Friday, 8 January 2016

What happened to last year's New Year Resolutions?

It is the same every year, lots of self examination and many good intentions to do better this time around.  I am no different and this year I began by reviewing my post on the eve of 2015 to see how I have done.  In some ways I have done quite well, in others failed miserably, but despite the failures I would argue in favour of this sort of once a year mental stock taking.

Just like everything else knitting wise the results were mixed.  I have been exceptionally productive* but have failed miserably in my intention to reduce my stash.  To help my resolve I joined a group on Ravelry called Pre-process Knitters and signed up for the Spread Sheet of Doom (SoD).  The idea is to add all yardage into stash and all out (knitted up) and end the year in negative balance.  The rot set in early, and it all began with this


And this

All a bought in the sale between Christmas and New year 2014.  I thought as I bought it in 2014 it would not count - not so, as it arrived in 2015 it had to be entered into the SoD.  Over the weeks I hovered in and out of negative balance.  Then I fell off the wagon so badly I gave up admitting to my lack of self control and stopped filling in my page on the SoD.

This year is going to be different.  I know it's only 8 Jan but I have bought nothing yarn related yet.  In January and February I am aiming to finish about 4 WIPS and then I can begin some new stuff but all to be made from stash.  I have listed all the projects (sewing too) in a little note book

So, what have I finished so far?  Although not finished in 2016 I just completed this in time to wear on Christmas Day

Angelus Novus pattern by East London Knits

And this in time to wear on New Year's Eve

AdventKALender Shawl by Anna Dalvi

And then since 1 January I have finished a pair of gloves and a top, (begun when the weather was warm enough to wear it!)

There will be many opportunities for failing in my stash-down quest again this year (there is Unravel  and the Joeli's Kitchen Retreat weekend for a start both in February) but I am once again resolved...



*my 2015 tally is as follows
socks - 3 pairs
hats - 3
shawls - 4
Afghan - 2
sweaters  - 6 (including 2 child sized)
top - 1
baby layette - 1

Monday, 28 December 2015

New beginnings (from something very old)

I'm trying to avoid giving today's post a title like 'I'm back' or 'Sorry for the absence'  But I do acknowledge it's been a while since I last blogged.  The thing is I had so so much Christmas crafting to do that I just had to put the blog on the back burner (there will be pictures next week).  But I'm back now and with One Big New Years Resolution.  

I'm saying it here first, making a public announcement that 

this year is going to be the year of quilts and afghans

I have one half finished crochet blanket, and several knitted afghans and two quilts in the planning stage. The added benefit of these big projects is that 2016 should go down as a stash buster. 

But most important of all next year's plans is a wonderful restoration project for my daughter, Jen.

The quilt is a present from her Godmother.  It is probably more than 200 years old, made entirely by hand out of dressmaking scraps using the English paper piecing method.  Each scrap of fabric has been wrapped around a piece of paper cut to the right shape and the folded edges sewn together with tiny hemming stitches. While the quilt may have initially been handed down through generations of family members for most of the 20th century it has been passed on from one woman to another with the new recipient specially chosen as the right person to be it's new custodian. 

While Jen will treasure it and preserve it ready to pass on she does not want it to remain hidden away in a cupboard so as it is also in very poor condition (hardly surprising!) I have my work cut out

This red fabric is in particularly bad condition.  In some places it has nearly disintegrated all together

Rather alarmingly one tattered corner was held together with rusty safety pins


But the workwomanship is wonderful and I do so want to do it justice when I fix it.

 It looks nearly as good on the reverse

What is my plan you may ask? Well, ultimately I want to stabilise it well enough so it can be displayed as a wall hanging (Jen has just such a wall over her staircase that has the advantage of no direct light from any of the windows in her house). I think I shall lay it over some thin un-dyed cotton and stitch it down with a fine needle and thread to support the old fabrics and the tatters, then I shall mount it on another fabric that will take all the weight of the hanging frame. But before that I am going to contact an expert in textile conservation. 

Wish me luck and lots of patience!

