Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I got the DSM to use the video function on my digital camera to illustrate this post, which he did to very good effect. But we shall have to make do with just a still, because despite having as I thought a replacement codec for the original software, the dang thing wouldn't play. I did try to upload it to Google video, but that didn't seem to be working either. I will have another go, and if I can get it to work, will add it here later.

So, what am I doing that I wanted a vid for?

Having finished the Polwarth, I started some very nice corriedale top. It felt so different to my fingers - nice, but different. So I decided that I would spin it rather thicker than I normally do, it would make a change and the discipline is good for me.

It's going like a dream, and I am very happy with the yarn so far. So I thought I would make a note of the useful points to remember when spinning thicker.

It never ceases to amaze me that very good and experienced spinners often don't seem to be aware of the importance of the ratios on their wheels. To spin thicker, I have set my Schacht up with the driveband on the lowest/slowest ratio, which is, if I recall aright, around 6.5, as many wheels are. (I only have the two standard whorls for this wheel.) Because when spinning thicker, you need fewer twists per inch which seems paradoxical, but isn't.

Then, I need to remember that I need to consider the relative speeds of my hands and my treadling (actually, you need to do that no matter what you are spinning, but for our "usual" yarns, it tends to be automatic.) So I am using the trick that I often recommend to beginning spinners to help them let the yarn go on to the bobbin - for each downward movement on the treadle, I am drafting forward with my hands. Nice, slow, steady rhythm - very soothing.

The final point is the most important. In my "normal" drafting mode, the fingers of my forward hand will be pinching at the end of the yarn that has been formed to control the twist. For spinning a thicker yarn, I adjust that position so that my fingers are closed very definitely on the fibre. This gives me a broader platform or base to draft against. I hope the picture gives some indication of what I mean, but I'm not sure!

drafting thicka

I worked this out ages ago after really struggling with spinning a fatter yarn. And then, in the very next issue of Spin Off, there was an article about how to do it using this very method. I think by Rita Buchanan. I have had a look at the Spin Off online index, but I can't identify the article as yet. And I can't face getting my collection out and going through them all.........

Oh - and before anyone comments that this doesn't look all that think - it is for me! Plus, it will, even though worsted, pouff up some when plied and washed. (I wonder what the spellchecker will give me as an alternative for that, then, eh?)

I have been exceedingly virtuous and done a massive load of ironing whilst watching two episodes of CSI. I think I am on strike now.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A minor triumph

I have a rather sad habit. When I get to bed, first of all I read a while, then I like to plug in the iPod and knit a little bit. It's soothing, ok?

Last night, I was doing a round or two on the latest sock, which I thought was looking a bit narrow for my great plates of meat. So, I stuck my fist into it, and stretched it out - and it seemed ok. But - in the process, I noticed that I had dropped a stitch many rounds back. If I frogged it, I would have to probably redo all the instep stitches, and it isn't that I mind picking up (I actually rather like it) but this is a very splitty yarn, and it could get tedious.

So I decided to have a go at picking up the dropped stitch.


The first photograph I took of where the stitch was had way too much camera shake to use. This is actually after I had gone up four rows and the knitting was starting to get a bit tight. I have a feeling that this isn't quite the "correct" way to do this, but I needed several more hands than I had anyway, and hey, it was working!

Indeed, it worked....


Can't even see any puckering or distortion where it was. Definitely the right thing to do. Sometimes the simplest things can give the greatest satisfaction.

OK, so just feast your eyes on this - the view through my skylight window whilst fixing the sock.


I shall say little more, except that - there are one or two primroses out in the garden. Not as many as some years, at least so far. But that is mainly because of the major clearing being done. Our poor little garden, so sadly neglected last year, is being disinterred from the ruin. A sort of mini-Heligan? Er - no. But I can see that very soon we will be reaching the stage where we can start thinking about reconstruction and what to risk as a veggie crop. Having someone come in to help with this has been a very sensible decision that we have made!

Oh - and a workshop at Woolfest has been confirmed. So that is the last thing to squeeze into a very full year. It is starting to feel quite nice.......

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A tentative wave

I'm still here. I haven't drowned. There was some flooding down in the valley, though, for a while. Fortunately, the torrent eased, and we are back to normal precipitation.

