Saturday, 26 February 2011

Fruits of my labours

Good afternoon! It's been rather a gloomy day here on the North Norfolk coast - perfect knitting and spinning weather though! I've tried to do some spinning most days since getting back from my weekend away, and now have three skeins of reasonably knittable yarn.
I used a braid of BFL superwash from the Skein Queen for my first go. Even though I thought that I'd given the yarn a lot of twist, when it came to the Navajo plying, it soon became apparent that I hadn't, as I got quite a few breaks, so I have too many lumpy joins. It's really soft yarn though, and I can see the benefits of this plying method to show off really long colour runs. I will probably knit this into a snuggly hat for next winter.

Navavjo plying attempt 1

The next fibre I chose came from Colourful Designs, and is a 70/30 mix of BFL and seacell. The seacell gives it a silky sheen and it feels rather luxurious. This wasn't as slippy to spin as I'd thought it might be, and I decided to split the fibre into two halves and then spin them as singles before plying them. I've ended up with almost 200m of yarn - enough for a little neck shawl I think!

BFL/silk blend

For my third try, I used some merino cross that I'd bought from the EasyKnits stand at KnitNation last summer. Merino isn't as easy to spin as BFL as the fibres are more slippy. I decided to have another try at Navajo plying, and spun a thicker yarn to try and avoid breakages. I'm really pleased with how the finished yarn looks. The colours are lovely, and slightly chalky compared with the original fibre. It's a pretty chunky yarn, and there's not much of it. I do have a little project in mind for it though, so watch this space!

Somewhere over the Rainbow

All of this spinning means that not much knitting has been done. I've finished both sleeves on my Peasy cardigan and am knitting my way down the body, but it doesn't make for very exciting blogging!! I've done a few more granny squares for the Crochet a Rainbow project, and I need to play catch up with my Innocent Smoothie hats. And today I received a pattern from Anne Hanson that I'm test knitting, so I need to concentrate on that for the next few days. I need more hours in my day! Have a good week, and I hope you find some time to knit or spin too! xxx

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Just spinning around

Hello there! Thanks so much for stopping by. How was your weekend? I had a wonderful time at the Westcliffe Hotel in Blackpool, where I was attending a weekend spinning course. The course tutor was Vikki Harding from WildFireFibres. Vikki is a fantastic award-winning spinner, as well as dyer of fabulous yarns, and a talented designer too, so we were in excellent hands! There were five of us all wanting to improve our spinning - some complete beginners, and others able to spin a reasonably consistent single. The course catered for all our needs. Vikki brought along with her everything we could possibly need - fibre, books, equipment and plenty of samples too. On Friday evening we watched Vikki spinning some beautiful yarn - she made it look so easy!

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Work began in earnest on Saturday morning. We took over the dining room with our wheels and spindles, and it quickly became clear why Vikki was wearing a long apron, as we got ourselves covered in bits of fibre! I started spinning some Blue Faced Leicester fibre. It's very good for beginners as it has a long staple and is slightly fuzzy, so it isn't too slippery when you're drafting it. I learned a lot about my wheel and how to set it up - it's amazing how just tightening or loosening the tension makes a huge difference to the control that you have!

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By the end of the morning, I'd spun one whole bobbin and Vikki then showed me how to Navajo ply it. This sort of plying is good if you have long colour changes in your fibre. It creates a 3 ply bouncy yarn, good for socks!

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We had a break in the afternoon and went to a local yarn shop where I bought some buttons for my Peasy cardigan. Then it was back to the spinning! I tried to spin some thinner yarn, and filled another bobbin before spending the rest of the evening knitting. Sunday was a full day of spinning! I had a go at plying some of my yarn with some tiny beads threaded onto quilting cotton. You could also use a laceweight yarn for this. It was really hard to control the release of the beads whilst plying and not get into a tangle, so I was very grateful for Edwina's help. She did the same thing for Vikki later in the day, as you can see below!

