Sunday, 30 December 2012

More christmassy-ness

Merry (belated) Christmas everyone! Tanti auguri a tutti  per il natale (sono in ritardo)!

I hope you noticed Rudolf's red nose?  Hai visto il naso rosso di Rudolf?

After making about 20 I fancied a change from red and white - Dopo ho lavorato circa 20 palle bianco e rosso, ho voluto qualcosa un po' diverse...

(Designed by Arne and Carlos (55 Christmas balls to knit), yarn from Jamieson and Smith, )

Finally, now that the christmas knitting is over I'm back to spinning, what better way to spend a wet and sleety December afternoon?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Knitting Snowflakes

we have had two falls of snow in the past week, and all my December projects seem to have snowflakes:
Christmas baubles for the tree
Designs from Arne and Carlos' 55 knitted Christmas balls

hats for my girls
Design: Snawheid by Kate Davies available on Ravelry 
The blue seems to make the natural undyed white look whiter than when it is contrasted with the natural black - surprising!!
All knitted in Jamieson and Smith's Shetland Supreme (undyed white and black) and 2-ply Jumper weight (red and blues)

And finally some more balls, including a snowman (we havent had enough snow yet for a real one!).

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Provisional UK workshop dates for 2013

Spinning, felting. dyeing and knitting - something for everyone!

So far next year's dates are provisional but this is what I have in mind- unless otherwise stated, all will be held in Perthshire, either Blackford, Auchterarder or Muthill.

To reserve a place please e-mail me at A deposit of 30% will secure your place, refundable if I cancel or change the date to one that doesn't suit you, or transferable to another of my workshops, but not refundable if you cancel for any other reason.

I have still to confirm dates for my teaching programme in Italy for 2013 so some of the UK dates may have to be shifted to accommodate trips abroad (its a hard life!!!)

I am happy to deliver any of the workshops described below at other locations - if you can find 6 - 10 people, and a suitable venue, we could organise a weekend of workshops near you. E-mail me at the address above if you want to discuss this.

Fleece and Fibre Preparation £40 (morning, 3 hours) March 2nd, June 21st, plus in Shetland one morning during Shetland Wool Week and one morning during Strathearn Wool Week (both October)

Drop spindle spinning for beginners £40 (afternoon, 3 hours) March 2nd, June 21st, plus in Shetland one afternoon during Shetland Wool Week and one afternoon during Strathearn Wool Week (both October) - this workshop is also an exccellent foundation for those who wish to learn to use a spinning wheel
N.B. £10 discount if you book Fleece and Fibre Prep and Drop-spindle spinning on the same day

Spinning Wheel Basics for beginners or improvers £70 (5 hours tuition with a break for lunch) March 3rd, June 23rd plus in Shetland one day during Shetland Wool Week and one day during Strathearn Wool Week (both October)
N.B £10 discount if you bring your own spinning wheel
Solar dyeing - an eco-friendly and fibre-friendly method for dying natural fibres with natural dyes. Morning,3 hours £40 including sufficient materials to create two solar dye jars to take home and watch the colour develop. March 30th, June 9th, and one morning during Strathearn Wool week (october).

Gossamer felt scarf - create a wool scarf so fine and supple it is hard to believe it is really felt. Scarves can be decorated with wool, silk or other fibres during felting. Afternoon, 3 hours £25 including materials for one scarf. March 30th, June 9th, and one afternoon during Strathearn Wool week (October).

3-D seamless wet felt project create a hat, bag or bowl without seams and with the decoration felted on. 5 hours plus break for lunch £60 includes materials April 30th plus one day during Strathearn Wool Week (October)

Spinning in control and creating fancy plied yarns - this workshop is for those who have already mastered the basics of spinning using a spinning wheel. The moring will cover how to create precisely the yarn you need for any given project (including how do you know what you need, choice of fibre, preparation and spinning methods, getting the right thickness and amount of twist) In the afternoon we will look at how to create several styles of fancy plied yarns . 5 hours tuition plus break for lunch £70. April 20th, Sept 8th
N.B £10 discount if you bring your own spinning wheel

Playing with colour - for spinners or feltmakers; this workshop uses images from nature as inspiration and explores three different methods of mixing and blending fibres : creating new shades from primary colours; creating a gradient from one colour to its opposite; and mixing colour and texture to create art yarns. You will take away your blended fibres to spin or flet at home A very popular workshop. 6 hours tuition plus lunch break £80 April 21st, Sept 7th and one day during Strathearn Wool Week (October)

Advent calendar knit-along details to be confirmed November

Felt Advent calendar details to be confirmed November

Christmas decorations: knitted fair-isle or scandinavian style baubles - knit one, and take home instructions and materials for three more £25 afternoon 3 hours November 24th, 30th

