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Saturday October 28, 2017

Lewes WSD Open Day


I decided to go to the Lewes Guild open day on my own this year (no coach trip available). I went by train and it was pretty successful as an outing. The show itself did not seem to have quite the pizzazz of previous years but they did have a lot of crafts and demos for people to try out - which is a good thing to go for.


As usual I entered the raffle for a wonderful handwoven scarf - but failed to bag a prize!


Tempted by the signs I had passed while running up and down the high street looking for the Town Hall, I paid a visit to Anne of Cleves house.
I chose to walk down Keere Street, (apparently also known as Scare Hill), as it looked so picturesque with its cobbles, Grade II listed buildings, and sharp downhill drop. It seems it is famous for the legend that the future George IV once drove a coach and four down the street to reach Southover Grange.


Anne of Cleves house itself is also very picturesque although she not only never lived there but never even visited it - just part of a divorce property deal. It sounds like an excellent museum but as I had so little time before my train, (and its not a National Trust property) I only viewed it from the outside.


Posted on October 28, 2017 at 7:00 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Sunday February 19, 2017

Unravel 2017


As we had the class on yesterday, I went to Unravel on today, and took Kate and Jill with me. Neither of them had been before so it was quite fun to be a (small) group. I was inspired by the sock designs from Coop Knits, and could not resist more fluff from John Arbon


Posted on February 19, 2017 at 6:06 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Saturday August 20, 2016

Creative Fibres 25th Year

Another little lunch party to celebrate our 25th year - with our very own member's Ukulele band.


And though not so clear in the photo .... we all sang along... a very eclectic mix of musical eras....


Posted on August 20, 2016 at 3:27 PM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Saturday August 6, 2016



We went on a day trip to Rye. (I am somewhat embarrassed to say it was in order to pick up a 4 shaft Harris loom that I bought immediately after my weaving course - whoever would have predicted that?! More on that another day perhaps; for now, suffice to say it's lovely).
Anyway we made of it a good "day out", visiting Lamb House, which is most prominently celebrated by the National Trust (quite rightly) as a home of the author Henry James. In fact my, and most of the population's, interest in it is due to its other literary resident: E F Benson. If he were not already a firm part of popular culture, interest in him was rekindled by the most recent TV series of "Mapp and Lucia" - for which they used Lamb House. Good though the series was, for me no dramatisation can top the 1980s series with Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales, Nigel Hawthorne and co - it was also set in Rye though they staged the interior shots in the studio. For the recent series they actually rebuilt (mocked up) the "Garden Room" at Lamb House as the original was destroyed by a bomb in WW2.


The recreation was more like a conservatory extension on the back of the house, unlike the original which was separate from the main house and entered only via the garden. As Benson (and James) used it as his writing room he imagined Mapp doing most of her spying, from its large bay window, which had a view right down the street. You can see that Lamb House is on a corner so the Garden Room was oriented at right angles to, and to the left of, the main front of the house.


After a splendid (and huge) crab salad lunch at Fletchers House. we went on to Scotney Castle - another National Trust property. We toured the house ... where ridiculously enough I was most impressed by the 1950s kitchen that the last inhabitant had installed and used as her main living area.... and the gardens - but in the end failed to find room for a cream tea despite adventures including sliding down banks in the quarry garden and lost sunglasses.

Finally, for our last act of tourism, I persuaded G to stop off again on the way home to see the Chagall windows at Tudeley. Always a wonderful experience.

Posted on August 6, 2016 at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) Leave a comment

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Saturday July 30, 2016

Houghton House

...and Fibre East

On the way back from Cambridge, I diverted to Flitwick to go to Fibre East, which was quite as pleasing as I had been led to believe.
Some of the Guild were also there (day trip) and I had lunch with Kate and Georgia.
I'm afraid I did succumb to an "anonymous" fleece from the sheep rescue centre. [I started processing it immediately but it's a long job - fine and with a lovely sheen but also a lot of lanolin!]

I noticed an enticing brown sign in the vicinity and was further diverted to visit Houghton House. I knew nothing about the house and so was quite surprised to find it to be a deserted ruin.


Originally commissioned by Mary Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke in 1615 on land granted to her by James I (r.1603-25), it underwent many changes by its various owners until 1794 when it was ordered to be dismantled by the 5th Duke of Bedford. The ruins survived as a garden feature in the grounds of nearby Ampthill Park, and it is now administered as an ancient monument by English Heritage.
Truly a wonderful chance find.

Posted on July 30, 2016 at 3:20 PM

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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

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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

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Sunday July 24, 2016

Tour de Fleece - sprint to finish


Stage 21: Chantilly - Paris, 113km (70.2 miles)

My two 2-ply skeins completed.
.... and Froomey did it....
.... and I set off for Cambridge and my next week's adventure.

Posted on July 24, 2016 at 7:54 AM

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Saturday July 23, 2016

Tour de Fleece - tired but chasing hard


Stage 20: Megeve - Morzine, 146km (90.7 miles)

We spent a lovely hot day at the Leigh Summer Show - still madly spinning....

Posted on July 23, 2016 at 7:53 AM

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Friday July 22, 2016

Tour de Fleece - strong breakaway


Stage 19: Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146km (90.7 miles)

Further distractions as Rob came over to practice pitching his new tent (WOMAD...).

Posted on July 22, 2016 at 7:48 AM

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Sunday July 17, 2016

Tour de Fleece - one of the hardest days


Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse - Culoz, 160km (99.4 miles)

On to the next bobbin....

Posted on July 17, 2016 at 7:40 AM

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Saturday July 16, 2016

Tour de Fleece - a day to recover


Stage 14: Montelimar - Villars-les-Dombes Parc des Oiseaux, 208.5km (129.6 miles)

Today was a Guild meeting full of personal spinning challenges - all to the accompaniment of the cycling viewed on the iPad close by for inspiration.
The winners had the dubious pleasure of being photographed in one of G's T-shirts. [Or the Maillot Jaune as we liked to think of it].


Posted on July 16, 2016 at 7:39 AM

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Thursday July 14, 2016

Tour de Fleece - Bastille Day - legendary ascent


Stage 12: Montpellier - Mont Ventoux, 184km (114.3 miles)

Bastille Day and I ordered another two skeins of the yarn so I can make a two ply of the colours.

Posted on July 14, 2016 at 7:35 AM

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Thursday July 7, 2016

Tour de Fleece - a little lumpy


Stage 6: Arpajon-sur-Cere - Montauban, 190.5km (118.4 miles)

Well the cycling may be lumpy but luckily my spinning is not...

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 7:21 AM

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Wednesday July 6, 2016

Tour de Fleece - we hit the hills


Stage 5: Limoges - Le Lioran, 213.5km (132.7 miles)

Finished first bobbin and on to the second skein in a lighter natural colour with a different mix: Blue Faced Leicester (40%), Merino (40%), and Silk (40%).

Posted on July 6, 2016 at 7:20 AM

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Tuesday July 5, 2016

Tour de Fleece - chance of crosswinds


Stage 4: Saumur - Limoges, 237.5km (147.6 miles)

I had a bit of a distraction today as a lovely parcel arrived from P&M woolcraft.
I have lusted after a vintage Louet like this for years and discovered while at Woolfest that the company had issued a "limited edition" of them for their anniversary. Suppliers were allowed just a few of them each and P&M had one. They are not cheap but I thought that my fidelity to the idea probably warranted my buying a wheel new for a change.
My expectations of the wheel - for all its expense and newness - were not high. Louet have always produced budget wheels. However it spins beautifully and I am delighted with it - and it is even signed with the edition number - delightful marketing idea eh?

Posted on July 5, 2016 at 2:08 PM

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Saturday July 2, 2016

Tour de Fleece - riding up the coast


Stage 1: Mont-Saint-Michel - Utah Beach, 188km (116.8 miles).

I bought the fibre at Woolfest - it's a mix of Blue Faced Leicester (40%), Merino (40%), and Bamboo (40%) from Art Fibres. I have a second skein in a lighter natural colour with a different mix: Blue Faced Leicester (40%), Merino (40%), and Silk (40%).
I am finding my first skein difficult to spin - my conclusion is that it's the bamboo I do not like. I had a roving from Alison (in black and I am guessing it's the same fibre in this mix giving the dark colour) and I really did not enjoy the experience of spinning it. Thus not sure if I will make it to the second skein during the Tour.


Posted on July 2, 2016 at 6:59 AM

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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

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Saturday June 18, 2016



Just a quick photo of our general meeting at the Box Hill village hall decorated to mark the Queen's 90th birthday. Very festive.
I spent the meeting gossiping and knitting socks for Terry which will probably end up being completed tomorrow (actually on his birthday, but not able to be delivered...). I also picked up a couple of patterns: one for another blanket - a simple concept in thick yarn using slipped stitches, and two, a pattern for a kind of cricket cardigan by Martin Storey (wouldn't you know?) that I have been after for some time; not for a chap this time though, probably for me, if I ever make it.

Posted on June 18, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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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

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Saturday February 20, 2016

Unravel 2016


So time for Unravel again - the highlight of the day was seeing Susan Crawford talking about her Shetland Project - albeit via Skype as the poor woman has injured her back. It worked extremely well in fact and as always pretty fascinating.

I managed to pick up some token purchases, including some 4.5mm Karbonz interchangeable needles since the ones I got at Christmas are the shorter type (my mistake on Amazon wish list), and some additional wires (mine keep breaking). I also picked out a couple of patterns - one for the Jane Crowfoot Persian Tile Blanket which I much admired when she came to the Guild last year. I found it hard to find much I really wanted - which is a Good Thing. But then I did buy some dyed merino blended fibre in spice colours to maybe ultimately have a go at Martin Storeys latest KAL (in the distant future once I have spun it...!).

Later on I went to my sister's for tea before heading home. Flint (collie) is recovering from an emergency eye operation and is really peaky - seems he will end up pretty blind after all this - poor dog. So Lyn was a bit fed up on his behalf - but she did politely admire the spice coloured fluff.

Once again utterly mystified by the parking arrangements at Waggoners Yard. Last year I downloaded the Waverley phone app to pay for parking and due to what can fairly be described as a "user error" ended up getting a ticket. This year - app to hand - I found that the automatic parking reference number had been removed - so I used the same one as last year - which it recognised - then said I could not use it.... On further investigation it seems Waverley have "withdrawn the service". And I thought I was being so down with the kids.... Come to think of it there's no chance of that - I go to a show and spend half the blog entry discussing the parking arrangements - there is no hope for me...

Posted on February 20, 2016 at 7:49 PM

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Sunday October 25, 2015

Trip to Lewes WSD Open Day


Time for the biennial open day at the Lewes Guild. Again I did not manage to find anything much to buy. Little Grey Sheep were there an I bought another small bag of Stein; I was very tempted by a rigid heddle loom but decided this was not a purchase to make on the spur of the moment.
We watched a demo of Navaho spindle spinning - but although it seems very relaxing I am not going to take it up with any gusto. It seems to be based around long draw, and thus the preparation of the rollag is key.

