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.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twenty

I missed a posting last week because things have been super busy on the work front. I think I’m back on top of things again now (famous last words and all that!)

This week I’ve mostly been spinning because even endless rounds of stockinette stitch socks was too much. Well to be fair, I turned the heel, messed up somehow, ripped it back and haven’t had the heart to pick it up again so spinning it is.

I’ve made a start on an art yarn gradient using fibre from the 2020 Fellview Fibres 12 Days of Christmas Calendar, you can see the original batts here on the Fellview Fibres website. I wanted to do something different to my usual ‘spin it and see what you get’ although I’m a bit sad I’ve lost the lovely lustre of the blend. I’m not quite good enough to spin a balanced singles core spun yarn so I’ve gone with making a plied core spun.

I’m spinning it around a lace weight cotton core and then plying it with some gold thread to keep that Christmassy theme. I still have to finish the yarn so I’m not sure what metreage I’ll have at the end yet but I’m hoping for enough for a knitted cowl or maybe I’ll try a woven project but I think that would need to be mixed with another yarn. I’m also not really sure how to measure the WPI with art yarn so I need to investigate that.

In other projects I’ve given my wheel a bit of a polish as she looked a bit ‘dry’. Maybe the winter heating affects her too, I’m starting to feel like the central heating is sucking all of the moisture from my body too. At this rate I’ll be a desiccated husk by December! I’ll try and remember to give her an oiling too as I don’t think I do this anywhere near enough.

As for the garden is pretty much going to ruin now. I think I’ll just close the curtains and check on it again in March!

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Eighteen

I’ve finished up my Vanilla socks this week so it was nice to get those off my needles and on to my feet! I’ve also made some progress with the two pairs of socks I’m working on for my partner. It really is strange how large they feel in comparison to mine – I have to keep making him try them on to double check sizing.

I seem to have stalled on my spinning so I want to try and get back to that in the next few weeks. My spinner’s ‘12 Days of Christmas’ arrived from Hilltop Cloud in this cute, hand printed bag. I’m really looking forward to getting started with this. I may even start it early as I’ll be on leave for a good chunk of December but that seems wrong somehow.

Otherwise it’s been a quiet week on the projects front. I did pick up a new book which was James Rebanks’s English Pastoral. I’ve really enjoyed his other books on shepherding in the Lake District so I’m looking forward to settling down with this one, it comes highly recommended.