Getting Ready

January is a strange month. It seems to either be very, very grey and dark, or bright blue skies and freezing cold.

I was fooled earlier today by the amount of sunshine and went into Mold without a coat or hat, just my large Into the Vortex shawl wrapped several times round my neck. Although this foolishness has left me with a cold head, it was quite useful as one of the things I was doing was having a look at the venue for Saturday’s workshops and it let me know that thermals are the order of the day. I’ve been there for events before, but never when running one and needing to know things like where the light (and heat) switches are and whether the windows open. Spoiler – of course they don’t, it’s a listed church hall, with leaded church windows! It’s a great space – huge and light with lots of tables and very comfortable chairs.

Photo ยฉ David Dixon

The workshops are both fully booked now and everything is prepped and ready. The swatches have been blocked. The mini sock samples have been made (one each to examine and compare with the workshop members’ own work as they go, rather than passing one round as we would have done in the ‘before times’). The bottles of water and wrapped biscuits have been bought, along with anti-viral wipes for the tables and gel for hands.

And I have a new toy! A small whiteboard on a ring of casters that takes a flip chart on it as well. This will be far better than me drawing on a scrap of paper that not everyone around the table can see properly and, sometimes, the teacher in me needs to literally illustrate a point!

Last week I was hoping to have finished my Water Dragon Shawl by now. However, the yarn for my scarf sample of Small Acts arrived shortly after writing the blog, and I needed to get cracking with knitting that up. It’s nearly done and will be ready for the pattern release at the end of the month.

I’ve also been spinning and baking more, but I’ll tell you all about that next week, along with how the workshops went and all about next month’s knit-a-long!

Take care, stay warm and do more of what makes you happy, K x

Mine!

This has rapidly turned into a week of finishing things.

On Saturday I plied the yarn I’ve been spinning, I skeined it on Sunday and washed it on Monday. Today it is dry and it is glorious! It’s Cambrian Wool which uses fleece from Welsh Mules. These are a cross between Welsh Mountain sheep and Blue Faced Leicester. The back of the packet the fibre came in says; “These sheep produce wool with beautiful sheen and incredible bounce and a long staple length”. The fibre came in five 20g coils, each of a different colour and collectively named ‘Mine’, from Hilltop Cloud. The colours really remind me of a trip to Parys Mountain a few years ago.

I have the skein next to me as I write and I can’t stop looking at it. The long staple means that it’s fairly easy to spin without the fibre vanishing out of your hands and it does have the most incredible sheen and is SO squishy. I think it’s about a DK weight, which is what I was aiming for, so I am a happy spinner here. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Also finished is the Percy Pig jigsaw that I was given for Christmas. It’s the smallest of the jigsaws at 500 pieces, but I think was far harder than any of the 1000 piece ones will prove to be. I was convinced I’d made a mistake in it earlier on as I just couldn’t find one particular piece, but once I had placed all the pieces that were laid out on the table, that gap was still there! Perhaps there was a piece missing? I’d checked the floor already. I even swept my arm (carefully) underneath the green felt cloth the jigsaw was on in case it had become caught on the fabric as I unrolled the jigsaw. But no. And then I found it! It was upside down (of course) and wedged underneath a wooden coaster on the tablecloth. It was very satisfying to put that last piece in. I’ve left the puzzle complete until my lovely wife comes home, partly so she can see it and partly so I can be a little bit proud of my perseverance every time I go into the kitchen.

ALSO finished today… drumroll please…is the second secret project! It needs washing and blocking, but the actual construction is DONE, including a graft. I’m really pleased with it and I hope the magazine will be too. The next step is to block it, measure it, finish typing up the pattern and contact the mag to see if they want it now or if I should hold on to it until nearer the deadline (which is April). Unfortunately I can’t share pics with you yet, but it is lovely, though I say it myself.

