wonderfully crafty friends: Woollenflower

Crafty friends are the best! They inspire and nourish our crafty selves and never ask you to justify your stash or time spent in crafty pursuits. They don’t even blink at the inch thick layer of dust and other neglected household duties because it doesn’t even need saying that crafts are way more important than dusting. One of the things I’ve missed most about Melbourne was the group of crafty friends I met with regularly, The Richmond Knitters. In an ideal world Melbourne would be as close as France is or all my knitting friends would decide that they too would love to come and live in the UK. I am extremely lucky that two of my crafty friends from Melbourne live in Scotland now and that’s really not too far away from me to travel. One of those is Jules or Woollenflower as she’s known on Ravelry.

I don’t think I ever mentioned how we originally met on here. It tickles me a bit when I think of it because Jules and I met in a kind of a crafty blind date kind of a way. Sonia had been telling me that I absolutely must meet her friend Jules because we loved the same kind of thing and Katie had been telling Jules that she should meet her friend Melanie because we loved the same kind of thing. We ended up meeting one Monday at the Richmond Knitters knit night and instantly hit ot off. Well, why wouldn’t we? We both love tweed and woolly (some would say scratchy) yarn and soft muted colours. Since then we have spent time dyeing with logwood and woad and mostly sitting, drinking tea, eating cake, chatting, knitting and laughing. Isn’t it lovely that you can have reminders of good times with crafty friends? Every time I touch or look at the yarns we dyed together I’m reminded of those times. Mmmm, woad dyed yarn. Dyeing with woad still feels like magic alchemy whenever I think of it. When you think about it though, friendship is a kind of magic alchemy too. I must revisit woad sometime maybe I’ll investigate getting some woad plants.

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Jules has recently set up her online shop selling the colourwork cowls and Harris Tweed pouches which went down an absolute storm at the Edinburgh yarn festival, in fact they sold out. Here’s the webaddress of her shop http://woollenflower.bigcartel.com

I am lucky enough to be the proud owner of three of her cowls, photographed here quite badly and I apologise profusely for not doing them justice.

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They are warm, stylish and beautifully made, how on Earth could I resist? I managed to narrow it down to three but that was hard work believe me. I know that Jules puts in a lot of work in sourcing the right materials for her pouches and cowls and the attention to detail and quality are very evident. I’ll be buying some of her tweed pouches when they come back in stock but I promise to play nice and let the other people have some too. Though I’m sure I could find a use and justification for one on every colour of both the cowls and pouches without trying too hard.

Jules has a professional background in horticulture and this inspires her work. She’s a talented and enthusiastic natural dyer and her photography of plants and landscape are breathtakingly beautiful. Check out her blog and you’ll see I’m right. She is also a generous and patient teacher of knitting techniques having worked in several yarn shops in Melbourne as a knitting teacher. I’m envious of those knitters in Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounding areas that can readily access her knitting classes at Fluph and Ginger Twist Studios and those in Melbourne who’ll be attending her classes at the Craft Sessions.

Jules and I have discussed more dyeing sessions in the future and I’m currently saving avocado skins and walnut shells for that very purpose. There will of course be blog posts about our future dyeing sessions when they occur. I’d like to try dyeing more fibre with plant dyes in the future I think.

I will be working this weekend but I wish you all a wonderfully crafty weekend, perhaps with some time spent with wonderfully crafty friends.

My North Ronaldsay Arrow Shawl

Goodmorning, I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. Yesterday I took myself off in my car to Haxby which is a village north of York city in search of real bread so very little knitting took place. I did, however, finally decide which Hap I was going to knit for the Knit British Hapalong that’s hap-pening (gotta love a pun eh?) on Ravelry right now. Anyway, I shall post properly about that next week. This week I want to post about my Arrow shawl because I never posted about it as a FO and whenever I wear it I get lots of lovely comments about it.

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I knit the arrow out of two skeins of North Ronalsay 2ply that I got from Baaramewe years ago. Knitting this was an absolute joy because the yarn was so beautiful to knit with and the different options to decide how your shawl will turn out. I loved how it took the whole idea of knitting something personally unique one step further without having to actually do maths yourself. Totally brilliant! Ysolda has been one of my favourite designers since I joined Ravelry and this has to be my favourite of all her patterns so far.

