Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Knit-felt kits

Doh! With so much going on, I haven't told you about the new knit-felt kits which I "unveiled" at Harrogate in November!

I had so much fun designing my Artesano knit-felt collection that I thought I'd produce some for my own yarns. As my little Kool Aid kits have been so popular, I've been thinking for ages that I should do some new ones, but I fancied something a bit different.

There were lots of ideas buzzing round in my head, but I'd been working on socks (surprise, surprise!), and was fed up of rummaging for lost dpns in the bottom of my workbag and down the side of the sofa. I also wanted a neat way to carry my wip to knitting group.

So, put the two together and hey! presto! enter the Flutterby felted sock stasher.

The second kit was really a bit of a selfish one. When I'm at shows I like to knit, but it's tricky to keep putting a project down and it wouldn't be the first time I've had to grovel around on the floor chasing a runaway ball of wool halfway round the stand! I have a friend who's a climber and they use little pouches strapped to their belts to carry stuff they need to have readily to hand so I thought, why not use one for knitting? Better still, why not knit one for my knitting! And so, the Knit 'n' Go knit-sack was born!

To give a nice firm fabric, I knit the basic shapes then throw them in the washing machine with a set of Felter's Friend felting balls. (You can just use flip-flops or old jeans but these are easier and give better results). The knitting looks massive, but once it's been through the washer, it firms up and shrinks nicely and gives a lovely fabric. The tones in the dyed yarn also blend really prettily.

(ps. I've since customised my knit-sack with a little dpn holder which poppers onto the outside of the bag and can be put inside when I pack up, so keep an eye out for this "upgrade").

Back to knitting

Looking back at recent posts, I realise there hasn't been much mention of knitting, dyeing and fibre-y stuff. Do not be misled - this doesn't mean nothing is going on!

I'm busy working on a range of new designs and I'm keeping these under wraps until they're done so as not to spoil the surprise. There is also lots of work going on behind the scenes on new colour collections and I'm trialling some lush new yarns. There's also a fab new project in the offing which goes live very shortly, so watch this space!

Wheeee - Wii !!!!

Persuaded Will to share his Wii today so we could all have a play. We laughed our socks off slamming loo doors on Rabbids, whacking them into holes and chasing round sheep to shear them! There was something a bit odd about boxing Will, especially when I ko'd him in the second round, but he was very gracious about it. After all he did beat me hollow at tennis and baseball...

Mario kart was hysterical - watching my Mum hurtling round a track in a car shaped like a piranha, flying off into lava and skidding on banana skins was eye-wateringly funny! Not that I was any better. I beat Will in one race (I think I heard the phrase beginner's luck mentioned), but couldn't drive for laughing half the time. Oh, and Mum revealed a surprise ability for killing zombies in Resident Evil.......

Happy Christmas!

Christmas in the Tomkies household was lovely. The tree looked splendid (if rather large - oops - spatial awareness isn't my strong suit!). We managed to empty another raft of boxes just before Christmas Eve (down to just about 8 now in the living room) and the presents were (mostly) wrapped by 1am - surely a record for us!

After a healthy breakfast of chocolates from the selection boxes (can't break with tradition), we unwrapped our gifts, ate more chocolate (diet starts Jan 1 - honest), and settled down with the Radio Times to plan the tv schedule.

Pete made a gorgeous Christmas dinner, a full traditional affair but with veggie roast for us and "the real thing" for Will.

We did our bit towards making Wallace & Gromit the most-watched programme of the day and of course, Doctor Who was on the agenda. And just in case you think we are a complete cultural vacuum, we taped Memoirs of a Geisha.

Oooh, nearly forgot the pressies. I was soooo lucky. I got such lovely gifts - two wonderful dyeing books and a fantastic book on drawing faeries. A felted dragon kit (rainbow colours of course!), and some Ugg boots - squee!! Lush goodies made the house smell just delicious - I think my Mum must have bought the whole shop - thanks Mum! I also got a great selection of incense for my dragon incense burner.

Hope you all had a super Christmas!

Love and hugs xx

Monday, 22 December 2008

Kwaidan - Japanese ghost stories

On Saturday night we had a spur of the moment theatre trip to see Kwaidan. We didn't know a thing about it, but as it had "Japanese" and "ghost" in the title, we figured that for £8 a ticket it was worth a shot.

