Wednesday, 25 March 2009

It's been such a long time since I've written anything on here-or at least it feels like it! My days seem so busy at the moment that I hardly stop and think about all the lovely things in my life and all around us all. I would imagine everyone reading this already knows about UK Ravelry day. Many people don't know how much time it takes to do the little things, like sorting out ticket orders. We're completely unimpressed by both the company that we're using for the online shop and PayPal, and one thing is for certain; we will not be using either again for next year's event.

On the subject of next year's event, we've already started work on that too. It's all in the beginning stages at the moment, but I know it's going to be a fantastic week.

One of the things I'll be eternally grateful for are the love and support of my children and husband; they are quite simply the most wonderful people in the world and my life was so empty before I met them/had them. Mothers always feel guilty for one reason or another, but I have to say I think my kids are pretty happy at the moment. It's been a tough time recently for my son - he's apparently 'talented and gifted'- at school but things are starting to look up there. My daughter is completely obsessed with High School Musical (I think I can probably sing every single song in the three films off by heart now), just as I was with Grease at her age. It's lovely sometimes when history repeats itself and lovely to share it with my daughter, through a mother's eyes.

In the madness, I do find times to spin, knit and dye. I've really enjoyed spinning some Bluefaced Leicester and (British) Merino that I got from the wonderful , which I then dyed with tea and turmeric (mordanted in potassium alum). It's fantastic how easy it is to dye with tea and the vibrant yellow you get from turmeric is fantastic (it reminds me of daffodils for some reason).

Bluefaced leicester: top dyed with tea, middle natural, bottom dyed with turmeric

Here are some more that I did a few weeks ago...

Another experiment with concentrated cake dye! Poppy Red & Navy Blue. Yarn (absolutely delicious Falkland Wool, purchased from World of Wool) was soaked in warm water & white vinegar for approx 1 hour and then I painted on some of the food dye (I didn't rinse out the vinegar on purpose). Then it got zapped in the microwave until it was good and steamy, and left to cool overnight. The result from only painting a few sections was that it ran and mized together, to make soft pinks, purples & mauves. Such good fun!

And here's one I'm super happy with. It's BFL/Tussah Silk (again from World of Wool), dyed in Poppy Red food dye with some tea bags thrown in half way through (it had gone almost fluorescent orangey-red). This was spun one evening after a long day which is probably why it's not the best spinning I've done of late, but I really do love it. The photo doesn't do it justice. It's such gorgeous soft stuff.

In the post today I got a fantastic package which has prompted me to write this post. It's from Debbie, the Mulberry Dyer:

It's part one of Debbie's dye club. This month: Weld (also known as Dyer's Rocket). I've had the pleasure of dyeing with this stuff before, and my word does it stink! It smells like cabbage, really stinky cabbage. But it dyes the most beautiful yellow you can imagine. I plan to tinker around with the acidity of one of the dyebaths (by adding vinegar) so it will be interesting to see what it turns out like.

One of the things I LOVE about natural dyeing is the time it takes. It had given me such a profound respect for our ancestors. It takes a long time - soaking the yarn, scouring it, mordanting it, soaking the dyestuff, preparing the dyebath, dyeing the yarn, leaving it to cool (always the worst part for me!) and then rinsing and drying. Can you imagine how difficult this was in the olden days?!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Knit Pros stand at the NEC (CHSI trade show)

Just a very quick post with several photos, as I'm still not completely recovered from a very intense three days working at the CHSI trade show at the NEC.

Amanda (known as Noonie to many) and I had an absolutely fantastic time working on the Knit Pro stand. The Knit Pro team are such a fantastic bunch of people; I really admire them for their innovation, their dedication and also the way in which they treat their workers. Plus I love their sense of humour too!

On the stand with us were 'Uncle' Ashok, who is based in Germany and is to Knit Pros what Jess and Casey are to Ravelry (so you could call him Papa Knit Pro), Shirish (the boss) and his lovely wife Mietu. You know when you meet people for the first time that you're going to really like them? Rarely does it happen that I meet three people in one go that I know I will like and respect, but it happened last Saturday.

Apart from meeting lots of people I've met before, it was great to meet some fellow Ravellers for the first time too, as well as meet people I've been e-mailing about Ravelry day.

The best thing for me though was the huge boost in confidence it gave me; as I've already said on here, last year was a BAD year for me and I was as nervous as anything about being on public display (mainly because my weight has rocketed and I've got more spots than I used to have), but actually it didn't really matter. I love the fact that there are going to be more shops in the UK stocking them, so eventually I will only have a 20 minute drive to get them instead of having to wait several days for them to turn up in the post. I loved being able to use my knowledge too to help people decide which needles would work best for them, based on the range of yarns they stock and their target clients. And I loved showing off the newer products to the magazines too (e.g. the interchangeable tunisian crochet), so that you will all be able to read about them. I've given Elizabeth from Simply Knitting the challenge of coming up with a tunisian crochet pattern; it will be interesting to see what she does with it!

