Category Archives: Yarns

WiPs and WiWs

Busy, busy, busy. I love summer (actually I don’t, particularly; autumn’s my favourite) but round here summer means extra work, and lots of it. The work that gets me out if the house and away from the laptop’s titanium grip, that is. Knitting work. Helping-friends-who-have-interesting-shops work. But at least I’m down to only three works in progress, and one thing on the spinning wheel. Mind you, I have only the one wheel.

Here’s the first, a big jumper in Rowan Cocoon. Naturally I’m not knitting to the same gauge as the pattern, so adjustments have been made. We’ll see. Love the yarn, though, even if it sheds like the devil and all his angels.

Then there’s the Megaproject. This is an Orkney cardigan, also a Rowan pattern but knitted in Jamiesons shetland DK instead of Felted Tweed. This has also needed tweaking to get gauge. Naturally.

Happily the only ither thing on the needles (for the moment) does not need me to explore the realms of higher mathematics. It’s a shawlette, culled from Ravelry, and it’s being knitted in some really ancient Jaeger pure silk which I bought in a sale at Rowan in Holmfirth.

and I’m loving the yarn. It will look even better when it’s been blocked, of course, but it is de-lic-ious. Supposedly this is being knitted for the stall, but we will see.

Then on the wheel, in my lamentable attemot to join the Tour de Fleece this year, is some drum-carder blended fibre. There’s silk in here too, and heaven only knows what else.

Not enough to do much with, either, but I decided I would use the TdF to spin up some bits and then… well, who knows? One wristwarmer, perhaps. Which will add a fourth WiP, of course. And might be very useful for someone with one wrist.

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Back to Wonderwool – wonderful – Wales, 2016

I have had a mixed relationship with Wonderwool Wales. It’s varied from wild excitement (the very first time I went) to slight irritation (the next time, when there seemed to be nothing but one indie dyer after another, which must have been annoying for them too) and to suffering from near frostbite (the Very Cold Year, when stallholders wore their stock and I thought my feet were going to fall off despite wearing walking boots with thick socks). Last year I decided I couldn’t be bothered and, apart from a slight pang, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss the huge crowds, the not being able to get on a stand, the half-hour queue for coffee and the lack of a seat once you’d got it, the inability to get anywhere near a food outlet for lunch…

This year I went. And I went on the Sunday, though I feel I should be keeping quiet about this as too much attention may kill the thing, rather as tourists destroy what they come to see if they come in enough numbers (my old Paris, I’m talking to you).

It was fab.

Heeeeeeeeee heeeeee:

Wonderwool haul 2016

We have: undyed DK for natural dyeing and some dye material (old man’s beard lichen for pink, barberry bark for green, dyers’ broom for a yellow – I’ll probably get khaki for all three), some Rowan cocoon at a stonking price which I couldn’t ignore, a single skein which I said I wasn’t going to buy but somehow did (‘that would be the fairies’), and some fluff. It’s all fab. So are/were the scotch eggs. And the meringues.

We started the sensible way, which is possible on the Sunday: with coffee and cakes and the show schedule:

planning

and worked out where we wanted to go, where we had to go and where we’d better avoid (temptation cannot be easily resisted before lunch), and then we set off. We bumped into friends, visited a particular stallholder, separated, bumped into more friends, took the scotch eggs back to the car, bumped into each other, bumped into someone else, bumped into a stall or two, bumped into a sheep or two,

sheepy

(this splendidly Roman-nosed job from Home Farm Wensleydales is wearing a rather pretty collar, which could easily have been missed – well, it’s the old daisy/sheep connection, Father Ted), bumped into another friend, separated again, did a quick whip-round all the halls, including Hall 3 with its amazing exhibit/artwork,

lovely!

bumped into more friends, managed to miss out completely on greeting some others because their stall was wonderfully far too busy, looked up and saw the decorations,

bunting

bumped into more friends but managed to miss the part of the sleepwalk in which someone else we knew was modelling (a human, purrrlease, not a sheep), bought stuff, went back to the car to change out of a heavy sweater into something less hot, bumped into more people…

