Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Has it REALLY been that long?

I can't believe it's been 16 months since I last blogged.

What happened?  Life happened, that's what and I fell off the blogging bike and didn't manage to get back on again.

However, things have calmed down now and so I shall start posting things about my crafting again.

Nothing drastic or bad happened over the last 16 months, it was simply that life got much busier. 

Both daughters started the last year at their respective schools in September 2017.  This meant that a couple of months before that, DD1 started considering which universities to look round and apply to.  We spent three days and two nights away from home, attending the Open Days at three of her possibilities and she went to look at another one with her school.  Then came writing her Personal Statement for her UCAS application (I hadn't realised how important that is).   She also had mock A-level exams and sat the Cambridge University entrance exam.  Then came university interviews and offers.  Of the five universities she applied to, four asked her to go for an interview and one gave her an unconditional offer without interview (if she put it as her first choice).  She was offered conditional places at three of her choices and got a rejection from Cambridge (there were tears, but she soon got over it).  Then came final choices and finally she sat her A-levels and we then waited for Results Day and were delighted when she got 3 A*s and an A which meant she comfortably fulfilled her first-choice offer and just over five weeks ago she and I went to London so she could move into the Halls she'd been allocated and start her degree in Physics at Imperial College London.  I can't express in writing how proud we are of her and her achievements so far and how hard she's worked to get where she is :)  She calls a couple of times a week (I think now that she's halfway through the first term and the excitement of the first couple of weeks is finished she's feeling a little bit homesick) and seems to have settled in really well and sounds as though she's met some very nice people.

As for DD2, she had to move from the SEN school she'd been at since a week after she turned 5 to somewhere else that offered a suitable place for her special needs.  In short, I narrowed it down to one place and told the local education authority that if they couldn't confirm a place there, we'd have to think about the private school owned and run by the National Autistic Society (which costs lots of £ a year).  She started at the school (sorry - College - we're not allowed to call it School!!) at the beginning of September and has settled in well, helped by knowing three girls she used to be at school with who are a year older than she is.  It wasn't an easy transition as she was resistant to changing schools, but we got there in the end, but had some bumpy moments.

So, life has now calmed down and we've adapted to our new routine, so feel able to start blogging again, which means I need to dust off my proper camera and make sure it's got an SD card in it!

I'll 'speak' to you again soon


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Some finished things

A quick round-up of some finished projects.

First off, I finished my latest Attic24 Neat Ripple blanket:


  • Yarn - Caron Simply Soft, bought from Wool Warehouse (list of colours on my Ravelry project page for this blanket).
  • Ten ripple repeats wide and - I think - there were 12 rows of each colour.
  • Colour sequence from the weighted random stripe generator on Biscuits & Jam .
  • The ends were 'filled in' to make the top and bottom edges straight before doing the border.
  • Amount of yarn used - just under 1.3kg, including ends (nearly 2,200 metres).

For the border, I used each colour, doing two rounds of treble crochet (US DC), then one round of double crochet (US SC), flipping the blanket over after each round so it didn't skew.  I finished off with a round of crab stitch/reverse double crochet.

I enjoyed using the stripe generator as after the initial fiddling about refreshing the page until it produced a sequence that I liked it took away the pressure of which colour to use next.  I also like the unevenness of the stripes.  Most are one stripe high, but there are some two-row and one or two three-row stripes as well.  I particularly like the top part of the blanket with the dark red, light beige, chocolate brown (which is a lovely colour and I never thought I'd say that about brown!), aqua and darker blue; those colours seem to play very happily together.

I've started another blanket, but more on that another time as it's a stash-buster and I've only done a few rows on it.

I've also finished a couple of pairs of socks in the last month:

A green pair from the Exmoor Bluefaced yarn I spun a couple of months ago:

These are fairly substantial due to the nature of the fleece, but feel nice on the feet and, to be honest, I'm quite liking these slightly heavier weight (in yarn terms) socks I've been making.  My default needle size for commercial fingering-weight sock yarn (Regia, Lorna's Laces, etc) is 2.25mm but I with the socks I've made from handspun yarn I've been using a 2.5mm or 2.75mm needle.