I love KnitPros/Picks needles simply because they are simply the best knitting needles to knit with.

And now for the photos.

Ashok (left, that's Papa Knit Pro) doing some 'extreme' knitting on the display needles. Notice Shirish's amused look at being made to hold some of his own products in his hands!
He looks quite the natural, doesn't he?! (He'll kill me for putting this on here)

Didn't the stand look pretty? I love the poster to the right of Amanda, which you'll no doubt see at a yarn shop near(ish) to you in hopefully the not-too-distant future!

It took ages for the stand to be arranged, and a mere 48 minutes to take it down and pack all away (with a double inventory done by Amanda and me). It will be interesting to see how long it takes next year!

Friday, 13 February 2009

My life has taken on an edge of the surreal this year, as some of you reading this may well know. It has been so much fun talking to people I admire for their amazing skills and design abilities, as well as all our wonderful UK yarnies out there. The UK Ravelry day seems to have taken off hugely - far much more than I was expecting- and we've got some really fantastic people coming to the event for us to share their knowledge with... It is proving to be incredibly hard to keep my mouth shut - or rather my fingers as they're the ones that do the typing!- but all I can say is that I can't wait until 25th February - which is also my Dad's birthday- to announce the line up, both of people doing workshops and talks, but also about all the wonderful small indie companies that will be coming along.

Which leads me on to a problem I've been grappling with recently. What do you knit for one of the most ungrateful people you know (that's right, I mean my Dad!)? He's so bloody hard to buy for and has upset me, Mum and Angie (my sister) on more than one occasion over presents. When I said to Mum on Skype that I'd be knitting him socks, the reply in the background was "I don't wear woolen socks". So what have I done? I'm knitting socks with a huge cotton content in them; Opal Petticoat Cotton to be precise. I've not taken a photo of the WIP but will probably add this to the post later. The yarn is a lovely mix of blues, greys and sandy colours, which reminds me of the seaside - perfect for someone living in Cyprus.

When people think of Cyprus and Greece, they correctly think of hot sunshine, clear blue skies and the such like. What they don't realise - and I know only too well- is that Greek and Cypriot winters are, in many ways, an awful lot worse than they are in the UK. First of all, when it rains, it rains! Not the drizzly rain that we get here, but it literally power showers everything under it. Then there are the storms. I'll never forget a storm that happened in Thessaloniki in the winter of 1999- blew over trees and everything and was really a sight to behold. In Cyprus, they also get amazing storms which bring sand over from the Sahara (how cool is that?!) and amazing lightning/electrical storms too.

The reason I'm going on about the weather over there is that my mum has requested some knits from me. She's not a knitter (although she could be if she put her mind to it, but claims she's too impatient), but admires the knitting I do. Anyway, to get back on subject, she needs some woolies to keep her warm. The houses in Cyprus are made of concrete and the floors are all pretty much tiled, which is great if you've got underfloor heating (pretty much all of the houses there don't have underfloor heating btw) or if you've got air conditioning which blasts out heat in the winter. I've made her a Boho Waves scarf with two hanks of 'Pebble Sand' magic balls from the wonderful Adele's Mohair - beautiful fairtrade yarn from South Africa (which was sent to me last year for a scarf that was meant to appear in a magazine, but that's another story). I'm thinking of doing a really basic hat to go with it too...

I've done a bit of spinning recently to keep me sane. I got some gorgeous tops from World of Wool, and decided to dye some of it, and to leave some of it the natural shade. [Photos to follow]

And a bit of designing too, messing around with some yarn that was also in the stash - beautiful Scotian Silk from the fabulous Fleece Artist. This jacket (I think I can call it a jacket despite having short sleeves) took only two hanks.

I've called this 'In the Woods'
Yarn: Fleece Artist Scotian Silk
Shade: Woodland (yes, that's where I got the name from)

This is a UK size 10, and took just under 2 hanks of yarn (750 metres). The yarn is slightly heavier than aran; tension will be in pattern which I'll eventually write up after I've refined it with version 2.

Finally, one other thing I've been taught to do is play around with photos on Picassa. Here's one of my 'baby', Poppy (who's now 9 months old, but this was taken when she was about 6 months old). She is such a lovely natured dog (she is doing puppy dog eyes in this one, isn't she?) and we as a family can't thank the Dogs Trust enough for rescuing this little cutie so she could become a part of our family. She was abandoned in Ireland with her sister when they were tiny, tiny puppies. How can people be so cruel as to take puppies away from their mummy at such a young age? It's beyond belief.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Central Hall, Coventry

So here is a photo of the Central Hall, on Tuesday morning. Imagine lots of lovely sunshine and people walking around in short sleeves and the such like, not a grey and wet day in January! To the right is one of the three spires of Coventry, a part of the old town wall. It's now a cafe, or art gallery, or both - it changes frequently between the two and admittedly I didn't go and see what it is currently.
This is the rather huge main hall. It seats 845 when all the seats are in. For our purposes, imagine that the central two blocks of seats aren't there. Upstairs there are over 300 seats, so plenty of space to watch proceedings as they take place.

