This is a very text-heavy. I haven’t put any links or pictures in, I am sorry about that but it’s already 10,000 words long (!!!!!) and I’ve spent about four hours working on it and need to go to bed!
Anyway, with a number of friends who are hard of hearing lamenting being unable to listen to podcasts, I decided to type up a transcript of Episode One. If you find this useful, please let me know – I will not do another one if nobody reads it! Enjoy. Show notes are here. – Corrie
[Podcrafting: a tune composed by John for the podcast with violins and cello]
Welcome to the first episode of the Plutonium Muffins Podcast: Mangwanani.
My name is Corrie, and I am a knitter and spinner living in London. I have decided to start a podcast based on fibre, and the crafts that one can do around those. Specifically: knitting and spinning.
It’s Monday the 4th of August and I have a very big cup of Rooibos Tea next to me, so sit back and enjoy.
This episode is going to be in four parts.
The first part will be looking at knitting and the projects that I’m currently working on, as well as some projects that I’ve worked on before…maybe just one project… Then I’ll also talk a little bit about techniques.
After that, I’m going to talk about spinning. I’m a relatively new spinner so I’m just going to review the yarns that I’ve already made, as well as the equipment that I use.
After that I’m going to talk about Monthly Resolutions. I’m not going to tell you too much about that in the introduction, but it’s basically just a way that I have improved my productivity, and a few other people have as well.
And after that I’m going to wax lyrical about Crafty Roots for a little bit.
On to my favourite subject: knitting.
I’ve been knitting since I was very little. My grandmother taught me and I grew up in Zimbabwe – hence the slightly strange accent – and when we moved to England I didn’t do any more knitting and got back into it when I was at university…and now I am unstoppable!
I’ve been running the Plutonium Muffins blog for two and a half years now; I was a student blogger for my university and I just wanted to keep talking about something that I was passionate about. Once I wasn’t a student anymore, nobody wanted to hear about my daily life so knitting it was!
I used to knit accessories and toys and things, very little projects, and I also found that they tended to go walkies. I would knit something – in particular I’m thinking about a bamboo shawl that I knitted out of really gorgeous greeny, bluey, tealy bamboo fibre, and I wanted to keep it for myself but my gran saw it and was like “Oh I really like that!” so I sort of…grudgingly gave it to her…
At the beginning of this year I decided that I was going to make a few more garments, and I was going to make them for me, and size them for me so I couldn’t give them to anyone – and that’s what I’m currently working on.
The first one of these is the Icon Dress. It’s a Purl Alpaca Designs pattern, and I bought it when I was at the Spring Knitting and Stitching show in London a few years ago. I had by this point only actually knitted one jumper – it was the biggest project I’d done to date and it hadn’t gone particularly well, but I saw the mannequin that was wearing the sample of the Icon Dress and I thought “I have to buy that, I have to, HAVE TO make that…” Then it went and promptly sat in my pattern library for several years while I thought about it occasionally but mostly had forgotten about it!
In February this year, I went to Unravel, which is a fibrey person show in Farnham Maltings, and I had decided that I had this money that I had been given for Christmas, and I was going to spend it on yarn for one big project. I hadn’t decided what project I was going to do. Luckily, I walked past the Purl Alpaca Designs stand again, and there was this mannequin with this gorgeous dress on it. I had actually forgotten that I owned the pattern, so I poured over it for a while and then suddenly remembered that this was something I already had and hurrah, it didn’t cut into my yarn budget at all!
I took note of the yardage I would need and I went and explored Unravel a little bit more. I found the John Arbon textiles stand. Now, John Arbon is a Devon-based mill and they had this incredible display on their stand. I seriously can’t describe enough how this made me feel! It was a rainbow from red to violet – they probably didn’t copy the exact rainbow! – and it went from left to right. On the top were the most vibrant colours, and they shone and were gorgeous. In each cubbyhole below you had yarn that was the same colour as the yarn above but the intensity of the yarn was much less – so you had a gradient going from the top where it was super intense to the bottom where it was kind of pastelly with a hint of that colour.
It caught my eye, and I saw these yarns, and they were the right colour, and I knew that this was the yarn I was going to buy. I really stupidly didn’t take photo of this display, so I hope they have the same one next year so I can take a photo of it! It was one of the most gorgeous shop window things I’d ever seen!
Anyway I purchased the yarn. It’s Knit by Numbers and it’s the colourway Number Fourteen. It’s a very deep vibrant orange. I went for one of the brighter colours because I’m not really a pastel person. It’s a DK weight yarn; I can’t remember what type of wool it is and I don’t have the ball band on me right now, but it just goes so gorgeously with the pattern.
I took the yarn home and thought “I can’t wait to actually start this project”…and then I realised that I already had about five or six projects on the needles and it was starting to get frustrating because I kept on casting on more projects; and I was getting the fun of the knitting and the joy that that brings, but I was never getting that final sense of achievement by actually finishing a project. So I forced myself to wait until i finished all of my big projects before I cast on the Icon Dress.
And it took months! I bought the yarn in February and we are now in August. I only started the dress in July so it’s been a while.
I cast on the dress last month and I tackled a knitted hem which I’d never done before and very quickly realised that I had no idea what I was doing. I got onto Twitter and started tweeting Purl Alpaca Designs, and they were brilliant. I recorded a video of me knitting this hem and she picked up exactly what I was doing wrong.
