Weblog (home)


Pattern of
the Month

On the Needles
(...and Off the Needles)



About the
Idle Hands

Category Entries for Crafts

« Previous entry | Main

Saturday July 7, 2018

Colourful Kit Bag


I've been neglecting weaving spinning and dying lately - I admit I went to a "Brioche" class last week which was interesting, and did make me think of redrafting my fisherman's rib hat in two colours in the future.... But apart from that, it's been far too hot to think about sweaters (and hats!).
What I have been involved in is making up a rather posher version of my Pattern of the Month for July. This bag (or the illustration of it) really "spoke" to me through the ages as it were, when I first found it in a 1940s magazine. As is often the case, the actual bag and the instructions were fairly rudimentary and I changed it quite a lot in the making. I am so delighted with the result - better than I ever expected since it involved working with leather - and just as well given the amount I spent on materials. [So much for the make do and mend ethos of the original bag!].

I did stick with the idea of using oddments I already had, but I used mostly chunky yarns so I did not have to work with the yarn doubled - which can be a bit of a nuisance when doing crochet, even though many old and new patterns seem to suggest it. As I selected my yarns based on colour, some of them were used double to achieve the thickness I wanted.
I used a 4mm hook with my chunky yarn, and worked in double crochet (American single crochet) in order to achieve a firmer fabric.

For the base, I used 2mm thick leather, which was tough to work but made up surprisingly well. I made the base to be an oval shape to suit the offcut of leather I had and I made rudimentary leather handles, plus a clip-on shoulder strap.

The only element I've so far failed to completely solve is the closure at the top - the bag will gape open when the shoulder strap is used - so still working on that, and nothing wholly satisfactory has presented itself yet.

Posted on July 7, 2018 at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday October 13, 2017

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace

At last Alison and I went to Alexandra Palace together and I had such a good time I failed to take any pictures!
I did actually buy stuff this year though - a few minor things on a "list" (shirring elastic) - and some spontaneous buys egged on by Alison. She bought a retro pattern with "French darts" - which turn out to be very flattering apparently. We saw the dress made up in "bark cloth" (all new terms to me - and I thought I knew everything!), and so she also bought some of that - and of course made her dress up at home the very next day...


These items were all sold by the Eternal Maker who are based in Chichester and seem pretty well known now.

I was seduced by a Danish company's pattern for a very simple coat and scarf - they persuaded me to have the pattern although the size was too large ("easily altered" they said - which rather made me think that in fact pretty easy to create the entire design without a pattern but not really what I wanted to do!). I bought fabric from Mr Rosenberg* (as I do every year..) and have been dreaming of the outfit with a Rowan pattern scarf ever since.
[* Mr Rosenberg engaged me in a jovial debate about how much fabric to buy - engaging his entire family in the discussion..... almost as if he knows I never buy enough...].

Posted on October 13, 2017 at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday August 12, 2017

Craft room update


Here is a "before" picture.
And here is a "after" picture.


I worked on the tiles throughout July - which despite being only 6 in number were harder than they appear - in fact I should have chosen the absolute reverse (mosaics) in order to better cater for the direction of the wall! Anyway they are done now - even though George is deeply upset at the way I chose to join them (ie wrongly...) but I am hoping he never has to look at them.
Now, as mentioned previously, we get to the even less appealing clearing out part.

Posted on August 12, 2017 at 7:43 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday August 11, 2017

Quilt show at the NEC


Here is my hero Kaffe at the NEC signing copies of his latest book Quilts in Ireland - hot off the press it seems. Fabulous colourful quilts, beautifully photographed on location.

I made the spontaneous decision to join my new friend Elaine at the Quilt show. She was all booked up well in advance with a train trip to get there (probably the best way) and also with a short workshop in the morning. So I joined her at lunchtime and we mooched through the exhibits together in the afternoon. I have not been to the quilt show since it ceased to be part of the Knitting and Stitching show - and it was pretty wonderful as usual. I would probably take issue with some of the awards - but then how do you judge when everything is so fantastic in its own right?

Anyway - I had a great day in good company - and I just hope I didn't distract Elaine too much from the serious business of viewing the quilts.


Above is Oriental Thoughts by Kim Ranns - my sort of design - one day I might try something like it (but smaller!).
And below is the winner of the category for Secondary Schools & Groups of Young Quilters. The theme is "free" and the quilters were from the Burgess Hill Girls school, where the girls attended a 30 minute lunchtime club each week to create the chickens.


Posted on August 11, 2017 at 11:07 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday July 28, 2017

Four shaft weaving II


Our final day.
These are the pictures of the class weavings. Sadly no group photo this year, even though I met some great people - and also met up with some people from last year who were at Cottenham on other courses. We did manage a group outing to a local artist's open house, followed by a meal in one of the many restaurants on offer in Mill Road.


On my way commuting to Cottenham, I passed these great metal sculptures every day, and today - my last opportunity - I stopped to take a photo. apparently they are the work of Tony Hillier, who, astonishingly does not sell his work but will undertake commissions for public places.


And tomorrow in a complete reprise of last year, I am meeting other Guild folk and some of my new weaving friends at Fibre East. [I must not buy a fleece... I must not buy a fleece...]

Posted on July 28, 2017 at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday July 27, 2017

Four shaft weaving I


Today it was time to "get weaving". Here is the loom - back and front - with the warp put to rights.


Posted on July 27, 2017 at 12:45 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday July 25, 2017

Dressing the loom


Having spent yesterday on general introductions and so on, today I got down to working on my loom. I prepared the "warp of many colours" on the frame and then transferred it to the loom.
The photo shows my warp threaded through the raddle. Only 2 "deliberate" mistakes here. One is I casually referred to my loom as having a 16 inch working width and it turns out it has only 15 - which meant my "ends per inch" calculation was all wrong and I had to redo the work with the raddle. The other is that I ended up with the warp wound on the front beam - which is a plausible method of working but was not my intention - so I had to transfer it.

The university has a "Shakespeare Festival" in July and August and I took the notion to go. I had not planned for it to be this evening but looking at the weather (which is lovely but unpredictably showery) I decided to rush off there and then to the Kings Fellows garden - clutching my picnic and an anorak - for "Much Ado about Nothing".
Such a treat.

Posted on July 25, 2017 at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday July 15, 2017

Another year another sock blank II


So here is the benefits of belonging to a Guild: you get a group effort to help you unravel your blank ready for knitting.

Or alternatively:
you are sitting peacefully knitting, surrounded by a comfortable tangle of yarn, when your friends descend on you and take over with frenzied activity - at the end of which you continue peacefully knitting, with 2 balls of wool which are firmly under control.

Posted on July 15, 2017 at 9:57 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday June 24, 2017

Woolfest - an extra day in Paradise


Due to a rather major misunderstanding - which I am not complaining so much about as it saved me a good deal of money in the long run - I booked myself an extra night in the hotel (lucky for me they had had a cancellation). So I had the whole day in which to look around in a more relaxed manner. In consequence I took in a few more demonstrations that normal.


While I am not interested in taking up tapestry weaving (laborious and too much like art as opposed to craft), if I were in any way undecided, this would have certainly inspired me to begin right away. The work produced by Eta and Nico (Woolley Wonders) is overwhelming. They incorporate unspun fleece (which may be applied as locks or whole chunks) dyed in the most scrumptious of colours - as well as other "found" materials such as shells. Just... lovely...

I also watched Steve Wilson demonstrating his speedy method of creating a warp, using a home-made kind of lazy kate on a rather large scale. He is obviously very creative and was very helpful in giving advice on making a similar device. He went down a storm with the audience of serious weavers - for myself I fell it might be a lot clearer to me after I attend my weaving course in July and learn more about warping.


Back at the hotel, I spent my evening with Nancy - an American academic with very liberal views (luckily) so it was very stimulating company for me - not to mention the knitting.... Last year it was all about Brexit, and this year all about the US president.

Posted on June 24, 2017 at 11:04 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday June 23, 2017


Guess where I am.
OK I'll give you a clue:


ok ok - so you read it in the title.... and here we are again! How I love being in Cumbria - and for once the weather is really lovely.

Today I spent the time shopping and watching the familiar Rare Breeds Parade. Peter Titley was as terrific as ever - and although I see this every year, it is always different as there are different animals in attendance. I think this was Terry - an Exmoor Horn.


There was a notice on Terry's pen stating: Terry is a lovely ram but may be a bit grumpy because of the weather.... All I can say is - can't we all be?

My shopping was a little lacklustre - basically I have all the fluff I can handle - but I loved the stalls and craftsmanship on display.


This chess set (above) really caught my eye - by Ellie Langley of Felt with Attitude.
And this collaborative wall hanging interested me as it it was inspired by the story of Guildford Blue, the town being known in middle ages for this fine woolen textile dyed with woad.


And just in case any of us gets overexcited in the fleece market - I noticed there is a handy place to calm down.


Posted on June 23, 2017 at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday May 1, 2017

Craft room


Here is a "before" picture. I have finally set about working on the next and hopefully final part of the craft room - after which I have the long task of actually clearing it out (!). However first things first. I have to complete the wallpapering (having finally decided to carry on with it along the full length of the walls), and do a little painting, after which the carpenters and plumber are due to install the sink.


Posted on May 1, 2017 at 8:10 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday March 17, 2017



We spent the day at Ditchling as George noticed the Craft museum there had an exhibition on natural dyeing around Ethel Mairet's legacy. It's a relatively small space - with small displays - but has a working remit to revive old crafts as part of a living museum, with dedicated work and library spaces. The workshops are not limited to dyeing, weaving, and knitting but other crafts - stemming from the Guild founded by Eric Gill, Hilary Pepler and Desmond Chute in the 1920s. This artistic community experimented with communal life and self-sufficiency and thus many artists were drawn to Ditchling. The Guild continued until 1989, at which time its affairs were wound up and its workshops demolished.
The museum itself was founded in 1985, but underwent a massive transformation from 2007, finally reopening in 2013 with much praise for its architectural design.

I was fascinated by the displays of weaving from the 1950s, including curtain designs and samples for the Festival Hall, and a cloak used in Ben Hur (with photos of Chuck himself sporting it in the film).


Ditchling has a great "tea room" where we had lunch; my sausage sandwich was so impressive that we followed directions to the farm to buy those very sausages to take home. The farm included a small collection of fancy fowl:


Next we went up (to) Ditchling Beacon (had to be done) where I managed to squeeze down an ice cream - purchased from an optimistic but lonely man in a van perched on the summit - and despite the bitingly cold wind.


Finally we went to see "Jack and Jill" - a pair of windmills which enjoyed a high profile reputation in my youth to the extent that whenever any windmill was on the horizon in Sussex, someone would say knowledgeably "that's Jack and Jill" (yes, even to solitary ones...). Disappointingly it (Jill) only opens on Sundays. You can see Jack (privately owned) in the distance minus his sails.


Posted on March 17, 2017 at 7:30 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday March 11, 2017



Each year at the Guild, we collect a charm. So I made them into a bracelet.

Posted on March 11, 2017 at 7:29 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 18, 2017

Another year another sock blank


This is meant to show everyone happily at work on their blanks - but it has turned out rather like forgetting to take a picture of the celebration dinner until after the food is is all eaten up! Below we have all the blanks drying in the sunshine - just to prove there really was a class.


Posted on February 18, 2017 at 5:04 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday February 5, 2017

It's all in the preparation....


As I have not touched the dyes since we did the last class - which turns out to be 5 years ago (!) - I dyed two blanks at home, using steaming to fix instead of a microwave. Last time we used pure merino, and so I also wanted to check out the 25% nylon blend. I used the dyes I had already mixed up from back then and astonishingly it all worked fine; some of the solutions had gone a little granular. [Nevertheless, I shall be mixing fresh dye for the class].


I took both blanks and knitted the start of a sample sock for demonstration purposes. What interested me mostly was that I thought I liked the blue blank the best. I thought I was getting tired once I got to do the red one and rather rushed it. However, for the resulting sock, I think the red one is much nicer. I think it is the very bright blue, and the way it interacts with the white that is the mistake in the colour combination.


Posted on February 5, 2017 at 6:53 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday January 28, 2017



So this was a treat I booked for myself - an afternoon of craft learning macrame - which I have longed to try ever since 1976. It's actually much simpler than I thought - in so far as, like knitting, you only have to learn 2 stitches and you know the whole thing (in theory!).
The class was very friendly - run by the London Craft Club in a space provided at the Museum of London - and this was the result (a small thing but mine own.... YES it is supposed to look like that...):


This was the 1970s magazine article that inspired me all those years ago, but sadly I had very little imagination at that time so failed to just go ahead and "do it".


I finished my excellent day by going out with a team of 5 fellow quizzers to a fish and chip supper and charity quiz run by the Tadworth Children's Trust.
We did not win... :o(

Posted on January 28, 2017 at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday November 24, 2016



Through some administrative error I seem to have unintentionally signed myself up for the Felted Art workshop with Mo Jackson. As it turned out, it was fun, and I quite liked what I produced - this little Santa, and a cushion cover intended for the red sofa in France.


At the end of the class we made "felted soaps" - which are a bit of an eccentric idea. However I was sufficiently smitten that I made entire sets of them for everyone for Christmas. I thought they would be of practical use and "consumables" - so you don't have to keep them forever - however I have noticed that they only really work if you use them every day and do not leave them to dry out.


Group photo of our fluffy creations:


Posted on November 24, 2016 at 4:03 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday October 1, 2016

Grand Stash Sale


This is our rather optimistic attempt at a stash sale. Unfortunately it was a really poor day from the perspective of the weather and we did not get many people through the doors. However I thought it went well enough and we all had fun - and we even sold some stuff. Even I - who went home with virtually all I came with (which you can see was quite some stash!) - managed to sell enough to cover the cost of my table.

Posted on October 1, 2016 at 3:33 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday July 29, 2016

End of Term


Well having been so focused all week it certainly felt like end of term. Here we all are on our final day.
I can thoroughly recommend this school to any one (who wants to do a class obviously); it is extremely well run, teaching, facilities, and catering were excellent ...and my comrades were very nice too which always helps.

Posted on July 29, 2016 at 2:51 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday July 25, 2016

Cottenham Summer School

Months ago I signed up for what has turned out to be the most wonderful course "Weaving on a Four Shaft Loom". Far too much to discuss but below is an album of photos of our work during the week.

Posted on July 25, 2016 at 8:41 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday June 24, 2016


My day at Woolfest was heavily overshadowed by the result of the EU referendum. I think the country is left a little stunned (those on both sides of the argument). It made the purchase of fluff seem a little irrelevant.

However I bravely knuckled down to shopping and ... among other things... I made a purchase of a delightful ceramic sheep. It is lovely but more astonishingly, I showed the sheep via Facetime on the iPad to my friend in the US in the evening and just on the basis of that, on that very day, she went immediately to her pottery class and made copy and sent me a picture of it in the drying room.


The original was on Sarah McCaig's stand as a Woolly Jumper kit (just add wool). However the actual ceramic work is from Clare Farley of Pinfold Pottery

I hope the designers will forgive the plagiarism - and regard it as the best form of flattery - as it's for her own use only and she will not be attempting to go into business on the back of it - but it is a really charming design - so if you want one of your own use the links to Pinfold Pottery

I also dithered a lot over a "hatbox" wheel which the Threshing Barn had on offer. It was brand new as it seems Louet did a new limited edition run of them. I could not bring myself to make a decision though. Similarly I drooled a bit over a wool picker but as I am not a commercial preparer of fleece I can't practically think of spending that kind of money.

Posted on June 24, 2016 at 11:40 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday June 9, 2016

The final variation on the theme

Here is the final colourway evolved from Kaffe KAL 2014. Its a simple granny square version using the sets of 4 colours originally specified for each square - but I have reversed the colour order within the squares on some pieces and also randomised the layout. I also made some mistakes in the colour combinations on some squares which I left "in" the design.
It's resulted in a very colourful blanket - smaller than the original knitted versions as each square is smaller; I could have increased the size of the squares with extra rounds but I preferred the balance as it is.

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 9:49 AM


So you knitted Kaffe's patterm, with different yarn, different colors, and different placements! Excellent. Tee hee

Posted by: Alison on June 28, 2016 5:48 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday April 24, 2016

Variations on a theme

It's always the dilemma ..... you are either "doing" or writing about it - and it's always so much better to be "doing".
So what have I been up to that has kept me so quiet?

I decided at the beginning of last year that I wanted to make the Kaffe KAL 2014 striped blankets in each colourway. However I discovered while making the cushion, that although I loved the design of his finished blankets, I did not enjoy the construction technique at all. So I decided to make variations using Kaffe's colour schemes, (he always knows best...!) but not his pattern. This project has been long in the planning and after a year I have completed two blankets (alongside other projects I admit).

The first blanket I made in the red colour scheme (above) and the second in the blue (below). For more detail on the construction see the Knitalong section.

The pastel blanket is still underway in the original design and the brown one (I made the brown cushion as part of the KAL), is a granny square crochet design.

