Le Tour de Fleece 2014: Stages Eight to Thirteen

Another busy week! We have only just got caught up with the cyclists again. It has been very dramatic racing. I don’t know how they cycle along in the temperatures they have had today. They said it was up to 40°C in the valleys! It got up to 28.4°C here, which was plenty hot enough for me.

It was Unwind Brighton last weekend which was marvellous fun. It was lovely to catch up with lots of people, and to see all the beautiful things in the marketplace, and learn lots of new things in the workshops. I am still recovering and processing all the information from the three very interesting workshops I attended. I am looking forward to reading through my notes and trying out some of the new ideas, lots of inspiration.

On the spinning front I have started on some Zwartbles I bought from John Arbon back in May. This is naturally very dark brown with a few white fibres from the white blaze which gives the sheep its name.

I have finished spinning the singles, and just started plying.

ZwartblesStage13

This will be a 3ply construction, and I am planning to make socks. This is the first time I have spun with Zwartbles. It is quite a springy wool, and moderately robust. Hopefully both good properties for a sock yarn.

Today’s coin is an Italian one Euro for Vincenzo Nibali’s third stage win.

Le Tour de Fleece 2014: Stages Four to Seven

We got a little behind with the cyclists at the beginning of the week but have managed to catch up now. What a dramatic few days it has been! I am very glad that my only mishap has been stretching my brake spring out of shape, an unfortunate accident involving me catching the flyer bars on my brake string. Luckily it still seems to be functioning although I think I will buy myself a spare when I next see one. Spinning inside in the nice warm and dry is definitely preferable to riding over cobbles in the mud!

I have been having a plying marathon and have just finished plying all six skeins of my Moorit (brown) Shetland:

ShetlandStageSeven

The yarn has all had a nice wash, and when it is dry I shall do the weighing and measuring to see how much I have. At the moment I am planning some kind of big comfy jumper. The yarn is quite fuzzy and lumpy so I think wont really show up much of a pattern, so I think something perhaps involving garter stitch, or moss stitch, or possibly a very simple cable or two. I think stocking stitch might magnify its unevenness. I will do some sampling once it has dried and see what I think.

Today’s coin is a German two Euro for Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel who won on Stages Four and Six respectively.

 

Le Tour de Fleece 2014: Stage Three

Cambridge looked beautiful from the helicopters on today’s stage, and lots more lovely scenery. More exciting racing for the cyclists, although a completely different type of stage to the two previous ones. I have really loved the Tour coming to Britain, and it looks like they have had fantastic crowds out for all three days.

Today it was spinning group, and I managed to finish spinning my singles of the brown Shetland. Although I had to finish off at home because I was too busy admiring everyone else’s spinning and catching up to actually get much spinning done while I was out :-)

ShetlandStageThree

Today’s coin is a London pound coin to celebrate today’s finish.

I am looking forward to starting on the plying tomorrow!

Le Tour de Fleece 2014: Stage Two

Another exciting day of cycling through some beautiful scenery. I was impressed that they had got the yellow jersey on top of York minster! and enjoyed seeing Helmsley castle and walled garden from the helicopter. It is definitely fun seeing them cycling through places I have been :-)

The spinning is coming along well. I have made good progress on the final bobbin of brown Shetland.

ShetlandStageTwoToday’s coin is a Manchester Commonwealth Games two pound, the Tour today briefly dipped into Greater Manchester.

 

Le Tour de Fleece 2014: Stage One

Its that time of year again when we spin along while watching the Tour De France. Amazingly this is my sixth year! The Tour has rather crept up on me this year and caught me slightly on the back foot. I still haven’t organised my photos from the lovely French Treats knitting holiday in France nearly a month ago – I shall hopefully do that on one of the Tour’s rest days.

Anyway, I had better get on with it otherwise we will be into Stage Two before I have written about Stage One!

This year I am starting off with some natural brown Shetland. Those of you with long memories will remember that I started spinning this towards the end of last year’s Tour!

