Thursday, 23 July 2009


Readers of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now. I have a confession to make. I have been unfaithful. I have been playing away. And you know what? It was great and I'm planning to do it again.

Thanks to the lovely people at the Make Lounge in Islington, I have caught the embroidery bug. I've had a go before but have found a lot of the designs and transfers just a little bit mumsy although I can appreciate the retro chic of a crinoline lady table cloth like anyone else when its under a heaving table of French fancies and fairy cakes

Thanks to a whole new set of up to date transfers and ideas look what I am making - Rock and Roll tea towel -it's so cool it's hot!

In all seriousness it was a great class with good technical instruction. I can now do a French knot which I understand is viewed by embroiderers in the same way we knitters often view Kitchener stitch - with the greatest of suspicion...
Here's a closeup on my work where you can see the rather wobbly efforts of the first timer.I'm definitely going to keep going as I find it really satisfying but it will probably remain a 'bit on the side'. But don't stand too close you might find yourself embellished!

Not content with my dalliance with embroidery, on Monday I took my courage in both hands and, reassured by the relaxed approach of the Make Lounge (they serve wine for the super anxious) I decided to tackle my long held suspicion of the sewing machine, despite the fact that I have one upstairs gathering dust and signed up for one of their beginners' sewing classes. Again, with expert and very friendly instruction I managed to thread my sewing machine, cut out pattern pieces without drawing blood (Which is more than I managed to do on the embroidery course) and make this perfectly serviceable and rather stylish bag.
It's great to be able to use really good materials right from the start and to be filled with enough confidence that you aren't going to ruin them.
Look at that piece of machining (almost) perfectly straight.
I feel that this is going to be a practical and useful skill and plan to take some more advanced classes in the future. I really enjoyed both classes and whilst I can't imagine abandoning my knitting and spinning I will keep up both activities and try to improve my skills.
I know that this may have come as a bit of a shock to some of you so before you all knock me off your blog reader lists let me just tell you that I am down at Camp Bestival for the next three days helping out in the Iknit Knitting tent in the Magic Meadow. If you're at the festival please come by and say hello.
And if you see me struggling to put my tent up, please take pity on me....

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Hanging around at the back of the pack

I knew it was a little ambitious to sign up for the Tour De Fleece and the Tour de Knitalong and I'm sad to report that progress has been pedestrian at best, but what the heck,if you cover the ground at a leisurely pace you get to enjoy the sights sounds and smells of your surroundings. Knitting and spinning are both such sensual pursuits, so lets luxuriate in the slow but steady progress and enjoy.

First off, spinning. Who wouldn't want to dawdle over this beautiful Blue Faced Leicester and silk roving from our very own Marianne of Picperfic fame. This fibre is so typical of Marianne's style - pretty, feminine shades which let the natural beauty of the roving come through. If she makes any more like this I'll race you to her shop.

As I am still a baby spinner I like to predraft my fibre well in advance. Look how the colours become transparent and delicate as the roving is eased apart.
I'm planning to make myself my very own pair of Cranford Mittens with this yarn so I didn't want to have such a firm twist as my usual sock yarn style yarn. I think I've managed to keep the bounce.

And as we're in no particular hurry, here is another shot of how the colours blend and merge. Lovely stuff.

Ambling gently over to the Tour De Knitalong I give you my entry for the (ahem..) Green jersey. A nice plain and simple top down v necked jumper in my favourite spring/ summer yarn, Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool. Incidentally I have finished the yellow cardigan but it needs re blocking as I made the bottom edge too flippy - I'll show you it very soon as other than that it is rather gorgeous in a 1950's secretary sort of way..
Moving back to the task in hand,I think I've made reasonable progress but I've been pedalling at a dreadfully slow pace since I left the mountain stage (ie the raglans).

The yarn is a gorgeous blue grey with a lovely slubby texture.

And knits up into a lovely, drapy fabric.

But I still feel I'm cycling across sand....
But there is good news! I have finished the Baktus scarf. I had pretty much finished it on the journey to and from Woolfest but of course I only sewed the ends in yesterday. This project involved a major false start as I knitted a good third of it on 3mm needles before accepting the fact that it had all the drape of an oven glove. This is the first time I have knitted with Noro Silk Garden Sock and found it to be much ticker than Noro Kureyon Sock, hence the needle error.
I like the colour combination - it reminds me of the light you get over summer fields at the edge of a storm.

The fabric now drapes well and the scarf is a useful length.

Now where did I put my bicycle clips.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Lady Vanishes

Woolfest is a real treasure trove.You never know what you might come across. I was rummaging on a vintage stall and came across this collection of pieces of polished wood.