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Vikki was plying her yarn with some really pretty beads. They added a lovely sparkle to her yarn. Here's how mine ended up. Not quite Tilli Thomas yet, but it gives me something to aim for!

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I spun up the rest of my singles into a 2ply yarn - it's come out at about double knit thickness. I think that I'll probably dye it with some Kool-Aid and then knit it up. It's lovely and sproingy!

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Vikki then showed me how to combine various fibres to card my own batts. I used a whole mixture of things including merino, silk, crab fibre, (yes, you did read correctly - it's a waste product made from crab shells and feels just like silk!) some acrylic and some sparkly bits to produce a small batt.

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You can see some of the fibres being laid onto one of the carders. I did this four times to make enough to spin with. I loved the sparkly bits! I'm such a kid! Here's what my batt looked like. It's quite fragile so you have to handle it gently.

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I then learned a new spinning technique - core spinning. You hold a single out straight, and then draft fibre onto it at an angle. The fibre wraps itself around the central core of the single, and gives a really interesting texture. Mine is a little overspun because I used a handspun single and then plied it the wrong way, so I was adding even more twist to the yarn! Oops! But I soaked it and weighted it overnight and have ended up with some knittable yarn.

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It was a really inspiring weekend - just look at some of the yarn that Vikki's spun. It gives me so much to aim for!

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And of course, I didn't leave empty handed. Well, if I'm going to improve my spinning, I'm going to need some fibre, aren't I?! I may be on a yarn diet, but fibre's different, isn't it?! I bought three skeins of merino and silk fibre. I think that I'll have a go at dyeing these first.

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I also bought three skeins of merino and silk dyed in a pretty pink and yellow colour scheme. It would be amazing to be able to spin up enough yarn to knit something other than a scarf! I shall hold on to these until I'm spinning more consistently I think!

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Paula, the proprietor of the Westcliffe Hotel, looked after us so well all weekend. We had delicious homecooked food and nothing was too much trouble for her. She has a whole range of knitting holidays on offer throughout the year, so have a look to see if anything takes your fancy.

I couldn't wait to get spinning this morning to practise some of what I'd learnt this weekend. I delved into the box of fibre, looking for some BFL to use. I found some roving from the Skein Queen in the colourway Carmelita Spats.

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I've spun it as a single straight from the roving, and am planning to Navajo ply it to show off the long colour runs.

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I'll show you the finished yarn next time. But now my spinning wheel is calling out to me, not to mention my bag of knitting that feels a little neglected!! See you soon! xxx

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Have spinning wheel, will travel!

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My bags are all packed and I'm ready for the off! Half term starts tomorrow, and I'm driving up to Blackpool after school for a spinning weekend. I'm really looking forward to improving my spinning skills and learning lots of new things too! I'll be back home on Monday so call in again at the start of next week when I'll be able to show you what I've been up to!

Thank you so much for all your lovely comments about Henrycat. Both Mr JK and I were really touched by your kindness. xxx

Monday, 14 February 2011

The best grey velvety pussycat in the whole world ....

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I'm really sad to have to tell you all that our gorgeous Henrycat was put to sleep this morning. He deteriorated dramatically over the weekend, and although he was due to go to see the vet this evening, Mr JK took him this morning as we were concerned about him. The vet agreed that he wasn't going to improve, so we did the kindest thing we could for him. The house feels very empty.
He was the best grey velvety pussycat in the whole world. Sleep well Henrycat. xxx

Sunday, 13 February 2011

What next ...........?

Hello there! Hope you've had a good week. Mine has been extremely busy as I had a big exhibition to put on with my class. It all went really well, but I was completely brain-dead by Friday evening, and also had very little knitting time during the week. I did however finish my Circles socks for Charlotte's birthday. Just as well really as I gave them to her when we went out today for a girly birthday lunch with another friend Rachel. She loved them - it's always nice when your hand-knitted gifts are appreciated!