ShetlandStageOneI have a kilo of fibre altogether, and now have only 100g left to go before the plying, so the end is in sight!

It was a gripping start to the race this year, through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. We are enjoying the first year we have had HD TV.

Today’s coin is an Isle of Man pound coin. It wasn’t Mark Cavendish’s day unfortunately, hopefully his dislocated collar bone will be better soon.

 

A Couple of Spinning Experiments and Some More Finished Projects and a Workshop

Back in October last year I went to a Wingham Woolwork sampling day organised by the Hampshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers. This was the second time I had been to a sampling day – the first was organised by the Kennet Valley Guild, so at least this time I knew a little of what to expect.

The idea is that you bring along your spinning wheel, or spindle and your lunch (or you can buy lunch there), you pay your entrance fee and then can have a go at spinning whichever fibres you fancy. It is a great way of trying out new things without committing yourself to an entire projects-worth.

Last time I mostly concentrated on the different merino colour blends – something I am still fascinated by, but this time although I spun a couple of colour blends I mostly experimented with different fibre mixtures. It was great fun, and although they were only small amounts I have a little bit more of an idea of what different fibres are like to spin with and knit.

I spun them up all one after another and then chain-plied them to create a 3-ply. My knitted sample has a little bit of 1×1 rib at each end to stop it curling but is otherwise stocking stitch – all on 2.5mm needles.

SecondWinghamSampling

 

Starting from the bottom (the right of the picture) the fibres are:
1) 50% brown yak, 50% silk
2) 70% brown Bluefaced Leicester, 30% silk
3) 70% merino, 30% silk
4) 70% merino, 30% silk
5) 100% merino
6) 50% cashmere, 50% silk
7) 100% tussah silk
8) Baby camel and merino, not sure of proportions
9) 100% merino
10) 50% white yak, 50% silk

The yak and silk mixture is lovely, and manages to be both drapey and fluffy whilst also being incredibly soft. I was surprised at how coarse the BFL and silk is, perhaps the BFL used in this particular blend was not a very soft example? The cashmere and silk was easier to spin than I feared, though not as relaxing a spin as other fibres, it seems to have spun up thicker than the other blends. The silk is lovely and drapey and shiney and crunchy. I think I would like to experiment with spinning more and knitting a larger piece to see if I had problems with it not holding its shape. The baby camel and merino was surprisingly lovely to spin, and is soft and warm.

It was good fun to see what some different fibres are like, and I was pleasantly surprised that they weren’t as difficult to spin as I had feared. I think in these cases the blends can help make a short fibre easier to spin by mixing it with a longer one.

Back in the summer last year I had a go at doing longdraw spinning (with varying degrees of success!). My yarn was rather lumpy, but I thought I would ply it up in three different ways and then knit with the results and see how they came out. My largest sample was a 3ply, made from three separate singles. This had the advantage of evening out the worst of the lumpy bits and was the most successful of the finished yarns. I tried knitting several different stitches to see how they would each fare.

Longdraw3ply1 Longdraw3ply2 Longdraw3ply3 Longdraw3ply4

 

I used 6mm needles for this sample. I thought the garter stitch, moss stitch, and particularly the welting pattern were most successful, with the stocking stitch and 1×1 rib unfortunately exacerbating the lumpiness (the 2×2 rib wasn’t so bad), and the cables and lace just getting a bit lost in all the fluffiness.

My next sample was a 2ply, for this one I used 5mm needles.

Longdraw2ply1 Longdraw2ply2 Longdraw2ply3 Longdraw2ply4

 

This yarn was less round and had more texture than the 3ply. Again it looked best in garter stitch, moss stitch, double moss stitch, and welting. Both the stocking stitch and the 1×1 and 2×2 ribs showed up how uneven the underlying yarn was.

My last and smallest sample was a chain ply. Due to the construction this method of plying magnified the unevenness in the original single and was the least even of all the finished yarn.

