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    Entries in wool (8)


    Playing with dyes

    I thought it was probably time I learned a little more about dyeing fibre. Previously I have relied on fairly random guesswork!

    So I took some Blue faced leicester/superbright nylon and soaked it in cold water ready to dye. I used acid dyes  for this experiment - they are easy to use & dye both the wool & the nylon easily. I chose 5 olours - citron yellow, disco pink, purple, ultra blue and malachite. I've always dyed in the microwave before, but I bought a big baking tray that is just for dying so I could try dying in the oven too. I've always used cold water dying, never hot so I wanted to try that.

    First, I put some soaked top onto cling film & dotted little bits of the dyes randomly. I used a syringe from the chemist to put small amounts of dye into little spots. I wrapped the film around the top, put it in a try and heated it in the microwave. While that was cooking, I got the next lot of top, prepped it as before but this time used a whole syringe worth of dye for each blob & left more white space between colours.

    L-R:smaller spots, larger blobs!



    After drying, the colours had spread on the underside of the fibre and there was much less white.

    The small dots had blended and gave a kind of watercolour effect. The bigger dots had stayed much brighter. Both pretty - but so different! 

    I spun the tops (about 50g of each colour total) aiming for a 2ply sock weight yarn. And look what happened! The small dots came out a pretty pastel colour, with the cooler blue-green colours dominating. I think the yellow/malachite/blue blended into a overall blue-green effect. It's subtle & pretty.The larger spots became a brighter yarn which have a warmer effect. The colours haven't blended as much, or been as diluted. It's girly & fun & I can't wait to see how it looks knit up. I'm amazed at how different the yarn colours are from the same base, samedyes, same method - just a difference in the size of colour spots.

    I'm hoping to have enough of each yarn to make ankle socks so I can see how they look as a fabric. I might need to make them with different coloured toes though! There is more by weight of the bluey yarn, but both yarns are very similar -  113m/50g and 115m/50g. 

    I'll show you the hot water dyed fibre and yarn when I've finished spinning it. I'm taking the opportunity to do a technique for the Happy porpoise spin-a-long too :)


    ALL THE WOOL - Part 2. And a discount code :)

    Now I love a spot of alpaca, silk or cashmere as much as the next knitting addict. But there is something about wool - no nonsense, pure wool. It's unlike any other fibre - it breathes, it has enormous natural elasticity, it's warm, it can absorb loads of water before it feels wet - if we had invented it, the company that patented it would be seriously rich!

    But it's not manufactured. It's not especially processed. It's cleaned, sometimes it's dyed, it's combed into order and spun. That's it. The differences come from how it's spun and the breed of sheep that grew it. And the really amazing thing is that we have relied on it for warmth for centuries. My family is Scottish. Historically, we have been wrapped in wool from birth to death and everything between.  My ancesters would have frozen without wool!

    All colder climes have their knitting traditions - based on wool. From super colourful Andean hats & sweaters, to complex cabled Arans, to Estonian or shetland lace, fishermans' wind & waterproof Ganseys, to world famous fairisle, and the intricate colourwork of the Scandinavian countries.

    Like all of these practical knitted traditions, Icelandic Lopi jumpers are designed to be worn daily, to protect you from the cold. That is their function. And yet we are drawn to make them decorative & colourful to fight off the dark of winter. Our ancesters made them because if they didn't, their families would freeze. In our centrally heated world, we can make them for the pleasure of it.

    At Unravel, I visited the Alafoss stand. I bought a single ball of laceweight wool - the only one left. I missed out on the jumper kits - they had already sold out. But I was intrigued, and signed up to their mailing list. A few weeks later I got an email - kits were back in stock. I headed over to the website, clocked the incredibly reasonable prices and a few seconds later was pressing 'add to cart'. As it was shortly before my birthday, Mum offered to pay the majority of the cost for me - so it's mostly a present :)

    I chose the most colourful Celebration kit. Alafoss offer to switch colours if you want, and I tested that by asking if they would change the main colour from a natural black marl to a rich heathered purple. A few days later, my kit arrived, cleverly packaged in a zip up project bag, with all the wool I need to make even the largest size pattern and a clearly written pattern.

    They did change the main colour by the way - how gorgeous is this purple? Yes I know I have a bit of a purple issue. But I like it! It looks good with so many other colours. And I accidentally felted my other purple handknit jumper. I NEED a new one, so there :P

    I'm really impressed with the Alafoss wool, the ease of ordering and the quick delivery. I haven't started the pattern yet, but I will once I've finished the magazine commission I'm working on. It's a simple shape, knit in the round from the bottom up - I could add waist shaping, but I probably won't - with the yoke decreases built into the colourwork charts. There isn't any steeking or anything scary involoved. It looks like a nice satisfying knit with some colourwork interest added. I'll let you know how it goes! 