What a fabulous day. I am so glad I went back. And now I need to track down that skein of yarn which I didn’t buy (because I wasn’t buying single skeins, ok, and, yes, I am aware of the fact that I did actually buy one) but which was the most glorious, incandescent, emerald green. If I could sum up the day in one word it would be ‘colour’. Yes, that’s about right. Colour, scotch eggs and meringues. And friends. Colour, scotch eggs, meringues and friends – in no particular order. And yarn: colour, scotch eggs, meringues, friends and yarn. Lots of yarn. One word? How could that be possible?

Here’s a gallery of delights; just click on an image for a slideshow, with captions. How on earth did I manage to choose?

And, amazingly, I stayed in budget, even allowing for the scotch eggs, meringues and delicious pirog I grabbed for lunch. In fact, I was under budget by £20. Wonder if I can track down the sellers of the emerald green skein?

Oh Rowan, Rowan, wherefore art thou Rowan?

I help in a wool shop on Saturday afternoons, and when I turned up a couple of weeks ago I found my friend, the owner, in a state of shock. She’d just had an email from her Rowan rep with some devastating news: about 70% of the range was going. Either entire yarn ranges were being discontinued, or great swathes of colours were disappearing in many of those that were staying.

Rowan mill offices

This is not, perhaps, unexpected when you know that they’ve recently been taken over and perhaps it’s also not unexpected because there’s a certain feeling that they’ve taken their foot off the pedal a bit in recent years (perhaps rather like Colinette). But I’ve got one thing in Rowan yarn on the needles at the mo, and it made me think.

I’ve a bit of a love-hate relationship with Rowan. I’ve been to workshops Rowan have organised both at retailers and at the mill (above), and they’ve varied between extremely good and somewhat disappointing. Mind you, they were always interesting, if not always for the tutor, then for the other participants among whom I recognised some people who could only be described as Rowan groupies (I once heretically mentioned Noro, hsssssss…).

The same applies to the yarns, in my opinion. When they’re good, they’re very very good,

Cotton glace

like Cotton Glace (staying, but with colours reduced as far as I can recall), but when they are a bit gimmicky they can be horrid (and I’m not naming names, because this is just my opinion and just because X sheds or Y knits up like shite for me doesn’t mean they’ll misbehave for everyone). And they’re not cheap, either, though – generally – you do get good yardage for your money. But some are just exquisite: Lima, for instance, that delicious blend of baby alpaca and merino with a bit of nylon for strength. That’s going. So I bought three balls and am currently knitting it up into a shawl.

I think I know what’s happening. Of course I may be completely wrong or partly right, but with my business-management-before-being-a-full-time-freelance-hack head on – and I still write in the business area now – I think it’s a case of newbroomitis. New owner, complete overhaul.

Rowan mags

(The Rowan mag is changing, too. From this summer’s issue – the one already out – it’s going down to two stories, not three. Just as well I’ve got a stash of old ones, and am quite happy substituting yarns.)

As I said, Rowan had, I feel, lost its way a bit, with loads of novelty or seasonal yarns, however lovely – Panama, Cotton Lustre, both going. I had a slight feeling that they’d taken their corporate eyes off the ball somewhat. Oh, sorry about the creeping metaphors. I did say I’ve been working on business books, didn’t I?

Ahem. Back to Rowan, though I could run a few ideas up the pole and see who salutes them. Or, to borrow from the winner of Fast Company‘s most objectionable use of jargon in 2015 competition, ‘open the kimono’. Stop it. Now.

Anyway, I suspect that this meant heavy stockholding, and that where economic – i.e. wherever the stock was high but not so high that it absolutely must be kept on and pushed – there just had to be some culling. And I also think that some yarns, while worth keeping, had probably reached such a low stockholding that the expensive option of spinning more meant that, economically, they weren’t worth keeping on the list (possibly British Sheep Breeds – which seems counter-intuitive, given the rise in yarns with distinct provenance). And I also suspect that a lot of this has more to do with the American market than anything else.

