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.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

It's the 18th January and Spring is 'springing'...

I do not usually use this space to rant, but today I just have to.

Here's evidence that climate change is in full swing...

That's right, our daffodils are almost ready to flower. I swear that only ten years ago this didn't happen until March at the earliest. In German, they are called 'Osterglochen' (Easter bells) as they used to flower at Easter, and here in the UK are traditionally associated with Easter time too.

It got me thinking...

We have a beautiful world.

Isn't it beautiful? How peaceful does it look from space?!

It makes me so sad that this is happening:

A little boy in Gaza. We are so blessed in this country that our children do not have to grow up like this. And instead, they can grow up like this.

(It's a photo of my daughter, who planted me a hycacinth as a Christmas present at Nursery. She's been looking after it really well and took huge delight in it blooming the other day.)

Barack Obama, you've got a world full of expectation on your shoulders. I pray that you will be able to deliver what other leaders are finding hard to do.

(I got the 2nd and 3rd images by typing 'planet earth copyright free' and 'Gaza copyright free in Google Images, by the way).

Friday, 16 January 2009

On the Ravelry date

Hi everyone,

I am super tired- it's been a long week- so I'm just posting here to say that the poll has closed earlier than expected due to venue availability.

It's going to be on 6th June - hopefully those who voted for the May dates won't be too disappointed.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

Just a very quick post, because of my son feeling like this...

and my daughter feeling like this...

(She was aware she was having a photo taken and even in ill-mode still is fashioning some kind of pose.)

I just wanted to share with you some shade cards that arrived a couple of days ago and what I've done with half of one of them...

Incredibly lovely stuff. Here's the result:
A couple of mug cozies - the pattern for which I found for free on Ravelry. I am now hearing various strains of 'Mummy' so I should go.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Some interesting websites I've found today

I've spent far too long on the computer today, but I've certainly found out lots and lots of interesting stuff. Here are a few that I thought I'd share with you:

Cotswold Woollen Weavers sounds like a very visit-worthy place:
"The smell of wool oil and the clack of the shuttles welcome visitors who tour our traditional 18th century woollen-mill set in the beautiful English Cotswolds"

British Coloured Sheep Breeders' Association is a very useful and interesting website to visit. They will be at Wonderwool...

An indie wool processing firm: Diamond Fibres

and I think this one is probably the best find of the day, and one I'll certainly be using: World of Wool (this links through to their Special Offers page) This is a website run by one of the largest commercial yarn companies in the UK, Europa Yarns Ltd. They say: "We do produce a selection of British yarns. We make aran, dk, lace and sock weight. All of which are on Shetland, BFL, Jacob and Black Welsh. All our british wool is sourced and bought through the wool auctions and is processed here in the UK."

LYS owners: "If you can order larger quantities than this we can send our wholsale catalogue". The prices are really quite reasonable, and they've got a fantastic range of yarns too.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Mad ideas while driving

I don't know about you, but I tend to have some of my best ideas when in the car. One day I will figure out why. Anyway, today's idea was to organise a national Ravelry get together and destash day, the idea being that Ravellers all meet in one central location with their stashes and then either sell or trade them, as they can do on Ravelry. They can meet other Ravellers, maybe buy some more (British) yarn from a small independent producer, have some really good tea and cake, and maybe go along to a talk or workshop too. But the main idea was to be a bit like Ravelry in the flesh for a day.

So I posted this idea on a few forums on Ravelry, and it seems to have gone down well. The only problem is, when to hold it. I had originally thought of the beginning of May, and then it was soon pointed out to me that Wonderwool takes place at the end of April. And then I realised that Woolfest takes place at the end of June. So, for me, the logical idea is either the last Saturday in May (another Bank Holiday) or the first Saturday in June. My personal preference is the first Saturday in June, seeing as most working people get paid at the end of the month and this should therefore help in the destashing/stash enrichment programme that will hopefully be taking place for hundreds of Ravellers...

BTW, I will be inviting everyone mentioned below on the 'Buying British' post below to see if they'd like to come and sell you some of their wares...

ETA: I've just checked out dates of Bank Holidays in May. The 25th is the Spring Bank Holiday, so personal preference is for 30th May.

