i won i won i won!

The other day I entered one of those ‘post a comment and be entered for a prize draw’ contests on this lady’s blog, which she kindly ran to celebrate getting 100,000 hits…and I won one of the prizes. A very pretty looking lump of grey romney roving is on its way to me. Thank you so much Kathleen!

 An update on the free fleece adventure:

 I decided to try and rescue some of the jacob that i thought had been washed to death by dumping it in a bowl of hot water with a ton of hair conditioner in. I then did a few rinses (one with vinegar in to return the wool to its happy pH). The water turned brown, almost the same colour as when a fleece is washed for the first time, I assumed it had been already washed as it was so dry and wiry, but a lot of gunge came out, so now i’m unsure as to what had been done to it before it reached me. It’s still a little matted in places (does jacob felt easily?), but an awful lot better than it was before, I carded up a bit and did a test spin. Prepping it wasn’t fun, it was very lumpy and neppy and gross, there was a lot of waste, but i managed to get 3 nice rolags and a relatively even yarn (though i was still picking out the odd lumpy bit as i was spinning). I’ve never worked with jacob before, but i’m starting to think more and more that my dislike of it is due to this particular fleece rather than the breed as a whole. I’m participating in a fibre study group on ravelry, jacob is one of this month’s fibres, so i’m taking pics of my progress for that…I shall make sure some of them find their way here too once i get them off the camera.

The free fleece adventure

Yesterday I collected a big pile of fleeces from a very kind raveler who no longer wanted them (isn’t Ravelry awesome?). A few other people were interested in the fleeces, but were unable to collect them, so I (foolishly?) offered to wash them and send bits out to people to try. As I’m sure it’ll take me a while to work through them all, i thought i’d chronicle my progress here so the people who want some can see what i’m up to.

 The first fleece I got out of the bag was a Jacob/Wensleydale cross, its a pale grey colour with beige tips. This was the cleanest fleece i’ve ever seen in terms of VM, and the dirtiest grossest fleece i’ve ever seen in terms of grease. It had been rolled up nice and tight so it fitted in a pillowcase, and when i got it out it just wanted to sit there in one big congealed sticky lump. With a lot of coaxing I managed to get it unrolled, and pulled off a chunk to wash. I currently wash my fleece in a plastic laundry basket in the sink. I used to use the bath, but it took too long to fill, and it made my back hurt bending over to move the fleece around. With the current method i can fit about 1/3 of an average sized fleece in at a time, which is also the amount that fits comfortably on the drying rack, so it’s all good. Here’s some pics of the fleece i just mentioned, after washing, while drying in the sun.


Look at these little curls, aren’t they cute?


After washing, the fleece was transformed from a sticky lump, into a lovely light soft huggable lump. I’ve never prepped a longwool fleece before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s very smooth and soft, and there’s much less grease left in it than there is in other fleeces i’ve washed, even though i followed the same procedure I always do. I spun a small sample, and the closest thing i can compare it to from my past experience is working with BFL tops, but with a longer staple length. Here’s a pic I took of one of the locks after it was washed and i’d finger-combed it. there’s a clothespeg there, partly for scale, and partly because the camera doesn’t like focussing on almost white fibres on a white background.


The next bag had similar contents, another jacob/wensleydale cross, but this time white. It had also been compressed into a very smal space, and was rather oily, but much less sticky than the last, and it rolled out nicely.


This one has cute little curls too


With this fleece I was given my first experience of suint; the bottom inch or so of the locks were really really yellowy coloured compared to the rest. I was concerned that it might be stained, I’ve never had a suinty fleece before, so all i knew about it was that it’s sheep sweat, and it’s yellow. Here you can see the edge of the fleece rolled over so you can see the bottom. The colours are a little off cos it was bright sunlight, in reality it was a little yellower.


I pulled off a chunk of the fleece and washed it as normal. I was pleased to notice the yellow colour had almost totally gone after the first hot water soak, even before the addition of detergent. It’s now all clean and on the rack to dry.

