Boreal jumper - biting the bullet

I mentioned in the post about my finished Boreal jumper that the arms were a little tight around the biceps.
This is not due to me being particularly muscular! I'm pretty skinny. It's partly because I wasn't making my floats loose enough at that point, but a friend has commented that she found hers tight around the arms too, so my suggestion if you're planning to make this jumper is to continue increasing as you work up the sleeve. For this remedial work I added an extra 4 stitches before the colourwork, then ignored the 'makes' on the sleeve chart round 27 (leaving me with 2 extra, which I absorbed when I joined the sleeves to the body).

My sleeves were a little short, which was entirely my fault.

So... I was tempted to just wear the jumper for Christmas. Then do the remedial work. But I wouldn't have worn it as much as I want to (ie all the time). And I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. I bit the bullet....
 My magnifier lamp came into its own.
 At this point (above) it looked as if I'd lost a lightsabre battle! pulling that colourwork section out to reclaim the yarn was a breeze. As was knitting an extra two inches of the green, increasing by 4 more stitches. It was easy to just add those extra stitches at each end of the sleeve chart.
 Joining involved kitchener stitch, which I didn't manage as neatly as I'd like. I mostly kitchenered using the white, then used duplicate stitch to add a few green stitches in the right places.
 There was some 'yarn chicken' played before the end of all this. I had plenty of white yarn but didn't fancy dyeing another skein to match.

Et Voila. It's not an invisible repair. but not too noticeable. This is now having a good long soak, and I'm hoping the blocking will improve it a little.
It's involved several extra hours' work, but well worth it. I'll really enjoy living in this through December. Thank you so much for the pattern Kate.

Finished Project : Boreal Jumper, Kate Davies

Another finished project, and I'm celebrating with something appropriate...

I'll take better pictures when there's some light (not easy to catch this time of the year...) and when it's had a soak and block. But you know how it is when something comes off the needles....

The pattern is amazing, I loved it at first sight, Boreal by Kate Davies. The yarn started life as Real Shetland combed top from Adam Curtis. (Well it started life on a Shetland sheep of course, but was processed and then purveyed by Adam before it got to me.) I spun all the yarn white, as part of my Spinzilla effort, then dyed half of it this deep emerald green as per Kate's pattern. Yarn is possibly a little thin for the needle size.

It’s a little tight around the biceps, I did the sleeves first, and I think I was a little tight with my floats there. I definitely made sure the floats were looser while doing the body and that’s great. I may re-do the top half of each sleeve, but maybe not this year, as it’s wearable and there are other projects I’d like to get done for the winter.

[Edit - for completeness - here's a photo of the finished jumper after the remedial work]

Project ravelled.

Plant Dyes for All Seasons 2017 Calendar

Fran Rushworth of Wool - Tribulations of Hand Spinning and Herbal Dyeing  has sent me a copy of this wonderful calendar for review.

She has been learning about plant growing and dyeing by trial and error for some years and blogging about her successes and failures on her website. With this calendar, she aims to create what she would have wished for when she started out.

The first thing to say is that Fran has made the copies of this calendar herself. I don't mean that she's sent her photographs to the printers and chosen a boilerplate layout. She has actually printed*, spiral bound and hole punched it all herself. This, along with her choice of a good matt paper rather than gloss, gives the calendar a 'homespun' look, which is appealing and in keeping with the subject. Personally, I think I'd like to have seen glossy card used on the front cover, for a slightly more polished look. But the paper is good quality heavy stuff and the matt finish works really well for the rest of the content, for reasons that I'm about to move onto.

The second important thing to say about this is that far from being a dozen nice glossy pictures to hang on your wall, which is what I'd imagined when Fran told me that she was producing a calendar, she's written what amounts to an instructional booklet.

If you follow the succinct instructions that are revealed each month, you'll learn a lot about natural dyeing and have fun along the way. projects include bark, leaves & flowers, galls & acorns, solar dyeing, contact printing. Sowing, planting out and harvesting are covered at the appropriate times.  It has as much to do with experimentation as how to get the perfect result. At the front is a page of suggestions, things to buy, things to save,  things to gather in preparation for your journey.

Oh yes - it's also a calendar.... a month filling half of the A3 spread means that there's room to write important notes about those important dates.

The calendar is available for £7.50 plus p&p. For no extra charge, you can have a personal greeting printed on the back, conveyed by Fran's companion, Elinor Gotland.