Which came together to form a beautiful set of vintage shoe lasts.I love the colour of the wood and the scars and signs of use on them if you look closely.
Of course, when I finished the Ribbed Ribbons socks I had to try them out.

They aren't quite long enough to accommodate my usual leg length but they give the foot such an elegant shape and really show off the lace stitches.
With a new camera and some new toys one thing leads to another....

Is the lady hidden in the lavender?

Or is something a little more sinister afoot?

Sunday, 5 July 2009

What Jane did at Woolfest

Hello - remember me? While every other knitter and spinner who stalk the interwebs is regaling you with tales of derring do on the Tour De Fleece or the Tour De Knitalong I'm finally getting around to telling you about my weekend away at Woolfest.

I love Woolfest - it has to be my favourite UK fibre festival. The location in the Lake District is spectacular, the relationship between the festival and the surrounding environment is beautifully managed and the chance to catch up with friends from all over the country is wonderful.

All things being equal the moment I got home I would be telling you all about it but several things conspired to delay this post. Firstly the weather has been so unseasonably hot and work has been so full on all I have been capable of is flopping down on the sofa like one of Ruben's sweatier muses between meeting the needs of my endlessly thirsty garden. Incidentally I have a bone to pick with my garden. A number of plants, and you know who I am talking about Messrs Pumpkin, Courgette, Butternut Squash, Cucumber and Aubergine are fabulously lush but so far have produced nothing but male flowers - nothing in the way of fruit whatsoever. My garden is starting to resemble the terraces at Manchester United - full of males serving no useful purpose but drinking an awful lot. Has anyone got any clues as to why this might be happening and any advice about getting my idle plants back to work?

Where was I? Ah yes - in the middle of my excuses. I am also in the lucky position of having bought my first digital SLR camera and was trying it out for the first time at Woolfest. No problem there - although I'll be honest, it stayed on manual for most of the weekend but then there was fighting my way through the 300 page instruction booklet to find out how to download my photos. Turns out to be a piece of cake but it all seemed too much to contemplate in 32 degrees of sticky heat.

Posh new camera or no, I am still far too easily distracted by shiny pretties and people to talk to to create anything approaching a coherent photo essay about Woolfest but here is a bit of a look at what did catch my eye.

Firstly and quite rightly, centre stage has to go to the stars of the show - the sheep.

Take a look at this magnificent fellow with all the horns...

And this wonderfully tranquil pair of Herdwicks, the poster sheep of the Festival.

The second thing that really strikes you when you walk into the hall is the overwhelming amount of colour and texture on the stalls.

All of this was created using natural dyes.

and so was this roving rainbow

People and their incredible skills and creativity are the other abiding memory of Woolfest.

I wish I had the skills of this long draw spinner.

I hoped that some of the skills might rub off if I spent enough time in the company of the actual socks knit by legendary designer Nancy Bush. Yes, these are Nancy's very socks!!

And this gorgeous hat, knit in one of my favourite colour combinations.
I spent a lot of my time volunteering on the Kindred Knitter's Stand,teaching the odd technique, demonstrating a bit of drop spinning, playing a small part in raising £150 which we divided between Medecins Sans Frontier, Sweaters for Uganda and a local Hospice.
Of course a little shopping was done - it's such a wonderful opportunity to really see the best of what indie dyers and crafts people are producing these days - it just gets better and better. I think as well, as my skills grow that I am becoming a more discerning customer and am both able to distinguish the unique signature of an artist, but also to envisage the end product and to make better judgements about whose work best complements mine. I'll show you the things that I brought home as I use themas I want them to take centre stage rather than as a heap of stuff brought home from a weekend that was much more than just the shopping. So,if you like the work of Natalie at The Yarn Yard, Jo at Lime Green Jelly, Freyalyn and Krafty Koala to name but my personal favourites, over the next few month I will be trying to do their gorgeous work justice.
Believe it or not, finished objects are starting to fly off my needles and as I have for some reason I can't quite justify joined both the the Tour de Fleece and the Tour de Knitalong there will be much furious activity and perhaps the odd bit of terrible Franglais to be encountered here over the next few weeks. Speaking of which, something that I hadn't realised until Lime Green Jelly Jo asked about the Queen of Hearts roving that I had bought a few months ago, indie dyers are very keen to see what becomes of their work. Jo, the Queen of Hearts Roving is in the Tour Team - you will soon be seeing it again.
Oh and the Horse Chestnut sock pattern will be finished over the next week or so. Thanks to everyone for their kind words and encouragement.
I'll see you here again very soon!