Posted on April 24, 2016 at 8:18 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday March 28, 2016



Why do I look so smug?
Well - I am wearing the scarf that I wove on the loom I was given for Christmas... And I am pretty pleased with it. It seems that my choice of wool - a slightly stretchy bouclé - was luckier than I thought in that it hides a multitude of sins, and the result looks as good as I might ever hope to make!



Posted on March 28, 2016 at 2:59 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday January 8, 2016

More Christmas Furbelows


So here is my January "Home Made Christmas" - making a few extra items for next year - as there is never any time to play in the run-up to the festive season.

I saw a lovely fun banner saying FALALALA! on WIT's website - she did say it was not available at the time but in fact I did find a source for it - but by then I had decided to make one myself!

This was not really a good decision even though I had a lot of fun. It involved a lot of techniques (specifically glueing glitter!) that I have not tried much before. Technology has moved on but I still ended up with glitter appearing everywhere - in and out of the house - long after I had "completely" cleared up. [At at £1 per letter, it also cost me a lot more than just buying the banner would have done - but where's the fun in that?]

I had some left over lower case letters - so I also made another banner in bright red saying "joy". For FALALALALA I painted the letters in white emulsion paint (not so good a decision), and glued gold to the top surface and white ("snow" glitter) on the sides. For JOY, I used an undercoat of a red stain and then 2 coats of "glitter glue" - which has produced a nice effect - and less mess. I think glitter glue would work best making fine lines of glitter on cards etc - less adapted for large flat surfaces.

And finally - Alison sent me this lovely picture of a previous year's furbelows in the perfect setting at her "cabin in the woods".


Posted on January 8, 2016 at 8:12 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday December 25, 2015


Here the final review of my "New Year list"
It may seem like the idea was a failure (ie they are not all ticked off) - but it works for me. They are all now, either not started or actually in progress/complete, as opposed to hibernating half done quietly in a bag.

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover - Completed two sections of base cover.
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (not started)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (not started)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses, bathing machine, baby hearts - all complete
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started and completed in January) - complete
  • It is with some relief that I can say I have seen off the last of my self-patterning sock yarns.
    All complete .

My <cough> completed unscheduled items are....
[There were babies .... what could I do but knit for them?]

Also - I did make a small commitment to myself to make more "things" and fewer sweaters this year and I think the list really reflects that in the blankets, Christmas baubles, and chair cover, so I feel quite satisfied that I seem to have carried that through.
And as for the coming year - I do hope to get on with (and finish) these projects just the same. However, I now have new diversions to play with - I was given a rigid heddle loom for Christmas.... need I say more?


[Yes, it is stash wool!]

Posted on December 25, 2015 at 9:09 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday October 11, 2015

Yet More Tweed....


It seems I just can't help myself when it comes to all things tweed. In my defence George has been nagging me to make him a bag to hold the laptop accessories which do not fit in the laptop case, nor the "half bag" in which it fits. I told him for over a year that this was impossible as I had no tweed left and his "brilliant" idea of sticking it to the beautiful items I have already made by using Velcro made me shudder with horror - so there we left it.

However, I discovered I did in fact have a small patch of tweed left which was quite literally just big enough to make something - I had to attach it to a backing as there was no room for any turnings - and the sides had to be leather. My chosen method of attachment to the body of his other bag is using leather buttons. This is more or less a permanent attachment as the buttons are really hard to get through the buttonholes. (Bound buttonholes in a loose tweed fabric are a step too far - which is presumably why you do not see them on tweed jackets..).

And speaking of tweed jackets - as another gift I purchased a "vintage" (or rather more bluntly "second hand") Harris Tweed jacket from eBay. It was well maintained by the previous owner so I just had to press it, mend the lining a little and I chose to replace the buttons with leather ones.
I was not sure he would like it but it proved to be a surprising hit - fitted him really well. [Even more flatteringly he asked if I had made it - bless!]


Posted on October 11, 2015 at 8:44 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday October 8, 2015

Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace


Only a view of the lovely autumn colours in the park this year. The show itself seemed to lack lustre - I can't put my finger on why - there seemed to be a good choice of products and vendors, and the Guilds were there - just lacked the energy and excitement of previous visits. I did think that perhaps this was because it's the first time I went without Sheila, but it seems there are a lot of similar comments on Ravelry.
[And I bought nothing - really nothing...]

Posted on October 8, 2015 at 8:27 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday September 29, 2015


Checking my New Year Resolutions on the quarter-day may or may not be spurring me on to complete some long-forgotten projects but ... here's the progress. .

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover - Completed one side of base cover
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses, bathing machine, baby hearts - all complete
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started and completed in January) - complete
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....).
    Some complete - final ball "Pacific Ocean" one sock - half complete.

I just can't resist those <cough> unscheduled projects....

Posted on September 29, 2015 at 6:39 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday August 24, 2015

Cleaning and Creativity


Apparently not much happened this month - mostly because I was doing rather than writing about it.

I finally finished off an "artisan" mirror to match the tiling in our new French bathroom. This project turned out to be an incredible palava - reminding me yet again of my Father's quote "you do like to enjoy yourself don't you?". I bought a reduced price beaten up mirror from B&Q - and then proceeded to beat it up even more. It already had the basic structure I wanted, being inset, and framed with a plain white surround. I removed the latter to replace with mosaic tiles - I then had to route out the surround further to accommodate the depth of the tiles, repair the wood to make up for my very poor routing (!), cut the mosaics to make them fit the shape, stick the tiles down with two types of glue, paint the frame a dark brown to match the bathroom, and finally grout the tiles.... I then had to repaint the surround as the grouting process pulled off the paint.... the whole project has been plagued with so many similar small difficulties that I should not have been surprised by any of this.
I have now created a mirror which is so heavy that I am not even sure how to fix it to the wall as the frame is not robust enough to support the increased weight. I feel with the cost of the mosaic panel and the epoxy glue, I would have done better to start from scratch...

In addition, a lot of August was taken up with preparing for the rebuild (or new build) of our utility area on the side of the house. George has managed a lot of the reorganisation on his own, and as of the day we left for France, we had no hot water or central heating , and our washing machine is resident outside the front door of the house, (a very attractive feature), in the hope that during the 10 week build we can use it in that position.

Spurred on by all this activity (and an apparent moth infestation) I cleared out a lot of old clothes and cleaned and sprayed the bedroom. I took the opportunity to install new blinds and curtains - with 5 double windows in the room that took a lot of time and effort, even though it was a budget solution from IKEA.

After all this there is a plus side - by October we will at last have a proper weather-proof room to the side of the house instead of the shack of the last 15 years. The kitchen and bathroom in France are to all intents and purposes up and running - even with lots of finishing detail still to be done inside - and the outside rendering needs to get going while there is still a chance if some good weather (as I sit here the rain is beating against the window...). However we have tried out both dishwasher and washing machine, the cooker is back in position, and we have moved our "stuff" back in - leaving loads of scope for yet more cleaning in the living room (groan...).

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 9:21 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday July 18, 2015

Crochet with beads


We were lucky enough to have Jane Crowfoot teaching a crochet workshop today. We were supplied with a pincushion project to teach techniques, and most of us managed to finish in the day. [I have put a stone inside mine to use as a paperweight - much too nice for a pincushion]



Posted on July 18, 2015 at 6:57 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday June 27, 2015

Woolfest 2015

Woolfest2015-4.jpg Woolfest2015-1.jpg Woolfest2015-2.jpg Woolfest2015-1.jpg
Woolfest2015-2.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg Woolfest2015-4.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg
Woolfest2015-4.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg Woolfest2015-3.jpg Woolfest2015-4.jpg

Posted on June 27, 2015 at 1:49 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Wednesday June 24, 2015


Here again my little New Year list - checking off progress on the quarter-day:

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover - now started as of May but wool resident in France
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses, bathing machine, baby hearts - all complete
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started and completed in January) - complete
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....)

My <cough> completed unscheduled items are....

Posted on June 24, 2015 at 6:39 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday April 18, 2015

Mug Hugs


Our workshop with Fiona Morris (Distance Knitting) was to make Mug Hugs - which I felt quite neutral about previously but having tried using mine I now feel quite hostile towards them. But that is an aside - the whole point was to knit something small in the round and then make a steek for the handle - and thus learn the technique.

We all finished (more or less!) in the day and marshalled our little army for the photo

Posted on April 18, 2015 at 6:15 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday April 3, 2015

Bathing Machine Blanket


I actually "started" this self-warping pin loom blanket in 2013 when I made the first squares for a cushion backing. I love this colour (Blanket Blue) - but I had only enough at the time for a few squares, and ever since I looked for more of the colour on eBay, and met with with great success.** So I took up the project again and finally completed the blanket.

I had the idea right from the start that I wanted it in only blue and white, which is fine if you want a chequerboard of plain squares. I thought I could do some sort of checked weave but that is difficult with the self-warping technique. On my other blankets where I wanted to achieve a mixture, I was obliged to use crochet for the alternate squares. So ... I experimented by simply alternating strands of the two colours, and the resulting pattern is great - but not at all what I expected! It clearly results from the technique but no idea of the maths to explain it.
Anyway - I love it.


For the edging I wanted a barber's pole effect and could not see how to do this with an iCord, so I used the normal technique to create a knitted bias striped strip, joining it only on one side as I knitted, and then folding it over and sewing it in place on the other side. I actually liked the wide flat striped edging quite a lot without sewing it into a binding, but I did not want the blanket to have a right and a wrong side so I had to forego the wider edge.


The name I am using is a little odd for a blanket but the stripes remind me of Victorian bathing costumes - or children's stockings in that era - and the old photos of the ladies in their bathing machines being wheeled to the edge of the sea to bathe in some kind of privacy.


** I think I can fairly say I am now swamped with vintage Sirdar Peru in all colours - I love the yarn and it suits my pin loom very well.

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 9:59 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Wednesday March 25, 2015

Lady Day

Here again my little New Year list - checking off progress on the quarter-day:

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover (I have already invested in the wool in pistachio green but not started)
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru) - tudor roses - complete, bathing machine, baby hearts
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started a couple of days ago) - complete
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....)

I may have <cough> completed a couple of other unscheduled items along the way....

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 6:29 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday February 15, 2015

Pin loom weaving


Ever since using the self-warping pin looms so successfully last year, I have been keen to try using the "weave-it" technique even though it's nothing like as quick as the self warping method.

The looms have a slightly different pin layout - but I found the book Pin Loom Weaving by Margaret Stump in the library. It has good instructions as to how to make the looms as well as a number of projects (including some things you never knew you needed like a useful cover for a usb stick etc). However, I was able to swiftly put together a rather crude loom from wood rejected during my manufacture of the original pin looms, and was pretty quickly making a fancy weave-it design from the book.
I used "veneer" nails for the pins but really they are not good enough having rough edges and heads which snag the wool, and they rubbed off black tooling marks on my first attempts. I am having such fun with the loom that I even looked to purchase a better quality one - but the options for that seem rather limited. Putting more effort into making a better quality item might be the optimum choice - and I have yet to settle on a good weaving tool. Long "mattress" needles are available (used in making bears), but these would need to have the points blunted as they are truly needles intended for piercing. My ideal would be a 6 inch locker hook rug tool but much thinner than those which seem to be freely available for purchase.

This is very satisfying craft work - but I still somehow find myself left with the fundamental problem of how you can use lots of little squares - other than blankets or covers.
It's worth noting that it takes me about 40 minutes to make a square like this as opposed to 10 minutes using the self warping technique. However there are many more options for interesting weaving patterns.

[Everyone destined to get fancy-weave usb covers next Christmas...].

Posted on February 15, 2015 at 12:40 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday January 5, 2015

Christmas Furbelows


I spent a lot of time adapting some lettering from from the Debbie Bliss magazine No 5 for Winter 2010 - they originally spelled out HOME, so I had to adapt the E and make up the N.

I then found that all along I had a pattern for "noel" (albeit rather different and very much smaller in size) again by Debbie Bliss but this time from the book "The Knitter's Year". I really like these softer coloured lower-case letters so I thought I would make some for my sister and perhaps a set for myself (for next Christmas!).

My original idea was to cover some papier maché lettering that I bought in Hobbycraft with the knitted fabric but this proved impossible. I like these letters though, so I covered them in fabric and attached ribbon to make (future) tree decorations.


[...and thus already one off my New Year List - see previous entry]

Posted on January 5, 2015 at 8:10 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday January 2, 2015

New Year List

I am starting the new year with a lot of pleasing projects in mind. Some of them are finishing "old" projects - on which I have already made a good start. And of course some of them you might ask why finish when they are obviously long past their sell-by date; but many things I never meant to abandon and still have an appetite for - so better finished than in a bag gathering dust.

Here is my little New Year list - it's a statement of intent which I can use a the proverbial stick with which to beat myself as the year goes on:

  • Erika Knight's Aran chair cover (I have already invested in the wool in pistachio green)
  • My own design for a tapestry picture to upholster a workbox (started in 2002)
  • noel letters for next Christmas (started a couple of days ago)
  • Bright blue man's guernsey (wonderful yarn sitting waiting)
  • Turquoise Kim Hargreaves sweater for me (Rowan Calmer patiently waiting)
  • Pin loom woven/crochet blanket for gifts (dipping into ever growing vintage collection of Sirdar Peru)
  • Many many socks for my relatives (I have a lot of sock yarn.... some of it is even rather nice....)

And I have also already started on the long road to making my "studio" (prétensieuse? - oui c'est moi) usable once more. I am really pleased with the result so far - maybe some photos later.

Posted on January 2, 2015 at 6:59 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday December 20, 2014

More Tweed


When I attended the conference in Dublin they gave me a free canvas bag. Although I don't need a bag and it was the quality you might expect of a freebie (functional but not lovely), I was very taken with it. It consisted of a slightly padded nylon zip cover for a laptop which fitted into a matching "half bag" with handles.

So then of course I got to thinking..... how nice it would be to make a "half bag" to match the tweed laptop cover I made for George last year. So I contacted "Tilly Tree Mouse" again to see if she had any of the same patterned tweed left and to my delight she was able to find and supply me with some remnants which, though small, I was able to use to piece the bag together due to its construction partially in leather. I was able to find the same lining fabric from the Quilt Room - and I bought some leather strapping from "leather4craft" having been such a helpful supplier during my travellers notebook enterprises.

The result is really pleasing. I was expecting it to be really difficult, based on how hard it was to make the laptop cover, and plus the fact that it involved sewing leather in difficult shapes. But it was much easier and the leather work was not so much of a problem. [Except when I tried to apply another monogram - sigh...]

Posted on December 20, 2014 at 3:30 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday October 23, 2014

Gaudy handspun

I finally got round to spinning the hand-dyed fleece I bought in Lewes almost exactly a year ago. It was slightly matted, as is hard to avoid when hand dying delicate fibres, so I teased it out a bit, and spun it using the Herring wheel (for the first time really in anger). It worked out pretty well and I chain plied it to keep the colour sequence, making a 3 ply - which seems to be a DK of sorts.
This has since turned into a tiny but very striking capelet or neck scarf.


Back in July, I also spun the purple roving I bought at Woolfest (on my Wee Peggy) and by August had knitted another "Stellaria". This was all a bit of a blur and I find it hard to remember that I did it all this summer - I was a bit preoccupied with other stuff - but here's the evidence:


Posted on October 23, 2014 at 9:50 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday October 7, 2014

Traveller's Notes

Not sure how this started but during the summer I became very interested in the idea of Midori Travellers Notebooks and watched lots of You tube explanations of how you can make similar booklets yourself.
I then found "Ray" and My Life In One Place... and never looked back.
Ray really has his roots in project/time management - he has published a couple of helpful books on journalling etc which are well worth the small investment. However he has a stack of information and free downloads on his site for making your own inserts for a host of different booklet formats (much of it Filofax as well as Midori and Field Notebooks). His latest Midori inserts are for knitting and music.

I made small format booklets for everyone this year - no idea if they will be useful but it was a fun project. Above is the rather pleasing version for Deborah, and below is Helen's - George had one in black, Rob in grey, Alison in dark olive.


The pieces of leather were from a great supplier ("Steve") on the south coast - great in terms of customer service, product quality, and reasonable prices all for small quantities of leather (around 2mm thick) such as I needed. He is also obviously clear on the requirement for potential Midori and notebook makers and has "kits" precut to the various size formats. You can see his wares on eBay (leather4craft) or at his website.

I did try to monogram each of them with a leather punch - a steep learning curve and by no means mastered yet. "It's harder than it seems". Luckily some of the recipients realise this. I think having your items monogrammed is very "smart" but having them monogrammed in wobbly letters is something else entirely.

Of course, I made my own small format notebook (similar to Helen's) and was initially cautious in my enthusiasm wondering if or when the novelty would wear off - but I have found it extremely useful and am keeping up with it quite well. I have implemented the monthly planner system (basically - a diary... but it's the way you use it that counts!). I do find the same observations still apply as when we all did the Time Manager courses in the 1980s (forerunner to the hand-held organiser ...) - fundamentally it works best when you are not too busy - when you get busy you do not have time to organise - always a mistake of course but nonetheless true. So it does not give you extra time back but it does help you use what you have more effectively.