Finally, I have finished the squares for the (full) Finishing Techniques workshop. Fourteen of them, two each for the six class members and two for me, all ready to be seamed and have stitches picked up from. They are currently blocking in the lounge. That’s seven hours work there!

There are still a few spaces on the Introduction to Sock Knitting workshop on the afternoon of Jan 22nd if you are near Mold at all that day.

A not-yet-finished thing that has nevertheless been making progress is one of my projects from Fasten Off YAL, the Water Dragon Shawl by Red and the Wolf Designs. I knitted three rows last night. That doesn’t sound like much, does it? But each row is now 1121 stitches long and takes about an hour. There are 14 rows left. I’m hoping to get it finished by the end of this week. Because it is so long I’m photographing it with the needle looped in a coil, showing all 70 stitch markers in use. Some things I knit as gifts (there’s one of those in progress at the moment too), and some things I knit for myself – this one is definitely one of the latter – it’s mine!

The blue of the yarn isn’t showing up quite right today, but that might be the light – it’s very sunny! In fact, I’m now going for a quick walk to make the most of it.

I hope you have a good week, enjoy the sunshine if you get some and keep doing what makes you happy.

This is the Day

I began yesterday’s newsletter telling subscribers how we had started the year drinking a cup of tea on the patio at first light, with a warm breeze blowing. It was unseasonably warm then and the weather seems to have caught up with itself today, as there is currently hail bouncing off the garage roof!

One disadvantage with this return to colder temperatures is our current need to keep the windows open as much as possible, as ours is a Covid house. Not me (I’ve managed to dodge it so far), but my lovely wife. She is on the mend now and we are trying to do all the right things to contain it, but it isn’t half chilly today. It’s just as well there are a lot of woollen things around here ๐Ÿ˜Š

The main image on today’s post is Cleo, my mum’s cat, somehow sitting on my lap whilst I was knitting the Water Dragon Shawl by Red and the Wolf Designs. She didn’t seem in the least perturbed that there was a ball of yarn by her back that kept turning. I’ve never known her do this before (and neither has Mum!).

This morning saw the (re-)launch of Nevern Throw. It’s the biggest piece I’ve designed so far, yet being made in individual squares means you aren’t carting a double bed sized blanket around with you while working on it. This is the first square being blocked. Once I done that one I drew lines joining up the dots of the pin-holes in the back of the blocking board so that the other 23 squares would all be blocked to exactly the same measurements.

Not until the latter part of the making up stage, anyway. At this point it definitely stops being a portable project!

It’s been on our bed for most of the past two winters and is wearing *really* well. I’d not used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash yarn before making Nevern and I am truly impressed with it. When you’re making something on this scale, you want the yarn and all your hard work to look good for as long as possible! The colours in the blanket I made are nearer to the image below than in the one above.

I’m also looking forward to designing more charts from carvings on the Nevern Cross in the coming months as an ‘expansion pack’ to the original Nevern Throw pattern. There are so many more designs on it still to explore.

Before Christmas I mentioned that live workshops are back on the agenda (Covid permitting). With the support of Yarn O’clock, there will be a day of two classes on Saturday 22nd January. We are using St Mary’s Church Hall in King Street, Mold to give plenty of room for everyone (classes are still limited to six). I think there is one space left in the morning workshop and I know there are spaces in the afternoon one. Each workshop is ยฃ30 and can be booked directly with Anne at Yarn O’clock (she re-opens 11th January).

I have been busy prepping the materials – I’ve done four of the 14 squares I shall need since yesterday!

Finishing Techniques 10 – 12.30pm

Learn to block and seam your knitting to give fabulous end results. Learn to pick up stitches, make neat buttonholes and how to choose the right type of increase and decrease for your project.

You will be supplied with 2 pre-blocked pieces of knitting to seam which you will turn into a knitted purse by adding a buttoned flap.

Skills required: cast on, cast off, knit, purl.

Equipment to bring: 4mm needles, tapestry needle, everything else will be supplied.