My final choices for the clues were 1B, 2A, 3B, 3A, 3A, 3A, 4B, 5A. This enabled me to use up all of the two skeins that I bought and gave me a lovely big shawl to keep my neck and shoulders warm. I actually needed to spin some North Ronalsay roving to complete the last 6 rows because I ran out and the yarn was out of stock.

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North Ronaldsay yarn has a lovely rustic look to it as you would expect from a primative Breed of sheep that live on the coast of North Ronaldsay eating seaweed for most of the year. There are fine black hairs that run through the yarn that almost look like guard hair but they aren’t stiff or scratchy or noticeable on the skin at all. It’s lovely and soft and light and snuggly with lovely stitch definition. Seriously, if you get the chance to buy some of this, don’t pass it up.

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Despite being worn almost continuosly since I knit it, it still looks good as new, no pilling or other signs of wear. I know it’s a shawl and not a garment but it really has been worn and worn. I will definitely be buying more North Ronaldsay yarn in the future, maybe for a Hap shawl in all the various natural shades. Mmm, Hap shawls…

Glasgow

Hello all, I hope you’ve had a great Easter weekend. I worked all of Saturday and Sunday but that’s ok because the previous weekend was so full of gadding about and yarniness that I don’t feel the slightest bit deprived.

So last weekend I went to Glasgow to stay with my good friend Jules of Woolenflower. Jules and hubby have recently moved from Melbourne and Jules had a stall at Edinburgh Yarn Festival selling beautiful colourwork cowls and Harris Tweed tool pouches. You can find her online store at http://woollenflower.bigcartel.com. It was lovely to spend time with them as Edinburgh was so busy that we barely had any time at all to catch up at all.

I have to say that I fell as much in love with Glasgow as I did with Edinburgh, both of them are fantastic cities. I have a bit of Scottish blood running through my veins through my maternal grandmother so I guess it’s inevitable that I would feel completely at home there. Even before I’d left the train station there were signs that I’d love it here such as a delicious oat stout at the Beer House. This place has Welcome Melanie written all over it!

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I love those streets lined with sandstone houses and even the back laneways are lovely.

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There are hidden treasures everywhere, like this wooden carving.

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On the Friday we attended a talk on Knitting in Wartime organised by Glasgow University. There were interesting discussions on knitting as women’s work, how knitters were organised to provide ‘comforts’ to the troops and the culture of thrift. On display were many patterns, knitting tools and knitted garments from that time. I found as a scrub nurse, this knitted theatre swab particularly interesting along with knitted slings and supports for injured soldiers.

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One of the tools on display was a Speedweve, a darning tool, cutely described as Lancashire’s smallest loom. I’ve since bought one on eBay and I promise to post my first attempt at using it soon.

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The vintage colour books also caught my eye.

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The day that followed involved a trip into the city centre where we enjoyed bagpipes and drums

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On our way to The Queen of Purls, a beautiful yarn shop on the heart of Glasgow. I have to say, I am seriously jealous, we have nothing comparable in Hull. The shop has a cute and welcoming atmosphere and the variety and quality of yarns are excellent. I bought 300g of Garthenor Organic Lleyn DK because I couldn’t stop squishing and sniffing and snuggling it. I’m actually wearing around my neck at the moment. It’s completely gorgeous in it’s undyed state and I may even keep it like that. They also had some Ardalanish which I’m going back for one day but I want to find the perfect project for it.

My last day in Glasgow came all too soon. We met up with Bee for a spot of lunch and shopping because lunch and shopping with knitting friends is the best.

imageMy thanks to Jules and Scot for a wonderful few days in Glasgow. X

Edinyarnfest

Well hello there, I’ve had such a whirlwind few weeks I hardly know where to start. I know I never blogged here about Edinburgh Yarn Fest but I did on the Richmond Knitters blog.

