Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Pre Christmas Time Warp

Ok, so I've not been so good with the blogging lately. I'm blaming Christmas, and the time-distortion that seems to accompany it every year, compressing four weeks into the time of one! But mainly I haven't blogged because I've been so preoccupied with knitting and spinning secret items that I haven't had a chance to take photos of them, nor could I show any photos as that would give away the secrets, doh!

Here's a photo of the one project I can show pics of, some finished calendulas sock yarn:

Calendulas yarn

When I posted about this yarn before I was spinning it on a drop spindle. However, my wheel has been looking lonely and unloved lately, so one evening I transferred the calendulas yarn to my wheel (Rose) and finished spinning and plying it there. The skein of wheelspun yarn looks pretty similar to the spindled version, which I'm very happy about - it means I'm consistent in my spinning at least... Now to decide on a sock pattern for this, I'm currently thinking I might try a Yarnissima pattern, either the Firestarters or the Fratellos, depends how brave I'm feeling. In any event I have a while to choose, as I won't begin these until after all the Christmas knitting is completed (unless that Christmas time distortion gets invoked again). Will keep you posted!

And in the meantime I've been very busy dyeing wool and completing spindles for the Wildcraft shop. These resin spindles went in the latest update, some of them are still available:


I've started making the shafts for the newer spindles myself, rather than using chopsticks as I did for the earlier resin versions. This has meant I had to learn how to use my mum's woodturning lathe. I'm still only at the 'point a chisel at the spinning thing and hope it looks ok' stage, but the spindles are turning out nicely - and I haven't lost any fingers so far!

Right, I'd better get back to my knitting...

Monday, 24 November 2008

A New Recruit

Meet Twinkle the Unicorn, a new recruit at Wildcraft. Twinkle is now in charge of Wildcraft's Quality Assurance. She’s taking her work very seriously, as you can see in this photo, where she’s checking the standard of some newly polished spindle whorls:

Twinkle was created by the very talented Amy, who’s a member of my local knitting group. Amy had a stall at a craft fair at the weekend, and it was there that Twinkle decided she was going home with me. Amy also has a new shop on Folksy, where many of Twinkle's friends and relations are now hanging out and looking for new homes.

Twinkle also very kindly checked out my progress on the February Lady cardigan today. She thinks the buttonholes are a bit wobbly, but other than that, it's looking very good, she thinks it might even be finished by Christmas if I don't get distracted by other projects!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Autumn Spinning

This week I have been spinning up some Wildcraft BFL/nylon sock batts in a colourway called 'Calendulas'...

On a calendula petals spindle...

Into a tweedy calendula coloured sock yarn...

I've only plied and finished about 25g of the fibre so far, so I still have three quarters of it left to spin. But it's a lovely relaxing project to work on, and I'm loving the finished yarn. A big thank you to Chriss, who prompted me into making these batts and ordered a custom-blended set of them, the yarn she's spun from them is amazing, mine is nowhere near as smooth and even. But it should make good socks, probably quite cosy too. I like these batts a lot, and they're fun to make so there will definitely be more around in the shop soon.

Friday, 14 November 2008

New Arrivals

Exciting news, my flock of pedigree Coloured Ryeland sheep has grown! Yesterday I collected three lovely ewes from a farm in Wales. I don't have good photos of them yet as they've spent today inside recovering from their long trip. However, here's a sneak preview, aren't they cute?

They don't have names yet, I'm hoping that as I get to know their characters, their names will pop into my head. They're already growing used to me popping in and saying hi at frequent intervals during the day, and it didn't take them more than a couple of minutes to work out the the orange bucket means feed! The little one in the centre photo is the friendliest so far, but the other two are rapidly gaining confidence too. As I've discovered with Giles the ram, Ryelands have very sweet natures, and these ewes seem no exception.

They've been sharing a field with a coloured Ryeland ram on their previous farm, so they may be expecting lambs in the spring. I'll get the vet to check that out however, and if they're not expecting I'll put them with Giles for a while (who seems to have got his act together with the crayon action on the crossbred ewes).