It is Ray himself that has won me over though - his enthusiasm and love of the subject is totally charming whether he is managing time or working with leather, and his generosity in sharing his work and knowledge is much appreciated by his followers.

Posted on October 7, 2014 at 11:18 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday July 20, 2014

Martin Storey's Mystery Afghan Knitalong


For some reason this Rowan knitalong appealed to me so I duly started on the Thursday before Easter and here we are 10 weeks later - or whatever - and the blanket is complete. The blanket should be made in Rowan Pure Wool Worsted - which would be nicer than my choice which was to use "oddments" from my attic. This was not a cost cutting exercise but an attempt to make good use of yarn that I seem to have collected a lot of over the years. However the problem with oddments is that you never have enough of the right shades; so I spent a good deal of time stripping out plies and combining yarns to make the thickness I wanted in the colours I wanted. In two cases I altered the pattern (number of stitches) slightly to make the squares come out to the right size. The blanket is not pure wool but I have tried to make every square with some plies of synthetic and wool in it.

You can read more on the detail here.

I intentionally never went to view the intended yarn and colours as I knew that if I saw the Rowan yarn there was a good chance I would convince myself to buy it and that was not the idea. So I tried to match as best I could from the illustrations on the internet. I am very pleased with the result even though I know that in some cases I have substituted a colour (too many subtle shades of brown for me to match). I cracked over two colours: one was the raspberry pink - I have a number of pinks in my collection but not enough to really get enough contrast in 3 pinks - I purchased some new acrylic yarn in "Raspberry"; the other was the mustard colour for the edging - I had some mustard 4 ply but not enough - I purchased some vintage Sirdar Fontein Crepe 4ply in a deeply unappealing mustard colour and enhanced it with my 4 ply*.

In any event, the resulting blanket looks a little odd - or should I say unusual - and I think my attempt is as good as any. I did follow Martin's layout scheme, which I think is very cleverly done, (as you'd expect - he's a designer!).

* I bought this from one of my favourite vendors at Woolfest. Her stall is devoted to vintage craft equipment - looks like my own work room - nostalgic rather than cute - I love it.

Posted on July 20, 2014 at 3:27 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday March 23, 2014

Paying the piper


Fired with enthusiasm by the progress in France, I decided after only 7 years (or is it 8?!) to repair the damage to my work room dating from when the plumber did the alterations to our bathroom. My first act was to screw down the base flooring - using the holes the screws previously came out of.
And from that point on it turned into something like a ditty by Flanders and Swan .... or the fable about a small Dutch boy and the dyke.... you get the idea.

Anyway - as the song says - on the Monday morning the plumber came back.... and I am pleased to report that with a lot of fiddling about I managed to sand off glue, discard broken pieces of laminate, and the floor is finally properly down. Photos of this another time, as although I am now able to use my office again, we have quite a way to go in reclaiming the room.

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 4:25 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday March 13, 2014



As an experiment to see how I felt, I spent my day off at the Knitting and Stitching Show. I thought if I went to a different venue without Sheila then it might not be so bad. On that score, I can't say it worked out too well. However, I knitted my sock on the train, and saw some arty quilts. I'm not keen on picture quilts but there seemed to be a seaside theme which redeemed them in my eyes.


I also spotted one of those delightful relics of former railway splendour at Clapham Junction - a part that they have failed to mess up with modernisation. To be fair I think it was in the process of renovation rather than demolition and I am not sure how old it is - but wonderful in its shabby state.


Posted on March 13, 2014 at 1:08 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday February 23, 2014



I finally finished sewing up the Orkney cardigan - I am delighted with it - but not so much with my figure inside it - it's really quite tight. I am hoping this is the heaviest I will ever be and that I can look forward to a slimmer me so it might not be such a squeeze in the longer term....

Posted on February 23, 2014 at 11:43 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday January 13, 2014

Out with the old....

Rowan55.jpg Rowan have published their summer magazine - it's so lovely to see fresh summery things on cold dreary days. Not just the promise of new knitwear but of sunny summer days to look forward to as well.

For me, it's a bit of a disaster as they have a huge number of patterns with stripes - all of which I long, not just to knit, but to wear.....

They currently seem to be going with a format for the magazines of 3 "themes", which are all a bit pretentious I think, (though when you see the collections you can see what they are getting at). It amuses me that I (usually) clearly dismiss one or other of the themes out of hand without quite realising that is what I am doing - mostly, as in this case, either too weird or too wishy washy (neutrals don't suit me so well). However, the ones that I like in this magazine are just perfect in every way.... stripey....


...and arty....


So - as I seem to have carried 11 projects over from last year (an all-time record since I have been keeping track - though nothing quite beats "Foolish Virgins" - on the needles since 1992...) I have resolved to make some headway with project completion before buying any more wool. Or to be more precise, before starting any more projects - I'm afraid I have already purchased a good deal of sale wool in the past month or so - so much wonderful stuff at budget prices from Black Sheep Wools.
This resolution is not going too badly so far, as I have already completely two out of the 11, with 2 more soon to follow. Not sure how many have to be done and dusted before I can start on those summer stripes!

Boardwalk Wharf Sailor Promenade Alma Bliss Dia Madia

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 7:01 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday December 16, 2013



Heaven knows why - since it was not true - I thought it would be easy to make a laptop cover for George for Christmas. Many weird and wonderful lateral thoughts later I managed to produce something quite nice.


I bought the lovely tweed for it (50cmx75cm) from tillytreemousetrading2003 on eBay. I cannot get a good picture of the true beauty of the subtle tweed colours in this weave; it is much brighter than the sombre palette reveals to the camera.


This more dramatic Harris tweed was from Braehead Woollen Merchants who were most helpful and whom I would also recommend without reservation. I made 2 bags from 1m.

For the trimming I used what is described as "recycled leather" (which it is) on eBay, - and you do indeed have the comfort of knowing that it is, as stated, with a full description of the processing. However the treatment to make the material does make it look like very high quality PU leather - but - I am so glad I made this choice. It is robust stuff which is very easy to work with - sewing through multiple thicknesses with only a hardy leather needle on my normal sewing machine; plus, it is sold by the metre, meaning there's no need to cut around any flaws. **


I do like bright or unexpected colours and patterns to line my bags, and I purchased these from the Quilt Room in Dorking.

For Helen's bag I added a special (38mm) button from the Textile Garden as a decoration.


** I was sufficiently taken with this "recycled leather" product that I also made some replacement items for "bargain" bag purchases - a clip-on optional shoulder strap for an Esprit bag, and a strange little (missing) flap closure for an AllSaints bag.

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 12:20 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday November 29, 2013

Nonsuch Craft Fair


I went to Bourne Hall to see the Nonsuch group's items for sale - and came back with some redcurrant jelly, and a couple more little (cat) items from the clay artist who supplied me with the pixies last October.

Posted on November 29, 2013 at 3:37 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday October 19, 2013

Creative Fibres Open Day


Janice took some photos of me (with my lovely blanket), demonstrating Pin Looms.
And below - just to prove we have men.


But mostly us ladies of a certain age...


Posted on October 19, 2013 at 11:42 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday October 12, 2013

Tadworth Craft Fair


Once again the local crafters impressed me hugely with the quality of their work for sale. I finally succumbed and bought these little beauties - pictured above masquerading as garden gnomes - and although gnomes seem to be fashionable again I think these are somewhat more interesting (though I am probably missing the point of exactly why gnomes are fashionable at the moment). However even if this sort of thing is not to your taste, you can see the quality of the artist behind them - and if you would like contact details then email me using the side buttons. [She also makes commemorative plates and objects on commission].

In addition I bought what were intended as garden dibbers from the wood turner - far too beautiful for that purpose though I intend to give one to George for Christmas. The second one I am keeping for myself to use as a nostepinne. I explained what the latter are to the vendor and suggested that he advertise his product with potential for both purposes. Even though I doubt he will have a queue a mile long for nostepinne, it does broaden the market by about a millimetre.


Posted on October 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday September 21, 2013

More More buttons


Much the same as the last class - except this time I got to make buttons too!


Posted on September 21, 2013 at 8:16 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday August 17, 2013

More buttons


Felicity ran another (different) workshop for the Guild on making buttons - in fact she is so oversubscribed we are having to run another one next month.


One of the types (made using a similar sausage techniques to that which we used last time) produces imitation wooden buttons - which, as we observed, can look more like wood than wood itself. (More wood fakery).


Two new techniques were making buttons using air-drying clay painted with an acrylic varnish, and making resin buttons. Felicity brought Adam along (a trained chemist) to manage the two-part resin. They had to compromise on the resin they used as they needed it to be dry within a couple of hours in order to suit the workshop environment. This had several effects - one of which was that Adam was torn between saying: "don't panic - just pour slowly and carefully into the moulds" and: "hurry up...it's all setting...". Another effect is that there were a lot of bubbles caught in the button, which does not have to be the case with a slower setting material; the latter might be easier to handle if one were doing it at home.

Posted on August 17, 2013 at 4:29 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday July 16, 2013

Kitchen Chairs

I bought four chairs in the 1980s which were very second hand even then. So... I've had them a mere 20 years (and we've been using - at least 3 of - them in their sad dilapidated state all that time) and I decided it was finally time to do the long-planned renovation.


Although they are bentwood chairs, they are modern - originally made with seats of plastic cane sheeting. cut and glued in across a frame. When I bought them, they had some water damage, and the cane had been cut away and replaced with thin ply-wood circles, first covered in a white sateen fabric and then covered again with a floral PVC fabric. About 10 years ago, I started work on one of the chairs - removing the seat, and sanding off varnish and re-staining it - but it was very hard and the result was not satisfactory. I checked out professional paint stripping - only to be assured that it does not work on modern "plastic" based varnishes - which explains why I had so many problems. Thus - a hiatus: I had trouble adjusting to the fact that they would have to be painted.

I realised what was stopping me "just getting on with it" was the unwillingness to abandon the natural wood, or settle on a paint colour, and finally having identified the issue, I overcame it. I spent some happy time rubbing down the wood, routing out a base for the seats (removing all the remnants of cane and glue), making new seat bases in MDF, and putting in dowl pegs to hold them in place. I chose Habitat paint (in Beetroot) and John Lewis fabric to match.


They look great.


I started out on this whole project by sanding and waxing/revarnishing the surface of my Habitat pine kitchen table (1970s) which was also in a pretty poor state - now lovely (and still natural wood). All that is left to think about now is that the chair fabric is not "wipe clean" and may not be up to kitchen wear and tear - I am planning to try out HeatnBond Iron-On Vinyl - if I can make it work!

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 1:22 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday June 29, 2013



When I got home I had a surprise parcel waiting for me with a delightful cotton top Alison has knitted for me. I had to put it on immediately of course - and it looks great I think.
It's the Regatta Tee by Olga Casey.

Posted on June 29, 2013 at 6:34 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday May 12, 2013

MayDaysArtsTrail 2013


We spent the day on Hayling Island - we had a great lunch at the Olive Leaf pub and restaurant, and made a brief foray out on to the beach - but it was a bit too bracing to stay long - or even "at all"!

The main reason we were there was to see Lou's open house. She had a lot of her "students" work on show this year - including a memorial room dedicated to Sheila's work - from which you can gather that Sheila is no longer with us. Since I still find it rather hard to believe, let alone accept, I can't really say much more than to let her work speak for itself.





Posted on May 12, 2013 at 5:53 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday December 23, 2012



So I was really pleased to get these Goebel elephant salt and pepper shakers for a real snip on eBay. I could not understand why no-one else bid - then I found out why when they had arrived. One elephant was damaged - all above board and detailed very clearly by the seller - I just had not looked.

They were a bit grimy, so first I cleaned them up. Then I soaked the broken elephant in water for 24 hours in order to get his trunk off again so I could effect a better repair. This took some doing and I found the trunk had been repaired more than once I am guessing. First with a filler (probably milliput which is what I was intending to use) and then I presume over time it fell off again and contact adhesive was used and created a very unpleasant repair.

Milliput is not ideal for sticking two surfaces together, but is good for modelling missing parts - so I persevered with it. Having created some sort of bond, I let it cure and touched it in with black acrylic.

In the end, the repair proved better than I thought.
As I was trying to exactly position the trunk (pointing down as I received it) I noticed that the paint pattern did not match. I moved it around until it did match, but found the trunk was then at a very strange three-quarter angle. Now I have never seen any of these shakers before, so I did a lot of image searching on the web until I found some originals to show me how they really should look - and the trunk really is at the very strange angle. My conclusion is that they are made to link together - and a very jolly pair they make.


Sheila has a thing for elephants, so I plan to give them to her, with the warning that they are for display only - and never to breath on them too heavily.

Posted on December 23, 2012 at 3:33 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday October 23, 2012

Dyeing at the cabin

Hurrah! Here I am at long last after a year of anticipation visiting Alison - currently at her "cabin in the woods" prior to travelling to SOAR in Granlibakken. We came here to do some dyeing well away from children and her new kitchen work-surfaces.


A great start on the week of fun - though surprisingly tiring - and boy is it cold here. To everyone's amazement, (as I arrived in San Francisco last Friday and it was hot and sunny), they were predicting snow at Tahoe this week. Sure enough, when we woke at the cabin this morning, everything was covered in a layer of snow. The route we had planned to take to Tahoe across the mountains is closed so we are taking the main roads on the long way round tomorrow.


We made quite a day of it, mixing up all the dyes (far too much!) and colouring 3 sock blanks and several types of fleece, including some silk and merino. (Note the Nordic Cushions just visible in the background).
We finished the day spinning and watching sentimental children's movies in the shape of Pollyanna (not the Disney version with Hayley Mills 1960 but the TV movie from 2003) and Ballet Shoes (also a TV movie from 2007). Both of these are British productions, where Polyanna, in an interesting departure from the norm, relocates the American story to an English location (the Lake District - so the backdrop scenery is particularly beautiful as well). I always thought they did a very good job of this movie, though a real flavour of the American manners and society still seeps through somehow, seeming not quite right for even rural Victorian England; this isn't a detractor though - thoroughly charming.

Posted on October 23, 2012 at 8:16 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday October 12, 2012

Alexandra Palace 2012

The main entrance exhibit at the Knitting and Stitching Show this year was dedicated to the "unfinishable" projects. Everyone has them but the underlying concept here was an interesting one: some are just in hibernation - but there are some projects that will be kept in their unfinished form with the full knowledge or even plan that they will never be finished.

The tent exterior was alive with colourful collage panels of unfinished samples.

Whilst the interior had panels in shades of white as if the colour had all bled away, creating a contemplative dream-like quality.

There was a tiny round seat in the centre - where you could sit and resolve to finish all such projects.
[Note to self: Foolish Virgins].

Once in the the show itself, there was many other wonderful and inspriting projects as usual. The knitted village was delightful - I have snapped only part of it, but I love this depiction of the shop as it was just as in the village where I was born, where the greengrocer grew many of the vegetables himself in a very orderly garden out the back.

The artistic display Jabberwocky by Ann Small and Sue Walton was absolutely lovely.

And the display in the concourse was simply beautiful. The North East Embroiderers’ Guild created more than 80 pieces of work on the theme Mining a Golden Seam to show the mining heritage of the region and its geology and resources. I was particularly taken with one major canvas and yet am ashamed to say I had to have it explained to me by a fellow visitor alongside me; ashamed because I am such an ignorant Southerner when it comes to mining, where to someone from the region this is simply commonplace.

Posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:02 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday September 30, 2012

Brilliant Bags


I made this lovely little hand-quilted purse from left-over Amy Butler fabric, which I used to line another bag (see below). It was meant to be a much smaller purse to fit into the bag but I had some difficulty finding just the perfect frame, and while looking came across these lovely retro frames, which I just had to have. I still had a purse in mind, though these are really evening/cosmetic bag sized, until the last minute when I decided to use up all the left over fabric and make a bag for a spindle. (Yes, I know it looks like a spectacle case but that's because you can't see the scale.)
I have also bought a frame with red clips, and so now I am planning another spindle case - maybe felted fair-isle knitted fabric - as I have so many spindle projects that could potentially to live in cases....
I've little experience with bag construction, but from this one, I think the top should be more gathered to better fit this type of frame, (I had little choice here as I was limited to my remnant), and the side slits should be a little deeper. The bag is a bit too stretched when opening it. Other than that - I really do favour clip closures over zips for knitting or fibre - so ... perfect.

I also completed the original bag with its lining. This is really Felicity's bag. She crocheted most of it and then lost interest, so I have finished it off, and added handles and lining.


Posted on September 30, 2012 at 10:07 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday September 15, 2012

Never Ending Blanks....


Here is the pile of colourful offerings that we made from our first lot of blanks.
It was such fun doing the dyeing, that we all wanted another go, so I knitted up 10 more blanks on the machine; (not as bad as it sounds - the winding of the skeins and doubling the yarn that takes the time, as the tension has to be kept even). Here they all are hanging up to dry in our beautiful Indian Summer sunshine.


...despite the title, I am expecting that the project is now at an end... just a small matter of some more knitting....

Posted on September 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday August 24, 2012

Spinning with the Boys


Ah - it's you again. Any news?

