Knitting on a plane

It's holiday time, but can you knit on the plane...?

I recently read this tip in Lion Brand's newsletter:

When traveling by airplane, I carry a printed copy of the rules that say that you're allowed to carry knitting needles in my carry-on. I have used it to get my knitting on board many an airplane! You can get this information from
- Cynthia G.
That tip is American, but there is much debate about this subject wherever you are in the world including here in the UK, see these debates on Folksy and UK Yahoo answers:

CAA provides a 'what can I carry' list - as usual it refers to knives, scissors and other sharp items, but not specifically knitting needles:

The answer seems to depends on the airport.

Stanstead / Heathrow / Glasgow / Edinborough / Aberdeed / Southampton (BAA airports) - YES! I had to search for it, but there is an FAQ on this page which tells you unambiguously that "Knitting needles are allowed":^Stansted^General^Airport+information^Stansted+security^Security+FAQs#7

Luton doesn't specifically mention them on its site, but they seem to be a little more strict than others (besides the usual "Pointed or bladed articles" they ban scissors from hand luggage with blades more than 3" rather than the more usual 6") so I guess not.

Manchester is a NO! - they're specifically banned from hand luggage. In fact they're so worried about our needles that they regard it as an offence to carry them on board:

For other airports - check your airport's website.

Good advice is to put them in your check-in baggage if in doubt, or to have an SAE with you so that you can thread your work onto scrap yarn and post your needles back to yourself if it comes to that.

Spinning might be a good alternative. The worst story that I've heard of is dropping the spindle and having to rescue it from under a seat several rows forward!

Making a call on the hoof

I can't really see the link between sheep and telephones, (maybe the switch to optical fibre for communications...) so they strike me as a little bit surreal. But these captivating sheep are beautifully-made.

They're made from old telephones and cords, and so maybe they highlight the green aspect of real wool. Make up your own mind.

Thank you to Joanna Kenny for this one.

Read the original post

Zwartble fleece - comparing young and older

This rare Dutch breed's fleece is a rich black and said to be great for felting and spinning. The wool looks quite brown in this picture, but you're seeing the sun-bleached ends. (all together... Aaahhhh).

I'm lucky enough to have been sent samples and can compare spinning fleece from a year-old ram with some from an older ewe.

The young fleece is very consistent in colour - inky-black (with bleached tips of course). It's very 'zingy' - crimpy and bouncy

The older fleece is less crimpy and isn't quite so black. It's a little more brown with a few silver threads in it (like me).

Surprisingly I enjoyed spinning the older fleece a little better. The fibres were longer and they were also 'tamer' and so the result has a little less of a halo. It may not end up as bouncy as the younger fibre, and not quite as black but it's no more coarse and I think I prefer the resulting yarn.

The two sample skeins are soaking now, which I hope will plump them up a bit. When they're dry in a day or two I'll compare them again and update this post.


These are the finished sample skeins - the younger on the left and the older on the right.

A wheel with a history

One or two spinners will recognise this Kiwi's amazing paint job.

In case you haven't guessed, she's called Freya. Her original owner, Leni (correct me if I have any of this wrong, girls) painted the wheel blue. Her last owner, Helen of myheartexposed added the beautiful flowers.

Helen has something new and very exciting on her shopping list and so I'll be offering Freya very shortly after making my own mark on her.

Selvedge magazine

Mmmmm... Selvedge Summer issue (number 35) is with us. Beautiful images and writing as well as the wonderful smell of new book.

less than warp speed

I'm warped up now. It took a whole afternoon and some of the evening, and I've only used a part of the width of this slim loom (96 ends) and four of the eight shafts.

I can't imagine getting to grips with this if I wasn't already familiar with warping up my knitters loom, and it's difficult to imagine how long it would take to fill the width of one of the wider looms.

The few passes of chunky yarn is a heading - to spread the threads out evenly after the knots. This is also useful to test whether the warp ends are all threaded properly (they weren't) and give you a chance to sort any problems out before you go any further (I did).

