I’ve started so I’ll finish

One of the disadvantages of having a shed full of yarn is I am often tempted to stop half way through a project and start a new one.  This lack of commitment to a project can be for a number of reasons: sometimes I want to try a new yarn, sometimes I’m not enjoying the project (those ones often get frogged), and sometimes it is because a project has attracted my attention because it includes a knitting technique I’ve not tried before, and once I’ve mastered the technique I lose interest in the project.  But I’ve been trying hard of late to finish what I start.  It hasn’t been easy!

As long ago as April last year when I was in Darlington having a trunk show at my favourite yarn shop (A Fine Yarn), I decided on the colours to knit Nothing but Stripes.  This is knitted in 4ply, and I settled on my 4ply 100% Bluefaced Leicester for the job in Carnations and Damson.

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By the time the Tanera Mor retreat came around in September last year I was bored with Nothing but Stripes.  I took it with me to the island fully intending on pulling it all out and finding something else to do with the yarn.  I had finished the main body and only had the sleeves to do, but I could see it languishing in my “Works in Progress” pile indefinitely.   But when I mentioned to the others attending the retreat that I was about it rip it all out there were howls of protest, and so it came back home off the island with me, still unfinished.

Then at the Glencanisp retreat I picked it up again and began work.  Then I lost the pattern and couldn’t remember what size I was making!  So once again it got thrown into a corner and neglected for a couple of months.  But now I am happy to report it is complete!  Nothing but Stripes.  You’ll be able to see it at Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and if you want I’m more than happy for you to try it on.  Apologies for this poor photo but it was a dull, windy day today.

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I do love the stitch definition that you achieve when using the Bluefaced Leicester.  It is very crisp:

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Although I promised myself in January that nothing else would be begun until Nothing but Stripes was complete, I was swayed away from my determination when I saw a beautiful shawl pattern had been released by Karie Westermann, called Byatt.   I was looking for something I could knit while watching pots bubble in the dye shed, and as soon as I saw this I knew this was it.  It was a very easy knit, and I selected Slice of Lime and Assynt Peat for my colour combination, again in the 100% Bluefaced Leicester.

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The pattern was very easy to knit, and as soon as the section using the contrast colour began I knew I’d made the right choice with the two colours:

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And today Byatt had her first outing, and I love it.  She received many compliments from the folk at the Assynt Centre where I went to help out with lunch today.  Lovely pattern Karie.

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Maybe 2015 will be the year I both start, and finish, projects.  But I’m not one to make rash promises!

Work, work, work ….

It has been ALL about work in recent weeks, so I do apologise for being absent from the blog for so long.  I’m dyeing up a storm for Edinburgh Yarn Festival which takes place in just 4 weeks time.   Here is just a handful of yarns waiting for labelling.  I’ve rented a van to get everything down to Edinburgh, but at this rate I’m wondering if I need to upgrade to a larger van!

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However last week I took a day off to go to a business related presentation, but also a lot of fun.  It was the Trends Workshop with Anne Ritchie covering trends in colours, textures and fabrics for Spring 2016.  Anne’s presentations are always good, and the accompanying booklet was beautifully presented:

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I’m pleased to tell you that colours for spring/summer 2016 are great!  Bright, cheery, and saturated – just how I like them

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These sorts of events are also really good for leaving the solitude of the dye shed and talking to real people!  People who are in a similar field to you, and hearing about their lives and experiences.  It really helps with the isolation of working alone, and you soon begin to realise that that problem you thought only you had?  Actually it is quite common, and here’s how to deal with it.  So thank you to Emergents for organising this event once again, and for putting on a lovely lunch which enabled me to have a good chat to folk.

The first week in February also saw the dispatch of the second parcel in this year’s yarn club, Yarn Notes from Assynt.  I think it has arrived with all the members spread around the globe now, so I can reveal what it looked like.  If you are a member and haven’t seen your yarn yet, then look away now!  This month the point of interest in Assynt was Stoer Light House, and the surrounding environment.  Stevan’s notes covered a huge range of topics and feedback from members has once again been very positive, both for the cultural notes and the yarn.

