Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rambo!

 As you all know, I love to work with merino & merino x-breeds in my spinning and dyeing, French merino being my absolute favourite. 
I have a lot in my inventory, both yarn and spinning fibres, because they dye extremely well, and spin beautifully. 
The development of the breed itself originated in France, dating back to the 18th Century, crossing Spanish merino and English longwool breeds. 
Wool, historically, has always been a great trading commodity, and the Rambo is both great for that, and also it's meat... they are a biiiig sheep, ewes typically weighing in at up to 200lbs, and rams up to 300lbs :) 
Thankyou for the stats RaisingSheep.net
 
In the 19th Century, the the Rambouillet Association was formed in the USA, and from that migration, in the 1920s, the Targhee breed was established, crossing the Rambo with the Corriedale. 


Those earsies tho & another of my favourites to spin :)

Rambouillet is also in the bloodline of the Aussie Merino...

I know there's a lot of varying opinions on the qualities of the fibre itself with regards to yarn, and in particular the well being of the sheep with regards to *mulesing*... and I am careful to source my base yarns and fibres from trusted sources, favouring UK small businesses (who themselves support small flocks) so please, be rest assured, my people!
(If you do want my personal opinion on the practice though, you'll have to get me drunk :P)

Anyway... enough of that adult informative nonsense :P

I have an etsy window open constantly on my laptop, because taking a leisurely stroll through my favourite searches and shops is something that brings me joy... (and a huge rabbit hole that sometimes makes me spend far too much money... hahaha)

On one of these meandering journeys recently, I stumbled across a UK supplier of Rambouillet tops, and I was like 'Why have I not discovered this earlier???'



Safe to say, I was all over it, immediately, and had the sellers last kilo within a few days, and it was dyed, dry and test spun within 2 days after that... because... Priorities!!!

I am dedicated to bringing woolly awesomeness to my friends and fellow spinners :)

The things I do for you guys!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Sanity Knitting

Every Christmas and New Year, I try to set myself up with a project that doesn't take a lot of concentration.
This is my 'Sanity Knitting'... easy enough to follow, so I can lose myself in in the process without making an endless array of mistakes, but that is also interesting enough not to bore me.
This year it was a handspun cowl, from a pattern called 'Octopus' by Katya Gorbacheva 
I stumbled across it on a meandering Ravelry stroll through marine inspired patterns, and I fell in love with it immediately.


I was already spinning a 3ply gradient, consisting of some yummy Oatmeal BFL bought from fellow dyer and total greenius, Freyalyn.
The third ply was some 50/50 merino silk I got online somewhere.
I split the gradient *very* carefully down the middle, lengthways, and then split it into manageable sections... and started spinning. The quality of the fibre and the beautiful colours just jumped onto the wheel... it was a complete joy from beginning to end :) 
The pattern is mainly garter stitch, with a row of yarn overs thrown in, and it made for a very tactile fabric... just really perfect for a gradient :)


I knew I wouldn't have enough yarn to make a long scarf, as the pattern suggests, so I used a provisional cast on and then when I reached an appropriate point in the pattern, along with enough yarn... I just grafted the two ends together, making a cowl.
The 'tentacles' were fun to do, and I added a couple of modifications of my own to them... 
On every other tentacle I used a picot cast on, and when the section was finished, I did a picot cast off... also added an octopus charm too (only on one edge).
It gives the impression of a little Octopus nestling in seaweed :)


It knitted up very quickly, and it definitely got me through the holiday *noise* successfully :)



Friday, December 09, 2016

Planet Rockstock


It's been 7 years since Beast and I went to a proper music festival together, so it was a real treat for us to have the opportunity to go to Planet Rockstock last weekend. 

(When I say 'proper' I mean one that involves sleeping/eating etc onsite)

Rockstock is hosted by the digital radio station Planet Rock the soundtrack to my day, every day. 
On days when the Dog has the upper hand,  Planet Rock plays me through, supports me... lets me exist in the music. 

