Monday, 10 December 2007

Catch up post-Harrogate

I just looked back at my last post and realised it wasn't even in December (I don't think a late-posted draft really counts!). Where does the time go?

We had a great time at the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate. The exhibitions were, as ever, fabulous. It is brilliant to see so much new talent, clearly brimming with new, innovative ideas and amazing creativity. Just standing on the stall is like watching a moving exhibition as visitors go by in their gorgeous creations, funky hairdos and great tattoos.

Thankfully my beaded knitting workshop was a sell-out most days so I didn't feel like "Billy-no-mates with no-one to teach! I was very nervous but the groups were all lovely and everyone said they'd enjoyed it (altho' I don't suppose you would be mean if you hadn't!).

Here is a pic of one of the groups and a work in progress.

I was amazed how quickly everyone progressed - some had almost finished the bracelet by the time the session ended and it was only an hour!

Vicky, Jacky and Lisa visit Eyam

This post was interrupted by the loss of the card for my digital camera.

As I've now found it, I thought I should say hi and thank you to Vicky, Lisa and Jacky and sorry for taking so long with the pics! (especially as I had Vicky's the following day!).

Here's what the post said...

This month's hand dyeing workshop was a blast. Tales of extreme knitting exploits and plans for more fun and frolics with pins and string were shared as we cooked up some delicious skeins. Talk of trips to Devon and Cornwall made me long for sunshine, surf and cream teas (not necessarily in that order!) - (Note to self: must book a trip away for next year very soon). We missed out on our annual jaunt this year what with the extension etc. and I feel the need for a peaceful week in a cosy cottage, listening to the birdsong and enjoying the fresh air.

As Vicky creates a very interesting green/brown combo (above), don't be fooled by this rather serious pic of Jacky and Lisa - they may look like they are debating nuclear vs solar energy on Question Time but we were actually discussing the relative merits of David Duchovny vs Brad Pitt : )

Friday, 30 November 2007

Carpets, tiles and curtains, oh my!

This has to rank as my worst dyeing disaster ever and it was nothing to do with yarn or my own dyeing. No, it was my carpet.

When we moved in we had lots of boxes and people tramping in and out. So, having rashly purchased a cream carpet (!), I dutifully put lots of dust sheets down until we could reveal it in all its glory. Very sensible, except when one of your dust sheets leaks dye all over the aforementioned cream carpet - aaarrgggh!

"This dust sheet is over 20 years old and practically falling to bits. How could it still have loose dye in it?" I howled to no one in particular as I surveyed the damage.

Distraught, I called the carpet company and the insurers who were very helpful (no doubt they had a good laugh sharing that one round the office). Fingers crossed we'll have a new one soon, but how totally embarrassing! I didn't dare explain what I do for a living...

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Beaded bag goes live!

My beaded bag pattern and feature was published in Simply Knitting last week. I only found out when someone rang to order the yarn which was a bit embarrassing! Five colourways are now on the website with lots of lovely choices of beads too. The plastic canvas is due in shortly so drop me an email if you would like some putting to one side.

The sock pattern for the next issue is due on Monday so I'd best get back to my knitting or I'll be up to the wee small hours finishing them off....

No yarn yet...

My lovely new handspun yarn hasn't arrived yet so I'm fed up and feeling sorry for myself today (sniff). I was really looking forward to sharing it with everyone at Harrogate. All the feedback so far has been great. At least we still have a couple of days to go so maybe it will still arrive in time.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Pumpkin's last post

Time to say goodbye to this year's pumpkin. As is traditional in the Tomkies household, our pumpkin goes out (literally) with a bang, as Will and Pete insist on blowing it up with a rocket (don't try this one at home kids - no, really!).

One year we spent ages tracking down a good rocket and eventually found one in Selfridges. The guy was most intrigued that Will and Pete wanted one to blow up the pumpkin and another to "launch" a freebie McDonald's Thunderbird (Scott Tracey in case you were interested), into oblivion.

This clearly made an impression as the following year, we went to buy more and the same guy told us a story about these weird customers he'd served last year and (well, you can guess the rest). I'm not sure this is how I want to go down in Selfridges' firework department history but hey ho.

New yarn ordered!

Phew! Part one of the feature on using double-pointed needles has now been posted to Simply Knitting, and it's already time to work on part two. I loved knitting the tube socks to go with part one. I always assumed they'd be really uncomfy and "bunchy" at the front but they weren't at all. The featured ones are my own hand-dyed but I think they might be my next dye kit project as they're a good starter for sock virgins but still really cool results. I shall try kool aiding and procioning (is that a word?) some and see where it takes me - another pair of socks for a chrimbo pressie if nothing else : )

Testing some more of the alpaca/nylon sock yarn today. Can't resist it, it's so soft and squishy. Pics to come once it's done.

Oh, and I just ordered the new handspun laceweight silk/goat down yarn and I'm so excited! I'm getting a couple more handknitted stoles too, so people can see how delicious they are knitted up. I think testing the patterns may have to go to Julia (sssh - I haven't told her yet), as she is an expert on very fine knitting. More patience than me!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Beads, beads, and more beads....

