Dyeing to learn..

This is a little different to my ‘usual’ posts in that not much time has passed (a little over 2 weeks) since my July post, so the regular ‘features’; Finished Objects, Works in Progress, Every Day’s a School Day and Bits of Sheep, will return in the August post.

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

The 22nd and 29th of June were spent in a haze of chemical compounds in a garrett studio in south London.  But oh, what fun we had!

the start point of the adventure…

Ok, to be completely fair the ‘garrett’ was a bright and airy 2nd floor large studio at Morley College, the chemical haze was safely contained within the fume cupboard and ‘south’ London was within 10 minutes (brisk) walk of Waterloo station.

I was there to be inducted into the delights of hand dyeing yarn (a source of much confusion and amusement to my non-yarn friends) over two days – covering everything from making up stock dyes, working out mordants (the stuff that stops the dye from just falling off the yarn  again, mixing colours and dying a variety of fibre (lambswool and cotton provided by them for little cost, superwash, silk and fibre blends provided by ourselves)

It was a small group, just 4 for the first session and we were joined by 2 more for the second session, and Alex (our tutor) brought her wonderful calm, exploratory nature to create a class just brimming with curiosity and ‘what happens if…’

We covered so much in the two days of the class that I’m going to summarise this a bit – and possibly (probably) do companion posts in future.  The main points I learnt are:

There are different types of dye for different fibres

So the first thing we learnt is that not all dye is created equal, it depends on what type of fibre you are trying to add colour to.

  • Protein based fibres (most animal fibres such as wool, alpaca etc.. and silk) are dyed using Protein or Acid dyes (same thing, different terms).  They are called acid dyes because you use an acid (often vinegar or citric acid) and heat as a fixer.
  • Celluloid Fibres (most plant fibres such as cotton, hemp, linen…) are dyed using Protion or Alkaline dyes (again same thing, different terms).  They are fixed with an alkaline such as sodium carbonate solution and salt water.  This method doesn’t require heat to set – and entertainingly (confusingly) can be used on protein based fibres by using an acid and heat.

Note: the powders are very fine and must only be handled if you are wearing a suitable dust mask or have access to a fume cupboard.  Gloves are required or your hands will give you away as a dyer and the dyes take *ages* to fade…

You have to scour your yarn before starting

  • Scouring means to clean your yarn and remove all oils and grease as well as dirt before you start.  It is usually done by dunking the yarn into a pot of vinegar water for ½ hour, or leaving overnight in a pot with a bit of dish soap (depending on the fibre)
  • Of course rules were made to be broken and if you are working from commercially produced undyed skeins there is nothing stopping you dunking it into the dye bath dry – it’s one way of getting a specific result (see below)

There are loads of different ways of adding the colour to the fibre

Depending on the dye type, some of these methods will work better than others, but the main styles of hand dyeing seem to be:

  • Solid – put the fibre in a pot with water.  Add the dye. Bring up the heat (if needed).  Wait until all the colour is absorbed. Rinse.  Apparently this can be hard to achieve as a hand-dyer and you are more likely to end up with…
  • Tonal – adding dry yarn to a pre-warmed dye bath – or adding yarn in a big pan and then adding dye outside or inside the yarn (like a doughnut) means the dye will uptake differently giving subtle shade differences around the skein.  This can also happen with some mixed colours where different component colours attach to the yarn at different rates. An example of this would be purple made up of blue and red – the red will attach faster than the blue meaning there would be some red/purple bits and some blue/purple bits.
  • Dip Dyed – A section of yarn is dipped into several dye baths of different colours giving long(ish) sections of colour but there are multiple different colours per skein (2+)  the length of each section depends on how big your skein is!
  • Ombre – the yarn is dipped in sections into the yarn for different amounts of time – the longer the yarn is in the pot the deeper the final colour.  This can be done by putting all the yarn in and then taking bits out, or by gradually adding more yarn to the pot. Gives a single gradient shade along the skein.
  • Hand-Painting – the yarn is laid out on a flat surface and the dye is painted, pressed, dribbled, printed etc.. onto the yarn.  This gives a very high level of control over where the dye goes and which colours go where
  • Space Dyeing – can be done flat on a surface or in a low level of water in a pan.  Very similar to hand painting. Done flat it usually gives short stripes of colour across a skein (giving an almost tie-dye effect).  In a pan the extra water encourages dispersion so gives a softer marbled effect and colour mixing.
  • Tie Dye – By adding twists of string or ribbon tightly to the fibre you can make areas that are white and undyed.  These you can leave white or add other colours after the first process. For example you could make a solid or tonal yarn and then add a secondary colour by hand-painting.
  • Speckling – using a tool (brush, toothbrush, finger, fork) to spray/drop small amounts of dye (powder or fluid) across a skein laid flat on a surface or in a shallow bath.  This gives little dots or specks of colour/s throughout the yarn.
  • Overdyeing – adding a second colour over an existing colour.  For example dyeing a fibre yellow, then adding red would give an orange colour.  Often used to ‘correct’ colourways that you don’t like. You can go darker but not paler.
  • Glazing – this is a form of dyeing where the fibre is put into a second colour for a very short space of time so that only the outermost threads pick up any dye and it is only surface.  Frequently used as a form of overdyeing.

