Spinning Out of Nothingness

Ever since I got my spinning wheel, I had been thinking about personalising it in some way. The wood was just crying out for some attention, and as much as I loved the look of the natural wood freshly oiled in all its plain glory, I also felt it was missing a little something.

Not wanting to paint it, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So I did nothing and waited for inspiration. And eventually, it came! I came across a quote on the internet while doing some Googling for something else, and I knew it was perfect. It just felt right. And I love the little bit of darkness that the quote – by Persian poet Rumi – implies:

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”

This quote had to be on my wheel somehow. So I got to work.

 

I mapped out in pencil where I wanted the words, checked my spacing, had a look at some fonts I liked on Pinterest (I’m a bit of a nerd that way – I have a whole board dedicated to fonts) and went for it. I mixed up a lovely dark shade of blue, like midnight, and after I had painted a couple of coats, I went over it again, just highlighting the letters, in a slightly lighter shade.

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I LOVE the way it turned out. Absolutely love it. There are still some pencil marks in these photos because I waited until it was definitely dry before I rubbed them out, but I was impatient to take photos. So this is Margaret, my not-new-but-improved Ashford Kiwi 2!

 

So, pimping your wheel: yay or nay? What do you think?

Thistle Rambles Shawl

Back in June I cast on Kirsten Kapur’s Mystery Shawl KAL (now renamed Thistle Rambles). I can’t resist MKALs. I really can’t.

As usual, I dithered over colour combinations and yarn options, and eventually settled on using a skein of cool blue-aqua merino/stellina-blend handpsun that my friend had spun up and given me for my birthday (years ago I might add…it waited a long time to find the perfect project!) and a skein of Wollmeise in startling multi-tonal reds (colourway Wilder Mohn) that I won at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2015.

 

The results were nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful! I absolutely adore this colour combination as well as the pattern, and my gamble paid off big time! Of course, it helps that Kirsten is such an amazing designer and I loved all her designs to start with! So I knew I couldn’t go far wrong.

 

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Yeah, I’m pretty chuffed with it. Thanks, Kirsten, for the pattern and thank you, Siún, for the handspun!!

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.

 

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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!

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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!

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Looking out towards Foula and Culswick Broch.

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Hiking out to Culswick Broch.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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

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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!).

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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:

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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?

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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).

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Plying!!

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!

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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.

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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.

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Happy spinning! Keep pedalling!

 

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