So much to do, so little time

So what is your biggest challenge with yarn and fibre crafts?

  • How to follow a pattern?
  • how to get knitted and crocheted garments to fit?
  • warping the loom?
  • cutting your weaving?
  • getting the thickness of yarn you want when spinning?
  • All of the above??

Or perhaps, like me its actually finding the time to make things and having the focus to do it.   Here’s how it goes for me: I resolve to start knitting, spinning, weaving or crocheting once I have completed my work day; fulfilling orders, planning spinning and weaving courses and Retreats etc etc.   Then – oops – there is more to do so I will sit down and knit, spin etc when  dinner is made/the dishes washed.  Then…just check the emails first.  …Get wood and light the fire, and so it goes on.

So finally, time to sit down, hooray!    But as soon as you begin to relax, something happens.  All the things you forgot to do start to pop into your head.  Put the bins out, make lunch for tomorrow, phone a friend…and up you get before they go out of your head again.    Or horror of horrors, by this time one of the kids has got back out of bed.

this bunting is a quick Christmas make.  If you have existing bunting, remove it from the hanging ribbon, string, turn it upside down then attach it again.  Voila, Christmas bunting!

The solution to the ‘before I forget’ thing is to have a notebook within reach.  Then, it’s easy!  Simply decide which project to focus on.  Or do you want to read that book?  Ahhh, not so simple after all!  And you forgot to make a cup of tea you had been looking forward to.

I will pick up project number one, a shawl for a friend’s birthday and  resolve to work on it until it is finished.  Then remember the baby bootees are rather more urgent and also smaller so wouldn’t it be better to get them finished first.  Just focus until they are done.  But I have second bootee syndrome.  Yes, its related to second sock syndrome but I may just be the only person who suffers from it with bootees!  And now, of course the phone rings and after chatting for half an hour (lovely, but I forgot to take my knitting with me when I answered the phone)  and I am nearly out of time.

So here is the solution!   Yes, really.  Let yourself off the hook here because the reality may just be that you don’t have much time for knitting, crochet, spinning or weaving right now.  Do ten minutes a day/at a time instead of trying to carve out large chunks of time.  It is amazing how much you get done in ten minutes a day.

Another quick make, wee crocheted baskets, each containing a Ferrero Rocher or similar chocolate, or if you are sugar free, a walnut works well. this is now available as a Ravelry pattern.

And the secret is this:  there may well be more than one ten minute slot a day.   it is amazing how many ten minute slots there seem to be, once you stop trying to carve out those non-existent larger chunks of time.  Those who have done my spinning courses or read the ‘How to Spin’ book will be familiar with the ten minutes a day them for spinning and many of you have  and got in touch to say it was a revelation!

I spin ten minutes in the mornings and treat it as a meditation but what if you did something else for ten minutes in the afternoon or evening?  It is so much easier to find ten minutes than an hour.    So I am off to knit for ten minutes, see ya!

 

A Special Retreat and Some Sheep

Ryeland Sheep & Fleece
Ryelands are one of the oldest British sheep breeds and have been in the UK for hundreds of years.  Their legs are covered in fleece as well as their bodies, which along with their cute noses, gives them the distinctive ‘teddy’ appearance.  They are great mothers, good for both fleece and meat and rarely suffer from foot problems.  They can have either coloured or white fleece.  Wow!
The wool is great for spinning or needle felt.  it has a rather unique ‘crispy feel to it without being at all scratchy and will not pill or felt easily when made into knitwear.

One of Jacqueline Bonner’s Ryeland sheep

The Best Wool for the Job

I think that imported Merino is over rated as a spinning fibre, although its availability in as coloured tops makes it a good choice for UK based feltmakers who do not want to work specifically with indigenous fleece.   If you live in a country that produces it in larger quantities such as Australia or New Zealand, it is a good choice for you of course.    And there are breeders this side of the Pond of UK version of the breed, called Bowmont.  Although Merino type wool is soft it is prone to felting, hence its popularity with felt makers.  it is lovely for babywear if the parents don’t mind handwashing.  But Ryeland is a good all rounder and I love its ancient roots as a breed.

