The Knitting Sailor

Woolfest 2013
July 18, 2013, 8:17 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , , ,

It was totally epic!  This year I took my mum who hadn’t been before and it was even busier than last year.  Stuff that was exciting this year –

  • Rare breeds show – this actually seemed to be ‘breeds that you may know and love in the British Isles’.  They all still really looked like sheep to me.  Apart from the Alpacas.  Obviously.
He struggled with the goat.  He'd lost his notes about that one.

He struggled with the goat. He’d lost his notes about that one.

  • Re-visiting the scene of the crime.  That’s right – this is where it all started last year, and I was determined that Kate got my mum hooked this year.  Think she succeeded….
I got a hug when I told her I now had my own wheel and everything....

I got a hug when I told her I now had my own wheel and everything….

  • Look - its like real wool - and she's only been doing it for three seconds!!

    Look – its like real wool – and she’s only been doing it for three seconds!!

  • Going to the fleece sale (I was SOOOO good – I didn’t buy anything (From the fleece sale.  OBVIOUSLY I bought stuff from Woolfest…)
All of the fleeces had names and sometimes photos of the sheep on them - they were gorgeous and I was very restrained not to add to my herd....

All of the fleeces had names and sometimes photos of the sheep on them – they were gorgeous and I was very restrained not to add to my herd….

  • Admired the wool-art.  This was actually made really close to where I live by a group at the Linskill Centre – it’s always the way that you travel to see something that’s local to you…
Millions of hours of work!

Millions of hours of work!

They're not real

They’re not real

  • Found this amazing display and blog – Land Keepers – please go and have a look – the photos of the farmers on their land and the beauty of the Lake District in rain, snow and hail are all there.  I’m not showing you a photo to build the suspense.
  • Took an excessive number of photos of sheep.  You will be thrilled I am going to share with you.
We're all sheep

Grumpy looking sheep


Curly looking sheep


Giant fringe sheep

  • Took the bag of goodies I bought and hid it.  I have a baby blanket to knit.

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
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

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.





Now we are One

It turns out that it was a year ago today I posted my first entry on this site.  It was a bit random and primarily in response to ‘I couldn’t do that – could I?’.  Well so far it’s been a lot of fun – I think!  And looking back over the year, it turns out there are lots of things that I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of this!

Things I have learnt from this year

  • Everyone hates running (apart from Tillerman – but I don’t actually believe him)
  • That the inventor of the Crow’s Nest was born in Whitby
  • Spinning is really hard
  • How to taste wine (sort of – it all still tastes like wine really though)
  • Trying to teach kids anything without the benefit of chocolate is basically a waste of time
  • You actually can buy ANYTHING on E-Bay
  • How to be a better OOD!
  • We all like Dinosaurs (maybe I imagined this?)
  • Woolfest is awesome
  • Not every 50p is worth 50p
  • The Internet definitely thinks I should get a sheep

Amazing things that happened this year

  • I ran the Great North Run– who knew?!?
  • I came third in an actual proper sailing race – and got a prize to prove it
  • It was the Mr’s last year as Commodore
  • I learnt to spin
  • The dog qualified to drive a powerboat
  • We didn’t move to the country
  • I met a real life alpaca and fed it a carrot
  • I got a spinning wheel AND a knitting machine called Jeremy
  • The Olympics and the Jubilee!  Go Britain!
  • I qualified as a Dinghy Instructor
  • The Solstice at Stonehenge – kind of amazing
  • I learnt how to felt… OK it was by mistake – but let’s take it as a positive!
  • I wasn’t last at an open event

I also found some amazing people and blogs out there in the ether of the Internet – I have added a new page so if you would like to go and visit some of them then check this out.  Be warned – some of these people actually know what they are talking about!

But most of all it’s been fun to chat with you all – so thanks for dropping by…. it’s appreciated!

So what about this year?

Well I have a plan.  I need to get better at sailing and knitting.  I also need to delete the email suggesting that I take part in the Sunderland Half Marathon in April.  This is a foolish idea and no amount of looking at the email is going to get rid of the cake and beer induced wobble prior to April.

So I am going to be doing 3LT – this is the name for my new recipe for success.  Every idea needs a good marketing slogan.  And maybe a logo.

Look, Learn, Listen; Turn up, Take part and TRAVEL!

That sounds really exciting doesn’t it?

Just like buses
December 4, 2012, 8:14 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , ,

So you pine all year, and then two come along at once!

Please ignore the background - we're decorating and its a mess

Nearly looks like a bike when you see them like that

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.

Beautiful in the winter sunshine

Beautiful in the winter sunshine

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.

Trust me - they look bigger in real life

Trust me – they look bigger in real life

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 –

Lumpy, but really fast

Lumpy, but really fast

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.

