Three Things Thursday: 16 March 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, home-made muffins.

Mmmmm… muffins

These were part of a very long Sunday brunch shared with friends (the segregation is lactose-free vs. those with a little lactose).

Second, finished socks.

Aren’t they bright?!

Third, sharing. My friend Ann needed some lace for a project she’s working on: she’s making an album for her wedding memories. I hadn’t got round to giving her a wedding present, so was very happy to send her this from my collection:

Lovely lace

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

From squares to stripes

Last week I finished my sixty million trebles projects with a little yarn-bombing in London to publicise the cause. I printed and laminated tags and attached a heart or flower to each one. London is full of railings, so it didn’t take me too long to find somewhere to hang them in the hope that they would be taken by the curious and that one or two people might get involved.yarnbomb-2I will eventually make some more square blankets for 60MT, but I need a change, so I have returned to some sock-knitting. Last year I subscribed to a sock yarn club, with colours inspired by the Discworld. Somehow, I only got round to knitting up the first ball, so I had five balls of beautiful stripy British sock wool from The Knitting Goddess, just waiting for my needles. I’ve written previously about my disappointment with a previous sock yarn club from which, whilst beautifully dyed, almost none of the wool was hardy enough for socks and I think it was intended for shawls (a bit of mis-selling, sadly). The Knitting Goddess yarn is very different – you choose that base yarn that you want, so it is only the hand-dyed colourway that comes as a surprise when it arrives. The pair of socks that I did knit using this yarn last year are lovely and robust, so I had no hesitation starting another pair. The colourway is called Salamander Flash.

I think I’m going to have the brightest feet in west Wales!

Some finished objects for Friday

As it’s Friday I thought I’d show off a few recently finished objects… I’ve been relatively quiet about crafting over the past few weeks, mainly because there’s been so much to share about food and gardening, but that does not that I’ve not been busy with my hooks and needles. I’ve made two pairs of snails – one of which has its own carry bag made out of an old pyjama leg (!) – a hedgehog (a commission which has gone to Belgium I think), a hat for my mum for her birthday, and some socks.

The hat and the colourful snail wool are both yarn that I bought from Colinette in January before they closed. The brown snail yarn is from West Yorkshire Spinners. The cream yarn used in all the snails is from The Inkpot. And the socks are knitted from Regia yarn for my swap with Kathryn.

So have you any finished objects to share… knitted, sewn, written, painted, drawn… anything creative?

The right materials for the job

This evening I’ve been quietly cursing my way through a repair… in fact it’s still not finished and I’m just taking a break to write a blog post about it.

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They looked good when I made them

Regular readers may recall that last year I was very excited to have joined a yarn club. I paid a subscription and then each month for six months I would receive a ball of hand dyed sock yarn. It worked well in as much as each month I did receive a ball of beautifully dyed 4-ply yarn… the problem (it turns out) was that it wasn’t really sock yarn. To make socks that last you need a good robust yarn otherwise all the hours you put into knitting are pointless because you end up with holey socks very quickly. In fact, it soon became clear that some of the balls of yarn would be no good for socks – they were beautifully soft wool, with no strength. Sometimes the information that came with the ball did not include details of the composition of the yarn and I had to make a guess. In the end, out of the six balls I only used two for socks… and, it turns out what one of those was a mistake.

The most robust socks are not made of pure wool, but also contain about 25% nylon. This may not sound very green but, in fact, they last so long and are so easy to repair that the addition of a manmade fibre is really worthwhile. I have socks that have been worn for years and years and, because they were knitted from good quality ‘real’ sock yarn, they are still going strong.

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Not very impressive

Erring on the side of caution, both pairs of socks that I made with the yarn club yarn were constructed using genuine sock wool (from a different supplier) for the heels and toes, as these are the parts that get the most wear. In both cases these parts are still fine; however the feet of one pair are worn through only 7 months after the socks were made. I am extremely disappointed, but decided to repair them and keep them going a bit longer (I suspect many more repairs may be necessary in the future).

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Darning and reinforcing

So this evening I have been using a really great sock yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners (the one used for the heels and toes) for some quite extensive darning. Needless to say that I didn’t renew the subscription to the club when it ran out. In fact I did succumb to another yarn club from a different dyer… but this one guaranteed to supply yarn that was 75% British Wool and 25% Nylon every single time.

The lessons? Always use the correct yarn for the job… it saves time, money and stress. Oh and Caveat Emptor!

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This one still to do

Sock-hogs

I don’t knit socks to sell – they take so long to make that even asking a paltry per-hour rate would take them out of the reach of almost all potential customers. Although a pair of handmade socks will last for years and is much easier to repair successfully than a mass-produced pair, no one wants to pay the true value. This means that, in general, if you own a pair of socks that I made, it’s because I love you! The only way I will undertake a commission to make socks is if I can barter for them – although I still have to like you a lot to even agree to do this! There are , however, folks out there who have skills that I do not and so there is a possibility of an exchange.