It was amazing! The flyer describes the production as "creat(ing) a world where dark forces and evil spirits interact with humans and change their destinies forever". And it did not disappoint! Imaginatively directed and performed we were alternately jumping out of our skins or howling with laughter. Manga characters, puppets, samurai, ghost spirits and two entire armies filled the stage with magic.

The actors were part of the Contact young actors company so were very much local (the Contact theatre is in Manchester, next to the University) and they well and truly deserved the standing ovation they received from the enthusiastic audience. The production was staged by the Dende Collective and if you get the chance to see one of their unique plays, don't miss out - they rock!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Baby alpaca wrap for Simply Knitting

Well, I was planning to tempt you with a sneak peek at my latest Simply Knitting project, but as usual, time got away with me and it's already in print!

For those of you who haven't seen it, it's knitted in the softest baby alpaca aran weight yarn and is light, soft and snuggly - I had to be prised away from it so it could be posted! I've currently got 6 shades but there are more in the pipeline when I get time to put on a dyepot!

And yes, the pic is me (again!) - I am not a complete narcissist, but the minute you mention photos everyone suddenly finds they have something "urgent" to do like washing their hair or watching some paint dry/the lawn grow etc. etc. etc. If you like having your photo taken and can get to Manchester, please let me know - I hate having mine taken!

Late Samhain post

This year's pumpkin was a grand chap, albeit a bit unconventional as he came complete with full body! It was more Halloween meets the Wicker Man perhaps, but ole Pumpkin Jack burned a treat.
He did cut rather a sad figure, tho', the next morning......

Friday, 5 December 2008

Manga/anime expo

Yes, this is me with an alien!

I don't know about you, but my family members have a habit of dropping things on me from a great height at short notice. But when Pete and Will said they'd be going to London for the manga/anime/comic expo, I thought, great, a day at spinning guild for me and a nice bit of time for more spinning when I get home - perfect!

What I hadn't bargained on was that Will wanted to go in cosplay and needed a costume. Time was short and the best costumes have to be imported from Japan so we contacted a few specialist companies to see what they could do. It was a bit touch and go for time and I had visions of the costume arriving just after the show, so the guys decided that I could "just" make one!

My trusty Bernina hasn't seen the light of day since we moved out for the extension (2years ago), so you can imagine what my sewings skills are like. Still, I dug it out, hoovered off the dust and got on the internet for inspiration.

Armed with a collage of pic's of the character Will wanted to go as, I trawled site after site for info on making Kimono and costumes. Then I trawled my old sewing books and found a couple of proper 70's style pieces in some old "Stitch by Stitch" magazines (what a blast from the past that was - big hair, shoulder pads and a jumpsuit anyone?). When I'd stopped laughing, it was time to get to work.

"Translating" the Japanese sewing patterns was tricky but gave me some good ideas, and the 70's kimono bathrobes filled in the gaps.

Three days later (I told you I wasn't a fast sewer didn't I?), and I had a set of adapted medical scrubs and a kimono, all made-to-measure.

Here's the finished product and the character I was copying (Urahura Kisuke from Bleach for all you manga fans). Oh, and I've added a few pics from the expo we went to in March too, as we had some real fun posing with movie characters and admiring the other cosplay outfits.

Here we have the Naruto clan....

And you don't see this kind of thing in you want fries with that?

And for you Heroes afficionados, Parkman and Daphne (aka Hiro's Nemesis), sign autographs for eager fans.....

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Vicky's knit in

I had a fab time at Vicky's knit-in at the end of October. Lots of us snuggled up in Vicky and Laurie's cosy cottage for yummy cakes and nibbles, chatting, knitting and spinning. I won two lovely prizes in the raffle - a beautiful glass necklace and a hand-made notebook (which will be my next design sketchbook). After persuading Pete not to try and sneak off with their bookcases (!) it was time for home. Thanks for a great day Vicky - hope we can do it again soon!

November mega-catch up

So many jobs, so little time! November was a funny old month, highs, lows and in-betweens. Here's a few of the newsworthy bits....

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Knitty Gritty Went Large!

Today was the Knitty Gritty event in Rochdale. We were all a bit nervous as we didn't know how the event would go, but it was fab!

