Monthly Archives: December 2009

An outing to Yorkshire

Back in the middle of November I had an outing up to Yorkshire to see my parents, and managed to fit in rather a lot of knitting related things while I was there.

On the way we stopped in to Texere in Bradford. A marvelous fun place if you happen to be up in that part of the world, definitely worth a visit. Basically it is a mail order warehouse which is also a shop, great fun to wander round and see all the bits and pieces.

I bought some coloured merino tops.

Emerald, terracotta, wine, purple, petrol, ink, and chestnut. Each bag is 50g. I am going to experiment with mixing colours together in my spinning. I am thinking of spinning a single in each of 2 or 3 colours and then plying them together, to see what the effect is like, and also to see whether I like it knitted up.

I also bought a couple of posters of sheep breeds which have gone to Mummy as part of her Christmas present 🙂

No trip to Yorkshire at that time of year would be complete without an outing to the Knitting and Stitching show at Harrogate. We went on both the Thursday and Friday this time, allowing us finally time to see the exhibition as well as to see all the stands multiple times. This year for me was definitely the year of needles and fibre. I bought these fabulous coloured acrylic needles from Bev at Knitting 4 fun.

I am such a sucker for pretty knitting needles.

There are sizes, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 7, and 8 mm needle heads, cables in 60, 80, 100 and 120 cm, 8 end caps, and 4 cable keys in the bag. They are all fully interchangeable with all the other KnitPro needles.

I did quite well with Mummy’s Christmas present, and also got her 6 balls of Lang Mille Colori from Art Yarn, and a wooden shawl pin. She chose these so although they wont be a surprise, at least I know she likes them!

Continuing on the needle theme, I got another couple of Knit Pro needle heads, and some very cute cat buttons from Knitting 4 Fun, and a 30cm, 2.5mm addi circular needle from Art Yarn.

The 30cm circular has very short angled needle heads. I am intrigued to see whether I will be able to knit comfortably using my normal knitting hand position. I am looking forward to experimenting!

Last but not least, I got some gorgeous purple silk fibre from Oliver Twist (I can’t find their website, not sure if they have one).

This is so soft, but they have washed it in some incredibly strong smelling detergent! I think I may have to spin this in small doses, or try and air it or wash it before I start spinning.

While I was staying with my parents we also popped into Boyes, and I bought 2m of a fabric described as Chef Check.

The squares are about 3cm wide, and it is a nice sturdy non stretchy fabric. I plan to pin it over my foam playmats when I am blocking knitting, and then use the checks on the fabric to make sure that I have everything lined up.

As a special treat on my way home we went to Wingham Wool Work. I hadn’t been for three years, and the last time I was there I wasn’t a spinner, so there was lots to see, we ended up spending most of the afternoon there!

I think I now have enough fibre to last me for years!

I got some Falkland.

Some Corriedale.

Some Manx Loghtan.

Some Shetland Moorit (this really is a lovely colour).

Some Teal Merino.

Some rainbow merino in blues and greens.

Some rainbow merino with silk in, in turquoises.

in greens.

and in oranges.

Whew! This will keep me busy for a bit! It seemed like a great opportunity to buy things while I could see them and feel them. Particularly with the blends, which were all a bit different, and there were many more than are available generally on the website.

Spinning laceweight

Well at least it is a bit thinner than 4ply, and I am intending to knit lace with it 🙂 It isn’t as thin as some laceweight, but then laceweight is a bit of a vague term anyway.

This started off life as two balls of Schoppel Wolle Fingerwolle, in the Fuschia colour, bought from the High Weald Fibre Factory at Wonderwool Wales (the stuff on the left of the picture).

There was 40m on each ball of combed fibre about the thickness of a finger (hence the name). You can also knit with it as it is on 8 – 9 mm knitting needles or spin it (or you could probably felt it too). The colour changes are very gradual, although it turned out that the two balls I picked weren’t at exactly the same place in the sequence, so when I plied my two singles together I have got quite a few bits where one ply is orange and the other purple.

The effect of the colours is muted quite a bit by the plying (I did a 2ply). I am looking forward to knitting this up and seeing how the colours go. I think you will still get the colour progression effect, just not as striking as it was before spinning.

I have 450m and 100g, and this is the thinnest I have managed to spin so far. I am very proud 🙂 even though it is still a bit wobbly, but I am improving. I think I am going to knit some kind of a lacey shawl but haven’t decided on a pattern yet, I shall continue to keep my eye out.

Having a play with carding

A couple of weeks ago Lisa very kindly brought her new-to-her drum carder along to spinning group and let me have a play with it.

