Drift and Flow

I’ve spent a chunk of the evening editing photographs for the next shop update – which should be sometime between now and Sunday evening.  I’m getting better at editing photographs for composition and colour, though I’ve got a way to go before I’m a real master!

This week’s offerings will be ‘Drift’ and ‘Flow’.

Flow is a truly luscious 50% silk/50% merino lace weight yarn.  It knits into stunning, drapey lace patterns and beautiful, smooth stockinette with the greatest of ease, and has a soft, but not overwhelming, lustre.  It is one of my favourite yarn lines!


With 450m per 50g skein, and 24-32 stitches (32-42 rows) per 10cm on 1.75-3.5 mm needles, this is a seriously versatile luxury.


I’d love to knit a Whisper cardigan (Ravelry link) in this stuff, if I ever manage to keep any for myself.  Yum!!

Drift is an awesome kid mohair/nylon laceweight with a close resemblance to a certain famous yarn from a top UK supplier (except without the silk!).

 Sage Advice

It comes in 50g/425m skeins


And knits up on 3 to 5 mm needles at a gauge of 18-25 stitches and 23-33 rows per 10 cm.


…just as you’d expect, this is perfect for lacey little shawls and stoles, or can be held double to create a thicker fabric.  Enjoy!

Spinning demo TOMORROW and Sunday, Hemingford Abbots

This weekend is the Hemingford Abbots Flower Festival, including an Open Gardens event.  I got the ‘call’ for volunteers for this event (their regular spinner is ill and cannot make it) the Monday after my last demo – and I’ve been looking forwards to it ever since.

I love doing demos.  There is so much to talk about in spinning – craft, design, engineering, physics, history, archaeology.  Pretty much anyone who shows up with even a spark of interest can be sent away with a whole lot more, and I think that that is one of the most gratifying things in the whole world.

I spent part of this evening making a bunch more demo spindles.  These are really simple, unfinished bottom whorl drop spindles, which take minimal tools to create, but which work.  They’re heavy enough for beginners, without being too heavy.  I’ve taken to carrying these around with me whenever I’m drop spindling, because there is always someone – even an established wheel spinner – who will be interested.

I’ve also invented a ‘spot the handspun’ quiz, involving a bunch of my stashed yarn, along with some hand knitted and hand woven projects.  I hope some people play along; I think there will be a few surprises, if they do!

49) Parade of the Fleeces

Did I mention, it's fleece season?

A month or so ago, I took advantage of one of the first really warm weekends and hauled my fleece stash out of the shed and spread it out on the lawn.  The idea was to get the lanolin all warmed up in the sun; lanolin sets harder and harder over the years, and some of these have been off the sheep for three or four years already.  Of course, I couldn't resist washing some.

So, here's a quick overview (click for bigger):


From left to right, we have:

  • Freddy, a largish down-type fleece of unknown breed.
  • Jane, a smaller, softer fleece of similar provenance (at the back)
  • In front of Jane, a Jacob fleece I'd forgotten I owned.  I think I got it free at a spinning meet, and it was labelled 'cold water washed'.  Sadly, it was felted into a tight bundle, and I threw it out.
  • Two Manx Loaghtan fleeces, which I am calling Honey and Caramel.
  • Note also Kita's head at the bottom of the photo.  Raw fleece is Very Interesting to dogs.

This is Freddy, all spread out:



These sheep are pets of a friend of J's parents, who live in France.  They are not kept for fleece, and are shorn because it's necessary.  I haven't packaged them very carefully, and the structure of the fleece has been lost.  I'm not too worried in this case, because it's uniformly clean (or not) and actually seems to have a pretty consistent staple throughout.  (In the background, you can see my secret weapon in the fleece washing battle – our old bath).

I have two Manx fleeces, pictured in the next two photos (which are nowhere near as good as I thought – sorry!)  I'd only examined one of them before this day, and was delighted to find that the second one was even nicer than the first, with a longer staple and a softer handle.  Sadly, you can't really tell the difference in the photos…



My original intent was just to give the fleece a good airing, but of course, I ended up washing some.  Washing fleece always makes me feel vaguely guilty – it uses so much water! – so I re-use the water as much as I can, and it ends up going onto the garden.  Here's a chunk of 'Freddy', before washing:


You can see there are layers of muck and grease in the fleece.  I use very hot water and a generous squeeze of washing up liquid to wash fleeces.  Washing up is generally greasier than laundry, so washing up liquid is better suited to attacking the grease found in a raw sheep's fleece!  And you need the water to be hot, because it melts the grease and gets it off the fibre so much faster.