Christmas decorations: felted stockings - make one large stocking or several small ones £35 afternoon 4 hours November 23rd, December 1st

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Gorgeous russian-style spindles

My talented friend and spindle maker Murray has just made this lovely batch of russian style spindles. Each one comes with a little cup to spin it in when using  it as a supported spindle for spinning very fine or slippery fibres. To give you an idea of size, the ruler along side is 15cm long. They are  made in oak , beech or mahogany, with one in sapele (third from the left). Some have a small knob at the tip of the shaft, most dont.
Murray has decided to make them all the same price - £12 including the cup, plus £2.50 postage (UK). If you would like one, or for price in euros and overseas shipping please send me an e-mail to  Please tell me the kind of wood you prefer.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Italia in autunno - parte 2

Il Sabato e Domenica della mia visita a Miagliano sono occupato dei corsi di filatura. Ero molto contenta di rincontrare delle amiche del mio corso di primavera, qua a Miagliano, anche di incontrare delle amiche nuove, passionate della lana e della filatura.
Abbiamo avuto, per usare durante il corso, filatoi diversi - Ashford Kiwi, Ashford Traveller, Louet, un Traub (non ne ho visto da anni fa!) e i filatioi 'motorizzati' di Raffaella e Anna. Anche alcune hanno preferito filare col fuso.
An interesting old wheel that Corrado has been restoring, with a two-feet treadle and a very simple but effective tensioning mechanism. We dod NOT use it for my workshops!

Per Sabato mattina, abbiamo seguito argomenti un po technichi, su metodi per creare un filato precisato per un progetto. Scelta di fibra e metodo di preparazione per lo stile di filato piu addatto per il progetto. Metodi per misurare lo spessore di un filato, e l'angolo di torsione. Dopo la teoria, tempo per praticare.
 la super-Linda noi ha portato un  bel pranzo - pannini stupendi, freschi, con formaggio locale delizioso (anche prosciutto per i carnivori!).

in pomeriggio, ho dimostrato metodi per combinare e doppiare i filate per produrre filati 'fantasia' (fancy yarns) e come filare 'thick and thin' (piu' difficile che sembra!!) Ognuna ha filato e doppiato un po' di questi 'fancy yarns'.

The Saturday and Sunday of my visit to Miagliano were taken up by spinning workshops. I was so happy to meet old friends from  my Spring courses there, and to make some new friends who are passionate about wool and spinning.We had a mixed bag of wheels to use - Ashford Kiwi, Ashford Traveller, Louet S10, an old Traub (I hadn't seen one for years!) and Anna and Raffaella's spining wheels, motorised by Anna's husband. Also there were those who preferred to spin using a spindle.

For saturday morning we followed rather technical subjects - how to spin a yarn that is specified for a particular project. Choice of fibre and method of preparation for the style of yarn best suited to the project. methods for measuring the thickness of yarn - singles or plied - and the angle of twist, and how the two are related. After all the theory, some time to put it into practice.

Super-Linda always looks after us so well, and brought us a lovely lunch - wonderful huge fresh rolls with delicious local cheese (and ham for the carnivores!).

In the afternoon I demonstrated ways of making fancy yarns by using different plying techniques, and how to spin 'thick and thin' (harder than it looks!!) Everyone practiced spinning and plying to create these fancy yarns.

A full days teaching following a late night and busy day before left me pretty tired, but after we returned to Pettinengo a relaxing tisana revived me. We all went up to Villa Piazza to join the concert-goers for a wonderful dinner, cooked and served by several familar faces from Piccola Fata, and others. It was a lovely meal but I was in bed and asleep five minutes after returning to Uva Fragola!!

After a good night's sleep and a delicious breakfast Chiara and I went back to Miagliano. It is a really pretty drive from Pettinengo, the road winds along the hillsides and through Andorno Mucca (which means cow shed, a slightly unfortunate name for such a pretty place).
Our topic for Sunday was Playing with Colour. This workshop is very popular, and explores three ways of blending fibres and colours. I had taken a selection of scottish landscape photographs to use as inspiration.
For one method we used wool dyed in just the three primary colours, plus natural undyed white and black, and blended them using hand carders to re-create shades selected from the photographs.