I just said that all in about ten seconds, but it actually took about four hours. And then there was about 200 stitches on my needles, so I then had to make this hem – which was quite a slow process – and then I knitted about four inches before I realised that I had massively overestimated the size. I was between sizes and I decided to err on the side of caution and go for the larger size…but I’m losing weight and wool stretches, so I suddenly had this sinking feeling of ‘ooh, this is a really bad idea’.
I quickly frogged it before I could change my mind, and then I cast on again and I’m now well beyond the point at which I frogged it but I’m glad I made the decision I did when I did so I didn’t have to frog a whole dress…but it’s one of those gut-wrenching decision that you have to make as a knitter.
So the Icon Dress is going well!
The second thing that I’m working on is the Zigzag Jumper. It was my birthday last month and I was walking through Waitrose to get some lunch before work and decided to go check out the magazine rack. It’s something that I do every time I’m in that shop (don’t tell John!)
I saw Issue 122 of Simply Knitting and actually the thing that caught my eye the most was the free gift – it was stitch holders in different colours and I’m like a butterfly to a flower when I see bright colours, I just want them. I bought the magazine and when I was flicking through it I found the Zigzag Jumper.
It’s by Linda Parkhouse and I think she probably aimed it at a demographic that is about ten years younger than I am. It doesn’t matter, it was bright and it has a zigzag pattern on it hence the name. I thought “ooh that looks quite nice, I’d like to make that” and the thing that clinched the deal was that there was a coupon code for loveknitting, and if I bought the yarn before the 31st of July then I got something like 10% off. I didn’t really give myself time to think about it, I just did it.
The yarn is Wendy Mode DK and the colours I’m using are white, vibrant lime and shocking pink! My boyfriend thinks I’m going to look like a watermelon but it’s just such a happy jumper and it just makes me feel really good when I’m working on it.
It’s also quite entertaining to knit because each zigzag is made up of four rows of knitting, and the first two knit and purl rows you’re slipping stitches and you’ve gotta concentrate but it’s super easy, and it’s a project that you can work on while you’re watching TV or going to knit night. Knit Night has been the death of a few projects for me because I get so distracted, so this is the perfect project really.
I’ve been working on it since the beginning of July when I got the yarn so I started it at roughly the same time as I started the Icon Dress. It’s just about half done, I’m nearly finished the shoulder shaping on the back piece. I’m not very impressed that it’s a flat pattern but I was too scared to convert it to a pattern in the round and I’d never done that before, and there were three colours so I just thought that it was getting a bit complicated; I’ll convert a flat pattern next time!
I’ve stalled a little bit on it recently because a few weeks ago I stuck it all in my bag and got on the tube to commute. I commute for two hours a day, so that’s where I get a lot of my knitting done, and in the past I’ve fallen foul of taking the magazine which had the pattern I was using with me, then getting all distracted when my stop arrived and leaving the magazine behind – therefore losing the pattern.
It probably isn’t a problem in this day and age because I can probably just get a digital copy of the magazine, but at the time it was gut-wrenching because I was doing really really well and then I didn’t have the pattern anymore and I had to call up the designer and say ‘please could you send me the pattern? I’m nearly finished!’
I now photocopy all of my pages, but I never know if I’m going to need all of it so I only do it one page at a time because I don’t want to waste paper…and I realised on this day that I had forgotten to photocopy the second page. My boyfriend, John, and I are moving soon so I’d packed the magazine away and it took me a while to dig it out. I’ve taken photos of it now, so I have the pattern on my phone and I can carry on, but I probably would have finished it by now if that hadn’t happened…anyway, I’ve learnt something at least!
Those are the two garments that I’m working on. I’ve been quite successful with my garment knitting this year and I start Garland in January. Garland is a boxy sweater and it’s quite wide – actually the only measurement that you take before you start it is the arm measurement to make sure that the sleeves fit. I saw it when I was at the Pompom Quarterly Christmas party and I saw the completed project on the rack – and it’s actually the thing that made me start wanting my own knitted garments, because I saw it and I thought ‘wow if I had that in my wardrobe I would be really proud of it’.
I bought the yarn, which was Kidsilk Haze (I used) and it was in a teal colour way…and I cast on. It took me six months to make. There’s a lot of stocking stitch and Kidsilk Haze is a very fine yarn, so I did stall in the middle, but then I finished it. I seriously love this.
I finished it just before the beginning of the summer so I haven’t really been able to wear it because it’s really hot – I don’t know if you’ve ever touched a knitted fabric made out of Kidsilk Haze but it’s got this gorgeous halo and it retains heat incredibly well – so I haven’t been able to use it that much But I have worn it and it’s the sort of thing that when I wear it…I don’t normally feel boastful or proud of anything and I’m just Corrie walking through the streets. Well – when I’m wearing Garland, I’m Corrie walking through the streets wearing GARLAND: the jumper that I knitted. And it makes me want to stand taller and shout out “hey you can knit this too, go buy needles and yarn, I’ll teach you – do it!”
It’s really such a nice, unusual and luxurious garment to wear.
The pattern itself was really quite rewarding, although there was a lot of it, so I wouldn’t take it on if you don’t like stocking stitch, that is a fair warning right now! There’s also quite a lot of ribbing. The most interesting part of it is actually the ‘garland’ I suppose. I can’t remember how many rows it is, maybe six or seven rows where you do yarn overs and a little bit of lace and you ends up with these flowers on the sleeves and on the waist. Or…not really the waist, on the bottom of it; it’s a very short jumper, so it doesn’t actually have a waist!