Charlotte's birthday Circles 006

We went to a local pub for their Sunday Pudding Club. My word, what a sugar-fest! Think of your favourite pudding and it was probably there - trifle, bakewell tart, crumble, rice pudding, ginger sponge, baked cheesecake, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate tiffin, milk jelly, pavlova plus the essential jug of custard .........I didn't quite sample ALL of them, but came pretty close! Let's just say I won't be needing any supper tonight!!! (and maybe not even any breakfast tomorrow either!)

I started searching for a new portable project to replace the socks. Where better to look than in one of my new books - Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders.

what next....... (1)

I admit it - I am a sock yarnaholic! I'm always on the lookout for new delicious skeins, and whenever we go away, you can guarantee that I'll have researched where all the yarn shops are! A skein of yarn is a relatively cheap way to bring back some memories of a holiday. I dread to think exactly how many skeins of sock yarn I have - more than I'll need to knit socks for the next few years anyway!! So I started browsing through, and stash-diving.

what next....... (2)

There's these rather pretty Vidia socks, with a skein of Wellington sock yarn from The Thylacine. They are toe-up using a figure-8 cast on, and have some really lovely patterns on them. (Yes, I know I said that I had enough socks for the moment, but I could make these for someone else!)

what next....... (3)

How about these chevron lace fingerless mitts? They've got a picot cast on and cast off, and would look rather pretty in this skein of Sphinx from the Natural Dye Studio.

what next....... (4)

Perhaps a slouchy hat? I think that Emma's Star would be perfect using a skein of Wollmeise, nice and sproingy with great stitch definition.

what next....... (5)

As you know, I'm a bit of a scarf addict, and I love the pretty ruffled roses at the ends of this one. A skein of Colinette Jitterbug called out to me here!

what next....... (6)

I do like this pretty shawl - I can see it being useful sitting outside in the evenings during the summer, when it starts to get cool. Another Natural Dye Studio yarn, this time Angel. It'll be like being wrapped up in a cloud!

what next....... (7)

I love this little baby cardigan too - and this skein from EasyKnits is lovely and bright and cheery. I don't especially like the more traditional baby colours, but this would look really zingy!

what next....... (8)

A crocheted bag to keep in my handbag would be a great idea too - and a bright Laughing Yaffle yarn to match!

I wonder what I'll cast on? Or maybe I'll find another knitting project to distract me! You'll have to come back and see what's new on my needles. See you soon! xxx

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Swapping rocks!

Good evening to you! Have you had a good week? I've been a bit under the weather with a sore throat and a cough - one of the perils of teaching, as the children are so generous with their germs! The weekend couldn't come soon enough! I've had a very lazy couple of days relaxing at home with Mr JK and Henrycat. Henrycat is still a bit of a poorly pussy cat - his check up at the vet's on Friday showed he'd lost more weight, and he is still being sick, so has some new medication to try and stop this. I feel that he's on his 9th life now, and probably won't be with us for much longer. He is still enjoying cuddles from his Mum ........

Henrycat cuddles 002

and surveying his world out in the garden too.

Henrycat looks noble (1)

Thank you to all of you who left a message following my last post. I used a random number generator to choose the 3 winners. Drum roll please......

We have some winners!

The winners are Gail, Northern Monkey and Squirrel - many congratulations to you. Please get in touch with me via Ravelry or email me at josiekitten at hotmail dot com, and I'll get a little something off in the post to you!

