Friday, 28 January 2011

Spinning Workshops in Italy - April 2011

Per dettagli in Italiano, vai qui:

At last I can post details of the spinning workshops that I will be giving in Italy in April. With help from local friends, we are planning 3 workshops in Lucca and 3 in Milan

 If you have any questions about the workshops, please leave a comment, with your contact details (e-mail address) so I can get in touch with you.

Here are the dates and prices:



Fibre Preparation
Sat 9 April
3 hrs

Drop-spindle spinning

Sat 9 April
3 hrs

Spinning Wheel basics
Sun 10 April
5 hrs


Fibre Preparation
Sat 16 April
5 hrs
€80 + €25 room hire

Drop Spindle spinning
Sun 17 April
5 hrs
€80 + €25 room hire

Spinning wheel basics
Mon 18 April
5 hrs
€80 + €25 room hire

The Lucca workshops will be in the Lucca Centre for Contemporary Art (Lu.C.C.A) which is a lovely venue within walking distance from the train station.
The Milan venue is still to be confirmed.

Here are some details of what the workshops will cover:

Fibre preparation workshop

Lucca: Saturday 9th April, morning. 3 hours €50 per person please join us for lunch in the Lu.C.C.A. café after the workshop (not included in the price)

Milano: Saturday 16 April. 5 hours (plus a 1 hour break for lunch (not included in the price))
€80 + €25 room hire per person

Some lovely new fleeces which arrived yesterday!

All specialist equipment and materials are supplied (you can bring your own carders, combs or fibres  if you have any)

Please bring: a washable apron, a cloth bag e.g an old pillowcase, a box with a lid (e.g. a shoebox)
As we will be using unwashed wool you might  prefer to wear latex or rubber gloves but these are not really necessary

This workshop is for people who have little or no experience of preparing fibres for handspinning. We will spend most of the time preparing a raw sheep’s  fleece, which will  be shared between the students. We will also look briefly at preparing other fibres such as silk, and if time allows we may also touch on blending fibres

Handcarders and combs are relatively inexpensive tools and easily portable so we will use these in the workshop. We will discuss the use of drumcarders. (If anyone can bring a drumcarder, let me know, as we can incorporate a practical demonstration)

The workshop covers:
A look at fibres:
  • What makes wool so good to spin?
  • What other kinds of fibres are available for spinning
  • Pre-prepared fibres: Carded or combed, tops, roving or sliver
  • Storing raw and clean fibres
Sorting and grading wool from a raw fleece
Carding wool by hand
Combing wool staples
Preparing silk from caps and cocoons
(Blending fibres ) – if time allows

You will be able to take away the fibre that you prepare during the workshop.

Beginners’ Drop-spindle spinning workshop

Lucca: Saturday 9th April, afternoon. 3 hours €50 (please join us for lunch in the Lu.C.C.A. café before the workshop – not included in price)

Milano: Sunday 17th April. 5 hours (plus a 1 hour break for lunch(not included in price)) €80 + €25 room hire per person

Equipment and materials supplied (bring your own if you prefer)

This workshop is for people who have little or no experience of handspinning. It gives a good foundation for people who want to learn to spin using a spinning wheel, and is also suitable for those who intend to continue to develop their skills with a drop-spindle.

A drop spindle is a simple, inexpensive and very portable tool which can be used to produce a huge variety of yarns. With a spindle, we can slow the spinning process right down so the learner can develop a good understanding of what needs to happen during the spinning process, and how to control it to produce good quality yarns. This is directly transferable to spinning with a spinning wheel.