Posted on October 25, 2015 at 8:03 AM

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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

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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

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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

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Sunday July 19, 2015

Woolfest - spinning project


Thoroughly confused this year as I found no Wimbledon tennis to watch in the evenings at my hotel in Cockermouth.... After years of talking about it (40 or more?) they seemed to have moved it by a week. However Wimbledon is now well and truly over, and no - they have not moved Woolfest - I went as usual on the last Friday of June, but am posting now as I have just finished a little spinning project.

I managed, (at last!), to acquire one of Ian Tait's spindles. Every year I go and gawp at his stand but fail to choose one. This year however I was so smitten with the concept of the White Horse together with bog oak, that I overcame my prejudices and bought a square shaped one. Isn't it lovely?

Fresh with enthusiasm, I also bought some Jacob roving to try it out. The spindles is slightly heavier than my preferred weight so I though the Jacob might work well - and for a number of historical reasons dating from the 70s I have always wanted to spin Jacob - and it's fine, though in truth I think a little heavy until there are a few grams added in the cop. Subsequently at home I finished spinning and then also (first time) plied the result on the spindle - also worked well although probably not the best spinning I have ever done in my life.

And the square spindle experience?
As everyone told me all along - they are lovely to spin with. It's just that aesthetically I prefer the look of he round ones. This one is beautiful to look at though, and the design just would not have worked on a round shape.

Posted on July 19, 2015 at 8:05 AM

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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

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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

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Saturday April 25, 2015

Well Manor Farm


We had a really lovely day with Emma Boyles and the "Little Grey Sheep" on Well Manor Farm. I would recommend it to anyone. She has just built a wonderful new barn space which is on the edge of having all the finishing touches completed - the aim being to host groups like ours for workshops and so on going forward. The information and talk on the sheep and their fleeces was really interesting and the stories of building up their business and their selective breeding programme was fascinating.. no.... really...
They have crossed their Gotlands with Shetland and produced their "Stein" which has the softness of Shetland and the shine of Gotland - and are now crossing this with a Merino ram (José Merino) - whom they had to go to France to acquire bizarrely - in order to produce a much finer fleece.
I (cough) came home with a small 100g bag of Stein to try spinning - but you can tell it will be lovely. I must say I had not grasped how far they have come in the last few years - now offering their own beautiful yarn, commercially spun and hand dyed in a lovely range of colours and weights. Fiona Morris (our workshop tutor last week) has collaborated with them to produce a range of patterns - so it's truly a "one-stop shopping" experience.


Posted on April 25, 2015 at 8:54 PM

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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

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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

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Sunday March 8, 2015

Knitting and Stitching at Olympia


Jennie and I went to the show at Olympia. I think she was quite impressed with it in comparison to the shows at Sandown, as it is a lot bigger and there was a lot more choice of fabric. I bought a couple of pieces of fabric to line bags, and towards the end of the day, I discovered some budget yarn on offer so needless to say came home with a bumper sack full of acrylic fibre.



Posted on March 8, 2015 at 11:30 AM

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Saturday February 21, 2015

Unravel 2015


I went to Unravel and acquired a satisfactory amount of swag - not too much but enough... (no fibre.....!). As usual I was mesmerized at Eliza Conway's nostalgia items on sale (I may have bought one or two), and was interested to see Joyce Meader had her own stall - I see myself in her position in years to come, selling my vintage yarns and patterns as kits.... Unfortunately I missed her talk "Three Decades of explosive knitwear" scheduled for Sunday. I did however, take in the talk "Knitting with colour, inspiration and techniques" with Alison Ellen. I was almost inspired to buy her book but think I may add it to my wish list for next Christmas instead.

Later on I met my sister for a Thai meal at the Golden Fleece in Elstead - a favourite haunt - conveniently located half way between our homes.

Posted on February 21, 2015 at 7:29 PM

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Thursday August 21, 2014

Woolfest - post-sales


I spun the purple fluff I bought at Woolfest and knitted another Stellaria as planned. [Just confirming that for once the plan was followed through in a timely manner].

This Stellaria has a lovely light soft woollen feel to it - but of course has lost the silky drape that results using yarns such as Rowan Damask.

Posted on August 21, 2014 at 9:14 AM

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Saturday June 28, 2014

Woolfest 2014


Back at Woolfest again this year - as ever, delighting in the rare breeds parade.
I saw a sheep that was new to me - the Grey-faced Dartmoor; not so clear in this photo but with all her fine ringlets, she reminded me of one of those regency ladies from a Georgette Heyer novel.


On Thursday evening when I arrived, I joined Carol and Pete (the Spindlers2) plus Margaret for a meal at the Bitter End again - to which I was able to walk this time. As last year, a very enjoyable time with a drink or two as I did not have to drive.

I stayed in a new hotel (The Manor House) which is right in the centre of Cockermouth, hence it very easy to walk out into the town to eat or shop. On Friday evening, though, I chose to eat in the hotel, (delicious - lamb shanks) - in fact the hotel really did offer a "warm welcome" as advertised, and I was very lucky to have stumbled across an available room there at such short notice.


The weather was very pleasant, and I was easily able to walk to the venue - I did debate about this as I would not have the car if I bought anything substantial, but decided walking was too tempting to miss. I went to several demonstrations but was anxious to catch Rosemary Stow, a rag-rug maker, and Bapple and Jojo who were providing a demonstration of "Standing wool ('Quillie') rug making" - a technique new to me. It's a simple enough concept but like all things there is skill and knowledge required to achieve workable results.




I also made a new friend, Lin, who was one of the vendors - Weaver's Bazaar - their stall was constantly mobbed as they seemed to provide continuous demos of tapestry weaving. They are located in East Grinstead so I hope to continue the acquaintance once we return home. [Not that I'm a weaver but I live in hope... I am very keen on what I now know to call Lateral Looms - a Guild member brought one in some years ago and I was very smitten with it - this is the first time I have seen one for sale commercially - I may try and construct one for myself... one day when I am at a loose end.]


Here are my purchases after day 1:

Some merino and silk fibre to spin and to knit Deborah a version of Stellaria (not only my favourite plant but also favourite pattern it seems). >>Here<< complete...


Some lovely fibre ("My Precious") from Spindlers2, which attracted me as it looked so wonderful when knitted up - I plan to send to Alison.


Some perfect vintage wool to edge my Martin Storey Mystery blanket in mustard. Looks like it came from my attic - but did not.


On Saturday morning I bought some Herdwick lamb to take home for us to eat, and, as I bought a 2 day ticket, I popped back to the Mitchell's venue again, with the car this time, and bought a few bags of bargain fluff on Saturday morning before heading out home.

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 3:58 PM

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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

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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

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Saturday November 16, 2013

A Christmas Garland

... albeit a bit early this year - we had a little party for our final Guild meeting of the year.


In the morning we had a (select) group session making miniature knitted Christmas trees and tree decorations. In the afternoon, we were lucky enough to secure Eliza McClelland for a Christmas entertainment which was very lively and put us into a suitably unseasonal mood - along with the mince pies and stollen supplied by members.

Eliza is known to us at the Guild as a textile artist rather than through her acting and talks. Below is an exert from YouTube illustrating her skills with beautiful bead work.

Posted on November 16, 2013 at 6:39 PM

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Saturday October 26, 2013

Lewes WSD Open Day


It's open season at the Guilds. Fresh from the success of our own open day, Norma organised a little trip to Lewes to see "Made By Hand" - the biennial exhibition of the East Sussex Guild. They are a very active and larger Guild and their exhibitions are always packed with wonderful examples of their work.


We wandered around for most of the day, seeing not only their fabulous work, but also demonstrations (with opportunities for hands-on as above), and items for sale. Several of the members bought sets of weaving sticks, which work a little like peg looms (but more portable). However, spurred on by seeing the demonstrations, I finally bought a peg loom from the P&M Woolcraft stand. I stuck with a 24 inch size as I thought it was more practical for me - however I see he makes them up to 59 inches in width, which could certainly make a decent sized rug. Needless to say I have not tried it yet but I am hoping to use up some of the vast amount of poorer quality fleece that I have in making a couple of rugs or cushions; if I actually get round to doing this then it will have been well worth it...!


Refreshments were available in the venue, and I was really quite taken with the delightful table decorations - beautiful little works of art, all hand made in fibre.


Posted on October 26, 2013 at 10:38 AM

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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

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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

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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

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Friday June 28, 2013

Woolfest 2013


Back at Woolfest again this year for an indulgent time all to myself. The weather was not as appalling as last year, but it did rain once again.... My first two visits must have been a fluke.

My first act was to check out my pennant - and here it is (centre of photo below) - still in place. My second act was to check out Spindlers2 and buy .... just perhaps a couple of things from them .... ahem...


Other than that I did not come away weighted down with purchases in general. A couple of small gifts and a membership of the rare breeds trust in hand - plus a small bag of alpaca from the fleece sale.
I bought some cashmere and silk fibre from Knitwitches - their yarns are wonderful - "seriously gorgeous" in fact. There was a bit of a distraction on their stand while I was there as Eirwen had just discovered that she had lost one of her sample shawls (presumably to a despicable thief - need I say more) - words fail me really...
No specific pattern for it yet except I know I want to make a shawl - actually I wanted to make a navy shoulder shawl as I seem to be short of one such on this trip - however I find the colourway I have purchased, called "Nightshade" (I was thinking "night"), is more purple (they were thinking "plant").

In the evening, I joined Carol and Pete (the Spindlers2) plus friends for a meal at the Bitter End in Cockermouth - a really good end to the day in nice relaxing company.

And after that.... it was back to the dear old Derwent Bank where I managed to get a room again this year. There have been a few changes since I was last here - probably on balance to the good - certainly more commercial. A little cafe has opened which is a nice addition, meaning you can get food throughout the day - plus you can book your evening meal viably before 6 rather than the preceding day - which was tricky for late arrivals. They threatened me with an Internet connection - but it didn't quite work out for me on the day (!) - and then just as I was wondering how to spend my first quiet evening, (yesterday), I did a double take when I noticed that my room had a television - so I was able to watch Wimbledon - perfect.


Posted on June 28, 2013 at 1:12 PM

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Saturday June 15, 2013

DIY Pin Loom


Carried away with the concept of Pin Looms, I decided that the major thing stopping me making one was a general inability to work successfully with wood. While buying a picture frame, I noticed there were square picture frames available that, (I thought), with the mere addition of a few nails, I could make into a pin loom myself.
The result was as above.

I was aware of a number of factors as I tried this out, and the main problem was, as I suspected, I did crack the wood - I plan to address this with a rework, but I wanted to show what happened here - and for the moment the loom does work fine as it is.


A number of the Guild members also tried it today, and they also cracked the frames, and gave up, However, everyone liked the weaving idea and went home with the intention of getting their husbands to make the wooden square out of a harder wood.

