Year of Projects 22/3: Week One

Despite the fact I spend more money on planners than any grown woman should, there comes a time when I have to admit I don’t really plan anything. Whether this results in freedom or chaos depends on who you ask. Either way what it means for YOP is that I certainly don’t have any specific plans beyond finishing up a WIP or two. After that we get into pretty vague territory and this suits me just fine.

12 Days of Christmas (and another six months). The light isn’t very good here at the moment and these lean a bit more blue than they appear here.

First up obviously is the Tour. I’ve just finished up plying the Hilltop Cloud 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar I started back in December. I really fell out of love with this project and as time dragged on I only hated it more. Mostly because I thought I’d made a terrible error in splitting up the fibre and spinning it as a combo spin. Having finally finished the singles and got on to the plying, however, I have to admit I actually really like how it’s turned out. I’ll post a full update in the next few weeks once I’ve got it washed and measured up.

I’m going with the higher twist yarn on the right. I think it will be just a bit crisper for stitch definition on a lace shawl.

July is pretty much devoted to all things spinning. I’m currently working on spinning a lace weight yarn from some merino/cashmere/silk I’ve had for a while now (I think this might be its third Tour). I’ve been playing with ratios and twist a bit and think I’ve finally found the settings I want for the yarn I want. I mixed up my ratios on the card but I’ve fixed that! It’s not particularly fast for lace, but I do have a fast treadle which compensates for that.

Once the Tour is out of the way I want to finish the Ogopogo socks that are still ongoing. I don’t ‘think’ I have any other WIPs, but I could have some I’ve forgotten about, it wouldn’t surprise me. Other knits for this side of 22/23 will probably be a shawl with the cashmere blend lace and I’d like to tackle a brioche scarf with some fingering I have in stash.

I’m hoping to dig out the loom this year as I didn’t do any weaving last year. My loom is far too large for the space available (and my ability) so it doesn’t see much use, sadly. I’m thinking of trying to sell it and downsize. I’m also hoping to explore an embroidery project maybe as something a bit different and start the needle felted rabbit I found under the bed and had forgotten I even had.

In fact there is quite a lot under the bed I’d forgotten about so maybe a stash inventory is in order. I don’t plan to add to stash outside of a couple of spinning projects I’m waiting to hear about, including an advent spin and probably Wonder Wool in 2023, but then does anyone ever plan to add to stash?

Finally the garden is doing really well. We’re harvesting bits here and there including potatoes (Ratte have turned out to be this year’s favourites), peas, shallots, cucumbers and beetroot. Squash and courgettes can’t be too far behind. I can’t believe how fast and large the produce in the polytunnel has grown. I am going to have to rethink plant spacing next year.

That’s it for this week’s update, I look forward to catching up with everyone else’s plans. Happy YOPing!

Tour de Fleece 2022

It’s that time of year again. I’m sure it rolls around quicker every year, a bit like Christmas. Maybe it’s my age…

Anyway I always look forward to the Tour as it usually comes at the point where my crafting mojo has got up and left so it’s good to get back in the saddle. I’m going to spend some time working on my spinning techniques. I say this every year and never do, but this year I really mean it. I’d like to work on neatening up my joins and thinking a bit more about what I want to be spinning. I like a default brainless spin but these are the spins that always end up in stash because I don’t know what to do with them.

Tour plans

So here are my plans for this year’s Tour. From L-R:

  • two braids from Velvet Sixpence that I picked up at Wonder Wool this year. I don’t really have much of a plan for these yet so I’ll see how things go
  • Some down breed fibres for a breed study
  • A Fellview Fibres merino/cashmere/silk blend I want to try and spin as a lace weight
  • The final braid in a Hilltop Cloud fade sweater spin. It’s been a little while since I spun the last one so I’m hoping I can keep the consistency.

So these are my bigger plans but I have some bits and pieces for playing around with too. For now I still have fibre on the wheel to finish off so I’ll get on with plying that and then see what to work on next.

Happy Tour everyone!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Fifty Two

So I lost my mojo and came to a screeching halt on my YOP journey some weeks ago. No real reason why I just don’t seem to have had the energy. I am however starting to make plans for the Tour and I’m really hoping that spinning for this will help get me back on track with my crafting. I’m taking the first day of the Tour off as leave to get a good start on things and although I don’t have much planned in terms of volume of spinning, I would like to take some time to improve various aspects of my spinning and try new things. There will definitely be an attempt as a lace weight yarn in there.

I will be taking my Ogopogo socks into YOP 22/23 but I can at least confirm that I did eventually rip back the neckline on my Boxy and redo it. I’m so much happier with it now.