The Festival is held on a holiday park called Trecco Bay,in Porthcawl, South Wales, and this year was it's 4th year. It runs for 3 days, there's 2 stages, and over 30 rock bands... it's safe to say that both Beast and I were in music *heaven*


We met some truly awesome people, mainly through what Beast and I call 'the tribal power of the band t-shirt' ... (it's a very similar feeling to the power of the Woolly community actually...) you make an *instant* connection with someone based on what is written on their t-shirt. At rock events like this, (especially indoor ones where you don't have to wear a coat ...teehee) your t-shirt is worn like a badge of honour, it tells people who you are, & who you are proud to affiliate yourself with. When you see someone wearing a t-shirt of a band you love it's a conversation starter & you have a brother/sister in music right there.
It's a truly amazing feeling.

Davy and Ewan, pictured above, are Scottish... yeah, trust us to hook up with a Scots crew... I have not drunk as much in one night on the Saturday, in very long time... these guys made the weekend for us though, along with so many other people. 



I met this beautiful lady and her husbeast in London earlier this year before my Beast and I went to see Heart... she remembered me because of my red boots :)

Hellyeah!!!

The absolute highlight though, was the DiY Band. You turn up, put your name on a really official looking clipboard, audition, and get put into the band. There's about maybe an hour to two hours to rehearse, then you play in front of the Rockstock crowd a few hours later. 
Darren Redick  (who is the very sexy voice of my afternoons) organises it, and he chooses four songs in the run up to the event... so you could be really geeky and practice loads beforehand if you wanted to *chuckles
I didn't audition, but Beast, who is a drummer, got to perform 3 songs with the band... including this one, Van Halens 'Jump'... which incidentally they only practiced once...
It never ceases to amaze me how people can get up and perform, and bring people together in their absolute love of music. 

It's a really powerful gift to have.


*Salutes*




Whilst he was backstage, Beast also met The Hairy Bikers, fellow Barrovian Dave Myers, and Si King, who have their own show on on PR on a Sunday morning... two very funny fellas, who love music, and some good craic :)

(Top) Beast and Si King, (bottom) Beast and Dave Myers

A very special mention has to go to Wyatt though, who is my morning radio voice, that's not quite as sexy as Darren's, but in all fairness he has long hair, so that kinda makes up for it ... *chuckles

But, in all seriousness, he has a very good personal reason to have made this journey, and he's a living, breathing push bike riding legend... and you can read his about his motivations here

In the week before Rockstock kicked off, Wyatt cycled all the way from London, to Glasgow, and then all the way back down the country to Porthcawl to raise money for a charity called The Campaign Against Living Miserably Last year he rode the 180~ish miles from London to Rockstock in 18 hrs.

CALM, is a registered charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, and they state that last year 4,623 men in the UK took their own life.

That's 12 fellas per day losing their lives

As you all know, the Black Dog is my daily companion, so I have all the feels for what Wyatt and his epic bike-ride has achieved... so far over £70,000 has been raised for this tremendous cause... that is going to help so many men and their families repair what's broken.

So, you can see now why I listen to this fantastic radio station. 
Why it's part of my self-care routine... 
It's like a huge musical family. 
They help upcoming bands get an audience, they support the needs of their listeners and facilitate such great get togethers like Rockstock.

I can safely say, both Beast & I are already talking about next year, and what t-shirts we need to find to wear, so we can make a few more friends :)

.::Edited To Add::.

Well, it's official. Wyatts epic bikeride to Rockstock has raised nearly £75k for the Campaign for Living Miserably... that is legendary. 
I followed his progress, and he really put himself through a fair amount of pain to make this difference. His physical/mental struggles during the week really helped to illustrate just how damn hard it is to live with a mental illness, and what he was willing to do to help. If any of you reading this feel the need to reach out, to me or to a helpline, because you are struggling, please do. 
Reach out and get help, please.
It is totally okay to talk about how you feel, it's not a weakness.... in fact allowing yourself to verbalise your feelings makes you strong.

