Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The wheel's still turning.....

A quick mid-week post on a spinning theme. Last week I took my class to Kentwell Hall in Long Melford, Suffolk, to take part in a Tudor recreation. We all had to dress up as Tudors (Mr JK called me his wench!!) and we spent almost five hours meeting different Tudor characters who told us what life was like in 1553. It was a fascinating day. The kids thoroughly enjoyed it, completely immersed in history. Such a fantastic way to learn through living history.

Kentwell Hall 217

One of my favourite parts was seeing the wool workers! Back in Tudor times, Norfolk and Suffolk were both wealthy counties because of their wool trade. One lady was spinning on a very simple spinning wheel. She was spinning rolags and was drafting the wool out over an amazing length as you can see in this photo. Her other hand was turning the wheel - there was no foot treadle. Her spun yarn was really fine too. Obviously a real expert.

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Another Tudor lady was spinning using a drop spindle. I was surprised how small the spindles were compared with the ones we use today.

spinners and woolworkers (3)

The children were fascinated by the colours that could be achieved using natural dyes. The two balls of yarn in this picture were both dyed with ivy berries picked at different times of the year.

spinners and woolworkers (6)

As well as ivy, other plants were used - woad for blue, madder for red and weld for yellow. The colours were really beautiful.

dyers (7)

I liked the sentiment of the spinners' banner - 'toujours tournant' or always turning.

spinners and woolworkers (9)

From this coming Saturday, I hope that my spinning wheel is going to be always turning, as the Tour de Fleece gets underway. I've joined Team Superfleece on Ravelry. It seems like a nice relaxed group. I've set myself a couple of spinning targets for the TDF. Firstly, I have 375g of Corriedale fibre from Hedgehog fibres. The colourway is just beautiful, and I'd like to spin enough yardage to actually make something bigger than a scarf!

Tour de Fleece 008

If all goes well, I have some more fibre ready for spinning. Pop back at the weekend to see how I'm getting on! xxx

Sunday, 26 June 2011

More knitting time at last!

Good afternoon! I'm celebrating the fact that I've finished writing my school reports! Unless you're a teacher, you won't appreciate the huge weight that has suddenly gone from my shoulders! So I've had a completely chilled-out weekend, indulging myself with plenty of knitting time. This weekend I was supposed to be going to Woolfest, but decided not to, partly because of the distance, and also with Knit Nation looming, I need to save my pennies!!

I have been rather lax in keeping up to date with my Innocent Smoothie hats. So I have ten to share with you now! Ooops! At least the campaign has been confirmed again for this year now, and I don't have to sneak into Sainsbury's and start yarn bombing the smoothie bottles!

Innocent Smoothie hats of the week 27-36

I finished knitting the sock sample for my LYS. I knit rpm from Knitty, and I think it shows off the wonderful colour changes in the Noro yarn really well. I couldn't decide what size needles to use, so looked on Ravelry and went with the most popular choice - 2.5mm. That is thinner than the recommended needle size for the yarn, and the fabric has come out quite thick and dense. I think I might knit another plain sock on a larger size needle to see how different it feels.

silk garden spirals (6)

I have been doing some test-knitting for Anne Hanson this week too. She's currently working on a lacy scarf, and I've loved the pattern ever since she first starting blogging about it. Until I received a copy of the pattern, I assumed that it was all cabled, but the pattern is done simply by decreasing. Anne is a genius! Here's how it's looking so far with three pattern repeats.

Almost ovals WIP 002

Can you see why I made the mistake of thinking it was cabled? It is such a pretty design. I'm using a skein of Fibre-Isle Kami Bison that I receieved in a swap from Cathy in Canada.

Almost ovals WIP 006

I've started working on my handspun Ishbel again today, and can't believe how simple I am finding it! It just shows how far my lace knitting skills have moved on in the last few weeks. I even had it as car knitting today. I'm whizzing through the charts, so should have a finished shawl to show you next week.

