Saturday, 31 May 2008

Layla crochet cardi

As promised, here are some pics of my Layla crochet cardigan, all finished and wearable. This was my first ever crocheted garment, nearly my first crochet project ever (if you discount the little bag that I attempted and is still languishing in my work basket waiting to be finished). This cardigan wasn't the easiest project to begin with, even though the pattern said it was an easy one. There was a lot of shaping to do and I kept getting the stitch count wrong. I ripped it out nearly as many times as I crocheted it. But now that it's done I'm very happy with it. Excuse the slightly fuzzy and overexposed photos. I forgot to set my camera into program mode before I handed it to my mum to take the pics, I think she did a great job given the circumstances :)

So here's Layla:


The pattern was a Rowan one, from Magazine No.25, which is pretty old, published in the 90's I think. It's one of the earliest mags in my collection, but easily one of the best, there are many patterns in that issue that I want to make up.


The yarn I used was Patons 4-ply cotton. It took only 3.5 balls of the yarn, so really quite a bargain project. It substituted very well for the Rowan 4-ply cotton that the original pattern called for. Also, since the yardage on the Patons balls was so much more than on Rowan 4-ply, there were far fewer ends to weave in.


I've been wearing it all day today, it's really comfy. Oh yes and for the eagle-eyed amongst you, the front pieces are slightly uneven. I think my tension must have eased off a bit by the time I worked the second front piece, so one side is slightly longer than the other. It's visible if you're looking for mistakes, but not really noticable otherwise.

I'm now hoovering up any pretty crochet patterns that I find, which is a good thing as I have quite a bit of cotton in my stash. I hate knitting with cotton, but love crocheting with it, weird huh?

Monday, 26 May 2008


I've been having fun dyeing and blending up some drumcarded wool batts for the Wildcraft shop this weekend. And of course I had to sample the merchandise, so I've done a little spinning too :)

The first batch was made from a blend of 'Buffy' the sheep's wool, some kid mohair and a little bit of dyed silk waste. I've called this colourway 'Fire', and I think you'll see why:

Wool Batts - Fire colours

Wool Batts - Fire colours

It's a fairly smooth blend, as I wanted it to be possible to spin an even yarn from the batts. And it looks like that worked, as I was able to spin this little sample skein from one of the batts:

Yarn - Fire colours

Eye-poppingly bright isn't it? But I like bright colours :)

The batt I used to spin the yarn isn't shown in the photos above, as I didn't think of taking the photos until after I'd spun it up. The sample batt was a bit more blended than the others, which is why the colours have come out a quite even orange. The stripey batts will make more of a stripey yarn. I'd love to spin some more, but, tempting as it is, I mustn't use up all Wildcraft stock myself! :)

Next batch will be in 'water' colours, from Willow's fleece. Once I've got a set of each of the elements, I'll update the shop and you can try them for yourselves :)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Back to normal after shearing

I simply had to post these sheep photos that I snatched this evening. Sadly I only had my teeny-tiny phone camera with me, but I think perhaps it adds to the candid camera effect...

As you'll see, the ewes have completely recovered their confidence in me after their shearing episode. Maybe they've just forgotten it ever happened, or perhaps they've put it down to aberrant behaviour on my part, I'm normally the nice lady with the treats, not the wild woman with electric clippers!

Anyway, here you can see Buffy demanding some more of those nice horse treats:


And this is Willow checking out the camera:


Finally, this strange shot is a birds-eye view of when Buffy the sheep met Krissie the horse for the first time (they're sharing a paddock at the moment). That's Krissie's nose on the left side of the photo. They sniffed each other politely, then both returned to asking me for 'more of those tasty food things please'... I really wish I'd had my proper camera with me, it was a very cute moment.

Buffy and Krissie meet

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Finally open...

First off, here's the big news: the Wildcraft Shop is finally open! After a week of testing (thanks B!), I'm now reasonably confident that the Zencart software is playing nicely, so do go ahead and take a look. The shop can be found here:

With the shop open, I took a bit of a break from programming and wool dyeing this weekend. On Saturday I went with a friend to Charmouth, for a day of fossil hunting. The weather forecast was for lots of rain, but as you'll see in the pic below, it didn't turn out too badly.