Introduction to Sock Knitting 1 – 3.30pm

Learn all the steps of knitting a top-down sock on double pointed needles: Cast-on, ribbing, leg, heel flap, heel turn, gusset, foot, toe, grafting. 

We will be working on a scale that means you can complete the whole sock in the workshop!

Skills required: cast on, knit, purl, k2tog, ssk.

Equipment to bring: 3mm short double pointed needles (you can buy these from the shop if needed), tapestry needle. Everything else will be supplied.

These little socks are so cute that I’m also planning on turning them into an advent calendar. Not like a yarn advent calendar where you make one a day during December, but one you make in advance and hang up with sweets in for Advent. There would be 24 small socks and a slightly larger sock for 25th December. Patterns and possibly also kits will be available in September.

Now look at that! It’s January and I’m talking about September already. That’s because I actually sat down at the weekend and started planning what I want to do this year with my design business and even began mapping out a publication schedule! Not every month has some in it yet, but it will I hope.

I haven’t made resolutions this year, but I have set some goals. How’s your year shaping up so far?

Stay safe and keep knitting, K x

Here We Go Again

I’ve just re-read my post from this time last year. On Dec 22nd 2020 we had been told that non-essential shops were closing (again), and most people’s plans for Christmas had been curtailed, cancelled or, at the very least, altered in some way. Fast forward to today and we are in an exhaustingly similar position, but with Covid case numbers at a point I never imagined they would actually reach. I will be surprised if they don’t go over 100,000 cases a day this week. Ronnie (pictured) is clearly feeling it too.

So, I’m even more grateful to have had my booster jab last Tuesday. Side effects were one afternoon of being really cold and a couple of days of being foggy-headed (I forgot to go to the hair-dressers – and only remembered seven hours after the appointment!), which is fine by me considering what it might help me avoid. My lovely wife has managed to get hers as well. Thank you NHS Wales.

On a more creative note, I’ve been swatching like mad for my new design idea – I keep wanting to try out tweaks and different combinations of colours. I managed to get my responses to the tech edit that came in last week done, though it did involve a few more hours of number crunching. Fortunately the foggy head was wearing off by then!

The socks are so *very* nearly finished. Here they are. Just one toe to go, right?

A pair of almost completed hand knit socks on a wooden desk. The upper sock has needles in still and the toe is not yet made. The yarn is self-striping in yellow, blue, purple, red, green and pink, although the two socks do not start with the same colour.

Actually, no. I got the recipient (my lovely wife, of course!) to try the first one on, and the toe was a couple of rounds short. Not loads, but enough to feel a little tight. This would no doubt consign them to the back of the sock drawer, which is not the aim of knitting socks – they need to be worn and worn out with joy and comfort. So, once I have completed the second sock (later today), I will be undoing the first sock toe and re-knitting it to match. They’ll still be done in time.

I got some spinning in this morning for the first time in a week or so.

An overhead view of a spinning wheel with a half-filled bobbin of singles. The yarn is two shades of purple, with a more bluey shade in the top quarter of the bobbin. A chunk of grey-purple fibre rests on top of the wheel, on the band.

I’m not one hundred percent sure what’s happened to stop me spinning so regularly of late, but maybe it’s something to do with the big pile of knitting project bags by the sofa? It’s daft though, because I set the timer for 20 minutes on my phone this morning and got a good chunk of fibre spun up. It’s much more productive than spending the same amount of time playing games on your phone and that is SO easy to do (and then some).

There was a request for dystopian sci-fi recommendations on Twitter recently and I remembered a book called Wool, by Hugh Howey that stayed with me long after I had read it. Having recommended it I then looked it up as an audiobook and I’m right back in that world, just over halfway through. Quite why listening to dystopian fiction seems appropriate right now I couldn’t tell you, but maybe it’s something to do with the national mood?

I’m hoping to be with mum over Christmas as long as the lateral flow tests keep showing negative and we don’t get told we can’t travel. Whatever you’re planning, I hope you enjoy it and stay safe at the same time.