Zero calorie chocolate fruit fondue

This chocolate fondue has no calories. In fact you'll burn some when you make it.

I recently mentioned Kate Jenkins' incredibly realistic food. Here are a couple more scrummy knitted projects.

First of all, for the fridge, knitted meat complete with polystyrene tray and cling film:

See knitted meat

The chocolate fountain in the picture is from skymagenta's Flickr photos. Her crocheted food also includes pizza, hot-dogs and coffee and biscuits. Follow the links to her etsy shop where she's selling the crochet patterns for the food and lots of other objects.

See crocheted food

How to make a raddle

I had decided I could manage without a raddle, but quickly changed my mind.

So what's a raddle and why do I need one?

It's a stick with pins in it and it keeps your warp nice and even as you wind it onto the back of your loom.

It's so useful, the question should probably be why isn't it included with my loom; especially as it's shown in the instructions?

The cynical answer might be that they can then sell us something else, or to keep down the cost of the loom. It's also true to say that not everybody will need one, only if you thread from the back.

The bought raddles are finished nicely and come complete with some extras, but are not cheap.

If we weren't good with our hands, we wouldn't be weaving. Making one is very simple, you just need to tap some panel pins into a piece of wood. It took me about ten minutes including smoothing the edges of the wood and waxing it.

Cut a piece of wood the length that you want your raddle to be. The other dimensions don't really matter, as it'll be tied to your loom. Mark a centre line so that your pins are nicely lined up, mark points along that line, starting in the very centre. (The Ashford raddle has its pins half-inch apart, I've gone for 1cm. ) Remember that tapping pins into the wood closely together along the same line (probably along the grain) is a great way to split the wood, so take care to avoid this. One trick is to blunt the pointed ends of the pins with your hammer before tapping them in.

I've marked my centre pin with a piece of red cotton, and used some elastic bands to hold the warp in.

I must give credit to sweetgeorgia for her post which I have mentioned in a previous newsletter.

warp speed

This is the start of a very exciting journey; leaving behind the rigid heddle and the peg method of warping.

My guide is Anne Field's Book of Four Shaft Weaving. It's a steep learning curve, the book is thick and detailed, but I feel I'm in good hands. My loom has eight shafts, but all of the principles are just the same and I'll just ignore four of the shafts initially.

First step is to make a warp. At the top end, the threads cross over alternately to keep them in the right order for threading. At the other end is another cross but in groups for counting. The number in each group is the number that will go between each pin in your raddle if you're using one.

Pat's hat - collecting and carding wool

This is a real mixed bag of fleece. Some of the locks are long and slinky, some are short and crimpy but it all went into the carder together.

Jo's socks were made from wool that Jo picked up in a field while she was on holiday. That worked out so well, Jo and I couldn't resist picking up loads more on a walk in the Peaks. There's a real variety here but altogether it's very nice.

I'm still new to dyeing, and want to see how differently things work out if I dye the skein of spun wool rather than the carded fleece before spinning. So here's the undyed fleece being spun. For a nice cosy hat, it'll be a little bit thicker than the sock yarn.

Blogpick: A rug on her loom

I'm impressed with the scale and practicality of this project. Needing a carpet for the upstairs hall, Yarnspider thought "Why buy new carpet when we could have something more personal and cosy instead?"

It looks beautiful so far and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished item.

Making time tangible

A while ago I featured automatic knitting in the shape of a knitting lampshade and wind-powered knitting and here's another project along similar lines. This design seeks to make time a tangible, physical thing.

German designer Siren Elise Wilhelmsen exhibited her 365 knitting clock at DMY International Design Festival Berlin. The circular knitting machine with 48 needles moves clockwise and after one year creates a scarf two meters long.

Damselfly painted spinning wheel

I'm so grateful to the lovely lady who commissioned me to do this on the strength of my recent sketches.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing it and I'm very proud of the finished result. It's a double-drive Trad (switchable between single and double) and so it's versatile as well as unique.

Finished handspun gift *and* audiobook

I've not deliberately been taking part in the Tour de Fleece, but I have probably spun every day for the last few days. I enjoy winding down at the end of the day with an hour of spinning.