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The inspiration for the colours in the yarn was, quite simply, the sea.  It wanted to capture it in all its moods.  I hope I achieved that.

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And finally, I am thrilled to say I have been accepted, again, for Woolfest 2015.  This will be my 7th year as a vendor at the event.  I’m looking forward to it.  So far the events I will be attending in 2015 are Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March, Highland Wool Festival in May, and Woolfest in June.

 

 

 

And the Winners Are ……………..

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Thank you for all your comments.  They were all printed off, folded up and put into a rather special hat which will feature at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and Stevan was called upon to do the honours:

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And the winners of a weekend pass for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival are ……… drumroll ……..

Yvonne (the 2nd to comment)

and Mary (the 7th to comment)

Thank you to all who took part.  Mary and Yvonne, your tickets will be in the post soon.

Do you want a ticket to Edinburgh Yarn Festival?

B7Ek_0nCEAAbCngThe organisers of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival have very kindly given me TWO WEEKEND ENTRY TICKETS to give away.  These arrived today, and  I thought I’d better come up with some clever competition really quickly to give you the chance to win one of these tickets before booking opened tomorrow, but I couldn’t think of anything clever!  So instead, if you’re planning to go to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this entry saying why you’re looking forward to the event, and all those who leave a comment will have their names put into the proverbial hat, and I’ll have an unbiased adjudicator (i.e. Stevan) pull two names out of the said hat.RC-140609-31012015

But be quick!  You have until Noon (UK time) tomorrow (1st February) to get your comment in and be in with a chance of winning one of the two tickets.  And if you’re planning to come to the event from abroad, please do enter too.

The long list of exciting vendors who are going to be at the event is reason enough to want to go, but I’m sure you’ll think of other reasons!  And remember, this prize is a ticket for the full weekend, not just for a day.  So you will have time to browse all the stands (but, of course, the Ripples Crafts stand too!) at your leisure.

Please remember to leave a valid email address in your comment.  This will not be seen publicly, but will allow me to contact you if you are one of the winners.

This and That ….

It has been a busy couple of weeks, and I’ve much to tell you.  This post will be a mish mash of bits and bobs, this and that.

Firstly, I had a little break last week when our friends, Neil and Gilly, came to visit.  Unfortunately the weather was not very kind to us, so we didn’t get out on as many walks as we would have liked, but when we did we enjoyed ourselves.  Gilly took this photo of Steve and I while we were quaffing hot chocolate half way along the Little Assynt walk:

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Photo courtesy of Gillian Barrett

That red hat, by the way, will be featuring at Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  I can say no more!!  My lips are sealed.

And here are Neil, Gilly and I, with the lovely snow covered Quinag in the background:

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You can find more photos from their visit on Gilly’s blog, including Neil and my attempts at baking.

We were sorry to wave cheerio to them on Wednesday morning, a day earlier than planned, but they had to go early to keep ahead of the heavy snow we was forecast, but which, in reality, never really materialised for us at sea level.

Just before Neil and Gilly arrived, I’d received a wonderful parcel from Chris, the owner of my favourite wool shop, A Fine Yarn, in Darlington.  During the retreat at Glencanisp Lodge last year, she took rather a liking to the sport weight Copper Beech yarn I had with me, and she took a couple of hanks away with her to knit Campside - a shawl.  And here is the gorgeous result:

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With the remaining Copper Beech which I had dyed before Glencanisp, I have knitted Chance of Showers, but photo’s of that another day.

Finally, as you will probably have guessed, I’m busy busy busy dyeing up a storm for Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March.   And I’m also trying to get various samples finished and blocked, and while work on Nothing but Stripes continues in the evenings:

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I am always looking for smaller, more lightweight, projects to knit during the day while keeping an eye on bubbling pots.  And today I found that project.  Karie Westermann published her new pattern, Byatt, today.  She kindly let me borrow one of her very stylish photographs:

Courtesy of Karie Westermann

Courtesy of Karie Westermann

but you can read more about this rather lovely design here on her blog.  I’m planning to knit this up before Edinburgh Yarn Festival using the 4ply Bluefaced Leicester, but I’m having some trouble choosing colour combinations.  I posted a few combinations up on my group on Ravelry, and so far the overwhelming choice is for A Slice of Lime and Assynt Peat:

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Although Assynt Peat and Moonshine is coming a close second:

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Which do you prefer?

