If I were yarn...

Thanks to Nadia for asking.

Definitely wool and only wool. Not complex or fancy but plain and straightforward. Natural, undyed.

The  breed would be Norfolk Horn. A rare breed, originating from the beautiful rural county, known to be flighty. The wool isn't known for being soft and fine. Maybe scratchy at times. But resilient and practical. And warmth when required.

Yvonne, Monday 13 Dec

Yvonne the sheep doesn't condone taking drugs. (That morning coffee aside.)

Sheep in a field. Caption says Smoking grass: overrated

Yvonne #3

Yvonne the sheep is plain talkin' and has no truck with modern sanitary ideas.

Two sheep, caption says Just eat round it. I've always poo'd where I stand and I always will

Yvonne the sheep

I started drawing Yvonne the sheep today, and the silly ideas just flowed. Here's the first one, I may publish them more than once a week at handspinner.co.uk/yvonne if I can keep thinking them up!

Kylo Ren knitting chart

After seeing the Force Awakens hat pattern (free pattern, folks) I was a little sad to see no Kylo Ren in there, so set about attempting a chart myself.

If there's any interest I don't mind drawing the pattern out properly.

What in the cotton-pickin' world...?

The start of an interesting journey and part of my Project Apocalypse

Handspun handknit Ardelise - finished!

Wool is best Shetland combed top from Curtis Wools, spun during Spinzilla week. Split vertically and pre-drafted, spun quickly, fairly long, but trying to keep fibres aligned. Yarn is still very light and bouncy.
I fell in love with the Ardelise pattern as soon as I saw it, and it hasn't disappointed! Super design, easy to knit and seamless. When I reached the waist I switched to the sleeves, so that I could then knit the body until the yarn ran out. (I spun around 1200 yards as per the pattern and that was pretty much spot on.)

My Ravelry project is here

Project Apocalypse - retting nettles

I've now stripped the leaves from the nettles I collected on Saturday. It looks a very sparse collection now. As a first experiment, that's probably fine.

I'm 'dew retting' in order to avoid finding a large receptacle and doing hard smelly work changing water. This takes much longer (6 weeks) but all I need to do is to turn these and water them on days that it doesn't rain.
 I've since read that green stems may be better than brown ones, so I've collected some more from my garden and stripped those too. (Hey, they're a weed and need clearing up anyway. I may as well get something from them.) These ones are greener, but twister too, I'm not sure whether that's a problem.

Project Apocalypse - day zero

Why is yours truly out in the rain picking stinging nettles?

So here's the idea. Genesis 1:1 of Project Apocalypse:
"Why spend all that time spinning and knitting when you can buy a pair of socks from the supermarket for three quid?"
"Because dick'ead, after the apocalypse, I'll be the one wearing warm and smart clothes."

I guess I'm not the only one to have had this conversation (maybe not those exact words). But is this a boast more easily made than accomplished? Exactly how well would we fare when our homes and possessions are gone and it's just us and what we find around us?

Let's find out!

This is the concept. You have what you stand up in and what's around you. You can use fibres that you can find, gather, grow, harvest, brush or shear yourself. You can make tools from whatever's around you.

No-one's going to enforce these rules, but you get the spirit of the thing, right? If you want to boil up dye using a pan you already have on your kitchen stove rather than building a fire and scavenging a receptacle, do it.

Let's assume that you can find things like nails, hammer, scissors etc but let's not assume that you can find a spindle, 8-shaft loom or have a spinning wheel stashed in your nuclear bunker.

There's a line somewhere, draw your own line. But extra kudos for making and improvising.

Be open about what you do, write it down  and post pictures.

My own plans?
  • I'd love to grow cotton myself. A challenge because I'm not green-fingered.
  • After hearing the story of the Wild Swans and learning that stinging nettles (which grow as weeds here) have usable fibres, I'm curious!
  • I've seen sheep shedding naturally and I've collected wool from a field. That worked really well.
  • I'd love to dye some different colours using gathered ingredients and make a Fair Isle-style project.

Anyone else joining me? What would you like to try?

Post on Instagram and Twitter using #projectapocalypse, and join this Ravelry group for discussion and ideas.

(I'd like this to be ongoing - no time limits (unless the apocalypse comes and we have to start this for real!))

With thanks to Rebecca and the Wayside Project for putting ideas into my head, Jenn for telling me things about stinging nettles that I didn't know and Chris, who asked why I didn't just buy a pair of socks and isn't a dick'ead.