The designer is Stefanie Pollmeier and the sample that she knitted was in a pastelly, yellowy green – well she may not have knitted it – and the ladies who run Pompom Quarterly quite often wear it so if you ever see them out and about they may be wearing it. I also know that there’s a lady – I think it’s Sophie – at Loop in London. She’s got one as well which she knitted in purple – she was a little more sneaky about the way that she did it because she knitted it longer. It looks a little bit less short!
I did get comments when I posted photos of it on Facebook and all of my friends were like “Did you run out of yarn?” and it really is quite short. I’m not convinced it actually suits me because I’m quite large in the bust and it hangs off and looks a little bit weird…but I love it so much and I’m never going to get rid of it. That is my Garland and I will keep it till the end of time.
I’m talking quite fast, so I really hope that you can understand me. This is actually the fourth or fifth time I’ve recorded – I did actually have an entire episode and I was on GarageBand and trying to edit it and the file corrupted and I lost everything – so now I’m backing up a million times!
I’m going to put links to all of the patterns in the show notes, and links to the publications that you can get them from.
If you’re listening to this and it’s roughly August 2014, that probably means you’re one of my friends, and that means you’re not necessarily a knitter. Well, friends, it is time for you to become knitters!
Knitting is a craft which is very simple, and people think that they can’t do it. There is a little bit of dexterity involved, but you get used to it, and seriously, the rewards outweigh the difficulty. I’m going to link to a pattern which I designed for you, my darling friends, where basically you cast on, you learn how to do the knit stitch and you do that for a little while, and, you finish it!
So those terms probably are Greek to some of you. ‘Cast on’ is where you loop stitches onto the needle, ‘knit’ is where you put the other needle through the loop, wrap the yarn around it and bring it through the hole to make another loop, and you do that several times to make up the fabric – several times, I mean quite a lot of times – and then you ‘bind off’ the fabric. The pattern is called Garter Stitch Headband. You knit until the strip of fabric can go around your head and then you just sew it up. If you’re feeling slightly adventurous you can knit a smaller strip and use that to cover up the bit where you’ve sewn the headband together so you make it look a little bit neater.
Now I know some of you are knitters and you’re listening to me – probably very badly – explain knitting and thinking ‘what the hell is she going on about?’ If you want to teach other people how to knit, I’ve had quite a lot of success with the garter stitch headband because most people start off knitting squares and they get really bored of it really quickly. I designed this to try get my friends to actually commit to knitting. I know that Debbie Bliss does a very similar thing – she adds a twist to make it a moebius headband but it’s a really good way if you’re trying to teach someone to knit and you’re trying to teach them a project that they’re trying to do that isn’t going to be too boring, basically.
Now I’m going to talk about my spinning.
I am in love with spinning! I started two years ago because John and I were at a farm and we saw these sheep and I thought ‘hmm I wonder what they do with the fleeces for those sheep’. It was Mudchute City Farm on the Isle of Dogs and it’s a petting zoo, almost, where city kids can go to see farm animals; so I knew they probably didn’t have any commercial uses for the fleeces. I enquired about it and they said if I gave them a donation, they would give me a fleece. So I did, and I ended up with this fleece winging its way to me in the post because it was too heavy to take on the tube.
While I was waiting, I hit Twitter and said ‘hey guys, I’ve got a fleece coming and I have no idea what I’m going to do do with it – it was a spur of the moment decision and is this a good idea?’
It was a bad idea to ask Twitter, because, if you don’t know, if you ask that sort of question,everybody goes ‘yeah, that is such a brilliant idea, do it straight away’. Somebody facilitated me even more than this because they said ‘hey, I have a spinning wheel that I need to sell and I have all the equipment that goes with it for preparing the fleece. You can buy it off me for a bargain price!’ This was in July and it was again near my birthday, so I had no restraint so I said ‘Ok fine, I am buying ga spinning wheel.’ It arrived in the post a few days later with three more fleeces. And then a day later the fleeces from Mudchute City Farm arrived and I had two fleeces, not one.
So I went from being completely not a spinner one day, to being completely not a spinner with a spinning wheel, all of the fibre prep equipment and five fleeces!
It’s been a while since then. I’ve only managed to actually spin six skeins of yarn, and I’m going to go through them for you. Unfortunately, I actually had to give away three of those fleeces because there was just too much. I just couldn’t deal with it all and they’re better to spin while they’re fresh, so they found their way to other homes.
The six skeins of yarn that I’m going to talk about are starting at the very beginning of my spinning – except for one – and coming up to the most recent which was completed last month, July 2014.
The first set of spinning that I did got knitted up into a hat which then got lost, so that yarn is gone; but I do have my very first yarn ever knitted up into a garter stitch square and framed, because I was told to do that by somebody on Twitter just so you could have a visual record of where you started.
I was honestly so bad when I started. I didn’t know how to prepare the fibre, and having really good fibre really affects the quality of the yarn because you don’t end up with just random bits of stuff which isn’t supposed to be there in your final product. I also didn’t know how to spin – I didn’t even have a spindle – I had literally never touched fibre before, in an unspun form. So it was quite exciting!
It took me a really long time to do anything with it. I spun up one skein which is my Sherbert Yarn, and all thrilled with my success (it took me about two months for 87 yards) I decided ‘hey, I’m going to dye it as well’. So I looked at a few tutorials on YouTube and decided I was going to spin [sic] it with green and blue food colouring, which is what they do in the States. So I tried it out. The dye didn’t take at all. I mean, there’s a little bit of colour, but I put in a bottle each of each colour, so it should be a lot more vibrant than it is! I realised that the problem is that you Americans use a lot more chemicals than the Brits do, so the dye was slightly more acidic than the stuff we get here, which is more organic, so it didn’t take.
I haven’t tried dying since. I have some very embarrassing videos on YouTube of me wearing stupid hats trying to explain what I’m doing, without really having a clue what I’m doing. This is a common theme, you will figure out!
After the Sherbert Yarn I went to Unravel 2013 and the Surrey Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers was there and they had all of these different spinning wheels there – different types with two pedals or one pedal; some people were doing it on a spindle; some people were spinning from fleece; some people were combing the fleece; some people were using roving; and it was seriously incredible for somebody who hadn’t experienced anything to do with spinning, but had somehow ended up with a spinning wheel.
One of the ladies who was spinning saw me looking at her and said “hey, do you want to have a go?” and I explained that I sort of knew how to spin, I’d sort of done a little and the thread just kept – the thread?! The yarn kept snapping and I had no idea what I was doing wrong, and I was almost certainly going to screw up her yarn if she gave me a go. She was very kind to me, and she said it didn’t matter at all what I did and I could just have a go because she could always just unravel i
She sat me down and we realised that I was – I am going to give a technical explanation because there might be some people who are spinners listening! If you don’t spin, then I don’t know…drink your tea!
[teaspoon tapping on cup]
What I was doing was, I was spinning while I was holding the tension, and then when I let go to let the tension run up the fibres, I wasn’t keeping my hands on the fibres; so I was just letting go completely and the yarn was flailing around attached to the fibres for a bit, so obviously then it got loose from the drafting triangle and it snapped. She basically showed me not to take my hand off the yarn when I let go, but just to release the tension to allow the twist to run up the fibre.
I bought a ton of fibre at Unravel, I was so inspired by this, and I went home really excited and keen. Then I decide that I was going to finish my prepared fleece that I had prepared myself, and I spun the Resolution Yarn. This was in May [sic] 2013, and you’ll notice that key word in there again – resolution.
This yarn is what started off the Monthly Resolutions, because I was basically like “I will spin my yarn and it will get done and it will happen this month”, and I wrote a blog about it so that I had something to answer to.
I spun – I haven’t got the exact figures in front of me – but it was something like 246 yards in a month, which for me was just incredible. I had really really struggled for three months to spin the Sherbert Yarn which was 87 yards, and then the wheel had sat in time-out for a while and I hadn’t actually touched it. This trip to Unravel was really – you know – it put the mojo back into my spinning and it kick-started the Monthly Resolutions – and as a result, Unravel is one of my favourite places!
I have no idea what I’m going to make with the Sherbert Yarn and the Resolution Yarn. I have been playing with the idea of making a headband of the Sherbert Yarn because there’s only so much of it, and I have recently had a hair-cut and I need a headband…because I recently gave mine to my grandmother! I told you, my knitted items just seem to go missing! I’m too generous with them…
With all of this roving that I had bought at Unravel, I decided I was going to do a bit of experimenting with my spinning now that I had decided I could classify myself as a spinner. I started experimenting with colour and thickness and thinness. I ended up with the yarn that John called “Pharaoh”. It’s got green and grey and purple and orange, and just this mad variety of colours in a completely mad variety of thicknesses and thinnesses. It’s completely not even!
Some of it was spun when I finally decided to commit to a spinning lesson – that’s the green and the grey bit, so grey is Blue-Faced Leicester Fibre and the green is something that the lady just gave to me. So it starts off really mad, then it gets a little bit more professional, and then I get home with my spinning wheel and it gets a little bit mad again because I’m just playing.
I’ve ended up with a yarn that I adore! I’m probably going to knit a festival hat from it, we are going to a folk festival in a few weeks and madness is encouraged, so that will be that!
I then discovered the Campaign for Wool. The Campaign for Wool is this initiative which is backed by Prince Charles and it’s trying to get people to use wool again. Not just in crafting but in everyday life. Obviously there’s a huge amount of wool that is used in weaving, and they’re making wool mattresses and wool pillows, and they’re making wallpaper made out of wool, and… They had a display on, and did a giveaway when they were done.
They were giving away these metres and metres of roving that they had used in the display and then decided that they didn’t need anymore. It was in this bright purple and I managed to get my hands on it. I have no idea how, because I never win anything, but I did and I started spinning it and realised that I had a bit of orange left over from the Pharaoh Yarn, so I put that in as well and I created this purple and orange yarn which is still quite wonky; so Willy Wonka is an appropriate name for it, but it’s starting to look like proper yarn!
Pharaoh and Willy Wonka were spun since September 2013 until March 2014, so this year, and then I took a break from spinning because I was in South Africa for work. I got back and discovered my roving that I’d bought at that fateful trip to Unravel, and I decided to spin the set of three blues that I had bought into yarn for John’s Christmas present.
