Category Archives: Stash

Le Tour de Fleece 2012: Day Twenty-One

As well as being the last day of the Tour de France today was also the day of the Singleton Rare Breeds show. Here is the view across to the show rings while the set-up was going on:

There were lots of animals to look at, including some very cute alpacas:

I was delighted to find some Southdown sheep since that is the breed of fleece I am spinning with at the moment, they look like teddy bears πŸ™‚

There were lots and lots of sheep, from the very large like these black Wensleydales:

To the really pretty tiny, like these Castlemilk Moorits (I hope I have identified these right, I failed to include their sign in the photo).

There was also a section for fleeces and handspun, where my friend Lisa won a very well deserved two rosettes for her spinning. Well done Lisa! There were lots of lovely things on display, I’m afraid I was so busy looking at them that I failed to take any pictures in the handspun tent.

I did buy a little bit of fibre, this is a mixture of merino with a bit of trilobal nylon which makes it sparkly.

The weather was the best it has been for months. I think it is the first time this summer I have worn suncream and my sunhat in this country!

This evening I spun a bit more of the purple Southdown while we watched the last stage of the Tour. I am now part way through the second bobbin.

Today’s coin is an Isle of Man pound for Mark Cavendish’s win. What a great tour this has been for the Brits!

And this is a pile of all of the yarn I finished during the tour, I had spun about three-quarters of the singles of the brown alpaca before the tour started.

Altogether there is 1545g and 3427m. Not bad really! I think I shall have a lie-in tomorrow πŸ™‚

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.

La Rochelle

Today we went to La Rochelle, our nearest large town,immortalised by the French books I learnt from at school. Luckily Fiona had a map:


So we all followed her to the yarn shop πŸ™‚


We managed to find three yarn shops selling a variety of French and foreign yarns.

We also managed to fit in a bit of sight-seeing. It is an interesting old town, beautiful on such a lovely day. There were quite a lot of people around, some locals but quite a lot of tourists, particularly English. Here is the harbour:


And there were several interesting buildings. The lines on this aren’t timber but are actually slate tiles, which seems to be a local style.


Here we all are at the harbour side, looking very pleased with all our new purchases.


Speaking of purchases, I bought two balls of Bergere de France Sport, which is a DK weight washable wool and acrylic mix. I am planning a hat for my niece for her Christmas present (or possibly her birthday in September if I am fast enough!) I hope she will like the colour.


In the Phildar shop I bought four balls of Terre Neuve, which is a chunky wool, and will be a hat for me. I think the colour is fantastic!


The third knitting shop sold Pinguoin and Anny Blatt yarns but I didn’t buy anything there. I was saving my cash for a very nice creme brΓ»lΓ©e ice cream, no photo I’m afraid, I ate it too quickly πŸ™‚

Colour blending in Stourbridge

Back in the middle of April I took myself off up to Stourbridge for some woolly fun organised by wrigglefingers (aka Jill). There were a small but select bunch of us, and we all brought what we were working on at the moment, or things we were keen to learn more about. I bent Jill’s ear about drum carding for colour blending, and she was kind enough to let me use her carders and lots of her lovely coloured fibre for two days, and give me lots of helpful info in the use thereof.

As you can see Jill has a fair bit of fibre:

I had a fabulous time playing with it all, and was definitely getting better by the end of the second day, fewer lumps and feeding the fibre in more smoothly. I made 8 little skeins – they are each only abot 10 – 15g.

They are mostly merino, but a couple have silk in, and a couple trilobal nylon sparkle. My favourite is the green 3rd from the right. This is an optical illusion (which I dreamt up at 6am on the second day of the workshop!) and actually contains no green fibre, only yellow and cyan.

I loved it so much that I have ordered a drum carder as a birthday present to myself and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

The mini skeins are all around 4ply weight, and I am planning on using them as the contrast colour in mittens.

