Don’t even think about getting your workout wardrobe in shape

At this point every year, I start to experience feelings of sadness at the passing of a year, but excitement at the prospect of the start of a new one. This is, of course, ridiculous, as very little will change at midnight in the 31st December. Despite any resolutions I may make, I will still wake up on 1st January 2019 as fundamentally the same person I was in 2018. So will everybody else.

I realise that this might not be a popular view point and I might be on the receiving end of a few Bah Humbug! comments for saying this but, most of what we do, is done habitually, and habits take lots of time and attention to change, and so, no matter what I resolve, I’m strongly suspecting I won’t be much different in February 2019 than I was in November 2018.

It seems to me, the making (and breaking) of New Year’s resolutions has become just another opportunity to spend money. In recent days, I have been urged to join gyms, start expensive diet plans and even “get my workout wardrobe in shape”.

This last one is particularly ludicrous. I seriously question why anyone would want to buy a lot of expensive gym wear before starting a new exercise regime. Yes, I know it can be confidence boosting to have nice new things. But it’s unlikely that you are going to be half way through your exercise session and desperate to take a rest but think “No! I must not stop. My workout wardrobe is in shape…”.

* * *

So 2018 was a very mixed year for me. My family ended 2017 to the news that my Mum, after many years fighting against an incurable cancer, was at the end of her life. Her bone marrow had failed and whilst the wonderful NHS would do all they could with blood transfusions and antibiotics to keep her going, she wasn’t going to stage a miraculous recovery. So we all knew that 2017 was going to be her last Christmas with us and, whilst we tried to keep to the same family traditions, it was all unbearably sad.

She hung on, weary and in pain, with ever increasing amounts of time in bed and in hospital, until April. It was horrible to see her, once so vibrant and such a force within our family, become so diminished. The end, when it finally came, was, mercifully, very quick.

I miss her greatly. I always will.

* * *

It’s hard to go from that to an upbeat “Yay! I launched my yarn dyeing business” announcement but that is basically what happened. I’d been wanting to do it for a while, and I talked about my plans with Mum, but then put life on hold while she was really unwell. In a peculiar way, her passing was just the boot up the bum I needed to get on with it. Life is dismayingly short, so do more of what you love, has become my motto of sorts.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the time to learn how to naturally dye with plants. Even though I know it is really only chemistry (and, for the first time ever, I really do wish I’d paid more attention in ‘O’ level chemistry), it feels like there is something magical about dyeing wool with plant colour, using some of the same techniques our ancestors did for thousands of years (see here for my post about dyeing with woad). I love the slow mindfulness of the process; growing or foraging for plant material, extracting the dye from it, sometimes over many days, and then encouraging that colour to stick onto the wool, with just enough heat, but not too much. Some of my most beautiful colours were achieved during the heat of the summer, when I just left the dye pot out in the heat on our patio, for the whole day. Serendipity has a big part to play in the process, and I’ve learned to embrace and love it.

And this has changed me more than any resolution I have ever made. Years spent as an accountant, in thrall to a timesheet and billing, meant I used to be all about getting to the end point as quickly as possible. The end product was the most important thing. The process was just something to be got through or endured. But, being forced by nature to wait for results, has made me enjoy the process so much more. And not just with my yarn dyeing but with my knitting, baking, and even, dare I say it, chores too.

* * *

Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook may know that I’m exhibiting my wares at Unravel in February (for details, see here). As a newbie, I’m very grateful to them for affording me the opportunity to come along. Planning for this has been in full swing for ages. as it takes a long time to prepare for a big show using natural dyes, and especially when you have just one (overworked!) dye pot, so I’m hoping I can do justice to the opportunity. Please do come and say hi if you visit the show.

So, I’m starting 2019 both excited and nervous about Unravel and not really able to think about much beyond it. So, I shan’t be making any resolutions at this stage. I’ve planned a period of quiet assessment at the end of February, and that’s as far as I can go with my head as full as it currently is.

And, this is my point (and, if you are still reading, well done for hanging on in there!), you don’t need it to be 1st January to make changes. Clear a tiny bit of head space, identify the things you love, and do more of them. Do them with care. Enjoy the process of the doing.

And please don’t, even for a moment, think you need to get your workout wardrobe in shape.

WOVEMBER

I know that many of you are sad that the fabulous gals behind Wovember aren’t running it as an organised campaign any longer. However, knitters and crocheters are still celebrating all the woolly goodness this month and, in recognition of that, I have a coupon running for 25% off all my non naturally dyed British wool. If you click here the coupon should be automatically applied when you checkout.