Finally, speaking as I was at the top of this post of long  time periods I have just noticed that today is my fifth blogging anniversary.  I have fixed my first post to the side bar here, as a featured post, in celebration. And while rummaging in a bag of miscellaneous projects found one of the little notebooks that were the subject of that first post

No sense in leaving this in a drawer either, I think I shall use it to record my 2016 projects



Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Hello!  If you have called by once or twice over the last few weeks to see if there is anything new going on, I apologise, it has been a bit quiet.  But I've been making things, learning some new skills, as well as knitting, sewing and spinning.  But the one thing that has got me most excited after a fabulous Gwlana weekend is Indigo, mixing it, dipping and dyeing, and then making things with what comes out of the dye-pot..  Like shibori, decorated with sashiko. So, after much cutting patching and many many running stitches here is my first finished object

White cotton jacket shibori dyed with indigo and decorated with sashiko stitching
But first a little report on the wonderful weekend I spent in Wales at the latest Gwlana workshop (my fourth!) As always there was lots of knitting, friends (new and old) all in a lovely comfortable hotel.  But there was also something new, this time it was all about the blues, not sad blues but happy coloured blues.

Caerthan explains how to mix up the dye pot
At this weekend Brenda paired up with Caerthan Wrack the colour wizard responsible for the wonderful saturated colours of  Triskelion Yarns

Brenda describes the techniques to use to achieve the different shibori patterns
We dyed fabric as well as yarn.  To get the different patterns we tied, twisted, and masked parts of various fabrics and used dye pots with different strengths of indigo

At first the contents of the depot look an inky blue

Add de-oxygenator and the liquid turns clear green (if those flakey bits stick to the fabric or yarn they wash off later)
yarn is lowered slowly into the dye pot...
and after a few minutes gently lifted out again. As it meets the air it gradually turns blue

Some of our yarn
So back to the fabric and how I got from this...

to this...

Firstly I took one £10 Primark cotton shirt and after wetting it, scrunched up the lower half, securing it with twine and lowered it up to its armpits in the light solution and again the lower third in the dark pot. I dyed other pieces of fabric and four skeins of yarn as well

From the top, lace hankie, silk scarf, 4 skeins of yarn, scraps of linen (some embroidered) 4 cotton napkins and a linen tea towel

I then set about cutting off the collar and cuffs and covering the shirt with patches fixed with running stitches.  Sashiko is an old Japanese way of patching men's working shirts and is now valued for the wonderful work(wo)manship of the men's wives. (did the men without wives or daughters patch their own shirts I wonder!).

Traditionally sashiko is worked only in running stitch using white thread with very small amounts of red here and there.  I allowed myself some attitude and to use some blue thread as well the occasional French knot.

the ends of the sleeves trimmed with scalloped edge fabric, decorated in a clam shell pattern

reverse applique with habotai silk behind

circular patch with flower pattern

sashiko stitches following the pattern of the shibori and covering up the join in the hem binding

I didn't want any of the modern stitching to show so where I could not actually cut off bits, like the run-and-fell seams at the shoulders, I covered them up with strips of blue fabric.

The Gwlana weekend was nearly three weeks ago, the stitching of the jacket, though wonderfully relaxing, does take time and takes a toll on ones fingers! But I'm so happy with the final result!



PS The next Gwlana event is 20-22 May 2016 at The Centre for Alternative Technology, Powys, Wales.  Keep an eye on the Gwlana Website for news of the amazing classes (and famous teachers) that will be there

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


I know, I have been almost invisible these last six weeks. I would love to say that I have spent the whole time in the garden where the sun was too bright to play around with screens, but if you also live in Southern England you will know that's not true

Actually we have, despite the weather, had a lovely time welcoming old friends (and some of our regulars) to stay. So much so it felt as though we were running a pop up B&B

But I have managed to finish one or two projects 

There's a Bonney by Tin Can Knits in fabulous merino lace weight by the talented Caerthan Wrack of Treskelion Yarn

A very pretty cardigan for TLM, I can't show the full article as it will be the subject of a mystery KAL later in the year. It's knitted  in Spud and Chloe's Sweater the fabulous Aran weight yarn that I used for the Right as Rainbow cardi.  S&C Sweater is perfect for children, its wool and cotton mix makes it warm and cosy but totally non-tickly, and it machine washes like a dream too.  TLM is only just growing out of the rainbow cardi (I did add some sleeve inches after a while) and its been worn and washed countless times over the last two years

And a Pebble Beach in gorgeous Manos del Uruguay Serena a super soft baby alpaca and cotton mix, bought from Beaker Button.

