Friday, 11 December 2009

What has happened to me?

As the year of reluctantly-non-selfish knitting draws to a close, I'm very happily knitting a Christmas present for my brother. This is not like me at all - deadline knitting! - but it's something I've been wanting to make for years, and I'm absolutely loving it so far. When you notice that an idea you've toyed with for ages perfectly matches yarn you happen to have lying around, you might as well give up and cast on. I've lost my camera so no photies yet, but it's a very, very silly hat to add to the silly hat collection that the male members of my family cultivate. It involves various fair isle patterns combined to represent my brother's (and my father's) favourite things, and the landscape around the family home. Some wavy, sea-like bits are near the brim, followed by a section of prancing people, then some trees, then some mountains at the top. I imagine a pompom or three might be called for.

Friday, 6 November 2009


I'm facing another long dark weekend of the soul (why did I ever think a PhD sounded fun?) but I'm knitting a handspun cashmere moebius, so all is well.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


My PhD is at one of those pivotal moments when I could finish it in a frenzied whirl of activity punctuated only by a minor nervous breakdown, or meander halfheartedly along indefinitely, losing the will to live. Therefore, as every second with both hands on the keyboard is vital, I am utterly consumed with the desire to knit. Or spin. Or continue my very important research into looms.

I finally finished and handed over the gloves that nearly put me off knitting entirely, failing completely to photograph them beforehand. Next time I see the guy I will insist on the full photoshoot. I'm now a few rows from finishing a pair of socks I foolishly promised a friend, so the freedom to make whatever the hell I like is beckoning. To my surprise, what I want to knit is a pattern! I've started the Ysolde's Damson shawl in handspun and it's heaven. The pattern is just perfect, and though I wasn't at all happy with the yarn, it's knitting up into something much prettier than the skein. If I ever see daylight again I'll snap it while I can.

The above picture is some merino/silk from World of Wool in their Virgo colourway that I made into a bouncy 2-ply to keep me sane amidst the structured knitting. A guy who just finished his PhD (called Gordon Ramsey, much nicer than the chef) thought of a great definition of work he told us the other day: 'Work is playing by someone else's rules'. So true of knitting!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Yarnharlot scarf

This is the one row handspun scarf made from the purple cashmere in the last post, with its ends still waiting to be woven in as usual. It's satisfyingly long and swingy, and was great fun to knit. The pattern is perfect for out-and-about or TV knitting.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Exhibit B

I spun up the fibre club purple cashmere. I love the subtly wavering colours (in between the two photos as usual), but the fibre had somehow got a bit mangled, either in the dyeing process or due to less-than-perfect storage conditions since I got it. It was extremely difficult to draft at first, so I recarded it with hand cards. This made it spinnable, but I don't have fine enough cards to do a good job on cashmere, so it was still a challenge, and the singles were pretty dodgy in places. It came in two seperate bags, so 2-ply was the obvious choice.

I've just finished knitting it up into Yarnharlot's One Row Handspun Scarf, which is waiting to be blocked into readiness for its close-up. This pattern was perfect for the unintentionally irregular yarn, and I'm very happy with how it turned out. I'm amused that I've produced something that will be worn to death out of yarn I wasn't thrilled about, while more successful handspun has sat on my shelves for months waiting for an appropriately perfect project. It's nice to have a couple of skeins in reserve for when a knitting treat is called for, like always having a pile of unread books in case of emergency, but I'll have to start using them before it gets cold enough to swaddle one's extremities in exotic fibres.

The loom obsession is only getting worse. I'm leaning toward the 20" Schacht Flip this week ;)

Exhibit A

I gave up on locating my charger and bought bad batteries to produce some evidence of stuff being made into other stuff.

I bought some Posy Toes Bamboo Sock fibre from a fellow Raveller. It was exactly my colours in person, deep blue and green and magenta-ish purple. It came in three identical batts, perfect for 3-ply. This is one of them:

I tried a fractal-ish technique, spinning one single with short colour repeats and two with long ones. When I plied them together it was obvious that it would take much more exact spinning than mine to make a perfect repeating pattern this way in a 3-ply, but I love the way it turned out. It's nice round solid yarn, and too pretty to be worn out by my feet, so I think it will end up as fingerless gloves eventually.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


I've been knitting and spinning my arse off, but without much in the way of documentation. I just can't seem to get a camera, batteries, natural light and yarniness in the same place at the same time. Two developments need recording, however:

* I am never knitting anything for anyone else ever again (with exceptions for babies and unsolicited surprises - and one unwisely promised pair of socks). I am reaffirming my Selfish Knitter status because an uncharacteristic run of knitting stuff for other people (from patterns!) has given me a chilling glimpse of what it would be like to be put off knitting completely. I'm a messer, not a planner, and I need a bit of greed and a lot of curiosity to get me going.

