Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Of Spinning Wheels and other things

Of Spinning Wheels

I am often asked when demonstrating about the cost of wheels and what is the best wheel for a beginner and quite honestly that is a difficult question!  For as in all things spinning wheels are individuals with character and habits unique to each particular wheel.

My advice is usually to go to an event such as Wonderwool or Fibre East and try as many wheels as are available.  But this isn't always possible - so how do you advise someone on the best wheel for them?  When there are so many variables such as single or double treadle - this may seem a simple choice, but there are pros and cons for both.

I prefer, for obvious reasons, a single treadle and many people do like a single treadle, but there are equally as many who prefer a double.  This maybe because using one leg for a long time aggravates a problem or they find it harder work - it is a matter of preference as is Double Drive or Scotch or Irish Tension (these last two depend on which is driven the bobbin or the flyer) and I would say that Scotch Tension is probably the easiest for a beginner.

So to the point of this post  - it has come to my attention that the fantastic Bishopofknit the designer of the Dodec wheel is planning to release his second wheel in June the AltDes- again it is going to be cheap to make and will kinder to the metric system than the Dodec which was cut from imperial wood sizes.  At the moment readers are being teased with hints!  But if it is anything like as good as his first wheel I shall be getting out my tool kit once again..

The news on the web reveals the introduction of a wheel that retails at just 230 (under £200) for the single treadle version and it is called The Bliss and comes with three bobbins, a built-in lazy kate, Scotch Tension and weighs 4.5kg.  If it as good as it seems then this will certainly be a realistic option for the newbie spinner.  They are also selling a drum carder for €210 - these are being made by Lou√ęt for Woolmakers in the Netherlands so no import duties payable!!

Of Other Things

It has been pretty quiet on the spinning front so far this month but I am particularly pleased with this combo in baby camel and silk - destined for Forest Pansy

But as you can see I have been busy knitting - well a girl can never have too many shawls................

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Mystery Knitalongs - the good, the bad and the beautiful!

Regular readers will know that I am a sucker for a Mystery Knitalong, some are a real joy, while others test your knitting ability and others, well others are just not quite what you expected! 

Often mystery knits come with a disclaimer - that there is no refund just because you don't like the result............  I find this quite funny, as it would appear that having knitted from the pattern some people then try to claim their money back, because they aren't taken with the finished article!  Isn't that like watching a film on DVD and then asking for your money back because you didn't enjoy the film - or eating a meal and then saying you didn't like it! 

There are some mysteries, however, that exceed all your expectations and I am pleased to say that this Mysterious KAL Shawl by Romi has done just that and more.  I signed up for this one because:

1. I had never knitted one of her patterns before and
2. I had heard excellent reports/feedback.

Initially I was a little unsure, the first clue had been released in a kit several weeks early and looking at the project pages I wasn't sure that this was going to be mine kind of shawl - wrong, wrong, wrong it everything I had hoped for and it is beautiful!!! Each clue came with a verse which on the last clue revealed the name of the pattern Cactus Flower - can you see what I mean?

Here is the first shawl, yes I did say first - I was so smitten and concerned that my hand spun yarn wasn't doing justice to the pattern that I started another.............

This time using the yarn I had frogged from another KAL..............  should really have used the colours the other way round, but by the time I realised it was too late!

So then to the good KALs - and what makes a good KAL?  Well obviously a good design, well written and clear charts are crucial - error free also helps.  A realistic amount of knitting in each clue is essential - too much and the participants are always running on catch-up, too little and the fast knitters are finished too soon, so a good balance is key. 

Here I am harping back to a MKal that I knitted in 2011, Round the World in 80 Days, an absolutely super shawl, but Clue 12 was 46 rows on well over 1200 stitches, huge - took weeks and weeks (I did notice that other knitters only did the first 18 rows, while me I followed the pattern to the letter) by then of course further clues had been released and the mojo had gone.........  I did finish, but weeks after the final clue was released.

Another key, in my opinion, is method - a lot of shawls are basically two triangles with a centre spine stitch - but there are many other ways to create a shawl besides the tried and tested two triangles - square, crescent, circular, semi-circular, and heart shaped are the most common, while Shetland shawls begin with half a square and have a knit on border and so on and on.    Then there is the question where to start top or bottom - so quite a lot of choice so it helps it the KAL is a little different to the norm.

Two really good Kals  were Blooming Fuchsia

and Princess and Pea

both by Lilygo I would recommended them to anyone, in fact I am already signed up for the Fox and the Grape MKal safe in the knowledge that I won't be disappointed.