    Do you fancy knitting your own Lopi? Alafoss have very kindly offered readers the chance to get 15% off their first order. I'll repeat that: 15% off! Just enter the code 'happymaking' at checkout and the discount will be applied. The prices are already good - a discount makes them even better! 

    The website prices are in US dollars or Euros. I worked out the cost of the cheapest adult kit, with the discount, assuming a postage charge of $20 as $53.53. At todays exchange rate that's £32.42. For a 100% wool adult sweater kit that fits up to a 45" chest. The kit that I bought, with more colours is a little more expensive, but it still came in at under £40. The exchange rate may be different to the exact rate charged, but it gives you an idea of the costs involved. 

    It's a bargain! What are you waiting for? The code is vaild until june 1st 2014, so you have plenty of time. Why not take the chance to get a head start on family christmas presents? Although if you are like me, family can wait - this jumper is for me!


    ALL THE WOOL - Part 1.

    You have probably realised by now that I like wool. I like it quite a lot actually, and the more I use it in it's various forms, the more I like it.

    Earlier this week I found a fabulous Laura Ashley dress in a charity shop. It's a heathery purple-brown pure wool tweedy fabric, fully lined sleeveless shift dress, with a beautiful pleated neckline and it cost me £12.

    I normally don't fit non-stretch fabric dresses. Sizing charts for clothing generally assume that your hips are around 2" bigger than your bust. I'm more the opposite way around. However, recently I have found that some stores (more expensive ones) have a much smaller waist on larger sizes than many other stores. LK Bennett is a good example. So luckily this Laura Ashley dress - a UK size 18 - fits me very nicely! While I'm normally a size 14 for skirts or trousers, I often have to buy bigger sizes to accomodate my bust. This does that, but has a waist that would probably feel rather small on somebody who was a more traditionally larger size. There is plenty of room so it is very comfortable, but it is well cut and I think rather flattering. I'm not always comfortable wearing fitted dresses, but this flatters rather than draws attention - it's definitely going to get lots of wear!


    Excuse the poor quality photo - it's hard to take full length selfies which show the pretty neckline!

    Coming soon - ALL THE WOOL - Part 2. In which I drool over Icelandic wool.




    Thornbury beanie - a new crochet pattern

    Recently I taught a beginner crochet class on how to crochet a beanie. I always try to write my own patterns for classes to avoid any copyright difficulties, and so Tina (the owner of The Wool Stop) and I decided on the yarn to use & I whipped up a simple hat. And so, the Thornbury beanie was born. It was promptly stolen by one of my 12 year old boys. And then my husband asked for one.

    Following the course, most of the attendees have made more than one hat already. They seem to be addictive! The yarn that we used is a great price and comes in really interesting colours. We used Rico Creative melange chunky (the darker coloured hat), you only need 1 ball and it comes in at under £4. For a hat. Bargain! I also used West Yorkshire Spinner's Blue faced leicester variations roving yarn, which is gorgeous. It's the lighter coloured one in the photos. If you can get hold of some - do so!

    The pattern is written with beginners in mind, and includes ideas for personalising/ changing the shape to a slouch or tam style hat. The pattern download will cost you a bargain £1!

    You can buy the Thornbury beanie pattern by clicking the button. This will take you to my Ravelry store - you don't need to be a member or Ravelry to buy, and you can pay with Paypal. 

    Let me know if you make a Thornbury beanie of your own. And then be careful who you show it to - they might want one of their own!



    Wonderwool Wales

    Did you go? It's my 4th year, and my favourite wool festival. I had a lovely time, meeting yarny friends and squishing wool. I test drove spinning wheels & tried to mentally justify the expensive one I liked!

    I bought some yarn to make myself a Rock & Purl sweater - After Five. I love the red that the sample is knit in, but I didn't find the RIGHT red. Then I saw this silver yarn and decided that a silver grey sweater would go with anything, and the yarn feels GORGEOUS! 

    Talking of Rock & Purl - here's a photo taken by the lovely Kate Heppell, editor of Knit Now magazine  of the three of us - Ruth on the left, Kate in the centre & me on the right. I really need to learn how to look as cute as these two do in photos! 

    I also bought some Teesdale roving to try out. I didn't take a photo of it which was stupid! It was very bright, pink, yellow, dark green with white splodges. It's a very long fibre, quite shiny, a bit like Wensleydale. Should be really quite hardwearing. I decided to strip it to blend the colours a little, and to spin it semi-worsted into a 3 ply yarn. This spun up really quickly, the colours were addictive. And now I have a 3 ply yarn, probably about a sport weight. Colourful & spring-like. I love it. What do you think?

    If you went along, I hope you had a brilliant time. For the sake of the vendors, I hope you spent more than I did too!!