The garden is doing really well. The new polytunnel has been a really good investment and I’m surprised at what a difference it has made to my efforts. Unfortunately it is hammering down here right now so there are no picture updates, but hopefully the weather will pick up soon.

Anyway hopefully I’ll get back to into the swing of things. I like starting a new YOP part way through the calendar year as it’s a good opportunity to take stock of things. Sometimes I think the only reason I work in education is so that I get two starts to the year every year. If I get one ‘wrong’ I can have another go in a few months!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Forty Six

Only a quick update for me. Very little progress on any knitting projects. I finished blocky Boxy and love the finish of the final fabric but need to sew in a few ends ( and decide on redoing the neck).

Speedwell

I’ve made small progress on my Ogopogo sock. I have two big spinning projects I want to finish before the Tour de Fleece starts so I think spinning will become a bit of a focus for the next few months. I used to spin for hours and just don’t seem to have the staying power I used to. I know I could finish them during the Tour, but for some reason I like a fresh wheel on Day 1.

Greater Stitchwort

There’s been lots happening in the garden so I might have a separate post on that soon. This weekend I’ve been potting on lots of veggies and filling endless bags with weeds. I’m using a garden journal for keeping a log of what I’m up to. As well as space for weekly activities it also has pages of prompts to help develop your gardening skills and knowledge. One of the tasks this week has been to go out for a walk and take some photos of local wildflowers, identify them, and sketch them. I think sketching is a bit beyond me but the photos here are some examples of what is currently in bloom in the hedgerows near me.

I ‘think’ this is Cuckoo Flower but not 100%

In final news I had my eye test this week and suddenly my struggles with knitting, and reading physical books became clear when my reading prescription jumped quite significantly. I’m hoping getting new (if horrifically expensive) glasses will see me making a bit more progress once I’m not struggling so much!

Happy crafting!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Forty Five

So I’ve been laid low with Covid for the last week and a half, hence no update last week. I’ll be honest I haven’t felt like doing much of anything so even though I had to have a few days off work all I managed was sleeping. Lots and lots of sleeping. So this week is a bit of a round up as to where I’m at.

I did mention finishing Boxy and I have finally blocked it today. I’m not the best at blocking things, and could clearly do with another set of blocking mats, but it’s good to get this ticked off. There are still some ends to weave in and a couple of bits to tidy. I’m not 100% happy with the way I picked up the stitches on the collar but I’ll wait and see how I feel about it when it’s finished.

I’ve also picked up my Ogopogo socks so one of those is now complete. I’m annoyed to have discovered the red vanilla socks I finished a couple of months ago have felted in the wash. I’m not really sure what happened there but I’m a bit gutted because a) massive man feet and b) they were such a lovely colour.

I’ve finally managed to get in the garden to get some things potted on. The first half of the polytunnel is all established, I’ve alternated root crops of carrot, beetroot, and parsnip with some taller cucumbers, tomatoes and chillis. I’ve have some peas and beans desperate to go in the ground but I need some 6ft canes as I ordered 2ft ones by mistake! I also harvested a decent crop of rhubarb today so I’m looking at things to do with that.

I need to get all of this lot sorted into place!
Hopefully the lettuce and spring onions will be harvested before the bigger plants crowd them out. I’m still experimenting with spacing.
Crumble or pie?

That’s it for this update. I hope to find time to post a bit more now that work is quieter and I’m back on my feet. The garden is now at the point where I need to keep on top of things so there will probably be a bit more of that to report on in the coming weeks.

Year of Projects: Week Forty Three

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog. Work has been crazy so stopping for the Easter weekend was very welcome. I tacked on a couple of extra days holiday onto the long weekend and my partner and I had a few days in Hay on Wye. For those who don’t know it, Hay is a book town so we basically spent three days trawling antiquarian book shops looking for interesting finds. I still managed to indulge my other hobbies of yarn and stationery however and picked up this lovely hand dyed yarn from a local dyer, The Bobbin Sisters who dye book-themed colourways, and a new fountain pen and inks.

This week also saw the return of Wonderwool. This is my local(ish) yarn festival which, due to Covid, hasn’t run since 2019. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the day, as well as returning and new suppliers. It makes such a difference to meet the people behind the products; and the animals in several cases! I’m so pleased to see that the event survived the pandemic when it could so easily have been lost and I hope the others return just as strong. Other than the John Arbon I realised later that all of my purchases were from new to me producers which is really nice. I love the ease of online shopping, but it’s not always easy to discover new producers and I often end up going to the same few.

