Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Many years ago a very dear friend said to me (while creating space for yet another book case in his modest sized home) 'little enough time to read has never seemed to me sufficient reason for not buying a good book when I see it'.   

He always planned to read more when he retired - and he did. It can be a little like this with yarn.

There probably comes a time in all truly Dedicated Knitters' lives when we have to fess up to the true extent of our stashes.  Now I don't just mean the odd tweets, like this...

 @chopkins_knits OMG!!! Just had to buy some positively divine cashmere #justoneskein #nowillpower.  

to which fellow knitters reply

@aknitter show us!! POIDH

No that's small potatoes. I mean a moment such as I had today when I was looking for materials I'm going to need for  tomorrow.  Most of my yarn is in a huge walk-in cupboard above our staircase.  When I last spoke about my stash it was fairly neatly contained in two plastic boxes with clip on lids (the clips just worked if I sat on the box lids) both fitting more or less neatly under our bed, it's bigger than that now

Not Pretty

The two boxes are still there (together with three boxes of fabric and a fourth for haberdashery, we'll gloss over these for the moment) But there seems also to be bags and bags of other stuff.  Rather neatly categorised I am proud to say but that doesn't stop there being two large bags of sock yarn, bought just because it is pretty, hand dyed yarn in various fibres (merino, cashmere and alpaca in the main), skeins of luxury yarn just enough for a small shawl and several bags of sale yarn, enough for a sweater, from bigger producers like Rowan and Debbie Bliss.

When I turned it out onto the landing and surveyed its full extent I had to admit I might have more yarn than I can knit in a lifetime.  Now I know I made a new year's resolution to knit up much of my sock yarn but I'm also going to share another plan with you.  I'm going to shop my stash for a while and ban my self from making impulse buys from yarn shops. Like my friend I am retiring soon so this might be a good time to stick to my plan.

POIDH?  (pics or it didn't happen)   A tiny sample of what was in the bags and boxes

ready beaded kid mohair and silk lace weight by tilli thomas

falkland merino 4ply sock from The Skein Queen

British gotland lace - 'storm coming' by The Little Grey Sheep

cashmere DK, hand-dyed (from her garden plants) by Elisabeth Beverly 
Some yarns make it quite obvious what they should be made into, others don't so much, I think I have about half an half here but all will be revealed in good time



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

I'm pretty happy with this

Well, I left off yesterday with my alpaca sweater stretched out arms akimbo with a promise that I would do the big reveal today Today the shackles are off and its a wonder of smooshy loveliness.

But it did not look so fabulous when I first cast off and tacked it together.  In fact the sleeve head was hopelessly too long and narrow.  How could that happen?  Well, I did follow the pattern, almost, but after the shaping (for the underarm bit) the instructions said to knit 7 rows, that seemed far to little so I added some more. Disaster! back to the drawing board

I needed more width across the middle of the sleeve head and less fullness at the crown.  Luckily there is lots of negative ease in this design so it has been very forgiving.  My modifications would not work on something more structured but they did here.  Fistly I got out my tape measure and calculator and worked out my tension to the half stitch.  Then I measures the exact circumference of my armhole and divided my rough chart into three sections A,B and C

A - The underarm. To get the extra width I cut out a lot of the shaping in the underarms and kept it to casting off 3 stitches at the beginning of the next 2 rows and  1 each end of the following 3 alternate rows.  I noted how long the edge would be to this point.  

C - The Crown. I decided to work all the rest of the decreases in the crown part until 18 stitches remained before casting off and calculated how long that would be.  

B- The middle section was calculated last, once I knew how many inches I needed to add to A and C to equal my armhole circumference I worked out the number of rows I needed to work straight.

I planned all this on paper and put in an afterthought lifeline before I ripped out the top section of both sleeves. 

You can see how uneven it all looked still, but blocking is miraculous!

 A lovely tidy edging

And a big sweeping swooshey neckline

As I mentioned before I have in mind a bright colour affection shawl to wear with my new sweater but for now blight does nicely.

The sun has come out At Last, but not too warm for a sweater yet.



Tuesday, 23 April 2013


My wonky sweater is all done!  The full story (modifications and all) tomorrow when it is dry and I can wear it.



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A little progress

A bit wiggly and somewhat over-spun but I have created A Whole Ball of Yarn and it's yarn I could knit with!