The other pair of socks I finished is from two balls of Regia Arne & Carlos which I've had in my stash since the yarn was first available to buy:

This is the second pair of socks I've made from this yarn (the first pair was in 2015 in the 3657/Summer Night colour and they've worn well as I'm wearing them today!).  This orangey/yellow colour is 3654/Twilight).

That's all my recent FOs.  I've got a busy day ahead as I'm off tomorrow morning for a couple of nights with DD1.  We're going to university open days in London (Imperial and UCL) and then Nottingham on Saturday, travelling by train and staying in hotels overnight :)  Part of my busy day includes finishing off the first sock in the pair I'm currently knitting so I can leave it at home and start knitting the second while I'm away.  I might put a ball of cotton yarn and a crochet hook into my bag as well (one can never have too many dish/wash cloths!).  I'll also be taking one of my spindles with me as the Tour de Fleece starts on Saturday and our train journey home is Nottingham to Norwich and then Norwich to home.  I've told DD1 that I won't make her go to Loop this time (but Liberty and maybe John Lewis may be on the cards if we end up on Oxford Street).  Ooh - I've just had a thought; Harrods isn't far from Imperial* and I wonder if they still have a craft/yarn department!!!!

*The college I attended was in South Kensington, so although it was many moons ago, it's an area I know fairly well.

See you soon :)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Spinning Round-Up: May

Late again!  No excuses; I just haven't got round to writing this entry.

I haven't got any spinning FOs to show for May.  I was going to say I've just been plodding on with my spinning, but that's not right because 'plodding' suggests it's a chore when the truth is, I've been enjoying what I've been doing.

The bright pink fluff is coming along and I finished the first single.  When I first started using my spindle, I hand-wound the yarn off onto the inside of a toilet roll, but that took absolutely ages to do, so now, I tape some thinnish card around the core of my yarn-winder and carefully wind off from the spindle, which takes about a third of the time.  Here's the first single:

The colours in this range from a very pale, almost-white pink through to that eye-searing bright pink on the outside of the cake.  I finished the second ply yesterday evening and have started on the third, so hopefully I'll have a finished yarn to show off at the beginning of July.

I've barely done any spinning on my Turkish spindle, so no photos of that.  I think I've spun a couple more rolags and I can see that the rolags I'm making are getting better with practice.

On my wheel, I've had progress on my sweater spin (yay!!).  I filled each of my six bobbins with 70g of spun fibre, which meant that I couldn't do any more until I'd plyed two of the bobbins together to make the final yarn:

Bobbins in a shoebox

First plyed skein of yarn!
Because each skein of yarn I'm making weighs 130-140g, I'm using my jumbo flyer and bobbin to ply the two strands of yarn into the final yarn and that means my legs are getting a good work-out.  In fact, I overdid it with that first skein as I plyed it all in one day, which was a bit silly because I've still got foot problems (plantar fasciitis in my right heel/sole).  That first skein weighs 129g and is 378m in length, pre-washing, so I think I'm going to need five skeins in total.  It'll be interesting to see how the yarn blooms once it's washed.  I've made four more 35g batts on my drum carder and have just started spinning those up.

I've also started a long-term project on my other top-whorl spindle (I bought two the same, thinking that DD2 might be interested in learning to spindle spin, but she wasn't).  I bought a 500g bag of mixed 'waste' fibre from World of Wool, so I've sorted it out into bundles of 30-35g according to colour and am going to spin each bundle into a single and will then make multi-coloured yarn by plying three singles together.  This is an 'upstairs' project, so I don't work on it as much as I do my 'downstairs' things (a few minutes while I'm waiting for the bath to fill, first thing in the morning while I'm waiting for the teasmade to do its thing, if I wake up in the night and don't want to read, etc).  The first bundle is purple:

Finally, not a WIP, but a new purchase.  I'd seen large spindles for plying on a couple of blogs, especially this one from Snyder Spindles (scroll down to see the photo), but the cost of post and packaging from the US, plus the probability of having to pay duty and post office handling fees meant I couldn't really justify ordering one, so I had another search on the internet and came across a UK company called Kerry Spindles, who makes a large-sized (68g or so) top-whorl spindle for plying.  I was going to put in a link, but I don't really need to because I've taken a photo instead:

Yes, I bought one!  I also took a photo of it next to one of my top-whorl spindles so you can see the difference in the sizes:

The new spindle (which is naturally purple - the wood is Purpleheart) is just under 4" in diameter and the lighter spindle is just under 2.5" in diameter.