The workshop covers:

A look at fibres:
  • What makes wool so good to spin?
  • What other kinds of fibres are available for spinning
  • Pre-prepared fibres: Carded or combed, tops, roving or sliver
Types of spindles
Getting started – spinning a singles yarn
Thickness and twist
Plying – why and how
Finishing yarn – setting the twist
Measuring thickness and quantity, and comparing with commercial yarns

You will be able to take away the wool that you spin during the workshop

Spinning Wheel basics workshop

Lucca: Sunday 10th April              €80 per person (please join us for lunch in the Lu.C.C.A. café - not included in the price )
Milano: Monday 18th April            €80 + €25 (room hire) per person

5 hours (plus a 1 hour break for lunch- not included in the price)

Equipment and materials supplied (10% discount if you bring your own spinning wheel – please let me know in advance what type it is)

This workshop is for people who may have tried spinning with a drop spindle, but who have little or no experience of using a spinning wheel. If you have already learned the basics of using a drop spindle you will get on better in this workshop, but it is not essential.
This workshop gives you the skills for spinning a wide variety of yarns using a spinning wheel, we will spin wool but you will also get a good foundation for continuing to develop your skills with other fibres.

 Ashford Traditional spinning wheel                                         Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel
Modern spinning wheels are versatile and robust, they are much easier to use than antique spinning wheels which often have parts missing or broken, and were often made for spinning one specific type of yarn

The workshop covers:

A look at fibres:
  • What makes wool so good to spin?
  • What other kinds of fibres are available for spinning
  • Pre-prepared fibres: Carded or combed, tops, roving or sliver
Types of spinning wheels
Getting started – spinning a singles yarn
Thickness and twist. Twist ratios and band tension
Plying – why and how
Finishing yarn – setting the twist
Measuring thickness and quantity, and comparing with commercial yarns

You will be able to take away the wool that you spin during the workshop
Optional extras only available for workshop partcipants
‘Student’ drop spindle                                  €7
72pt curved Carders                                    €39 per pair
Niddy Noddy                                                  €18
Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel                        €295   ) Ashford spinning wheels come with 
Ashford Traditional spinning wheel             €385   ) spare bobbins and Lazy Kate

Shetland wool combed tops – natural colours       €3 per 100g              
Shetland wool combed tops – dyed                       €4.50 per 100g
Carders, niddy-noddy and drop spindles
Teaching will be in a mixture of English and Italian. Translators will be on hand to help with any language problems. I have over 25 years experience of teaching spinning in the UK
Places are limited to 8 for Fibre Preparation and Drop-spindle spinning workshops, and 5 for spinning wheel basics workshops. Equipment will be provided but will have to be shared - if you choose to purchase equipment from the 'optional extras' listed above you will not have to share it.

 If you have any questions about the workshops, please leave a comment, with your contact details (e-mail adress) so I can get in touch with you.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

How green is my halo!!! and a recipe for stollen

I've had a day of recycling - smug? moi??!!!!

This morning I recycled the christmas tree in to weed-supressing mulch for the paths in my vegetable garden. Yes, I know christmas was about a month ago, but until a week ago the paths, like the rest of my garden, were under a thick layer of frozen-hard snow, and I would have needed a pickaxe to get at them. And last weekend it poured with rain non-stop... which at least got rid of the snow. First time I'd seen grass in my garden for 7 weeks. The garden is looking very sorry for itself, but no doubt it will recover. I hope the garlic (from Gubbio in Umbria) and jerusalem artichokes are ok under the still-frozen ground. The kale, purple sprouting broccoli and swiss chard plants all look as if someone has sat on them, but once it warms up a bit I expect they will shoot again.

I tried the christmas tree mulch on one path last year, and it certainly did seem to work, fewer weeds and a pleasant surface to walk on (although I wouldn't try it with bare feet)  so today I snipped the smaller branches into bits about 6" long, or less, and spread them on another path, treading them down. One 4' christmas tree only produced enough mulch for about 6' of path, but what is left (the central trunk) will be much easier to dispose of. If I had an open fire or stove I would burn it but it would be very sparky, and anyway I dont, so it will go in the green recycling bin to be shredded and composted by the council .