The weekend was an absolute blast and there was so much to do and see that it could have easily gone on for a day or two longer for me. Bee and I decided to spend the first day shopping and then we’d booked a class for the morning of the second day. We arrived just before the doors opened and already there was a queue around the block of knitters eagerly waiting to get in.

There were lots of vendors that I’d never heard of and a few who I’d heard of but not had a chance to check out properly. I’ve taken a lot of business cards with a view to future purchases too. I am actually trying to stashdown a bit believe it or not. The plan is that when my stash is at a level I feel comfortable with I can decide what I want to knit and then buy appropriate yarn. I’ve decided that I like to be spontaneous with my knitting and having a big stash prevents me from doing that. However, things didn’t quite go to plan and I ended up with quite a haul but most of it has a project in mind and not all of it was yarn.

The first thing I bought was a project bag by Fiona Daly. It has a picture of a Welsh Mountain ram on it and a woven tab from Welsh Mountain yarn. The first British Breed that I knit and spun were Welsh Mountain so I have a particular fondness for the breed.

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The pic is a bit crappy, sorry. Fiona also had cushions and I’m keen to get some for the sofa at a later date.

I bought buttons from Magictea who have an etsy shop because… Buttons!

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I can see the tartan buttons adorning a grey cardigan and the grey buttons on a mustardy yellow cardigan and the other two on tealy-turquoisey or neutral coloured cardigans and of course, it goes without saying that in my head they are all sitting in my wardrobe because that’s the way it works doesn’t it?

I bought a kit for an Icelandic Spring shawl from Helene Magnusson herself who was very lovely and helped me pick out colours. The yarn Gryla is just gorgeous, quite crisp with a bit of residual lanolin and I think it will knit up light and airy for a worsted yarn, especially after a soak.

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One of the vendors I knew I wanted to check out was Midwinter Yarns because I love the Nordic thing and they didn’t disappoint. I don’t quite have a plan for these yet but… Erm, yarn!

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I’m going to swatch the yellow for maybe a Turmeric jumper and I have two of the blue and grey and they will become a shawl of some description because you can never have too many shawls. This yarn has a softer hand feel to the Gryla and a lovely halo to it. From the samples they had it softens up after a soak but it’s never going to be as soft as Merino, which is probably why I love it so much. I’m definitely going to be buying more from them.

I had in mind that I was going to look for yarn for the Abalone cardigan that I’ve had in my favourites for ages and I found the perfect yarn at Ginger Twist Studio’s stall. I’m so envious that GInger Twist is Bee’s LYS I can’t tell you.The yarn is a hand dyed by GTS BFL/silk/cashmere.

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The other yarn that I bought was from J.C. Rennie mini balls in 2ply fingering weight Shetland for my Bee Keepers Quilt. Twenty little balls of joy and though I tried to get twenty different colours I managed to get two balls in my favourite ice-blue colour. My subconscious need for all the blue green things is obviously deeply ingrained.

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Oopsie, I fibbed a bit, there were two balls of Sock yarn that slipped in too. Roma by Wendy in lovely vintagey colours.

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After that there were fat quarters of tweed from Jamiesons and their shade card and project bag. The fat quarters will become a quilt one day when I’ve found some more and a suitable backing fabric. The shade card I could drool over all day.

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The first day was topped off with en evening’s entertainment from Knitsonik and Ysolda which was hilarious and informative at the same time. It was also a good time to meet other knitters and catch up with knitting friends like lovely Jules (Woollenflower) who had been working all day on her much admired stall and still managed to look gorgeous.

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On the Sunday Bee and I attended a class on Fairisle knitting with Hazel Tindall. We were pretty excited!

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With Hazel’s words of wisdom and encouragement I managed to knit the cuff project and in very ‘me’ colours too.

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So that was our EYF 2015. We will definitely be back next year and I can’t wait.

My bad

Oh dear, I’m sorry, I’ve neglected you so badly and really I’ve no excuses except the usual about time and lost mojo but I’m back now and feeling much better.

