripe in a soft way.

I'm a creature of habit - the pattern is my favourite lace sock pattern - Ginkgo socks - this is my third pair. I'm baffled by the provisional cast-on method in the pattern (or too lazy to study it) so I just used the figure of 8 cast on that I know and love.

These needles were my grandmother's and I like to think that she's watching proudly!

Christmas treat

Whoop! Look what's just arrived from p2tog - A little Christmas treat for myself: trekking sock yarn (75% superwash new wool, 25% nylon) Can't wait to get casting on. (Might be taking more 'coffee breaks' today than I really should)


Just finished sewing my squares together and so have a nice warm cover to put on my legs in the evening when I sit! ha ha sounds like a poor old woman, but have enjoyed making it, used to just do them for the cats, but thought I would have one as well...and it used a lot of old wools up..

Not quite up to your standard Shiela, but about time I posted on here again.. love to all. x

Advent Calendar for the Hand Spinner 2010

I can hardly believe that it's the countdown to Christmas once again. Last year's advent calendar went down so well, I'm going to do it once again. I'll make a special offer to my Twitter followers, facebook friends and newsletter subscribers every day between now and Christmas. (There's nothing stopping anyone from joining in at any time by subscribing to the newsletter at or starting to follow on Twitter.)

You'll get details of each day's offer in the morning. You'll be able to add the item to your cart if you want. Postage will be as per the regular arrangements, ie based on the value of your cart up to £45 and then free after that.

Quantities will be limited. Sometimes there will be plenty, and will depend on my stock, and sometimes it'll be a one-off. Maybe something that's not on the site. Sometimes it'll be something small, but I have one or two bigger items in mind too. If the offer has sold out, then Paypal will tell you when you check out.

I'll send out information about that day's offer in the morning before 9am. Each offer will be removed 24 hours later.

It would be good to hear what you think. What you'd like to see on this advent calendar, or what's on your Christmas list!

Don't miss out

There are still a few days left to enter this month's competition. Have you a photograph of some of your own handspun inspired by autumn colour?

No judging, it's just a prize draw with a £20 voucher up for grabs.

For more details, see the current handspinner newsletter.

Free pattern - 'Mimi' simple mitts

My simple mitt pattern is as simple as can be, but I really don't like sewing up, so I have rewritten the pattern for knitting in the round.

(It's untested - I wrote down the pattern as I made the first one, and then followed the pattern for its pair. They seem to match and fit the recipient.)

I used 4mm needles and hand-dyed handspun (found wool)

Mimi mitts ('in the round' version of my Cecilia simple mitts)

co32, distribute over 3 or 4 needles and join
(adjust needle size or number of cast-on stitches if necessary to achieve a cuff which passes over your hand and fits your wrist)
*k1,p1* rep for 12 rounds
put 2 stitches (first and last of round) on another needle, or identify these 2 stitches with markers. This is the start of the thumb.
knit all stitches for one round
knit another round, but make one (kfb) each side of the thumb, ie 2 thumb stitches plus 32 more stitches
starting at first non-thumb stitch, knit to thumb, kfb, k. (now 3 thumb stitches)
knit to thumb, k, k, kfb. (now 4 thumb stitches)
continue in this pattern (increasing one thumb stitch per row at alternating ends) until there are 10 thumb stitches
k2tog, k to 2 before thumb, k2tog, increase thumb as before.
continue increasing thumb until 15 stitches.
k for 2 more rounds without increasing
put thumb stitches on scrap yarn
knit two rounds of main 30 stitches, joining when you get to the thumb.
switch to garter stitch (one round of p, next of k)
cast-off loosely or using your favourite stretchy cast-off
pick up the thumb stitches on three needles
knit 5 rounds of garter stitch
cast-off loosely or using your favourite stretchy cast-off
weave in ends.

Finished baby hat

Finit! Really pleased with it, the pattern is lovely, the colour is nice and I really like the fluffy brim. Just hope it fits now...

Once again, the pattern is Baby Leaves Baby Hat, free on Ravelry. Doing the brim in the fluffy yarn was my modification, I just switched to that yarn when I reached the k1p1 rib and continued until it was long enough.

pattern emerging

The photo of the finished hat on the pattern is quite small and indistinct, and it's impossible to tell from the chart how the pattern looks, so it's thrilling to get through the rows and see the pattern gradually appear.

