My friend Melanie and I have spinning together recently. We are having to pack our hang out time into a very short space of time as she is moving back to Australia in less than a month. Sad times for me (although she is super excited)!
I have been super adventurous since Melanie came into my life, as she has encouraged me to spin all sorts of things I would never have dared try before! We’ve had a wonderful few days of spinning, and she has been doing some interesting things too.
Spinning the Dartmoor Mix
After a visit to Spin a Yarn in Devon (which I have talked about before), Melanie came away with a load of fibre to try spinning. This was a mix of fibres from animals living on or around Dartmoor, a beautiful area of England near the place I grew up. The label on the bag says there are four fibres in there: alpaca, Shetland, Gotland and Ryeland.
After spinning the first few bits on her drop spindle, she came round and got started on the wheel. There was Much Progress at the Plutonium Muffins PicKnit (which ended up just being Melanie, Corrie and another friend hanging out), and after two days of spinning on the wheel and plying on the spindle at home, a substantial amount of yarn was produced.
The first project that Melanie cast on was the Vortex Shawl – it looked amazing when she brought it round, and I was super excited about seeing how it turned out (and queued this project for myself). However, when she got home she decided that there was something else that this yarn wanted to be – and has almost finished!
The pattern is Window Cat by Sara Elizabeth Kellner. There is just a bit more spinning to be done, and she will finish the fibre. The cat still needs a face and his base so that his stuffing doesn’t pop out. He’ll be done soon, I reckon!
I never thought that spinning could be a social craft – as it turns out, it can, and I’m loving it. We are off to the Handweavers Studio again to ooh and ahh at fibre, and buy some more of the sparkly unicorn tale so we can finish our rainbow fibre!
It is that time of month…the mid-month resolutions update is due, although I can barely believe it! The biggest news is that Icon Dress is finished. I know, spoiler alert! You can read the full post on that here.
October Resolutions: Mid-Month
Finish Icon Dress – yes! I cannot believe it. The Icon Dress is finished, and it took less time to complete than my mum’s legwarmers…
Knit the only Christmas Present I’m doing this year – Eek, we’ve changed track and I’m now doing Christmas presents for EVERYONE. I’m swatching for the first at the moment.
Get started on rainbow fibre (spinning) – very excited about this! I’ve got started and finished the nylon. I need to move on to the wool. My friend Melanie is buying me seed beads so I can get involved with sticking beads into the yarn!
Sell more STUFF – many things have been sold – many more to go, but I’ve made a good start.
Learn a tune a day – I have learned one tune! Hurrah me.
So it has thus far been a successful month! And now, because I haven’t done this for a while, here are some of the achievements from the Resolutions Monthly wonderkids.
1. LakeLinda has completed her seedy afghan.
2. tsaria made a boob hat!
3. Stumpy01 completed a pair of socks.
4. sungardener finished a sweater for her son who goes to Brazil shortly
5. CKRidge reached a milestone on a Nina for her daughter.
6. tsaria wove in all the ends on her 49ers blanket.
7. SugarAngel whipstitched all of her afghan squares together.
There are tons more with photos, but I will save them for the next post. You can check them all out in the Achievements thread of the group – and if you aren’t a member of Ravelry, sign up now! It’s free, and you won’t regret it.
I have finished Icon Dress! Hurray, hoorah, hip hip huzzah and so on! (Sorry, I’m feeling a bit quirky today…I’m wearing dungarees and they’ve got to my head a bit.) I cast off, seamed up and picked up my stitches, and finished it on October 15th. I am so, so pleased to have completed it!
I cast on in June, and was convinced that I would never finish it. I don’t know what got into me, but when Louise from Knit British announced that she was hosting a WIPAlong with Nic of Yarns from the Plain, I decided to get on board. I was stunned at how much I could get done with a few hours of really concentrated work.
I’m going to give you all a reminder of the what is what with the Icon Dress. The designer is Kari-Helene Rane and the company Purl Alpaca Designs. You can get the pattern and knitting kits from their website.
The yarn is John Arbon Textiles Knit by Numbers in colourway number 14. A double-knitting yarn, it is advertised as 100% merino. It caused some consternation at Loop, as we all wondered whether it was actually alpaca. It’s very drapey.
This made me wonder if the dress was going to be too drapey and stretch out of shape…until I remembered the recommended yarn is alpaca yarn. Everyone knows that that is not at all drapey…right? So I carried on regardless, and I’m thrilled that it is done.
