Posts Tagged ‘yarn’

I didn’t get a chance to do much (any?) blogging last week so here’s a quick look at what I’ve been up to recently…

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…lots of bunting in the process of being made, but I’m having to do it in bits and pieces because my pinking shears are a bit uncomfortable and despite rigging up a leather finger guard I can only do so many flags before I have either a dent or a blister on my finger 😦

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Yes, I should probably just buy some different pinking shears…but I’m too tightfisted!

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More embroidery, a commissioned piece this time, and in the photo above you can see 100 French knots.  I gave up counting after that but I think there were around 1,000 knots in the finished piece (which I will blog about soon!).

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After a bit of a break in my knitting and crochet habit I’ve picked up my hook again to make the cosy blanket designed by Lucy of Attic24.  It’s a nice easy pattern, and I bought one of the yarn packs from Wool Warehouse so I didn’t even need to worry about buying the right colours.  Gratuitous yarn/shiba photo…

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…and that’s it for now.  I really have been a bit rubbish at remembering to blog stuff so I will be trying to catch up with things over the bank holiday weekend!


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At the start of August I thought I would finally take the plunge and learn Tunisian crochet.  I decided on this pattern (you’ll need to register to view it, but it will cost you nothing), and for the first time in ages I decided to go ahead and just use whatever yarn I happened to have spare.  It’s been a while since I didn’t buy yarn specifically for a blanket project and you know what?  It felt great.  There is something extremely satisfying about using up yarn that’s left over from other projects, it’s what blanket squares were made for!

I found it really easy to get to grips with Tunisian crochet, and it’s definitely something I will come back to (I might even make this pattern again).  The pattern itself was great as it comprises 9 different stitch types so making the afghan was a real learning process.

Here’s how it looked once it was all sewn together.


Not bad, but I thought it was lacking something so I gave it a scalloped edge.  That did the trick.



The squares are a little uneven in size although you can see that I did eventually get the hang of keeping my tension even.  If you look at the second photo the bottom half of the blanket is made up of all the squares I did first, the top half were the ones I did last – it’s very easy to spot the difference!

So it’s a little wonky, but I love the variety of stitches (nine different stitch types), and the fact that it used up a huge chunk of my leftover yarn stash was a bonus.  The finished item measures approximately 1m square, and it’s destined to be a gift for a friend.

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Work in progress, a Tunisian crocheted blanket…


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Ok, I know, it’s a dreadful pun but I’m too tired to think of anything better!

Last year, at Fibre East, I bought some silk fibre and merino roving which I planned to spin using the rakestraw spinner I bought at the same time.

I never got around to spinning it, but visiting Fibre East this year gave me some fresh ideas… why not try dyeing it?  My friend Dawn bought some sachets of Kool Aid to dye her roving with (she’s a big fan of bright colours), but I wanted to try something more natural (muted colours are my thing).


There’s an elder tree growing in the garden behind mine, and the for the past few week I couldn’t fail to notice the berries overhanging the roof of my studio (well, more specifically, the really fat pigeons hanging upside down eating them were grabbing my attention!), so I thought this would be a good time to experiment with home dyeing.  I picked a kilo of elderberries, and here’s how it went…


I put the berries in a large saucepan, with just a dash of water, and heated them up while mashing them to help break them down.  I kept mashing until I was sure that I’d squashed most of  the berries and then sieved contents of the pan.


The juice went back into a pan, and the seeds/skin/flesh all went into a square of muslin which was tied up tightly.


Meanwhile, before all this, I simmered my roving in a pan of water with approximately 3 heaped teaspoons each of salt and cream of tartar.  I simmered the roving (25g of silk, and 25g of merino) for around 20 minutes, then drained it and squeezed out any excess water.


The roving was then added to a large pan with the mush-in-muslin, and the strained dye was poured over.  I then simmered the whole lot for about 90 minutes.




I then removed the pan from the heat and left everything sitting there overnight.  The following morning I removed the roving, squeezed the excess dye back into the pan, and then rinsed the roving under the cold tap until the water ran clear.

There was an awful lot of dye left in the pan, so I decided to use the last of the silk roving (25g) to try a slightly different technique.  I simmered it in the same salt/cream of tartar mixture as before, for the same amount of time, but then changed my approach.  I brought the dye bath back up to the boil, then turned off the heat before adding the silk.  I didn’t heat it up again, just left the silk in the dye bath overnight, then rinsed it out in the morning.

Would you like to see the results?  Of course you would!


That’s the silk from the first dye batch (the one which was simmered for 90 minutes)… a rather lovely purple colour, and I’m really pleased with it.


That’s the merino which was dyed at the same time as that silk… yeah, it’s not gone so well, the fibre has felted and is absolutely no use now!  I guess I agitated it a bit too much while it was simmering, so that’s an important lesson learned and I won’t make the same mistake again!  The colour is gorgeous though, and so different from the silk!


This is the second batch of silk, which wasn’t simmered.  The colour is much richer, and has more red in it.  Another pleasant surprise, and again I’m amazed at the difference in colour from the previous batch.