I received the most wonderful parcel this week from my dear friend Kim. We were swap partners for the first official swap in the Fall in Full Color Clubhouse, and hit it off straight away. We decided to do our own unofficial swap, and Kim's parcel arrived on Monday. Oh. My. Goodness. Where to begin?! Kim totally spoilt me with some absolutely beautiful yarns - Bugga, Briar Rose Sea Pearl, Spirit Trail, Periwinkle sheep, plus some BFL fibre to spin. As well as the yarn, there was plenty of chocolate, a pot of Woolen Rabbit handcream, some artisan soaps and some incredibly useful highlighter tape. In fact, I don't know how I've surived without it until now!!!! Just take a look at this little lot and drool!! Thank you so much Kim, you have been so generous.

superswap with kim (1)

Kim received my parcel on Friday, and she loved what I sent her too - some sparkly Posh yarn, a skein of Sokkusu merino and cashmere, and some yarn from Juno Fibre arts. Plus soaps, ceramic buttons and assorted chocolate and an introduction to Granny Wobbly's fudge!!

Swap parcel for Kim (2)

We have decided to do another swap later in the year, so I shall be on the lookout for some delicious yarns when I'm at Knit Nation. The second swap is now underway in the Clubhouse, and I've got my parcel all sorted out for my partner Melissa. I'll share it with you later.

It's less than a week now until the Tour de Fleece starts. I'm going to sort out some fibre in the next couple of days to set myself some sort of (hopefully achievable) spinning target. I'll pop back in the week and show you what I'm planning! See you soon! xxx

Sunday, 19 June 2011

At long last - some knitting!

Hello there! It seems like ages since I actually talked yarny-stuff with you! But the knitting needles in the josiekitten household haven't been laying idle - far from it! I have some finished knits for your delectation and delight!

Firstly, my Spriteling shawl. I can't say that hand on heart, I really enjoyed knitting this. I am still such a novice lace knitter that nothing came intuitively to me as I was knitting. If I made a mistake (and believe me, I made plenty!), I didn't spot it until my stitch count was out a couple of rows later! So there was much frogging and reknitting, frogging and reknitting .......... until eventually, it was finished! I do absolutely love the finished shawl though, and the experience hasn't put me off knitting more lace!

Spriteling 001

It's got a really pretty crocheted edge, which is unusual. Here's another photo to give you a better idea of the overall shape and pattern of the shawl.

Spriteling done! (5)

The yarn is Alice's own Sokkusu lightweight, and was wonderful to knit with. You can get a better idea of the subtle colour variations in this photo.

Spriteling done! (10)

I've also finished my Monkey Bread infinity scarf. After test knitting the narrow version earlier in the year, I knew that I wanted a wider, even snugglier version in purple for next winter. It'll be the perfect thing for cold playground duties! I used the mink and cashmere yarn from Great Northern Yarns, and it is just scrummy!

Monkey Bread Infinity version 016

The yarn is just so, so soft, and already has the cosiest bloom on it. I'm almost looking forward to colder weather, just so that I can wear it!!

Monkey Bread Infinity version 017

I finished a pair of plain vanilla socks for one of my university friends. We meet up once a year in the autumn, and they all asked me to knit them a pair of socks! So one pair down, three pairs to go! It's nice, easy car knitting, so I should be able to get them finished while we are driving round Germany this summer.

plain vanilla socks no 1 (1)

I've finished the first of my Tesserae socks, using the sparkly purple yarn I got in a swap from Julia. It's another lovely pattern from Anne Hanson. I find myself being drawn more and more to her designs these days, and not looking elsewhere.

Twinkletoes WIP (2)

I'm currently knitting a sample sock for my LYS using some Noro Silk Garden sock yarn. I've chosen the pattern rpm from Knitty to try and show off the wonderful colour changes in the yarn. It feels quite thick and felted at the moment, but will hopefully soften up after a soak. I'll show you a picture next time. I've also got a couple of bits of test knitting in the pipeline, so once I get started, and am certain that I can share with you, I'll fill you in!

I've decided to join in the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry this summer. I was originally going to join the Rookies team for newish spinners, but have jumped ship to spin along with Team Superfleece. They sound like a pretty relaxed group, so it should be a lot of fun. I'm not too sure what spinning goals I'm going to set for myself yet. I'd like to be able to spin 100g of fibre to give me decent yardage - maybe enough for a pair of handspun socks! Perfect! I've been doing a little spinning over the last two weeks. The fibre was 75% British Alpaca and 25% merino. It's a 2-ply yarn, hopefully enought for a little something!!