Deep Dive is a deep blue and there’s 90 yards or 70 or…something. Around that sort of ballpark! It’s slightly thick and thin but the tension is so much better and it’s even and the plies are done much better than anything I’ve done before, so it looks good. It’s a Woolyknits roving and it just says 100% wold on it,I don’t know what type of wool it is – but it’s the best fibre that I’ve knitted [sic] with.
Because all of the others were…the Sherbert Yarn and the Resolution Yarn, the fibres were shocking because I had prepared them, and then in Pharaoh, again, the fibres were a little bit cheap because I was using the cheaper ones to experiment with. The free roving that came from the Campaign for Wool still had quite a lot of seeds and bits in it, so you did have to keep stopping and picking out bits, and then it got to this Woolyknits roving and it was just gorgeous – it literally flew through the fingers and I completed Deep Dive in June – it was one of my resolutions for that month.
I had an operation in July (nothing serious, just a tooth) and I recovered slowly because I had to have a general anaesthetic, and it took me four hours to spin the whole of Lagoon. So we’ve gone from three months to spin 87 yards, to four hours to spin 100 yards, which is what I managed with the Lagoon and I feel like that’s such a good achievement.
Lagoon looks like yarn that I would buy in a shop, and that’s saying quite a lot because I am very critical of my own work, so the progress is just amazing and it’s really heartening to see. I’m really hoping that this podcast will also motivate me, because I’m going to want go have spinning to talk about, but be a good platform for describing the changes that happen and experimenting.
[single cow mooing]
I want to explore technique as well. I really don’t know a lot about spinning technique – I’ve got about five books and I’ve read stuff, but it’s all gone in one ear and out the other. So, I can do it, but I don’t really understand what I’m doing! I wrote this review blog, and I put a very loose description of woollen and worsted spinning, which is two different techniques. Somebody commented on it and…she said I was wrong, basically. I’m going to read it out because it was a lovely comment.
“Your yarns are beautiful. You will love knitting them. Woolen and Worsted is also referred to the style in which you spin and also is referred to the length of the raw fleece before it’s processed. It’s not always just about how the fiber is prepped. There is so much to learn about spinning and fiber prep and every day I learn something new, a new door opens to learn more.”
The thing that I really loved about that comment is that it was from wonderwhygal who actually runs an alpaca farm. I’m a perfectionist, hence recording this about five times, and I really struggle with completing a project if I can’t do it well. To have somebody who is basically a professional spinner say you know, I’m still learning, it makes me feel so much more like it’s OK to just do it; and if it’s not great, it’s not great, but you’ve done the process and you’ve learned something, and you’ve enjoyed yourself while doing it.
So, thank you very much for that, that was a wonderful comment to receive and it made my day!
I will tell you what woollen and worsted spinning is – just not today because I still haven’t researched it and my head just can’t get around it at the moment. I do have another spinning lesson in September, so I’m to quiz my teacher and learn all the things and then pass them on to you!
In August I’m going to work on Splash, which is the third of the rovings in blue. I’m really looking forward to starting it. I haven’t yet, but I probably won’t finish it in four hours like I did with the Lagoon, but I’m hoping that it will come out even better than Lagoon did and give me that sense of accomplishment. What will give me the sense of accomplishment even more will be what I actually knit out of it, because that’s going to be a present for John and that will make it particularly special.
Deep Dive, Lagoon and Splash all come from Woolyknits, so they’re the same roving, just dyed with different dyes.
[cow herd mooing]
The equipment that I use – so obviously I’ve got a spinning wheel – and it’s an Ashford Traditional from 1964. If you don’t know anything about spinning wheels, basically it has a pedal and that spins the wheel, so you pedal the pedal to spin the wheel. That spins a bobbin which you attach your yarn to and use a combination of skill and magic to create yarn.
My Ashford Traditional was quite old and it had been renovated before I got it, and as much as I love the person who sold it to me, it wasn’t renovated very well. The hooks were on the wrong side of the flyer, which is what makes the yarn spin, and it caused problems for me for so long. I took my spinning wheel to the lesson I had last September and she said “it’s actually set up wrong so that’s why you’re having so much trouble”. The fact that I’d actually managed to spin any yarn at all from complete beginner is actually quite good if I do say so myself, because the spinning wheel wasn’t set up properly!
If you do decide to buy a spinning wheel and you know as little about spinning as I did, then make sure you get it checked by somebody who knows what they’re doing, because otherwise you’re just making a rod for your own back.
If you want to try spinning and you’re inspired by my podcast, first of all: let me know because it would be really nice to know that you’d been inspired! But second of all, I don’t recommend buying a spinning wheel. I’m stubborn and I forced myself to do it by going to somewhere which really inspired me again, but I sort of feel that if I hadn’t done that, my spinning wheel would still be sitting in storage and languishing.
I have a unicycle which is doing that because I learnt to ride the unicycle, and then the unicycle made it to the garage and I’ve never used it again.
Don’t go for a spinning wheel! If you want to spin you can get spindles really cheaply – in fact, you can make them yourself – and I have now learned to spin on a drop spindle. It has improved my spinning wheel spinning so much because I am just so much more good at handling the fibre. It gives you a bit more time to think because you don’t have to work the pedal and the wheel, as well as spinning the wheel.
So, there are some really good kits on Etsy, I’ll give you a couple of links and let me know how you get on. Look at YouTube and find some tutorials on there, YouTube is the best resource I’ve ever found as a crafty.
Try it! It’s really…I love spinning, I think I love spinning more than I love knitting, and I love knitting a lot! We’ll see which one I’m still doing in 50 years time!
OK that’s it for spinning.
[ascending scale tremolo on the violin]
Now I’m going to talk about the Monthly Resolutions. I’m going to try not sound too corny while I’m going on about this because I get a bit carried away sometimes. I started the Resolutions in March last year after this Unravel experience where I wanted to get my spinning done, and I wanted to set myself a goal but I also didn’t want to set myself up to fail.
I didn’t just resolve to spin the yarn; I think I set myself some other resolutions as well and wrote a blogpost about it and I then decided that I was going to post about this on Ravelry. I said “hey guys I’m going to set myself some resolutions this month, do you fancy setting yourself some and having a go?”
Quite a lot of people took me up on it and I was very successful and other people found success as well. It became a thread that we set up monthly on the Ravelry main forums, and we finally set up a group – somebody else set up the group and we started setting up threads and chatter and things. We now have 94 of us – I guess not all of them are active, but it seems to me that it’s a very active group!
At the beginning of the month we set up a thread and we all set ourselves resolutions, and throughout the month they report back on their accomplishments. And they celebrate small things, you know, I celebrated when I put the first stitch on the needles for Icon Dress, and then I celebrated when I cast off Garland. It can give you that real satisfaction in small steps in big projects which is something that I was really lacking before.
You post the accomplishments throughout the month and that keeps you on track. Mid-month we all review our resolutions and say this is how we’re getting on, and at the end of the month you say “this is what I resolved and this is what I did”.
It varies what people set themselves – so I tend to under resolve. I tend to be quite lenient on myself and not set myself anything that’s too hard and fast because if I don’t achieve them, I struggle with that a little bit. Whearas other people will set themselves twenty goals, and they’ll be really little goals, or they’ll be twenty big goals ,and see how they get on. A lot of them are very successful, and that’s amazing to see.
There are no rules really, you just chat and we help each other out and give each other advice, and we’ve done a swap and been doing these things together like a make along and a knit along and everything.
It’s a nice little community, and as I say it really gives that sense of achievement and accomplishment that can be really lacking if you’re working on a very big project.
To demonstrate this I will talk about my last months resolutions. So last month was July 2014. I’d had a rough month in June and I knew that July was going to be slow because I was busy and I would have my operation, so I was quite careful not to overset my goals. The three goals that I set were:
Number One, work on Icon Dress.
Number Two, do some spinning.
Number Three, cast on Zigzag Jumper.
In May 2014, one of my resolutions was ‘cast on Icon Dress’, so I started June 2014 with the cast on stitches and that was it. I managed to knit up to 8 inches, which is where I am at now, including the frogging and, it just feels good because if I look at it in terms of the overall project, I’ve done nothing basically. It’s a huge project, it’s going to be a big long dress, it’s got a really flared out skirt so there’s loads of stitches at the bottom of the skirt, which is what I’m working on at the moment; so having that “I have to work on it this month but I’m not going to say I have to get to this point” – it worked for me and it did motivate me.
Second one, do some spinning; well I did complete that – obviously I did my Lagoon in the four hours, so that was great and I also really enjoyed that as it prompted me to review all my yarn and see what I had done, which was really heartening.
Number Three was ‘cast on Zigzag Jumper’ and I’ve nearly finished the back piece. As I say, the only thing that stopped me from completing the project was the fact that I didn’t have the pattern sorted out.
If I had said to myself, knit half of the Zigzag Jumper, I don’t know that I actually would have done it because I probably would have felt a little bit overwhelmed. It sounded like a lot to me at the beginning of July when I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed by everything that was going on. So, that went really well for me.
This month, I’ve changed my tactic a little bit. We are doing a make-along this month – at the beginning of the year we did our Resolutions for 2014, because although we are all concentrating on monthly resolutions, we did all have resolutions for the year.
One of my resolutions was to work on three garments for myself because I had realised at the Pompom Quarterly Chrimstas party that I didn’t have anything in my wardrobe. We did this make-along and we said to ourselves we were going to do the New Years Sweater Resolutions. We all resolved to knit a sweater in the first three to six months of the year, and if I hadn’t had that, there is no way that I would have completed Garland! Seriously, there was a lot of stocking stitch in there.
We are doing a make-along this month to follow the Tour de Fleece because we haven’t done anything together for a while. The make-along was proposed by kelv, who is one of our members, and she asked if anybody would be interested in doing a knit-along or a crochet-along or something. She suggested a few things such as friendship day or a few days that are happening in August as a theme, and we all decided that we would set our own themes but make-along to a common goal in August.
My make-along project is for Friendship Day but I’m not going to say what it is because it’s a gift and I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I know that the person probably doesn’t listen to my podcast because at this point, I don’t even have a podcast, but you can never be too safe!
My other resolutions for August are quite…I’ve been a little bit more explicit this time because I feel like I can manage more this month. The second one is “work on Icon Dress” and my plan is to go through the pattern and go through all the milestones. At the moment I’m decreasing on the skirt and theres something like 12 decreases to do. Each one is spaced 11 rows apart, and each row has got hundreds of stitches on it. It feels like a really bit project and as I say, I’m eight inches in which feels like a lot, but at the same time I would quite like to know exactly how much that is so I can have a roadmap of where I’m going.