January’s Yarn Notes from Assynt

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I think the parcels containing the January edition of Yarn Notes from Assynt have arrived at all the corners of the world where there are members.  If you’ve not had yours yet, then read no further, unless you don’t mind having the surprise spoilt.

For January, Stevan and I chose one of our favourite sites in Assynt – The Tacksman’s House.  What is left of this beautifully located house can be found near Ardvrek Castle, one of the more iconic buildings in Assynt.  The Tackman’s House is less known, but we always enjoy walking in that area in the summer.  As Stevan wrote in his notes, while tourists tend to stand looking towards Ardvreck Castle, the more interesting (in our view) building is up the hill behind them.

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When I set up the club towards the end of last year I did say that I wouldn’t necessarily use the colours in the picture card that is included in every parcel.  However, this month, I did, and when I saw someone holding the yarn and the card together the other day I was really pleased with how it looked.

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The feedback from the first month’s parcels has been gratifying, with enthusiasm both for the yarn and the card, but especially for Stevan’s notes about the house and the surrounding area.  There were four pages of information incorporating cultural, historical and geological aspects of this special location.

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I’ve already dyed the yarn for February’s parcels, and I’ve been reading Stevan’s notes for next month’s chosen site.  I’ll give you a hint – it includes details from the Yachtman’s Pilot, and talks about about a vegetable garden and a composting toilet!

If you want to join the club in time for the posting of February’s parcels, join here.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2015

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Are you?

The vendor list is now available for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival to be held on 14th and 15th March 2015 at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh.  And I’m very pleased to say I am one of those vendors.  If you intend being anywhere near Edinburgh that weekend, do come along!

Old Year into New

I’m not one for looking back at the old year and forward to the new year at Hogmanay.   Instead, let me just wish you a very happy new year, and I leave you with a photo we took of ourselves on Christmas Day.

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May 2015 be all you hope for.

A little insight into one dyeing process

 

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Those of you who know me well, know I enjoy the technical aspects of dyeing – learning why certain fibres react in certain ways, why different breeds of sheep fleece results in different shades when I use the same recipe, and why certain dyes are tricky to work with.  Even though I return to my favourite techniques time and again (because they have served me so well), I enjoy trying new ways and methods of dyeing.  When I experiment with new techniques, yarns or dyes,  the good results end up in the shop. But sometimes, this research and development never gets as far as being on sale.

And so it was with this in mind that I decided, finally, to test dye sock blanks.  For those of you who don’t know what sock blanks are, these are machine knitted pieces of woollen fabric which are made up of either a single or a double thread, to which you apply dye in some way or another, and they allow you to create identically matching socks.  The normal method of dyeing which I use doesn’t (easily) allow me to create a skein of yarn that will result in wide stripe socks, and after being asked by a few customers why I didn’t do this, I decided to experiment.

I had already begun the process before I decided to blog about it, and so I forgot to take a photograph of an undyed sock blank, but any google search will show you a number of results.

I dyed 2 blanks, using different methods of applying the dye.  Here are the two dyed, dry blanks:

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Dyed using 2 colours in varying depths of colour creating an ombre effect. Dyed using immersion dyeing techniques

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Dyed using hand painting techniques and using multiple colours. Sometimes two colours blended creating a third shade.

Normally I dye more than one hank of yarn at a time.  However, dyeing blanks in the way described under the photographs meant I could only do one at a time.  The hank dyed using immersion techniques meant that once the dye in the pot had exhausted (which took some time, as I had to bring the water up to simmering temperature and wait until the dye had all been sucked up by the blank) it had to simmer in water for a while to ensure the colours set.  It took significant time to apply the dye to the hand painted blank and this then needed to be steamed to set the colour – this took about 40 minutes.  So far it had taken me over an hour to dye up each sock blank.  (I’m sorry, I am terrible about noting how long it takes me to do things!).