Broad Marsh yarn

I'm waiting for a parcel to arrive from the USA. My swap partner Kim and I decided to send each other another yarn-filled parcel. We should be getting them any day now!! I do love swaps! And the 2nd swap is now underway in the Fall in Full Color clubhouse, so I'm looking forward to getting to know my partner Melissa.

I have some even more exciting news to tell you too! Today we visited a cat sanctuary and picked out two young cats to come and live with us! They are both under a year old and will be coming to live chez josiekitten as soon as we are back from our holiday at the beginning of August! I can't wait to have little furry beings in the house again! Have a lovely week whatever you're doing, and I'll see you soon! xxx

Saturday, 18 June 2011

And the winner is ..........

..... commenter number 24!

winner! 001

Congratulations to Jen! Please get in touch with me on Ravelry, and I'll post your skein of yarn to you. Thank you all for your comments and yarn recommendations - I do hope that I'll be able to find a few of them at Knit Nation (only 27 days to wait now!!) I'll be back tomorrow with some knitting to show you! Fancy that! Knitted items on a knitting blog! Whatever next!!! xxx

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Knit Nation extra! Read all about it!

I'm sure that many of you, like me, are counting down the days (currently 34!) until this year's Knit Nation. I still remember the feeling of heady excitement upon entering the Marketplace, the vividness of the Wollmeise stand, the discovery of new yarns and the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest knitting teachers in the world! Here's a little reminder for you!

KnitNation 2010

The organisers of this knitting extravaganza are Alice Yu (aka Socktopus) and Cookie A. I am thrilled that Alice agreed to do a blog interview for me. So if you're interested in finding out what makes Alice tick, read on!

Alice - Socktopus

How did the idea for Knit Nation first come about?

I found it frustrating that the opportunity to learn from the cutting edge teachers whose books are must haves in our libraries was so limited in the UK! Cookie and I thought it would be wonderful to create an event with an equally strong emphasis on furthering knitting and spinning skills as on a carefully curated marketplace showcasing independent businesses; our goal was to nurture, stimulate and inspire through education and in providing an intimate and friendly environment in which to network and socialise.

You must have been delighted by the success of Knit Nation last summer to organise another event this year. How do you envisage Knit Nation developing in the future?

We are taking it year by year, learning as we go. We're holding our second Knit Nation this year and we've been overwhelmed by the response. It's wonderful! We aren't holding one in 2012 due to the Olympics, so we'll see how things go for 2013.

You've got some fantastic teachers coming over for classes. Is there anybody else that you'd love to come over and teach at a future Knit Nation?

Oh the list is long. There are so many people out there who are innovative in their field, who are wonderful teachers and who have a great following!

If you had the time to take one of the Knit Nation classes this year, whose class would you sign up for and why?

I'd probably go for Elise Duvekot's Meandering Mittens class using her Knit One Below technique since the fabric looks perfect for winter mittens - lovely and warm and works so well with variegated yarns. Either that or Lene Alve's Rovaniemi Mittens class - I've been dying to learn that technique too.

How do you go about finding vendors - do people approach you, or do you actively seek out new indie dyers?

A little bit of both. There are people that I think would be perfect for the marketplace, and then people I haven't come across before but whose products are beautiful and must be in the marketplace.

As well as organising Knit Nation, you've been incredibly busy preparing for the publication of your book of sock patterns. How do you manage to fit so much in?

LOL by working 14 hours a day 7 days a week. The first five months of this year have been so crazy hectic; I haven't been that busy in years, not even when I worked in a law firm in the City! I also launched my new sock yarn Sokkusu Original at the same time (like they say, it never rains but pours) which is being carried by Loopy Ewe in the US, Stitch Perfect in Birmingham, L'Oisivethe in Paris and Holland Road Yarn Co in New Zealand. With the book out of the way there is a little more breathing room. I am really looking forward to having my weekends back.

How do you approach designing a pair of socks? Do you have a seed of an idea in your head and knit a swatch, do you chart it out first or do you just play around with needles and yarn until something emerges?

I start with the general structure (i.e. toe up, cuff down etc.), then swatch a few stitch patterns to see what I like, then I plan the cuff and heels. Then I get charting to make sure things work.

Where do you get your inspiration from when dyeing your yarn? What happens to your dye-pot disasters?!

