My husband’s birthday present

My husband’s birthday present

I think my husband was hoping for a pair of socks for his birthday, but with his big feet, me doing the Tour de Fleece and having started knitting my first cardigan I have had to bump those down the queue to be a Christmas present.  I have the yarn ready in my stash.

So instead I made him a cowl with the remaining wool from the hat I knitted him last year.  I didn’t follow a pattern as such, just used a 4×4 rib and on the side and back I moved the ribbing over 2 stitches so it created a wavy line, then on the front I kept the ribbing in line, so it is not as wide under his chin.  Technically he can reverse it and have the narrrow side at the back.  He can decide what works best when Autumn arrives.  The yarn is from Wool and the Gang and is called Feeling Good Yarn.  It is Aran weight but extremely light (Baby Alpaca 70% / Merino 7% and Nylon 23%).  It is very fluffy, soft and hopefully warm.  For the hat I made him in winter I did follow a pattern.

Tour de fleece 2018

Tour de fleece 2018

I love Ravelry so much, not only does it have thousands of patterns, many of which are free, a database for your stash and projects, but it also has forums and groups.  Whilst reading through the forums I found out about Tour de Fleece and joined The Corner of Knit and Tea blog’s team #CKT2018.  There are lots of other teams on Ravelry as well (and lots of other themed groups too).

The idea is during the days of the Tour de France cycling race you spin!  Not for the hours on end that they are on their bikes for, just for as long as you want to.  When the cyclists have their rest days you do as well, and when they are having their tougher days cycling in the mountains you challenge yourself with your spinning. The level of challenge is up to you…I did consider teaching my husband to spin as a challenge!  

It is such a nice idea, a great way to connect with other spinners and see what amazing yarn they are producing and you can ask questions and advice.  I have found myself getting yarn envy as some of the yarns I am seeing are so beautiful and its interesting to see the different plying methods and the results you get.  

Also spending time each day doing some spinning really does show your steady improvement 😁

I had some merino fibre from Gilliangladrag in the Ethereal Ether blend. I loved the look of it online and originally bought it for making some needle felted fairies, but I thought maybe it would be good for spinning.  So I pre-drafted the whole 100g…this was a mistake!

I loved how the singles looked on the bobbin but when I have plied it the colours have lost their definition and almost created a greyish pink colour.  I kept washing my hands thinking I was making the yarn dirty, but I think its just the colour combos when spun…or at least when spun by me!

I stopped after plying my first bobbin, so do still have lots of fibre left and I will most likely use it in wet felting instead.  If I hadn’t pre-drafted it all I could have split the colours vertically and when made into a 3 ply they’d have kept their colour definition.  Hey ho! (I haven’t set this yarn yet, so this isn’t a case of colours bleeding.)

Ethereal ether spun merino

Again, you’ll notice my spinning and plying are still uneven thickness.

Next I decided to use a gorgeous purple and gold blend of merino and bamboo from Kiki’s Craft Corner.  The colours are really lovely and I can’t wait to see how much length I end up with so that I can search Ravelry for a pattern.  Apologies for the terrible photo of the original blend. Merino and bamboo

My consistency has improved massively and I have managed to get a 3 ply that is about sport weight!  I used short forward drafting again but something has just clicked and I am finally able to draft small amounts so when plied it isn’t so thick.  It still is a little fluffy, I am knitting a cardigan with malabrigo yarn at the moment and I am wondering if they coat the yarn in something to stop it being fluffy (or having a halo).  I love that my singles and 3 ply are still looking similar…unlike the ethereal blend.

What I have learned

  • Don’t pre-draft all your fibre before you know what it is going to look like when its 2 or 3 ply!
  • Ravelry is a great resource and a way to make friends from around the world
  • Being part of a Team keeps you motivated
  • Small amounts of spinning each day is easier on my arms and hands than a long session
  • I really missed spinning on the first TDF rest day!
 

 

Spinning progress

Spinning progress

I thought I should make a note of my spinning progress so far, especially as I am now spinning a little everyday.

In a previous spinning post I had talked about my problems with drafting fibre and disastrous results…or should I call it art yarn!

My next post was about creating rolags and spinning from those which I definitely found easier, I made some useable 2 ply yarn in the landscape colours and went on to knit an ipad cover with the yarn.  Don’t look too closely or you’ll notice some cables aren’t the same length!  Oh and Judy’s Magic Cast On was a disaster as its on the inside of the bag!!!  oops!

Knitted_iPad_cover.jpg 

I had other attempts at spinning from rolags, I had spun a selection of peach and red toned fibre scraps and I really liked it on the bobbin…but when I set it, I massively overheated it and ended up felting the yarn and the colours ran and it ended up orange.  Regardless of the quality I am determined to make something out of everything I spin, so thanks to Ravelry’s pattern search I found this wee business card holder pattern.  The cabling doesn’t really stand out I think because it felted so much, plus it was 2 ply.

Business_card_holder.jpg

I also spun some purple and pink scraps, again making a 2 ply yarn.  This time I made a dog poop bag holder!  I crocheted it, without a pattern and it is sooo soft, it feels lovely.  Again the yarn slightly felted when setting it, but not as much.

