Finished project and 2012 review

Casting off Sweet Baby Sweater gave me a good excuse to rummage through my button jar. I chose these little porcelain sea-shells made by my sister.

It also seems a good time to take stock of my projects and check how I've done with my New Year resolution which was to finish more projects than I start.

Cast on

Crochet chocs
Tatiana jumper
Easy-fit hat
Oaklet shawl
Storm Beach drop-stitch scarf
Woodland socks
Sweet Baby jumper
*Dixie lace sweater
*Water Sprite socks

* = still in progress

Cast off

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Bootees
Crochet chocs
Bathroom curtains
Opulent Raglan, black
Easy-fit hat
Oaklet shawl
Storm Beach drop-stitch scarf
Woodland socks
Sweet Baby jumper

So I've not done very well, it's about even.

Woolly W.... oops - Friday

Apologies for missing the Wednesday, it's an extraordinarily busy month for some reason.

Since last month I've got this far with the first of my 'Water Sprite' bamboo / wool socks (just past the heel)

But I've abandoned everything else to knit this sweet baby jumper in time for a first birthday. I'm using a Zauberball together with some of my XXL Trekking yarn in 451 (reasonably solid blue in similar thickness and composition - 25% nylon, 75% wool) in a 2 x 2 stripe.
After all those blues, the colours are really starting to come off the ZB now! It was a bit disappointing to get a lot of dark blue coming off the Ball so it all blends into a large area of dark blue, but look - this comes right at the armpit (where I'll cast on the sleeves) and so I can knit the sleeves in plain blue (avoiding mismatched stripes) and it should look great. Totally accidental but a very happy accident.

Woolly Wednesday - yellow, green, blue, red

it's Woolly Wednesday again and a great opportunity to once again show off my finished bathroom curtains project.

Woven from merino wool / silk, spindle spun. I drum carded the dyed merino with white, well blended but there's still some variance in the colour which is nice. Warp is commercial cottolin, woven on a 4-shaft 32" loom. Pattern is a herringbone twill, more photos including the draft on Flickr

Finishing the curtains means that I've been able to officially start this sock project. I've now finished spinning this really lovely fibre from Yummy Yarns, it's BFL / Bamboo dyed in 'Water Sprite' colours (I especially love the bluey green). This time I've spun really fine, again by hand spindle, and navajo (chain) plied to concentrate the colours. I have two skeins of reasonably fine 4-ply (which *should* be identical, I split the fibre down the middle) and I'm looking forward to seeing how the colours stripe when knitted.

Another dormant WIP  may see some action soon is my Tatiana pullover. I'm not spinning this one but using Ashford's Tekapo 100% wool in dark red (looks brighter in the photo than it really is). I'm dipping my toe in the crochet pool, I'm relatively new to it. This jumper has a lovely 'shell' pattern made from puff stitches, which I'm enjoying.

Bathroom curtains finished

I've posted about this project so many times while it's been in progress, but at last I can say that it's finished!

Woven from merino wool / silk, spindle spun. Warp is commercial cottolin, woven on a 4-shaft 32" loom. Pattern is a herringbone twill, the draft is among the photos on Flickr.

More photos at

Pretty and environmentally-friendly!

Tried a new colour on my hair yesterday. Now that it's shorter I only use half the bottle. What else to do with half a bottle of left-over chemical hair dye but squirt it over a 100g of white merino?

I can feel another shawl coming on!

Needle felted characters round-up

Baby hedgehogs are so cute, and this little fella is so realistic! After seeing him a week or so ago I remembered some of the other lovely needle-felted items I've seen and decided to make a little round-up.
Instructions for the hedgehog are at It's in russian, but should be easy to get an online translation or just follow the photos.

I featured this cute fella in April's Hand Spinning News, no information other than "shetland + suri alpaca made by my daughter". Found on spinalatte's Flickr stream here:

Created by Jen Scheer and found on Etsy, this Hubble Telescope is complete with little astronauts. Unfortunately now gone from Etsy and only the odd photo remains online

Another cat, this one is by Robin Andreae, needle felting artist. She uses her art to make a difference; she sells her work on eBay and donates 20% to animal charities. Her own blog is at and is well worth a good browse; she's made so many beautiful creatures. (from January 2012 HSN)

One I've spotted just this week, this Halloween witch is Carey Brett and is available on Folksy now

These cute and friendly pandas are part of a range of felted wool toys made by woolroommate. She is inspired by nature - birds, animals, flowers and by fairytales. Found on Flickr

radmegan felt inspired to make one of her childhood heroes (and mine) Kermit. She takes us on a litte needle-felting tutorial:

This cute ET and other characters made by Ray Cannon were on show at an exhibition a couple of years ago with little word since.

