Monday, 18 January 2016

2015 - a look back at my projects

12 months, 12 finished objects – and much more

Looking back on 2015 I seem to have had a pretty productive year. My Ravelry projects page shows 12 finished objects, but there has been much more besides.

I suppose my biggest project for the year was the renovation and refurbishment of my flat in Oban, in the white building above, to create a weekend retreat and workspace. I’m so pleased with the result that I may well move there full time in a couple of years’ time, when other commitments no longer tie me to Perthshire. The large main room looks out over Oban Bay,  with boats of all types coming and going all day against a background of ever-changing weather and views of the islands of Kerrera and Mull. I have been delighted to host a monthly knitting group there since May on the first Saturday of each month, as well as workshops on folded book origami, drop-spindle spinning and sock knitting. It is a lovely place to knit or spin, bright in summer and cosy with a woodburning stove in winter. I’m looking forward to more knitting groups, workshops and creative adventures there.
What was I spinning  last year? As well as numerous small samples and test-blends, I spent a considerable amount of time early in the year on yarn which I called ‘Amethysts and Carnelians’. I had dyed a series of batches of wool, silk and kid mohair using a semi-exhausted mix of logwood and madder,  which I then blended. I spun it (lots of it!) into an aran-thickness two-ply yarn. Along with some silver-grey Gotland spun to the same thickness, I knitted a cardigan (Brynja)to be finished with some very special silver buttons which I made at Red Houss in Shetland.

My next big spinning project, started in October and likely to continue until this October if not longer, is to spin the three wonderful coloured Shetland fleeces which I bought at the Flock Book sale in Lerwick. They were the champion fleeces – one black, one grey and one moorit-  and deserve to be spun and knitted into really special projects.
I have several ideas in mind for them, first up a version of Kate Davies’ Puffin (in natural coloured yarns and with the addition of some very good white Shetland  it will be ‘More Penguin than Puffin’). So I am spinning my way through the black fleece, creating a fine semi-worsted 2-ply yarn which will enhance the almost silky texture of this superb fleece. Because the singles are so fine it is taking me many hours to fill each bobbin, I expect I will have lots of yarn for other projects as well.

I blended some rollags based on colours from a Bressay beach for the Colours of Shetland workshop I taught during Wool Week this year, they sit in a Perspex-lidded box waiting for inspiration to hit me so I can plan, spin and knit a small project from them. I have selected another image, from last year’s trip to Shetland, which I think will inspire even more creative blending of colours for the Colours of Shetland workshop in 2016.

Glancing through my Ravelry finished objects, I’ve knitted everything from a fine lacy shawl (Sea Nymph-alidea)
to a cosy Icelandic-style cardi in handspun yarns, (my Brynja, above). I knitted a little dress for a friend’s baby, using lovely Italian yarn given to me by another friend. Several pairs of socks feature -  a couple of straightforward pairs in self-striping yarn,
a knee length pair in all-over Fair Isle,
and (only half finished) a pair with colourwork inspired by the gold tooling on the spine of an antique book.
Slippers in felted Icelandic wool (Midnattsol) have kept my feet cosy as well as helping polish my wooden floorboards. Hamish likes them too!
I seem to have knitted a lot of Fair Isle this year – the Hairst yoked cardigan designed by Sandra Manson turned into a sweater on my needles, and has been worn loads since I finished it.
My version of Donna Smith’s now iconic Baa-ble hat (‘No-baa-ble’ or even ‘Snow-baa-ble’ as I replaced the sheep with snowflakes, and the pom-pom with a tassel) had its first outings in Shetland during Wool Week and has really come into its own recently in the snowy weather.
On Burra I developed a colourwork swatch based on bananas and fuelled by chilli-vodka-chocolate fudge, and knitted a jumper for a small monkey(as you do!).
You can see the result on Felicity Ford’s blog here :  I plan to knit a tablet-cover using the same colours and banana motifs (that’s a very Scottish pun – there is a type of fudge in Scotland called tablet).
While in Shetland I collected a palette of yarns for a new project, to design some colourwork inspired by a scrap of original wallpaper (1870's?) discovered during the renovation of my Oban workroom. A couple of knitted cushions would add to the hygge next winter...
Further knitting on my Water and Rock project (coloured fibres blended, spun and now knitted,  inspired by a picture of river water flowing past a rock) and three small Fair Isle projects got me up to Christmas – a Thrift Tam (designed by Outi Kater)
knitted on a trip to Florence in November, a pair of boot-toppers for the Jamieson & Smith Winter Woollies knit-along,
and a pair of fingerless mitts based on Donna Smith’s design Maggie’s Mittens, just finished in time for Christmas giving. Then on Christmas Eve I took a deep breath, put on my Shetland knitting belt and started on Peace, an all over Norwegian colourwork gansey, which is likely to take me a very long time to finish. It is in 2-ply jumper weight on 2.5mm needles, and my first big project using the knitting belt and long double pointed needles. After about three weeks I am getting quicker.....

The first two days of the New Year saw my knitting machine getting a rare outing, as I made a dent in my stash of fine yarns on cone to knit a large poncho and the plain bodies and sleeves for three cardigans which will get hand-knitted yokes and welts. The welts will give me some uncomplicated knitting when I need a rest from the all-over colourwork of Peace. And Fair Isle yokes are such a joy to knit as you get quicker and quicker and the pattern develops while the number of stitches decreases!

A non-wool (gasps of amazement!) project that I am very pleased with is the refurbishment of my dining chairs.
I painted the dark oak frames pale grey, and re-covered the drop-in seats with the ‘seat’ area of old pairs of jeans, complete with the back pockets. The hardwearing covers should last a good long time, and I have another project in mind for the legs of all the jeans.
I also spent a couple of busy days on an Indigo and Shibori workshop with Molly Bullick, dyeing just about every natural fibre except wool.

Threaded through all of this I did a fair amount of teaching in 2015 – in Italy in March and May, in Auchterarder and Oban at various times, and in Shetland in September. Workshops in spinning, felt-making, solar dyeing, knitting and folded book origami, and taking part in Perthshire Open Studios, allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people and share some inspiring ideas. Which is really the best part.

Plans are already made for some workshops in 2016, events like Shetland Wool Week and trips abroad do require a lot of forward planning, but there is still room for unexpected opportunities and encounters. And lots of wool.....