Now I can see why the pattern is called Baby Leaves. It's a very clever leafy design.

It reminds me a little bit of Wooly Wormhead's mystery knit-a-long.

I bought yarn

...for the first time in ages. The reason is for speed; it's a present for a newborn baby. Spinning the wool would be nice but I'd like to get the present sent off asap.

I love casting on and it's great to have an excuse to cast on yet another WIP.

The pattern is Baby Leaves Baby Hat by Heidi Sunday. I'm going to do the version with the brim and have some of that nice fluffly stuff for the brim.

I started out looking for something a bit quick and simple, but when I saw this lace pattern I I didn't hesitate. I thought I'd enjoy the extra challenge but have already had to rip back one round so far due to lack of concentration!

'Aqua' fibre

I love my job. It was a very pleasant hour yesterday carding this corriedale for somebody.

It's called Aqua. My 'recipe' is 44% green corriedale, 44% blue corriedale and 12% natural white. Also traces of cheesecake and lavender. The blue, green and white are well-blended with the yellow and purple added later in the process.

At first the blue and green appear as separate colours, but on the second or third pass they start to mix together, so even when you look closely you see a lovely turquoise colour rather than separate blue and green. There's still some separation after three passes, and the knitted yarn will still have a slightly heathered look but I don't see any point carding further than this because the colours will start to go 'flat' and you may save yourself the hard work and buy spearmint corriedale.

Wool Week

This item also appears in the handspinner newsletter (November 2010)

11-17 October 2010

Wool Week was led by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the campaign for wool. It aimed to reverse the trend that now sees fleeces being burned because farmers are shearing their sheep at a loss and encourages us to think of wool as part of our heritage and a renewable, sustainable and versatile resource.

I have to admit that in putting together this 'round-up', I've enjoyed some of the puns; 'having a field day', 'fans flock to Savile Row', 'best baa none', 'suits ewe sir', 'give fleece a chance' and so on.

Savile Row Field Day

You won't have missed the news that the week was kicked off by Savile Row being turfed over to help flocks of Exmoor Horn and Bowmont sheep to feel at home.

There is a wealth of photos and video of the sheep alongside bemused and besuited urbanites: carries a wonderful video showing the sheep, farmers, visitors and the agriculture minister.

More video from the BBC:

Wool Week blogpicks

I like the illustration and writing on this post:

josiekitten marked the week by making a wooly post each day:

Devonfinefibres wrote this fabulous post about getting the Bowmonts to the event:

... and their post-event thoughts with a gallery of photographs:


The NFU asked Diane of the murmering wheel to make a union jack from hand dyed and spun wool.
It was commissioned to help support the campaign to have wool included in the 2012 Olympics, but as part of York's Wool Week celebrations was displayed on the back of Norfolk Horn ram Nobby.

lots more links and photos on Murmering Wheel's blog:

More photos of York's Wool Week event:

In other areas

Artist Steve Messam covered a remote barn with the fleece of 200 Swaledales

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre's Wool Week installation involved sheep, textiles and cat's cradles of red wool. Watch a video of their installation being constructed:

Liberty and Rowan Yarns jointly held a Wool Week competition for students, the prize winners being displayed in one of their windows. Claire-Anne O'Brien used British sheep breed yarn in supersized basic knit loops to create a chair. Joint winner Helen Turner's woolly wonder oversized knitted retro coat was made using five varieties of Rowan Purelife British wool.

Liberty made willow Herdwicks for their Wool Week installation.

I've said before that I think the terms graffiti knitting or yarnbombing shouldn't be applied to corporately-organised events, but credit to Selfridges for 'yarnbombing' their store for Wool Week:

Selfridges also sent a flock of remarkably-unperturbed dyed-yellow sheep down the street:

For more beautifully-coloured sheep, check out this post at Textile Arts Centre:

Video carries a wonderful video showing the sheep, farmers, visitors and the agriculture minister.

For more video, here's the BBC's:

Can you make a handspun hat in an hour?

