Yarndale 2015

I went off to Yarndale for the Saturday, this time with a friend from my local knitting group. They’ve really got the hang of the logistics now. We didn’t have to queue much at all, except when it got really busy at lunchtime.

Once again, my little corner of the internet came to life. I saw and touched a lot of things I’ve been wondering at buying online. There were examples of various patterns I’ve been reading about (even a Fox Paws attached to a stand). All in all it was a delight.

The one down side to the day was that there weren’t any classes or workshops that I wanted to take. They were all either beginner level or just not making anything I wanted to learn. I spent a little more time than previously just sitting and knitting in the Knit n Natter zone, as a break from the midday chaos of the stands.

It was charming to meet a fellow sniper (and, it turns out, blog-reader) in real life, along with her Mum. Hi Alendra!

There seemed to be a greater proportion of stalls selling completed items this year, but still loads selling yarn and fibre. I bought a few things: only one batch of yarn, but quite a bit of fibre (hover over images for details).

There were a couple of other things that I’ve handed to DH for my Christmas present, so  I’ll try to forget them.

I was being quite strict with my budget, so didn’t buy the gorgeous gradient yarns that I found on the Woo Sheeps stand.  Maybe in the new year.

In which I go to Yarndale 2014

Having enjoyed Yarndale so much in 2013, I booked to go again in the autumn. My friend Daisy rather conveniently came to visit the week of Yarndale, so we went together.  She’s blogged at rather greater length and with more pictures than me.

The evening before, I did a  thorough analysis of my stash, looking at strengths, weaknesses and gaps. I concluded that I definitely don’t need more 4ply/sock yarn, and probably not any more lace-weight, but any other weight would be reasonable to buy.

The thing is… I’m really good at buying sock yarn. I know what I like, what makes a good yarn and what is good value. I decided that the way to make it not a pointless purchase was to er… buy in greater quantity.

Here’s the sock-weight yarn I bought:

The one on the left is a crochet kit for this scarf. The middle yarn is 200g of Crazy Zauberball: I’m thinking a shawl for this. The right hand yarn is some of the new yarn base from the Knitting Goddess, who is very persuasive in a gentle way. The old KG sock yarn was 75% merino 25% nylon and I love it. The new one uses British wool: partly BFL, partly undeclared along with the nylon. It has the advantage of not crossing the Atlantic to Peru to be spun, but it is, naturally, not as soft as the merino. I’ll just have to knit it and see if I like it. These may well be quite plain, long socks.

Here is the other weight yarn I bought, according to the original plan:


100g of Knitting Goddess roving. I used some of this last year to make my sister’s hat and I rather covet one for me too.

I need a more detailed plan next time I go to buy yarn. I don’t have the experience to buy “a sweater’s worth of yarn”, as I have heard others talk about buying. I need to have a specific pattern in mind before committing to that amount of yarn.

In the afternoon, we did a short course on Latvian knitting, in which we learned some twined braiding, to be used on mitten cuffs. It wasn’t an amazing course for a variety of logistical reasons, but it was interesting and I made this:

Braid sampler
Braid sampler

In general, Yarndale has the advantage of being very focussed (unsurprisingly) on yarn, without the beading, sewing and papercraft that clogs up other local option of the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate. The venue worked much better this year and I really enjoyed it.

In which my spinning makes a great leap forward

The journey so far:

  • I begin reading about spinning on other knitting blogs. It sounds fun, but I wonder whether it is worth the effort
  • A friend starts spinning and is very enthusiastic about it
  • I begin to imagine how it would feel to be able to say “I made the yarn”. I think this feeling might be a good one
  • January 2013: I ask a friend of my Mum’s for a lesson in drop-spindling and come away with a wheel on long-term loan
  • I make yarn… kind of. It’s lumpy and horrible and really hard to make the fibre do what I want
  • The wheel sits in my office, providing a great talking point, but mostly gathering dust
  • I book on a two day spinning course with Ruth at Wingham Wool Works in August

There was a bit of a drama involved with getting to the spinning course. The dates on the website differed from the dates on the invoice, so all five of the people on the course got the wrong day. Some of us turned up a day early, others changed plans to come on the day the invoice said.

What do you want to learn about spinning?

Interesting question. I’m fairly sure I could learn to sit and spin without thinking too much about it, but that’s not really what intrigues me about the whole business. Spinning seems to me to be a craft, where learning the technical aspects will pay dividends.

I’d like to learn how to design a yarn

So that is what I learned over the next two days. After five minutes of Ruth looking at what I was doing, she suggested changes to the way I was holding my hands and drafting. I changed to drafting forwards and, after being shown how to untwist the yarn while drafting, within minutes I was producing a fine, even thread. Amazing! That would have been enough to make it worthwhile, but there was more.

