Category Archives: Workshops

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.

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!



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 πŸ™‚ 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.

Knitting interesting shapes with Alison Ellen

A couple of weeks ago I spent a lovely day at a workshop with Alison Ellen organised by the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham.

Our topic was knitting interesting shapes, and it was wonderful to spend a whole day playing around with increasing, decreasing and short rows to see what would happen.

This shape was the first one I tried, and uses short rows to create a circle out of simple wedge shapes:

Then I tried another shape, using the same principles but adding casting on and decreases, Alison called this shape a star, mine has come out looking rather like a mutant starfish:

And lastly I had a go at creating a 3d shape using increasing and decreasing, and joining the sections as I went along:

This one reminds me of Snake’s Head Fritillary flowers (although my terrible photograph makes this a little hard to see).

A really enjoyable day, and I am looking forward to experimenting more with the techniques we were practising.

Some sewing and some weaving

My sewing is rather sporadic and usually leaves rather a lot to be desired. However at Fibre East this summer Anna showed me a lovely project bag she had made, and it was so nice that I had to have a go myself.

Anna recommended this tutorial, which is very nice and clear, lots of photos, and idiot-proof instructions πŸ™‚

It is hard to tell from my photos but the bag is fully lined. It is the right size for a small knitting project, the yarn in there at the moment is two 50g balls. The fabric was a pair of fat quarters sold for quilting that I got from C&H Fabrics in Winchester when I was at the In The Loop conference.

I have some more fabric to make a second bag but at the moment am deliberating about whether I would like the second bag to be the same size or slightly larger than the first. I shall continue to ponder.

In another departure from the knitting, I have done a little bit of weaving. The West Surrey Guild of Spinners, Weavers, and Dyers held a pair of weaving workshops in October suitable for total beginners (there were also tutors there to help improvers), so I went along and had a go.

Sue helped me to warp up the loom, then I had a go at a bit of plain weave:

Then aΒ  bit of twill weave:

Then a bit more twill weave where I tried to improve my rather wobbly edges:

I enjoyed the playing with different colours and getting interesting patterns, although I don’t think weaving is for me. It was great to be able to have a go at everything at the workshop, and then borrow one of the guild looms for the following week so that I could have a proper thorough play, but without having to buy all the equipment first.

A quartet of hats

After our trip to the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching show in October I came down with a monster three-week cold, and spent some time drifting round the house sniffing, coughing, and feeling sorry for myself. The one good productive side of this is that I knitted up 4 hats, which have now had a good wash to remove any lingering germs πŸ™‚

First was an Icelandic inspired hat, I started knitting this at a workshop with an Icelandic knitter organised by Janine at Ash:

The yarn is Istex Lett-Lopi, and I used 5mm needles.

The snowflake pattern is based on one from one of the Lopi books though I fiddled around with it a little, Sue suggested the Vikkel braid, and I made the rest up. The yarn is rather hairy and I was a bit worried that I would find it scratchy, but I think it is going to be ok. Even though this is the thinner of the Lopi yarns it still makes quite a nice warm hat, and I predict it will see lots of use in the coming months.

The second hat is a bit cheaty because it is only baby size, but it is very cute. This is for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s first baby (a girl) who is due to be born around Christmas.

The pattern is Beamish by Woolly Wormhead, the yarn is KnitPicks Swish DK (100% superwash merino) in Hollyberry, I used 3.75mm needles, and made the 16in size. This was a quick and fun knit, and I enjoyed the squiggles on the top.

My third hat was also a kiddie pattern by Woolly Wormhead, this time Queenie, but I sized it up to fit me.

I used Artesano Superwash Merino, and 3.75mm and 4mm needles.

The yarn was lovely to knit with, but is quite drapey. I think a slighly more substantial yarn might have been better for this style.

Towards the end of our photoshoot of this one, my Director of Photography said “try not to smile quite so widely”:

I think my modelling career may be on hold. This does rather remind me of the old maltesers advert with the crocodile and the wide-mouthed frog.

The last hat is yet another Woolly Wormhead one, though this time one designed for adults. This is Meret:

I used Cascade 220 which I bought at Ally Pally, 4.5mm needles, and knitted the 22in size.

Another fun knit. It has been rather gratifying to knit some smaller projects where you can actually see your progress and have a finished item in a reasonable time. I shall be all kitted out for the winter too now πŸ™‚

A nephew, a workshop, a conference, and some mittens

I do still exist! As you have probably already guessed August and September have been rather busy, so time for a bit of a catch up with what has been happening.

First and most excitingly, we have a new nephew! Aaron is now 6 weeks old and we have waved to him on the skype several times, and he has made the grumpy face back at us. I had better get a move on with designing his Christmas stocking, especially given the speed of my knitting.

At the beginning of August I helped Jill Brownjohn to run another Patchwork knitting get together. Here we all are getting a bit of direction from Jill:

This year we went for a more relaxed get-together rather than a formal workshop. We had a discussion about joining techniques for pre-knitted shapes, and those who wanted to had a go at the methods that interested them most. It was lovely to catch up with everyone and see what they had been making over the last year, and I think the format seemed to go down well. We are not sure what will happen in 2013 since the hall we have been using for the last several years in Marlow Bottom may be closed for renovation.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the In The Loop 3 conference at Winchester. A wonderful three days, full of interesting and varied speakers and a lot of cake πŸ™‚ I completely failed to take any photos at all πŸ™ I am looking forward to having some time soon to see if I can decipher any of the notes I made. Over-excitement and terrible handwriting are not a good combination. It is a good job there is the conference programme to at least tell me who was speaking so I can always google them when my writing of their websites is incomprehensible. I really hope they will run another conference in a couple of years. I thought the programme was very well thought-out and included a lot of different angles on knitting. Lots of food for thought.

And finally I have finished some fingerless mittens:

The pattern is Wrought Mitts, and I used 2.25mm needles and some orange merino/silk handspun that I had left over from making a couple of pairs of socks. In the end I used about 37g which is about 142m. I still have a tiny amount of the yarn left over which I think will be going in the bag for making City and Guilds samples.

My hands are right at the top of the size range of what the mittens would fit. They are ok, but I think if there had been a larger size I would have knitted that. Over all I am very pleased with them, and think they will come in handy now that the weather has turned a bit cooler.

As well as everything else we have been having a bit of a go at tidying up the garden. It has been biting back, in some cases literally, but luckily the latest batch of nasty insect bites are getting much better. I think I need to find a way to make me taste less nice, I manage to get bitten even when I am covered in insect repellant! Today I had a bit of a go at the pond, clearing out some of the mass of weeds. I managed not to fall in but did get covered in smelly black mud. The poor washing machine will be on overdrive tomorrow.

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.