I should mention that I am completely aware that all the materials and method were not ideal, but I stuck with it with the following considerations:

  • the materials** were cheap and fairly easily commercially available;
  • the nails are much too heavy duty for the flimsy pin frame - but you need them to be fairly tough to sustain the weaving;
  • upholstery tacks have rather too large heads;
  • the heads of these nails are a little too big but you do need something to stop the yarn slipping off, so panel pins are not really ideal either;
  • you could drill pilot holes to stop the nails cracking the wood - but then you need to be really careful to keep the drill properly upright, which is not easy without a support - and suddenly it's a manufacturing activity not a simple bit of craft.
  • This is little sample of my weavings made into a cover for a microwavable hot pad. Don't be put off - my colour choices are not so good, plus the camera has picked up the inconsistencies - one of which is due to my sewing the square in with the "wrong" side exposed where I have threaded in the ends!


    ** The materials were: a 4 inch square Box Frame from Wilkinsons (currently available at half price), and 64 x 25mm round head nails, which were spaced evenly along the centre line at about a quarter of an inch apart, 17 nails from corner to corner on each side.
    A couple of tips are - it is more essential to keep the nails in a straight line than it is to worry about the spacing being very precise, try blunting the nails before hammering in, which is a technique to avoid cracking the wood, and when finished, mark each alternate nail with a spot of coloured paint or nail varnish - it helps when using the loom.

    Posted on June 15, 2013 at 7:37 PM

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    Monday May 27, 2013

    Pin Loom Weaves


    Not sure when the idea first came to me but I decided to weave some squares to make a backing for my latch-hook cushion (Christmas gift from Alison) using a weaving frame made for me a couple of years ago by Father George. Serendipitously, four squares (about 7 inches each) are exactly the right size, and I am very pleased with the result.


    I guess it may not look so very impressive but it's exactly right for a rustic looking backing for this cushion.
    The yarn was some Gotland handspun by Felicity - with which she was disappointed since the yarn turned out fairly hard and coarse - and without being too discourteous to Felicity, this was partly the fibre and partly the spinning - however, it was a great delight to find something for which it is so well-suited.
    I crocheted the squares together, making a decorative join, having made 4 using the weaving technique demonstrated below (by Hazel) on a modern Hazel Rose Loom.

    With my loom, the spacing of the nails means it's really designed for a very chunky yarn, and even then it's a very loose weave. The yarn I used is not very stretchy so it was not going to spring back to a closer weave of its own accord - I tried a test piece and found I could not further shrink it either. So for this project I decided to re-ply Felicity's 2 ply into 6 ply (by just Navaho plying her yarn) which made for an unbalanced yarn - but this did not matter for the weaving - then I used the yarn double. [It's better to use the yarn double rather than trying for a bulkier ply, as the yarn is not rounded but lies flatter in the weave, so you end up with a closer weave, but not a thicker fabric].
    I am now inspired to try a blanket...! and while you pick yourself up off the floor laughing, I should say, that this process was exceedingly quick - I completed it in an afternoon, including the spinning and the test piece.

    My introduction to this technique was through seeing a (Hazel Rose Loom) demonstration at Unravel one year. So I thought the above diagonal weave was the only way these pin looms are used. Gradually I became aware that in fact there were a lot of vintage pin/hand looms around in America from around the 1940s and a number of people spoke of them with great affection - there are quite a few always available on eBay which fetch pretty good prices - especially if they include the instructions!. There are many different patterns that can be achieved on these looms but the technique used is more like conventional weaving. Here is Hazel again demonstrating the "weave-it" technique on a Hazel Rose Loom.

    Hazel Rose Looms are beautifully made from wonderful woods - but they do seem a bit steep to buy. If you fancy having a go and want to make a DIY loom - here is an idea to make a loom by mutilating an old book. I think maybe a bit less easy to use than a wooden frame but it might convince you whether or not to spend the money on the real thing.

    The slightly sad footnote to this is that I never felt I made my appreciation known to Father George for his efforts in making this loom for me - and I never used it in any project for him to see. In fact I feel I was rather ungrateful at the time and now he's not around any more so I'll just have to come to terms with the vague disquiet I feel about it. I kind of hope that somehow he knows how much I (we all) valued his skills and his gifts.

    Posted on May 27, 2013 at 8:09 AM

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    Saturday May 18, 2013



    So... "shibori" sounded very exotic until I read wikipedia which told me it was the age old Hippy standby "tie dye" (although I think to be fair that's only a part of it). As a child of the 70s, it seemed very familiar in concept - but so much more interesting in practice. I think at the time I was too young to really have a go myself - just saw the T-shirts!
    Above you see the class "show and tell".


    We had a splendid day with Jennifer teaching us; the only limitation being that one day was not long enough to explore everything.


    Having impulsively invested in a whopping great piece of silk organza (never seen any in pure silk before but could not resist) I was delighted at the result - which was using the fabric folded and then wrapped.


    Felicity went to town with the stitched panel, and made a bee. She also had some beautifully executed circles, and made a "doughnut" scarf. I think my favourite was the "larch" stitch pattern which I plan to experiment with further at home.


    Posted on May 18, 2013 at 4:46 PM

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    Saturday April 27, 2013

    3D split-ply


    Above my efforts at making a bowl shape - unfinished needless to say! I really do like this form of braiding, but I can't see myself ever being able to make up my own patterns, and instructions are not quite as simple to find as those for, say, knitting....
    I did go as far as purchasing my own gripfyd this time.

    Maybe ... an octopus... sea anemone...

    Posted on April 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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    Saturday March 9, 2013

    Designing in colour


    Today was our Guild AGM and our speaker for the afternoon was Bobbie Kociejowski who is a fabulous weaver - above is some of her work - but today she talked to us about colour theory. As I understand more about colour, or perhaps more about combinations of colours, the more astonishing I find it - whether it's through a blending and dyeing practical workshop or Rob explaining to me about lighting design. It's because I just tend to take the colours around me for granted without really appreciating how extraordinary the concept is.
    When, for example, Geordi La Forge - a fictional blind character from Startrek - explains how his (futuristic) visor is able to accurately interpret wavelengths of light and enable him to have "some kind of vision", it makes it sound like he has a more complex version of a stick to somehow feel his way around - when in fact he is really only describing how our eyes actually work.


    At the end of the afternoon, we drew the raffle - we had so many contributions this year that I think everyone got a prize - mine being a wonderful wallflower - a wonderful deep red colour - very apt!


    Posted on March 9, 2013 at 9:03 PM

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    Saturday February 23, 2013

    Unravel 2013


    He's a splendid chap isn't he? Just standing around in the stairwell at Unravel, where I spent the afternoon (not just in the stairwell - though it was tempting).
    It was an uncharacteristically busy day for me today. I attended the Guild meeting in the morning, and then went on to Farnham Maltings in the afternoon, as I'd agreed to meet my internet friend Sara in the afternoon.
    We spent some time together mooching - visiting the knitting machine Guild's stand and discussing vintage equipment (which all participants in the conversation seemed to have). I bought some vintage crochet hooks (I don't have enough), some sock yarn from Fiberspates (I don't have enough), and some buttons (I don't have enough). The buttons were pretty interesting - Lisa (Stealthbunny) makes them uses "found" items and I bought some beauties made from polished stones containing ammonites.

    After that I spent the evening with Lyn and Terry - we went out to eat at the Roadmaker Inn in Bordon which has a Gurkha restaurant - yum.

    And just to finish off - George is in France currently and reported that there's a lot of mole activity.... Here are our old friends the moles at Unravel.


    Posted on February 23, 2013 at 2:22 PM

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    Saturday November 24, 2012

    55 Christmas Balls (well, four of them anyway)


    I made some Christmas decorations from the well-known Arne and Carlos book. I planned to use some oddments of red and white Guernsey wool, but it proved to be much too thick. I had in mind something about the size of a golf ball, but my first attempts produced something more like a baby hat. So - undaunted - I unplied the yarn on the spinning wheel and replied to a 3 ply and a 2 ply. Hence the balls' rather homespun look as opposed to the crisp examples in the book! (I have to say I like the homespun look - which is lucky).

    I started the balls a long time ago and was finally incented to complete them so we could use them as a basis for a Christmas activity at the Guild's last meeting of the year. Here we all are, knitting away:


    Several people brought the last of the sock-blank socks for us to admire:


    In the evening I went to a Jo Brand charity evening at the Rose. She is very funny and we had a great time. I took some photos, but due to the low lighting (I don't ever use flash) the quality is not good enough to show.

    Posted on November 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

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    Saturday October 27, 2012

    Silk and Colour (or possibly color)


    This was our final day at SOAR and I am going to start with our final class all about silk production run by Michael Cook.

    I am thoroughly glad I did the class as it's not something you would casually take on at home, but I think I can say that Alison was a little less taken with it than I - boiling and stirring silk cocoons is not to everyone's taste - even when the bugs have been previously euthanised and are not suffering further. Ever since we arrived at the snowy resort, I seem to have lost my sense of smell - whether due to the cold or the altitude I do not know, but it certainly seems it was very helpful in this class, since the unpleasant smell of the boiling cocoons was quite overwhelming (apparently).

    The first part of the class was producing silk thread from cocoons and the whole process was very interesting (you can see me above being very interested, winding my silk filament onto a drying frame). The thread is drawn out from multiple cocoons, boiling in a bath, dried, twisted (as opposed to spun), and finally washed to remove the gum.

    The second part of the class was making a silk hanky from the cocoons, where the cocoons were also boiled, but then taken individually and flattened, after the bugs had been removed (eeuw!). Interestingly, Michael demoed this part but you can see below he really does not like it.


    Michael is a weaver producing fabulous miniature woven silks, and he breeds some silk worms himself as well as importing the many cocoons it takes him to support his habit. You can see a little weaving round his neck, which is a QR code sampler; we though this a great novelty and Alison swiftly read it into her iPhone.

    Our morning was spent in a much less messy and more fluffy environment with Deb Menz. I liked this class very much - I had read all the colour wheel stuff but I realise now - not properly. The exercises in blending colours were designed to illustrate the difference between hue, value, and intensity, and to show the effects of blending with families of colour as opposed to using complementary colours (which I tell you right now, is grey). I was pleased to find there is an index card to help you decide on the value of a colour if you don't have much of an eye for it - something I could well use in fair isle knitting as well as quilting.


    The little nests that Alison and I produced with our newly acquired hackle were very pleasing - see below. While we were working, Deb talked to us about her early experimentation with colour from which she had many sample skeins to illustrate her points. This was actually a very valuable mini-lecture, given almost in passing and I thought in hindsight it warranted more of my attention than I was able to give it while working.



    After this full day of heavy concentration, Alison bravely drove us home.