And finally an item from the most recent Hand Spinning News, this lovely bag is part of a round-up of felted bags - all wonderful.

Woolly Wednesday

Thank you to Lydia for letting me know about Woolly Wednesday. On the first Weds of each month, bloggers can join together to share their creative adventures.

As well as the sharing aspect, I thought it might be useful to have a regular look at my current projects. So here goes.

I've two 'active' spinning projects right now, both spinning by drop spindle. My friends will be sick of me posting pictures of this loom which I warped back in April. It's still in progress - partly because of getting distracted by other projects, and partly because... it's just taking a long time. The warp is long,  long enough for two curtains, hems and tabs, but I can see the end of the warp on the back roller now!

Warp is commercial cottolin, weft is merino / silk mix handspun with a spindle and woven as singles.

This next one is a secret, so don't tell anyone. It's the first picture I've posted of the project because I've not officially started it yet. I'm trying to resist picking this up but the fibre (from YummyYarnsUK) is so beautiful, I sometimes do a little as a break from the other project.

Merino with bamboo, 'water sprite' colours. Spinning very fine, to navajo ply for socks. (Another one that'll take ages!)

Ginkgo socks, chart for reduced number of stitches

This was another really quick project, spurred on by wanting to see how the gorgeous fibre looked when knitted ('woodland', merino / nylon from Yummy Yarns UK) and by the advancing autumn and the desire for a new pair of handknit socks.

I had some 'firsts':
  • For the first time I tried splitting the fibre down the middle and spinning each half separately. That should have made sure that the socks matched. I'm not sure why they don't but they look great together regardless. I suspect it's because the second half was a few yards longer than the first
  • For the first time I tried plying from a centre-pull ball. This worked beautifully. It's a great way to 2-ply one bobbin-full with itself
I went for 2-ply for yardage reasons, also that the singles weren't as thin as I'd hoped. Even so, it was quite thick (almost DK I think) and so I went for bigger needles and reduced the number of stitches in the pattern. This made it a very quick knit - I did each sock in two sittings.

The reduction took a little bit of jiggery-pokery because of the lace pattern. The pattern is Cotton and Cloud's Ginkgo Socks, my favourite sock pattern (this is my fourth pair from that pattern) and the designer Kyoko Nakayoshi has said that she's happy for me to post the reduced chart here. So here it is.

I knit the toe ending up with 40 stitches altogether and then used Cotton and Cloud's pattern in conjunction with this shortened chart

Opulent raglan - fleece to finished!

I was lucky enough to meet sheep from the same zwartbles flock that this fleece came from.
I enjoyed using my Haldane Lewis for this one.

I combed the fleece rather than carding it, and spun worsted. The preparation should have taken out the shorter fibres, just leaving the best and longest fibres, all arranged parallel.

I didn't take out the sun-bleached tips, so the overall result is more of a dark chocolate rather than black.
I'm very happy with the jumper. The only thing I am a little unsure about is that it's very heavy. I think this is partly due to a tight gauge. My swatch was significantly smaller than it should have been, and rather than go with bigger needles, I simply went up a pattern size. This means I've packed in many more stitches than there should have been.

This makes it very warm!

Pattern is Interweave's Opulent Raglan. The photos in the montage above are all on Flickr.

How to spin and knit this shawl in ten days

This is the final post about my Ravelympics / Ravellenics project, spun and knit during the London Olympics. It's without doubt the project I'm most proud of. It's a simple knit, free pattern and a great first shawl or lace project. (all details below.)
It's definitely my fastest project too. Here's what helped:
  • Have a time limit or target (in this case I had my eye on the Shawl Sailing finish line!)
  • Something changing to keep your interest. In this case each row was slightly different in colour, keeping me always keen to see the next row.
The singles are not spun terribly fine, but I did use larger needles than called for and so the stitches are quite open. It's translucent and very drapey.
The spiral-dyed fibre graduated to nearly-white. I added undyed white for the last part of the lace border which gives an effect I'm very happy with. It really makes a contrast with the dark blue.

Pattern: Oaklet Shawl
Needles: 4mm (slightly larger than pattern says). Used interchangeable tips/cable and swopped cable for a longer one as necessary.
Fibre: Sliced denim Polwarth from picperfic
Yardage: My fibre made 350 yards which was just right. But the pattern allows you to make the shawl smaller or larger to suit your yardage

Inspirational teacher

I'd like to give an overdue mention to Pam Austins who is a woman on a mission to teach longdraw.

I met Pam at Fibre East when I was spinning a small contribution towards the Woolsack cushions being made in the 'have-a-go' tent. She watched my own 'from-the-fold-not-really-long-or-short-draw' technique and in 30 seconds had me spinning longdraw - fun and fast - and had elevated me to 'star pupil' status.