Is getting good, bad?
November 13, 2012, 6:47 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,

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

  1. I was too excited to wait
  2. I really really really wanted to prove it was real wool and not pretend wool
  3. Lots of people who spin, spin what they need as they go
  4. I was scared it might turn back into fluff if it wasn’t quickly marshalled into a knitted item
  5. I was too excited to wait

But I only had enough to do half of the collar and it looked like this


You can see why I was excited

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.


More perfect-er wool?

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 the knitting to the left is more fluffy than the knitting to the right, right?

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.


I am in love
October 6, 2012, 12:42 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,
I have spent all week spinning.  My results have been a little mixed – there is not a consistent thickness to what I am producing, but I am very excited.  The soundtrack to my spinning goes ‘concentrate, concentrate, no, don’t do that, DON’T… Thunk… Damn’.
Sometimes I say even ruder words.

This used to be fluff

The difficulty with drop spindling is that it’s like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head a the same time.  To produce good wool you really need to have a consistent speed on the spindle and ensure its always going in the one direction.  Having hung the spindle from your fluff, set your spindle spinning you then need to use both hands to ‘draft’ (get me – that’s a technical term) the fibre into a piece thin enough to allow down onto the twisting ‘wool’ so it gets twisted and turns into wool as well.  So the twist runs up the fibre twisting it tight.
The problem is while you’re concentrating in your hands, your spindle has slowed, stopped spinning and is now starting to spin in the opposite direction, turning the wool back into fibre at which point it all falls apart, drops to the ground and rolls under the sofa , liberally applying  purple fluff all over your carpet (and picking up an equal amount of dog hair and differently coloured fluff from the regularly hoovered floor).  Progress is not exactly fast.  And there are lots of lumps from when you get distracted in re spinning the spindle and let too much fibre through.
Apparently the lumps make it more attractive and unique.
So I got two whole spindles full through and rolled into mini-balls and the next step was to ply them together
This involved hooking them both onto the spindle and trying to hold onto them while dropping both threads onto the spindle while spinning it in the opposite direction, so they are twisted together. Well that was never going to work – within seconds one had escaped and was running loose all over the floor – much to the dogs delight.  So having twisted the threads together, it only took another day to get it skeined round the back of a chair.  I ended up with this.

I counted how many times I wrapped it round so I could work out how much wool I had – it’s a hot tip from my spinning friend! I had 56 meters here.

It actually looks like wool!  You can see the thick and thin and lumpy bits, but it looks more cute than when it was just one strand.  I was so excited.  I wanted to knit it straight away.  But there was still one more step – get it wet to set the twist (so it doesn’t unravel when you start to knit it) and then dry it.

Having a bath

So far this has taken about six days.  It finally looked like this.

I’d buy this

Note the artistic lumpyness

In an hour and a half I had knit it up into this.

It’s beautiful – but I’ve only done about a third of it and run out of wool

It is the most gorgeous, soft, beautiful thing because of the work that has gone into it.  I am totally proud.
I am a bit worried that if I am going to do much of this it’s going to take six days to keep me knitting for an hour and a half.  It’s never going to work.

In which it was meant to be
October 1, 2012, 9:08 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

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.

The Dirty Nelly – post re-furb!

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.

Fetching fingerless mitts!

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.

How impressive!

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.


With ice and a slice
September 26, 2012, 9:04 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,

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….


June 28, 2012, 7:59 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

It was wolly-licious!  And really busy and I don’t think we even saw everything.

Highlights included –

  • Getting to gaze at other’s projects on the bus (and giving up on my really complicated lace knitting  that I had randomly brought with me after about two minutes)
  • Admiring the yarn bombing that welcomed us as we arrived
  • Seeing a sheep sheered (it was somewhat reluctant and was very ashamed to be naked in front of the other sheep)

Yes, that is a lady sheep sheerer…

  • Buying wool made out of baby camel – then feeling guilty that it may be a little cold now
  • Meeting  alpaca (never actually worked out the difference between lama and alpaca)

Definitely Alpaca. They had a sign.

  • Learning to spin (no I take that back – being convince spinning is easy enough to buy spinning things)

Lynda learning to spin. Before realising how expensive spinning wheels are and buying drop spindles in a vain attempt to capture the experience…

  • Trying to actually do spinning on a drop spindle on the bus on the way home.  It’s a bit lumpy due to doing it on a bus.  I’m calling it ‘Roundabout yarn’

Be more impressed – its REALLY HARD

I then took my haul of knitting straight to the Sailing Clubs Summer Party.  I think all of our sailing fraternity were thrilled as I regaled them with stories of yarn derring-do – and sheep-antics – well at least the barman told me the alcohol consumption increased on my arrival.

Obviously due to how much they were all enjoying it.


%d bloggers like this: