Monday, 31 August 2009

Grande Final giveaway!

Well, we have arrived at the last week of the giveaways and this week is going to be slightly different - a grande giveaway:-) ie, lots of prizes for you to win! So many of you have entered my competitions and have given such thoughtful answers, thank you, and I feel bad that only a few can win, so this week I am giving away 5 prizes so there is a much better chance of everyone winning something!!

But more on that in a minute. First, let's announce the winners from last weeks competition, picked totally at random by John from the textile blog:

The winner of the Aquamarine semi solid yarn is..... Kate!
And the winner of the Deep Orchid is..... Purple-power!

Well done to you both and if you could contact me at with your contact details, I will get the yarns off to you in the post as soon as possible.


So, this weeks competition is going to run a bit differently. Instead of everything being listed today, the 5 prizes will be listed one a day from this monday to friday so you can leave a comment on all or just the ones you want to enter. If you want to enter all, please leave a comment on all. As this will mean a lot more comments, I have kept the question simple for this week. All you need to say is what you think each particular yarn would look nice knitted up as - or woven, crocheted, etc, - and maybe a link to a pattern? That's all.

'Peacock Blue'

And today's yarn is called 'Peacock Blue' - 100gms of fingering supersock yarn 75% merino, 25% nylon. This is a rich mix of deeper blues and greens that will knit up in a much softer variegated yarn. With the tones being so similar, there will be less tonal contrast of lights and darks with this yarn but the colours will blend nicely, drifting from blues to greens and back again.

This would be lovely as a rich wrap or shawl, like Ysolda's new Damson shawl or the Feather Duster shawl by Susan Lawrence - who designed the forest canopy shawl I'm still knitting:-) My personal favourite is the Peacock shawl designed by Jae Koscierzynski - just lovely but requires an awful lot of yarn to make and I imagine you would need a lot of free time too! Gorgeous though and well worth it! It's on my to-do list - sometime!!

I've also been meaning to try the lovely glove patterns by Julia Mueller such as Gordian, Entangled stitches, and Glows. Somehow a deeper, richer colour for Autumn seems more appropriate as the weather changes.

'Gordian' by Julia Mueller

Although I just love the red, I can imagine these in a lovely petrol or peacock blue too - all that complexity of the cables - mmm! Yes, another one for my to-do list! You can see the subtle tones in the reds so a semi-solid or subtle variegated would work well for this. Maybe the peacock would be a little too strong in variation but maybe not. It all comes down to personal taste:-)

All this weeks competitions finish on sunday night - 6th September - and I will draw all the final winners first thing monday morning. You can enter all or as many as you like, remember, so good luck to everyone!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Quilting finds

We managed to go car booting this weekend as the rain decided to give us one day off:-) And I'm glad I went. Of course, I was looking for something entirely different - which I didn't find - but I did find a bag of quilting things. I was looking through them thinking which ones I could afford when the woman said I could have the lot for £1.50. Wow! Most car booters now really charge a lot so I was feeling rather lucky walking away with my bag of quilting goodies!

So on closer inspection, heres my haul:-) First off, there were three books; one with projects for log cabin which are a bit, ahem, naff, but the technique info is good. The second is another general projects book but the how-to information is good as well. The third is a quilting pattern resource, full of patterns for quilting the top once you've finished or if you are just quilting a plain top. They're all big enough to scan in and print out to use so that's ideal.

Another find, and the main reason why I picked up the bag of quilting goodies, is this grid for quilting to get your angles. I've always fancied one but never got around to getting one of my own and I'm sure they cost quite a bit more than the total of my whole bundle. Also there are some paper templates for making a Dresden plate quilt. I didn't know the name of this until I was looking at Sonnetofthemoon's blog recently where she found some wonderful examples of Dresden plates - I did at first think she was talking of actual ceramic plates, in my ignorance;-)))

Also, tucked away at the bottom of the bag, there was a sample of a dresden plate circle with some old notes from some quilting lessons. Apparently you can have them with pointed or rounded ends. I learn something every day!

I think I'm showing great restraint in not running headlong into making one of these dresden plate quilts:-) But, I might start to collect some fabrics with this specifically in mind..... or maybe dye some? Or maybe I should just finish the quilt I am making first before starting another large project!!

Spinning Jelly

Well, That took a bit of time! I thought I'd just start spinning a little of the jelly fibre to get into practice and see how it was spinning up. Hours and hours later...... still spinning. The toilet roll idea didn't work as I'd made the slivers so fragile, they kept snapping as they tried to unravel. The easiest method was to actually unwind the ball in a pool on the floor so it could run freely as I spun. Well, whatever works!

This was very theraputic while waiting for plumbers and insurance people to deal with our sewage leak. I could just close the door, put on a talking book and - spin. No distractions and hours would be gone when I looked up again. And, lots of spun yarn on the bobbin! My original intention was to split the balls into two piles, spin up two bobbins worth and then ply both threads together into one yummy yarn. That is why I split the roving so fine so I could have two laceweight yarns ply into something around fingering weight.

Of course, after taking hours to get one bobbin done, I changed my mind and decided to ply with some shiny embroidery thread I got on Ebay a while back. It feels rayon-like and is quite slippy but has a gorgeous shine which catches the light.

Hours later..... I have a plied skein of yarn! The embroidery thread seems a little light in places but was the closest I could get for now. A variegated quilting thread would be interesting to use - note to self. But I still have the other half of the jelly roving to spin so maybe I can try something different for that half. The first skein weighs about 75gms and is closer to a laceweight yarn in thickness - or should I say, thinness:-) I think with the shine factor, this could knit up well as a fancy lace shawl. I haven't knitted up a shawl in laceweight yet so I don't know if 75gms will be enough. If not, I may have to spin the rest up the same for a bigger shawl. Anyone know if I have spun enough?

I'm having a little break from spinning before I start the rest of the Jelly roving as it's very time consuming and exhausting concentrating for that length of time solely on one thing. Saying that, knitting complex lace shawl patterns does have the same effect!! I find I get engrossed in following the pattern and the wider the shawl gets, the more time passes and before I know it, it's time for bed! Hence a very late/early blog post today:-)

Tomorrow, a little dyeing and maybe some more knitting but right now, I'm off to sleep, g'night...... zzzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Jelly Jelly

I've been spending a lot of time these last few days with fibres - specifially my new fibre from Fibreoptics called Jelly Jelly. When I saw this, it just cried out to be mine:-) The colours are just so rich and deep - and very fuchsia pink:-) I always have a hard time choosing just one roving in her etsy shop and of course, just after I found this one and bought it, I spied another scrumptious one! I have to stay away unless I am serious about buying fibres!!!

Being a strong pink, I had a hard time trying to capture the true colour. The top pic is the closest as the sun has lightened my pic of the roving coiled. This came as a thinner sliver of roving. I didn't realise when I bought it but that doesn't matter too much to me. The only difference is that being thinner, the same weight of fibre makes the length of roving so much longer!!!! So splitting this into thinner strips has been much more time consuming than normal. The strips just go on and on.......

In theory I wanted to split this 16 times. Once quartered, each quartered ball should be split into four for the thickness I want. In theory. In fact, the first two balls went a bit pear shaped and split into one thin and one thick so I could only get three instead of four splits altogether. But, the last two were fine. I like to think this means I'm getting the knack!! If you count the balls, there are more than 16 - I know. I don't quite know how I managed that either:-) I think I tried to split one even thinner and got left with a few half balls but I'll use them first to practice so nothing wasted!