Around 40 visitors came along to my little hands-on dyeing sessions

and made a mini-skein of hand-dyed yarn to take home and knit into a pair of wristwarmers. If the skeins are anything to go by there'll be lots of colourful wrists in Rochdale this winter!

Alison was busy teaching felting,

Karl-Christian had the most amazing large-scale knitting,

and Donna was creating lots of interest with her spinning.

Rachel and Sarah of Artyarn had decked various parts of the building and exterior in lovely colourful knitting (see top) and the Bolton Knitty Noras were out in force with their knitted garden.

There were beautiful crocheted forms by Julianand of course, the Knitty Gritty Group were kept busy too.

The Knitty Gritty Group and the Bolton Knitty Noras can also be found on Ravelry so look them up if you're in the area and would like to meet up with other knitters/crocheters. The Touchstones Gallery houses some beautiful art, local art exhibitions and a museum and is well worth a visit. Cafe Life does yummy coffee and cakes of epic proportions too!

A big thank you to Yvonne and Alison and Link4Life who organised and funded the event.

Friday, 17 October 2008


So, I've been watching the health and vitality channel and enjoying a bit of yoga. (You'll note I said watching here, not doing). Anyways, I thought I'd give a couple of postures a try to see if I could still do any without keeling over. Despite nearly toppling over into the telly during downward facing dog (I'll let you google that one, but it is a real exercise, honest), I realised how much I used to enjoy it. As luck would have it the leisure centre runs a class Thursday evenings so a quick call to Julia and we headed off in our tracky bottoms for a bit of bending and stretching.

Sneaking past the mega-blaster-uber-hyper aerobics class (glitter ball and disco lights, full-on, full volume disco music and teachers who wouldn't look out of place in special ops), we settled down on our mats for some rather more peaceful exercise.

It was great! We might not have been as hot and sweaty as our aerobic counterparts (no bad thing) but yoga still counts and is harder than it looks - and it’s even harder when your friend is next to you sniggering and making you laugh so the rest of the class stare at you and you know they’re just thinking what peasants you are because you’re not taking it seriously : )

Roll on next week!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

New kits coming soon!

This week we did a photo shoot for two new mini-kits. There will be Kool Aid kits for the dyers and hand-dyed ones for those who like to get straight into the knitting. They should be on sale at Harrogate, but if you can't make it, they'll be online too : ) Watch this space for piccies as soon as they are ready!

Wrapping up the wrap

Finished knitting the wrap for Simply Knitting today. I can't show any pics but it is made from our softest baby alpaca and I want to keep it! I'll have new hand-dyeds, a semi-solid and a hand-painted range, as well as the undyed yarn, so I'm looking forward to putting these together in the next week or so. The feature will be on texture so if you're fancying a bit of twisty, turny, cably knitting, be sure to check out the next issue.

Knitty Gritty Goes Large!

Today I'm busy preparing for the Knitty Gritty Goes Large event on Saturday. I'll be doing free hands-on dyeing sessions so anyone who fancies a go at dyeing but hasn't taken the plunge yet is welcome to come along and dye a mini-skein to make a pair of wristlets.

It's a free event, so if you can make it to Rochdale between 11am and 3pm, bring your sticks and string and celebrate National Knitting Week with us!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Knit 'n' Natter - beer and knitting - a great combo!

Monday was the first meeting of the Sale Knit 'n' Natter group at the King's Ransom pub in Sale. We got ourselves a nice spot next to the roaring fire, curled up in the Chesterfield sofas and knitted away until half ten. The nice thing about the pub is that it has lots of little areas so it's lovely and cosy even when the pub is quiet. They also do food until 9pm which is handy for anyone coming straight from work. Our next meeting will be Monday 3rd Nov, so if you fancy joining us, just turn up and look for the ones with knitting needles!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Tired, but happy!

Back at the house Gareth had been busy preparing a delicious meal. Two helpings of dinner and a pavlova of epic proportions were just the right start to our long journey home. We said our farewells with promises to meet up again (especially if Metallica play Manchester!).

After a false start (we left Pete's mobile on the living room table!), we made the ferry in good time, found our cabin and soon felt our eyes getting sleepy. A couple of glasses of wine and a quick cup of tea and it was time for bed - night folks and thanks heaps to Joanne, Gareth, Jack, Maggie and Hephey for a wonderful weekend! Hope to see you again soon!

