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Sunday, 11 November 2018

Baby Blues

Recently I knitted this cute little baby sweater for a friend who's having a baby soon.  I still had some Falkland super wash yarn left after finishing Mara's blanket, so put it to good use.  The pattern is Jeudi by Elisa Di Fiore and was a very easy knit.  I think the original pattern is "vendredi", but it's written in French and I still can't cope with that.

Apparently it's going to be a boy, so a visit to the woad patch seemed in order.  I now have woad growing in a few different parts of the garden so I was able to harvest quite a bit from "volunteer" plants first, meaning I still have lots to harvest here:-

Woad is considered a pernicious weed in some parts of the world, but if they're as useful as this one I don't mind if it colonises the whole garden.  The farmer who owns the land all around us might not be too pleased if it spread everywhere though!

I won't bore you with photos of the dye process - I've posted lots in the past, so if you're interested in knowing how it's done you can find out in older posts.  I'll never tire of the magical transformation from yellow, through green to this amazing blue though.  In fact, it actually turned out a bit patchy, but hubby said it made it look more like old faded denim, so I can live with that.

This is the back view, which is equally cute.

For the buttons, I searched through my late mother-in-law's button tin which I inherited.  I think they're pretty old.  They've never been used, and were still stitched to the original cardboard.  They had a sort of faded bit in the middle which matches the patchy sweater! Perfect.  And I have two spare in case they're needed.

As usual, there was still some colour in the dye pot after the sweater came out, so I found a random skein of sheep's wool to put in there.  It's not ultra soft, but I think will go well in socks.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Spinzilla 2018

Well, who would've thought a year could go so fast.  October 1st was the start of the Spinzilla marathon spinning event - a whole week of spinning as much yardage as possible.

There was a lot of controversy last year over the way this event was run and quite a lot of people vowed they wouldn't do it again.  Especially as they were paying $15 each for the privilege and there was no proof of where this money was going (it was supposed to be a charity event).  I ummed and aahed a fair bit about whether I should join in this year or not, but finally decided to sign up again.  The team I spun with (DM Fibers Old School Spinners) were putting a team together again and, to be quite honest, I didn't want to be left out!

My little Spinzilla mascot after he'd had his head in the yoghourt pot!
Last year I managed to spin just over 4 miles which was far more than I imagined I could spin in a week.  I'm not a fast spinner!  My goal this year was to at least reach that amount, but hopefully exceed it.  Then, a few weeks before the event, friends in the UK phoned to say they were going to be in France and could they visit for a few days - slap bang in the middle of Spinzilla!  Well, what can you do?  We enjoy having friends come to stay so I thought I could just work through it.  Unfortunately, when you factor in essential preparations for their visit, it didn't quite work out that way!

My first project was 500g of Falkland Super Wash from Wingham Wool Work in the UK. This is for yet another baby blanket - there's another grand-daughter arriving mid-December so I'd better get busy!

This took 4.5 days, I think, to complete, giving a total singles yardage of 4,395.

Next, I had some batts I'd made using the leftovers from a prize I made during the Tour de Fleece.

TdF prize
I didn't have all the colours to make more exactly like the ones above, but I added in a few different colours and it turned out fairly similar.  These were going to be spun as one ply and I needed to find something to complement it for the other ply.

I thought these colours would go quite well, and roughly blended them on my combs, before starting to spin.

Unfortunately, the main colour was quite a strange texture - it was a World of Wool Woolly Wednesday special offer and I have no clue what it was, except it was cheap!!

The staple length was so short that when I was spinning it I could only draft about half an inch at a time.  This was obviously no use during a speed spinning competition, so I had to abandon it and choose something else.  I had managed 29 yards though, so that counts in the final calculations.

To be honest, this felt like spinning combing waste - the short fibres that are left stuck in the tines after removing the good fibres and I do wonder if that's what it is.  Floor sweepings for sure!

So, I picked out some black and red fibres to go with the other bobbin.  I would have preferred the grey, but this actually went quite well anyway.

The finished skein was not too bad at all - `I like the pops of colour here and there.  I showed this to Eric and asked him what he thought I should call it.  "Black pudding" he immediately replied.  "But it's not black" I answered.  Final retort : "Neither is black pudding".  I couldn't argue with that, so Black Pudding it is!

By now we'd reached day 7 and I needed a quick spin to finish off the week.  About a week before Spinzilla started I cleaned out my larder - this is a small room rather than a cupboard and it had become rather "disorganised" to say the least.  When I got to one of the top shelves, there was an unidentified box sitting there, in full view, which I just hadn't noticed before.

