Kingfishers have arrived on the river by my little mill house. You hear them first, with their noisy chatter, then, if you are lucky, there is a flash of wonderful blue green wings. I keep trying to get a photograph but they are really speedy and I’ve not been lucky yet. But they are such a treat, and their gorgeous colouring has inspired me to dye this sock kit.
The kit contains a main colour and a contrast colour for heels, toes and cuffs. The wool is Blue Faced Leicester and is soft but strong and the high twist on this skein makes them excellent for socks.
Then I realised that sock kits are a joy in themselves, so I dyed up another in gorgeous yellow and grey, to reflect the weather I’m currently experiencing (and if you have visions of me dashing back and forth to the washing line to get my drying yarn in, every time it comes over dark and stormy, then you aren’t too far off the mark ⛈)
And the last colourway is inspired by the metals in Megan and Harry’s wedding rings, gold and platinum. I often look at my own wedding ring and am reminded of the promises I made to my husband, and those he made to me, and as we watched Megan and Harry exchanging their vows on the TV last Saturday, he reached over and gave my hand a little squeeze, and I knew he remembered our promises too.
My first purchase was a gorgeous giant skein of Corriedale chunky from Hedgeknits. My stand was next to Rita’s stand and I’d spotted this giant heap of woolly gorgeousness pretty early on, but was trying to restrain myself. But it’s naturally dyed, and I kept seeing other people pick it up and I couldn’t bear the thought of it going home with someone else AND it goes really well with the purple skein I bought when I last visited Flock on the Plain, so I caved and it has come home with me.
I also bought some funky vintage purple buttons from the lovely display by Hailstone Heritage which will go brilliantly as decoration on the garment I intend to make from the Hedgeknits yarn.
My next purchase was from Mahoodly and I just love the depth of Becca’s colours. I bought a gorgeous deep dark blue 4 ply and a brighter blue mini Skein which will become rib socks with contrasting heel and toe.
I spent a long time mesmerised by Girl’s Own Store’s sock knitting machine. It was a wonder to beyond and I would really love one. But alas, the budget won’t stretch that far and so, instead, I bought a pair of her super cosy socks dyed with onion skins.
From Woolaroo, I bought some lovely balls of Shetland wool which are from a flock near her home and hand spun by a lady living in the village. Such precious wool. I don’t have a project in mind but I think Knit British is going to have a Natural Shades KAL later this year so I’ll save these balls up for that.
I also swopped a skein of my Radical 4ply for this lovely Bonnie Prince Charlie yarn from Somerset Soda. Just look at those colours! I don’t have a project for this yet. I might pair it up with other skeins in my stash and make one of Boyland Knitworks gorgeous sweaters.
So, quite a modest haul by my standards. Did you make any purchases on Yarn Shop Day?
So, it’s Yarn Shop Day tomorrow (Saturday 12th May) and I’m exhibiting, along with lots of other dyers and purveyors of buttons etc, at Flockfest at Flock on the Plain in Woodbury in Wiltshire. To say I’m excited, is to significantly understate how I’m feeling.
I thought I’d give you all a preview of some of the hand dye British wool I’m taking with me.
I have totally fallen I love with these Blue Faced Leicester sock weight mini skeins. They are such a lovely pop of colour. They are 80 meters/20g each and are sold in sets of five. They are spun with a high twist so are perfect for socks.
I’m also taking a Blue Faced Leicester/Nylon Sock weight mix with me. Basically this is for the Nervous Nellies who don’t believe a yarn is strong enough for socks without nylon (although I do love it too and am making socks from it at the moment). This is also spun with a high twist and is sold in 100g hanks.
I’m also taking my Audacious base in DK and 4ply weights. This Wensleydale yarn has such a lovely lustre and I particularly love the ply on the 4ply weight. It will be lovely made into shawls. Both the DK and the 4ply are sold in 100g hanks.
Lastly, this is my Saucy DK base. This yarn come from Dorset Horn sheep, a breed listed as threatened on the Livestock Conservancy watchlist, so I’m particularly excited to be showing this. I just can’t describe how well this yarn takes a dye. Look at the pics to see what I mean. I’ve just dyed up a few skeins of this yarn currently but I plan to dye up a some sweater quantities as I think it will make lovely garments.
