Tag Archives: Spinning

Local Yarn(?) Shops: the Handweavers Studio

Lucky enough to live a few hundred metres away from the Handweavers Studio, I have never got round to actually reviewing it. Well, my friends, that has all changed! I went in a few weeks ago and spent a good long time taking photos and enjoying the vibes of the shop. The layout had recently changed, so I was a little bit lost, which made for a better review as I had to pay proper attention to everything.

The Handweavers Studio as you approach (complete with reflection of workmen!)
The Handweavers Studio as you approach (complete with reflection of workmen!)

The Handweavers Studio can be found at 140 Seven Sisters Road, London, N7 7NS. The website is here!

The Handweavers Studio

The shop is laid out into three sections, so I’ll go through them from front to back for ease of sorting out my photos!

Front of House

Walking into the shop, you are hit by the fact that there is stacks of wool, everywhere. I don’t mean that in a haphazard sort of way – more of a mind-boggling array of ordered merino tops, selections of yarn, and woven samples on a number of looms that are arranged around the floor. Display cabinets contain some of the more luxury items, including Turkish spindles and needle felting equipment that has fossilised dinosaur in it (see the photos for information on what this means).

Walking into the shop with a beautiful view towards the back of it.
Walking into the shop with a beautiful view towards the back of it.
Merino tops in the very front of the shop.
Merino tops in the very front of the shop.
A couple of looms, the Ashford Knitters Loom is closest to me.
A couple of looms, the Ashford Knitters Loom is closest to me.
A range of Turkish spindles in the front of the shop.
A range of Turkish spindles in the front of the shop.
Needle felting tools - with a fossilised dinosaur bone embedded in the handle of the needle holder.
Needle felting tools – with a fossilised dinosaur bone embedded in the handle of the needle holder.
The front of the shop, welcoming you with a riot of colour.
The front of the shop, welcoming you with a riot of colour.
Some felting supplies to grab and go.
Some felting supplies to grab and go.
Stacks of glitter fibre near the till.
Stacks of glitter fibre near the till.
Yarns and looms in the front of the shop.
Yarns and looms in the front of the shop.
More of the welcoming colourful fibre.
More of the welcoming colourful fibre.

The till is also here, always occupied by a lovely person – all of the staff have some interest in the world of weaving, and I’ve never yet had an experience where I’ve asked for advice or help and been unhappy with the response.

Almost the best bit in a shop full of best bits, is the book selection. They have everything you could possibly ask for and more. With a huge range of ‘how-to’ manuals on all the fibre crafts they cater to, as well as reference material and magazines that I honestly had no idea existed until I really looked at them, every time I go in I have a look at the selection and wish I were a millionaire! I have bought more than my fair share of tomes from here, and no doubt there will be more before I leave London.

The Handweavers Studio has got the most amazing selection of books, from general reference to knitting, spinning to felting, and obviously a lot of weaving!
The Handweavers Studio has got the most amazing selection of books, from general reference to knitting, spinning to felting, and obviously a lot of weaving!
A big range of spinning books.
A big range of spinning books.
Knitting Books are not left out!
Knitting Books are not left out!
Books on felting - not that I'm obsessed with felt at the moment...
Books on felting – not that I’m obsessed with felt at the moment…

The Middle Aisles

The centre of the shop is where the yarn is. Catering mostly to weavers, the majority of the yarn is on cones, in a bewildering array of fibres, colours and textures. It is quite hard to appreciate how incredible these yarns are as a (primarily) hand-knitter, as I’m so used to skeins – I will have to go back once my weaving skills have improved and have another look to fully appreciate everything. However, the amount of choice of colour alone is fabulous, and there are also beautifully presented samples on each shelf-end and wall to inspire you as you browse.

This section also has yarns that I would consider more ‘hand-knitters’ yarns, with beautiful hand-painted skeins, pure wool spun in interesting ways, tweedy yarn, fibre blends and ‘plain’ pure wool. There is colour and texture inspiration here in spades.

Can you see how you could get absolutely lost in the yarns?
Can you see how you could get absolutely lost in the yarns?
Yet more wool, and a noticeboard at the end.
Yet more wool, and a noticeboard at the end.
Bobbins full of yarn and a beautiful piece of weaving.
Bobbins full of yarn and a beautiful piece of weaving.
More yarns, more weaving.
More yarns, more weaving.
Beautiful silk yarns.
Beautiful silk yarns.
A selection of pure wool yarns.
A selection of pure wool yarns.
A bookcase full of handpainted yarns.
A bookcase full of handpainted yarns.
Another beautiful passage lined with yarn.
Another beautiful passage lined with yarn.
Close-up of those gorgeous hand-painted yarns.
Close-up of those gorgeous hand-painted yarns.
A lovely noticeboard with local messages.
A lovely noticeboard with local messages.
Notice for the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.
Notice for the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.
I'm going to contact this person - but for anyone in North Islington, a group for you!
I’m going to contact this person – but for anyone in North Islington, a group for you!