This is what I found when I opened it.  I bought this in February 2015, so goodness knows how long it's been sitting on that shelf.  It's a Build a Batt Box from Barber Black Sheep in Wales and I'd completely forgotten I'd ordered it.  Please don't ask what it was doing on a shelf in my larder for 3 years, because I have no clue!  The embarrassing thing is, I obviously haven't spring cleaned my shelves for quite a long time!!

I picked out a 100g bag of merino dyed in a gradient, started at one end, blended the colours a bit in between, and finished with the deep pink on the left.

This was a real pleasure to spin, I enjoyed every moment.  Most of this was spun in the afternoon, then the visitors arrived back from a few days away and took us out for a meal in the evening.  We had a really nice evening with lots of nice food and wine, getting home at about 10:30 p.m.  Back to spinning!  I quickly finished the spinning and then started to ply.  All my yarns so far have been 2 ply (apart from the Floor Sweepings which were left as a single), but to keep the colour gradient, I n-plied this one (making a 3-ply).  I think this is my favourite spin of the week - the colours are yummy, and it's squishably soft.

So, here are the final skeins :-

And the final calculations?  This lot amounted to 6,208.752yards . . . 3.53 miles!  I didn't reach last year's total, but it's actually not bad considering the interruptions I had this week.

Oh, and before I go - don't forget that BritSpin starts on the 11th October.  This is a brand new 4 day event which I would dearly have loved to join in with, but unfortunately (well, fortunately for us) we're going to be away I the camper van from tomorrow on a little trip to the west (Atlantic) coast here in southern France.  

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Mara's Blanket

Early August (2nd) brought the arrival of my new step-grand daughter, Mara Valentina. She was a bit impatient to get here as she was supposed to be born two weeks later. Nevertheless, I was still way behind with this project for her.

When the two step-grandsons were born I made them both a blanket, the first one had blue elephants, and the second one had a celtic knot design, so I promised I'd make one for this wee one too.

I used super wash Falkland fibre (from Wingham Wool Work) for this so it can be washed more easily without felting, and spun it into a 2-ply.  One of the skeins was divided into three, and two of them were dyed in green and lilac.

Then came the job of devising a pattern.  The good thing with being so behind with this project is that by the time I started drawing something out, she had a name - Mara Valentina.  I decided to keep it simple and chose green for the "Mara" and lilac for the inside of the heart, which is going to be edged with bobbles.  I may add a little colour at the edge when I've finished, but not sure yet.  I avoided pink as I know that Mum doesn't like it, but she does like green so hopefully this will be OK.

I'm wondering whether to add a little accent of something in the top right hand corner.  I thought about a spider on a thread, but I don't want to give the poor girl a phobia! Thinking cap is still on for this one!

I've pinned the edge of this down to take the photograph because it's curling up otherwise. I'm hoping that if I crochet an edge all round it may lie flat.  Also, not sure whether to define the edges of the letters afterwards with a running stitch in green.  Hubby thinks I should edge it in the lilac, but I think that may be a bit too much.

We're going over to Scotland next month, October, for our first visit, so I need to get my skates on with this.  I was going to post it, but think I'd prefer to hand deliver.  I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

TdF Weeks 2 and 3

Just in case you thought I'd given up part way through, here are my final contributions to this year's Tour de Fleece.  I must admit life got very busy during the second week and I didn't get as much spinning time as I'd planned.  I only managed one skein during week 2, and one and a half in week 3.

For this week's challenge, I chose "tonal yarn" where the yarn is dyed in different shades of the same colour.  As you'll see at the end, this didn't actually work that well, but never mind, I like it as it is anyway.  I went rummaging in my fleece store and came up with some of this :-

I have no clue what this fleece is - it was stuffed in an old pillowcase and I couldn't find a label in there.  I'm pretty sure this will have been gifted to me by someone in the past, so maybe it isn't labelled because I never knew what it was in the first place!  It's pretty good fleece though, quite fine.

I carded up about 100g of it and spun it as finely as I could.  The fleece helped there because it really needed to be spun finely.

After filling the bobbin I transferred it off and made a plying ball.

By this time I was pretty tired of seeing natural coloured fleece.  I really needed some colour in my life!  So I quickly got it plied and skeined off

and probably went a bit mad with the hot pink dye I chose.  I washed and rinsed it, then lay it in a bowl and applied the dye in different strengths around the skein.  When it came out though, the stronger colour seemed to have seeped into the lighter areas!  You can just see a few lighter bits on the next photo, but it really just looked badly dyed!

