Sunday, 30 March 2014

Art yarn for a touch of colour

I fancied spinning up a touch of colour and texture yesterday.
I've been spinning  and knitting lots of natural-coloured yarns lately, and much as I love them, I wanted to spin something different for a few hours.
I made batts on my drum carder, using white Blue-Faced Leicester wool and scrumptious recycled sari silk,
and another batt using dyed merino in the hottest pinks, plus some pink and purple Shetland, with the white BFL and sari silk

I spun the batts into slightly irregular, medium twist singles

Then I plied each of them with a finer, higher twist BFL singles, to create spiral yarns.

Pretty aren't they?

This is just one technique I teach in my Art Yarns workshop - this year's dates are:
13th April - Capoterra, Sardinia
18th July - Woolfeis, Benderloch, Argyll (to be confirmed)
17th August - Auchterarder, Perthshire
20th / 21st September The Wool Box, Miagliano (BI), Italy (to be confirmed)
8th October Islesburgh Centre, Lerwick, Shetland (during Shetland Wool Week)
email me at for workshop details

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

half a flock

I'm halfway through knitting the Fair Isle section of my Mixed Flock blanket
This picture, taken outside but in shade, shows the detail including some of the names of Shetland sheep colours, and the steek stitches up the right hand side, which will be cut to let the blanket lie flat

110 ewes and 33 rams so far in my modified and enlarged version of Kate Davies' Rams and Yowes design

This picture, taken in bright sunlight, shows the colours better.
I can see that my Yuglet (grey, actually its Blue Texel wool) isn't dark enough to contrast well with the background in the first row of rams. Shy rams?

I always love knitting with my own handspun yarn, but I'm getting a huge amount of pleasure from this project,  for which I spun undyed fleece from six different sheep, blending some to give me nine distinct colours in total.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Capturing sunshine

Using this year's sunshine to dye fibres in colours that were created in flowers by last year's sunshine

Layers of genista tinctoria and red geranium petals dyeing wool fleece

Or even the sunshine of many years stored up in the wood of trees
Wool tops solar-dyed with (left) Logwood and madder, and logwood in different concentrations. All soft colours as this was the third use of the dyestuffs,

Uneven takeup of dye during solar dyeing gives lovely heathered shades in the spun yarn

The spring sunshine has got me filling several new solar dye jars - fresh daffodils and forsythia flowers for yellows, which I plan to overdye with indigo for some lovely greens, and some dried geraniums and Genista which I have layered in a big jar - I have got some intriguing effects dyeing washed fleece with two different dyes in this way.
 To make space for the new jars on my windowsill I have opened some jars which had been there since last summer.  Four batches of tops in soft shades to add to the deeper colours from the first two uses of the same dyestuff. Three purples in my Scatness tunic came from  these earlier dyejars.

The logwood and logwood/madder mix in the jars still seems to have plenty of potential colour left even after being used for three batches of solar dyeing so  I transferred it all to my biggest dyepot and boiled it up. The resulting colour has lots of red in it, from the madder. So far I've dyed a batch of wool tops, then some kid mohair. Next I'm going to 'mop up' the last of the colour with some silk - once I have degummed it. I think a blend of all these fibres will create an exciting yarn - watch this space!

its amazing what a bit of sunshine can do!!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Un tocco di Shetland a Pavia - corso di filatura: A Touch of Shetland in Pavia- spinning workshops - marzo 2014

Era proprio una piacere tornare a Pavia, ospitata di Elisabetta Bernuzzi e sui genitori, per dare li un terzo corso di filatura.
it was a real pleasure to return to Pavia as the guest of Elisabetta Bernuzzi and her parents, to teach a third spinning course there.
Anche una piacere incontrare (per la prima volta in persone) Michela, Raffaella e Patrizia, e vedere il laboratorio nuovo 'Fattoria del Gelso' di Elisabetta.
Also a real pleasure to meet (for the first time face-to-face) Michela, Raffaella and Patrizia and to see Elisabetta's new workshop called 'Fattoria del Gelso'.
Tutte le corsiste erano principiante, quindi comminciando dal vello sucido, un vello grigio bellissimo spedito diretto delle isole Shetland, lo abbiamo diviso per qualita prima di comminciare a cardare.
All the learners were beginnners, so starting with a raw fleece - a beautiful grey Shetland fleece sent directly from my friends at Shetland Wool Brokers - we graded it into four different qualities before starting to card it.