 For another technique, we used many more shades of dyed wool, plus textured fibres such as crisp cut bleached linen, smooth white silk, tussah silk noils and other 'bits', and considered the mix of colours in a photograph, along with its textural elements, and lightly carded to produce wild or art batts that reflected the 'feel' of the image. Both hand carders and a drum carder were used, and some pretty vibrant batts resulted, as well as some more subtle ones.
These last photos are my example - to show the constituent colours, the batt and the spun yarn

The third technique we covered uses two opposite colors (black and white, or red and yellow for example) and, by blending in carefully calculated proportions, creates rollags or batts that can be spun to create a gradient yarn that shades gradually from one (e.g. black) to the other (e.g. white).

All too soon it was time to say goodbye - until the next time - and pack up.

A lovely family dinner with Alessia, Corrado, Giacomo and Elena was the perfect way to round off my autumn trip .

here's a midnight view from my balcony at Uva Fragola - look closely and you'll see the lights down on the plain twinkling, and smell the scent of the ripening grapes - well, I can anyway!!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Italia in autunno - una serata con le piccole fate. Italy in autumn - an evening with the little elves

Cinque giorni non mi bastanno! Ecco i primi due.  Five days just isn't enough! Here are the first two.

Giovedi / Thursday
Viaggio senza incidenti, allora ho potuto lavorare a maglia in aero!!! Con i 'Ferri' corti di legno, tipo per calze, e un piccolo gomitolo di filato per calze, ho fatto un borsetta per il mio telefonino entro l'arrivo a Malpensa.
 An uneventful journey - although I am delighted to say I was able to knit on the plane!!! Wooden double-pointed needles and a small ball of sock yarn, and by the time I got to Malpensa I had a new mobile phone cover!

Emilio mi ha portato al Ricetto di Candela (vicino Biella) - luogo mediovale, molto suggestivo. Mi piaccerebbe tanti visitare durante una festa.
Emilio took me to visit Ricetta di candelo (near Biella) - a medieval fortified village, very atmospheric. I would love to visit it during one of the festivals or fairs they hold there.
It looks like a film set, doesn't it?!

Dopo abbiamo mangiato una pizza buonissima, sono anadata a Pettinengo per il rincontro con Alessia e Corrado a B&B Uva Fragola, dove mi sento sempre in famiglia.
After a delicious pizza we headed to Pettinengo to meet up again with Alessia and Corrado at B&B Uva Fragola, where I felt right at home as it was my third stay there.

Venerdi / Friday
Presto al lanificio di Miagliano, sede di The Wool Box. Ho sistemato tutte le mie cose  ma sempre i cinque filatoi nuovi non sono arrivati dal'Ingleterra. Stressante!! Quindi ho filato un gomitolo rosa speciale - fatto a mano - per il projetto Gomitolo Rosa (prevenzione delle tumore del seno)
An early start at the wool mill at Miagliano, home of the Wool Box. I set out all my equipment and materials but the five new spinning wheels still had not arrived from England, neither could they be traced. Stressfull!!! So instead of putting spinning wheels together I spun (on the one new wheel that had arrived) a special gomitolo rosa (pink ball of wool) - handspun - for the Gomitolo Rosa project, which is raising funds and awareness for prevention of breast cancer. Using the wool prepared for the commercially spun Gomitoli Rosa and mixing in some super fine and lustrous white mohair I made a very pretty pink yarn.

Il corso di venerdi sera era per la Piccola Fata di Pettinengo - un progetto chi insegna ai bambini del paese i lavori traditionali, ricamo, tessutura e lavoro in legno. Emilio ha offerto il mio corso di feltro 'ragnatela' ai adulti chi si occupanno della Piccola Fata.
Friday evening's workshop was for the Piccola Fata (little elves) in Pettinengo - a project which teaches the local children the traditional crafts of the area, especially embroidery, weaving and woodwork. Emilio had offered the Piccola Fata's adult helpers my Gossamer Felt Scarf workshop.

Undici sciarpe di feltro ragnatela eranno fatti (da piu' di undici persone, credo!) - tanto acqua, sorridi e quattrocento arrotolementi  (al meno) per ognuna sciarpa! non ho detto che sarebbe facile!
Eleven cobweb felt scarves were produced (by rather more than eleven people I think) - with a lot of water on the floor, smiles and laughter, and four hundred vigourous rolling movements per scarf (at least)!! I didn't say it was going to be easy!
Le sciarpe eranno indossato (sempre bagnato), e la serata era finito con una bicchiera di prosecco, fettine di pane casalinga e marmelata.
The finished scarves - all beautiful, all stylish and all different - were modelled (although still damp) and the evening ended with a glass of prosecco and home-made bread and jam.


Ecco noi tutti insieme al fine della serata- here we are all together at the end of the evening
 to be continued.....

Friday, 21 September 2012

The 7-hours blues ;)

Today was perfect weather for dyeing - dry and sunny (if a bit chilly first thing) and no wind.

