The knitted Christmas tree at the Forum, Norwich

Thanks to my friend David and to snoopydog for letting me know about the wonderful Christmas tree in The Forum, Norwich. The tree, the decorations and the gifts below are all knitted.

 Everything was knitted by hundreds of ladies across Norfolk and beyond, some as far away as the USA. To date £10,000 has been raised to fund new lifts in John Grooms Court where physically disabled young adults are cared for. Some were recently stranded on upper floors by a broken lift.

For more information there's a Youtube video which has a link to a paypal donate button.

Finished project - Be Mine socks

Three finished projects within a month? I'm on a roll!

Pattern is Piccole Onde, a free pattern published on Knitty. The small needles and real cable crossovers make for slow work but well worth it. The pattern makes little pockets of warmth!

The fibre is Picperfic's Wylie blend (yak, merino, silk) in 'be mine' colourway - a special Valentine colour mix for February's luxury fibre club.

The yarn is very fine. The leg a good length but I've used only 60g of the original 100g of spun fibre.

Larger pictures on Flickr

Finished project, Knitted Nativity

The knitted nativity is now finished, complete with wooden stable and straw. I made this for a friend with help from another knitting friend. The pattern is Jane Greenhowe's Christmas Crib

They actually do move around at night. I left the camera on one night and this is what happened:

Ravelry Project

Woolly Wednesday for December 2013

I spent most of my knitting time last month making the knitted nativity for a friend. When finally finished I wondered whether they moved around when no-one was looking and I couldn't help making this. "You're all drunk!"

After that I was free to catch up with some works in progress, I quickly finished the boyfriend scarf. More details are here and when finished we couldn't resist recreating the silly version of the Ways to Wear a Scarf (original cartoon here):

This one goes on and on. The tiny stitches and crossover cables make for very slow progress, but well worth it - the result is beautiful. The free pattern is Piccole Onde toe-up socks that I featured in February's Purl Two Together and the fibre I spun from a wool / silk / yak mix which was from Picperfic's Fibre Club.
Finally a new project that I shouldn't have started until other things were done, but I couldn't resist. I bought the pattern from the lovely Ruth of Rock n Purl back at Wonderwool. The wool is from the sheep of a family friend, very bouncy. I washed, dyed and carded it earlier in the year and I'm spinning as I go.

Ways to Wear a Scarf - Finished item - boyfriend scarf

Finishing the nativity freed me to catch up with some other works in progress. First the boyfriend scarf, now a bit overdue (it's been frosty).

This is the drop stitch pattern, the second I've made. It's fun to knit, easy to pick up when out and the result is very effective. It suits an inconsistent yarn; handspun singles, or in this case Manos Maxima merino wool.

I started it using his archery arrows. But switched to ordinary 7mm needles because a. he needed his arrows back and b. the bullet points of the arrows aren't great for catching stitches.

We enjoyed recreating the silly version of Ways to Wear Scarves:

Homage?! You're all drunk!

Finally I finished the knitted nativity that I'd rashly agreed to knit for a non-knitting friend. I was quite proud of the result and I wondered whether they moved at night when no-one was watching.

I couldn't resist making this. "Homage?! You're all drunk!"

Knitted Christmas star

... to finish off the knitted nativity that I agreed to knit for a friend.

I loved making the stuffed star. It's cleverly made in one piece (I don't like seaming). The pattern is Knitted Christmas star by Cecile Renaud

Woolly Wednesday for October 2013

Oops, a week late this time, but it is Wednesday. I notice that my previous post was last Woolly Wednesday so Dawn's monthly gathering really is useful as well as a nice virtual social event.

Two things that have been occupying me this month. The first is a felted solar system.
Here are Earth (and our moon), Venus our twin, Mars and tiny Mercury. I realise now that I can't work to scale (if I do Jupiter will be wall-sized!)

This project was inspired by a visit to the Space Centre in Leicester. I love the place and my favourite area is 'the planets'. It's not particularly interactive, mostly just information boards with some models. I think it's the varied and beautiful colours of the spheres that grabs me and this time it occurred to me that the coloured wool tops that I stock would lend themselves perfectly. It's been fun picking the colours, and unlike spinning and knitting, each felted disc is very quick to make.

What's been taking most of my knitting time is a nativity (or 'knitivity'?). I've heard people moan about friends who ask "If I buy the wool will you make this for me?" but I didn't think I'd be caught out myself....

Woolly Wednesday for September 2013

Oops - just missed Woolly Wednesday (by 40 minutes as I start writing). Hope it's still OK to join in.

Since last time I've finished this handspun, hand knit cowl which I'm really pleased with. Shame it's been too hot to wear it....

