Thursday, 6 September 2012

Shock! Horror! And Spurtzleurs!

I am still here - I've been spinning, and knitting, and changing jobs on the good side, and sadly, we lost our beloved cat, Holly earlier this year on the bad.  We had 15 years with her, and, after she finally showed us she was ill, we had 5 more good months with her thanks to our wonderful vets, who I can't recommend enough.  So as well as being busy, I've been hit for 6.
In knitting, I've been taking part in a challenge to knit 7 pairs of socks in Posh Yarn this year - I'm on track, with 13 socks finished, and just the second sock from my "Sunday Socks" to knit.  I also managed to squeeze in an Owls sweater (finally - I've had the pattern for goodness knows how long).  It knitted up very quickly - but sewing on 38 "eyes" was a bit of a challenge!
Jon also had to take about 6 photos until I was happy with this one!  I had Very Firm Ideas about how I wanted the eyes to look - I wanted an amber translucent button so they looked like owl eyes - I had to hunt high and low, and drove myself potty - then found them on the Habadashery stall on Newcastle's Grainger Market - perfect, and a bargainous 3p each!  Now I need it to get a bit chillier so I can wear it!

Jon's been busy - he's taken up woodturning as a hobby, and is really enjoying it.  We both love wood - it's so warm, and every piece is unique.  He was inspired last year by a lovely lady we met at the North Pennines Wool Event, Monique, who hails from Yvetot in Normandy.  I was speaking to her about the area, which I love - the company I work for has a site near to Yvetot, so I have visited the area a lot, staying in Rouen and driving to work along the Seine each day - it makes the commute a nicer experience than tackling Newcastle's Quayside, I can tell you!  She had a stack of old mill bobbins with her, and was using them to spin yarn by drafting fibre, and doing what looked like a roly-poly with her hands.  When we watched closely, the bobbin was loose and turning in her hand, so the "pedalling" action was actually spinning the fibre around a fixed point - a similar concept to that of the Great Wheel - but actually portable!
Jon set to work with some wood, and his lathe, and started to turn out some beautiful sticks for spinning.  We demonstrated them at a couple of shows, and they went down well - but we were missing something.  A good name.  Stick Spinning just wasn't doing it for us - we wanted something a bit less generic.
At Woolfest, we got talking to some members of the Derbyshire Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild, who seemed very struck by stick spinning, and they said the sticks looked a bit like a spurtle (a porridge stirring stick, Scottish origin).  This got Jon thinking, as he thought spurtle is a lovely word.  To celebrate the Norman inspiration, he added "leur", and The Spurtzleur was born!
I love using mine - it's not fast - but I find I can use it for longwools and really control the twist so as not to overspin and make twine.  It's also a bit easier for travel spinning - I'm not in danger of dropping anything, there's no hook to get bent, and one fits in my smallest handbag - I can whip it out anywhere, and it's a proper conversation starter!
Jon has an explanation of how to use them on his website, and has them for sale in his shop.  You can see them in the flesh at the Tyne Riverside Country Park Rangers Station this Sunday from 1pm, or at the North Pennines Wool Event in St Johns Chapel in Weardale on September 28th.
That's probably enough for the moment - I don't want to get carried away now I'm back!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Falkland Chunky!

OH has dyed up some Falkland Chunky in his shop in 300g hanks that are perfect for the Monkey Puzzle Scarf.
I used 300g for the test knit, but had it in 100g hanks, which meant I had ends to join in and weave in as I went  - not my favourite pastime!
This yarn is so soft and squooshy, and would knit the Monkey Puzzle all in one, and you'll know that the colour will be true through the scarf (although OH dyes skeins together, there's normally some variation due to how he dyes semisolids and variegated yarns).  I've swiped a Scarlet Ibis, as I really fancy a soft, warm chunky scarf in a bright red to keep me warm this winter!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

We Love Our Supplier...

...who managed to find 8 cones of the Falkland Chunky I originally designed the Monkey Puzzle Scarf in. OH will be dyeing up 300g skeins, which is enough to knit the scarf, without having to join ends (or weave anything in other than cast on/cast off).
While OH is busy dyeing up the chunky (and preparing for a couple of shows we'll be attending - one near Edinburgh on 20th August, and one in Coldstream on 27th), he's having a sale to clear some space.
There's also some delicious local fibre listed. The Shetland and Shetland/Bowmont come from a farm just north of Alnwick, and the Manx is from a community grazing project - these sheep were in the country park where OH volunteers last summer, so we knew some of the sheep whose fibre he is selling! I've spindled the Manx, which was a delight, and have just started with the Moorit Shetland. The prep is sliver, which is a woolen prep, and is therefore good for soft and bouncy yarn.
In other news, I've started with this year's Guild Challenge - so my next post will include buckets, onion bags, and a human spin dryer!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Fresh Designs: Scarves - Monkey Puzzle Scarf

I’m proper published and all now.

