Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Woolfest - here I come, ready or not!

First of all, a very big thank you to everyone who has made such kind comments about the new sock pattern. Whilst we are launching it at Woolfest it will, of course be available afterwards to people who aren't as lucky as us to be spending the weekend knee deep in mud and sheep!

As usual, its nearly midnight, I'm leaving for Cumbria in the morning and I still haven't got my bags together. There has been so much to do, putting the finishing touches to the pattern, making sure my garden will be OK without me, dealing with the inevitable screaming crises that routinely precede any of my absences from work. And you wonder why I knit...

And I have been knitting. You will be, I am sure, amazed and impressed that some Pick 'n' Mix singletons are happily coupled.

The hot pink and orange Little Arrows;

The muted pink and green Bargellos,

and my favourites, the fresh, summery haystacks in cool art deco colours.
It was all going so well - then I just had to try one more colour combination. They're addictive, I tell you...
Now my wheel and I are reunited we've been working very well together. Now if I was the suspicious type, as well as someone who anthropomorphised inanimate objects I would say that my wheel has cottoned on to the possibility that I might be looking at Other Wheels at Woolfest and is on its very best behaviour.

I have now spun and set both one skein of the Menthe and the Victoria Plum to a reasonably consistent DK weight. I wound the skeins together to get an idea of how they would work together.

And here they are.

Not bad eh? One of the most gratifying things was that, despite having a few yards left on the bobbin after plying both yarns, when I calculated my yardage I found that I have 170 yards of the Plum and 166 yards of the Menthe. I was really chuffed.
And here's the arty shot.

As I may have mentioned,I'm off to Woolfest tomorrow and will be there for both days. I'm volunteering on the Knitting and Crochet Guild stand for some of the time and am sure that I will be lurking around the Yarn Yard stand at some point too so please come and say hello. You might also find me hanging around the spinning wheel stands with a glazed expression on my face.

Just don't tell my Ashford.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Summer Pick n' Mix

You're right, I've milked this for far too long - time to show you my latest design project. May I introduce the Summer Pick n' Mix Socks. They will be another Yarn Yard exclusive and will be launched at Woolfest this coming weekend.

When Natalie first asked if I wold like to do another Woolfest pattern we'd had a couple of sunny days followed by a distinct cold snap. So, I thought I would do something light and summery and being the British geek that I am, with due respect to the unpredictability of our climate, something that I could wear under my Birkenstock sandals if it got a bit nippy.

The first pattern I came up with was this one which I sent to Natalie.

'The sock's very nice', she said carefully. 'I'm just not sure about those haystacks'.

'They're supposed to be flowers' I replied.

Silence briefly ensued.

We talked a little more and I got to thinking about how we all have different tastes and wouldn't it be fun to design something more like a Pick n' Mix? A menu of choices so that knitters could come up with their own favourite combination of stitch patterns and yarns. If there was an aspect of the sock that they didn't particularly like, there is another alternative. An invitation to have fun with their own creativity.

I love playing with colour so I thought I would design a set of patterns which showcase how many ways there are to mess around with colour that are fun and accessible.

Summer socks are a bit shorter than their cosy winter cousins and when there are so many other things to do,a sock with an interesting section followed by a relaxing plain foot seems perfect for all those knitting out of doors opportunities we hope for in the finer weather.

The socks that I have knit are just examples of possible combinations.

Here is a clutch of different edgings; a picot, a two colour picot, a plain edge and a scallop.

The leg patterns move solids and hand painted yarns around to create different effects. These socks are also a great way to use up small amounts of leftover sock yarn in an interesting way.
There are different ways to incorporate colour into the heels;

And the toes.
Natalie tells me her favourite is the pink and green, by the way!

I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with these frivolous, colourful summery ideas, diving into my stash and coming up with colour combinations that make me smile. These are lighthearted little confections of socks.
Only one drawback...

I've got a terrible case of second sock syndrome....

Friday, 20 June 2008

Clear the roads, I'm back at the wheel again!

