The Knitting Sailor

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
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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
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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….


I’m a Dinosaur
September 2, 2012, 8:01 pm
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A Dinosaur is apparently a “terrible lizard”. I feel like a terrible lizard today and have therefore – inspired by my completed Wingspan – spent the day Googling things about Dinosaurs.  So here I proudly present 10 fascinating facts about Dinosaurs to cheer up your day courtesy of the tinterweb.

1. The dinosaur with the longest name was Micropachycephalosaurus meaning “tiny thick-headed lizard” – I think that’s a bit rude, but I guess he’s not around to complain

2. The dinosaurs in the film ‘Jurassic Park’ were not real.

3. Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for over 160 million years. Get that – they didn’t LIVE on the Earth – they RULED it.

4. Scientists believe that birds are descended from dinosaurs.

5. Plateosaurus’s had opposable thumbs, so they may well have been knitters.

6. Dinosaurs lived on every continent.

7. Dinosaurs weren’t all green, they were brightly coloured like snakes and birds – I am assuming this means the non brown or green birds. Maybe brightly coloured like parrots. Or maybe they weren’t but just wore a lot of hand knitted Christmas jumpers which made them look bright and cheerful.

8. The American Opossums lived at the same time as the Dinosaurs and are still around today

9. The imaginatively named Giganotosaurus is the largest carnivorous dinosaur discovered.

10. Dinosaurs could swim and climb trees, but probably couldn’t sail.

I feel like a dinosaur in my new shawlette and as such have given myself a new name


You too can make your very own Dinosaur name by adding ‘saurous’, ‘-dactdal’, ‘-ceratops’ to the end of it.  It is the most fun you can have (there are lots of other names too – have a look here.  And if you want to join my Dino-gang add it to the comments.  I will be unsurprised by the resounding silence).

I’m having my business cards reprinted as we speak.



This is a tourist information announcement for Yorkshire
August 10, 2012, 2:51 pm
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Ten reasons why Yorkshire is great

1. No parking restrictions

You parked it where?

2. A somewhat relaxed approach to Health and Safety

Is that really safe?

(That right – giant saw, no helmets, glasses, gloves, shirt hanging out, and I was too scared to photograph when he was stood on top with one leg either side of the blade pulling the wood through – while it was still running)

3. An inclusive and welcoming approach to people from all across the globe

I wonder if they paid them in fruit

4. Great night life

Just a normal Saturday night on Pickering High Street

5. Wool Shops

Fortunately they have plenty of multi coloured sheep in Yorkshire

6. They support the traditional British holiday

Don’t worry – it did rain later

7. Enthusiasm for the local wildlife

It’s OK – I checked and it wasn’t nailed there

8. They have pride in their inventors

Not seen a one of these on any of the Olympic boats – are we going wrong somewhere?

9. They can make you walk on water


10. And most of all… they serve great Beer!  (Really?  You need a photo of it?????)

Go visit – and tell them I sent you!

Did you put something in my coffee?
August 8, 2012, 1:59 pm
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I think I may have a problem.

It all started this weekend, when we went away to Yorkshire (more on this later – I can’t tell you what a random place that is – and if it were a country rather than a county it would currently be standing fourth in the Olympic Medal tables).  We left on Friday and as usually I had my normal packing disaster.   What this means is I ended up taking away more wool than clothes with me, and even the wool I took had no discernible rhyme or reason too it.  I was half way through a jumper.  Why didn’t I just take that?

I don’t know, but holiday-starty-itis set in.   After starting four different projects over the space of two hours on the way there I had got completely hooked on a Wingspan in green.  I have not had any inclination to knit this.  It’s not that exciting.  Its garter stitch.  I only started it because everyone else in the world had done it and the pattern was simple enough to do while watching the Mr drive round and round a track (and I even managed to look interested).  It is the work of the devil.

I can’t put it down.

I found myself sitting in a meeting yesterday day dreaming of knitting some more.  I have been knitting on the Metro, in the car, quickly under my desk, dropping more stitches than knitting them.  A strange sense of urgency has taken over when I feel compelled to finish it as soon as possible… possibly so I can knit another one.  And the worst thing is?  I’m not even sure I like it.  I think it will make me look like a dinosaur.

Just call me T-Rex

Small child required
July 24, 2012, 6:17 pm
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“Some of us learn from other people’s mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people.”

Zig Ziglar, Author


So this weekend – I was other people.

My husband decided to resolve the issue of the cardie by putting it on a 60 degree wash.  It now looks like this.


If I just pop it on I’m sure it will stretch

T o be fair it is lovely – if tiny – and I just don’t happen to have a small child who will fit into it!

Things that you can learn from this.