Once the blanks were dry, I then unravelled them.  This is a slow, time consuming job as if you’re not careful you can get into a right fankle.  It would have been quicker, I suspect, had I had two wool winders, but I don’t, and so it took me another 40 minutes to unravel each blank.  I’m sure this would speed up with experience.  While I was unravelling it quickly became apparent that the two different dyeing methods had meant I had two very different results and qualities of dyeing.

First up, the immersion dyed blank:  While the colour looked solid enough on the blank,

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as soon as I began to unravel I could see that the dye had not penetrated all the way through the knitted fabric and creamy spots were appearing with alarming regularity:

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What is more, (and this wasn’t unexpected) the unravelled yarn was very crinkly, just as you would expect after pulling out knitted fabric:

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As I began to unravel the hand painted blank, it was obvious that the dye had been absorbed far more thoroughly and uniformly:

 

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There were far fewer tell-tale white patches.

Once fully unravelled into rather untidy balls I then had to rewind the yarn into hanks.  This process probably took about 10 minutes.  Hanked, it became obvious just how crinkly the yarn was.  I would never want to knit with it in this state, let alone sell it to customers for them to knit with.  While it looks more or less normal in a tightly wound skein:

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You only have to unwind the hank to see just how crinkly it is:

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And so the final part of the process was for the hanks to go into a lukewarm soaking bath so that the yarn could relax in water for about an hour.  It was then hung up to dry.  I didn’t add any weight to pull down on the hanks to help straighten them as I didn’t want to stretch the yarn any further.  It had already been through a fair amount of handling which all adds to the wear and tear of the yarn.  Once dry, I have to say I rather liked the results!

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But to get to this stage (without drying and resoaking time) had taken me over 2 hours to dye each blank and get it to a format which I would be happy to sell on to customers.   That’s just too much for a business like mine, and to be honest, I can’t say I enjoyed the process.   If I were to offer this type of yarn, I would have to think of the commercial side too, and  the final cost would be well over £20 per sock blank (or pair of socks).  Given that one of the joys of Ripples Crafts is that I enjoy the dyeing process so much, I don’t really want to offer a product that I find a chore to produce and which will be expensive and beyond the reach of many.  There are some excellent commercially dyed self-striping yarns on the market, and there are other indie dyers who excel at and enjoy this method of dyeing.  Me? – well I wont be offering self striping yarn or hand dyed sock blanks unless I can speed up the process but still maintain the self imposed standard of quality.
I haven’t started to knit up the R&D hanks yet, but once I do I’ll try and remember to post a photograph.  A couple of weeks ago I did dye a different type of blank, and here is the knitted result.  It has yet to have it’s partner join it – I suffer badly from second sock syndrome.

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I wanted to add a postscript – I’ve had a few suggest to me that rather than going through the unwinding process I simply sell the blanks as a roll of fabric for knitters to unwind themselves.  I could do that, of course, but then I wouldn’t be able to check the quality of the dyeing, for, as explained above, sometimes the look of the fabric can be deceiving and you can only see exactly how thoroughly the dye has penetrated the yarn when you unravel the blank.  Furthermore I wouldn’t want to knit with crinkled yarn as I don’t like the resulting stitch definition and so I wouldn’t feel comfortable selling the blanks on in the fabric state. 

Sweetly modelled

Earlier in the year I posted a small version of Ravi Junior off to my nephew and his wife, new parents to young Rosie.  It was only last year the Martin and Avery visited us in Clachtoll:

 

Drumbeg, looking towards Handa Island in the north west

Drumbeg, looking towards Handa Island in the north west

Well Rosie is now 6 months old, and my cardi is fitting her perfectly!

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It looks as though she is a lively soul, never sitting still long enough to get a completely in focus picture!

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But on the whole she seems pretty delighted with her Ravi Junior, don’t you think?

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Thanks for modelling the sweater so beautifully, Rosie.

(For those wanting details, the Pattern is Ravi Junior knitted in size 6 – 12 months, using my own Sport Weight – the size I knitted took just under 2 hanks and I used the colour Damson).