A productive year

2014 has without doubt been my most productive year ever. Below are nine finished projects.

Not all are made using handspun yarn but most are, including the two cardies, both using Glacial from Ruth Garcia-Alcantud. One uses fleece washed, dyed, carded and spun by me, the other uses luxury fibre artisan-dyed by Picperfic, one of my favourite indie dyers. Weaving and crochet make an appearance but knitting with handspun yarn is clearly my favourite craft.

More info about these projects is in my notebook on Ravelry

p2tog for iPhone

The p2tog.com shop is now available as an iOS app (iOS7 and higher). It's currently available for iPhone and the iPad version will follow shortly.

For a limited time, orders received via this iPhone app will have free postage and include a project bag and other goodies.

Silly Shark Sock

My friend Ruth is a great sport - she hinted that she’d like this for Silly Sock Day (in aid of Autism) - having lost a leg makes this an even more wicked joke!

It’s a real shame I couldn’t get hold of a copy of the best shark sock pattern, Shark Sock Week, this is the best of the alternatives that I could find at the time.

I’ve not done much crochet so this was a nice challenge for me (and the reason that the tail is untidy and gets neater closer to the front!)

I absolutely love it and think mine looks better than the pattern (tips - use a blue/grey for the body, embroider small eyes and sew some blood-red yarn around the teeth) 

Ravelry project here

Roisin Wrist/Ankle Warmers from Yarn Works by W J Johnson

Yarn Works is a new book subtitled How to Spin, Dye and Knit Your Own Yarn. It's aimed at knitters who are interested in spinning and dyeing.

I received the book for review and decided that the best way would be to work one of the projects.

The book is organised into 4 main sections; Fibre workshop, Spinning workshop, Dyeing workshop and Knitting workshop. This meant that for working one of the projects meant referring back to various earlier pages for details of mordanting, using the cochineal and spinning. I was also a little confused by quantities; I found a contradiction re quantity of dyestuff needed and the quantity of fibre / yarn given in the project is far more than actually needed to make the item. This last point isn't a problem at all, the yarn is beautiful and I have enough left over now to make a bigger project.

The project I chose is simple, spinning alpaca appealed to me and I've not used cochineal before (if you find the idea of using the actual bugs a bit grizzly then there are powder or liquid options). The pattern is just 16 stitches knit until long enough but a garter edge, a cable pattern and buttonholes make it interesting.

Cochineal gives alpaca a lovely dusky rose colour. The fibre I used is a bit pricey but it's beautiful to work with. I went with the quantity of cochineal given in the Dye workshop section, a remarkably small pile of bugs. The dye wasn't quite exhausted after a prolonged simmer, so they really do seem to contain a lot of colour.

Beware - alpaca is very easy to felt, so handle carefully when dyeing, rinsing and drying.

The book suggested carding locks and spinning from rolags. This is the only instruction I didn't follow to the letter. I spun my prepared roving woollen by spinning from the fold. After navajo-plying the yarn is very soft and nice and even.

The warmers were a very quick knit, each one a single sitting, or maybe even both in a single sitting if you knit quickly or can sit for longer than me. My buttons are from Helen Dixon.

There's a large appendices section at the end. Some of this information is detailed information on topics such as fibre blending, determining WPI and twist count, troubleshooting your wheel, the colour wheel and mixing dyes. This would all seem to fit well in the relevant chapters, but I assume that this more advanced information has been separated out to keep the workshops uncomplicated for those trying the techniques for the first time. There's an appendix about making various tools on the cheap if you're on a budget. There's also a wealth of reference information such as weights & measures and knitting abbreviations.

More of my pictures from this project are here on Flickr

Knitting Kate Davies' Sheep Carousel Tea Cosy with multi-coloured sheep

The Ravelympics is really about personal challenge (no unfair disqualifications here) and so it seemed appropriate to use a project which includes some new-to-me techniques.

Kate Davies' pattern uses two colours. I bought a plait of natural-colour masham wool at Wonderwool last year to make this teapot. It seemed appropriate to make the sheep multi-colours, and I'm very pleased with the result.