And so it is with my latest creations. These socks are very special: not only are they going to be exchanged for some leather work (haven’t quite finalised what), but more than that, they are made in part with wool from a friend’s sheep at The Inkpot, which is…

home grown, home shorn, Yorkshire spun, permaculture designed, pasture fed, holistically managed, non chemical, rare breed, British native, slow grown wool

Because it’s pure wool, it’s not ideal for hard-wearing socks, so the heels toes and ribbing are knitted from ‘sock wool’, which contains some nylon so that it doesn’t wear out too quickly. Even that yarn, is British (from West Yorkshire Spinners).

The recipient of these socks also already owns the first two hedgehogs that I made (Shy and Spike)… so I decided to expand the family. Therefore, the parcel contains three additions… two made from the Inkpot wool and one from the sock yarn. Of course, the spikes are made using eyelash yarn and that, sadly, isn’t British, but these three were made from left-overs from previous hedgies.

What do you make for love?

Hanging up the stockings

Apparently this evening many of you will have hung up some knitted foot attire in the hope of it being filled with goodies.

Chez Snail, we hang out our socks on a regular basis, but only on the washing line and the only thing that ever fills them is feet (and I should note that the two things NEVER happen simultaneously).

socks

A fine display and not a mantelpiece in sight!

In fact 2015 has been a good year for socks… I’ve made a whole bunde of them over the year:

And those are just the ones I can find pictures of!

My endeavours have been slightly encouraged by joining a ‘sock yarn club’ about five months ago. I signed up for six months so that I would receive a skein of hand-dyed sock yarn every month for the duration. I’ve liked the colours, but I have been rather disappointed by the fact that three of the five lots of yarn received so far have not really been suitable for socks – being spun from soft yarn and not reinforced with some hard-wearing man-made fibre.  The yarn is perfectly lovely, but I feel a little let-down that it is sock-weight yarn (i.e. 4-ply) rather than what I consider ‘real sock yarn’.  I used one skein to make the lovely spatterdash wrist-warmers, but now have two beautifully soft fine yarns that I’m not sure what to do with. I’m really hoping that the last of the six is suitable for socks.

Anyway, not to be deterred, I have decided to subscribe to a different sock yarn club for 2016. In this case, the yarn type is the same each time and really is sock yarn. In fact, the yarn is posted out six times a year, so that’s a little less frantic. This club is perfect for me as 2016 is themed ‘Back to Discworld‘. It’s being offered by The Knitting Goddess, an indie dying company based in Harrogate (near where I grew up). There will be a different discworld-inspired colour scheme for each skein… now won’t that be great?

Anyway… whatever you are doing with your socks today (I’ll be knitting some morefor my mum), have a great time!

Woolly wonders

Welcome to British Wool Week.

Domed

Jute bird roosting pouch

I have to confess that I have started the week working with jute, as I have an order for four bird roosting pouches. I had hoped to link up with a producer of wool twine to create these, but after initial interest, they went very quiet and so I’m working with my tried and tested fibre. However, I have lots of wool from actual sheep in my stash and several orders that require its use. So this week I will be making a start on some socks to barter (I don’t sell socks – they take too long to make, but I do exchange them for other craft work, in this case a leather knitting pouch) and a shy hedgehog (with a British wool tummy), plus I’m about to start experimenting with making an echidna (by special request) that will also include British wool. The socks will have heels and toes made from WYS Aire Valley yarn that’s a mix of British wool plus nylon for strength, but the main part will be pure wool from The Inkpot – a farm in Lincolnshire run by the amazing Hannah T.

Aside from orders, there’s Mr Snails latest socks to make a start on – these will be knitted from hand-dyed Polwarth yarn from Burrow and Soar. And I really want to make a start on a neck-warmer made from the beautiful hand-spun Portland wool made by Hannah F. (Spinning a Yarn).

IMGP6560You may be wondering why I get so excited about using wool – particularly British wool, There are several reasons. First, it’s so versatile – there are so many breeds of sheep, each producing wool with specific characteristics, that it’s possible to find exactly the right wool for a particular job. Next, wool is very forgiving to knit and crochet with – it’s got some give to it, so unlike cotton, variations in tension are not so noticeable, which is a boon for beginners. Then there’s the production of wool. Sheep can be reared on very marginal land – areas where it’s too steep or the soil is too poor to raise crops. With good management flocks of sheep can have a beneficial impact on the environment. Plus, this way we can support local producers and help to ensure our rural communities do not disappear. Then there’s ‘yarn miles’ – things like cotton yarn cannot be produced in the UK, so there’s lots of transportation involved; plus, with cotton, there’s a high water demand (in places where water is often a scarce commodity) and (unless it’s organic) a very heavy pesticide load. And finally, wool, unlike many yarns, is a natural fibre – don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the case with some of the plant-based yarns such as bamboo,or soya – they are man-made fibres that use plant material as a raw product.

So, here’s to wool and all it’s benefits. Happy wool week!