Posted on August 24, 2012 at 6:49 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday August 18, 2012



At the guild today, we all embroidered a picture using "mixed media". We painted, stuck, and printed the backgrounds, and then used various 3D embroidery techniques, and appliqué to create a picture. We even used Margaret Beale's fusing techniques learned in June, (to create diaphanous wings).


Posted on August 18, 2012 at 6:13 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday July 29, 2012

Bourne Quilters

This weekend saw Sheila frantically busy with the Bourne Quilters biennial exhibition. It was a fabulous event with a huge variety of wonderful entries - many of them were themed projects and yet each individual entry was entirely original and so utterly different from one another. I took a huge number of pictures but am limiting myself to those that caught my eye as inspirations to make something.


This Mackintosh inspired panel is very appealing. It captures the design, but is at the same time made very simply, by choosing the right fabric, and using applied ribbon. I particularly like the use of actual quilting on the white background; again, it looks deceptively simple - a pattern of straight lines - but I think in practice, keeping those lines dead straight shows the skill of the quilter - anything slightly off would show up very badly as this is the only decoration on a plain fabric


I always associate quilting with Christmas somehow, so the "Christmas Room" had great appeal. This place setting is quite delightful, and yet created from simple (yet precise!) shapes using lovely fabrics.


The fashion for random bunting continues. I like this, as you can easily use up odd triangles of suitable festive fabric and the lettering is a gold fabric that is fused (not sewn). In this case "Happy Christmas" but applicable for any occasion.


Posted on July 29, 2012 at 6:11 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday June 22, 2012

Woolfest 2012

There were some delightful exhibits this year including these 3D fabric renditions of well-known paintings; the sunflowers I thought were especially good.

VanGoghL.jpg MunchL.jpg KlimtL.jpg

I bought lots of excellent items (mostly fluff and string so I'm not documenting them in detail here). I met up with Carol and Pete Leonard again, and David Herring who supplied the missing "bits" for my wheel - so tiny I need to keep a firm hand on myself to avoid misplacing them after all that. I gave one of the exhibitors cause to giggle as I was wandering around muttering "I must not lose my washers and spring pin" - which she felt was some kind of euphemism of the same ilk as keeping my hand on my ha'penny...

I notice that Susan Crawford had a nice retro "Jubilee" book of patterns on sale (Coronation Knits) - all from the era of the coronation - charming idea. And Kate Davies ("Needled") had a lovely new pattern for a sheep tea cosy which I acquired on a commission from Alison.

CoronationKnits.jpg SheepCarousel.jpg

We came down to the Lake District yesterday, with Helen satisfying my need to visit TK Max and the outlet centre on the way. The weather had turned grim as we drove south - but I seem to have booked a rather splendid country house hotel, which puts a better complexion on things. We immediately booked into the restaurant for last night and tonight, where we found the food excellent - as was breakfast this morning.

Despite the comfort of hot baths and good food at the end of the day, I have to say, Woolfest was not such a great experience for me this year. Overall, I feel that this is a very personal experience and I am not sure that I expect that the organisers could - or should even - take any notice of my gripes.
In summary I think, I am not enjoying the fact that the event is getting bigger - I saw no need to extend the range of stallholders; the consequence seems to be to have changed the mix to include more straight knitting wools, fabrics, buttons etc - so I am seeing all the same people I usually see at Alexandra Palace. The previous exhibition area is now given over to teas and seating, and the Long Draw Spinners (to name but one exhibitor) had been banished to a small corner stall which is not appropriate to view their demonstrations. I can see the visitor numbers will inevitably increase and I am pleased for the organisers - but it had somehow lost its unique emphasis on the animals and the raw fleece and materials. [In passing the Ring several times and having a quick look in, there seemed to be no rare-breed parade this year - or I certainly missed it if there were - and all I saw was a man reading from a rather dull script to a tiny audience, where the ring had been packed out in the past.].
My other selfish whine is that I was not able to park right outside the front of the building as in past years. Now - I know - not everyone can and the increased visitor numbers and vendors mean they have to use the facilities to better suit people's real needs - it's inevitable. But to lose this privilege in conjunction with the truly awful weather - having to park in a field some distance away for the first time, walk across a swamp, through a stepped cascading river of water down to queue outside the back of the venue in the torrential rain to buy tickets - which along with the programme were drenched before we even made it inside..... an unfortunate combination. I think even their attempts to improve the toilet facilities (I admit there was always a queue) were also thwarted by the weather. And - again purely selfishly - the things they had "improved", I do not see as improvements because basically I had no issue with them in the past.
If you had asked me in advance, I was not at all concerned about the bad weather, thinking that as it is all under cover it was not really a weather-dependent event. However, starting (and continuing) the day with sopping wet feet and carrying a sopping wet kagool around (which made my purchases wet - not good for books and patterns), made a great difference to my pleasure in the day. I know there is a supposed British stiff upper lip and we're all in it together making the best of things despite the weather and so on... but it's just not fun.

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 11:56 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday June 16, 2012

Fusing Fabric


We were lucky enough to have Margaret Beal ("Burning Issues") along to our guild for a workshop to learn her techniques in fabric manipulation. Essentially you use a very fine-tipped soldering iron to burn synthetic fabrics in a controlled manner. Margaret explained to us how she had first come to the idea - which was as a quicker way to remove excess fabric in cut-work embroidery when she was a student - and developed it into this unique art form.


Posted on June 16, 2012 at 10:45 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday June 3, 2012

Jubilee in France

We had a very satisfying Jubilee weekend in France.
When we arrived (forewarned) the garden was totally out of control -


I always like to leave incidental plants and the stachys is delightful growing between the cracks in the granite paving - when it is small. This variety, (I rescued half dead from a garden shop), grows up to produce brilliant almost fluorescent flower heads and it's huge. Every year it reseeds itself all over the place. In addition here you can see foxgloves, chives, and tansy - all growing in the cracks.

The main thing however was that the grass was waist high. George spent most of the time fixing that with the stalwart new mower (plus it's new add-on gadget which we picked up on our way to Cuves). It hardly complained at all despite the fact that the grass was far too long for it and a little damp. So George mowed and strimmed in rotation in between the showers - and, as usual, once the grass was shorter, the whole garden was transformed.


You may think this is not an improvement - but we can't just leave it as a meadow.


I spent the time working on the bakehouse, and had great fun tiling and painting - even George joined in painting the ceiling with me - and it's all coming on pretty well.....
... and in addition to all this activity, we were able to watch the Queen (on TV) making her fantastic and rather surreal voyage down the Thames.

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 6:56 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday May 19, 2012

Sock Blanks with the Guild

After all the work on the knitting machines, everyone finally got to dye their blanks. They all looked wonderful.


This is Jennifer's blank which did not make it into the photo above. (The little sprinkles are not flaws but fixer - ready for steaming.


Posted on May 19, 2012 at 10:40 PM


They look fantastic - can't wait to have a go!

Posted by: Alison on May 21, 2012 6:53 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday April 22, 2012

Dyeing the sock blanks

Fresh from the disappointment of my needlefelt sculpting, I decided not to try and complete my efforts of yesterday but to press on with trying out the dyes for the sock blank project.


I was not too concerned about the bleeding of the colours on this first one as they all toned with what I was aiming at. For the second one, where my pattern was more exact, I could not get the brown colour I wanted by colour mixing; it's fine but not what I was aiming at. The colour bleeding separated the mix (chromotography!) as it soaked in, plus I did not make the brown section as wide as I should have for the pattern I intended,


Overall it went pretty well. The main (only) unexpected problem was when I made up the last dye solution which was the yellow, and I had a lot of difficulty in making it dissolve. In warm water it made viscous clumps, and in cold water (2nd attempt) it remained quite crystalline. I managed to dissolve it moderately well in the end after much vigorous shaking. I had no such issues with the other colours.


I also learnt that in order to mix up bright greens, oranges, browns - you do need a lot of yellow, as it is the weakest colour in the mix, and is easily overwhelmed by the darker colours. I think I will be buying some additional pre-mixed orange, and brown for our group session next month.

Posted on April 22, 2012 at 6:16 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday April 21, 2012

Needle Felting


I am embarassed to say that I do not have a natural talent for sculpting in wool, so I am not featuring my efforts in particular. However, as a group, we managed to produce some reasonable items - notably the youngest student whose work was definitely the best.
Here is the show and tell:


Everyone certainly had lots of fun.

Posted on April 21, 2012 at 6:15 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday April 13, 2012

One song to the tune of another.

I bought some reading glasses which came with a useful but unremarkable case. Fresh from my experiences adapting a test sampler (fair isle cushion cover) into a tablet cover - ie dead easy - I decided to convert my unappealing Giant Woolley E into a glasses case.


I dismembered the arms of the E, grafted them together, and felted the resulting tube. I then stitched and cut. I found a perfect scrap of cotton for the lining, - but you cannot appreciate it (at all) in the finished item.


Posted on April 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday March 17, 2012

Máximo Laura and Woven Colour


Pete and Della Storr came to talk to us about Woven Colour, which promotes the work of Peruvian artist Máximo Laura. It was a fascinating afternoon and we were all utterly smitten by the fantastic colourwork and skill of the artist.


Some of us even went home with a tapestry.



Posted on March 17, 2012 at 4:04 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday February 26, 2012

Unravel 2012

A few photos from Unravel in Farnham. This year my sister came along, even though this isn't really her sort of event, she enjoyed the artistry of works on display.
I was smitten with this cushion.


Noah's Ark did not win "Best in Show" but it got our vote.


In addition there was a complete farmyard on display in one of the stairwells.


The woolley Art was not limited to the confines of the building. I thought these knitted moles erupting from the grass were very cute, (more so than the real thing I have to say).


And as usual, Well Manor Farm provided the warm-blooded woolley items. I was sorry not to see the Gotlands this year but this one with her little black lamb.... aaaah...


Posted on February 26, 2012 at 12:46 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 18, 2012

Braiding with wire

The Guild workshop involved just the braiding techniques we have tried before - but with fine wire instead of fibre, which can make various items of jewellery. The process for warping threads was just the same, and we tried different wire weights, as well well as braiding techniques.


We started with finger loop braiding (English) and then moved on to kumihimo.


Before attempting the Japanese finger loop braiding, we practised with wool.


It was the usual full day, and we took the findings home to complete our bracelets at our leisure...

Posted on February 18, 2012 at 11:18 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday August 26, 2011

Spinning in the Glasshouse


Janet had all the gang round to hers again, (a glutton for punishment as we say).
All is a positive hive of activity, except I notice that my wheel in the foreground has nothing on it....! I seem to spend most of my time chatting to people.

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 11:51 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday August 18, 2011


In 2006 I made Deep (a cardigan) in Rowan's Summer Tweed. The colour really suits me but I never wore Deep very much. So I am reinventing it in a new shape. It's an Aran, so knits up speedily. The pattern is by Marie Wallin from Rowan Magazine 47 and looks deceptively simple - and turned out to be a complete nightmare.
I am a pretty experienced knitter and I could not work from the chart at all. In the end I resorted to someone else's drafting of the stitch pattern (thank heavens for Ravelry for pointing me at it) - and made the rest up myself. If I look at all strained in the photo, it is because I was.


The photo itself does not do the yarn justice as it is a wonderful turquoise colour with flecks of pink and other colours, and I had trouble deciding on the perfect buttons - I hope these are they - lovely wooden buttons with faded stripes.


For those who might need some help as I did, I have written out the pattern, in a way that I hope shows the pattern repeat and the end margins; I worked entirely from this but everyone "sees" a patten differently so not guaranteeing it will sort everyone out*. I'm afraid when you get to the increasing and decreasing you are on your own...!

* One Raveller said she "quite got into it" after a while... but I never did, having to refer to the pattern for every row.

Mermaid's Mesh

The most important fact that I missed is that you need 2 margin stitches at the beginning and end of the rows, not just one, so the pattern is worked over a multiple of 9 stitches plus 4.

The blue text shows the sts to knit at the beginning an end of each row, and the stitches enclosed between the symbols || need to be repeated until you get to the last few sts in each row.
All odd-numbered rows are purl working the "YO twice" as K1, P1.

I have used to symbol ¦ to indicate how the decreases and yarn-overs balance each other out. You need this to ensure you keep the same number of sts in the row overall. Sometimes the balanced set of sts straddle the end of one repeat and the beginning of the next - I have used dots to indicate this continuation; at the beginning an end of this type of row, there are unbalanced decreases and yarn-overs in the margins to balance the row out overall.

Row 1 K1 yo || ...ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog yo ¦ yo...|| ssk K1
Row 3   || K2tog yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog yo || K2tog yo K2
Row 5 K1 || K2tog yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog yo ¦ K2tog yo || K2tog yo K1
Row 7 K2tog yo || K2tog yo ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog yo ¦ K2tog yo || K2
Row 9 K1 K2tog yo || K2tog yo ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog yo ¦ K2tog yo || K1
Row 11 K2tog yo || K2tog yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog yo || K2
Row 13 K1 K2tog || ...yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3togtbl yo ¦ K2tog...|| yo K1
Row 15 K2tog || ...yo ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo ssk ¦ yo K3tog...|| yo yo ssk

Posted on August 18, 2011 at 3:11 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday July 16, 2011



Felicity ran a workshop for making buttons from polymer clay and other wash-proof materials, suitable to embellish our hand-knitting. Everyone had an exceptionally good time - there was a big variety of activities and materials and we all rushed around like a kindergarten class. (You can see below that a few non-button items slipped into the mix, such was the enthusiasm).


Posted on July 16, 2011 at 6:18 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday June 25, 2011

Woolfest 2011


As usual, the animals were the stars of the show - along with their good-humoured handlers. When we first entered the building, I thought we might have to immediately leave due to Helen's being prone to asthma, but luckily she seemed to recover (we spent minimal time in the "animal" section), and we caught the Rare Breeds Parade without having to rush Helen to hospital. We tried out the new area for tea and coffee, though actually I'm less keen on this - I liked the "sit down" area with music, as it was, in the middle of the venue, with the demonstrations in this area - old stick-in-the-mud that I am - and the dancers: nice touch but basically just in the way.


I managed to avoid buying a fleece - it was not too hard since almost everything was sold, as it was the second day - and I learnt afterwards that they had sold more fleeces in the first 2 hours of the event than the total sold last year. (Indicative of the increasing numbers attending, which again, selfishly, I am not too cheerful about).
Surprisingly (to me) Helen bought herself a picture felting kit, and also surprisingly, I bought some felt figures rather then a kit (!). They were a chicken for my sister, and a Sylvester-style cat for myself. Jenny Barnett was in the middle of making the latter when I purchased it, and I had to wait while she finished it off.


She subsequently made me a second chicken (to my specification as a Croad Langshan), so I had the 2 in time for Christmas gifts.


In the evening, we went out to the Little Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, to see Noises Off by Michael Frayn, of which I had only ever seen the film production in the past. It was pretty funny and well-observed, (although we had to sacrifice a second gourmet outing to the pubs and restaurants near our hotel!).

Posted on June 25, 2011 at 11:56 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday April 16, 2011

Dyeing Day at the Guild


Today we learnt how to hand paint fibres and yarns under the guidance of Jan Blight. We started painting individually with supplied samples, as well a our own fibres. Then we moved finally to making a space dyed skein; this demonstrated, by experiment, exactly how long the sections of colour need to be in order to produce a reasonable sized stripe in the subsequent knitting. Each member of the team went home with a few turns of the resulting skein




Here are the results of our labours hanging up to dry. I think the most interesting lesson for me was the realisation that the type of fibre and the way it is spun influences how it takes the colour. My yarn was highly spun worsted superwash sock yarn and the colours I got were bright and clear. Other people achieved lovely soft muted shades with their fibres.


Posted on April 16, 2011 at 9:12 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday April 4, 2011

Natural Dyes


Getting in the mood for our workshop later this month, I tried home dying some Portland fleece. These are not all natural dyes, but the grey green is - from nettles. I was quite pleased as the colour I got - while some might say it is not very inspiring - is exactly the colour my dye book shows: a grey green. I followed the instructions, adding a pinch of iron, and managed to get green rather than yellow.
The other colours are OK but not what I was looking for. I tried mixing the French reactive dyes (red and blue) to make purple but got a very dark red colour, (top); the pink mauve at the bottom is a second dip in this same bath; and the blue mauve in the centre is a Dylon all-purpose dye. I think I badly mistreated the fibre in the process, and it is hard, matted, and singed. However, I have managed to selectively card it to make some usable batts.

Posted on April 4, 2011 at 6:29 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 19, 2011


At the guild meeting today we had a workshop run by Anna Crutchley to make a mixed fibre tassel . It was a very full day and most of us took "homework" to finish off at the end of the day.



This is my tassel - finished off at home, but you can see I have not brought myself to cut the ends of the strands yet (you need very sharp scissors).