(ps. Andy and Inga - you were right about the ferry!).

Cauldrons of colour....

I forgot to mention that the Ulster Folk Museum, apart from being a superb location for a guild, has lots of hands-on activities and demonstrations going on in reconstructed shops, streets and houses. So, visitors are used to wandering around and seeing "live" people working in the buildings. Needless to say, we had lots of curious tourists enquiring what we were doing and whether we were part of the museum!

Now, spinners are no strangers to questions about sleeping beauty and I'm sure I'm not the only one to have been asked if I'm a witch, but anyone listening to our animated lunchtime discussion of herbs, dyeplants and medicinal uses of plants would have been forgiven for thinking we should have been wearing pointy hats and stirring cauldrons!

As Pete patiently sorted a kaleidoscope of yarns onto sample cards, skeins and fibres were emerging from pots at a rapid rate and the variety of colours was amazing. We had fibres from all corners of the world, linen, bamboo, soy, wool, camel, silk and more. The most exciting thing about workshops for me is seeing everyone's individual styles and colour combinations - I'm sure I learn at least as much as I teach!

A huge thank you to the Guild for inviting me along and for being such a great bunch of people to
work with. And thanks, too, for the lovely lunches!

Fab evening

A lovely evening was in store for us at Joanne and Gareth's. Inga and hubby Andy, joined us for dinner and we were treated to a gorgeous meal followed by not one, but two luscious deserts - methinks I'll need to work double-hard to work off all those extra calories (but they don't count when you eat them away from home, right?).

While Andy and Pete talked art, illustrating, comics and manga (Andy is an amazing illustrator and artist), Joanne filled me in on what a fab time she and Inga had at the IKnit day. Joanne and Inga sell their lush handspun and batts as Moonspinning and Rockpoolcandy on etsy. Off to bed now, ready for another exciting day tomorrow...

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Natural dyeing workshop

A hearty breakfast, fine weather and a brisk drive to the Ulster Folk Museum and we were ready for two days of dyeing fun and frolics.

We got off to a great start. Intros done, health & safety covered (I'm sure I missed my vocation as a trolley dolly!), and we got the pots a-bubbling. After a while we realised that there was a distinct lack of "bubbling" - we'd tripped the fuses in the sockets! Luckily Rosemary and Pete came to the rescue and with a bit of reshuffling of pots we were soon back up and running.

As the extracts did their stuff, yielding up their magical colours, there were lots of oohs and aaahs and the sample cards filled up fast with an exciting range of shades and hues.

After a scrumptious pot-luck lunch it was back to the pots to try out some colour modifiers and to get down to the real fun of experimenting.

In-between stirring, rinsing and smooshing, there was lots of time for interesting chat, questions and admiring of everyone's lovely colours!

Friday, 12 September 2008

We are sailing..... (to Belfast)

Up at the crack of dawn today to pack the car ready for our trip to Belfast for my natural dyeing workshop with the Ulster Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.

Armed with multimaps, directions and a jam-packed car, we headed off to Birkenhead. This is the first ferry I've caught since a visit to the TT in the Isle of Man when I was but a 16yr old "biker-chick". Not so fond memories of a rough crossing, my best friend throwing up all the way there and tripping over my then boyfriend's dad sleeping in a corridor weren't exactly filling me with enthusiasm for the crossing! However, the sea was smooth, the cabin comfy and the food fine.

Arriving at our hosts' house (after taking the scenic route round Belfast when the road on our map was closed), we were met with the warmest welcome - a large glass of wine, a lovely room and the yummiest dinner (lemon tart to die for - double helpings all round - well, it would be rude not to!). Joanne, Gareth and Jack made us feel right at home and we knew we were in for a great weekend.

After several glasses more wine, enjoying great company and conversation, we hit the sack, tired but looking forward to the workshop.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Fleece-y fun

Dug out a fleece I'd forgotten about (surely not!) today as it looked in need of a dye-job. It had a strange yellow, sticky tinge to it, so I wasn't sure how well it would dye. I scoured it twice but it still wasn't really playing ball, so I decided to just go ahead and dye it anyway. After a long alum-mordant I played with some madder, persian berries and sorghoum on one batch. The other batch I dyed in brazilwood, teal and logwood purple. Some was nuked, some cooked on the stove, and, being a thrifty soul, I used up the exhaust, too, on the stove.