See you on the other side – my next blog post will be Jan 4th 2022, when it will be marmalade making season again! Kx

Snowdrop

The first snowdrop is in flower in the garden! It’s called Gabriel and is one of the earliest, always flowering before Christmas. Seeing these always lifts me – they are so delicate and yet so very resilient. I couldn’t understand how they survived the frost and snow until Mum told me that they contain their very own version of anti-freeze.

Why are booster jabs like buses? You wait for ages for one and then two turn up at once! On Sunday evening I received a text message giving me an appointment date in January for my booster. Then, yesterday evening I got another text offering an opportunity to book one sooner if I wanted to, by clicking on the link. So, my booster jab will be happening this afternoon! Don’t worry, the whole text message thing isn’t dodgy – I’ve had all my notifications from NHSWales this way.

This has made me replan today a little, just in case I feel a bit ropey later on, but that is a benefit of being self-employed; I can organise my time to suit, which makes me very lucky indeed.

The knitted baubles are in the post, as are two wooden coasters that were ordered last night. If you are thinking of ordering a kit or anything else that needs to be posted for Christmas please do so by the end of this week (17th December). The lady at the post office thought I should sell the baubles (I’d need to develop my own base pattern to do that, but that is fine), although I’m not sure people would pay for the time/skill involved. Would you purchase one of these? If so, what would you be willing to pay? Answers in the comments please!

My sock knitting is on schedule as I finished one yesterday and started the second. I should get some more done later while I wait for my jab.

I’ve also made progress with two of my Fasten Off Yarn-a-Long pattern purchases! Gridlock Mitts by Karen Butler is now into the main colourwork (that was during Only Connect last night).

Water Dragon Wrap/Shawl by Red and the Wolf Designs is skipping along. I began with 140 sts and currently have 340 sts on the needle. The increasing will continue for a while yet and that will mean the rows get slower, but it’s great telly knitting!

The first deadline project that was due at the end of November has now had its first tech edit and has come back to me to be checked. This is where I get to see if I can remember how to use ‘track changes’ in Word…

My other secret deadline project (so no pics) is also coming on, though I haven’t touched it for a couple of days while I’ve been knitting other things – I’m still totally in love with the yarn though and plan to knit a lot of it in the next few days!

And… I’ve been swatching for another design and I’m really quite excited by how it’s working out. The submission deadline for this one is early next year and I’m keeping everything crossed that they want it. ๐Ÿคž

It’s getting a bit scary again out there with Covid-19, so please take care and do the things you know will keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible. K x

Good with my Hands

Somehow, despite being away from home for three days during the past week, I have managed to do quite a lot of knitting! I’ve finished two projects, started another and worked on yet three more (two of which I can’t show you). As part of the Fasten Off Yarn-a-Long I’ve bought four patterns (supporting other designers and because these patterns are awesome!) and matched them all up with yarn from the stash (yay!).

The main image for today’s post is one of my project bags from The Knitting Goddess. Yes, it’s a bit cheeky; yes, I like it!

Treble clef baubles:

Woodstock:

Sock! (Heel flap completed, heel turn is next):

Gridlock Mitts by Karen Butler (one of my pattern purchases as part of Fasten Off Yarn-a-Long):

As I got to the end of the cuff on these I realised that I had reversed the Main Colour and Contrast Colour stitches. I ‘fixed’ it by fiddling the set up round before the main colourwork chart began by moving the start of the thumb gusset to the first two sts of the round instead of the last two, as I could see from the photos that the edging of the thumb gusset was supposed to grow organically from one column of ribbing in the same colour. If I hadn’t worked those extra two stitches, the thumb gusset would have been sitting awkwardly on top of a column of differently coloured stitches.

Do you remember that last week I told you all about the Fasten Off Yarn-a-Long and that there would be games? One of these is bingo and I’ve just been filling in my bingo card – it’s looking good! A column completed already and two rows nearly done!