Anyway, a bit at a time, the roving is now split, ready to spin. I have to draft it slightly to ensure each ball is of even thickness - which I already know is NOT the case with some of them! I'm thinking that I should wind them around something before spinning as the balls may not unwind evenly or more probably will grip the fibres and make them snap continually now the slivers are so thin. A few toilet rolls should do the trick:-)) And yes, I am sad enough to have been collecting them for just this emergency!! Tip courtesy of Yarn Harlot:-)

So between dyeing and knitting, some fibre may be spun this week .......

Monday, 24 August 2009

Giveaway number 4!

Well, we're on to the fourth giveaway already out of five! This month is going by faster than I'd like and I'm enjoying myself dyeing yarn for the next weeks prize! Thank you everyone for entering so far. I have really enjoyed reading all your answers and hearing about the places that are special to you. I must admit wanting to visit the grand canyon now for the spectacular scenery and that 'take your breath away' feeling!

So without delay, I will announce the winners of the variegated yarns from last week:

First up was the lavendar Blue and the winner drawn totally at random is Rachel O! Which is totally weird given you were convinced you would win this, Rachel!!

And the winner of the Deep Fushia, again drawn completely at random, is Sylvia!

Well done to you both and if you could contact me at and send me some contact details I will endeavour to get these yarns off to you as soon as possible.


For today's giveaway, I have some semi-solid yarns for you. These have just enough subtle differenciation in the tones to give the colour a lift but also won't take away from a detailed lace or cable pattern. Cookie A's sock patterns would look very nice in either colour. A definite statement:-) Or a delicate lace shawl like Ysolda's Ishbel would look lovely too - more subtle and intricate. The yarn is fingering/4ply supersock yarn - 75% merino wool & 25% Nylon - for better wear and less felting when washed!

Deep Orchid

So todays competition question - Whose work inspires you the most or has been the greatest influence on you? Is it a well known artist or designer, or maybe your mum or family members making away when you were small? There are so many people's work I admire, and I find inspiration from a lot of different types of work like quilting, fine art, collage and knit that its hard to narrow it down to a few or just one. So I'll be trying to think of an answer to this one as well this week!

Again, the competition closes this sunday, 30th August and you can enter for both yarns:-) As the next monday is just inside august, we will also have a final grand giveaway starting on the 31st and finishing on the 6th Sept. I'm thinking a few more prizes than normal to be won......

Good luck to all and I look forward to hearing about your source of inspiration! If you have a link to a picture or website for visuals, that would be wonderful. (I know the comments don't let you add a hyperlink but we can always cut and paste;-)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Kaleidoscope Quilts

I just had to mention this quilting exhibition that is on at the moment running from April 21–September 13, 2009 at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. This truly amazing kaleidoscopic quilt is one of a series of gorgeous art quilts by Paula Nadelstern.

I love the complexity of her designs and how she balances her fabrics to give such a stunning composition. These are very large pieces and must have taken a long time to make - a true labour of love! Just look at the detail! And all the minute piecing required! I'm just thinking of my large but simply designed quilt still sitting unfinished and it totally shrinks into insignificance:-) And although my quilting track record is, ahem, poor, I still feel the urge to get all my fabric out and start designing something hideously complex, right now! The urge is strong!

There is a more detailed post on her work over at the Textile blog where you can view some videos of the artist discussing her work at the actual exhibition. Its rare to get an insight into the artists thought processes and ideas so I'm looking forward to getting some quiet time so I can enjoy and absorb the full quilting atmosphere.

The museum also has a link to their online gallery catalogue which has a detailed biography on Paula Nadelstern's work which you can download as a PDF as well as viewing images of the quilts in situ in the gallery. Links are at the bottom of the Paula Nadelstern page.

Enjoy the kaleidoscopic quilting experience!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Horizontal stripes sock blank

Been trying out some more dyeing using the sock blanks. This time, I've painted some horizontal stripes rather than vertical ones to compare the difference. It's meant to give a more broken colour effect as each colour stripe is only about an inch/2.5cm wide. It would be cool if this knitted stripes going 'up' instead of around:-)

I tried to keep all the colours in the same family of warm tones with some plummy purple as a contrast. It dried a bit lighter than I expected but I still like the tones so its all good.

