Simple Living Check In (April)

Hi all!

April snow

Surprisingly I’m doing pretty well in terms of post frequency, woohoo! Another post in April.

I wanted to give a sort of journal entry about where I’m at and what I’m pushing in terms of trying to work towards more simple living.

First of all I’ll just mention that to me simple living entails not over consuming resources (trying to buy less and save a bit of money as a nice side effect), prioritising spending my time on things that are important to me, and trying to make more earth-friendly choices (all of this where possible and definitely practiced imperfectly by me as I’m human).

Anyway, now that’s away, my small updates:

Toiletries:
I am actually currently attempting to go shampoo free! This means washing my hair just with water. I’m doing this partially so I can avoid spending money on shampoo, also to try to consume less and lastly just to simplify my life and how many toiletries I feel I need.

It’s probably been over a week now. Apparently it takes 6 weeks for your scalp to adjust fully. I have had ups and downs with my hair during this shampoo free time! I definitely have somewhat greasier hair (to be expected) but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be, and actually my hair feels healthier.

Previously I used a solid shampoo as a way of avoiding packaging (with the occasional wash using regular shampoo when I was feeling lazy). When I washed with shampoo and without conditioner I would just get super dry hair that would get frizzy easily. Conditioner helped but I didn’t get round to using it very often… Anyway, currently my hair feels a bit easier to control and I think it’s less dried out, so isn’t prone to frizziness.

I also haven’t really noticed any sort of bad smell from my scalp despite the lack of shampoo! We’ll see how it goes anyway. The pandemic is a great time to give this a go as I’m not really seeing other humans!

Knitting:

Otra jumper

The march continues. I recently made an Otra jumper (ravelry link) out of John Arbon’s undyed exmoor zwartbles yarn. It feels really good to make something out of UK grown & spun yarn, especially as it’s undyed (dyeing can use a lot of extra water and energy for heating). It’s probably the most successful jumper I’ve knitted for myself and it’s given me a very positive feeling about my future endeavours.

I’ve started my next jumper, the Barn by Emily Foden, in her Knits About Winter book. I’m a bit intimidated by this modular pattern as I can’t yet visualise how it’s going to work, but I’ll give it a go and see what happens. It should make a nice oversized jumper that I can use for layering.

I’m using Hillesvag Tinde, a non-superwash 100% wool yarn from Norway. So, not such great points in terms of using imported rather than local resources, but still plastic free and I was able to support Ysolda’s business – a company I like! The yarn did come in a plastic mailer and a plastic bag. I’ll be reusing the mailer (may already have done so) when sending out my own mail and I’ll keep the plastic bag to store yarn or again for packaging something in the future.

I am also continuing trying to keep a handle on my stash – making sure it doesn’t grow too large, figuring out ways to enjoy the yarns I already have… giving away any yarns I won’t use to good homes…

Handspun 100% wool yarns from my stash that I’m using up by knitting chonky socks.

Spinning:
I may have splurged on a fleece from Fernhill Fibre. They are a UK sheep farm, recommended by the podcaster Marina Skua, so I really wanted to give their fleece a try. I bought a 1.2 kg Shetland/Romney cross fleece. It’s so clean and soft and seems like great quality! I’ll be spinning it up gradually – I’ve started washing it bit by bit and have also started to card the fleece into small batts ready for spinning.

Since I admittedly accumulated way too many fleeces lately (which kind of goes against the whole ‘simple living’ I was just talking about), I decided to prioritise my favourites and give away some of the older and less pleasant to spin fleeces. I know that my prior habit of accumulating too many supplies hasn’t been ideal and I hope that I can be a bit better in the future. I want to focus on spinning up quality fleeces…

Food:
Last thing! Oh man. If you have actually read through all the above, thank you, haha. I’ll try to keep this last section short!

Since the pandemic we have been doing online grocery orders… which is super convenient but not always the best in terms of plastic waste. I was happy to discover this weekend that I can order 10 kg bags of rice and 3 kg bags of pasta from the supermarket! I feel like it’s a win going from 2 kg rice and 500g pasta…

In addition to this I’m toying with the idea of just making my own pasta, to see if I can save on even more plastic waste entering our home.

Today I made egg pasta using this recipe. It’s resting in the fridge right now so we will see how it goes this evening! I used flour which I had bought in bulk (16 kg, paper packaging only) and eggs from our quail (so no plastic on that front)- I ended up using 30 eggs!

I like the idea of making a massive batch in advance and potentially fully drying it out so it’ll keep for months. I think I have to make non-egg pasta for this so will be on the lookout for recipes. Let me know if you have one!