Meanwhile, although nothing spectacular or innovative has leapt into birth, I am plodding on and getting a quiet satisfaction from it.

The shrug is slooooowly growing. I knit on, trying to drown out the small voice that is saying in my ear that I may not have a sufficiency of yarns to do what I have in mind (whatever that is, ahem). I really don't know. I have some more plain dark brown. I may even have, and must go hunting for, some more of the Royale Hare brown/ginger/tan mix. There was some - depends on if it all sold.

Speaking of RH - I finished this downstairs. Very pretty.

royale hare skein

I simply cannot, at the moment, remember what this colourway is. Neither am I sure what to do with it. I am doing "small projects" next time at the AH class, so I could start on something to fit in with that; I also contemplated digging out my rigid heddle loom and Being Brave. Some pondering to do.

Then, upstairs, I have finished the Rovings "Mojave". It looks lovely. I am sorry in a way that it is completed, I have enjoyed spinning it - a very nice prep that spun up easily, very good for restful and contemplative spinning.

These are some of the separate colours, a tad fuzzy, but then I suppose the fluff was!

mojave samples 2

And this is how it all came out.


I wanted to keep the colours distinct, as unblurry as possible, so it is navajo plyed. Because it drafted so nicely, I was able to spin it pretty fine and soft, and amazingly didn't ruin it at the plying stage. I did alter my wheel ratio to a slower one, I find that helps me a lot with navajo ply.

I have been thinking waistcoat all along through this spinning project, and haven't changed my mind yet (that's probably a first!) I even have a pattern in mind. I need to check it out.

Next on the upstairs wheel, I have drug out a large bag of rather nice corriedale top. I enjoyed my little bit of dyeing so much, I thought I might do some more, so - I need some plain white yarn, no?

Frankly, the possibilities are endless, and thank heavens for that.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

One to one

teaching is hard work! For both the participants. But I am pleased to say that I have helped launch another spinner into the world. She did very well - has issues that she is struggling with, but she knows the areas she has to work on and will get there. And that on two one hour sessions, which can't be bad.

She had the frequent problem yesterday of not letting the yarn go on to the wheel, but had practised overnight and coupled with the arrival of some pretty fluff from Freyalyn was much better by the time she finished.

I think this idea of using tops dyed in relatively small blocks of colour so that the student can actually see if the yarn they have spun is moving on to the wheel may prove to be a winner. I'll test run it again tomorrow at AH - I have three beginners!

The other two possible workshop dates for this year were confirmed yesterday. Our busiest year yet, I think. Each one is slightly different in format, so that will help keep it interesting. Mind you, every workshop is different anyway, with all sorts of characters involved and varying levels of experience. And the last of the orders for Woolfest was confirmed this morning, so I am feeling quite organised and pleased with myself. Well - I have made another enquiry about a different fibre and not yet had a response, but that is an add-on. In hand, anyway.

And, to warm up a dank and chilly day, some REDREDREDRED cashmere!! This is how it looks out of the dyepot and nicely dry and fluffy.

Now, I am pleased with this. The mixing of the colour might have been - well, non-existent - and non-technical, but the actual process went and has turned out well. Serendipitously, a good depth of shade, but most importantly completely even in coverage and not at all felted. I was very careful - didn't prod just turned everything over very carefully, brought it all up to temperature gently and left it to cool overnight in the dyebath. As a result, the take-up was almost complete, very little colour left in the pot and very little wash-out when I rinsed. And I love the colour.

Plus, matches the boots pretty dam' well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy New Year

I'm ringing out the old and ringing in the new. Puzzled?

It is a year since the DSM frightened the bejasus out of all of us. It doesn't seem like it.

I have made no secret of the fact that it has been something of a rollercoaster of a year, and if this low-key anniversary means saying goodbye to the bad parts and refocussing on the good, then I shall be eternally thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for, after all. He has made an excellent physical recovery, and come a very long way with the rest of it. We have learned to value one another all over again, and to value the enormous number of things that are good in our joint and several lives. To make strenuous efforts to be nice to ourselves. There really has been far more good than bad.