So what to make with this one? If this yarn is a bit more subtle than the other 'stripeys' then this should work well with a more complex sock pattern. Maybe some more cables or even a lace pattern? I still have my Cookie A book of lovely sock designs to work through so maybe I should take on a new technique and learn to knit socks from the top down:-) I know its not hard, I think I'm just used to short row heels and prefer the magic cast on to grafting the toes at the end. But that might have something to do with my bumpy intro to kitchener stitch:-) Even though I've got the hang of it now.

I do think the subtle colours would make a lovely lace shawl too. Maybe I'll knit a full 100gms sock blank with only one thread and dye shawl yarn with wider stripes and subtlties that way. I love variegated yarns but I really don't like how they can kill a delicate lace shawl pattern turning it into a fight between colour v's pattern with neither winning - or commonly known as a right dogs dinner:-) I can see more shawl yarn experiments on the horizon......

I thought I'd show you how the yarn rips back - crinkly! A good soak and dried under tension really does the trick but you do need quite a lot of weight for maximum de-crinkle. I used a hammer to weigh the ends of the two skeins down - hey, I was improvising ;-) and it worked a treat. I did check up about steaming and apparently you can steam the kinks out of the skein using a steam iron but don't let the iron touch the yarn. Haven't tried it yet as the other method works fine and I can go away and get some knitting done while its drying!

So, two de-crinkled skeins all ready to knit into matching socks. Now, just need to find a pattern.....

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Just me in my garden.

I do find spending time in the garden restful and a great source of colour inspiration. The Asiatic lilies have come out wonderfully this year and you can smell their fragrance wafting across the garden. I love the smell - but outside. I once had a huge vase of them in a small bedroom and woke up find my eyes had totally swollen up as a reaction to the pollen. So I plant them in the garden where I can still appreciate the beauty and smell without the side effects!

I know they are big and blowsy flowers but I think they are lovely and bold - and exotic. Looking about my garden, I find I have a bit of a mixture, cottage garden plants like lady's mantle and daisies - big and in your face daisies;-) but also blowsy Dalias in scarlet, magenta and orange and gladioli in purples, reds and lilacs. Still waiting on some to show.

I love big daisies. It reminds me of Meg Ryan in the film 'you've got mail'. She said that daisies were such a friendly flower. Yes, they look happy and open - and they are loving all the rain we are having for our British summer but the rain is beautiful too....

I love the tiny little beaded raindrops on the lady's mantle leaves - like raindrops on cobwebs.

We also have this tree that is in flower right now with the most gorgeous scent - nearly like Jasmine. I can't remember what it is called but its from New Zealand and the bees just love it! When you pass, there is a distinct noisy humming of industious bees. The small flowers eventually fall off and carpet the ground in white. It is so thick at the moment, it looks like snow!

Subtlty, delicacy and in your face Dahlias:-) This is a much stronger red in real life - deeper in tone with a rich, velvet quality. I'll try and capture it properly again before it goes.

So when the weather is reasonably fair, I can contemplate the colours with the relaxing drone of the bees and the joyous cries of the soaring hawks overhead. Just me in my garden.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Monday giveaway!

Today is monday again so I have some winners to announce and some new prizes to be won!

Okay, the winner of the green stripey yarn is..... Elaine! (not me!) And the winner of the firestarter socks is Ann G. If you could both drop me an e-mail with your name and address to, I will get your prizes off as soon as possible for you.

Well done and thank you for all the very interesting comments to my question! I particularly liked the idea of having a bag packed by the door just in case:-) But I don't think I have a big enough bag!

Anyway on to today's competition....

Lavender Blue

Today we have two skeins of sock yarns for you. The first is Lavender Blue. It's a softer mix of cornflower blues and pale lavender purples with a touch of sea green. The colour drifts subtly into the next but there is enough contrast to give a variegated knit. I should mention all my yarn is superwash sock yarn - 75%wool and 25% nylon. The nylon stops the wool from felting which is just perfect for socks.