I felt a very strong desire to start some of the other projects that I've already spun for. But these socks have been on the go for ages, and because they're so slow (tiny needles and cable crossovers!) I've been putting them to one side to do other things. Funny how illogical the mind can be....

So I'm very proud of my self-control - I've decided not to cast on anything else until I've finished them. Here's the first one, I'm now on the heel of the second. They're looking and feeling so good, I'm really looking forward to wearing them. A good incentive to keep going!

I have taken advantage of the nice weather to wash a fleece. This is Smiler. I used some of Smiler's fleece last year to make this cowl and it was lovely.

So when offered the most recent fleece of course I said yes.  I've decided to process the fleece, dye it myself and make a cardy. (Definitely thicker yarn this time; I'm cured of my lace obsession!!)

There's a horrible amount of straw here, but it's large pieces and is picking out ok.
Among the straw are some lovely locks! Given the large amount of wool in a fleece I didn't feel too bad about being ruthless when I skirted it. I threw away not only the dirtiest bits but the coarser parts too, keeping probably only about the best half of it.
It's now washed and dried, ready for the carder.

Finished project - Sisterhood Cowl

 Yay, my Sisterhood Cowl is finished. It's always good to finish a project, but I'm also a little sad to finish this one because I've enjoyed knitting it so much.

Lots of plain knitting make this a great project to pick up & put down, or to put in your bag when going out. The lace rounds break this up and add interest. Big needles make the rounds fly by.
There are several ways to wear this type of cowl.
 It was my first opportunity to use my new blocking wires - a Fibre East purchase. They made blocking a breeze. I pulled it out lengthways because there was plenty of width, and I'd used the minimum number of stitches in order to get the garment out of the yarn I'd spun from Yummy Yarns' 'Posh Frock' wool/tencel

Pattern is here: and Yummy Yarns is here:

Mosaic of the steps along the way:

Woolly Wednesday for August

Once again, the monthly opportunity to round up current and recent projects has arrived.

The Tour de Fleece is for me an opportunity to spend more time spinning without the guilt. I have some lovely skeins of wool to show for it, even if I didn't finish it all before the end of the Tour. First this 200g of various natural shades of Masham wool. This will be a Carousel Tea Cosy.

 Second, this Merino/Cashmere/Silk in 'Foxgolves' from Picperfic's luxury fibre club. The fibre mix is lovely, it's incredibly soft and has a silky sheen. The colours are beautiful too. It was my first try at fractal spinning and I'm very happy with the way it's mixed the colours. It really needs to be worn next to the skin and so I'm thinking a cowl.

On the knitting front, I'm really loving knitting my Sisterhood Cowl. Progress appears slow but that's only because I only occasionally pick it up and knit a few rows. But those rows are very swift, thanks to large needles and a straightforward pattern. It's one that I've picked up and put in my bag because it's largely stockinette with some easy lace rows.

 And finally, a first reveal of something I'll be writing more about. For a recent visit home I'd bought a Schacht Zoom Loom each for me & my Mum. Like everyone else who's tried them, we found them fun and addictive, a great way to use up oddments of handspun.

Fibre East 2013

July 27 and 28 saw the third Fibre East and the first to have an indoor venue. Anyone who visited the 2012 event won't forget the mud, although this year has been warm and dry. Redborne College became very hot at times according to some stall holders. We can't beat our fickle British weather!
The 110 stands were distributed among several rooms inside the college plus some marquees outside.
One lovely surprise was to see that Paul Brittain of Classic Carders now has his electric drum carder ready! Here he is standing beside it.
The day wouldn't be complete without the Sheer Sheep experience, here's Michael doing his stuff. A great day for sitting on the grass with a picnic. He talked about the qualities of the wool from various breeds and how they've been mixed over the centuries.
He was shearing to order and letting spinners choose their fleece while still on the sheep.

My own haul included some long-sought-after blocking wires, some alpaca walking socks and as if I needed more fibre, 'Northern Lights' wool/silk from Freyalyn and some amazing black alpaca from Longdrawjames.

Review - spinning wheel drink holder

I've long thought that this device is very clever and have finally gone ahead and bought one.

It's been very hot here in the UK over the last few weeks which has coincided with the Tour de Fleece. While spinning on these hot evenings I've discovered that my drink has had to either sit on the floor (in danger of collecting loose fibres) or on a surface out of reach.

At 16.70 pounds sterling I did think it a little pricey, but have changed my mind now that I have it - it's much more substantial and better quality than I'd assumed. They're sent from America so the postage adds on quite a bit as you'd expect.