There is less maths than you think

While it is possible to get jewellers scales and weigh dye out to a fraction of a gram (and this is needed if you want exact repeatable colours) this is not necessary for dyeing at home.  Most of the course was ‘about this much’ finger in the air measurements (we were given crib sheets of the most common ratio’s) This created a wonderful exploratory, curiosity driven class which gave us the confidence to try a more scientific approach at home if you wanted to.

You need less dye than you think

We made up 5 colours of stock dye (the base solution you make everything else from).  10g of dry powder mixed with 200mg of water each was PLENTY (I have enough left over to dye another 10 or so 100g skiens to a mid depth of colour).  We used 5 colours in the acid dye (a blue/black, blue, blue/red, a greeny yellow and an orangey yellow – and by that I mean the black had blue tones, the red had blue tones…) and 4 colours in the alkaline dye (black, blue, red and red/yellow).  You can buy dyes from online suppliers in about 5grams upwards.

These five shades were all we needed to be able to make any colour you can think of by mixing different quantities of different base colour together e.g. red and blue makes purple.

Colours don’t mix in the way I think they do

And I think this is where I am going to have a lot of fun.  The most surprising was that to get grey (with the blue/black acid dye we were using) you had to add orange (to cancel out the blue) – never would have thought of that!

The Dyeing community are welcoming and very sharing with their knowledge

There is a whole heap of people who are taking the time to share quality videos that are clear and understandable on all sorts of different techniques.  Check out YouTube. Some of those I have found useful are HueLoco (lovely clear videos on dyeing techniques including how they knit up), Rebecca of ChemKnits (for a whole gamut of videos on every technique you can think of and a nice clear video on the maths of dyeing), Nicole Frost of FrostYarn (for wonderfully detailed video and handouts on ratios of dyes to get specific colours) and Wool,Needles, Hands (for a fascinating journey through dyeing skeins from inspiration photo to finished product)

In a little more detail (with photos of what I did…)

The first morning was spent getting a little bit of background about ourselves, showing samples and talking about the different types of dye.  We then made little mini skeins of lambswool and made up our protein dyes. While we were making our dyes and colours we also set our yarns to pre-soak for about 30 minutes in a water bath with our vinegar added  (not much it works out as about 1 tablespoon of vinegar per mug of water)

We made up five base colours, from which we would mix all our other colours. Then we were left to our own devices to mix colours we wanted to try.  This was done but putting a dribble in a white cup and adding other colours till you got about the colour you wanted. Then (because this class was an introduction to and not focussed on exact repeatable results) you kind of remembered that you had put in twice as much red and blue, or 3 times as much yellow/green as red and tipped about the ‘right amount’ into a pre-heated water filled pan or (in our case) tea urn.  Alex was the absolute master at getting this right, years of experience allowing her to perform what was, in our eyes, magic.

I made a stunning royal purple which I ombre dyed in a deep (tall narrow) tea urn and was surprised at the difference between superwash and pure wool uptake.  The wool below was left in the bath for about 20 minutes for the darkest shade (about 5 minutes for the lightest) and the bright purple superwash was in the dye for less than 30 seconds! Note: I demonstrated how to use a ball winder with this skein to another student and then re-skeined it so it’s not in it’s beautiful ombre gradient anymore.

I also stole some ‘aubergine’ purple and a beautiful green from my class mates and added a short splash of my purple to make what I initially called ‘middleclass breakfast’  – until somebody else pointed out that a) isn’t that avocado? (yes, yes it is), and b) those are perfect suffragette colours!

I’ve been chasing a perfect ‘sunset on sandstone’ colour for a design idea and after lots of dipping and mixing individual drips  I got what I thought was a pretty good colour – however I didn’t have the first clue as to the proportions of which dye/s I had used.  Solution? Add water to the cup, stick in a mini skein of superwash and then (and this is the clever bit) take it out, stick it in a microwave safe container and microwave it for about 2 minutes to fix the colour.  (apparently if you don’t have a microwave you can do the same thing by steaming for about 10 minutes). This was really interesting to me to be able to make very small amounts of a colour to try things out (instead of having to make a tea-urn full!)

I came home at the end of day 1 with four beautiful, slightly damp, samples that I really was genuinely proud of.

Day 2 was touted as being the hottest day of this year, with temperatures in London threatening 35 degrees.  A loft studio with a tin roof and no air conditioning wasn’t my first choice but I was genuinely excited to continue this little foray into hand dying.

Today the focus was more on cottons, so after welcoming the two new members and oohh… ing over last weeks (now dry) samples we cracked on.  Mini skeins of 100% cotton were made, and procion dyes were made up. These dyes are cold fixed so you pre soak your cotton, add them to a dye bath and after 10 minutes you add a solution of salt water.  After a further 10 minutes you add a soda solution (thats washing soda or sodium carbonate – not baking soda or caustic soda) You then leave the solution for nearly an hour for the dyes to fully absorb and set.  This gives a much paler, softer result than the acid dyes but that could have been my dye concentrations more than anything!

We did some immersion techniques (tonal and solids – ombre dying is much harder with this method because of the long soak times) and we also did some hand-painting and speckling.

Finally I wanted to overdye a skein of lace-weight alpaca/silk I had fallen out of love with.  The skein was gorgeous when I bought it, but the knit product was horrible. Because of the navy blue sections I decided to go with a very dark purple mix with LOTS of dye which resulted in the most amazing tonal purple after 20 minutes. So much dye meant a classmate did a further 100gm skein in an almost as dark purple.  By now most of the reds had struck (attached to the fibre) leaving the blues so I grabbed a dry skein and ombre dyed it to suck up the remaining dye.  This accidental skein is one of my favourites from the two day course!