We learned about the gears on the wheel and how to use them accurately, we looked at calculating the number of twists per inch when spinning and how that equates to the number of twists per inch in plying, we discovered the desirability of producing yarn that has a slight Z-twist once plied, not to mention looking at Andean plying, making rolags, long draw spinning and so on.

I came away with a head full of knowledge (and a little bit of fibre to play with – well, it would have been rude not to). Since then, I’ve struggled to find regular time to spin but I can still see the improvement in my technique. Now I’m saving up to buy my own spinning wheel.

Here’s the results of the course:

First, a selection of samples, all spun on the same wheel with the same fibre, just changing the wheel settings.


Now a skein of well-balanced yarn that looks as if it might actually be useful for knitting.


I’ve also got another skein of yarn that needs a bit of re-plying in order to be right.

Writing to deadlines

I often struggle to write when there is a specific deadline. I nearly always meet the deadline (except writing parish magazine articles), but only get going when there isn’t really enough time left to do a good job. After years of pondering this, I’ve realised that I write best early in the day, so the last couple of weeks I’ve scheduled writing sessions at 7am several mornings a week. It’s working well, but I didn’t get enough done this morning, so I’m once again facing the Saturday night grind of wringing words from my head onto the screen.

Today has, however, been a good day. P took the kids for new shoes this morning so I had the luxury of having the house to myself for nearly 3 hours. Then I drove over to Harrogate this afternoon for the open studio at the Knitting Goddess and tried my hand at hand-painting yarn. The results are drying upstairs. My trademark colour at the moment seems to be a mucky khaki green, so I tried to replicate it in yarn. Joy said that colours like that are really difficult to photograph. I concur: it really looks nothing like this.

2013-10-19 20.46.00

This photo was taken in dodgy light with the camera on my phone, so there’s no hope really. Anyway, there’s green and brown in there and quite a few specks left undyed. I think this may well add to the list of yarns in my stash to be made into garter-stitch-based shawls.

I was hoping that my next lot of Socks In Progress for Sniper would arrive today, but it was not to be. I’ve a trip planned to London for work this week, so I won’t see another postal delivery until Wednesday.

In knitting news, I’ve started a hat that has been requested for Christmas, but photos will not be published until after the recipient has approved the finished item. Everything else continues slowly.

I’d better transfer my typing skills to my work now: I’ve an 8am service to get to in the morning.


Holiday knitting

I’m thinking ahead to a trip we are taking before too long:

A few days camping, then a few car journeys and staying with people. The big question is what to knit. Space is limited, so I really need to pick one project. It can’t be fiddly and it needs to be able to stand being dropped at any point so I can run and rescue the little girl from whatever mischief she has got into.

None of my current WIPs will do:

  • Amigurumi project: too fiddly and too many bits to lose
  • Socks – complicated chart to follow
  • Swirl: too big to pack
  • modular scarf: probably too big to pack and wouldn’t keep me entertained
  • Square a month blanket: too big to pack

Next in my queue I have Color Affection, but I utterly refuse to take cashmere on a camping trip.

Here’s my queue. Anything catch your eye? I’m wondering about Shogun.

Harrogate 2012 – in quest of laceweight

I realised today that it has been nearly two weeks since I went to the knitting and stitching show at Harrogate. Time for a report. This has taken me all evening to write, so make the most of it. That was an evening of knitting I couldn’t really afford to miss since I have just 2 rows of the second sock for the husband’s Christmas present done. Working hours have gone fairly mental, so who knows when I’ll next get time.

I’ve never yet managed to take my intended route into Harrogate by car. You just get sucked in to a line of slow moving traffic that spits you out at the top of the steep hill with all the shops on, inevitably in the wrong lane.

On the way from the car park to the conference centre I found a lovely old-fashioned toy shop and completed my quest to find a rag doll for my daughter’s first birthday.

I think she liked the doll. She’s modelling her new puerperium cardigan from her godmother.

Once inside, I got the programme and spent a few minutes scanning it. My usual strategy is to circle all the exhibitors I want to see and plan an initial route. Nearly every knitting-related booth was in hall B so I spent the whole morning in there. My main purpose for the day was to find a skein of laceweight that I can make a really big shawl with. I had a no big purchases before lunch rule that was a wise decision. The only thing I bought was a set of stitch markers.

I love Cat Bordhi’s patterns, and she extols the virtues of using letter of the alphabet stitch markers. These are the ones she commissioned from Addi. I’ll let you know how they go.