    Posted on October 27, 2012 at 10:22 AM

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    Friday October 26, 2012

    Wild Downs and the Market


    This is Mr Lendrum - (I know!! so exciting!) - letting us have a go on his wheels in the marketplace. We met him over dinner, and I think he was a bit bemused at our delight in meeting a real person behind the family name, (Mr Ashford was there too). Truthfully though, I have always been keen on Lendrum wheels - ever since I first tried Janet's at Epsom Spinners - and it is noticeable how many of the tutors have them, (admittedly I suspect they are not their sole wheels though, but good for travelling).

    Our first class today covered drawing techniques with Jacey Boggs. It was a great class, but for some reason (intense concentration) I failed to take any photos. So as she is such an appealing teacher, here is a You Tube item where she is publicising her book about fancy plying.

    She did a 3 day workshop on this before we arrived, and although our interest in either creating or using these novelty yarns is limited, we did buy her book on the subject. Alison firmly wished she had signed up for plying rather than silk - which was reenforced once we finally did the silk class... more on that later.

    Meanwhile - back in our class - Jacey skillfully led us from short forward draw seamlessly through to achieving long draw with apparently no problems at all - though I will reitterate that the ability to do long draw depends a good deal on having well-prepared fibre/rollags.
    This turned out to be just as well, since the afternoon class was with Judith McKenzie ** ["Three Wild Downs"], and the very first fibre she gave out came with the words "now we're going to spin this woollen spun" - where before the morning class, we would have been unable to comply. Even if we'd not spun anything in Judith's class, though, it is simply wonderful just to sit and listen to her talk - mesmorising. However, spinning the fibres was a real treat, and we hurried to the marketplace immediately afterwards to secure ourselves some cashmere, yak, and bison. [This is a recurring theme - every time we did a class we rushed to purchase the fibre or books concerned...!].

    ** Since returning to the UK we heard the terrible news that, while at SOAR, Judith's entire studio burnt down destroying all her work and equipment. Read more about her friends efforts to help her rebuild here.

    Posted on October 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM

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    Thursday October 25, 2012

    Ski Hut


    Here we are setting off for our classes. Today it is "spinning the yarn you want" with Amy Tyler. All year we have been certain that after this we will not need any other classes, as this is all we need to do: Spin the Yarn We Want.
    All I can say is - there's a lot to this spinning lark.

    The class was lots of fun and surprisingly exhausting. In fact, I can say in retrospect that for some reason I never foresaw quite how tiring SOAR would be to be, getting up for 9 am starts and being so highly focussed throughout the entire day.

    The event logistics, and the arrangements for the meals were excellent throughout - though no-one was quite ready for the snow, and Alison spent the first 10 minutes of the day ferrying fellow-attendees (slithering about clutching their spinning wheels) to their various classes in her car, before we finally drove to our own class.

    Yesterday evening we arrived in the dark with the extremely slippery conditions and parked up at reception as we were only just in time for dinner. We swiftly established that there is no bar.... (no bar!!) - hard to imagine a ski resort with no bar - wonderful log fire but no egg nogs etc to drink around it.... Everyone helpfully happy to tell us that you can buy wine with dinner or that we could get liquor by driving to the local town - not quite comprehending the concept of social drinking somehow...
    So we then drove round to Ski Hut (easily walkable in better weather) and settled into our well-appointed room, which has 2 huge beds, a simply vast bathroom, and a comfortable sitting room (where we could make a start on our solitary drinking without the embarassing possibility of being seen to imbibe).

    Posted on October 25, 2012 at 10:20 AM

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    Wednesday October 24, 2012

    To Tahoe


    So our journey North (or possibly East... not entirely sure where we are!) begins (and ended as it turned out) in the snow.


    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....


    ... and it's only October...


    Posted on October 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Friday August 24, 2012

    Spinning with the Boys


    Ah - it's you again. Any news?

    Posted on August 24, 2012 at 6:49 AM

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    Sunday July 22, 2012

    Rare Breeds at Singleton


    It was a lovely summer's day for the rare breeds show at the Singleton Open Air Museum, and we had a great day - not only at the show, but also looking around the museum itself.

    We visited the Weavers Spinners and Dyers exhibition, which - not being totally familiar with the site - we found quite hard to locate. But it was pretty impressive.


    I loved these rugs - one of them made by one of our members. Makes me want to weave.


    The lovely woven pattern is shown in the details below.


    This delighted me - it's a dyed panel illustrating the natural dye colours with embroideries of the plants.


    The down side of its being quite such a lovely day was that the traffic getting into the site was terrible (over an hour just getting in) which seems pretty inexcusable - it is hard to see why it takes any extra time at all to simply drive in and stop. We were also a bit unimpressed with the food we bought (to eat there). It was a natural farmed hog roast, but the meat served in the bun was basically down to the chewy bits and not enough of it; I am not sure about the value for money aspect (it wasn't that expensive) but really I was not impressed to queue (again) for 20 minutes and be presented with a bread roll full of bread stuffing with a bit of added gristle. I am not averse to chewy bits, but I would rather pay more for something with a reasonable amount of edible meat. I am taking the trouble to moan here as it's not the only experience I have had like this, so maybe the caterers or pubs planning a hog roast might take note.

    Posted on July 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM

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    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

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    Thursday June 14, 2012


    In March I finally achieved my ambition of owning a Frank Herring wheel. The reason you have not heard about it before now is that I did not have a lot of success spinning with it. Although it can be optionally set up for scotch tension, my other wheels are like that, so I wanted to leave it as I had received it - double band drive. However, the wheel band would sporadically slip off as I was spinning, and I could not decide if it were me or the wheel.

    Last week I was spinning at a garden party and had the opportunity to try a friend's similar wheel, and found I could use it quite easily without a problem. And so, long overdue, I decided to sort it out. I was loathe to start by randomly dismantling the wheel, so I looked carefully at it, comparing with at the photos in the manual - I noticed 3 things: the wheel did not line up with the pulley blocks, the bobbin was clipped in wrongly (easily fixed), and the mother-of-all was not positioned relative to the machine in the same way as in the photo.
    I felt the latter was key so that's what I dismantled. Sure enough I found a couple of tiny parts missing.


    They are not uncommon pieces to obtain but as I had nothing to compare them with I went to Herrings to ask for specific replacements, and David Herring is bringing them to Woolfest for me to collect.

    Posted on June 14, 2012 at 2:05 PM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Saturday August 20, 2011

    Creative Fibres 20th Year

    It's our Guild's 20th year and we had a little lunch party to celebrate.


    Above: the spread.
    Below: the team that made it all happen (not quite so much me, though I seem to have a prominent place in thepicture...)


    Posted on August 20, 2011 at 8:53 PM

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    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

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    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

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    Sunday April 10, 2011

    Sheep to shawl

    OK - I admit - not a shawl.


    Some time ago, I was tempted by Lloyd and Marie to pick up a bundle of fleece which they had hand-clipped from the small flock (which came free with their rented house!). Heavy hints - or direct instructions - were given to produce something " a hat or scarf" as it would be much appreciated.

    The fleece - although not in a complete fleece shape, but rather an untidy mixed up mess on the barn floor - was exceedingly soft in places, but unfortunately I had "help" picking it up so I got a very mixed bag. It washed to a lovely white colour, and spun up well. I was pleased to be able to make 2 hats and a scarf. The latter I did not think much of - it just used the left overs, but the hats based on my apparently popular fisherman's rib hats were pretty good.
    But as is the way of things, I'm not certain that the gifts were in fact much appreciated - I think I am viewed as just a bit of an elderly eccentric and this is just what I "do". My view of myself of course is an artistic artisan in the prime of life. Like Miss jean Brodie, I had hoped my prime would last the rest of my life.

    Posted on April 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

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    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

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    Friday October 22, 2010

    Longwool and combs

    A farmer came to our open day with a few fleeces to sell. They were Leicester Long Wool, a rare breed, which I had not heard of before but similar in type to the other "long wools". They were huge fleeces, and in the end I split a "lamb" fleece with Kate. The fleece has some appeal as the colour changes across the sheep - creamy white through to grey, and with a slight sheen (only visible on the inside of the fleece!). Overall they did not look especially promising but this farmer does not keep them for the fleece - we were a kind of charity for him I think.


    Uncharacteristically, I washed the fleece the very next day - my usual method of steeping in hot detergent and then rinsing on a very gentle wool cycle in the machine left me slightly disappointed as it came out more matted than I would have liked, but I managed to separate it into reasonable locks.


    Today I decided to start the preparation. I began by spending a few minutes reviewing combing techniques on the web (time well spent in fact) and then clamped the Guild's combs to the dining table, covered the floor with a tarp, and started off with the medium grade locks.


    The whole thing went much better than I expected. I found the process overall more satisfactory than carding, and the fleece itself seems to be very soft and attractive. I have not really followed all the advice I have read - but one thing I will be doing next time is spraying the locks with oil/water mixture - it really is very fly-away without this.


    At this stage I could say it seemed to be the nicest raw fibre I had worked with. I am now looking forward to trying to comb the washed but matted Wensleydale that I have in the attic (a gift...). I may even invest in my own combs...

    As I am publishing all this very much in arrears I can add an addendum. The fibre I have spun so far is slightly rough and hairy. Alison also tried out one of my nests. However in its defence I have not yet prepared the best parts of the fleece as I wanted to practise my combing first.


    This fibre went on to be part of the Winter Wonder Hat plied with some silk and merino - the main hat was in Spelsau and this made a good colour match.

    Posted on October 22, 2010 at 5:05 PM

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    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.

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    Posted on October 16, 2010 at 5:51 PM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Saturday June 26, 2010

    Back to reality.


    No I have not been there all night (note the change into traveling clothes) but could not resist spending the last hour in the garden before being picked up to travel home.
    Over breakfast I met up with a fellow Woolfest attendee (no names exchanged?!) whom I had met last year at the hotel - and like me she had gone to some lengths to book it again. Talking to her made me wonder if we had attended the same event as she had seemed to see so many things I had missed; this made me resolve to attend on both days next year - there is plenty of time to spend the morning there on the second day as well as travelling home.

    On the way back we dropped in at a small farm which had Shetland sheep - the owner had been unable to get her small flock sheared in time for Woolfest and was taking orders - she also related the sad (but ultimately uplifting) story of rescuing her sheep from the flooding. I think all the farmers around must have such stories.
    I also amazed some very old friends in Windemere by dropping in on them at an unsociably early hour for a Saturday morning. I guess we have not met for over 20 years and they were a bit bemused but very welcoming for all that. Andy and Jeff are due to confirm their civil partnership next weekend and as this post is very late (technical issues) I am slipping in this photo of them (taken by Rob) on that memorable day.


    Unfortunately I could not stay with them for very long (Adam and Felicity occupied with coffee and cake and a long journey ahead of us).
    Throughout the car journey I was knitting "Puzzle" - a chunky cardigan design by Louisa Harding for which I am using Sirdar Peru. Being chauffeur driven on such a long journey has been great for headway on the knitting - and it says a lot for Adam's smooth driving that I was able to do it.