Inspired I also did a little bit of space dyeing at home –  I did a mini skein of superwash wool with some of my calligraphy inks and just LOVE the result!

Definitely a new hobby and once I have acquired a suitable pan (you can’t put procion or acid dyes into pans that will be used for food ever again) I will be dying the rest of my samples and skeins.  I’m really fascinated by ratio/percentage dying and also by dyeing using food colourings (which are obviously food safe) so excited to play with this new medium which is just full of so many possibilities!

2015 and a new start

Happy New Year dear reader!

Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.  Tea?  Coffee?  something stronger?  Bovril?

I apologise for being away for so long, 2014 turned into a bit of write off for me, so know it’s done, dusted and hidden under the metaphorical rug we are starting again.  I think the best thing for me to do is to pretend that my long absence didn’t happen and we’ll just pick up where we left off.  Frankly I haven’t achieved much in that time, craftwise, so you’ll just have to trust me that you are not missing much.

As we start a bright new year I have several WiPs (of course, what a surprise) – I’m still working on Giovanninia, still loving it and the pattern is slowly starting to make sense (6 repeats in and 19 to go…) so is slowly working it’s way up the “I can work on this out of the house” listings.  Tirrold is also still ongoing, and I’m still in that 111 rows of 1×1 rib.  I also haven’t done much commuting so that had dented knitting time in that respect.  I also started another sweater Garland, a 1940’s inspired design, after I fell in love with the sample at FibreEast 2014.  It’s beaded and 4ply – I never make it easy for myself do I?  Laura is the one crochet project that is ongoing – in fact it’s in exactly the same place as it was when I last posted in May last year.  Naughty girl!  must do something about that, but it really requires concentration.

Achievements of 2014

Projects and Yarn from 2014

The little guy on the top right there ishalf pound bunny, and is one of two finished projects in 2014.  The other I didn’t get chance to photograph before it went to it’s new owner.  Half Pound Bunny is gorgeous though, and about 1/3 the size of the original one pound bunny.  I enjoyed making him, and he’s very loved in his new home.

Over Christmas I had the joy to be able to (finally) get round to visiting the wonderful Black Sheep Wools in Warrington.  It’s about 20 minutes from my parents, and I’ve been trying to drop in for a visit for the last 2 or 3 years.  A massive (compared to most UK yarn stores) warehouse of a place with everything from fun yarn to finest silks (and a tea shop, don’t forget the tea shop!) I may have lost a few hours due to yarn fumes.  Of course my visit coincided (accidentally) with their winter sale and I may have had a bit of a blow out.  Though to be fair I have bought very little yarn the last two years.

I came away with three packs of 10 skiens (oops)  – Rowan Siena 4ply, Rowan Creative Linen (dk) and Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran (10ply) – but it is a jumper worth in each case.  The 4ply had already been tagged to make Ice by Bernadette Ambergen, a beautiful pattern bought for me by a friend for my birthday.

I’m really looking forward to making this, and am having to be very disciplined in not picking up the needles immediately and discarding everything I’ve already got going on.  However I resigned from my day job in December, so might be going back to a regular commute rather than a cycle commute – at which point I need something nice and easy for the train rides.

The other project I was working on last time we spoke was a pattern designed for the beautiful Cumulus from fyberspates.  It’s finished and I’m 99% pleased with it – it’s going through testing before being made available to everyone, so watch this space. It’s exactly what I wanted, light, warm and perfect for halo yarns even though it’s crocheted rather than knit.  The one “downside” that I’m working out, is getting a better stretch to the cast on edge. I’ve tried a chainless foundation and (surprisingly) it doesn’t quite work, so i’m having to come at this one a bit laterally.

Cumulus Cowl

Cumulus Cowl

Vienna 2013

Having travelled down the country all day by train, an 8 hour train journey, during which I swapped between knitting, reading and gazing out the window, I arrived in Vienna to night scenes and the drizzly end to what had been stunning weather.

However the weather couldn’t stop me and we did another whistlestop whirlwind tour of sights and sounds and sachertorte.  Vienna is big on non-symmetrical symmetry – lots of conversations contain the sentence “this building was going to have a matching one opposite but…” and it’s the most gothic, beroque, overwrought, wedding cake of a city.  It reminded me strongly of Buenos Aires and had a very Irish atmosphere while being very definitely germanic.  I particularly loved the art deco and art neuvo flourishes everywhere, from the famous cupola gracing one of the ‘tube’ stations to little hand paintings on doorways.

Going from a protestant to a catholic country was actually quite startling in a way I hadn’t predicted.  Having grown up with a mix of churches and styles to go from the simple, open almost auster protestant churches to the heady wrought, dripping in gilt (and guilt!), ornateness that is the catholism I was brought up with was amazing.

We visited far too many places and saw too many things to mention, but highlights included Lobmyer glass,  Klosterneuburg Abbey with it’s beautiful enamelled alter screen, St Patricks, The Summer Place and a lovely walk around The Dorotheum (auction house).  The city centre is compact and very easy to get around with lots of ‘hidden’ feeling alleys and side streets – and of course the ubiquitous coffee houses.

I was spoilt by M and her husband (and two very friendly cats) – and lots and lots (and lots of beautiful handmade patchwork quilts).  I was also spoilt by M’s very lovely parents, who welcomed me into their home and made me eat and drink lots of wonderful foodstuffs.