Highlights of the morning included:

The wall of wool from Jamieson’s of Shetland.

I met my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for lunch in the Royal Hall and we spent quite a while looking at the art installation called The Unfinishable.

All around the outside of the tent are fastened various projects that have been donated by their owners. Walking around the outside we kept saying ‘I could finish that’ and wondering at the waste of all the materials. Inside are all the stories of how they got there and why they have been considered unfinishable. There are so many sad tales that I really began to appreciate the worth of this project and how it has removed (in some cases) decades of guilt from crafters.

After lunch I went back over my list, made decisions on what to buy and then went for a scout round the other halls to see if I had missed anything. Mostly, I hadn’t missed much. They really had corralled the knitters into hall B.

My favourite supplier from previous years, Artisan Yarns, was there with a whole rack of Smoothie Sock Yarn from Artists’ Palette Yarns.

Pair of smoothies

While buying these matching skeins (next year I will have a pair of knee socks) I met the dyer of Smoothie Sock, who was pleased to hear that this is my absolute favourite sock yarn, particularly the semi-solids, since it doesn’t ever seem to pool and feels lovely running through the fingers on the way to the needles.

My quest for laceweight yarn was successful, although I won’t be able to blog it properly until after Christmas since my mother-in-law took it home with her to be wrapped up for my present. It was from Eden Cottage Yarns, a stall where I spent a good half hour of the morning. I was recognised by my scarf when I returned later in the day to make my purchase – always a good tip to wear something that knitters will remember, even if it does make for an uncomfortably hot day. I was wearing my Elektra.

At this point I thought I was done and so I was aimlessly wandering the halls when a magic word caught my eye: Malabrigo.

ALL my favourite colours in one skein

Every year I splash out on one (well I try to limit it to one) skein of yarn that is so beautiful, either to touch or look at, that it simply screams *BUY ME*. This was it this year. No way is this going to be socks. I think another scarf/stole/shawl type item is required.

That was the end of my buying, coming in £1.75 over my estimated budget. I can’t really explain this next photo.

Knit Pro Karbonz in the wild. I think the day had got to me.

I understand the 2mm needles; the 2mm dpns in my harmony set feel really flimsy and I’ve never dared knit with them. What on earth am I going to knit with 1.5mm dpns? Does the world of teeny tiny dolls clothes in cobweb weight beckon?

Every year, I look out for the next sock knitting gimmick. One year it was Zauberballs, another year sock yarn with the two strands wound together onto a rolling dispenser. I didn’t find it this year (or was that the Karbonz?), but the amount of fibre (as in tops or un-spun fleece) was definitely on the increase. I predict a surge in hand-spinning and I’m happy to jump on that bandwagon. Moving back to near York should mean I can investigate the spinning guild there. Just need a spindle.

I met the family again for a coffee next to the knitted village for a final show and tell. (My mother-in-law bought nothing all day, except the things she purloined from our bags to be kept for Christmas. Serious strength of character there.)

There were a LOT of churches for such a small village. In fact, an extremely good selection of amenities altogether. Charming.

I left Harrogate, following the only road that the traffic signs appeared to allow, heading out of the town centre. This turned out to be the A59 towards Skipton. This is entirely the wrong direction. After several miles of detours and small country roads, I eventually found myself back on the A59 to York and I wended my way home.

Woolly thoughts

I’ve realised that I never posted about the Hat Design Workshop I went to. It was hosted by Kath of Little Houndales Knits and taught by Woolly Wormhead (so sorry about the picture – believe me this is the best one).

The maths underlying knitting is always fascinating to me, so it was great to learn about the maths of hat design, in particular how just the rate of decrease affects the style of hat. I’m still working on the hat I started at the workshop – a beret with three cables spiralling in to the centre – and it is in quite dark yarn, so not really an evening project. Since evening is when I get most knitting time, I’m not sure when it will be finished.

Apart from all the cakes (including a fabulous Sachertorte), the other great thing was trying on all the different hats and seeing which styles suited which people. There was one participant who looked amazing in every hat she tried. I did not, but I did find that the most flattering hat style was one I used to wear many years ago. Looks like I’ll be knitting a Camden Cap before too long.

In lieu of a finished hat, here is a finished scarf. Doughnut Scarf from Colinette Yarns.

While I love the colours, this fails the scarf’s primary objective, that of successfully keeping the neck warm. I’m not sure I’ve yet managed to make a scarf that is functional. Ah well. Still, it used up a whole load of scraps for the fingers. This does beg the question of why a scarf needs fingers. I think this will probably be for the dressing up box when the kids are older.