An Exciting New Retreat for Textile businesses

Janet has launched her very first Retreat specifically for those with a yarn, fibre or fibre animal business.  She has provided 1-1 mentoring for many years and this is something she is really excited about.   The Retreat will take place at the same amazing venue as the Create With Fibre knitting and spinning retreats.  So the views, food, wine, woodburning stove and time to spin, knit or crochet will all be there.  At the same time, we will talk about the business dilemmas and plans we have.  There will be 1-1 time with Janet and also a chance to actually get down to the nitty gritty and do some work on those plans.  Together we are stronger!

What do we get up to on a knitting retreat?

The dates for our knitting & spinning retreats are filling up for this year.  Feb 2017 is fully booked.

Visit my updated knitting retreats web page to see what is still available.

http://createwithfibre.co.uk/knittingretreats.html

These retreats have just sort of grown organically.  Our wonderful Ayrshire venue, The Old School became known to us via Victoria, the neice of the owners.   She came to Create With Fibre for a one to one spindling lesson, having failed to get a place on any of the spindling courses Janet was teaching at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.   She is a jazz singer and what with her and Fiona, who sings wonderful Gaelic songs, some wine and the woodburning stove, the evenings are the best of fun.

And then it just sort of grew and now there are four retreats a year, two in the spring and two in the Autumn.  They have become knitting, crochet and spinning retreats because people learn whatever they like and have an individual programme worked out for them.   And people just keep coming back.   You can see why!

The dining room at The Old School has been lovingly restored, just like the rest of the building.  You have a whole classroom as your bedroom!

Knitting, crochet and spinning at a Create With Fibre Retreat.

Results of a productive weekend Retrat.  Rachel and Kerrie travelled all the way from Bedfordshire for this Retreat.  Some Retreaters live just down the road though.

 

Knit 1 Bike 1 featured on TV news item!

Click on the link to see a short video excerpt featuring the Knit 1 Bike 1 exhibition at Hawick.  The Textile Tower House in Hawick was the venue for the first Knit 1 Bike 1 exhibition.  Here’s what they said about it:

‘Everyone came out of the exhibition with a smile on their face.  Quite  few people visited more than once and brought a knitting or cycling friend back with them.   It was our feel good exhibition of the year and we were delighted with it.’  It was such fun to do the TV thing….

ITV Border video excerpt

  The TV crew admire Janet’s crocheted Glenfinnan Viaduct complete with train.

Janet demonstrates how her Brompton bicycle folds up.

Quicksilver shawl

I love this shawl pattern. It is for sale on ravelry and well worth the money.  The pattern is easy to follow and had no mistakes in it.  For a simple pattern, the shawl looks just great.  I am now knitting a second one for my daughter, having completed the first in a month.

 

I finished with the plain knitting section rather than the lattice work part.  The lattice is simply a row of yarn over, knit 2 together followed by a row of plain knitting.  Obvious once you know.   I also added an I cord edging around the whole circumference of the shawl which made a real difference as you can see above.

The yarns are all handspun.  Merino and silk roving from Scottish Fibres, one  in greens and one grey. Then an alpaca and silk roving from Adelaide Walker.

How to Weave Mug Rugs

My love of the simple yet versatile rigid heddle loom just grows and grows. So when I saw a wee facebook post with a picture of some woven coasters I thought ‘me too!’.  how could I have forgotten about making these?

So resolutions about completing UFOs in time for Christmas were abandoned.  I teach rigid heddle weaving a lot.  Twice a month or more and all levels.  So there are often bits of leftover warp. They are saved but not often used up.

Leftover yarns were used for the mug rugs.


So mug rugs help on two fronts:
1. By weaving mug rugs with the remaining warp it is not wasted.
2. Any bits that are cut off can be used for the weft, or actual weaving.