I've been reading about the Spin Off Annual Retreat (SOAR). A week-long event featuring workshops, spinners' market, gallery, fashion show, spin-ins.

Batts to hats was a fun event for the final night. the challenge was to spin and make a hat within an hour. Seven out of eight teams finished their hats in the allotted time.

Are you or do you know Charlotte, Beverly or Mary of The Brits Team? I'd love to know more about the trip and the competition.
The write-up is a good read

Learning a new cast on and knitting in the round

My top-down raglan jumper is progressing slowly but surely. Along the way I've had to learn the 'backward loop' cast on. As you'll know if you've used this cast-on there's nothing to it:

So the 11 new stitches at each arm and 39 for the front panel took no time at all to add, and for the first time it looks like the start of a jumper.

The needle is a bit longer than recommended, so at first I pulled out an extra loop of the circular needle's cable (like Magic Loop). A friend had told me that this was a 'pain in the ass' because you have to keep pulling out that loop again as you pass it. I wouldn't have put it so strongly, but I'm not a fan of the technique. Happily having done a few rows I found that the stitches distribute themselves quite well on the length of needle I'm using without that magic loop.

With half a dozen rounds done since joining, the pattern on the front panel is starting to appear. It's quite simple to follow, and with the rest of the round being plain, I'm finding that the rounds are going really quickly.

My pattern is the Opulent Raglan from Interweave - here it is with my original swatch.

Knitted big cat pelts

Beautiful and animal-friendly! I love these big-cat pelts by Aussie artist Ruth Marshall.

check out her reptiles too - she's knitted all 68 known species of coral snake.

The Bowmonts' Journey to Savile Row

I've reported the wool promotion event in Savile Row starting 11 Oct, and in this fascinating post, devonfinefibres describes the logistics of getting their flock to London.

Read the post

Spinning as relaxation

Did I need to sit down and relax last night.

It was the perfect time to put on the current audiobook and get spinning for fellow Bint, Scout. I'd carded the fibre a while ago - my 'wheatfield' mix of merino and a little silk - I was just waiting for an opportunity to spin it.

Why casting on is so exciting

I've been struggling to make time for the current project, but I have spent some very late nights recently with Robert Harris' Fatherland and spinning the first couple of hundred grams of this pale grey merino fibre.

As you cast on, it's too early for there to be any mistakes in the work. In fact the finished project, which is still in your imagination, is perfect in every way. It looks like the pattern, it's flawless and it fits perfectly. You can imagine the compliments when you wear it for the first time. "Yes, I did make it myself! Spun the wool and everything."

The reality might not exactly match the expectation and that's a little way off yet but I love casting on.

The fibre is not very pleasant to work with, it has short fibres and lumps, resembling cotton wool. The only way that I could get a reasonably even result was to tease and spin from the fold. But the result is very soft and springy. I can't wait to wear it, flaws and all.

more damselflies

I've been asked more than once whether my damselflies would work on a Traveller. The problem is that the wheel has concentric grooves around the wheel, leaving a narrow band in the middle for the design. If reduced down to this size, I thought the insects would be too small and lose detail. I tried sketching the design onto a Traveller wheel overlapping the grooves:

That worked well, so here goes:

This time I was especially asked to sign it, which I have started to do now.
.. and add another small minibeast somewhere else on the wheel.

Got flair?

Knitpro have let me know that they're phasing out their clear acrylic needles, known as 'Spectra' or 'Zephyr', in favour of the purple variety, 'Flair'.

I have some samples here, what do we think?

Savile Row Field Day

I'm a country mouse, and so the idea of turfing over a London street and moving in some Exmoor horn and Bowmont sheep really does appeal to me! The event takes place for a week starting 11 October and is organised by the Campaign for Wool.

The aim is to promote wool and tell Londoners about how wool is produced and made into the luxury cloth used by the tailors working in the adjacent shops. For my money it's as much a reminder of the soil beneath the urban concrete and tarmac.

More about Savile Row Field Day.

Free wig pattern round-up

I just saw this wonderful pink crocheted wig (right) on Knithacker - it's not a free pattern, in fact I can't find the pattern, but the maker does sell her crochet patterns here on Etsy so maybe it's coming soon.