And the best part?! Their fleeces are lovely, a real downland sort, so it's springy and really crimpy wool. But it's not your ordinary downland off-white colour, no these girls have fleece that varies from a pale caramel at the tips, to a lovely silver further down the staple, with patches of brown speckles mixed in. I can't wait to try spinning it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


I've really got back into knitting large projects lately. I guess it's the cold weather that's making me feel the need for warm clothing, and lots of it! Latest off my needles is a sweater called 'Ingenue' (Rav Project Link here), knitted in Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora yarn.

The pattern's from Wendy Bernard's book Custom Knits. It's a fantabulous book, all the sweater/cardigan patterns are knitted in the round and most of them are made from the top down. I love knitting sweaters from the top, it means you can try them on as you're going, which makes it easy to see when and where you need to make any alterations.

My Ingenue included the alteration suggested by Wendy for making an off the shoulder neckline. It only involved changing the standard neck edging to a stretchy 2x2 rib, but the final effect is quite different from the standard pattern. The original Ingenue has a firm funnel-neck collar that stands away from the neckline, while mine has a neckline-hugging curvy thing going on, which I love. Since the ribbing is so stretchy, it means I can wear the collar differently according to the look I want. So I could have it all demure and tucked up under my chin like this:

Or slinky and off the shoulders like this:

I love a garment that's this adaptable! Currently on my needles in the same yarn (I bought loads of it in the John Lewis sale a couple of years ago), is the February Lady Sweater by Flintknits. It's actually not a sweater, but a cardigan, and, you guessed it, it's another knit-in-the round top-down garment. I'm consistent in my pattern choices at least! :)

In other news, Giles the Ryeland ram has finally achieved his life's goal. He's gone to meet the ladies! Here he is getting a final check-up, looking very dapper in his new tupping harness (which has a marker crayon under his chest so we can keep a tally of who he's been most friendly with).

And here he is is en route to the ewes' field. Sorry the photo's a bit blurry, he was in quite a hurry to get going and wouldn't stand still to have his photo taken!

Sadly, his first introduction to my three ewes was not all he might have hoped. They took one look at him, ran away and hid in a ditch! Not the best of first dates. However, Giles is very persistent, and they seem to be getting used to him now, they are at least grazing side-by-side. No sign of the marker crayon having had much use, but they're all first-timers, so they're going to need time to figure things out. Hopefully, in a few months's time all Giles' wooing will have paid off, and we'll get some lambs!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A very lovely swap

Want to see something very lovely? It's a swap parcel from Jooles, the Spindlefrog! We arranged to do a swap after we found that we kept buying things from each-other's shops. So in the spirit of supporting the alternative economy etc., we decided to forgo the exchanging money part and just swap some parcels of lovely spinning stuff. So I sent her a box of wool batts, a spindle and other goodies, and she sent me these:

It included two of her gorgeous rovings (one in merino and one in shetland wool), two lovely batts of blended fibres, and some very yummy-looking chocolates.

And here are the woolly goodies all mosaic-ified for my Ravelry stash...

I'm going to appreciate them as they are for a few days before making plans for them, although there are some cute little felted accessories with the batts that are already telling me they want to be appliqued over a funky hat or bag made with the fibre. Using this stuff is going to be so much fun!

Oh and the chocolates are proving to be yummy indeed :)

Jooles, you're the best swap pal ever, thank you so much!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Ally Pally and a bit of Natural History

So, what did I get at this year's Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace? Tonsillitis, yay!! Actually, I think it's more likely to have been the crowded tube trains that were responsible, or maybe one of the dinosaurs from the Natural History Museum where we stopped on our way back from the show.

But as well as an 'orrible bug, which is now thankfully on the mend, I did get some much nicer things. Mum and I went on the Friday, and it didn't seem quite as busy as in previous years, so we managed to see a lot in a few hours. I started off by making a beeline for the Socktopus stall, to take the photos that I promised Jooles of her Spindlefrog rovings there.

I've put rings around the Spindlefrog wools. Look Jooles, they're just under the Pigeonroof Studios fibres and to the left of the rovings from Chameleon Colourworks!