I also tidied up about two months of stuff destined for the compost heap  - when the ground was covered in snow I couldn't get to the compost bin so all the (biodegradable) bags of veg peelings, dead flowers etc had been piling up in buckets outside the back door. At least the cold weather prevented it from smelling!

After lunch I spent a couple of hours recycling two old duvet covers into eight large cloth sacks. I did this because in the next week or so I am expecting a delivery of fleeces, and cloth bags are much better than polythene for storing them. The big bags are useful for storing loads of other things too- they are tougher than bin bags, good for wrapping and cushioning awkward shapes, and of course they are washable and reusable.

Finally - I 'recycled' (well, used up) the marzipan left over from the christmas cake by making two stollen. I modified the recipe to use my breadmaker for the dough, then baked them in the oven.

Tastes as good as it looks!!

Here's the recipe:

Breadmaker Stollen (makes 2)
100ml warm water
2tbs dried milk powder
1 egg
300g plain flour
50g icing sugar
Zest of half a lemon
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon brandy
50g flaked almonds
50g butter chopped up small
100g raisins
1 tsp dried 'quick' yeast
150g marzipan

Put everything except the marzipan in the breadmaker, in the order given, and set it to the dough programme.
When the dough is ready, tip it out on to a floured surface. Cut it in half. Stretch each piece into a rectangle about 12 inches by 8.
Make the marzipan into two 'logs' 10 inches long. Place in the middle of the dough rectangles and wrap the dough round them, pinching the ends.

Place on a non-stick baking tray and bake at 180 C for40 mins. Enjoy!!!

Sushi adventures

The continuing perfect weather for spinning and knitting has given me the opportunity to start a project that I have been planning for a while - creating 'sushi rolls' for knitting socks, shawls or other items with unusual dye effects.

Its not an original idea - I should give credit to Jon 'easyknitter' Dunne who creates gorgeous individualy dyed yarns. Check out the easyknitter website....

I decided to have a go at making sushi rolls myself when a)  friend gave me an old knitting machine and b) I aquired a large cone of very fine white yarn of unknown fibre content, for £1 in a charity shop. The third necessary element (time) was supplied courtesy of yet more snow making it impossible to go and visit my stepfather in Oban (again).

First step: getting the knitting machine to work.
My mum had a similar machine, rather more basic, in the 1970's, and I had some vague memories of how to use it.Luckily my friend had also given me the instruction manual, so once I had given the machine a fairly cursory cleaning I followed the setting up instructions (with some trepidation) and gave it a go - bingo!! It worked perfectly!!!

Next step: figure out how much yarn to knit for each sushi roll. As the rolls are usually made for knitting socks, I figured that the length of yarn in a ball of sock yarn should be the minimum to aim for - 420 m in 100g ball of Trekking.

My white yarn was much finer than sock yarn, so I based all my calculations on using it double.

As long as each sushi roll contains 130g  double yarn (before dyeing) there should be more than enough to knit a pair of socks, or any other project that can be knitted from a 100g ball of a standard sock yarn.

Winding the yarn was a fairly time consuming and tedious process, but the knitting went fairly quickly. It must be good exercise for the upper arms and pecs - bye bye bingo wings!!

I knitted 4 strips to experiment with -

Imagine how long that would take to knit by hand - each one took about 20 minutes on the knitting machine!!
I  also knitted a mini sushi strip as a sample = first for pressing, then for dyeing.

The stocking stitch strips had a tendency to roll in from the edges, so I had to press them so they would stay flat for painting on the dye.

The exciting bit - dyeing!
I started my dying experiments with the skein of yarn I had wound for teting the weight. After soaking it I put a stock solution of Kemtex acid dye (blue) on one end of the skein. and some powdered Omega (all in one) dye in Coral on one part and  Malachite on another part. I put a little boiling water over the dye powders, and then wrapped the skein in clingfilm.
I use an old microwave for dyeing small quantities - it is very temperamental and I never stay in the room while it is on as I'm sure it leaks microwaves, but it is preferable to using the one I cook in!
I gave the skein a couple of 5-minute blasts in the microwave and then left it to sit overnight.
When I took it out the skein appeared purplish blue all over, but as I rinsed it almost all of the lue rinsed away, leaving a pink shade with occasional bluish flecks. So - the Kemtex didn't appear to have taken.