I think my carding technique needs improvement but it was a lot of fun! I had two shades of red merino fibre which I blended together. Both from Fibrecrafts, the darker colour is called Crimson, and the brighter one Scarlet.

Here is a very bad picture of the two different colours, the darker on the left, the brighter on the right.


And here is one of the carded batts. I did just one pass, and put the colours in in layers so you can’t see the blended colours particularly well here.


There are a few knobbly bits where my feeding onto the carder wasn’t particularly good, and they have made the spinning a little bit lumpy (along with my general inexperience). I have started spinning the singles, and have done about half now. I am hoping to do a bit more of this over Christmas.


Hopefully you can sort of see the two colours. It is eventually going to be a 3ply, hopefully about DK weight, and become part of my handspun leaves waistcoat. I must assess the yarn I have spun so far for that, and see how I am doing.

More fibre

A couple of weeks ago I ordered more stuffing from World of Wool for the never ending elephants and thought as I was paying the postage anyway, I might as well get a couple of little bags of interesting looking fibre to try spinning.

The first is 100g of dark brown baby alpaca.


The second is 100g of black diamond carbonised bamboo.


I’m not entirely sure what the process is that creates carbonised bamboo. To me carbonised sounds like it means it has been burnt, but I could be barking up entirely the wrong tree.

I am looking forward to spinning both of these. They both feel very soft and silky.

Ally Pally

Mummy and I spent two days at the Knitting and Stitching show at Ally Pally this year. We went on Thursday and Friday, giving us plenty of time to look at everything at our leisure (although we still didn’t have time for a proper look at the exhibitions!) and enough time to be able to chat to everyone without feeling we had to dash on to the next stand.

There seemed to be a lot of knitting stands again this year which is good from my point of view, and all the stand owners we talked to were having a good show, which always bodes well. There were a slightly different collection of stands from last year, I don’t think there were as many indie dyers as there had been last year. I wonder whether they were trying the show out last year, but decided not to come back. I gather that stands for this show are very expensive, and so depending on what you sell, and your target market, some of the dedicated knitting shows like Woolfest, Wonderwool Wales, and Fibrefest might be a better investment of time and money. Get Knitted were another notable absence, but luckily Bev of Knitting 4 Fun had brought a good range of the Knit Pro knitting needles, and were doing a roaring trade.

The Ash knitting group organised a coach up on Thursday although we went independently since the coach pick up points were both a 3/4 hour drive in the wrong direction. It was lovely to see so many people I know as we went round, and to compare notes on good stands to visit, and interesting things to see.

I did find a few nice goodies to come home with me as well. As part of my plan to expand my spinning experience I bought some carded fleece from Jamiesons.


Two lovely shades of green. All the fibre I have tried spinning so far has been combed so I am interested to see how the carded fleece will be different. I have 150g, about half each of each colour. I think I am probably going to make some kind of hat (said she vaguely).

I also bought three shawl patterns from them, two Jamieson’s own patterns, and the Princess Shawl from Sharon Miller.


I have been eyeing the Princess for ages, and thought now would be a good time to buy it. I am saving it up for when I am feeling suitably confident, or barmy, or probably both.

Continuing on the fibre theme, I bought some lovely 70& alpaca, 30% BFL fibre from UK Alpaca.


Two bags of 200g each. Gorgeously soft. I love the colours in this, and am really looking forward to seeing how it will look once it is spun up. It is something I am trying to get the hang of, imagining how a multicoloured fibre will look when it is spun.

And I also got a shade card for their yarns.


Next up a sample pack of 5 colours of shetland combed top from Jamieson and Smith.


I think their sample packs are such a good idea. You can see what the colours are really like and have a play with the fibre before buying huge quantities 🙂

I also bought an up to date version of their shade card, since the one I had was ancient.


I do love shade cards. So much possibility. So many happy hours spent looking at colours and textures.

I found some lovely yarn too. These are all from Art Yarn.

The first is a ball of Admiral Ombré by Schoppel Wolle, colour 1564, 100g, 4ply weight, 75% wool, 25% nylon.


I discovered when I was entering this on Ravelry, that I have obviously had the same idea before that this was a good colour. I thought it looked a bit familiar. Oh well, I shall enjoy it anyway, it is still a nice colour 🙂 I must remember to check my stash before I go on outings so I don’t do this so often.

I have been having the urge recently to knit some textured socks in solid coloured yarns, so I indulged in some Lang Jawoll 4ply weight sock yarn. Each ball is 50g, 75% wool, 18% nylon, 7% acrylic.