Equipment Shop

The back of the shop is where the majority of the equipment lies. With an army of spinning wheels, big looms and a variety of fibre preparation accessories, I normally head straight here to admire the architecture of my craft. I fairly regularly walk in looking for some random piece of equipment that I need right now that I’m sure I won’t find, only to see it nestled on a shelf exactly where I need it.

If by any chance the accessory I need isn’t there, asking for it normally produces results – I enquired on a specific size of niddy-noddy on the off-chance once, and within a couple of minutes it had been brought down from the top of the shop. Magic.

Sacks full of roving are also found here, whether it is different varieties of wool, processed tops or artificial fibres.

An army of spinning wheels - these are used in the lessons.
An army of spinning wheels – these are used in the lessons.
A hand-turned spinning wheel.
A hand-turned spinning wheel.
For the aspiring dyer, a huge range of types and colours of dye.
For the aspiring dyer, a huge range of types and colours of dye.
Weaving and spinning accessories, from carders to shuttles to wool winders.
Weaving and spinning accessories, from carders to shuttles to wool winders.
Sacks full of roving of artificial fibres.
Sacks full of roving of artificial fibres.
Sacks of more artificial or processed fibre roving.
Sacks of more artificial or processed fibre roving.
Here are sacks of wool roving for spinners and felting.
Here are sacks of wool roving for spinners and felting.

Lessons and Workshops

I have done a spinning workshop at the Handweavers Studio, with the talented Brenda Gibson. (Find out more here.) It took place on the shop floor, and it was great to have the whole shop at our disposal on a Sunday – it was not open to the general public, but we were able to browse as much as we wanted. I understand there is a big weaving classroom upstairs, but I’ve never been up there – I may ask for a tour the next time I go in, especially as I’m now a weaver too! Heehee.

They have a great range of classes and workshops, and you can also do a handweavers diploma through the shop – the full range and schedule is here.


If you hadn’t worked it out already, this is one of my favourite places. I would love the shop to have a sofa so that I could go in and just hang out…although I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon, just at my request! I have just one comment which I will include for the sake of balance.

First off, the shop is relatively pricey. I understand, as I’m sure most people do, that excellent quality equipment comes at a fair cost; but you can get a lot of the equipment that is sold here cheaper off the Internet. That said, I always prefer to support bricks-and-mortar shops, and I have bought many ‘somethings’ from the Handweavers Studio in the past when I could have ordered them cheaper off Amazon. It’s part of the experience of being able to handle things yourself before you buy them, and also not having to pay post and packaging! The chance to touch my roving and yarn before I buy it is also invaluable to me, really.

I fully recommend you make it your mission to visit the Handweavers Studio if you are a fibre crafter living in London, and have never been. The nearest tube station is Finsbury Park (which is also on the National Rail network…) and bus links are excellent.

If you do head over, let me know! It’s a ten minute walk for me to come meet you, and there are some fab places to grab a cuppa on Seven Sisters Road.

Happy Saturday!

Much love,

Corrie xx

The front of the shop from the middle of the centre aisles.
The front of the shop from the middle of the centre aisles.

Shop Indie Patterns

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March 2015 Resolutions

How is it the 1st of March already?! I’m sure I say that every month…time sure does seem to be flying these days, and I don’t like it!

February was a month of success for me. One of the best months I’ve had with my knitting for a very long time, in fact. Here’s the recap for you.

February 2015

I was accomplished! Here’s the list.

  1. Finish crocheting my sheep – hmm no, he’s still in my WIP basket, feeling neglected. Must pick him up again.
  2. Finish Monkey (oops, was supposed to do this last month) – yes, and they are gorgeous! I have an FO post queued, it was supposed to self-publish while I was away at Halsway Manor. Oops! I’ll publish it tomorrow.
  3. Knit a cowl from handspun – yes! The Dragon Cowl is gorgeous and smooshy and has barely left my neck since I finished it.
  4. Cast on a big project – And finished it! A fox scarf with 348 rows of plain stockinette in it. Photos and more details to come soon.
  5. Complete Week 8 of half-marathon training – yes, hurrah. You can sponsor me to do the Great North Run here. The challenge is in September, so I’ve got tons of time.

    The Dragon Cowl, started and finished in March.
    The Dragon Cowl, started and finished in March.

