Alpaca Cable Hat

I finished this hat last week. The pattern – Hello Yellow – is available as a free download from Ravelry. I’ve now sent it off to our friends who own Wispa and Aero – the alpacas that keep me supplied with gorgeous fibre to spin.

I spun some more yarn especially – a 3 ply (I’m loving playing with my new Christmas presents, especially the ball winder)

The hat has a deep band in twisted rib.

The cable was quite straightforward to do and I love the way it looks.

To finish I used the pompom maker to make a nice fat bobble. I’ve added a press stud to make it detachable.

This is going to be so warm!

Knit and Natter 15th January

More lovely projects were on show at Friday’s online Knit and Natter group. I took some screenshots so we could share what we’ve been working on. My fellow spinner from Berwick is knitting this colourful child’s cardigan.

The pattern (with jumper and cardigan options) and yarn were in this month’s subscription knitting box.

Her husband was drum carding some Gotland fleece ready to spin.

Isn’t this yarn gorgeous? I love those aqua colours. A member of the group from Alnwick has just cast on with it.

It’s going to make a very glamorous/scarf/wrap.

The raspberry blanket is getting bigger.

I worked on my socks with the lovely blue Silent Night yarn.

We’ve had a request for twiddle muffs. These are used for dementia patients – something to hold, stroke and twiddle with, which can be immensely calming – those of us with pets know how relaxing it is to stroke your cat or dog. Twiddle muffs are a great way of using up oddments of yarn, especially if it has an interesting texture, and they can be embellished with buttons, bows and beads, inside and out. I’m going to try and make some over the next week or two and see if I can use up some of my ridiculous collection of yarn!

New Year Knit and Natter

Friday was the first meeting of the year for our online knit and natter group. As always there were some lovely projects in progress.

My fellow spinner finished these pretty striped socks during the session.

Before Christmas she was running out of yarn for a green sweater she was knitting for her son – she ended up having to spin 200g more, but got it finished. She’s also been crocheting some cute little dolls to go in a dolls house.

She is selling one of her traditional spinning wheels and I am very tempted to buy but I really need to think about space and weight before I buy a traditional wheel – I’ll stick to my little Electric Eel Wheel Nano for now. It easily fits in a drawer so no storage problems.

Having made a load of Christmas decorations in December this member is now back to her waterfall front cardigan in this gorgeous pink shade.

This blanket is progressing well in beautiful vibrant raspberry shades – it’s a really stunning variegated yarn.

I’m finishing off a cabled hat made from my handspun alpaca. I just need to attach the pompom – I’ll used a press-stud so it can be removed for washing. This is going to be lovely and warm to wear.

It was good to see everyone after the Christmas break. We talked about how well the COVID vaccine is being rolled out in this area – local sessions are working really well. Jane from the Social Prescribing team at the GP practice, who runs our Knit and Natter sessions has been helping to run the immunisation sessions. I hope that everything goes to plan and those concerned are able to work through the different age/risk groups and get to me – I can’t wait!

New Year Cast Ons and Knitting with a Rather Different View

No sooner than I’d finished off a couple of projects last week I was itching to get something on the needles so I started a couple of new projects.

The first one is the Hello Yellow hat which is a special request from my lovely friend who keep me supplied with alpaca fibre. It’s a cable beanie with a pompom, knitted of course in undyed alpaca spun from her own alpacas, Wispa and Aero.

I’ve now completed the deep edging band which is knitted using a twisted rib., so now I can start the fun bit – I love cable!

I spun some more yarn for the next bit and had great fun using my new gadgets, especially the ball winder.

I also cast on another pair of socks last week – I couldn’t resist this yarn – it’s one of the limited editions from the West Yorkshire Spinners Signature range – Silent Night, in shades of blue with a subtle metallic silver thread running through it.

Socks are my go to project if I’m going anywhere – I can slip it in a bag if I find myself needing to wait around anywhere – often I’ll sit and knit in the car with a beach view whole K walks the dog. When I cast this sock on I had a rather different view: Alnwick Cricket Club’s Pitch.