So on to purchases. I picked up this lovely fibre from Velvet Sixpence. Despite the fact that I reverted to my default merino/silk blend I like the fact that this dyer does use a lot of other bases that aren’t so common so I look forward to trawling her Etsy shop when she’s back.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was hoping to start making my way through 52 Weeks of Socks so I mostly went with an eye on sock yarns for making a start on that. First up is some John Arbon yarn.

Followed by Woollen Wytch and Ducky Darlings. The Ducky yarns are probably going to make their way into a shawl/scarf.

And finally for yarns some Mothy Squid (blue and green) which will definitely be socks, and Moonlight yarns which will probably be something shawly. I’m thinking of maybe tackling brioche for the first time but I’m not sure if that would suit something variegated or whether I’d be better with something more solid.

And finally, although I said the one think I definitely didn’t need/want was more raw fleece to sit in the cupboard making me feel guilty for being so lazy, I ignored myself and picked up this mohair sample pack. I love the idea of seeing how the fleece changes and it comes with this lovely information booklet. So when we get the next good weekend I’ll try and make a start on washing the samples.

In news of what I’ve actually done, as opposed to bought, I have finally finished my Boxy so I need to get that blocked and posted. I say finished, I’m waiting to see if blocking helps some of the shoulder stitches sit a little better but if not I might need to rip one shoulder back and redo it. Why oh why when I spot a problem as I’m going along do I not fix it then and instead of deciding ‘it will be ok’. It is never ok, it always annoys me later on and means I don’t enjoy or wear the final thing until it’s fixed – which can take years!

I have quite a lot going on in the garden too, so I’ll post an update on that later in the week. I hope everyone else is being more productive with their projects!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Forty

I can’t believe we’re this far through the year already, I’ve barely scratched the surface of yarn related projects! At least Boxy is coming to a close now. I’m just working on the sleeves and finishing up the neckline. I’m not sure what my next larger project will be. Maybe Hitofude which has been on my to knit pile for a while. I’ve started it a few times but the yarn never wanted to be that project. I now have some yarn that I think will be great for it, but I’m not sure it’s the right colour. Aargh!

I’m still slowly spinning my advent spin. I don’t think I’ve ever taken this long to spin anything, I’m not sure where my spinning mojo has gone. I need to get a move on as I want these bobbins clear for TdF which is shockingly on the horizon again.

I bought a new book, 52 Weeks of Socks (or seven and a half years of socks at my pace). There are some really nice patterns here and I kind of like the idea of taking choice out of things and just starting at the beginning. I might make a start on some sock presents using this.

Not much has happened in the garden this week as we’ve had a cold snap. I’m amazed at how warm the polytunnels stay even when there’s a frost, this means everything is still doing ok with the exception of the basil, which I might lose.

That’s it for me this week. Just a photo of my favourite ladies to end on. Despite a completely empty field they like to gather in the shady spot by the gate.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Eight

We’ve finally had a run of good weather which means time to get in the garden before the rains descend again! This week’s big win was constructing the new raised bed and polytunnel. This one is much taller than last year’s, about four foot as opposed to two, so I can use it for some larger crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, and chillies.

The cover really made a difference with last years herbs and chillies, but was far too small for the chilli plants. This year I’m using the smaller covered bed for soft herbs. This weekend I split up one supermarket plant each of basil, parsley, and coriander and potted them into place. I hope I’ve not done it too early and the cover will protect them from the colder nights and frost, but time will tell. There is also spring planted garlic in this bed. I find autumn planted garlic doesn’t work very well here and tends to rot before it gets going so I’m hoping the drier weather will work better.

I have three other beds in use at the moment with shallots and more garlic. It will be interesting to see how the garlic fares in a covered vs uncovered bed.

I also managed to get my first potatoes in! L-R (so I remember!) are Charlotte, Jazzy, and Ratte. I have more to plant out but I’m trying to space them out a bit to avoid a glut. I’ll have to keep an eye out for growth for another month or so and cover them up if it looks like frost might be on the way, but I tend to find they’re better protected in bags rather than in the ground.

It looks like good weather for the rest of this week so hopefully I’ll be able to get out for an hour or so each day to start getting things in order. I have to admit it doesn’t look too pretty out there at the moment!

My boxy is coming on at a glacial pace but at least I’m on to the neck and shoulder shaping now (not that you can really tell).

To round off the weekend I took a trip to visit my favourite sheep in the village! I hope you had a good weekend where you are!

Spinning Silk Workshop

Earlier this week I attended an online workshop run by Katie Weston at Hilltop Cloud on spinning silk fibre. I have very little experience of spinning silk beyond a silk brick preparation I tried a few years ago which ended in complete disaster. I found it impossible to draft and quite ‘messy’ as a prep. After that I stayed well away from pure silk although a do like it in blends.