I have not blocked the dress yet, as I need the spare bed to do this and my mum is coming to stay. I will have to wait until Tuesday to do the blocking, which is OK.
I’m going to Barrow to visit friend Dan for Halloween, and I will ask him to take nice photos with his nice camera for me. For now, you will have to make do with my iPhone photos!
I had my friend Melanie come round and do some spinning with me – she had bought a pack of fibre from Spin a Yarn, and was experimenting with it. I found this incredibly inspiring, and it prompted me to get out some of the fibre that I have been…well, hoarding for a while, and play with it. For hours…until 1 am in fact.
I have finished spinning up the nylon roving and the sparkly unicorn tail has been spun! Now I am ready to ply it – as soon as I’ve spun up the rainbow tops. I may have to go to the Handweavers Studio and get more of the nylon – this will not be an issue, we went and check yesterday and they still have loads of it.
Melanie has been encouraging me to try new techniques – so I will be plying this as a three ply, with seed beads and thread too! I’m very excited to be trying this out, and have been watching YouTube tutorials with bated breath. Now I just need to get the beads and start the process off. I feel very Louisa Harding.
I bought some alpaca fibre at Unravel 2013 – this is from UK Alpaca and it is deepest darkest black combed roving. I adore it – soft, fluffy and like having an alpaca to pet in my home.
I also have some Bearhouse Alpaca fibre which I bought from a petrol garage in Honiton (I know, WHAT?). The fibre is ‘fawn’, and completely unprocessed fleece. It has a lot of alpaca dandruff and vegetable matter in it, so this may be the start of me wearing an apron while spinning…
I’m holding the two together and letting the single grab bits randomly. I’m aiming for a subtle striping, but it might just become a muddy yarn because I’m planning to spin three sets of singles and plying it all together. Whatever happens, I will be happy with it! I would like to knit a sampler shawl out of it, as Melanie has done this and I am now enamoured with the idea.
I’m very excited about the two new projects that I have on the needles and wheel – my Solomon’s Temple socks, and my rainbow fibre. I’ve talked about them on Episode 5 of the podcast – check it out here! Here follow the latest pictures for you!
When John and I went to Buxton in August, we visited Sew In. While here, I looked for yarn that would be a lovely symbol of our trip, and I found some West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply. A self-striping yarn, it has two shades of green and three brownish, reddish, earthy tones. There is also a stripe that separates each colour which has light and dark grey speckles in it.
This all serves as a reminder of a very cold and wet journey up a hill – nay, a mountain in Buxton as we headed to explore Solomon’s Temple, a fortified hill marker with views of the Peak District. Halfway up the mountain, a giant thunderstorm started. I was stubborn. I refused to go back down. We got to the top and took the obligatory ‘on top of a hill in a thunderstorm near a stone tower’ selfie, before pretty much running down to a cafe with hot chocolate and a warm place to change out of our wet clothes!
I absolutely adore the colours, although I was a bit unsure about exactly how it would knit up. I bit the bullet and chose my pattern from a book I got for my birthday. I am more than thrilled with how the yarn is turning out, and I cannot wait to wear them! It is wonderful and soft, and the self-striping is just brilliant.
My newest spinning project is some nylon yarn that is coloured like a rainbow! It is incredibly sparkly, soft, and is spinning up nicely! It drafts smoothly and the only downside is that I get covered in sparkles while I’m spinning. Is this really a downside, though?!
My plan is to spin some rainbow coloured solid tops into a gradient single, then ply that with the sparkly single. What will it become? No idea! We’ll see what yardage I get. I’ll have to do a careful swatch to see how it all knits and washes up before I do anything with it.
I’m heading out to the Handweavers Studio in a moment to ooh and ahh over their equipment. I’m hoping to pick up more bobbins so I can do more than one project at a time! I’ve been coveting an Ashford Joy they have for sale – but it’s not in budget at the moment, unfortunately.
Episode Five of the Plutonium Muffins Podcast kicks off with some talk about knitting, followed by excellent progress on the spinning side of things. We move on to mine and Shatki’s resolutions, all rounded off with a chat to Vicky of Hulu Crafts in Modbury! Enjoy.
I’m going to be coming down to Devon a lot in the future, and I decided I needed a stash down here…it shall be my secret stash, and I shall call it squishy. Being local, I had to stash local yarn, obviously…OK, so it’s not so local, the roving is from Uruguay and the sock yarn from Germany, but the shop, Hulu Crafts, was local!