So, if you are local to Woodborough in Wiltshire do come and squish the yarn. It will be lovely to see you.
Next Saturday is Yarn Shop Day and I would urge you to visit your local yarn shop and show them some love.
I live in the countryside and, it really does have moments of pure perfection; the annual village fair on a beautiful sunny bank holiday; stopping stock still on a quiet lane while swifts dart all around you; watching the bats swooping over the mill pond on a warm summer evening; seeing the mayflies dancing above the water of the river, and seeing the trout jumping to catch them; children running free across the fields and through the woods.
But, before I make this sound too idyllic, there are, inevitably, downsides including over flowing septic tanks; freezing temperatures but no heating because the oil ran out and it’s going to be a week until the next delivery; squirrels chewing though the pipes to the calor gas tanks at 4pm on Christmas Eve, meaning you can’t cook a Christmas dinner; mud, lots and lots of mud, so your boots, the dog, the kids, your floors and the car are disgustingly dirty for at least 9 months every year; and, a lack of local shops.
It was this lack of shopping alternatives which was the biggest shock when we moved out from London, 8 years ago. For years, I’d worked a stones throw from Selfridges, with Marylebone High Street only a few minutes walk away. And suddenly we couldn’t even pick up milk on the way home from work; our local (community run) shop isn’t open in the evening or on weekend afternoons and popping to the supermarket now involves a 15 mile round trip.
In the past, every village would have had its own shop. I actually live in the building that used to fulfil this role – it was originally a bread and beer shop, then a general store and cafe, for at least a century until it finally closed in 1984. At one time the village also had a pub, a tannery, a mill, a blacksmith and a school. Now, that’s all gone. Even the church is closed. I’m not able to say with absolute certainty, but it not too much to suggest that each and everyone of these enterprises closed because they didn’t make enough money to provide an income (even the weekly church collection didn’t cover the cost of the heating oil for the Sunday service through the winter). Trade dwindled for village and local shops, countrywide, because rather than shopping frequently for the things they needed, in the 1980s, people started doing a big weekly shop in the new and shiny supermarkets. So village and local shops closed, and once closed, the properties were sold and almost, invariably, the amenity was lost for ever.
So, use it or loose it. Which is why I shop small and local as much as I can. And this applies to yarn shops as much as it applies to grocery shops and bakeries. It might be cheaper to buy your yarn online, and the online store might have a better range, but nothing beats going into a store, breathing in the yarn fumes and having a squish, talking to the wise and learned staff, seeing the inspiring samples, and even honing your skills by taking a class or two. And if your local yarn store doesn’t stock the sort of yarn you want to buy, tell the staff what you’d like to buy, and then if they start to stock it, make sure you buy lots of it. Do it next Saturday!
And if you are near Woodborough in Wiltshire, you can come and see me, because I’ll be showing my hand dyed British wool for the first time ever at Flockfest at Flock on the Plain. To say I am totally excited is an understatement! Details can be found here.
So, come and say hi, breath some yarn fumes and squish some delicious wooliness. It’s going to be super fun.
I’ve opened an etsy shop selling my hand dyed wool, and as you can probably tell, I’m a little bit thrilled about it.
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but it’s a big leap from wanting to do something to summoning the courage and actually taking the plunge.
But I’ve done it.
I’ve been a big supporter of British food for a very long time, shopping small and local, at farmers’ markets, and at the farm gate, as much as I can. And I made a decision at the end of last year, to further support British farmers, by only buying British wool in 2018. I had a passing thought that this might have the added benefit of curbing the growth of my stash. I assumed there would be limited choice. I now realise just how naive I was. Buying British has opened my eyes to the enormous choice and variety in British wool. And its all just so wonderful, and I’ve been having so much fun dyeing all the different breed yarns, seeing how it responds to the dye, trying out different techniques, that I wanted to share.
I’ve started with two bases, Brazen DK which is 100% Jacob, and Audacious DK which is 100% Wensleydale. Both grown and spun in the UK and all hand dyed in my kitchen in rural West Berkshire. In addition to the 100g skeins, I’ve also dyed some 20g mini skeins in these two bases. These are just about the cutest thing ever. I adore them.