Then, this new year promises to be an interesting one. I can only hope not too exhausting! We have four definite and one possible workshops lined up, and maybe other teaching as well. Woolfest, of course, very nearly organised even this early in the game. And there will be a trip of some description. Too early to say what as yet. There may be other surprises in store as well, but I'm not saying what as yet.

And come October, we will officially be a very old married couple - you wouldn't believe how many years it is! I would run a competition, like guessing how many beans in a jar, but I think some of you already know. Perhaps I'll come up with something else......

So, not complacency, but certainly gratitude. Happy New Year, us.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What's this coming over the hill?

No, not a monster....a modicum of creativity.

Jan sock

First sock of the year on the needles. Waffle stitch, and looking rather nice. May take quite a while to complete as the yarn (Chameleon Colorworks) is very fine and I am using a small size needle to get a fabric I like. Then I go and try to knit in the car on Saturday when not on the motorway, make a mistake and make myself queasy into the bargain, which put me off for a bit. Back in the saddle now, though.

dye pot

On mature reflection, it probably wasn't a good idea to hang the camera directly over the still-steaming dyepot. Ah, well.

As you can see, I went with the advice given. I had intended to do something rather more adventurous, but when I came to dive into the dye stash, I found some plastic milk bottles with dyestocks in left over from my last dyeing class at AH. So it seemed prudent to use some of that up before it went funny. So, merely Gaywool Tomato, I'm afraid, but actually it seems to have come up a really good colour. So maybe not so bad after all. I'll fish it out and wash tomorrow, I'm being good and going for maximum dye take-up by leaving to cool overnight.

shrug sample

This is the yellow/brown collection finally on the needles, too. The photograph should show the hem - considering I was too obstinate to go get a book and therefore invented both provisional cast-on and how to do the hem anyway - coming up not so dusty. The former didn't work - had to unpick each stitch, but I had used a slick coton perle so that was easy enough. The hem, as said, looks ok.

And thus far, the colours of yarn are working well together. I have one more shade to add, that will be the decider. But I don't think there will be sufficient for a generous shrug for me if I don't use it, so fingers crossed.

I am also being bold and making it up as I go along. I have made the odd note, but mostly I am just going with the flow. My intention is to knit from both cuffs and then graft in the middle. And I do not intend to match the two halves - asymmetry rules, ok? I really can't decide if this is inspired or lunacy. Or both, of course.

Maybe it will be a monster after all.......

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Water torture

Chinese water torture, we were told in my youth. A figure, shackled into total immobility, with a single drip of water falling endlessly onto his forehead, until he breaks. Or goes mad. Or both.

It is strange. I do, in fact, love water. I lingered in my shower this morning, as I do often, letting the hot water beat onto my back. An easing of discomfort. I often think, in my cliched fashion of "the benison of hot water". Which I had always thought was a quote from Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I now find, courtesy of the internet, is Rupert Brooke.

I love the sea, passionately. I get to it not anywhere near as often as I would like. I photograph it when I do.


By this particular beach there is a cottage, almost on the very shore. I would live there, if I could.

Then there are rivers. Crimsworth Dean Beck, that runs a few yards in front of this cottage, sings us to sleep most nights, even when sunk low in its own rocky bed. It meets Hebden Water only a few yards further on, and continues over the weir.


I even can find affection for rain like this at times. Not often; the circumstances contribute, I suppose.

Rainy window 1

If I turned my camera on my own windows now, it would look something like that. A different kettle, and the fish would love it, no doubt. I do not. Neither do many others. Town today was deserted, nearly, and those who where venturing out all talked about the same thing. The incessant rain, and fears about the state of the river - the same one that passes us up here, but in the valley, with all the collected water and no deep rocky bed to pass safely through.

I turn to the internet for rain poems, and find page after page of entries, people pouring out their thoughts along with the rain. Grey, grey, grey, rain, rain, rain, help, help, help. I found a blog entry, dated this time last year, from a woman in Finland, bemoaning the endless days of low grey skies and continual rain, the lack of bright blues and crisp, white frost. At least we have had a very few of those. I think........

That's it. I at least can stop - now.

I'll tell you when the rain does.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Guess what! It's raining!

And that is positively all I am going to say on the subject.