Don't *ever* forget how awesome you are.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Spreading the love...

My amazing friend, WoollyWormhead, did something wonderful today, and I am totally in awe of her generosity. 
She's made all of her single patterns available to be downloaded for free, for 24 hours... so people can craft something to gift, to donate or just to make themselves feel better.


So far, there have been over 6,000 patterns downloaded, which shows people are really in need of some solace today, with the huge election result in the USA literally rocking the world and making a lot of people feel uncertain of their futures.
I completely empathise with all the people in the USA who didn't vote for the new President. 
I can't even bear to type his name.
It happened to us in June when UK voters chose for us to leave the European Union, the feeling of sadness, fear and loss... 
Am once again, dumbfounded.

The need to spread some love, and the fact that my Blog is 11 years old this month, means I can give away some yarn, right?

I know it's not a lot, but right now, it's all I have.

So, just leave me a message here, and in one week from today, all the names will go into one of my beloved WoollyWormhead hats, and my ray of sunshine will draw out one name.
When leaving me your comment, please let me know how to contact you (Ravelry username is preferred, thankyou !)

#bethechange too ...
Everyone has it in them to do it.
What are you waiting for? 



Friday, October 28, 2016

Another rabbit hole... the Gradient

Have been quite  obsessed  productive since I got my new and quite amazing wheel. 
It's all Carols fault... I caught a glimpse of her new book, Knitting with Rainbows, and fell in love with the pattern on the cover, Shanakiel.
Carol has been very good to me over the years, has designed quite a few patterns in my yarn, and I was blown away with the arrival of the book in my Ravelry library, as if by *magic* after I enquired about the shawl...
So I decided it would be a great way to test myself, and my new wheel, by spinning a hand-dyed Shetland gradient from my lovely friend, the very talented Green witch, Freyalyn so I can make it :)


I very carefully split the strip of combed top down the middle, I had to give it a good shake, and open the top up to find 'the middle' ... and inched my way down it slowly, making sure I kept it as even as I could. It's crucial that you take your time with this initial piece of prep, if you want your two pieces to weigh the same after splitting. I then split both pieces into manageable sections, and predrafted them out. 
Shetland is a joy to spin, the colours are just *a m a z i n g* & it really took no time at all to spin the singles. The colours blend together wonderfully, and the transitional colour mixes just sing :)



I didn't need to take much out of either single to get them to line up nicely either, mainly because my spinning is fairly consistent (control freak), and I took my time with the initial splitting of the tops.
Now, you guys know me, I am a big believer in paying it forward, so after I spun the yarn to make myself a Shanakiel, I decided to spin one for Carol too, to repay her kindness :)
I decided on a blended gradient pack from Katie at Hilltopcloud called 'French Bark'



Again, I was very careful to split each piece of top into equal halves, and it was so much different to spinning with a hand-dyed top. Because of the fibre mix (merino, shetland and silk) and the obvious proportions of these in each coloured strip, the final yarn has such a beautiful tweedy composition, which adds a lot of colour depth and the silk adds a subtle shine when you look at it closely.




Again, I didn't really have much alignment maintenance to do until I'd plied about 75% of it, and I ended up with 134g, 18WPI & 467 yds before it's bath...
Two very different spinning experiences, both enjoyable for different reasons, to get the same type of yarn!

'French Bark' ... or 'Le Woof' as I am calling it, is going to be one of the prizes for Carol to give away in her Wrap Up Winter KAL on Ravelry. 
The way it works is to knit a pattern from a particular bundle to join the KAL (one of the patterns My Little Precious is made with semi-Precious btw) and if you don't have any of the patterns featured, there's a very generous discount code on them all. 
If any of you have patterns in the bundle, or 'Knitting with Rainbows' and fancy joining the KAL, it will run from Nov 1st to Dec 31st with a nice yarny surprise at the end! 