Wingham sample day

Back on the 11th of March I went along to a Wingham Woolwork sampling day near Didcot being organised by the Kennet Valley Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers. The idea is that you bring your spinning wheel and your lunch, pay Β£6 entrance fee and then can try out as many of their fibres as you would like during the day. It was great fun!

I find it quite hard to know how the colours are going to change from the fibre, to the yarn, to the knitted piece, so my plan for the day was to spin a little chunk of a variety of their blends of merino, and merino and silk and see how the colours blended together.

Here is the finished tube, with a little bit of the fibre next to the knitted fabric it became:

Some of them were fairly predictable, but others were surprising. The more different colours in a blend the more difficult I found it to predict how it would come out. A very useful exercise, and I am very keen now to have a go with blending more colours myself rather than just buying pre-selected blends. I do love colour!

Of course no day of this kind would be complete without a bit of stash enhancement. I bought two bags of Rainbow Merino fibre, this one is actually two shades of navy although they are quite close together:

And this one is a bit less subtle πŸ™‚

And some Rainbow Merino Silk too:

I bought a bit over 100g of each, the measurement is a bit vague because I was weighing it rather than them. It should hopefully be enough for a pair of socks in each colour. I am looking forward to seeing whether I can make socks that are soft but also will wear reasonably well.

Unravel 2012

This weekend was the annual Unravel festival at the Maltings in Farnham. It is great to have a woolly festival so close to us, and this year there was even more fun stuff to look at.

As in previous years I was helping out with demonstrating and teaching spinning and knitting with the West Surrey Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers, and with the Surrey Knitting and Crochet Group. Members of both groups lent a wonderful selection of things they had made for our display table. We had our usual corner of the Cellar Bar which was handy as we knew the lie of the land beforehand. Here it all is on Friday afternoon after we had set it all up:

A good number of members of both groups volunteered so we all managed to have a good look around the show too which was excellent, and I also managed to hear Lesley Prior‘s talk about the Campaign for Wool which was very interesting.

This year’s January competition at the knitting and crochet group had the theme of sheep, and we had all the entries on display for the weekend. I made a Shetland Sheep out of some natural black handspun Shetland, although I didn’t manage to finish him in time for the competition:

He is made entirely out of bobbles, which nearly killed me. He wont be having any friends! I find bobbles very hard on the neck and shoulders, and had a headache for a week after finishing him! Luckily I am pretty much better now.

Sue made the most wonderful life-size model sheep which was then covered in knitted squares by members of the group, and hung in the entrance of the Maltings:

He is called Norman, and will be coming out with us to more exhibitions later this year.

And there were even real live sheep, I think from Well Manor Farm in a pen outside:

There were even more stands at the festival than in previous years. A great selection of things to see and have a go at. There were workshops and talks on both days, and a lot of enthusiastic people.

I had a fabulous time πŸ™‚ It was great to see loads of friends, and to meet lots of new people too. I spent a lot of Saturday extolling the virtues of knitting socks with one long circular needle, and Sunday talking about spinning and different wheels and helping new spinners get started. They were all sickeningly tallented, and grasped the principles very quickly, even those who were rather tired after having a long day round the show πŸ™‚ We had a lot of families around on the Sunday which was fun, and we did some great team spinning. My little victims got the hot seat (although some of them were a little short to sit on the chair and reach the pedals so had to stand up), and they were in charge of the treadle, with their accompanying adult in charge of checking that the wheel was still going in the same direction. Then I did the hands, and when they had had enough I did a little ply-back of the yarn we had been spinning so they would have something to take away with them. I think there will be quite a lot of orange merino featuring in show and tell sessions at Surrey and Hampshire schools this week πŸ™‚

I was also thrilled to win the Best in Show exhibition with my Autumn in Anatolia jumper.

I am looking forward to the prize which was a subscription to Selvedge magazine. Our knitting and crochet group were well represented in the Best in Show competition, Kim came second with her crocheted Dalek Tank top:

Sue also entered her wonderfully witty knitted sheep portraits,and Mary entered her Noah’s Ark.

A show would hardly be complete without a bit of stash enhancement and there were lots of lovely things available to buy.