LongdrawChainPly

I used 5.5mm needles for this one. The garter stitch and particularly the moss stitch are pleasingly rustic, whereas the stocking stitch just looks uneven.

This whole experiment has been very interesting, both from the spinning and the knitting perspective. Also I think that my findings can equally be applied to uneven and textured commercial yarn. I think I would definitely avoid stocking stitch and ribs (particularly 1×1 rib) in a textured yarn – they run the risk of just looking messy. Garter stitch, variants of moss stitch, and welting seem to work well with texture. Cables and lace can run the risk of just getting lost in a fluffy yarn – probably best to do a test swatch since it will depend on the individual yarn and pattern combination.

Now onto a couple of finished projects:

First some very loud socks :-)

TrekkingSocks

The yarn is Zitron Trekking XXL and came from Mummy and Daddy from one of their holidays. I used 2.25mm needles. I made the pattern up, it is a very basic rib leg and stocking stitch foot pattern, with a garter stitch short row heel. I wanted a simple pattern since the yarn is so exciting it would obscure anything with more detail.

Next is another elephant, for a baby due this summer.

RedElephant

This one is made from King Cole Merino Blend DK, and I used 3mm needles. The pattern is Elijah.

My most recent finished project is a jumper made out of Lett Lopi. The pattern is from a Craftsy class that I have been enjoying (Top Down Icelandic Sweater). I had been hoping to buy the yarn from Alafoss at Unravel in February. However they were so successful that by the time I got to their stand half way through Saturday they had completely sold out! I did manage to get a shade card though, and so could decide about the colours in the comfort of my own home and order online.

I tinkered with the pattern a little to make it a jumper rather than a cardigan, and to make it a bit more fitted. I used some ideas from Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter book, and so went for zero ease at the chest and hip, and 3 inches of ease at the waist, with the waist shaping only done on the back of the garment. It came out a little more fitted than planned(!) due to my tension changing a little from the swatch to the finished garment, but I think it is still wearable.

MarenFrontMarenBack

I find the Lopi to be on the edge of what I find a little too scratchy. I have quite sensitive skin and have been experimenting with which fibres I find comfortable. For many years I thought I couldn’t wear wool at all, but fortunately it turns out I can wear quite a lot of wool, depending on the breed, and on whether it is touching a particularly tricky bit of skin. I shall be interested to wear this jumper for a bit and see what I reckon to it. I have a hat made from Lopi which I find ok, but that isn’t in contact with the inside of my elbows!

My final finished project of the catch up (and I am now finally up to date! hooray!) has been a long time coming. I checked on my ravelry project for this and I have been knitting it over a year! Well actually I have knitted it about two and a half times, due to a mess up with my calculations for the shoulder shaping, then undoing the edging so that I could maximise the yarn used.

FennaFrontFennaBack

The pattern is Fenna by Myrna Stahman, the yarn is some 50% merino, 50% tencel that I dyed a few years ago, and I used 4mm needles. I decided to go for a very simple garter stitch pattern to make the most of the coloured yarn. It is very comfy, and the shoulder shaping (now I have got it right!) really does mean that the shawl stays on as you move around.

At the beginning of April the West Surrey Guild of Spinning, Weaving, and Dyeing held a felting workshop with Janine Rees. This was the first time I had had a go at felting but luckily Janine made the workshop suitable for complete beginners as well as those with a bit more experience. Janine started the workshop by showing us a variety of felted pieces she has produced, and explaining about how felt is created. She then demonstrated how to make a piece of flat felt, and we all had a go.

Here are our examples of flat felt:

FlatFelt

And my sample. We used merino wool for the main felt and then decorated it with a variety of bits of yarn.

HeatherFlatFelt

At lunch time we were able to look at several books on different aspects of felt making that Janine had brought with her, and also to have another closer look at her felted pieces.

After lunch we moved on to making 3D felt around a resist made of thin foam. I made a little pouch.