I met a Vienna branch of a knit group, disingenuously in a Starbucks as the only place that stayed open late enough, and had a wonderful time sharing fibre stories.

Of course I visited more yarn shops.  Another ‘high end’ luxury store with skeins on the walls, it’s own range of t-shirts (I particularly liked “knit fast, die warm”) and the cutest sheep project bags, but M beat me to it!

The other was the size of a cupboard (it was crowded with the three of us) but just the most wonderful place.  Another ‘taken on by an avid knitter when the original owner retired’ shop – and almost as full with stock – but only because the space was so small!  Very friendly, very fun and we had a wonderful time.

In both shops there were one or two skeins/balls/hanks on display in each colourway for each yarn type and you took your colour to the counter and told them how much you wanted – at which point assistant would disappear into the back and return with what you wanted.  I kept wanting to hum the theme tune to Mr Benn for some reason.

I bought lots in Vienna, the yarn shops were lovely and though there was very high end expensive imports lots of it was very cheap.  I’ve even let Purlescence have a little squish to see what they think as I’d love to be able to pick up some of  these brands without having to travel Austria!

I got…

2 skeins of Isager Spinni and 3 of Isager 1 (100% alpaca) in a beautiful sort of faded vintage teal colour to make (at some point) Camomille. I also bought 2 skiens of Isager 2 Alpaca in black for a Spectra. I know I can get this here in the UK at Loop, but it was a lot cheaper in Europe.

Isager Spinni & 1 Alpaca

I then swapped shops (so to speak) and indulged…  First to fall to me was the BC Garn Silkbloom Fino.  The lightest, softest, squidgest puff of nothingness which apparently a lot of Austrians use to make baby blankets.  At 45% mohairsilk and 55% super  soft merino I’m not sure I’d be cranking out baby blankets, though to be fair it wasn’t that expensive. I bought 1 ball in the most lovely chocolate mocha colour (there were loads of colours) for a pair of cabled fingerless mitts

BC Garn Silkbloom FinoSwiftly followed into the basket by BC Garn’s Jaipur Silk Fino – 300m of pure mulberry silk that I genuinely have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but it shines like it’s lit from within..

BC Garn Jaipur Silk Finothen I came across a whole new company (well to me anyway) with the wall of deliciousness that was Lotus Yarns.  Into the basket fell a ball of Miya – a rich purple laceweight that is 70% mink (!), 20% merino and 10% silk.

Lotus Yarns Miya - mink, merino and silkthen a ball of Moon Night – 95% lambswool, 5% cashmere and 600 meters per 50g!  Yeap that’s right – SIX HUNDRED meters!  In a beautiful smoke grey…

Lotus Yarns Moon Nightthen, having become jealous of all the fine laceweights and cobweb weights a brave little skein of DK Cashmere made the dive.  And not just any cashmere, oh no, this was 100% Mongolian cashmere.  I have no idea is this is better, being a bit of a cashmere virgin, but it just happened to match the Isager bought earlier as well so I’m thinking mittens to match the shawl eventually, maybe,..

Lotus Yarns Cashmere DK

I also had several close run in’s with mushrooms – more on that in another post.

Zurich 2013

Zurich is a genuinely beautiful city set in stunning countryside.  My five days there were packed with things and I barely scratched the surface.  Apologies in advance as my camera wasn’t working so there are no photos to share.

The city as cosmopolitan as you could hope for, with one of the most comprehensive public transport systems I think I’ve ever seen – buses, trains, funiculars (whee!), trams, bike hire – it was all going on.  It’s also impressively expensive in some respects – it made the London Travel card look positively cheap, and eating out is definitely for special occassions.

Switzerland seems to be very proud of it’s dispirate groups, and the city reflects that, with very different atmospheres in it’s different districts and areas – some of it feels very English industrial, some of it very French town square (missing only the boules) and some of it undoubtedly Swiss.

