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 :)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Hat Season Cometh!

As much as I dislike the darkness and cold that autumn and winter bring, there is one upside to it, and that is the Woolly Hat :)
I love my hats, and of course I must make at least 2 new ones a year, maybe more...
As you all know, I am a Woollywormhead hat girl, and she's just released a new book, Painted Woolly Toppers for Kids ... well I just had to make Allerton... it is the perfect style for me, and also because I just loved the picture of Aran and the spanners :)

(photo reproduced with very kind permission of it's owner, Woollywormhead)

I spun the yarn to make it as part of my Spinzilla 2016 speed training & it's made of white and fawn french merino, a 2 ply, so very, Very bouncy. 
This is a perfect yarn construction for a mainly garter stitch pattern with slipped stitches... it made for a lovely fabric with really defined lines. I overdyed it Teal... of course :P 

The fact it is two base colours also accentuates the excellent stitch definition.

It was a completely different weight of yarn than called for in the pattern, of course as I never make life easy for myself... but it wasn't a difficult job to calculate the size I had to make, because of Woollys amazing tutelage.

Knitting with handspun is always a great experience. I am sure people who don't spin always worry that they'll 'spoil' yarn that has been handspun, but it's pretty hard to get it wrong. You just have to remember to keep things simple, just like you would with anything else. 
Woollys garter stitch hat patterns are perfect for using with handspun yarn... trust me... *GrINS*

I am absolutely thrilled with it... Mamas got a brand new hat!

Thursday, September 15, 2016


I don't know if any of you have started a project, and then immediately felt scared that you were gonna mess it up... well it happens to me quite a bit, probably due to my scatterbrain and low  levels of creative confidence.

I warped up for my sunset inspired project a week or so ago. I alligned the colours on the warp and it just blew me away... I felt like my plans for the fabric would just ruin the colour progressions.
Then I got myself in a real state, looking in my weaving books trying to find a n understandable explanation of the 'pick up stick' technique...
I don't relate well to written instructions, especially as I am mostly self taught... the pattern language and vocabulary is a bit alien, what instruction in a pattern *means* is not how I would say it... and then I just feel completely stupid.
People learn in different ways, and I just do better 'seeing' something demonstrated...

Anyway, a quick visit to youTube fixed my confusion... !

New ideas were hatched, and I felt confident my ideas would translate well, and not spoil the striking colour progression on the warp... whilst at the same time maximising the effect of my handspun... 

I wanted to capture the patterns in a sunset, whist still preserving the everyday wearability of the woven piece... 

I am completely in love with how it turned out, and it's not perfect... but it's perfect enough :) It captures my love of sunsets, and also the joy of being on holiday by the seaside, with all my amazing Boys.

The control freak isn't getting a look in, I need to be positive about my work, and not nitpick at everything, right ?
More positivity will help me to build confidence in my work as a whole, as I have a lot of things on the horizon that need my full attention... Spinzilla 2016, Stitch Up in Solihull, and also the ever present 'Poncho Project' that I am spinning yarn for.

I CAN do this... (repeat ad infinitum)

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Don't worry, be happy! (repeat until you believe it)

I am a worrier & have always been a worrier.
I don't think I can remember a time in my adult life when I haven't overthought absolutely everything ... I just accept it as being part of who I am ...
Over the last few years though, it's become increasingly difficult to push the worrying thoughts aside, and I have found them getting the upper hand, which then results in crippling anxiety attacks.
The inability to push the thoughts aside comes from a complete lack of self-confidence ... 
The inner voice that used to reassure me that 'You can do this, stop worrying so much about it' has fallen silent, and been replaced by a shadowy Spectre, who feeds the feelings of uselessness and panic.
I've been trying various calming techniques, visualising a 'happy place' etc and they seem to be really working, especially last thing at night.
I came across a really interesting website that has plenty of useful strategies to combat anxiety, and one of them really appealed to me... Using a meditation or 'Spinner ring'.
Anyone who has met me will notice I wear big pendants, usually made from a big crystal cab with a sterling silver, open backed setting. This is because in moments of unease, I rub the back of the crystal cabochon and with my thumb, and the front with my forefinger, and it helps me to focus.
I really like the idea of a thumb ring that I can use in a similar way, to provide me with rhythmic comfort, because it is less noticeable in public situations.

I did a search on etsy, and found one, in the UK... and it was the exact size I needed too! 

So, hopefully this is another way I can help myself keep calm when inside I feel like I am drowning?
*fingers crossed*

Saturday, September 03, 2016


For those of you who follow me on Instagram you'll know that our annual family holiday was full of colour, sunsets to be precise!
We went to North Devon, to the same seaside town where I spent my 40th Birthday... Westward Ho! and it was amazing, being right by the sea is where my soul is at ease.
I am also a nightowl, and walking by the sea at night is beautiful... the rhythmic sound of the waves, the smell... my happy place, if you will.
We  did so much over the fortnight we were there, and I did manage to tear my manshapes away from boy stuff long enough to visit Coldharbour Mill, one of the oldest woollen mills in the UK.
We had a guided tour, which was enjoyed by all, and I got to translate the machine processes into handspinning terms for my boys too... plus, they have working looms there... heaven!
Seeing the warping mill they had set up was mindblowing... !

Of course I couldn't leave without buying something... the fibre on the right was foraged out of the waste bins, I got it for a donation... and I also bought some white DK for dyeing :)

Pretty much as soon as I got home, to stave off the sadness of not being in my happy place anymore, I dyed the white yarn and spun the fibre...

Space dyed yarn

This was pencil roving that I ran back through my wheel and drafted it thick and thin, then plied it with glittery thread... yes I know... out of the comfort zone !

 This is what I did with the rest...

My endgame here is a piece of fabric. 
I intend to use the millspin, space dyed yarn as warp... & hope to line all the colours up so the warp is alligned in colour blocks... then use the handspun and some solid black DK for weft.

Best laid plans eh?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

From Boys... to Men. The end of an era...

So today is that day again... my manshapes go back to school, after an amazing Summer, full of adventures, love and laughter.
It's never been a favourite day of mine, I love having them at home....
But today is different, as it's the last of the 'back to school pictures' of them together... as this time next year, Dan will have finished school.
So I have spent a bit of time this morning looking at photos of them (trying not to let my heart break) so I could bring these pictures to my blog...

The pictures on the left are their very first days at school... at 4 and a half and on the right is them today, 13  and 17 :)

Above is them both together, on Joel's first day at school... and below is them today!


When you are about to venture into motherhood... people try to prepare you for what lies ahead... but I don't think anyone could ever have prepared me for this... 

The day to day mothering is nearly over... and it is quite hard to deal with, y'all!!