  • Always wash / block your swatch ( I know – I was proud I’d even done one… it’s just not enough)
  • Be kind to other people.  Huffing about the fact that someone else put something in the washer that you were going to anyway, and then it shrinking will not help matters (in fact you may end up with a very bruised and possibly broken toe from huffing about right into the fire pit in the garden in just your flip flops)
  • People WILL laugh – despite your mournful expression on showing a shrunken item of misfortune – so you’re just going to have to man up
  • When people try to put item on to see how small it really is…. they are just doing this to laugh even more – not because they genuinely think said item will fit
  • You should hurry up and knit something else – then you can forget about the tragedy which was six months knitting
  • If you are going to embark on a risky endeavour… wine should be taken prior to the embarkation (or in this case taking said item out of the washer)

As they say – deep breaths – pink in, butterflies out…..


It’s a disaster of titanic proportions
July 18, 2012, 8:44 am
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I have gone very quiet on the subject of my epic cardie.  I have not posted photos.  I have declined to mention any further, despite said item being completely and gloriously finished.  There is a reason for this.  When you last saw it I was just after blocking it and it looked like this.

You can tell this was a long time ago – there was sunshine

I then tried it on and it then looked like this.

That’s right, by the mere application of a dab of water my cardie had gone from fitting perfectly (and me feeling really smug about it) to quadruple the size.  I couldn’t actually speak about this for a little while.

People would ask me about it and I would say ‘long story!’ and move on.  I hid it in my spare room – occasionally popping in to just look at it in dismay.  Eventually I asked a fried for advice.  She came up with two options.  So I tried the first.


That’s right – I really did take a photo of my washing machine

This is me putting my beautiful hand wash only cardie into a thirty degree wash in a vague attempt to shrink it.  This is what it looked like afterwards.

So essentially no discernible difference except dying the pillow case I had washed it inside pink.  I tried again on a forty degree wash.

It really is no better.  So I am left with either risking a 60 degree wash which I am too terrified to go for, or going with option 2 – friend or charity.

And just before anyone asks – yes I did do a gauge swatch.  I just didn’t wash it.  I know I know…. but it’s really boring and who would have thought washing mattered?

RIP dear Cardie – I will mourn you while I knit something that doesn’t need to fit.  Like a scarf.


Wool – it makes you sail faster
July 9, 2012, 1:47 pm
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Following an exciting adventure to Wool on the Wall this weekend, I have been fascinated to discover that Viking sails used to be made out of heavy woollen cloth – woven on massive looms.

Speedy sail fabric?

I was somewhat stunned by this as I have never thought of sheep as particularly aerodynamic, until I began to think about it and wonder what EXACTLY I thought sails were made of pre-Mylar (and pre crispy-fabric.  And pre fabric that used to be crispy but now just sits in a heap – dependent entirely upon how old and rubbishy the boat I had just bought off E-bay actually was).  And it turns out I’m not the only one – in fact there have been actual studies on what these sails were made out of – and seem to prove that woollen sails can outperform some of the other sail materials throughout to be used at the time – Hemp and Linen –

“In 1975 Svend Larsen concluded his book, ‘Vikingsernes hav’, by stating that beating to windward cannot be done with woollen sails because they are ‘fleecy, nappy, yielding and leaky’ (Larsen, 1975). It is now known that high cover factor woollen square-sails could beat at 66 degrees into the wind and most likely out-perform linen and hemp sails. Furthermore it has been proved conclusively that the process of smorring enables the properties of the wool sail to be improved and ‘trimmed’ during use.”

“Viking woollen square-sails and fabric cover factor” – Bill Cooke, Carol Christiansen, Lena Hammarlund

I was also a little disappointed to discover that they were likely red from dying with ‘Madder Root’ rather than from the blood of their enemies as I have always thought – well to be fair the practicalities would probably have been a nightmare….

Its a plant. Not a weapon of mass enemy destruction at all.

Now I was actually quite excited about this as my degree was in Ancient History and Archaeology.  This was purely due to an Indiana Jones fascination.

The many faces and talents of Indiana Jones

However turns out that doing this degree doesn’t

  1. Turn you into Indy
  2.  Help you meet a man like Indy
  3.  Help you do anything that Indy actually does

Maybe I should have realised this as it’s been awhile since any mad Nazi’s have been chasing archaeologists around the globe, but I do think the university should have a disclaimer – “Doing this degree will NOT help you find the Holy Grail”.

It actually consists of lots of scraping in the ground hoping beyond hope (and the evidence of the last three months in the rain) that this trowelful of earth will actually be the one that reveals a magnificent mosaic floor or similar*.

*N.B. this only ever actually happens on Time Team.  It’s not real archaeology.

So I am thrilled that someone with this background has spent time investigating this.  The looms they use are huge – and these wouldn’t be big enough for the size of sails we would be talking about, so there would be a massive amount of work involved.  In fact it probably explains why the Vikings had to steal all those sheep.

Ginormous Loom

I am now wondering if I should be knitting myself a new sail – although not in red – I don’t have any madder in the garden and I think the authorities would have something to say about me collecting the blood of my enemies.

June 28, 2012, 7:59 am
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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.


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