Welcome to my blog. I live, knit and craft near the Northumbrian Coast (but not too near – the waves won't be splashing my knitting!).There's a story in every stitch, every grain of sand, every blade of grass. I thought I'd blog about it…
Some friends of ours have a new baby boy so I knitted this hat from my handspun alpaca. The pattern is the Maine Baby Hat – available free on Ravelry. I’ve made it before, but not this version, which has a central knotted pigtail
After the decreases, when there are just a few stitches left, these are knitted into an i-cord. It’s the first time I’ve used this technique and it’s quite easy to do. The i-cord is cast off when it reaches 4 inches long, then you tie a knot in it.
The alpaca yarn makes it lovely and soft and warm.
Do you have a go to pattern that you knit when there’s a new baby among family or friends?
Having seen the cable bobble hat I made with my handspun alpaca last week, daughter asked if I’d make her a headband – she’d seen some similar to this, so we had a look at some patterns and she picked out a few – this one is the Twisting Taffy headband from Drops Yarn (a huge selection of Drops Patterns are available free on their website). She wanted it in natural white undyed alpaca, so I spun a bit more and got started.
The pattern said to use circular needles back and forth, but that always seems a bit pointless to me so I used straight ones. The pattern is not a true cable, but it was fun to do and the pattern repeat is only 4 rows so you don’t lose your place.
The hardest part was the twist, halfway along the strip. – You put half the stitches on a cable needle, knit the rest in pattern, then knit rest off the cable needle. As there are a lot of stitches this is extremely tight so if took me a few attempts (knitting this part more loosely). Once that’s done you just carry on with the second half of the strip, cast off and sew the two ends together.!
Daughter loves it – she wore it for a walk on a very cold day over the weekend and she says it really keeps her ears warm!
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.
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!
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!
I finished off a couple of projects this week which is always satisfying.
I crocheted this horse – a commission from a friend who will be giving it as a Christmas gift to a horse owner.
He’s a sort of caricature of her actual horse and I’ve replicated the colour and markings. His eyes are glass beads and the details are needle-felted. He’s wearing horseshoes embroidered in metallic thread.
I’ve made several of these over the last few years. One of the hardest things is finding the right colour yarn. I’ve modified the design from a pattern I found online and have refined it a bit more every time I’ve done it.
The second item I completed was a pair of brioche hand warmers for K. They will be part of his Christmas present. He’d requested some similar to some I made for myself a while back, but he wanted them in a much more neutral colour than the bright pink and grey stripes I used last time. He intends to use these for fishing – hopefully his hands will stay warm and his fingers will stay unencumbered for tying on lures and so on. I used this from my stash. It’s lost its band but I think it’s Stylecraft Special DK 100% acrylic. Most importantly it’s machine washable as, depending of how successful the fishing is, could potentially end up slimy, wet and stinking of fish after every wearing!
With a knitted project done I had nothing cast on so I’ve started some socks for myself – the pattern was given to me by a friend at one of my knit and natter groups – I’m using the version with the contrasting welt, heel and toe and using more yarn from the stash – I have a feeling both may be from Flying Tiger. I’ve bought all sorts of crafty things from the Newcastle store in recent years but I hear that this branch has now closed – I’m quite sad about that.
I’ve also been prepping and spinning alpaca fibre. I spun some I prepped a while back. The three larger skeins are 2ply, each about 100 yards. The smaller skeins (the white is more alpaca and the blue is merino) are my first attempt at chain plying, using some singles left over on bobbins after plying. I felt that this got better as I went along, but I must remember not to overtwist next time.
I washed a batch of the alpaca fibre I skirted last week and hand carded it. I’m improvising with pet grooming brushes until I get proper carders (I have it on good authority that Santa Claus is bringing me some…if I’m good). I’ve braided the roving as I intend to dye it eventually. It does look rather messier than the braids of fibre that you buy, but in it’s current undyed state I thought it resembled the hair of Elsa from Frozen. I promise not to put it over my shoulder and start singing Let it Go!
