How craft making and Scotland rescued me

How craft making and Scotland rescued me

Life before…

My life was consumed with working hard and very long hours to earn money for a few weeks a year of international travel.  We went to many fabulous and breathtaking places around the world including Hawaii, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Australia, various US states and parts of Italy.  I also travelled to Peru and Bolivia for 31 days as a mix of holiday and unpaid leave (Follow links to see photo highlights).  And so I thought my blog was turning into a travel blog…

The breakdown…

At the end of 2016 I started to burnout and lose control of my mind, I wasn’t coping at work despite (or perhaps because I was) working almost every waking hour and not making enough progress to satisfy my own high standards. By early 2017 I was a jibbering wreck, unable to stop crying all the time and was eventually signed off with anxiety and depression.  When my sick pay ran out I couldn’t face returning to work, stressed at the thought and afraid that my resilience was too weak and I would return to old habits of working every hour and so I requested a 12 month sabbatical (unpaid leave).  So I am due to return in September, unless I resign.

My new life…

Whilst off work I have started doing more craft type things, I have wet felted a hat and a handbag learned how to knit, made some sea glass jewellery, bought a spinning wheel and I’m now learning how to spin.  We bought a tent last autumn and instead of international travel we have been exploring the North of Scotland and some of its many Isles either with the tent or renting small cottages.
I have been blown away by the scenery that we have seen…and with my calmer mindset I can actually be present and fully enjoy being in the moment and after walking 20k steps enjoy an evening sitting in our tent with my husband and dog and knitting another hitchhiker scarf! Scotland has white sandy beaches and turquoise water, okay you need to wear layers, not a bikini…but then you often get a beach to yourselves!
As for my future…we shall see!
October 2017  
Isle of Eriskay, Western Isles, Scotland
 March 2018
Coral beach, Isle of Skye 

 

June 2018
Sango_Sands_beach_Durness.jpg
Sango Sands beach, Durness
Balnakeil beach, Durness, North Scotland

 

From fibre to 2 ply yarn

From fibre to 2 ply yarn

I had a brainwave…good spinning practice would be making up a bunch of rolags, splitting them evenly by colours and this would then make a 2 ply with the same colours plying at the same time…sounds great doesn’t it?

What I failed to realise was how much my spinning would improve when doing the 2nd batch and just how much longer that meant my 2nd spool was over my 1st.  So the result is it started off plying well and then suddenly the colours went out of sync and my 1st spool ran out too quickly which then meant I needed to transfer some of my 2nd spool to another so I could continue plying.

The improvements in my 2nd spool I put down to the non-slip disks I put on the 3 legs of my spinning wheel, resting my right arm on a cushion on my leg and timing my drafting with my pressing the treadle (pulling and pressing at exactly the same time/pace)…oh and not having my arms too far away from the spinning wheel, a handspread away works best for me…well so far anyway.

 

 

Hitchhiker scarf

Hitchhiker scarf

I found this pattern when searching Ravelry for something to make with a ball of light fingering weight Reliable Sock Yarn I had in my stash. My yarn was from Ripples Crafts Hand Dyed Yarn, Helen is an independent local(ish) dyer and can be found along the North Coast 500 route so at some point I will pop in. Helen also sells online with worldwide shipping and attends various yarn festivals in the UK and Ireland. I have made quite a few hats and fingerless gloves with Helen’s sock yarns and they are warm, fit in your pocket and are lasting really well…although I did lose one in Italy 😢

I started the scarf in April and finished it at 1am last night…I was determined to finish it in May…it was still May somewhere!

The hitchhiker pattern can be bought online through Ravelry and cost €4.30 when I bought it. This pattern is linked to nearly 30,000 projects on Ravelry!!! I’m sure some people make a few different versions, but still…this must have made its designer a good income…oh to come up with a popular and unique pattern!

I used an alteration to the pattern for the final edge (that has teeth rather than the pattern’s straight edge). For those with a Ravelry account this was found on Amanda2127’s Reflective Hitchhiker. The only problem was I started to panic over how much yarn that would use and so I’ve ended up with a fair bit of yarn left, not enough to make anything useful I imagine, I should perhaps have weighed it rather than guessing.

If I make another I will do the Hitchhiker with eyelets adaptation that lots of others on Ravelry have done, with eyelets on each 8th row. I may also go up a needle size as this seemed to take forever to make.

My sister is buying me some blocking boards for my birthday next week, so it will be blocked then…but for now here’s how it looks unblocked.

Candy striped spinning practice

I tried carding and spinning some local sheep wool I had collected and washed…I appear to have made some nylon rope from it!!! They are Scottish Blackface sheep and their wool is scratchy, thick and spins into nylon style rope! Yuck!!

So to practice my tension, my foot rhythm on the spinning wheel I used some Natura Just Cotton I had lying around (that I hated knitting or crocheting with as it kept splitting all the time) and I’ve made some candy striped yarn.

I’m not sure with cotton whether you need to set it with steam or just hope it holds together when knitting it…time for another quick look on Google.

Trying to spin before I can draft

Trying to spin before I can draft

Those YouTube videos of people spinning make it look so easy …

I need to spend some time practicing drafting the fibre before I start spinning it…my seriously slow drafting is ending up with seriously twisted yarn!!!

Fortunately I have lots of scrap fibre to practice with.

Here are my first attempts…

I did manage to straighten the first attempt and let it spin back on itself to make a 2 ply….but the only thing consistent about it is it’s inconsistency 😂

image.jpg

 

A brand new adventure in fibre

A brand new adventure in fibre

Yesterday I bought an Ashford spinning wheel from a lovely lady, who also sold me lots of goodies to go with it. I had bought a niddy-noddy (yep that really is it’s name) the day before from Bunloit Woolery at Dingwall Wool and Textile fair, but all my other equipment came from this lady’s mother’s things.

There was already some single ply yarn on one of the bobbins, so I moved half of it to another and then today did some spinning to make 2 ply. It was a good way of practicing rhythm and holding the yarns plus with the different tones I could see the spinning in action.

Thanks to YouTube and Knittingthestash blog I knew roughly what to do and have now steamed my spun yarn and it’s drying in the gorgeous weather we are having in the Highlands (for a change).

Tomorrow I am going to have a go at spinning some of my wool fibre! But I don’t want to do too much on one day…in case I’m sore muscled tomorrow.

Niddy-noddy

Niddy-noddyAshford spinning wheelFirst 2 ply attempt

Blown glass attempts

Blown glass attempts

I love doing all sorts of crafts, art and design…but there is something about making things from glass that is really special.  Okay, so paperweights are out of fashion, but still they are a great place to start with molten glass.  I’ve made a number of Christmas baubles, a clear one is shown in the purple bowl (also made by me), they are all too heavy to hang on a Christmas tree!

If I could re-wind the clock, I would go to college and study glass making.  I’ve made glass jewellery in a kiln as well, perhaps at some point I’ll post pictures of those too.  I’d like to have a go at making some things using lampwork, but I haven’t found anywhere nearby that does classes.  If anyone knows of somewhere near Inverness, Scotland that does any, feel free to let me know 🙂