Two by two, hands of blue

Apologies to any Firefly fans who are now slightly freaking out from reading the title of the post, but really, what else could I call it, given that I have been making these?

These are the Vintage Buttons Gloves by Ysolda Teague.

Since the photo, I have completed the other three fingers, with 2 yards of yarn left in the ball for the thumb. No worries: I have another 3 (or possibly 4) balls, ready to make some sort of neck-warming device to go with the gloves and the hat.

I love the pattern for these gloves, except that the fingers are really quite chunky. I could easily take out half a dozen stitches and they would still fit fine. I’m not bothered enough about it to reknit them though: there are only so many fiddly, finnicky fingers that one can bear to knit within a certain time.

I’ll finish these today, so I can show them off tomorrow.

What’s happening tomorrow, I hear you ask?

Tomorrow, I am going down to Little Hounsdales Knits for a whole day knitting workshop with Woolly Wormhead. I will be learning about hat design, possibly figuring out what I need to do to make a hat that is flattering for all the weird head-shapes in this family (my own included), and knitting or talking about knitting ALL DAY. This pleases me.

Colinette Stash Enhancement

I mentioned last time that I had managed to fit in a trip to the Colinette Mill Shop in Llanfair Caereinion. I was rather disappointed last month that the chicken-pox that curtailed our Welsh holiday also put paid to my annual trip to Llanfair, but I managed to find an excuse. My boss left here last month to be made Vicar of a Parish not far from there and I managed to get over to his installation/induction/whatever highfalluting term the church came up with this time. Suffice it to say that at the beginning of the service he wasn’t the vicar and by the end he was.

The morning after the service I was up, packed and ready to go in time to get over to Llanfair for opening time. I had about an hour before I really had to be on the road in order to drive 220 miles or so for a dentist’s appointment. This was yarn shopping with purpose, focus and no time for distraction… or so I thought.

The main job was to investigate the supply of Art yarn. I bought a skein last year and I’m currently making it into a scarf. I reckon it has potential as a substitute yarn for my planned Swirl: Shades of Grey (I know what you are thinking: not in any way related to either the E.L. James book at the top of the bestseller lists, or the Jasper Fforde book Shades of Grey, although Jasper’s book is fantastic and you should definitely read it.)

I found a lovely grey for the main colour of the swirl, but I just can’t face that much plain knitting in such a dark colour. Here’s the grey:

And here is the shade I chose to mix with it and make it a bit more interesting:

This photo has actually come out quite well, in terms of showing the colours. The base colour is pretty much the same grey as the grey, but there are lots of different flashes of colour throughout. The next challenge was to try and find something to use as the contrast colour that goes round the outer edge and down the sleeve seam. I’m not great with colour judgement, so I called for reinforcements. The shop lady came over and I explained what I needed. She took the matter very seriously and we were quite surrounded by loose skeins for a while. I was hoping for a blue or green, since the blue/green end of the spectrum is my natural home, but it was not to be. Instead I have:

It’s called Cherry and is just on the dusky side of pink. I vetoed the really, really bright pink that the lady was trying to persuade me to get.

Now, I was in a yarn shop so, obviously, I bought sock yarn.

Just a skein of Jitterbug that is destined for Christmas socks for my lovely husband. I’ve never yet made him knitted socks (or indeed knitted anything else to wear – I don’t think a tea-cosy counts) and I think a pair of his own might increase his enthusiasm for the concept of knitting.

Finally, and here is where you may have to take a deep breath, I went into the sale room. Everything in the sale room is sold without ball-band, presumably so it can’t be passed off as the real thing. Some yarn, however, is fairly easy to identify and I was struck by a whole shelving unit with various shades of what looked like Hullabaloo. I checked with the shop lady and she confirmed that it was, indeed, Hullabaloo – quite a thick wool including one ply of wool from welsh black sheep. I’ve used it before – I bought 4 skeins last year in fact, although they have all gone now.  They were on sale for £5 a skein, although they were in the main shop for (I think) £5.17 a skein. A discount is a discount, right? I looked more closely: the skeins in the sale room were 100g skeins and the ones in the main shop were 50g. Less than half price = result!

I’m fairly certain that at least two of those are the same shades I bought last year. I have no idea what they are going to turn into, but it is going to be fun finding out.

That’s the lot. You know it has been a good shopping expedition when the cashier takes a deep breath before showing you the total.

I was also going to write about the selection of a pattern for a pair of gloves today, but I think I’ve written enough for now. Also next time there will be another finished object and possibly a photo of a deadly weapon. How’s that for encouragement to return?