My Pebble Beach was my FO for the Great London Yarn Crawl.  As last year I was one of the yarn guides, here is my lovely Team Cotton outside our second Stop The Village Haberdashery

I was specially excited this year to introduce my friend Julia (she's second on the left) to the knitting world.  Not that she couldn't knit but like me, study (we met as mature students at university in our early 40s) and work took over from gentler hobbies.  But recently she has decided it is time to take up her needles again.  I am always willing to introduce people to something that brings me such happy satisfaction and am very pleased to report that J bought two gorgeous skeins of yarn from Carmen of A Yarn Story in the Mini Market place (in Chelsea Old Town Hall, our stepping off place for The Crawl) and has already made one baby hat, teaching herself to knit magic loop into the bargain,  and is well underway on the second.  A friend having just given birth to twins.

Armed with my Yarn Crawl purchases, I now have big plans for my autumn knitting

I want to make a laneway with this beautiful  Shangri-La from i-Knit London

And with this Gorgeous Romney DK hand dyed by Rachael of Prick Your Finger, I'm planning to make Deco by Kate Davies.  The buttons came from the mini market place too, I couldn't decide which I liked best so bought both!

Having finished spinning the Porpoise-Fur fibre, begun on the Tour de Fleece, I'm planning to make Keith Moon, also by Kate Davies, striping it with more Porpoise Fur, Death to MRSA.

I have a sewing project in mind too.  Over the last six months JTH and I have been making some changes to our house.  Prompted in part by the departure to a home of his own of no 4 child.  This enables us to create two guest bedrooms (hence the pop up B&B last month).  Keen to make it modern and bright we painted one room all white with pale grey carpet and vivid turquoise curtains.  All very nice but the tiniest bit plain so I plan to make up this quilt as a wall hanging to go on the old chimney breast (the fire-place was removed long ago)

I am please to report that it will be made almost entirely from stash

Kitten no 2 surveys all the colours, bought from The Village Haberdashery on last year's Yarn Crawl

Quite a lot of plans, don't you think? But achievable as long as I keep at it and don't let my attention wander... Although I shall soon have to think about Christmas presents!

Do share your plans for Autumn knitting in the comments, or, have you introduced a friend to the lovely art of knitting lately?



Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Tour de WHAT??

Tour de Fleece.  While the cycle race is on a large number of spinners (in teams) are challenging each other to spin the same number of miles of yarn from their (not inconsiderable) stashes of fleece as the cyclists cycle.  Watching Le Tour at the same time is optional.  I am in Team Porpoise Fur.  My main aim is to spin a sweater's worth (I'm planning to make this) from this gorgeous special of order Porpoise  Fur fibre in the Runner Bean colour-way.  The stripes will be in Porpoise Fur's Death the MRSA that I bought on the Bath (yarn) Road Trip

I have some watchers - 

Kittens Fudge and Toffee joined our household a few weeks ago and have taken up residence in my studio.  They treat my spinning wheel and associated paraphernalia as their climbing frames

 Before spinning the Broad Bean I limbered up with some other Porpoise Fur that I happened to have in stock, The red room

Gorgeous shades of red and dark turquoise, now plied and ready for ...  something, I'm not sure what yet

The Broad Bean is proving surprisingly popular with the new residents

I'm also experiencing some interference with my spinning, although it ensures I spin a strong thread

However, it's coming along nicely and soon I should have a couple of bobbins of singles ready to ply



PS, I've been struggling over the last couple of weeks with some of those Grey Days I mentioned a couple of years back.  I hope I have not lost too many readers.  If you are popping by do say hi in the comments, it would be lovely to hear from you