But I’ll mourn some which will be no more (the Felted range, Pure Linen), and be relieved that others (Felted Tweed, Kid Classic – below) are staying. Above all, though, I’ll mourn the colour changes. It looks – and I’ve been through the catalogues, looking at the colours which are vanishing – as though the choices are becoming somewhat predictable. Not what Rowan is known for, at all.

Kid classic

And my friend with the wool shop? Well, she’s already expanding her range of British yarns. She’s seeing this as a splendid opportunity to get some lovely new things in (hello, West Yorkshire Spinners, Baa Ram Ewe, Jamiesons)…

 

The Woolwinding Eyelet Shawl is born…

Actually, it’s something of a toddler now, as it was ‘born’ in 2012, but I’ve only just got round to putting the pattern on Ravelry. I know, I know, I’ve been saying for ages ‘I must put this on Ravelry’, and doling out photocopies and printouts all over the place, but I have finally done it.

It’s up (or will be very shortly, as soon as approved – yup, it’s here). And it’s a free download if you’re on Rav. All you need are one skein of sock wool, or something similar, and 3.75 needles. Or needle, rather: it needs a circular after the start.

And it’s called the Woolwinding Eyelet Shawl.

woolwinding shawl 1

Sorry it’s not called something more exciting, imaginative or creative, but it’s what it is. It’s an eyelet shawl and it comes from Woolwinding. I did think about finding another name for it, but my mind went completely blank and – apart from silly suggestions, including almost anything you could think of in Welsh including ‘ffwlbart’ (polecat – gee, thanks) – I couldn’t come up with anything reasonable.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t been called names, mind. This year in Shetland two of us were knitting it and, boy, did it get called names. Basically you need to concentrate at the very start for the pattern set up, not chat / order tea and cakes in the Peerie Cafe / get distracted by what your neighbour is knitting / watch an exciting DVD.

woolwinding 2

But once you’re off, you’re off. You knit on until you either run out of yarn or lose the will to live (something common to almost all shawls, I have found). Then you block it – and there are instructions on the pattern, which is written so that novices to lace / shawl knitting can follow it, as well as more experienced knitters. I tend to block it so that the two end points of the triangle curve upwards, as I find that makes it more wearable – and the lace pattern is designed to allow for this.

And then  you wear it. Or rather Doris wears it:

woolwinding 3

and, more sensibly from the back,

woolwinding 4

These two are in Noro Kureyon Sock, and the top one is a skein of hand-dyed loveliness from Mam a Mi; I’ve often knitted it in Araucania’s Ranco Sock (the last image is another hand-dyed yarn).

I’m getting quite used to seeing it around now, as it’s been available through Knit One in Dolgellau for some time. A couple of weeks ago I sat behind one at the garden club, and another won the knitting section in the village show last year. Copies have been used by members of the the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers I go to, and this next one is by one of them. It uses all the bits and pieces from the Guild’s dyeing picnic:

Mary's woolwinding

The cast off has been a little unfamiliar to some people, but It’s worth persisting as it’s very elastic and also gives a lovely finish, especially with a variegated yarn:

Woolwinding 5

It’s really simple, honest: right side facing and with a slightly larger size needle, knit two together. Slip the resulting stitch from the right needle back onto the left needle and repeat.

Anyway, there you go: tah dah, the Woolwinding Eyelet Shawl. And if you’re not on Ravelry, then do join – it’s fantastic. What a resource. Even if you don’t use the forums, and many people don’t, it’s so useful for pattern ideas, yarn information, storing a record of your stash or your patterns – and of course finding lots and lots and lots of patterns. Like this one…

Poleaxed by plague

Oh, OK, it’s a bad cold. Well, one with added bronchitis and a cough that can probably be heard in Ulan Bator, but hey. I am feeling somewhat sorry for myself – especially since this week was supposedly a week off for a family visit over half term. Instead of which I have probably achieved nothing other than to give my nearest and dearest their worst colds of the winter. Nice.

