My First Fleece, Part Two

You may remember a couple months ago I posted about My First Fleece. In that post, I went through skirting the fleece to washing it to drying it. So what happens next?

After the fleece was dry, I began to experiment with how to best prepare it for spinning. I tried a few different things: I tried combing the locks with wool combs, carding them with hand carders, and finally, passing it through a drum carder.

What I found was that for this particular fleece, hand carding worked best. Combing was equally awesome, but it took a lot more time (the wool combs I borrowed are small), and the end result was pretty much the same. Drum carding it produced a very neppy fibre, and left in a lot of the kemp, whereas hand carding and combing minimised those.

I spun it using a supported long draft style, which I’m not great at, so it’s not as consistent. But I really enjoyed having fun with it and playing around with different thicknesses.

Here are some pictures of it spun, plied, and knit up:

You can see the kemp hairs sticking out at crazy angles.


I knit up this sample on 6mm needles in plain stockinette.




All in all, this was a great experience and I learned a lot, although I don’t think I’ll be using this fleece for any garments. I’m currently working on preparing some alpaca fibre….man, do those animals love the dirt lol! If all goes well, I’m hoping to carding it with some merino and spin it up into a DK weight for a cardigan. Fingers crossed!


Shetland Wool Week 2016

This year, I had the amazing (somewhat last minute) opportunity to visit the Shetland Islands during Shetland Wool Week. This amazing wool festival celebrates knitting, spinning, and other fibre textiles as well as the truly fascinating community and history of Shetland. One of my dear friends moved to Shetland over the summer, and part of her research revolves around the knitting community so it just seemed a perfect excuse – I mean chance  – to go visit.

Getting to Shetland may seem daunting, but actually, the ferry was quite luxurious. I flew to Aberdeen in the afternoon and boarded the ferry in plenty of time to set sail at 7pm.

One of the first things I saw when I set foot in Lerwick was all the rainbows! They were everywhere! Bottom right is a picture of the famous Clickimin Broch.

After a ‘peerie’ hot chocolate at the Peerie Shop Cafe, which showcases local artists as well as serves the best hot chocolate, my first stop was Jamieson and Smith’s Woolbrokers. It was like visiting a candy shop for knitters – the colours and choices were overwhelming! I also got a sneak peek at their sorting room, where they sort the fleeces for their wool and for export.


Then we hit up Jamieson’s on the street, the other Shetland wool shop! So much wool, so much colour! So little time!


Then we attended a knitting group in Scalloway and spent some time pottering about Scalloway Castle.


That evening we went to a lecture on Baltic Knitting at the Shetland Museum and Archives. The museum is amazing – I highly recommend it! There is also a dedicated Textile Museum. It might be smaller but it also offers an astounding array of photos, examples of lace and fair isle knitting samples, and a small gift shop.

One day we went to a spinning wheel demonstration in Hoswick, in the southern part of the island. We chatted to several of the folk there, saw the premises of textile artist Nielanell. We were shown a demo of how to comb and prepare Shetland sheep fleece. (I took my sample back to my friend Siún’s house and spun it up on her Lendrum!)


Everywhere you turned in Shetland, the views were breathtaking!


Looking out towards Foula and Culswick Broch.


Hiking out to Culswick Broch.


Veensgarth, Tingwall.

Another day I took a trip out to Whalsay, a tiny island in the east. The ferry took about 25 minutes, and then I found myself in the company of a lovely woman named Joan who showed me all around the island, introduced me to her family and her fellow Shetland Guild members, and showed me around the Heritage Centre. Its history is fascinating, and the small centre has an amazing collection of knitwear, WWII displays and detailed accounts of the fishing industry on Whalsay. Although most of the islanders work on mainland Shetland these days, it’s clear from the museum how important it used to be for everyone to pitch in at home. So while men fished, women took to textile crafts, selling their knitwear, taking orders, mending fishing nets, gutting and preparing fish for the markets, etc. The skill of the knitting, spinning, and lace making was truly incredible.


And then there was the Saturday Craft Market to attend, with local wares and handmades, and the famous Sunday Tea in Tingwall with more homebakes than you could possibly imagine (or eat! Although we did our best! And yes, they were all lovely!). The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers also had a display, and their spinners were graciously giving a demo.

The top middle photo is one of Ina Irvine’s intricate lace haps, and top right is one of Kathleen Anderson’s. Both were knit with handspun Shetland fleece in a cobweb weight and double plied. Bottom left is Kathleen’s mini hap in progress, and bottom right is a snap of Ina Irvine’s superfine lace bobbin. The Guild were so friendly, and so knowledgeable, it was almost overwhelming to be in their awesome presence and witness such skill!

And a trip to Shetland wouldn’t be complete without witnessing the famous Flock Book, which is where they assess and grade different flocks and pedigrees of Shetland Sheep.


