Tag Archives: British wool

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)…

 

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Find the Easter criminal…

I knew I couldn’t keep sheep out of this for long. You can’t keep them out of anywhere for very long.

Some friends of mine were away for a few days, down in the exciting metropolis of Cardiff. When they got back, the gate was open and they had a marked lack of crocuses where there had once been crocuses. However, the culprits had left clues behind them:

hah

No sign of the owner of the fluff in the rest of the garden. No hoofprints either, but they’re a little redundant when you’ve left traces of your, er, clothing everywhere. No culprits along the lane, or just off it.

lane

I suppose they could have nipped in, noshed the crocuses and nipped out a couple of days earlier, but the clues were quite fresh – and, for any spinners out there, the one in the photo above was really soft but with a suspiciously short staple length. It was also quite close to the ground, meaning its owner was probably quite small, but being trained in bad habits by the taller one. So we went hunting.

Some suspects simply hoofed it,

zoom

while others relied on being unbearably cute and seasonal and radiating innocence:

innocentthough I’m not entirely convinced by the slightly sly look of the lamb at the back; I have a feeling it knows more than it’s letting on. Like how to open gates, perhaps? (Though the gate in question could probably be opened by being leant on and – in all fairness – it’s a little like the Siegfried Line and the Nazis: you can just go round it if you want.)

Some were showing early promise in the wall-climbing and escapology stakes,

climb

but that is not enough to convict.

This, on the other hand, probably is:

squeeeeze

There’s a gate that clearly needs a fencepost hanging from the bottom.

This post is something of an antidote to all the footage of the appalling conditions and dire consequences facing hill farmers elsewhere in Wales (and other parts of Britain) as we have one of the coldest springs in years. We’re lucky here, close to the western coast; crocuses or no crocuses, the lambs are, by and large, fine, as are their mums. The in-lamb ewes are fine, too; no snowdrifts with us. Unfortunately it’s not the same elsewhere.

And thanks to everyone whose comments after my last post encouraged me to go for it…

In search of Yarnworks

I started knitting in the mid- to late 1980s (well, I had knitted one thing before that, for a badge in the Brownies*, but my mother had to finish it and it doesn’t count). If you ignored the shoulder pads and scary intarsia, it was a good time to pick up the needles. Interesting yarns were available, not always in acrylic and often from the continent, and there were some great patterns. At the same time there was also a growing interest in high-quality British wool. And that’s where the northern company Yarnworks comes in.

I lusted after their wool. I couldn’t afford it, though I did save up and bought a little – once, as you can see, in Liberty’s sale:

(I know that seems cheap, even for then, but I was being paid about £90 a week, had to cover all my expenses and still eat.)

However, I keep coming across it in charity shops and it is still gorgeous.

I have also laid my hands on what I think is their one and only pattern book, and I’ve knitted several things from it. Adapted, of course – no tight ribbing gathering all that bulk in at the waist; more modern sleeve shapes. Some of the patterns are still unavoidably frightening, but there is one I go back to again and again because it’s so damn useful:

Please ignore the styling. I do not, never have and never will, possess such a cap. Nor do I knit it in stripes, have aggressive gathering at wrists, or pose with ropes. I always fiddle with patterns.

In fact I blogged about the demise of one incarnation of this favourite way back in the early days of Woolwinding, here. I’m currently knitting up yet another, this time in Jamieson’s Shetland Heather in a colour called Leprechaun (that would be green). It acts as a great cover-up for those autumn or spring days when it’s not quite warm enough to brave a lighter garment, but when a heavy jacket would be too much. I should probably hurry up with the knitting so I can wear it soon, in fact. And this got me thinkling about Yarnworks.

Their wool is beautiful – or should that be ‘was’?

Because they have died and gone to wherever all good yarn companies go – Leeds. Seriously. It’s taken me a while to work it out, aided by some knowledgeable people on Ravelry who got the bit between their collective teeth. Yarnworks Limited is now inactive, having been taken over several times, but the company name is still registered and part of Thomas Ramsden (whose active brands include Wendy and Twilley’s). The yarn, however, has vanished. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky.

As far as the company background goes, I’ve only got my book to go on. It was published in 1987, and the back-cover blurb informs me that the company ‘was formed three years ago to utilise the traditional skills of wool-spinning and dyeing in the Yorkshire Dales’ (the address given is near Wakefield, mind, and currently looks like a breaker’s yard).

The main reason I love Yarnworks is their commitment to lovely colour and natural fibre, which was comparatively rare at the time. They also used a lot of British wool. They focused on Merino: ‘…we only spin our wool from Merino fleeces. The Merino sheep is the aristocrat of the sheep world and produces wool which is both soft and durable’ as it says in the book’s introduction, which is by Yarnworks’ Steven Grant.

