After a few days of wanting to podcast and blog, I’ve made a decision. There are so many things going on at the moment, and I need to give myself time to deal with them. It’s making me wish I had a Pensieve!
I haven’t been able to muster up the energy to write a blog post for a few days and it has been worrying me. As much as I love my involvement in the knitting world, the pressure of sitting down and paying attention to statistics, viewer numbers, followers, keywords, trends, hot right now, other people’s podcasts and so on has started to feel like a chore.
I have decided to take a holiday from the blog and podcast for the duration of December. I’ll also be away from Ravelry for a while – you’ll probably be able to catch up on day-to-day news on Twitter, which is currently taken up by photos of Tonks in various sleeping positions.
I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas, or a very happy holiday if you don’t celebrate the Christian one. I wish you all lots of family time, wine and plenty of hot chocolate with marshmallows, and I hope the festive season is pleasant for everyone who reads this.
I will be celebrating in Devon with my family, and will be back in London on the 29th of December, when hopefully normal service will be closer to resuming!
It is time to go over my November Resolutions! It’s been a strange month, so here we go. I’m going to split this into two posts this month – I would normally do my end of one month and beginning of another in the same post but I’m trying to be more organised this month. We’ll see how long it lasts!
November 2014 Resolutions
Okey dokey, here we go. I’ve had a super busy month (if you haven’t checked out my Etsy shop yet, please go have a look and give me some feedback? Thank you!) so progress on everything has been a little slow. My resolutions for November were:
Finish spinning Follow Me Down Cousin Jack – I downgraded this to ‘spin one bobbin’ of Follow Me Down Cousin Jack and I was successful. If you missed that ‘post’, it’s because I announced it in Episode 7 of the podcast.
Knit two more pairs of Cadeautje - I finished ONE pair of Cadeautje that had been languishing on the needles for ages, so I consider this a success. The blog post for this is here.
Cast on my scarf - success! I can to cast on 210 stitches, then immediately P2 together to get to 105 stitches…I hope this isn’t an unnecessary complication!
Go to Knit Night at least twice – big fat fail. I haven’t been out much this month at all, although I did go to Nest.
Clear out my WIP basket of bits and pieces that I ‘may one day’ use – done
Work on My Favourite Things – I’ve actually started thinking about frogging it….
I also spent a long time writing half a Nanowrimo novel! I’ve had the idea in my mind for literally years, and I got a long way into the story. I found myself flagging when I hit 30,000 words, and I was getting too upset about it. I intend to finish it at some point next year! I did this with my mum, and she was a star who has done amazingly! I’m waiting to hear if she managed to finish…
So although I got a lot done, it wasn’t much knitting so I have been trying to leave the blog alone for a little bit!
How are you doing? Thinking of New Year’s Resolutions? My December Resolutions were posted last week – find them here. In the meantime come and check out the Resolutions Monthly group on Ravelry if you fancy joining us!
I can’t believe it’s time for December 2014 Resolutions. This time last year I was in a mad flurry of trying to finish up knitting hats – the calmness I feel from not knitting for everyone is unbelievable. I do love everyone to pieces, but I’ve just been finding December too stressful for the last few years!
I will do the wrap-up for November’s Resolutions next week. If you would like to join the Resolutions Monthly group on Ravelry, we are here! Additionally, I have added an email subscription to the blog, so if you would like to receive an email when I post new blogs, pop your email address in to the sidebar on the right! Your email will not be used for commercial purposes.
I found November tough because I was busily setting up Skinny Lizzy (www.skinnylizzy.com) and trying to make Christmas cards for my Etsy shop. I was working on card designs and trying to sort myself out – depression combined with darker nights has not helped at all! Anyway, sob story over. I have been helped out by this little face, at least!
The main result of being so busy is that my knitting time was severely reduced. I had an epiphany last week and realised I needed to schedule relaxation time. A lot of excellent people on Twitter recommended I set myself work hours and stick with them. This is perfect in essence; except one of the symptoms of my particular depression is mind-numbing fatigue and an inability to concentrate for extended periods of time. So, I’ve taken that into account this month.
Do at least half an hour of knitting around breakfast time on weekdays
Complete the next four weeks of Couch to 5K
Enjoy Christmas with my family
Sort out some blog admin
I expect there will be some unscheduled things as well, but I’m trying to be a lot more organised in the way that I tackle things, so hopefully this won’t happen. As far as the blog goes, I have started scheduling posts so that the days when I am so busy trying to achieve the other things I’m working on, you all know how much I’m thinking of you..! Unfortunately, WordPress has this bug in which every time I schedule a post, it misses it – I have downloaded a widget that will hopefully sort it out, and my hard work won’t go to waste again.
There are a few boring announcements I want to make with respect to the direction the blog is going, and how my Etsy shop is going to link up to Plutonium Muffins – but I’ll let you enjoy your evening and talk about that tomorrow!
If you come over on Friday next week, you’ll find a new giveaway and some celebrations happening… Just a sneaky hint…accepting suggestions for what we are celebrating!
I visited Cumbria Embroidery at the beginning of November, and am finally able to get this post out to you! John and I went to Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, North England for a Halloween party at Friend Dan’s house. I had been to the shop in April when we were up for a previous visit, and decided that this was the time to case the joint!
This post was queued for Tuesday this week. The scheduled post failed and I logged in today to double check everything. Just as I did so, Tonks jumped onto my laptop – she has an unfortunate fixation with it. She replaced over 1,000 words with the number “78” – no problem, I thought, I’ll just go back into my drafts and retrieve the saved copy. Unfortunately, WordPress had saved her post in the three seconds it took me to realise that Ctrl-Z wasn’t going to work.
No problem, I thought, WordPress does a versioning history that I can restore. Right! Except, they only work if your published version changes. So I am now faced with typing this post out again and I have forgotten some of the detail as it has been just under a month since I visited the shop! I’m so sorry for that.
I’m not entirely sure of the name of the shop – it has a sign saying “Cumbria Embroidery Sewing & Print” and two websites associated with the address, which is 45 Crellin Street, Barrow-in-Furness. The websites are Cumbria Embroidery and Cumbria Sewing, and The Sewing Machine Centre is also cited as a business at this address. I hope that gives you enough information to help you find them if you’re ever in the area!
Anyway, enough waffle. The shop is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of yarn. I will come straight out and say that does not stock my usual materials of choice; I did not find much wool at all, there was little sock yarn that I would have used, but I was blown away by the choice and variety!
The main suppliers of yarn are Sirdar, closely followed by King Cole, Robin and some less well known value brands. The yarns are in jewel bright colours, with mind-boggling arrays of variegated yarns, eyelash yarns, fancy art yarn from Sirdar & King Cole, and enough sale yarn to stock up on a lifetime of string for less than £100. It was so much fun searching through the cubbies and having a look at everything, touching all the different types and dreaming of all the bright, colourful projects I could sink my claws into if I didn’t already have a full yarn-trunk!
I believe the lady who was in the shop on the day was called Sandra, although Tonks has ensured I can’t double-check that… She was extremely friendly, enjoyable to chat to, had a great manner and knew her customers as they walked in the shop! I was able to see many different people come in as I had sent the rest of the group off to buy me a breakfast burger so I could browse at my leisure (I’m a classy lady).
The sewing supplies were numerous – tons of accessories, a few knitting notions and plenty of fabric which I loved looking at! I found a wonderful range of buttons which I spent a long time admiring, but managed to avoid buying…but I also found a cross stitch kit featuring a sheep which I snapped up. I’ll take a photo of it when I have finished it.
I also bought some King Cole magnum lightweight chunky in bright orange and khaki, intending to make myself a hat, which I almost completed then frogged as I decided I wanted to do another design! More on that later. For now, glorious photos.
This blog post lacks the brilliance of the original one! I’m sorry – just look at this face and tell me I should be angry with her, though.
I do hope that if anyone is ever in the area and wants to find a yarn shop to visit, this is helpful. Do let me know if you do..!
PS you can now subscribe to new posts via email! Check out the widget on the right…it’s only taken me three years to activate this feature!
The Ouessant Sheep was my latest featured breed of sheep on the Plutonium Muffins podcast, in Episode Seven: Kiti. Listen to the episode here! Then sit back and enjoy this little bit of extra information.
I queued this post on the Ouessant sheep for you to come out on Monday, but it didn’t work. Here it is now!
The Ile de Ouessant, or Ushant Island, is a small body of land in the English Channel, located around 12 miles off the coast of Brittany. Purportedly, when this island was conquered by the Vikings, the descendants of the sheep were left behind. These were of the Northern European Short Tail family.
Pronunciation has been cited as “Ooh-sawn” (source) or “Weh-sahn” (Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook) – if anyone has any thoughts on this, do let me know.
The sheep were endemic to the island until the start of the 20th Century. They nearly died out in the mid 1900’s, but some wealthy landowners allowed them to graze on their land, and their numbers increased. They are now found in a number of European countries including Germany and Great Britain, and are found in Massachusetts and Florida in the States (this is information from Wikipedia and if it is out of date I would love to know).
The sheep are some of the smallest sheep in the world which stand at around 49 cm on the shoulder if they are rams, and 45 cm for the ewes. Because of this, they may be colloquially known as the Breton Dwarf.
Conditions on the island were very particular and as a result the breeding of the sheep was highly selective. Grazing on the island was poor in nutritional value, so they would not grow large. However, as a fleece and meat animal, higher yields of wool and edible parts were favoured, so the modern sheep tend to grow well and produce thick, big fleeces.
Additionally, the cultural practice for married women in rural areas was that they would wear all-black clothes. As a result, black animals were preferably bred and the majority of the animals are now black or brown, with the occasional white or lighter sheep. Photos exist of the women of the island taking their sheep to their grazing sites on leads, where they were tethered and left to graze. These are cited in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook – I am unable to find any online after a relatively extensive search, so I’ll keep searching and update you.
The fleece is double- or triple-coated, and has retained the ability to be shed in the spring if the sheep is not shorn. The disadvantage of this trait is that the locks can tend to get matted on the ends, which can make it much harder to spin the fibre. Some people will cut the base of the lock, which will reduce the length of the lock but improves the workability of the wool. The fibre of the overcoat is said to be scratchy and not suitable for projects where the item touches the skin unless the undercoat is fully removed and spun up individually from these fibres.
The main place I have found that offers fleeces for sale online is eBay; however this is typically for full fleeces, and as I am looking for a sample, it’s no good to me! The search continues…
That’s it for this little breed. It was suggested by @perclexed on Twitter in the dedicated thread on the Plutonium Muffins group on Ravelry – thank you so much to her for the recommendation. If you have any further suggestions for sheep you would like to learn a little more about, please do let me know!
I have used Amazon Affiliate links on the book recommendation in this post. There is no obligation if you click on it – but I will get a small commission if you do buy the book, which will go towards the running costs of Plutonium Muffins.
I finished a slipper today! I have just logged into the blog to talk about it and noticed that none of my scheduled posts have worked. Argh! I’ve been so busy the last few days that I just haven’t logged into the website to check and it has failed.
Rather than post it all today, I’m going to publish this post now as I planned, and you get the bonus posts tomorrow and Friday. Of course this means my promised post on the Ouessant Sheep also failed, so that promise was broken. I am so sorry!
Anyway, here’s the success for the day!
A Slipper Bounty
I’ve been so busy making cards for the last ten days that I haven’t actually done any knitting. (You can buy the cards here – I’m particularly proud of the Harry Potter cards and the wedding cards I have just listed). This morning I decided that I was just going to sit down and knit! I gave myself until 9 am; at 9:06 am I was just casting off, and I was so happy to have finished!
The pattern is Cadeautje by Ysolda Teague and it utilises thrums. I adore thrums! I adore the pattern! However, as the slipper I completed today is the fourth one I’ve knitted, I’m a little over it. I also discovered the interesting problem with getting complacent about being an ‘experienced’ knitter of this pattern. (Ha!)
OK, you need to know what that means – the first one I knitted was perfect because I was watching the pattern super carefully and making sure I followed the instructions to the letter. The second one was….not OK. I accidentally did too many rows on the toe cap and didn’t notice until I had cast off. I put that down to experience and thought the next one would be better.
Slipper three was not much better. I kept getting the stitch count wrong – I was looking for 37 stitches at one point and just could not get it right – a decrease was supposed to then happen to get to 36 stitches, and I had 35 every time I tried. So, I increased instead, chalked it up to experience. The next one would be perfect.
I tinked back and reknitted for an hour. I kept getting 35 stitches and I have simply no idea where those missing two stitches went! I know the pattern is correct because the first one was perfect – I even logged into Ravelry and downloaded the PDF again. I compared and contrasted and saw no difference. Eventually, I cut my losses and did the same increase, zipped up the cuff and cast off. Hurrah!
I love the outcome, the slippers are super comfortable and will go well with two of my family members when Christmas is around the corner! I believe. We may have decided not to exchange gifts this year – so these could just go in the gift box for birthdays, or I’ll find a way to cheat and give it to them anyway.
So, that’s the story of Cadeautje. I was going to knit a pair for everyone in the family – but with the latest thoughts of not sharing gifts and simply enjoying each other’s company, I’m turning my efforts to other endeavours! I’m off to enjoy the company of the kitten – who we have named Tonks Phoebe!
I’m excited to say I have updated my Etsy Shop! There’s nothing knitted on there at the moment, but plenty of Christmas cards and cross stitch kits/patterns, and small things to enjoy which would make great stocking fillers for the festive season.
Please check it out here and let me know what you think.
You can use the promo code MUFFINS14 to get 20% off.
In Episode Seven of the Plutonium Muffins podcast I introduce you to the newest member of the family (it may be temporary!), teach you about the difference between woollen and worsted spinning, and discuss the Ouessant sheep. There’s a small update on resolutions, and an announcement about my latest crafting venture.
Episode Seven: Kiti
“kitten” in Shona
New podcast schedule announced: expect an episode every first and third Monday of the month.
Today I’d like to talk about Liberty London, which I visited with Melanie a couple of weeks ago! I’m supposed to have been recording the podcast today, but the microphone has had issues (as in, it’s gone AWOL) and I will have to wait until tomorrow!
