Friday, 27 December 2013

It doesn't do to get you hopes up!!!

Phew - survived, not only the awful fuss that is Christmas, but the wind and rain that swept across south Devon on Monday.  We had gone away to our usual hidey hole for the duration, but hadn't expected the weather to be so extreme and with more gales forecast for Thursday night and today we made the decision to come home early...............

I just missed Mr S running from the waves, but those are his footprints.....

Mr S and I don't do Christmas presents as such - mostly we buy each other presents as ideas occur, so to be told that he had ordered me a surprise was tantalizing to say the least!  Prodding and guessing got me only knowing looks, but a grin when I mentioned sheep!  Would he really - buy me a sheep!  No, of course he didn't but a girl can dream - two Baby Southdown lambs would look perfect in the garden and would really take up too much room...

Picture from

No I got a pair of sheep earrings in enamel very pretty, but not, as I keep telling him, really sheep......................................

Thursday, 19 December 2013

I really shouldn't have.................

Gone and bought another wheel, but I did!  Just couldn't resist and it was a bargain - honest!

Its what the 'experts' call a Dutch Louet look-alike and appears to be flyer braked tension with huge bobbins....

 The only identification is this  - Rotterdam and an address................

I did a bit of googling and came up with this photo of a Louet look alike on the Thrifty Knitter blog 

and another at worldwool where they are call Rotterdam Delft wheels although this looks as if it might be a double drive - but that might just be the angle...

Needs a good clean, wax, oil and some new hooks, which have all been broken off at some time, but surprisingly the drive band is still intact....

and yes I got a copy of Mabel Ross' 'The Essentials of Handspinning' along with the wheel - what a bargain.............

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Recent Acquisitions

You know what they say, you can't wait for a bus for ages and then three come along at the same time!  Well the same applies to spinning wheels................

First there was an Ashford Traditional - in real need of some tlc!  Some kind person had covered the whole wheel, screws, nuts and everything visible surface with what appears to be yacht varnish - a liberal coat, not a thin coat, thick and gloopy with big blobs!  Underneath there are even bigger blobs where the varnish was allowed to run!

Every screw was glued in with the varnish, so I had to work Strippit into each screw and eventually after three days I have managed to get the wheel to pieces and am now working on releasing the wheel from the crank as I may have to re-glue the rim.....

Second there was this wheel

It was advertised with a starting price £35, while admitting that there where bits missing, it did say that similar wheels were being sold for £250 - well they might have an asking price of £250 but that doesn't mean they sold!  I paid at lot less -just about what the crank is worth - one day I might get it to spin..............

Third was a Haldane Shetland

seen next to Patience my Orkney.  The Shetland was the precursor to the Orkney so there are a lot of similarities............

I was attracted to the light wood in the first place, and the location which wasn't that far away and I got lucky and got it for my maximum - the bobbins are definitely replacements and I am pretty sure that the flyer is too - but again with some 'tlc' Prudence will be a lovely little wheel........

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

First Wednesday in December

Today I booked our pitch at Hebden Bridge Caravan Club Site for the Tour de France in July 2014.....................

Mr S and I had been sat at the PC ready and waiting for 9am to click by and bingo we got our preferred site for the days we wanted - why?  Well the riders will go past the gates of the site at the beginning of the longest continual climb in the UK and we will be there to watch and experience the razzmatazz that is the tour.  This will be our third Tour in the UK, the first in 1992 we cycled too, the second (2008) on Beacon Hill my view was obstructed by a foul-mouthed woman who insisted she wouldn't stand between me and the cyclists, but did, so I saw virtually nothing - this time no-one will get in my way!  Plus we already have our official T-Shirts - yellow for Mr S and pink for me!

But what of all things woolly in November?  Well it has been a month of experimenting - firstly I tried plying with beads, inspired by some exquisite spinning by Tabi of Sericin Silk 

I had been given a sample of Cormo which by chance was a perfect match for some walnut dyed silk, and this is the result

Silvered Don

I have to admit that this was second attempt at plying with beads, the first will reside along with some other first attempts shrouded in the mists of obscurity.