Durable, I’ll say. It’s still in perfect condition:

This heap is their Donegal Tweed, of which I seem to have acquired quite a bit over the years. Better do something with it… I’m envisaging colour work as the shades go together well (the purple’s brightness is a little distorted by the crappy light when I was taking the shot).

Yarnworks prided themselves on their colours – ‘we then hank-dye this wool to produce exactly the right fashion shades’ – which I have always found to be excellent, free of 1980s nightmares. You just have to do a bit of editing. Like ignoring the brights here (and they’re fine, just not like this):

I’ve knitted this, in the purple. I wore it a lot, got bored of it, found it again, wore it a lot, then went through the elbows and finally felted it and made a cushion cover out of it, but only last year (I decided I really was bored of it this time).

But I’m still intrigued. How come Yarnworks didn’t survive? Perhaps one clue is in their stockists. As one of the Ravellers pinted out, these were expensive yarns. The four London stockists listed in the book are Harrods, Liberty’s, Fenwicks and a rather flash knitting shop in Clapham, K1 P1, which is where I went mad and blew the household budget on some of their mohair.

(I made this little roll-neck sweater –

apologies for the quality of the shot, but it was snapped in hurry as I left for a craft fair, where I accidentally sold it – er, pressing it gently first, of course…)

Maybe Yarnworks were just too good, too high quality, too in advance of their times. And yet Rowan – founded in 1978 with a similar ethos – survived. Perhaps Rowan had more of a focus on design, more of a link with the ‘couture’ handknitting world, with people like Artwork and Kaffe Fassett (I’d not heard of them then, but I was a relative newbie – a broke relative newbie). Like Rowan, Yarnworks had good coverage in the US, but I suspect that also like Rowan – who sold to Coats in the 1990s – they suffered too much in tough economic conditions, conditions which coincided with a dip in knitting’s popularity. And unlike Rowan, their owners had no commitment to preserving the Yarnworks brand. Presumably it wasn’t strong enough.

I’m making assumptions here, and I’d love to know more. I’ve got as far as I can – does anybody else know any more? Anyone worked for Yarnworks? Anyone got a secret stash?

Apart from me, that is?

*Brownies:
A paramilitary organisation for small girls, worryingly insisting – at that time – on the wearing of brown shirts and strange badges. I was put in the Leprechaun six (maybe the memory called me to my current yarn, but how about that for stereotyping in action?) and our badge depicted a small figure writhing on a stake. There were other types of badges which you could win by doing various exciting tasks, like the incompetent knitting of nasty scarves in red, white and green stripes. My mother claimed that helping with the housework was one such activity, and I think she may well have been right. I left, much to everyone’s relief.

Come all my jolly boys (and the rest of us)

I swore I wasn’t going to get involved this year. I’ve got enough. But I had such an exciting phone call last night…

They’re shearing today (I know, I know, I can hear the cries of ‘get a life’).

We’ve had some warmer days, and off we go. I can get in the spare room, and there aren’t any fleeces in the shed – there never are at this time of year; they’re all washed and in the loft but that’s beside the point; semantic quibbling. This particular farm have lovely sheep, interesting breeds – some BFL crosses – and, my weakness, some coloured fleeces. I’ve said I’ll have one.

One.

I’ve been thinking about sheep shearing as a result. There’s no doubt that this is the time for it, even though the Limbourg Brothers represented it in July in the Tres Riches Heures.

Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, in which the sheep-shearing festival is so important, had its first recorded performance on 15 May – officially Whitsuntide in Jacobean London, a favourite time for staging similar pastoral dramas, but I’m happy with the near coincidence. And that got me thinking about sheep-shearing feasts.

They used to be such a significant part of the farming year, and the rural year as a whole, and yet they’ve gone, leaving barely a trace in the memory. Well, other than folk songs (which usually seem to connect sheep shearing and beer, quelle surprise), and mentions in literature which usually need explanation nowadays. The importance of the feast, Autolycus and associated almost-anarchy in the Winter’s Tale; Bathsheba’s feast – sorry, Belshazzar, but I couldn’t resist subverting your feast – in Far From the Madding Crowd… gone.

Mind you, I always found the image of Bathsheba Everdene inside with the shearers outside rather unsettling – rise up, boys! – so perhaps it’s just as well that some aspects have gone:
‘At the shearing supper, a long table was placed on the grass plot beside the house, the end of the table being thrust over the sill of the wide parlour window and a foot or two into the room. Miss Everdene sat inside the window, facing down the table. She was thus at the head without mingling with the men.’