Shetland is one of those places that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. Not just because of its northernly location, but because the skies are enormous and the landscape lends itself to vast expanses of rolling hills and spectacular cloud formations. Bring your wellies, grab some provisions and it’s not long before you’re on your own in the blessed silence, with just the occasional bleat of nearby ever-present sheep. Just don’t forget your knitting!

Top left is Ella Gordon’s Crofthoose Hat pattern, the official pattern of Shetland Wool Week 2016.


First time for everything

Awesome free mitt pattern by my stitching mate Anja!

Down the Crafting Rabbit Hole

I’ll keep this short and sweet, simply because I do not wish to distract from the point of the post. Which is, obviously, shameless self-advertising.

I have mentioned before that I designed a pattern for fingerless mitts last year, to be used as a sample item for Terri’s stall at the show in Dublin. I have finally put the pattern up on Ravelry, and yes, it is free. I’m not that presumptuous.

The pattern is called Twisted Heart.

There will still be a few adjustments to the description and more pictures added, but the pattern itself is correct.

Give it a try if you want, and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.

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A Fine Dye Workshop

A couple months ago I attended a workshop with local indie yarn dyer Terri from A Fine Fish Yarns. It was a fabulous day filled with friendly chat, eye-popping experiments in colour and some epic skeins of yarn!

Terri started by giving us a great intro talk about how yarn dyeing works and the types of dyes we’d be using, as well as some awesome tips for using colour to maximise our choices.


Happy crafters!

We ended the day with some amazing skeins of yarn. Terri also gave us the option of adding on a second skein for a very reasonable price, so who could say no? Not me!!

Everyone left happy with their creations.

I can’t WAIT to knit up mine (bottom right, above)! I even gave them colourway names: the one on the left is Grey Street and on the right is Estimated Due Date.

I can’t recommend Terri’s workshops enough. She’s so much fun to work with, her enthusiasm is infectious. I hope to attend more in the future! In the meantime, I’ll be stalking her Facebook page and her website for shop updates!


The Perfect Sweater

Awhile ago (a little over a year, in fact), I posted about dyeing some yarn to make Mama Vertebrae, a lovely cardigan pattern I found on Ravelry.


My dear friend Nikki gifted me the pattern, and when I bemoaned the fact that I really really wanted one but had very little time to knit one, she generously offered to knit one for me! I had the yarn and the needles, so I packed them all up and gratefully handed them over. My plan was to stripe the grey yarn that I had dyed with all kinds of colours: vermilion, teal, gold, and a variegated colourway I had with reds, golds, purples, and browns.


Well, what she came up with was nothing short of stunning. And it is to date the only knitted item of clothing I have that fits me absolutely perfectly, despite the tedious gauge swatching and mid-knit fittings I have done on my own knits! I absolutely love it, and will cherish it for as long as it holds up, which should be a very long time!


Sometimes, like food, a handmade item is so much better when it comes from someone else.❤


My First Fleece, Part One

Recently, a friend gave me a sheep’s fleece. She knows I’ve gotten into spinning in a big way and she knows a farmer. Anyway, before I knew it, I was dragging a smelly bag of fleece into the house (much to the delight of my husband and kids – not.)  But I was excited, and I couldn’t wait to get started processing it!


The first thing I had to figure out was how to skirt the fleece. This process proved slightly trickier than I had thought. How can you identify a usable piece of fleece from an unusable piece? I guess trial and error, and experience! (The link above is one I found useful, as well as info from here and here.)


So once I had skirted the fleece and picked out the best fibres, I gave it a bath! It was pretty mucky at first.



I used Fairy liquid as it’s quite mild, and the hottest water out of the tap (our water gets quite hot). After another bath and a couple of rinses, it was beginning to look fluffy and more desirable (not to mention it smelled better!).


I don’t have any outdoor space to allow my newly-washed fleece to dry properly, so I laid it on a towel and stuck it in the entryway near the front door.

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My husband, as usual, had other ideas:


It feels gloriously soft and lofty. Later this week I’ll begin combing and carding it, and eventually I’ll spin it up into a gorgeous yarn!

A Summer Rainbow

Remember this post? Where I decided I was going to spin up a rainbow of leftover merino fibre given to me by a friend and ex-needlefelter?


What began as  Tour de Fleece project ended in a burst of rainbow loveliness! Even as singles this yarn was stunning:

I’m delighted with the end result. 204g of a lovely heavy DK/lightweight Aran (about 10wpi).



I was so excited to finish this off, in fact, that I left instructions for the husband to hang it outside to dry while I had the kids out for the day. This is what I cam home to. Points for creativity, although I do wonder what the neighbours made of this!


The only problem now is finding the right pattern to knit it up!