She really has a gift. Details of her class and her blog are listed on Hand Spinning News and at the link below.

How to spin a braid in a single sitting

Continuing from the last post in which I tried thwacking a sample skein for the first time, here are the pictures from my Ravelympics (aka Ravellenics) Handspun Heptathlon.

The fibre is spiral-dyed fibre which I bought from Marianne / picperfic at Fibre East. The colour graduates from dark to light through the length of the roving and this graduation will of course be reflected in the finished shawl, to be knit using singles.

I didn't quite spin it in a single sitting; after the opening ceremony I went to bed and continued the next morning, so the next best thing. Here's what kept it interesting,
  • spinning singles is quick and fun - you don't have the benefit of the plying helping to even out the thickness but you end up with twice the length
  • the colour graduation keeps you looking for the next yard - you're constantly seeing new colour come through
  • a challenge or a time limit - in this case the Ravelympics but I know from others' blog posts that knit-a-longs (especially mystery KALs) or fibre clubs are a great way to keep you working
  • fibre that you love and can't wait to see knitted

I finished with 350yds after spinning, exactly right for my planned Oaklet Shawl. The whole 100g fit onto one bobbin - just!

Just as I'd practised (see sampling for lace shawl), I set the singles by fulling them. This involves switching from hot to cold water and bashing the skein against a hard surface. Everything you'd avoid doing when scouring / washing a fleece. But here, a little bit of felting plumps up and softens the yarn a little and sets it.
There are a lot of photos here so I'll split the knitting into a separate post.

Retail therapy

My New Year resolution was to finish more projects than I start. But shopping for fibre isn't starting a project, right?

(Woodland from Yummy Yarns, cinnamon/gold dyed silk from Cariad Fiber Art and Storm Beach handspun yarn from karmicdelight

sampling for lace shawl

This is the first of some posts about my Ravelympics project (aka Ravellenics - come and get me IOC).

Briefly, inspired by josiekitten's Citron shawl, my project is a lace-edged shawl using dyed fibre spun as singles and set by slightly felting / fulling. Even though the event didn't start until the start of the opening ceremony, I thought that sampling would be ok beforehand!

Knitting with singles (a single ply) is ok if it's well set, and a recommendation was to full (slightly felt) the singles. I've not done this before, although I did mention the technique with a video in Hand Spinning news a month or two ago.

Prudent to practice beforehand I thought. Even better to make two skeins and set one as I would have done in the past and full the other.

After spinning the fibre from the fold, you use soap (I used Aussie Know How felting finish because it's what I'm using for all wool washing now), hot and cold water to shock the wool and then thwack the skein against a hard surface.

We usually handle fleece so carefully when scouring, this rough treatment doesn't come easily! But is fun when you get over that.


It's obvious from the pictures, the fulled singles (right) feel - well - fuller. The process seems to have plumped out the thinner bits and evened it all up a bit. It feels softer against the skin, and when knitted and blocked, I'm sure you'll agree it looks better.

Converting a single-drive Ashford Traditional to double-drive


A double-drive wheel is free-treadling because there's no friction from a brake band. If I take my foot off the treadle now, it will run for many revolutions before it decides to slow down and stop.

As with all Ashford double-drive wheels this one can now be easily switched between double and single-drive modes.

I converted mine in a lunch-break using only a double-drive flyer and whorl (and bobbins of course). There is a little bit of drilling and hammering involved.

If you're interested, I'll be putting together a kit including instructions. In the mean time, it's pretty easy to figure out how to do it and I do stock the double-drive flyer and the bobbins.

I've used a standard flyer here, but you could just as easily use a sliding-hook flyer kit and benefit from the 30% larger bobbins.

Note that if you're buying a new wheel, the double-drive version is only a few pounds more than the single-drive - cheaper than converting it later. But all the extra bits will add complication for a new spinner.

If you're buying a secondhand Trad, the chances are it'll be single-drive because there are so many more of them around.

Ravelympics project (and part of my Fibre-East haul)

The Ravelympics is a knitting and spinning challenge event and start in exactly one week's time. (I believe that there's a sporting event happening at the same time.)

It's officially now had to change its name to Ravellenics for bureaucratic reasons but it'll be Ravelympics to me.

If you've seen this month's Hand Spinning News you will have read me raving about josiekitten's Citron shawl. I was pleased to see the very shawl on show at Fibre East by Marianne of PicPerfic who dyed and supplied the fibre.

I love the pattern and I love the colour graduations (spiral dyed fibre) but I was particularly interested in the fact that she'd knitted with spun singles. This makes the most of the colour changes (although navajo would have achieved this too), it's finer than plied yarn and it gives the finished item a different look and feel. But any inconsistencies in the spinning will be more obvious than with plied yarn.