What is not to love about that!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Spinners Journey

One of my "Facebook Memories" today was from 9 years ago.... a blog post I'd shared there, announcing the arrival of my very first spinning wheel, my beloved Louie S10.
A blast from the past like that got me thinking, about my journey from then, to now. 
The wheels I've owned, and loved, and said goodbye to, and what I have learned, both about the craft, and myself.

Boy, have I learned a lot!

A friend from back then had introduced me to spinning by making me a home-made spindle, and I very quickly graduated to buying Louie off eBay, from a seller in Holland. 
People do come into our lives, some stay and some go, and some leave behind them a gift, and you can either take it or leave it.
I can't thank her enough for the gift she gave me... 

I remember being so excited when he arrived, like I'd come home, and I couldn't stop spinning :)


I learned so much with this guy. He's an Irish tension wheel, so speeding up and slowing down was my tension, and believe it or not, I still spin a bit like that today. He only had 2 speed bobbins, and I could only get to a certain thread fineness with him before he started to pull like mad. It took me a good 12 months to grow out of him though, and during that time, I'd also learned to hand-dye fibre for myself too.

I never learned the true value of different sized whorls until I got my second wheel, Lola (over a year later) a Louet Julia.


Spinning on Lola was like going from a car without power steering, to one with it. That's the only way I can describe it to you (and I don't drive either!) She had 3 whorl speeds, and an actual tension band... it was a complete revelation! We made some beautiful yarn together... in fact one of my skinniest yarns to date was made on her, a 3ply sock yarn I made for my Mum. I hated the sliding hook on her flyer though (yeah, I know) so modified her and put brass hooks on it instead.


I also invested in a Louet Victoria at this time too, so I could take my spinning anywhere. 
I had been well and truly bitten. 
Also around this time, I signed up for Davids fibre club at Southern Cross Fibre ; I got to spin with a wide varying selection of expertly dyed fibres, in a colour palette I would choose to dye for myself... 
I also got my undying love of Polwarth, plus silk and tencel mixes from this fella. 
Who is also a lover of the green, doncha know :) 
The one and only proper garment I have ever made from handspun yarn was made with Davids fibres, my Elsewhere jacket. 



In 2009, I found my Robin on eBay. The pictures in the listing were terrible, and she was sold to me for a song, a fraction of what she's worth.


Now this wheel is a real workhorse, if you want a certain weight of yarn. She has a huge bobbin capacity, which means she's not so good at speed, and she's also really high maintenance... haha... bit like me really.  
She's beautifully engineered though, almost silent in motion and stops on a penny. 
I love her so much, even with her foibles :)

My next wheel was the biggest mistake I ever made, in a creative sense, and to be perfectly honest with you, I tried to run before I could walk properly, and it was my complete downfall. 
In my defense though, she was one of only 150 made, so I had to try, right? 


At the time she was the only Cherry Matchless in the UK, and I felt like I was the cat that got the cream. But you know what? I didn't really have a clue what I was doing with her, and the harder I tried, the stupider I felt. Thankfully, I sold her 6 months later to someone who still has her, and loves her like she deserves.
Looking back now, I needed someone to teach me how she worked, but maybe I was a little too arrogant for that at the time. I blamed the wheel for my own inadequacy, and you know what they say about a workman who blames his tools :P
This experience sent me into a downward spiral, one where the Black Dog had full control, and I didn't do any real spinning for over 2 years. There were a lot of other things going on at the time too, and because I didn't have my absolute love of spinning to retreat to, I had no therapy.
The creative wilderness is not a good place to be, especially when it's what you rely on!
Dyeing yarns and fibres is one thing & it only kept me going for so long... but not wanting make my own yarn? 

Making yarn is, for me anyway, a really therapeutic process. I choose the fibres, and as they run through my fingers, the troubles I have seem to fade a little.

I have time. 

A time and space where I am free to think, and dream of fantastic ideas.