It was quite a special occasion. I was waiting in the car while my mother was getting her COVID vaccination. She is in her eighties and therefore in the first priority group to receive the vaccine. The Cricket Club is being used as our local vaccination centre and everything was extremely well organised. As we drove up cars were asked to stop by a steward in ahi-viz jacket – it was so nice to see that it was one of the managers from Alnwick Medical Group who used to attend our Knit and Natter Group. He explained to my mother what would happen and directed us to a colleague who guided us into a parking space. Mum was checked in (she had a pre-booked appointment), temperature taken and directed to a waiting area, with screens between the chairs to maintain COVID safety. She was then called over to a nurse, who administered the injection and after that to a heated marquee at the back of the building, where she was handed a timer and waited for 15 minutes (a precaution in case of adverse reaction). At every stage a member of staff sanitised her seat as she vacated it. Everything was running like clockwork and before long she was back in the car.

I’m so glad Mum has had the vaccine and will have some protection from the virus. An important day indeed!

Two Completed Before the New Year (and a Knitting Injury)

I finished off a couple of projects this week, one large, one small.

The large one has been going on for ages and came about because I wanted something big to use up some scraps of yarn from the stash. I have a really useful poncho/cape, made of a lightweight fleece material, so my original idea was to knit something the same shape, but with a big ribbed collar that could be either worn open or buttoned up to make a polo neck. For the main body part I wanted to use up yarn of different thicknesses so I used multiple strands, the equivalent of two strands of double knitting or one each of 3 ply and aran, worked in garter stitch on 5.5mm circular needles. I measured, calculated and drafted a pattern, but although I did a lot of knitting , it just wasn’t working and the whole thing would have been really heavy to wear. I pulled all but the collar out and had a rethink.

I decided to use the same collar and make a jacket in the same multiple strand garter stitch, so I took some measurements and redrafted a new pattern. It’s the first time I’ve designed a knitting pattern on this scale.

I finally got it all finished, sewn up and buttons on and I’m really happy with it. It’s really cosy and warm to wear and the fit is good as it was made to measure – I have a long body, narrow shoulders and short arms so I always have to adjust patterns and knit shorter sleeves, which is a pain if they include colour work or a textured pattern.

I particularly like the collar – knitted in 3ply yarn, it’s a lovely stretchy K2P2 rib and can be worn open or buttoned up.

I’d picked all the scraps of blue and grey yarn, and some white out of the stash and overlapped the colours as I worked with the two strands, to give a shaded effect. I quite like that I’ve used scraps left over from past projects – the collar is a 3 ply wool that I bought on holiday in Scotland and used to crochet a shawl. I can also spy the very first handspun yarn I made and some I bought on a very memorable trip to Iceland.

The “Scrappy Cardi” as I started to call it is going to be a useful addition to my winter wardrobe.

The other project I finished off this week was a pair of socks I’d cast on a few weeks back. It’s classic topdown construction with contrasting top edge, heel and toe. I can’t remember where the variegated sock yarn came from but I love the colours.

I was quite glad to get these off the needles because they were responsible for a minor but gruesome injury I sustained the other week. I dropped a stitch and got out a very fine crochet hook to pick it up – the kind you use for crocheting lace: more like a hooked needle. I must have put it down on the arm of my chair and it rolled on to the seat. I got up to do something and when I returned and sat down, the hook stuck straight in the back of my thigh! Fortunately Daughter came to the rescue and carefully removed it (not easy with that hook). Antiseptic spray was applied and it all healed up fine. You never really consider knitting to be dangerous but I suppose I was suffering for my art!

New Year Resolutions: Looking Back and Looking Forward

The turn of the year is an opportunity to review those resolutions from a year ago and make new ones. Who could have predicted what 2020 would become?

At the beginning of the year my blog was only a couple of months old. I was creating content every day and that was mostly knitting related. I’d started it as part of my plan to learn a new skill every year. I set some knitting and crafting New Year resolutions last January

  1. Make a Santa hat. I completed this last January, though I had fewer occasions to use it with no choir or ukelele gigs this Christmas. I never knitted a Bah Humbug version for K (who I described at the time as my personal Grinch). Maybe this year?

2. Knit a Christmas Jumper. I cast this on in April when the Pandemic had taken hold and it became my lockdown project. I bought the yarn online and remember quarantining the parcel for 72 hours before I opened it. I stopped knitting altogether at times but finally completed it in late August. I’ve loved wearing it this Christmas.

3. Keep on stash-busting. I had set out to use scraps of blue and grey yarn to make a cape/poncho but it didn’t workout. I pulled it out and redesigned it as a jacket which I finally finished a couple of days ago! This has made a smaller impression on the blue and grey parts of the stash than I’d hoped. I need to think about a project that will use another part of the stash.