The city centre is well worth a visit, particulalry the old town, if you are only passing through.  However if you have more time – a tour on the lake (which issomuch bigger than I thought it was, and we went on the day of the Annual Swim across in which 56,000 people took part!), a walk up (or down!) Uetliberg for it’s stunning views across the lake and the surrounding land and visits to both the Fraumünster church (famous for it’s Chagall stained glass windows) and Grossmünster with it’s stunning “alternative” stained glass windows by Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti added in 1932.
We also took a trip out of town to visit a local Palace, which was fascinating and meant I got to travel through several  Swiss villages – all of which look exactly like you would expect them to from chocolate box depictions over the years – wooden shutters and steep roofs with over-abundant flowered window boxes.  It was lovely.
I was more than ably looked after by A, her husband and excitable Bob clone Max.  And of course staying with crafting friends meant there were visits to yarn shops and crafty goodness.  I was surrounded by spinning wheels (seven to be precise!) and spindles and lots of books I don’t own and an impressive stash.  A’s crochet friends welcomed me with open arms (despite my Swiss/German being even worse than my French) and I saw some outstanding samples of filet crochet used as curtains, tablecloths, dresser runners….
I only went into two yarn shops while in Zurich, but they were chalk and cheese.  One was on the ‘main drag’ in the Old Town and was set up like many high-end luxury yarn stores in the UK.  Yarns were grouped by colour and then by weight (cobweb at the top, bulky at the bottom) around the walls of the store – which was very pretty, but pointed out an almost non-existance of varigated yarns.  Haberdashery was limited and nothing had a price.  I did pick up a set of square knit pro circular needles as I hadn’t seen them elsewhere, but little else appealed to me.  It had a good range of yarns but I got the feeling I couldn’t afford any of it before I even started.
The second store was more ‘hidden’ – and in the start of a theme I was to revisit in Vienna, this store had been taken on by an enthusiastic knitter when the original owner retired.  Now, I have to say that the owners were lovely, very friendly and I really enjoyed the time I spent there (and I did buy stuff, more about that in a second).  The shop was HUGE, two large rooms, but it was very, very, difficult to see how much space there really was – or what was in stock.  The owner was working towards her PhD – Piled higher and Deeper – in stock management.
There were some really lovely bits and peices – and some surprises (Rowan Silk Haze for £25 anyone?) but you really had to dig and ferret, and not everyone is comfortable doing that.  It’s a shame as this could be a really lovely shop.
Anyway, on to what I bought…
Kauni  XEQ lace weight – 150grams over lovely rainbow long colour stripy-ness…
Kauni XEQ Laceweight
and this puff of fun may have found it’s way into my bag..
Zealana Air - Cashmere, Possum and silk
It’s Zealana Air – a 40% cashmere, 40% Brushtail Possum down and 20% mulberry silk blend that gives nearly 200m for 25grams.  yeah, you read that right – Possum!  How could I not?  I also bought a swirl pewter shawl pin and a double ended tunisian hook (just of the completeness of the collection you understand!) – however most of my ‘haul’ came from Austria – so I need to leap on a train and travel…

Warning! Long post reversing…

Well what a week it’s been – learning and discovering so many things, teaching and giving and actually being productive for a change… although of course the path is never quite bump free

First up was teaching the new Crochet Shaping course, exactly 1 year to the day since I taught the Crochet Beginners class with Purlescence.  We had a lovely crowd of intelligent, inquisitive people along for the ride, who are the best type to have on a class as they help point out the bits I’ve forgotten to say or taken for granted.  I adore having a class full of people who ask questions!  The new tech worked pretty well – a couple of tweaks and I think we’ve got it sorted, and I’m beavering away now putting the finishing touches to the Tunisian Basics course which runs in June.

I think the nicest complement I got from the day (and I’m paraphrasing as this is a week on, if you’re reading this and you remember exactly what you said please let me know and I’ll correct what follows) was:

It wasn’t like a workshop at all – it was like popping round to a friends for a bit of crochet and a natter and learning stuff by accident.

Learning can come in many forms, so of it literal and involving conscious effort to learn on your own behalf.  I’ve had two instances of this in the last 7 days.  First up I signed up for some knitting courses on Craftsy.  I’ve done several of their courses before and found them useful and informative.  The two I signed up for this week were Franklin Habit’s Heirloom Lace Edgings – if you are a knitter and want to know more about lace edgings and different ways of attaching them to your work (and why snowflakes should always be knit in yellow yarn) then this is an indispensable course. I also signed up for Lace Shawl Design, which I’m not enjoying quite as much but again is packed full of information.  It’s aimed at knitters but I can see applying some of the info to crochet designs.

Another type of learning is that from which you learn something from even though you are doing something else at the time – for example, don’t photograph the missing bits of your stash for Ravelry, put it all away and then upload the photos.  You won’t remember what the brand is and how much of it you’ve got by that point, I guarantee it!  My other ‘non-learning-learning’ session this week was teaching the Shaping class.  Any teaching involves just as much learning for the teacher as the students (or it should) and of course by 3am Sunday morning I had not so much ‘rewritten’ the course as ‘reordered’ it – for when it runs again in the future to give a more cohesive and logically structured course.

I also got two new stitch dictionaries in the shape of  Robyn Chachula’s Visual Encyclopaedia and Edie Eckman’s “Around the Corner, Crochet Borders”. I love my reference books and I’m finding them indispensable in preparing for the texture and colour course in September.  Robyn’s book is very well put together – I’ll do a review soon I promise, but I’m already using one of the stitch patterns.

I’ve started a new baby blanket, which may result in a new free pattern.  I’m loving this reversible stitch, and the Vinni’s (as always) works beautiful for baby stuff.

I’ve made lots of progress this week on loads of different things.  I’ve also finally cast on the first sleeve for the Jan Sweater.  Having been knitting this sweater since August 2011 I’m really looking forward to finishing it, and while I still have two sleeves and the seaming to do I’m already fantasizing about the next project I will take up once I finish this..

I’m also on the last 3 rows of Honeymeade – although these rows are over 450stitches long so may take me a little while..  I have finally had to admit (temporary) defeat in the face of Frechen.  My head is just not in right space to focus on this at the moment, so I’m calling a halt instead of getting more and more frustrated with it.  I’m going to back away from it slowly for a couple of weeks and pick it up again next month.

In the  course in the photographing of the stash I may have taken a couple of snapshots of the yarn I got from Purlescence to make the samples for the Texture and Colours course in September (gee, aren’t I organised?)  This is Rooster Almerino DK.

and it’s lovely.  A blend of 50% baby alpaca and 50% merino it’s squishy and soft and the palette of colours are strong without being overpowering – sort of deep subdued pastels if that makes sense.  The colours are saturated without being overly bright giving a lovely rich luxurious feel to the palette. I’m just whittering now, their gorgeous. That’ll do.  Of course I didn’t just buy yarn (who could?) but I was very restrained.  I bought a lovely clasp for my Anais jacket..

and I also picked up one of Tulips new interchangeable Tunisian hooks, along with cable and (for some inexplicable reason) a pack of FOUR cable stops.  Why they don’t sell them in packs of two I don’t know – I know we’ll all lose one down the back of the sofa, but trying to remember where I put the other three will never work!