Coupon runs until I decide to stop it, or the stock runs out. Naturally dyed yarn is NOT included in the coupon offer.

Happy knitting!

Jacob Wool and my Brazen base

Last week, I was talking to a very experienced knitter about different breeds of wool and I casually made a comment about the characteristics of a particular breed wool. She asked me what I meant, so I explained, but at the same time it occurred to me that I’ve done very little to record my knowledge on the different characteristics of each of the breed yarns I stock, and that this knowledge might actually be helpful to other knitters.

So I’ve resolved to do a little write up for each of the breed wools I stock. This is the first one.

History of Jacob Sheep

© Jacob Sheep Society

Jacob sheep have a very distinctive fleece with patches or spots of dark coloured wool on a white wool background. The breed is thought to be one (or at least related to one) of the oldest breeds, probably originating in The Middle East around 4,000 years ago. There are examples of spotted sheep in ancient Egyptian art and there is also a bible story which attempts to explain how the distinctive coloured fleece came into being.

The breed first came to Britain in the 17th century as an ornamental sheep to graze in the deer parks surrounding stately homes, and consequently they don’t form part of the U.K. stratified sheep farming system (more on this to come in a future post) but with the changes to society after the First World War, many flocks disappeared and by the 1960s, there were very few Jacob sheep left in the UK. However, a small number of dedicated breeders and enthusiasts formed the Jacob Sheep Society in 1969 and saved the breed from extinction.

Sheepy facts

Their fleece makes Jacob sheep one of the most easily recognisable breeds of sheep. They always have horns, either two on top of the head, or four as worn by this formidable fellow.

© Jacob Sheep Breeders Association

They make good mother’s, who have a high lambing rate (commonly having twins) and generally easy births. They are also hardy and long lived, so they easily over winter outside and attract few disease problems. Their good health means they can rear lambs for a long time; 7 years or more is not uncommon.

More information can be found at The Jacob Sheep Society.

Wool characteristics

As I’ve already mentioned, Jacob sheep have a variety of colours in their coat, from creamy white through to dark brown/black. The colours appear in well defined patches so it’s possible to sort the fleece into light and dark, and also to blend the yarn to give graduated shades of the natural yarn.

The individual fibres of the fleece are quite thick, with a good degree of springiness and a staple length of between 75mm to 180mm (3 inches to 7 inches) . The micron count varies from 25 to 27.5 for fine fleece to 30 -33 for regular fleece.

The thicker individual fibres mean the fleece isn’t generally suitable to be spun into lace weight yarn but it works particularly well spun into a double knit or aran weight yarn. It is these two weights which I stock in my shop.

© Jacob Sheep Society

Uses for the yarn

Jacob’s wool takes the dye beautifully with the potential for a nice tone and a good depth of colour. The wool is crisp, but not scratchy, and smooth rather than fluffy. These characteristics make the yarn very versatile and it can be knitted and crocheted into a wide variety of items, from blankets, to sweaters and hats. I have a sweater in Jacob wool and find it very comfortable and warm. I don’t tend to wear my sweaters next to my skin (preferring a layer underneath) but I don’t notice any discomfort around my neck or wrists where the wool touches bare skin.

I’ve heard it said that it probably isn’t suited to baby clothes and I’d tend to agree with this. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use my Jacob base for my children’s clothes, especially if it’s not intended to be worn next to the skin, for example sweaters etc.

Fabric produced in Jacob’s wool is hardwearing with very little piling. Additionally the garments retain their shape when hand washed and dried flat (no stretching or shrinking). These qualities mean that any garment made from Jacob’s wool will be long lasting, which is a quality I’m especially keen on as larger garments generally take a lot of knitting, so I’d like them to last, more or less, forever.

It’s extremely difficult to felt Jacob’s wool, which is a commendable feature, should your hand knits inadvertently end up in the washing machine, as mine do from time to time. However this does mean the wool wouldn’t be useful for items that require a degree of felting such as slippers or bags.

I have also found that it holds its shape well whilst being knitted, so if your needle should accidentally slip out of a few stitches, they tend to stay in place awaiting the needle again, rather than running away down the fabric. The wool also takes frogging and reknitting well. This makes it a good learners wool.

My Jacob’s wool base is called Brazen and is available in both double knit and aran weight here.