Tour de Fleece 2016

This year, I got a spinning wheel for my birthday from my loving (and long suffering, he might add) husband. As if I needed a new hobby. But I could feel the call of the wheel, I dreamt about the softness of the fluff and saw the vibrancy of hand dyed fibre in my mind whenever I had a spare minute. So I took the plunge and posted an ISO (in search of) post on Ravelry.

And within a day, A fellow Raveler messaged me. She was looking to sell her Ashford Kiwi 2. Was I interested?

Was I!

So I took her up on the offer and haven’t looked back since. I absolutely adore her. I’m still deciding on what her name might be, but we’ve been getting acquainted these last couple months and when I head about the Tour de Fleece challenge, I was IN. My challenge was to spin up some merino from a friend’s leftover needle felting stash into one big rainbow skein. I split each colour into two lots to spin separately, with the idea that I’d ply them together when finished. My other goals were to concentrate on finding a good spinning rhythm, to practice consistency and control and to better understand the brake tension.


It’s been going well so far. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, and I can’t wait to see this lovely yarn plied and knit up!



Even my very small helper has been excited to give spinning a go.



Happy spinning! Keep pedalling!



Schooooool’s Out!!

It’s the last day of school here and while the streets are filled with excited, sugar-filled children shrieking with joy, there are a few who have shed a few tears. (Not me of course. Nope!) The end of the year is a bit magical: the days are long, uniforms are beginning to look shabby and too small, and everyone seems to be itching to get out into the sunshine (when we have sunshine!). I get it. But for parents it often also marks a milestone of sorts. It’s a physical signifier of the marking of time, a tangible snapshot in the endless days of parenthood where we notice just how much our kids have grown in the last year. Teachers notice this too, and so I understand when a few of them get a little weepy watching their small charges charge into the distance while they wave at a receding backside.

With this moment in mind, I try every year to come up with some sort of gift that symbolises just how much we appreciate their effort, dedication, and patience. In the past I’ve made tote bags, imagining the teachers using them to throw in their lunch and maybe a book or two along with their keys, phone, wallet, etc. Another year I made notebook covers with embroidered drawings my son made. This year I settled on a similar theme, because I love the look and feel of linen and handmade just seems so much more special to me somehow. But I didn’t have time to embroider detailed pictures for seven teachers (including assistants), so I went for a simpler option. And I’m so delighted with the outcome that I want ones for myself next!

This year I had the kids draw directly on the linen with fabric pens, then I framed the pieces of fabric. On the back of each frame is a note to the teacher, expressing our thanks, along with a description of the picture.


A cat, a cucumber and a ball. Well, why not?


So, school is out and the summer is HERE! Have a great summer, everyone!


WWKIP Day 2016!

It’s that time of year again, when we grab our balls, sharpen our needles, and – wait, what did you think I was talking about? I’m talking about World Wide Knitting in Public Day!

This year we joined up with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum on the 18th of June and hosted a brilliant day of knitting, crochet, spinning, yarn dyeing, weaving, and all sorts. The Ulster Guild of Spinner, Weavers and Dyers were there, as well as a few of the museum’s other talented craftspeople, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful mock village of Ballycultra.

Our group arrived early to set up: we knit and crocheted several wee things to hide amongst the bushes and trees for the kids to find, and then we positioned ourselves scattered throughout so that people ran into us everywhere. It was like a knit attack!


We made several new friends, and many more from our Facebook group joined us. The Top Floor Art Craft Circle were there, and Pamela from NI Big Sock even joined us for a few rows despite being up to her ears in patchwork hexagons! (Thanks, Pamela!) And some of us were just excited just to get out for the day.

In addition to free entry to the museum if you brought your knitting, The Wool Shop in Bangor was kind enough to donate 50 free goody bags for the first 50 knitters/crocheters in the door! We got a sneak peak at what was inside:

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The museum’s willow weaver also made a special display, just for the occasion! (This proved to be quite popular, as you can, um, see. Ahem.)

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All in all it was a brilliant day. Nikki made us knitting bingo worksheets and a knitting related word search, in case we needed something besides out current wip to pass the time! There was plenty to keep us busy though. We watched Kay dyeing some gorgeous yarn specimens, and the Guild of Machine Knitters were there too offering a demo. Amazing stuff!

We had great weather for it, and had a picnic in the sun for lunch so we could all meet up and chat, because knitting in our respective places (The Bank House, the school, the cottage on Tea Lane, the draper’s, and the Ballydugan house) was hungry work!


So there you have it. I tell ya, when we plan something, we don’t do it by halves. Nikki, my partner in crime, and I are dangerous when we put our minds to it! And of course I had help from my wee fella too! Much thanks to them both, for without them this wouldn’t have been half as fun! And huge thanks to everyone who knit/crocheted wee animals for hiding and who came out to join us for the day!


Happy crafting!