So well, I have been knitting but not nearly as prolific as before. I’ve spun a little too and I went to Edinburgh Yarn Festival but that’s a post on it’s own, I did post about EYF a little because it was a huge event and I couldn’t cover it all but a lot in that it’s not exactly a short paragraph on the Richmond Knitters blog. (Does that make sense?)

Anyhoo, I’m currently knitting a scarf for my uncle. It’s from some handspun yarn and unfortunately it hasn’t been a straightforward knit. The first issue was a shortage of yarn. I realised that the scarf was going to be very short around 2/3 of the way through the ball and then kept knitting some more because well, denial. Eventually I gave in and ripped it all back. It was one of my earlier yarns so it was quite dense so I decided to run it through the Hansen to relax the ply twist somewhat and hopefully eek out a liitle more length as a bonus. I re-soaked, thwacked and dried it again and did a bit of stash diving to find another handspun yarn that I could combine so as to add more length. I then tried striping the yarns but changed my mind about the pattern I was using. I’m now using a 1×1 rib, slipping the first stitch à la Jarrod Flood’s classic Noro scarf.  Stitch count was an issue too, as it needs to be wide enough but only just as I’m worried about having enough yarn. So after much knitting and re-knitting I’ve ended up with this.

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I’m happier with it now, the fabric is lovely and elastic and sproingy. The colours are lovely; purple is my uncle’s favourite colour.

Has this put me off knitting with handspun? Not likely! I still get more joy out of knitting yarn I spun than anything else, even if I have to knit and re-knit again and again.

Hopefully, I’ll have this finished soon so I can cast on for a second sock, though there may be running out of yarn issues on that too. Anyway, I hope you’re all well.

toodle pip Melanie x

 

Vintage Finds

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’m still here, still knitting and spinning but mostly working, working, working to get funds to get my life back on track. Whilst, I don’t consider myself overly materialistic, I have no cravings for a flat screen telly or anything there are some things I need. My preference is to buy second hand where possible and as I’m highly aversed to anything synthetic if it’s not second hand then it has to be made from sustainable materials. Yesterday, I got the chance to buy some second hand pieces to make my home a bit more homely and support a wonderful charity at the same time. A win all round really.

I was on my way down Newland Ave, which is in a trendy, studenty area of Hull to buy some milk and veg for dinner when my eye caught sight of a beautiful sewing stool in the Dove House #87 charity shop (Dove House is our local hospice). I had been on the lookout for something to put my WiPs and notions in for a while now so course, I had to go in and have a good look at it. While I was there I spotted several other beautiful pieces that were on my list of things I need for my home and so I ended up with quite a haul.

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All in all I spent, £164 on a sewing stool full of goodies, a gorgeous brass work lamp in full working order, a beautiful floor lamp stand that needs the electrical components and a shade, two mirrors, an old Quality Street tin full of sewing bits and a Mason Cash mixing bowl. I can’t quite believe my luck. All the pieces are in beautiful condition and the sewing box was full of the most beautiful sewing threads, darning thread and needles, linen carpet thread for mending carpets and rugs presumably, hosery mending thread for darning sockings and tights I’m guessing, a darning mushroom, two linen trouser pockets and assorted other haberdashery supplies.

I keep wondering about the identity of the lady who owned it before me it would be lovely to be able to chat to her about crafty stuff and her life, it looks like she has a similar taste in colours.

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Crafty update

It’s Good Friday and I am loving the Spring weather and the new foliage on the trees so much as peopple who follow me on instagram will know.  I have Good Friday and Easter Monday off work but they are sandwiching 2 very long days at work so I am cramming as much crafting as I can into today. I have a loaf of bread proving in the kitchen and while it does it’s thang woolly crafts beckon.

I currently have  3 projects on the needles, a pair of handspun socks for my sister Teresa, a pair of socks for my son Elliott and my Follow Your Arrow shawl which has been stalled due to lack of yarn.


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I’ve done both clue 3’s with 3 repeats of 3a and I’m planning to do both clue 4’s so I have clue 4a and then 5a to do. The yarn is a 2ply, fingering weight, woollen spun yarn grown and spun on the island of North Ronaldsay where the beach dwelling  sheep feed on seaweed for most of the year. It is a very special yarn and has a wonderful rustic quality that I adore. I wanted this shawl to be huge, because I’m loving the yarn and the pattern, hence running out. As I couldn’t get any more yarn in the light grey colourway I decided to purchase 200g of the roving in the light grey and spin a replica-ish 2ply yarn to finish my shawl.