Charmouth Bay (small)

I also made my finest fossil find to date, a huge pyritised ammonite. I believe I squeaked a bit when I found it, but who wouldn't, isn't it a beauty? :)

Charmouth ammonite (small)

It was just lying on the sand, on its end so it wasn't immediately obvious that it was an ammonite. Which is probably why the party of cliff-hackers a few yards away hadn't spotted it first :) The pencil in the pic below is for scale, but if that doesn't help, the fossil's about 4cm in diameter. It's currently soaking in plain water, to remove the salt from the sea. I fear I might have to retire from fossil hunting now, as I can't think how I can beat this find!

Returning to crafty matters, I also have a FO to report. My Layla crochet cardigan is finally finished, hurrah! This was my first major crochet project and it's been a real struggle. I had to rip and redo it so many times! But today, after re-crocheting the edging for the third time, I finally got it to look as I wanted it to. The best part is that the cardi fits me very well, and I really like how it looks. That's unusual, normally I can't stand items I've just completed, they need to go through a process of maturing (i.e. being hidden in a wardrobe) before I'll wear them. But I think Layla will get worn often, she's very comfy and quite flattering. I still have to sew in the yarn ends, but then I'll get some photos taken and post them here. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview:

Crochet Cardigan

I'm now keen to crochet more garments, since I've got the hang of how crochet works. I've already sussed out my next project, it's going to be 'Gudrun' by Annette Petavy, which is another cardigan. I'm planning to make it with some Debbie Bliss cotton angora from my stash. The pattern doesn't look too complicated, so hopefully I won't have to rip it out as many times as I did with Layla!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Shearing Day

I'm broken! I sheared the sheep yesterday, and it was very hard work for a newbie :( Those oh-so-cute looking Texel cross ewe lambs were not-so-cute when it came to removing their wool! The sheep on the BWMB course that I did in January were nowhere near as wriggly as mine...

Anyway, I got the fleeces off, not in once piece, but without destroying them completely. I think I'll have to process them myself (not send them away as I was intending) as there are a fair number of double cuts. But hey, it'll mean I've done the whole lot myself, from shearing onwards...

So here are some of the girls after their haircuts:

Shorn Ewes

Velvet, the old girl (black head and legs) on the right, was by far the easiest to do. She's around 13 years old, so she's had a few shearings from the professionals and clearly knows the score: sit still and it'll be over soon. Do you see the wild-eyed look in Willow and Cordelia's expressions though? It'll be a while before they want to be anywhere near me again!

The Texel x fleeces are very nice, a bit softer than the Suffolk that I'm most familiar with and with a more open staple (I used to have a flock of pedigree Suffolks). It should card and spin very easily. I'm planning to make some drumcarded batts from this wool for the online shop.


Oh and I did also shear Giles the ram, who behaved impeccably, but he needs some more clipping around the legs and face before I take pics. Otherwise he'll be really embarrassed, as he looks very silly. Actually it'll be me who's more embarrassed, I can't believe I left him looking so awful! So no, you can't see photos yet. My excuse is that he was the last sheep I did, at the end of a long day and he's a Very Woolly sheep. How one ram lamb can grow so much fleece is beyond me! It was good that I did him this weekend though, as I already found a small patch of fly strike (maggots, yuk!) in his wool, left without treatment it would have spread very rapidly in this warm weather. Removing the fleece got rid of it very effectively. I'll finish trimming up his little legs later in the week and post pics then. He really is the cutest little thing under all that wool.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Photographic evidence

Just a quick post today, after a busy holiday weekend which included horse riding (with Bea and her super horses Muttley and Moon, and encouraged by that on the following day on my own horse Sam), sheep foot trimming (yuk), wool dyeing (more on that in another post), and my own personal favourite (not!) - putting up electric fencing.

Anyway, to prove that I do actually ride my own horse sometimes, here's a pic taken this weekend just before Sam and I set off on a hack. I'm not really a winter rider, neither Sam nor I like going out in wind/rain/mud, so we've only recently started riding out again. His summer coat's coming through now so he's looking all sleek and handsome, much nicer than his winter hairy beast look. And yes, that's a bitless bridle, Sam doesn't get on with bits, so he wears a hackamore.