    Posted on June 26, 2010 at 10:17 PM

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    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.


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    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

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    Saturday June 19, 2010

    June spinnings

    There were quite a few spinners at this month's meeting.


    Claire and Felicity sporting their new wheels. Felicity's Majacraft Suzie has only just been delivered to her after long anticipation. Amanda (in the foreground) has an unusual wheel hand crafted by her husband, which spins from a point - the wheel itself being a substantial block of wood propelled by her foot. This is a type called a kick spindle or kick wheel.
    My wheel and teacup are the only visible evidence of my presence -
    and, yes...... that is a bloke in the background.

    Sandy was busy preparing ply-split braiding kits ready for the group's participation in Celebrating Surrey at Loseley Park next weekend.


    I shan't be participating in this event next week as I am off to .... Woolfest!

    Posted on June 19, 2010 at 6:16 PM

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    Sunday June 13, 2010

    Shabden Park Farm

    Shabden Park Farm Open Day - including tractor rides and sheep shearing - and our group spinning to show kids what happens to the wool after it comes off the sheep.


    It's always fun to spend the day in the sunshine spinning - provided you can steel yourself to endure small children with their ice-cream hands on your fleeces - and in one case sneezing and wiping hands on the wool!

    There was a farmers market where I discovered that Emma of Lavender Cottage Fibres has a regular stall every month - I bought some lovely hand-dyed fibres from her - she stores them all with lavender so they smell wonderful too.


    She also sells her own handspun and I chose the multi-colourway in the basis of seeing the effect in her spun fibre. The red batt is a scrumptious colour, with just a hint of sparkle.
    The farm is very local to me and I may well visit the market in the future - for yarn and other produce. George came along for a while and bought some of the edible wares.

    Posted on June 13, 2010 at 11:29 PM

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    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

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    Monday March 29, 2010


    We are in France for the week and the weather is foul. But the fire is nice and I brought lots to do. I am spinning some silk and alpaca that I bought from Fibrecrafts in pale grey. I am trying to spin an Aran weight yarn to make the Gallery Jacket.


    OK I admit it - I have acquired a new wheel. I'm afraid it was one of those opportunities I could not pass up.

    Posted on March 29, 2010 at 8:45 AM

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    Wednesday March 3, 2010

    Icelandic Shawl: complete

    Finally complete - blocked and ready to go...


    It's much smaller than I expected (or intended in the pattern) and I can't really work out why - my tension knits the same as the yarn suggested - however I used a lot less yardage than the pattern said. I thought I must have missed out a complete pattern or something, but I cannot detect that I have. One other person on Ravelry complains that it has come out small - but other have photos of clearly larger shawls.

    As it was I undid the centre section twice to make it bigger - the first time I used larger needles - the second time I increased the stitches considerably before starting the blackberry stitch (as it the stitch tends to tighten the work) and used larger needles .

    Anyway - I think the result is pretty satisfying


    Posted on March 3, 2010 at 1:50 PM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Monday December 7, 2009


    George has long been complaining (quite justifiably) about my walnut collection. He collected them from our trees in France - with husks - some months ago. First they sat around in a plastic bag going mouldy - and at intervals he tried to throw them away. Eventually I put them into an old tin bath supplied by G's Mother with some water and left them to "mature". They have been on the boiler, keeping warm and infusing for a few weeks - and at intervals George has suggested throwing them away.
    Now Christmas is approaching and I decided it was now or never - George would stop politely suggesting throwing them away and would be driven to action.

    I prepared some fleece, and simmered it in the strained dye bath. My book advises not to leave it in for "longer than necessary" as walnut can harden the fleece; I always struggle with advice like this, though - how can I know what is necessary? However I took out test pieces and washed them through pretty vigorously with soap until the point at which the fleece retained some colour. This was much as advised - 45 minutes simmering at about 80 degrees.


    Walnut is self-mordanting and the colour has turned out a pinkish beige - it looks very like the sample photo in my book. It is the pretty much the colour I was looking for ("grey-beige") which I plan to use for the Icelandic Shawl pattern. I have already spun some Southdown 2 ply natural fleece for this project - now I need 3 shades of blue/grey to get started (for which I plan to use a commercial dye).


    The other walnut colours shown in my book, Spinning and Dyeing (by Gill Dalby and Liz Christmas), have made me want to try pre-mordanted wool, and to that end I have sent off for some mordants - poisonous and otherwise - to try out further samples with my bath. A little project for after Christmas.

    Posted on December 7, 2009 at 12:41 PM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Friday June 26, 2009

    Woolfest 2009

    The second I entered the building (Mitchell's Lakeland Livestock Centre) and the faint but delightful smell of sheep hit my nostrils, I knew it was going to be a Good Day.
    Indeed, it has been such a fantastic day I can hardly begin to describe it - but I shall anyway ...

    I made my way first to the information desk and happily was able to book for the Natural Dying Lecture as well as the Tatie Pot dinner in the evening. I browsed the exhibition stands and immediately made my first purchase of a small bag of Spelsau fleece - I fancy it for the colour (grey) - Berit Kiilerich is doing a workshop on knitting directly from the fleece, but I plan to try spinning it.
    I had a word with Nancy Bush, who seemed relatively thrilled to be here; I am not sure where she hails from but I think it was something to do with being here with the weather and "where it all comes from" - though the weather is atypically sunny here and everywhere is pretty hot at the moment.

    I visited the large vendor's stands (P&M, Wingham, and Herring/Ashford) as there were one or two specific items on my list to buy while there. From there I worked my way towards the livestock stands, and the lovely old sheep, who were very brave and well-behaved considering all those human eyes staring at them. At this end of the building, there was an area devoted to the private sale of fleeces - I took the opportunity to look at as many different types of fleece as I could, and I did (in the end) buy a small black Hebridean lamb fleece (about 2lbs).

    Just before lunch I went to the rare breeds parade in the auction ring. I really enjoyed this part. I found the information about rare breeds, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the specific sheep, truly fascinating. Here are all the stars of the show that I went to meet later in person.










    Manx Loaghton


    Rough Fell

    Rough Fell




    After lunch - more browsing to the constant faint sounds of traditional tunes from the Music area. Here you could sit down and (in my case) review your purchases. The later part of the afternoon was the lecture on Natural Dyeing given by Carol Leonard. I made lots of notes, and afterwards, I purchased the small booklet Natural Dyes - Fast or Fugitive by Gill Dalby, but as I suspected, when I got home I discovered that my earliest book on spinning from the 1980s is also by her and has similar information. I also bought a couple of natural dyes (Brazilwood and Alkanet), but mostly the lecture encouraged me to experiment and try out more natural substances - and as Carol said: "you can get some simply wonderful colours - if you like yellow...".

    Then it was time for the final purchases before the Tatie Pot dinner and Spin-In. I was lucky to impose myself a lovely group of knitters from Coventry (by chance) who made me feel very welcome - whatever they thought! I had bought a pretty spindle - just for its looks (from Whorl Drop Spindles) - it's made from an exotic seed pod of some kind. So I spent the spin-in trying to spin some alpaca I had also just purchased. In my case, there was more dropping than spinning but Clare, Julie, and Jane were really encouraging, and I had great fun.

    Finally, it all ended at 9 and I set off back to the hotel; it is very light in the evenings now, so I could fully appreciate the wonderful scenery of the winding back roads.

    Finally - my pictorial album of the day:




    Nancy's stand

    Long Draw

    Parade Ring


    Fleece Sale

    Fleece Sale


    Herdwick Sheep


    Swill Baskets

    Music Area

    Herdwick Rope

    Herdwick Rope

    Herdwick Rope




    Posted on June 26, 2009 at 10:22 PM


    It looks just wunnerful - I wish I had been there.

    Posted by: Alison on July 1, 2009 7:29 PM

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    Saturday June 20, 2009

    Straw into gold

    Alison went on a retreat today - and I went to a Creative Fibres meeting - so we were united in spending the day spinning, and probably spinning the same fleece too - albeit separated by 8 hours in time. However, before I set off, the postman delivered the most beautiful gift from Alison...

    ...which is an Ishbel Shawl - and I had no idea she was making it for me - see the details here.
    Isn't it wonderful? it is so soft and lovely - such a beautiful colour!

    So to explain her entry where she says "in thanks for the fleece she prepared for me" - take note that I sent Alison this:

    ... and magically I got a wonderful silky bamboo shawl in return.

    I am not sure how she did it - but now all my spinning friends want to send her their old fleeces, hoping she can effect the same transformation. I'm not sure that's how she did it, though....
    [... and have they even read Rumplestiltskin? - there's always a price....]

    Posted on June 20, 2009 at 11:07 AM

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    Wednesday May 27, 2009


    I spent a great evening with my sister. I had an unexpected bonus in that the shearer came late in the day - it had rained heavily overnight and in the morning the sheep were too wet to shear early on. So I was able to watch the whole operation and collect 3 fleeces at the end and drive them straight home.
    My car smells terrible and George is appalled - but ... it's great nonetheless.

    1. Min

    2. Min

    3. Min

    4. Min

    5. Min

    6. Columbine

    7. Columbine

    8. Columbine

    9. Felicity

    10. Felicity

    11. Felicity

    12. Felicity

    13. Felicity

    14. Felicity

    15. Fleece

    Felicity is a Southdown but the other two are uncertain - and obviously crosses. Lyn thought Columbine was a Black Welsh - but she is a ewe with horns - so probably a Jacob cross of some sort. After Felicity went back in the barn minus her fur, Columbine started frantically butting her; we assume she didn't recognise her without her customary rotund shape. Min is a young white ewe, also with horns - it was her first shearing experience - the fleece has a very tiny crimp, so looks promising.

    Posted on May 27, 2009 at 5:42 PM

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    Monday May 25, 2009

    Magic Beans

    It seems no accident that Jack's magic plant was a bean. George left for France and I noticed that 2 little pimples had appeared in my indoor bean pots.

    A day later all 8 are through - and they have scared me with their rate of growth. I have moved them outside to slow them down a bit.

    Other than that - the holiday weekend has been warm and sunny and we exhausted ourselves in the garden. I have little to show for it but bare earth where the weedy drive used to be.

    And I also scoured a fleece in preparation for more fleeces arriving from my sister tomorrow.

    I rose very early today and started more work but after a couple of hours It began to rain and has continued on and off ever since, so no more real progress on the weeds.

    Posted on May 25, 2009 at 10:34 PM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Thursday January 15, 2009

    Wondrous strange....

    I had a lovely Christmas with lots of great presents, but I had to show this one as it seems to me to be all that a gift should be. George's Mother found it in a charity shop and wasn't sure what it was - isn't it great?


    As I opened it I thought it was a charka wheel - but I think I've got the right idea now. Loads of bits that all fit onto the nice little drawer at the front.
    [I think there might be a couple of bits missing but it seems to work as is.]