Yesterday we had BT Openreach here to upgrade our broadband. I hadn’t quite appreciated that it would involve the engineer scaling the nearest telephone pole and actually putting new cable from there to our house, but it did. He drilled holes where he had to and persevered through phone calls and lots of trial and error when the broadband didn’t seem to want to work at all after all that effort. Three hours of work and we now have super speedy fibre broadband and a… digital phone…?!?! That last bit threw me a little – I didn’t realise that our old phone simply wouldn’t work any more as the old copper wires were gone and the new ‘wires’ are made of glass. The new phone is nice, though I’m not sure about the Alexa feature – and I’ve chosen not to enable that yet.

I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks this week as well – Terry Pratchett’s Snuff accompanied me on my long car drive and over the past couple of days I’ve been listening to The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I wasn’t sure about this one to start with, but the more I listened the more I got into it and I was very pleased with the ending. I do like an ending that brings things together and feels satisfying.

Audrey2 has been been behaving very well recently and you can see how well she’s doing in the photo below (the jar behind the loaf). I started a loaf yesterday that was baked at midday today and looks gorgeous:

And now I’m going to go and make some sourdough banana bread. This will have two benefits – we have a couple of elderly bananas in the kitchen somehow, and Sue and I both fancied cake yesterday and there wasn’t any. There will be soon.

Stay safe, keep knitting and do what makes you happy! K x

Silent Night

Last Sunday was Advent Sunday, so we put the Christmas tree up and decorated it. It took a little bit longer this year (maybe we’re a bit older?), but it was good.

A couple of hours after we had finished, the power went out. Storm Arwen did most of her damage on Friday night in our area, so we were surprised to get a power cut on late Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t the tree – we checked and the whole street and most of the town was in darkness.

It’s not until something as ‘invisible’ as electricity goes that you realise how much you rely on it. The heating went off as the boiler itself is powered by electricity. All the lights, except one USB chargeable lamp, went out. We couldn’t make a cup of tea.

So we scrabbled about in the dark to find the small candlesticks and the taper candles and lit three of those. Once it got chilly we lit the gas fire (ignition is battery powered and it had its service less than a week ago!). Carrying the candles into the kitchen to make a quick stove top casserole, we discovered the ignition on the hob is run off the mains, so back to the matches to get that on. We lit the candelabra with the multi-coloured candles that has been on the dining table in the kitchen unused for ages. Going to the bathroom meant taking one of the candles with us.

But it was so quiet. We sat and did a crossword by candlelight and talked. The constant hum of electrical equipment that is always on the edge of our awareness had stopped and it was peaceful.

A free standing Christmas decoration of a plaster sheep, with a rug over its back, with a cat sleeping on the rug and a small red bird sitting on the cat, stands on a base that is inscribed with the text "Sleep in Heavenly Fleece" is on the mantlepiece. Behind it part of a red and white glass clock and a small china Santa can be seen.

The power cut only lasted two and a half hours for us – barely anything compared to the four days some people in Wales have endured. But it made us stop, reflect and be grateful for the many things we still did have and were able to do (even without electricity for a little while). When the power came back on (as we sat down to eat and just in time for the Strictly results show) we were glad, but there’s something in that still quietness we had imposed on us that I don’t want to lose.

Today sees the start of the Fasten Off Yarn-a-Long for 2021 which runs until the end of the year. The discount code (valid from 9pm tonight EST until 11.59pm 6th December EST) is FO2021 and gives the same 25% discount for all patterns (well over 2000) from all the designers who are involved – that’s 101 of us. My page for the event is here.

In knitting progress, I’m back on track with the socks – the first leg is finished and I’ve started the heel flap.

A stripy sock in progress is shown on maroon fabric. The beginnings of the heel flap in blue show at the top of the work. Part of a hand is visible holding the sock flat.

