Starry Night

I’ve had a blending board under my bed for over a year now. I bought it early on in the first UK lockdown thinking investing in crafting materials would probably be a very good investment for the months ahead and then I just never got around to using it.

It’s a Golden Fleece Carders blending board which comes with the blending brush and the rolling dowels. I think the TPI is probably 108 as I work mostly with finer fibres although I’m trying to get out of my rut of merino and silk at the moment, There isn’t a stand with this one that I have seen on the back of others so you need to work it flat, but it does have a non-slip backing to the board.

I don’t really know why I’ve left it untouched for so long as getting going was pretty straight forward at least, it really does feel like painting the fibre on. The silk was a bit hard going but I think that was a little bit compacted from the dyeing process. The hard work of putting the colours together was done for me by Katie at Hilltop Cloud and I think I will pick up a few of her colour co-ordinated packs while I get to grips with the process as it’s possible to make great looking rolags even if the technique needs some work.

I really like the paintings of Van Gogh and as I was filling the blending board I was reminded of The Starry Night and how much I love the colour and texture of that painting, so here are my Starry Night rolags.

I followed the recommendation I’d been given to offset the wooden dowel rods to make it easier to slide the fibre off. Despite my best efforts I think I loaded too much fibre on to the board so pulling it off the board was a bit more difficult. My first rolag turned out to be a giant one as I hadn’t quite got the idea that you pull and roll in one movement rather than roll and roll and then try pulling. As a result I ended up with far too much fibre in the first one.

I think the other ones turned out ok though for a first attempt. I have so much respect for the people who make those lovely neat, tight rolags I get in the post! I now need to work out how to not get thick/thin spots. And how to not get holes in my thumbs from the carding cloth!

Year of Projects 2021/2 Week Nine

Only a very quick update from me today. I’ve finished my Mothed jumper this week and it’s currently being blocked. I’ll write a proper post about it later in the week but here it is.

I’ve made little progress on anything else this week as I have shingles and haven’t felt like doing much of anything. There has been some progress on the socks but not much. I’ve also finished watching the School of SweetGeorgia class on blending boards and I’ve dug out a Hilltop Cloud mixed bag of merino and silk to start having a go. It will be good to finally get the board out from under the bed where it’s sat for the last year!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Eight

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks so I didn’t get around to posting last week. I’ve been making some steady progress on my Mothed jumper and I’m now onto the final couple of inches on the body. I went with 3/4 sleeves, partly because that’s what I like but also I’m a bit worried about having enough yarn to finish the body! I’m keeping this as my TV knit this week.

Image shows jumper knitted top down with three quarter sleeves and an incomplete body.
Mothed

Despite having some WIPs still to finish up I cast on a new project this weekend because I found the yarn and had to use it. This is Third Vault Yarns in Deep Space on the Librarian Sock base. I love this colourway and it’s knitting up great with the Ogopogo sock pattern.

I also decided to try out the School of SweetGeorgia fibre craft school with two weeks access for $1 at the moment. I enjoyed Felicia Lo’s Craftsy classes on dyeing several years ago and her SweetGeorgia platform has dyeing classes as well as knitting, weaving, spinning, and more. I’ve dipped in and out of a couple of classes and watched most of the one on blending boards as that’s my next project I think. There are opportunities to attend live sessions online although I’ve not looked into how that will work out with the time difference. I can imagine I’ll dip in and out of this with a monthly subscription here and there but I don’t know whether it would be worth a subscription for a whole year.

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Finished Object: From Fluff to Stuff

I finished a thing and finally got the opportunity to take a couple of photographs between the rain. This is my Fichu Bleu shawl. The pattern is nice and clear with simple blocks of stockinette and broken rib. Despite this I still went wrong and made my sections of stockinette too deep, which is a good lesson in reading the pattern through to the end rather than assuming I know what I’m doing.

It’s made from these beautiful Fellview Fibre gradient batts in merino. I spun these from the fold but the year it took me to spin them meant that my drafting technique was a bit free and easy to be honest. The singles were then chain plied.

In the end I don’t think my mix and match drafting technique mattered too much in the final finished object. It’s got some nice drape to it despite being a bit more substantial for cooler days. I love the colour changes but with hindsight I think they obscure the side panels of broken rib. I had no real idea what this yarn was going to be so this was a pattern picked knowing what yarn I had on hand and how much but I think it’s worked out well.

Now I just need to figure out how to wear a shawl.

Tools of the Trade: My Top Five Knitting Tools

I love a ‘top’ list so as I’m starting to do a bit of craft sorting at the moment it seems like a great opportunity to go through some of my tools and share my particular favourites.