Posted on February 19, 2011 at 1:17 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday February 11, 2011



The Louisa Harding cardigan, Puzzle, that I knitted some time ago is supposed to have heart shaped buttons around the hem as a decoration. I had been looking for some time to find buttons that were suitable and within budget (I needed 36 of them). Suitability is hard to define but the cardigan is folksy in yarn texture and arty styling. So I cannot tell you how delighted I am that my friend Felicity went to the trouble of making me some pottery buttons, all laboriously cut out and coloured by hand. She was actually apologetic (!) that they are not all identical and that the colouring is not consistent - but those very features are what makes them so very perfect.
Thank you so much.


Posted on February 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday January 27, 2011

Toby Craftery

A new knitting group has started up on Thursdays in Redhill (at the Toby Carvery). I am keen to join in. However, the meetings are every 2 weeks - and with other commitments I seem to keep missing the dates.
It is great to see other people's projects, which are often things I am interested in but not planning to knit myself. Sort of vicarious knitting...


Posted on January 27, 2011 at 4:03 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday October 19, 2010

The end of the quest


Today I completed my Stitchcraft collection with the illusive (for me anyway) edition June 1933 - acquired from Todmorden Books. An unremarkable Stitchcraft example but very pleasing to me. The early editions featured recipes and film reviews as well as fashion and knitting:
"Everything for the Woman and her Home".

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 8:46 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday October 16, 2010

Creative Fibres Open Day 2010

It was our Guild group open day. Lots of fun and very busy, with even more visitors than last year.

knittingdisplay_small.jpg pegloom_small.jpg theknitters_small.jpg spindlescrochetandtabletweaving_small.jpg
tapestryweaving_small.jpg weavingspinningandfelting_small.jpg thespinners_small.jpg felting_small.jpg

Posted on October 16, 2010 at 5:51 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday October 9, 2010

Knitting and Stitchery Show 2010

The fun day has come round again - this year was a first as we had to go on a Saturday. I think our conclusion was that it was more crowded and there may have been more drivers to the event as the local tube line is closed for repairs - I met one of our Guild members who had not known in advance and she had taken 3 hours to get there... Anyway no such issues for us.
This year the great theme was "renew and recycle". There was a huge display of Mors Bags in the main corridor:


I discovered Mors Bags some time ago and spent a pleasant May Bank Holiday making some out of old curtains - but what I had failed to fully realise was that the fabric was utterly degraded, and my beautiful bags shredded when washed. However, I have not given up on the idea so watch this space... Luckily many other people seem to have found more robust fabrics to recycle.

Unfortunately my camera misbehaved on the day so my photos have flaws - but these are a few of the interesting exhibits we saw. I loved this retro chair, (but I don't want to own it... in case you are thinking of themed Christmas gifts....!).


I was also very impressed with this exhibit by artist Claire Platt - my own photo of this is so bad I have used hers from her site - take a look there for other interesting work.


I had my own flying duck set once - not plaster I'm afraid - having been so ubiquitous (and reviled by teenagers) in my youth, they are now quite rare as plaster is so fragile. My set was the traditional 1930's green but, strangely, made of metal...
However Aran knitted versions!
Now we're talking....

This year we did not buy so very much - Sheila has taken up knitting again and purchased some bright blue yarn from Black Sheep's bargain section - I agonized over some Rowan Damask as I love knitting with it but decided to pass as I have no specific project in mind. For myself I bought some more Knitpicks (Knitpro) interchangeable needle tips - the multicoloured wood type - from Coleshill Accessories; my steel ones only go down to 3½mm and I found they are available in 3 and 3¼mm. I also found that you can get shorter ends (they are 100mm as opposed to the standard 128mm and called "special" tips in case you want to buy any). They are designed to go with shorter length wires (40cm) but I am finding them useful all round. Even with shorter old circulars I often have trouble turning in the tips as they are too long; in fact my general comment on these needles is that the length should change as the needle size increases - I have the "chunky" set in steel and 128mm is too short to handle properly in those sizes. I did think the short wires might be good for socks - but they are still too long - suitable for hats apparently; one thing they will be excellent for is the sleeves and neck on a guernsey (yes, I am still planning to knit another one day!).

I also found this lovely coat pattern (V2884), a reissue of a 1954 design.


I decided to restrain myself and not to buy some lovely red woollen fabric from The Shuttle - but now wish I had! I did buy some fine brown linen (for a doll's dress) and crushed purple velvet (for a a bag inspired by one I saw on sale at Wisley).

My final purchase was a giant ball of Rayon string from Empress Mills. This has mystified everyone ... but I like it...

Finally - an enchanting display of tiny hats:


Posted on October 9, 2010 at 10:53 PM


Those little hats are wonderful. Can't decide which I like more, the little top hat or the birds nest!

Posted by: Cathy in Va on December 3, 2010 1:29 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday September 18, 2010

Bound to be (more) Beautiful


Chrissie and Diana were back with us today with a project entirely different from our previous workshop with them.
We were all a bit slow - except Felicity, who you can see calmly knitting in the background as she has finished her step of the process while the rest of us struggle.


We made 4 little Japanese bound booklets with sewn bindings and folded pages - each one slightly different. They fit into a little cover - which I finished off once I got home.


Posted on September 18, 2010 at 5:30 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday September 10, 2010

IKnit Weekender

I went to IKnit with Felicity


Herdy was there selling his (her) mugs and we shared a set between us.* Felicity bought an extra ball of pink mohair wool from the Natural Fibre Company to finish her pink cardigan - started at Woolfest. I bought a ball of sock wool.

We had lunch watching a Rowan fashion show introduced by Erika Knight - and I tried on a few of the latest Fair Isle designs with Felicity's reassurance that they did not enhance the benefits that nature has bestowed on me. The afternoon was spent in a class on "Continental Knitting", which I found a lot more interesting than I had hoped - and has made me see moss stitch in a whole new light.** Our tutor was Biggan Ryd Dups - she was excellent.

* George was not amused at the addition of another mug to our cupboard - especially as it was pink so he cannot clearly identify a "his" and "hers" theme.
** Since the course I decided to practice on a sock. I know for fact that so-called continental knitting is the fastest technique and is traditionally used by Fair Isle Knitters who used to produce a sweater in a day for day-trippers to the Island, (I saw a "Look at Life" film at an impressionable age!). I got George to time me and found that although I thought I was knitting pretty fast, it took me 2 minutes to knit rounds using my usual method but a disappointing 2 minutes 50s using the new method. I guess it takes practice...

Posted on September 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM


Oh no, you're joking -- an entire sweater in a day? Was thus just with ordinary Continental or with the tucked-in-a-knitting -belt method? If it's that fast, I may have to look into getting trained in it!

Posted by: Cathy in Va on December 3, 2010 1:27 AM

I think more than one knitter worked on the "sweater in a day", and I think they did use a belt or "whisk".
I'm guessing that these souvenirs were for the well-off, as I think even in the days of my childhood they would have been relatively expensive, and thus demand from the average day-tripper would not have exceeded knitting resources.
Anyway - even with the "training" I have a way to go.....

Posted by: Christina on December 19, 2010 11:39 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday August 27, 2010

Janet's Day

Another year has rolled around and we were all spinning in Janet's Victorian greenhouse again - and feeding the alpacas.This year she offered some of her alpaca fleece for sale, which was much appreciated by all.


I was spinning this lovely batt which I bought from Emma of Lavender Cottage Fibres when I met her at Shabden Park Farm. The batt was rolled up exposing only the wine colour - but this did not do it justice - unfurling it revealed other colours, and it is spinning into a lovely soft yarn.

Posted on August 27, 2010 at 9:10 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday July 29, 2010

Knit Nation 2010

Felicity and I went to our workshop "Wheel Mechanics" with Judith McKenzie McCuin at Knit Nation. The workshop was a bit laid back which was probably not ideal given we had only 3 hours - but I have found myself remembering and considering Judiths demonstations and advice long after the event.

Here is a You Tube video of Judith in a workshop (that looks similar to ours) demonstrating plying.

There were a couple if little gripes about the event - one was that the signage (once you had made it to Imperial Campus) was pretty poor - well - there was none from the (tube) side of the campus where we arrived. So even armed with maps it was tricky. Still it's their first one and if that was the only logistics issue it was minor.
The other issue was that the price of our workshop ticket - unlike on other days - did not entitle us to get into the market place. We would have had to pay extra for "preview" tickets - and in any case they had "sold out" - so all in all I felt slightly cheated. If everyone had to pay extra on all days I might have felt less so.
O - and also - I felt the wheel creche should have been free, and the website for the event was not good - looked nice enough but hard to find the information - on our workshop, one person showed up without a wheel - as I would have done if my prudent friend had not called the event organisers to check, since the information stated that we did not need to bring anything. The "homepage" was not a home page but became a kind of scrappy noticeboard which I think was a result of poor organisation of information that should have been elsewhere on the site.

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 10:31 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday June 25, 2010

Woolfest 2010

I have had the usual wonderful day. My first visit was to collect my spindles from Spindlers2 (Carol and Pete Leonard).


I spent quite some time there collecting 2 spindles and choosing some fibre; I also eyed up a delightful Turkish spindle which I lusted after for its cute size, but at 11g it was a bit too specialised for me. Afterwards, I moved on to look at the display area and bought some Yak and Silk fibre which I used with my Greensleeves "Fox" spindle during the Spin In in the evening; it is tricky to spin and probably better suited to a supported spindle, so I was pleased with my efforts.

I was immediately drawn to Deb Gillander's display of ganseys - she had lots of interesting books and stories to tell as we gossiped.


Before the browsing started, we had two missions to complete - one was to get to the fleece sale as soon as possible so Felicity could buy some Wensleydale fleece. In fact she bought 3 fleeces including a Ouissant, which was incredibly soft but not a breed we had ever heard of. Later on we were to see one in the rare breeds parade and this explained why the fleece was only about 1Kg in weight! I was under orders not to buy any fleeces at all but finally could not resist a Gotland; I was torn between a young fleece which was very soft and smaller, and an older one which had better colour variation - I went for the latter, but I'm still not sure I made the right decision.
In the afternoon, we attended the demonstration by Sue Blacker of the Natural Fibre Company, which went into assessing wool quality on and off the sheep, the right fleece for the right purpose, and how to sort a fleece. I found it very interesting and was right in there squeezing the fleeces but Felicity was a bit more reserved - raw fleece not being to everyone's taste...!

Our second mission was to pick up tickets and hand in my pennant. I was disappointed as the pennants were not due to be hung until after closing at the end of the day - however I crept in after the show was officially closed, (during the Spin In) and took this photo of my pennant in its display position.


I was also able to sneak a go on a Great Wheel - I have never tried it before and was pleased and surprised that it was not so difficult - I think it's all in the fibre preparation (which was not down to me!).

When I got back to the hotel, I was still enthusiastic to work with my new spindles and fibre, so I started spinning the merino and bamboo fibre using my other Spindlewood Round made from apple wood. It was a wonderful experience to be outside in such beautiful surroundings, spinning in the twilight.


woolfest2010a_small.jpg pennants4_small.jpg ganseys3_small.jpg rarebreeds_small.jpg
ouessant1_small.jpg portlands_small.jpg baskets_small.jpg herdwickrope_small.jpg
vendors2_small.jpg vendors3_small.jpg vendors1_small.jpg flood1_small.jpg
flood2_small.jpg flood3_small.jpg advert_small.jpg hurdygurgyman_small.jpg
spinin1_small.jpg spinin2_small.jpg dancingderwentbank_small.jpg aspindlingderwentbank_small.jpg

Photo album created with Web Album Generator

Posted on June 25, 2010 at 10:51 PM


I didn't see as much as this but it looks good & I'm pleased to have been part of it!

Posted by: deb gillanders on September 22, 2010 10:57 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday May 15, 2010

Buttonhole Books

This month's workshop was about making little books. Somehow cutting up little pieces of paper brings out the small child lurking within.


It was not quite a rigorous as the previous workshop on book binding - this one used simpler techniques and materials, and the books were sewn with little glue involved. The accuracy (or otherwise) of our cutting was left very much up to us.



Viva was a great tutor for our group - she chose books where she felt we might use other craft work that we do (for example felting or braiding) in making the covers. These are my books - my actual "buttonhole book" was not ready for the group photo - I had to complete it once I got home.


Posted on May 15, 2010 at 5:15 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday May 9, 2010


Today was spinning at Cowpie - in Betchworth this year. We had our own area and were demonstrating spinning and braiding etc.



On the adjacent stand was a chap selling walking sticks. Somehow I managed to exclude him from my photos. However I bought one of the sticks for George. ( Not sure he wants or needs one but I have been keen to get him one for some time - they are wonderful works of art made from hazel, with carved antler and horn pommels from Jacobs, Portlands, Buffalo etc).

Posted on May 9, 2010 at 8:50 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday April 25, 2010

Grace is the beauty of form.

I spent yesterday at the V&A taking in both the Quilts exhibition - ancient and modern - and "Grace Kelly: Style Icon", which showed how her wardrobe evolved from that of a stylish actress to royal princess.

In the latter, we were able to see her film costumes, dresses made for her trousseau and wedding, as well as the later French haute couture of the 1960s and '70s. In 1955 Grace Kelly first met Prince Ranier wearing a cotton dress made from a McCalls pattern of the day (albeit not hand-sewn by herself - she had modeled for McCalls spring catalogue for that year) but going forward as Princess she easily embraced the haute couture gowns by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.
I loved the outfits from the 1950s - envisioning myself on all of them (!). The dresses were inspirational and made me want to go home and start sewing immediately! The 1960s fashions were a little less appealing to me, based on simpler straighter lines - though the Mondrian dress is always striking (I think M&S even had recent version of this type of 1960s design).
Of course, they have their own beauty, which she was well able to carry off with her height and slender figure -
GraceHair.jpg - and rather despite the bizarre 1960s rigid hair styles, bolstered by hair-piece additions, (which were a fairly normal feature even in less formal hair dressing at that time).
In the 1970s, the fashions moved favourably for an older Grace (in my opinion) but these are my least favourite - probably because this was the sartorially unsatisfactory era of my youth ("the decade that taste forgot"). The exhibits were more formal dresses: long, floaty, layered (visualise Abigail's Party); they showcased wonderful colours and fabrics.
As the exhibition pointed out, Grace's appeal for the masses in the 1950s was that she wore clothes that any girl could have worn - even to meet a Prince..... and I think I follow the masses here....

The quilt exhibition was quite different in atmosphere; the lighting was kept low to protect the items, making it seem mysterious and almost sacred. Many of the quilts on show featured applique and embroidery - picture quilts, symbolic, incorporating religious texts, or commemorating people or events. But I have to say, I preferred the traditional pieced and quilted exhibits - some of which were surprisingly ancient yet in excellent condition. The Bishops Court Quilt, shown below, dates from around 1690.


One coverlet was unfinished, and was on display so that the front and back could be viewed with the paper pieces used in the construction on show. The papers can provide important historical evidence for dating quilts - the one on show used old receipts and ledger papers.
The 65 quilts on show were mainly from the V&A's own collection but also included a number of new works by contemporary artists, which were on loan - some commissioned especially for the show. It could be argued that some of the newer works were not "quilts" at all - they more explored the term as an artistic concept. For me, quilts represent safety and comfort, and I did not take to being challenged by cutting edge art forms. I liked Sara Impey's "Punctuation" - a silk machine-quilt poem of fragmented phrases. However, my favourite of the modern works was Tracey Emin's bed (no - not the bed but "To Meet My Past" 2002) - neither the artist nor this work could really be said to represent safety and comfort, but I found it poignantly pleasing.


Quilts: 1700 - 2010 runs at the V&A until July 4th, and
Grace Kelly: Style Icon runs until September 26th.

Posted on April 25, 2010 at 8:26 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Wednesday March 31, 2010

Books in March

  • Walking in Pimlico by Ann Featherstone WalkinginPimlico.jpg
    I thought this book was absolutely wonderful. It is a psychological thriller - a great story, as well as well written. Another of Robert's choices for me, it also has a connection with arts and entertainment. The author is (or has been) a lecturer in performance history at Manchester University, and a researcher in drama department at Royal Holloway, University of London. She presents her dialogue (or at least some of it) in the argot of the Victorian music hall and - unlike my final book for this month - provides a fantastic depiction of the life, including the police force, of that time. I cannot comment on whether or not it is correct but it is is utterly convincing. She uses her research and knowledge apparently effortlessly within the plot, making for a fascinating read, while skilfully allowing the narrative flow and not be bogged down by extraneous detail.
    To 'walk in Pimlico' is colloquially "to be handsomely dressed".

  • The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell [read by Nigel Anthony] MonsterBox.jpg
    Inspector Wexford story in which he looks back to his life as a young policeman in order to solve his current case. One could view the outcome as successful or not - given that he is sure of the murderer from the outset but not only fails to prevent a further murder, but actually seems to instigate one. The book explores our attitudes to a multicultural Britain from a few different viewpoints, though I am not sure I felt any conclusion is reached.

  • The Railway Viaduct by Edward Marston [read by Sam Dastor] RailwayViaduct.jpg
    This is not the best book I have ever read. A rather strange depiction of policing in general as well as Victorian Britain, and criminal motivation.
    Good enough to amuse me while driving and while spinning (....not at the same time), since the plot is not hard to follow and is delivered at a pedestrian pace.

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 1:06 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday March 9, 2010

Finishing touch...

