Monday, August 8, 2016

Tour De Fleece 2016

In spite of spinning for the duration of the Tour de Fleece, I somehow forgot to share the results!

My second big project of the Tour was to spin this Extra Fine Merino from Hedgehog Fibres.  The colour way is mostly grey with little flashes of vibrant colours; mostly pink and green/yellow with some little hints of blue.  The fibre really is super soft; not at all compressed or fulled by the dyeing process, and practically spins itself. 

The finished yarn is 275 metres / 165 grammes of 3 ply, approximately DK weight yarn. 

I have had a particular project in mind before spinning this fibre & wanted to spin some complementary contrast yarns in shades close to the wee vibrant flashes of colour in the fibre. I've been rooting through small amounts of fibre in stash, and have spun a few bobbins full of singles in various shades. Some of the shades are not quite right, & have been set aside for another day.


After another dig through the fibre stash, I realised that I had the perfect deep pink shade of fibre;   I dyed a blend of 70% merino, 30% cashmere from World of Wool  dyed during last year's Tour de Fleece. Unfortunately, I have discovered that my fibre dying techniques are far too.... felty. Perhaps I boiled the pot for too long, or rinsed out the fibre too soon; the fibre was quite compact & felted, especially at the ends. I was able to tease out & pre-draft most of this into a spinnable condition, with a little time & effort.


L-R:
Merino/cashmere blend from World of Wool; dyed by me; 40g/73 metres.
Green/Yellow mystery fibre from Hedgehog Fibres Itsy Bitsy Fibre bag; 36g/ 47m.
Peacock & Teal Merino from Oliver Twist; 53g / 30m
The finished yarns have already worked their way into a project with lots of soothing garter stitch. More on that - hopefully sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gray-dient spinning

It's Tour de Fleece time, and I have some spinning to share! 
I've been working on a gradient yarn in Shetland fibre. This fibre has been in my stash for a very long time, & I had been planning & even started spinning this project months ago (and then ignored it for a while). The Tour de Fleece was the perfect excuse to finish this project. 
I started with 111 g of black fibre (the natural Black is actually a dark brown), and 84 g of the grey, & divided the fibres into five sections. 


Trying divide all the fibre in proportion broke my brain, so I chose to blend the shades in three gradient sections, and to leave the oddly numbered excess as single colours. 
I spun in five sections; the fibre was weighed in grammes as follows; 
Section 1 - black only - 51 g
Section 2 - mostly black - 30g black & 10 g grey
Section 3 - half & half - 20g each black and grey
Section 4 - mostly grey - 10g black & 30 g grey
Section 5 - grey only - 24g


I partially blended the colours of each section using hand carders & spun semi-worsted.

The singles were chain-plied to keep colour in order.  The finished yarn is 270 metres of about aran-weight, with some variation (my dreadful hand carding resulted in a few little clumped up sections of fibre, & some thick & thin sections of finished yarn).
I had originally intended to knit myself a Boom! shawl. While spinning this, I realised that I (being a super sensitive type) don't particularly like commercially spun shetland fibre next to my skin, never mind my own lumpy, sticking-out endy hand spun shetland, so I think this may be destined to become the yoke of a very cosy cardigan or jumper (with a long sleeved teeshirt underneath).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Finished Knit: Morvarch Blanket

My latest finished project is one that I am quite proud of. It's a baby blanket, based on the simply stunning Morvarch by Lucy Hague (Ravelry page here), & is knit in Dublin Dye's Merino DK.


I knit this in a thicker yarn & larger needles than called for in the pattern; DK weight, 4.5mm needles, and at a gauge of 19 sts to 10 cm in stocking stitch before blocking. (It may have stretched a little while drying. I really should measure it properly!) The pattern begins with the centre square, knit from centre out and in the round. I really should have printed an enlarged copy of the chart for myself for this section; I tend to knit in low light in the evenings & found I sometimes had to pick the chart up to decipher it. 

For the chart B & C sections (the outer motifs), I cast on extra stitches before knitting the short row sections; roughly centred the cable motif in these stitches & omitted the lace border stitches. I finished the blanket with a garter stitch border. 

The blanket will be used to wrap up a new person, currently cooking away. At least it will be if I can get it away from this Small Human, who is delighted to get to snuggle & cuddle it.

I owe a massive thank you to Yvonne of Dublin Dye for her support in this project, for taking my sort-of vague but sort-of specific colour requests & turning them into one batch of lovely almost-solid  yarn based on Dublin Dye's existing Icicle shade.