The cotton string that I had used to tie the skein had dyed dark purplish blue, with some aubergine-purple bits. Thius suggests that the white yarn is not cotton, although it looks and feels like mercerised cotton.

Second dye test - the  knitted sample strip

I made up stock solutions of 9 colours of Omega dyes, then put a line of each colour in turn on to the  (soaked) knitted strip, leaving a white space between each.

After mocrowaving  the colours looked promising, but a lot rinsed out. Also, the mahogany seemed to have spread, muting the colours

For sushi roll 1 I used more dye, but only 4 colours: sungold, flame, moss and mahogany

Sushi roll 2 also had  colours: Purple, Coral, malachite and marine blue. It also had twice as many 5-minute bursts of  microwaving. Better, but still more muted colours than I would like.

For my next dyeing experiments I will try soaking the knitted strip (with and without vinegar in the water) and then applying dry dye powder...... watch this space!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

What weather!!

Friends and family from elsewhere in the UK and abroad have seen our little town of Auchterarder mentioned in news reports about the extreme weather we have been having, and it certainly is the main topic of conversation here!

 Better not to drive at all!!

The snow started on 26th November, by the 27th we were already cancelling journeys (I was meant to be going to the opera in Edinburgh) and for the next week or so our little town was intermittently cut off, cars buried under 2 feet of snow, no deliveries to the shops or petrol station so no milk, bread, veg, fresh meat etc and eventually no diesel (the only cars that could get about were 4x4s so they used up all the diesel but the petrol cars were mostly stuck!)

I think it's mine!!!

At first it was fun to go out for a walk, and the views were spectacular (especially the warm soup or hot chocolate after coming home!) but after a few days it got too difficult to walk through the snow just for fun, and going to see what the shops didn't have in stock became a local pastime.

In the first two snowy weeks I only managed to get to work once, but I can do a lot of my work from home and anything that would have required my physical presence had been canceled anyway. The following week was more or less normal, although as there are still great piles of snow (now frozen solid) in all the parking places a car is becoming a liability. Then the already low temperatures plummeted - in the week before christmas it was down to minus ten during the day and minus 18 at night. At those temperatures the salt that they put on the roads no longer melts the ice and we were cut off again several times, by lorries jack-knifing and blocking the roads. Much of the UK has been affected and it has caused all sorts of problems, not just with transport but things like postal services have been badly disrupted, at their busiest time. However Auchterarder does seem to be getting a reputation for snow!!! Our local council must be getting plenty of practice at dealing with it, because our main road and pavements were kept in a much better state than surrounding places I have visited lately.

Hamish doesn't like snow! Not 2 feet of it anyway!

As the snow started to melt we had icicles hanging from the roof that were as thick as my arm and about 4 feet long.

I got home from work one evening to find the fire engine, blue lights flashing, outside my house (rather alarming to say the least!) and a fireman up a ladder chopping down the icicles in case they fell and hit someone walking on the pavement in front of the house. It took them over 4 hours.

On Christmas Day the weather was dry, although bitterly cold and we managed to drive the 92 miles over to Oban to see my stepfather. It was very icy on the pavements there although the roads were clear - because it is on the coast Oban gets relatively little snow and they clearly aren't used to having to clear the pavements the way they do here. As we got back from our hotel christmas lunch the sun was just setting over the bay, which was  like a mirror as there was no wind.

On the way home that evening the roads were covered in snow and slush between Loch Awe and Killin, but we got home ok.

The main roads are more or less clear now - we did have another two or three inches of snow on boxing day, once it had got a bit warmer, and it has snowed again this afternoon, with more forecast. Where the snow as not been disturbed there is now a solid frozen layer about 8 inches deep which will take some time to melt - we are getting up to about 3 degrees during the day now!!

