I'm going to get all metaphorical, but this month has felt a little like working a piece of stranded colour work. Everything looks nice and lovely and pretty patterned on the front, but at the back it requires good, even tension, and a lot of hidden strands.
It's been a month where I'm not entirely sure where the days have gone, there's been a couple of workshops teaching at other guilds, some dyeing for the online shop, but earlier than ever, I've made a start on the dyeing for Wonderwool Wales. I've always been an organised sort when it comes to shows, but being ill over the past 6 months has made me even more organised. I never quite know when work isn't going to be possible, so I'm trying to get ahead while I still can.
Blogging is one of the things that got neglected this month, mostly because everything has been very mundane, and just not worth sharing. Today however, I do have something to share!
Just like my metaphor, they're stranded colour work. Made from a single Bach Pack in the Shale Colourway. I made the cuffs/headband and the first colour repeat to match, but then after that just played around with colours swapping and changing them for the background, leaves, and flowers. In the end I had 26g of yarn leftover!
I've had Back Packs on my mind recently as I also came up with 3 new colourways to expand the palette a little.
Moroccan Tiles contrasts rich ultramarine blue with terracotta reds.
Firebird features jade green and turquoise together with hot oranges.
Wildflower is a more natural palette, heavy on the green, with floral accents.
To celebrate getting through February I thought a little contest would be just the ticket.
I want you to share the pattern you'd love to make most out of a Bach Pack. Remember they contain 140g, and 7 shades. You don't have to find a pattern that uses all 7 colours, but if the pattern uses more than 20g of any 1 colour you need to explain how you'd swap the colours around to make it work!
The winner will be drawn at random a week today, and will get a Back Pack in the colour way of their choice, plus the Peerie Flooers Mitten and Hat Pattern.
Entries are now closed, the random number generator picked comment number 3, which was OrganisedKnots.
Thanks for all your suggestions everyone!
Nordic is a pure wool, blended combed top.
Each colour is made of a combination of other colours creating shades that have a wonderfully deep, intense appearance, that work brilliantly together.
Nordic is inspired by the lands across the North Sea and the ancient mythology of the Norse Gods and Goddesses.
In total there are 7 permanent colours in the collection, a mix of warm, cool and neutrals. The pure wool content is perfect for creating warm bouncy accessories and cozy garments. The blend of Merino and Corriedale will be soft enough to wear next to skin, but by using the Corriedale wool the blend has a bit more tooth to it. This fibre has a more open crimp so you can spin a loftier yarn with more life to it than a pure merino blend. As a bonus you'll get less pilling, and items won't wear out as quickly.
I've been developing the colours since the summer, but when I was out taking the photos I couldn't help but spot the similarities in the palette to the ones I was seeing all around me.
The fibres are on order, so will be available to buy very soon, and there will be close-up's of all the colours for you to take a closer look at shortly.
The pattern, is Aranami Shawl. My Ravelry project, together with my notes, and the chart showing how I arranged the colours is here.
One finished sample!
I've been feeling much better so once I'd got my co-ordination back it was a pretty speedy knit.
The pattern is Hap for Harriet by Kate Davies, and is a perfect companion for handspun yarn. I always love the look of garter stitch when knitted in a 2-ply yarn and this pattern is no exception. There's also the bonus that you can use up every scrap of your yarn as you work from one end to the other.
In this case I used nearly all of 200g of the new Merino & Silk base. The yarn was roughly fingering weight, and all I did to compensate for the thicker yarn was use a bigger needle, (4mm but I am a loose knitter).
Kate's instructions give you percentages to make a shawl in the same shape as the original pattern but I just increased until the width seemed right, then worked straight until I ran out of yarn from my first 100g ball. I did exactly the same in reverse which meant I used up pretty much all of my yarn.
Now what a shame that I don't get to wear it, this one is sadly destined for the sample box...
Not many butterflies in the garden just yet, though the bees are doing well. May was very cold for the entire month and it's really knocked everything back by a few weeks. We still don't have any roses out in the garden which is most unusual.
I've made my own butterfly to compensate
It's made from some hand dyed alpaca tops from John Arbon
I dyed them in one of my random rainbow colourways. The sort that look like an explosion happened on the dyeing table. I wanted to make a sample that showed a way to use that sort of fibre in a way that didn't make the yarn look like sludge, and didn't fight with the pattern.
I don't have a picture of the original braid, but it wasn't a million miles away from this one.
Why yes, an aran weight jumper, it's perfect for the British summer!
Sad truth is that most of the time I spend summer well wrapped up in my wooly jumpers. When Britain is hot it's lovely, but we're in a windy spot, and at times it can be no warmer in our valley than it is during mild winters.
This is my second version of Stilwell by Jared Flood, this one uses handspun for the main body and a small amount of commercial yarn as the colour work. The last one I made was the other way round and has been worn nearly constantly ever since.
