Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Seven

It’s been a scorcher of the week here, and we’re pretty cool compared to more inland regions. We’re not officially into hosepipe ban territory but we should be by the end of the week. I’m trying to only water the parts of the garden in most need at the moment, which is basically my tomatoes and courgettes. I’m still getting lots of tomatoes but the squash/courgettes haven’t been as prolific as in previous years.

I’ve been busy this week decluttering, rearranging, and decorating the spare room. It’s going to be a much more functional space now but it’s been hot work! We’ve basically had to have a reshuffle of every room in the house in order to get rid of the clutter in the spare room, but now we’ve got rid of the double bed we can put in a sofa bed and make the whole space much more useable for work (or crafting. Mostly crafting.)

All this means there hasn’t been a lot of progress this week but I have made some. I haven’t quite finished the aster stitch section of my shawl like I had planned, but I’ve made some progress. I love how the variegated yarn works up in this stitch.

I have also done a little more on the embroidery project I started earlier in the week. I’m really enjoying this and will definitely be doing more of these in the future.

These are probably going to be my projects for the rest of this month although I’m hoping to finish up a pair of socks too. Knitting feels like hot work at the moment! I hope you’ve all had a productive week of crafting.

WIP Wednesday

I’m so slow with my crafting that I don’t often post a WIP Wednesday as I have rarely made enough progress between my YOP updates to merit one. However this week I’m trying out something new so here’s a quick look.

I’ve been meaning to take a look at embroidery for a while now and so when I came across these kits produced by The Crewel Work Company I had to give them a go. I’m only on the first stitch so far which is stem stitch. I had to have a few goes at the tree trunk and although it’s still not quite right I’m calling it good enough!

I’ll make a post about the kit once I’ve made a bit more progress but I have to say I’m finding it very easy to work with so far for a complete novice and I adore the historically focused patterns.

Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Five

The Tour’s over so I’m finally back to knitting. My cable needle inexplicably disappeared for several days (it was exactly where it should be and where I’d looked several times…) so instead of carrying on with my Ogopogo socks I cast on a new project.

I picked up this yarn earlier in the year at Wonderwool to make the Secrets and Storms Shawl (Ravelry link). I’m still a bit undecided about whether to make the large or small version. With hindsight I think maybe a darker grey or another neutral would have worked a little better for me but I love the colouring in the variegated yarn.

Not much else on the crafting side of things for me. I did manage a good haul from the garden which meant I could almost (peppers and aubergines aside) make a full meal from homegrown produce. I made a tumbet which is a Mallorcan vegetable bake made by sautéing potatoes, courgettes, aubergines and peppers and layering them with a tomato sauce before baking. I was pretty pleased to be able to make a fresh tomato sauce out of my own tomatoes, garlic, and shallots! I should probably have taken a photo of the finished thing, but I’d already eaten it by the time I thought about it!

It’s pretty rainy here so there hasn’t been much else going on in the garden. I have a few weeks leave now so I have a quick trip to Hay on Wye (again) to trawl the many bookshops and then I’ve got some home and garden projects I want to catch up on depending on what happens with the weather. I hope you all enjoy your week!

Year of Projects 22/23: Week Two

Well it’s been a busy week this week. Sadly not on the crafting front so much. Wednesday was super busy at work due to staff shortages so between that and watching things unfold in Parliament I didn’t get much spinning done that day. Thursday was my partner’s birthday (and still partly glued to what was going on in government) so we went and did brunch and had a mooch around the bookshops and delis. Friday/Saturday I tried to get in the garden where I could as things were starting to get out of control.

So I did manage to spin every day but I’m not as far through as I wanted to be. I’m about a quarter of my way through this merino/cashmere/silk blend. I’m hoping to be consistent enough for a 2-ply lace so I’m making more of an effort to spin a short forward draw. My default spin tends to be short backwards, which is quicker and easier but I now realise a lot less consistent. I’ll stick with 25g to a bobbin because I’m terrified of snapping the fibre and losing the end in the bobbin if I keep going!

The garden has been a bit overlooked due to the wet weather we’ve been having, this sudden change has been a good opportunity to get back out there. I harvested some more shallots and potatoes this week and turned some of these:

Into this:

It looks rock hard but it’s actually perfectly crispy 😂 Potato pizza is one of my greatest discoveries of lockdown.

There’s some good progress in the garden overall. I’m hoping the tomatoes will start to ripen in the next week or two. The courgettes are coming along nicely, and we’re harvesting a good crop of peas once a week. There isn’t any sign of the beans yet, and most of these were eaten earlier on in the year so I’ve only got a few surviving plants. The patty pan squash are looking healthy but not cropping yet and the rhubarb is out of control. I’m hoping to offload some of this on colleagues this week, either as fruit or a cake!

The nice thing about being in the garden is seeing a bit more wildlife including this cinnabar moth who was particularly striking:

I also have a family of slow worms living in my compost bin. I could really do with turning the heap but I really don’t want to disturb them.

That’s this week’s projects. I’m hoping to have finished the lace singles next week and to have worked on some of my other spinning projects. I’d really like to get the final skein in my sweater spin finished before the end of the tour!

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!

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: 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.

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.