With that in mind, I’m going to try be as ambitious for March as I was for February.

March 2015 Resolutions

I’m scaling back on the amount of time I have to knit this month. This means I will almost certainly get more knitting done. As I start to feel better and take on more things, I am giving myself the rule that I am not allowed to do knitting for pleasure until the evening. It has worked for the last days of February – so I’m setting up March with that in mind.

  1. Spin for ten minutes a day – lots of new fibre to play with!
  2. Follow my new schedule every week day – I’ve set up a ‘school’ timetable that I hope will allow me to structure my days a bit better.
  3. Playing with my new knitting machine every week – I persuaded John to get me a new knitting machine as my old one was broken a year ago, and I haven’t been able to explore that side of the craft for a while. The new one is a Brother KH-710, and I love it.
  4. Knit my next pair of socks – I cast them on in hand-dyed yarn I was sent by SugarAngel from the Resolutions Monthly Secret Santa in December.
  5. Work on Naloa – I’ve wound the yarn, found a project bag, got the needles together…just need to sit down and make a start.

My running is going well – I will be up to 6 miles per run by the end of March, and you can see my progress and updates on my Instagram feed.

What are you hoping to achieve this month?

Much love,

Corrie xx

Lots of new fibre to spin this month.
Lots of new fibre to spin this month.
Posted in Crochet, Knitting, Machine Knitting, Resolutions, Spinning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Podcast Episode 9: Unravel

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.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway. (more…)

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Dragon Cowl

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.

Dragon Cowl

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.

I've been enjoying using PicCollage to display my photos.
I’ve been enjoying using PicCollage to display my photos.
The finished yarn ready for cast on.
The finished yarn ready for cast on.
The complete Dragon Cowl - I'm enjoying how well you can see the lace pattern.
The complete Dragon Cowl – I’m enjoying how well you can see the lace pattern.
I don't know if this is ever going to leave my neck!
I don’t know if this is ever going to leave my neck!

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.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Dragon Yarn – all spun and ready to ply

I’m thrilled to say I’ve spun the singles of the Dragon Yarn and it’s ready for my first attempt at Navajo Plying! This is a bit of a new project which has been on Instagram and Twitter before, but I don’t believe I’ve talked about it on the blog yet, so bear with me if you know some of this stuff already. It has been mentioned in passing on the podcast.

Dragon Yarn

I bought the roving for this yarn from Hulu in September. I was drawn by the way the purples, pinks and blues blended into each other, and knew it had to be mine when I saw it! The fibre company is Manos del Uruguay, and the colourway I purchased was 8931 Wildflowers. You get 100 grams, and it is pure, fine, 100% gorgeous merino that has been handpainted.

The roving (screen grab from HuluCrafts.co.uk)
The roving (screen grab from HuluCrafts.co.uk)

It reminded me of a dragon I painted as a teenager, which I unfortunately no longer have – hence the name. I started spinning it on a Lacis drop spindle at Knit and Stitch, which I also bought from Hulu for £11.95. Unfortunately, this spindle and I did not get on very well – the whorl was far too heavy for the weight of yarn I wanted to spin, and I undid it all as soon as I got home and back to my wheel!

I have kept the spindle and am sure it will find a home with some other project soon.

Fast forward to this January and my resolution to do ten minutes of spinning every day. It took me just three days to finish all of the roving – and I’m incredibly thrilled with it! I’m going to be navajo plying to ensure the gradient comes out as it is dyed. I don’t know what yardage I will end up with, but hopefully enough for a cowl.

One very full bobbin of Dragon Yarn singles.
One very full bobbin of Dragon Yarn singles.
Bobbin waiting and being an ornament on the mantelpiece!
Bobbin waiting and being an ornament on the mantelpiece!

Navajo plying is a new technique to me, and I’m using the below video to learn how to do it. She recommends waiting at least a week after you have spun the single to let the twist relax a bit – so I’m impatiently waiting, and continuing on with Follow Me Down Cousin Jack in the meantime. Just in case you don’t know what navajo plying is, and don’t want to watch the video, it’s a method of plying a single together so that you end up with a three-ply yarn which follows any gradients that your single may have.

I should end up with a yarn that has the colour changes of my single, so the ‘dragon’ effect that I like so much is not lost.

I’ve been documenting some of my spinning on YouTube via the medium of time-lapse photography. You can find those on my channel here.

I’ll let you know how the plying goes!

Much love,

Corrie xx

I have posted links to products on the Hulu Crafts online store – I have not been asked to do this, but am merely friends with the owner and believe in supporting smaller companies! No gain is made from the sharing of this information.