Thankfully we have (so far) not had problems with frozen pipes - lots of people have. You can see from earlier posts that, while it has been very difficult and dangerous for anyone who has had to travel, even snow-clouds have a silver lining - it has been perfect weather for spinning and knitting!!!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Spinning classes - Scotland and Italy

The main purpose of this blog is to post details of my spinning classes. I've been spinning for over 30 years and teaching spinning for more than 25.

As new classes here (Scotland) or in Italy are planned, I will post details on this blog

I can teach basic spinning to absolute beginners, or tailor a more advanced class to the interests of the participants, covering anything from selection and preparation of fibres, blending, controlling thickness and twist, creating 'designer' yarns, plying techniques, finishing yarns and how to use handspun yarns.
I can also organise dyeing and felting workshops
I run a series of classes for adventurous knitters called 'Knitting beyond the printed pattern'

I offer spinning and knitting classes in my home in Perthshire, either one-to-one or small groups (maximum 5).
I can find a venue locally for groups of 5 - 12
I'm also happy to travel and run a workshop for up to 12 people - or for larger  spinning groups such as guilds
When there is enough demand I offer a course of 10 weekly evening classes through the Auchterarder Adult Education Association - see

If you would like information on costs, or any other aspect of my classes, leave a comment with your contact details and I will get in touch.

In 2010 I ran my first drop-spindle spinning class in Italy. Look out for a post about this very soon. I am now planning a series of spinning workshops in different locations in Italy, probably in April and September/October 2011. Watch out for more details of these posted on this blog, and on the Filare a mano - Italian handspinners group on .

If you would like to learn to spin, or learn some new techniques to enhance your spinning and knitting, I'd love to hear from you.

Find me on Ravelry

You can find me on Ravelry (an on-line community of knitters, crocheters, spinners etc) - log in to (you will have to register) and search for deborahgray. Once you've found my notebook you can see more of my projects, or send me a message via Ravelry

Monday, 3 January 2011

Post Christmas creativity with secret santa, prezzies and stash

Determined to make the most of the christmas and new year holidays for creative projects, I have been doing lots of spinning and sewing, and of course some knitting too! The icy/foggy/snowy weather has been perfect weather for spining and knitting !! (see the 'Welcome' post!)

Ellie's Icicle
My secret santa prezzy was some lovely 'humbug' striped wool tops, and two very beautiful hand-blended batts of soft fibres, in black, white and grey,  with glints of silk, and an envelope of silvery sparkles.

Many thanks to Ellie for helping Santa - its a very sophisticated colour scheme for an eight-year-old, and she had clearly done her research wll, as it is just what I like.
  I couldn't wait to get my hands on the batts, and because the colour scheme and sparkles reminded me of the spectacular icicles we had at the beginning of December (which eventually had to be removed from the gutters by the fire brigade as they were a danger to people walking past!) I decided to name this yarn 'Ellies Icicle'.

I added the sparkles to the batts, and they spun up beautifully - I used my Ashford Kiwi wheel becauseof its lower twist ratios, and got two bobbins nearly full.

 Because I wanted to keep the colours and the way they blended from one to another distinct, I decided to make a singles yarn, as plying would have mixed them too much. That meant I had to deal with the active twist - before setting, the yarn was kinking and twisting back on itself and would have been a nightmare to knit. I wound one bobbinfull tightly on to my trusty (and nearly antique!) home made skeinwinder, wet it in really hot water and then slowly steamed round the entire skein three times. Then I let the yarn dry overnight on the skeinwinder before rather gingerly taking it off. The steaming and drying under tension seemed to have done the trick and the skein barely twisted at all. I repeated the process with the other skein, and the result was the same. The total length of yarn is 190 metes, about double-knitting thickness.

