Still time!

There's still time to enter this year's Spring competition, a good prize on offer and not a huge number of entries so far. So why not give it a go?

I'm inviting you to make some yarn inspired by this springtime photo of cherry blossom.

It's a freestyle event - do whatever you like, dye the fibre, mix bought dyed or natural fibre, use animal, vegetable or synthetic, straight or funky, whatever you like. To enter, join the group on Flickr and add your photos. If you have trouble with that, simply email them to me. you've got until mid-May.

time-travelling spinning wheel

One very dirty spinning wheel (or rather a pile of dirt that turned out to have a spinning wheel underneath) + bowl of slightly soapy water = very shiny wheel plus what looks like... cloudy beer?

To be more serious, this wheel demonstrates the protection that Ashford's factory-lacquered finish gives. It's not been a decorative item - there are signs of use - and it's been neglected as evidenced by a thick layer of dirt and some rust on some metal parts. Features of the wheel put its birthday between 1975 and 1982.

But a wipe with slightly-soapy water and a deep shine is revealed. There are no signs of shrinkage or cracking as are sometimes seen on its stained contemporaries. The lacquer is hard and gives good protection against knocks and scratches - few can be seen. Stand back and it looks much newer than it really is. Having replaced a few lost or broken consumable parts (spring, brake and drive band, treadle joint), oiled the moving parts and it spins as well as the day it was made. And I'm sure it still will for many years to come.

looming large!

It's been a very long time since I warped this loom and started learning to weave using an 8-shaft loom (to be honest only threading 4 of those 8 but that was taxing enough). This afternoon felt right to pick up the shuttle and do some more.

I warped using one colour so that I could experiment with plain and twills. After a while, I'm very pleased to see that my edges are coming nice and parallel. This 2/1 twill seems to be a great pattern for showing up unevenness, but the diagonal stripes are becoming straighter with time.

Above is a mostly-warp 3/1, moving back and forth to create a chevron

And here are some more variations - swiss twill, alternating (really not quite sure what went wrong there!) and a zig-zag

Finished Spring Scarf

See previous posts for details of pattern and yarn. I'm not sure how to wear it, but it feels cosy, soft and warm. I love it!

Spring Scarf

The yarn from the last post did plump up a bit when set, and looks just how I'd hoped. It's my own 'just for fun' go at the handspinner spring competition The yarn is merino and silk, it feels very squishy and yummy and warm. Hopefully the airiness of the pattern will make it comfortable to wear at any time of year.

The pattern is the Chunky Mochi Fan Stitch Scarf. It's effective but very simple; after a few repeats you can remember it and just sit back and not bother to look at the pattern.

It's the biggest yarn I've made, and these are the biggest needles I've used (12mm). Not sure of their origin, but they are with a bunch of my grandmothers, so that makes the scarf a little more special.

It's about half the finished length, and that was a single sitting - it's superquick working on this scale! It's also harder work - much more physical moving those big needles around.

Handspinner Spring competition 2011

This is my own (non-qualifying) go at the handspinner spring competition. The brief is to make yarn inspired by the cherry blossom photo provided. There's a good prize on offer, so please have a go. More information is in the March newsletter.

I think this is my fattest yarn since my very first go at spinning, which was not intentionally fat.

I could picture those colours in a squishy arty scarf, made on large needles - cool in spring and warm in winter.

The blue is a mix I call Cirrus, merino and silk. I split it lengthwise so not very much drafting needed.

While looking for suitable light and dark natural colours, I noticed that Ashford's silk / merino mix in peppercorn is pretty much what I wanted to achieve, so I used that, split lengthwise to try and preserve the colour changes and spun thinly.

The result is looking a little under-plied. I didn't want a very spirally plied effect, so was afraid to go too far. It's not set yet, I'm hoping it'll fluff up a little more after a wash.

new bobbins for Haldane Lewis

With Haldane wheels not made any more, if you need more bobbins, or as in this case, a secondhand wheel comes with no bobbins at all, then your only option is to have some made.

Many thanks to Joan and Clive at Woodland Turnery for making me three perfectly-matching and reasonably-priced bobbins for this wheel,

Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week round-up

I'm a little bit annoyed that I cottoned on to Eskimimi's Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week half way through the week and only fully appreciated the concept and size of it later on in the week.

Having now realised that it has sparked loads of fantastic knitting and crochet posts and that they're easy to find by Googling 2KCBWDAY1, 2KCBWDAY2 etc, I've had a good riffle through and listed a few of my favourites.

The concept was to blog each day on a given theme.

day 1 - tale of two yarns

for lovely colours:

for two lovely featured projects:

for her enthusiasm for a very interesting yarn:

day 2 - skill + 1UP

for making me want to try intarsia knitting:

for discussing a very interesting skill - learning not to be a perfectionist

for possibly the most impressive list of new skills discussed

day 3 - Tidy mind, tidy stitches

for making me want to tidy my stash:

for a bewildering collection of bags and tidies:

for coining the lovely phrase "organized disorganization":

day 4 - where are they now

for a happy story of a beautiful shawl getting much use:

for a sad story of two little piggies:

for the geekery which appealed to me greatly

day 5 - something completely different

for putting Simon and Garfunkel in my head:

for making me smile with a photo of taking a photo of socks:

for a complete set of photos of a beautiful project fibre -> finished object:

and finally, because I was delighted that someone had made a knitting version of leekspin

It got rid of Simon and Garfunkel (with something much more annoying) and reminded me that when I first saw leekspin I'd made my own spinning version:

A Quick Scarf—Hand Painted

Here is my latest knitting project. Want to know how it came about? Well, last week, No. 1 and I ventured out in a torrential downpour to visit a yarn shop she likes. Neither of us was looking for anything in particular, but you don't need to walk into a yarn shop with a project in mind, do you? You just need to want to look at absolutely every ball and skein and flip through every pattern available. It could take hours, if you do it right.

We went our separate ways in the small but well-done shop, and decided I must have a project. I found a small book of patterns, all quick projects you could complete in a weekend of diligent knitting. We had planned on knitting for days anyway, so I knew this was the book for me. The problem was, I only liked one pattern, a lacy scarf that required less than 300 yards of a sport weight yarn. I chose a muted blue hand-painted yarn by Freia. Two balls of the 100% wool would be plenty for the scarf—$10.25 a piece. But still, what to do about spending $20 on a book I would use just once? No. 1 had the solution—the pattern was probably available at Ravelry, so I put the book back on the rack.

We each bought some yarn, grabbed our umbrellas and braved the soaking rain back to the car. Once safe and dry back home, I discovered the exact same lacy scarf pattern on line for just under $7. It's called Scroll Lace Scarf by Ysolda Teague.

So, to work. With size 9 circular needles, I went about knitting the scarf, learning a few new tricks along the way. I learned how to do a provisional cast on and was reminded of how to work in short rows. And I learned how to do cable cast ons in order to create an interesting bound edge. When No. 1 was available, I asked her for help, but when she wasn't, I found some great how-to tips on You Tube.

Because I was working with sport weight, and No. 1 was working with fingering weight, my project went much faster, and I actually finished it before leaving town to come back home. I blocked it here and now have a scarf I love. I wouldn't mind making this scarf again, but I have found another pattern at Cocoknits, which I'll make using a skein of handspun, handyed yarn I bought at another shop last week. I'll save that story for another day, though, once the project is complete.

Here is the finished scarf as it looks draped:

Note: No. 1 is my oldest daughter. I visited her in Berkeley, California last week.