 The next bag I opened contained jacob fleece. It had already been washed and separated into 5 or 6 carrier bags, here’s the contents of one of the bags tipped out into the light tent:


It’s not actually an intact lump of fleece, it’s been torn into smaller pieces, and it’s already been washed. It’s soooo dry though. When I wash fleeces, I always leave a little of the grease in (well, using the method I use, some of the grease always remains, it would be hard to remove it even if i wanted to, but i don’t, so its all good). This stuff feels like it doesnt have any left in it at all. I read a tip somewhere that the wool should be lightly spritzed with olive oil/water before spinning. I may have to try that, as I tried spinning a bit of this, and really didnt enjoy it. It might be just that Jacob fleece is very different to what i’m used to working with, it certainly has a lot less crimp than the Norfolk Horn I have, and is less fine, but i think it was mostly the dryness that I didnt like, so I will try the oil trick and report back.

 The final fleece is a white one, unsure of the breed. It’s been washed in a similar way to the jacob, so it’s in small pieces and is very dry. I might try it, but I have a lot of white fleece already from the Norfolk Horn, which still has a little grease in and suits my style of spinning a lot better. I’m happy to send bits of this miscellaneous white fleece to someone else if they want to have a go with it….message me on ravelry and let me know. I doubt i’ll be reporting on it here again though, cos it’s really not that interesting.

And that ends the first instalment of the free fleece adventure. Thanks again to the kind fleece donor. I shall report back as more washing and spinning is completed.

Collets + a toy wheel = happiness


First, let me begin with a photo of my wheel. It’s a Haldane Lewis, and I love it dearly.


Unfortunately, as my spinning is improving, I’m learning more about the limitations of my wheel. The first is an obvious one; Haldane wheels are no longer made, so getting spares is hard. Spare bobbins cost £15. While I would love more than 3 bobbins, I don’t want to spend that much money on them, so I will just have to make do. The next problem I encountered was the ratios. The two whorls give 6:1 and 8:1, which was fine when i was starting out, but now I’m spinning more laceweight yarn, it’s really hugely annoying. I’ve been looking out for other wheels on ebay, thinking I could maybe get an old ashford and buy the lace flyer kit, or a random old wheel I could take apart and make smaller whorls for. Sadly spinning seems hugely popular, and wheels on ebay go for silly amounts. I then thought I could perhaps glue a chamfered-edged disc onto the back of the whorl i have, but i really didn’t want to ruin the wheel, as its just so beautiful. Its a shame though, as there’s plenty of space there on the flyer shaft, as you can see here (as well as a sneak peak at the baby alpaca/tussah silk I am spinning up at the moment.


I though about trying to make my own replacement smaller whorl, but realised my metalworking skills were sadly lacking, there was no way i’d be able to make something that fitted onto a reverse threaded shaft. Then, one day, while looking at my meccano swift, I realised that mecanno has perfect wheels for this, they have a collet attached so they can be tightened onto the axels, and they have a groove in the outside for a driveband. I checked, but the collet was wayyyy too small, designed to fit on an axel of around 3.5mm, and it wasn’t big enough to bore out to fit my flyer shaft. Still, i realised that the idea was sound, I just needed to find the right sized collet.

Yesterday, I was in the model shop in the city, looking for something they didn’t have, when I thought i’d go look for collets…and I found some. I was fairly sure the ones I found were too small, I asked the guy who worked there, and he said it was the biggest size the supplier made, so I bought some on the offchance that they would fit (I stupidly hadn’t bothered to measure the shaft at any point). What I didn’t realise was that the part of the shaft I see most, where the bobbin goes, is actually wider than the part behind the whorl’s screw fitting. So the collets I bought fitted!!! I grabbed an old toy wheel, bored a groove in the edge of it, and glued the collet to it….an instant new whorl! I used a countersink bit to widen the hole at the non-collet edge, as the thread stuck out a little beyond the whorl and I wanted it to sit flush…as it is, I need to widen it a little more. I also thought the groove might be too small, and on testing realised I was right, but it didnt matter as the drive band wants to sit in the groove between the edge of the wheel and the back of the whorl anyway. So now I have a snazzy new whorl that gives me a ratio of about 11:1. It cost me less than £2 to make, and i have 3 collets left to make others!


Okay, so it’s not as pretty as the rest of the wheel. I do plan to make another stained a similar colour, and varnish it before sticking the collet on, so I don’t have to get the wood saturated with superglue. With a few minor design adjustments, I can see myself being very happy indeed with this new addition!*


*or at least, very happy until I lose the allen key that tightens it up, then I will be cursing myself and my bright ideas when I can’t get the bobbin off.

look what i made!!