    I wanted to show a picture of it "in action", but the pegs only expand out to accommodate a 40 inch skein and the ones I have to hand are somewhat longer. However, with my Father-George patented Niddy Noddy, I hope to be able to use it with my own hand-spun skeins in the future.

    Posted on January 15, 2009 at 7:08 PM


    What a fascinating little device! So, do I understand correctly that it's a skein winder that you operate by cranking the little wheel with your hand? It's a lovely present, that's for sure. :)

    Posted by: Cathy on January 30, 2009 3:43 AM

    Yes, that's how it works. It is the bobbin part that the wool winds on to that I am not sure about - I need a small skein to try it....

    Posted by: Christina on January 30, 2009 8:42 AM

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Sunday August 17, 2008

    Feeling blue - part II

    A little more metaphorically and a little less literally blue this time.... but only a bit!
    Alison and I had such a lovely day a week ago last Saturday, that even the Creative Fibre day yesterday was less of a highlight. Lots of folk were off on holiday so just a small band of us - I did get a lot of useful information from my fellow spinners and dyers though, and Eve confirmed that preparing Wensleydale is a nightmare and there is a lot of wastage. Pam had a fleece, which, with my tiny but dedicated knowledge of one sheep, I was able to confirm is a Suffolk - it even had the cute little occasional black hair. It amused me how instantly recognisable it was - other people had been suggesting it was South Down, so I was even able to go home and check out the SouthDown fleece from my sister to make sure.

    LamourS.jpg Last weekend, Alison and I spent the day in London - haunting the knitting department in John Lewis. It was great - the Rowan staff were lots of fun and we bought books and wool. Alison bought some Kaffe Fasset sock wool and the Latest Rowan book with some Wool/Cotton, (in colour 954 "Grand", I think), in order to knit "Lamour" which was also on display in the shop. StillS.jpg

    She was also very smitten with "Still" from the Kim Hargreaves book "Thrown Together" (though it's in Calmer which Alison does not like knitting), and we admired the cardigans that the staff were wearing from "Nectar". I was delighted to find that they had copies of the new book "British Sheep Breeds" - so -
    net result we came away with stacks of books and inspiration.

    Sheep Breeds Nectar

    Posted on August 17, 2008 at 5:38 PM

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    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

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    Friday August 1, 2008

    Dogs and Knitting

    They don't exactly go together like a horse and carriage, but they do go together a lot better than cats and knitting. However, the cats are not very interested in much except food - whereas the dogs sit faithfully at my feet as I knit. They are in a permanent state of alert in case there is any sign of a game happening; periodically they lose patience and come over and prod me with a frisbee.


    Our holiday weather has been excellent so far. We picked more cherries, but they are not as wonderful as they were a couple of weeks ago, and the raspberries have mostly gone now.

    I have spent my time preparing - that is flick carding to remove the vegetable matter and remaining dirt - and then dyeing some of my fleece. [I know this looks in rather intimate proximity to my cooking facilities but I was very careful to keep the dying equipment quite separate.]


    Perversely, I am interested in dying some fleece black, and it has been a moderate success. As expected, it is grey, or a charcoal black, but it has rather good blue/black overtones, which may work out as I want.


    It did take an awfully long time to comb through 200g, though - and I need 600g of the black colour and more of other colours.

    Posted on August 1, 2008 at 3:27 PM

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    Tuesday July 22, 2008

    "A nice bit of Wensleydale, eh, Gromit?" - Wallace

    My sister is visiting our cousin in Kent - the spinner, Ginny, so I went over to see them both. Much spinning and knitting went on while I was there, though through some oversight, I was craft-free.

    I was able to quiz everyone on my little spinning conundrums (!), get lots of advice, and watch and learn from Ginny. To cap it all, Ginny gave me a "spare" Wensleydale fleece** . It is lovely - and she tells me it's not hard to spin - so we will see.


    I had a lovely day and Ginny worked all her fingers to the bone, preparing a wonderful curry for lunch; it was really quite delicious. I feel a bit like a locust - I fly in and strip the house of food and fleeces....

    ** I must confess I left the bag of fleece in the car when I got home - so I could forewarn George and gauge his reaction. In fact, he was quite calm about it as it's already washed, so does not have to live in our lobby - and most importantly, does not smell!

    Posted on July 22, 2008 at 1:27 AM


    I suspect I would be with George on the smelliness of fleeces.

    Posted by: Alison on July 25, 2008 7:40 PM

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    Saturday July 19, 2008

    Round and round it goes...

    Despite my best efforts, I got a place on the circular weaving workshop. I had a duty to turn up for the day - by some default, I had the tea things.

    Here we are starting out:


    Actually I would have been disappointed to miss out - I am sure I would like weaving - I just don't think I can make the investment in time - given my life span is by definition limited to one lifetime. In another life, I shall be a weaver. However, in this one - I will limit myself at least to this rural form of the craft.
    Apparently it is yet another dying French rural art - all done with fingers and primitive home-made loom.

    Jean tries to maintain control and ensure we work only with our fingers - no needles or shuttles allowed...


    ...moments of hysteria and rebellion (over the finger thing)...


    Art samples from the weavers guild:

    CircularWeavingCushion_s.jpg CircularWeavingSample1s.jpg CircularWeavingSample2s.jpg
    CircularWeavingSample5s.jpg CircularWeavingSample3.sjpg CircularWeavingSample4s.jpg

    Posted on July 19, 2008 at 4:47 PM

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    Sunday June 22, 2008

    My first skein.

    Here it is. New born and vulnerable.
    Don't look too closely now - no - now come on, play the game. Put that magnifying glass away, now!


    I went to the Creative Fibre meeting today, and took my wheel. Wendy was also spinning and was very helpful - more than anything, most encouraging. She showed me how to ply, so I was able to do that this evening.

    skein4.jpg It's taken only 20 years for me to get round to doing this - and I am so pleased with myself. The wool is pretty poor - I had to deal with George prodding at the wool at various stages of production, every time he walked past me, saying "it's a bit like string, isn't it?" then "that's more like wool, o but it's a bit hard isn't it? not very woolly" and finally when it had relaxed a bit "o it seems to be fluffing up a bit now".

    Earlier in the week, I found a book Rob gave me years ago "Spinning and Dyeing - an introductory manual" (Gill Dalby and Liz Christmas). Mostly I remember it as being a very useful reference for dyeing, however, being older it had very useful stuff on what to do when faced with a fleece. As I have 4 fleeces waiting to be dealt with, I am anxious for any words of comfort I can get, so this was very helpful. A lot of the modern books don't focus here as spinning is so popular now, you can source much more reliable, high quality, ready-prepared rovings and tops.

    I am impatient to try knitting with it - it seems to be an Aran weight, (75g 100m). So - now I am settling down with my book "Spin to Knit" (a gift from Alison) - the perfect way to decide what best to knit with my first skein. I still have to wash it again - and possibly try dying it - before I get to knitting it though.

    Posted on June 22, 2008 at 9:36 AM


    Well, I think it's just fabulous. I'm sure it will bloom when you wash it, and if it turns out like string, surely George will need a new vest?

    Posted by: Alison on June 23, 2008 6:56 AM

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    Friday June 13, 2008

    Art Yarn

    I can spin.

    I can spin...... Knicker Elastic [I believe this is the technical term used by the spinners of my acquaintance]...


    ...and I can spin bouclé... hurrah!


    I tried the latter because the fleece with which I find myself seems to have 2 distinct layers - I think or assume due to two layers of growth maybe without shearing. An under-layer which seems to be fluff without any staple length, and an outer layer which is "normal" if a little short in staple length. I decided to see if the fluff were able to be spun at all - and came out with the bouclé. You can see the piece I tried with is not very clean - just an experiment.

    Posted on June 13, 2008 at 9:35 AM

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    Sunday June 8, 2008


    Last year, I made it known to sheep owners that I would like a fleece to play with - and now I am being given fleeces plural - which after about 1 has become a problem. I have "some odd wool" that one of Ava's sheep cast off, two more fleeces from Ava, and now two from my sister - one of which is a chocolate Jacob, so I am looking forward to trying that. Between me and actually spinning, though, is a lot of preparation - and having decided to go full steam ahead this weekend, I still have not done any actual spinning!

    Fleece1.jpg Fleece2.jpg

    I have scoured and dried half of one fleece, and continued preparing and carding the "odd wool" (amazingly slow, and probably not ideal for a beginner but I have to start somewhere). The fleeces are laden with lanolin, which is fabulous and I need to enter into another sub project of making my own hand lotion too.... It is a terrible shame that the fashion now is not to spin "in the grease".

    George has become increasingly alarmed by the exponential increase in fleeces - and this morning when he went downstairs to make breakfast, he stumbled back upstairs again and gently pointed out that I had left a bunch of flowers in the downstairs cloakroom, so he could not wash his hands - and when he went into the kitchen to do so, he found the sink there full of wool....
    When I said cheerfully: "that's what living with me is like", he howled "I know" - somewhat desperately, I thought.

    Basin1.jpg Basin2.jpg

    Posted on June 8, 2008 at 10:25 AM

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    Saturday May 17, 2008


    I am posting this very late - but have stuck with the original date of the Creative Fibres group meeting. This month was an Inkle Loom workshop - I did not join it but here are some photos of the group having fun with their looms.

    Inkle1.jpg Inkle2.jpg
    Wilderness3.jpg Inkle4.jpg

    There was a jolly band of non-weavers closeted in the kitchen - handy for the tea and biscuits. Here is Clare - who makes me quite jealous but also inspires me - she has been spinning only since last September, but produces great quality work (to me) and has been experimentally dying and making socks with the results of her work. I am a long way from making anything from my efforts at spinning I fear.


    She even spins on her train commute into work with a drop spindle - which I am sure amuses her fellow passengers no end.

    Posted on May 17, 2008 at 6:24 PM

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    Saturday April 5, 2008

    Braiding Day

    Sandy ran her annual braiding day at Headley - about half a dozen of us attended, and it was great fun - like being in Primary School again. [No - come to think of it - more fun than that]. Sandy brought a good few different types of braiding for us to try out, and lots of books to look at.

    LoopBraid.jpg With such an opportunity I wanted to try something new and, attracted by the pile of highly coloured wools, I learnt about loop manipulation braiding. Here is Pam starting out having a go - Japanese style - the orange wool on the table is my initial effort.

    The nice thing about this is - there are no fancy tools - just fingers. I tried three methods - English, Norwegian, and Japanese. I found the Japanese easier than the English (for a change) and the Norwegian was the nicest but produced a different type of braid - flat on one side and curved on the other. You can work with more than one person to produce wider braids - on the front of one book was a photo of 10 Japanese hands working together - manic....

    Sharon brought her Lucet braiding, which is not a name familiar to me though I have seen the tool (no idea where) and probably thought it was for hairpin lace. As well as the 2 pronged variety she had a 4 prong tool, which kind of reminds you of "Knitting Nancy" - however the principal of the thread manipulation is different.