More shots and information about how to grab yourself a copy of this original and appealing item are here.

* Update, 15 Nov. Because of a surprising response to her initial blog post, Fran has had to ask a local print shop to help with the actual printing of the pages, using the same weight paper that she had already been using. She's still putting the calendar together herself.

Is it a good idea to 'cartoon' while drunk?

When I awoke this morning, I remembered what I'd done, and opened the computer to check that I'd not done something completely embarrassing.

It's not bad. It's the best of about three ideas I wrote down after a couple of glasses of wine last night. Then drew and published while in that state.

I've no idea what the message is. It's a skit on the old chauvinist comment "make me a sandwich, love". I'm certainly not trying to say that complying with such behaviour should be rewarded. Nor that sticking to your feminist principles is cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's simply intended to raise a smile.

As always, Yvonne's latest adventure is here, where you can also subscribe to an occasional 'digest' email. She can also be found on Tapastic if you like that website.

Spinzilla 2016 - meet up for Hilltop Cloud and Hand Spinning News teams

Dragons and Pirates - what a legendary combination!

We're in the middle of Spinzilla week, a monster of a worldwide spinning competition. Although the event is managed online and team-mates can be from anywhere in the world,  meet-ups do happen and what better than taking the spinning to the people and enlightening (what turns out to be) a very naive public.

Today, members of team Hand Spinning News UK and Team Hilltop Cloud met in Nottingham (a central location for a number of members of two of the UK teams) at Stone Bridge City Farm.

300 yards of Shetland spun and plied; with plying credit that's 900 yards to my Spinzilla total which now stands at 7397.5 yards or 4.2 Monster Miles!!

Ravelympic Games (Ravellenics) finish line

I guess this is now a retrospective, but I did have had some work and sleep to catch up on!

The idea of the Ravellenics (originally Ravelympics, which is a much better name, but outlawed by the Olympic committe - thanks guys) is that you challenge yourself and then craft away while the Olympic Games are on. Ravelry has some clever functionality which recognises your achievement(s) and awards medals and laurels.

This time I decided to make Illas Cíes by Anne Hanson which I'd fallen in love with, finally decided to make in a pale grey colour as per the one on the pattern, and bought some silvery silk/alpaca for the purpose at Fibre East.

This meant that I could enter the  'Synchronised Spinning' and 'Sweater Triathlon'. If I finished, I'd qualify for the 'Fleece to FO' laurel (even though it was processed fibre rather than raw fleece).

Here's my progress in pictures. Initially I was working for half the day and crafting for the other half. During the last few days it became obvious that I needed to put in as much time as I could if I was to cross the finish line.

The beautiful fibre spun from the fold like molten silver:

A few hours' spinning while the opening ceremony was going on and the first complete bobbin (of 6)

I did all the spinning (1200 yds based on the yardage requirement printed in the pattern) before casting on. That happened on the first Weds.

Back and front done, first sleeve starting. There's a lot of fabric in a sleeve! Almost as much knitting as a front or back.

I did flag on the penultimate day. I sat up late feeling very tired and achey. Not fun any more.

Victory! Trying on the finished garment near the start of the closing ceremony. It even fits! (A little tighter than I'd like, but I'm hoping it'll give a little after blocking and then wearing a bit.)

Still ends to weave in here, but I thought I could get away with that.

It's a lovely looking jumper. The lace panels look really splendid and the design is perfect for me. I really wish now I'd chosen a seamless design for this event though. Purling and seaming are both a bit counter-productive when time isn't on your side.

Opening of Ravellenic Games and lace jumper project

Opening of Olympic games. You mean Olympics, right?

Well yes, the Olympics did open last night but alongside that is a massive knitting event which used to be called Ravelympics. in 2014 the Olympic committee objected, so our event is now called Ravellenics which isn't half such a good name.

But the good bit is that over 6,000 knitters were signed up and many of them will have cast-on when the lightshow started in Rio. A very moving occasion with the emphasis on the environment and efficiency. If I thought it would change anyone's ways I'd be even more happy.

Last week at Fibre East, I bought this alpaca/silk mix in the perfect silvery-grey colour.
At midnight our time, the opening ceremony started and so did my spinning (and the mass cast-on around the world). The fibre turned into liquid silver as I spun. It's a real pleasure to work with.
 By the time the teams were all in and the cauldron lit, I'd spun my first bobbin-ful. Tired but happy.
This is the pattern, Anne Hanson's Illas Cíes

fin - Tour de Fleece 2016

I can't really say that I've crossed the finish line, I've done much less than I'd hoped. But I did spin most days of the three weeks, and have found much pleasure in this project.

