Monthly Archives: June 2012

Le Tour de Fleece 2012: Day One

Well the Tour de France has started today, and so that means the annual fun of spinning along while watching the cyclists and the lovely countryside has kicked off. We had fun watching the prologue in Liège this afternoon. I am spinning some lovely 80% alpaca, 20% merino from John Arbon, bought at Unravel in February.

Today’s coin is an Italian 2 Euro coin to celebrate Fabian Cancellara winning the prologue.

My new toy

Just before I went off to France my birthday present to myself arrived:

It is a Classic Carder.

After playing with Jill’s drum carders up in Stourbridge earlier in the year, I went to Wonderwool Wales with the mission to look at and try different carders and ask lots of questions. It was lovely to be able to chat to Paul who makes the Classic Carders and ask his opinions. I have gone for a jumbo carder with the fine carding cloth, and have an extra long removable table. It required nearly a day of thinking to decide which combination to go for!

It has that lovely wood smell (all the jumbo carders are made of Ash), and I am really looking forward to having a go with it.

Also talking of spinning things in the run up to the start of this year’s Tour de Fleece (spin along while watching the Tour de France in case you haven’t come across it yet) which starts tomorrow, I have indulged in some lovely dyed fibre which arrived at the weekend.

I have 100g of each and they were from Picperfic, she says she is going through a bright phase, and I for one am definitely enjoying it!


Coast, 75% superwash merino, 25% seacell. I haven’t spun seacell yet so I am looking forward to this.

Merisil, 75% organic fine merino, 25% mulberry silk.

I think the Coast is going to be socks. The other two I think might be the contrast for a circular yoked jumper, or rather two separate jumpers, perhaps with millspun yarn as the background. I am still thinking on that one.

Yet more socks in progress

I have been doing some more knitting with my hand spun. Although I enjoy the process of spinning I am primarily interested in creating yarns that I would like to knit with, so it is handy to knit up a bit of my hand spun and get the feedback. This is the yarn I made a couple of years ago with my first fleece I processed from scratch. I wasn’t terribly good at it (there were quite a few felted bits that I couldn’t use), so I ended up plying it with some super wash blue faced Leicester to make it go a bit further.

I had two fleeces, a white Dorset, which I processed first and did very badly, and a grey dorset cross which I did a little better with. So I ended up with two 3ply yarns, one with a strand of white Dorset, a strand of grey Dorset, and a strand of BFL, and the other with a strand of grey Dorset, and two strands of BFL. I then dyed the whole lot in shades of green.

For these socks I used the yarn with grey Dorset and BFL for the leg, and the yarn with grey and white Dorset and BFL for the foot. My rationale being that the one with more Dorset being coarser would hopefully wear better.


I have finished one sock so far and am on the second. The pattern is Cirque Socks from Knitty. I had a bit of difficulty shortening the pattern for my short wide feet. There are only certain points in the pattern repeat where the toe decreases can start, but then I needed to cast off before I managed very many decreases otherwise they would have been too long. They have ended up looking a little bit like a sock for one of Roald Dahl’s witches πŸ™‚

Swirling Petals Shawl

I realised that I hadn’t actually blogged about my final project for the City and Guilds Certificate, so time to rectify that!

I actually finished this back in October!

In the end for the real thing I used 3mm needles and 75% merino, 25% angora lace weight yarn from Uppingham Yarns.

I am very pleased with the way it has come out πŸ™‚

As with all of my City and Guilds projects this one also did not escape the epic sampling. As you can probably tell from the picture with me in it above, the finished shawl has a diameter of about 1.5m. My first sample where I was trying out different ways of making the segments, and trying out different edgings, was nearly as big (though it did use thicker yarn):

The second and third samples were only a metre across each, so clearly I am becoming more reasonable in my old age (!?)

The second sample explored ways of doing the increases to create the petals, and also possible patterns for inside the petals. And also shows my chosen edging (a combination of two of the edgings I tried on sample one):

By the third sample I had cracked the edging, so this one doesn’t include a lace edging, but was testing out possible patterns for inside the petals, and for the segments between the petals before the edging.

At first I thought I was going to make the real thing out of a lovely 70% baby alpaca, 30% silk lace weight yarn that I had bought from KnitPicks, in colour spice. At first it seemed to be going ok, but as I got onto the larger petals containing the field of flowers pattern, the multicoloured yarn totally obscured the lace pattern:

So I went back to the drawing board and chose a completely solid coloured yarn. Multi-coloured yarn and lace can be a tricky combination. I think it works with a yarn which is not too jazzy, and with a lace pattern which is very simple, but when one or the other get more complicated you tend to lose the pattern completely.

Luckily after all that, the project passed, and I have passed the whole course! I haven’t got my actual certificate yet, but hopefully I shall do at the next class.

Java Socks

I had so much yarn left over after finishing the Cathedral Socks, that there was at least enough for another pair. I thought I would try a different pattern. This is the Java pattern, also from Knitty, and also using 2.25mm needles. I used about 83g, 324m. There is still about 214m left of this yarn, so probably not enough for another pair of socks, but maybe enough for fingerless mittens or something.

