Archive for the ‘spinning’ Category

It’s been tugging at my knitting belt for some time, ever since I was waxing knitical about a new yarn I was swatching, which came from a flock almost over the back garden from me (as the crow flies)… wouldn’t it be a great idea to knit as local or as British as possible?

This year (belatedly, granted), I set myself the Great Cardi Knit of 2012 challenge and I have loved having a theme to knit to, so it has got me thinking about what I might challenge myself with in 2013…(ocht! I know it’s only September, but it’ll soon be upon us!)

Last Monday I was on a train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, and while sipping my East Coast Trains, First Class coffee (which was a bit second rate, truth be told) I was looking out the window. We passed a fairly large field of sheep, resplendent in their growing winter fleeces…it got me to wondering what the price of wool was for this year and if farmers were coming off any better this year, than in the past. And it tugged at me again…

…Wouldn’t it be great to try and knit with as much British wool as possible?  I tweeted right away…

A deluge (for someone with 75 followers!) of suggestions came my way and it soon became clear that there are lots of  folk out there who are growing, spinning, dyeing British wool – from big producers to the smaller, indy chaps trying to carve out a career selling and promoting brilliant UK woolly products.

Quickly ideas started forming. If I wanted to try and knit UK, I should really try and do my bit to promote the British yarn growers, sellers and dyers I will be buying from, through blogging, yarn reviewing etc…and maybe it’ll turn more folk on to them too. Not only would it plug great local & independent businesses, it would promote British wool and fibre and our native breeds, as well as supporting and promoting local purchasing.

It’s all ideas yet, but it is something I am considering doing…a regular blog on Knitting British and highlighting really deserving chaps and reviewing their yarn…

…what do you think? Would you read it? Would you share it?  Would you be likely to visit the websites and shops that I blog about?

Would it make you think about buying British; for example, alpaca wool from Shetland Alpaca or Toft rather than imported? Or how about considering hand-dyed yarns from Ripplescrafts or The Yarn Yard?

I am really interested in knitting with and blogging about the smaller, independent chaps… … would you consider an Artisan (if that isn’t too quaint a description) UK Knitalong too in 2013?

…Who would you recommend me to try? Or if you are a British yarn producer or dyer, would you be interested in taking part?

I’d really love to hear from you and hear your suggestions and see what we can do in our own small way to plug our brilliant local products and our great yarnies! Maybe I can even arrange some sort of giveaway or discount to have at the end of the Knit British year!

You can leave a comment here, tweet me or email me at louisescollay (at) hotmail.co.uk And please do share with your knitterly/crocheting/craftsty friends! I am compiling a list and would love to know of other UK independent yarn businesses.



Read Full Post »

I think I have been in a time warp peeps! I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last allowed myself the time, between lectures, essays, revision, exams and life to blog!

 Well, I suppose to catch you up, the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I’ll try to keep to nutshell proportions.

 University: after having two years off, due to having as much motivation as a small, wet square of toilet tissue and a period of fragile mental health, I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back to my course.

 My courses for my final year included Scotland and Heritage, Cultural Revivals and Traditional Drama and I was pretty fired up about all of them, until my old adversary Doubt came creeping in.

 ME (Gleefully): Revivals and Drama and Heritage, oh my! Revivals and Drama and Heritage, oh my!

DOUBT: Do you really think after two years you can do this?!

ME (positive): Aye! After what I’ve been through I can handle anything!

DOUBT: Are you sure? Really sure?

 ME: …er… yes!…I think so!

DOUBT: What about finding time to study in a shared house? What about working to pay the bills too? (in a creepy evil voice) What about your 10,000 word dissertation?????

 ME (frowning): Oh!

Doubt laughs evilly as I ran and hid in the corner for a little while.

Yes, whatever I seemed to undertake, Doubt was there, pointing and sniggering. But you know what? I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with the marks I’ve got this year and the progress I made. I think in first year I was thinking, “Right! Got to work for a first!” and to be completely honest I don’t care if I get third class honours. I did it, and I’m very proud of myself – if it’s a sin, I don’t care about that either! (unless God’s reading, in which case, Sorry!)

 My final marks are posted on the 3rd of June, so I am going in with my two pals Mojo and Mighty L for moral support!