But they were actually disappearing when Hardy was writing, or at least farmer participation was becoming less common. For instance, William Hone (The Every-day Book) wrote of feasts in the 1820s that they were ‘fast sinking into disuse, as a scene of mirth and revelry, for the want of being encouraged and partaken in by the “great ones of the earth”…’

But who cared about the presence of the boss, when it came down to it? The celebrations were one of the ‘four feasts in the year for us folk’ – J. Arthur Gibbs, quoted in A Cotswold Village, 1898. He went on to explain: ‘First of all there was the sowers’ feast, that would be about the end of April; then came the sheep-shearers’ feast – there’d be about fifteen of us as would sit down after sheep shearing, and we’d be singing best part of the night, and plenty to eat and drink… ‘[the other feasts were for the reapers in July, and the harvest in September].

And some of the songs survive. The best known, and most often quoted – possibly because it was a favourite of the Copper family of Rottigdean, a family every twentieth-century, middle-class folk-song collector appears to have visited – is often known as ‘The Black Ram’, and basically celebrates beer. By the way, the ‘master’ is the leader of a shearing gang, not the farmer – and note, incidentally, how shearing has become an exclusively male occupation. Yes, sheep had gradually increased in size and weight since the Middle Ages, but the explanation for the exclusivity is undoubtedly more social than practical:

Come all my jolly boys, and we’ll together go
Abroad with our masters to shear the lamb and ewe…

When all our work is done, and all the sheep are shorn,
then home with the captain, to drink the ale that’s strong
It’s a barrel of the hum-cap, which we call The Black Ram
And we do sit and swagger, we swear that we are men
And yet before the night is through, I’ll bet you half a crown
That if you hadn’t a special care, that Ram will knock you down. 

Marking the end of shearing seems to have been almost universal. In Perthshire, there are records – which I find very difficult to believe – of shearers ending a heavy day’s clipping with a little celebratory hammer-throwing or shot-putting. I’m afraid I’ll go for a spot of  Black Ram and a feast in the credibility stakes…

Some of the old Suffolk people interviewed in the 1950s by George Ewart Evans, the oral historian, talked about the feasts they remembered. Bands of shearers were formed from men who had quite different jobs the rest of the year – working on the herring boats, for instance – and the ‘sheep-shearing frolic or supper’ would take place before the company dispersed. Singing was a central feature of the Suffolk frolic, but with songs specifically relating to sheep-clipping (Evans cites a version of The Black Ram, but there are plenty of others). And the getting together with friends and neighbours, some of whom you might hardly see the rest of the year, is another common feature, of course, here as elsewhere. In Wales, for instance, there’s the ‘cyfnewid’ – exchange – tradition of each neighbour gathering in turn, helped by the others.

Sheep-shearing in Nantglyn, by John Thomas, approx. 1885.
National Library of Wales

On the North York Moors, the gatherings for shearing were widely anticipated. And the food at the feasts, as you might expect from North Yorkshire, could be spectacular. Marie Harley and Joan Ingleby note that ‘Forty-four men are remembered sitting down to a meal at High Row Mires, Hartoft. “Nearly a feast” was put on beginning at ten o’clock, with special clipping-day cheesecakes cooked with butter spread on them, for dinner a hot roast and baked suet pudding followed by plum pudding with rum sauce, and later [!!] a cold supper included pease pudding…’ (Life in the Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire, 1972)

I’m willing to bet that the ‘cheesecakes’ were proper Yorkshire curd tarts, and now I must go and get a cuppa and a slice of something. Ahem.

Oh dear, dear, dear…. wonderwooliness, part 1

Well, I was quite good. I’m amazed, actually – I know I have zero willpower, but I actually managed not to bankrupt myself.

Astonishing. How?

And despite all this yumminess. So how?

Possibly because I’ve Wonderwooled now for four years, so I wasn’t blown away by everything [just most things, ed].

Possibly because I was astonishingly cold, despite fluffy jumper, insulating T-shirt, big scarf, warmly lined boots, thick socks.

Possibly because it was very difficult to get a cup of coffee as the queues were so long. No, seriously – that’s the point at which I do a little metaphorical triage of my purchases and think ‘Hmm, haven’t spent that much, really, and there was some lovely turquoise laceweight on XX’s stand, I’ll just pop back and…’  And it was too cold and horrible to sit outside and do the same thing.

But I did manage to fall in love.

With the Gotlands on Well Manor Farm’s stand.

