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.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Three

I finally finished my first bobbin of singles from my 12 Days of Christmas spin. At this rate I should have a finished yarn by the summer! I’ve also been making progress on my Boxy but there still isn’t much of interest to see there either.

Fibres from Adelaide Walker

In spinning news I reactivated my School of SweetGeorgia account this week as I’ve got more time at the moment to dip into some of the workshops. I’ve been wanting to get started on a breed study as I have box of breed specific fibres in my fibre stash so I took a look at the Spinning Sheep Breeds workshop with Rachel Smith. The workshop covers four breed types: fine/medium wool, long wool, Down and Down-like breeds, and primitive breeds. There’s an overview of each breed, followed by tips on preparation methods and three or four examples of spinning fibres from each category. I’ve made a start on Down breeds because I have very little experience of these. I’ll be using a mix of commercially prepped fibre and some fleece samples I have. I also booked on to an online silk spinning workshop being run by Katie Weston of Hilltop Cloud so I’m looking forward to that at the end of this month.

Sadly this weekend the weather has been awful so there has been no activity in the garden. I have, however, made a start on chitting my potatoes. I have somehow managed to end up with all second earlies so if I’m not careful I will end up with huge glut of potatoes at the same time. I’m going to try and stagger the planting a bit if I can to try and get around this, and I might try leaving some in the ground a little longer and experiment with using them more like a maincrop. The varieties I’m using this year are Charlotte, Jazzy, and Ratte. My new raised bed arrived this week so I’m hoping the weather will clear up enough later in the week for me to get that in place but it doesn’t look great for the rest of the week so maybe it will have to be a crafting week.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Two

Just a quick update from me this week because although I’m still sticking with crafting each day, neither of my main projects have much to show for it! My Boxy sweater is around the seven inches mark (only nine to go before that starts to get interesting!) and I’ve finished my first bobbin of my 12 Days of Christmas. I’m not actually sure why it is taking me so long, I don’t feel that it is any thinner than usual but it seems to be slow progress.

In non craft news I have started the job of getting quotes for the kitchen. One of the companies I’d like to use can’t even come out and quite for the job until well into March! Still this is all an opportunity to save up a bit more in case I fall in love with ridiculous kitchen additions I didn’t know I needed.

I’ve also managed to spend some time drawing up some planting schemes for the vegetable beds. It’s a bit tough trying to maximise use of limited space but I think I’m getting there. I’ve cleared out one of the beds ready for planting my spring shallots in the next few weeks and next weekend if it’s dry I’ll clear the potato bed so that is ready to go. I’d better get those chitting, too. Last year I had quite a bit of success with shallots, potatoes, and courgettes. My tomatoes and peppers were the usual disaster, this is the last year I’m going to attempt tomatoes I think. I’m adding some fancier squash this year and probably sticking more to root veg and brassicas which suit the climate here a bit more.

Since there is nothing to really photograph for this week I thought I’d go and take a photo of my favourite sheep in the village, but even they were hiding! So here’s one of my favourite spots to pause for breath on my run!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty

I’ve finally finished the man socks of doom! Well, one of the pairs. The simple pair. Thankfully he didn’t want them to be too long so that saved some work on the leg. I much prefer the EoP heel on this version of the Vanilla Sock. Even simple socks seem a bit much in size eleven! I loved this Malabrigo yarn though.

Vanilla socks in Malabrigo

I’ve also picked the Ogopogo socks back up. I’d forgotten how fiddly cabling on socks can be but I really like this pattern and it works so well with this yarn. These are going to be a very slow progress but it’s nice to have something like this to pick up for a few rows on an evening. Weirdly these socks seem very long compared to the Vanilla ones above. They are so weirdly long looking I keep making my partner try them on, but they definitely fit.

Ogopogo

To offset the fiddly cabling I have cast on Boxy. I’ve been looking for a nice slouchy loose jumper to use up some of my fingering weight yarn and this looks a good choice. It’s bottom up which is a first for me in terms of construction. I’m about two inches into sixteen inches of body.

Boxy

Because I like to throw caution to the wind I cast on first, then I read about the yarn, and then I did a gauge swatch. The yarn is Malabrigo Mechita in Eggplant and reviews suggest it grows quite a bit with blocking but I didn’t notice this too much on my samples. I didn’t quite make gauge but as it’s coming up smaller I don’t think that will be a problem given the pattern. One day I’ll be less reckless in my knitting, but not today!

I’m still working on my 12 days spinning project and planning my next project. I have a lot of fibre in stash that I’ve been acquiring for a breed study so I might start looking at that. I also want to finish my HTC gradient sweater spin.

In not yarny news I’m starting to get down to making plans for the garden. I’m at my favourite point in the gardening calendar where I have seed catalogues, paper charts and a cup of tea in front of the fire. I get less enthusiastic when the action moves outside! My audio book at the moment is Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson and he writes a lot about Da Vinci’s endlessly enquiring mind and his inability to see most projects through to completion. I like to think I’m modelling myself on a genius!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twenty Nine

Its been a weekend of decorating this week so I’ve been trying to fit in bits of knitting and spinning where I can. I’m also trying to read a lot more this year which cuts into crafting time; it hard having hobbies that conflict with each other.

Anyway the man socks are coming to an end and I should wrap these up this evening. Despite having several ‘one sock projects’ on the go I am naturally casting around for my next cast on. I’m looking for ideas for some beautiful Malabrigo Mechita in Eggplant. I originally bought this for knitting Ink but I’ve struggled to get started with the cabled collar. I think rather than a cardigan I might go with an oversized sweater or tunic, something simple for slouching around in on weekends.

In spinning news I’m still making my way down my 12 Days. This is the next set of colours for days 7-12.

I’ve split the fibre so that the first set of singles is days 2–7, the second days 7-12, and the third a combination of both. The 100g of fibre from day one is split between the three. Even at a three ply I think I will probably hit a fingering weight. I’m not sure if a combo spin was the right approach but it’s an enjoyable spin and it’s going to be a surprise when it’s plied!

Year of Projects Week Twenty Seven

It’s been a while since I posted anything but the end of last year was just so busy I found it difficult to get much crafting done. I have managed to make some progress over the Christmas period:

The Man-Socks of Doom are slowly getting there. They would have been finished by Christmas but I went wrong on the heel turn and lost heart at the thought of unravelling. This is definitely one to finish for January.

I finished my corespun yarn and I will do an update for this later in the week once I’ve worked out how much I have. I’m not sure whether I like this or not, and I have absolutely no idea what to actually do with it, but I really enjoyed the process of making it.

I’m making my way through my Hilltop Coloud 12 Days of Cristmas spin. I’ve decided to spin this as a traditional 3-ply mixing and matching the fibres in a combo spin. I’m enjoying it so far. This is my progress with the first six days.

I haven’t made any crafting goals for the year ahead beyond trying to make sure I do something every week, however small. I think for now finishing up some of my WIPs will be the main focus and I certainly have plenty of those. I’d like to try and use up some stash, I know there is some beautiful purple Malabrigo there somewhere. I’m hoping Wonderwool will run this year. It’s my local yarn festival and it’s been two years since it was about to run as a physical thing. I’m going to try and keep my yarn purchasing at a minimum with the exception of that.

Non-crafting goals are to get more books read this year, I’m aiming for 75. I do include audio books otherwise I find having to choose between crafting and reading difficult. I’m also hoping it increase my running this year so my January challenge is to run at least one mile a day. The weather here is pretty atrocious at the moment so it’s a hard call as to whether I should have made it a swimming challenge!

That’s it for my quick update. Wishing you a happy 2022 and good luck with your own projects and challenges for the year ahead.