I suppose we should start with the main tools of the trade and talk needles. I’ve tried a few different kinds over the years. I started out with Pony needles and made my way through various kinds. I found the aluminium ones too slippy and the bamboo ones too grippy and I was always splitting the yarn with them. The plastic ones seemed like a good compromise but they just didn’t feel right, I think it was the lack of clicking! Then I tried the KnitPro Karbonz and I fell in love. The metal tips are sharp and slippy enough that they glide through yarn without splitting it but the carbon fibre shafts are grippy enough to prevent the stitches sliding off. They feel ‘warm’ and pleasing to knit with and I love the flexibility of interchangeable needles. The Box of Joy is just that!

Image shows box of eight pairs of interchangable needles
KnitPro Karbonz Box of Joy

Continuing the needle theme the only other needles I use regularly are these Addi CraSyTrio needles. I’ve tried various needles for socks and these are my favourite. Like the Karbonz these combine what I want from sock needles: they aren’t as fiddly as dpns and I don’t have to keep pulling the cable through and rearranging stitches like I do with circulars. The short cable keeps them flexible and not as slippery as metal dpns. I’m also less likely to lose one on the go (or down the sofa).

Image shows Addi cabled double pointed needles for sock knitting. Image also show sock in progress.
Addi CraSyTrio needles

I’m a sucker for stitch markers and I have a range of stitch markers of various kinds: some nerd themed, others beaded, a smattering of Christmas themed ones, and even one of Elizabeth I’s ‘spymaster’ Sir Francis Walsingham. But these simple metal ring stitch markers are my favourites from a practical perspective. They’re completely smooth so they don’t snag, there are no fiddly bits to get in the way when I’m moving yarn back and forth when knitting and purling, and they have just enough of a pop of colour to keep them interesting. There’s also a bonus cute stitch marker in each tin. I have three or four of these but can usually only put my hands on a few at a time so hopefully I’ll track the others down during this sort out!

Image shows two tins of scattered metal ring stitch markers
Stitch Markers

These blocking mats and pins from KnitIQ have revolutionised my finishing. I’m not the best finisher (sometimes literally, I’ve had stuff on the needles for years!) but these mats are excellent. The grids really help with shaping the garment, the pins slide in and out of the matting easily and the little case they come in makes tidying them away a breeze even for me. I no longer have to borrow Dylan’s rabbit flooring when I need to block things!

Image shows two interlocking knitting blocking mats with grid pattern on front and storage case
KnitIQ blocking mats

And last but not least is this two at a time sock project bag from QuincePie. I love the fact that the divider is a zippered pocket so that you can keep your bits and pieces separate from your yarns, something I find really helpful when knitting two at a time socks as I usually get all sorts tangled up in the yarn. The addition of a couple of clips for feeding the two separate yarns through keeps everything really tidy, and they come in a range of really cute fabrics. I don’t knit two at a time very often as I find it too fiddly but this really is a great bag

Image shows a drawstring bag with green lining. The bag is divided by a zippered pouch and has two clips to each side to keep yarn separate
Two at a time sock project bag

So that’s me and my top five, what would you recommend?

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Five

This week I’ve been starting to try and sort through some of my knitting related stash. It’s spread all over the house meaning that when I want a certain size needle/those gold beads/a crochet hook/my favourite stitch markers/ my plying spindle I have to search several locations to try and find what I’m looking for. I’m hoping to start finding a proper home for things over the coming weeks and get some of my stash into Ravelry. I have some long weekends coming up so I’m hoping to use that to start getting to grips with where to store things like beads and notions.

In the course of sorting I came across an old project from (I think) 2018. This is some of my handspun but I have no idea what the pattern was that I was using. I’m also not happy with how this was knitting up, I think it’s a bit too thin. I never like frogging a project but I don’t think this is ever going to see the light of day as a finished item. I’m not sure what this yarn is going to be, maybe a second yarn in a held double project?

Image shows a partially knitted jumper
A sad end to some handspun

In other news I’ve been making some good progress on my shawl for the Ravellenics. I’ve realised that I have gone wrong and my stockinette sections are deeper than they should be but I’m not too bothered about that. I have no idea if this will ever be something I’ll wear, but I really like this gradient.

Shawl in Fellview Fibre gradient Witch Hazel

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Four

It’s been a difficult week with all this heat. Despite the through draft created by having all of my windows and doors replaced this week it couldn’t cool things down enough to think much about knitting.

I did make progress on the Fyne vest. Aaaand then I made a mistake again. And then I had to unravel it again. I have knitted the same fifteen rows more times than I can count now and I’m rapidly falling out of love with it.I’m giving myself one last attempt to get it right and then I’m frogging it for good (or maybe setting it on fire and casting it into the abyss).

I did make some Ravellenics progress however. I cast on Fichu Bleu with the gradient I spun during the TdF. I’m never really sure if I’m a shawl person, some people make them look chic and effortless but I think I look like a badger wrapped in a blanket. Nevertheless I think it’s a nice simple pattern for watching the games and I think it works well with the chain ply.