A lovely gingery brown, colour 83.0268.


A purple, colour 83.0280.


Bright green, colour 83.0216.


And a dark red, colour 83.0061.


This lot will keep me busy for a while!

One of the things I love about these shows is the variety of things to look at. We had a nice look at all the bead stands and a lot of the other bits and pieces too, and bought some lovely beads from Ilona Biggins.


They are both reformed amber. I love the way the light glints off them. The darker strand on the right is for me, and the paler one is part of Mummy’s Christmas present. Which I have just discovered I have not wrapped and handed over, and I thought I was doing so well. We had our present exchange earlier in the week, and I’m not going to see them again before actual Christmas. I will wrap it up and send it with my sister who is going to see them between Christmas and New Year. I have to hand over some presents to her anyway since a couple of things for her husband are still in the post.

Devon fibre retreat

On 30th October I went down to Devon for a fantastic fibre-filled weekend organised by Terri.

Friday got off to a slightly inauspicious start, I was 15 mins late to pick up Joanne because I had lost my knitting. I am never exactly at my best in the mornings, and spent 15 mins running round the house trying to find my knitting before I packed everything into the car. In the end I decided to pack the car first, and then search for the knitting afterwards, and went out to the car, to discover my knitting sitting on the passenger seat! I had thrown it out of my bag the previous evening when searching for my purse to pay for petrol and had obviously just left it there over night. At least that mystery was solved!

Luckily we made up time on the way and arrived in Exeter in time to have a cup of tea before picking Rosie up from the station. Then we were all on our way to Sheldon for a weekend full of fibre fun.

Sheldon itself was beautiful. It is a collection of converted buildings that can be hired out, run by a religious community. The ladies running the place were kind and helpful, and the long barn where we were staying was clean and comfortable and had a lovely big sitting space downstairs and beautiful views.


Friday afternoon was workshop time. I taught my emerald beaded bracelet. Joanne and Trudy my victims both made lovely choices of colours of beads and thread, and I am kicking myself that I didn’t photograph their work. I made a bracelet with some interesting matt red beads and ecru thread, something of a colour departure for me, but I like the effect.


I used DMC coton perlé size 8 in colour 739, and about 15g of size 11 seed beads.


After a delicious dinner of homemade soup (3 different kinds!) we sat and knitted and got to know each other. There were 12 of us altogether, 8 of whom stayed over. A really nice number and a lovely group of people.


Saturday dawned with rather atmospheric weather. I wasn’t as quick off the mark as some people so the mist had almost totally dissipated by the time I got my camera out, but you can still see a little bit.


Then it was onto the minibus for a hectic day of enjoying ourselves!

First stop was the David and Charles bookshop where I picked up these goodies:


The sock book is one of those ones where the pages are cut horizontally so you can mix and match your cuffs with your heels and create lots of different socks.

Then it was back in the bus and off to Coldharbour Mill. We had an excellent tour of all the interesting machines in the basement that turn the raw fibre into yarn, given by the man himself, John Arbon. This is the area that the public normally don’t have access to, although they are hoping to be able to create a gantry (is that the right word?) at some point in the future so that you will be able to look down on all the machines and see them in action. The machinery was all fascinating, since starting spinning I have been learning a bit more about how fibre is processed into yarn, and with a lot of the machines you can easily see how they are a vastly scaled up version of how a hand spinner processes their fibre.

The big machine with the person-height drum behind the screens behind John is their carder. You can’t imagine clamping that to the dining table!


John very kindly put each of the machines on briefly for us so we could see what they did, even though they weren’t actually processing any fibre at the time we were there. They tend to do their processing in batches, part of the difficulty is that the machines use an awful lot of power. There are a surprising number of stages that the fibre passes through before becoming yarn. I found the whole experience fascinating to see how it is done on an industrial scale (I do like a nice bit of machinery, coming from a family of engineers 🙂 ).

After our special tour we had a wander round the rest of the museum to see the machinery which is powered by the water wheel. Unfortunately they don’t run the wheel on a saturday but luckily I had actually seen it working when we stopped in on our way on holiday last year.

We had a bit of an opportunity for stash enhancement. I got three lovely skeins of brown 70% alpaca, 30% bluefaced leicester 2-3ply, 100g and 670 yrds per skein.


One skein of a gorgeous green 4ply merino, spun on the water wheel (100g, 370 yrds).


And a yummy wool fat soap which is currently in use in the bathroom.