The next yarn is Deep Fuchsia. I think I must have been subconsciously inspired by the large fuchsia plant in the garden as the colours are very close!

This yarn is a rich mix of strong fuchsia pinks and purples. The colours blend smoothly into each other and this will knit up as a highly contrasting variegated knit.

Please feel free to enter for both:-) or specify which you would like to be entered for. The contest ends this sunday evening (23rd Aug) and the winners will be drawn monday morning at random. So, my question for today is....

Where do you love most in all the world? Somewhere you went on holiday? Somewhere you would love to pack up and move to right now if you could? Home is where the heart is:-) but if your partner and family came with you, is there somewhere out there that would have a special meaning for you?

Good luck everyone and I look forward to reading your comments. Apologies to those who had trouble posting a comment over the weekend - problem all sorted now. Thank you Elaine for alerting me to the problem and thank you Gill for your kind comment on my sock blank post. Unfortunately the hiccup wiped both your comment and my reply! Well, at least its all working again in time for today's giveaway!!

Good luck!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Knitting the sock blank

So my sock blank is dry and I have decided to unravel it into two matching balls before I start knitting. I made two large heaps of crinkly yarn and then wound them on the ball winder making sure I started with the same end:-) It would defeat the purpose if I got it wrong now! (although I have seen a deliberately opposite pair that worked very well too - just a thought for another time).

I know I could probably start knitting straight away but the yarn looks so crinkly. I read that it evens itself out once you block your sock but I think I prefer to wet it and stretch the kinks out first. I tensioned the skein when it was drying to get the yarn straight again. I think you can use steaming as well but I've never tried that.

So now I have two straightened balls of yarn ready to knit. Plain stocking stitch is a bit boring even with coloured stripes and I want to try something else than a rib pattern. So I'm going to incorporate the cabling that I used in firestarter - without the gusset detail. I know I've only knitted that style once but it makes the heel seem interminable! So I'm going to revert back to a short row heel for this one. I'll have to do a bit of manoeuvering with the cabling but I'm sure I'll find a solution:-)

So, the sock so far.... The cabling pattern is working well, good definition working with the colours and I like the way there is some of the subtle colour gradations within the greens and the purples as well as the blending into the next colour. The colours are making bigger bands than I expected but I can bear that in mind for the next one.

Next stop, the heel. Only a few more inches for me to think of a way to keep the cable pattern and have enough stitches to have a wide enough heel. Yes, I know! I really should have thought about that before I started but hey, I was being impulsive:-)

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Dyeing sock blanks

Everywhere I go recently I've been hearing about sock blanks. 'What's a sock blank?' I thought. Is this something I should or want to know about? After a little bit of research, I've found out it's a long knitted length of sock yarn, knitted with two strands at once. This 'blank' is then hand painted/dyed in whatever pattern or colours you like and once you have fixed the dye and left it to dry, you can knit up two identical socks when you unravel the blank - clever, huh?

The intention is you can knit both socks at once if you want using this method but I've not tried that technique as yet so I can either knit one sock and wind the second thread into a ball as I go, or I could unravel the whole lot and wind into balls ready for my two identical socks.

So, I've got the gist of sock blanks. First thing to do is knit myself a blank. Out comes the knitting machine. The looser the knit, the easier it will be for the dye to get into all the stitches and not leave any white bits, so I selected every alternate needle on the loosest gauge and knitted two 50gm balls of sock yarn together for as long as it lasted. I cast off with a chain stitch so it will unravel easily after dyeing. I guessed as to the right proportions of height and width here - I'm not sure how this compares to shop bought ones. I could change the width to get different effects too but for now I'll stick with this size and see how I get on.