So - what makes a bad mystery - well for me anything that includes a lot of garter stitch, and or just colour changes and a definite no no is anything that doesn't flow - one stitch selection needs to change effortlessly to the next and so on!  A great example of what I consider a good design is this shawl from LindaCC - Spring Maple see how the stitch develops in perfect symmetry.

That isn't to say that such Kals are bad, nothing creative is bad, it is just that I prefer something with a bit texture that challenges my knitting knowledge, I love beads and lots of 'yarn overs and k2togs'  and I am getting to enjoy nupps now for what they can add to a design.  I do not like endless stocking or garter stitch even if there some sort of shaping I did enough of that when I was a child - dish cloths and the like..................

Finally the thing that makes a good MKal is the fact that there are many knitters all knitting the same design at the same time, sharing experiences, problems and solutions - it is a community thing, a sense of belonging, being part of a group of like minded people who will support and suggest answers - who although all knitting the same pattern produce at the end very unique and individual items, no two are ever the same...................


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Thursday is the new Wednesday......

Bank Holidays and clock changes have completely disrupted my sense of time!  I thought today was Wednesday until I realised that I was taking Thursday's pills - thank goodness that the manufacturers of medication considered it beneficial to mark the days of the week on the reverse side of their packaging - otherwise some weeks I really wouldn't know what day of the week I was currently in.....

So Woolly Thursday - the last month has been particularly productive and in Mr S's opinion rather expensive...

I acquired my much longed for Schacht Matchless, traded in my basic drum carder for a Ashford wide carder and discovered the joy if spinning woollen from faux rolags (or punis) from the results of my colour blending on the drum carder - that's quite a lot of experiences for one month IMHO....

First the Matchless - I had been lusting, for more that a year, for what many consider to be the Rolls Royce of spinning wheels and I haven't been disappointed it really does to what it says on the tin - super smooth easy to treadle (obviously mine is a single treadle) and I have producing some really super yarn on her

These tweedy yarns, inspired by Jared Flood's Loft, were blended and carded on my new wide carder, then rolled into punis and spun woollen, I call them my Mossy Wood Tweed Collection............... delusions of grandeur?

I also spun some of my finest yarn on her - a silk and camel blend dyed in a aubergine colour which I have called Brinjal.

I have also discovered that this particular silk and camel blend is much better paint dyed rather than kettle dyed - I think it must be something to do with the way the silk snatches the dye before the camel. Brinjal was kettle dyed and this one Peacock I spaced dyed, but I do love the way the silk gives such a lovely sheen to the yarn........

Finally for this blend I tried adding nupps - this time rather than the commercial ones I cut up some tweedy yarn and added that to the mix of Mocha and Blaze from the WOW.  In fact the nupps are so well blended you have trouble seeing where they are - the test now is to see if they pop out when I spin the punis.

Monday, 1 April 2013

April Blues........... Colouring my year.....

Blue is the new spring green...............  Well apparently after the winter months blue is the April sky as in Irving Berlin's:

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see...............

There is a knit-a-long for April, knit anything as long as the yarn is blue............. and I happen to be knitting two shawls both with an element of blue..............................strange old world ain't it?

This is Siberian Iris by LindaCC  which was inspired by the Siberian Irises flowering in her garden.  I love her patterns and aspire to design shawls nearly as nice as hers
Well this got me thinking about colours and association with particular months - for me yellow is March, lots of dancing daffodils as Wordsworth's poem, 'A host of golden daffodils'.
January is white for the snowdrops that appear from under the ground when everything looks dead.

But what about the other months?  Pink for cherry blossom is May and Strawberry red is June, October is rusty reds and oranges from the leaves as they fall from the trees, November is grey and December Black as is February (both bad months!)
That leaves July, August and September all summer months - perhaps August should be purple as it is named after a Roman Emperor but I am completely baffled over July and September - nothing stands out as a striking colour that jumps into my head when I think of these two, and then I suddenly thought July is the Tour De France so multi-colours as in the jersey's of the riders - yellow for the overall leader, green for the sprinter and red polka dot for the king of the mountains, and white for the best young rider and there is the Tour de Fleece challenges on Ravelry which is always for me bright colours!
But what of September?  As a child September was back to school after the long summer holiday, new uniform and shoes and the inevitable essay 'What I did in the holidays' but no colour bring these memories to life.............. although last year, 2012, and the Paralympics in September, the colours were purple and orange of the Games Maker's uniform and memories of the wonderful event that I was a very small part of!
So April is blue for now, perhaps monitoring the thermometer which is currently standing at
 -C and the weather maps show the British Isles as ranging from dark to pale blue due we are told to the Jet Stream being to far south!  Perhaps I shall need the shawls currently on my needles to keep me warm during the summer months to come!
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