Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: dog, felting, spinning, wool, Woolfest
So in the fairytale, the beautiful princess was locked in a dungeon (/ tower/ cellar /pick your own inconvenient place to be imprisoned) and made to spin straw into gold. It is so obvious this fairytale is built on fact – because trust me the stuff I am spinning is worth more than gold. It is, in fact, as the American Express advert says, priceless. This is because of the time it takes.
But I am so totally proud of it that I have taken to carrying bobbins of it around in my handbag to show people.
Turns out people aren’t interested.
Even the dog is a bit bored and would rather go sniff the sheep fleeces.
Actually, that isn’t true. Lots of knitty people are interested, and I can totally get kudos when I explain that the purple stuff is all the way from the Shetlands (bought last year at Woolfest) and the rest is Alpaca.
I’ve kind of fouled up with the Alpaca however. Look at it.
It’s not just pretty its also soft and warm and totally beautiful. And I made a foolish promise. My brothers fiance wanted to create a felted Alpaca bag. Alpaca yarn is very expensive, so when we were at another wool event (I know – there are more than one, but I didn’t admit to it in case you judged me…) I foolishly promised to spin her the wool myself. reasoning that it would save loads of money, and be fun and could be her Christmas present.
It wasn’t finished for Christmas, so I bought her lama wool to use instead. It didn’t cut it…..
And now I have my first spun Alpaca finished. I don’t think I can give it to her. To be felted. Do you think she would take my firstborn instead?
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: dog, fleece, preparing, spinning, wool
Do you remember these?
I got them with one of my spinning wheels. I have had no idea what to do with them, so they have sat in my house for some time now. So I did what I usually do, cry for help! And my distress call was totally answered by Julie from Crafty Recycling who I sail with. Julies philosophy is that you can re-use everything – and she has been processing fleeces into wool for all sorts of things for years. Most importantly she wasn’t afraid to open the boxes….
So a couple of weeks ago I rocked up at hers with my boxes. And we opened them. And this is what we found.
I know – look at all those sheepy piles! Even unpacking them was exciting as we had no idea what we would find – fortunately no dead bodies. In fact we even had royalty (well aristocracy) – the label on the mushroom coloured fleece in front of the nearest box had a tag on declaring it ‘the Countess of Swinton‘ – although I suspect this may be from the countess’s farm, I prefer to think it was a very special sheep.
The black ones are Hebridean and have exciting golden tips, the beige ones were Shetlands, with some ‘mules’ which are mixed breed fleeces. Overall the fleeces were all in good condition if a little dry. The things you are looking for is how dry it is, if it’s really matted or if it’s felted. In any of these situations then you might as well not waste your time. We chucked one, but all of the rest were still good to go. So I still had a herd. My house just isn’t that big…
So what do you do with a pile of sheep like this? Well you get a sheep dog to help you – Molly was most enthusiastic to help us herd one of the fleeces into the bath to start to clean the fleece ready for working with it.
This appears to be the easy bit – you basically put it in a bath with soda crystals and then go and drink tea.
I know, it’s not a good look. There are lots of different ways to do this and if you look on the tinterweb then there is lots of different advice, but this seems to be a pretty no-nonsense approach. This was also a chance to see what you can do next. Julie has a drum carder, and having washed the fleece will then pull it apart and comb it out with a pet comb and then put it through the carder which looks like a giant machine of torture! It actually combs out the wool ready to use. This is where it really takes some time – every last bit needs to be combed through by hand to work out any last bits of plant material or anything else. I suggest a hot tip would be to not let your sheep anywhere near anything that might go in its fleece. Like grass, or plants, or poo. Or you could wrap it in cling film or something. Because I can see this bit taking AGES. Sigh. But nothing is wasted, anything you comb out can then be used for toy stuffing, or put on your garden as mulch, or put in a little feeder for birds to make nests out of.
Once the fleece had had a bath, we were ready to give it a final rinse and get it dry. Because the water that came off it was very brown looking and had definitely been attached to a very muddy and happy sheep!