And the results? Not bad at all. Not as deep colour as I would normally get where the yellow-stained areas were, but quite fun nonetheless. I have some new handspindles to try so I'll card some up and see how it spins.....

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Myth and magic at Tintagel Castle...

Our last day dawned bright and sunny, perfect for the long haul up to Tintagel Castle. It's amazing to think that people lived in such a remote spot atop the cliffs - life must have been hard, especially in the winter. Whether you believe the King Arthur legend or no, it's hard not to be captivated by the mystery of the place.

In the interests of supporting English Heritage, we enjoyed a hearty lunch at the castle cafe (okay, so I had a savoury "cream tea" and sweet cream tea - oops!). By way of penance, we elected (well, actually I insisted), that we walk up the hill back into the village. I can't say that I wasn't regretting it by the time we got to the halfway mark!

We found a fantastic shop in the village. It's owned by Peter Pracownik, a master of fantasy art who designed album covers for the likes of Hawkwind, Grateful Dead, Fairport Convention and the Groundhogs (yes, yes, I'm a card-carrying hippy). I was sorely tempted by an original line drawing of a dragon, or one of the many signed prints of his wonderful Tolkien works, dragons and elemental pieces, but I had to settle for a signed book (sigh). Guess what I'll be asking Santa for this year?

We were sad to leave, but it was time to go - until next time......

Friday, 29 August 2008

As I was going to St Ives.....

Despite the cloudy weather, by today I was suffering with the dreaded "sun-bumps". Not really prickly heat as it wasn't hot, but my skin just does not like the sun and reacts by coming up in loads of tiny bumps and blisters (sorry, yuck!). So, I reluctantly had to be "coat Mum" today (ie, I got to sit on the sand with all the towels, coats and stuff while the boys went boarding - hrumph!). I must have made a strange sight, sitting there watching the world go by whilst swaddled from head to foot to keep the sun off my skin.

The boys had a fab time, tho', and it made me smile to watch them all surf into shore together in a perfect line, high-fiving as they hauled their boards back out for the next wave. I thought I'd die laughing when Will came flying in on a huge wave and surfed straight over the top of someone's sandcastle!! They looked a bit surprised to say the least! Hopefully I might have some pics when the film is developed.

The evening was a trip to St Ives. Of course, we'd forgotten that it was Friday night so getting a table for dinner was a bit of a 'mare, and we couldn't get in at Coast, our fave restaurant. Luckily we did get a great place right on the sea front. The narrow streets and higgledy-piggledy old houses and ginnels remind me of Harry Potter's Diagonalley, so it's quite magical just strolling round the shops.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Hellboy - Guillermo del Toro - genius!

More waves today - just Pete and I as the boys were intent on "sand-settlement #3". Tide timing was spot on and the cloudy weather and breeze ensured much successful boarding : )

After watching the sand-settlement be destroyed by the tide, it was a dash home for showers, dinner and a movie.

The local cinema in Wadebridge is a lovely, traditional cinema (no ice-cream interval, sadly). Hellboy II was excellent. Guillermo del Toro is a superb director (if you haven't seen Pan's Labyrinth and like dark "fairy tales", beg, steal or borrow a copy - not for the faint-hearted, but fabulous imagery and wonderful effects). A quick pit-stop at the Spar and home to bed...

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Eden project

Decided to give the towels a day off today and head off to the Eden project. It was every bit as good as we remembered it and we had a really good day.

We were a bit disappointed that they weren't doing the late night entertainment as it is really magical seeing the domes lit up at night, but this was made up for by the hands-on den-building and fire-lighting demo.

We scavenged a motley selection of poles, scraps of fabric, cut up inner-tyre rubber, rope and plastic sheeting and got to work.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Wet towels and Waves!!!

Quick update on last night - thought I'd wash the beach towels as they were full of sand. Biiig mistake. The washer wasn't working properly and the towels were soaking. There was nowhere to get anything dry (storage heaters = no night-time heat), so at 1.30am Pete was ironing (yes, you heard it correctly), the towels, to try and steam them dry. I was swapping them on and off the towel airer and the place was like a laundry! Got to bed about 2am, house steamy and towels still clammy and damp. Yuck!