In other spinning news, I've joined a team for the Tour de Fleece which starts on 1 July.  The team I'm spinning with is the Wool 'n Spinning one, from a blog/vlog and corresponding Ravelry group that I follow.  I've never done the Tour de Fleece before (link to the Ravelry group if you want to see what it's all about), so it should be fun.

So, that's my spinning summary for May.

I've got some knitting and crochet catching up blogging to do as well, which I'm hoping to do tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Spinning Round-Up: April

I'm a bit late this month, but this was because my husband took last week as annual leave from work, so my usual routine went out of the window simply because I was working around him!

So, what's been happening with me spinning-wise over the last month?  Well, there's been a bit, but not a huge amount.

I finished the brightly coloured Neptune roving from World of Wool and I'm quite pleased with it.

It's a 3ply yarn and these were the three balls of singles I made:

After plying and washing, the skein looks like this:

Here's a close-up:

From a distance, the yarn has an overall brown look to it, because there were so many colours in it.  I'll be interested in seeing how it knits up and if those colours and the barber-polling make the knitted fabric look more brown.  Time will tell.

Anyway, the skein weighs 93g and is 267m in length.  Not bad!

That was it for finished spinning in April.  As for Spins in Progress:

I bought a bump of a merino blend in various pinks (because it was on offer) and when it arrived, well, all I can say is WOW.  It didn't look *that* pink on-screen!  I've divided the fibre into thirds and have stripped it down into narrow strips, trying to separate the colours (not always successfully) and am spinning it into three singles which will be plyed together once it's all done (it's taking a while; I think it's the brightness putting me off):

It's brighter than this.  One of the colours is called Barbie!

I also got out my hand carders and some oddments of fibre I'd got and have been making rolags, just to practice (because I'm not very good at hand-carding and need to work on my technique) and am spinning those on my Turkish spindle.

As you can see, I haven't got very far with this, but pick it up and do a few twirls when I've got a free minute or two.

My big spin of the year is very slow-going and fairly time-consuming.  Because I'm making the batts I'm spinning, I have to first weigh the yarn for each batt (15g BFL, 10g silk, 5g Welsh, 5g merino) before putting them through my drum carder, carefully pulling them off and then putting it back through the carder a second time, to further blend the fibres.  After that, I then spin the batts (two batts per bobbin).  So, it's taking time and I'm not as enthusiastic as I could be because I don't keep my drum carder downstairs, so have to go and get it each time I want to make a new batch of batts (I've been making two at a time).  On top of that, I've developed a slight problem with my right foot (plantar fasciitis) and doing too much spinning on my wheel seems to be exacerbating that, so I'm having to pace myself (as well as doing the exercises I've been given).  So far, I've spun three bobbins of yarn, which is six batts and I've prepared another two batts.

I've no idea why the Wii board is against the wall; I've just noticed it!

I suspect that as it's black, that doesn't help as, let's face it, spinning something bright and colourful is much more exciting to do!  Still, get it done I shall and I am enjoying the whole process of making a sweater starting with a few bags of fibre.

I've also been using some more of my handspun, so will show that off soon as it's not quite finished yet!

I'm going to spend some time this morning finishing putting the warp threads on my long-neglected rigid heddle loom as I have a project in mind.  More on that another time as well.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Socks from Handspun

So, having produced some skeins of yarn on my spindles and wheel, I've recently got round to knitting with them, rather than putting them in a bag and adding them to my stash!

First off, was the spindle-spun grey/burgundy/lime green yarn which was the first I made on my drop spindle:

There's nothing particularly exciting about them.  Each strand of yarn was quite thin, so they look a bit tweedy.  What you can't see is that, at the cuff of one of them, the knitting gets much bulkier (and is therefore a bit wider than the other one), because that's the bit of grey yarn I spun first and it's lumpier than the rest!  No-one will see the cuff under my trousers though, so I'm not going to worry about it.

I finished the next pair of socks yesterday.  I'd like to say these were a labour of love but, if I'm being honest, it was more a case of "you're going to be socks if it bloody well kills me".