Yes that’s right, it’s a fleece in a pillowcase that’s going in the washing machine. Visions of felting were floating around by this point.
Key thing with all of this is to make sure that you are using cold water and then this isn’t a problem.
So what does it look like when you have finished?
The bit hanging down at the back is its tail! Apparently its really good to have it still look like a sheep as it makes it easier to handle. I just think its more exciting looking. But look how not-brown it looks!
So once its dry this sheep is off to be carded and spun. Have to say, all this work is starting to make buying yarn a cheap occupation when you see all the work that goes into it.
One down – 47,000 other fleeces to go. Should be finished for Christmas.
So you pine all year, and then two come along at once!
That’s right, I am now the proud owner of not one but two spinning wheels!
They are both Ashfords, both about the same age and both sitting in my house. I could barely contain my excitement. Not least as collecting them had involved road trips to Scarborough and York.
One was from E-Bay, one was from a friend of the Mr’s who had heard I was looking for one – and before I knew it we were committed to both. But with a brill deal on both I am reasoning that I can always sell the one I don’t like as much. this was until my Mum started eying them and saying that actually it looked like more fun than she had expected. and before I started to think that obviously it would be good to have two wheels – you know, one for home, one for the sailing club…
They have obviously been well loved – and Mavis even showed us some of the things that she had made with hers – including a cardigan with beautiful colours in it – all dyed from plants. I think I am some way off that for the moment!
The second wheel was a real surprise – it came with some extras – a Carding Drum which lets you comb out fleece ready for spinning, but that actually looks like a Spanish inquisition type torture device and a couple of extra boxes. When I was introduced to this box I was told there was some fleece in there. When we went to collect, a couple of boxes had turned into 5. And when I got home and looked inside the first box…. There were two actual sheep fleeces in it. Complete with straw and sheepy smell. I don’t know that I have ever been more stunned. I just looked at them.
So on rough calculations I have around ten fleeces from ten actual sheep. It’s a flock of my very own. I have absolutely no idea what to do about this, so at the moment they are sitting in the spare room being interestingly sniffed by the dog who has finally found a sheep she can get up close and personal with. I’m just hoping the sheep don’t want them back.
And I have one of them working. Kind Of. What I’ve got from my attempts over a few hours is this – it’s lumpy and bumpy and looks like this -
So I am super loving it. But I need to put them away as we are in the middle of a decorating nightmare – so over Christmas I am going to have lots to play with once we are finished.
I love Christmas. I’m going to decorate the pasting table.
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: alpaca, dromedary, garden, sheep, wool
To take true consideration if all of the options here is my list about why it would be great to have an alpaca / lama in the garden. This is to endure the full facts are explored before I bring an animal into my suburban back garden.
I say alpaca / lama as I have never really understood the difference between them. I think lamas are taller. I’m sure someone clever would be able to tell me.
- If I had an alpaca in my back garden then I could make heaps of money by selling the fleece as its really expensive fibre
- I could hire it out in the winter to star in nativity productions
- It would be able to peer over the fence and entertain the neighbours grandchildren (if it was a tall one which makes it a lama)
- I could run visits for knitters and sell them alpaca / lama related items – e.g. a book in the shape of an alpaca / lama, alpaca / lama flavoured wine etc.
- In the summer I could take it to the beach to take the kiddies for a ride
- I could make my own cheese (or is that goats?)
- My lawn would still be beautifully manicured – but so would my bushes due said animals increased height
Concern may be that they spit and don’t get on with the sheep, and as they are part of the camel family they might find the North East a little chilly…. Also, the last time I met a camel I had to buy a rug.
Get a sheep to live in the back garden. Reasons why having a sheep in my back garden would be a good idea -
- It would save me lots of money on wool
- It would be locally produced, organic wool and of the finest quality
- I would not have to mow the lawn again
- The sheep would be a friend to the little dog and the fishes in the pond
- It could be a business investment as I could spin the wool and then sell it for lots of money to pay for the sheep’s upkeep
- I could knit it a scarf and then sell photos of it wearing the scarf for Christmas cards
- It would feed itself on grass so would be very cheap
- In the winter it could live in the Mr’s shed – so it would have the added benefit of getting the shed cleared out
- It would mean I could find out what sheep nuts actually are
- We could take the sheep for days out to Kielder and it could play with lots of other sheep
- People would visit and make a fuss of the sheep so it would become a talking point
Thinking about it, maybe I need two?