But stop – I have also achieved this:

cowl

I know, it looks like small furry animal all curled up like that. Soft and fuzzy – which, according to a recent wildlife documentary, is the essence of cute. Admittedly so are big, front-facing eyes which this has not got, but – hm, maybe I’be had too much Ventolin.

It’s actually a cowl,

cowl

A double-moss-stitch moebius cowl, to be exact, and it will end up as one of my simple patterns on Ravelry (and here) eventually. It’s part of my determined effort to use up my stash, and specifically the huge amount of lovely angora mix I bought at Wonderwool ahem years ago, and which hasn’t quite found its way into a finished garment. It’s being used double, which means it knits up really quickly.

And I’ve started another variation on the theme. I was going to repeat the moss-stitch but in my current befuddled, be-Ventolined, be-Paracetamolled condition I was unable to cope with the complexities of the pattern (!). So this is a displaced rib, as it were, and I’m loving the texture:

ribbed cowl

Again, I’m using yarn from the stash and again I’m using it double. This is a Queensland DK, 100% pure Merino, very lovely. There were no dye lots, because it’s a small dye-run, totally artisan product, and they suggest you do what is, in effect, a Colinette – knit with two balls, using them alternately every two rows. Tried that: stripes. Marked stripes. My skeins are very different,

different colours of yarn

as is glaringly obvious – in this case, one brownish, one greyish. Using them double is the perfect solution, and so they have been rescued from the ‘Feck this, you’re going to a charity shop’ bin. I don’t need all these cowls (in theory), but there’s going to be a designer-makers’ fair focusing on fabric and fibre in Harlech in the summer, and they’ll make good stock. I’m hoping it won’t be the sort of summer to require 100% Merino cowls, but that people will instead buy them for Christmas.

In the meanwhile, life in this village is a bit like the ‘bring out your dead’ scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and it’s not just me: someone I know said working at a nearby surgery ATM was like ‘working in a bucket of rats’). Now Monty P: that’s something I might watch. Either that or the box set of The  Nazis: A Warning from History. Not that I’m getting depressed about the forthcoming election, oh no. I’m depressed about there being another eleven weeks of pointless point-scoring and bitching and bickering and silly repetitious sound bites and spin doctors and slanted media and far too many ******** politicians. AGH!

Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!

 

Loving the details

I’ve just started a new Pinterest account on which I can indulge my passion for fibre and flowers (as opposed to my business one, which is slightly diverted from the path of righteousness by wool). It’s not worth looking at yet, but as soon as it’s built up a bit I’ll make sure I share it.

I started a board called ‘knitting – details’ as it struck me how often I fail to look really closely at what I produce. Once it’s finished, that is – I scrutinise it quite finely as I work, of course. And I wanted to celebrate the sheer joy of it, instead of seeking out any dropped stitches and minor errors (the major ones soon make themselves known), so I’ve been enjoying myself with some close-ups.

First, Colinette. Point Five, I think – found in a charity shop, knitted into a jumper and then rapidly frogged when I realised I looked like the Michelin Man in it. It’s now a throw.

Colinette throw

Muted, but shot through with colour.

Not so muted:

Fair Isle

The sleeve and body of a Fair Isle cardigan, knitted in Rowan’s Cotton Glace. Love the sleeve detail, and I just take it for granted. To the extent that it sometimes comes with dried bread dough as an extra.

And now for some garter stitch:

hitchhiker

It’s a Hitchhiker, and it was knitted as a present. I’m not quite sure how I managed to give it away, I loved the colour changes so much.

Now for more mutedness (is that a word?):

mutedness

The reverse side of the cardigan I’m wearing as I type this. Maybe I should have made it up the other way round…

Finally, It’s a chilly morning. Pull up your computer, laptop, tablet or phone and warm your hands on this:

Warm

It’s Noro, of course, knitted with some Kidsilk Haze for not-entrely-superfluous extra luxury and yumminess. Actually, it’s too wide for a realistic scarf and too short for a stole and it needs reknitting, but I haven’t the heart.

