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

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Seamless buttoning

I have had a telephonic disaster. A couple of weeks ago I dropped my phone in water (don't ask). Now, the replacement of a mobile is pretty simple and, as far as the physical thing, not a big deal. The drowned phone was an old and very well used I-phone 4 with a cracked screen, not a huge loss in itself. I just walked to my local phone shop and the deal was done in ten minutes (plus a significant payment to the phone company).  No it was the loss of certain information and a whole set of photographs that has cast me into confusion

I was going to blog about Gwlana, I had so many pretty photos of the Welsh Countryside in the sun (yes SUN) and of the yarn, the people and the swatches.  Luckily Felix of Knitsonik podcasted about this wonderful workshop I attended in May far better than I would have

I also visited the Chelsea Flower Show for the first time ever and took many photographs of inspirational gardens to help with our own garden plans.

All gone except those I posted on instagram.  All this threw me off balance and out of my usual blogging routine.  However, there is a new discovery that I have wanted to share with you for a while ... Buttons knitted in as you go!

I don't think I have seen anyone describe this technique before but as there is really 'nothing new under the sun' I shall borrow the word Unvented from Elizabeth Zimmerman rather than claim to have invented a new knitting trick.

If you read my blog regularly you will know I go to quite some lengths to avoid having to do any sewing up - whenever possible I chose patterns that are knit in one piece or adapt others.  So I am pleased to tell you how I have worked out how to knit buttons into a cardigan as you go, no more sewing on afterwards.  It came to me as I was thinking about a safe way to attach buttons on the cardigans I made for Isabella.


Begin the button band, I have knitted it 'horizontally' - i.e. I picked up the stitches up one side, around the neck and down the other, working a couple of increases around the angle where the button band and neck band meet. But you can also work this technique if you knit a strip up and around from the bottom (a 'vertical' band).

Firstly knit half your desired finished width and mark the position of button holes and corresponding buttons with stitch markers (I use the Hiya Hiya knitting safety pins

On a right side row, knit to your first button marker (it will of course depend on whether you are knitting for a boy or girl which side of the front bands this is!).  This technique will work with any two hole button, either where the holes are in the centre or on a shank.

  • Pull an extra loop through the base of the stitch below the last one knitted (both legs) and thread it onto a blunt tapestry needle (you will need a fine gauge one)

  • Pass the needle up through one hole and down the next, slip the needle off leaving a loop. Slip this loop on to your right hand needle and ease the 'Extra Stitch' as tight as you can (you will need to do a bit of wiggling here!)

  • Knit the next stitch and pass the loop of the Extra Stitch over .  The button is now fixed firmly to the base of a stitch by a double thread (this works best with yarn that is 4 ply or thicker).

  • Knit to the next marker and repeat.  

And you are done!  On the next row just knit back, it will be a little tight but you are saved the bother of stitching on each button with no loose ends (not even the two I describe in this button sewing tutorial). It is also very unlikely the buttons will come off, specially important in baby knitting as loose buttons are a choking hazard.

How simple is that?  Do please have a go and let me know in the comments what you think