I finished my spinning! So last time I wrote about this I had spun one ball and knit up half a pattern. I had done this because
- I was too excited to wait
- I really really really wanted to prove it was real wool and not pretend wool
- Lots of people who spin, spin what they need as they go
- I was scared it might turn back into fluff if it wasn’t quickly marshalled into a knitted item
- I was too excited to wait
But I only had enough to do half of the collar and it looked like this
Inspired to dash on, I then got straight back on with the spinning! I was a little bit quicker this time and a little more careful. If I got a big blobby bit of wool then I would go back, tease it apart and re-spin it all tidily. I was quite chuffed with my attention to detail. I seem to have got through a lot of fluff very quickly with this project – I guess because I am making quite thick wool due to inexperience. I also think that there must be something that you need to do to make thinner wool – if I let the thread get too thin then the weight of the spindle (and the already spun wool) makes it snap. So I think I have a chunky wool spindle.
It took me another three days to repeat the process, but my spinning was definitely better – more even and finer looking. I don’t know if you can see it on the photos.
And two hours later I had finished the knitting. There are lots of bonus’s here. For six days making wool I reckon I got three hours knitting (if that). Based on this calculation I am never going to be able to keep up with enough spinning to fulfil the knitting side of things. Therefore I am still going to have to buy wool too – yay!
So what does my finished item look like?
I added extra buttons because they are super lovely buttons… and I put the first one in the wrong place. It’s a lovely pattern, and I definitely think it suits the homespun nature of this wool – it’s also really easy to knit – I am contemplating dashing out 27,000 of them for Christmas presents. Pattern is HERE.
So this only leaves me with one problem. The wool looks different! The first lot is less ‘spun’ than the first lot, and the second lot is definitely got more definition about it – I suspect I would have got different wpi if I had actually checked (of course I didn’t check – who do you think I am!).
So I am now doing that thing where people compliment me on it and I say – ‘oh thank you! I spun the wool myself! But what you can see is that I did it in two lots and I think I got better as I went on and if you look where these two ends overlap you can really see that there is a big difference in the wool I ended up with so it doesn’t quite match….’.
Please shoot me. And pass me some more fluff – it won’t spin itself you know.
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: engineering, knitting, knitting machine, kwsc, wool
The problem with eBay is that you go looking for one thing and end up buying something totally different. Sometimes this is because you have had a wonderfully convivial evening at the end of which there seems to be nothing more to but to buy a wreck of a boat unseen from the other end of the country. Sometimes it’s because you only realise you REALLY need something once you have seen it pop up on the screen. Sometimes you get carried away and get into a bidding war over something you don’t really want just because if other people are bidding then it MUST be good. On this occasion my downfall was none of these.
I had visited this online emporium to look at spinning wheels. Spinning wheels are very expensive so I thought by having a look here I might be able to pick one up super cheap. Alas, it was not to be – even on eBay they seem to go for quite a bit. But just as I was about to give up a surprise item popped up. It was a knitting machine!
Now I have used a knitting machine before, my mum used to have one and I remember many a happy hour spent untangling wool from it. I can’t remember what I made – but I’m sure it was good. I texted my mum to ask what had happened too it… She confidently assured me that she had sold it or given it away. I was thinking about it lots now. I had had a lovely time playing with it. It made a special knitting machine noise and everything.
The auction had a very bad picture. I like it when that happens as it usually means that no one else would be bidding on it. The description was a bit pants too, but on closer reading promised the boxed knitting machine came with books and an intarsia carriage! Wow. I was getting very excited by this point. I decided to sleep on it as the auction didn’t finish until the next day.