* It's finally happened. I was pottering about on Ebay the other day, and found myself idly looking at looms. This led to a little foray into the rigid heddle group on Ravelry, and the gradual admission that I would like to learn to weave. I suspected this would happen one day but I never had the slightest interest before - it's like some crafty version of the fabled biological clock. The Ashford Knitters' Loom looks like somewhere to start. Santa Claus might chip in...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

With days to go to the big scary deadline, and an inconveniently unmissable gig to fit in before then, I just couldn't resist plying the pink cashmere I finished spinning last week.

I think this is the happiest I have been with my plying so far. I was afraid I was putting in far too much twist, but cashmere's so short it really needs it, and after some hot soapy abuse it turned out just how I wanted it. As usual, my camera is not cooperating with anything vaguely red. It's actually more salmon and less Barbie.

I fixed my wheel! Finally! I worked out a way to undo my own stupidity. I had not-entirely-intentionally superglued my folding Lendrum upright, and couldn't work out a way to get the acetone which would dissolve the glue behind the wooden knob into the depths of the metal embedded screw. Just a few months of thinking, some cotton wool, nail varnish remover and cursing later, it's all working perfectly and I feel marginally less of an idiot. Yay!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Any excuse!

I'm going to do the Tour de Fleece this year, to move some of the spinning stash into the knitting stash and try out some new things. I want to experiment with cabled yarn, coils, corespun and general tomfoolery, but I have a hunch I'll revert to fingering weight 2 or 3 ply as soon as my mind wanders.

Knitting-wise, I'm doing another uncharacteristic gift project. Its uncharacteristic-ness is probably why it's taking so long. It's blue and yellow and fine, but not quite my cup of tea, and I'm just not good at knitting things I don't urgently want. Especially as my whole thesis needs to be drafted by a date so close that I won't even type it because seeing it written down gives me the screaming abdabs. Whimper.

I am being tormented by thoughts of a second spinning wheel. I chose the Lendrum three years ago mainly because it seemed versatile enough to do just about anything, so that I'd never need another wheel. That's pretty much true, but I didn't realise then how much I would want one. Imagine being able to have two projects on the go at once, without messing about with bobbins and fliers all the time! Surely a wee secondhand something or other wouldn't hurt?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Tons of fibre, too little time

This month's utterly fabulous Fyberspates fibre club arrived today, 'Scrumptious' merino/silk seen above on the left, beside the last two months' packages, space dyed silk and cashmere. All so gorgeous that I can't bring myself to spin any of them until I can really sit and spin all day. I love this club so much!

It's been startlingly good weather here (Sunshine! For several whole consecutive days!) which is worse than wasted on me. I've been trapped indoors by my urgent need to spend 16 hours a day fretting about my PhD, interspersed with a few moments' meaningful work on it. I've also, typically, come out in a fairly unsightly and extremely beeping irritating rash all over my face and neck, which means avoiding sunlight and waiting patiently for it to go away until next time I come into contact with whatever of the million possible substances set it off. In short, I'm in a foul mood. So I've been dyeing.

Above: 100g humbug Shetland, dyed in plain red, to give a marled effect.
Below: the same Shetland, stuck in the leftover dye stock with some blue mixed in.

This is some of the wonderful cashmere I got for Christmas, which I recklessly stuck in the third-hand leftover dyestock. (It is Make Do and Mend season, after all!) I'm delighted with the coral colour it turned out, a serendipitous surprise.

Finished the plain socks, with wedge toes, flap heels, and picot bind-off.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Tea, fish, feet, fluff and Florence

I've been knitting loads, but not finishing or photographing very much. Unusually for me, I've been working on a couple of things for other people. I finally finished a wee thing I promised a friend an embarrassingly long time ago. I used some of the grey Donegal Tweed with multicolour flecks, held double, to make a restrained, pompom-free teacosy. She's an understated sort of woman, so my natural tendencies towards the day-glo, froufrou end of things were reined in! I'll have to photograph it in situ next time I visit.

I've also been collaborating with a new knitter and soon to be new mother on a tessellating fish baby blanket, using the Recipe for Fish version from Knitting Arrows ( She's doing amazingly well! It's not the easiest first project but it's so cute, and I think making one little fish at a time is more satisfying than plugging away for years of your life on an endless garter stitch scarf. My friend picked out really beautiful colours for it, so I can't wait to see it completed - which should make the sewing up part (!) less annoying.