I completed the jacket for Sheila (from Fi Morris pattern) some time ago - and delivered it last week. However since then, Sheila has been looking at it with some frustration - wanting to wear it in this cold weather but unable to do so, as it has no buttons!

I had decided to make Yorkshire buttons but my experiments were a bit amateurish as I could not get a consistent size due to variations in tension as I was needle weaving. Anyway last weekend in C&H fabrics in Canterbury I was looking at papier-mâché beads (used for this beading technique**) and realised if I covered them instead of stuffing the buttons they would have a good shape and half the battle would be won.


Sure enough, it worked out fine - I could measure the bead to decide how big to make my template and .... voilà.... 100% success. I bought both 1 inch and ½ inch beads, and as I suspected, once covered with a thick woolly layer, the smaller ones came out right.
They went straight into the mail.
Alas, when Sheila put them on the jacket - she did not like them. Although they are the right size for the loops, they look like clown's pom-poms! I think I may try them again, cutting the spheres in half , so they are not so prominent. Meanwhile - Sheila is off to the "Button Shop" to look for some kind of toggles that might be more acceptable.

** a href="http://froogal.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">Froogal has made a couple of great necklaces - using wooden beads rather than paper ones.
Some fabric necklaces use pony beads threaded over a fabric tube in between the large beads to get the gathering effect. This means your necklace uses only one fabric and you have to choose a fairly fine fabric and have a reasonable balance between small and larger beads otherwise you won't fit the fabric tube inside the pony bead. I thought this was a fairly well-known technique but struggled to find it explained on the web. Maybe it's too simple.
I also had the idea that the buttons themselves could be used as woolly beads but they do have a "right and wrong side" as it were, so you would have to overcome that in your design. Anyway - love those Froogal versions....!

Posted on March 9, 2010 at 12:50 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 27, 2010


This weekend was occupied with Unravel at the Maltings in Farnham. unravel.jpg

My objective for the day was to avoid buying yarn in favour of perhaps finding some high quality fibre to spin. In the event, resisting the yarn was hard, and there were some lovely fibres at for example Fiberspates- but nothing appealed sufficiently to justify the expense. I did buy a small amount of natural mohair from New Forest Mohair, (to blend with my existing fleeces as recommended throughout the book A Fine Fleece).

It was notable that there were quite a few button vendors of varying types: some with with very original unique handmade buttons, Dixie Nichols with her Father's vintage glass buttons, and the Textile Garden with their selection of excellent value items. I bought buttons from the latter for a Louisa Harding cardigan which demands 36 buttons as decoration (so potentially an expensive project).

Tessa Wolfe Murray was demonstrating making her smoke-fired ceramic buttons - as well as selling them. Many vendors offered interesting demonstations of their wares for weaving and spinning, and of course the exhibitors included the local Guilds (in the cellars!). I visited Fi Morris there, and met Linda Newington who is the Head Librarian at Winchester School of Art. It seems they have a pattern archive with major donations from the collections of Richard Rutt (author of A HIstory of Hand Knitting, and Jane Waller - so I have found somewhere to bequeathe my modest collection in the future! Linda was giving a talk later in the day, but I did not stay long enough to see her - in fact I wish I had checked out the talks and workshops beforehand as I didn't really plan properly to see items I would have found very interesting - on Sunday Susan Crawford (who collaborated with Jane Waller on the Stitch in Time project) was giving 2 talks, one on Knitted Fashions from 1939-1949 which I would have loved to attend.

As I left, I had a chat with the sheep I had seen arriving at the same time as I did in the morning. They were very unwilling to get out of their cosy transporter and into their tiny show-pen in the rain. However the weather was more cheerful later on, and I found they were very user-oriented sheep - ashamed to say I have no idea of the breed though they may have been Gotlands (who I know are very friendly). I suspect they were from Well Manor Farm - I was tempted to buy some lovely grey fleece from them, but it was in its "natural" condition - and I already have too much fleece like that.....!

Throughout my time there I cursed not having taken my camera - hence this is mainly descriptive.

Posted on February 27, 2010 at 9:10 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday February 21, 2010

Yorkshire Buttons

Yesterday we had a "show and tell" at the Guild meeting. There were a good number of members in attendance, and I was quite mesmerized by other people's work - the variety was quite surprising, given that there was no pre-planning, (well - variety within the context of fibre-related arts and crafts...).

Mavis showed us her latest free-form jackets from her handspun. As she talks about the fibres, she relates each little section to her own rabbits and animals, which is particularly charming. Her jackets are finished with "Yorkshire buttons" which caused much interest and comment.


Dorset buttons are a fairly well-known technique, but Yorkshire less so it seems. I was inspired to go straight home and try them out - one from memory of what she said, (on the left), and a second, (on the right), from these useful web instructions for Yorkshire buttons where you can also find Dorset buttons.

There were quite a few knitting projects, and mostly from member's own handspun. Claire came with her new birthday wheel (Kromski), and an astonishing amount of completed spinning projects - which would be fine if it were representing her whole year's work, but was in fact "just what she happened to have with her..."). Her man was able to give me a few website-related tips for our own (new) Guild website.

Posted on February 21, 2010 at 7:11 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday January 24, 2010

Sandown Show

I spent Saturday and part of Sunday on our Guild stand at the Stitch & Creative Craft Show at Sandown. Amazingly (to me) I was demonstrating spinning on a drop spindle and on a wheel. The wheel was Sandy's Ashford Joy, and it was lots of fun to be allowed free rein on a different model.


I managed to tour the show as well, and purchased some little items - some more patterns from Fi Morris (who had some great new designs), some large ceramic beads, a bit of glitter (more of that in a POM when I get round to it), a Vogue dress pattern, and - some delicious Welsh cheese!

In honour of dressing credibly as a knitter for the show, I finally wore my Debbie Bliss Astrakhan cardigan (which I first started working on in 2007, I think). It was warm and easy to wear - the wool is lovely and soft - and I am pleased with how it looks.


Posted on January 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday January 14, 2010

Hand of Good

Do you have those days when a few stray elements randomly coalesce?
This is one of those days for me.

handofgood.jpg Last March when I was in Worcester with my old school friends, George and I visited the City Museum where there was an Crafts Council touring exhibition called Deviants "Peer Into the Subversive World of Craft". I was fascinated by it (and I took some pictures but did not publish as I suspected the artists might not be too happy without permission). Of particular interest to me was an exhibit called "Hand of Good, Hand of God" by Freddie Robins - a kind of fractal knitted glove.

I would not have remembered any of this, but that today, I ran across Knit a Work of Art from a Free Pattern at the V&A site, which is Conrad - gloves by Freddie Robins. This immediately reminded me of the exhibition and spurred me to look up Freddie's site (wwww = wonderful world wide web) and confirm she was indeed the artist whose work I had seen in Worcester.

Even more pleasing is that these gloves are inspired by a poem in Struwwelpeter - a 19th century German book of cautionary tales for children (!). This book so fascinated me that I bought a modern fac simile of it when I was in Germany. This tale is of Konrad der Daumenlutscher whose thumbs were removed by the tailor's big scissors - a true horror including fantastic onomatopoeia in the wonderful German language ["jetzt geht es klipp und klapp, mit der Scher' die Daumen ab"], and graphic illustrations.


Coalescence - it's very satisfying when it happens.

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 9:41 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday January 12, 2010

Icelandic Shawl

All my enthusiasm is now taken up with the Icelandic Shawl. I have been almost dyeing, carding, and spinning to order as I needed the various colours for the pattern. The specified colours include dark, medium, and light greys - but these looked like indigo blues to me in the picture, so I used a French reactive dye called "Jeans" and blended the fleece to get the colours I wanted.


I did get on well with the knitting, but have had to frog the centre section and start again. This is because I have spun a variety of thicknesses - I seem to be consistent within the colours, but each colour seems to end up slightly different. The white (undyed) skeins are the finest, and in the centre portion, the pattern stitch makes the tension much tighter. These two factors in combination meant that the shawl was not lying flat enough.
I also used 3¼mm needles instead of the 3½mm called for in the pattern. This was an expedient choice - UK traditional sizes are either 10 (3¼mm) or 9 (3¾mm). Of course I can obtain 3½mm needles as they are available on the continent (France) or from America (part of my Knitpicks set of interchangeable needles).
So to fix my current problem I have decide to do two things - one is to use 3¾mm needles for the centre portion, - and probably 3½mm when I get to resuming the border. The other is to reskein the white wool and wash it again. Having read the Amy King book Spin Control I took the "fulling" process a little more seriously with my recent blue and brown skeins. They were much improved after vigorous fulling, so I am hoping it will have a similar effect on the white.

Posted on January 12, 2010 at 8:20 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday December 3, 2009

Amnesty Card Campaign


While I had my sewing things available, I decided to respond to a request from Amnesty International to send them a supportive Greetings card - explicitly not religious. The fabric piecework card took me longer than I had hoped, and I think the point of it was the accompanying donation - but I was quite satisfied with the use of my time.

I chose to send mine in support of the women of Zimbabwe, having attended the Everywoman Awards ceremony for 2009 at the Dorchester in London yesterday. Some of the recipients pointed out that not all women enjoy the same status as we do in the UK - and also how fragile that status can be, as has been proven in other countries where changes in government have caused astonishing reductions in status almost overnight.

Posted on December 3, 2009 at 12:08 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday November 21, 2009

Christmas Decorations


For about a year I have been collecting milk bottle tops to make a Christmas Tree decoration, based on one that I saw George's Mother had made a couple of years ago. My kitchen drawer is teeming with the things, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to get on with the project.

The tops are covered in fabric and sewn together to make the shape you want. [Someone suggested you "could make other shapes as decorations- not just for Christmas!" - and this is true - but only, I would venture to suggest, if you have very bad taste. Somehow all good taste is suspended for the Christmas period.].

I padded the tops with a little piece of fleece material, which I stuck to the top with a dot of glue, just enough to hold it in place during the construction. I then cut a circle of fabric 4 inches in diameter; which I sewed round the edge with a running stitch, using the thread doubled. You can then draw up the thread tightly, covering the top with the fabric, and enclosing the fleece padding. Secure the gathering thread with a couple of stitches on the back, take the thread to the edge and leave a long tail when you cut it off. You can use the tails to do the catch stitches on the back to hold the shape together. I did not put any finishing the on the backs of the tops as I thought the gathering looked quite neat, even with the raw edges of fabric.


You sew the tops together to make the tree shape, and then have fun embellishing the tree with beads or gliterring stones. I sewed a ribbon hanger on top to hang the decoration on the wall. You can make a larger tree by simply adding rows to the pyramid part, and you can enlarge the "pot" section in proportion, if necessary.

I took all my bits and pieces along to the Guild meeting last week (it was Christmas themed) and although I think this is quite old hat, many of them were very interested and have since made their own trees. I think a lot of people have a collection of tops intended for charities that have since refused to take them. Once you have made a collection it's hard to stop and discard them all.

When it came to it, I found I had only enough tops to make 2 trees. One for myself and one destined for my dear friend in California.

If this is all too late for this year, my helpful suggestion is that you make these little craft projects in the early part of January, when it's quieter. They can then be packed away in the Christmas boxes ready to leap out and surprise you with your own forethought next year, by which time you are too busy to think of anything else other than how to fit the over-sized turkey into the oven, and how to fit all your many relatives around your dining table such that they can still have enough mobility in their arms to eat said turkey, (or is it the other way around?).

Posted on November 21, 2009 at 8:26 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday October 9, 2009

Knitting and Stitchery Show 2009

This year the main exhibit in the Alexandra Palace entrance hall was the impressive: "Casting Off...A Coat for a Boat!".


Textile designer Ingrid Wagner was lead artist and on this amazing community project which was created with the help of contributors hailing from the North East region as well as internationally, and with the support of The North East Maritime Trust.

Every section of the boat exhibit provided fascinating detailed works of knitted art.


All the poor little fish caught in the nets - though they look cheerful enough about it!


And spot the rats leaving the (hopefully not!) sinking ship.


Fewer photos overall than in previous years indicates how interesting it all was and how busy we were looking around.
I would have liked to take photos of some of the artist's work but of course that was mostly prohibited. I did enjoy one artist who made delightful fine ceramic mugs, jugs and other items, which looked as though they were made of paper, and charmingly painted with floral (and other) designs. Hard to describe without a photo! However, she had already sold all her stock on only Day 2 of the show.

My first item on the agenda for the day was to hand in my completed Macmillan Blanket at the Knitter Magazine stand. That done we were free to roam, observe and buy!

As to our purchases: we saw Fi Morris and Sheila was very smitten with one of her patterns; we had to order the (discontinued) Wendy wool for it when we got home. I am very glad I did Fi's workshop to understand her specialist techniques for when I get round to knitting it! I bought some bargain Sirdar Peru and Patons Misty - yet more cardigans; some lovely beads for Christmas gift necklaces; some earring attachments to supplement my Alison-made stitch markers (I use them all the time and never have enough); and Italian sock wool for... never you mind what.

Posted on October 9, 2009 at 11:49 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday September 19, 2009

Domino Workshop

The final workshop of the year was on Domino knitting. A name, so we are told, apparently chosen at random. More aptly called patchwork knitting, it uses a technique of increasing and decreasing to knit little squares, and then cunningly picking up stitches, so that you avoid all seaming - brilliant.
Our tutor was Fiona Morris, seen here modeling her Domino waistcoat.


We were aiming at producing a cushion cover, (in the foreground of the photo). Fiona has made this one using a variety of samples from a natural dye study.


Here is my sample effort.


I have previously made Vicki Sever's "Heart Sachet" which is based on this technique, and Fiona also had examples of little baby bootees - all shaped from squares, joined together with no sewing.

Posted on September 19, 2009 at 8:28 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday September 11, 2009

I Knit London Weekender


After meeting with a client in London, I went to the I Knit Weekender.

There was a lot to look at - not a huge venue but that made it quite relaxing. The vendors were high quality and more focused (on knitting and fibre) than at Ally Pally. I was delighted to see Jane Waller's vintage book "A Stitch in Time" had its own display on the Arbour House stand. I spent some time chatting to the people there and checking out the vintage knitting examples on show.


I bought one or two items and was very pleased with myself as they are all things I need - maybe! - bargain sock wool for Terry's what-is-now-traditional Christmas socks, "Herdy" mugs** (one for me, and others for gifts), and a bargain skein of silk/mohair from Knitwitches. It was great to see the Nichols button collection in the flesh - though I could not persuade myself to buy any right there and then (no suitable current projects); I did however find an excellent button seller - Textile Garden - really nice people and really nice-looking buttons that did not break the bank - and I bought a couple of sets of buttons for my cardigan projects, plus some that I simply "liked" to send to Alison.
I also bought a pattern for a remembrance day poppy - proceeds to the poppy fund. I thought this was an excellent idea but I can't see myself using it on the day - have to keep explaining to people that although it does not look much like a memorial poppy, it was sold in aid of the fund.

As well as things to buy there were fashion shows, workshops, and opportunities to meet other knitters over a nice cup of tea (and a sit down).


** At the show they had Herdy piggy banks, which were very appealing, and I see that I Knit now have a limited edition version available in yellow.

Posted on September 11, 2009 at 7:40 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Wednesday September 2, 2009

Just a Lightweight

MansPinkCardigan.jpgMore on G's light-weight cardigan request and the "irresistible man's cardigan from the 1970s" (shown on the right - I left the moustache in the pattern picture just to demonstrate the gender of the model, but I now realise this is simply more gender stereotyping for which I profoundly apologise). You can see the charm of the original colour - disturbingly, I think I have some of the correct brand of wool in that exact colour in the attic - however after a great deal of thought (about 1 nanosecond) I settled on a light grey instead.

I finished the patterned part of the knitting on holiday in Norfolk and easily completed the main sections on the newly refurbished knitting machine. I took it all the pieces with me to France to hand-knit the button bands, and then sew it all up.


At last it was done, and George was finally able to wear it in France (my! - he's so handsome!) - although there are not really any summer evenings any more. They seemed to stop around mid-August.


[In case you are wondering, he is trying to emulate the spirit of the era using what little he remembers of the 1970s, along with the guileless expression of the model in the pattern.]

Posted on September 2, 2009 at 9:42 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday August 25, 2009

A "Whatever" Day

Janet from the Guild invited everyone for a spinning, knitting, or whatever day at her house. I say her "house" but we were meeting in her greenhouse - in a moment you will see why that is not as odd as it sounds. My sister came along too - but with great trepidation in case someone tried to make her do some kind of fibre craft. However, she was there to investigate animal husbandry. Specifically Janets "boys" - who were very pleased to come and meet us.


Alpacas look very cuddly but sadly do not like to be touched at all. But they are very friendly - especially if you have a few bits of carrot and apple about your person. They also tend to nibble each other (and humans) affectionately.


Janet's greenhouse is in truth a huge conservatory. It's a massive Victorian construction, as her property is part of an old estate - her house being the "gardener's cottage". [Not so much a cottage though - but rather a house, emphasising the status of the man who managed a team of gardeners on the estate.]
We had a lovely day sitting spinning among the exotic plants - as well as the less exotic cucumbers, and courgettes. I was lucky enough to be given some wonderful courgettes to take home at the end of the day.