The fleece was just beautiful, even the commercially washed bags (and commercial washing can make Gotland a little dry according to the bible, aka The Fleece and Fibre Handbook). The lustre, the silkiness – sigh – and I do hope my spinning is up to it. I’m not in the slightest bit surprised that New Zealand Gotland wool was used to make the ethereally light elven cloaks for the Lord of the Rings films.

And away from livestock, I also fell in love with this:

It’s a Louet Julia, and I think it’s the wheel I really need. It’s collapsible, if not specifically portable, but I don’t think it would need to be pulled apart and reassembled to fit easily in the car. And it’s light enough to be easily handled while also being heavy enough to spin nicely. Plus it comes from Holland and that’s a lot more sustainable than buying a New Zealand wheel (Majacraft, I’m talking about you – yes, I’d love a Little Gem, but when even some of your suppliers are describing your wheels as ‘ludicrously overpriced’, you know you need to come to your senses).

Of course, when it comes to wheels, I was briefly tempted by this one:

It would certainly attract the crowds on Spinning in Public day. But I don’t think the National Wool Museum could be persuaded to part with it, and anyway I’m supposed to be looking for something I can get in the car, and if I think I have problems with my Brian, they’d be nothing compared to this baby.

And then I almost bought a sheep, though not one which would cause the coach driver to throw me off the bus

(felted Herdwicks on the Wool Clip stand).

However, I thought I could spend the money on yarn instead.

Yarn like this, perhaps, dangling around in a tempting fashion on Oliver Twist’s?

Predictably, I was very tempted by the shades of peacock / jade / turquoise.

I seemed to be zooming in on those all over the show, but in the end I didn’t buy any of them, though I was quite tempted by pastels (or maybe I was tempted by Natural Dye’s woollipop). Pastels aren’t really my thing, but their pastels are delicious.

It helped that some stalls were so busy that I couldn’t get on them, of course. I think it was busier than ever – though the weather could have created a false impression, as people were effectively trapped in the halls.

I spent a long time wandering around (it was warmer if you kept moving, brrrrr), just soaking up the atmosphere and admiring other people’s strategies for keeping frostbite at bay.

I didn’t spend long at the Sheepwalk, where  moving fast was obviously catching,

but I did spend a long time ummming and arrrring about what colours to go for. I’m not sure what happened – I seemed to have lost my colour confidence for the day. Or maybe I was just overwhelmed; I’m not sure. I am sure that next year I need to be there for both days. I suppose that had to happen eventually…

I spent a lot of time bumping into people, catching up, chatting and admiring their purchases, and before I knew it one of my fellow travellers was beside me saying ‘The coach is back, and he’s got the heating on!’, and we were off:

back on our way, up over the hills and up and over the pass to home (where, incidentally, it had been sunny and comparatively warm all day). Grr.

And the successes? Well, the whole day, despite the cold. My select purchases, of which more later. The coach – it was so wonderful not having to drive. It’s not so much the journey there which is the killer when you’re one of the drivers, it’s the journey back when everyone in your car is giggling and laughing and comparing scrumptious fluff and you’re watching  the road and avoiding pheasants / sheep / motorbikes.

And I did have a major success: I got to the scotch egg stand before they sold out. Phew.

Not knitting, but walking

I’ve had a hand breakthrough – no, I’ve been good, I’m not knitting whole shawls in an evening or spinning an entire fleece in three hours. In fact, I’ve knitted two lines and looked at my wheel in passing. Next week.

But my triumph is a knitter’s triumph rather than a knitting one. I can do up my walking boots properly! I’ve spent 22 months unable to tie a knot strongly enough for a boot to stay on most of the time, so I just had to set off for a walk in celebration. And in the drizzle, but who cares? Walking in woods is why we have drizzle.

And yes, they were damp. But that’s good for the wildflowers, and in a couple of weeks these woods will be full of bluebells. Some are already out, together with the white sparkles of wood sorrel:

and as usual I couldn’t resist collecting colours (turquoise, ho, ho, leapt out – the influence of my last post, perhaps):

I haven’t been in the woods for a while. Mud can suck an insecure walking boot off very quickly, and idyllic though these woods can appear, they are used by quad bikers from time to time (squelch, or rather squelch times ten). Horses too, and that can really make for an interesting out-of-boot experience. And of course they are naturally damp, hence all the wonderful mosses and lichens.

I met one other person, a local dog walker – and that’s on a Bank Holiday weekend, when the local small towns are heaving and the beaches are busy despite the drizzle. And despite the lack of people the woods were, quite frankly, rowdy. It’s nesting time, which means lots of birdsong (best translated as ‘come over here if you think you’re hard enough’ or ‘mine! mine!’), and then they are next to farmland:

Well, it is early April, and you can’t get more springlike than the lambs even if they are some of the noisiest creatures around, especially if you allow for their size.