I've managed to do a bit of knitting and spinning this week. Remember my Berry handspun from last week? Well, I decided to have a go at knitting it up. Oh, the excitement of making a yarn cake from my own handspun using my swift and ball winder!!

handspun yarn cake 001

I calculated that I had about 120 metres of yarn, so decided to make another Cabled Keyhole scarf from Knitspot. It's a quick, fun knit - be warned, they're extremely addictive! I bet you can't just make one! (This is my 4th!) I had to go up a needle size to take into account the individuality of my yarn!! But the result is a gorgeous (though I say so myself!) snuggly warm neck cosy.

cabled keyhole neckcosy - handspun! (2)

Seeing this knit up inspired me to sit down at the spinning wheel again this weekend. This time I used some more subtle fibre from The Thylacine, with the hope of producing something knittable for Mr JK. I've spun around 140 metres, and have been searching for hat patterns on Ravelry. Not quite sure yet which pattern I shall choose. It's 100% BFL - the colours remind me of the beach in winter. See what you think.

Winter beach - handspun 5

My Peasy is now back on track, and I've just started the first sleeve. I hope that it's going to be big enough this time! I've also made progress on Charlotte's birthday socks. The first one is finished, and the second started. I need to have it finished by next Sunday, so shall be concentrating on that for the start of the week. It's such a great pattern - although it looks complicated, it's dead simple!

Charlotte's Circle socks (3)

I've also begun crocheting some granny squares for the Crochet a Rainbow project. I'm aiming to make 20 over the next couple of weeks. I hope my colour combinations aren't too bright!!

Crocheting a rainbow WIP 002

I have a couple of Innocent Smoothie Hats of the week to show you too - both knitted using leftover handspun. I had some singles left over after plying, and managed to fight the twisting to knit this little pair.

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Regular readers will probably remember that I've done a number of swaps with a Canadian knitter, Cathy. We started chatting on Ravelry about eighteen months ago, and decided to swap some yarn. We've just done our 4th swap, and my parcel from Cathy arrived yesterday. Prepare to feast your eyes on some yarny goodness! Cathy recently visited Vogue Knitting Live in New York, and bought my swap goodies there! First I pulled out a skein of Blue Moon Fibre Arts Socks that Rock yarn, in the colourway My Blue Heaven. I have lusted after this yarn ever since I started knitting again, and it is really beautiful. The different shades of blue are just stunning!

swap that rocks! (2)

Second, also from Blue Moon, was a silk hanky. I had just been reading about how to knit with these on the Yarn Harlot's blog, and voila! I have my very own silk hankie! This is in the same shades of blue. You can knit directly from the hankie or else spin it. I'm not sure quite what I'm going to do with it yet, apart from stroke it!!

swap that rocks! (4)

Thirdly, some extremely luscious cashmere fibre. It is incredibly soft, and I shall be keeping it in my stash until my spinning can do it justice! Thank you so, so much Cathy for such wonderful gifts.

swap that rocks! (1)

I had to smile when I looked at my handspun compared with the Socks that Rock yarn - twins? Not quite, but it gives me something to aim for!

not quite twins!

Well, I must love you and leave you now - supper is calling. Mr JK has been busy in the kitchen, and beef stew and dumplings awaits! (There's also a rumour that apple crumble and custard might be on the menu too, but don't tell anyone I said!) Thanks for stopping by and have a good week! xxx

beef stew and dumplings - yum 001

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Pay it Forward


Just after Christmas I was visiting Aussie Maria's blog when she was doing a 'Pay-it-Forward' giveaway. She had received a gift from a blogging friend, and wanted to pass on the kindness. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners, and a little package arrived all the way from Down Under last week. (It was another thing that made me happy, but I felt it deserved a little blog post of its own!)

When I opened the package I was thrilled to discover a double sided potholder, made especially for me. One side, knitted in my favourite colour, purple, is a gorgeous kitty ...

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while on the other side, to remind me of who sent it, is a map of Australia!

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She also sent me a very sweet little knitting charm - just perfect! I have a few knitting charms that Nancy sent me from a swap on Ravelry, so I shall add this one to them.

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Thank you so much Maria! And now I am going to pay it forward too! All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning a little gift is to leave me a comment between now and Sunday night, when I next post. I'll randomly select three people to be winners! Go on - it could be you!! xxx