Let’s talk about Silk

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but not really daring too. It flies in the face of so much of what I see on social media. Silk is almost universally adored for its lustre and softness. It takes a dye beautifully and for that reason is much beloved of hand dyers. And was much beloved of me too for a long time. But then I learned how silk was produced and I no longer see it as desirable.

So, a quick history lesson:

According to Chinese legend, Empress Hsi Ling Shi (there are multiple spellings of her name), was the first person to discover silk as wearable fibre. There are several variations of this legend, all on a theme. But they generally go like this; the Empress was drinking tea under a mulberry tree, and a cocoon fell into her cup and began to unravel. Or she saw a silk worm spinning it’s cocoon whilst out walking in the palace gardens and thought it would be wonderful to be attired in such a fibre. You get the idea.

©wikipedea.com

What is certain is that someone or a group of someones, three thousand ish years ago, discovered the fibre produced by the Bombyx mori silkworm found living on the white mulberry, and developed what is known as Sericulture, the cultivation of silkworms, and invented the reel and loom.

Initially, silk was worn exclusively by Chinese royalty, but silk cloth spread gradually throughout the China and then into Asia and Europe. Demand for silk in Europe eventually created the trade route now known as the Silk Road, taking silk westward and bringing gold, silver and wool to the East.

The Chinese wished to maintain their monopoly on this lucrative industry and travellers were searched thoroughly at border crossings with anyone caught trying to smuggle eggs, cocoons, silkworms or even mulberry seeds out of the country were summarily executed. However, eventually silk production did spread, first to Korea, then to India, Japan and Persia. And silk spinning and weaving became widespread throughout Europe. There is an old silk mill quite near to my home although it is currently closed (reopening August 2018).

© Hampshireattractions.co.uk

Why all the fuss?

Silk is a remarkable fibre. In spite of its delicate appearance, silk is relatively hard wearing. Its smooth surface resists dirt and odours. It is wrinkle and tear resistant, and it dries quickly. It is also a surprisingly good insulator so is great added to wool for winter garments and it can be worn as a second layer underneath to warm without being bulky. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp so will absorb perspiration while letting your skin breathe, which makes it great for summer garments too. It’s also the most hypoallergenic of all the natural fabrics thanks to its unique structure.

But the real oooh factor for silk is its unique sheen, which means colours radiate and assume a luminescence.

So what is my issue?

I’ll admit it. So far, this post has sounded like an advert for the silk industry. And this is as far as most people want to go when thinking about silk. But my discomfort comes from the way the silk is made. It’s time for a bit of biology. If you can remember back to your school days, and your lessons on the life cycle of the butterfly, the silk worm is very similar, in that, left to its own devices, the silkworm goes through 4 stages.

© kullabs.com

The first stage is the egg. The female silkworm will lay up to 400 eggs in clusters on mulberry leaves. The female dies after egg laying. The eggs hatch into larvae in around 11 days. This larval stage is the second stage. The larvae eat the mulberry leaves and moult 4 times, growing bigger each time they moult. After the final moult, the larva spins a protective cocoon of silk around itself and turns into a pupa. This is the third stage. Nothing appears to happen at this stage but inside the pupa, the worm is undergoing massive changes called metamorphosis, which change the silkworm larvae into the moth. The moth breaks out of the cocoon and flies off to mate and, in the females’ case, lay more eggs and so repeat the cycle.

However, silk production rudely interrupts the cycle at the third stage, when the silkworm is a pupa. If the silkworm is allowed to hatch out of the cocoon, the silk on the cocoon will be broken into short lengths rather than unwinding in a long single strand. This is not helpful when spinning silk. So, the silkworm farmers, kill the silkworm at this stage by placing the cocoons in boiling water. The heat kills the pupae and, happily for the silk spinners, makes the silk fibre easier to unravel. It is said that the silkworms can then be eaten but I have been unable to find much evidence that they actually are eaten other than out of desperation or as a ‘delicacy’ sold to tourists (although if you are a regular consumer of silkworms, I would LOVE to hear from you.)

© squishfibrearts

So, silk production is terminal to silkworms. And this does not sit well with me. I’m not a vegan, or even vegetarian. But, I don’t eat meat everyday and when I do eat meat it is always high welfare and organic, if I can get it. I also use as much of the meat as I can, making stock for soup and risotto from bones and using up all leftovers. I acknowledge that animals have to die so I can eat meat. This does not make me feel warm and fuzzy inside (how could it?) but it’s something I think about, talk to my children about, and keep under constant review. But, I just cannot get comfortable with the idea that an animal had to die in order to give me a lovely lustrous garment, so I can look good. I just can’t look at silk garments and think they are gorgeous. I look at silk garments and see dead silkworms.