The other craft materials I’ve accumulated got used too. Quilting fabric was made into masks and I used seaglass to make mosaic coasters and Christmas baubles. I made pheasant feather baubles too, and driftwood candle-shades, wax melts….

I still have piles of material in the craft room, so the stash-busting is ongoing.

4. Finish as many UFOs (Unfinished Objects) as I can . I completed a piece of tapestry during lockdown, which suited my state of mind at the time. Now it’s finished I’m not sure what to do with it as I don’t like it enough to frame or make into a cushion. I also finished a cobwebby scarf, a needlefelted unicorn from a kit among other things. There are still more projects to finish but I’m getting there.

5. Tidy up the craft room. This is ongoing and very much linked to 3 and 4 but at least I don’t have to share it with Son’s drum kit, which has been sold. he’s more of a guitarist these days.

6. Get out more – with my knitting. I had resolved to spend more time sitting in a car with a nice view while K walked the dog, but as lockdown began and there were no essential journeys allowed, driving to the beach stopped – later it was hard to get anywhere near as more and more tourists arrived in the area. I did get out more on my scooter for local dog walks and that reconnected me with nature, particularly wildflowers, and I started regular Wildflower of the Week posts on the blog. As Summer turned into Autumn the blackberries and sloes ripened and I got into preserving and making fruit gin liqueurs.

7. Improve my photography. I began using lenses that clip on to my mobile phone, including a macro lens for close ups of flowers. I also use tripods and remote shutter controls so my pictures are sharper. Still lots of room for improvement though!

8. Learn brioche. This was achieved when I made hand warmers, both 2 and one-coloured versions. I love the soft squishy feel of brioche stitch.

Of course I did other stuff this year. I have learnt a new skill : spinning yarn since I got an e-spinner for my birthday – with more equipment for Christmas I think this will take up a lot of crafting time in 2021, especially with all the gorgeous alpaca fibre I’ve been given.

So here’s my list of crafty intentions for 2021 – they deliberately include more of the same ongoing items, and some new ones.

  1. Make a Bah Humbug hat for K (like a Santa hat but in black).
  2. Continue stash-busting, including another big project, to be decided.
  3. Finish more unfinished projects
  4. Continue to sort and tidy the craft room
  5. Continue spinning, including a jumper for myself
  6. Get out more to knit if and when I can
  7. Keep improving the photography
  8. Learn how to dye yarn and fibre (this could be my new skill for 2021)
  9. Use natural fibres and upcycle/resuse/recycle wherever possible

I think that’s enough to be going on with!

Finally, a very Happy New Year to everyone who reads this. We got through 2020 and what it threw at us so we are well equipped to deal with anything this year sends our way. I remain hopeful that things will improve with the rapid rollout of vaccines. Here’s to a safer, calmer 2021.

Have you made any New Year resolutions?

From Ukraine with Love: My New Drum Carder

Having spent hours hand carding alpaca fibre over the last few weeks I’d been dreaming of owning a drum carder, but it did seem to be something of an extravagance until one of my fellow Knit and Natterers told me about hers. She found it on Etsy and it came from Russia. It was much cheaper than the well known makes and works really well. I looked online and found the seller. Sure enough, full size manual drum carders were available for under £200 plus post and packing and the reviews were excellent, so I took the plunge and ordered one. The only negative stated on the reviews appeared to be delivery time, but I was in no particular hurry. I was delighted when just 16 days later, on Christmas Eve, a large package arrived from Ukraine (not quite Russia). Today I finally unboxed my new drum carder and used it for the first time.

It was certainly well packaged, but after removing plastic, brown paper and two cardboard cartons the drum carder was finally revealed.

It came with a hand card (to clean the drums?) and a doffer (a long spike used to remove the batt of fibre from the drum) – I do love that there is a whole new vocabulary attached to spinning and fibre preparation.

All I needed to do to make the drum carder ready to use was fit the hand crank and the table clamps.

I couldn’t wait to get started so I grabbed some alpaca that I washed the other week, teased it out and gradually fed it in until the large drum was covered.

I used the doffer to remove the fibre and fed it through a second time.

This is the beautiful alpaca batt that resulted. I love my new toy!