Again this is something that we all did for the New Year’s Resolutions on the sweaters, we all wrote down our milestones and then on the date that we completed it we filed it in. I’m going to do that for Icon Dress, that worked really well for me.
The second one is to work on Zigzag Jumper and I want to, unrealistically, finish it by the 22nd of August, which I think is only like two weeks, and that is because we are going to a festival and the colours are mad! As I’ve already described in my funky hat idea, the more mad the colours the better the garment for the festival. I don’t know if that will actually happen because I am quite busy, but that’s the goal.
My fourth resolution is to spin the Splash roving. This will definitely happen. It has to happen because in September I normally start my Christmas knitting and John’s Christmas gift is being knitted out of my hand-spun, so if I don’t spin it then I won’t have the yarn and it’s going to set me back, and that will stress me out and I don’t like that!
So that’s it for me!
It’s not over. Sorry!
I’m really passionate about these resolutions and I also wanted to showcase some of the people in the group so you can get an idea of what other people are doing in the group and see how they get on. We all do different things. I normally stick to crafting resolutions publicly – I will say to myself ‘this month I would like to eat more fish’; but I don’t write that down because it’s kind of not interesting enough in my opinion. Although, I am interested in what everybody else is saying, but it’s my preference, so that’s OK!
So the first person I’m going to feature is kelv, who suggested the make along. Again, I will go through her July Resoltuions first and then tell you a bit about her August ones. kelv had a really productive month – she set herself seven resolutions and she…yeah, she completed all of them.
The first one was to ‘finish the cardigans’ – she had two on the go and she finished both of them. She had to sew some buttons on them, but she posted on the last day of July in the morning so she thought she would get them done on the 31st in the evening.
She needed to block and finish Espresso at the Eiffel Tower, which she completed, and she wanted to finish Dusky Gemini, which she also completed.
She wanted to begin the 5k to the 10k programme and she did that; and I want to just stop talking about the rest of her resolutions for a moment because she deserves a prize, seriously! We did all set New Year’s Resolutions and one of mine was to become a runner; and actually, we all started the couch to 5k programme together. You start out and you’re unfit and you can’t run, and then eight weeks later you can run five kilometres. We all started together and I think two of the ladies completed it – kelv is one of them.
My excuse is that I couldn’t breath properly because I had a cough…and I still have five months left in this year to become a runner, so it will happen! But it hasn’t for me yet.
That’s hard and she’s now started the 5k to 10k programme, which is just astronomical, and I’m so impressed.
Ok, back to Resolutions!
The fifth resolution was ‘finish strong with school’ and she got all A’s, which is amazing.
Six, cast on a pair of socks and she changed this to ‘get a third of the way through the first panel of the fisherman afghan’ and she was almost done with that. I chose that as an example because you can see that although you set your resolutions, it’s not hard and fast, and she decided halfway through the month that that was a bit unrealistic and she want to do something else; so she did and it was successful.
Number Seven, get control of the house-keeping. She put a list of the things she had achieved and she didn’t seem to think that was good enough, but if you do any house-keeping at all then that’s great!
kelv’s first goal is for her make along projects. She decided to celebrate Frankenstein Day and to do that, she’s going to knit a monster. The second one “finish the first panel and knit a second panel for the fisherman afghan”. Number three, tend to the pile of knitted things sitting on the chair in my living room. Make repairs, sew on buttons – whatever else needs to be done. Number four, work up to running 6 miles at a time by the end of August.
So I hope that gives you a good idea of what it’s all about. As I say, we have a group on Ravelry. It’s Resolutions Monthly and I will link to it in the show notes. It’s a good community – I push this really hard because it has helped me. I’ve had a few problems with productivity and getting overwhelmed; I struggled at university with it and I struggle with my crafting sometimes because it starts to feel like a chore. I have a huge stash and that should be something to celebrate, but actually it overwhelms me, so if I set myself a resolutions which is ‘pick out yarn from stash for this project next month’ it feels like you’ve done something positive, whereas before I was setting the resolutions, that felt like a massive task. I wasn’t sure that I could actually do it!
The same with unfinished projects; at one stage I had a stupid number of projects, something like 15, all on the needles and I hadn’t finished anything, for several years actually – and that was a real low-point for me because I was really starting to forget the therapeutics effects of the knitting because the stress of the unfinished projects was really weighing on me. It has really helped.
It seems to especially help people who are struggling with mental health issues, which I do, and that’s a really positive thing. I’m all for finding solutions and it seems to work for everyone, so I’m really happy about it and I’m so pleased that its become A Thing. I’m quite impressed with myself that I”m still going with it a year and a half later, and I’m really excited to see where it goes!
So let’s get this movement going guys, just join the resolutions for one month and if you don’t like it you don’t have to do it again. A month is such a short amount of time; and by doing the resolutions you really realise how short a month actually is – so it’s achievable and if you would like to have a go, then come join us on the group. Apart from anything else, we are a little community and we cheer each other on and help each other out and encourage each other and make each other laugh; and it would great if you could join us in that.
