There’s a new link party happening that I’ve just discovered via The Soaring Sheep! This is hosted on Love Made My Home, and the premise is that you talk about five things. I’m going to find it hard to pick just five! But I thought I’d give it a go, because it’s fun to review stuff.
Top of my list for this week – and probably the rest of the month – is how great Unravel was. I had so much fun, loved the experience, adore my new stash…I can’t wait to go back next year.
2. Sincerely Louise
I made myself a Sincerely Louise bear, who is currently hanging on our wall and has been named Björn. He makes me smile every time I walk past him! Louise donated a kit to me to give to one of my lucky readers…you can enter here!
3. Being reunited with this girl
Tonks spent ten days with my brother, destroyed all of his bedding, alienated all of his flatmates and stank the place out. Isn’t she charming?! But I have been so happy to have been reunited with her, you never realise how much you miss your kitty until you are back together. Even if she did destroy a ball of yarn last night.
I bought a Jenny Barnett kit at Unravel, and I’m loving this new form of fibre craft. I’ve tried it before, but never like this. It’s fantastic, I’m addicted!
5. New spinning equipment
I have some new equipment that I’m using joyfully! A smaller niddy-noddy for the samples I’m spinning up, a book on new techniques, a smaller set of hand-carders. It’s lovely to feel like I’m being a bit delicate, instead of attacking everything with gigantic paddles for hands.
If you’d like to see what other people are choosing as their five things, head over here. I have several finished objects to show you, I’m feeling super productive at the moment and big things are happening at Plutonium Muffins HQ, which you’ll find out about soon!
I have talked about Shooting Roots before, a folk organisation that John and I are involved in, alternately as tutors and participants at various folk events around the UK. If you’re looking for a better description, here is one in the words of the organisation:
Shooting Roots is an organisation run by and for young people, offering creative and participatory folk workshops at festivals and other events. In a nutshell it’s all about generating opportunities for young people to perform, develop friendships and access the folk arts.
We aim to do this through a three pronged attack –
Grass roots projects and an online community
We are run entirely by volunteers, who think Shooting Roots is so great they’re prepared to give up their free time to make it happen. Also it’s fun, and there’s nothing quite as good as making something amazing.
John and I spent the week before Unravel at Halsway Manor in Somerset, and I thought I’d share the experience with you.
Please note: I have not included any group photos as I do not have permission to post photos of the underage participants.
Halsway Manor with Shooting Roots
This is a programme held in the February half-term, at Halsway Manor. The manor itself is a national centre for the folk arts, and there are a huge number of programmes that are run, from violin-making courses to hurdy-gurdy workshops. Shooting Roots is aimed at 12 to 25 year olds, and gives them the chance to explore the folk arts. The youngest two participants were 12, and I was on the cusp of the older ‘kids’ at 25 – but it didn’t feel like it, as the atmosphere was extremely inclusive and we all enjoyed each others company in equal measure.
Five different disciplines were explored – music, dance, song, craft and theatre. I have, in the past, been a tutor for craft at folk festivals; but as a participant this time, I simply got to enjoy the whole experience. Throughout the four days, the group is working towards a showcase for the families so that mums and dads can see what their little cherubs have been up to on the course, which is fully residential; no parents allowed!
The showcase this year focused on four villages in traditional England, with four different tribes living in them and battling with each other through the medium of dance. A Great Evil occurred, and one person from each tribe had to go on a Quest to prevent dance being taken forever. The four heroes went on a journey while the rest of the cast provided props and additional characters using their bodies, voices, some costume elements and their crafted objects (more on that in a moment). At the end, dance was saved, and the tribes came out as a harmonious community.
With four slots each day to participate in each workshop (music and song were combined), the days started with a cooked breakfast at 9 am, and went on till 9 pm, when an informal session started. The first day was full-on with introductions to each other, playing ball games, then a start on each workshop. I did not do the theatre workshop, as I discovered within three minutes of the start of it that my anxiety would not let me deal with this without a large dose of medication…so I decided to give it a miss.