I'm pleased to say that all the furious knitting for my latest design project is finished. Over the weekend I will be writing it up, sewing in ends and taking proper photographs so should be able to show you what I've been up to over the last few weeks very shortly. Suffice to say that it is a little bit of frivolity in keeping with the British summer!

It has occurred to me that recently, nearly all of my knitting and spinning has been with either fine yarns or tiny needles and sometimes both. Overall this is my preference as I enjoy finely detailed work.

Speaking of which, before I forget, have a look at this blog by unionpurl . She is taking a letter of the alphabet in turn and not only knitting a beautiful representation of it but including all kinds of links and fascinating information about the history of knitting and typography. The amount of research and attention to detail is quite extraordinary.

Where was I? Ah yes, I was saying that whilst my first love is for fine and detailed work, it is sometimes good to feel something substantial in my hands (ooer missus...). It was also time to get my wheel out again. More embarrassing revelations follow. My stash of yarn and fibre has overflowed from the spare room with a stack of plastic boxes standing in the corner of my bedroom.When I decided I was going to start a new spinning project I knew exactly what I wanted to spin as I had been eying it through the side of the plastic box as I got up in the morning - and can you blame me?

Look at this...

This is Yard Yard Merino Silk ( which is very hard to get hold of I might add). In colours Victoria Plum and Menthe. I have 100g of the plum and 200g of the Menthe. I decided I would like to do another entrelac scarf like this one.
As a novice spinner, the main problem that I had with this project was in consistently spinning a thicker than sock weight yarn so I thought this project would be good for me to see if my skills had improved at all. My speed had certainly improved. In no time I had produced this:

I love the way the colours blend into each other to give the yarn its heathery quality. I am hoping that the other yarn with its higher contrasts will act as a foil to this. I also have more of this yarn than the Plum so will be knitting two layers of the menthe to one of the plum. We shall see...

In preparation for the Tour De France Knitalong I have been doing one or two rows on my lace project every day. That may not seem much at the time but they do mount up and now I have this.
Five and a half repeats down, twenty four and a half to go. The best thing though is that now I get to swish it around on my needles a bit and it feels wonderful.I can see me picking up speed now the pattern is settled into my head a little more.

Finally, I couldn't leave you without a glimpse of the latest piece of my design project to fall off the needles. I like these because they feel fresh and summery.

Right down to the toe.

Not too hard to guess what I've been up to is it?

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Knitters go wild in London (again)

As it was World Wide Knit in Public day on Saturday it was only right for knitters to go out and about again. This time Ellen and I went to Vauxhall City Farm for their Sheep and Wool Day. As you can see they have some lovely old buildings.

This time we managed to arrive in time for the sheep shearing. Allow me to introduce Lamby. Lamby is a one year old Black Wensleydale which makes her a rarity amongst rare breeds. It was also her first shearing which makes her a very apprehensive sheep.

Things don't get much better for poor Lamby...
The shearer was very knowledgeable and gave a detailed talk on how the sheep feels when it is being sheared ie convinced that she is about to be eaten and how she needs to be held securely for her own safety and the safety of the shearer. Whilst I found his talk very informative I did rather feel for Lamby who was probably wishing that he would just get on with it.

Here she is half shorn and what really struck me was the blue black colour of her fleece underneath, away from the sun bleached ends.She really is a very beautiful sheep.

Vauxhall City Farm hosts a spinners group that meets every Saturday who I really do want to go and join one of these days. Lamby's fleece will be used by them. They also have a small dyers garden and run classes in natural dying. I was very taken with this impressive woad.

There was also a sale of arts and crafts created by the fibre artists who meet there. Being involved in fibre arts myself I really appreciate the work that people produce and am keen to support them. I particularly fell in love with these greetings cards made from embellished wet felt.
This one has a three dimensional effect with a button embroidered into it.
Plenty of knitting in public was done,both at the farm and on public transport.I have two more little snippets of work to show you.