I’m going to talk a little bit about Crafty Roots now. I’m not going to go on too much because I am aware that I have already talked for a while! But I want to explore, for myself and for other people’s interest as well, the roots of craft. One of the things that I find really fascinating is that spinning and knitting and weaving, and quite a lot of the hobbies that we do now, used to be a real industry, before the Industrial Revolution particularly when there wasn’t a lot of machinery and everything. I think that it’s really important not to lose that history.
It’s easy to do that these days. We live in a digital world; I’m still fairly young, I’m 25 and I studied engineering and computer and digital stuff takes up a lot of my time – leisure and professional; I work on a computer all day and when I get home I spend some time on the computer, I may watch some TV, I listen to radio, I always know what’s going on in the world and it’s nice to just sit back and take a bit of the old world in, and understand that. It makes the objects and the process a little bit more enjoyable; for me at least, and I’m sure that the same is true for a lot of other people.
John facilitated this, he bought me a book called “The History of Knitting” or something…I will link to it, it’s in the other room and I can’t go get it now. I’ll probably use that as my base and then just explore the history of knitting and other things as well – the history of spinning and the history of some of the other things we do that are related to knitting and spinning.
I also want to talk about some of the fibres and things – I think it’s very easy to forget, especially when you’re knitting with something that you’ve bought online or that you’ve received as a gift – it’s easy to lose touch with where that has come from. If it’s real natural fibre like wool or mohair, or something, it’s come from an animal and it’s nice to appreciate that. It kind of adds an extra dimension to what you’re doing, which I find really valuable.
It’s also going to be quite interesting to describe the different types of fibres because some of them may be good for you know, a rain thing, like a hat which needs to be slightly waterproof, and others, like the kidsilk haze which I used for Garland are just super smooshy and warm; some of them can be dyed really well; some look really good in their natural colours; some of them come from animals in America that may gore you – I’m talking about Quiviut (I don’t know how you say that); some of them mean that Corrie will one day own angora bunnies because they are cute and I will be able to spin from them; and I think it will be nice to explore that a little bit.
[Plutonium Muffins yeeeeeah]
While we are talking about animals, I wasn’t going to go into this too much, but I did want to tell you about what my hamster did yesterday. So John and I were in Eevon for the weekend with my family and at six o’ clock in the morning we got a phone call from my flatmate, and he was in a panic because he had just discovered one of the hamsters running around; and Molly, who is a female – obviously – she’s a Syrian Hamster and she’s really strong – and they live in these storage bins and she can climb to the top and life the lid off. I normally put things on top of the lid so she doesn’t do that, but I was in a rush on Friday when I was rushing to catch my train, so I obviously didn’t and she managed to get out. My flatmate found her.
So he put her back in and got bitten for his trouble – I did buy him a big box of chocolate to try make up for it somewhat – and we got home last night and I ran to investigate and check if she was OK. Then I discovered that she had been running around our room, leaving little presents around for us which was very pleasant, and she’d also climbed her way onto our bed and eaten her way through some of my apples; which as thrilled as I am that she didn’t starve of dehydration or starvation – they were really nice apples and I can’t eat them now! So, damn you Molly!
That’s it for today. I’m quite impressed that I’ve managed to get to the end of this. I am sitting on the floor in my room and I’m in an alcove by the bed and the dressing table thing, and I’ve got blankets all around to try dampen the sound, because the acoustics were a little strange and it was sounding a bit funny on the computer. It’s really warm and I’m really cramped – I have got such bad cramp in my leg right now – and I’m gasping for a cup of tea, so this is perseverance. This is love of your craft!
My dad reckons that I’m only podcasting- no, my dad reckons that I’m only knitting so that I can podcast so that I can own a cool microphone – because my microphone is quite cool!
I don’t think it’s quite like that but it definitely does all lend itself to each other!
If you’ve enjoyed yourself I would love to hear about it. I’m available on email@example.com, the website is PlutoniumMuffins.com…that was a bit weird! I’m available on Twitter – I’m always on Twitter – and again it’s @plutoniummuffin without the ’s’ because of character limits. We have a Facebook page, there’s a Plutonium Muffins group on Ravelry – although there’s nothing on there – and the Resolutions Monthly group is the one that I’m really keen for you to explore. I’m on all the regular ones – Google+, Pinterest, there’s lots of links on the website as well in case I miss anything.
Feedback on the podcast appreciated – comments on the podcast appreciated. If you have anything that’s sort of…slightly, constructively critical, please be gentle! This has been quite an experience!
Before I go, I’d like to thank the podcasting community on Twitter. We know that Twitter has got me into trouble before, you know I’ll say “is this a good idea” and everybody will say yes. Well – exactly the same thing happened with the podcast, I was just ruminating on Twitter one day and there was so much encouragement; and John had given me so much encouragement, and I had wanted to do a podcast for a really long time – so it was definitely the kick that i needed to start this process.
I’d like to thank Louise from Knit British and Louise from Caithness Craft, Martine from iMake Guernsey and Jo from the Shiny Bees podcast – so, they’re all podcasts. That’s, Knit British, Caithness Craft Collective, iMake and the Shiny Bees podcast. I’ll link to them in the show notes but those four ladies have been so helpful to me and I really can’t thank you enough for your support. I’m sure that you will probably be very kind about this and I am grateful in advance for that. You know how difficult the first episode is.
Louise from Knit British says the second episode is also supposed to be hard and I’m hoping that it won’t be as hard as this one…but yep.
I’ll see you next time.
[full Podcrafting tune]