It's not a complicated pattern to follow, but does seem to produce very good results, from looking through the Ravelry project pages it seems that nearly everyone who's made it is happy with the result. There's a small amount of waist shaping to keep the fit a bit smarter, and you also work some short rows to lengthen the back. I also love the collar as it really keeps the drafts off the back of your neck. I always make longer sleeves as I hate having my wrists poking out, but that was the only part I changed.
The handspun I used was nothing special. I picked up a grey mule fleece for the princely sum of £5 at a fibre show a couple of years ago. It went through a friends picker to open the fleece then got put through my electric drum carder with 50g of Angora fibre. I spun the yarn just as a plain 2-ply and didn't get too precious about it.
As you can see it's not a spectacularly even yarn, but I was ok with that, it reminds me of the original fleece, and has it's own rustic charm.
The unwashed jumper doesn't look too promising, the colourwork is pulling slightly and the stitches look a bit uneven.
Once it had a trip through the washing machine on the cold handwash cycle, and had been dried flat with a bit of gentle shaping to get everything lying flat it's amazing how it all evens out.
In total I spun 988g of yarn, and I only used 623g to knit this. The finished jumper is a 38inch chest measurement... and I don't think you'll be able to peel it from my back for the rest of the summer.
I weave... occasionally, and it's more a dabbling hobby than something I make any claims to expertise. I can direct warp a rigid heddle pretty speedily, and can make nice plain cloth with neat selvedges, but that's my limit.
Others however, can make things like this.
The warp (the long vertical lengths) is a commercial yarn, and the weft (the shorter horizontal lengths) is some of my hand dyed BFL/Camel that the weaver bought at last years Wonderwool. The colour, unless I'm very much mistaken is one of my rainbows, the ones where I place the colours at random in short sections so you get shifting shades like this, rather than blocks of colour that repeat on a regular pattern. Seeing this makes me want to head to the caravan and dye some more rainbows!
The weaver is the lovely Tracy Miles, together with her Dad she makes Great Wheels. Which is another thing I would love to own, along with a loom that lets me make scarves like this.
I'm back at Wonderwool again this year (in the same stand location), preparations are in their final stages, I've got a few more dyeing days left, but the piles of stock are looking very lovely all parcelled up safely waiting for their big day out!
This finished project matches quite nicely how my week is going! In less than an hour I'm off to Welshpool to catch the train to London, where I'll be taking part in filming Etsy's first ever UK TV advert. Very exciting, however, in the manner of all things media dahling, it's all been a bit last minute. I only found out that it was all going ahead on Saturday evening. Cue some frantic dyeing to keep the Luxe club on schedule, and much general last minute organisation...
The offset v on my finsihed Sugar Maple matches my feelings rather accurately. It was made using the handspun from this year's Ravellenic Games. A Sludgy Rainbow prototype, on 3 different colours of BFL. I spun each colour seperately, then navajo plyed the singles to keep the colours clear. I also spun a few trasition skeins with short bursts of each base colour, but I could have done with making the white to oatmeal one a bit longer, as the colour transition is a bit too abrupt for my taste.
Of course, with triumph, also comes disaster. Though only on a very minor scale.
This bit of weaving looked lovely when it came off the loom. I wanted it for cushions, and it was very open so I'd always planned to full it slightly to firm up the fabric. Multiple trips through the washing machine had simply made it get very clean, and then on the final slightly more aggressive programme it transformed in to this... More horse blanket than piece of cloth. I think it's still salvagable though. Lesson learned, stop being lazy about finishing my weaving in the washing machine and do it by hand instead.
Finally, a quick chick update, and it's not good news. Unfortunately the white one was snatched by a rat a couple of days ago, and the chocolate one died this morning with some sort of chest infection. A few of the others are sneezing and panting slightly as well, so things are not looking great... Mum has promised to keep a close eye on them while I'm away.
So much to talk about, I fear this will be a piecemeal post as I want to get caught up, and if I don't do it all in one go I will never get back to writing about things as they happen.
One of the perils of running an online based business is that it's very easy to feel like you've become welded to your laptop. Sometimes it's nice to take a complete break away from being online, and the pressure of having to write stuff, and be entertaining, and to show people new things. Don't get me wrong, I love writing blog posts, but sometimes it's nice to pause and draw breath.
I was away last weekend on just such a break, Skip North is a gathering each year up in Haworth (of Bronte sister fame), technically it's a chance to go shopping at the many treasure troves found in Yorkshire, but in reality it's much more than that. It's also a chance to catch up with friends, share skills, and be inspired. In fact, I bought no yarn whatsoever. I have no photos of the weekend, mostly because I was too busy doing "stuff", and I didn't bother taking my camera, and despite the craze to capture everything using the camera on iPad's and phones I'm not that much of a fan of any photos I've taken this way. If you do fancy reading about the weekend, I can highly recommend taking a trip over to Rachel at My Life in Knitwear, she has proper lovely photos to share.