I was very very tempted by the Spindlefrog fibres... But I decided to be good as I'm expecting a swap parcel from Jooles soon, wouldn't do to be greedy would it?! I wasn't as disciplined when it came to the tops from Pigeonroof Studios. I see them so rarely for sale, I spent quite a while just staring at them. And then somehow a braid of BFL in 'Caribbean' coours jumped into my hands and demanded to go home with me. I did as it asked, and here it is now:

I did very well during the rest of the show, everything else that I came home with was on my quite minimal shopping list.

On the right is a skein of Colinette Jitterbug sock yarn. It's a much brighter green in real life, my camera didn't like it as much as I do, it's very squishy and hug-able. It's destined for some cabled or lacy socks for me, and I'm going to learn to do them with the magic loop technique so that I can see the pattern more easily as I knit. The ball of red/blue yarn is some Kauni Effect Yarn from the Scandinavian Knitting Design stall, which changes as if by magic through rainbow colours as you knit with it. I'm planning to make one of Cosmicpluto's Simple but Effective Shawls with it. The other packet of fibre is naturally dyed merino from the Natural Dye Studio, gorgeous stuff, it was so hard to choose just one!

And have you spotted the first ever issue of Sew Hip magazine amongst the goodies? It looks like a great magazine, can't wait to see it in the shops like the issues of Yarn Forward that I saw in my local newsagent's this morning (yay for that!!). I've not done any sewing for ages, but some of the projects in the mag are calling me to dust off my sewing machine and delve in to my fabric stash again.

Then, on the way home, we stopped by at the Natural History Museum (one of my all time favourite places) and saw these...

Cute stuffed critters:

A creepy but pretty cool neanderthal skull:

This, OMG why do they let kids see it, huge animated dinosaur (it's blurry because it was moving towards me, and because I was running away, it was that scary and realistic-looking), I swear it was following me:

These familiar-looking fossilised shells (they came from the same area of the UK as the ones I've put in my fossil spindle)

And this set of bones from a Somerset Ichthyosaur, which made me squeak and bounce excitedly because they look very like the vertebrae bones I've found at Charmouth :)

So all in all, a very good day!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The dark side

I have a confession. This week I have mostly been shopping for perfume oils, BPAL oils to be precise. Yes it's true, I've turned to the dark side. Those teeny tiny bottles of scent have been calling to me for a while now, and I have finally succumbed. Look what arrived this week from Posh Brats, the only shop in the UK that stocks them.

It's a bottle of a scent oil called 'Wezwanie/Hold' and it smells amazing - like hazelnuts, oranges, honey and cocoa - all rolled into one. Delicious! :) I am now, I confess, completely hooked on finding new oils to try from independent perfumers. I'm expecting some more BPAL samples to arrive this week, and I can't wait!

But don't worry, I've not allowed the new sniffies to distract me from my woolly interests. In the last couple of days I've also been spindling this alpaca fibre from Spindlefrog...


...into this singles yarn

The spindle's a new shape that my mum's been testing out, in walnut. I like it, so we'll be making more in this style. But the fibre is the star of this story, I'm loving the way Spindlefrog's colours are spinning up. I think this will become a two-ply yarn for a shawl or a scarf, it depends on what yardage I get. And, there's more! Or there will be soon, as Jooles of Spindlefrog and I have just posted our parcels to each other for a mini fibre swap. I made her some batts from wool from Willow (one of my sheep), and she's made me a surprise batt. I can't wait to see what it's like!

I've also been sent on a super-secret Spindlefrog mission (well it's not so secret now that you lot know about it, there are a few on Ravelry who've heard about this too...). I am charged with the task of going to The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace this week, and taking photographs of Jooles' fibre on the Socktopus stall. And if I happen to buy some, or maybe get lured in by some of the other goodies that I know Socktopus will have there, then I'll just have to consider the purchases to be collateral damage resulting from such a difficult mission.