But it reminded me that I'd started a free wig pattern round up some time ago. So here it is:

Food and natural dyeing

Have you been curious about natural dyeing? In this lovely series of blog posts that will inspire you and make you hungry at the same time, Helen of My Heart Exposed Yarns links the methods and inspiration for her natural dyeing to her cooking, with tasty photos, tips and secrets.


Red, orange, yellow

Carded and spun Emmanuel

I felt so excited when I was offered some alpaca fleece because I had wanted to spin some for a while. To my surprise there were many shades to choose from. The one I picked was this lovely copper colour, it came from an Alpaca
called Emmanuel.

I loved the feel of it because it was so soft. I was told too late the there is no need to wash it first. But hey. Being very fortunate I have a drum carder that made the job of carding so much easier, especially considering there were many smaller pieces of the fleece.

Spinning it felt great. I was quite pleased with my first effort but feel that it should be spun a bit thinner because of its warmth, But there you are it's all individual and about creating your own style, that can be very rewarding.

If anybody has any hints or tips on spinning Alpaca I would love to hear.

- whippetsgalore

The recent threat to drop knitting from the curriculum on the Sheltand Islands has had a side-effect of attracting the media's attention onto the traditional crafts of spinning and knitting and brought into the open the question of whether the island should move to more indstrial techniques and increase production.

I've enjoyed this article on The Business of Fashion. While similar jumpers are mass-produced in China, those labeled "Made in Fair Isle" take over 100 hours to spin and knit and sell for over £600. Despite the high price tag for the genuine article, demand is outstripping supply.

Read the article

Using teak oil to finish a spinning wheel

If you buy a wheel or loom with a 'natural' finish, it'll cost far less than a lacquered one, but you do need to do something to finish the wood. It doesn't look pretty and I've seen an unexplained crack in one which was left unfinished.

I like to use wax but I've seen good-looking varnish finishes (clear and coloured). Wood dye can be used to very good effect under wax or varnish.

I know that teak oil is popular, but I've not tried it until yesterday, when I needed to assemble a wheel very quickly.
It's very quick, you just brush it on. It feeds the wood and protects it from drying out. I love the effect it has on the colour - it darkens in a very natural way, enhancing the grain.

After a couple of hours it was touch-dry. It doesn't add a shine, but it makes the wood look so good, I may try wax on top when time allows.


I can't believe how appropriate this present is! It's from Jo, we've scavenged for fleece together. It's a bag that will fold up and be in my rucker ready for the next lot! lol

Pat's hat - cast off! Will it fit?

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So I sat in the house
And knitted on that cold, cold, wet day.
Is it sad to keep picking up your work and squeezing it just because you like the feel of it?

I can't believe how soft and lovely this wool feels, especially as it's a Heinz 57 of varieties, all carded together. The very chunky design helps. I'm so chuffed with the colour too.

I thought cables would be difficult and I've managed to evade them until now. But it turns out that despite looking so impressive, they're dead easy. You just pop half of the stitches (3 in this case) onto a special little needle to hold them, carry on knitting the remaining ones, then pick up the ones you put by.

If it fits, that'll be a real bonus!

Never to be repeated

I left my recent dyeing experiment simmering for twice as long as it should have done, waiting for the dye water to go clear. It didn't, so I guess it wasn't exhausted once the skeins had taken all that they wanted. I let the pan go cool, popped in this 100g of white corriedale sliver, and brought it back up to the simmer again.

The result is nowhere near as deep in colour and a little bit variegated. The closest thing I can think of to this colour is a nectarine with a bit of a blush to it. So this is called nectarine, and I don't think I could do it again if I tried!

Pat's hat - step 4, knitting

We have half of a fold-up brim! The pattern is, as you can see, the Lucky 7 hat by weezalana. If you look closely, you can probably see the word 'arse' in the first sentence, which I take as a good omen in any situation.
The yummy colour of the yarn did get a bit lighter as it dried out, but is still perfect. You can also see the gauge which was also perfect, possibly the first time that I've ever made a swatch which measured exactly the right size, so hopefully that's a good omen too.

Not quite so perfect was the swatch for my Opulent Raglan:
It's 7/8 the size it should be. I like this fairly close knit, and it'll start to look too 'open' if I go up needle sizes, so I'll knit the next size up and hope that it'll fit.