Image shows shawl in stockinette and broken rib in a green gradient
Fichu Bleu

Year of Projects 2021/2 Week Three

So the Tour de Fleece comes to a close. I managed to complete my Witch Hazel gradient from Fellview Fibres. I really love the colours in this one and although there are some subtle differences in the spinning between the first part which I spun last year and this year’s two skeins, I don’t think it is enough to make much difference.

Gradient Spin

This year I’ve committed myself to keeping better notes on Ravelry about my projects so I’m pleased to say this is already logged and stashed. I can also say that the project worked out to be:

  • Length: 550m
  • Weight: 202g
  • Ply: chain
  • Wheel: Schacht Matchless
  • Ratio: 9:1
  • Twist: S
  • WPI: 15
  • TPI: 4
  • Angle of Twist: 40°
  • Grist: 1321 YPP

I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with it so I’ll get to spend some time poking around Ravelry looking for ideas.

In other project news this week has seen some garden related productivity. I planted some shallots last autumn and harvested these a couple of weeks ago. Courtesy of my partner they’re now on their way to being our first pickles of the season. We have cider, red wine, and balsamic vinegars here – just waiting for some more red wine to top up the middle one. We’re hoping for a good crop of chillies for pickling later in the year.

Pickled Shallots

Year of Projects 2021-22/Week One

I stumbled across the Year of Projects group on Ravelry this week. The group set out their crafting plans and projects for the year and then blog about their progress each week. You can read more about the group here.

As you might have guessed, I like the camaraderie of this, not to mention the hint of accountability. I love planning things. I love planners. I love getting behind systems that this year will absolutely revolutionise my sloth-like tendencies and make me more productive. But I’m trying to get away from that at the moment so I’m not going to be planning anything in minute detail, I just want to spend the year working on things that interest me and sharing them with people who I hope will also find them interesting.

That said, I have some plans, obviously. I want to do some stash reduction (doesn’t everyone?) I have both fibre and yarn to use up and it might be good to get it in to Ravelry, so there’s a project right there.

I have some fleece I need to finish prepping. I’ve not been great with prepping my own fibre, it always seems to be a bit disappointing so this is definitively an area I’d like to explore. I also have some equipment I’ve not used very much like my loom and blending board. It would be good to get to grips with these.

I’d like to finish the sweater spin that I’m doing at the moment for this pattern, although I’m open to other gradient patterns. I ‘think’ I will get enough yardage out of the fibre but I’ll have to wait and see. I also have this double knit scarf on the list. I have done double knitting before but I admit I’ve struggled to get going with this in a lace weight yarn so that will be an ongoing labour of love I think.

Oh and WIPs. I want to take stock of WIPs and decide to finish them or frog them. I’m tired of their silent taunting from the various cupboards I’ve stashed them in. I’m also tired of them falling out of every cupboard I open!

But first up for me is to finish my TdF. I’ve made some decent progress on the gradient spin I’ve been working on. I hope to finish that this week and move on to my next project, probably the sweater spin I mentioned which I am 3/5ths of the way though. Here’s my tour spinning to date.

Gradient spin

It’s been a year between the two skeins and I think I’ve spun the second skein a little more semi-worsted than the first so there is some variance. I’m not sure how this will play out in a project. Depending on length I’d planned a cowl or shawl so hopefully it won’t make too much difference.

The long slow run

So it’s Tour de Fleece time of year again. My job means that July and August are my somewhat quieter times of the year and so the Tour generally signifies the start of a slower pace of life and an opportunity to transfer some of the year’s pent up tension into some fibre.

Despite the calm the Tour ushers in, I always make a ridiculous amount of plans and line up way too many projects than I could ever hope to spin in the time available. ‘This year I’ll learn long draw/process a fleece from scratch/finally spin lace weight/complete a jumper’s worth just on a spindle…’, you get the idea. I just seem to try and make things complicated. And no, I don’t ever really get to any of that.

This past year I’ve started taking running a bit more seriously. I’ve come to appreciate the need for goals. I understand why just going out there and doing what feels good (or least bad) won’t help me break any records or go any further. I need structure and I need challenges. More importantly however, I’ve learned that improvement comes with rest days and slower days as much as it does with hill drills and sprints. And I’ve come to enjoy these days instead of thinking I should be doing more/faster/further. I’m thinking there is possibly something to take from this into my spinning.

So this TdF there are no big plans for me. There is no photo of the several kilos of fibre I want to get through; there are no hoops to jump through; there isn’t even a stack of books on my bedside table. What there is this year is the equivalent of that weekend longer run. I’m going to oil up my wheel, pick the next fibre project to hand, and just enjoy my time at the wheel and with the spinning community. I think the running and the fibre craft community are two of the most supportive corners of the Internet so here’s a shout out to you both and thanks for everything.

Oh, and since we’re here, this is my progress to date after Day One.

The start of a gradient chain-ply