Ah, but what about peace silk? Peace silk (sometimes called Ahimsa silk) is produced from cocoons that are collected after the moths have emerged naturally. This all sound soothingly natural and happily non fatal to the silkworm. However, there are no certification authorities for peace silk and it’s entirely possible for conventional silk producers to label their products as peace silk. Additionally there are no welfare standards for peace silk so the silkworms are still potentially subject to mistreatment, by, for example, being forced from their cocoons too early, or forcing the female moths to lay their eggs on trays rather than on mulberry leaves, and putting males into a refrigerator, bringing them out occasionally to mate and then throwing them away when they were no longer able to mate. In my experience, where there is money to be made and no authorities to check, abuses inevitably follow.

My feelings also apply to recycled silk. This is basically the remnants of conventional silk left over from sari manufacture. It’s a nice way to make sure all the silk is used and not wasted but silkworms still died in order to produce it.

So where does this leave me? Well, here is the thing, in relation to woollen garments, I don’t even need silk. In the last few years, silk has been increasingly blended with that most common of breed wools, Merino, because, despite its supreme softness, Merino doesn’t bear much lustre or strength, and silk gives it both of these. This is how I purchased most of my silk (before I felt out of love with Merino – but that’s a post for another day) and I do own a couple of hand knit sweaters in this blend. But, lately, I found myself wondering why I even need my hand knits to be shiny? What’s that all about? In any event, you only need to look to a breed like Wensleydale for softness and lustre.

So, given I don’t need to wear silk, I’m happy to state that I’m not going to stock it in my shop. You will never see me dye pure silk or a silk blend. No more silkworms will die on my account!

Flockfest

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.

Border design


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…

Uk terms.

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.

Cuddlebums 2015 Shades Blanket Club finally finished

Yes! This is just about the first time ever that I’ve made a resolution and stuck to it for more than about a week. If you havent caught up on my resolutions you can read about them here.

It’s so gratifying when you decide to do something and then actually do it until it is done. I really don’t know why I don’t do it more often? Actually, I do, but that not the subject of this post. This post is to revel in the joy that I actually finished something. And a big something at that.


When I signed up to the blanket club at the start of 2015, I had lots of good intententions to prioritise this project. I would make the squares each month when the yarn came in, above all other projects. That lasted until about March, and then things started to slip a little further each month until we got to the end of the club and I realised I wasn’t even close to being half way through making all the squares. This was a blow because I had hoped to present my children with a blanket each for Christmas that year. The realisation dawned that if it was going to be a Christmas present, it would have to be Christmas 2016. You can see how these things get away from themselves!


Anyway, it became my travel project. For a period of about 9 months, I took a ball of the yarn with me everywhere I went and diligently made squares. Actually this made the making very easy. It took me between 15 and 20 minutes to make one square and I got between 9 and 10 squares from a ball, so I spent all the odd 1/2 hours waiting while my children played at various soft plays, theme parks and beaches, making the squares. It was the ideal portable project.

Then I finished the squares and the project quickly became extremely non portable. But I was on a roll and I quickly (well, relatively quickly!) assembled the first blanket. This is it!


And finally, I’ve finished the second. I’m going to let the (many!) photos speak for themselves.








I can wait to put them on the children’s beds.

Next up, The Blanket Of Doom. I kid you not!

Bridport Yarn

We had such a great summer holiday this year. Two lovely long weeks of sun, fun on the beach, playing in the park, cousins, scooting, chips, ice cream, sea glass, ammonites and dinosaurs (well, actually icthosaurs and plesiosaurs but my children are a bit to young to know the difference) with the bonuses of a big dollop of knitting and a unexpected trip to Bridport Yarn.


I’m always on the look out for a yarn shop. I rarely go anywhere without checking out the surrounding area (and if it’s a long way, the route too) for yarn. We’ve been known to detour for miles, with the kids bleating “are we nearly there yet?” on a 10 second loop all the way interspersed with “I’m bored”, screaming in frustration and beating each other, in search of an elusive yarn shop. There is a direct correlation between the length of time since I was last in a yarn shop and the time and distance over which I am prepared to endure this torment (and the amount of £££ I spend but let’s not dwell on that). 