For the last few hours of spinning, I've been enjoying the Librovox recording of 'Journey to the interior of the Earth'. It's my second Jules Verne and I'm addicted. I really didn't want that one to finish. I love the way that Verne includes geographic, scientific and historic details, not as part of the plot, but just for their own sake.

I like that Librivox provide their books as podcasts - it makes it very easy to download and play the chapters. I also like that you get different (volunteer) voices reading different chapters.

And while I've been enjoying that, I've been spinning Scout's 'wheatfield' (merino / silk) handspun. After a late session last night I had two very full bobbins.
It's now plied but looking a bit underplied. 254 full turns of the niddy = 423 yards. I've given it a soak to fluff it up a bit and set it, then I'll wind it into balls before shipping.

Spinning podcast roundup

After last month's mention of iPods and audiobooks it seemed natural to follow on with a round-up of podcasts about spinning / knitting / weaving.


Skip this bit if you're already wise in the ways of the podcast.

You don't need an iPod or mp3 player, but one of those is good if you want to listen to your podcasts (as well as your music collection) on the move. All you need to enjoy the following podcasts is a computer with speakers - if you simply visit the page in question and click an episode, you should hear it.

You can use free software which allows you to subscribe, such as iTunes. It automatically downloads the latest episodes when they're available and will handle the tricky business of putting the episodes onto your iPod for you.

Older episodes are available for a long time or for good, so it's possible to look through these websites and listen to episodes which appeal to you.

The podcast's website usually also contains 'programme notes' with further related information such as images or links to websites mentioned in the 'cast.

Things I've learned on the way:

  • check your list in iTunes regularly because most of the time podcasts are fairly timeless and work a long time after they're recorded but it's great to hear up-to-the minute info (podcasters' progress with Tour de Fleece, for example)
  • Podcasts which profess to contain spinning information often don't, or sometimes the promised spinning content is hard to find among the knitting, sewing, recipes, pets etc.
  • Luckily, tunes like "Spinning Wheel" and "Windmills of the Mind" wear well. Podcasts often contain musical interludes which break up conversation nicely but can be a little frustrating if the selections aren't to your taste. Sometimes episodes include other free content such as audiobook chapters.
  • The content of such podcasts varies widely from teenagers rambling between themselves to more professional shows. Some are more like blogs with the podcaster discussing their own projects, others feature interviews, reviews and how-to's.

A selection of spinning / knitting / weaving podcasts

Here is a selection of spinning-related podcasts to get you started. If you look up these in iTunes, you'll find that each one leads on to more related 'casts which you can sample.

Yarnspinners Tales

Spinning on the radio? It works surprisingly well - or at least it does with Yarnspinners Tales. The discussion is informative and engaging, covering spinning techniques, tools, fibres. The long music passages would be fine if it were a little more to my taste, but it still breaks up the conversation nicely.


One for the fellas maybe. The podcast is mainly about knitting, but sometimes features fibre, spinning, weaving. And fellas.

I'm assuming that this one is finished as they've not put out an episode for nearly a year, but I've quite enjoyed some of the existing episodes. A little too much focus on american people, books, magazines and events rather than the craft but some humour and good musical interludes.


A new podcast, but a very promising start. Sasha Torres (thecraftyrabbit on Ravelry) Reviews equipment, books and blogs.

In the most recent edition, for example, she reviews the WooLee Winder and Maggie Casey's Start Spinning book and DVD.


An enthusiastic style and a promising start. Lots of doggy interest in this one, but I have persevered with it because of a good focus on the craft, I like the way that she refers books, blogs and people that you may know. No episode since April - I hope she continues.

Spin Control Podcast

A mix of spinning, knitting and sewing. A personal journal from Shilo, aJoyfulGirl on Ravelry

Tribbles Fibrecast

If you can recommend any more, please let me know because I've started a list at

This article first appeared in my HandSpinner newsletter for July 2010 - you can subscribe to the newsletter at Alternatively you can read the page-turny interactive version at and subscribe to my publications there

Extreme Knitting, 1000 Strand Knit

This video shows Rachel John breaking records by knitting with 1000 strands simultaneously on a pair of giant needles. The work of art took place at a Textiles exhibition in 2006. It's designed to make us think about waste and finding / making yarn, and as with much art, taking things out of context. I love it for these reasons, and most of all because I love it when things are taken to extreme.