Posted on August 25, 2009 at 8:02 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday August 13, 2009

An old friend

I took lots of knitting on my holidays - that is lots to knit but not lots of projects. One was my Debbie Bliss summer wrap - which I duly completed. The other was a cardigan for George.
For some time I had been planning this item - ever since last summer when he said he wanted a lighter weight jumper to put on at the end of hot days in France. So I decided it should be practical and not too precious, - but still look good. I chose the ever-practical fine Phildar Luxe (almost a 3ply) from my stash and selected an irresistible man's cardigan from the 1970s (what were they thinking?!).

The lower part of the cardigan is patterned with a twisted rib section but the rest - including the sleeves - is plain. There was a good deal of peaceful time for knitting, so by the end of the holiday I had finished the patterned sections. This meant there was nothing for it but to execute the second part of the plan.
Plan B was to use a knitting machine to complete all the stocking stitch knitting in that very fine wool. So now I have to confess - I do in fact already own a knitting machine.

In about 1981, and at great expense at that time, I purchased a second hand Toyota machine in Watford where Rob was working. I used it a lot in the 1980s - my favourite yarn was a light weight double knitting by Phildar (Pronostic). Rob still has much striped knitwear from this era (!). In all the years since, the machine has been loaned out, been through a number of house moves, and been deserted in the wet environments of various cellars and garages. In all that time I have been too frightened to open the case and come to terms with the results of my neglect. But now is the hour.


The great reveal showed it had stood up to all this very well - but every single needle was rusty and needed replacing. Since these are user-replaceable parts, this was not such a disaster on the face of it - though maybe a slight economic disaster. I searched on the web and to my amazement found the most wonderful shop (which seems to be not only the perfect shop but the only shop): Bedford Sewing and Knitting (or BSK), and they were able to sell me needles for my model of machine - amazing when you think that this was a already a second hand machine almost 30 years ago. I ordered 200 needles from them - and they even offered additional advice on my project - but more of that in a moment.

So - heartened - I took all the casing to pieces as much as I could...


... and cleaned all the parts, washing all the plastic elements with soapy water and oiling all the metal parts. I took photos as I went to try and ensure I knew how to put it all back together again, and carefully preserved each screw and bolt with notes on its origin (I have done this kind of thing before ...). My needles arrived and I put everything back together.

The advice from BSK was that I should check that the "needle retaining bar was not worn" as this makes the needles stick. Until I came to replace the needles I had no idea what a retaining bar was - and even when my machine was all back together, but not quite working properly, it took me some time to relate the symptoms of my problems with the helpful advice from BSK. But I had no idea what the bar was supposed to look like - only when I looked on the web did I realise quite how bad mine was (you mean there's supposed to be sponge in there?!). Surprisingly, I found quite detailed advice about "refurbishing the sponge bar", and so I did it - had to make a few adjustments to work with the raw materials I could get hold of in the UK, but now it all seems to work fine - in fact, rather better than it ever did as far as I can remember.

I know I should finish with a splendid photo of it looking all shiny and lovely - but that will have to wait for another occasion - George (who never before realised I owned such an item was quite put out when he saw it - thought aliens had landed in the kitchen).

Posted on August 13, 2009 at 6:50 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday July 18, 2009

Braiding sampler


Today saw the braiding workshop, where we were able to try all different kinds of braiding - basically all based around Kumihimo wheels of one sort or another. It was great to be able to try out so many different techniques - toe in the water.... Made me keen to get out my Marudai again.


Posted on July 18, 2009 at 7:28 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday May 16, 2009

Beading workshop

I almost didn't make it to this workshop, as I had forgotten I had signed up for it. However, luckily they called to remind me, and as I live so close I was able to scamper round and join in. I had none of the required equipment with me, but everyone kindly loaned me bits and pieces. We made "flower pot" beaded necklaces.

The workshop was run by Jennifer Hughes, and here are her sample "pots":

The Flower Pot Necklace design and techniques were created by Karen Johnson, manager of Beads F.O.B. Sarasota, Florida.

Posted on May 16, 2009 at 6:18 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Tuesday May 12, 2009

Traffic Light Socks

I have finished the latest weird and wonderful socks made from my attempt to create something brighter when working with Kool Aid. I think we can all agree I succeeded on the bright.

Here's the fleece and the skeins:

I allowed the socks to knit up randomly, but I did make some changes to sock 2 to try and make it similar to, if not match, sock 1. Also I broke the yarn to exclude the areas that were in plain green, as they turned out positively luminous. In fact the two-ply contrasting colours generally work much better in this sock that any of the single coloured plies.

If you are worried about George wearing such weird socks, I can show them lounging casually on the sofa, where the part of the socks which is on normal display turns out to have a pleasing autumnal feel.

[George says they are not "Traffic Light" Socks as they are nothing like the colours of traffic lights. This is true - I was thinking 'red, amber, green' - however, I was also thinking maybe they were socks which would stop the traffic.]

Posted on May 12, 2009 at 10:42 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday April 26, 2009

New age craft

You know the kind of thing - craft is hip** - you take some old junk and recycle it into something else - which you then call "useful", "thrifty", "craft", and "green". Except in my opinion none of the above - you spend a fortune on other bits and pieces which usually includes a mountain of epoxy glue - and how's that good for the planet? I suppose I would grant that it is "Art"...

Anyway - I really did do this - and it really was "useful", "thrifty", "craft", and "green", though not Art. [OK, I did use a bit of PVA glue...]. And I, too, am disproportionately pleased with myself as I have been meaning to complete this little project idea for ages.

When I first did some flick carding, I decide to find a piece of leather from my attic treasure trove to protect my knees. I have bits of leather for making doll shoes but this is mostly gloving leather, which would be too lightweight. However, G's Mother finds me odd pieces and I remembered that she had come up with a large piece of pretty heavy weight leather which was a bit much for the dolls - I think I had already snicked a little for soles, and to support the back of some buttons in repair work.
When I found the piece, I remembered it is part of some kind of seat cover - car or airline (reminds me of American Airline seats but maybe too small). And, lo! it was already in a shape begging to become a spinner's apron. So here is it:

...the top was already stitched to be folded over, the bottom was already tailored into an apron shape. I covered some webbing with polka dot cotton from my material stash (Yes, I have one of those too...) and stitched it on as a neck piece (through stitching holes already in place), ditto for a waist tie which - and get this - was threaded through cuts in the leather already there in the perfect position. I then lined it, partly stitching in place, and partly gluing it round the edges.

** This Guardian newspaper site is actually pretty fun with links to good projects - tips on how I can use my inherited button collection and "the rebel knitter" [I especially like the "fruit cosy" - which had me puzzled for a bit but if they really did protect my bananas I guess it's worth a try...
My particular dislike was a project from a book called How to Make [Almost] Everything and featured in an article "The Borrowers" (Observer Magazine, September 2006). This was a lace doily made into a fruit bowl by saturating it in epoxy resin; I have no quibble if you want the "Thing" - it was quite nice looking. I have a quibble with calling it recycling or thrifty.

Posted on April 26, 2009 at 10:49 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday April 13, 2009

Kool Socks

The knitted socks have proved yet another surprise in colour variation. The knitting has pooled the colours more than they were in the skein (which was more my intention when spinning the yarn) and so the colour variation is more noticeable and less blandly grey. Lloyd says they are very New Age, (and I suppose he should know - and I am taking that as a compliment).

The colour is still very suitable for traditional mens socks (which is Good), whilst having a subtley wild air due to the pink.

I swatched the yarn and achieved 28sts to 4 inches using finer needles than usual. The yarn is not really as fine as a 4 ply weight, so knitting to this tension has produced a dense fabric. Some of the socks I have knitted in the past seem to have been a bit loose, so as well as using finer needles, I reduced the number of stitches for these socks. George likes these denser close fitting socks, which stay firmly on his feet "even in Wellingtons".

Posted on April 13, 2009 at 4:08 PM


I think this blend of colours is rather sophisticated. Better a more marled muted colour than overt stripes which might have been rather 1980s.

Posted by: Alison on April 16, 2009 4:55 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday April 5, 2009


I finally finished spinning the last of the llama fleece my sister gave me - the cream colour. I have finally chosen something to knit from it - based on my sister's expressed wish that I "knit myself a nice scarf or something", and finding a pattern shown in similar colours in my "Fine Fleece" book.

I did start with the main colour in brown and the contrast in cream, (this was the colour option shown in the book), but this did not work out, so I started again. The brown was the first bag of llama that I tackled and I spun it into a thicker yarn than the cream; the pattern itself has a different quality of yarn for the contrast stripes - a mohair - which I thought may have been thicker than the main, and my hunch paid off as the result with the yarns swapped is quite good.
In knitting with this - the first and the last colour I spun - I find my spinning and plying has improved a little. The cream colour is pretty acceptable on the whole.

Posted on April 5, 2009 at 5:11 PM


Is your mama a llama?... uh oh wrong blog...the scarf looks lovely and from this distance (6000 miles) it looks just like a good commercial yarn (which I mean as a compliment).

Posted by: Alison on April 16, 2009 4:52 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday April 4, 2009

More blending and plying

So now I have plied pink/grey with green/white. And here it is.

I plied the two blended singles - one pink and grey Suffolk, the other natural Suffolk and olive synthetic. At this stage of competence, I did not do myself any favours by using two different wool qualities to spin and ply, but the result is: OK.

The colour mix is "interesting". I discussed it at some length with Rob (colour being his Thing, in one way or another). I am sure this is all in the books I have about dyeing and colour theory, but this is what our discussion came around to: my mixture is an overall sludgy grey, as I suspected it would be. I tried to choose colours opposite each other on the colour wheel, as these are deemed to go well with each other. Indeed, if they are set side by side, then they do set each other off, and increase each others intensity; however, if they are blended together, complementary colours make black or white (depending on whether we are talking absorbing or reflecting), and in practical terms, given that pigments are not perfect, this will be sludgy grey. So you need to consider different aspects of colour mixing when dyeing, blending different coloured fibres, or Fair Isle knitting in blocks of colour.

My next steps in Kool Aid dying and spinning will be mixing red, orange, lemon, and lime green. They look good with the lumps of fleece side by side - but then orange and lime are almost complementary colours.

Posted on April 4, 2009 at 5:10 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday April 2, 2009

Blending fibres II

I planned to make a second yarn to ply with my pink/grey mixture. I was going to use a soft olive coloured synthetic fibre of some sort (it was given to me), thinking it would go well and give the sock strength. However, I decided it was all a bit dark, so I have blended some of the natural Suffolk fleece with the green fibre.


After experimentation, I carded the two fibres together before spinning - they have such different qualities and staple lengths that just spinning them roughly together was not working.

I am expecting that the overall effect of these colours together will be rather like when you start at primary school and make your first picture; you try to make wonderful colours by mixing all those other lovely colours together, but you always achieve a sort of sludgy grey.

Posted on April 2, 2009 at 11:03 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday March 28, 2009

Blending fibres I

The cherry colour took to the wool quite well, producing a firey red, so I decided to go ahead and blend the more muted grape/pink colour with my brown/grey fleece.


I did not card the fibres together but spun two rollags at the same time, unevenly, to produce short stretches of each colour, sometimes twined together, sometimes more evenly blended.


George came in during this process and requested I make him socks with the yarn - though he was scornful when I said I was blending unevenly by intention. I shall make the socks, but am doubtful about it on account of the brillo-pad quality of the wool and the thickness of the yarn when plied. Maybe he was scared I was planning to make him an entire pink and grey scratchy sweater, and figured that socks were a lesser evil.

Posted on March 28, 2009 at 5:09 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Monday March 23, 2009

Colour work

I accidentally ended up with some of the Suffolk fleece dyed in an interesting shade of brown that I had not planned. I decide to dye some more wool in a different colour to combine with it. The fibre has the texture of wire wool so this is definitely experimental. However, I pressed on and consulted the colour wheel in my books about dying - failed to make any decision - and went ahead and dyed a couple of colours using my Kool Aid collection of fruit drinks.


I used grape and cherry, but was not at all careful in the way I did it, so the colours did not take evenly (as planned), but also were not quite cherry and grape (not as planned). I dipped the washed fleece in the dye and then wrapped it in cling-flim and microwaved it.


Posted on March 23, 2009 at 4:50 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 28, 2009

I'm with you in spirit

It's "Stitches West 2009" - and here is my friend greeting me - wearing her lovely Loppem...
and standing in front of a bunch of socks... perfick.

Really wish I could have been there too...

Posted on February 28, 2009 at 10:18 AM


I wish you had been there too. I had a lovely time but wimped out and left by about 2:30...shattered and spent up! I may have a small gift for you from Stitches :-)

Posted by: Alison on March 1, 2009 6:50 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 21, 2009

Nuno Felt

Today, Janice ran a Nuno felting workshop. It was a very energetic day. The idea was to felt 2 pieces that could be made into a simple bag. In fact, I made 2 differently patterned pieces, which shrank to very different shapes. Unfortunately none of my photos properly show the texture of the felt, which is an important part of the result.

If you want to understand the technique it is explained very nicely here. Basically, you start by welding the wool to the base fabric, which may be either a loose weave cotton muslin or silk, by friction through rolling layers together. You then knead the fabric with soap, and and "shock" it, so that it felts and shrinks. The watery nature of this experience is much more limited than with conventional felting. As the wool layers shrink they crinkle the base fabric to form a seersucker-like finish.

We used merino wool layers on both sides of our fabric base, and I think the pattern and direction in which I laid the wool pattern caused the relative shape differences in my two pieces. You can put the wool on only one side of the base. The photo below shows some work of Janice's where she has used the same patterned silk Georgette as the base with different coloured wool layers on the back, and created all these different effects:

It would have been nice to have more photos of other people's pieces - however, not only did most of us not finish off the final process while we were there, but my camera ended up in a puddle of water so no more pictures were possible. [Dried out nicely, though, I'm pleased to say.]

Posted on February 21, 2009 at 7:40 PM


Your pieces came out really nice. Look forward to seeing some close-ups.

Posted by: Alison on February 23, 2009 11:22 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Thursday February 19, 2009

Not quite stripes.

Alison gave me a Knitpicks Sock Blank - an idea completely new to me. It's a piece of knitting that you can dye in stripes; you then unravel it, and when you reknit it to the desired shape it comes out striped - its a bit more predictable that painting a skein. Or so it should be.

I was very keen to try it out, and I had a great time, but singularly failed to get stripes. Also failed to get the colours I expected. In fact the whole experience was extremely unpredictable - but very arty and great fun!
Obviously no accident that I share Jackson Pollock's date of birth...

I won't dwell on the experiences much more here, but look out for more entries when I get to do the knitting, and a fuller explanation in my Knitalong category.

The blanks are knitted double, so you unravel into two balls of wool with the same colour sequence (two socks - see?). Also, apparently others in Alison's knitting group are spinning and making their own blanks, using a knitting machine.
"I could do that!"

Posted on February 19, 2009 at 7:02 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday February 14, 2009

Pandora's box

Actually - it's my Mother's button box.
Similar to Pandora's box in that, at the bottom, there is hope.
Hope that one day I may find the perfect project on which to use my favourite gems.

My digression into reviewing my buttons came because of a book that Sheila (George's Mother) found for me. It was on sale as an ex-Public-Library book, and, as usual, it was a lovely thought. In fact, it is a real collectors book, (rather than a showy coffee-table book), being a kind of glossary of button types. This is a completely new area for me, and as the book is somewhat dated, it is talking about really rare or old buttons rather that "collectible" buttons - which as my own collection demonstrates - includes plastic and more modern offerings. Anyway, I read it from cover to cover - sadly I fear, retaining little of the information and facts therein - and regretting that the illustrations are not in colour.

So here are some of my personal favourites from my Mothers box.

Posted on February 14, 2009 at 1:46 PM


My boys love to play with my button box - as I used to with my nana's button box. My buttons are ones accumulated in my life and mostly represent my dressmaking history. "Oh yes - my orange coat, my brown tweed suit, etc etc"

I just knitted a hat with buttons off - you could show off a really nice button like that - for example the green rectangular one.

Posted by: Alison on February 15, 2009 8:29 PM

My Mother was not so much into dressmaking, but because of 1940s "make do and mend" everyone would take buttons off their clothes before they were discarded (no charity shops in those days - and most people wore their clothes to the extent that they would not be very useful to anyone else...).
So I remember her outfits with the buttons - for example, the orange "roses" were on a 1950s black and orange thick tweed coat.
Although she obviously had not reused the buttons in the box, I think keeping buttons is a good idea - the button book makes it clear that at any time in history there are restricted sources for buttons. And even though there seems a huge choice in the shops I often have trouble finding the "perfect" button.

Posted by: Christina on February 16, 2009 8:39 AM

How great to have that resource. Whether you end up using the buttons or not, they have such character. And it sounds like they will bring back memories!

Posted by: Cathy on February 17, 2009 3:46 AM

Your buttons are lovely. Won't it be fun to match them to a garment. Or will you chose the yarn and project based on the button? I remember playing with my grandmother's assorted buttons and wonder what became of her buttons.