It's random- sometimes I know exactly the effect I want, and I have to experiment to get to it, like 2 November 1983 which I wanted to capture an image from a tv show - a yellow eyed demon burning down the main characters' childhood home in the middle of the night. It took a few tries to get exactly what I wanted. Lorelai on the other hand, I wanted to use a specific series of colours and I just love the outcome.

If I really dislike something I overdye it. If it is simply not to my taste but is still pretty, it goes to the 'tickle my fancy' pile which are one offs and sold as such.

Other than your own yarn (of course!), what are your favourite yarns to knit with? What do you have stashed away at home?

I love Handmaiden, Fleece Artist, Sanguine Gryphon Bugga, Socks that Rock, Old Maiden Aunt, Pagewood Farm ...... but I have to say that my hands down favourite yarn is Sokkusu Original. If I have to knit something, I find myself reaching for Sokkusu over and above everything else. It is tightly spun but has a fine merino count giving it a lovely soft hand. It is great for socks, but equally lovely for lace (blocks beautifully.) I guess I am totally biased, but since I created it as my ultimate sock yarn, it makes sense it would be my favourite!

Is there one project that you really want to knit, but you've not got round to it yet?

I'm working on my Wild Apples Bohus. I'd really like to finish that this year, but alas I am queen of WIPs. Work knitting takes precedence over personal knitting so lots of my personal projects get put on hold.

When did you first discover knitting? Who were you knitting inspirations?

First came across knitting in university, but didn't get very far. Then about seven years ago I just had a yen to learn to knit. Taught myself to knit continental then English from Montse Stanley's Knitters' Handbook and then discovered socks. I haven't looked back since! My knitting inspirations? Those who can and do. Elizabeth Zimmerman and all those who channel her 'can do will do' attitude - the curious, the innovative and the adventurous.

What essentials do you always carry in your knitting bag?

LOL I have stopped carrying around tools. I can pretty much graft with just my knitting needles, though it is definitely much easier using a tapestry needle! Just the WIP of the moment, the rest I leave at home.

If you could take one knitting project to a desert island, what would it be?

Just one?!?! A really, really, really, really big one so when I got bored I could frog it and use the yarn for other things! I am no good with one WIP. Being a total knitting hedon I have to knit what my mojo tells me to, which changes from day to day (hence the many WIPs!)

Do you have lots of projects on the go at any one time, or are you a monogamous knitter?!

Haha - see answer above. WIP tart, totally!

You've become well known for your fantastic sock designs - but which of these do you prefer?

  • DPNs or Magic Loop? Magic Loop all the way. I drop and lose DPNs. Too clumsy!

  • Heel flap or short row heel? Heel flap.

  • Top down or toe up? I used to be toe up, but them for years and years top down. I really prefer top down because I find a cast-on edge is much better, cleaner and more even than my sewn cast off edge (I dislike the look of regular cast off edges so only use a sewn bind off for socks).

How do you see knitting developing in the UK over the next few years?

We are heavily influenced by the US scene, due to a strong Internet community and the fact that the US has the much larger demographic. But we have a strong and healthy community in the UK which more and more is moving online. I think it's great - getting online gives a greater sense of community and cohesion to the UK scene as there is a place we can all get together - despite scattered geographical locations.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed reading the interview and found it as fascinating as I did. Huge thanks to Alice for being so generous with her time. By way of a thank you, and to make a little space in my stash for a few (ahem!!) Knit Nation purchases, I've decided to have a little giveaway in celebration of Alice and Knit Nation. I've rummaged deep in my stash, and pulled out a skein of Laughing Yaffle sock yarn in the colourway Seaside Town.

Giveaway yarn (4)

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is become a follower of my blog (if you aren't already) and tell me what your all time favourite yarn is. You have until midday next Saturday (June 18th) to leave your comment and I'll randomly select a winner after that date. I'm happy to post anywhere, so please do enter! Good luck and see you soon! xxx

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Summer in a vase ......... and on a plate!