Much inspired by all of this I decided to make the same for my Ravelympics project.

I arrived early at Fibre East to have the pick of Marianne's fibre. This is the one I chose, called Sliced Denim. It graduates from strong blue to almost white.

I've changed my mind on the pattern because I like the idea of the white going into a lace border. I've chosen Oaklet.

This is it. It has the same stocking stitch body as the citron. I can repeat the lace pattern until the yarn is used up. If I happen to finish the yarn before the end of the repeat, I believe that some pure white will blend in perfectly to finish off with. I love the pointy effect you can achieve at the edge in the blocking.

Fibre East 2012

Thurleigh, Bedford, 14 & 15 July 2012

This was the second Fibre East and it has grown; exhibitors ranged from hobby dyers through to larger names such as Ashford. Spinning was well-represented with Schacht, Kromski, Spinolution as well as Ashford wheels on display.

One of the marquees was designated the 'have a go' tent, offering rugmaking and felting as well as spinning and knitting.
Michael of the Sheer Sheep Experience put on a show which told the story of British wool as well as demonstrating his skills with electric and hand shears.

The Woolsack project has had spinners and knitters, crocheters and felters busy making cushions from British wool as a gift for the athletes competing In London this year. A highlight of the show was seeing a team from the Maldives arriving at the Woolsack stand to choose their cushions.

Another update on the dark raglan

Progress is slow because of my habit for so many things on the go at once, and because I'm spinning a bit, knitting a bit etc.

But I'm almost at the bottom of the body. I'm at the point where I'm starting to measure my own torso and keeping an eye on the work to see when it's long enough. (An advantage of this pattern - you just keep knitting until it's long enough).

It's going well, the cable and braids are really popping out, it all looks good size-wise.

Dressing mixtures

By coincidence but following on beautifully from the last post, I've received a question by email this week about dressing mixture.

If you find spinning easier with a little grease still present but your fleece is very dry after scouring, you can spray it with an oily mixture called dressing mixture.

I notice that Anne Field's original Ashford Book of Spinning (no longer in print) gave three recipes, one of which matches my correspondent's own recipe, that being:

  • one part of water, one part of olive oil and a quarter part of ammonia 

She says that the ammonia may not be easy to obtain from your chemist, and this may be the reason that this particular recipe doesn't appear in the current Ashford book of Hand Spinning - it keeps two simpler oil / water recipes.

pour the the liquids into a plant sprayer and shake up well to make an emulsion.

My friend's tips are to spray sparingly and to spray the fleece at least a day before spinning (but note that the mixture may become rancid over a long period of time).

Scouring fleece

With the difficulties I've had obtaining the scour and wash I have been using / selling, it was great to receive these samples in the post from Aussie Know How. As I have been trying them I thought it would be a good idea to write about how to scour a fleece at the same time.

We're aiming to wash and rinse out the dirt and lanolin from the raw fleece without felting it. Therefore agitation has to be kept to a minimum. I like using these net bags (available from your dry-cleaning or pound store) as they make it easier and cleaner to handle the fleece and help you to handle the fleece without rubbing the fibres together too much. Don't pack too much in a bag - the water needs to flow through the fibre.

Carefully place those bags in the hot soapy water. The raw fleece can handle hot water as long as you don't move it around too much and don't transfer it to water of a different temperature. The new product says 20ml per 10litres (that's 2 gallons or one big bucketful). So for my bathful I calculated 80ml, about the same quantity that I'd have used of Power Scour.  I would normally leave to soak for 20 mins, but this product says 'paddle after 5 mins'. I'm not quite sure what that means but the aim is to allow the water to flow around the fibre and carry out the dirt, without allowing the fibres to rub together.

I call this 'sheep soup'. It's amazing what dirt is trapped in the fleece. After this first wash, the instructions suggest using the spin cycle or gently squeeze to take out the dirty water before rinsing. I would generally be more cautious and simply leave to drain on a rack for a few minutes rather than spin or squeeze. These bags then needed two changes of rinse water before the water was running clear. I do use the spin cycle (slow spin) to take out most of the water, with the fleece still in the net bags.

Evaluation of the new Fibre Scour

The essential oils (Tea Tree and Lemon Myrtle - antibacterial) smell very strong but pleasant. I assume that the product contains enough of these to be effective rather than just a token amount.

At suggested concentration, the new product has cleaned the grease more effectively than I expected.  Usually I wash only once in order to take out the dirt and some of the grease leaving a little of the lanolin on the fibres which aids combing and spinning. Now that this fibre has dried (it takes a couple of days to be completely dry) it feels much drier (ie free of grease) than I'd expect. In future I think I will try using a little less product.

[UPDATE] I now have these items (500ml bottles) available at