However, the wonderfully talented tutor, Lizzy, gave everyone a wonderful time as they split into groups and headed off around the grounds of the manor to explore and get to know each other, and work on their traditional theatre skills. Although it was similar to ‘drama’ as I knew it in school, the focus was on a traditional story line, and there was an element of folk story-telling in this workshop.
We were then split into groups, and my half went on to a Border Morris workshop. Our tutor, Grace, was the person who recites the poem ending “…will dance for you!” in the below video. Border Morris is a type of dance performed with sticks, reminiscent of sword fighting, using big heavy sticks to create interesting rhythms and a rather dangerous environment. I was reluctant to join in…but it was so much fun. I really enjoyed myself, and it felt wildly exciting to throw sticks around (literally) in the name of art. The dances we worked on were featured in the showcase as part of the fighting between the tribes.
It was then on to craft. For obvious reasons, this was the workshop I was most looking forward to. My wonderful friend Lizzie (who has featured on the blog before) was the leader of the workshop in conjunction with Marcus and Hugo. They taught us how to do wood-working without power tools. I kid you not, I think this was one of the greatest few hours in my life – we were set loose on logs with axes, billhooks, draw knives, lathes, sandpaper, saws…even John got really into it, and discovered the state of crafty concentration that I go into when I’m spinning. It was really good fun, and allowed me to gain further appreciation of how things that were handmade in the past were really handmade. Wandering back to the manor that afternoon, I was looking around the wood-panelled rooms with stunning carvings and beams, and marvelling at the number of hours and effort that would have gone into it.
We were making our own morris sticks to use in the showcase, using a sycamore tree that had been cut down on one of the leader’s farms. It was seriously enthralling, and I spent many of my spare hours (when I was supposed to be knitting) in the craft workshop, either working on my stick or helping out where others were unable to complete theirs in the time allotted.
From the craft workshop, we did song and music. I love to sing, and I haven’t played my violin for a really long time – so I joined in with song, and we learned a couple of songs from tutor Nonny. Unfortunately, I had a terrible cold and consequently lost my voice, so I did not get a chance to continue this workshop through the week. Folk singing is one of the best forms of singing I know. Anyone and everyone can do it, and it sounds great whether you’re in a concert hall, or sitting round a table in a pub several pints down and slightly worse for wear.
The music workshop, with Matt, worked on a big tune for all the musicians to play, as well as splitting them into groups and learning tunes on a smaller scale. This is not classical music – they do not use ‘dots’ (or notated music) and all the learning is done entirely by ear. There is small emphasis on playing perfectly, and more focus on playing as a group, enjoying each other’s company and just having the confidence to explore your instrument with other people.
The week continued in this vein, and the showcase was held on the fourth night to great applause and many congratulations. John and I now have our sticks standing in the hallway with pride, and my appreciation of folk arts has magnified ten-fold. Talk about crafty roots, these were exploring the roots of the British culture and it was just amazing.
I’ll next be involved with Shooting Roots over the summer, and I can’t wait to see this incredibly inspiring team of tutors and ‘kids’, all of whom are such a joy to be with. If you’re interested in the organisation, either for yourself or for your kids, please check out their website HERE, or send me a message!
And yes, I did get some Somerset souvenir yarn…watch this space for more information!
I bought fibre at Unravel. I know that a lot of you may be referring me back to my New Years Resolutions…
Go cold sheep – no more yarn, roving or fabric until 1st January 2016.
I shamelessly broke this, in line with the caveat I made when I started the resolutions, which was that I was allowed to buy souvenir yarn. I couldn’t go to Unravel and not enhance my stash…could I? So here it is.
First up was Pom Pom Quarterly, Issue 4. I used to have a subscription, but this unfortunately expired and I no longer receive my gorgeous tissue-wrapped magazine in the post every quarter! I’ve had a quick look through the magazine and it’s got some brilliant patterns, as well as the usual articles. I adore the cover project, which is Tambourine.
I then fell down at Hilltop Cloud. I’ve followed Katie for a really long time, but had never bought anything from her. However, the brilliant British Breeds sampler pack found its way into the bag in the nick of time – it was the last one on the shelves and there’s no way it was going to anybody else! The hat depicted on the label is the Sheep Heid, by Kate Davies – it’s on the wishlist.
