I have to try remember to be careful about Tonks and plastic bags – she finds them, sits in them and loves them to death. I am well aware of the dangers of suffocation, and she normally has no opportunity to cuddle up in a bag while I’m out.
I haven’t taken advantage of the term “Caturday” nearly enough since we got Tonks, so here’s a Caturday post for you!
I’m busily sorting the fleece for Follow Me Down Cousin Jack (the spinning project’s name is inspired by the song in the video at the bottom of this post) and the picked fluff goes into a bag, ready for carding. I had just finished picking my clump for the day, and put it down for a second to go get myself a cuppa. When I turned around, this is what I saw.
I think Tonks is very unsubtly asking me to make her a bed out of alpaca fleece. She has already commandeered my sheepskin rug and my patchwork blanket…this is one battle she won’t win!
Tonks has been very involved in the process since she arrived, and we have a nice rhythm going at the moment. I get up in the morning, eat my breakfast and answer some emails. Then, we go out into the garden and while I’m drinking my second cup of tea of the day, I catch up on blogs and sort through the fleece.
This is working amazingly while the weather is good – sorting the fibre is quite a messy process, it’s very dusty and good to do outside as it means I don’t have to clean the flat after each session. Let’s hope the weather holds, at least until I finish.
I’m trying to sort through the remaining bag of fibre at a rate of a big handful per day so that I actually finish it by the time the year is up. A very scientific method, you see! You’ll have to stay tuned to see how successful I am…
While we’re cat it (hur, get it?!) – John sent me a link for this book the other day. He thought I would absolutely love it, but I have to admit that I’m on the fence. What do you think? (The picture is an affiliate link that will take you to Amazon.)
You won’t find me buying it anytime soon…though I probably wouldn’t return it if I got given it, hehe.
Have a great Caturday.
PS if you’re wondering what I’m on about w.r.t. phone filter and colour theory, read this post.
We were looking at some old posts on Plutonium Muffins last night and found this one on my first magic ball! The story has continued to develop, so I will enlighten you. Before I get started, though, I want to share some of the wisdom about magic balls so that you can understand them slightly better.
What is a magic ball?
This is updated from my last post, as with two years of experience of saving scraps, I now feel better qualified to talk about them! I always have at least one Magic Ball on the go – I like to leave long tails on my yarn, and it always feels like a waste having to throw that away when a project is done. So, I save the scraps, join them, and off we go.
How do I join them? I tie them. There are so many other methods for joining yarn, and I’ll pop links to tutorials for them below. Most of these would leave a knotless join – however, because of the way in which I use my magic balls, I don’t need the yarn to be knotless.
Spit splicing (officially “felted join”: only applicable to natural animal fibre yarns)
The first one I made – the one referred to in the original post – eventually ended up in my Gigantic Blankie. This is what started the evolution of my magic balls – I realised that by knitting them up into projects with multiple strands, it didn’t matter if there were knots. I originally joined them using the Russian join, which is typically my preferred method of joining yarn as I like the control I get through this method, but it can take a really long time – especially if you are very thrifty with your yarn scraps and they’re short.
I now just tie them. Simple, easy and given the end use, it causes no problems with respect to the knots in the fabric. It should be noted that the Gigantic Blankie is now Tonks’ bed, but that is more because she chose it, rather than for any other reason!
Using the yarn in this way also means that if I get any ‘unwanted’ yarn – i.e. samples with magazines, single skeins of something that don’t fit in with my plans or just purchases made on the spur of the moment, I can just tie it into my magic ball and knit on the blanket.
At the moment we have a magic ball sitting in our lounge – it weighs 4 kg and is much, much larger than my head. I just need to get my needles out and I can get going on knitting it up!
If you’ve been following the blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I love John Arbon Textiles. I did a nice big feature on them on the blog in January, I knitted the Icon Dress in Knit by Numbers yarn, and I have made a point of heading over to see them at as many of the festivals as I’ve been to in recent years. I’ve got to know John and his lovely wife Juliet as people to have a chat with and say hi to when we cross paths, and I’m so excited to be able to continue this association in the future!
John Arbon Goodies
I won’t talk too much more about the company, but I do urge you to find out a little about them – either through my blog or their website. I will mention that there is a Mill Open Weekend on the 16th and 17th of May. I intend to head down and spend some time getting to know the mill and the John Arbon family a little better, and would love to know if you are going too so I can meet up with you and have a chat!
I have just watched John Arbon Textiles: The Movie again, and I cannot explain how excited I am about all of this!
So, on to the goodies. I asked on the off-chance that there was a spare skein of something kicking around, and was thoroughly spoiled by the package that Juliet sent me. With four skeins of yarn and two pairs of socks, there is some truly amazing wooly goodness to get your hands on!
Exmoor sock yarn
A skein of delicious 85% Exmoor Blueface / 15% Nylon in the smoke colourway is on offer. This is a light 4 ply yarn, and with 400 metres to the skein, you’ll get a good pair of socks out of this. In case the colours are different on your screen to mine, it’s a purple-brown-grey colour, and would make a sturdy pair of comfortable walking socks! The yarn is on the John Arbon Textiles website here.
Organically Farmed Merino Laceweight
This is a skein of 100% merino wool. With 650 m of gorgeous lace-weight yarn to get the most out of, this is in the “Dove Grey” shade. It would make a beautiful delicate lace item, and I’ve found it quite hard to accept that I have to part with this! More info on the yarn specifics here.