Fresh Designs: Scarves went live late last night UK time, and is available as an e-book via There are ten designs in the book, many of which I really want to knit myself, and my Monkey Puzzle Scarf is in there as well.

The inspiration for the scarf is exactly as it says in the title – the Monkey Puzzle tree with its parallel arrangement of thickly covered branches. I wanted to design a scarf that would be a quick knit, even for someone relatively new to knitting, which would be warm and snuggly, and which would keep out the winter chills. So it’s very basic. If you can cast on, cast off, knit, purl and count, you can knit this scarf. It uses stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch to create the texture. I’m also around to answer any questions you may have.

The book is currently only available via Ravelry, but will be available via the Co-operative Press website very soon. Both print and ebook versions will be available.

Another factor for me was that I wanted to showcase some of Jon’s beautiful yarn and for a quick and snuggly knit, the Falkland Chunky he was dyeing at the time I was working on this design (about a year ago) was perfect. Soft. Good stitch definition. Takes dye like a dream. Chunky, therefore quick to get results with. And here’s the hiccup. The base yarn he was using was discontinued, and trying to find a supply of a similar chunky has proven problematical. We thought we’d cracked it when our main supplier stocked up for winter last year with some Shetland Chunky (mmmmmm) – but sadly, he lost most of his stock in a fire before we could order. Thankfully, nobody was hurt in the fire, and he was insured, as not only are his yarns and fibres of the absolute best quality, but he is also one of the nicest people that you could ever hope to meet. Sadly, though, the chunky was not replaced at that time. On the brighter side, Jon has some beautiful Romney fleeces that he is going to get spun to the same specifications (fingers crossed, as the new machine to do this isn’t at the mill yet), and we are hearing rumours of a chunky British BFL yarn that will be available to us in the Autumn. Jon’s also doing his level best to find alternative, suitable, and economically viable chunky yarn (easier said than done, as “chunky” is a spec that covers anything heavier than aran weight, and there are massive discrepancies in the grist, thickness and characteristics of this size of yarn).

So bear with us!

Finally, I must say a massive THANK YOU to some wonderful people. To Shannon Okey, founder of Co-operative Press and the brains and elbow grease behind this whole operation. Shannon has been fantastic to work with – from the very clear call for submission, right the way through to the message that the book was launched last night. To Abra Foreman, who interned with Shannon over Summer 2010, and put up with strange questions, organised the submissions and was a lovely person to boot. To the wonderful Jon of Natural Born Dyers who not only provided me with the fabulous yarn, but who is also the love of my life, and who has shared all the good and bad (including me bouncing up the stairs at bedtime last night saying “it’s been PUBLISHED!!!!!”). To the other designers – it needed ten of us to make the book – and I will be knitting many of their scarves as well. And to anyone who has defied boredom and self-promotion and gushing and general me-ness to survive this long and thinks “I might just have a look at this book”. Especially if you also buy it and knit some of the patterns.

The photographs in this post are copyright Fractured Photography, and are used by kind permission of Cooperative Press.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


I'm starting to get excited. I mentioned a while ago I have a pattern in a book being published by Co-operative Press, Fresh Designs - Scarves - and a couple of nights ago, I looked over the final edit of my pattern and the photos for it.
If that's not enough, Shannon's posted a picture of the covers today (apologies to those without a Ravelry account - I'll link to another picture as soon as one's available).
So it's real, and I'm getting VERY bouncy!
I don't know the publication date as yet, but Shannon assures us we're nearly there now!

Monday, 11 July 2011

New Pattern - Bassenthwaite Shawlette

Bassenthwaite is the only Lake in the English Lake District – all the other bodies of water commonly referred to as lakes, such as Coniston and Windermere are meres or waters! We love the Lake District, and have holidayed a few times on the shores of Derwentwater, always making the short trip north to Bassenthwaite to walk in the woods, or try to spy the Lake District Ospreys.
This shawlette is knitted from side to side on the Baktus principle – so you knit the first half until you are approaching the half way point of your yarn, then you start to knit the second half – the idea being that as long as you start decreasing before the halfway point in your yarn, you won’t be racing the yarn down to the last half inch to finish!
The shawl is knit with a garter stitch body, with a scalloped lace edging that has been taken from
Barbara Walker’s “A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns”. It is relatively “easy” lace, requiring only a knowledge of knit, purl, yarn over and knit two together to complete the lace pattern. Knit into the front and back of the same stitch and slip, slip, knit are needed for the body increases and decreases respectively.
The pattern is available via Ravelry if you want to take a further look, we will have it with us at Coldstream's Wool Festival on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Monday, 16 May 2011

I am very proud of someone...

OH and I reached an incredible number of years together over this weekend. We celebrated up in the Scottish Highlands.
Now I'm home, though, I can show you just one of the reasons I love him so much, and why I'm so proud of him.
He's going to be at Woolfest this year - and a very special announcement has been made.