Right…What else…Oh yes…

Knitterly: Truth be told, I thought I would do a lot of knitting to help me relax during revision, but I quickly found that I couldn’t focus on a pattern after staring at books and a computer screen. So in order to unwind I began to wind. Spinning was a completely brilliant way to still be creative, but also relax. I found a great website for combed wool at really good prices, I bought a few bags of merino in delicious colours from knitshop and that really kept me going.

As soon as my last exam was finished I started on my first lace project which was also my first shawl.

The Mezquita shawl  is a lovely, and very quick project.

I ordered some nice lace wool from Jamieson and Smith, but wanted to try it in a thicker wool first to practice. I had some Artesano 4ply. It is so soft and I have hardly been without it on these blustery spring days.

I like the practice one so much (with my own little mistakes…can you see?) that I am using my J&S wool for an Anniken Allis shawl, which is on the pins as I type.

 Lately I have been trying my hand at felting, just a couple of wee samples really, but I seem to have go Mojo interested in it (maybe she’s only humouring me to shut me up!). She had her new kitchen put in and is thinking about designing a wall hanging or several small pieces to frame.

I have a lot of odd wee samples of wool so we have decided first to dye and hand paint the combed tops. I am not sure how we got on the the subject of plant dyes, but last saturday we went for a walk along the old Rosewell railway and picked a wee selection.

I should add that we only picked or cut flowers that were either blown over (what a wind it has been recently!) or horse trampled, or on their way out, so that the vergesides were kept pretty and blooming for others to enjoy.

When we got back to the kitchen we laid them all out, and realising we didn’t know the first thing about producing dyes from plants we did a bit of googling. Obviously all yellow flowers will not produce a yellow dye (in fact dandelions produce pink!) but we decided to put all our lilac and blue flowers together to see what our experimentations would produce.


Most hits on google said that the microwave method was quickest, so we picked our petals and bruised them before covering them with water in a bowl with a teaspoon of vinegar.

The method we used was to cover the bowl with cling film and blast for 2 minutes on high, then take out and bruise again with a pestle, and repeat this until your water begins to colour and the petals seem drained of colour.

This is the end product on banana fibre!

We were quite please with that and set about with our yellow flowers, which produced a sort of new baby’s nappy green colour. But after testing the colour with yarn it produces a lovely lime colour! we were quite gobsmacked. We felt a bit witchy, or at least ancient domestic goddess-like!

The quantities that we made we will use for hand-painting the wool tops before felting.

Today I am trying my hand at kool aid dyeing on a 2 ounces of different natural shades of Shetland wool. What great fun it is!

I bought the drink mix (this stuff is actually called Mixade) on ebay ages ago and forgot about it. So today I thought I would give it a go.

For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I recommend it! You can dye hanks of wool as well as the combed tops and for each wee sachet of drink it will dye roughly and ounce of wool.

There are varying methods but I prefer the stove top method.

Firstly you soak the wool in some tepid, soapy water (I use handsoap) and you prepare your pot (soup pot, Tattie pot, anything that is large enough, but use an older pot, just in case any colour is left on afterwards).

Half fill the pot with tepid water and add your sachet/s. I used two sachets of Tropical Punch Mix-ade…oh! A tip! Don’t go by the colour of the drink on the sachet. The Tropical punch shows a bright pink drink, but I would say the water was more orangey.

Give a wee stir to let it dissolve and then give your soaking wool a squeeze and add it to the pot.

You will need rubber gloves, unless you want brightly coloured fingers…like me! 🙂

Turn the heat up and let it get to almost boiling and then switch off the heat and let the water cool.

Get your gloved hands in every now and again turn the wool so that it dyes evenly.

 In this case I am not too fussed if it doesn’t dye evenly as we will be hand-painting it at some point too.

Give it 30-60 minutes standing on the hob – with no heat under it – to absorb the dye. If after an hour the water is not clear (or almost clear) , you can turn the heat on again and bring it to almost boiling again and let it cool for another 30-60 minutes.

 I have just rinsed mine, which should be in water that is a similar temperature to that in the pot, so that you don’t felt the wool and this is the result!