Because Freddy is a down type, I'm not particularly (at all!) concerned about keeping the lock structure intact.  That can be a good idea for long wools, or if you want to spin the finest, smoothest worsted yarn possible from a fleece, but this stuff is woollen all the way, baby!  That means I can wash big chunks of it all at once.  So, an armful or so goes into the tub, and is gently encouraged to sink:


I then use my hands (in gloves! This water is HOT and unsanitary!) to 'herd' the fleece slowly from one end of the bath to the other.  I can't remember where I picked up this technique, but it works pretty well.  The idea is that the water will slowly move through the fleece, without rubbing or any real agitation.  It takes a minute or so to go from one end to the other, then another minute back again.  You can see muck coming out of the fibre in clouds.

As previously stated, I like to re-use the water as much as possible.  Most fleeces will need several trips through the bath to become acceptably clean, and once the water is too dirty for the second wash of one section, it can start the first wash of another.  When it gets to this sort of stage, though, it's probably best to run it out and start over:


I don't put this stuff on my veggies.  Oddly, I'm more worried about the detergent than I am about the poop and grease.  The rest of the garden loves it, though.

Here's the difference the first wash makes:


The unwashed is on the left, the washed on the right.  It's not orange any more!

Incidentally, the small bits of vegetation will almost never wash out, especially from a tangly, crimpy wool like this.  You can pick them out when the wool is dry, but it's only really worth it for the big bits.  Most of the rest will fall out during carding anyway, and you can pick more out when you spin…


Yarnscape is live on Etsy!!

I always seem to save my big announcements for the solstice, eh?

I’ve decided to do a phased release of my yarns, so today I’ve listed Footsie (my sock yarn) and Bunnylace (angora/wool laceweight yarn) colourways.  I’ll announce future releases here on the blog, but you can check out all the remaining details at my shop!

48) Sustainability Sundays: the ‘Want Not’ edition

Very little has happened on the sustainability front this week.  It's been a strange, long, busy week, and I seem not to have stopped.  Last Saturday, Leigh asked commenters to consider what (and how!) they would eat if the electricity went out over the whole region for three days straight.  As well as no electricity in your home, that means no buying anything from the shops – they can't open with out power.  Parts of my answer ran thusly:

I'm lucky: my cooker (both hob and oven) is gas,
so I could cook. If the mains gas gave out too, we have
bottled gas and charcoal for two different bbqs.
I keep a
rolling pantry of dried and canned (shop-bought) goods, and the freezer
is pretty well stocked.  The
things that would cause problems are:

  • milk, which is the thing I'm
    most likely to buy midweek.
  • the microwave, which I use to cook some
    veggies and to defrost things.

freezer will keep food safe, if left closed, for at least 24 hours; the fridge, less so. Asuming you don't know how long the power would be out, my strategy would be:

  • use room-temperature goods for the
    first day, to maintain the fridge/freezer temperature as low as possible for as long as possible;
  • cook/preserve what I can from the fridge on the second day;
  • ditto
    the freezer on the third day/late on the second

It would be
important to start using the fridged/frozen stuff in preference to the
dried goods once it became clear we were in it for more than 24 hours; I
have no canning apparatus, and have never canned, so use up what will
go off, and don't eat too much of the things that will keep!

could I change to be more prepared?

  • buy and freeze milk. It's not
    an essential in our diets, but it's certainly nice to have (and works
    like an ice block to keep things cold without power, too)
  • get a canner and learn to use it.
  • the microwave's not really a problem;
    just a case of forward planning and other methods.

On a side note, I'd hate to be without my dishwasher again!  I've become really used to not having to perform that particular chore…

1. Plant Something –
Nothing this week!

2. Harvest something –

Mange tout

Preserve something

     Nothing this week!

Waste Not
(reducing wastage in all areas)

  • Re-using 'grey' water from the kitchen
  • Composting vegetable peelings
  • Net the strawberries

5. Want Not (preparing for shortage situations)~

     Nothing this week!

Build/support Community Food Systems

  • Blogging about it

7. Eat the Food

  • Yoghurt on my breakfasts
  • Mange tout

47) Meet ‘Burwash’

It's fleece season.  I'm on a bit of a mission to get better at handling and evaluating fleeces.  So.

When I was demonstrating spinning at Burwash Manor last Sunday (blogged over at yarnscape, because it's a public event), I took the opportunity to buy a fleece from the chaps who were demonstrating sheep shearing.  I selected this sheep's fleece because the sheep looked, to me, like a Bluefaced
Leicester (BFL) cross.  BFL is lovely wool; long staple, soft and
delicious.  He had some like this one, and the rest of his sheep were rough fells, which do not have soft wool.