I haven’t had chance to play with it yet, but I will let you know how it goes when I do.

Last weekend I popped up to the familial home to visit, well, my family. My mother decided that this year. instead of buying me (her eldest daughter) an easter egg. she would go unconventional (if you’ve met my mother you’ll know this is a habit of a lifetime).  Along with a fabulous Vogue branded umbrella in navy blue and silver, and several ‘subtle’ reminders that it’s a Vogue umbrella (the furl strap to fasten the umbrella, the handle and the mechanism button are all branded suitably) I got a a book.  Not just any book of course, but a copy of:

Not only does the title make it sound like owning a shawl is some form of terminal illness, but the introduction boasts of a whole career option I hadn’t thought of previously.  Apparently during the 1980’s nearly every Canadian department store had it’s own Qualified Scarf Consultant.  I want to know what’s involved in becoming a Qualified Scarf Consultant.  I so want that on my C.V.!

The whole thing is wonderfully 80’s and slightly dated, though to be fair a lot of the ideas are just as usable and applicable today. I flipped the book open at random to give you a taste of the illustrations…

At the start of the post I mentioned a ‘bump’.  Well I must have caught my ringshawl on something and snagged it.

The beauty of crochet is that if a thread breaks then each stitch is independent and the whole thing doesn’t just unravel on the spot (phew!) and I do (luckily) have the 2grm scrap of yarn remaining from the original project in order to darn it up and make it good as new. (Hence me going through my stash in the first place to realise that I hadn’t photographed it all for my Ravelry stash pages)

It also forces me to sit down and study my shawl – which should help me start writing up the pattern, something I’m determined to do before the end of April.

I’ll go back to work for rest

Well it’s half term already and I have a busy week.  I’ve bundled Mr TuesdayFortnite off for his first skiing holiday and I have the house to myself.

Tomorrow I get to have a wonderful day out at my favourite ‘local’ yarn store, seeing friends and picking up those complete essential bits that I *need*.

It’s been a busy week, with two friends announcing their impending parenthood (due dates within 2 days of each other) resulting in a night ‘down the pub’, valentines day – which neither Mr TuesdayFortnite or myself subscribe to, but it did get my dinner made for me.  However busy social evenings cuts severely into the time available for crafting.

I got more samples done for my Crochet 102 course,  which are now blocking before I can sit down and work out what’s missing..

Crochet 102 samples

this is about half of the samples blocking…

I also started some for the Tunisian course.  I had an idea of using a pattern to create a beautiful textural scarf from the Resolution Scarf pattern, but so far all three yarns from stash I’ve contemplated don’t agree with my ideas. I’ll post pictures when I have something that isn’t 3 rows of just frogged scarf…

Next week I’m off to spend a day at one of my favourite places, the London Victoria and Albert Museum, to see the stage costume and fashion galleries with a 12 year old friend who is thinking about taking up sewing.

If you don’t already know about the on-line galleries of the V&A museum, then check out the following links..

Hand Crochet

Hand Knit

These links will take you to the V&A archive pages where you can browse some of the hand worked items they have in storage. You can zoom, get background details, multiple photographs etc.. and they are adding more and more of their storage items all the time!  Even cooler is that if you have a specific interest in and area of textiles/fashion you can request to visit the archives and see items you request in person.

Right now I have to try another yarn for that scarf…

Finally finishing projects!

I’ve had a great week catching up on several bits – and a bad week in that it’s been a stress filled and eventful week.

I finally got around to photographing all my outstanding stash (from last October!) so I’ve added a huge heap of yardage to my Ravelry stash pages and made a complete mockery of my ‘2013 Yarn Diet’.  Must. Not. Buy. More. Yarn.  Well, at least not for myself!

I also finished a couple of projects! Yeah, go me!

I finished a cushion ‘front’ that I had been doing in that popular ruffle yarn, you know the stuff.  I loved the colour but didn’t want a scarf, and it so happened that the colourway worked well with my existing living room decor.  It’s only taken about a year to get around to finish this..

Ruffle CushionI also finished the baby blanket, and I’m really pleased with how it came out.  The Nikkim Cotton was perfect and it’s gone beautifully soft during blocking.  I just know it will wear well in use – perfect for busy parents.

cotton baby blanketI also made headway on starting the samples for the Beginners Tunisian Workshop I’ll be teaching in June, and made a great ‘sampler spa cloth’ in Paton’s 100% cotton.

spa cloth

The cotton I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re looking for a tight twist cotton – it comes in 4ply and DK, in range of fabulous colours.  It gives great stitch definition (as you can see), has a gorgeous eggshell-like soft sheen and I loved it so much I’ve picked up a range of colours to use in the class for the lucky students to take away with them..

multicolour cotton

Today I’m finally getting around to blocking the samples for the Crochet 102 (Shaping) class, and I have plans for some KnitPicks multi-colour I acquired…

Life gets in the Way

OK, I’ve been good and written two LONG blog posts.  In fact the one I’m going to post now I wrote 2 weeks ago and haven’t posted it because I wanted to include photos.  But I’m giving up, I haven’t had chance and I’m at the point I want to get the post up so that I can do the follow up info – which I also have written up.  So apologies for a long post without photos – I will get to them, I promise….