Last week after struggling with trying to teach myself, I took a class with a lovely lady called Carol who spins and weaves in a beautiful summer house in her garden in Liss in Hampshire.  I loved her way of teaching, beginning with the history of spinning and how over time spinners progressed from drop spindles to something called The Big Wheel to the spinning wheels we recognise today.

I knew that the term spinster came from those who spin but I did not know that the ability to spin a fine thread was considered to be a sign of virtue.  Hence Roman Emperors' wives having their portraits painted holding a spindle.  These women had no need to spin their own cloth, they had legions of hand maidens to do this for them, but the message was clear, the emperor's wife was a woman above reproach.

The first thing Carol did was substitute my puffy cloud of BFL,

with which I could only produce snail-like twisty lumps

for something less processed and a little coarser

And this is how I got started.  I still found it very tricky to spin with my wheel.  If you look at the picture of my flyer here...

you can see that the diameter of the whorl (on the right ) is about half the diameter of the wheel on the left. The whorl controls the amount of twist put on the yarn and tightening the scotch tension knob, wound around the larger wheel with string (all sooo high tech) adjusts the rate that the spun yarn is wound on to the bobbin.  On the Ashford spinning wheel the two are the same diameter, meaning it is possible to spin slowly without adding too much twist.  I'll get there eventually, when I learn to draw out the fibre faster I can increase the winding speed but until then I have to keep practising so that my spinning style can become compatible with my sort of wheel.

The slightly puzzling thing is that when I look at websites selling the Lendrum they all say that the wheel is sold with the fast whorl instead of the standard, yet I cannot find anyone selling the standard in the UK.  So if anyone knows where I can buy a standard flyer do please let me know.

I am actually getting on better with drop spinning.  Carol explained it was important to begin with the drop spindle to get the feeling for spinning at a slow speed.

I found this lovely puff of mixed fibres in my stash

And have spun a fair amount of thread

Blues, greens, grey and white with a hint of sparkle.  I am going to spin the whole bag,  no idea how many yards of yarn I shall spin but once I know I shall decide what to make with it.



Sunday, 7 April 2013

The First day of Spring

Although the official first day of spring was last Sunday (after the clocks here in the UK had 'sprung' forward an hour at 2 am) and the weather yesterday was sunny and a balmy 10deg in our back garden, today felt like the first day of spring as JTH and I ventured out for a brisk Sunday morning walk around a nearby village of Hartley Wintney.  We were following a trail posted on our County Council's website (more of that later)

The walk took us around the common

Past the duck pond (does anyone know why there is a scarecrow in the middle of the pond?)

Across farm land and down country lanes

and forest trails

Oak trees predominated, still in a winter leafless state their muscular anatomy was clearly on view

No sign of green on the pollarded limes either

But the primroses were out

So were the celandines

and the wild cherry

The guide told us that the oaks here were planted to provide timber for ship building after the losses incurred in the Napoleonic wars.  Presumably saved from the woodcutters axe by the development of iron hulled warships

On such a lovely day it was not surprising that there were quite a few people out walking, clutching print offs from the county council's website, many of whom like us were looking puzzled at the directions.  There is a problem with referring to road names around the village when the signs were either missing or at the opposite end to the direction of the walk.  Instructions to 'go straight ahead' tricky when the path came to a fork or when the route appeared to take us down a private drive

We knew about the muddy bits, however, despite the warning I did manage to step in one place where the mud came right over my walking shoes.

Such a lovely day and all cobwebs thoroughly blown away



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tough Love and many socks

I've been knitting socks.  Not practical socks, alas not wearable socks, but the yarn is perfect and the colours fab

Although these are samples using the training sock pattern by the clever Kate Atherley I have learned exactly how to make a good sock.  I can knit these babies in 50 minutes,

... so can I knit a full size sock in 2 evenings?  Only time will tell but I had such fun learning the technique and playing with different arrangements

There are 16 of them in all (no such thing as second sock syndrome here)

In shades of blue, turquoise, browns and greys.  Even the more sombre colours are not really sombre at all.  I am now fantasising about ordering a full skein in every colour and having a drawer full of Sweet Georgia loveliness, starting with top row second from the right (its called Hush)

The socks are for a friend and as they are to do with her new project I won't say more here for the moment but once she is fully launched I will post the link



PS this was a joint effort between friends, do go over to Rachel's blog and see what the stripey yarn looks like (and for some more techy stuff on the construction)