Entrambe I giorni del corso erano cosi bello, abbiamo deciso lavorare fuori, nel sole. Both workshop days were so lovely we decided work outside in the sunshine.
Dopo pranzo, commincia la filature col fuso. After lunch we began spinning with drop-spindles.
Due gomitolini filati, e poi combinati per un filato a due capi - ecco le prime matasse!
Two small balls of singles spun and plyed together - the first skeins of yarn!
Domenica porta l'introduzione dei filatioi. Modello Ashford Kiwi 2, che preferisco per insegnare perche  e robusto, facile ad usare ma anche versatile per creare varie tipi di filati. Anche a un prezzo buono!
Sunday brought the introduction to the spinning wheels - we used Ashford Kiwi 2s, which I prefer for teaching because they are robust, easy to use but also very versatile for creating various types of yarns. And very good value for money!
La giornata e passata molto veloce, ma anche piacevole e rilassante, cardando e filando nel sole.
The day passed quickly, but also pleasantly and relaxed, carding and spinning in the sunshine.
Abbiamo provate miste diverse delle fibre, sempre con il nostro vello superbe di Shetland, mescolato con alpaca, mohair, seta sari, merinos colorato, e binato con seta pura, filata dei 'fasioletti'.
We tried spinning various mixtures of fibres, blending our superb Shetland fleece with alpaca, mohair, sari silk and dyed merino, and plying with pure silk spun from 'hankies'.

Questi sono  alcune delle prime matasse delle corsiste (ancora non lavata - vengono anche piu belle quando sono pulite!)
These are some of the learners' first skeins (still unwashed - they will be even more beautiful when they are clean!)

La mia visita a Pavia era troppo veloce, ma ho potuto camminare un po' nel centro storico - gelat in mano, naturalmente!
My visit to Pavia was too short, but I did have time to have a wander round the old town, ice cream in hand naturally!

Sculture nel universita'  - sculptures in the university
via Rocchetta - Bobbin Street

Mi piace vedere come i palazzi vecchi sono cambiate, ma le trace rimangono
I love to see how old buildings have been altered, but the traces of old doorways and windows remain

Pappagialli verdi e azzurri e colombe nelle mure del castello
Green and blue parakeets  and purple and grey pigeons nesting in the walls of the castle

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Start of the Flock (Rams & Yowes part 2)

At last I've started to knit my modified version of Kate Davies' Rams and Yowes blanket, after spinning the yarn for what seems like a very long time.

I'm calling it Mixed Flock.

As I wrote back in January, I have spun the yarn from fleeces of several breeds of sheep - different coloured Shetlands, Zwartbles, Ryeland and Blue Texel. I also blended three different combinations to produce some of the background shades.

I enjoyed seeing (and photographing) all the different colours together.

 As some of the shades are similar, especially in artificial light ,I labelled every ball carefully.

I wanted to make some modifications to the design - to record the different breeds, and the lovely Shetland names for the colours, in the knitting, and to make it bigger. I have spun over 3100 metres of yarn, much more than the original design requires.

I spent an afternoon deciding how many extra pattern repeats to incorporate, charting all the names and working out how to position them on the blanket. Its a good thing my phone has a calculator function!

Then at last I was ready to cast on and start knitting the first row of Yowes, which includes the first of the sheep breed names. Shaela is a particular light-grey Shetland.

Like all traditional Fair Isle the blanket centre is knitted in the round with a steek (the vertical lines) - these are extra stitches which will be cut to allow the piece to be opened out flat. The two colours in every row are used alternately on the steek stitches, I'm working them in vertical stripes to give me a guide for cutting straight.  

The sharp-eyed reader will notice that I have (so far) omitted the first peerie pattern - that is because I am a bit short of the moorit shade, so I will wait to knit that part later, maybe in a different colourway. (I have another moorit fleece as yet untouched in the shed if I run really short!).

You might also notice that I have a circular needle cable running through the stitches along the bottom of the work, as well as at the top. I wanted to do a provisional cast on, to have the live stitches ready for adding the peerie pattern and the border later. Most provisional cast-ons involve picking up the live stitches later, when the waste yarn is unravelled. This is always fiddly and time-consuming. I wanted to find a way to get those live stitches on to the cable of an interchangeable needle straight away, so that when I am ready to knit them I just need to attach the needle points, and start knitting. So I did a modified version of the moebius cast on, using a spare cable (with stoppers on the ends) rather than doubling the cable round in classic moebius fashion. It was probably quicker than a normal cast-on and seems to have worked. The extra cable did make the first few rows of knitting slightly awkward but as soon as there was a little space between top and bottom rows I could forget the bottom cable.  If I like the finished result when I have knit these live stitches I will try to post a tutorial.

Knitting the sheep is addictive - I always find when I'm knitting stranded colourwork that I don't want to put it down, and find myself knitting late into the night  just to get the next part of the pattern done! I'm also really enjoying the truly woolly feel of the handspun yarn as it passes through my fingers. So I'm going to stop typing and get knitting the next row of sheep! I'll post again when the centre is finished....