After the Matchless, I still had Robin, but I'd also bought a Louet S51, thinking going back to the beginning would help, but it didn't. 
I'd lost all desire (and self confidence) and it took a very good friend to rekindle it. 
I'd taught her to spin on a spindle, so I guess holding my hand & leading me back into the rabbit hole was her way of thanking me :P
She came round one day and helped me give my poor Robin a good clean and oiling, and she literally coaxed me and my pretty baby back to life.
This yarn was the first one I really loved making at that time, and I called it 'Coming Home'... because I finally felt like I had returned.
Albeit the same person with the same skills, but with a totally different outlook; to never take this gift I have for granted ever again.

There's been a Kromski Sonata in my life since then, and she is an amazing wheel. Super reliable, she got me through two Spinzillas.
I just recently sent her off to a new home, where I hope she'll nurture a new spinner into loving the craft as much as I do.

So, my new playmate? 

A Lendrum :)

And, so far, so good :) 
Am spinning faster, but without any loss of quality, which will always be a thing for me because it's just how I am. 
A control freak :P 
I have no shame in admitting it either!

Thanks for getting through to the end... I can go on a bit. 
Sorry.Not sorry :)
It's been an amazing journey sofar, and I look forward to where I'll go next. I just know now that wherever I am taken, I have the skills to support my learning, and the experience to just let it happen.



And if not, there's always cider and blackcurrant :)




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spinzilla 2016, Team Handspinning News UK


This was the second year the Handspinning News team, captained by the very fine Pirate Peahen, participated in Spinzilla and our theme was 'Pirates'... Above is our team photo, and it was carefully and most expertly made by the wonderful ships artist, WoollyElly :)

What an amazing week. We had all learned so much from last year, so I think we were all a little better prepared for the task we had ahead of us. Bettering our total yardage from last year was never going to be easy, but we had a lot of help, thanks to our very kind fibre sponsors. 


(Pictured above: My goal for the week, 400g of combed tops. Top left, overdyed fawn shetland, top right, Ile de France dyed by myself, bottom white shetland.. and blended tops in the middle)

John Arbon carded us a very special top (pictured below)... it was a blend of 55% coloured Merino, 33% Perendale and 12% Zwartbles called 'Spin Fresh' ... and it was the most lovely blend to work with, it drafted fine and was a fast spin. The Perendale took the twist, almost like silk would, and it pulled all the other shorter stapled fibres in for a big magical cuddle. He knows his wool does our John!!



Adam Curtis & The Real Shetland Company was our other fibre sponsor, and we were given a really lovely selection of Shetland tops. I hand-dyed my white and fawn donations (top and bottom right below) as my aim for the week was to produce enough yarn to be able to weave a garments worth of yarn...



I remember getting into a midweek *slump* last year, because I was spinning undyed fibres... so that was definitely NOT going to happen to me this year :) Every single fibre almost jumped onto the wheel, and never once did I get bored of looking at a solid colour for hours on end...
We also had a couple of team events over the week too, which was something we didn't do last year. We had virtual 'Spin-ins' over a web conferencing application called Zoom and had a lot of fun, with much laughter and then more laughter on top of that. They really helped with offering support to members living far away, and just generally connecting with each other as spinners and more importantly, friends... 
There was a local meet up at the City farm in Nottingham on the Saturday too, for those of us in the Midlands area. We created quite a bit of interest with the public, I mean the whole purpose of Spinzilla is to increase knowledge and awareness of handspinning... so we helped to tick that box :P 
We had some members join us from another UK team, Team HilltopCloud too... 
I reached my goal on the Sunday evening, with maybe a couple of hours to spare. 

A grand total of 404g and 2807 Spinzilla Yards/1.59 miles spun during the week.



The results for this year came through yesterday, and we came 4th in the world!! And the UK, across 3 teams, achieved a total of 325,569 Spinzilla yards... a truly huge amount of spinning, dedication and love for the craft.



I'd like to extend a maHOOssive thankyou to everyone who was involved in keeping us spinning. Loved ones, social media supporters, sponsors and my fellow team members... you all ROCK and I cannot wait to do it all again next year :)