    Several of us brought our ply-split flowers to finish off** ...and out of the left over strands, Pam, Janice, and I made a keyring each***. The pattern is "waves" as explained in Julie Hedges book on ply-split.


    There were 3 Marudais - a standard wooden one in the far distance, a lovely little dark wood one in the middle, and the one Janice made that inspired me to make mine.


    Gill working Kuminhimo with a polystyrene square - I should have pictured the output as it was a fantastic woolen spiral braid.


    ** Here it is - my lovely craft bag (present from Alison) - "improved".


    ***George was delighted when I said I'd made him something and he looked at the keyring with some interest - and finally said "its lovely..... I don't want it."

    Posted on April 5, 2008 at 6:21 PM

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    Saturday March 15, 2008


    Today was Creative Fibres AGM - which lasted all of 20 minutes. There was bumper attendance, and chatting to everyone proved very jolly, as usual.

    In the afternoon, we had a talk by Lee Ault from the Dickens House Museum at Broadstairs. Lee is a well-known speaker and expert on costume and textiles; today she was focusing on underwear, and had brought a hamper full of items to illustrate every era. She started out with the 1920s, before working back and forth through the Victorians and Edwardians, up to the 1960s and 70s, discussing each type of garment in turn. In the 1920s, everything was apparently even more unmentionable than even decades before; underwear was laid out by your maid - and then covered up with purpose-made linens so nothing would not be "on display". This was not a problem for the Victorians, as they did not wear any drawers at all - unhygienic - and to wear drawers was considered very racy - the sign of a loose woman.


    I loved this item - a boudoir jacket. It was made of a kind of gauzy organza, with a fine pink lining, showing through to give a lovely delicate colour and drape. Naturally, it came with a "boudoir cap" to match.

    I was very interested in the "new" caged crinoline invented in the 1850s, making the wide skirt fashions much more wearable, as it was so much lighter than the previous bone-hooped petticoats and layers needed to create the right shape. It was very popular despite being the subject of much ridicule, especially Punch magazine. Dress reformers used the idea of the cage as effectively imprisoning women. [One of Lee's talks is entitled "The Caged Lady (Victorian Costume and Social Attitudes)"]. Gradually the fashion shape changed, with the emphasis moving to the rear, with the "crinolinette" and the bustle.

    Although, I don't think any if us dated as far back as the Victorians (!), but we have such a spread of ages, that gales of laughter swept round the room at the mention of almost every 20th century item. Each one brought back memories to someone of their Mum or Granny's underwear - or we were reminded of long-forgotten childhood experiences of being forced into archaic vests and liberty bodices. Ray remembers, as a child in Ireland, her Mother having someone come to the house to measure her for bespoke corsetry.

    Mavis is constructing her latest jacket from her various pet furs; she has here a combination of rabbit, alpaca, sheltie, and good old sheep.


    Posted on March 15, 2008 at 5:48 PM

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    Sunday March 2, 2008

    Mother's Day, and Mirrors

    When I first joined the Creative Fibres group - Spinners Weavers and Dyers - the one thing I was sure about was that I was not at all interested in weaving - how long ago that seems... Since then I have been seduced into trying my hand at braiding - both Kumihimo and ply-split. [See the extended entry to understand how this came about!].
    Anyway, it's Mothers Day today in the UK and this gave me the incentive during the week to finish off some little braided items I've in mind for quite a long time. Here is the cord I made from cotton thread I had bought on eBay - I had made spiral rounded braids in two colours - this one introduces a third colour, and the bobbins are set unevenly in the marudai. Sadly the photo does not do justice to the deep purple, and green colours.


    A close up shows the colours but they are not as vivid as in reality.


    I had to be quite inventive as to how to finish off the ends, and attach them to retainers to attach to your glasses, [note that Jacqui Carey supplies the ends, and they are fine if you want a lot of them, but I found it cheaper to go to the optician in the village and buy a low quality cord at 75p in order to cannibalise it for the ends].

    It seems to me that braid is pretty limited in its uses - certainly if you are beginner - but a fairly obvious use is to make a piece of string to hang your glasses on. As you get older, I have noticed, you go through a phase of using one of these; I think it's as you start to need reading glasses** but have not yet reached the point when you require glasses all the time. I think they are quite naff - but it's only a matter of time for me I'm sure - I have made strings now for George and his Mother, and who else is there but myself?
    [**I have begun to think now that your eyesight fails as you get older, to protect you from the full force of that first early morning sight of yourself in the bathroom mirror...]

    I leave you with that thought on mirrors, philosophy, and aging..... and with some more pictures of the braid destined to be George's spectacle cord.


    These are both spiral braids created with 8 bobbins, 4 in each colour, and using the same movements, but the bobbins are arranged in a different sequence on the mirror.


    How did this happen?

    At my very first meeting (the Open Day 2006) I tried all with all the things on offer, and braiding was well-represented as Sandy is the Chairman of the Braiding Society. I had a go at Kumihimo as her Marudai was all set up, and I thought it was simple enough (I could see that it was easy to get in a muddle, even with only 8 bobbins but...) and no real interest there. However, on display was Janice's "home made" Marudai**, and I thought "I could do that!", the prospect of a DIY project being much more appealing than the braiding!
    **[I should explain that the equipment for Kumihimo can work out very expensive - the bobbins are about 8 quid each and the Marudai over 100 - and thats before you buy the Japanese silk threads!].

    I searched for a round plant stand all over the place - but without success, and then I found a bathroom rubbish bin, which had a wooden top with a hole already cut in it, and I rushed home to try it out right away. For my first efforts I used the bin itself as a base - this work "ok" but the bin did not have enough depth to allow any substantial length of braid to be made before repositioning of the centre weight was required - and repositioning was almost impossible as the sides are completely enclosed. Anyway I made my first piece of flat braid in this way (not so very many mistakes!) - this is a close up - the braid is about 7mm wide:

    I then decided it was worth progressing with adapting the top of the my bin into the Marudai "mirror" (the top plate). I cut some dowel to make legs - I cut holes (very carefully!) in my mirrror using a router, and glued the legs in place. I then made a base for the legs to sit in - this involved a lot of careful measuring and levelling which I don't want to think about. Here are the legs being glued:

    The base is an old piece of faced chipboard, which started out square, and I finally cut into a round; I still plan to paint it. Here is my "finished" Marudai.

    The bobbins (tama) are probably the most cost saving part of the exercise; they are made from 35mm film canisters. I used to have a lot of these, but I purged them all and in these days of digital cameras I have not accrued any more. No problem there though. I went to my local camera shop and I mentioned what I was after and the guy gave me a HUGE bag full of them! The tama have to be weighted, for which I used 2p coins, which serve the purpose well, as you can put exactly the same number of coins in each canister. I finished them off with an elastic band to act as a "retainer" and stop the threads slipping off.

    Each bobbin should weigh about 70g - this can vary according to what you are doing - and then you need a counterweight in the middle at about 50-70% of the total weights of the tama - a bag full of more 2p coins.

    As a beginner, again to keep cost down, I was advised to try machine embroidery threads, as they provide a shiny look, a bit like the silks normally used. It was a bit tedious making 20-strand cords to wind on the bobbin - I was able to use my wig loom as warping posts, but the warping takes much longer than the actual braiding. I purchased some threads on eBay, with which someone had been trying out Kumihimo; they were cotton, so harder to use (slippery is better), but already pre-cut into lengths, so much quicker to wind on the bobbins.

    Final Kumihimo braids:

    Kumihimo supplies are available on the web from Jacqui Carey, as are books on the subject.

    For information and book on Ply-split braiding see Julie Hedges site.

    Posted on March 2, 2008 at 11:21 AM

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    Saturday February 16, 2008

    Ply-Split Braiding

    I have just returned from the Creative Fibres February workshop, where I turned this:


    Into this:


    The flower is double layered, when finished, but I was too busy nosying into other people's work to finish my own. Ply-split can produce many forms, including bowls, necklaces, booklet covers - and, of course, camel girths(!). Here is Brenda holding up an original camel girth:


    The work is very finely worked from goat hair, giving a coarse texture - a bit like carpet:


    My preference is for the flat work (in linen) rather than the more artistic shaped work. It makes really good bags, spectacle cases etc. Sandy specialises in bags - her current opus is a bag for a computer notebook, (you can see it on the table farthest from the camera). Here is some of her work:


    Finally - a bit of fun artwork from Sandy - a cup of tea with teabag in cup, and Battenburg cake.


    Posted on February 16, 2008 at 5:04 PM

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    Friday October 19, 2007

    Knitting Camp

    With great excitement we set off for our weekend at the Full Thread Ahead Retreat in Carmel. After a dubious start to my holiday (rain), the weather is all set to be beautiful for the next few days. On the way to Carmel, we stopped off at Capitola for lunch, which turned out to be quite substantial ["I always eat a light lunch"] - I ate a kind of Chinese duck in a wrap served with a marmalade sauce - no really - delicious.

    We arrived at 3 pm to find one other person already there, Trish, who was very friendly and waved her knitting at us from the seminar room windows. Our room - our suite of rooms! - was simply lovely with a full view of the sea from our balcony.


    People were arriving throughout the rest of the afternoon, and we slipped out for a pre-prandial stroll via the Coach outlet, as per our itinerary, and popped in for a little aperitif at the Hogs Breath Inn before our pot-luck dinners.


    There was a ton of food and we could see there was unlikely to be any necessity to actually go out in the evenings hereafter. Once we had knitted, introduced ourselves, and our projects, (which was actually really interesting - being one who copies rather than designs, I love seeing what other people are doing), we moved on to the "class" for the evening. We dyed 3 small skeins of wool, by micro-waving with KoolAid, and food colourings; I was very smitten by the brick-like red colour unexpectedly produced by the morello cherry drink.... Alison bravely managed to stay the course despite not being well, and we retired at about 9, and hung our skeins to dry on our towel rails in the room.


    Kumihimo fingers. [We haven't learnt how to do this yet but I am sure this is close...]


    We did not buy any coach bags but Robi bought the most wonderful.... well to call it a "tote" does not do it justice. It really was fabulous and - the best part - it was a thousand dollar bag sold for 250.


    Posted on October 19, 2007 at 10:43 PM

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    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

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    Thursday August 16, 2007

    Wool gathering

    Went out with Ava and Peter this evening and was given two fleeces (from Willow and Parsnip I think). They are economically squashed into one plastic sack for travel. The sheep are Suffolks; I am making a note of it here as I keep forgetting.

    Posted on August 16, 2007 at 10:55 PM

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    Saturday July 21, 2007

    Jolly good company

    A loud thump in the morning announced the Amazon delivery of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I did not spend all weekend in it's grip though. I have a backlog of crime to get through first .... and anyway I expect George will want first go at it as he ordered it. We stayed in the right mood by going to see the recently released movie (Order of the Phoenix) this evening. I liked it a lot better than the book, where I found Harry a bit too unreasonable (I think it was supposed to be his teenage angst but it didn't work for me). I thought the writing left something to be desired, although I don't think it's a general decline in her style - I liked the Half Blood Prince much more. Perhaps she did not have much feel for her subject (as opposed to the wizard world which no doubt she has experienced first hand!). Needless to say I am looking forward to reading the new book.