I doubt very much whether the twist will remain set when the yarn is handled much, or washed, so I have planned a simple tubular cowl, knitted in the round, (on 4.5mm KnitPro circ) with rows of lace holes (k2tog, yf, K2 tog, yf....) separating narrow bands of 3 or 4 rows of stocking stitch and reverse Hopefully if the twist causes the dreaded singles slant it wont matter in a tube! I started it late last night so should find out this evening if it is going to turn out ok!

I do hope Ellie gets as much enjoyment out of the fibres that I sent her (on Santa's behalf) as I am getting from my prezzie - and I've still got the humbug top to spin...

added 09 01 11

The icicle cowl / snood is finished!

It was a simple and quick knit - I did a swatch on 4.5mm needles which let me know that 80 sts would fit round my head. I cast on 100 to allow it to be worn as a hood and not too tight round the face.
in order to emphasise the long colour changes in the yarn I decided to stick to 4 row bands of stocking stitch between rows of [K2tog, yf] 'holes' in the centre section,

 I worked two bands of reverse stocking stitch separated by a row of holes and a band of stst at the top and bottom edges to prevent the edges curling, and make them a bit stiffer, so that it would sit out around the face.

The pattern is:

Tension: 18 sts and 24 rows to 10cm over the pattern repeats (R 1 - 5 below)

Cast on 100, join and knit in the round
R 1 - 4: k
R5: [K2 tog, yf] repeat to end
R6 - 9: p
R10: as R5

repeat R 1 - 10 once more, then repeat R1 - 5 until half the available yarn is used, or the work measures half the desired length ( say 10 - 12 cm for a finished length of 20 -25cm). Place a marker that will stay on this row.
Continue repeating Rows1-5 until the distance from the marker is the same as from the marker to the last p row, ending with R5.
Repeat rows 6 - 10, then rows 1 - 10
Cast off with a stretchy cast off

I had less than 12" of yarn left when I had cast off - just enough to make a button loop on the bottom edge. Sewing on a button, also on the bottom edge about 6" away from the loop allows you to fasten it at the back of the neck when wearing it as a hood, or leave it open when wearing it lose as a cowl.

Lizard ridge
Until the Ellie's Icicle yarn was ready for knitting, I went back to the Lizard ridge throw that I started last February - I completed the second strip of 5 blocks, and made a small start on the third strip. There are 5 strips to do in total. This project will get completed this year - a few blocks between each new project should get it done!! Other WIPs to finish off this year are the maths geek scarf - just a final half triangle will see that one done - and the Pi shawl. The travelling shawl will be on the go for ages as I only do that when I'm abroad......
Planets necklace
Another lovely present, this time from Elspeth, was a pack of little 'cakes' of dyed shetland/jacob roving in lovely rich tones. They were dyed by Pam Murray of Orkney for Judith Glue (Inverness)

They reminded me of the hand-made glass I used several years ago to make a stained glass panel based on the planets of the solar system - hence the name 'Planets necklace'.
I loved the colours and the way they swirl round in the cakes and wanted to keep this, so i decided to make big felt beads. I tried Wet felting a couple but because they were loosely wound it didn't work well, and winding the roving tighter before felting resulted in a one-colour bead, so I needle felted the rest, which retained the marbled effect, stopping when the beads were still quite soft.  I threaded the beads on to the narrow dark red velvet ribbon that Elspeth had used to tie up the parcel - it was really difficult to get the ribbon, threaded on a large needle, through, and I was glad I hadn't felted them any harder! I also wet-felted one into a flat disc for a brooch.