The fibre is some natural-coloured merino which I bought to sell via handspinner, but haven't listed it yet because I'm not sure about the quality. It is a gorgeous colour and has made a beautiful yarn, if a little lumpy, and the swatch is so soft that it'll do perfectly.

Pat's hat - step 3, dyeing

Today I dye!

For this project I decided to dye the skein after spinning rather than dyeing the fibre before spinning. This should give a much more even colour.
We want a burgundy colour. A little bit experimental, but it couldn't have worked out better. For this 150g I used half a teaspoon of scarlet acid dye and added as much navy blue as I dared. I didn't want to end up with purple, but If the scarlet was too strong, then I worried that Pat would stop traffic when crossing the road.
It looks delicious - as if it might taste of blackberries or blackcurrant. I can't wait for it to dry out so that I can get busy with the needles.

Sea Tangles—Tangled Nerves

I'm knitting something more complicated than a baby hat, and it's all my daughter's fault. My daughter, Katie, is an excellent knitter. You can see her work at (screen name: kmartins). It was at the ravelry site that she found a fascinating garment, something sort of like a sweater knitted with unique yarn, and she emailed the link to me with a note saying "You have to make this!!!"

What she found was Sea Tangles, a pattern designed by Kie Zuraw that uses a thread-sized yarn knitted with US 6/4mm needles, making a thing like fishing net. It really is fascinating because the pattern is random—it's basically stockinette with inconsistent cables (tangles) here and there to make each "sweater" unique. You can download a pdf of the pattern or go online and open up a file each time you wish to knit, and every time you open this file, the cables are different. Keeps you guessing.

I decided to take Katie's challenge, especially since the designer said mistakes are acceptable: "if you make a “mistake”, just forget about it and keep going!" I can do that. I contacted Habu Textiles in New York and ordered three spools of silk thread blended with steel—yes, steel, which gives it a bit of memory—and they were very friendly and shipped my order as soon as they could.

(the one sleeve with a spool from Habu)

I have struggled a little because working with such thin fiber means I have to wear reading glasses to knit, but it's going well, I think. All I have at this point is a single sleeve, but I'll keep going. Sea Tangles. Who would have guessed you could knit a pullover sweater with a wad of string?

to frog or not to frog...

Do you tend to buy patterns or search the multitude of free ones? It's very rare for me to buy a pattern, especially as Ravelry makes it so easy to search all of the patterns under the sun.

But when I saw the Opulent Raglan by Wendy Bernard, I fell in love with it and was happy to shell out the $5.50 for the pattern. I love the neckline, I love the 3/4 sleeves. It will suit me down to the ground (hopefully not all the way down to the ground). It happened to be featured in an article about top-down knitting - one advantage of this method being that you can just carry on knitting until you've arrived at the right length - and being a gangly kinda gal, making sure it's a good length will be good.

So with pattern downloaded, which yarn to use. My first thought was to frog this. It's my design / spin / knit Ravelympics project. At the end of the fortnight, I was only about half a sleeve and the ribbed edging away from finishing it.

I very slowly arrived at the point of nearly being ready to cast off (you can see the circular needle still in the rib). This garment isn't going anywhere, the sleeves are a bit tight and short, and there are other adjustments I'd make to the pattern before making one that's wearable. So it's headed for frogging anyway, and it's a similar colour to the one in the new pattern, and the gauge seems about right.

I'm now in two minds. I grew less fond of the colour while I was knitting the cardy - it's a bit rustic, which might suit a handspun garment, but I think I'd like my new jumper to look a bit smarter.

What do you think?

Was lucky enough to meet these two guys last week - Wallace and Grommit. This picture really sums up the experience - they are curious and affectionate. I'm used to sheep shying away but these two loved being fussed. It was the first time I've cuddled a sheep.
They're zwartbles, a rare Dutch breed, I spun samples of the fleece a week or so ago - one small skein from Wallace, a 1-year-old ram (first shearing) and one from Bear, an older Ewe. They're both rich black, the young fleece (below left) is much more bouncy and elastic, the older (below right) is straighter and smoother, and has he odd silver shimmer running through it. I now have the two complete fleeces.