Posted by: billie on March 1, 2009 5:07 PM

I think they are lovely too, but I do find that you really do have to match the yarn/project to the button. Even when I have been looking for a single black button (should be easy) I never seem to have quite the right one. When I buy yarn for a project - like the cape "Chastity" that I made my friend Helen which needed only one button - I try and get the button there and then.
I am always buying myself interesting buttons (and Alison sometimes buys me buttons as they are a lovely gift) but you need the right setting for a beautiful button. I can see my collection being passed on into the future...
They had an interesting bit of "concept art" at the Alexandra Palace show this year - they had collected old reels of cotton and buttons and put them into jars (they looked arty) and you could just go up and open a jar and pick what you liked out.... there were some rules but it was great seeing loads of young students rummaging.
Also on this blog entry, I should have mentioned Nichols Buttons - not sure I want to buy them but what an interesting story!

Posted by: Christina on March 1, 2009 5:26 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday October 10, 2008

Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitchery Show 2008

This entry is a little late but here we are at last at the Knitting and Stitchery Show.


The entrance exhibit this year was a knitted coral reef that everyone could contribute to - you could knit something while you were there and hand it in to be added to the "organic" entity.


Here's my attempt to capture the whole reef - there's a popup to try and give you a better idea - but it was really lovely - showing both skill and artistry.

Our first item of the day was a "fusing fabric" workshop, which involves burning translucent coloured synthetics to make patchwork "art", using soldering irons. I enjoyed it a lot - not sure I will be investing in a new craft but I may join Sheila one day and have another go using her equipment.


Then we were off to visit our favourite stalls - I purchased some grey tweed Aran from Texere Yarns, some silk and cashmere in sea greens and blues, buttons to match, and some beads for my next River Rock scarf. More of these in future entries, no doubt.

1 Texere Yarns

2 Black Hills (UK)

3 Sailors Society Hats

4 Sailors Fancy

5 Heritage Jars

6 Helping Hand

7 Young Designers

8 Young Designers

Posted on October 10, 2008 at 6:17 PM


Thanks for posting the pictures of the "coral reef." I was curious about it, as I'd seen it mentioned in a knitting magazine. It's great to be able to get a good look at it!

Posted by: Cathy in Va. on October 20, 2008 1:51 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday October 4, 2008


This is what I've been up to. There have been major, and in some cases unwise, eBay purchases - but more of that another time - and they have led me to really begin to pull together Narvik. This pattern immediately struck me as one suitable for a hand spinning project, but that was really an artistic judgement and not a practical one (ie it looks like a homespun ethnic jumper).


It does have some ideal qualities - it's mostly rectangles - which can be easily adapted to suit whatever wool weight you end up spinning- but it is written for a chunky wool, and I find it hard to control my spinning to any consistent thickness - I am hoping that this might improve with experience.

Posted on October 4, 2008 at 8:47 AM


I don't spin very consistently yet, either. But some sweaters seem fairly forgiving of variability, as long as the yarn *averages* the weight I want! That looks like a lovely pattern, by the way. :)

Posted by: Cathy in Va. on October 8, 2008 1:59 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday September 20, 2008

Last day before the holiday

Well it isn't of course, but that's what it was like.
When the teacher said "Now today we're all going to make a lovely [card|picture|advent calendar|papier mache egg|pumpkin] to take home for Mummy and Daddy". And we all got lost in coloured paper, crayons, sparkly stuff, and glue.


In fact, it was our final workshop for the year, run by Betty, Jean, and Wendy, who provided 4 card-making projects. We had lots of fun - but I do think that glue and I do not get on well together; we just don't gel.
Har har.

Posted on September 20, 2008 at 10:38 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday August 15, 2008

Feeling blue - part I


Blue grass, blue floor, blue cooker - blue everything basically.

My knowledge about dyeing advanced in leaps and bounds while I was in France. Sheila gave me an old Dylon pod just before I went, (Riviera Blue), which turned out to be a cold water dye and needed a "fixer". On reading up about this I found it's a reactive dye and the fixer is sodium carbonate or soda ash. I know alkali is bad for wool - and I had no fixer - so I pondered getting some and experimenting. Luckily, I was able to read all about what to do on this great website under the section "Fiber reactive dyes on protein fibers". Basically use acid (vinegar) instead of sodium carbonate.

So I cooked up a bath for my newly plied skeins. Here was the result:


I was especially pleased, as at one point I accidentally boiled the dye bath - but the Suffolk wool skeins seemed to cope OK. I resisted the temptation to panic, and avoided poking them, and allowed them to cool slowly in the bath before rinsing.
I had thought I had cracked this spinning lark (har har I hear you laugh) so was a bit sad that I still had very uneven twist and artistic wobbly yarn. However, the yarn picked up the colour unevenly to produce a rather nice tweedy effect.

Finally I went on to knit it into a pair of socks - again, a slight disappointment that my very thin 2 ply is still almost a double knit (worsted weight). But I am getting there. The uneven colour lines are produced as I changed over my spun bobbins, and purely to do with the colour absorption, not a change of skein.


After this success, I bought another reactive black dye in the French supermarket and tried that on my fleece; it produced a much better result than the Dylon all-purpose. I am unsure if this is inherent in the dye type or was due to my increasing experience. The only negative point here is that it is quite expensive dying black - you need about twice as much dye per weight of wool than for other colours (about one pack for 100g).

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 4:57 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Saturday January 26, 2008


Last night (bedtime reading) I revisited a beautiful book George's Mother gave me for Christmas, which had been rather neglected in the excitement of the Vintage Socks. SashKaganCrochet.jpg
It's Crochet Inspiration by Sasha Kagan. I love this designer and had bought all her books up until Country Inspiration published in 2000; I was not so keen on the designs in Country Inspiration - and in reality I am not sure I have ever knitted any of Sasha's designs, being typically beautiful tiny intarsia motifs (my favourites!). I was however going to purchase the book, for old times sake, at her stand in Alexandra Palace in 2000, but she was a little brusquely off-hand with me and that rather dampened the warmth I felt towards her. I should have had more sympathy, as I know from experience that dealing with the general public for long periods on an exhibition stand is very wearing - but it did put me off; anyway I had a much better experience last year and she has two new books out of which this is one.

I'm not very good with "inspiration" books, ie ones that don't focus on patterns to make items, but this one had quite a few things to teach me.
Firstly, it made me realise that I may be a fairly experienced knitter but I am not up to the same standard in crochet. Sure I started with crochet at an early age, and I can follow a pattern, but that's not all there is to it. If you showed me a swatch of knitting, I could probably tell you how it was knitted and even name the stitch, but this bumper book of swatches made me understand how little I know about crochet. I know - I should be more humble....
Secondly, it really was inspirational, being packed with samples of interesting stitches and designs; I can't think of any aspects it failed to cover.

Here is a taster (hoping she won't instantly slap an injunction on me for reproducing her pictures, which I am only showing to make you interested in the book!).

SashKaganFlowers1.jpg SashKaganFlowers2.jpg

Don't go away thinking it's all doilies and lace by any means, though; I just felt I had to show her (an my) love of floral motifs in this extract.

One of the (many) things I was attracted to making was a lace mat in filet crochet! This is, however, a technique I do have experience of and am not so keen on; in stitch terms, it's just a hard repetitive grind. So I am tempering my desire to rush off immediately and weed out my crochet hook and cotton. But it's certainly on the agenda for the future [to add to my kitschy cat collection - lace mats otherwise not such a prominent feature in my house]


Posted on January 26, 2008 at 8:54 AM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday November 9, 2007

Cleanliness is next to....

Maybe not.
bathroom.jpg Anyway, we now have a new bathroom. There are still a lot of details left for us to finish, but I hope I will be motivated long enough to stop knitting and do some DIY. I was somewhat unimpressed along the way as the tiler arrived and promptly told me he did not know about any border (my only decorative requirement) and that he was not prepared to sacrifice his artistic integrity and work with the mosaic tiles I had bought as they were not already laid on a backing in the pattern I wanted and would "look awful". The project manager came and helpfully repeated what the tiler had said (in case I had some learning difficulty obviously) - helpfully adding that he had "no idea" that I had bough these mosaics but thought I had bought border tiles. If that were indeed true, all I would say is that it's a pity he did not check the materials and brief the tiler somewhat before the day the guy turned up to work....

I then spent a challenging evening carefully peeling every alternate tile off the sheets of mosaics I had bought and then resticking alternate coloured tiles back into place with a two-part epoxy. As I had a cold and could not smell anything, I realised about half way through (ceaselessly coughing) that I was probably as high as a kite, so had to open all the windows, and try and concentrate very hard on keeping everything exactly square.

I am pleased to say, the following day, the tiler completely accepted the mysterious appearance of chequered tiles on sheets as required, and set about sticking them on the wall without further protest.
Note the delightful recessed tile soap dish that the project manager also assured me was unobtainable.

Posted on November 9, 2007 at 12:54 PM


You creating the tile mosaic is hysterical! What a dodo the tiler sounds. Anyway - the bathroom looks lovely.

Posted by: Alison on November 15, 2007 8:17 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Friday October 12, 2007

Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitchery Show 2007

We had a fantastic time at the show, as usual. Probably a bit more laid back than usual, and less of a buying frenzy. We worked out that we have been going every year now for 8 years - so probably accumulated enough stuff!

We started the day with a workshop about rag rug making. It was great fun and I am quite smitten. It is something I've been interested in for many years, but always concerned about starting a new hobby. However, as new hobbies go, there is no huge outlay on materials or equipment, you can almost start right away....
Here was what we achieved during the class.


Having said that, we did both buy Hessian (the ideal is to recycle animal feed sacks - but neither of us has access to that sort of stuff!), and Sheila bought a hook and a bodger. The more expensive shuttle tool is something I intend to look for during my holiday with Alison, as it may be cheaper in the US.

On this stall - the Shuttle -


I found some bargain priced Tana Lawn. Alison has been interested in getting some Liberty Tana Lawn for some time now but it is astonishingly expensive. The colours were all lovely but mostly tiny flower prints in blue shades - so I was delighted to find this somewhat retro print example in colours that will suit Alison.


See the extended entry for photo album of the show.

Click on the thumbnails to page through and view the pictures.

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Rag Rugs

Braid - ducks

Rag Rugs

Bead flowers

Bead flower


Jewellery Beads



Knit a River

Relax and Knit


Posted on October 12, 2007 at 11:38 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday October 7, 2007

Keepsake books

After the Bound to be Beautiful workshop I attended some months ago, we were given a second set of materials to complete another book cover. So I finally sat down today and made the companion booklet - so I can take it out to the US, and Alison and I can have one each to write about our Knitting Camp experiences - or that's the plan anyway.


Yet again, I was very pleased at how it turned out. Most of the cover is glued together with PVA, but in the final step, when the book section is glued into the cover, you have to use "paste". This can be made in various ways (or purchased), and as I needed very little, I made up some paste from flour and water, following some instructions on the web to judge proportions and consistency.
What fun!

Posted on October 7, 2007 at 5:02 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday July 15, 2007

Sweet dreams and flying ants

I finally finished off the July Pattern of the Month and it feels a very nice weight to wear - especially in this weird weather.
Stepping outside this evening you can actually breathe in the water vapour. I was going to liken it to some tropical country, but really that's outside my experience - the closest I can describe it is going into one of the humid greenhouses in Kew Gardens. This afternoon it went from bright sunshine to being so dark as to seem like a winter evening, then the classic moments of stillness prior to the wind getting up and a huge thunderstorm and yet another astonishing downpour of rain - the garden paths were flooded in a moment. I had to check on the blackbird's nest in the wisteria outside the kitchen window, (although quite what I could have done to assist is doubtful), and found that she was sitting right over it protecting the chicks; with rain drops that large and heavy it must have been like being bombarded with buckets of water. I find it amazing that they nested there at all but... all week she has been dashing in with beaks full of worms to a chorus of delight from within.

hook_roll.jpg With the left-over fabric snippets from POM (above) I made a holder for my crochet hooks. Not my best piece of work - but functionally long overdue. I am hoping that my hooks will now gravitate towards it from all the places spread round the house where they have been hiding... My next mini-roll will be to house my sets of double-pointed sock needles.
cushion.jpg While the red thread was in the machine I made two quick Christmas cushion covers - I bought the fabric in the sales in January but never got round to making it up. I always want to change the decor at Christmas but with all the other priorities I never seem to have time for much decorating, so now I am well ahead of the game.

After all these little items plus a few mending and alteration jobs (broken zips etc) the weekend seemed to slip away. Despite "poisoners weekend" (a definite sofa TV experience) I don't seem to have done much knitting - I am somewhat dispirited, having had to undo the inch I had knitted on the cricket sweater and start again - after I got that far I realised I was knitting a Möbius * strip, having twisted the welt somehow - and this, even after checking extra specially carefully as I am so aware that this can happen!

* For some reason, when I learned about Möbius strips at school, the examples always seemed to involve "ants walking along a strip" - which also seems appropriate today, as it was typical "flying ant" weather - and they fulfilled all expectations in coming out in abundance. I did wonder if they would care to come in and try out Lloyd's cricket sweater......

Posted on July 15, 2007 at 10:03 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday July 8, 2007

All England

For my last 2 or three years at school, we essentially finished work some time in June, (exams over etc), but did not actually break up until several weeks later. These were great times for me, with the pressure of work gone, and pleasant summer weather.... I watched Wimbledon for 2 weeks, while doing dress making. I suddenly realised that having been taught needlework from the age of 12, (with Miss Soutar - but having given it up in favour of science at the age of 14), I could actually make my own clothes. So during those weeks I made a couple of summer dresses, always with Wimbledon in the background.

Later on I took a flat in Wimbledon, and spent hours on my own with my craft projects, listening to Radio 4 (no television), and at the right time of year - the tennis. The whole town was overwhelmed by the event, and after it was over the high street filled with cut price second hand tennis balls, and ripe strawberries that had been excess to requirements.

So today I was in nostalgic mood as I worked on this month's pattern, and watched a great match in the vein of those epics I remember from the 70s. There was a lot of nostalgia from the TV presenters as well, with many of the familiar players having become commentators, and Bjorn Borg was there watching his record equalised.


Now I'm off to make dinner - with strawberries for dessert, of course.

"I've never been more happy than I am today. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. It's really true: Life starts at 50." Bjorn Borg

Posted on July 8, 2007 at 7:40 PM

« Previous entry | Main | Next entry »

Sunday June 17, 2007

Bound to be Beautiful

Yesterday was the monthly Creative Fibres meeting; it was a workshop day: "Make a Book" - all about book binding. MyBook.jpg My Father always wanted to have a go at this but was put off when he read about it, as it implied you needed a lot of specialised equipment. I guess, in a way, you do, othewise you have to make compromises, and stick (no pun intended) with very simple books. Anyway, Chrisy and Diana put together a great workshop for us, during which we all made a simple book, (my finished book on the right). They do not normally teach crafts to hobbyists, but run a business [Bound to be Beautiful] as specialist book binders. At the end of the workshop they talked about more complex book construction methods, and we had a chance to look at the lovely books made or repaired by Chrisy and Diana.

Here is the sequence of the day. Much of what we did was concentrating on keeping glue off the work - or at least off the parts where it was not intended to go! Scroll through, and click on the preview image to see it in the viewing pane.

Loading image. Please wait
Folding and cutting the paper to make the pages.
Folding and cutting the paper to make the pages.
Paper is cut with a smooth bladed knife; the final fold is not cut.
A bradawl or heavy needle is used to make holes before sewing together the eight folded pages.
The pages are sewn with two outer (thicker) coloured end papers, and a strip of "fraynot".
Finishing the sewing, with a knot inside, and the ends neatly frayed.
Trimming the edges with a scalpel.
Attaching the mill board book covers with a coloured buckram spine; the spine is carefully spaced to match the thickness of the pages, using a spacer.
Pasting the decorative coloured paper onto the book cover.
Weighting the book to allow the glue to set; this is done throughout the procedures.
Pasting the end papers to set the pages into the covers.
Closing the book onto the sticky end papers.
Nipping the book for 10 seconds in a press.
Examples of finished books from "Bound to be Beautiful".

I am moderately enthused by all this, and would like to do more. In my usual fashion, though, I would like to craft my way through stuff I already have, whereas it's clear that to get a really good result you need to use the right materials. Maybe I'm not quite so interested in a really good result as such, but at the same time I feel I can't dismiss the many years of studying and experience that people like Chrisy and Diana have spent to become masters. Still - experimentation and innovation is everything for the amateur.

So yesterday was a very full day, as I had to bolt out of the class with 40 minutes to get home, change, and catch a train into London for the flamenco evening at the Barbican. I am expecting a quieter time of it today.....

Posted on June 17, 2007 at 10:31 AM


Hmm, well at the moment the boys get me to make them books by stapling printer paper with construction paper covers. Perhaps you could teach them bookbinding so their own books would look so much nicer?

ps your book looks really nice

pps see, i'm being polite in case your stalker comes along again

Posted by: Alison on June 18, 2007 10:10 PM