I can’t believe I haven’t updated since the 4th November!  I keep promising myself that I’ll get the camera out and photograph the bits I want to share with you, and then life gets in the way.  I have so much to update with you, this post is going to seem a bit random – so apologies in advance!

First up a ‘hands’ update – the consultant has announced (as of the 15th of this month) that it’s probably ‘mild tenosynovitis’, I’m not in *that* much pain (says who?!) and rheumatology only deal with arthritis (utter nonsense) so there is nothing more they can do for me. I asked for referral to physiotherapy, but ‘there is no clinical proof it works’.  I asked for referral to a nutritionist – ‘no clinical proof’.  I even asked about steroid injections – guess what?, yeap. ‘no clinical proof’.  The recommendation is for me to have total rest, don’t use my wrists/hands at all but they weren’t prepared to sign me off work.  The consultant also recommended I take naproxen (along with a stomach lining medication as naproxen is nasty stuff for your liver) for at least 12 months.  It works on a “cellular level” don’t you know – though it won’t help with the pain at all.  He couldn’t write me a prescription, just a note for my doctor to write one.  The upshot is = Go back to my GP, so I’m back to square one.  I was shaking with suppressed anger by the time I left the consultant meeting.

However the chiropractor does seem to be having an effect and my wrists have been slowly improving over the last couple of weeks, so fingers crossed for me.  I’ve had a couple of ‘good’ (almost normal) days which have made me realise just how much this has been affecting me, but the ‘bad’ days are nowhere near as bad as they were – so hopefully we are finally in to the ‘healing’ phase.

We are firmly on the slippery slope to the annual round of liver testing known as Christmas.  A season which challenges my ability to process vast amounts of alcohol and rich foods, and makes me gain weight just as I want to look my slimmest in all my party frocks.  As a result I’m ‘out’ more than usual and therefore doing a bit less crafting than usual.  I wouldn’t change this for the world, it’s great to catch up with people I haven’t seen in months and I do love the whole sparkly event in all its kitsch-ness.  You’ll see more of *that* in my next post!

Coupled with the less crafting I was already doing because of my hands, me being out three or four evenings a week means my crafting time has been almost non-existent – not a good state when you are trying to finish a baby blanket!  I’m a lot further along than I was though, and with a tail wind I am on target to get it done by my own self-imposed deadline of the 20th December.  If I don’t it’s no big deal – the baby isn’t due till February.

I have moved along on a few projects though.  I finished my ‘stormy clouds cowl’ and am delighted with it!  I’d been terrified of this yarn.  Partially because it was gifted and I’m always a bit scared that I won’t do gifted yarn justice somehow, and partially because this particular yarn was hand-spun.  I enjoyed making this, 4 short little rows each evening and I’ve been wearing it for 2 weeks.  It’s just long enough to go over my head and holds its shape well enough to stand guard against chills and drafts over my collar.  It’s beautifully soft, and because I know the yarn was hand-spun by a dear friend I feel like I have a secret hug around my neck, which adds its own little warmth.  I had just enough of the grey yarn to add a crochet border on one edge (once the cream had run out) so I even feel like I have two looks for the price of one – depending on which way up I wear it!  I keep meaning to wash and give it a light blocking, but I haven’t got that far.

I’m now working on finishing a thrummed muff – which is about to celebrate its first birthday.  By ‘finishing’ of course I mean “I must get it out of storage and pick it up again”.  I promised it to my niece last Christmas after she saw me working on it, but then my hands interfered and I haven’t picked it up since March.  It’s an easy project, and done purely to learn the technique.  It’s made in best acrylic and very cheap (quite possibly acrylic) multi-coloured fibre.  This means it’s perfect for niece as I’m not that attached to it, if her mother throws it in the wash it’s not the end of the world, and it’s a fun little project – I still have my muff from when I was even younger!  However I’m not sure I am up-to doing a meter of icord to make the neck strap – any ideas?

I’ve been doing a little more of my continental cowl as well, and am almost at the ‘competent’ level.  I love collecting techniques and skills, and I have found that I now know three different methods of knitting that adjust my tension very slightly from my ‘default’ throwing or ‘British’ style of knitting.  Portuguese style (where you ‘wear’ the yarn around your neck) gives me a slightly tighter, but very even tension, and Continental style gives me a slightly looser, and not so even, tension.

“Why is this useful?” you might be asking yourself. Well, it’s all to do with gauge.  When I finally get around to making something where the fit actually matters I’ll do a gauge swatch.  If I am fractionally out on my stitch counts I can change techniques rather than needle size to see if that helps!  See.  Cool.

I’m also holding my Portuguese, Continental and Backwards knitting in reserve for the day that somebody tells me I’m “doing it wrong”.  Apparently this happens a lot to knitters – but it hasn’t happened to me yet.

With my current lack of desire to take on a bigger project, I’ve been absent-mindedly playing with some Tunisian crochet ideas for a possible workshop in 2013, and I’ve been plugging away at the swatches for a Crochet 102 class planned for early 2013.  Yeap, you heard it here first – I’m confident enough about my hands/wrists to have actually started planning the long promised intermediate level classes.  And you read that right too – classes plural!  The fun I am having with this is a separate long post in itself!