In other news, I've been dyeing wool like crazy over the last few days - all for the Wildcraft Shop. I've done a really big batch this time, which I'll photograph and upload in several updates over the next few weeks. As well as the usual range of fibres, I've done a new kind of fibre, which is specially aimed at beginner spinners. It's a super-easy spinning English wool blend, dyed in random unrepeatable shades. It'll be offered at pocket-money prices (although today's pocket money seems much more than I got as a kid!) and is intended to be used up, rather than to loiter in stash. I'm keen to encourage spinners who are new to handpainted fibre to dive in and try spinning some without worrying about the price, or about ruining the fibre.

Next post will show the spoils of Ally Pally. My credit card is already hiding, but I know where it lives :)

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Not such a little horse now

Inara's been growing really fast lately, she's starting to look much more like an elegant young horse, rather than a gangly baby foal.

She's not turning grey yet, although the vet seems pretty sure that she will eventually. Her mane and tail have a peppering of white hairs, but I haven't seen any through her chestnut colouring on her body. I'm hoping that she'll go through a stage where she has a pale mane and tail and a dark body. One of the things I like about grey horses, is that it's as though you get several colours for the price of one as they go through different stages before they reach their final colouring.

While I was out in the field taking Inara pics, I also caught some nice shots of cobwebs and other autumny things...

I love how the light's been split into rainbow colours over this one:

Brr..., it's making me chilly just to look! Autumn's definitely begun around here. Time to return to some cosy knitting...

Lately I've started work on a top-down sweater for myself, from Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits book. I'm knitting Ingenue, which is a top-down funnel neck sweater, only I've adapted the neckline so it'll be an off-the shoulder version instead. Here's how far I'd got with it few days ago:

It was really sunny the day I took the photo, and the colour wouldn't capture correctly, it's a much darker burgundy in real life. The yarn's Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora, which is lovely to knit with, very soft. Since the photo was taken, I've knitted down to the part where the sleeves are separated off, and started the body. It's all plain stocking stitch, which is mindless knitting - excellent for doing while I watch all the great new TV series that have started up again. Like Heroes Season 3, only half an hour now before it begins! :)

Saturday, 20 September 2008

A whole lot more spindling

Another weekend, another post. Seems I only update my blog at the weekends at the moment, but that's ok because I've also been taking photos this weekend. Oh and I've also been sanding my fingers, which hurt and is making typing difficult, but it's all in a good cause as I've been making whorls for resin spindles!

So, this past week I have been mostly spinning, packing things and taking them to the post office, and then doing more spinning. You probably don't want to know the details of the packing part (it's boring, really), but the spinning bit's interesting.

Here's my most recent FO, some spindled yarn.

Handspun Yarn

It's a navajo-plied blend of English wool top, which started out looking like this...


Originally I named to colourway 'Meh', as it was the result of me plonking down a bunch of leftover dyes on some leftover fibre and I wasn't sure it would turn out well. But I'm very pleased with the yarn. It ended up being 210 metres long, and about 12wpi (my yarn gauge said 14, but I think I squooshed up the yarn too tightly). It was lots of fun to spin, the wool drafted really easily and made for some great mindless tv spinning. The Navajo plying wasn't accompanied by tv though, as I went really slowly and carefully to avoid tangling the yarn. It's not the softest of yarns, but that doesn't matter as I'm planning to make a bag from it, so not-so-soft is good.

And here's another thing I made this week, a phone cosy:

Phone cosy

I'd made a bunch of batts for the shop from leftover scraps of fibre. It seemed rude not to test one of them out, so I spun some yarn (on a spindle of course!)...

Stock Pot Yarn

Then I improvised a pattern and knitted it up into the phone cosy above. It only took around 15 metres of yarn, so I still have around 10-15 metres left, enough to make another one as a gift. My phone is now happy and toasty-warm as the yarn's very soft. If only I could make clothes for myself so quickly!

I've also been spinning some lovely alpaca fibre from Spindlefrog, on a new Butterflygirl Designs spindle which arrived with me this week... or was it last week, I can't recall. Anyway, it's a lovely spindle, and the fibre is wonderful, the colours are just gorgeous.

New spindle New spindle

I'm spinning a heavy laceweight yarn with it, with the intention that it'll eventually become a lacy knitted shawl or scarf.