Heirloom quilt
On Hogmanay (New Year's Eve to some!) and Ne'er Day (you can guess that one!) I made a large quilt. This is a project that I had been planning for ages, as a way of using a collection of antique embroidered and lace-edged tray cloths, napkins and other small items.
Using a double duvet cover  to enclose a thin layer of wadding, I first tacked the three layers together to hold the wadding in place. Then I arranged the cloths in a more or less symmetrical way, pinning them on (and sometimes to my bed, the only surface big enough to work on!) These early stages took several hours and were very sore on the back! I machine-stitched round the edges of a few before it was time to go and see in the new year with friends.
Next day I finished stitching round all the cloths, which at times felt like a wrestling match as I had to manhandle the 2 metre square quilt, bristling with pins! Eventually after several hours everything was attached.  The quality of some of the stitching is not as good as I would have liked but I'm sure I'm the only one who will notice that! I backed the quilt with a very pretty Cath Kidston print (Paisley, in pale pink).
It will be a lighter alternative to a duvet on warm nights (which feel a long time away at the moment!). Some of the cloths belonged to, and were possibly made by my grandmother Margaret, and I am pleased to have them back in use, if not for their original purpose - I'm sure Granny would be too.

Plum Jam and an Andean Plying adventure

Last (but not least), in the 8 days after christmas, I have finished spinning the merino and silk mix that I am calling Plum jam (because of the colour). I got the fibres at Twist Fibrecraft Studio (mecca for spinners and knitters. felters, crocheters.....have a look at the Ravelry group) at the end of the summer but had only spun about half when I had to put it aside for the christmas projects.

Over the last few days I have finished spinning the singles, and yesterday when Aileen came round for an afternoon's spinning, I plied it. As often happens I ended up with one bobbin with some singles still on it when all the others were finished. Aileen showed me Andean plying - a way to wind the singles round your hand so you can then get both ends, and ply as you unwind it from your hand. My singles were quite high twist and the kinking didn't help the unwinding, but eventually I got it all plied. When I skeined that bobbin the yarn was 64 metres long so no wonder the andean plying took quite a long time!!
There is a slight difference in appearance - the andean plied is slightly fuzzier - I suppose this is because the fibres in one of the plies are running in the opposite direction to the other one - in efect what you do is fold one single in half and ply the beginning with the end, so half of it is turned around and the ends of the fibres are probably raised up slightly. The difference is barely noticeable but I will try to use the andean plied yarn for a distinct part of the garment, e.g. the ribbing. If it was used with the other yarn in, say a panel of stocking stitch I think the change might be noticeable.

Altogether it gave me 6 skeins, including the small andean plyed one. The total length is 794 metres, the plied yarn is approximately 4-ply thickness. This morning I washed it and hug it up with weights to set the twist, and now it is airing. I'm hoping it will be enough for a cardi - possibly with some other yarn in the yoke and bands. I'll try a top-down, for a change - and to better see how the yarn is lasting!

In daylight the colours are really pretty and the silk gives it a lovely sheen - they are a bit more subdued in the photo

All this sounds as if I havent been out or seen anyone all holidays, and certainly the weather has kept me at home a bit more than usual, but actually I have had a fairly sociable time!!

One more day of holiday tomorrow, and another project in mind, before I go back to work - but I'll be trying to keep the creativity flowing well in 2011.

Christmas projects

I always start my christmas projects too late .... or rather, once I have started I keep adding to the list of things I want to make before christmas - as the time to complete them gets shorter the list seems to keep getting longer. Still, it wouldn't be the same if I wasn't frantically finishing something off on christmas eve!!

This year's christmas knitting started in good time (I thought - ha ha!!) with socks for Steph
Then came a mobius cowl for Jill, using a reversible cable technique I learned this summer from Woolly Wormhead. Because the two cables are reversible and the loop of the cowl is twisted I called it Double Twist:
As the autumn evenings got cooler I decided to knit a pair of split-toe socks for myself so I could go on wearing my fit-flops. As have no intention of wearing them when out and about I used up oddments of sock yarn in a bizarre mix of colours. They were my first toe-up socks, and although I had to alter the toe shaping I will definitely continue with toe-up in future

I know they look odd but they are really cozy - I need to knit another pair for when they are in the wash!!
By now, it was time to put spinning on hold and concentrate on knitting for gifts, so my 'plum jam' merino/silk mix fibre got put into the corner, about half of it spun in to singles. It will 'appear' in a later post.

so back to the christmas list, and a slightly slouchy hat for my daughter Kirsty, in a colour chosen to match the scarf she always wears when its cold. This was a nice quick knit.