My Ravelry Project page here goes into more specific details for the modifications. I hope the notes are thorough enough to be replicated, if wished. 

While I was working on this knit, Lucy Hague released another stunning interlocking cable design, already in blanket form! Iona is part of the Illuminated Knits collection. It took all my self-discipline to not get distracted by this thing of beauty. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Procrastination

In spite of a recent lack of finished knits to share, I have actually been knitting.
Test knits & sample knits, none of which can be revealed.
Swatches, some of which I have been working on for two years (!) and that are finally coming to a conclusion.
And some knits that just need ends sewing in, and maybe some wee little buttons.

All of which helps me realise that I really do dither about & put off actually getting things done.
Some of this is due to a combination of indecisiveness; poor yarn combination choices and lack of confidence.  And some of it is because I just want to knit all the time, & not do all those other things that really finish off a knitted item to perfection.

Yet somehow I have been (very easily) persuaded to join in this year's Tour de Fleece* again. I've two spinning projects in mind, & hope to share some finished yarns soon enough.

*In which one spins yarn for every active day of the Tour de France. Projects / goals are self-determined, & photos of yarn in progress and finished yarns are shared online; through Ravelry, Twitter & Facebook. There are some truly incredible hand spinners out there. Go on & have a look. The worst that could happen is that you might end up with a sheep.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Road Trip to Kerry Woollen Mills

During a recent wee holiday near Killarney,  I was delighted to discover that our accommodation was about a ten minute drive from Kerry Woollen Mills. On arrival, we were greeted ignored by a sleepy dog who showed no interest in rubs (no response to some friendly noises. I'm particularly cautious around unknown animals when the Small Human is with me)

The shop itself is packed with an array of woollen items, largely aimed at the tourist market; the usual heavily cabled sweaters, scarves etc, and some woven items too. 
But I was here for the yarn...
I've only used Kerry Woollen Mills' yarn once, years ago, and while I was still in awe of the softest of soft things. Over the years I've developed more of an appreciation for coarser wools, and as far as I knew, this yarn was no longer available in Dublin shops*, so I was excited to have a good browse of the yarn in person.
The shelves were packed with Aran Wool** - different shades included solid colours, heathered shades, and one shade in particular ('Salmon') with different coloured plies ( - and with Organic Aran Jacob Wool, with different shades created by sorting  the coloured fleeces. There's also a selection of spinnable fibre including merino tops available. 
I was especially delighted to be told we could browse the next room - part of the factory that was not operating that particular day. We didn't get a guided tour (It would have been cheeky to ask on the spot) but had a good nose around the factory floor. Photos will be sadly lacking in any correct machine terminology - my use of words here will be based entirely on my hand-spinning knowledge.

These bales of multiple coloured wools were waiting for carding:

The wool is passed through a series of rollers, covered with fine wires that brush & prepare wool for spinning:
As the wool progresses down the machine it is more fluffy & inviting. I managed to restrain myself from poking at the machines directly.

This was only a brief glimpse; there were other factory areas that carry out different parts of the process. Carol Feller's 'Contemporary Irish Knits' includes an informative essay on production of wool at Kerry Woollen Mills, complete with actual proper terminology!

Of course, I had to get some yarn while I was there; Aran Wool Rambling Rose (a heathered shade) and Salmon (spun with different coloured plies) both came home with me. I think the Rambling Rose will be a cardigan for the Small Human, and the Salmon will be... something. 

*I have since discovered that The Donegal Shop in Stephen's Green Shopping Centre stocks Kerry Woollen Mills Aran Wool; possibly other branches of The Donegal Shop too. There's no mention of this yarn on their site though. 

**As stated in Contemporary Irish Knits, the Aran Wool (dyed yarn) is made from a mixture of Irish & New Zealand Wool. There doesn't seem to be any mention of this on the KWM website, which I find a pity. This visit has piqued my curiosity of Irish yarns  - particularly those sold through primarily 'touristy' outlets - and the source of their wool. If Irish mills do use Irish fleece for hand knitting yarn, I really wish this information was readily available to a casual browser. 

Edited to ad; since publishing this post, I've been advised that Winnie's Craft Cafe also stocks KWM yarn. I really need to get out of the house more often... 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Finished Knits: Wowligan cardigan

I *finally* have some finished knits to share! *
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Silver
Beads: size 8 Japanese Seed Beads from stash (I believe I bought them in Beads & Bling - now closed - many moons ago)
Buttons: from Hickey's Fabrics

The cardigan is worked from the bottom up; sleeves are worked in the round & joined to the body. The raglan yoke decreases are worked before a row of wonderful wee owl cables. 