This was a challenge because if knit in the round as per the pattern, then there would be 4 colours in some rows. I hate floats and ends and so used intarsia (still a lot of work to weave in ends!) That means knitting two sides and joining them rather than knitting it in the round.

It was a little bit of a cheat to buy the teapot after making the cosy. It's a little bit tight but I'm hoping it'll give a little when it's washed and blocked.

Pattern here

Ravelry project here

Walking woven fabric

I'm thrilled with the finished houndstooth fabric. Along the way I discovered how much woven wool cloth would fit on the back roller of my knitter's loom. As you can just see, I undid that back cross-member and moved it in order to keep weaving and avoid cutting off and tying back on. 

 At this point the fabric feels like strands of yarn woven together. To fill out the weave a little bit and make the cloth feel a little softer and more like a single piece of fabric it's 'fulled'. It's pounded in soapy water with hands or feet. People used to be employed to do this and it's said to be the origin of the surnames Walker and Fuller.

I'm not sure whether I walked it for long enough but it certainly feels beautiful. The 7.5dpi reed was just right. There is no openness to the weave now but it feels so soft and drapey.

Perfect for my skirt. Over to my friend who's agreed to do the sewing bit!

Finished project - Abby in Foxgloves

Fibre is from picperfic's fluff & stuff, a luxury mix of merino, cashmere and silk.

This was my first go at fractal spinning. The technique helps to distribute the colours in 2-ply yarn. You split the fibre down the middle, spin one bobbin full from one half and then split the second half again so that the colour changes are faster on the second bobbin.

I was worried that I'd lose the greens (which I love in this fibre) in the mix, but I'm surprised at how distinct they still are and how strong the stripes are. I couldn't be happier.

The pattern is Abby from Knitty. I'd bought two patterns for this yarn but both were knit around rather than top-to-bottom. That wouldn't have looked right with these colour changes, and I eventually found Abby. It was easy enough to pick up and put down over Christmas, is very effective and is free!

More photos here
Ravelry project here

Woolly Wednesday for January 2014

I finished Jane GreenHowe's Christmas Crib just before Woolly Wednesday last month. It ate up so much time, it has been really good to get back to some of my other projects.

I had nearly finished these wonderful socks last Woolly Wednesday. With a bit of commitment they joined the finished projects pile and I've really enjoyed wearing them over Christmas.
The fibre was from Picperfic's luxury fibre club - a mix of yak, merino, silk which seems perfect for socks. Pattern is Piccole Onde. It's a painstaking pattern (those are real cable crossovers) but the resulting air pockets make the socks very cosy. More pics here.

I've made a little progress on my Glacial cardy. The fleece was from a woolly pet of a family friend, washed, dyed and spun before Christmas.

I didn't intend for this next project to be as addictive as it has, but I needed a 'pick-up-and-put-down' project to carry with me over Christmas so I cast it on just before the holiday and have touched very little else.
Once again the fibre is from Picperfic's club, this time merino, cashmere and silk. It's going to feel lovely against my neck and I'm so pleased with the way that the colours have worked out. It's my first go at fractal spinning. I'm surprised at the strength of the stripes, but this is a good thing. I loved the small amount of green in this particular fibre and didn't want it to be lost

Finally, something I've just started but has really absorbed me over the last few days. Since I first saw the 'Town and Country' skirt in the Ashford Book of Projects years ago I've wanted to make one. The houndstooth pattern is surprisingly easy to weave - I've already made a purse a while ago. The skirt I have in mind is a 4-panel straight design and so the fabric can be made on a 12" knitters or rigid heddle loom. I've not spun for this one - yarn is Ashford Tekapo wool - which means I've been able to get straight on with the warping and weaving which have been very fast and I'm pleased with the neatness of my fabric.

I'm less confident in my sewing skills and so have asked a friend to do the dressmaking bit for me!

Yarn bowls in the making

Helen has taken some pictures during the making of this batch of bowls, giving us a step-by-step view of the process.
 After throwing each bowl on her wheel, they're left to harden.
 She cuts the holes and slots with a small scalpel:
 The bowls are fired twice, once to fire the clay, and a second, lower firing for the glaze

I receive small batches from Helen and they sell well. The yarn bowl designs that I have in stock are available here