HeatherResistFeltSide1 HeatherResistFeltSide2

In my excitement to get felting I forgot to add a thin layer of merino fibres over the top of my decoration on the second side. Interestingly the handspun merino yarn, and the 50% merino, 50% tencel yarn adhered to the surface with no problems anyway. The handspun Southdown yarn though has stuck in some places and not in others. Empirical evidence that not all wools felt the same!

It was a fun day and I look forward to having a go at more felting soon.

And finally a couple of photos of my lovely new craft room.

CraftRoom1 CraftRoom2

As you can see I have quite a lot of tidying to do!

 

 

First Finished Projects of 2014

I finished my first project of 2014 on January 1st, which sounds good until you realise it was a first birthday hat for my niece, and the 1st was her birthday. Still I did finish it before her birthday party :-)

HollyHat

The pattern is Doodie by Woolly Wormhead, the yarn is Knit Picks Swish DK (superwash merino wool) in the very aptly named colour Hollyberry (my niece’s name is Holly), I used 3.5mm needles.

My next finished project was a pair of socks.

Unicurves1 Unicurves2

The pattern is Unicurves, and the yarn is some handspun merino and silk that I think I spun last year, I used 2.25mm needles. These were a fun knit although my yarn is quite dense so they have made a very firm fabric. This does mean that they should wear well, but they are quite hard to get on and off! I will be interested to see whether they soften and become more flexible with washing and wearing.

Next up are the loudest slippers you have ever met :-)

RainbowSlippers1 RainbowSlippers2

The pattern is Stippers by Ashley Knowlton, and the yarn is some wonderfully bright Phildar I bought in France on the French Treats holiday in 2012. I used 5.5mm needles.

I did tinker with the pattern a little because in order to get a nice firm fabric with my yarn I needed to go down two needle sizes. Also as is often the case the largest size wasn’t actually wide enough for my feet. I am very pleased with how they have come out. They are wonderfully cosy and every time I catch a glimpse of them they make me smile :-) I was a little worried about how well the yarn would wear since it is fairly softly spun. However having knitted it quite tightly does seem to have helped, and I have been wearing them for a couple of weeks and they are still looking ok.

Next I was attempting to get ahead of the game with knitting an elephant for a baby who is due this summer.

GreenElephant

The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda Teague. I used Artesano superwash merino, and 3mm needles. This is a very satisfying though slightly fiddly pattern to knit, and I think the finished elephant has a lot of character :-)

Lastly for this bunch of finished projects was a shawl I finished a little while ago but had failed miserably to photograph. Finally its time has come :-)

RainbowShawl

This was the diamond lace shawl by Fiona Morris, one of the projects from the French Treats 2013 holiday. The yarn is Jawoll Magic Degrade and I used 5mm needles. My knitting came out a little looser than the prototype so in order to maximise the amount of yarn used I missed out the garter stitch section between the main lace pattern and the edging, and I missed out the picots on the cast off. I broke and rejoined the yarn when working the central peak on the edging to try and make the colours a little more symmetrical too.

Coming out of hibernation

It suddenly seems to be March! How did that happen? Now that the sun is finally showing itself after all the recent rain it seems like a good time to do some tidying up and catching up.

Quite a lot has happened since I wrote last. Last year we did a lot of sorting and packing, and in November we moved house. We haven’t gone too far, just from one side of the county to the other, and are now nearer to my in-laws, to the other-half’s work, and to knitting and spinning groups! A win all round :-) The new house is lovely and I even have a craft room which is absolutely wonderful :-) We are still in the process of bringing everything back from storage and sorting it out. I have got all my knitting books back on the shelves already and nearly all of the magazines and other folders, and am looking forward to having a nice big sort out of all my yarn and fibre – that may well be quite a mammoth project!

I have been doing a little bit of knitting over the winter though there hasn’t been anything too brain-taxing. That is another thing I am looking forward to getting back into, I would like to do a nice big slightly complicated project but I haven’t quite decided what yet.