Here’s my brainstorming:

  • You decide you want to come along.
  • You buy a ticket* and get a table number.
  • You come along to Coventry on the day with your stash and cash, and a Ravelry badge
  • You perhaps donate an item you've knitted for the charities we will be collecting for
  • You then sell/trade/donate to charity your stash (as you can do here on Ravelry)
  • You meet fellow Ravellers, and perhaps do some knitting.
  • You have tea and cake (and believe me it’s good tea and cake )
  • You have a look at some stalls and maybe buy some yarn or something similar
  • You perhaps have a wander around the exhibition and/or watch a fashion show
  • You have some more tea and cake , and perhaps a sandwich too
  • You maybe listen to a talk or take part in a workshop
  • You have a book or pattern signed by that person
  • You knit
  • You have another cup of tea before leaving with lots of new yarn and catch the train home/drive home…
* Hopefully this will become a free event and all we'll ask you to pay for is a stamp!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Some amazing books

I was lucky enough to get a few amazing books for Christmas, which I'd like to tell you about here.

A history of hand knitting by Richard Rutt (listed on Amazon for £80 or so, my DH got it from Wingham Wool Work for £26). This is, quite simply, an absolutely amazing book. It is so well written and researched. I'd highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about the history of knitting in the UK. I was struck by how people used to fit knitting into their daily lives and around other chores, just to make ends meet. We're so blessed that we no longer need to knit to earn our daily bread.

Following on from that book, The Old Handknitters of the Dales by Joan Ingliby and Marie Hartley is a very interesting read too. I still cannot fathom how the knitters used hooked needles and only one hand... The only thing missing from this book is a map of the area.

If you're interested in knitting history in the UK, here are some links which may be of interest and provide you with some interesting days out this year:

The Fashion Museum, Bath

The V and A, London

Knitted Together

Knitting Together All about the East Midlands Knitting Industry

Scottish Knitting History from NMS You have to pay a subscription to view the images/packs, but it's well worth it if you're researching this...

FURTHER READING: The History of Knitting - Knitting History, website of the Knitting History Forum

Friday, 2 January 2009

Buying British

Edited to add: Please note that this information is moving to a new website,, and I won't be adding any new companies/traders to this list. Please do e-mail any more to me though at: Thank you!

I've been trying to think of knitting-related New Year's resolutions (and other ones too actually) but I've not been able to come up with anything. And then I started reading a post on Ravelry about buying British yarn. So that's what I'm going to do in 2009: whenever I need to buy yarn (which, admittedly, is not much) it will only come from the back of a British-based sheep. This is going to be a hard one to keep, given all the lovely yarns that are imported into our country.

I'd like to find out about as many UK-based independent yarn producers this year, and in fact any other British-based companies selling British products. Please let me know if there are any others that can be included.


Farm Yarn

The Nude Ewe

Gedgrave Flock of Wensleydales

Coldharbour Mill

Crookabeck Angoras

Hicks Angora

Greengate Wools

The Natural Fibre Company (some very interesting links)



The Wool Clip

Cornish Organic Wool

Devon Fine Fibres

Krafty Koala

The Natural Dye Studio

The Mulberry Dyer

The House of Hemp

Oxford Kitchen Yarns

UK Alpaca

The Alpaca Spinner

Great British Yarns

Wingham Wool Work

The Alpaca Wool Company

British Breeds Yarns (no prices on here but contact details are available)

Wildcraft (for handspinners only)

The Knitting Goddess

Heathland Hebridean

Skein Queen Debbie says: "I have several lines of British grown and dyed yarns - my Encore (BFL/nylon), Blissful (BFL) and some new BFL weights I’m introducing over the next couple of weeks. However, the rest of my stock is non-British"

Rosewood Farms

New Forest Mohair

Artists Palette Yarns

Aragon Yarns

Wool and Willow

Violet Green Jane says: "I sell British Bluefaced Leicester Aran.Most of the yarns I hand-dye are spun in the UK (Socrates sock yarns, both laceweight yarns, Utopia sock yarn, DK Alpaca), so using the tiny British spinning industry, but the merino used comes in from the Falklands."


New Lanark Fantastic Soil Association- certified wool in DK and Aran weights. Incredibly reasonably priced. A world heritage site, well worth a visit if you're anywhere near Lanark.

Northern Lace Liz Lovick's website, full of patterns and her own North Ronaldsay Wool - Natural and Hand Dyed

Jamieson's of Shetland

Artisan Threads

The Yarn Yard

Virtual Yarns (Alice Starmore)


Moondance Wools

Old Maiden Aunt


Posh Yarn


Garthenor Organic

Bowmont Braf

Honourwood Flock


Cambrian Mill (looks like a very interesting place!)

The Wool Hunter


Preseli Mohair Centre

Wool Out of Wales
no website but e-mail to
(Ravelry page:

To be worked on at a later date!