    I spent all day at the Creative Fibres - we formed a jolly little group and as usual benefited greatly from their hints and tips on a great range of topics. I told them about my blog and they all promptly refused to be photographed any more.


    Mavis was there wearing a really great jacket. The colour and texture were wonderful.
    mavis.jpg mavis_detail.jpg She had spun the yarn from a shetland wool mixed with some silk and her own cashmere rabbit's fur. She told me all about her rabbit (he is 7 years old) and her other animals. She has a great collection of guinea pigs (11?) which are in my experience somewhat unusual pets among my peer group - it turns out they are "rescue" guinea pigs. I find it hard to see how someone could abandon a guinea pig - but there we are. Anyway the fibre she had spun was lovely and she varied the fibre combinations as she spun and plied to produce a self patterning effect. The rabbit produces a very fluffy yarn and therefore she finds it better to combine it with other fibres.

    Posted on July 21, 2007 at 11:22 PM

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    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

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    Saturday April 21, 2007

    Passenger pigeon passing through

    Actually I think it may have been wood pigeon, (I got a really good view of its bottom), and it was passing through our chimney.
    We heard scrabbling early this morning coming from the attic and, being unable to find anything, opened the window in case a bird had got in - we have had a number of wrens in the house in the past. I thought no more about it.

    I spent all day at the Creative Fibres meeting: Sandy was making a fantastic PC bag cover in split ply braid work [thinks: must try this at home], Jennifer and Sharron were weaving (completing a workshop item); Norma - new member - was starting on her Inkle loom work; Betty and Amanda were drop spindle spinning; Iris, Brenda, and the precocious child Charlie were spinning; Wendy was completing her beaded bag workshop purse from last year; and I took my knitting.

    This evening I found a load of chimney debris in the spare room, and shortly afterwards, I realised that whatever it was making the noise and creating the soot fall, was still in there and could not get out. So George prized the hardboard cover away from the fireplace - to reveal: nothing. On peering up the chimney with a torch we could see the pigeon perched on a ledge about a foot or two away - well I could see a grey bottom poking over the edge. George then tried the feather duster treatment:



    ...and it fell down a couple of times (see right: smudgy view of soot falling and possibly a pigeon foot), but despite slithering on the sloping chinmney back, it kept flying back up to the ledge.
    In the end we left the room with the window open and I hope it has gone away. [Failing all else, if it pegs out, it will no doubt fall down.....]

    Posted on April 21, 2007 at 10:35 PM

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    Wednesday April 4, 2007

    Gyring and gimbling

    George came home from work with a fantastic gift for me. He had dropped in on his parents, and his Father has made me a Niddy Noddy. Isn't it great?

    I am simply delighted, but now I really must spin something!

    Today was a really fun day - the Niddy Noddy making it perfick, of course. I went on an urgent trip to John Lewis to try and find a remnant of curtain fabric for the French cottage dormer window - it is being replaced and having repainted the bedroom walls, I thought I would try and make a better job of the curtains. In the end I came away with a remnant to cover my kitchen chairs and a lot of wool (!). No curtain fabric, though.
    The first yarn is Rowan 4ply cotton to make a Kaffe Fassett design for me from the latest Rowan book. It is called "Marble" and I am so smitten with it I am even prepared to knit 4ply double (which I hate) - it is an essential part of the design to do so as it provides the lovely effect of the marbles used in the children's game. The second lot of yarn is Rowan Summer Tweed to make "Tobias", which I hope will be ready for George's birthday on October; I am not planning to start to right away, as I was not able to get one of the colours - and I have Furrow to complete first!

    I completed Fliss's dishcloths ready for the New Kitchen, which is due for completion in May. The yarn is again courtesy of Alison in the US, and her Mother, who ferried it over the Atlantic for me. The dishcloth patterns are from the left "Mason and Dixon Ann", "Little Houses", and "Alex" (available on-line at Knitting Pattern Central).

    Finally, I have been fiddling around with a little project, which might be considered to be more than somewhat eccentric, but amused me nonetheless.
    I bought an "odd job lot" of knitting needles on eBay [George: "Good grief, don't you have enough?!"] - but when the seller said "odd" I failed to realise that she meant every single one of them was odd - that is, not a pair. One of them actually matches a really old Aero one already in my possession (which is weirdly fortunate), but the others don't. Some I just put in the needle case as I find extra needles are often useful for projects; others are sitting around while I decide their fates.
    Two of them are old Milward's needles, UK size 5s, with matching ends, but of different lengths. They are plastic. I thought about it for a while, and decided I would make them the same length. I have had Milward needles spontaneously lose their ends, so I carefully twiddled the end of the longer one until it turned freely, and carefully prized it off. I then took care to see how much extra I should leave to set into the needle end, and sawed it off to match the other needle. It is my plan to secure the end back on with glue, but it does "pop" back on pretty securely even without glue.

    I have a pair of needles...
    ...to go with the other million or so in my possession...! In my defence, I mostly have very long needles, because as a student when I bought them, I always went for longer ones in that they would be long enough for any project, and I could not afford one in every length.


    Posted on April 4, 2007 at 8:37 PM


    I'm impressed - I'm sure no one in my family would have any idea what a Niddy Noddy was - even if shown one. Dishcloths look nice, hope they are appreciated.

    Posted by: Alison on April 14, 2007 4:51 PM

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    Saturday February 17, 2007

    A niddy noddy of my very own - part two.

    I set off with some trepidation to a spinning workshop at Headley; it was for spinners to improve their techniques so I was not sure that my beginner status would suit the level of the other participants. Actually it was fantastic - no-one cared about how bad I was and I benefitted enormously from the day.

    It turned out that the objective for many of the participants (about 14 of us) was to master the "long draw" technique. I am quite familiar with this as a concept as the very first spinner I saw in Chichester all those years ago was using this technique and talked about it a lot. However, here, we were taught what the method actually is. In some ways it's quite a good thing for a beginner to try, as you can slow it right down, even though the technique can enable fast spinning. The long draw is for woollen spun wools from a rollag, so most of the morning we learnt (or relearnt) preparation and carding. This was very helpful for me, of course.

    In addition, for illustration purposes, Eve demonstrated using Louet mini-combs (which I will definitely be investing in), and drew out some carded wool to make a worsted top. I have been dying to see these things in the flesh, having read lots but feeling I did not quite "get" it.

    After lunch it was time to start with the wheel.

    wheel.jpg It was my wheel's first outing - here she is (Peggy) strapped into the passenger seat in Mini. I have not used the wheel at all since I bought it, apart from practising treadling. At first I set it up but could not treadle very successfully; I discovered that wool was caught around the shaft of the wheel, so I untangled it, which helped. Then two members (Eve and Betty) told me that the string attaching the treadle to the wheel was too long, and once I had shortened it - well - it was a totally different beast, and I was away. I set up the scotch tensioner properly, (you can also run it as a double band I think but the previous owner used it single band), having purchased the little spring to attach it as I understood it should be. Then Eve was able to check it through and she oiled it for me - and ... fantastic.

    I did some "long draw"ing, and I would say that as far as the technique was concerned I wasn't much worse than the others (just that I can't actually spin very well and they can!). Specific points I learnt (and need to read more about) were:

    • although you tend to spin more finely with practice, it is harder to spin thick than thin
    • the thicker the wool the fewer the twists per inch required
    • the direction of spin (Z or S) is pertinant to whether you will use the yarn for knitting or crochet

    wheel.jpg wheel.jpg

    The workshop ended at 4pm, so I was driving home exactly as an item on indigo dye was being broadcast on BBC Radio 4, which seemed spookily pertinent. The item was giving publicity to an exhibition in Manchester, and you can listen to the item at the Radio 4 website.
    The trivia nuggets that I learnt:

    • indigo is the only natural blue dye - I was all set to dispute this until they told me that that woad is actually a form of indigo;
    • Bluebeard comes from the habit of using indigo to dye beards for a black and shiny effect;
    • blue stocking for academics because dark blue indigo wool stockings were cheaper than fine black.

    Posted on February 17, 2007 at 9:35 PM

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    Saturday January 20, 2007

    Go home and weave a net.

    Third Saturday in the month, and I was off to Headley Village Hall for the Creative Fibre group meeting. I did wonder if I would be able to get through as the road to Headley is over Box Hill. We had terrible frightening gales on Thursday and there were a lot of trees on the roads. We lost a small tree (which fell onto the road) and our neighbour's gate was blown down.


    Yesterday was much calmer, but when Robert tried to take the train to meet me for a curry, he found that due to a tree on the line at Tattenham Corner there was only a bus service from Purley; rather than have him do that, I drove over to Coulsdon to meet him (different railway line).

    Bettys_socks.jpg As it was I had no trouble, but there were many gale stories from the members; Jean,who lives on Box Hill, was unable to drive to her house on Thursday on the roads - the police got a local farmer to open up one of the tracks across his land - and currently she has no electricity. Other than the gossip ["great wool shops I have known" etc] I worked peacefully on my crocheted skirt (stop laughing - everyone else thought it was nice - they are going to call me "that woman with the crocheted skirt").

    Betty (on the right) was knitting a pair of socks - no heel - just a patterned tube - thickish wool - but - here's the best bit -
    she had spun the wool herself using a drop spindle.

    I spent some time picking the brains of a weaver (and I have forgotten her name - damn...). She had woven a fabulous scarf and it was so inspirational I feel I must have a go... All these women talking about what they do in the way of cooking, growing their own vegetables, growing dye plants and dying their own wools - even if you allow for the fact that many of them are retired, it's still pretty impressive, (Eve had some fantastic examples - I really must have a go at that too.... I wish I had taken pictures of her wools).



    Posted on January 20, 2007 at 5:27 PM


    You need a new hobby like you need a hole in the head. Me too for that matter! Also I really dont see the point of knitting socks without a heel - If I wanted badly fitting socks I would buy them.

    Posted by: Alison on January 23, 2007 4:20 PM

    Dont you just hate negative people who go around posting. If you dont have anything positive to say go keep your negativity to yourself!!

    It makes perfect sense to keep these crafts and the knowledge alive, its often cheaper and you get a great sense of achievment. I'm only 25, a very busy architecture student but the things that keep me sane from the pressure are crochet and little projects. I took in my ballgown and added ribbons to make it look marilyn monroe for the architecture ball which was themed "Hollywood glamour". And the compliments came flooding in.

    I make my own wine, have my own allotment, make jam and all sorts of things and all of the products that I have made I have a sense of pride in and no that they haven't caused anyone any harm, no slave labour, no unnecessary air miles and no fat cats living off supermarket profits.

    Go crafts go!!!!

    Posted by: Claire on June 8, 2007 12:52 PM