Understanding the theory and applying that knowledge are two different matters:-) What type of pattern will give what effect? I found a really helpful link at Knitpicks that gives you an understanding of how stripes, dashes and zigzags will look knitted up. Exactly what I needed. So on to the dyeing....

I used some already mixed colours - greens, aquas, blues and purples - and started with a basic stripe pattern. I tried to make it repeat the colour order but it doesn't really need to as it's more like a canvas. Both socks are being painted at once so you could paint a landscape - that would be interesting! - and they will still knit up the same.

Each colour band was broken up a bit more with some tonal variation. You don't need to load a brush with dye, it goes through the knitted fabric easily so no turning over and smudging your work of art! And you can get some fine detail in there.

Then wrapping up in cling film, just like a painted skein and blasted in the microwave (or steamed if you prefer) until the colour is fixed. I gave this about 15 mins just to be sure as it was more of an unknown quantity. A little colour came out in the first rinse but not much more than that. So good result.

Dried, it looks a little paler in colour but has still retained some of the finer painted detail. If anything, the purple has receded and the greens now dominate. I think both the aqua and the purple dyes must have been a weaker solution. I also got a few little blobs from either some sediment or dye on the edge of the cling film. This hasn't happened before so I'll have to remember to wipe the excess dye off the edges before wrapping and mix fresh dyes each time from now on.

But all the same, I do like my little experiment. Now, the exciting bit - what will it look like knitted up? Tune in tomorrow:-)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Firestarter giveaway

Well, a week has passed already - that was quick! - and the first giveaway prize has finished. And the winner of the tootiefruitie sock yarn kindly picked at random by John at the Textile Blog, is..... Tom! I know you said in your comment you are on a yarn diet:-) but I hope you can squeeze a little tootiefruitie sock yarn into your stash! Please send me an e-mail Tom with some contact details so I can send this off to you soon.

I really enjoyed reading all your comments about your knitting achievements and although there could only be one winner last week, this week I've got a slightly different giveaway for you. There are two prizes for two separate winners, so when you comment please state which one, or both, you would like to be entered for - if you don't specify I'll enter you for both:-)

So, what is up for grabs today? Well, firstly we have have a pair of Firestarter Socks for you (pattern by Yarnissima). This pattern has lovely cabling detail running up the side of the sock and makes a feature of the ribbing on the heel and the upper part of the sock. These are knitted in my own hand dyed 'Orange Mango' which give you lovely graded bands of colour.

Yarnissima's pattern knits up in only one size - womens medium - which is stated at US 7-8 and European 37-38. Now I'm a 38/UK 5 and these once knitted up are slightly looser on the foot length than I would normally knit for my size. And because of the natural elasticity of the rib knitting on the heel, I think these would stretch to accomodate a good few sizes larger. They are also very generous on the calves - I know this is an area where some socks pinch as we are all so differently shaped;-) but I think this will fit most calf sizes too.

But if you prefer to knit your own socks or know you won't fit the firestarter socks, or if you are a bloke:-), I have here for you our second prize, a skein of stripey emerald green sock yarn just waiting to be turned into socks, or scarves, or gloves...... It knits up in small stripey bands exactly like the orange firestarter socks and is looking for a new home. This sock yarn base I'm using is very generous on the yardage. I knitted extra cable repeats on firestarter and still didn't use all the 50gms for one sock. I think I had about 10gms extra left. Maybe not quite enough for knee highs though!

So to enter this weeks competition, please leave me a comment answering this question - Within your own discipline, knitting, quilting, sewing etc, what materials or tools couldn't you live without? Are your addi needles the one thing you would rush back into a burning building for? :-) (Okay, your family and everything else is already safe!) Or would you be trying to cram all your yarn stash into bags as you are dragged out trying to find your precious Koigu?!

Please remember to say which prize, or both, you would like to be entered for. Again, this giveaway closes this sunday evening (16th) and the winner will be drawn next monday, 17th August. Good luck everyone and I look forward to hearing your answers:-)


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