(This one is fine, it’s just practising looking pathetic. Those cute knock-kneed legs can kick and one bit right through the fingernail of a friend of mine.)

Apparently there have been complaints from people on one of the campsites nearby about the din. I like to think of it as a sort of operatic chorus, with the alto of the mums going ‘laaammbb, laaambbbb’, and the sharp soprano lambs responding ‘muuuuum, muuuum’.

Hm. Maybe I’ve been away from my knitting long enough.

Sometimes you’ve just got to scratch. Me and this lamb both.

Oh – they’re mostly Welsh Mountains on this farm, though there are some interesting crosses. I’ve had various WM cross fleeces, and they can be really lovely. In fact I have one waiting; I was going to card it with some alpaca. Hm – bet I can use the drum carder…

Have a lovely what’s left of the holiday!

Eeyore from sheep to shawl…

I’ve done it, finally, and it’s only taken a year almost. Actually, now I look at the dates on the early photographs, over a year.

This is Lydia. Well, Lydia’s fleece, some of it; I divided the whole thing with a friend. Lovely colour.

But it’s been a year full of hand problems, from simple injury (OK, ‘massive trauma’ – physiotherapist) to Whojumaflit’s Atrophy of the hand, to mad triggering, to steroid injections, to three weeks’ grace and then back to Yikes Mcflikes and eeeeoowwww, but with the thumbs this time. And, boy, am I in a flare-up now, though they may be calming a bit – possibly because the rugby’s been too exciting to knit through.

Acupuncture helps but cannot cure it; exercise helps but ditto – and now, I suspect, hand surgery awaits. I’m still waiting to see the surgeon, but there’s no point in more steroid injections into the tendons – phew, they’re nasty times twelve – as they’ve just worn off. Surgery remaining option, but fortunately has a very good rate of success… and that’s why there have been a couple of weeks since my last post. Ouch.

I suppose I could give up knitting and spinning. Yeah, right.

That’s really going to happen.

And at least the acupuncturist understands and takes it seriously; I’m glad someone does, but then she’s an avid quilter. The original injury went down on the physiotherapy department’s ‘bizarre traumas’ list; I don’t think they’d encountered a spinning injury before, or not a wool spinning one at least. Most spinners are, after all, more sensible than lil’ old moi.

In the Winnie-the-Pooh analogy that is life, I’m not usually an Eeyore. Even my best friends have me down as an irredeemable Tigger, with a hint of Owl and quite a lot of Rabbit. But now I find myself channelling an old grey donkey: ‘Good morning, Pooh Bear … if it is a good morning, which I doubt…’ But Tigger eventually reasserts himself – generally when the strange Chinese embrocation which is rather like liquid Tiger Balm kicks in – and I go bouncing about again.

I bounced quite a bit when I finished my first-ever piece of work from fleece I’d sorted, scoured, carded and spun. And I even like it!

It’s a version of a frilly baktus – cast on ten, increase at one side every four rows until you use half your yarn, then decrease, but with a short-row ruffle added. Had a bit of a battle with the unevenness of my spinning, but in the end it didn’t matter that much and just adds character. No, it does.

But I do have a problem – how to wear it. It’s not small. Do I wrap it, Faroese style?

Well, possibly not with my boobs (Doris here has not yet been padded to conform with reality). Or my height, either – too short.

I’ve tried swinging it jauntily over my shoulders but it a) unwinds itself pretty quickly, even when I use a shawl pin, and b) catches my feckin’ thumbs when I do so, and a madwoman shouting out loud in Tesco is not the image I had in mind when I made the shawl. But I may have got there:

Middle at the front, sling ends round back, screech, bring to front and tie using fingers and absolutely not thumbs. It doesn’t fit under my coat, and gives me no discernible neck (rather like a prop forward, though I happily lack the cauliflower ear and the tooth shield), but in other circumstances it Works.

And I don’t just like it, I lurve it:

I’m still completely besotted with the natural colour of the wool, and with the whole process. I’m definitely controlling the means of production (well, apart from not actually raising the sheep myself, but I think a flock in my garden might cause consternation, even here in rural Wales). And I can snuggle into it. I know cats go fleece snorgling – an interesting and appropriate new word, gleaned from Ravelry – but so do I.

And now Eeyore has been banished at least for a while. He may be back, of course, especially as I’m being considered for a demented new commission – I’m just a hack – which will drive me bonkers: ‘This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.’

Go Eeyore…