Woolly Wormhead 10th Anniversary Blog Tour

Today I have great pleasure in being part of Woolly Wormhead‘s 10th Anniversary Blog Tour. This is the first time I have ever been in a Blog Tour!

For this stop on the Tour Liz and I did a little question and answer about the work we do on Woolly’s patterns and books. Liz very kindly hosted and organised this, so pop over to her blog to read a bit more about Technical Editing (me) and Copy Editing (her). There are prizes too!

It turns out I spoke a bit soon on the feeling better front, but hopefully soon!


A trip across the pond

The last year hasn’t been one of marvellous health round here. I have been struggling with iron-deficiency anaemia, which has made me very tired and a bit prone to getting other infections. Luckily I think things are looking up now so time to dust off the blog and try to find my brain πŸ™‚

In October we were fortunate enough to be able to spend nearly 3 weeks in the USA. We started off in Maine for Amy Herzog’s Make Wear Love retreat. The retreat was held at the Sebasco Harbor Resort, a lovely peaceful area with beautiful views. On the day after we arrived we went for a little walk up the hill behind the resort, here is the view back down, the building on the right with the solar panels is where we were staying.


I really enjoyed the classes and am slowly re-reading the class notes and the notes I made. I am part way through exploring some of the ideas from the cable class with Fiona Ellis, I’m on my second sample and think that there are some interesting ideas, but there may well be a third sample after this too.

After the retreat we spent a week further north in Maine looking at all the beautiful scenery.

P1010335Then went down to southern New York state and spent a lovely weekend with my sister and her family.

P1010410As you can see my niece is a girl after my own heart when it comes to fashion choices. If in doubt wear all the colours and all the patterns, all at once πŸ™‚ (though she is more into pink than I am)

We then spent a week in New Jersey where Paul did some work, and I did a bit of shopping. Then up to Rhinebeck for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival for the last weekend before flying home.

The festival was good fun! We had a good look round all of the yarn and fibre, and the animals too:

P1010437There was some beautiful fall foliage at the fairgrounds.

P1010433 P1010441It even snowed on the Sunday which was very exciting! I totally failed to manage to capture any pictures of the snow falling, and there wasn’t very much, but it added to the atmosphere.

We sampled the freshly made pretzels (yum!) and I treated myself to some fibre in breeds I haven’t tried before. Some coopworth, some rambouillet, and some cormo. I have just started spinning the coopworth, it is destined to be sock yarn, and I am hoping it will work out well. The fibre is quite long and robust which I am hoping will be good attributes for a sock yarn.

P1010447All in all a very fun trip.

It is feeling quite wintery now we have got home. It hasn’t been that cold, but it has been dark and rainy. All good weather for catching up on the knitting πŸ™‚

Knitsonik Quotidien Colourwork Workshop

Back in February I went to a very fun workshop with Felix held at Purlescence in Wantage. The theme was using our favourite everyday objects or views as inspiration for stranded colourwork knitting.

I took along a Williamson tea caddy that was a present from my mum. I love the shape, the colours and the patterns on it, and I love a good cup of tea. I was keen to see how to go about using it for knitting inspiration.

We were each given a book of squared paper for our experiments and a very helpful handout, and then let loose on an enormous selection of different colours of Jamieson and Smith Shetland 2ply Jumper Weight. Felix gave us very good advice on tweaking our colour choices and pattern designs so that they would work well in stranded knitting. She was also incredibly helpful in getting me to actually see the many many colours that were in my tin, and to encourage me to play with colours I don’t usually go for.

Here is the tin and what I knitted on the day.

P1000160Β It was very liberating just playing with colour and pattern, and with no constraints that it had to actually be suitable for a garment or be anything I would actually wear.

It was very addictive stuff and after a week or playing I ran out of yarn and so decided to declare my swatch finished πŸ™‚

P1000184As you can see I have gone with the more is more school of colour selection πŸ™‚

I really enjoyed playing around with colours and different patterns. I’m not sure yet that this swatch is going to lead into anything directly, but it was good fun and I may well come back to it at some point.

It was also really interesting to see the variety of different inspiration sources the other participants had brought, and the lovely colourwork that they created. Lots of great ideas.

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 40Β°C in the valleys! It got up to 28.4Β°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.


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:


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 πŸ™‚


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 πŸ™‚

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.



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.


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 πŸ™‚


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.


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.


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.


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:


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


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 πŸ™‚


The pattern is Doodie by Woolly Wormhead, the yarn is Knit Picks Swish DKΒ (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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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.


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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚


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.