Stash from Hulu
I blogged about Hulu last year when this was my local yarn shop – to read that post go HERE. I was absolutely delighted to be able to go back to a knit and natter last night. This will be a monthly event for me, and I will even be able to go to their Christmas dinner! I’m so excited.
I have been into Hulu twice in the last four days, and fell in love with two things that I decided I needed to stash. The first was an Opal sock yarn. I knitted my first ever socks from Opal yarn, and they are the best pair I have – I prefer them to Regia, Artesano, and all of the yarn from small yarn companies that I have bought over the last few years. I actually noticed it when Vicky posted about it on the 22nd of August and decided I must look when I was next home.
She still had it! So I bought it.
The roving caught my eye as I walked past it, and I’ve always wanted to try Manos del Uruguay fibre but never seen it in person. That was snapped up – the colours are fairly similar to the Opal yarn, but I’m loving it and started spinning straightaway. I fascinated everyone at Knit and Stitch at Hulu, and Vicky posted a photo of me doing it to the Facebook page! (I’m famous, heehee.)
Anyway, now that you’ve drooled over my secret stash, carry on!
PS Anyone recognise the quote in italics in my introductory paragraph?
It has been a productive week, and Icon Dress and Monkey are progressing fantastically! I have been in Devon with family, and there have been a lot of opportunities for knitting. I’m just writing this blog post and then I’m heading off to Hulu for knit and natter tonight!
Icon Dress in one and a half…halves
I want to finish the Icon Dress by the end of October – and I’m certain I will be able to. Now that I’ve done two picot hems, you can see how much better the second one is! That’s shown on the bottom of the comparison photo. I have no idea what I did differently!
I can’t talk about this yarn enough. It’s John Arbon Textiles Knit by Numbers, DK. Go and buy it and knit something with it now, and then tell me that merino yarn or pure wool isn’t the best thing to knit with since…ever.
I have been pretty monogamous on Icon Dress, but Monkey has seen some work and I have one cuff! It’s pretty small – I’ve only been working on it when I have been going somewhere that Icon Dress is too big to take with me, and when I’ve forgotten the pattern. This happened last night, with the decreases finished. (Hurrah – that means I’ve basically finished the whole dress, right?
That’s my progress for this last week – how have you been getting on?
It has now been nearly two weeks since I visited Renee in the East London Knit studio in Hackney Wick, London. I’m thrilled to be sharing some photos and information with you – please do go and find out more about the company on the East London Knit website if you would like to.
East London Knit
My journey to Hackney Wick (the first ever) was on a very cold day towards the end of September, and I had the fun of wearing my first hand-knits of the year! Of course, as I walked through the streets looking for the studio, the sun came out and it warmed up substantially – typical. I had stripped down well before I got to the train station, and enjoyed a ten minute walk before I found myself wandering down streets looking for the studio.
This region was prone to flooding before the addition of canals and channels to control this; as a result, it is peppered with charming waterways that made me feel as if I was in Paris or Munich (the only other places I associate with canals, which tells me I need to travel more). An industrial zone until after the war, the whole area was redeveloped in the 1960’s, and has an almost abandoned atmosphere as you walk through the streets.
Little flourishes of creativity are everywhere you look. There is evidence of graffiti everywhere, including an intriguing area where someone has poured paint on the road, and walked in it barefoot to create an explosion of footprint. As I walked down the final road, I observed a photographer painting the buildings with his camera. The most exciting things were the ‘abandoned’ warehouses crammed full of artistic types, with everything from painters to sculptors; architects to…knitters.
Walking into the East London Knit studio was a bit of an other-worldly experience for me. Anybody who likes yarn will like the studio, regardless of the fantastic samples and bits of equipment scattered around; the walls are literally lined with yarn. Renee has organised the cones into colour, and it provides a pleasing backdrop to four massive industrial knitting machines that were located right in the middle of the room.
I was given a tour of the machines – from the finest gauge which produced fabric that can only be produced on these intensive knitting machines, to the larger gauges which take heavier weight yarn and produce fabric that could be knitted on a domestic knitting machine, or indeed by hand. With a domestic machine also on display, as well as a number of samples on mannequins and coat-hangers, there was plenty to look at.