So all those loom leftovers (thrums) plus the ends from knitting projects and the bits of yarn people leave on my spinning wheels after spinning courses are incorporated into these coasters.  They tell a story!

How To Make Them
Use a 7.5 dent heddle ( 7.5 slots and holes to the inch/2.5cm.  If using leftover warp from a project that used a different sized heddle, replace the heddle and simply re-thread. I don’t get too fussy about this project, it is just a bit of fun.

If the previous warp was wider, more than one rug can be woven at the same time.
Leave a few warps un threaded between each one and just throw them over the back of the loom.  10cm/4″ sqaure is a good size for the coasters.  I hemstitched at the beginning and end.   Visist the Create With Fibre Community Facebook group to see my vidoe on hemstitching.  Lots of useful tips, chats and live videos are available through the group so it is worth a look.

With a narrow project like this, there is no need to bother with shuttles.  Simply wind small amounts round your hand or work with smallish balls of yarn without even doing that.

To change colour, overlap the old with the new in the centre not at the edge as usual.
It took 2 hours to weave and hem stitch 6 coasters.

Here are the mug rugs on the loom.

…and the finished items.

 

 

 

A Crocheted Jacket to go with the Skirt

A Crocheted Jacket to go with skirt.

Finally!  Having handspun yarn for a skirt, I was thrilled with the handwoven, simple, above-the-knee skirt.  The yarn was spun from Hebridean fleece carded with all the leftover coloured bits from the workshops I teach.  There was not enough of the yarn left to crochet a jacket to go with it.  So having raked through my stash, I combined that yarn with some grey handspun alpaca and a commercially carded and handspun black Shetland/alpaca mix.  That yarn had been hanging about for a while, so it was a good plan.

Making the Jacket
The jacket was created by crocheted a chain long enough to go round my hips.  Then working UK double crochet (that’s single crochet if you are in the USA) one row of each colour in turn.  At the armholes I split it and crocheted the fronts then the back.  Joined the shoulders and went back to crochet the sleeves in the round , directly onto the garment. 
A tip for crocheted the sleeves of a garment without a pattern.
To make sure I got the two sleeves the same, not only did I write down what I did, but also crocheted the shaped part of one sleeve, then the shaped part of the other before finishing the bottom, straight section.  Just in case I put the project down for a while and forgot what to do.  It is of course possible to compare the two, but easy to end up one stitch out and end up with them different sizes.
Finishing
The jacket was finished by crocheting a wide band up the front in the grey alpaca.  Button holes were made a couple of rows from the finished edge. And then, a row of double crochet and one of crab stitch up the front, around the bottom edge and the sleeves.
Buttons
The buttons were made from some of the left over skirt fabric, and bring the outfit together nicely.  Button blanks 15mm size were bought on Amazon but you can do this round any button with a stem. 
Cut a circle somewhat wider than the button.  If using handwoven fabric, you may want to add an iron on backing to the fabric.  The one I used is a cotton one.  Stitch a running thread round the edge of the circle, then gather the stitching firmly around the stem of the button.
The Create With Fibre Community – our Facebook group – has lots of tips, chat and sharing.  Why not join us?
 
AND if you sign up for our newsletter you will get a free copy of Janet’s article on sorting and washing fleece.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

crocheting the glenfinnan viaduct

UPdate:  It took several months to complete the Knit 1 Bike 1 artwork after Janet returned home from her ten week bicycle and art tour. The first exhibition took place Oct – Dec 2016 at the textile tower house hawick. Here is the completed crocheted Glenfinnan Viaduct, with the train on top.    Whilst transferring to the new blog, this post was updated to include photos of the construction and development of the viaduct.  Getting it to stand up independently was the hardest thing and Janet’s hubby Lee was technical advisor and engineer, finally sorting it with medium tensile fence wire!