But this month has really been about making and using my newest toy - a Blending Board.

I had been intrigued to find out what all the fuss was about, but not at the £100 plus price tag! In fact I will have made three and still come in at under that figure!

First the carding cloth - the best prices are, as usual, in the USA, but customs and international postage costs make this less attractive, so in the end I bought from Winghams - who despite saying it was in stock took 2 and 1/2 weeks to deliver!  B&Q provided the board, nuts and bolts, Mr S the cutting and me, I did the sanding and cutting of the cloth and viola!

Punis, Rolags or Poonags - call them what you will - they are the most fabulous things to make

Here I have a blend of, Pumpkin, Pink, Lime Green, Yellow and hints of Black which magically turn into this -

and these..........

My crowning glory this month was the test knit for LindaCC -

 Hemeracallis - Day-Lily Shawl

Now its December which means dark days and knitting an Advent Stole - so far 3 days in and going OK

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Am I really?

Just out of curiosity I did a couple of quizzes today!  Really didn't have the time, but I had noticed that many people on Ravelry have pictures in their profile saying which flower they are, or what yarn they are....

Obviously there are a lot of people out there with nothing better to do than think up questions - although I am not sure what discussing your latest pair of Jimmy Choos, or Christian Slater films has to do with knitting yarn, but that was two of the questions - well I must have answered something wrong because I am supposed to be:

'Shetland Wool, because I am a traditional sort who can sometimes be a little on the harsh side. Though you look delicate you are tough as nails and prone to intricacies. Despite your acerbic ways you are widely respected and even revered.'

Well I quite  like the idea of being widely respected and even revered, but there is no way that I look delicate!!!! One of problems with these quizzes is that they are American so answering the questions where would like to live is rather difficult - I plumped for my own island, which isn't probably where I would like to live, unless it was inhabited with fellow spinners..............

But then how you see yourself isn't the way others see you!

The other quiz was to see what flower you are and I came out as a Violet - me a Shrinking Violet - I can't see that myself and when I told Mr S he hooted with laughter.

Personally I see myself as a something very luxurious - cashmere/silk and for a flower something spiky - red hot poker perhaps?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

October a month of Fibre Frenzy

The last month has been a real fibre treat, for since coming home after the Masham Sheep Fair, life as been one long round of fleece, fibre and spinning - absolute heaven, although Mr S might not be quite so enamored with the pile of fleeces that adorn the sitting room as I am....

I came home with three fleeces, the beautiful Border Leicester, a dreamy Llanwenog and a prize winning White Faced Woodland, all bargains, although not skirted at all - obviously Yorkshire generosity - your fleece, so your poo too!

Border Leicester

 Then I was lucky enough to buy one of Pickwickflock's superb Cotswold fleeces

Cotswold Fleece

The Border Leicester, Cotswold and Llanwenog have all been shared with littlemarchhare, who in return kindly shared with me a super black Corriedale lamb's fleece.

Black Corriedale X

Which I couldn't resist washing, combing and spinning asap - the fleece was a delight to work with, despite the large mount of hay!

Black Corriedale spun skein
Then she generously gave me some more, this was already washed, what a lovely friend she is!  This is now combed and ready to spin....

Earlier this year we had been lucky to get one of bowmontmad's BoDo lambs, and so impressed were we, we just had to have some more - so another half fleece came my way.....


After all this fleece washing, I felt that I was entitles to some spinning and was lucky enough to spot an announcement on Ravelry in the UK Spinners Forum, it read -

'......this Saturday, 2nd November The Guild of Longdraw Spinners is having a Celebration of Spinning event at Stoke Albany Church & Hall, Ashley Road,Stoke Albany, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 8PL from 10.30 - 4.30pm......' all were welcome it seemed......

This seem to good an opportunity, so a quick email to Chris, who was up for a day out - we'd go!  Mr S was busy playing trains all weekend, so what could have been a lonely day sat spinning alone, was turned into the most brilliant spinning day!