So at the end of week 2, this was my "Non-Tonal Yarn" :-

As I said, it may not be tonal yarn, but it is pink!!!

For week 3's challenge I picked out some more of my lovely super-kid mohair fleece and dyed it in the team colours again (grey, teal and violet).  I used the same dye batch as I had some left from week 1, but I think I maybe put more dye on this time because it definitely looks stronger in colour.

I separated it into the three different colours again and started carding.

Finished rolags :-

The challenge I chose this week was "Accidental Boucle" which is actually an opposing ply yarn, i.e. one ply is spun clockwise, one ply anti-clockwise, and then ply anti-clockwise. So one ply loses twist (the clockwise) and one ply gains twist (the anti-clockwise).  First bobbin finished and looking good :-

Second bobbin was spun anti-clockwise.  Here it is alongside the first bobbin :-

After plying and taking it off the bobbin, I was a bit disappointed.  It was supposed to have loops and kinks, but mine just looked a bit wavy.

In the next photo I put it alongside the skein I spun during the first week, so you can see that not only is there a difference in colour, there's definitely a difference in texture.

After throwing it into hot water though, my loops and kinks suddenly arrived.  Magic!

Final photo shows it off quite well I think.  So from "Accidental Non-Boucle" before washing, I think I can now call it "Accidental Boucle" after washing!

I finished this one with 2 days left to fill before the Tour de Fleece ended so I needed a quick project to use up those 2 days.  I chose some alpaca (from Cadbury, my neighbour's animal) which was in pretty good shape and I knew it wouldn't need much preparation before I could start spinning.

For alpaca, it didn't have an awful lot of vegetable matter, but it did have a lot of dust!  I just pulled handfuls out of the bag, pulled it apart, removing vm and second cuts as I went, and literally threw it through the drum carder.  Each batt went through twice and I made little nests ready to spin from.

By the time Sunday came to an end, I'd managed to spin this much :-

but I still had more to spin.  I've since finished and plied it, but it still needs to be dyed :-

At the moment it's still on the bobbin, but I plan to dye it soon.  In fact, a couple of friends are really interested in natural dyeing so I'm hoping to invite them over for the day and we'll have a woad dyeing session.  I'll be interested to see how this colour fleece will take the dye.

Final round-up of yarns achieved during this year's TdF (except for the alpaca) :-

So, that's the end of the fun for another year.  Time for a rest?  No chance, I now have to spin and knit a baby blanket for my brand-new step-granddaughter who arrived 2 weeks early on 2nd August.  I'm going to have to be pretty quick with this one!

Friday, 13 July 2018

TdF Week 1

Well that's the end of the first week as far as my spinning goes.  I've managed to complete three challenges in the DIY and Dye Group on Ravelry.  The first was the tweed I showed you last week.  Here it is finished :-

The next challenge I chose was "spin your pet" and Jak (my cat) was happy to oblige!  I'd been saving his fur for a little while and, although there wasn't a huge amount, it would make a little sample.

I used my cotton carders for this and made "punis" which are like skinny rolags, rolled around a dowel.  The fibres were very short, but probably no shorter than cotton, so I thought it would probably work OK.

It was not like spinning cotton, it was much more difficult, but I got there in the end.

This was the yarn spun, but not plied.  I made it into a centre pull ball and plied from each end.  The result :-

Not even enough to make a sock for one paw, but never mind!!

The third challenge was mohair dyed in the team colours : teal, purple and grey.  I didn't have purple but the violet that I used works quite well.  This is super-kid mohair that I bought last summer at Le Lot et La Laine festival here in France and it's absolutely gorgeous.  Really soft, easy to card and easy to spin - dream fibre!!

I dyed the whole lot in one pot, just poured on each dye separately and hoped for the best.

I was in a bit of a quandary as to how to spin these.  Either a gradient, or just mix the colours up.  In the end I worked from one colour to the next, spinning one rolag each time and then plied from each end of a centre pull ball again.  I didn't want to Navajo ply it because I wasn't sure how this would poof up as a 3-ply, so 2-ply it was.

This still needs to be washed, but you'll see the finished yarn at the end of TdF when I summarize everything I've done.  I really love the way this has turned out and think I may just have to dye some more in these colours to spin after the Tour de Fleece has finished for this year.

So, now to go find out what week 2's challenges are!