Just had to share these photos with you! Both of them scream 'it's summer!!!!' to me. Mr JK picked these sweet peas yesterday evening - such beautiful colours and a scent to die for! They have to be one of my favourite flowers.

summer in a vase (4)

Also, this little lot was waiting for us when we got back from Cornwall at the weekend. We ate the strawberries with some Cornish ice cream (mmmmmmmmmmm!), and the veggies with our supper! It's such fun waiting for Mr JK to come in each evening with the day's harvest! I wonder what's on the menu tonight?! Byeeeee! xxx

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Sunday, 5 June 2011

I do like to be beside the seaside!

Well good afternoon! It feels like I've been away for ages - time always stands still when you go on holiday, I think! Mr JK and I have had a wonderful time in Cornwall. You might remember we went there last May too! Infact, we stayed in the very same cottage - it felt a little like coming home!

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We packed loads into our week - the weather was pretty good, and certainly didn't ever stop us from getting out and about. We started off the week with a visit to Tintagel, supposed to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It was a little misty when we got there, which added to the atmosphere - you half-expected to bump into Merlin at any moment!

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The coastline here is so dramatic, with waves pounding the rocks. There's no real evidence to link Arthur with the castle, but I really hope that it's true!

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You need to have a head for heights to visit Tintagel, and not mind climbing lots of steps, some of them incredibly steep. I felt like I'd done a work-out at the gym afterwards!

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We visited the fishing village of Polperro - very picturesque! The smell of freshly baked pasties was too much for us, and we ate our first (but not our last!) pasties in the village. Deeeeelish!

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We visited three houses during the week - Lanhydrock and Trerice are both National Trust properties, whilst Pencarrow is privately owned. We only went round the gardens at Lanhydrock, but they were very impressive.

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We had Pencarrow almost to ourselves (and I dreamed of what a wonderful place it would be to hold a knitting retreat!!) The woodlands were magical.

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The Elizabethan manor, Trerice, was my favourite - not too big to be overwhelming, but packed with loads of interesting things to see and do. The staff there seemed particularly knowledgeable, and were doing their best to get children involved with numerous activities.

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We saw many, many beautiful flowers at these gardens - here's a snapshot of some of my favourites.

Cornish flowers

We called in at a cider farm where Mr JK bought some cider and scrumpy, before heading on to Truro to watch a performance of Calendar Girls. It was brilliant - so cleverly staged, and very moving too.

We headed down to Watergate Bay near Newquay for lunch at Jamie Oliver's restaurant, Fifteen. Our table was perfect, overlooking the 2 mile long beach. We were able to watch the surfers while we ate.

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The food was delicious - we both had the most intensely tomatoey soup we'd ever tasted to start with, and then Mr JK ate fish, while I had potato gnocchi and braised oxtail. I had rhubarb and cinnamon cake with real custard for dessert, and Mr JK (who doesn't like sweet things much) had cheese.

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To walk off Jamie's lunch, the next day we walked from Wadebridge to Padstow along the Camel Trail. It follows an old railway line alongside the Camel Estuary. There were plenty of cyclists using the route, but we were happy to walk.

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I've never seen so many different bikes before - 'normal' bikes, tandems for adults, tandems for adults and children, tricycles, wheelchair bikes, baby buggy bikes. There were no restrictions at all on who could enjoy this wonderful route.

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Halfway to Padstow, we were pleased to come across Treats on Trikes where we enjoyed a cup of tea and some homemade boiled fruit cake (my Mum's recipe, made by me!) before continuing our journey.

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Finally, we arrived in Padstow, where we rewarded ourselves with fish and chips from the local chip shop, Chip Ahoy. And they were yummy!

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We walked a little further down the Camel Estuary where you could look across the water at the village of Rock. It's my favourite part of Cornwall.

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Friday saw us heading down to the south of Cornwall to revisit the gardens at Heligan - they were as lovely as we remembered. I am in complete awe of the enormous vegetable garden. It makes ours seem like a postage stamp!

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We finished the day by calling in at Mevagissey - another pretty fishing village.

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Even though the tide was out, the harbour still provided the perfect back drop for our first (and last!) cream tea.

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Here I am now, back home in Norfolk. I've so enjoyed sharing my week with you. And you're in luck, because I'm sharing my very last piece of Granny Wobbly's maple walnut fudge with you. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this fudge - it is the nicest fudge I have ever eaten, and I may have visited the shop on three separate occasions, just to try out the different flavours you understand! Enjoy! I'll be back soon to share the knitting that got done in Cornwall. xxx

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