The first things I bought on Saturday morning when the show had barely opened were Knitting with Two Colors by Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen, from Tricia Holman, and an Unravel bag (which came in handy to put things in all weekend). Here they are with my first issue of my prize Selvedge subscription:

It took me all weekend to decide on which colour of Deepy Wicked sock yarn (100% superwash Merino, 100g, 400m) to buy from EasyKnits – too much choice! Too many lovely loud colours! They humoured my indecision, and in the end I decided on this lovely semi-solid green called Astro Turf πŸ™‚

It is a bit grey and gloomy here today so the yarn is actually even bright than my photo suggests πŸ™‚

I also had a lovely time at John Arbon‘s stand, squishing all the lovely tempting fibre. It was nice to see John and Juliet and catch up with them too πŸ™‚

I bought 200g of white 70% Exmoor Blueface, 30% Bluefaced Leicester fibre:

I am planning to dye this and then spin it into socks. We were using some of this fibre for spinning demonstrations and for the new spinners to learn with, and it is very nice to spin, it drafts very smoothly without being too slippery.

I also bought a kilo of chocolate 80% fine alpaca, 20% merino fibre:

This is a gorgeous colour, very reminiscent of a good milk chocolate. I think this will be a jumper or cardigan but I haven’t thought much further than that.

I also got some lovely Cappuccino Alpaca and something, but I now can’t remember whether it was Alpaca and Merino, or Alpaca and BFL, or Alpaca, Merino, and BFL, or something else entirely. I think my brain may be a little full.

I’m not sure what I am going to do with this yet. I think not lace, because the colours are quite strongly contrasting. Perhaps a 4ply kind of a weight, and then maybe mittens or something. Or I may mix it with some other fibre I already have to eke it out a bit.

All in all a very good weekend πŸ™‚ I woke up at 5.30am yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was too excited, so I have been enjoying a bit of a quieter day today. Roll on next year, but I shall try and catch up with my sleep before then!

Devon Fibre Weekend 2011

On the first weekend in November I picked up Joanne and we trundled down to Devon for a very fun (if somewhat muddy) fibre-y weekend. This year’s weekend was run by Emma rather than Terri and was in a different location to last year, and didn’t include any outings.

On our way down we popped into John Arbon‘s shop in Lynton. John and Juliet were very kind and put up with us despite being in the middle of packing for a big show up in London. Juliet had also measured out some fibre for me before we arrived. I bought 1kg of their organic merino which I plan to dye and spin for a jumper or cardigan soon:

And I couldn’t resist 500g of 75% organic merino, 25% silk.

This is lovely soft stuff.I plan to dye it as well but I am not sure whether to do it in one go, or do several smaller things.

The main reason for going to the shop though was to pick up some more alpaca / merino fibre in Cappuccino to add to the stuff I bought last year, and hopefully give me enough for a cardigan. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this as I have started spinning it already πŸ™‚

After the shopping we trundled up to the farm to meet everyone. It was lovely to see some familiar faces and meet some new people too.

As well as a healthy amount of spinning, knitting, chatting and cake eating over the weekend we also did some dyeing under the excellent tutelage of Bex, and some people did some felting too.

I dyed 100g of superwash Bluefaced Leicester fibre in a mixture of blues with a bit of purple:

I plan to spin this probably as a 3ply and then knit socks.

And some rather orange silk fibre:

I used red, orange, and yellow dye on this one and was expecting there to be a bit more red. It has come out very orange πŸ™‚ I’m not quite sure what I am going to do with it, but I’m sure I shall think of something πŸ™‚ I haven’t spun much 100% silk yet either, so I am looking forward to that.

Bex also brought along some of her shop stock so I treated myself to a couple of braids of fibre. They are both 150g, 70% superwash merino, 30% nylon:


I think these are both destined for socks. Goodness I do seem to be going through a sock phase. I think it could be now that we are into wintery weather, and that my sock drawer is getting a bit depleted. It would work better if I actually got round to knitting the socks though, not just buying yarn and fibre πŸ™‚

All too soon Monday morning came around and we packed everything back into the car and said goodbye. One advantage of leaving on Monday rather than Sunday was that the drive home wasn’t too busy and was all in daylight.