But in the chaos of term ending and packing for the holiday, I never quite got around to it. And it must have been the blissful feeling of finally being back in my beloved Lyme Regis that soothed by yarnoscope, because it took me a few days to come around to musing that the one tiny imperfection with the town was a lack of a yarn shop. And then I remembered in a light bulb type scrabbling for phone and wifi signal moment that I hadn’t done my research. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered that Bridport Yarn was just up the road. So a trip was hastily arranged. My sister in law came along for the ride. She not a yarnie – I think she came for amateur anthropological research reasons aka why is my brother’s wife so nuts about yarn?, that and the fact that it was a chance to get a quick coffee and a couple of hours off from the children, who went with my husband to the park.

So, Bridport Yarn! The website (here) looked encouraging. I like any shop that has ethical principles and their ethos of trying to offer yarn which is “British, local and fairly traded – sometimes all three!” speaks to my soul. And, the shop itself did not disappoint. It was nestled amongst a nice assortment of independent stops in the way you only find in places where you are far enough from big urban centres to make rents reasonable, or where the majority of the town is owned by some large landowning estate who doesn’t necessarily need to squeeze every penny from the property to pay interest on his over leveraged assets. Already soothed by the lack of thrusting chain stores (there are some on around the corner on the main road but only a scattering)  we gazed at the splendid window display and entered.


And, joy of joys, we had stumbled upon a knit and natter session. It was so nice to hear the relaxed conversation of the ladies while they knitted, had my sister in law not been with me (and had I not been conscious of the fact my husband was left entertaining 4 children aged under 6), I may have drawn up a chair and joined them. However, I settled for a quick chat with the lovely ladies and together we all cooed over their current projects including a very special first ever project of a hot water bottle cover, in a gorgeous pale blue yarn, which was particularly charming as the newbie knitter had make some mistakes but rather than frog several rows of hard fought stitches, she had merely deliberately repeated the mistake at intervals such that it looked like it was intentional. Genius! Here are the lovely ladies.

The shop stocked a nice mix of hand dyed and commercial yarns in a variety of fibres and an array of pretty colours, all prettily displayed, as well as the most gorgeous buttons (which I didn’t buy but I have been itching for them ever since). Alas the owner wasn’t there but the shop assistant was friendly and helpful. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ve included several of the shop and it’s goodies here.





I bought two balls of lovely Juniper Moon Farm lace weight yarn, even though lace is just not my thing at all, because, that colour! It just needed to be in my stash. I also bought a couple of long circular needles which were a totally legitimate necessary purchase as I needed them for the hat project – see more on this here

Bridport Yarn is situated on South Street in Bridport, Dorset, a few minutes drive from the A35. If you are passing on the A35 on your way further east or west or if you are holidaying near by, I would heartily recommend it as a great place to get a yarnie fix. I wish I lived closer. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Crafting on the move

I was caught out by a flat tyre late one evening last week, and to my horror I discovered I did not have any yarn craft with me. My crafting is usually fairly portable. It’s quick and easy to pop needles or hook and yarn in a bag and, with all my patterns stored on my iPad, I’m off! In fact I almost always have a small portable project in my bag just in case I find myself unexpectedly waiting somewhere. But not this evening. I had to endure a wait for rescue without the calming comfort of yarn and needles or hook. 

For the last year or so, my portable project has been my Cuddlebums Yarn shades blanket. Each month I would receive four balls of lovely colour from Jodi and would pop one ball at a time in my bag until I found odd scraps of time to crocheted it into squares, and then I replace the completed squares with the next ball and so the project continues. Because of this I’ve been quite relaxed about delays and inconvenience, as I know I can just whip out my crochet to pass the time. Making squares is a brilliant portable project because they take up so little space, and require very little concentration. You just have to remember to stop when you get to the requisite size of square (in the early days of this blanket, I frequently overshot and had to frog back but, the longer the project has gone on, the better I have got at paying attention just enough to stop at the right point). And because you are making the squares in time which would otherwise be wasted, you can, over some months, produce a blanket without it feeling like a huge and daunting undertaking.


In this case, I’m making two blankets, one for each of my children; they will be almost the same but will also be subtly different. A couple of weeks ago,  I finished crocheting the last of the balls of colour (a gorgeous purple), which is why I didnt have anything to do when I got the flat tyre. So now,  I will need to start on the blanket assembly. As you join the squares together, this naturally makes the project much less portable so it will become a stay at home project to be worked week on in my evenings. 