Sock in British Merino (colour 'prize-winning pumpkin') and commercial sock yarn for heel and toe

Sock in British Merino (colour ‘prize-winning pumpkin’ from Burrow and Soar) and commercial sock yarn for heel and toe

Twisted thinking

This is a warning about the perils of certain blogs… you start reading them, you get sucked into the cosy descriptions of yarn bombing and steeking and then the insidious side of things appears. Descriptions of delicious yarn with pictures and links to fantastic collections of temptation; you find yourself drawn in with the chance of winning a skein of your very own. But, of course, you don’t win.., and by that time it’s too late, you are hooked*.

And so, thanks to The Twisted Yarn, I found myself a member of the Burrow and Soar sock yarn club (15% discount with a code from Twisted’s blog). Every month for six months I will be receiving a skein of hand-dyed yarn to fuel my sock-knitting addiction. The first one arrived yesterday, along with a few extra goodies and I thought that you might like to see the loveliness that is my yarn “prize-winning pumpkin”:

The theme this month was ‘harvest home’ and I think Fran who dyes the wool has captured the colours of winter squashes and pumpkins so well. To be honest, this is well away from my usual selection of palettes but I’m rather pleased to explore something rather different,  Next month, however, the theme is ‘behold the sea’, which will probably fit right in with my usual colour choices.

Twisted, you are a bad influence – thank you!

-oOo-

* well, at least you are if you crochet

Carpet slippers

December 2015 This post has been edited because the company that I bought the yarn from has gone out of business.

My final post for Zero Waste Week just has to be craft related…. well, I can’t go a week without writing a post about knitting or crochet can I?

In order to reduce waste, it’s a great idea to buy good quality items that won’t wear out quickly. Yesterday, fellow blogger westywrites posted about her attempt to avoid buying new clothes for a year and the fact that her socks are wearing very thin- a particular problem because she doesn’t wear slippers round the house. She has been inspired by yours truly to attempt to knit her own socks for added durability (they do last well if you use genuine sock wool and are easier to mend, in my experience, than bought ones). However, round our house we do wear slippers because I make those too… and they certainly protect your socks.

New slippers in Black and yellow Axminster rug yarn

New slippers in Black and yellow Axminster rug yarn (with hand-knitted socks underneath)

I have been experimenting with different chunky yarns for slipper-making and my latest creations are true carpet slippers because they are made of Axminster rug yarn (80% wool, 20% nylon)! I reckon that if this yarn is sufficiently hard-wearing to make carpets from, it should be good for the slippers that walk on them. The pair I’ve just finished is for Mr Snail – now he has a different home during the week, he needed a second pair of slippers to save him remembering to take one pair back and forth each week. I asked him to choose a colour and he responded that he wanted black and yellow to match the cover of his novel (I know not why). In fact the yellow that I ordered was rather more orange than it looked in the picture on the Texere website (sadly this company has now gone out of business), but it was the only yellow they had and he still seemed pleased with the end result. I made them to match part 2 of the Kindle edition of the novel, because the paperback edition is mainly yellow and white and that would have shown the dirt!

Lovely natural shades of Berber wool

Lovely natural shades of Berber wool

I was also delighted to discover that Texere [used to] sell Berber yarn (another one used for carpet-making, but pure wool this time), so I’ve bought some of that too to have a go with. If you want to make some slippers like the ones shown, the pattern can be found here and it’s free to download. It’s a bit hard on the hands if you use a really robust yarn like I did, but the resulting slippers are very warm and comfy… and they will not only save your socks, but may also help to reduce your fuel bills!

So that’s the end of my posts for Zero Waste Week – I hope you have been inspired somewhere along the line.

Happy day

Today I know that I have made at least two people smile… that’s something I would like to achieve every day.

A pair of odd socks

A pair of odd socks

First, I finally completed a pair of socks for Mr Snail from yarn that I bought at Wonderwool. These socks are very unusual for me, in that I wasn’t able to make the colours in them match up exactly, because there is no regular repeat in the dying of the yarn. I am usually very careful to get an exact pair, but that is not supposed to happen with this wool, Anyway, Mr Snail certainly smiled when he was presented with them, despite the fact that it’s too warm to wear the things at the moment.

A little jolly chunky bag

A little jolly chunky bag

Second, I received an e-mail to let me know that a little parcel I sent on Wednesday had arrived safely and was found by the recipient in her woodpile, where the postman had carefully hidden it out of the weather. This particular parcel was sent to a blogging friend who is having a hard time at the moment and needed cheering up. Despite only having met over the internet, I had a real desire to make her smile and so I got out my crochet hook and yarn and made her a jolly chunky bag, just slightly smaller than the one I made for myself as a project bag the week before. They say that when life gives someone lemons, you should pour them a gin and tonic (or something to that effect), but it’s much easier to post a piece of crochet than a gin and tonic! Anyway, her delight at receiving the parcel also made me smile, so we are clearly recycling happiness here – what a great way to end the week!

A pair of jolly chunky bags

A pair of jolly chunky bags

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