I've been dg-combing locks individually by hand (or rather a tuft of locks at a time). A method I was taught on my very first spinning lesson. The results are great, you have in your hand a lock with all fibres separated and completely parallel. I did try dizzing the result but that took too much time with no benefit really, spinning the combed locks works very well.
 Having said I've not done as much as I'd hoped, I really don't know what yardage I have there. The singles spun out very fine, and I went with that.

I've plied, washed and knit some samples. The top one is a 3-ply, still thinner than I'd like for the project I have in mind. The bottom one uses two strands of 2-ply (ie four plies) and that looks neater and is closer to the gauge that I want. But spinning 1200 yards of 4 plies - that's a lot more spinning!

I'm now less sure about the project. I do want to knit one of these, and while spinning I've been thinking this Shetland would be perfect. but now I'm not so sure. The colour of this yarn is a fairly nice fawn, but looks a bit rustic. I may keep looking for the perfect pattern for this fleece. And buy some fibre in a light grey at Fibre East. (The very light colour of the Illas Cíes shown in the pattern looks terrific and will suit me.)

Tour de Fleece, stage 9

The problem with sticking to one big project through an event is that the photos are much the same. I've tried a different angle here, showing the fleece.

I'm pulling locks from the raw, dirty, greasy fleece and dog-combing both ends of each, for a well-separated, parallel handful of fibres. This is a technique I was shown on my very first spinning lesson, and one I find more therapeutic than using the big combs, with much the same result.

The fleece isn't so dirty, my hands and wheel are staying pretty clean, and I'm sure the lanolin is doing my skin some good. I can't wait to see whether the colour lightens when the yarn is finally washed.

One interesting thing is the variation in shade from light to dark. I'm now planning to 3-ply the very fine singles, a true 3-ply rather than navajo, so that might blend that variation a bit.

I'm enjoying this so much, it was difficult to take a rest day yesterday (Monday) but today's stage (10) is 'hilly' so I'll start a new bobbin, put in a bit of effort later today and make some more progress.

Tour de Fleece 2016 day 5

Here we are at day 5 already. There doesn't look much on this bobbin but it's drawing out very fine. Not what I intended but I'm going with it - it may be the finest I've spun. And it's fun.
I decided to use the Tour de Fleece spinning time to spin this fleece. It came from Fibre East last year. A Shetland fleece in a nice colour, good locks, still in grease but very clean.

 I decided to use a technique I was taught on my first spinning lesson. It involves holding each lock, combing with a dog-comb, turning the lock around and combing the other end. I prefer the dog-comb to a flick-carder. The result is a well-separated and parallel lock.
It's not fast work, I'm combing as I go, but this isn't a race!!

Blanket scarf in real Shetland

 The idea for this came partly during team HSN's visit to Haworth Scouring earlier in the year. I must also give credit to Knitbug Valérie and aureliantownsend for inspiration.

The real Shetland fibre is a delight to spin, I spun some during last year's Spinzilla for my Ardelise and some more in April for my Riddari. Previously I'd spun from the end of the top (after splitting and pre-drafting) and from the fold. Here I tried making 'fauxlags', which turned out to be very quick, and spinning those unsupported longdraw with the high-speed kit on the wheel was some of the fastest spinning I've done.
The yarn was 2-ply, perhaps a little thinner than DK.

I wanted to use mostly natural colours; white, fawn and a little dark grey. With a little dyed colour. This is white shetland dyed with Ashford acid dyes; blue with a small amount of yellow for a 'peacock' blue. Not as blue as it looks in this picture.
 Before warping I sampled with some similar handspun yarn, and settled on 6 ends per inch.

On the computer I'd mocked up a more symmetrical plaid pattern, and a more random pattern, which I settled on.  I used the same sequence in the warp as for the weft, for a certain symmetry.

Finished Riddari

I enjoyed every minute of making this jumper, and it's one of my favourite handspun / hand knit projects ever.
It's the most ambitious colourwork I've tackled so far (3 colours to some rows). A friend suggested that I try 'pick and throw', one colour in each hand. That worked well, and getting pretty proficient by the end of this.

The pattern is Riddari by Védís Jónsdóttir, my Ravelry project is here.

I'm very grateful to Adam of The Real Shetland Company for sorting me out with real Shetland combed top.