I’m feeling very proud of myself as today I made a drop spindle and its so lovely to use. When i first learned to spin i made one out of dowel and CDs, and it was wobbly and i hated it…probably more because my shoulder was more painful then than it is now…but certainly the crapness of the spindle had a part in it. I did however enjoy the drafting and spinning itself, so i found a nice cheap Haldane wheel on ebay (which is beautiful, i shall have to remember to photo it for the blog one day), and never thought about spindles again. However I’m now getting to learn the limitations of my wheel. spinning laceweight is a pain, the highest ratio just isn’t fast enough, so i get bored, and get a sore leg. I’m planning to make a smaller whorl. but need to get a couple of bits to make it work (and to make it so i don’t have to change existing parts at all, its too beautiful to do that to), so I decided that in the meantime i’d try making a small and fast spindle. The lathe hasn’t been used for a while, so the longest part of the process was the taking it apart and cleaning and oiling it. After that, it was a pretty quick job…a chunky disc of delrin, an acrylic rod, some polishing and a hook, and it was ready, the hook needed bending a few times to get it to spin dead straight, and now it does, and i love it. I can’t see it replacing the wheel any time soon though, even though my shoulder is better, it does still get sore very quickly.

 The only downside of it is that it spins wonderfully once it touches the floor, due to my nice laminate flooring (which, incidentally, makes my wheel slide around, unless i use castor cups), so I can let it sit on the floor until i’m happy with the amount of twist. Great in theory, but the floor noise is apparently a signal to cats to come and play. I looked down a couple of times when i could feel the spindle pulling to one side, to see monkey with her paw hooked around the shaft. I’m hoping the novelty will wear off.

 I’m planning to make a couple of pretty hardwood ones next, I have some pink ivory and boxwood and something which looks like walnut but isn’t. Unfortunately they are square cross section stock, so I will need to borrow some tools to get them cut and rounded off before i can turn them, but it’ll be a quick job…I might take some to my parents’ tomorrow and borrow my dad’s tools.

And, without further ado, here’s my new spindle!


See those grey blobby bits in the pic? That’s dirt on my sensor 🙁 ..or maybe the lens, but i fear a sensor cleaning is in order. They don’t show up at f11 (unless you really look for them), which is what my yarn pics are normally taken at, but i upped it to f16 or so cos of all the white in the pic….I don’t know how to change the exposure compensation on my camera in manual mode…the button combination that does it in AP mode changes the aperture size in M mode, so rather than find the manual or look on the internet, I decided to cheat and close the aperture some. bad move…stupid grey blobs! I need to (1) learn how to use my camera properly (2) find (and remember to use!) my ND filters (3) turn the lights down (if they go down any further, i can’t remember) (4) move the lights back. Any combination of the above would be good, but I really should do them all so i can shoot at f8 or so for ‘normal’ pics, and have the opportunity to do arty wide open shallow depth of field type pics too when desired.

Dad’s the word – free sock knitting pattern

I finished the socks I was making for my dad, and had people ask what the pattern was, so I thought I would attempt to write it out. This is my first knitting pattern that’s anything more formal than scribble on the back of an envelope, so if there’s any errors, please let me know.

 I unfortunately gave the socks away before starting to write the pattern, foolishly forgetting to measure the tension, and i’ve lost the swatch I made beforehand, but i shall measure next time i see my dad. For now, if a plain 60 stitch sock fits, this sock will fit, the extra stitches make up for the pulling in of the cables. I know its written for a man, but my dad only has size UK6 feet, so it’ll probably fit women better than it does men.

 The yarn used was ONline linie 2 supersocke silk, in colour 0006, 2*50g

 I used the magic loop method, feel free to use whatever method you prefer. If using dpns, i’d recommend having the front/top stitches on one needle, and the back/bottom stitches divided between another two needles, then knit with the 4th needle. The charts for the front and back of the sock are separate.

Right. I think that’s all the preparationy stuff. Read through the pattern before you start, as there will be at least one instance of ‘at the same time’.

 Cast on 68 stitches. Divide as explained above, or however you want.

Work 16 rows in 1×1 rib

Charty links: chart 1 chart 2  chart 3 chart 4 chart 5 chart 6 key to charts  

Front of sock: work chart 1 3 times, then chart 2 3 times, then chart 1 once. AT THE SAME TIME:

Back of sock: work chart 3 7 times.


Front of sock: work chart 1 twice, then chart 5 once. AT THE SAME TIME:

Back of sock: work chart 4 once. Row 30 is the row you start to turn the heel on. Before knitting this row, rearrange the stitches as detailed below.