It’s been good fun experimenting with dyeing.  I haven’t got any books on the subject, but I did do some extensive research online*, from which I extrapolated the key facts**.  Would I have had more success, particularly with the merino, if I’d gone about things in a different way?  Perhaps, but it wouldn’t have been half so much fun!

I will definitely be trying my hand at dyeing again, although probably not until next year… I probably ought to spin this silk and then make something with it before I add any more roving to my stash 🙂



*skim read a lot of articles and forums

**basically got bored and made it up as I went along

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I hope you’re all keeping warm during this unseasonal cold snap – it really is bitterly cold out there at the moment!  I’ve been keeping warm indoors by spending most of my time frantically decorating over the past week, but have also squeezed in some time for knitting.

At the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show (which ran from 14th-17th March at London Olympia) I fell in love with a bag by Toft Alpaca.

button bag original

Gorgeous, isn’t it?  Unfortunately it was well out of my price range, coming in at a grand total of £122.  Ouch!  However, the very helpful woman running the stall told me that they sell kits (which include the yarn, pattern, kntting needles and giant button) for £100.  That’s still pretty expensive in my book, and frankly if I had that much money to spend on a kit then I might as well spend the extra £22 to get someone to knit it for me.  Mercifully she also said that they sell the pattern and buttons on their own.  Aha!  I left the show that day and immediately started the hunt for a suitable yarn substitute.

A yarn substitute was the most important part of the planning process, as it’s the cost of the Toft yarn that’s the real killer.  It’s beautiful, and it’s proper alpaca yarn bred and manufactured here in the UK… but it’s £25 per 200g ball.  The pattern reckons you need 800g of their chunky wool… you do the maths.

So I needed to find a pure wool, suitable for felting, which was of the same weight (the Toft stuff is labelled ‘chunky’ but is actually more like ‘super chunky’).  I hunted around online and eventually found some yarn I thought would work, so I ordered some of that (more than I thought I’d need, just in case!), then went to the Toft site and ordered the pattern, button and needles.  I then waited rather impatiently for everything to be delivered.


I’ll be honest, the knitting needles scared me a bit when they first arrived – they’re HUGE!  Still, despite some awkwardness to start with I soon got to grips with them and discovered that the pattern was very quick to knit.


I did have to use a small carabiner as a stitch marker, but that just adds to the charm of the project I think.



When I’d finished the pattern the bag was enormous and very loose… but not to worry, this bad boy was going in the washing machine for fulling/felting.  It went in for one wash at 40 degrees, and this is how it came out:


It had shrunk a bit, but not enough, so it went back in for a second wash at 60 degrees.


Much better.  I then stuffed it with carrier bags to help shape it, and hung it over a radiator to dry, and then once it was dry I added the giant button.



I love it.  It’s turned out beautifully, and although it’s more textured than the Toft bags I do actually prefer it this way.  It was really good fun to knit, and a wonderful birthday present as my lovely fella paid for the yarn and notions for this project.  My birthday isn’t until April, but hey – if you have to knit your own present you might as well have it early!

I enjoyed the knitting of this project so much that I’ve since made and felted a second, and currently have a third one on the needles.  As soon as that last one is finished I’ll post another update, and will also be adding them to my shop as a bit of a change from notebooks 🙂

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25th October 2012 – “Mini skeins – second shipment”

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Wednesday WIP (work in progress), a title borrowed from Kirst over at The Leopard Anchor because it fits the bill perfectly for this post.  I’ve been very infrequent with my blogging over the past month or so because I’ve been kept too busy!  What with gardening work, various craft projects, a last minute spot at Kensal Flea, and being told there’s a void under my lawn (don’t ask) I’ve not had much in the way of spare time.

So, what projects have I been working on?  Well the one with highest priority is a shawl I’ve been making for one of my aunts.  My mum’s going to visit her family again in Indonesia and she flies out in mid-October… so of course I have a deadline for this!  The good news is that I’m nearly finished (in fact I’m hoping to finish it by Friday), and as soon as it is finished I’ll blog about it properly.  In the meantime here’s a work in progress shot from last month .

Next on the list of ongoing projects are hats for The Big Knit.  I had hoped to make more but didn’t realise the deadline was 1st October, so I went and dropped off at Innocent HQ in Ladbroke Grove this morning as I’m going to be busy for the rest of the week.  My grand total?  60 hats!  I’m really pleased with that, and also chuffed that making them helped use up most of the scraps of yarn I had stashed away.  Stashbusting and something for charity, I wish all projects could be this rewarding 🙂  All the hats I managed to make are shown below.

Oh, and here’s a bonus photo of the inside of Fruit Towers – I was given a tour when I dropped the hats off (and a bag full of smoothies too!).

Hexipuffs… still a work in progress but I haven’t made any since I started the Innocent hats.  Looking forward to picking these up again next week.

Spinning… well, this has gone well and I actually finished spinning this roving into yarn a few weeks ago, but then it took me a couple of weeks to get round to soaking it to set the twist, and then it was another week before I got round to winding it into a ball.  Lazy, aren’t I?  Still, this is the finished product and I’ll have to try making a hexipuff with it soon!

I think the last project I have on the go is some Christmas cross stitch.  I think I’m going to make some baubles with these snowflakes, but we shall see.

More on those very soon I hope!

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