I emailed my pattern with four days to spare before the deadline. I’m almost halfway through the sample for my second secret knitting and last night I knitted a bauble. I used the blank chart at the back of Arne & Carlos’ 55 Christmas Balls to Knit book to create a treble clef design and I’m quite pleased with it. I’ll be making two as Christmas gifts. It’s been a couple of years since I last made one of these baubles and I’m glad I still have the book to refer to for the shaping.

A hand knitted stranded Christmas bauble lies on maroon fabric. The background is cream with two bright red treble clefs showing. The bauble has not yet been stuffed and finished.

I’ve also cast on another design-in-progress of mine as I’ve decided to knit a sample in my size as I finish the write up of the pattern – partly to check the numbers and pattern writing and partly to get a new jumper! Unfortunately this is another thing I can’t show you yet, but I can show you the yarn I’m using. It’s Fleece by West Yorkshire Spinners, a really smooth DK yarn in Bluefaced Leicester wool – I’ve done the ribbing of the back so far and it’s working up beautifully. The colour is called Bramble.

A skein of deep purple yarn lies diagonally on a pale gold carpet. The text on the white ball band says "West Yorkshire Spinners/ Fleece/ 100% British Wool/ Bluefaced Leicester/ DK".

The really tricky decision for today will be which of these projects do I take with me to my mum’s for the next few days? Actually, I think I know the answer to that – all of them.

Take care, have a look at the Fasten Off Yarn-a-Long (it’s for crocheters as well as knitters), wear your mask and stay safe out there. K x

Slow Down

I managed to log myself out of my own website about half an hour ago and have only just managed to get back in. First world problems, I know, but it was frustrating – and there are exciting things I want to tell you about!

(You know when you end up swearing at the computer and have five tabs open that all purport to help you change your password, but just seem to send you round in circles, that you probably need to take five minutes to breathe!)

Anyway…

As you can see from the main pic, the sourdough is going well – lunch was delayed until this one was cool enough to cut! But on to the knitting stuff…

The Fasten Off YAL logo, a black globe/ball of thread with one crochet hook and one knitting needle poking through it at angles. At the bottom right a black curved line with a frayed edge like an end of yarn moves away from the ball.

Have you heard about Fasten Off Yarn-a-long 2021? It’s a month-long community event for both knitters and crocheters that takes place completely off Ravelry (which as we know has many accessibility issues on its website and many people struggle to use it since its redesign). You can get involved on Instagram, Twitter and Discord and there will be games and prizes up for grabs.

There are over 80 independent designers participating, of whom I am one, and the first part of the YAL involves a great big pattern sale!! Designers decide which of their paid patterns to include in the event and they get a 25% discount during the period of the sale which runs from 30th November to 6th December.

I’ve decided to include ALL of my paid patterns that I have the rights to (even the collections); so that’s everything except Nevern Throw, Of Night and Light (I get the rights back in January for these two) and Soft Syncopated Brioche Scarf (which is free anyway). All my patterns are on Payhip, Lovecrafts and Ravelry.

As Fasten Off Yarn-a-long is intended to be inclusive and accessible, only patterns that are available somewhere other than Ravelry will be included. Unfortunately, Lovecrafts doesn’t offer designers the option of adding a discount code, so the code (which I’ll post next week) will be valid only in my Payhip store, but it’s a great opportunity to bag a fab discount!

What else has been going on? Well, I’ve finished the pattern for next week’s deadline. Hurrah! I’ll probably only check it over another five times before I convince myself it’s ready to email. It looks great and I’m really excited about it and I can’t believe I have to wait until June to show you!! Why is the deadline so far ahead of publication? This company (in the US) does their own sample knitting as well as the tech editing and photography, so they need to allow time for their test knitters to make the items as well as all the other steps in the process. Being in the US I am truly grateful they have this system as I would be very nervous of posting a finished sample all the way over the Atlantic. All I need to send them is the pattern and other associated files.