Several posts ago, when I did my February spinning round-up, I talked about this yarn and how I was disappointed with it.  It's Teeswater, which is a long-wool breed of sheep (in dog terms, think of Afghan Hound rather than Poodle).  I decided to go ahead and knit socks with it, but because I had less than 200m of yarn, I used a part-ball of dark green Colinette Jitterbug I had for the toes, heel and cuffs, otherwise I'd only be able to make ankle-length/tennis-style socks.

I haven't taken photos, but believe me, once I'd done the toe in the Jitterbug and was a few rounds into the foot, it felt like I was knitting with string.  It was horrible; even more horrible than I thought it would be.  So, I sighed a bit, put the knitting aside and had a think.  I decided to unply the yarn a bit, to make it less twisty and twine-like and then see how that went.  As my wheel was busy, I did the un-plying on my spindle (that's 3 or so hours I won't get back!) then re-skeined the yarn, washed it again and left it to dry.

I'd only ripped back to where I'd joined the handspun yarn after knitting the toe, so I was saved having to re-knit 20 or so rounds and the less twisty yarn did feel softer to knit, so I was much happier.  Then I noticed the colour transitions were rather block-like.  By this point, I was beyond caring, so just carried on regardless and this is what the finished socks look like;

I know you're going to be very kind and say they look nice and it 's an achievement to have produced the yarn at all, but they're definitely a bit funny-looking and not something you'd want to visibly wear, so please don't think I'll be offended if you give me an honest opinion (and there's always the danger that if you're too nice, I might offer to send them to you!!!!!).

I'm half-hoping they'll fall apart during the first wear, or will felt horribly within a few weeks.

What's the betting they'll wear like iron and won't felt, break or anything else that happens to hand-knit socks and I'll be stuck with them for ages and ages?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Comfortable Feet

I don't know about you, but I hate having cold feet, which is why I like wearing hand-knitted socks so much (I can't remember the last time I wore shop-bought socks, to be honest; it's definitely been at least three years).  I especially dislike having cold feet when I take Jess for her walks around our area.

When Jess and are out walking, I usually wear wellies or in the summer, Croc-like clogs.  As part of where we usually walk is on the common ground behind our housing estate, I need footwear that's waterproof and (because *some* dog-walkers aren't very conscientious in their dog-walking duties) that can be hosed down if the need arises.  I don't find full-length wellies to be overly comfortable so, when my in-laws asked if there was anything I'd particularly like them to buy me as a Christmas present, I said I'd like some ankle-length wellies, preferably some snazzy, patterned ones.  Being a good son and spouse, hubby looked online for his mother and on Christmas Day, I unwrapped a box and in it was these:

You can imagine how pleased I was to receive them; they were just what I wanted.

I happily wore them, feeling ridiculously happy when I caught sight of them when I looked down and saw them sticking out from the bottom of my jeans.

However..... there was a catch and it's a catch that I've often found with other pairs of wellies I've owned.

Before too long, the thin fabric on the top of the insoles (which was bright pink) started to come away from the thin foam bottom layer and every time I took my feet out of the boots, the insole started to come out as well, and started to get wrinkled, needing to be flattened out and put back in place before I could wear them again.

So, I looked online for replacement insoles but a. they were quite expensive and b. the ones I found looked as though I'd have the same problem with them.  I then remembered that I'd been able to buy replacement sheepskin insoles for the suede Ugg-type boots hubby had bought me years ago from New Zealand, so I looked online to see if I could buy something similar.  Blimey, those had gone up in price since the last time I bought some and I couldn't justify the cost.

It was then that I had a brainwave!  I have a large stash of yarn and I knew I had a random 100g skein of some Rowan chunky-weight yarn in a mid grey that I had no plans for (I think someone gave it to me).  So, out came a large crochet hook and I crocheted up a rectangle of fabric.

Then the 'fun' started.  I put the crocheted square into the washing machine and ran it through a cycle, but it didn't felt as much as I wanted it to.  So, I put it in the tumble dryer on high heat.  Still not felted enough.  Back into the washing machine, this time with some towels and through the dryer again.  Still too much stitch definition.  I filled the washing up bowl with hot water and washing-up liquid and I punished the fabric, rubbing it and scrubbing it until I was happier with it (although it was now a bit soapy) and then back into the washing machine (with more towels) for a final run and then a dry.  Hurrah!  Finally, I had felt.  A fairly hefty bit of felt.