I did do a quick check on the distance, and times varied between 2 and 2 and a half hours - so not close, but all motorway, so very do-able.

We set off around 8am and were driving into the Church car park just after 10.30am - we were definitely in the right place, people were unloading spinning wheels from the back of cars!  We had arrived...

Well what a welcome we got, it seemed that we were the only visitors which was a shame. because they missed a real treat.  We had been worried that previous experiences with Guilds might be repeated - you know 'the hello, welcome, make yourself at home' and then nothing!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, made us so welcome - wheels were examined and ooo'd and aaaa'd over.  My Bliss was admired, and in returned I drooled over a couple a 'new to me' wheels, whose names to my shame I cannot remember!  After coffee and biscuits the serious business of spinning began.  My longdraw is abysmal but there was help aplenty, particularly from Colin and Michael (Sheersheep) who were amazingly patient with my feeble attempts - but I came good in the end and here is my very first skein done longdraw - nice and bouncy and very light and airy, just as it should be!

My very first longdraw skein - spun with my Not Clun

We noticed that there were a lot of people using blending boards, and as it is something we have thought about experimenting with we were very interested to see them in action!  Then Katrina sat crossed leg on the floor in front of us and demonstrated - in no time at all she had produced some darling little rolags/punis which I am loathed to spin they are so cute!

After a morning of spinning came lunch, well lunch wasn't a sandwich and coffee sort of affair, this was a super-duper, three course banquet, soup, various quiches, samosas, cheeses etc, and a pie from a medieval recipe (or should I say receipt?) followed by apple crumble and custard, and of course, coffee and tea - what a spread with everyone sat at a long table set up down the middle of the room!

After lunch Chris and I went across to the Church where the Guild's Great Wheel was set up with medieval music playing in the background!  The conversation soon turned to spinners of old and the differences between the north and south soon became apparent - with the Wiltshire broad cloth needing more spinners per weaver, than those in the northern counties!  No doubt this thread will rumble on....

Then back to the hall for more spinning, and hand smacking from Micheal as he tried to stop me from holding my yarn to tight - but all done in good fun!  At the back of the room there were examples of members projects, the most amazing sweater, done I think from Jacob's fleece, was the star for me.

Chris and I had agreed that if things didn't go too well, we could always leave early - no chance, we weren't the last, but we definitely weren't the first to leave....

The journey home was wet and windy, but nothing could dash our spirits!

GOLDS you put other Guilds to shame - thank you and we hope to come up again in the New Year and in hopefully better weather!

You get a GOLD STAR!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Even the Sparrows are Walking....

The title of this post has absolutely nothing to do with the topic, I heard the phrase on Radio 4 in relation to the 'Great Storm' and just loved the image that it conjures up!

What I thought I would do is share is the method I use to wash fleece - I keep linking this to a project on Ravelry and not everyone is a member of Ravelry apparently....  strange I know!

So for those who haven't discovered the wonders of the knitting community here is how I wash my fleeces, with the credit for this method going to littlemarchhare - thanks for sharing!

First, perhaps the most time consuming part is pulling the locks preparatory for the process to begin

In this exercise I am washing a BoDo fleece, BoDo is a cross between a Bowmont and a Poll Dorset so all the softness of the Bowmont, but some of the crimp of the Dorset, really nice!  This one is perhaps a bit more Bowmont than Dorset than the one that I got earlier this year, but a really nice fleece all the same - and it came from bowmontmad on Ravelry.

It is easy to see the locks and you grab hold of the tip while supporting the butt, and pull so that you end up with lots of lovely locks

These are then put into a double envelope of mesh (the sort that is sold in my Pound-land for cooking frozen chips upon..)

Three sheets have been sewn together along one of the long edges and the locks then get laid in each layer and the other three edges are closed with nappy pins.

I usually fill two of these and generally I packed in more locks, it really doesn't seem to matter whether they are spread out or not!