Dog_poop_bag_holder.jpg

Then I took on a bigger challenge, rather than using a bag of scraps and creating rolags, I wanted to give pre-drafting a go.  So with 200g of Perpetual Purple Paradise from Gilliangladrag online shop I pre-drafted and then spun all 200g.  What I have ended up with is 3 ply yarn, some of which is Aran weight and some is Worsted weight.  (Not intentionally different weights, just shows the improvement in my drafting.). 

I am thinking I will make a hat, cowl and mitten set…depending on how I get on they may be wrist warmers and not mittens.  I gave chain plying a couple of goes, but again I would call that art yarn based on the inconsistency, the lumps, the coil spinning in parts.  Not sure if it is usable yet…it may end up being used to make a bobble instead.

Purple merino spinning

You’ll notice it says Pre-TDF and then Tour de fleece day 1 on the image above.  I will explain more about that on my next post.

What I have learned so far

  • As a beginner its much easier spinning from pre-drafted tops
  • Rolags make a very fluffy soft yarn
  • Accidentally boiling yarn makes it felt and run! (and it loses the merino wool feel)
  • It was much easier for me to rest my right arm on a small cushion and draft at exactly the same pace as my leg pressed on the treadle.  This stops you spinning faster than you can draft
  • Practice and preparation definitely improves the final results
  • Measuring yarn on the niddy noddy is not a good judge of final length (as its under tension and shrinks slightly during setting)
  • Chain plying is tricky and I need more practise at it!
Side thoughtwriting a blog that may be read by Americans and Brits is a challenge re: spelling!  Do I just stick to UK English and assume Americans will understand we spell things differently?  In the UK practice is a noun and practise the verb…in the US practice is both noun and verb!  Then there’s fibre and fiber!  Never mind all the words we put a u in that American’s have done away with!  Hmm perhaps I’ll just randomly mix them up and confuse everyone 😉
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first pair of socks

My first pair of socks

Having knitted numerous hats, scarves and mittens I kept saying “I’m going to knit a pair of socks as soon as I have…

Excuses, excuses…anyhoo I finally had what I needed and made a start and I was surprised that it wasn’t as difficult as I had thought it would be!  
 
I had picked the Hermione’s Everyday Sock by Erica Lueder from Ravelry because it is the most used sock pattern on there (>23,000 projects), plus it was free.
 
Despite it being my first ever sock, I did make some amendments to the pattern, doing a 2×2 rib instead of single and I was sooo impatient to reach the heel I only did 5 pattern repeats on the leg.  My feet are pretty small, UK size 3 (US size 5), so I was worried sticking to the pattern they’d be too big, but I am a tight knitter, so they worked out fine.
 
I used Ripplescrafts Reliable sock yarn, in one of Helen’s Assynt Storms colourways which was pink, white and purple.  I have 2 skeins of this colour in my stash and only used about 50g, so plenty left to make a shawl or something else with the rest.  I have had this for a while and notice Helen’s reliable sock yarn is now in the 4 ply section of her store, so she must have changed the base.  I have hats, scarves and mittens knitted from the sock yarn and they are warm, compact enough to pop in your pocket and are wearing very well.  
 
Lots of people talk about 2nd sock syndrome…where they knit one and don’t get around to knitting its buddy!  So, after resting my index finger for a few days I started on my 2nd sock.
 
What I learned…
  • My circular needles aren’t the best for magic loop socks (their cord is too thick and the bamboo is too long)
  • My 5 double pointed needles (DPNs) were perfect for this pattern…but boy are they sharp!  
  • I need to order a finger protector for my left index finger as it was so sore
  • Having small feet is finally a blessing…far less foot to knit 😂
  • Things aren’t as difficult as you imagine
I was so impatient to try them out I wore them the next day despite it being a hot day, but they went very well with my summer top! 
 
My Ravelry Project Page
 
 
Hermione’s everyday sock
 
 

My latest wet felting creation

My latest wet felting creation

Years ago I thought about joining the Highland Felting Group which meet in the town that I live in, on the last Saturday of each month.  Finally, all these years later I plucked up the courage to go along and what a warm friendly welcome I received.  There were other new members too, so I wasn’t the only newbie.

I didn’t really know what I was going to make, but I had dug out some seriously bright pink merino and some (UK) air force blue shaded merino to counteract the brightness of the pink.  I also had some scraps of dyed blue and pink silk.

By the time I got there I had set my mind on making a bag (or purse for US readers) with a flap, with most of the pink hidden on the inside!  

The photographs do not do the pink justice…it is BRIGHT!

Wet felted bag
Rose and blue bag

 

Inside view of rose and blue wet felted bag
Open view of rose and blue bag

I have in my mind that I will use it to keep sock ‘work in progress’ projects, but its still drying at the moment.  It also needs to be pressed.  When its open I can hang it over the side of the sofa and I can use the flap pocket too!  

The ladies in the group were very kind in their comments about it, so I am glad I put my ‘big brave girl’ pants on and went along! 

Next month I thought I would make a scissors sleeve and perhaps some smaller bags or a purse (US wallet) we shall see.

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.