Here is the whole fleece, laid out flat, with the britch (bottom!) end towards us and the head end pointing away:


Note the poop-smear at the top left hand corner, and the red marking on the right flank.  You can also see how thick the fleece is on the sides of the sheep, and how thin along the spine.

This is some of the lovely thick stuff from the flanks of the sheep:


You can see that the staple length is nice and long, and it's very crimpy/curly at the ends.  (If you click for big, you'll see that the crimp extends the whole length of the staple).  This bit of fleece is quite nice and not matted; you can see it's quite easy for me to pull it apart, and you can see through to the grass underneath.

This bit is from one of the legs:


It's really quite badly felted.  After exerting a bit of pressure, I couldn't really separate out any locks.  You could cut this stuff to size and have instant chair cushions.

Here's a closeup of the fleece running along the spine:


It's much thinner and less lush than the flanks, and shorter, too.  It's also quite dry to the touch and may be brittle. So I split up the fleece into flanks, spine, back end and front legs, thus:


I'm going to try washing and combing the flanks; they may spin up to a very useful worsted yarn.  I've kept everything except the matted back end parts, and will see if anything is redeemable.  It may not be, but I have this gut feeling that the only way to find the boundary between 'useable' and 'useless' is to step over it a few times.

46) Q: Can I knit a sweater in a fortnight?

A (short version):
   Probably not.

A (long version): 
   Yesterday, I cast off the back for Basil (aka coppertop, aka chestnut), exactly a week after casting on:


(That black smudge?  That's why I needed to get a new camera…)

A back in a week is pretty good going (for me), but at that rate, it will take me at least three weeks to finish knitting the pieces, and then I have to block and seam the thing.

Now, I've spent a lot of time knitting in the last week.  Admittedly, I've done a lot of other stuff spinning, too.  I did a full day spinning demo on Sunday, and Saturday was Knitting In Public day (where I mostly did spinning).  Oh, and there was spinning group on Tuesday evening, too.

On top of the spinning, there's always the house to look after, dogs to walk, and the garden to tend.

In summary, I'm delighted to have finished the back of a sweater in only one week, and I'm pleased to be knitting more frequently again.  But come next Wednesday?  I don't think I'll be modelling a new sweater for you guys.

45) Overdyeing, part 2

Wow!  On Monday, this humble little blog had 99 hits!  That's over five times my daily average.  So, please, won't you stop to say hi?  I'd love to know who visits here, and what brought you!

So, summer tweed.  This yarn is 70% silk, 30% cotton.  That means mostly protein, some cellulose.  Usually, I use acid dyes to dye protein fibres (silk, nylon, all animal fibres) and Procion MX dyes for cellulose (cotton, linen, all kinds of viscose).  You can use Procion dyes to dye silk, apparently, but I've never done it.  I think the pH is different to dyeing cellulose too, so you still couldn't do it all in one dye bath.

So I took the easy way out.  I chucked in a couple of tubs of Dylon hot-fix dye. I don't think they actually make this stuff any more; I got a job lot of it from eBay years ago, but it's a union dye – that is, it deals with all kinds of fibre in a single mixture – like RIT, for readers in the US.

Using a pot of mid brown and a pot of very dark brown, I was able to tone down the orangeyness of the 'Nectar', and warm up the overall feel of the colour to a coppery chestnut:


I have, however, lost the tweediness of the original yarn – my dye job is too good and level!  Never mind, I feel the texture provides enough interest in any case.  I'm pleased with this colour, and think it will look great with denim and white.

A single pot of dye (if I remember correctly, Tartan Green) was enough to completely transform the Sprig into a uniform, flat mid-green:



I'm much less pleased with this colour.  'Uniform' really is the word; it reminds me of school skirts.  I'm almost regretting overdyeing that lovely clear green, even if I didn't like the turquoise flecks.

I haven't quite decided whether I want to keep this as-is yet, but I think it might be going in for another round with the dye pot.  If so, I might try using acid dyes to dye the silk component selectively.  It should leave the cotton unchanged, and might bring back some of the lovely tweedy feel of the original yarn…

A mess of silk

I always think collective nouns are fun, and apparently, a lot of silk all together is a mess.

Well, at least it is if your skein ties are too weak and come apart in the dye bath:

I’ve been having an awesome time dyeing this up, but now I need to untangle and rewind it all by hand before I can sell it…

Ho hum….