The acrylic is thicker than I'd expected and on my 'Ashford Traditional' cup holder the hook is cleverly cranked so that it sits snugly on the angled beam and the drink is (more or less) level. (Versions for other wheels have different methods of attachment.)

My usual spinning position is a bit incompatible - I sit at an angle to the wheel with my limbs stretched out and quite a length of spun yarn between me and the flyer. In this position my knee is in danger of knocking the drink, so I'm having to adopt a different (possibly better - certainly more normal) posture - squarer to the wheel and more directly in front of the orifice.

It very happily takes a glass of wine, beer / cider bottle (above), G&T and tall OJ (below)

The only thing that I can't fit in is my mug of coffee / tea. The makers offer a 'cup handle slot' option which would do the trick, but I didn't think it through when ordering. I'm going to try and find a coffee mug that fits or find a clever way of fitting a normal mug in the holder.

The makers are FBN plastics, and their shop is here:

How to deal with a braid of dyed fibre

Mum asked me for some tips for spinning a special braid of dyed fibre. I'm posting publicly in case these thoughts are useful to others too.

1. It always seems a shame to undo a beautifully braided coil of fibre, but it has to be done! You'll probably find that the length of fibres is actually a tube and you may even spot a seam. carefully open this out into a wide flat ribbon.

2. I find that it really makes the following steps easier if you split the fibre vertically. Whether you split into two, four or eight, or whether you split at all depends on how you're planning to spin and how you'd like the colours to be distributed (see my notes on variations later).

3. However many times you've split it, I find that the fibre really benefits from  a lengthwise stretch, either by 'snapping' or a gentle tug. The idea is to separate the fibres which may have become a little clingy with their neighbours. The trick is to pull less than you think you need to, and move your hands along a little bit each time.

4. Again, where you go from here depends on how you're spinning. For my last few projects I've been spinning fine, even and as worsted as possible. I've found that continuing to pre-draft into a 'pencil roving' really helps. The fibres are  now so free that they spin like a dream! (There's a great video about pre-drafting from Sara's Texture Crafts here)


Spinning from the fold. You'll want to split vertically only once or not at all, and then after step 3 pull off a staple length or so to fold over your finger.

Longdraw from rolags. David of Southern Cross Fibre has made this great post which shows how to make rolags from a dyed braid.

Fractal spinning. The more times you split lengthways, the quicker your colours will repeat in your singles. Fractal spinning means splitting your yarn differently for each bobbin of singles to achieve certain stripe effects or to balance your colours better in your finished 2-ply. There are different ways to do this for different effects, but for starters, split your yarn lengthways once, spin one bobbin from one half. Split the second half again before spinning the second bobbin. This way the colours will change twice as quickly on the second bobbin.

Do you prepare your fibre differently? Do you have anything to add to this? Let us know in the comments.

Tour de Fleece day something

Something like two weeks in with one week left to go and I'm really pleased to have finished one of my goals.

This Masham wool in four natural shades (it was a neat plait when I bought it) was a Wonderwool purchase from Adelaide Walker and destined to be a sheep carousel tea cosy.

What has really interested me about this project is that the different colours have quite different characteristics. The white was very straight and lustrous. You can see from the picture that the yarn get progressively more bulky as the colour gets darker. Noticeably more bouncy and elastic.

Woolly Wednesday, July 2013

Woolly Wednesday gives me the chance to take stock of my active works in progress. It's also making me think about my inactive ones...

This is some lovely angora I bought from Bigwig's Wardrobe at Wonderwool. It's going to be a fluffy pair of lacey wristwarmers.

The Tour de Fleece will see me spinning every day over the next couple of weeks, so I expect to make some progress with the angora. It's also the reason I've started this project, the sheep carousel tea cosy. I LOVE the pattern and will make the sheep in alternating colours.

I'm spinning thicker than the lace I have been making recently so progress is quite quick with this one, more pics to follow

On the knitting front, this is the Sisterhood Cowl from Shared Secrets (aka Secret Spinner). The yarn is merino / tencel (hence the silky sheen) dyed by Patricia of Yummy Yarns UK. I know the designer and the dyer and I love the fact that this is such a collaborative project.

I thought the cowl would be a long-term knitting project, but it's on big (6mm) needles and I've opted for shorter rounds so it's knitting up really quickly.

This next one is the opposite. Very fine yarn and thin needles, plus cables in the pattern. It's all worth it, I really love the pattern (Piccole Onde) and can't wait to wear them. The wool is lovely - wook/yak/silk from Picperfic's luxury fibre club.

According to Ravelry I have five other projects on needles. Some I've not touched for years. I'm wondering whether to pull some of those out.

Are you like me and just keep dormant projects on life support for years, or are you quick to frog something that's not going so well?