Christmas is coming and the goose (well, the quorn "chicken" in our case) is getting fat, so it must be time for some girly bling!

I've just finished a feature on knitting with beads for Simply Knitting and there's a beaded bag pattern to go with it. I can't show you the whole thing but here is a little mini-pic to give you a taster. Check out the next issue (out Nov 8th) for the pattern (and a much better quality pic!)

Next up I'm working on plans for a beaded i-pod holder. I rashly volunteered to do a workshop on beaded knitting at the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate and I've got butterflies already! Pete says this is just an excuse for me to get an hour off the stand each day, so I offered him a swap but he politely declined. This does, however, give me the perfect excuse for a trip to the bead suppliers to buy lots of goodies for the workshop packs......

Epic drive - great weekend in Lewes

Last week was the usual pre-show mad panic (hence the lack of posts). We were off to Lewes (near Brighton), to join the East Sussex Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at their biennial exhibition on Thursday and by Wednesday I still hadn't done a stock-check, printed catalogues etc etc. Of course, this wasn't helped by the fact that I wanted to dye up some more of the lovely Bluefaced Leicester roving to take with us (I like a challenge!).

Well, two long days and late nights later saw us setting off on the 4 1/2 hour drive to Lewes with a very full car and some, hot off the radiator, hand-dyed roving. Not as much as I would have liked, but enough to fill a nice big basket with colourful bags of fibres. Thankfully my efforts were rewarded as I sold all of it, mostly in the first day! Yippee! It's back to the sink now, to get some more dyed for the website and Harrogate in November.....

We had a fab time at the exhibition, meeting up with some familiar faces and getting to know lots of new ones. It was our fastest ever unloading and set up, largely due to the sterling efforts of the Guild members who kindly ferried our boxes and bags from the car to the Town Hall. You may be able to see from the photo that the Town Hall is an impressive building. Lewes is equally impressive with lots of windy streets, fascinating shops and gorgeous old buildings. I would have liked to spend more time there.

The East Sussex Guild is one of the largest in the UK (about 150-200 members), and the work they had on show was superb. Will and Pete's mum and dad joined us on the Saturday and Will took the lovely photo above for me. Here is another one.....

And last, but definitely not least, here is Will, celebrating his photographic prowess!

Thanks Pam and all the other Guild members for such a lovely time and for the warm welcome!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Sneak preview - yummy new yarns!

My friend, Julia and I, took a break from moving boxes yesterday to dye some new yarns I received last week. Here are our results.....

When this lush, ultra-fine yarn dropped through the letterbox I couldn't believe it was handspun. It is so fine, yet so strong. The yarn is handspun from silk and goat fibres by hill farmers in the Ukraine. I was also sent a knitted stole made from the yarn - it is just divine! When I can bear to wind it into a ball (instead of just admiring it), I'll post a pic of it knitted up.

Next up was a new sock yarn. It's 90% alpaca/10% nylon and is really lovely. The colours remind me of LoveHearts or rainbow crystals (ooh, showing my age now!). I'll be selling this undyed and plan to have a sock kit for it soon, but it's so irresistible, I might dye some up and sell it ready-dyed too.

Last but not least, we just had time to dye some new Bluefaced Leicester roving before our "dial-a-curry" arrived. The pic is a bit dark but you get the general idea. I might just have to spin a bit of this over the weekend just to "make sure" it spins up okay ; )

Natural dyeing - awesome!

Skeins drying in the bathroom (the skeins are not really small, it's a two foot tall model toothpaste tube!). From left to right we have: weld, madder, indigo, mystery green plant mix, madder/brazilwood blend.

I've just spent the weekend with Jenny Dean learning lots of new, exciting things to do with Earthues natural dye extracts and some new extracts which I'm hoping to be selling soon. Here's a taster of some of the amazing colours we produced. The pics don't really do the samples justice but trust me, they are fab : )

Some of our samples. We used lots of dyestuffs, including madder, brazilwood, weld, cutch and an amazing green plant of unknown origin (!). We also used indigo to overdye some of our samples and got some super results.

I had a fantastic time with Jenny and her husband, Roger, and they made me feel so welcome. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to one of Jenny's workshops or talks I wholeheartedly recommend it. Her knowledge is second to none and she is great fun to work with.

A huge thank you to Jenny and Roger for their hospitality and for making my stay so enjoyable.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Dyeing workshop, Eyam

Had a great day yesterday at my dyeing workshop in Eyam. Lots of yummy colours appeared like magic from the dyepots. I'm always so excited to see everyone's skeins - I still can't quite believe that I do this for a living. This is the bit which makes all the bookeeping/tax returns etc. seem worthwhile!
A big thank you to Becky and Debbie for their enthusiasm (and patience while I wrestled with my niddy noddy!). Here they are with their skeins. (Check out Debbie's gorgeous blog at

Furniture at last

Our new wardrobe should be arriving today - a great big, ornate Victorian thing from a fab antiques village in Longsight. Wonder if I'll find Narnia at the back of it.......
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