Specific order of purchases now gets fuzzy – I briefly visited Purlescence UK and got myself a bottle of Soak. I have been using those small sachets of Soak that you get free at random events for special projects when blocking…but I decided it was time to just get over it and buy a bottle. This stuff will be well protected from flat mates, who have no idea of its worth!
While down at John Arbon’s stall, after having a lovely chat with Juliet, John Arbon’s wife, I bought 100 g of 40% superfine alpaca, 40% organically farmed Falklands merino and 20% A1 Mulberry Silk. This is in shades of black and grey, and reminds me of mint humbugs. It’s so soft…I can’t wait to get started on it. Find out more about John Arbon here.
Having admired her stall for years, I finally broke down and bought Jenny Barnett’s book, as well as a starter kit to make myself a needle-felted sheep. The book is brilliant, the patterns are brilliant, my sheep is baaaarilliant. (Sorry). I also made myself a seahorse, who is called Champion…be prepared to see a lot more needle-felting in my future posts!
Next up are another two sampler packs. The red and curly mohair is from Hammond Mohair, and will form the basis of my first ever goat spinning! I have a pack of mohair from another source – more on that later – but I’m probably going to just spin up a sample skein of this and see what happens. The silk hankie came from SparkyKnitters.co.uk. I have no idea what to do with it…but it was decently priced, and I’m looking forward to exploring with it.
My favourite purchase came from Spin City. First up was a spindle, which I stupidly broke…Louise was extremely sweet and gave me another one to replace it, and I am so honoured. I also got some nebula fibre, an alpaca, Tencel, angelina and merino blend. Words can’t describe this, you have to have a look yourself.
You may notice…no yarn! So although I bought more than I was supposed to, it was all fibre, and all with the aim of exploring new techniques and fibres on my spinning wheel. I tried my best to stay British, but I don’t know where the silk in the hanky comes from, and the origin of fibres in the Nebula roving is also uncertain, unfortunately.
I am very pleased with my purchases, and can’t wait to see how my spinning education progresses with the exploration of all these fibres.
Did you go to Unravel? Manage to buy anything that makes your heart sing?
I’m here to give you the great news that you could win a Sincerely Louise kit to make a bear cushion! It’s really very simple – for more context, you can check out Episode 9 of the podcast, which is all about Unravel 2015 and the fun I had there. For details of the giveaway, read on!
Workshop with Sincerely Louise
I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Louise Walker of Sincerely Louise at Unravel 2015, in which she taught myself and nine other lovely knitters, how to make a bear head! The pattern was for a cushion, but with some slight tweaking, it was possible to mount the bear head on the wall as faux taxidermy – which I did!
The materials were provided at the workshop, and included:
9mm knitting needles
plastic safety eyes
a knitters darning needle
My bear (who is now called Björn and is mounted in our hallway) took me just over 4 hours to complete – two hours in the workshop, and two at home. Worked in just seven pieces (of which four make up the ears), the only techniques required are: knit stitch, purl stitch, increasing (Louise uses kfb) and the ability to sew the head up. It is so simple that this would be an ideal first ‘increasing’ project for a totally new knitter. It’s also so quick that an experienced knitter can whip one up in an evening.
When converting the pattern for the mount, we had to do some sewing up to get the knitting on the boards – I took a video of this which I will post for you very soon to allow you to get your hands on it if you should wish to do this.
The kit is not currently available online (as far as I can see) and although I am sure it will be soon, you will be getting the paper pattern with the rest of the goodies if you should win!
The winner will get what they need to complete one bear head pillow. So, how do you enter?
Entering the Giveaway
Go to THIS LINK and goggle over Louise’s offerings (I really, really recommend the book)
Return to this specific blog post on Plutonium Muffins and leave a comment saying which kit you would most like to buy from Louise
Up to 3 additional entries can be obtained by sharing this post on social media. In order to qualify for this you must notify me that you have shared the post and provide a link.