I was on a roll by then, and went on to knit a pair of mittens for my stepfather Eric. I printed off a pattern from - the Chevalier mittens. I was a bit alarmed when the first page out of the printer was in Finnish!! Luckily an english translation followed, but as the whole mitten was charted I think I would have managed.  Eric's mitts were knitted in some lovely aran wool from the restored mill at New Lanark. It was a nice pattern to knit but the rows with six cables in 24 stitches proved too much for my beloved KnitPro interchangeable wooden needles, and one of the tips snapped! I had to finish them on metal dpns, which I didn't like much as they are slippery and noisy compared to the wooden tipped circular needle. Magic loop is great for knitting mittens as you can have the front on one side and the palm on the other.
While knitting Eric's mitts I decided that Uncle Richard might like a pair too, so I went straight on to another pair, using the same pattern but this time in blue with a band of cream across the middle of each mitten. And still on the dpns...  I had been planing to give Uncle Richard a 'maths geek' scarf that I knitted in the summer (not that he is a geek, I just thought it was a nice design!) but it turned out to be a bit narrow for a man's scarf.

One snowy sunday afternoon at the beginning of December I took a break from knitting, got the sewing machine out and made 'paperchains' out of a variety of christmassy fabrics. The finished length was enough to garland the banister of the lower staircase, and a short length to decorate the space above my computer monitor at work

The short length came home with me after my last working day in December and went on to the christmas tree

I also made a number of teacloths out of one of the fabrics - white background with a print of holly and berries. They were about tea-towel size, and I added some narrow antique lace along each short end. I later used them to wrap gifts for those friends that I thought most likely to appreciate wrapping they could use, rather than paper to throw away. I also discovered that wrapping awkward-shaped parcels in fabric is much easier than using paper! I found some red and white stripy string, which really set off the parcels.

Uncle Richard's mittens were finished and posted, along with Jill's cowl, and Steph's socks. I also made and sent an apron in red Gudrun Sjoden printed cotton to Donna in Lucca. They all went to the post office well before the last posting dates for christmas, but I think they must have been caught up in the backlog caused by the bad weather (well, bad for postal services, but of course perfect weather for spinning and knitting!!!!). Donna's parcel was the first one posted, but only arrived last week. Hopefully if Steph's parcel, and Richard & Jill's, haven't arrived yet they will soon. I haven't heard.

The last project to be completed before christmas was a Beaumont tam (designed by Jared Flood) for my daughter Hannah. I had knitted one for myself in the summer which she coveted, so I decided to knit one for her in the same colours, but reversing the background/contrast. The pattern probably shows up better this way round. They are very cozy as the yarn is J&S's shetland jumper weight, (undyed colours) and the stranding on the back gives a double thickness fabric. Hannah's hat (like Kirsty's) has one of my 'fait par maman' labels from Paris, so we will be able to tell the difference! (all the othe gifts got 'tricote main' labels. Even the socks!!). Knowing how long the first Beaumont took,  I wasn't sure I would get it finished in time,and I thought I might have to wrap it up still on the needles, but after Hannah came home for the holidays I was able to work at it when she was out with friends and I did just finish it  - at 6pm on Christmas eve!!!

I didn't quite complete my christmas list this year - I wanted to knit christmas decorations and make Hannah a new christmas stocking, but just didn't have time. Kirsty got one with her name knitted in to the cuff three years ago when she spent christmas in Spain, and I knitted one for Nick the following year, so Hannah's is overdue. However, she won't need it now till December, so I'll just put it at the top of the next christmas knitting list - and resolve to start sooner!!! But I can pretty much guarantee that I'll still be knitting away on christmas eve trying to get that last thing finished......