Then into a tray of near boiling water with two squirts of Power Scour and pummel the fleece with a potato masher - you can be quite firm with this bit, and it helps if you turn the envelope over and squidge again

I use a cheap roasting tray available at most supermarkets (the other tray is for the moment a cat litter tray, but it does get a bit wobbly so I am going to get another roasting tray when I have enough vouchers for a freebie!)

Then it is transfered into the second tray, same near boiling water, but with a squirt of ECover Washing Liquid and squidged again with the masher.

Once both envelopes have been through the two trays, they are emptied and refilled with clean near boiling water for rinsing, one with just water and the other two squirts of Unicorn Fibre Rinse or ECover fabric conditioner.  Squidging the fleece with the masher in both trays - remove the envelopes (for this I use small butcher hooks through the nappy pins - because the water is really really hot!)

I then allow the envelopes to drip for about half and hour to get the worst of the water out or you can put the envelopes between a towel and press, there is no hard and fast rule over this part............

Then lay out the washed locks to dry - in the summer this would be in the sun - at this time of the year I lay them out indoors by the window.

Once dry you have lovely locks perfect for combing

into nests ready for spinning

It might seem to be a lot of work, and for speed I have been known to wash in much larger quantities putting the fleece into mesh washing bags, but at the end of the washing you still have to separate the locks if you are going to comb your fleece - with this method the locks are ready to go..

Another small problem is that it seems to be impossible to get Power Scour now here in the UK - not sure why, but it just isn't available - and believe me I have tried (please if anyone knows of a supplier please, please let me know). I know lots of people use a cheap washing up liquid, but this I have found does strip the fleece of all the natural oils and makes it feel very dry and crisp. 

There is an Australian product called Fibre Scour which contains Tea Tree Oil and Lemon Myrtle which I tried today, but it seemed to leave a film of oil on the rinsing water, so am reserving judgment until after I have combed these locks.

I have also tried with ECover Pomegranate and Grapefruit Washing up Liquid, and I think the results were similar to the Aussie Fibre Scour, so I may try the ECover Chamomile and Marigold which just might be less astringent than those based on citric fruits.

So there you are - my way of washing fleece...............

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A wash a day keeps the fleeces in check..

Over the past two weeks I have tried to make sure that I wash two parcels of fleece every morning - and here are today's on the line drying in the sun. 

Today's fleece is part of the Border Leicester bought at the Masham Sheep Fair.  Yesterday's was some of the Cotswold and hopefully by Friday I shall have some Devon and Cornwall Longwool drying from this beauty.

This gorgeous sheep belongs to Lesley and Darren at  Brexworthy Farm and they have been kind enough to donate a sample for the SpinDyeWeavers display board.

Finally yesterday I finished combing the chocolate Bond, and as I haven't really enjoyed the combing of this one, and any excuse was enough to put it to one side.  The amount of waste from this has come out at a staggering 62% from my 550 grams share I have 207 grams of spinnable fibre!  But only 40 grams is the really fine..............

One excuse was some super black Corriedale given to me by littlemarchhare - it was described as having some hay!  Well perhaps a Corriedale X Hay would have been a closer description, as clearly the sheep had rolled in not only hay but brambles as well, but the fleece was well worth the effort.

I wasn't sure whether to separate the very soft lighter gray, but in the end I decided that it would look good spun as it is, and I am getting a lovely flecked yarn - singles here

and plying on Miss Bliss

Obviously all this washed fleece has to be combed or carded, and I try (very hard) to comb every afternoon, while watching Countdown.  Yes I know day time TV, but you do have to use your brain, plus at the end of the program I also have some spinning fibre - so good use of time I would suggest and a decreasing amount of fleece and a corresponding increasing store of fibre nests.............

I am hoping that having this sort of structure to my life will help during the dark winter months - for as Mr S so kindly pointed out the clocks go back this Sunday!  Which means dark days ahead.....

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Yorkshire Thrift

I have recently come to see Charity shops as a treasure trove for the crafter!  Previously for me Charity Shops meant smelly clothes and books.  I have in the past found some real gems in the History section of these shops - once I paid £3 for a book that I later sold on for £30, but that really was the best I ever did.  But I still hope to find a nice piece of Carlton Ware (bowls and dishes in shape of vegetables) especially the spoon to fit my apple jam pot - I live in hope, but as the spoon was often the first thing that got broken, most pots come without the spoon!