The giveaway is open to all, and will close on the 1st of March at 5 pm GMT. The only restrictions will be governed by your countries posting laws – I am not currently sure, for example, if the wooden needles will be allowed in Australia.
Thank you so much to Louise for the generosity in offering this up for the giveaway!
Here comes a special, Unravel edition of the Plutonium Muffins podcast! If you would like to hear about how the weekend went for me, take a listen to this very selfish episode. I had a fantastic time, and am looking forward to next year already! Keep listening to the end for a cheeky opportunity to win a kit to knit your own bear head cushion, designed and provided by Sincerely Louise.
The Nebula Fibre is described as follows in the Spin City Etsy shop. “Part of my new blended roving collection, ‘Nebula’ is a luxurious blend of naturally black alpaca, Tencel, angelina and of course, my favourite soft fibre – merino, in brightly dyed shades of turquoise, violet, chartreuse, pink and mint, which swirl and whirl together like your very own galaxy.”
There are about 40 of these…if you would like to see them in an easier format, they are in an album on my Facebook page, here.
The ‘blue jumper’ offers a unique participatory knitting experience to novice and experienced knitters of all ages. Located in the Undercroft, you can join artist Sarah Filmer to become part of the blue jumper’s community, might you be the 1000th knitter?
I’ve just discovered this morning that I can in fact go to Unravel next weekend in Farnham Maltings – I had thought I would be tutoring that weekend, but I was wrong. Hurrah! So I now plan to go on Saturday, and I was wondering how many people would be interested in meeting me if I set a time and location for where I would be sitting? I’ve already planned to meet a couple of people, and am trying to persuade one of my home friends to come with me. It should be an amazing day! I’m also trying to find somewhere to stay overnight so I can attend a workshop on Sunday, but I’m not too optimistic about that!
Anyway, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people heading to the festival for the first time this year, and after having been three times, I thought I might give you my top ten tips. Note I’ve never done a workshop before, so I may miss some important stuff there if you’re attending something…
Corrie’s Guide to Unravel
1. Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll do a lot of walking!
2. Set a budget. If you don’t, you may find yourself in danger of falling down a rabbit hole. I overspent by a large number of pounds my first year – last year I went with £20 cash for unplanned projects, and managed to make that last. I also went with a set amount to spend on yarn for a dress, which resulted in the Icon Dress.
3. Don’t overdress. However cold you think you’ll be on the way there, you’ll regret every layer when you’re in the Great Hall and wondering what possessed you to wear every hand-knit you own. Ask me how I know!
4. Scope out vendors before you go. If there’s a specific vendor you want to see, make sure you know where they are! The venue is rather labyrinthine, and while this makes a fabulous place to explore, it also makes it a bit easier to miss things if you are over-awed by everything. You can find out who all the exhibitors are here: my personal recommendations are John Arbon, Kettle Yarn Co, Hilltop Cloud, Sincerely Louise, and pom pom quarterly. But I’m so excited to see so many more, eee!
5. Give yourself plenty of time. With such a labyrinthine venue and the number of people who visit, you need almost as much time to absorb the atmosphere as you do to actually look at the wares on sale! Farnham itself is a lovely town and well worth exploring while you’re there. We had burgers and an ale after we’d gone round the marketplace once last year, then headed back for a second go once we were thoroughly refreshed.
6. Bring your own snacks. That’s not to say you shouldn’t support the local businesses and the cafe at Farnham Maltings – but if you find yourself in desperate need of a sugar hit or rehydration, it can be hard to find somewhere to provide these quickly and easily. The eating venues also get quite crowded in Farnham Maltings itself, so if you get claustrophobic, it can be better to eat away from the venue, or take picnic style food so you can just grab a bite wherever.
7. Prepare to want to get into every fibre craft under the sun. There are lively displays of weaving and spinning, people knitting and crocheting everywhere you look, and stalls selling needle-felting, embroidery, wet felting and just about anything else you can think of.
8. Bring a camera or phone that can take photos. You’ll see things you want to remember, whether it’s ‘simply’ the yarn-bombing, or else the incredible displays that are prepared and put up.