The reason I wanted to use the different coloured natural Shetland was to see what colour variation would be like with the dye. It is unfortunate that my camera doesn’t pick these up so well, because the Shetland black has gone a dark aubergine colour, while the fawn and brown have gone almost heathery tones and just look at the white!



I have just rolled them in a towel to blot them dry and I’ll probably leave them there to dry for a while.

 I have to say that the pot was left with a pink tinge, but I used a bit of salt on cloth and it went away with a light rub.

So anyway, I think I have filled a yaking and maaking quota for one blog. I hope everyone is awful well, I have thought of you often, even though I haven’t been blogging!

Next time hopefully I’ll have wool hand-painting and felting news as well as results getting and boyfriend arrival…more soon! 😉




Read Full Post »

Last weekend was very productive indeed!
I re-read and finished The Stornoway Way by Kevin MacNeil and started the new biography of Muriel Spark.
I finished a couple of knits, started a couple more, managed to make two quiches and finally i tackled the fleece that’s been in the shed since the summer.
Its a Zwartbles fleece and it came from a ram….and smells like it too. Boys have a slightly more pungent aroma and it reeked so much i couldn’t work with it.
I’m sure fleece lovers would kill me, but i sprayed it with Frebreeze and hung it up in the shed to dry!
It did smell slightly better so on Saturday i sorted it and picked my way through it and got it prepared for spinning.
Now its midweek and i can see another weekend of crafting ahead of me, inbetween catching up with the nieces!

I think I could almost be ready for my Doris Day Gingham Dress and pearls as feel very serene sort of 1950s domesticated, although i’m not quite sure how they did it without prozac 😆



Read Full Post »

I’ve been sorting fleece! I bought a couple off ebay…can i just say…alpaca hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm :P.

The picture is from the last spinning workshop – see what i mean about how it grows once clippped?!


I’ve just used the last of my bluey grey shetland fleece, which has made lovely yarn.

I’m still a bit dodgy on the navajo plying technique though, so i’ve a fair few lumps, but its all texture i suppose!

I’m onto christmas present project three now. The feather and fan lacy cowl came out fantastic – lace patterns and I have eventually hit it off, I think! Shall post pictures when i’ve blocked it.

This is project three…


…a kind of semi-faux Herringbone thin scarf, that i don’t have a pattern for, I’m just trying as  I go. I’m using a lovely wool and it looks good so far, but i hope it continues looking good as I’ve gone too far to have the heart to rip. That’s the trouble with scarves!

BTW…heard a rumour Bob Dylan flew into Shetland last night, sadly though i think this was just a silly rumour. Sadly the only mildly famous person in town today is Edwina Currie who was on a saga cruise!!

Read Full Post »

Last Saturday and Sunday mirln and I went down to the south end of Shetland to learn how to handspin – and what a revelation!

we are both hooked!

We spun from raw “greasy” fleece and learned how to select the right wool…Ican’t wait to go to the brokers, close my eyes and feel amongst the fleece for what feels just right!

It really was quite amazing to watch the fleece become thread (or thread-like, it was quite bulky to begin with!) and with your own control you can make a really quite fine thread (but, not to begin with as i said!)

After spinning onto the spindle we then learned how to ply the wool and, wih the help of a niddy-noddy, make the yarn into a hank.

It was quite a thrill to have something to show – ususally there is only a pile of kit kat wrappers around my feet on a day off!

Once I got home I duly washed my hank (low sudding liquid – I used the niece’s 2-in-1 shampoo – perfect!) and hung it up with a weight on the end to stop it curling.

On Sunday it was more of the same, but we had a go at carding, rolling, combing etc too. The instructer also brought some different types of Shetland fleece as well as some combed tops.

I loved working with the Shetland moorit fleece, its a chocolate brown but with blondey/coppery locks which makes the lovliest effect.

Mirln and I, by now, were getting quite adept at controlling the draw, or pull of the fleece, to achieve a thinner yarn.

Some of the fleece and parts of the fleece are easier to work with than others – we found the portion near the back legs best and refered to it as the bum stuff which raised a few giggles!

Once I got home, i signed us up for the beyond beginners class in two weeks: I’m a complete convert!

And when i was home my first hank was dry. It’s too small to knit anything of great size, but i think i’ll knit a square and frame it!

Read Full Post »