Thank you Santa!

I was very lucky with my Christmas presents. There was a definite theme running through many of the gifts I received. Father Christmas obviously wishes to encourage me to continue with fibre and yarn-related hobbies!

This year’s new skill was spinning. I have made a point of learning something new every year, especially since I retired and this one has really got me hooked. I was given a load of accessories for preparing and spinning yarn. I’d asked for this Ikea Variera pot lid rack to use as a Lazy Kate to ply yarn spun on my Electric Eel Wheel Nano e-spinner – the bobbins fit the pins perfectly. For carding and blending I got a pair of Ashford hand cards. Then there is a cute sheep design niddynoddy and some lingerie bags for washing raw fleece.

I also got a yarn swift…

…and a ball winder.

In 2021 I plan to start dyeing fibre. This acid dye starter kit from DT Craft and design includes 12 different colours of dye, along with citric acid to fix the dye, protective gloves and a measuring spoon. There is also a very detailed instruction booklet.

I also got some books. I’m still trying to use up all my oddment of yarn and I got three books for exactly that, including one full of designs for knitted and crocheted flowers. The others are for the dyeing adventure to come: “Dyeing to Knit and Spin” by Felicia Lo and “Wild Colour” by Jenny Dean which is all about natural dyes.

I’m very lucky indeed and can’t wait to start using all this new kit.

Thank you Santa!

Christmas Greetings (and a Table Centrepiece)

Happy Christmas from Northumberland, where there was dusting of snow and it was a cold but sunny and bright Christmas Day. We had a lovely day that involved opening and delivering presents, a beach dog walk and five of us for a delicious roast goose dinner, expertly prepared by K. Daughter made a decadent dessert. Son, who recently passed his driving test, was his granny’s chauffeur for the day.

On Christmas Eve I made this flower arrangement for our table. For the base I used a glass cake stand. I cut a block of florist foam to fit a glass bowl, soaked it in water for 10 minutes then sliced it in two, cutting a channel in the centre to fit round the stem of a wine glass. I used blu-tak to secure a white pillar candle in the wineglass.

We used a trip out to glean some sprigs of ivy from the hedgerows, both pieces of the mature plant with flower clusters and young shoots with small triangular leaves. I also used rosemary from the large bush in the garden and some white roses from the supermarket.

I added larger pieces of foliage first, overhanging the edge of the bowl. I kept rotating the arrangement and checking what it looked like from a seated position so I could keep the shape and distribution of material even – a table centre has to look fairly consistent from all angles.

I then added the roses, trimming stems to fit and inserting more pieces of foliage to fill in any gaps

I also used dry sprigs of alder cones and wired pine cones, both sprayed white. I also found some pearlised and crystal beads from an old necklace and wired these to add a little bit of sparkle.

These were also pushed into the foam throughout the arrangement.

The final result!

I hope your Christmas Day was as good as it possibly could have been. This year many people have had to quickly scale down their celebrations and could not spend the holidays with their loved ones as COVID restrictions were tightened at the eleventh hour. I’m thankful that I could spend the day with my family.

Mindful Christmas Baking

The house smells of ginger and cinnamon. I just baked two dozen mince pies and a couple of trays of my Christmas cookies.

There is something special about pre-Christmas baking. It’s more than just preparing food, albeit seasonal favourites. It’s the only time of the year I really get to play with the fancy cutters and edible glitter.

I suppose there were other more pressing tasks that I was putting off, so you could say I was procrastiBAKING……..or even proCRAFTinating. I did need a bit of an escape from reality though.

Here in the UK, huge additional anti-COVID measures were implemented at short notice covering large parts of the South East. Previous Government plans to relax the rules over Christmas have been stopped for the whole country. Travel restrictions have been put in place. For many people this means that anticipated family get togethers are cancelled. I have friends who won’t be able to spend Christmas with their children this year as they can’t travel home. Thank goodness mine are close by and for now at least, infection rates are lower here in our part of Northumberland.

I felt the need to avoid the news and become absorbed in something creative to occupy all my senses for a couple of hours. With those Christmassy smells and tastes (because I did eat the leftover fragments of cookie dough); the feel of the dough in my hands; the ping of the oven timer and the sight of a batch of mince pies sizzling as they come out of the even, It’s one way to escape reality for a couple of hours, even if it’s only in the kitchen.

Stay safe everyone.