Put your sunglasses on for this...

and for the more soberly attired we have this...

Things are taking shape...

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Needles on fire

I know, with the last couple of posts you could be forgiven for thinking that not much knitting has been going on at Yarn Archive HQ. Nothing could be further from the truth. First off, here is something that I can show you in all its glory - the first of my scroll lace socks. I'm very pleased with these as the stitch pattern is simple but effective....and very very popular amongst designers it would appear!

Not only did Anne and I find ourselves knitting away on scarf and sock respectively on the plane back from Maryland and realising that we were using the same stitch pattern but I've since found a couple more designs, both using the same pattern. My favourite of the non sock designs has to be this cowl from Anni Designs. Isn't it lovely?

The rest of my knitting time has been taken up with a design project that isn't quite ready to share with you yet but it is an undertaking with all those features typical of a plan conceived after midnight which is staggering in its scope and genius but somewhat thin on practicality in the time available.

When has that ever stopped me? I'm pressing on regardless.

It may involve a little bit of this....

A generous slice of this....

Acres of these....A glimpse of this....

and an eyeful of this.

Must go - needles are calling.

PS Plans are coming together for the Tour de France Knitalong. I am Chef D'Equip for Team Credit Agricole which is taking shape nicely. There may still be places available so if you want to join in the fun pop over and sign up as soon as you can. It would be great to have you in my team.

I am mulling over ideas for a piece of lace for the event. Working title is 'Le Germolene'. Don't ask...

Monday, 9 June 2008

Move over Maryland....

Make way for Spitalfields!

On Sunday my friend Ellen and I spent the afternoon at the Spitalfields Sheep and Wool Fayre. For the uninitiated we aren't talking about miles and miles of rolling sheep country here. We're at a City Farm right in the middle of the east end of London.

Of course I made sure that I was appropriately attired.

This time I made sure that I got photos of sheep. Here is a very contented and thoughtful sheep, complete with fleece.
And here is her companion who can suddenly feel a bit of a draught...

Spitalfields City Farm is a community project which fulfils a range of functions. It provides an important educational resource for children who may get very few opportunities to get close to animals and to understand where their food and clothing comes from. It also provides meaningful employment for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems as well as playing a part in preserving rare breeds.

There are permanent display spaces for spinning and weaving but on this occasion the spinner was busy in the education area teaching children to spin.It was wonderful to watch children concentrating really hard on drafting the yarn and watching the wheel spin then emerging a while later with their first skeins of yarn. There were opportunities for children to try knitting and weaving, organised by Community Service Volunteers. I have given them my name and would be really keen to offer some of my time in this way too.

There was musical entertainment too. This very talented Latin American musician gave the event a festival feel. We happily settled down under a tree with our knitting and a cup of tea to listen to him. I did feel sorry for him though, at one point he was playing to an audience of two kntters, two rabbits and three geese. Those geese were harsh critics.

For a few hours the City Farm really gave us a sense of being out of the hustle and bustle of city life so my message to any townies reading this blog is, find out if you have a local city farm and give them your support.

Outside the farm, east London was also in festive mood with an arts event in Brick Lane where I came across some proper London Icons - a group of Pearlies! As this is a craft blog, notice particularly that their costumes are decorated with hundreds of pearl buttons sewn to form the words and patterns on their suits. Their roots are amongst the costermonger families of the various London markets and exist nowadays as a charitable fundraising organisation.

And of course, no east London event would be complete without an ex boxer Frank Sinatra tribute act.
A marvellous way to spend a sunny Sunday.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Have spindle will travel

My spinning wheel isn't very happy with me. I haven't used it for weeks, ever since I bought my new spindles. Truth is, they really fit in with the way that I live.

When I went off to visit my family a couple of weeks ago I knew I wanted to teach the kids drop spindling so I thought it would be lovely to take mine along to show them what can be done when you've had a bit of practice.

First I took a handful of roving...

Added the singles spindle and the plying spindle.