Written down it seems like I’ve been doing LOADS of crafting – but in what amounts to nearly a month I have four 6” swatches, finished a small cowl, about 1/8 of a different cowl, half a Tunisian dish cloth and just over half a baby blanket.  I’m aware that if I had started those projects this time last year, they would all be finished by now – along with working on a more major project such as finishing a sweater or getting at least one of the lace knitted shawls I have queued mostly done.  Frankly I’m just grateful I can do anything at all at the moment, and I’m enjoying the bits I can do.

Progress despite the obstacles

This week will be a week of posts, as tomorrow I am off to my favourite LYS, Purlescence, to do a workshop on Continental Knitting and Norwegian purl!  So I’ll write about that soon.

However, right now I want to update on a couple of other things.  First, in this post I want to let you know what I’ve been upto.  Plugging away slowly I have managed to finish a crochet shawl, and a knit shawl and start on another small project.

First up I finished my recuerdos de la niebla shawl.  This seemed to take forever, as I am used to crocheting much faster than my hands currently let me.  That and the never ending ball of yarn.  Seriously, the pattern said use about 50% before starting the border.  I used 75%.  Then I did three rows of border.  You are supposed to get 7 rows of border total, so I weighed how much I used in row 4 – 4grams – and I had 23 grams left. 20/4 is 5 rows plus a little bit left over.  I got 11 rows.  And another 2 rows of SC across the top edge before giving up with another 4grms of yarn left.  Not entirely sure how that works, but that is why my beads aren’t on the last row of the edging, but 2 rows in.  I think it worked out pretty well!

border detail of recuerdos de la niebla

After that marathon, and my hands being a pain, I wanted a project that was quick, that was knit and that used up some of the yarn that I had been gifted in the last 12 months. After lots of fussing and indecision I went with the beautiful ‘the age of brass and steam kerchief’ (a free pattern on Ravelry), done in the gorgeous DK weight Debbie Bliss Andes.  I had been gifted 2 skiens last year for my birthday in a lovely deep, dark red.  The beaded sections were a bit of pain (literally) but easy enough – particularly if you decide to knit together and *then* bead the resulting stitch.  My first beaded row I tried a pass2, pass 1 over, bead the stitch and then knit it.  It worked, but not as well.

Age of Steam and BrassOnce blocked the yarn bloomed slightly, softened even more and is just the right size to sit in the V of a coat and give lovely warmth.  The yarn has lovely stitch definition as well, and it was such a joy to work with I picked up some more in chocolate at the Ally Pally show.

age of steam and brass detail

Delighted with having a ‘fast’ project (a little under two weeks all told) I wanted another one.  I have some gorgeous yarn staring at me, and a hankering for some cabled fingerless mitts, but I’m not quite there yet, so instead I broke out another gift.


I was given some beautiful handspun last July, and have been dreaming of the perfect project.  I wanted something that I could use both yarns together, and something that would show off the yarn. The grey is a thicker, bulky type weight and the cream a much finer closer to 4ply weight.  A pair of 6mm needles, and a bit of ‘constructive swatching’ (known to others as ‘that’s not right, I’ll start again’) I’ve started a cowl.

Cloudy Skies CowlI’m doubling the cream yarn to give a little weight so it’s similar to the grey, and I’ll go as long as I can before using a kitchner stitch bind off to have a seamless loop (hence the odd green bit at the bottom.  It’s lovely and soft, and has a sort of ‘rustic’ look which goes lovely with my new full length wax jacket!  If this goes well I think I might look at working some cabled mitts over a longer period of time!



Knit & Stitch Show – part II

With plan in hand, day 2 went smoother (though we didn’t get as far as room3 this time).

It was as busy as Friday at points, but we arrived early, when it was quiet, and stayed till it got quiet again.  There were some interesting overheard conversations, my favourite of which concerned a beautiful natural pure British wool yarn, which was being fondled by a woman and her pal…

Woman1: this is a pretty colour, but it’s very rough
Woman2: (glances at label) yeah, it’s *British* wool, that’s why.

It really made me think about how spoilt we are now with such beautiful soft fibres like silk, mohair, alpaca etc…  Though I hadn’t thought of British pure wools being any more or less ‘itchy’ than other pure wools.

So I bought some beautiful fyberspates lace to make the gorgeous Tirrold sweater, I also got 2 lovely tunisian hooks, some pure British wool (of the above conversation from Woolyknit.com), two hanks of Debbie Bliss Andes, the beads needed to finally start on the Queen on the Night, two gorgeous green&black superwash merino/buffalo blend and a drops pattern book (for £1!)

I also picked up several bits that have nothing to do with crafting – a gorgeous waterproof backpack from Bergs Designs (which will be perfect for walking to work over the winter months), a lovely teapot coaster that contains oat and spices that fill the room with amazing scents when the hot teapot is put on it, a fashion book, a couple of Christmas presents (shhh 😉 and lots and lots and lots of flyers and business cards. Oh, and a free mini tote from the Irish tourist board.

I could have easily spent twice as much as I did but I’m happy with what I  got, and my only regret is that I’m not rich enough to sit at home all day and knit pure alpaca dresses or scrumptious aran weight tunic jumpers (I have to make that at some point though).

I now have lots (more) projects to add to my ever expanding list, but I can at least start on a couple of long standing ones – and I got lots of ideas for existing stash, which I am quite excited about.

More about that next week…