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Episode Seven: Kiti

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. (more…)

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Posted in Crafty Roots, Knitting, Podcast, Spinning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Niddy-noddy operation

Melanie taught me how to use a niddy-noddy properly after we recorded Episode Six of the podcast yesterday – listen to this here (did you know you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes?). Now, you would be forgiven for thinking the operation of a niddy-noddy is fairly simple, right?

Oh wait, if you don’t know what a niddy-noddy is…it’s a tool used to make skeins from yarn, and is used when spinning to measure your yardage, as well as get the yarn off the bobbins into the skein. There is more information on Wikipedia.

Yarn on my niddy-noddy.
Yarn on my niddy-noddy.

Niddy-noddy usage

I had the whole ‘wrap the yarn around the prongs’ thing down to pat. It’s quite a nice rhythm when you get into wrapping a skein on the device – and the reason it is called a niddy-noddy is because it looks like it’s nodding away to itself as it rocks back and forth while yarn is wrapped onto it.

When I first got it, and spun my first yarns, I diligently wrapped it around and counted the number of wraps. I also measured the dimensions of my niddy-noddy so that I knew the yardage of each wrap. I decided that it was one yard.

Bear in mind that this was three years ago. I was enamoured with my new toy (and in the throes of the tail-end of a depression slump). OK, remembering that?

Melanie put a skein of freshly spun merino and silk singles onto the niddy-noddy – and quietly questioned my assertion that one wrap was one yard. It was at this point that I learned that a yard is in fact much less than 192 cm – which is the actual length of one wrap on my niddy-noddy. After explaining (very kindly) the error that I had made, Melanie probably went off laughing at me. Eek!

It took me a few hours to come to terms with this (in my brain, one yard was a completely unknown quantity!) and I then sat down to count my yardages of all my previously spun yarns. The new totals are below.

Pharaoh Yarn - 121 meters, 133 yards.
Pharaoh Yarn – 121 metres, 133 yards.
Sherbert Yarn - 167 meters, 184 yards.
Sherbert Yarn – 167 metres, 184 yards.
Resolution Yarn - 460 meters, 511 yards.
Resolution Yarn – 460 metres, 511 yards.
Splash - 118 metres, 130 yards.
Splash – 118 metres, 130 yards.
Deep Dive - 140 metres, 154 yards.
Deep Dive – 140 metres, 154 yards.
Lagoon Yarn - 192 meters, 211 yards
Lagoon Yarn – 192 metres, 211 yards
Willy Wonka - 246 meters, 270 yards
Willy Wonka – 246 metres, 270 yards

I can’t yet decide how I feel about this. Probably more accomplished – I had been feeling fairly low about my spinning output, and it turns out I have nearly double what I thought – but it also serves as a reminder that sometimes I can be a little proud, and next time should just ask about three years sooner!

Have you ever been in a similar situation to this?

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Episode Six: Pamwe

m4s0n501

Episode Six: Pamwe of the Plutonium Muffins Podcast is co-hosted by the now infamous Melanie! We talk about our current projects both knitting and spinning, recently finished items, give an extensive review of the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, recap on my resolutions for October and 2014, and finally a brief history of spinning.

There was a lot of laughter and some bits where we talked about cats, sheep that look like teddy bears and rambling in areas, so a fair amount has been edited out and it’s a bit clunky. I’m getting better at editing, but still working on it! Enjoy. (more…)

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Rainbow Fibre! Round One

One of my October Resolutions was to get started on the rainbow fibre. I described this in more detail on the podcast – you can find the episode here. I am so, so excited to say that we have completed round one of the fibre.

Wait, who is ‘we’? Read on…!

Rainbow Fibre

My friend Melanie, an Aussie and found through Ravelry, is currently in London and came to hang out when we had the PicKnit at the PM headquarters. I showed off all of my spinning fibre (protoyarn!) and told her my plans for some of it. I also expressed some concern at spinning the nylon sparkly unicorn tail fibre – I had never used this before.

Melanie was a superstar, and got started with the fibre – within a couple of days I had overcome my fear and spun it all into a single.

I also had some merino tops in the seven colours of the rainbow, which I wanted to spin into a single as a gradient. Excited by this, I laid out all of the fibre last week and spun it up – with the assistance of Melanie, who did at least half of it! When we were halfway through the first red top, we decided to split it in half as there was a lot of it – so we ended up spinning only half of these colours.