I got a cereal box out of the recycling tub, took out one of the unsatisfactory insoles, smoothed it out on the cardboard and drew around it before cutting out the template.  Then, I took the dry rectangle of felted wool and drew around the cardboard template, turned the template upside down and drew around it a second time and cut out my new insoles:

That was a few weeks ago now, so I apologise that I'm showing you a photo of insoles that have seen my feet lots of times.

I put them into my boots before Jess and I went on our afternoon walk and, oh my goodness, what a difference.  They are *so* comfortable, as well as being warm.

They're so comfortable, in fact, that I'm thinking of making some more to go into the shoes I wear to work as my feet get pretty tired after a five-hour shift where I don't get to sit down for more than ten minutes.  Next time though, I think I'll knit the piece of fabric as I think it might felt better.

Comfy feet; there's no finer feeling!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

I have an inkling.....

... my newest crafting 'toy' is going to be fun!

You may have gathered from posts I've written that, while he complains about the amount of space my crafting paraphernalia takes up, my husband is a bit of an enabler as he keeps buying me equipment to use (spinning wheel, weaving loom and drum carder) as well as skeins of nice yarn and bags of fibre for spinning.  Well, at Christmas, the last present I was instructed to open (he wanted to keep it until last) was an Ashford Inkle Loom.  In case you don't know, inkle looms are small weaving looms, used to make straps and bands (Wikipedia entry).  The difference between this and weaving on a rigid heddle (or floor) loom is that the weft threads (the horizontal ones) are squeezed between the long, warp threads so they're invisible (or barely visible).  This creates a very firm fabric, which is what makes it good for items where you don't want any stretch (think guitar or bag strap).

I'd never even thought of buying an inkle loom and, to be honest, I was tiny bit disappointed because a. I didn't what I'd use it for and b. I was hoping for a tensioned Lazy Kate for spinning (maybe for my birthday; I'll drop strong hints!!!).  Hubby had also bought me a book of patterns to make on the inkle loom and I read through that, read lots online and - finally - got out the box and assembled the loom a couple of weeks ago.  Then I went stash-diving and pulled out some white cotton and some variegated green/yellow yarn which I was given and which I think is a wool/cotton sock yarn.

Warping for the first time (putting on the long threads) was, erm, 'interesting', not helped by DD1 deciding while I was doing it that she'd emerge from her room and come down for a chat!  I don't think it helps that I'm left-handed and the loom is right-handed biased (like many things), so winding the yarn around the pegs feels a bit awkward.  Anyway, I started weaving and soon got into a rhythm, once I'd got my head into inkle-weaving mode and beating the weft yarn down hard rather than rigid heddle-weaving mode where the warp and weft threads are both visible and lay next to each other, giving the 'over and under' appearance of the woven fabric.

This was my first band, which I finished last week:

This is the first pattern in the book that I was bought with the loom and is about 140cm long (I've no idea what I'm going to do with it!).  It didn't take long, once I got going and worked out what I was supposed to do.

So, today I went back into my stash and pulled out a ball of blue cotton, a ball of orange cotton and a ball of grey cotton/linen that I knew were in there.  I then chose another pattern from the book and warped the loom again:

You can see on the left where I've done the first few inches of weaving, including the first inch or so which is wider, before I got then tension right.  This is going to be a strap for a bag I'm planning on making from the grey/blue/rust yarn I spun on my Turkish spindle last month.  The two bits of cardboard are 'fillers' just after the start of the warp and will be taken out once the strap gets advanced around the loom (the warp is a continuous loop, so there's waste at the beginning and end - I'll take photos once I'm further on so you can see).

Here's a side shot so you can see how the warp winds around the pegs, giving lots of options for different lengths of band:

And, finally, here's a close-up of the weaving so far:

It's all good fun, but I've spent far too long looking at photos of  finished bands that people on Ravelry have made!

I have been doing some knitting, I promise, but not a great deal, although I'm hoping to have a finished object to show you in a couple of days.