Roll on next year! (I might even try to use up some of the stuff I have bought before then!)


Knit Nation 2011

Back in the middle of a rather wet July I spent a very enjoyable three days up at Imperial College in London for Knit Nation. I had booked a hectic schedule of classes which were all great fun.

On Friday I had an all day class with Anne Hanson on Sweater Fitness. This included taking a full set of body measurements and then looking at how to adapt existing patterns to our measurements. All useful stuff. I have been quite successful in designing garments from scratch using my own measurements, but less successful in adapting already existing patterns, so there were a lot of useful tips to be gleaned. The penny really dropped when we were looking closely at the schematics of our chosen patterns, and I realised that a lot of my problem was not just that I usually need a different size for my chest than for my tummy / hips (this is something I have been aware of for some time and so am used to compensating for), but that my shoulder measurement matches up with a completely different size. I am shaped rather like a pyramid πŸ™‚ So many garments hang from the shoulder line and if you don’t get that right the whole garment looks badly fitting. This was amply demonstrated by the T-shirt I was wearing to class. In order to get a size which was comfortable around my cake-storage areas the shoulders of the T-shirt extend past my own shoulders by a good couple of centimetres and droop in a not terribly flattering manner.

We covered lots of useful tips on how to transition from one size to another at strategic points in an existing pattern. I shall definitely be putting this information into action, and taking a very hard look at the schematics of the future patterns I knit. She also had some very interesting things to say about different ways to reduce the stitches from the bust line to the shoulders, whether you opt to decrease in the armhole area or do darts which go up to the centre of each shoulder. I look forward to doing some experimenting with this to see which works well for my shape.

On Saturday morning I went to a class on Vintage Fit and Finishing with Susan Crawford. It was very interesting to learn how fashions in ease and fit have changed over time. Very valuable information when knitting a vintage pattern. I am not sure I will ever go for the full vintage re-creation garments which seem to be popular, but I can certainly see me using some aspects of vintage patterns as inspiration.

On Saturday afternoon it was The Many Faces of Cashmere with Clara Parkes. Fantastic stuff! She manages to be hilarious and extremely informative and interesting all at the same time, and three hours of cashmere can never be a bad thing πŸ™‚ We had lots of little samples of fibre and yarn to feel and knit with. It is constantly amazing how many different yarns you can make from the same fibre.

Here are all my little samples before washing (click to make huge):

Top row L to R:

  • Schulana Cashmere Moda, 100% cashmere, caged construction (so fibre is blown through a type of thin Icord-type tube), 4mm needles.
  • Knitwitches Seriously Gorgeous Swiss Mountain cashmere / silk lace, 65% cashmere, 35% silk, 3.25mm needles.
  • Habu Cashmere Lace, 100% cashmere, 3.25mm needles.
  • Colourmart 100% cashmere, Cable (or crepe) construction, 6mm needles.

Middle row L to R:

  • Classic Elite Posh, 30% cashmere, 70% silk, S on S cable construction, 5mm needles
  • Laines Du Nord Royal Cashmere, 100% cashmere, knitted tube construction, 4mm needles.
  • The bottom of the sample is Filatura Di Crosa Superior, 65% cashmere, 35% silk, brushed, and I used 3.25mm needles. For the top of the sample I used the same needles and as well as the Superior I added Filatura Di Crosa Nirvana, 100% merino, so the two yarns were knitted together.
  • KFI Textured Cashmere, 100% cashmere, 4mm needles.

Bottom Row L to R:

  • Hemp for Knitting Cashmere Canapa, 10% hemp, 60% cotton, 30% cashmere, 3.75mm needles.
  • Carded cashmere fibre.
  • Combed Mongolian cashmere fibre.
  • Falkland wool fibre.
  • The yellow slightly above is silk fibre.
  • The white below is fake cashmere fibre, I think this is nylon.