9. Do a ‘first’ sweep. You might want to buy everything the minute you see it – but chances are you’ll walk to the next stall and see something else you desperately want, thus regretting your previous choice, or vastly over-spending. If you can do a full sweep of the vendors and take a mental note of who has stuff you like, you’ll be better placed to make a good decision when you go around a second time. Note, this doesn’t count for vendors such as Sparkle Duck (although it doesn’t look like they are there this year) and Skein Queen – if you see something you like and you want it, you’ll miss out if you don’t grab it straightaway.
10. Don’t bring too much with you. The temptation is to grab four knitting projects ‘in case’ you run out of knitting. As soon as you buy something, you’ll have a hundred other projects you want to try and your ‘old’ knitting will become a hindrance rather than a help! My tactic has become taking a single sock – although looks like I’m breaking my own rule this year by taking a Sincerely Louise project! My first year I had everything but the kitchen sink going there, and on the way back I almost had to hire a van to get the four sheep worth of fleece I had bought back home. It was too much.
I think that’s about it, but I’ve written this in a haze of extreme excitement so I may have missed stuff! If you have any other ideas, let me know?
I am super thrilled to show off my Dragon Cowl! This is knitted from the Dragon Yarn that I finished in January, which just to remind you all was spun from Manos del Uruguay fibre bought in Hulu Crafts in Modbury in the Wildflower Colourway.
The name is inspired by the name of the yarn, which was inspired by a colour of one of the drawings I did as a teenager of a dragon. Make sense of that sentence, if you can!
Being on my rather extreme cold sheep resolution, I wasn’t allowed to buy or download new patterns. I had a look through my library and found that I had already stored the Bridger Cowl by Kris Basta. I wanted something that would be lovely and warm, and show off the colour of the yarn to best effect. This seemed perfect!
The pattern called for just over 100 yards of yarn, and I had under that, so I figured I would just keep knitting until I reached roughly the end of the yarn. It worked perfectly! I had to knit from the cast on edge for 11″, then do six rows of garter stitch. I ended up doing slightly more than that, so the cowl is much longer than it was supposed to be – and I love it.
I knitted it up on 6 mm Karbonz, and I loved doing it. They were perfect – I found the knitting completely addictive and the sound of the needles clicking against each other was brilliant.
The pattern was great, it took me just over six hours to knit and I’ve been wearing the cowl non-stop since I finished it. I should really have blocked it by now, but that would mean I had to take it off…so that will happen at some point, and then I’ll get some good photos. The pattern is free, and you can download it from the website it is written on.
I’ve cast on a new wearable project for myself now and my success with this cowl has really galvanised me! Watch this space for more progress.
This post on Fabrications is long overdue – it has been nearly a month since I visited and took my photos! Located at 7 Broadway Market in London, this delightful little shop is full of a nice variety of yarn, general crafty things and lovely bits and bobs. John and I visited on a cold and wintery January morning, after picking up a cup each of warm apple juice (strictly speaking, you’re not allowed to take drinks in the shop, but I was finished mine and John promised to sit on the sofa and not spill anywhere).
We’d just dropped Tommy the Dog off with John’s sister, and I was excited to explore yarn for the first time since my “cold sheep” resolution kicked in.
Quick note before I continue – my email is no longer notifying me when I get comments! So I have to manually check it and I keep forgetting…so please bear with me if it takes me a while to get back to you.
I wouldn’t call Fabrications a yarn shop, specifically – I had to go to the website to figure out what they call themselves, and I love the way they describe it.
Our ‘Imaginerium’ craft space is going from strength to strength!
The shop was opened in 2000, and has become a wonderful space for classes, exhibitions of various makers work, and a place for Barley to showcase her own work. Check out more about the history of the place here – it makes for interesting reading. The Imaginerium is actually a separate part of the shop, but nevertheless, it’s a fantastic description.
The shop is run by Barley Massey, who is a crafter and up-cycling expert – when I was visiting this specific time, she was in the process of darning a hand-knit sock with a darning mushroom! Every time we visit John’s sister, who lives a five minute walk from the shop, we go in – past purchases that have made it home with me have included a drop spindle, some gorgeous cross stitch and a humorous card.
When we went in last month, it was nice and quiet and I got to chat to Barley for a while. Many of the items in the shop are directly from the genius of her mind, including the “Rethink” brand which enables you to see art in the ‘things’ of the world around you. The focus is on upcycling and eco-design.
With this focus, the products are unique. Along with “Rethink”, a number of other Barley Massey products are available, and the collection is truly inspiring and delightful. From souvenir type cross-stitch kits to the incredible “Emotional Baggage” cards, you could spend hours investigating everything. Other artists are also featured widely – the Craftivist Collective always have a few pieces and kits on offer, and Kip & Fig also have a selection of products.
After you’ve feasted your eyes on all of this, there comes the yarn. In comparison to other, dedicated yarn shops in London, the selection is relatively small – but unique to the shop too. I was thrilled to find West Yorkshire Spinners yarn, the only other bricks and mortar shop I’ve seen it in apart from Sew In of Buxton. There was plenty of Debbie Bliss, and some great natural-coloured yarn in brands that I can’t remember.
I seem to remember there was upcycled yarn as well, big balls of art yarn which would be great to make an adventurous project with. I didn’t take any photos and it has now been so long since I visited that I can’t remember…I’ll have to go back and clarify for you!
The cupboard under the stairs (definitely Harry Potter style going on) was full of books, notions and other accessories that can be used for various crafting endeavours – another treasure trove to be explored. The knitting needle selection is one of the best things in this corner – gigantic broomstick handle needles for some truly incredible big knitting.
I nearly fell off the wagon with my ‘no new yarn’ idea – my caveat is that I can buy souvenir yarn, and surely this visit would count…but I stuck to my resolution, I am pleased to say!
A quick enquiry about a photo of a cat brought forth the incredible Tommy the Cat, summoned with the promise of a few Dreamies. He cut an impressive figure, full of gravitas and happy to have a pat or two from me.
After I had taken my fill of photos, the shop filled up and I did not want to be in the way, so we headed out again. For up-to-date information on the events, workshops and education programme, you can head to the website here. Barley tweets from @barleymassey and you can follow the shop on Facebook over here.
I hope this has wakened your curiosity and you get a chance to go explore! Broadway Market itself is an amazing place to visit on market days, and well worth a wander.
I want to tell you all about the Dragon Yarn, and I looked on the project notes on Ravelry…then noticed I have no blooming notes! So some of the figures for the yarn are inaccurate because I’m not unwinding the cake and rewinding it on my niddy-noddy to accurately find out exactly how much I have!
This started out as 100g of Manos del Uruguay fibre in the Wildflower colourway (8931), as stated previously. I spun up the singles starting on the 1st of October 2014, using my Lacis Drop Spindle, bought at Hulu Crafts. When I decided to start spinning it again, I switched to the spinning wheel as the whorl on the drop spindle was too large for the weight of yarn I wanted to spin.
That probably sounds like Greek to you if you are not a spinner. Basically, I wanted to spin the yarn up so the single was relatively thin, and the weight of the bulby bit at the bottom of the spindle kept making the single snap before I could stabilise it. More practice needed!
It was a dream to spin up on the spinning wheel. I had to pre-draft the fibre to get the thickness that I wanted, and all-in-all the process took about nine hours. I have no idea if this is good or not – any thoughts? I navajo plied the single to preserve the colouration – and I absolutely love and adore this technique. I will be navajo plying ALL THE THINGS.
Having done rough measurements, I have calculated that I have about 98 metres of worsted weight yarn. I’m still doing cold sheep for this year – so I can’t buy any patterns to knit it up into. I checked out my library and found the Bridger Cowl in there; I’m still as in love with the pattern as I was when I initially downloaded it, so it’s a done deal!
The yarn is wonderful and soft. I soaked it in the bathroom sink so that I could see if there was any colour leakage against the white porcelain – and there was, but not a lot. I’m sure the yarn will be colour-fast and this was just excess dye, although I will still be careful when I next wash it.
I’m looking forward to the cowl! England is cold at the moment and it will be nice to have another warm neck accessory…
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.
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