When Mr S and I are away from home we often visit the local charity shops - Mr S looks for books - on railways, wood turning and fiction by his favourite authors, although the last one is getting harder as his collection grows!  The best shops have the books stacked in alphabetical order which gets his approval and means that we spend less time browsing which is good for me.  Up to now I have really only looked for sheepy things, but latterly I have started looking for hand-knitted garments.

This new search began after reading about the yarn bargains that can be found in these shops, particularly things made with expensive yarns being sold for what can only be called a pittance.  From our recent stroll around the Charity shops in Halifax I have come to the conclusion that the sorters have got wise to this and think you are now less likely to find a yarn bargain than in the past.

I did, however, find a 100% wool tunic, hand-knitted in a rather nice heather green which I felt was worth the £3 price tag!  But now I come to the bit that I find really quite extraordinary - the way this garment had been constructed!

Had I realised the quirky construction I would have taken photos, but it wasn't until I came to unravel the front that it came to light! The bottom half of the tunic was knitted in a knit2, purl2 rib, with a stocking stitch top.  Obviously the knitter had realised after about 7 inches of ribbing that it was coming out too small.  Now if I had been knitting this, I would have frogged and started again with more stitches - not the knitter of this particular garment.

As I unraveled the top of the ribbing I came upon what I thought at first to be some short row shaping.  Closer inspection revealed that the first and last four stitches were knitted from the top down!  As I continued with the deconstruction I found that the knitter had added the extra stitches around a section of ribbing. 

The extra edge stitches had been knitted down until they came to the cast-on, on this row they had grafted the new knitting to the bottom of the tunic and knitted downwards!  In this diagram the arrows show the direction of the stitches.

Effectively encasing the original ribbing - and it had been beautifully done, not really noticeable unless you looked really hard. I just can't believe that all that work was quicker than re-knitting a section of ribbing!  

Also every join was knotted it didn't matter whether it was in the middle of a row, just a tiny knot with the ends cut off close - Mr S says that it is Yorkshire thrift!

So for the princely sum of £3 I got 650grams of Yorkshire wool and a lesson in garment construction - what a bargain!

Friday, 11 October 2013

On the road again................Part Two Yorkshire

For me Yorkshire means wool, sheep and spinning, for Mr S it is where his maternal ancestors come from.  But we both agree that it is a beautiful county despite/because of its industrial past and as historians we both find that this makes visiting well worth while.

But this year my focus was wool, having discovered that the last weekend in September was Yarndale and The Masham Sheep Fair - well that was too good to miss. I have talked about both in my Woolly Wednesday post, so I won't go over old ground other than to say that I would recommend the Sheep Fair which was a wonderful day!  Yarndale has had mixed reviews mainly because lots of people couldn't get there - apparently they were turning people away because the car park was full!!!!!!  Well anyone who knows Skipton at all knows that there isn't a lot of parking in the town itself and it was a market day - not good!!  Lots of people just turned around and went home.  This makes me feel sad and a tiny bit angry to think that some people just sat in a traffic queue - what an anti-climax to what should have been a fun day out.  Let's hope that the organizers learn from this year's mistakes.

I was one of the lucky ones - no problem parking at either venue.  In fact at Masham the parking for the disabled was right in the middle of the town.  Not that you have thought that when following the signs - go down the hill the man said and I did, then I went up hill and round a hairpin bend, then through a very narrow gate and up a gravel driveway, round the back of a large house and into a field - only to discover that I was next to the church and a stone's throw from the market place where all the action was - perfect!

Actually Yorkshire is full of woolly places to visit so a spinner's heaven but this year I had to content myself with a visit to World of Wool and The Piece Hall in Halifax where there was a cute little wool shop called Three Bags Full crammed full of wool and things, but for knitters really.  Halifax is a nightmare in a wheelchair - steep hills, cobbles and high kerbstones all come together to make it real hard work and lots of the old shops had steps, but it is the cobbles that make if really difficult - nice to look at though!