I’ll be introducing new bases and weights over the next few weeks; the ever popular Blue Faced Leicester, and after that, I have plans for Dorset Horn, British Falkland Island’s Merino, then Cheviot, Corriedale and ….. the list goes on and on. I think we are going to have a lot of fun exploring all the different breeds.
So pop over to the shop and have a browse, and let me know what you think. Are there any colours you’d especially like to see? Or any breeds you like me to stock? Please do let me know.
I thought I’d share a few pictures of my Edinburgh Yarn Festival experience. I had the most amazing time, bought way more yarn than I should have done and then thought I’d lost it all when it didn’t come off the carousel at Heathrow (it did turn up eventually after someone was sent to hunt in the bowels of the plane 😅). I’ll write about the things I bought in a day or too, but in the meantime, feast your eyes….
Mine was, as they always are, grey, cold and strewn with coughs and colds. But, on the knitting front, I have been on fire! I have six finished objects to show off. Admittedly two were very well under way at the start of the month but I’m finishing the month with two well under way so I’m including them in January’s count. I also had a lovely meet up at Flock on The Plain with a group of ladies who are my woolly tribe. We call ourselves the Possiwools, after one of our members put a “possible wool meet up” in her family diary and her teenage son shortened it, and they really are the best sort of people. I want to gush on about them and tell them all how much I love them but I’m not sure I could do them justice. Maybe I’ll save that for another day.
So…. my finished wips.
First off the needles was my Whitehorse Sweater by Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks. This is the second sweater of Caitlin’s I have made and I was as pleased with this one as I was with the first. The yarn was a lovely soft blue faced leicester double knit from The Uncommon Thread. I adore the finished piece and have worn it several times already this month.
The next item finished was a pair of socks in Regia yarn in the pattern A Nice Ribbed Sock. I don’t usually buy commercially produced yarn, preferring small independent hand dyers, but this, and a couple of other balls, fell into my basket after a lecture by Arne and Carlos about their life and home in Norway and their design inspirations. The pattern is my go to pattern for socks. I always worry that a plain sock will go baggy with wear, so the little bit of rib in this pattern provides a bit more ping back, and its not such a in your face pattern that it disturbs the colour of the yarn.
Next to be finished were these socks for my mum. The pattern is the Diagonal Lace Sock from the book Socks from the Toe Up, and was my first toe up sock. I learned, as most people do, to knit stocks cuff down but always worried about knitting the leg too long and not having enough yarn to complete the toe, but with toe up, you just knit until you’ve used up your wool, or reach the leg length you desire. The yarn is a Merino/Nylon mix hand dyed by Norah George Yarns and the combination of yarn and pattern is so pretty, I stopped knitting often to admire them. They would have been finished a lot soon had they been less pretty!
Also knitted this month was this cute hat for my little boy. Obviously my little boy already had a lovely hand knitted hat but this was “lost” at some point over the Christmas holidays, so he needed another. I won’t dwell on the fact that, a few days, ago, I found the missing hat, at the bottom of the hat basket, presumably where it had been all the time. This hat was a super quick knit in an aran weight yarn that I dyed myself. The yarn is a Merino/Donegal Nep mix (I just love all this little woolly neps) and the pattern was my own Curlew pattern, although I did a modified brim and crown decrease.
The next finished item took a lot of knitting. It’s a wrap made using a Thirty Shades pack I bought as a 6 month club yarn from Jo Knit Sew last year. I’d been on the look out for a pretty knitted pattern, that would do justice to the yarn, for a while and knew I’d found the one in Melanie Berg’s True Colours. However, I had 30 colours to work through and so the shape of Melanie’s shawl wouldn’t have worked, so I took the repeated pattern from her chart and used that to create a rectangular wrap. It really is one of the most beautiful things I have ever made. Light and airy with the lace work but, at the same time, warm and cosy as its made in a light double knit weight merino yarn, and all the colours of the rainbow. I’ve yet to get a decent photograph (good natural light in my cottage is non existent in January) so here is a picture of it on the blocking mats. I’ll post more pictures when light levels improve!