This morning, towels still clammy, but worse than that is the smell - think wet dog meets old socks! Still, we are made of stern stuff so will be taking our pongy towels to the beach and waveboarding nonetheless!!! Just hope no-one is within sniffing distance - maybe the sea air will freshen them up?!

Waveboarding was fabulous, the tide was coming in and the waves were perfect. No sun so not too hot either. The boys made a fantastic sand "settlement" (far too big to call it a sandcastle). They diverted the water from the stream and created a brilliant series of moats around their various "buildings". It attracted quite a crowd by the time they'd finished. (photos still in waterproof camera, so will post later).

Hot showers (with the indoor towels thankfully), tea and a dvd to round off the day.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Pauline's and the first cream tea - yum!

Newquay today for wetsuit for Matt, new waveboard for Will (and a renewed hunt for the elusive Wii controller). Big tick for the wetsuit and waveboard, sad cross for the Wii controller : (

However, the boys seem happy with "old skool" games so I for one am pleased we couldn't get one, if I'm honest. It's nice to have some fun with good old-fashioned games, even if that does make me sound like I'm ready to hang up my pipe and slippers and shuffle off this mortal coil. Besides (cue cunningly evil laugh), I have a fighting chance of beating them at Ludo, but no hope of beating them on the Wii - muhahaaa......!

Today was also the perfect excuse for a trip to our fave lunchtime haunt, Pauline's, in Newquay. Huge cakes, yummy pasties and the friendliest service for miles. Good job I don't live here or I'd be the size of a house!

Next stop, Watergate bay for the first waveboarding session. Fabulous waves even tho' the tide was going out. It's the next best thing to, well, you know.....

Oooh, I could do this every day......

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Bodmin, Wadebridge and the great Wii controller hunt

We promised the boys we'd try and look for Wii controllers today so there was an early (fruitless) shopping trip round Bodmin, Wadebridge and then on to the Cornish Market. As the sun came out we dashed off to Carylon beach to build a sandcastle. What we didn't know, however, was that Carylon is more gravel than sand so it wasn't up to our usual, fortress-style standard! It did the job, tho', and obligingly collapsed as the tide came in - the key feature of any sandcastle-building exercise. Back home for fish & chips and Scrabble (Will won, despite a couple of hotly disputed three-letter words - where's the OSW dictionary when you need it?).

Saturday, 23 August 2008

We are off to Cornwall (stage two)...

Arrived in Bristol late last night and stayed over with Pete's parents. This morning we collected the huge food box Pete's mum had very kindly put together for us and headed off, armed with enough sandwiches, snacks and cakes to feed an army! (It's a long journey, ok?)

When we arrived, first priority for the boys was to set up the Wii - only to find that Will had left the controllers behind (!). This necessistated a mad dash to Tesco to see if they had any (they didn't) so it was back to the cottage for pizza and a hunt thro' the games the owners had provided. We had a great evening playing chess, dominoes and a particularly ruthless, "take no prisoners" game of ludo. Phew, we're a competitive lot!

(Oh, and there was no internet so I won't be posting this lot until we get back....)

Friday, 22 August 2008

Off to Cornwall!

Despite promising myself that today would be spent getting ready for our trip, I was still packing orders at 3pm and made a last-minute dash to the post office at 4pm to get everything sent off before we went away.

Luckily (and this probably makes me the ultimate saddo) I still have the same packing list I've used for the last 3 trips to Cornwall (can't believe I just admitted that), so at least I knew what to pack. A hasty dusting off of the buckets, spades, waveboards and beach tent and it was on to clothes packing. Of course, the weather meant everything had to be packed, from wellies and waterproofs to strappy tops and shorts - the bags were fit to burst by the time I'd finished.

As I had half an hour to spare (!) and the weather was finally dry, I had a complete brainstorm and decided to cut the front lawn (well, the grass was practically knee-high). (The penalty for living in suburbia and "keeping up with the joneses").

One cut, strimmed, and raked lawn (and one very full car) later and we were ready to set off. Cornwall here we come!!! yippee!!!

Guess the Mystery "Fibre"

Here's a recent gift from a friend. Had it not been for the writing on the bag, I would have tried to spin it for sure....

Just as well there was an English translation.....