Back L-R: Eri, Mulberry, Penduncle
Front L-R: Tussah, Sari, Hankie

So this workshop was a great opportunity to try it out again being a little bit older (definitely) and wiser (ish) as a spinner. The workshop looked at tussah, mulberry, penduncle, eri, and sari silks, as well as mulberry silk hankies. We had a good introduction to the silk making process, I had no idea that different silks came from different worms, and Katie was really good at seamlessly manipulating camera views so that we could see her hands during the tutorial sections. We also covered the key differences between types of silk and their properties, with the lack of any crimp at all to mulberry giving it its very lustrous but slippery feel, and the others being a little more textured and easier to handle.

L-R: Tussah, Mulberry, Penduncle, Eri, Hankies, Sari.

These samples were spun from the end of the top with a short backwards draw and a moderate amount of twist. This produced reasonably consistent (for a first attempt!) samples which retained lustre a made for a soft, drapey yarn. Both the hankie and the sari silk made for more textured yarns. I made a singles yarn with the silk hankie although I drafted it out a bit too finely so ended up with a very thin yarn. Despite this it’s reasonably balanced which is a first for me in terms of singles yarns. Silk wants to spin very fine, particularly mulberry, although I found penduncle seemed easier to spin slightly thicker without much effort on my part.

L-R: Tussah, Mulberry, Penduncle, Eri

These were spun longdraw (ish) from the fold, with high twist in both the singles and the ply. The mulberry was very challenging to spin this way and is more of a ‘spin-however-you-can-get-it-on-to-the-bobbin draw’. Mulberry is definitely not my friend yet! Visually I prefer the look of these although the high twist sacrifices some of the softness.

I switched to only spinning tussah blends some time ago having read this was a wild silk where moths were allowed to hatch before the silk was harvested. I now understand that this is not really the case although eri, also known as peace silk, allows for this. However the industry is complicated and, as noted in the workshop, has very long supply chains where it’s not always possible to be accurate about sources. As a vegetarian I’d be much happier being able to buy naturally hatched silk, rather like I only buy angora from small producers I know have excellent welfare standards, but this seems to be a more complicated topic than I realised.

Overall I really enjoyed this workshop and I have plenty of silk left to experiment a little more with different twist levels. I really liked the penduncle and eri, and was surprised to hear that these were both supplied by HTC in their undyed form. The grey/brown of the penduncle is particularly beautiful and I can imagine a very nice shawl or cowl made from this in its undyed state.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Five

What a difference a week makes. This time last week we were being battered by storms; this week it’s beautifully sunny and dry. While it’s is good for gardening it does mean the knitting/spinning has taken a bit of a back seat this week.

Continuing the sheepy theme for the garden

I made a start earlier this week on planting some early seeds. I usually just throw seeds in any old compost and hope for the best, but this time around I’m trying some woollen seed compost. I usually lose a few seedlings to collapse so I’ve also tried topping off with Vermiculite to see if that helps with damping off. So far I have sown chillies (Jalapeños), leeks (Lancelot), spring greens (Summer Jewel), and cucumber (F1 Baby). The greens are already coming up after only a few days on the windowsill.

These are quite sturdy propagators

Outside I made some progress with the raised beds. I am dismantling one of my older beds and reusing the planks to add a bit more depth to the existing ones. I’ll definitely get another year out of these, maybe two if I’m lucky. I’m replacing them slowly with some more substantial beds which can come with additional hoops for adding a polytunnel. I don’t have the space for a greenhouse, but last year this worked really well with the softer herbs like basil which don’t always work great in my garden.

Once I’d finished with some of the reorganisation I planted up a bed of spring shallots (Meloine) and some garlic (Picardy Wight). I’ve never had much luck with winter garlic so I thought I try this. I’ve sown some in an open bed and some under the polytunnel to see which works best.

It’s not all been hard work this week. There is progress on my endless stockinette sweater (honest!) and I’ve made time for some spinning. I have a better set up with my wheel now so that it’s easier for me to just jump on for an hour in the evening without it being a faff getting myself set up. I have my silk spinning class tomorrow and Tuesday so I’ll try and post something about those later in the week. I’ve also been making notes about my Down breed study so I’ll try and post an update on that too. I spin a lot of Merino and BFL and I’m finding the liveliness of the Downs a bit of a challenge!

Oh and I made the next step in the kitchen project and actually managed to get some people out to take a look at it. They’re going away to mock up some designs and get some estimates together. They’re so busy they won’t be able to do it until next year, but I suppose that gives me plenty of time to save up if I fall in love with something expensive.