Burwash Manor Open Farm: an impromptu demo

Hellooo!!!  I’m breaking my blog silence(!) to tell you about a weekend which went completely not according to plan, but in a very good way.

I started off well, with a gathering of knitters and spinners on Friday evening.  One of the members mentioned she was in search of an all-wood drop spindle to use on the plane back to the states, so I said she could have one of mine:

I arranged to meet her at the knitting in public day on Saturday, to hand it over  This was my first unplanned event; I’d thought I’d be going to a different location, if any.  So I packaged the wee spindle up with a sparkly batt for good luck, and off I went.  I was there for less than two hours, but had an awesome time.  (I also learnt that I should carry my business cards with me whenever I go anywhere with either knitting OR spindles in public!)

I had so much fun I decided that I really did want to go to one of the Open Farm Sunday events in our area, to demonstrate spinning.

So on Sunday morning, I made seven more spindles, packed up samples of handspun yarn and things made from it, some food and water, my  wheel and a spindle, and trucked off to Burwash Manor (eventually.  I had a bit of a disagreement with the GPS on the way…).

And I’m so glad I went!  No-one else from the group made it to that event, so I had the stand all to myself.  Which, in a way, was nice; I felt fine handing out my business cards (which I remembered this time!), and there were no odd little decisions to make as to who is the ‘group leader’ and who should be talking to whom or anything like that.  I’m very glad I took all those samples, though; if I’d assumed someone else was going to be organising it, and just turned up with myself and a wheel, it would have been pretty lame.  If I’d known, I’d have taken even more!

Overall, I had an absolute blast.  I spent most of the time spindling, and gave away four spindles.  One went to a little girl who was an absolute natural; one went to a lady who has always wanted to learn.  I helped children too young to try spindling to make hand-twisted woolly bracelets, and let several children treadle the wheel (and was glad I had a double treadle wheel; it’s definitely easier to get the hang of).  There was a group including several special needs children there; one boy in particular loved treadling.  He came back several times during the day, and sat and treadled industriously, with an aura of calm radiating from him.  It seemed to be enough, just to press the treadles and watch the wheel go round.

I also tried spinning wool whilst a child treadled.  I only did it once, at the end of the day, and it helped that the wee lad was very consistent in his treadling (and didn’t just want to make the wheel go as fast as possible!).  I was able to spin a short length of yarn which could be plied back on itself and taken as a souvenir.  I’d definitely do that again, with children who can treadle well enough.

I also played the “what colour next?” game with a group of children who were watching me spin on the wheel.  I’ve found in the past that it’s not always obvious that the fluff in my hands is being converted into a yarn which is being wound onto the bobbin; you can’t really see the yarn moving.  So I had small scraps of coloured fluff and asked them to pick the next colour.  They could see each colour get spun up and move onto the bobbin, and I eventually pulled off the multicoloured single and plyed it back on itself.  Two people asked if they could have a scrap to add to a ‘memory stick’ – not the computer kind!  These were something new to me, and I thought they were a brilliant idea.  I think there must have been a craft tent where people were making these during the day.  A memory stick in this case was a sturdy stick, about a foot long.  It had a string wrapped snugly round it in a spiral, about one turn per inch, I’d guess, and tied at each end.  Bits of ‘stuff’ (feathers, straw, wool from the sheep that were being sheared, and my yarn too!) could be stuck behind the straw to make a sort of sculptural collage of the day’s mementos.  The fact that my demo yarn was actually asked for really meant a lot to me.

I met kindred spirits, and the merely curious.  I explained wheel mechanics, and talked about the sheer number of hours needed to provide yarn for a household before the industrial revolution.  I compared the per-minute efficiency of spinning on a wheel with the per-week efficiency of spinning on a spindle, which can go everywhere with you.

Unfortunately, I also managed to trip on a totally flat piece of ground at the end of the day, and do a real number on one of my knees.  I left my business card for the lady organiser, who kept coming round with cups of tea (thankyouthankyouthankyou!) and cake (omnomnomnom!), so with any luck I may hear from them again in the future.

So, what did I learn?

  • That I can pull off a one-woman spinning demo at virtually zero notice.
  • That I could easily have more materials: samples, leaflets, all kinds of things, ready for the future.
  • That the gift of a simple spindle can reduce children and adults to incoherent joy.
  • That I (still) love doing demos, and I should be aware of opportunities to do more.
  • That, really, I ought to remember to use my camera.  D’oh!
© Copyright yarninmypocket - Designed by Pexeto