I'm nearly finished some plain, easy, knitting-in-the-office-while-trawling-JSTOR socks for myself in orange variegated Trekking. They've put me in a sockish mood again, which I've just fuelled with this lovely stuff from Gaiety Girl (

I can't wait to get started on it! I might do something a bit more swanky with this - I love cables in semi-solids.

There has also been a fair amount of spinning and drumcarder related shenannigans going on. Unfortunately, it seems that my nonexistent camera skills and bogstandard camera are just not up to the job of photographing batts. The images don't look like anything to do with the originals at all! If you kind of squint at these two you can almost get a vague idea of what some of the resulting handspun is like, but the colours are completely off. Really, it's an overall deep purple made up of rich navy, charcoal grey and magenta-ish purple, with the odd tiny sprinkle of green carded in. It's got everything but the kitchen sink in it. Merino, alpaca (normal and baby), mohair, silk and sparkle.

Sadly, I will not be going to Woolfest this year after all, because I've got a place on a summer school in political Italy! Obviously I'm researching wool shops in Florence. Slightly scared by just how hot it's likely to be there in July, but it should be an adventure.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Drum carder

Ta da! After much deliberating, I went for a second-hand Louet from an Ebay seller in Holland. I'm chuffed with it, not least because I think even I should have a hard time breaking this thing.

I'm still in the early stages of working out what the hell one does with it, but I can see the bulk of my fibre stash being batted in no time.

After spinning lots of commercially combed top, spinning from batts is taking a bit of retraining, but it's starting to feel OK. I'm booked into the 'using a drum carder' class at Woolfest, which should be fun.

Fyberspates mohair, 2 ply

I ended up with about 600m of this:

Given the amount of time it took me to work that rough number out, I should really devise a better system than measuring my niddy-noddy and then counting 490ish strands of yarn.

I got 100g onto each bobbin, so I was delighted to have the plying head and be able to make one great big joinless skein.

I'm not sure what to do with it. An open, fluffy rectangular shawl in a simple lace pattern seems the obvious thing to do, but I'm having reckless thoughts of something more garmenty. A fluffy boobholder ( be several steps too far on me, but a fluffy shrug type thing might be ok.

Fyberspates mohair, roving to singles

The March installment of the Fyberspates luxury fibre club was soft, soft mohair. Jen generously doubled up the quantity because it was posted a bit late, which meant 200g of gorgeousness arrived.

I'd never spun mohair before, apart from a few locks I experimented with fairly unsuccessfully ages ago. This stuff felt much less stiff, and after trying out a few samples I ended up spinning it with a short forward draw, letting the twist into the drafting area, which makes it...consults Judith McKenzie McCuin...semi-woolen. This meant making a weird rolling motion with my thumb and forefinger every time I treadled, which was great fun for the first 150gm or so. After that, the appeal of longdraw became irritatingly apparent. It was a lovely spin overall, though, because the fibre felt great and the colour changes were hypnotic. The colours were far more delicate than anything I would have picked myself, but to my surprise, I fell in obsessive love with them as I spun. This is evident from the ridiculous number of pictures I took of this yarn at all stages. Here is a small selection of the 'singles' pictures:

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Perfect knitting bag for £7.99!

A couple of friends and I spent last Friday evening in IKEA. No amount of trolley-related humour could conceal how very, very old this made us feel. It was well worth the doomladen sense of approaching middle age, though, because I left with not only bedclothes even brighter than the last ones, a feat I'd thought impossible (They burn the early morning eyes! I love them!), but also my perfect knitting bag. It's a rigid thing presumably meant for cosmetics:

...and it has not only wee pockets...

...but elastic bits for needles! I might tack some of them down to make narrower loops for straights.

It's just the right size for a couple of skeins plus a small to medium project, and is hard enough to keep your work unsquished.

Friday, 6 March 2009

I don't know why I've never tried spinning big and thick and thin before. It seemed like I should make the most of the jumbo/plying head, so I carded up some of the purple merino from the mixed colour bags I got from Wingham Wool Work. Unfortunately, I still find it all too easy to spin unevenly, but I'm terrible at spinning thick. No matter what I intend to do, my singles usually revert to a default setting of teeny. The jumbo head stopped this, and using the slowest whorl, I filled up the bobbin with big, fat, juicy, slubby yarn in what felt like about three seconds flat. It was so much fun! I now urgently need to do lots more of this.