A while ago I was given a huge bag of raw alpaca fleece. So far I’d only processed a very small amount of it, which I spun and knitted to make baby socks and hat as a gift. Today I did the first stage of processing the rest. This is known as skirting. The fleece (known as a blanket when it comes to alpacas) is spread out on a mesh table and agitated to remove dust. Any stained fibre and pieces of vegetable matter (hay, pieces of grass, seeds etc) are removed as well as very short second cuts, (where the shearer has gone over a second time), which are too short to spin. The fibres are then sorted into the various grades, from the finest longest fibres on the animal’s back through to the shorter pieces on the neck and sides – well that’s what the professionals do. I can’t say I did such a thorough job!
I think the alpacas like to have a good roll about because the fibre is very dusty – everywhere in the conservatory where I do all my crafting was covered just from processing a tiny amount. Lesson learnt, I needed to sort through the rest outside! K has made me this little skirting table. It’s basically a wooden frame with chicken wire stretched over it – he’s added tape and some pipe insulation to stop the edges of the wire catching. This just rests on a couple of garden chairs.
It’s not quite big enough to spread a whole blanket out but it’s perfect for my purposes.
I’d been waiting for a sunny dry day without much wind. Alpaca is light as a feather and if I’d tried doing this in the gales we’ve had recently most of it would have ended up in the next county! As I tipped the fibre out on to the skirting table there were clouds of dust. I kept agitating the blanket to release as much of the dust as possible.
I picked out the larger pieces of vegetation – there wasn’t a great deal of it and some of the tinier fragments will come out of the fleece during the later stages of processing. You can see a couple of small pieces of leaf towards the bottom of the next photo.
I separated out the best long fibres, which are around 5 inches long, from the rest This is mostly around 2-3 inches long so still perfectly good to spin. Now most of the dust is out I can sort this more fully indoors and not need to rely on the weather. You can see the layer of dust left where I ran my finger across the green tape.
I’ve now got all the fibre in labelled plastic bags.
Buddy took great interest in what I was doing.
As you can see there was quite a lot of spillage, mostly the very short second cuts. He did offer to sweep the patio though!
I’ve been promised more fibre from Aero and Wispa, our friends’ alpacas (how lucky am I?). I think I’ll definitely wait until the Spring for my next skirting session. By then the birds visiting our garden during the nesting season could really make use of the bits of fibre that I drop!
I’ve been skirting, washing, carding and spinning some of the gorgeous alpaca fibre that was given to me recently. When I took up spinning (I got an Electric Eel Wheel Nano e-spinner for my birthday) I thought it would be wonderful to be able to make something beginning with the raw fleece and taking it right through to the finished garment. With enough yarn spun and a dear friend’s new baby granddaughter to knit for. This was the perfect opportunity.
I started with the socks (Perfect Baby Socks by Hey Sister Yarn Co) The pattern gives a choice of designs, cable or rib: I chose the rib one. Knitted on DPNs I have to say these were fiddly to do and with all the complexities of turned heels and Kitchener stitch toe grafts, they probably took almost as long as adult socks to make, so I probably wouldn’t use this pattern again, but they do look so amazingly cute and feel so soft.
The hat was much simpler to make – the Maine Baby Hat, also from Ravelry. This is such a useful pattern. It gives the cast on stitch numbers for three sizes and several different yarn weights. My handspun alpaca is probably on average somewhere between DK and 4ply so I was able to find the right one. Then it was pretty straightforward to knit up on circular needles with a K1P1 ribbed band and the rest in stocking stitch, only moving on to DPNs for the last of the decreases.
I’ve also learnt a new cast on – the sock pattern recommended the German Twisted cast on to give a nice stretchy edge. I watched a couple of YouTube videos and soon got the hang of it. It really is very stretchy so I’ll be using this on all socks (or anything else that needs a stretchy edge) from now on.
My spinning still lacks consistency in that the thickness of the yarn is rather variable and this certainly shows up in the stocking stitch, Even after a very light press!
The socks and hat feel so soft and warm though – so the baby will be very snug and cosy in them. Daughter was delivering them today. Baby’s mum is a close friend of hers. I hope she likes them!