My other secret project is growing too – this one WILL be posted off, but it’s staying in the UK and the deadline isn’t until April. It’s nearly a quarter complete though and I am very happy with how the stitch patterns are behaving in this yarn.

A hat in progress lies on a light gold coloured carpet. The hat is a sideways knit beret in shades of pink, purple and white like raspberry ripple.

My hat (above) also grew by another panel over the weekend, as we had a big adventure in Manchester. My lovely wife has a poem out in a new book called ‘Queer Writing for a Brave New World’, published by Out On The Page and there was an event for contributors at The Modernist, followed by drinks at No.1 Canal Street. All of which was very good and also very good knitting time for me ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿงถ! It was strange being in a big city again – something we haven’t done since before Covid and I was glad we worked out a route from the car park to the shop via the roads parallel to the main streets, so we avoided as much of the crowds as we could. By the way, if you like poetry, photography and other writing, there’s a launch on Zoom tomorrow evening!.

And with this gorgeous photo I shall finish for today.

Stay warm, stay safe and keep knitting. K x

Raspberry Beret

Much knitting progress has happened this week and I can actually share some of it with you today!

I am really enjoying my Get Garter Beret from Woolly Wormhead and I am now two thirds complete on it, having worked four of the six panels. It’s a sideways knit beret that’s also on the bias and the crown shaping is achieved with short row shaping. When I had done two panels I was convinced it was never going to be big enough, but with four completed I am a lot more confident. The yarn, Neps and Tatties from Ewe & Ply in ‘Raisin Girl’ is fantastic and I really like the little ‘neps’ in cream and brown that randomly poke out of the surface of the knitting.

Sue has been asking for a Woodstock (Snoopy’s pal) from the kit that came with Knit Now Issue 133. Last night I knitted all the pieces, which took just over half an hour. I think it’s going to take longer than that to assemble! It doesn’t look much like Woodstock at the moment, just seven small, scrappy bits of knitting… Hopefully by next week I’ll have something more bird shaped to show you.

The baking is continuing and my loaves are getting quite consistent now which is very encouraging! I think the problem previously was a combination of too much water and over-proving the dough. I’ve even managed to use up most of the jar of discard I accumulated while getting Audrey2 up to full strength; this week we’ve had vegan sourdough banana bread and seeded sourdough crackers, both of which have been lovely. I haven’t taken any photos of them though.

On the ‘secret knitting’ front, I have finished the first item!! Half of it has been blocked and the other half is currently taking up residence on the lounge floor. It took me an hour and a quarter to pin out this morning. The trickiest part was in working out what measurements to pin it to. I know the final measurements I want, but I also knew that this particular project would ‘relax’ after being unpinned, so I needed to block it larger than I wanted it to end up. Adding 10% to the width seems to have done the trick.

On Sunday I cast on for the second secret project. I’d done two rows when it occurred to me that as I’d not used this yarn before (and the ball band says it whitens and fluffs up after washing and blocking) it would be a good idea to do a couple of swatches to make sure the needle size I’d originally intended to use would work with this yarn. I tried the intended size and a couple of sizes larger in case any ‘fluffiness’ obscured the design. Both actually looked good, although the original needle size gave the main fabric more stability, so I’ve stuck with it and now I’ve done a couple of inches of the main project. It’s going to be gorgeous though I say it myself.

Do you remember I said that this yarn had been spun ‘in the grease’ and smelt wonderfully sheepy? Having lanolin still in the fibres has already had a good effect on my hands and some of the splits are healing – hurray! I’m looking forward to getting really stuck into this project and also hoping to try out some more of their yarns in the future. I’m also looking forward to being able to show you what I’ve been doing – but it will be another seven months before I can do that!

At least five of the roses are still in flower and the fuchsias are looking very blousy! It’s weird how warm it still is a lot of the time (sometimes it seems warmer outside than in!), and the birds are really enjoying themselves in the bushes, pecking little creatures from the stems. Various parts of the garden still need tidying up before the winter, like doing the last mow and cutting down the crocosmia, and I’m hoping the weather continues to hold until after I’ve met my first deadline which is just under two weeks away.