Meanwhile, Melanie had been scheming, and had gone to Hobbycraft to pick up some beads. She had also watched tutorials on YouTube on how to spin with beads – you can guess what happened, right?? With all of these strung onto sparkly blue rayon thread, I nominated Melanie for plying first, and I was in charge of the beads while she did so. We ran out of nylon towards the end of the yellow – so we had to run back to the shop and get more. Melanie spun this up, plyed it with the rest of the beads and merino, and we ended up with three skeins of glory that will make a rainbow when used together!

As Melanie is leaving for Australia soon, I made her take these skeins – we had originally thought we would split it in half, but gradually realised that we would each only have half of the rainbow if we did this, and chopping each colour into sections was not an option. Luckily, because we had split the merino, I still have half of the fibre left and I can spin up more of this glorious yarn!

It is soft, sparkly, absolutely beautiful and such a wonderful project. We crammed as many techniques in as we could (a common utterance being “it’s art yarn, it doesn’t matter”) and I can’t wait to start on the next lot. I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Melanie knits out of it – we are not yet sure of the yardage, and will measure it next week sometime.

Nylon!
Nylon!
The nylon on the wheel.
The nylon on the wheel.
Nylon singles waiting for the rest of the fibre.
Nylon singles waiting for the rest of the fibre.
Blending violet and indigo merino.
Blending violet and indigo merino.
Spinning the merino into calming blue and green singles.
Spinning the merino into calming blue and green singles.
Ready to start plying - nylon, merino and thread.
Ready to start plying – nylon, merino and thread.
Melanie plying the rainbow yarn.
Melanie plying the rainbow yarn.
Starting to ply the yarn.
Starting to ply the yarn.
A bobbin full of the first yarn.
A bobbin full of the first yarn.
The first rainbow skein comprising of violet to green.
The first rainbow skein comprising of violet to green.
The rainbow yarn is ridiculously soft and pretty.
The rainbow yarn is ridiculously soft and pretty.
The three skeins, washed and ready to be knitted.
The three skeins, washed and ready to be knitted.
The rainbow yarn side by side.
The rainbow yarn side by side.
Fibre remaining for the next set of spinning.
Fibre remaining for the next set of spinning.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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Spinning a Dartmoor Mix

My friend Melanie and I have spinning together recently. We are having to pack our hang out time into a very short space of time as she is moving back to Australia in less than a month. Sad times for me (although she is super excited)!

I have been super adventurous since Melanie came into my life, as she has encouraged me to spin all sorts of things I would never have dared try before! We’ve had a wonderful few days of spinning, and she has been doing some interesting things too.

Spinning the Dartmoor Mix

After a visit to Spin a Yarn in Devon (which I have talked about before), Melanie came away with a load of fibre to try spinning. This was a mix of fibres from animals living on or around Dartmoor, a beautiful area of England near the place I grew up. The label on the bag says there are four fibres in there: alpaca, Shetland, Gotland and Ryeland.

After spinning the first few bits on her drop spindle, she came round and got started on the wheel. There was Much Progress at the Plutonium Muffins PicKnit (which ended up just being Melanie, Corrie and another friend hanging out), and after two days of spinning on the wheel and plying on the spindle at home, a substantial amount of yarn was produced.

The first project that Melanie cast on was the Vortex Shawl – it looked amazing when she brought it round, and I was super excited about seeing how it turned out (and queued this project for myself). However, when she got home she decided that there was something else that this yarn wanted to be – and has almost finished!

The pattern is Window Cat by Sara Elizabeth Kellner. There is just a bit more spinning to be done, and she will finish the fibre. The cat still needs a face and his base so that his stuffing doesn’t pop out. He’ll be done soon, I reckon!

Spin a Yarn Dartmoor Mix fibre.
Spin a Yarn Dartmoor Mix fibre.
Yarn spun on spindle and plied on wheel.
Yarn spun on spindle and plied on wheel.
Building up a Dartmoor Mix.
Building up a Dartmoor Mix.
Fantastic spinning of the bobbin action shot!
Fantastic spinning of the bobbin action shot!
The Dartmoor Mix single on the bobbin.
The Dartmoor Mix single on the bobbin.
Winding the single to ply from a centre-pull ball.
Winding the single to ply from a centre-pull ball.
The Vortex Shawl as a spinning sampler.
The Vortex Shawl as a spinning sampler.
Melanie's Sheepish Cat.
Melanie’s Sheepish Cat.
Sheepish Cat hanging out with Kittylow and wishing he had eyes too.
Sheepish Cat hanging out with Kittylow and wishing he had eyes too.

I never thought that spinning could be a social craft – as it turns out, it can, and I’m loving it. We are off to the Handweavers Studio again to ooh and ahh at fibre, and buy some more of the sparkly unicorn tale so we can finish our rainbow fibre!

Much love,

Corrie xx

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