Now, who knew?

croc boots


Oh, calloo, callay. My insteps and calves make regular wellies a problematic fit, mostly. I can hardly ever get any, and at the moment am reduced to wellie feet, which whilst good for gardening are not much use for tramping about around here in the wet. Friday, I saw these in Ruby Shoesday, today I went back. The last pair in my size, and a brilliant fit.

I am deliriously happy. I can be pleased by little things.

This is a good thing.

Now. Yarn.

pink AF yarns

Nice enough, but I'm not totally happy with the quality of the spinning. The top was very slightly compacted from the dyeing, or possibly storing, and I didn't pay sufficient attention to the spinning. Ah, well, I think I know what I am going to do with it, so that is something.

Then these, the shrug yarns. What looks purplish on my monitor is actually dark brown.


And now, she realises, having lost what I thought was this photo somewhere whilst filing it, retrieving it rather cleverly from my Recycle Bin...only, I've grabbed slightly the wrong one, it should be turned around. Not to worry. No biggie.

I'm even thinking about picking up pencil and paper and attempting a design for this, instead of using one of the patterns I have queued on Ravelry. Maybe. Or not.

And finally, the first FO of the year.

cashmere fingerless

The cashmere and silk fingerless mitts to go with the previously finished scarf. Now to decide what colour to dye them. I have no idea at all. Perhaps I need to go and see what dyes I have - I may even have some Lanaset hanging around somewhere - and see what nice shade I can come up with.

I still think it qualifies as a FO, though.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Road trip, road trip

We finally made the trip to Liverpool we had been promising ourselves. Well, strictly speaking, Albert Dock, and not anywhere else in the city. This year, the Liverpool Tate has hosted the exhibition of the Turner Prize nominees, and I was determined to go.

This may seem a little odd. I have oh so very often been heard waxing lyrical about the TP (sic?) But it seemed to me that if I was going to have a strong opinion about something and have the chance of experiencing it for real, and not take said chance, then I was an idiot. And besides, we both like doing the art gallery bit. Not to mention the lunch (there is always lunch.)

So we went.

The first thing that happened was weird. The DSM had at the last minute grabbed a scarf to wear, as it was a cold day. It just so happened that his hand fell on to his college scarf rather than one of the many handspun, hand knitted ones there are around the place. So, as we walk into the building, this voice says loud and clear "Queens' College, Cambridge?" and it turns out that the people just exiting are a party of friends who meet up from time to time who all went to the same place. Blimey. Coincidence or what? Nearly ten years after him, though, so not too many opportunities for fond reminiscences.

Oh, and let's just get the lunch out of the way. Lovely. Perfect Southport potted shrimps, succulent and spicy. Sourdough toast. (Chips...in a small voice) A glass of reasonable rose. And then an interesting dessert of Chorley cake (like Eccles but flatter and better) with Kirkhams Lancashire cheese. Very scrummy. He had different, but I can't remember what......

To the knitty gritty. I liked it better than I had thought I would. I have to say, I had read that this year's array was more accessible than many recent ones. The fake bonfires with red paper flames left me slightly chilly, but the maze/light installation in between was pretty cool. I liked the photographs and particularly liked the video by the same person, which may well have been because it was focusing on a fibre and I spent the duration working out what it was. Nearly got it. Sisal, not jute, as I had thought.

I won't go through the entire thing. I am glad it didn't involve any dead animals or rumpled beds. I'm sorry I can't show any photos, not allowed to take them.

So make do with these.




Rather a nice place, Albert Dock. It reminded me quite a lot of the Navy Pier in Chicago, where we once spent a nice day waiting for the evening flight home (no, not from there, before we went out to the airport!) Several good-looking eating places, and not too much tourist tat.

I should also say that downstairs, there was still - last day but one - a small exhibition of Bridget Riley works. I love Bridget Riley, and an old friend was there, one I used to spend ages gazing at years ago when I was working in London and visiting the then one and only Tate in my lunch hour. At least, I think it was the same one - one of the vertical stripe series, anyway.

Hey, it's about my bedtime, especially after a day out. I might continue the waxing lyrical about Emperor's new clothes's (in all sorts of spheres) on another occasion. For now, I enjoyed my day of culture, and that will suffice.