That’s all from me today. Stay safe and do more of what makes you happy. K x

What a difference a ply makes!

I’m not sure I will ever get over the thrill of seeing fluffy fibre turn into actual, knit-able yarn. Or the fact that I seem to be able to achieve this magic trick myself now.

This afternoon I balled up the yarn I finished spinning last week, using my ball winder and swift (wonderful time- and wrist-saving inventions!). This was not because I intend to use it imminently, but because I wanted to get a better idea of the colour changes, especially in the larger skein. That’s the fractal spun one.

Two skeins of handspun yarn lie on a wooden desk. The one in the upper part of the image is much larger than the other. They are spun from the same fibre and are a mix of yellow, green, maroon and purple/blue. The upper skein is 2-ply and mostly has different colours in each strand. The lower skein is 3-ply and mostly has the same colour in all strands.

How does fractal spinning work? Well, you take a braid of fibre and split it lengthways, keeping the two pieces as equal as possible. One of those lengths will be spun as it is, with no further splitting. But then you take the other piece and split that in half, and then take one of those pieces and split that in half as well! All these splits take place lengthways down the fibre, so each division gives you a narrower piece of fibre, but they are all the same length and hopefully all have all of the colour changes. This gives you one piece that is 1/2 the width, one that is 1/4 and two that are 1/8.

On one bobbin you spin the widest piece, the half. One the other bobbin you spin the other pieces; I did both smallest pieces first followed by the 1/4 width one. After spinning these as singles they are ready to be plied together. Because there is less fibre of each colour at a time (thinner, remember?) on the 1/4 and 1/8 width bobbin the colours here will change more rapidly. This means that when you ply them together you get the colour changes happening on both strands of yarn, but at different rates, giving a very dramatic result! Shown below is the bobbin with rapid colour changes which I spun first, with the remaining fibre draped around the flyer. The Southdown fibre (that’s the sheep breed) was hand-dyed by Katie Weston of Hilltop Cloud and was a delight to work with.

A bobbin with singles on it shown horizontally and still on the wheel surrounded by the remaining unspun fibre. The yarn and fibre is in blocks of maroon, yellow, purple, rust and mossy green.

Of course, my initial split of my fibre wasn’t exact and I ended up with quite a bit of the single ply yarn with the longer colour changes left over. I decided to try chain plying this to create a 3-ply yarn (thicker than the 2-ply fractal) that changed colour very gradually. To chain ply you make a big loop and pull a strand of yarn through it, creating a new loop through which you pull a strand of yarn – it’s a bit like a giant crochet chain, which is being twisted as it goes onto the spinning wheel. Because it’s all coming off the same bobbin there are some places where one strand of the three is a slightly different colour (that would be the strand pulled through the loop) and it gives a fabulous graduated effect. Also, a really nice plump yarn! Next time I do some chain plying I will make a little video as I think that would make my explanation clearer.

I didn’t initially sit down to write a whole post about spinning today, but it seems I have. There has also been lots of knitting on one of my ‘secret’ projects this week, which of course I can’t show you or tell you much about, other than that I have started the final piece of it and completed the numbers for the pattern. I promise to have also knitted something else by next week that I *can* show you!

The yarn arrived for my other commission piece (aka secret project 2) last week as well. It’s been spun in the grease and smells wonderfully sheepy! I’m really looking forward to getting started with that, but again it will something that I can’t share with you until next June and that feels like a very long way away at the moment!

Audrey2 is behaving well and I got a beautiful loaf on Friday – I’m hoping for a repeat performance later on today.

A malted sourdough boule sits on greaseproof paper. In the background is an earthenware salt pot.

And I even spent an hour in the garden this morning, clearing the vegetable patch of weeds and spent plants!

That’s all from me for today. Stay safe and I hope you are able to do some things that make you happy this week. K x

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