Yes, Iranian candy floss! Not one to eat in front of anyone you're trying to impress (definitely not first date stuff), but wow, it tastes amazing!!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

"You only sing when you're spinning" (or dyeing!)

I got a cd player for the workshop for my birthday back in June and it was only this week that I realised that I choose very different music depending on what I'm up to in there. For tidying up and washing fleece it's rock all the way, stock taking is quiet "AOR", and dyeing can be anything from folk to rock, calling at all points inbetween.

The workshop is also where I do my singing, usually at the top of my voice and more often than not, out of tune. I have even been known to do a spot of boogeying while the dyes are cooking up (I keep the windows shut so as not to scare anyone's pets or small children). This week's eclectic selection was (in no particular order), Led Zeppelin, Linkin Park, Cher, Jethro Tull, the Hoodoo Gurus and the Lost Prophets and I began to wonder whether music has an influence on my dyeing. I shall be testing this out, so see if you can tell whether I was on a Stairway to Heaven or the Last Train Home (I'll name that tune in two - eek, showing my age now)

Anyway, before I "Ramble On" (sorry), here's what I was doing this week:

Here's Freckles Junior (left), just as he arrived, straight from shearing. He's a shearling so the fleece is downy and soft. Call me weird but I love the feel of raw fleece - I think it's all that untapped potential waiting to be turned into something exciting.

Grotty bits removed, a good bath, and the first batch is washed and ready for dyeing.

Some singing and dancing later (Cher eat your heart out), and here is the dyed fleece....

ps. Used the new program ("Gimp" - why did they call it that?) for editing the pics so if they're not great, my apologies - I'm still learning!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Slip-stitch samples and design inspiration

I had the pattern books out this weekend to do some swatching for my next article in Simply Knitting . Although I will do anything to avoid doing a tension square, swatching for a new design is completely different - exciting and challenging, fun, yet at times frustrating, all rolled up into one wonderful package.

Even tho' may be sure I've got the right stitch pattern with my first swatch, I'll normally do a good few more before I make a final choice for a design. It helps me keep an open mind and try new things rather than always sticking to "safe" patterns. I keep my swatches in a big box and often come back to them for future designs. It's amazing how often a design which didn't make the cut triggers off an idea for another project.

At the moment I'm really into slip-stitch patterns. I chose two for my felted designs for Artesano and they were such fun, I was keen to use them some more in my designs. So, as my next Simply Knitting project will be a cover for a workbox and will need a nice, firm fabric, I
was pretty sure that this would be a perfect excuse for a rummage in my "inspirations" box for a nice slip-stitch pattern.

Several swatches later and I've decided on my design. I also have some new samples for my collection and some more ideas. Later, I shall be trying out the new open source photo-editing software Pete loaded onto the laptop for me to see if I can put some tasters up for you to see (altho' he said it looked quite complicated to use so don't hold your breath!)...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Guild day - time to spin - yippee!

Had a great day today at my spinning guild meeting . The morning was an excellent talk by Val Hughes, showcasing her water, ice and snow collection. Words can't do these amazing felted, stitched and embroidered evening dresses justice, so if you get the chance to see Val's work at one of the stitching shows, be sure to go along.

The afternoon was spent spinning (in between catching up on the news). I spun up some silk samples I bought yonks ago and then andean plyed it into little skeins. I used the cute double whorl spindle (the middle one), which I got (and the two other ones - sheepish grin - ) from Anne Campbell many moons ago. I love it because it's so light yet beautifully balanced.

Here's my mini-skein close up.

Then it was off to the other extreme to spin some combed Wensleydale locks.

I found these locks when I opened my apron (blushes). Immediately wishing I'd brought my wheel, I stubbornly decided that I'd give them a go on the handspindle. Why stubbornly? Well, as you can just about see, the staple is about as long as the spindle (12") and my arms weren't really long enough to get a decent draw. I love handspindling, but this was a bit much, even for me. But I persevered and here are the original locks, the locks after being dog-combed and the small sample I made. Not as bad as I expected but I think one for the wheel next time : )

Came home brimming with spinning ideas and keen to wash a fleece I've been harbouring for a while now to dye up and pop in the shop. Freckles junior is a gorgeous, white shearling Ryeland and I'll be natural dyeing her lovely, soft first clip (altho' I may do a bit of synthetic dyeing too....)