Last to be finished were my Polgooth Socks in Blacker Yarns Classic Double Knit. These socks are incredibly special to me as they represent the first item I have made in wool grown, spun and dyed in the UK. The wool is a mix of white fleece to which Hebridean, Black Welsh Mountain and Blue Faced Leicester are added, and after all the super soft merino I’m used to, the texture of this yarn was challenging. I knitted the first sock and it was so stiff I was really worried so, before I knitted the second, I washed and blocked the first, and, what a difference that made. The knitted sock became soft and squishy and a pleasure to wear. The socks fit really well too and the gusset decreases are so lovely to look at, its a pity they are hidden in my shoes.
So, that was my January. I can’t promise to keep up this blistering pace throughout February but I have plenty of patterns and yarn already lined up for future projects so you can be sure my needles wont be idle.
And before I leave you I wanted to wish you a good Imbolc. This is, according to Wikipedia, an Irish Gaelic traditional feasting festival, celebrated at the beginning February, marking the beginning of spring. I’ve been noticing some signs of the start of a change in the season; the snowdrops are out in perfusion in our valley and I realised, with thud of joy in my heart, when I closed the curtains at 5pm last week, that it wasn’t yet completely dark. The long light nights of summer are returning. I imagine our ancestors noticed these things too and it gave them good cheer. Happy Imbolc!
It’s 12 years since Loop first opened so a visit was long overdue. I really can’t believe I hade’t made the trip before but a combination of work and babies had kept me too busy to make the pilgrimage. But all that changed when, a couple of weeks ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided to fill in some time before meeting a friend in London, with a trip to Loop.
Loop sits in a quiet street full of quirky and interesting shops, in Camden Passage just off the busy A1 in London, a short walk from Angel tube station. The shop front is gloriously colourful and yet oozes sophistication. You enter through a door so narrow that you wonder for a moment if this is actually the way in. Then you see a note telling you to “push door hard”, and it crosses your mind you may have fallen down a rabbit hole but, you do as you are told, the door flies open, and you are in.
Now, I’d long known from conversations with other knitters that Loop is a very special yarn store. But I hadn’t realised quite how special. It is, quite simply, the best yarn store I have ever been inside, and by quite a big margin. The moment you enter, you are aware you are in a place apart from the rest. In most yarn stores you will find lots of commercial yarn and when you visit yarn stores as often as I do, that can all start to feel a bit samey. But Loop has a huge amount of hand dyed yarn on display and only a very little commercial yarn (and only then at the luxury end of the market). Well, you know what a sucker I am for handdyed, and there was just so much fabulous yarn, I lost myself for some time just squishing and stroking it all before finally gathering some focus.
The store is laid out on two floors with a stock room above (and maybe below but i forgot to ask). On the ground floor is lace and sock weight yarn, and on the first floor is dk, aran and heavier weights. The store will have only one or two skeins of each yarn in each colour way on display, but don’t let that worry you as they have “sweater quantities” in the stock room. I really really wanted to see inside the stock room.
So, I’d gone to Loop with the half formed idea of buying yarn for a new sweater for myself – Whitehorse by Caitlin Hunter of @boylandknitworks. I’d been on the look out for a special yarn for a while but nothing had quite hit the spot. I needed a dk weight for the sweater so after a bit more drifting about squeezing the sock and lace weight, I headed upstairs.
Upstairs, there is a lovely Ercol day bed (I don’t think I’ve mentioned I have a minor obsession with 1960s Ercol furniture) just begging to be sat on and a similarly special Ercol table, on which sat lovely knitting books. And lots more yarn. Also upstairs was a fabulously knowledgeable lady called Jane who, I realised when I got home, is @probablyjane, someone I’ve long admired over on Instagram. I was really sad that I didnt get to tell her how much I loved her fun feed so I’m going to mention it here in the hope she might one day see it.
So, Jane helped me focus my search. It was really helpful to have someone so knowledgeable about each dyer and base. I did eventually settle on some yarn for my sweater and Jane scooted off upstairs to the store room to look for 4 more skeins in the same dyelot. This left me a few more minutes to squeeze and stroke all the luciousness and flick through a few books before I realised the time, and had to pay and depart. I bought 5 gorgeous skeins of Blue Faced Leicester light DK in the Lila colourway from The Uncommon Thread (@theuncommonthread), a dyer from Brighton who I hadn’t come across before and the most gentle book called Making Winter by Emma Mitchell (check out her beautiful instagram feed @silverpebble2) which has been my bedtime reading every evening since.