Modifications: this cardigan was intended for a rather tall little girl. I knit the 5th size, for 4 year old, with extra length. The body was 30 cm from underarm to hem; the sleeves 29 cm from underarm to hem. I also made changes to the sleeves as I found the cuff very narrow fitting (I prefer to be able to roll back slightly too-long sleeves on new cardigans). I cast on 44 stitches; worked ribbing as described in the pattern, & knit for 4 rounds. I then worked 3 pairs of increases as described in the pattern every 10 rows. All these changes meant that I used more yarn than called for in the pattern, which I was expecting. 


Instead of sewing on buttons-for-eyes as described in the pattern, I added beads while knitting the owls. I threaded the number of beads onto an additional length of yarn & knit the entire row 16 from the chart using this length. I placed the beads between the 'eye' stitches in the owl cable. The effect is very subtle, but I hear the recipient is quite impressed with her new sparkly cardigan. 


This was a lovely pattern to knit; well-written instructions and a dotey finished object.  It's sized from 6 months to 10 years, & is a really welcome reinterpretation of the much-loved Owlet sweater. I think I'll be knitting this again as my own sparkle-loving Small Human has already requested her own.
*My recent knitting has been dominated by sample knits, gift knits & swatching, none of which make for satisfactory blogging. There have also been some neglected projects in need of half-decent photos.   Must do better.... 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Finished Knits round-up.

While I haven't been organised enough to share in recent months, I have been knitting away. Here's a round-up of some recent finished knits. (I blame a combination of a missing memory card & 3rd birthday party distractions).

 Milo by Georgie Nicolson. This is the 18 month size, which took just one skein of Ella Rae DK Merino super wash. This was my first time to try this yarn & I'm very pleased with the results; the stitch definition on the cables is lovely & held up wonderfully through a machine wash.

Brook by Dani Sunshine. Also knit in Ella Rae DK, with some scraps of Debbie Bliss Rialto DK for contrast colour. This is a lovely wee pattern; the yoke detail uses garter stitch ridges in contrast colour combined with a slip stitch and cable stitch. I've already knit multiple versions of the Bella cardigan from the same pattern collection & can see more of this jumper in my future. 

 Whistle Stop by Carol Feller, knit in Kauni Effektgarn. This was a sample knit, & sent off in a rush, so please excuse the dreadful project photos.  This was an enjoyable knit; the pattern construction is interesting but well explained. The long colour repeats in the yarn mean that a little bit of yarn-juggling was required to avoid any obvious & jarring contrast where joining the yarn. It's been exciting to see project pages appearing on Ravelry, showing just how much variety there is in different yarns.
 
 Cannetella by Woolly Wormed, knit in Araucania Botany Lace with added beads. If I had a do-over, I would reconsider the position of the beads in the lace motif. The pattern is lovely; knit in fine yarn and with open lace stitches, it makes for a great cool-weather hat. Plus pink with sparkles is usually a hit with a certain Small Human.
 Boom by myself; knit in some multicoloured handspun and Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply in stripes. The yarn is much finer than in the original pattern, so I switched to appropriate needles (3.5mm) and just kept going until I ran out of yarn.
 Tama by Kelly Brooker knit in aran weight scraps including Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, Rico Essentials Soft Merino Aran and Tivoli New Celtic Aran.  This is one of my favourite patterns; the basic pattern is so simple & so wearable for little kiddos that it just needs to be made repeatedly, with modifications.
 This one has a little extra length, and an added pocket for funsies.
 Risalire by Woolly Wormed knit in Brown Sheep Wildfoot Luxury Sock.
I've been obsessing over the patterns in Woolly Wormhead's recent Painted Woolly Toppers collection. I've had difficulty deciding just which one to knit for myself. I've also been struggling with the notion of wearing a hat that's not conservative of colour, or typical of shape. So the obvious conclusion has been to try the hats out for the Small Human first. The obvious advantages are that smaller hats mean less knitting time, and that Small Humans look cute in just about anything. This hat has a bonnet-inspired brim, which fits snugly over her face, keeping ears warm. The pattern calls for knitting garter stitch in the round, but was easily translated to knitting flat with a seam at the end.
So there you have it; about 4 months worth of knitting projects. Now that I've finally gotten around to  writing up this blog post of course I am planning to not leave it so long till next time. We shall see!