We had our lunch in the cafe at Coldharbour Mill, and then piled back on the bus to go to Westcott Farm, home of Devon Fine Fibres. They have England’s only flock of Bowmont sheep (originally bred in Scotland as a mixture of 75% Merino and 25% Shetland), I think Lesley said they had about 50 of them, along with about 200 cashmere goats, and a small number of angora goats (where mohair comes from) and Boer goats, which are a meat goat.

Here are some of the Bowmont sheep out in the field:


And here are some of the Boer goats (the brown and white ones), and the Angora goats (the curly ones):


You can tell just from this picture how intelligent and inquisitive the goats were!

Here are some of the cashmere goats in the field:


And here are a particularly handsome pair of gentlemen (the goat at the back is a cashmere, the one at the front an angora).


I also took a lot of pictures of the goats and sheep who were inside, but they are all rather dark, so I shall spare you from thousands of dark pictures of goats.

It was really interesting to hear about life on the farm, and to talk to someone so passionate about what she does. It sounds like incredibly hard work, and a real labour of love. It is a very delicate balance with the flock of Bowmonts to increase the flock size, while maintaining as high a fleece standard as possible, but also avoiding inbreeding. This last point is especially a concern when the flock size is relatively small, and there are no other flocks available for interbreeding.

Lesley had some gorgeous fibre and yarn, some of which inevitably has come home with me.

First, two 50g bags of washed and carded, undyed Bowmont fibre.


And 25g of Devon cashmere fibre, washed and carded, undyed.


I also bought 2 skeins of gorgeous DK weight green cashmere (I am obviously having a green phase). 50g, and about 100m in each skein. You really need squishy-vision to appreciate this yarn, it is so soft that it is hard to put down.


And 2 skeins of DK weight undyed Bowmont. 50g, and about 150m per skein. I am thinking about dyeing one, or maybe both of these skeins and making some kind of colourwork hat. This is a lovely bouncy yarn.


After tea, biscuits and a very interesting discussion we hopped back on the bus and were driven back to Sheldon in time to stroke all our goodies again before we piled into three cars and drove down to the Nobody Inn for dinner. Here we all are, doing a spot of knitting and chatting before our food arrived.


The food was delicious, and needless to say, the company excellent. We rolled into bed very full and happy.

Sunday morning was a little breezy as you can see from this picture of Rachel, Bex, Donna, and Rosie outside our building.


The ladies at Sheldon very kindly opened their shop up specially for us. I was delighted to be able to buy a couple of balls of DK weight Castlemilk Moorit in natural brown from a local farm (50g per ball, no idea how many metres).


They also had some Aran and DK weight Manx Loaghtan spun from wool from Sheldon’s own sheep, but my wallet was feeling rather pummelled by then so I didn’t get any.

We spent the rest of the morning doing a bit of knitting and spinning, before having a delicious roast lunch.


As you can see Donna has a beautiful purple Suzie pro, and Joanne (at the back right, spinning on Terri’s Lendrum) was a total natural at spinning, her first yarn was much better than mine.

Then time for a clean up and pack everything into the car, then time to go home (which always comes much too soon).

I had a wonderful weekend, the food, outings and company were all excellent. Terri put together a great program of things to do and the food was fantastic. It was great to meet so many lovely fibrey people and spend a weekend together. I am going to have a lot of fun knitting up my purchases too 🙂

Heather on the telly

Back on the 21st of October I had a little jaunt down to Arundel to film a couple of programmes on dyeing wool with acid dyes for the new internet TV channel

Sadly I was my usual inane self and didn’t suddenly become witty and charming when put in front of a camera (well it was a nice thought). It was quite a fun day though, and although I was very nervous (when will I learn that I find any kind of performing very scary??), they were all very kind, and laughed with me rather than at me (or at least that is my interpretation).

The company that makes also does several other internet tv channels, including one on beads, and one on miniature railways. The set we were using for the dyeing was one they often use for miniature railways, so it does look rather like I am dyeing yarn in a shed. Here is my beautiful pseudo-shed, with the yarn cooking in the steamer.


And here is my view from behind the counter, looking out to the cameras.


And here is the finished yarn.


100% superwash bluefaced leicester, 4ply weight.

They split my waffle into two programmes (because I go on, and on, and on), Part 1 and Part 2.

So if you have been harbouring a desire to see me large as life and twice as ugly I am there for your delectation! I’ve only just got my subscription password so I haven’t watched all the way through the programmes yet. Let me know if I say anything too awful. Luckily they didn’t have the camera on when I was dancing around between the programmes.