So for a little bit of a round-up of what I have been up to. First there was an elephant for baby Rufus:

RufusElephant

The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda Teague, it is a very pleasing pattern to knit. The yarn is Artesano Superwash Merino, a DK weight, and I used 3mm needles. As you can see he is a very erudite elephant :-)

Next were some socks. I started these before we went to France in June and finally finished in November:

BackToBasicsSocks

The pattern is Back to Basics by Deb Barnhill, and the yarn is Fortissima Colori – I think the yarn was a present from Mummy, and I used 2.25mm needles. The construction was very interesting, although I had to tinker with the pattern a bit because my yarn was a little thinner than that recommended and my feet are wider than the largest size. The shape has come out not quite right for my feet – the toes are too narrow and the instep a little baggy, but they were an interesting knit.

I finished off the year with some things for Christmas. First a series of hats, these are all made from the Quynn pattern by Woolly Wormhead, using Knit Picks Chroma yarn in different colours, and 4.5mm needles. My tension was a little tighter than that called for in the pattern so I made a larger size for each to have it come out big enough. This pattern makes a lovely cosy hat, the integral ear-flaps are great, and it stays on your head even when it is windy :-)

First for my eldest niece Jenny:

JennyQuynn

Next for my nephew Aaron:

AaronQuynn

Then for my younger niece Holly:

HollyQuynn

And finally one for me :-)

HeatherQuynn

Here are the collection:

Quynns

I also made a Christmas stocking for Holly for her first Christmas.

HollyStocking1 HollyStocking2

I used Cascade 220 yarn and 3mm needles to give a nice firm fabric.

I have finished a couple of other projects so far this year, but I need to get my act together and photograph them. Also this seems a suitable time to pause since this post is already getting unmanageably huge!

Natural Dyeing Workshop

A couple of weeks ago the West Surrey Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers organised a natural dyeing workshop with Judy Hardman. It was similar to the one she ran last year, but being later in the year, and because this year we have actually had some sun(!) some of the plants were different. It was good to have another go at some of the more popular dyestuffs, and also to experiment with some different ones.

As with last time we dyed an incredible number of different colours in the day, using combinations of dye materials. Judy is very organised and had got all the plant material and skeins of wool (we used rug wool) prepared in advance. It was a wonderful way to be introduced to a wide variety of possible colours that can be achieved with natural dyeing. We each came home with 6 sample cards, and some people also dyed small amounts of their own yarn and fibre.

Dyeing6 Dyeing5 Dyeing4 Dyeing3 Dyeing2 Dyeing1

It was a very fun day, I particularly liked the coreopsis colours, which I think would be not too difficult to grow in the garden too, and watching the indigo turn blue on exposure to the air is always a terrific magic trick :-) I was really surprised that the red cabbage gave a pale bluey-green colour.

It was also a lovely opportunity to see some Guild members who I don’t know as well, as well as some familiar faces. It was lovely to meet Eileen’s daughter. I am now having a crisis of confidence over whether I have her name right, I think it is Kate, but I am now kicking myself that I didn’t write it down, apologies if I have got it wrong.

Le Tour de Fleece 2013: Day Twenty-Three

We have just got back from a lovely weekend with my parents-in-law, including a trip up to Stratford to see the RSC production of Titus Andronicus, and a barbeque today with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece.

On our return I have done a little weighing and measuring of my longdraw yarns:

DayTwentyThreeLongdrawPlied

1st skein: 3ply, 189g, 140m

2nd Skein: 2ply, 71g, 88m

3rd skein: chain-ply, 52g, 39m

I also did a little bit more spinning of the shetland.

DayTwentyThreeShetland

Today’s coin is an Olympic 50p for Chris Froome’s overall win. What an exciting three weeks of racing!

I have got a bit of a busy couple of weeks now so you will be pleased that it will be fairly quiet here for a bit!