(The numbering of chart 5 starts at row 13, so you can make sure you’re on the same row on charts 4 and 5)

You will now have 26 stitches on your front needle, and 42 on your back needle. Move 4 stitches from each end of the back needle to the front needle, so you have 34 on each again.

 Heel: work a standard short row heel with wraps or double stitches or your own preferred method of avoiding holes over the 34 stitches on the back needle. For the top part of the heel carry on the rib pattern as in row 30 of chart 4, keeping the ribs going until you’re not working as far as those stitches anymore. For the second half of the heel, just knit. (I will add a line by line heel explanation later, but for now i imagine anyone knitting this knows how to turn a heel or they’ll be mightily lost with my pattern already).

After turning the heel, carry on with the pattern on the top of the foot:

Chart 1 3 times, then chart 2 3 times, then chart 1 3 times. Bottom of foot: knit all stitches. You might want to ktbl for the first and last stitch on the bottom needle on each row to give the edge more definition.

Now move to chart 6. knit row 1 of chart 6 as many times as you need until the sock is 7.5cm (need to check this number) shorter than desired final length, then work the rest of chart 6 on the top of the foot, continuing to knit on the back of the foot. AT THE SAME TIME, every time you make a decrease on the top of the foot, work an increase on the 2nd/2nd to last stitch on the bottom of the foot. you are only working the ribs into the middle at this point, NOT decreasing the size of the sock.

Now you can start to decrease for the toe. All worked in knit stitch.

work a decrease round: k1, ssk, knit to 3 stitches from the end, k2tog, k1. repeat on second needle.

work 3 rounds, work a decrease round

[work 2 rounds, work a decrease round] twice

[work 1 round, work a decrease round] four times

[work a decrease round] six times

12 stitches remain. Graft these using kitchener stitch, or thread the yarn back through them and tighten it, however you prefer to finish your toes.

 And that concludes my first ever knitting pattern. Please please please let me know if there’s any errors or ambiguities.

Generated by Flickr Album Maker

yarn pr0n and computer hate

So I got a ravelry account and nik lent me his pop up light tent. Clearly yarn pr0n was going to ensue. Here’s a few pics, there’s tons more in my ravelry stash…and i’ve only photographed a very small proportion of my old crappy acrylic yarn so far…though most of my nice squishy wooly yarn has been done. I’m loving the light tent, I’ve got one bare light set up at the back left, and one with a softbox just in front to the right. I should probably take a photo of my setup and write down the settings so i can recreate it after it’s been packed up, cos i’m liking the results.

The red yarn at the top left is my latest handspun…laceweight, 550m+ for 50g, and its 100% merino, super soft and lovely. No idea what i’m going to do with it, but it’s been added to the collection and will be regularly squished.

Generated by Flickr Album Maker (with a few tweaks from me)

My computer had been getting increasingly crashy recently, so i finally decided to try and fix it, and realised one of my ram modules was broken. So I’ve been running on 512mb, which is ‘okay’ for general browsing and stuff, but just kills the machine when using photoshop. I ran round the house looking in my other machine, and in the old machine dad gave me, and in my stash of random computer bits, but couldn’t find any ddr ram. Then i had a brainwave and stole some out of the machine nik left here. No doubt i will be in trouble when he finds out, but i figured it’ll get more use in this one, seeing as the other only gets used at meets…and it will help me keep my sanity. Oh, and in one of my diagnostic messing around with ram moments, i was trying to put some back in, and it wasn’t aligned properly and my finger slipped and i managed to gouge a hole in my fingertip. Given how very un-sharp ram is, i was pretty impressed at the damage caused. It’s been highly annoying when spinning, as the fine fibres want to catch on the healing wound and mess up my nice smooth yarn.

I added a progress bar thingy over there ->> and it worked first time, so that made me happy. Here’s the socks i’m working on for dad:
dad socks
I’m using Online supersocke I think it’s called…its merino/silk/nylon. Beautifully soft, but horrible and splitty to knit with, and certainly not designed for cables, I did the first couple of cable rounds without a cable needle, but it was too hard, so i’ve reverted to using one. If I’d have had any other sock yarn suitable for man socks, i’d have switched and used this for something plainer, but all my other sock yarns are distinctly girly…I was pushing it enough making socks with cables, trying to use a bright coloured wool would have been too much I think.