The spinning connection here is a little bit tentative, but there all the same. Inspired by a spinner who collected and used scraps of fibre, the 'sweepings' from this project will be used in a future work on the theme of finding and making yarn.

Watch the video

My sketchbook

I've had a few ideas for more painted spinning wheels floating around in my head, based on folklore and nature. Here they are straight out of my sketchbook. I'd certainly appreciate feedback about your likes / dislikes.

This one is damselflies. It seems that blues / greens look great on these painted wheels. The damselfly lends itself beautifully with its iridescent body. I can see eight different ones around the wheel, in random directions so it doesn't matter whether you're spinning or plying.

Hummingbirds lend themselves to blues greens, but with the addition of other colours as well. It would be possible to keep to a limited blue / green palette or get more adventurous with the colour. Again, random directions so it doesn't matter which way the wheel's going.
I love the hare - it has a strong place in our folklore. I can see eight of these running around the wheel. I think they'd have to run in the same direction, and I guess that would be clockwise as we spend more time spinning than plying. (So I'd have to reverse this one.)

Blogpicks - free scarf roundup

I don't usually feature bought patterns, but Tina of Peacefully Knitting has gone to the trouble of searching out some of the best shawl and shawlette patterns, and there are some beautiful ones here:

Fitting in perfectly here is this free pattern that I also found this week and have added to my queue: Wakefield Diagonal Lace Scarf by Melissa LaBarre

This simple lace pattern with a natural bias is by one of the authors of 'New England Knits' - the theme of the book features garments which reflect the culture and style of New England and allow you to cope with changeable New England weather which goes from chilly to sunny in the same day.

Free pattern: cabled purse with buckle

I love this little purse - it looks quick and easy to make using some stash yarn.

Washing instructions for pure wool

I recently designed a 'washing instructions' label for a handspun / handknitted gift. I've shared the label here as text / image for you to copy and paste or in word format for you to download.

100% wool
Wash and rinse gently by hand in lukewarm water
Squeeze out water between towels
Pull into shape and allow to dry naturally

Read more / download the labels.

Stitch Yourself

A collaborative work, in which hundreds of people from around the world made stitched selves, has been on display for one night only at the Science Museum.

the Stitch Yourself exhibit was on display in the main Energy Hall on 30 June 2010.

The gathering of little people included a flasher and a lady busy knitting her own head.

StitchLondon's blog post about the event is here

Pictures of all of the 259 mini-me's will feature with backstories on StitchLondon's Flickr:

and the Flickr group pool for the event is here:

Come dine with me

We've seen knitted food before, but Kate Jenkins does it on a big scale with realism and humour. Her previous exhibitions have included a bangers-and-mash cafe and fish and chips at Brighton.

Her current exhibition, Come Dine With Kate, is showing at the Rebecca Hossack gallery in London until 24 July

View the slideshow

pom-pom iPad cosy

I really don't know what's going on here, and I'm not sure I want to know.

She's demonstrating crocheted iPod and iPad cosies; this pom-pom one is quite clever - the pom-pom folds around the back to provide a soft shock-absorbing angled rest. But she's doing all of this while wearing a crocheted dragon outfit complete with LED nose and red-painted toe nail slippers.

I went to make a cup of tea and when I came back it was still just as surreal. Tried Google language tools... Oh, it's a tiger, not a dragon. But no explanation. Perhaps some things are better if you don't know...

Visit the blog / websit

Keep your first handspun

Keep your first handspun because it feels really good when you see how far you've come. I've just come across mine. I guess I was very proud of it at the time.It also brings back lovely memories of the weekend that Mum and I had with Alison Daykin.
I took some needles and knitted the fruits of my labours during one of the evenings.