I’m sad to see the end of these squares and, for the sake of my sanity should I get another puncture, I will need to seriously think about what my next portable project will be as I don’t have one ready and waiting. Everything in my yarny pipeline is either too complex or too bulky to make an ideal portable project.


In the meantime, I’m turning my attention to sewing in all the ends on the crocheted squares (and wondering quietly to myself the entire time, why I didn’t sew them in as I went along. There are approximately 800, give or take). I also need to decide on a joining method and an edging and this will necessitate a trawl through Ravelry and my various books and pamphlets so it is a subject I will need to come back to another day. Right now my focus needs to be Project Portable!

Dyeing: things I learned

In my last post I told you all about how I dyed yarn in my kitchen, and because so many of you have said you were inspired to do the same, I thought I should probably follow up with some “things I learned” from the experience. Now, I’m not a big one for lists and this will all be basic and obvious stuff to experienced dyers, but to a newbie like myself, I was in uncharted territory, so, here goes. Things I learned:

  • Like most things, preparation is important. You need to thoroughly soak your yarn and get set up before you start. 
  • It’s really quite stingy when you splash the citric acid soak in your eye, so you will probably want to avoid doing this by either being careful when you get your yarn out of the bucket or if, like me, you are prone to clumsiness, by wearing goggles (I have onion peeling goggles which would have been excellent for this, had I been forewarned).
  • A little bit of dye goes a loooonnnnng way. All over spoons, jars, tables, clothes, small children. You need to be prepared to make a mess, so take precautions. I wore old clothes and an apron, and I had plenty of kitchen towel on hand to mop up spills and wipe up between different colours. And if you are hand painting on super wash yarn, boy, does a lot of water go everywhere. I’m thinking old towels would have also be useful if I’d had some.
  • Wear gloves. And don’t get distracted by small children (“Mummy, I did a poo poo”), remove your gloves to attend to them, and then forget to put then back on again. Unless you want to walk around with multicoloured hands and nails for the next several days.
  • If you are at all worried about your yarn felting then cold dip dye or hand paint your yarn (this is what I did), rather than kettle dye. Having super wash in your yarn will help but remember you need heat AND agitation to felt yarn so, as long as you don’t fuss about with it too much when it’s hot (you won’t be able to touch it for ages anyway after it comes out of the microwave), you’ll be fine. 
  • It will seem like the skeins take a small eternity to dry. It rained both days I did my dyeing and waiting for skeins to dry indoors is just so dull, so, if you can, dye on a dry day and hang them outside on the line, they’ll dry in no time. 
  • Try not to have too many preconceived ideas about what you want the yarn to look like at the end. I just went with the flow with the tone of my first few skeins. It turns out that I’m pretty heavy handed with the dye so get strong colours, but, because I’m using them together, I wanted my skeins to tone which meant the same strength of colour throughout, so, I had to work harder with the last few to make sure I was getting that right. That’s ok because I mostly enjoy a challenge but if you aren’t so keen, go easy on yourself and don’t stress about it. Like any new craft it takes plenty of practice to learn how to produce the effect you want. Whatever you make, it will be fabulous. 
  • Your skein will probably appear to get in a hideous tangle but do NOT be tempted to untie the ties to sort it out. That way lies madness and many hours of (not so) patient untangling. Once it is dry, just go around each of the ties in turn and check that there are no threads lying over the tie. Once you are satisfied that’s the case, pop your hands in either end of the skein and give it some sharp tugs as if you were trying to stretch it out. Then you should be good to pop it on a swift or a handy pair of outstretched arms, cut your ties and ball away without tangles.  
  • Be prepared to dye more yarn than you actually need. You will love your creations so much it will be hard to ball them up and use them. You will want to keep them as yarn pets for ever, just for squishing.
  • It’s worth getting a note book and writing down what colours you mixed. You think you’ll remember because you had such a fun time but, in reality, busy lives crowd in and you won’t. I’m only a few days away from having finished dyeing the yarn for my blanket and I’m already starting to forget. Besides, its always good to have an excuse for a new note book.
  • As soon as you finish, you will want to dye more, and it will be a fidgety torture waiting for the postie to deliver more yarn. So get in more undyed yarn than you think you are going to use. I guarantee you will use it all.
  • It is great fun but don’t even think about trying it unless you are prepared to become totally addicted. And have your whole house smell of damp sheep (but there are worse smells, right?)

Happy dyeing xxxx