As you know, I'm always on the look out for natural dye stuff and I wasn't disappointed on this trip - 'coz in the hedge at the back of our pitch there was a small elder bush, full of ripe berries but not for wine!

Elderberry is, according to my book, supposed to give purples, but I had a limited amount of dye stuff, so couldn't go for the full range!  For this one I tried the method using vinegar and got a more muted mauve - this is on Bombyx Mori silk.

This is definitely a dye stuff that needs further experiments - as alum will give purple and an iron modifier will deepen that to an almost black purple.  The only downside is that stuff dyed with elderberries fades in daylight - shame.

I have also read that the Himalayan Balsam (the whole plant not just the flowers) gives a yellowy brown and there was a whole bank of the stuff right next to the elderberries - so next year.....

Thursday, 3 October 2013

On the road again..... Part One - Staffordshire

Our friends in the north when they heard we were heading their way immediately booked a holiday in Turkey - no not really, but I had jokingly said when we decided to go to Yorkshire for the last two weeks in September, I bet they will be away - and they were!  This didn't prevent us from having a fabulous woolly time - firstly in Staffordshire and then in Yorkshire, think Yorkshire, think, World of Wool, Yarndale and The Masham Sheep Fair for starters.............

Before we could even leave there were problems - the mover on our caravan wouldn't come off one of the wheels - here I have to say that the suppliers of the mover were fantastic - talked Mr S through taking the offending bit off, then waited for us to drive up the M5 to the Tewkesbury junction where they fitted a new bit and all under warranty!  This did make us a little late arriving at our first stop - Blackshaw Moor just outside Leek, but we did make well before the gates were locked for the night.  The delay did mean that I had plenty of knitting time

This is my Clarice Shawl Again which I knitted in the car while Mr S drove up the M5 etc, so called because I started it way back and it had languished unloved because I had been dyeing and spinning silk, even coming off the needles - so I started again...  Here it isn't blocked so the lace doesn't show that well.

The next day (Thursday) it rained (this was the only time it rained in the whole two weeks) but as we were having the car serviced it didn't really matter especially as The Threshing Barn is just outside Leek - had a lovely afternoon talking about all things woolly with Janet, plus I acquired a few woolly fibre items for the SDW raffle. 

Most memorable was the afternoon we decided to 'walk' around Tittesworth Reservoir. Not for us a gentle stroll around the 1.5mile suggested route - no we decided to do the full 5 mile circular route right around the reservoir, despite the warnings of steep gradients and a sign saying no mobility scooters pass this point!  What it didn't say was that there were steps - by this time we were over half way round, long past the point of no return - so I went up on my bum, one step at a time and quite slowly - but I did it and from there on it was a breeze..........

This is the view from the top of the dam - just to prove that we really did get there - daft, stupid, crazy or what?

Saturday was the beginning of Spin in Public week and I did, spin in public that is, several times and in different locations.  I did attracted quite a lot of attention, especially from a German lady who had no English (my German is equally lacking) but we managed to communicate with hand signals and chatted away so quite a while.  It still amazes me that it is the men that are more interested than their wives! 

Tuesday we left Staffordshire and drove up the M6, M60 and M62 to Yorkshire and the Caravan Club Site at Mitholmroyd.  This site is an absolute gem, completely hidden from the world, and surrounded by the most glorious countryside despite being only a few miles from Bradford, Leeds, Halifax and Huddersfield.  It is also near the bottom of the longest gradient rise in the UK and one of the climbs in next year's Tour de France...............hopefully we will be there!!

With the weather warm and sunny I managed quite a lot of spinning, first up Toasted Teacakes

This is Perendale fibre, a New Zealand Sheep created by crossing a Romney with a Cheviot - interesting spin, but not the softest of yarn from Southern Cross Fibres

I also spun up some some more natural dye samples - this one is from Rowan Berries - not what you would expect from such a vibrant red berry - light tan.

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