Here is a close up of the pattern on the leg:

They were a really nice pattern to knit. A simple 4 row repeat that was easy to memorise and pleasant to knit. Since I finished these the weather has warmed up so I haven’t worn them yet. I am a little concerned that the toe might be a bit pointy but we shall see.

French Treats 2013

I am still catching up on my sleep / emails / washing / etc, after dropping Mummy off at a friend’s yesterday so they can all head off on the next holiday this morning. It seems that the best antidote to coming back from holiday is to go straight off on the next one πŸ™‚

Anyway, just to let you know if you would like to join us for the French Treats holiday in 2013 it will be 2nd – 9th June 2013, and booking is open already. The info isn’t up on the website yet, but if you would like to book, or would like more information, contact Graham and Christine and they will be very happy to help. The knitting program is not finalised yet, but if you would like to come and there is something particular you would like covered, contact Fiona and let her know, and she can bear it in mind when she is creating the program.

I look forward to seeing you then!

Natural Dyeing Day

At the beginning of May I went along to a day’s workshop on natural dyeing with Judy Hardman, organised by the West Surrey Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers. It was an excellent day, Judy was very well organised and informative, and we dyed an enormous number of different colours.

At the end of the day it was all hands on deck to create 6 different shade cards for each participant showing the colours we had created, and how we had got them.

Unfortunately the weather had been pretty rubbish so most of our dyeing was done with dried material rather than fresh. We are hoping to have Judy back again for a summer dyeing session next year, if we can find a date she is free.

It was wonderful to see the range of colours you can get with natural dyes, I think my favourites were the madders, though indigo is always magical too, and I like the golden onion skin colours too. I may even have a go at a bit of natural dyeing at home, though I might wait til the weather is more co-operative for doing it outside.

The last night and time to come home

Last night before dinner we had a little exhibition of all our work from the week. Everyone laid out the things they had been working on all week and we wandered round and admired it all, with a glass of kir royale in hand. So here is everyone’s work:














Unfortunately I don’t seem to have photographed Myra’s work πŸ™ If anyone has a photo of it I would love to see it.

Here we all are celebrating our achievements of the week:

And here are our lovely hosts Christine and Graham:

We then repaired to the dining room for another one of Christine’s wonderful meals. She really is a very good cook, very yummy food every day, I shall definitely not stand on the scales for some time πŸ™‚ And then back to our rooms to wrestle with the packing.

Anne left last night, and Sue and Ruth left very early in the morning to get their train, but the rest of us had quite a leisurely start to the day, a final panic about the case, and time for Graham to squash all the cases in the minibus and the volvo, then he and David drove us to the station and then airport.

The journey home all went very smoothly. I have mostly unpacked now and done two loads of washing πŸ™‚

It has been a lovely week. Such a nice time and I feel very lucky to have spent it with such a wonderful group of creative, fun, and talented ladies. Roll on next year! (though next time I will try to be a little more minimal with my packing, I got the prize on the way home for being the most over the weight limit)

A round up of the week

Today has been a day of finishing up projects and samples begun, and trying out anything we are keen to before we pack up and depart tomorrow.

Sue finished her beret, and coordinated slipper


I finished my beret.


The back would sit straighter if I didn’t have my hair in a ponytail.


Karen finished her beret, it is the same colour as mine but her tension is a little looser so it has come out a lovely slouchy style.


Linda has finished a phone cover using one of the textured stitches we have been sampling, and using yarn she only bought yesterday!


Ruth has also already finished a self-designed brooch with yarn only bought yesterday.


Avril finished her fingerless mittens, using textured stitches and decorative edgings.


My mum finished her beret



Ursula finished her cushion cover.



Joanne finished her fingerless mittens, using moss stitch and moth stitch (say that three times fast!) carefully coordinated to match the beret she finished earlier in the week.


This evening we are going to have a little exhibition of our work so we can all admire everyone’s creations, then we are having a fair well dinner. And then time to see if we can persuade everything into our cases.


Last night we went to Le Scorlion at St Jean d’Angelys (the spelling there may be a little wonky), and had a lovely meal.


Here is my starter of langue de boeuf (ox tongue):


And this is Avril’s salmon


For main course I had steak:


And pineapple cut incredibly thinly with a red fruit sorbet for pudding


I did discover that my camera has a food setting! But the pictures I took on that all seem very dark so I’m not sure I will bother with that again!

This morning we were knitting. Sandra finished her beret



Ruth has finished a lovely phone cover using strips knitted together, and a button bought during our trip to La Rochelle.



Joanne has also finished her beret, in a yummy shade of purple.



This afternoon we went to the Roman town of Saintes.


We visited a nice little knitting shop in the town centre.


And another one on the outskirts.


On the way home we stopped at the hypermarket and I have stocked up on chocolate (though I have eaten some already πŸ™‚ ). We are now sitting outside (in my case in the shade) doing a little bit of knitting and admiring our purchases before dinner. This is the life πŸ™‚ I shall also definitely miss being chauffeured around in an air-conditioned Jaguar when we go home!