Spinning dog fur into yarn - alsatian

The owner of these very cute creatures sent some brushed fur, light and dark.
The light has spun remarkably well, there are longer fibres in there than the black. It's a little 'stringy' at this stage
But after a good soak in Eucalan it's made quite a nice yarn with a mohair-like halo.

KnitPro's new limited edition interchangeable circular needle set

Knitpro have issued limited-edition sets before, but like the Symfonie Rose interchangeable set, the latest set is a new needle that's (so far) not available separately or in any other needle type.

The needle is laminated birch, colour coded by size, as per the Dreamz range. They also have metal tips and the size engraved on the metal connector.

The cables (4 of) are colour-coded too. Accessories come in a silk pouch.

The set has a Paris theme and is called Royalé

The Royale interchangeable set will make a great gift but will only be available while stocks last, so don't hesitate!

knitting in the round with double-point needles without laddering

I prefer using dpns to magic-loop and recently I've avoided laddering reasonably successfully by keeping the yarn tight at the needle junctions.

But with these cardy sleeves I'm trying something different; at the end of each needle I'm knitting a stitch from the next needle, so the gaps between the needles are moving around by one stitch each round, never in the same place for more than one round. It means using a stitch marker to make sure that the decreases are always in the right place, but that's a small price to pay.

Looking good so far.

Yarn is handspun and dyed shetland top, spun during Spinzilla 2015. Cardy is my Ardelise.

Spinzilla 2015

Spinzilla is a 'spin as much as you can in a week' competition. Spinners can spin in teams of up to 25 or spin 'rogue'. There are prizes for creative spinning spot, photos of yarn and team photos, and of course for the most yardage.

2015 was its third year. The first year was only open to Canada and the US. Last year it was open to spinners worldwide but no UK team formed. This year I sponsored the event (as Hand Spinning News) and formed the first and only UK team.

There's no selection criteria for joining a team, it's first come, first served when spinner registration opens on 1 September. Team Hand Spinning News UK filled up in a couple of days. Remarkable as some teams were being merged to make up numbers close to the start of the event. I was also pleased that we were a mixed gender team, our 25 spinners included three chaps.

We were the chattiest team by a long margin too, the thread set up on the Spinzilla Ravelry forum filled up with 2,500 posts by the end of the spinning. So even though we were a 'virtual' team, spread around the UK, we were able to share thoughts, have a laugh and enjoy some important human contact during the marathon.

 Spinning as much as you can for seven days is a tough physical challenge, though I couldn't help thinking that what was a fun but challenging week for us was a way of life for people in the past.

I began the week with a worsted draw. One of my targets was to spin the yarn I needed for Ardelise, 1200yds. This required a sport-weight yarn and I'd made a successful sample using a parallel draw. It gave a very smooth, lustrous and even result but still bloomed into a squishy yarn after washing. We were lucky to have been provided with a large amount of combed shetland top by Martin Curtis of Curtis Wool Direct, this was quick and easy to work with and gave a great result.

There's no doubt that longdraw is the fastest way to spin. With the 'cardy' yarn spun and switching to longdraw I'm sure that my rate increased.

One way to keep the interest level up is variety. At babylonglegs' suggestion some of us did 'Fun Friday Spinning'. I dug out of my stash these colours, dyed by picperfic and designed to be spun separately and 3-plied together.

My own total was 7646 yards. These were 'Spinzilla yards' counting all singles spun and adding some plying credit too. This makes 4.34 miles, well exceeding my target.

Other team members beat their targets too. The average yardage per spinner in our team was 5853 or 3.3 miles.

The total yardage for our team was 146,336 yards or 83.15 miles.


Since writing the above, the places have been announced. Team Hand Spinning News UK came 7th! We're all delighted!

In Jest slippers by Anna Tillman

This is the first time I've knitted a project for felting (deliberate felting!)

I couldn't believe she was being serious when a friend picked these and asked me to make them for her. They're the most fun pattern in Anna Tillman's book, and they look quite ridiculous when knitted to the pattern before felting.
 I knew that knitted fabric shrinks when felting, but I'd no idea just how much. And of course this means that there's a lot of knitting to do. Even though they're knit on 5mm needles, each was like a full-length sleeve and seemed to take an age.
The result is so worth it. The felt is sturdy and thick and looks much neater than the original knitting. Here they are with my hand for scale - pull the other one, it's got bells on!