The morning dawned bright, cheerful, and very,very quickly as I was up at an ungodly time for my team meeting. It was a really busy day and only after lunch that I realised, horror of horrors, that I had missed the end if the auction!!!!
I was devastated. In my head I had already knit four jumpers and a pair of socks on it.
Unable to resist checking how much it had gone for I called up the listing. It hadn’t sold. I couldn’t believe it! Undeterred I dropped the seller an email offering cash and a collection later that night – it was in the same village as one of my friends from the sailing club and I thought offering to pick it straight up might close the deal.
After a nervous wait I got a response. YES! I was now the proud owner of a ‘zippy-punch deluxe’ which I immediately decided to name Jeremy.
I was so excited. And when it turned up at the club I was beside myself. I unpacked it from its original box and polystyrene packaging and started to set it up in a corner of the club house.
It was like new and had obviously hardly been used. Having put it all together I moved the carriage across the needles for the first time.
It was amazing – it sounded just like my mums, all knitty and clippy and zippy! I threaded it up, and with much reference to the manual, cast on.
This is kind of where it all goes wrong so if you are of a nervous disposition please stop reading now…
Having moved the carriage right to left, I tried to return the carriage to the right. It wouldn’t move. On closer inspection it appears that the needles were all getting caught underneath the knitting carriage – when they were meant to be inside it. Well I had a few words with Jeremy, but even talking nicely to him wasn’t solving the problem. After half an hour of this a qualified engineer and all round fixer-of-things finally stepped in and brought his years of experience to bear on the problem.
And then it looked like this.
That little bit of cardboard is really important. It’s one of the bits that were screwed into Jeremy to make his knitty mouth bigger so the needles pop back into it. Special thanks to my special engineer friend!
An hour (and some beer) later and we were ready to go. It worked! Well…. kind of. It turns out the problem with knitting machines is that they don’t quite do what you expect. After a perfect cast on and rattling backwards and forwards I discovered a little problem.
My first bit of knitting looked very exciting. Except that there were some needles without wool on them any more.
Well that’s OK – I have special tools to pick up stitches with.
Turns out the special tools to pick up stitches need to be used every time you touch Jeremy. I think he is a bit sensitive having been left in his original box for so long. It is now past midnight. Everyone else has had beer and I just have a grumpy Jeremy and some hacky looking wool I have spent most of the night untangling from Jeremy’s innards.
All of a sudden it comes to me – what I made on my Mums knitting machine. The reason I couldn’t remember was because what I actually made was – nothing. I just spent hours doing exactly this! Are knitting machines the biggest con of all time? How do Marks and Spencers get jumpers knitted if they don’t work? I must be missing something.
I am sure that Jeremy just needs a little love and he will be just fine. And after all it could have been worse - an evening playing with wool is never wasted.
Should have bought a spinning wheel.
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: kielder, knitting, sailing, spinning, wool
I am a firm believe in life having a way of working out – and this last week has just reinforced that. Somehow the right people and places will appear in your life at just the right time to help you along the way.
When I started sailing it was because my hubby and I had a random conversation and decided it was something we would really like to have a go at. But having visited a few sailing clubs we didn’t really feel like we fitted in anywhere. Over a few drinks with friends we discussed this, and identified two other couples who would be keen to start as well. So without much of a plan we now had a group of us. Because of this we could then afford to buy a boat.
So we started looking at boats instead of sailing clubs – figuring that one would naturally follow the other. The boat we eventually went to look at was at a fairly remote club – but that was OK – our intention was to see if it was alright, buy it, bring it home and sort it from there – it wasn’t as if we would need to go back to the club, one of the closer ones would work out sooner or later. Once we got there however that all changed. We were immediately approached by members keen to say hello, cups of tea and general chat was provided along with some tyre kicking on the boat (turns out we should have spent more time on the boat, but at the time we understood more about tyres). By the time we left that day we had bought a boat (an Enterprise. Hot tip DON’T buy an Ent as your first boat. Especially not a wooden one. There’s a reason there are so many for sale so cheaply), joined the club, got on a waiting list for training and had already capsized the boat once. My husband is now the commodore and we are firmly committed to this remote club up in the wilds of Northumberland.