And imagine a stage over where the lectern is, and lots of stalls where the seats are in the main part of the ground floor.

Monday, 26 January 2009

More dyeing photos

I've done some more dyeing...

1 hank of Hicks Angora 4 ply mohair, dyed with Kool Aid

in grape and the really bright blue one (can't remember name off top of my head). This was dyed in the microwave. The yarn was soaked, but not mordanted (doesn't need to be as Kool Aid contains citric acid).

I've dyed with teal and logwood purple extract dyes from DT Crafts...

Yarn: BFL, DK weight (100 grams total)
Mordanted in alum and cream of tartar
Dyed in microwave

And here is the fun one. I got a load of yarns that I've had for a while (some were already dyed), mordanted overnight in 20% of total weight in potassium alum, 10% cream of tartar (I was experimenting with amounts, to really open up the yarn)

Left to right: 1 x 50 gr hank of Jacob wool, bought at the Wool Clip,
1 x 90 gr hank of 2 ply cashmere, which was initially bright orange,
1 x 100 gr hank of Bluefaced Leicester Aran
1 x 150 gr hank of 2/14 cashmere from Colourmart
1 x 50 gr hank of unknown light pink yarn, aran weight (I think it's BFL but am not sure).

So why different shades? Well, a couple of them already started as different colours, but I think the difference is that I filled about 1/4 of the pot with alkanet, then put the yarn in, and covered the rest with cochineal and a bit more water.

And finally, I've been having a play on the wheel, and this is a hank that I'm a bit proud of. It's small (haven't weighed it yet) but it's pretty much perfectly plied. I love this new wheel.

Handspun: Alpaca (from Sophie, purchased from the Alpaca Spinner) and a bit of bluefaced leicester, to give a mottled effect.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

and the result is...

Sometimes in life, things don't work out the way you thought they would. Sometimes they work out better. The same is true of dyeing, or at least my personal experience thus far.

Here are the five hanks I dyed yesterday.

Bluefaced leicester, aran weight (purchased from World of Wool)
4 x 100 gram hanks, dyed in Alkanet (with a little bit of cochineal)

Bluefaced leicester, sock weight (purchased from World of Wool)
1x 100 gram hanks, dyed in Alkanet (with a little bit of cochineal)

The photos are showing them to be a salmony-pink, but they are really a soft pinky purple colour and a fair bit darker than here.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Meet the new member of the family

Here is the new member of the family, Cerys the Ashford Spinning Wheel. I learned to spin about six weeks ago and was taught by Linzi, the Alpaca Spinner. The wheel I learned on (Mary) is an Ashford Traditional and I took to it like a duck to water. So much so that I didn't want to try spinning on another wheel. I strongly felt that I wanted a secondhand wheel, one that had been well used and loved. And here she is; Cerys. Cerys has spent most of her 'life' in Wales hence the Welsh name.

Cerys is a wonderful wheel and will no doubt become a good friend. Spinning is the most therapeutic thing you could possibly do. I am now completely free of happy pills; I had been on them since my shocking Post Natal Depression some three and a bit years ago (I had been on the pills for two and a half years as I fed Zoe for 11.5 months), and although they did get me through some very, very difficult times, I had become a bit addicted to them I think. Spinning has been the release I have needed, if that makes sense, a way of coping with daily problems. I am a worrier (that's the Welsh blood in me) who goes through bouts of insomnia, so Cerys is just what I need.

On a day like today, all I want to do is curl up on the sofa with a nice big cup of tea and some knitting, watching Time Team. Thankfully I've got the house to myself this morning - a rare treat on a Saturday- and will be able to watch TT without 'Mummy when can I have CBeebies on' being asked repeatedly!

View from the back garden, about 10 minutes ago. See what I mean?!

I've already spun about 20g of BFL, kindly given to me by Debbie the Mulberry Dyer. It's dyed in madder.

So today I am spoiling myself; spinning,knitting and dyeing. I love dyeing almost as much as I love spinning, but not quite. There's a bit too much chemistry involved for me, but I do love using natural dyes and seeing what happens. Here is some bluefaced leicester, just gone into the dyepot, of mainly alkanet and some cochineal. It's really quite red, isn't it?! I've put in 400 grams of aran weight and 100 grams of sock, so it will be interesting to see how they work out. I've going to make another Liesl with the aran, and some matching? socks with the sock.

On the knitting front, I think I'm about to have an attack of sock knitting again. It's one of those phases I go through every now and again. I've finally finished the Silk Garden Socks (currently blocking and very wet) that I've had on the go on and off since November. The yarn is completely and utterly gorgeous, but I'm not too sure about how the shade (87 for those of you who know your Noro) works on socks. Maybe it's just me, maybe it's just my big ankles and thighs. Nonetheless, they are incredibly warm and cosy and that's all you want out of socks isn't it?

The BFL in the pot. Hopefully some bits will be a bit more pink than red - I love really subtle variegation.