The Knitting Sailor

May 29, 2013, 6:05 pm
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

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.

From Shetland sheep

Turns out people aren’t interested.

Even the dog is a bit bored and would rather go sniff the sheep fleeces.

I get it, it’s from an alpaca. Can I have a sausage now please??

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 Alpaca
It’s Alpaca

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?

Fun with Fleece
May 14, 2013, 7:24 am
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Do you remember these?

Trust me - they look bigger in real life

Full of sheep

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.


There are a lot of sheep here…

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.


I love sheep me. Can I put one in my mouth please?

This appears to be the easy bit – you basically put it in a bath with soda crystals and then go and drink tea.

Manky fleece

Manky fleece

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?


Very much cleaner

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.





Kielder Jubilee
June 5, 2012, 12:54 pm
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , ,

As the country celebrates with fireworks, a flotilla and festivities galore, we at Kielder were not to be out done.

We had our very own sail past from the yacht club.

The Queen herself was pleased to attend – I employed my very best curtsey.

As you can see in these times of austerity she even wore the same outfit as she did back in 1982 when she opened the resovoir.

Even the dog was looking patriotic.

After a walk around, she stayed for a bite to eat before dashing back to London for the evening festivities.

The NSC (none sailing comodore) even put in an appearance.

So a rare event indeed.  We hope to see the queen back in the near future for a cruise and a BBQ, we’ve let her know we have some spare wetsuits she can borrow if she or Philip doesn’t have one to hand.

In the meantime, it was a weekend to remember – and from all at the club – God Save the Queen!

(Thanks to Laura for the photos!)

Be afraid, be very afraid….
April 23, 2012, 7:46 am
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Flushed with success, Able Seaman Knitting Sailor (doesn’t really work does it?) has gone straight to the next challenge – driving a powerboat!

I have never driven a powerboat before as I think they are scary dangerous things and what’s the point as they don’t have a sail.  But I started a proper course to learn how to zoom around our stretch of water.

I’m not a very good driver in a car and this kind of persisted with the powerboat.  I thought I was doing really well until it was pointed out that closing my eyes every time I got above 3mph maybe wasn’t the best approach.  But I persevered and look what I won!

That’s right – a licence to drive a powerboat when accompanied by my small brown princessly dog.

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