I want to ply it with a contrastingly tiny, tightly-spun single though, so I got out the fast flyer and spun some of the dark purple roving from the end, on the fastest whorl, in a worsted one treadle/one draft style, which bores me to tears. I can't ply them together yet because I have a cunning plan involving some things to string onto the thin single, which are in the post. I'm desperate to get back to the big thick spinning, but I've only got one jumbo bobbin, which is full of the purple stuff, so I've just been carding up some more merino roving into rolags so that as soon as the postman does his stuff I can get right to it.

These bits of roving are becoming the rolags below. The book that can be seen is another reason I haven't left the house today. It's The Intentional Spinner by Judith McKenzie McCuin, and it's incredible. I also just received Deb Menz's Colour in Spinning, which is even better than everyone says it is. I'm dodging back and forth between the two books, getting more gobsmacked and awestruck each time. I do realise that spending today like this means spending Sunday up to my oxters in thesis, but I'm powerless to resist.

This is why I have to acquire a drum carder, even if it means eating nothing but Tesco 8p noodles for months. (Again...)


I got a cheap steamer off Ebay for dyeing. The stock pot works fine but I was tempted by the thought of three tiers. I wrapped three damp lumps of carded wool and silk from Wingham in clingfilm, with vinegar and acid dyes inside each parcel, stuck one on each level and steamed them for an hour. It worked OK, though next time I'll turn down the temperature or only do half an hour, as the results seemed a bit overcooked. I made one bit into this woolen-spun, fuzzy two-ply:

I wanted to practice chain-plying, so had a go with the green/blue bit:

I'm not sure how to chain-ply evenly. When I'm plying normally I count the treadles over a particular length of yarn, but when both my hands are moving about to pull each loop through the next I don't have a clear idea how much twist I'm putting in.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Free Wool!

Two friends of my mother live in Donegal, near Kilcarra, where a certain Donegal Tweed is produced. They know that I knit, and by some mysterious means they have presented me with a huge goody bag of factory offcuts. I couldn't believe it when my mother handed it over. It arrived in various enormous balls, many with more than one colour in them, so I unwrapped each one and wound them separately. Thank God I just got a second-hand ball winder, because even with that, it took a while. I'm stunned by all the great colours. There's enough of at least the red, and maybe something else, to make a whole jumper for me, and there's a selection of sizeable bits of all sorts of colours that can be combined. I feel some experimentation coming on. It's all the same weight, aranish.

There is some of it I have to admit I'll never knit, due to my well documented beige-o-phobia, so it's free to whoever wants it. I can bring it to Stitch n Bitch on Wednesday if anyone's interested. It's really nice stuff, with subtle little flecks, but it would have a better home with someone whose taste runs more to Mason-Dixon Knitting and less towards Coco the Clown. There's a full carrier bag of it, in a brownish khaki, a couple of shades of grey, cream and a wee totey bit of black. There are quite a lot of joins in it, as these are remnants, but they're easily joined with a spit splice since it's wool.

Any takers?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A lost cause

I have a terrifyingly huge amount of work to do this week. Today was a chance to make a tiny dent in it, but cashmere intervened. I finished a scarf in my handspun cashmere the other day. I now recognise that this gave me a window in which to Step Away From the Knitting. I did not. I cast on a fingerless glove in the remaining yarn. I was on a Stitch n Bitch trip to the Grand Opera House to see the ballet Sleeping Beauty, and it felt wrong - wrong, I tells ye! - to let the event pass without knitting anything. With reckless disregard for swatching, I cast on what looked like enough stitches to get round my knuckles and started 3 by 3 rib. Today I found that it fit, which unheard-of miracle meant that I owed the glove gods a gusset and thumb. Which meant I would be able to relax and get on with my life if only I finished the decreases across the palm and got down to the simple cuff. I've now done that, with zero frogging, and it all fits. Trying it on to make sure it fits, though, makes the completion of the cuff and the repetition of the whole process EXTREMELY URGENT. The feeling of hands surrounded in this stuff makes my dream of the cashmere body stocking seem like something Obama should be funding massive research into, never mind climate change, global skintness and multiple wars. Fibrous stimulus. Mmmm.

I'm now alternately hyperventilating about the ridiculous number of difficult things I need to make myself do, and petting my own right hand, which immediately conquers both stress and willpower. No good will come of this.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Yarn of Maximum Pinkness

I try to avoid the classic knitblog cat shots. I know I live in a grotty attic with three resident felines and a spinning wheel. I prefer to allow the rest of the world to imagine otherwise. Pong, however, has other ideas, and he will not be denied. The merest whisper of a camera lens and he's out menacing the wool.

I resolve to work round him.

I give up.

I put the precious yarn in what I deludedly believe is a place of safety.

I think calm thoughts of Newcastle.