And finally, here's my most recently started project. It's some more spindling, this time for the Quarterly Challenge organised by the Spindlers Group on Ravelry. I'm using one of my resin spindles to spin this superwash merino top (from Violetgreen Yarns)...

Superwash Wool Roving

Into some fine singles that will eventually become navajo plied sock yarn...

Spindlers Quarterly Challenge

Can you tell I'm a fan of navajo plying at the moment?! The challenge is to spin 200 or more yards of yarn by the end of November, I'm hoping that I have enough fibre to make 200 yards. I think I will, as I have over 100grams of it, just need to make sure I spin it thinly enough!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Busy busy

Ack, it's been a crazy week around here so far, and it's only Thursday! Things are going from strength to strength with the Wildcraft shop, but this also means I've been run off my feet packing orders, making spindles and dyeing wool. I've nearly completed my recent stock update, which will have to last at least a fortnight :), then hopefully I can take a breather!

In the meantime, some interesting things have been happening around here:

Mum's started making spindles from Yew wood, in a slightly different style from the cedarwood ones. And she let me have the first one to test (for which, read - I snatched it and wouldn't let go when she showed it to me!).

Yew spindle

The spindle spins really well, but I'm starting to expect that from mum's handiwork. She reckons making spindles is a lot like making toy spinning tops. I never mastered the technique of spinning a top, but the theory clearly works for spindling (which I can do)! The yarn on it is being spun from a gorgeous purple 'Beautyberries' batt from Loop, which I bought a few weeks ago.

These spindles are running out of the shop as fast as I can list them, actually some of them are finding new homes before they make it there, and that's not just because I'm pinching them! Don't tell anyone, but I hear that there might be some walnut ones appearing soon. I've seen the blanks and yes, I'll be keeping one of those too! :)

I've also managed to knit up my first spindle-spun sock.

The yarn was spun from some lovely naturally dyed roving from The Natural Dye Studio, which I blogged about before. I love the way the colours are shifting gradually from one to another. It's what I intended when I spun the yarn, but it's nice to see it's actually working out as I planned. This is the first time I've knitted a short row heel, and I quite like it. Normally I prefer gusset heels, as they seem more robust, but this style does show off the colours well, it's super-quick to knit too. I've started the next one before casting off the first, just in case the second ball of yarn isn't the same length. I can't be doing with odd-length socks!

And finally, I received a lovely squishy package that I'd ordered from, containing many goodies.

It took a long while to get here (apparently they had a problem in their warehouse or something), but it was totally worth the wait (and the price, their yarns were an amazing bargain). There's three skeins of laceweight merino yarn, and two gorgeous chunks of merino wool fibre. The colours are so sunny and bright, they were just what I needed after all the rain and dullness we've had here lately.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

I wordled my blog

How much fun was this?!

Yes, I probably need to spend less time on my computer :)

This blog was Wordled by me at Wordle.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Spindly goodness

I'm on a blog-posting roll this weekend! It must be something to do with watching a huge session of the Olympics today, which has left me feeling motivated to do lots of stuff! Didn't team GB do well?!

Anyway, here's some news about my latest completed project, not a Ravelympics one, this is something I've been planning for much longer. So without further ado, meet my newest spindles:

I'm so excited about these! They're handmade (by me), with resin whorls that I made specifically for them. The top one has rose petals embedded in the resin, the middle one has calendula petals, and the bottom one is extra special, those shells are fossils that I collected from Barton on Sea this spring.

The whorls are about 5cm wide, and the spindles weigh between 20g and 25g, so these are ideal for spinning laceweight to medium weight yarns. I've played most with the fossil one so far and, like the others, it spins beautifully, I can see myself using this a lot! The white spots next to the fossils are just air bubbles that have filled with polishing compound, I was so excited about taking photos that I haven't cleaned that out yet.

And the best part, I want to make a bunch of these for Wildcraft, so I'll get to go on more fossil hunts and to experiment with other interesting things to decorate them with. I'm even thinking of starting a spindle club, where members receive a seasonal ly decorated spindle and fibre with every installment. Exciting eh?!