So, Loop, I love you. I can’t wait to visit again.
Whilst I have been labouring on my many unfinished wips, I’ve been thinking about why so many have been consigned to the bottom of the wip basket and, have concluded that it’s more than just the delight of casting on with new yarn.
This story will be pretty familiar to anyone who is a crafter but to my non crafting friends, this might come as a bit of a surprise and you’d be forgiven for wondering why I put myself through this all the time.
Almost every project I undertake goes as follows:
Buying the yarn or getting yarn in the post “Ooh lovely lovely yarn. Squeeeee. So excited, must cast on”
Upon casting on “Oh my goodness this is so amazing, I’m so in love with this”
About 1/3 of the way through “So so loving this. Whoo hoooo. Must knit/crochet faster”
About 1/2 way through “Hmmm. Is this going to look alright? Is it going to fit? Maybe I should have made something else with this yarn? Hmmm. I’m not sure I even like the yarn any more”
About 2/3 of the way through “Ugh. This is awful. I hate it. Why did I ever think this would work? What a colossal waste of time. I can barely bring myself to finish” and, if I’m feeling particularly grim, it’s at this stage that things get relegated to the bottom of the wip basket, never to be seen again (or at least only seen again when I can’t get any more unfinished projects in the wip basket and, like now, have a purge).
On completion “I love love love it.”
I know, I know. And let’s not forget, I do this to myself voluntarily.
The plus side of this behaviour is that, once I can bring myself to restart the wip, I’m nearly always pretty quickly into the gratification of completion. So, hurrah for finishing wips is what I say. Here is the latest one I’ve finished – my yarn eating crochet flower rainbow blanket.
I’m still beavering away on The Blanket Of Doom. However, in the meantime, I’ve been asked a few times about stitches I used on the border on the second of my Cuddlebums Shades Blankets (see here for the Tada! on this). Here is how I did it…
Round 1. A round of trebles. To start I chained 3. In each square corner space I made 2 trebles, a treble in the join square and then 2 trebles in the next corner space. At the corners of the blanket I made 5 trebles in the corner space
Round 2. The crab stitch row. This is a row of double crochet but made backwards. This is a bit peculiar the first time you try it but its pretty easy one you get going. There is a good ‘how to’ here. To start I chained 1. In the corner space, I made 3 crab stitches.
Round 3 Another round of trebles but made in the trebles from Round 1 rather than Round 2. This means the crab stitch from round 2 sits up. To start I chained 3. In the corner space I made 5 trebles.
Round 4. A round of half trebles. To start I chained 2. In the corner space I made 3 half trebles.
Round 5. The bobble row. This took a bit of thinking about. I ended up making 4 trebles then a bobble which is 5 trebles together. There is a good ‘how to’ here albeit it using 3 trebles rather than 5. I used 4 trebles as my ‘spacer’ because it allowed me to pop a bobble neatly in each corner and at the join line of each of the squares and have them neatly spaced between but how many trebles you have in between each bobble would depend on how you wanted to arrange them. For me it was trial and error. To start I chained 3. In the corners, I made a treble, the bobble stitch, and then another treble.
Round 6. As round 4
Round 7. The scallop round. To start I did a slip stitch around until I reached the half treble stitch from round 6 which sat on top of the bobble stitch from 5. Then I chained 3 and made 6 trebles in the 4th stitch from my hook. Then I skipped 4 and made 7 trebles in the next stitch (again above the bobble stitch). This skip 4, 7 trebles in the next stitch forms the pattern. At the corners I did 9 trebles in the corner stitch.
There was also a bit of fudging sometimes to get the numbers to work. For some odd reason I didn’t have the same number of stitches on all 4 sides of my blanket – yep, slap dash work on my part – but there was no way I was going back to sort that out, so in a few places I only made 3 trebles instead of 4 on row 5 which then meant I had to remember and only skip 3 instead of 4 stitches on row 7, and I’m a bobble short on each side at the corners. There was also a fair amount of frogging. I frogged a whole round of trebles because I decided they weren’t working, which was a difficult decision to take given each round was taking such a long time.
With hindsight, I would have worked out my stitch counts before I got started but, hey ho, you live and learn, and what is life without whimsy.