So from this
and this

in seven hours I had this

The plants are Japanese Indigo - Persicaria tinctoria. Back in early spring a fellow member  of the On-Line Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers gave me a little envelope of seeds, and directions for  how to grow them. I raised the seedlings in my greenhouse until mid June, when I planted out 50 plants in my vegetable garden. It was such a poor summer, cold and wet with very little sunshine, and the poor little plants didn't seem to grow much for a long time. But eventually they branched out and reached about 50cm height.
For the last few days I have been worried that the cold early mornings would damage the plants before the day I had set aside for the dyeing, but this morning the plants were in good shape and I was ready to harvest them.

I stripped the leaves from the outdoor plants (two plants are growing on in the greenhouse in the hope that they will produce seed for next year) - it took about an hour and I harvested 1275g of leaves. Two buckets full!
I crammed 1kg of leaves into my biggest dyepot and the rest into a smaller one. I was following the method described by Isabella Whitworth and Christina Chisholm in the Winter 2011 issue of the Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers
I added cold water and slowly heated the pots aiming for 60 degrees. Unfortunately the big dyepot overheated and I had to let  it cool off. After 2 hours the dye was ready to strain.
I squeezed out the leaves to get every last drop of precious dye before adding them to the compost heap.
Next the chemistry bit - first adding washing soda to raise the pH to 9 or 10 (I checked it with litmus papers), then whisking vigorously (my neighbours must sometimes wonder what on earth I am doing in my garden!!) to oxidise it, producing a blue foam on the surface.
That's the big dyepot - the foam on the small one never did go blue, but it turned out to be the better of the two vats.
I used some paper to remove the scummy foam - and now have two sheets of marbleblue paper to cover my dyeing notebook.
Anyway, the next thing, having whisked all that oxygen in, is to add spectralite to remove the oxygen (I dont need to understand why it works, just to know that it does!!) After a couple of minutes the vats were ready to start dyeing.

The yarns I had prepared were: my own handspun Shetland wool, some white and some dyed yellow with silver birch leaves; my own handspun white crossbred (english) wool; commercially spun local blue-faced leicester wool from Strathearn Fleece and Fibre; 2/9 wool yarn (a bit finer than sock yarn); 2/18 wool yarn (very fine laceweight); wool boucle yarn; mohair loop yarn and a cotton/linen cable yarn in natural beige.
I wound 2 x 100g cakes of the 2/9 wool and 2x100g cakes of the mohair loop yarn, because I wanted to see if I could get a variegated yarn due to the dye only penetrating part of the cakes. The rest of the yarn I made into skeins with at least three string ties on each skein to avoid tangling.
All the yarn was put to soak in basins of cold water the night before. I also soaked some washed wensleydale fleece (also Strathearn Fleece and Fibre - from one of Linda's own sheep, a ewe called Matilda).
Now for the exciting bit! I put a small skein of blue-faced leicester wool into the bigger vat for a first 'dip' of 10 minutes. I lifted it out and watched that magical transformation from yellow to blue as it met the oxygen in the air
After that I was away, dipping and re-dipping skeins and cakes of yarn. I dipped once, twice or three times hoping to build up deeper colours but because I was dipping quite large quantities of yarn each time the vats were becoming weaker and the later dips did not make much difference. I continued until the last skeins of yarn appeared to have exhausted the  blue - the last skein of very fine yarn in the small vat developed hints of pink and palest turquoise, while the last skein in the big vat came out beige with pinkish hints. Then I tried some washed wensleydale fleece and continued to get three increasingly pale blues from the big vat - with grey and pinkish variation in the tips of the locks which will be interesting when spun up
Yarns from the big vat - The overdyed yellow yarns gave green - noticeably deeper after three dips (the furthest away skein) than after one (the nearest one).
The two cakes of yarn on the left have had one dip, the two on the right had two dips.

Yarns from the small vat - the greyish looking skein on the right of the picture is the cotton/linen yarn. I didn't much like the colour so I didn't dye the other two skeins that I had prepared of this yarn. The third batch of yarns that went in to this vat were very crowded and they have dyed unevenly - the mohair loop yarn has blue and pale lilac variations which are really pretty. They are in the second row from the back in the picture.

I rinsed all the yarns in cold water and they are drying as I write. In total today I have dyed 1400g of fibre. Jenny Dean, in her book Wild Colour, says that you need 3 times as much dyestuff as fibre for this dye - perhaps if I had limited myself to 400g of yarn I could have got deeper shades, but I am very pleased with the colours I have got. I can't wait to see what the colour changes in the yarn cakes are like - I think I will be knitting several blue shawls this winter!