On the date this post was first written, the Sunday Post newspaper came to photograph the crocheted Glenfinnan Viaduct.    Here’s what she wrote at the time – it seems weird now that so much has happened since, all the art work is pretty much completed and the first exhibition has taken place.  Here is the Viaduct in the exhibition.

It was not finished by a long shot but with a big push this week, all three sections and 21 arches will now stand up.  Have stuffed it, stiffened the legs with Paverpol and used alloy rods threaded through to get the curve.  The curve will be more accurate once it is attached to the base. It had to be in three sections that velcro together due to it being 12ft/4m long.   Now to crochet the base, some mountains and of course a train for the top.

Can you spot the knitted Brompton bicycle like the one I cycled round Scotland on in the photo below?

Janet posing at the end of our street(!) with several onlookers whilst the Sunday Post took her photo.

The Viaduct was actually held up by tent pegs at the rear, although it did stand up when it was finally completed.  it was months of work.

 

 

 

Crocheting the train at the pub in a campsite.  It was so easy to do compared to the viaduct itself.

The base and arches drying in the garden.

 

 

The first few arches.   They were now 3 dimensional but I still had no idea whether the plan would work out.

a handspun, handwoven skirt

There is something about creating your own clothes from scratch. I mean really from scratch. This handwoven skirt started life as a Hebridean rare breed fleece. Hebridean is the blackest of black in colour. The only fleece that is truly black as opposed to nearly black
It is a double coated fleece with longer hair fibres and shorter fuzzy bits, making it interesting to spin. It also smells nicer than pretty much any other fleece so if you are a fibre sniffer it is for you!

So to begin with I carded the washed fleece with lots of coloured waste that was left over from workshops. I accumulate lots and always save it. Most was leftover ends of tops but there was a bit of silk too.  Spinning it long draw waa a breeze and made sure the bits did not work their way to the back of the rolag. It took me ages mainly because even at that stage it was scary to think of cutting the hand woven fabric. But eventually you just have to, unless you want to weave scarves and towels for ever.

The fabric was woven on a 24″/60cm  rigid heddle loom using a 12.5 dent heddle. This is the only loom you ever need in my opinion and i am passionate about them. I used a sewing pattern to cut the fabric but made up my own version of the pattern first, using an old sheet. and changing the size.  The lining is red satin.

Woven and knitted samples for the skirt.  The knitted sample was disappointing so the decision was taken to weave the skirt on a 20″ rigid heddle loom with a 10 dent heddle.  The samples were woven with 7.5, 10 and 12.5 dent heddles.

The handspun yarn on the loom.  It was made from Hebridean fleece carded with all the coloured bits left over from Janet’s many spinning workshops.

 

A Butterick pattern was used.  This was the wrong size so it was enlarged and a new pattern constructed using an old sheet.  This can now be adapted for any skirt I make in the future.

The skirt fits well, the fabric is durable and it has been worn lots.

the back zip on the skirt
the lining

 

 

weaving in the English Lakes

So here I go again.  Teaching weaving at Hgham Hall Bassenthwaite Lake near Cockermouth. Having warped all ten looms on on Monday for the Catstrand course Hubby and I warped them all again for the Higham course.  Well we didnt really need them all you understand but then i thought i may as well warp one for myself.  And take a couple of spares in case of last minute bookings. And one as a demo for techniques…you get the picture. And it only takes a few minutes to warp one of these looms.

So then I got an insatiable urge to weave some log cabin.  Rigid heddle looms are mind boggling because just by warping in two colours you can create an almost infinite number of patterns.  In fact just by weaving log cabin there is infinite variation. So i warped my larger, 20″/50cm  rigid heddle loom at 10pm because all of the others now had a plain warp on them.   The scarf was woven with New Lanark yarns.  These are spun at the Museum mill in Lanarkshire Scotland and they now have a wonderful range of yarns and colours.

There are almost infinite variations of log cabin. The weaving on the loom
The finished scarf