Here are the knitted samples after having a wash:

All of the samples fluffed up a bit on washing. Cashmere is often oiled to stop it hairing up the machines when it is processed so you don’t get the full effect until you have given your knitting a wash.

I loved the opportunity to sample all the different blends of cashmere, and different ways of spinning. There are some very inventive manufacturers out there. I am still a bit afraid of spinning cashmere because of the short staple, which is better suited to long draw, which I am not very good at. I am hoping to do some practising soon though so I can overcome that.

After Saturday’s classes I went to see the film about Bohus knitting, not a subject I knew much about before, although I love their patterns and have the kit for the Wild Apple around here somewhere.

Sunday morning was Photographing Your Fibre with Franklin Habit. Again lots of interesting and useful information. Some of it about how to set up your scene for your photography, and some on how to actuallly use the camera. I shall be spending some time with my camera manual soon! I only have a little point and shoot, but even that I don’t really use to its full potential.

As is often the way with these events there was a very tempting market place. I came home with two books:

Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague, and Going Straight by Woolly Wormhead. I am looking forward to finding some time over Christmas to read both of these properly.

I also found a fabulous skein of yarn:

This is merinoΒ  / nylon / stellina, 100g,Β  400m, 4ply weight in colour Mermaid from Krafty Koala. It was green and purple and sparkly, so I could hardly be expected to resist.

I had a great time and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with lots of fun knitting people. I was a bit tired by the end and managed to get completely drenched on the way home – you could literally wring the water out of my trousers from the knee down where my umbrella didn’t cover them.

I think there isn’t going to be a Knit Nation next summer because of the Olympics, I am looking forward to one in 2013!



Just when I was nearly caught up things became busy again. They are calming down a bit now, so I shall plod on with the catching up, like the tortoise I shall get there in the end πŸ™‚

At the beginning of June we had a lovely week’s holiday up in Orkney. It was the first time we had been, and it was lovely. Beautiful landscape, and interesting things to visit, and we were very lucky with the weather. The light up there is really beautiful, though it takes a bit of getting used to that in June it only gets dark for a couple of hours a night. We had to hang a blanket up over our window in order to sleep. I’m not sure I would fancy it in the winter though. I think it would get a bit depressing with only a few hours of light each day.

We stayed in a cottage about a mile outside Kirkwall, the capital, and this was the view from Scapa Bay just a short walk from the cottage:

The light seemed to make the seaweed glow.

We visited a lot of the typical tourist things. All the neolithic remains are very impressive, and well worth visiting if you are in the area. Also the advantage of going before the school holidays was that most things weren’t too crowded.

The air up there is very clean, and the most amazing lichens grow. These were on a grave stone at the Brough of Birsay:

The landscape was not as barren as I had been expecting. I think I had been picturing something more windswept and moor-like, but actually most of the mainland is gently rolling, and very green. Also there are trees, they are just not very tall. This is the Ring of Brodgar, one of the stone circles:

We spent most of the time on the Mainland, but on one day we had a trip out to Rousay, one of the closer islands. We had a moment of excitement on the way there, when we realised that we would have to reverse the hire car on to the ferry. The ferry is quite little and only takes about 9 cars, though it had fewer when we went over because a lorry carrying what looked like road surfacing stuff was taking the space of about 6 cars. Luckily the hire car was quite titchy, and the ferry staff were very friendly and experienced. Since there is only one hire car service at the airport, and the vast majority of their cars are the same, the ferry staff were well practised at the exact instructions they needed to give in order to get the desired outcome. I also got the impression that if one had had a total melt-down about it, they would have driven the car on for you. At least we had been driving the car around for 4 days at that point so were also quite familiar with it. The Antipodean lady we were talking to in the queue had literally just arrived by plane and picked up a car and driven straight to the ferry.