Debra's Garden needle sizers and row counters

These Debra's Garden needle sizers are accurate and beautiful. I've stocked them for a long time at p2tog.com but have recently had low stock. Today a delivery arrived, so I have many of the colours in stock.
The needle sizers come in metric (2mm - 10mm with some quarter sizes) and sock/lace (0.75mm - 4mm with many quarter sizes).

Debra also makes these row counters / yarn cutters. The inner dial counts 1-10 while the outer dial counts 10's. in th 50 position, a blade is exposed which is a handy yarn cutter.

All of these items are fitted with a split ring and can be worn as jewellery, used as a keyring or zip-pull.

I love casting on

... so I've done it twice in one day! It's the expectation, promise (or perhaps hope) of a wonderful finished project that's so exciting.

The second is only the gauge swatch. This is the speed-spun wool top from the previous post. It did floof up a bit with a wash and looks and feels so lovely. The gauge is just about right, a little small if anything (normal for me) I won't go up a needle size, just make sure that when I spin the yarn proper, I'll try to make it the tiniest bit fuller.
I won't use it white, I'll dye it before I knit and try to get exactly the same dark red as per the pattern:
The first new project is another pair of socks. This yarn is spun from Monet's Pond from picperfic, I did that during Tour de Fleece earlier this year.
I found the perfect pattern, Coralicious Socks by Paula McKeever:

Fast drafting experiments - part two

Still preparing for Spinzilla, this is part two of my drafting experiments using this prepared wool from Curtis Wools - it's really easy to spin and does half the work.

I read somewhere recently about someone splitting their fibre and pulling it through a diz. Because I want a nice, smooth (non-woollen) and relatively fine yarn for this project (below) this could be a fast way to make the yarn and be a suitable job for the Spinzilla week.
Ardelise from Knit Rhapsody
The cardy I want to make uses sport-weight yarn, that'll be a long knit!

I found the diz a bit clumsy, but splitting the yarn down several times and then pre-drafting by hand in the usual way took no time and made the top ready to spin very quickly and evenly.
The resulting two-ply yarn may be a little too fine, I'll measure the WPI after washing and try a swatch. I could go three-ply for a very even yarn, or just spin a little thicker.

Colour chart for new Zing range

The new zing range are finished in metallic colours, different for each size. Here's the colour chart:

Metallic colours for each size in the new Knitpro Zing range

These colours apply to the double-point needles, single-point needles and fixed circulars. The size is laser-engraved on each needle. I'm hoping that interchangeable circular tips and cables will be available at some point, but no official word about that yet!

The Zing range is available here.

Which needles are stronger, Zing or Nova? A test to destruction

A recent question about whether new aluminium Zing needles are strong or flimsy got me thinking about doing this comparison.

The Zings are aluminium whereas their Nova siblings are brass. But then the Zings are solid, I believe, and the Novas are hollow. In a recent test I found the Novas are the heaviest of the Knitpro range (at least of the ones I stock).

I also decided to add an Addi lace circular to my death row (because I'm curious). All are 2.5mm diameter. One thing I'd not noticed before - the Zing tips are slightly longer than the others.
Here's the setup; a container suspended from one end of the needle, with the other clamped to the table. I slowly pour water into the container until the needle is permanently bent.
I'm sure you'll remember from your O level physics that when metal starts to bend, it bends in an elastic way, i.e. when you let go it springs back to its original shape (in this case straight). When you apply enough force it starts to bend in a 'plastic' way which means that it bends but doesn't spring back. That point is known as the 'elastic limit' and it's what we're looking for here.  When the needle bends, I weigh the container of water and we have a figure that we can use.

Note the careful measuring above - this is important because as you'll also remember, here we're demonstrating 'moments', in short the distance the weight and the fulcrum (the table) are apart will determine how easily the needle bends. All that matters is that it's the same for each test. 4" of needle protruding and the weight 3/4" from the tip.
So how did they do?

Knitpro Zing 1263g
Knitpro Nova 1607g
Addi Lace 973g
Addi Premium 880g

The heavier Nova comes out on top, but not hugely. Both flexed quite a long way as the weight was added, but as mentioned earlier, if the needle sprung back straight when the weight was eased, then we kept going. The difference is the point that the needle wouldn't spring back.

As you can see, at the eleventh hour I condemned an Addi Premium too (aka Turbo) - the Lace bent so much more easily than the Knitpros (It surprised me - I destroyed the other end as well to be sure). I wanted to see whether there was a difference between their lace and premium needles. But both seem in the same ballpark, and can take around half the punishment of the Knitpros.