Of course being away requires social knitting. The sort of knitting you can do on a coach, or while drinking wine, or while putting the world to rights. My knitting at the moment is pretty focused on making fresh stall samples, ones that show off my fibres, and highlight what you can do with 100g of pretty fluff. So before I left, I got this spun up.
This is my Bollywood Gradient, spun as singles so that the colours changed pretty rapidly. I'm combining it with some natural coloured commercially spun Alpaca to make a Spectra. I've got a fair bit of it done, but I've only just finished making a version for myself, so I am starting to get that poking yourself in the eye sensation. I have however made more progress on it over the past 2 days, as I've spent lots of time staring at my laptop waiting for it to do "stuff". My laptop is elderly, I bought it with my Golden Hello bonus when I started teaching, neither the "t" key or the "e" key have any paint left on them, and the glass covering the LCD screen has a hairline crack running across it, the CD drive also has to be coaxed in to action... however, it still works, and I'm a firm believer in not discarding items before their useful life is over. It was in need of a bit of maintenance though. 5 years of file debris scattered about, had left it with whirring fans, and a reluctance to carry out a task in a sensible time frame. So everything was backed up, the hard drive wiped, and I started again from scratch, reinstalling only the important things, and it's now much happier.
The Spectra isn't the only new stall sample on it's way. I also just finished making this.
Another Stephen West pattern, featuring my favourite garter stitch-handspun combo, and the chance to use up a smaller amount of yarn on the border, perfect. This one is worked in a semi-solid BFL/Alpaca/Seacell 2 ply as the main body, then I used some variegated BFL/Baby Camel singles for the contrast.
While I had the dummy out, I also took a photo of this.
I made this shrug 18 months ago, and never wore it because it kept falling off my shoulders. The pattern was one I made up, using the same construction method as the Two-Tone Shrug in Fitted Knits, it fitted nicely off the needles, and then I washed it. It was just before Glasgow School of Yarn, and I was in a rush to get it dry so I could take it with me, and put it over the top of my towel rail to dry. End result was a shrug that was far too wide, and fell off my shoulders, so I never wore it. One trip through the washing machine on the handwash cycle, and it's now back to the correct shape, and fits. A prime example of what The Yarn Harlot talks about in this blog post. Blocking doesn't just apply to lace.... it makes a huge difference to all types of knitting. The yarn is the first ever BoB club fibre, it's Jacob Silk in a beautiful semi-solid blue. The edging is the same fibre left un-dyed. Total amount needed, around 200g.
The past couple of weeks have been busy, but to my mind that's all the more reason to squeeze in some time for some spinning. The Ravellenics seemed like the perfect excuse, set yourself a challenge of a project you want to complete during the 17 days on the Winter Olympic Games, start when the games kick off, and finish by the time the torch goes out.
Of course I had a dress to finish, and was at Unravel for the final 4 days so 17 days wasn't actually all that long a length of time!
We had our own team running over in the Ravelry group, at one point the Ravellenics were on slightly rocky ground, add in the political opression over in Russia, and we nearly didn't take part in the challenge. However, we decided the perfect thing to do was to spin Rainbows, so I did some mamoth dyeing sesions to do some Silk Brick, BFL/Camel and Superwash BFL/Ramie in my sludgy Rainbow colourway, and also carded lots of my Rainbow gradients.
I decided I was going to spin up some of the 3 tone BFL in the summer garden colourway I dyed for the fibre club last summer. This was the prototype colourway for what I now call Sludgy Rainbow.
I'd kept back the spare braids for myself, and have spun enough yarn to knit Sugar Maple.
The Hilltop Cloud team have spun and knitted up a storm. There are 6 finished Rainbow projects, including this stunning Rainbow shawl using the Rainbow Sprinkles pack.
I know that there are also quite a few people who have been busy creating and haven't set up stash and project pages, they have however been posting in the Ravelry group, it's well worth a browse to see the beautiful things that are being crafted.
Only 6 months to go for the Tour de Fleece... best start thinking about the next challenge!
Oh, and if you're missing your winter sports fix, Channel 4 will be following on from their excellent coverage of the London Paralympics by covering the Winter Paralympics. From their website it looks like nearly all the action will be covered live, and in full.
They say every woman should own a Little Black Dress...
The dress that does for multiple occasions, and that makes you feel a million dollars. Of course, me being me, I made my own.
Photo kindly taken by my friend Katharine, who also owns the flock who grew the fleece. It's a Gotland/Black Welsh Mountain cross, and was gorgeous to work with. The beautiful black you get from Black Welsh Mountain, but softened by the Gotland genes, and with a lovely long shiny staple. I then carded some of my hand dyed silk in to it, and spun lots of yarn.
Thought maybe not as much yarn as you'd think, essentially it's just a long jumper, and with no sleeves to knit you actually only need the same amount of yarn as a jumper.
Sometimes everything just works in a project, and I'm sure this will rapidly become a wardrobe favourite.
Hilltop Cloud- Spin Different
Beautiful fibre you'll love to work with.
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