There were several cairns on Rousay, and a very impressive broch and tomb at Mid Howe. This is the broch, to give you an idea of the scale, the two little blobs at the bottom left are people:

And here is the tomb, protected by a building which has been built round it:

Unfortunately it is hard to tell the scale, but it is really massive. The walls are seriously thick, at least a couple of metres, and the whole tomb is enormous. Very impressive, especially considering how long ago it was built.

After visiting Mid Howe we drove round the rest of the island, and were delighted to find a bay where we could watch seals swimming around, really close to the shore. They are very graceful in the water, and surprisingly ungraceful out of it.

Here are some flopping around and sunning themselves on a shelf of rock near the shore:

And here are a couple playing in the water:

It was wonderful to watch them.

On our last full day we went into Kirkwall and had a look around the Orkney Museum. They had quite a bit of knitting, and a couple of spinning wheels on display, including these lovely stockings:

I found a couple of nice fibre-y things on our travels to bring back and remind me of a lovely holiday. We didn’t manage to get up to North Ronaldsay this holiday, but hopefully might make it up there to see the sheep another time. I got these both from The Woolshed, who I don’t seem to be able to link to at the moment.

First 100g of hand dyed North Ronaldsay fibre:

I haven’t decided on the best way to spin this yet, but I love all the colours.

And also some DK weight North Ronaldsay yarn in natural white, and natural dark brown:

I am thinking about making a two-coloured hat with these though I haven’t totally made up my mind yet.

Instant gratification knitting

Today is my niece Jenny’s first birthday! Happy birthday Jenny! How time flies.

I allowed myself a week and a half off from knitting on my current City and Guilds project (a large circular lace shawl) to whip her up a birthday cardi and two matching hats.

The cardi is the Seamless Infant Kimono by Carina Spencer, and I used Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% superwash merino wool) in Sunshine, with Bok Choy edging. I used 5mm needles for the main body and 4mm for the edgings. I made the 12 – 18 month size, with the tapered sleeve option, and am hoping it will fit her at some point when the weather is suitable for it!

I had some yarn left over after the cardi and so decided to knit a pair of hats to go with the cardi, one in each of the colours.

I used the Elfin pattern by Woolly Wormhead for both hats. It is a lovely elastic pattern so hopefully should fit for a while. I used 5mm needles and made the large size for both hats.

I experimented with different invisible cast ons for both hats. The one on the green hat came out a bit frilly, it is almost like a picot edge. It is quite pretty, but I think for most things I prefer the version on the yellow hat.

I posted them last week but they haven’t arrived yet, hopefully they will turn up soon.

It has been very nice to do a bit of knitting which actually grows as you watch it (it grows even faster if you are actually knitting while you are watching – ha ha). The City and Guilds project is in lace weight yarn on 3mm needles, at something like 4 rows to the centimetre, and at its worst had more than a thousand stitches on each round. I would knit and knit and knit and knit, and it would look exactly the same. I am onto the edging now (128 pattern repeats, more than 2000 rows, but at least each row is relatively short), and although there is a lot of it I can now actually see measurable progress. It’s a good job it is nice yarn and an enjoyable pattern πŸ™‚

The other excitement round here this week (apart from us actually finished boarding the loft – hooray!) has been the arrival of some lovely fibre from World of Wool. I had a play with their new custom blend tool to make this 75% merino, 25% silk blend:

Yum yum! I have a kilo, and am planning a jumper, though that is about as detailed as my plans have got so far. I am really looking forward to spinning it, and knitting with it, and am very pleased with how the colours have come out. There are actually three different shades of green of merino in there, and I love the way they work together.

I also bought some dyed blueface leicester fibre.

300g of purple, and 100g each of royal blue and black. I am planning to blend these together somehow – I’m a little vague on the details at the moment, I think I will have to do some experimenting, and then make the Lanesplitter skirt, I think I will probably spin a 3ply rather than a 2ply to try and make it a bit more hard-wearing.

They were having a special offer at the time so I also got a hessian shopping bag, and a bag of all sorts of little bits of interesting looking fibre with my order.

Back to the shawl now, the end is nearly in sight!