Thursday, 31 July 2008

A lovely thank you from Kate and Diane!

A lovely thank you dropped through my letterbox recently - Diane and Kate, editors extraordinaire of the new online mag, Inside Loop sent me a card, a cute mini-sock on a keychain and a couple of buttons (oh, and the choccy, but I ate that already so no pic!). The thank you was for my article on "kitchen cupboard" dyeing. If you haven't checked out Inside Loop yet, be sure and take a look. There are some gorgeous patterns and great features. Better yet, if you have a good pattern or article idea, why not submit one and see yourself in print!

Fones don't float

Or, multi-tasking is not always a good thing.

So, I have a big dye-batch to finish and the mobile rings. I can see it's Pete calling so I gingerly balance the phone against my ear, dye gloves still on and dripping dye.

Explaining my predicament, we agree to speak later, only, as I close the phone (one of those annoying slidey ones), it makes a break for it and shoots straight out of my hand. I can see it, slow-motion style, heading straight for the full bucket of dyebath water, and ploosh! - direct hit - straight to the bottom!

I haul it out pdq and wrap it in a towel. Somehow I've called Pete back and I can hear his voice, sounding like he's at the bottom of a swimming pool. Then it goes dead and there's just a sad fizzing noise : (

So for now, it's back to my trusty Nokia brick which, I have to say, spent half an afternoon submerged in a bucket of rainwater in the garden and made a full recovery, so there may yet be hope. Maybe it's time for one of those handsfree earpiece gadgets....

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Gettin arty-farty

Hair cut day today so a pilgrimage to Manchester was on the cards. As I'd foolishy opted for a lunchtime appointment there wasn't time for a trip to Chinatown for lunch and it wasn't late enough to meet Pete afterwards for tea (terrible planning on my part but better for the pre-holiday diet). Instead Will and I opted for a visit to the Art Gallery, which, I'm embarrassed to say I have never been to despite living and working in Manchester for longer than I care to share in public.

It was a cool trip. The gallery isn't large but they have a neat interactive area which makes the works more accessible, especially for kids. The current exhibition was quite strange, but really clever - life-size realistic sculptures made out of cut up pieces of photographs on paper and varnished. The one of a guy who'd been flattened by a large rock was particularly entertaining! The Tiffany pieces and Victoriana were personal faves (I could have done without the stuffed frogs recreating a Victorian house scene tho'). I also discovered Valette's paintings of Manchester. Dark and atmospheric but strangely compelling.

A trip to Forbidden Planet and a last minute dash to the post office and it was back home for a nice cuppa and to start planning my next Simply Knitting project (more of which later...).

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Artesano felting projects

This week I finished the design commission for Artesano . There will be 9 felted knitting patterns in the collection and they should be going on sale soon. It has been a fantastic opportunity for me and I feel so lucky to have been asked to work with them. I've learned so much and am totally addicted to their two new yarns, Artesano DK and Artesano Aran. The Aran is 50% alpaca/50% wool and is divinely soft as well as felting like a dream. I don't have any pics yet, but will post some once the collection has been officially launched.

Dusting off the "blogwebs"

I can't believe it's two months since I last updated the blog! Total respect to those amazing people who blog weekly, never mind the incredibly organised daily bloggers! And the main contributor to my going "blog AWOL"? Work overload - in the last 2 months I've been juggling 12 design commissions, two articles, three workshops, two talks, a magazine offer that blew me away it was so popular, Woolfest, researching a distributorship offer and, most importantly, being busy with my lovely customers. July and August were going to be my "planning, designing for my own yarns and marketing" months. needless to say I haven't seen much of any of that yet. Not that I'm complaining - I love it, but it does take me away from writing about it!

I know this isn't how it's meant to work, but I'll get on with the current news and add some of the other things I planned to blog about as they come to me. Fingers crossed for an improved blog-post quota : )

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Hand-turned spinning tools

Courtesy of my very talented father-in-law, I now have some lovely spinning wheel orifice hooks for sale. Each one is unique and they are all hand-turned in different woods. I also have some niddy-noddys and nostepinnes but haven't managed to photograph these yet, but they will be appearing soon.

Here they are in close-up. As you can tell, I took these, not Pete so they are a bit "basic" : )

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