Another 100% merino wool, this is a relatively new range of yarns which are dyed by Emily Foden, using a dry-dyeing technique to create the most incredible depth of colour in the spun yarn. I have one skein of a limited edition colourway, Ginger Nut, available for you. This is the most stunning skein with tones of browns, reds, greens and greys to get lost in. You can’t get this on the John Arbon website…just saying! There is 250 metres of double knit yarn in a 100 g skein – perfect for a cosy hat.
Knit by Numbers
As I am the world’s biggest fan of this yarn, it would be a travesty if I didn’t have any to offer to you. With over 85 shades available (let me refer you back to the photo of their display at Unravel, which just makes my heart sing), I have one skein in shade KBN 22. I would describe it as a candy pink, almost. You can see the range of colours here – there are no colour names because the range is so enormous, hence the name “Knit by Numbers”. This is also pure merino, and you get 250 metres in your 100 g skein – I have made a hat from one of these skeins, and it is super comfy.
John Arbon Textiles are also well-known for their socks; I have two pairs of “The Exmoor Stroller” for you, in 75% Exmoor Blueface and 25% Nylon. The blue pair is a medium, or UK size 8 to 10, while the green pair is for small feet, at UK size 4 to 7. Find out more about the socks here.
Entering the Giveaway
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.
So, how do you enter!? Please head over to the John Arbon website and let me know what your favourite product of theirs is – whether it’s a specific colour and blend of roving, or a darning mushroom. Do this by commenting on this blog post – each of the six items constitutes ONE prize, and if you have any preference for what you would like, make sure you say what you would like if you win (ensure you include sock sizes if you go for those). Prizes are drawn randomly and I cannot guarantee that you will get what you would like, but I will correspond with the winners at the relevant time.
For an additional entry, watch the below video and let me know what your favourite part of it is via a comment on my blog (and not on YouTube as I have no way of getting notifications for that).
I’ll give you a hand – at 0:52, brown and white roving is squished down into a barrel, and if I were given half the chance, I would love to do something like that. It looks like the most incredible, tactile experience – and I adore the way the colours blend together too, they look like icing on a cake or something.
For up to three additional entries, you can share this post on three different social media platforms of your preference and let me know about it, making sure to link to the shared item. So that’s five possible entries for six possible prizes.
Anyone can enter, and the giveaway will close on the 15th of April 2015. Good luck!
I want to tell you all about the Dragon Yarn, and I looked on the project notes on Ravelry…then noticed I have no blooming notes! So some of the figures for the yarn are inaccurate because I’m not unwinding the cake and rewinding it on my niddy-noddy to accurately find out exactly how much I have!
This started out as 100g of Manos del Uruguay fibre in the Wildflower colourway (8931), as stated previously. I spun up the singles starting on the 1st of October 2014, using my Lacis Drop Spindle, bought at Hulu Crafts. When I decided to start spinning it again, I switched to the spinning wheel as the whorl on the drop spindle was too large for the weight of yarn I wanted to spin.
That probably sounds like Greek to you if you are not a spinner. Basically, I wanted to spin the yarn up so the single was relatively thin, and the weight of the bulby bit at the bottom of the spindle kept making the single snap before I could stabilise it. More practice needed!
It was a dream to spin up on the spinning wheel. I had to pre-draft the fibre to get the thickness that I wanted, and all-in-all the process took about nine hours. I have no idea if this is good or not – any thoughts? I navajo plied the single to preserve the colouration – and I absolutely love and adore this technique. I will be navajo plying ALL THE THINGS.
Having done rough measurements, I have calculated that I have about 98 metres of worsted weight yarn. I’m still doing cold sheep for this year – so I can’t buy any patterns to knit it up into. I checked out my library and found the Bridger Cowl in there; I’m still as in love with the pattern as I was when I initially downloaded it, so it’s a done deal!
The yarn is wonderful and soft. I soaked it in the bathroom sink so that I could see if there was any colour leakage against the white porcelain – and there was, but not a lot. I’m sure the yarn will be colour-fast and this was just excess dye, although I will still be careful when I next wash it.
I’m looking forward to the cowl! England is cold at the moment and it will be nice to have another warm neck accessory…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
I’m going to be coming down to Devon a lot in the future, and I decided I needed a stash down here…it shall be my secret stash, and I shall call it squishy. Being local, I had to stash local yarn, obviously…OK, so it’s not so local, the roving is from Uruguay and the sock yarn from Germany, but the shop, Hulu Crafts, was local!
Stash from Hulu
I blogged about Hulu last year when this was my local yarn shop – to read that post go HERE. I was absolutely delighted to be able to go back to a knit and natter last night. This will be a monthly event for me, and I will even be able to go to their Christmas dinner! I’m so excited.
I have been into Hulu twice in the last four days, and fell in love with two things that I decided I needed to stash. The first was an Opal sock yarn. I knitted my first ever socks from Opal yarn, and they are the best pair I have – I prefer them to Regia, Artesano, and all of the yarn from small yarn companies that I have bought over the last few years. I actually noticed it when Vicky posted about it on the 22nd of August and decided I must look when I was next home.
She still had it! So I bought it.
The roving caught my eye as I walked past it, and I’ve always wanted to try Manos del Uruguay fibre but never seen it in person. That was snapped up – the colours are fairly similar to the Opal yarn, but I’m loving it and started spinning straightaway. I fascinated everyone at Knit and Stitch at Hulu, and Vicky posted a photo of me doing it to the Facebook page! (I’m famous, heehee.)
Anyway, now that you’ve drooled over my secret stash, carry on!
PS Anyone recognise the quote in italics in my introductory paragraph?
My lovely JS got back from New York today and he brought me presents! I asked him to go have a look in some yarn stores but then reconsidered and didn’t give him any recommendations – so he had to make his own decision and went to Knitty City which is just near Central Park while he was exploring the park.