There were linkers abound, magic machines which allow for professional and fast finishing, as well as this display which I found incredibly intriguing, with all the wires and metals bits poking out like a frozen fireworks display. The mystery unravelled a bit when I was taught about the purpose of these mysterious items; they were simply weights to add some gravity to the knitting and allow the fabric to form properly off the bed of the machine!
We discussed the way that Renee works, and how East London Knit products can be acquired, and when we had talked till we dropped, we went out for a coffee. Returning to the studio allowed me to appreciate for a second time the artistic atmosphere of the streets; I don’t know if it was just me and my excitement about seeing a knitter and friend in an environment I am so not used to, but I felt that there was cauldron of creative potential bubbling around me.
Just before I left, Renee showed me her latest hand-knitting design, and asked for my thoughts on the name. In my mind it brought up images of cranberries and ice, and later on in the day/night (fuelled by an ale) I thought of red wine and champagne sorbet. I decided I must text Renee this idea – at two in the morning! Ooops.
The pattern has since been released as “Frost and Flame” and is something I am always going to think of fondly.
I had a wonderful time and am so grateful to Renee for taking some time out of her day for me. Don’t forget to find out more about what she is doing and keep up-to-date with her blog!
As promised in the Plutonium Muffins Podcast Episode Four, here’s a bit of extra information on the Navajo-Churro sheep for you! I hope you enjoy it – if there’s anything extra that you would like, or you have any questions, do let me know.
The Navajo-Churro are the modern descendants of a cross-breed between Jacob Sheep and Churra, an ancient Iberian breed. They were brought to North America with the original settlers in the 16th Century and were adopted by the Navajo as an important element of economy and culture shortly after this.
The Navajo were extraordinarily good weavers, and the wool came in highly useful for the makers. Weaving reproduction rugs is a popular pastime at the moment, and a search for them comes up with a wonderful range of examples. The below is an example of a rug that was woven around 100 years ago.
The sheep are considered threatened in conservation terms, and are considered a sheep of the United States of America. They have been protected since the 1970’s, and there are a number of projects which I have managed to find in which the focus is preserving the breed.
Navajo-Churro rams have been blessed with the ability to have two, four or even six horns! This comes from their Jacob ancestry, and makes them one of very few breeds of sheep in the world that can have this number of horns. Females can be horned or have nubs of horn which are termed scurrs instead.
These sheep are primarily bred for their fleece. They are dual-coated, with a soft, short undercoat and a long, coarse outer coat. The yarns which can be spun from this fibre is different depending on what you spin; the undercoat makes soft, warm yarn and the outer coat produces a stronger and more coarse yarn.
The sheep come in a bewildering array of colours! They are seriously good-looking sheep, with anything from reds to browns, blacks to whites, in-between colours, mixtures of these, different colours on their points (legs and head) and hips…check out this flock!
I would love to try this fleece, and have found a few sources online:
bide a wee farm – online shop here. Unfortunately, there are no fleeces currently in stock, and I cannot see any information on when it will be available again – but if you are interested, keep an eye out!
Arriola Sunshine Farm – I suspect you have to contact them directly as they do not have an online shop, and I am not that dedicated (I dread to think how much it would cost to ship a whole fleece to the UK) so I haven’t enquired. Shop here.
Spin Dance Acres sells yarn, fleece and roving, and looks to be my personal best bet if I ever manage to get some of this fibre. You have to email for information on roving, which I have done and will let you know when I receive a reply. Check out the website.
Of course, our favourite marketplace Etsy, also has fibre available – try out a search and see what comes up. I added a few things to my favourite in this quest, I can tell you! The main shop that seems to come up is Liongate – here.
In case you would like some of the more technical information on the fleece, these details are:
Inner Coat: wool fibers ranging from 10-35 microns, comprising 80% of the fleece,
Outer Coat: hair fibers measuring 35+ microns, comprising 10-20% of the fleece,
Kemp: short opaque fibers of 65+ microns, not to exceed 5% of the fleece.
The fleece is open with no defined crimp and should be lustrous with a silky hand. It is high yielding with a low grease content.
The lambs are unbelievably cute (I suppose all baby sheep are!), and are often born in pairs.
Do you have any requests for another breed of sheep you would like to know more about? Do let me know!
Welcome to Plutonium Muffins; a blog about knitting, spinning, some general craft, and life as a twenty-something year old trying to figure out how vintage and traditional pursuits fit into the twenty-first century.