So, moving on.
Anyone with any sort of interest in fibre arts/fashion/sewing/high quality fabrics will know about Liberty. A department store in Central London, just off Regent’s Street in fact, the shop was opened in 1875, and has been at the cutting edge of design ever since.
As a store itself, this place is a gem which could keep someone occupied for hours, but make sure you either have been saving your birthday money for the last twenty years, you are very strong of will and set yourself a budget, or you are simply mindful of how much stuff you can cram into your suitcase/apartment/bedroom. I’m not going to go on about it too much, but I did take some photos of the various wonders that can be found in the shop – head to the bottom of this post for those.
You’re probably here for yarn, though. This is a knitting blog, and boy is there yarn to talk about in Liberty! The store is exclusively a Rowan stockist, and fittingly, has an enormous selection of the brand, from Kidsilk Haze to Creative Worsted, Big Wool to Truesilk. Pictures will tell the story better than I can in words, but I honestly think this is a fantastic place to browse a large range of Rowan yarn. The display samples were really inspiring – I particularly liked the blanket, and I had to physically restrain myself from buying some of the books which I have been coveting.
I found yarns which, once upon a time, I would have bought at the drop of a hat – a three year search for the yarn to make a Penguin Hat was ended here, and I will be making a return trip when I have saved up for that particular little project*. Stock aside, I enjoyed my browsing experience immensely.
The yarn section is near a skylight, which makes it nice and easy to see the range and appreciate the colours. I do not see well in low light, and artificial light will strain anybody’s eyes, so I really appreciated this. There is plenty of space for the yarn to be displayed, and wide corridors so that yarn connoisseurs do not have to shuffle past each other on their search for the perfect colour.
The display is neatly kept, which makes it easy to see everything and does not cause distraction. There was someone walking around making sure that all the balls were in their cubbies straight, with ball-bands on, which although a small thing, is something I always look for – who doesn’t know the frustration of finding what you think is the perfect yarn, without any information to go with it as the ball band has been lost somewhere in the ether.
All in all, I had a great two and a half hour bout of shopping. I bought buttons for the Icon Dress (the button display hypnotised me for about half an hour) and a little cross stitch of the front facade of the building which is sitting on my desk taunting me as I itch to try it out.
You can’t browse the yarn on the Liberty website, so the full range can only be appreciated in person. It’s worth a trip if you are in London anyway, if not for the world of wonder that will open to you when you see the other products in close proximity to the sticks and string! It took me seven years of living in the city to venture in – and boy do I wish I had done so before.
* If you follow the link and see I started that project before, I had to stop and rip because the yarn was inappropriate for the project. It became the Romney Hat instead.
I know we are already on the 5th of November, I’ve been busy. John and I went to a Halloween party in Barrow-in-Furness this weekend, hence the radio silence. I dressed up as a pumpkin in Icon Dress, with some SUPER SCARY make-up. It was fun! I intend to take advantage of not having a pet affected by fireworks this year, by going to some fireworks. I’m looking forward to it!
Anyway, enough pontificating. I’m currently sitting at the dining room table in my running gear, waiting for my cuppa to get to a drinkable temperature, so I thought I’d catch you up on Resolutions while I wait. As always, you can check out more information on the Resolutions Monthly group.
This is all fairly straightforward, I think I will be able to accomplish some of them, but others (i.e. finish spinning FMDCJ) will be a challenge! Anyway, here we go:
Finish spinning Follow Me Down Cousin Jack
Knit two more pairs of Cadeautje
Cast on my scarf
Go to Knit Night at least twice
Clear out my WIP basket of bits and pieces that I ‘may one day’ use (i.e. old petals and bits of teddy bear)
Work on My Favourite Things
I’m really looking forward to clearing out the WIP basket. I have bits of old knitting projects that have been sitting in there for nearly a decade. It will feel really cathartic getting them out!
I want to make some decorations for Christmas too – I will be looking for felt and using up some old clothes, and making it a handmade Christmas. This is the first year I have my own flat to decorate how I like without caring what someone else thinks (John and I have similar taste, so I do not think we will have problems, and if we do we will fight it out over some mulled wine). There’s going to be a lot of time spent on Pinterest over the coming weekends and evenings!
I am also doing Nanowrimo this year. It is going well. You can find my profile under the name “thesledgehamster” – buddy up and let me know if you’re around!
Resolutions for 2015
I’m starting to look ahead to 2015 and projects I intend to complete next year. I’m going cold sheep in 2015 – I will not be able to buy any yarn or fibre (although I will be accepting gifts of such). That’s going to be a big one – and I intend to get through my stash completely. This may mean going beyond 2015 with the cold sheep thing…but I don’t want to get ahead of myself here!
Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you gone cold sheep? Any chance you have any tips for me?
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.