Remembered the mini niddy noddy I bought at Woolfest last year.

Added the first half of the Flutter scarf.

And popped it all into this lovely Ziploc bag (another souvenir from Maryland). Why can't you get decent ziploc bags here by the way?

It all worked out rather well, actually. Not only was I able to show the children what could be done with drop spindling but after they were in bed and the grownups gathered in the living room it was easy to sit and chat and spin or ply, just like when I am there with my knitting. I managed to ply enough yarn to make a skein with the niddy noddy, dunk it, dry it by hanging it in the handle of my bedroom window and knit it up on the way home.

Now I am back home and the weather is slowly improving it is so lovely to take the bag out into the garden and do an hour or so's spinning while listening to the blackbirds sing and watch the cabbages take over my garden.

I am now wondering whether I do need a portable wheel or whether a better house wheel is the way to go - or maybe I'm just happy with learning more about the beautiful simple tools that I already have and sharing what I've learned with others.

Sometimes I feel very lucky.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Getting back on the horse that threw you

The attentive amongst you may have noticed that I haven't said much about Mrs Trellis since I showed you the wobbly beginnings that I had made on my first grown up lace project using genuine lace weight, Jaggerspun Zephyr wool silk in a lovely sophisticated shade called Suede.

I can assure that I have been doggedly trudging on with this project but couldn't shake off the feeling that something was wrong. I know that everyone says that lace always looks like a dismal pile until it is blocked but even when I stretched this out it just wasn't looking like I thought it should.

The chart in the book is quite small so I photographed it and blew it up on my computer screen so I wasn't referring back to the book much but last night I got the book out again to check the dimensions as I wasn't convinced that even with the most ferocious of blocking that it would be as long as I thought it was.

Then I noticed the recommended needle size...

Then I looked at mine. Why can you never find a needle gauge when you want one? When I finally cornered one of the good half dozen of the beasties that live in my house somewhere it quite implacably pointed out that I am an idiot. The needle I should have been using is a 4.5mm.

'You,' the gauge announced, 'Have been using a 3.5mm'.

'Did you not do a tension square?' it rather unhelpfully added.

For one moment I contemplated carrying on regardless. I had ground out three and a half 16 row repeats after all. Thankfully I came to my senses but I couldn't face the immediate prospect of ripping it all out so I started again with the second ball.

I'm not sure how clearly the pictures show how much difference 1mm of needle diameter makes.

Here is my first attempt;

As you can see, even when the fabric is stretched out it is cramped and dense -not like lace at all.

Here is a small portion of the shawl knitted on the 4.5mm needle.

You can see how much more airy and open it is but equally important, the texture of the fabric feels completely different and the yarn has started to shimmer.

This rather unattractive photograph shows the difference best of all;

The top portion is three and a half pattern repeats of bad lace. The lower part is just over one repeat of good lace.

I am thoroughly chastened.

Mind you, it's not only the change of needle size which has made my second attempt a much more pleasurable knitting experience. If you look closely at the bottom edge of each piece you will see that I did a rather ham fisted knitted cast on for the first one, but thanks to this video by Lucy Neatby I have finally got to grips with the crochet provisional cast on which I am much more pleased with.

Secondly, while I was in hot pursuit of my needle gauge I came across these lovely notions that I brought back from Maryland. I do love a good notion. T pins for blocking which are reassuringly sturdy for the wrestling match yet to come. Flexible rubber stitch markers and dinky little removable markers.

Much more satisfying than this Heath Robinson arrangement;

I also decided that pulling yarn from the centre doesn't make for a happy ball.

Look at this sad sick specimen with its attendant pile of yarn vomit.

Compare it to this sleek, happy sight.

Now I have stopped trying to think how I could have been quite so dim witted as to have got myself in this pickle and almost throttled my love for lace knitting before it had even started the project is flying along and becoming a really enjoyable knit. Mrs Trellis and I are reconciled.

The most important lesson that I have learned, however, is that lace is not just about the knitting, it's also about the space in between.