When I moved company some years back I was fairly apprehensive – I had been with the previous company for nearly ten years, so leaving felt like a huge leap of faith. But on starting my new job I found a welcoming environment and a friend. It turned out this friend knitted. It all started with a pair of fingerless mittens (Fetching – I think everyone in the world knit them) that she wore throughout the winter. And when I admired them for the 47th time she suggested I knit some – remember this is an experienced knitter and was never going to fall into the trap of knitting some FOR me – oh no, knitting my own had to be the answer. So I bought some needles and wool and after a few lunchtimes of wondering how you were meant to knit with five needles in a circle, I had knitted nine of them. This might seem an odd number, but it took me this many to get two roughly the same size. Knitting is now really important to me and although I go through fits and starts, I have made new friends and created beautiful things by persevering… but I needed that help to get me started.
Which brings me to Spinning. Spinning and I weren’t getting on. I was kind of managing. I knew that I had to set myself a goal or else I was not going to keep going for long enough to get any level of proficiency. But it was all feeling a little like hard work. Until i popped into the Knit Studio. As my favourite yarn shop it’s always a treat – but it was also a surprise to find everyone there spinning with a drop spindle! This had never happened before – mostly you find people knitting or browsing – but I had never been there when spinning was going on. In a further stroke of luck – I had my spinning with me! What followed was 45 minutes of intense teaching and coaching from a new friend. No wonder I was struggling – I hadn’t understood enough of the basics to make a go of it – I was working against the fibre rather than with it. By the end of my lunch hour I felt like I had made a bit of progress, and over the weekend I have been spinning my heart out. In fact it looks a bit like this.
I know – still a bit lumpy, but definitely better! And now I have someone to take all of my spinning woes too. (she has no idea what she’s let herself in for by giving me here Ravelry name!)
So it turns out that if you smile, are pleasant and just ask, it’s amazing how you can find the help you need – and make a friend or two along the way.
I haven’t posted for a while because its coming up to end of quarter. Those in sales will now nod understandingly and offer me a gin.
For those not in sales what this essentially means is that my time is currently spent peering at reports and hitting buttons on my calculator while scratching my head and wondering how on earth I am going to make 2 plus 2 equal 5. Maths was never my strong point – strangely not many children have ambitions to be a sales manager – most want to be an astronaught, train driver or doctor. In my case I wanted to be Indiana Jones – somehow I never saw being chased by nazis and wearing a hat as being dependent on my maths skills. So I wasted my youth digging holes in the ground in the rain with people with suspect dress sense and a penchant for facial jewellery. To be fair – it was probably more fun than maths would have been.
So I am posting today to tell you all about how I am going to chase my end of quarter stress away…. By doing some spinning and then some knitting of the stuff I have done the spinning of!
What could be more fun???
So I am starting with this -
Doesn’t it look pretty? I got it at woolfest and have been sitting looking at it ever since. It’s merino and from a purple stripy sheep and I am going to use my drop spindle on it. This is a drop spindle.
The idea is you hook the woolly stuff on and then spin it and it twists the woolly stuff to start to make it into a strand of twisty wool stuff. Once you have this you the twist two bits if the woolly strands together and then get it wet and dry and and -ta-dah- designer wool!!!
Bearing in mind the ‘finished’ roundabout yarn (some of which you can still see on the spindle!) I last spun was an unmitigated disaster and is sitting in a sad little heap all on its own I think this is a bit of a challenge.
And then I am going to knit it to make this -
Apparently it doesn’t matter if your wool is lumpy, you can make it all lovely by knitting it into this.
I am doing this so that I can then wear it every day and say ‘This? I spun and knit it myself thank you …. Yes you’re right…. I am hugely talented … What’s that? You happen to need a talented knitter and spinner to come with you on your next search-for-something-hidden-in-a-jungle to document your search via the medium of wool and you would like me to come? I’ll just get my hat.’
Well, it works in MY head….