Sam and me

We even had a proper balanced canter during this ride, so it seems he's remembered some of the schooling I did with him last summer after all! His trotting needs work though, his trot currently resembles a runaway train going downhill, sideways!

Here's another photo of him that I took this weekend. Luckily you can't see the knots in his mane from this angle. I spent ages trying to comb them out before our ride, but they thwarted me in a single session. Next time I'm attacking them with furniture polish (thanks for the tip Bea), and possibly a machete!


Friday, 2 May 2008

Stash Enhancement Experience (aka Wonderwool)

Ok, so the plan was that my Wildcraft shop would be up and running by the 1st May. But after another week of growling at my computer and frightening myself with php code, it's not quite there. Almost, but not quite. I've been fighting with setting up Paypal accounts today, which was fun. Not. And don't talk to me about filling in bank forms! I got one in the post earlier in the week that confused me so much I had to take it into our local branch for help, only to find that the assistant there was as confused by it as I was. Next week I'll be away for a few days on a business trip, but that should be enough time for Paypal to have finally verified that I am who I say I am (which after this week, even I am confused about), so look out for grand shop opening notices towards the end of the week.

In the meantime, this weekend I'm planning to dye another big batch of rovings for the shop, since I bought a lovely bunch of undyed BFL roving at Wonderwool Wales last weekend.

Oh yes, I was going to say something about Wonderwool! It was so much fun, even the camping out in a wet and windy campsite part was fun. My friend Mel was a very able tent construction assistant, and an excellent cook (my cooking tasks mainly involved lighting the gas burner, which I think scared Mel a bit :) ).

On the boil

It was a great campsite, called Fforest Fields, which was just outside Builth Wells. This is the view we had from the door of our tent:

Wales camp site

Very nice, except you can't see the rain, or the wind, or the hundreds of sheep and lambs just off to the right who spent most of the night bleating to eachother. Which was nice to hear, but not ALL NIGHT! Somehow Mel managed to sleep through all that, I think I wore her out with all the navigating she had to do to get us there (another long story, but suffice it to say that as a result of an unfortunate set of road works and an impossible-to-find lpg garage, we are now far more familiar with Abergavenny than we'd like to be!).

Wonderwool itself was jaw-droppingly packed with excitement for anyone remotely interested in fibre-crafts. By the end of Saturday we were absolutely exhausted and mentally overwhelmed with all we'd seen. But we did manage to find many nice things. I picked up some gorgeous yarns from the Posh Yarn stand, which was so beautiful it was like walking into a jewel-box. I eventually chose some 'Lei' sock yarn (merino/bamboo/silk) in a pretty yellow/lavender colourway...

Posh Yarn Lei

... and some 'Eva' cashmere/silk laceweight, which I'm still trying to pick a pattern for. I want to knit a lace scarf with it, but nothing too tricky as I'm still a beginner lace knitter.

Posh Yarn Eva

I also bought some merino/tencel sock yarn from the Fyberspates stall, in pretty blue colours.

Fyberspates Merino Tencel

Looks like I have a lot more sock knitting to do!

That was in addition to the undyed rovings I bought (merino/silk, baby alpaca, soy silk etc.). Mel and I had reasoned that buying spinning fibres would give us more yarn for less money, but we hadn't factored in the effect that mental exhaustion has on the brain, i.e it makes your sense of stash control go out the window! I narrowly escaped buying a new spinning wheel too. It was a Louet Victoria, and so cute! Fortunately, with the car already packed with tent etc., there really wasn't space for it. Not unless I abandoned my promise to collect my brother from Bristol on our way home, and I can tell you, it was a close run choice! Suffice it to say, I did collect my brother, but I have also been perusing the net for cute fold-up spinning wheels since returning home :)

One of the nicest things about the show was meeting the stallholders. There was a great atmosphere at the show and people were really friendly. Definitely an event I'd recommend. Not so sure that I'd recommend the camping so much, having survived that experience I really feel I'm due a merit badge or something...