The Zings will bend (permanently) a little sooner than Novas, but both take quite a bit of force before bending. Around double that of a competitor. There are plenty of other differences that should also come into your decision - tip taper and sharpness, finish, tip length (noted above), whether the size is marked on the needle and colour of course - users are loving the colours of the Zing range and that's important.

Buy Knitpro Zing needles here, buy Knitpro Nova needles here, and Addi lace needles here and Addi Premium here

Thanks to Mister Percival. I know we gave you a hard time but your efforts weren't wasted. I also notice that I mix imperial and metric units fairly wildly. A legacy for us children of the seventies!

How do Knitpro's Zing needles compare with Karbonz?

In my earlier comparison of the points on various metal needles, I missed out the Knitpro Karbonz - although carbon fibre, they have metal tips.
To the eye, I thought the zing matched the Karbonz (both slightly rounder than the Nova, on the right) but when magnified a little bit it does look as if the Zing comes somewhere between, less sharp than the Nova, maybe a little sharper than the Karbonz

... at least with these particular ones, all 3mm.

How about the joins and cables?
I've not noticed before that the cable is a little thicker than on the Karbonz (these are both 3mm x 80cm) I'm not sure whether the extra thickness will make any noticeable difference when knitting, and whether one would be better. As for the joins (which probably look a little more scary in this extreme close-up than in real life) to the thumbnail they feel just the same. Notice there's more of a taper on the Karbonz down to the thinner cable.
Another positive with the zings is that the size is laser engraved; you can feel it with your thumbnail. The Karbonz have the size printed on, which does wear with use - as you can see from my own needle above.

Zing needles, customer feedback

Here's a mini-review of the new Knitpro Zing needles with a picture that I received by email today from a customer that I shall call Liz.
Zing circular needle and yarn, knitting sock
Knitpro Zing circular

Just a quick update on the needles, I am loving them. The cable is very pliable and I am finding the extra long tips very comfortable. The stitches glide effortlessly and everything is so pleasurable. I think I may have to order another one :-)

These socks are for a KAL that starts today and ends in September but I've a feeling they will be finished way before then.

I feel I shall be a Zing convert, I really love them so far.

I have Zing circulars, double-points and straight needle sets available here

The Clematis spinning wheel that I painted in a previous post is now with its owner and assembled:

Knitted womb

I can post these pictures now that the recipient has received the present. It's now a little bit of a tradition to make one of these for friends or family undergoing a certain op.
The yarn is the cochineal dyed alpaca I made for these wristwarmers. The colour is perfect for this project.
The wonderful pattern is Womb by M K Carroll, free on Knitty.

This is the first full project I've made on the new KnitPro Zing needles. They're lighter than the Nova range as noted in my first impressions but feel more robust and positive. One thing I find difficult with this project is that you initially start working with just two stitches on each needle - it's fiddly and the needles slip out very easily. These not being highly-polished like their Nova counterparts, I think they were a little less prone to slipping out of the stitches.

Spinning cat fur into yarn

After recently spinning some samoyed dog fur and enjoying that, I was pleased to be asked to spin some cat.

Although the mass of fibre felt soft, each hair was only millimetres long, impossible to spin by itself. Blending it on the carders with a little wool of the same colour helped it hang together. I found that really thin punis worked the best.
Some worked beautifully with the long draw - stretching out like chewing gum. others were a little less willing and so some very short draw and double-draw had to be employed as necessary
 The singles weren't as even as I'd have liked. I wanted to make sure that the proportion of cat in the yarn was as high as possible, but the higher the proportion of cat, the harder to spin and the lumpier the yarn. However, plying evened things out a little.
 This is the first two skeins, this is about half way done. When finished, around 350 yards altogether.

Countryfile - sheep theme

Last night's Countryfile was a wool special. It was great to see a focus on the wool industry, about the current difficulties and importance of buying British lamb (it was good to see the supermarkets being scrutinised, who seem to be displaying the New Zealand lamb over British for profit reasons) the revival of mutton, the tragedy that fleece which was once worth its weight in gold is now worth less than it costs to shear (I'm not sure that this is entirely true - maybe it depends upon the breed).

We met Eve O’Neill who demonstrated needle felting. I noticed a few people demonstrating this craft recently at Fibre East. It's good to see that the craft is healthy and maybe growing in popularity.
You can watch the show on the iPlayer shortly and I believe for the next month.


I stock a range of needle felting supplies including several starter kits:


Tiffany Clematis hand-painted spinning wheel

I've been commissioned to make another of my Clematis decorated spinning wheels. It's a real pleasure to spend a day doing this.