So take a close look at your knitting and enjoy! (It helps if you’re supposed to be working and are looking for something more interesting to do, by the way, while the  builders next door appear to be digging to Australia so enthusiastically that it’s difficult to concentrate on anything.)

Incidentally – I’m always surprised by the number of Woolwinding images on Pinterest: thanks for sharing!

Wool and willpower. Or a lack of the latter.

January is sale time. April is Wonderwool Wales. May is shearing (in some places). So I have three major flashpoints when it comes to the augmentation of my stash, and I’ve just fallen horribly at the first hurdle. Well, sort of.

I took two positions towards the sale at Knit One in Dolgellau, where I also help out one day a week. One was the hardline approach – I was not buying anything. Nothing. Not a single skein. (Adopt statue-like position, indicative of high moral stance, rather like something from Parliament Square.) The second was more realistic. Give in.

Guess which won out?

Four things got bought: some blue Louisa Harding chenille for a scarf, a couple of skeins of Noro for another one, and enough for two garments: some of Debbie Bliss’ Bella (cotton/silk/cashmere) for a sweater, and some more Louisa Harding, a cotton yarn called Ondine in two colourways, for a summer cardigan with contrast trim; my old one needs a decent burial. I think that’s allowed. Hm. (And let’s not look at the definition of ‘things’ there too closely – in actual fact, there were 33 separate skeins or balls, aka ‘things’.)

This raised the whole issue of my stash. I’ve got the Large Laundry Basket of Doom (think the Tardis, in that it holds a whole lot more than appears possible from the outside), a bag on the bed in the spare room, a couple of baskets in the main room downstairs and – oh, yes, a couple of carriers behind the sofa. Cough.

It was time to get it all out and do some serious assessment. Plus, and this was possibly a bit late given that I’d already been to Knit One, doing so might work as aversion therapy. I’ve tried it in the past, but I’ve not been systematic, and Ravelry allow you to record your stash. Since I am hardly ever separated from my iPad, I thought I might be able to use the stash pages to help me be sensible. Ok, Ok, I know, stable door, lock, horse, bolt.

What a fascinating exercise. I got everything out, triaged it and sorted some unsatisfactory stuff for a charity shop, then threw out some useless bits (saving these is an indirectly inherited tendency: after my step-grandma died, we found a brown paper bag labelled ‘string, pieces too short to be useful’). Then I photographed the lot and uploaded it to Ravelry. And it wasn’t half as bad as I thought, either, even if there were a lot of single skeins. Plus I found some things I’d almost forgotten about, possibly due to trauma:

Angora

This is angora, bought at Wonderwool Wales a million years ago. I was knitting in this when I mangled my hands and had to set it aside; when I recovered I couldn’t find or recreate the complicated pattern so had to frog it. I began it again, then put it aside for some reason. It’s a big shawl / stole / thing and won’t bear frogging again, so I must finish it, and I will.

The same year I also bought this:

alpaca

It’s natural alpaca, and it’s 4 ply – I must have set it aside because I couldn’t manage small needles, and there isn’t enough to make anything other than a shawl or scarf if it’s doubled up (did I mention the number of single skeins/potential scarves?). It was lurking beneath the bags of odd bits, and I must use it – it’s unbelievably soft.

The whole exercise revealed that I’ve actually used quite a bit recently, and I’m left with one really good result: there is only enough wool (not cotton, or blends based on cotton) for a couple of garments.

When I started spinning, I knew that my stash would increase enormously because everyone, but everyone, warned me about it. I also knew that I wanted to spin wool, preferably local wool. As a result, I’ve evidently been unconsciously running down the quantity of commercially-spun wool in my stash, using it up. Definitely a result. And not an excuse… honest.

(And if you’re on Ravelry too and haven’t used the stash page on your profile, like me, then give it a go. Really, really worth it.)