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It smells so wonderfully sheepy and feels so divine I will have to get more and make an entire jumper.

The idea of spinning a replica yarn is making me a bit nervous so whilst the roving was in transit I decided to spin the second braid of a Thylacine BFL top to practice. I had finished the first yarn towards the end of last year and I’m currently spinning the 2nd of the 3 singles. The finished yarns will become socks for me.

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I’m hoping to have this yarn finished by the end of next weekend so I can start spinning my North Ronaldsay yarn. Better crack on then! (Appalling egg pun totally intended) ;)

It’s been a while…

Since I last posted, I have started my new job, finished two gift knits, started spinning for a gift knit, started another gift knit and come to the conclusion that non-superwash yarns make better wearing socks. The follow your arrow project is hibernating until I can buy more yarn sadly.

Gift knits include
A Quincey Quade Quentin for my nephew Ethan’s birthday

A Wisp scarf for my sister Fiona’s birthday

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As for the superwash socks, I have mended a sock using this method, I maybe need more practice and to use a contrasting yarn and then duplicate stitched an area that was becoming worn but not worn through rather poorly too. My Zauberball socks have worn beautifully since they have felted in areas where they have a lot of wear. It could just be this yarn base but it coud also be the superwash-ness. The only way to find out is to knit more socks, yes?

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Channelling Sharondoubleknit

The other day my son requested we get a bath mat but being on a tight budget, as in necessities first, I didn’t want to buy one as I think there are heaps of things we need before bathmats. However, I recalled how the very wonderful Sharondoubleknit had made her bathmats so I went stash diving. I came up with some of my very first attempts at spinning and dyeing and thought that they would be appropriate for my first handknit for the house and the colours match the colourscheme in the bathroom. My sons we skeptical, “won’t it get soggy?” “How will you wash it?” Were among the comments made. I reassured them with facts about wool’s amazing properties or at least I tried to.

I was reminded how much I love knitting with handspun yarn. Considering that this yarn was very thick and thin, under spun in parts, overspun in other parts and equally as underplied and overplied it knitted up really well. I think that it was helped by the fact that the yarn was held double and knit on much smaller needles than you would normally, in order to obtain a nice dense fabric. I know a lot of new spinners out there don’t think that their newbie handspun offerings are worth knitting up but I honestly believe you can’t learn about making yarn until you start knitting with the yarn you make.

So how does the new mat fare? Well, deliciously warm underfoot and squidgy and it doesn’t feel cold and damp when it gets wet at all. I think my sons are quite impressed with it, I’ve even had a request for a 2″ x 3″ from Elliott. Not sure about that but I think I might consider getting some more Herdwick and maybe Swaledale fibre for spinning and knitting mitred squares to sew together in a rug, we’ll see.

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Home is home…

So after a long flight in which some knitting was done I landed in Leeds with my youngest son Elliott, on the 11th of January. I was greeted by my two sisters Fiona and Teresa, my nephew Jake and my Uncle Raymond.

Flying into Leeds.

Flying into Leeds.

I moved into a little house in Hull where my sister Fiona lives and did a heck of a lot more organising and stuff including getting a job. Things are beginning to settle into place, I’ve been reunited with my stash and bought a chair for crafting in thanks to a leaving gift from my lovely colleagues from my Melbourne job. So this is my new crafting space.

Craft room

Craft room

The flowery crochet pouffe and cushion were a housewarming gift from my sister, she bought it from some cool website and it’s made from wool of course.

There is going to be a heck of a lot of woolly stuff  in my new home but that’s for future posts. I’m currently on knitting leave while I wait for all the formalities to be completed for my new job. Strangly I’m eager to start work and get into a routine but in the meantime I have my stash to keep me happy. Hope you have a great weekend and for my friends back in Melbourne, happy long weekend.