Phew, well, thanks for sticking around if you’re still here! Let me know about your own simple living experiments if you have any 🙂

Southdown and more

southdown sheep yarn, hand dyed in various colours including pinks, yellows, some green and purple. 2ply yarn, worsted weight.
2 ply fractal spun Southdown wool yarn. I dyed the fibre in the microwave as an experiment and LOVED it! It was super vibrant despite the fibre being non superwash (as far as I’m aware). This 2ply is currently in my etsy shop. Gotta say I am reluctant to let this one go, but I have so much yarn to knit up that I wouldn’t get to play with this yarn for a long time!

Whew, it’s been a little bit again! Actually, my track record for 2021 hasn’t been too bad… my day job’s been busy since about December 2020 thanks to a team member leaving and no one replacing her – so my friend and I have been overwhelmed with too much work for 2 people. And now we’re training 2 new people for our team, and have to deal with training every day (3+ hours) and also coping with the already too-many daily tasks.

Anyway, all that aside, I have actually been spinning a reasonable amount!

My most recent experiment has been to spin up a traditional 3ply from some batts (shown below) I made on my blending board. I have been super inspired by Lindsay of Artifacts of Appreciation. She has been making all kinds of lovely batts in moody colours, using fibre from a variety of farms and dyers. My batts below are not so moody in style – mainly because I’m working from my stash! One of her most recent offerings was for mystery sock batts…

I would love to invest in a batt from Lindsay someday, but being based in the UK ordering from Canada is a bit daunting – I don’t even know how much customs would try to charge me in addition to the batt cost and postage cost! Perhaps in future I might be able to order one, if she does another round of the sock batts.

So, my aim was to make a 3ply for socks – using jacob, corriedale, bluefaced leicester, a smidge of silk noil, sari silk, and a tiny amount of merino/silk blend. I have finished spinning the actual yarn, it’s currently drying in my bathroom – I’ll have to take a photo and share here once it’s dry. I think it could be used for knitting socks if knit at a tight gauge, but it may not be as hardwearing as I would like. I can try again though!

4 fibre batts made from a blending board, to be spun into a 3ply yarn

Commissioned hand dyed yarn

I was lucky enough that my Japanese teacher asked me to dye a bunch of yarn skeins for her! These are 100% superwash merino.

It was a lot of fun!

This light purple skein is my favourite of the bunch, I was sad to send it off but I know I would probably not be able to get round to using it for a while… hopefully it will get made into a lovely project by my teacher! Perhaps I can get her to take a photo of whatever she makes…

Handspun tags

Hi all,

I thought I would share this with you in case you would like it.

I made a quick little tag for noting down my handspun details and attaching them to the skein! This is just to save time and have a bit more structure to my handspun note-taking. You could print this out on normal paper, card, coloured card, etc… 🙂

Please feel free to use it if you like. I made a PDF of it too – you should be able to download it below!

Edit: just realised I missed out weight in grams (rather than yarn thickness)! I’ll have to put that in, will try to get it sorted and then re upload here.

Some favourite fibre based companies!

Dear all, I would love to share with you some of my favourite fibre companies. Of course, for this list, I will be focusing on companies whose ethos resonates with me.

You’ll see a lot of mention of no-nylon, non superwash yarn here. If you see my previous posts you’ll know that I’m trying to increase the amount of no-nylon, non superwash yarns I use, however I am not going to stop myself if I see an amazingly beautiful 75% merino 25% nylon sock yarn from a lovely dyer. Nor will I shame anyone who wants to knit with superwash/nylon content yarns. 🙂

All of these shops are UK based. I know there’s amazing variety all over the globe, but I personally often have to limit my fibre buying to UK based shops due to the recent increasing postage costs and customs fees.

Do you have a favourite fibre supply shop? Please do share, whether it’s UK or otherwise 🙂

Crochet/Knitting

  • John Arbon
    Appears to reuse mailing packets, uses compostable bags for fibre
    Has mill membership scheme for lifetime 10% off
    A wide range of yarns and fibres, mostly non-nylon, non-superwash
    Lots of their fibre is locally sourced (Bluefaced Leicester, Exmoor Blueface, Zwartbles)
  • Woolly Mammoth Fibre Company
    Offers no-nylon, non-superwash yarn dyed using natural dyes
    Sources breed specific fibre locally
    No plastic packaging
  • Marina Skua
    Offers some locally sourced single-flock wool yarn
    Has a selection of naturally dyed yarns
    No-nylon, non superwash
    I’m not sure about her packaging as I have not yet ordered
  • Rusty Ferret
    Has variety of both superwash and non-superwash yarns and fibre available
    Uses paper mailers
    Is super friendly (well, I’m sure all these sellers are but I have had more direct contact with LJ)!
  • Whistlebare
    They are a farm and offer yarns made from their cute goats
    They have a couple of fingering weight yarns available which could be good no-nylon sock yarns
  • Garthenor
    Many non-superwash yarns – I think all from UK wool too!
    Lots of undyed, natural shades of yarn
    I think their packaging is plastic free (but can’t remember oop)
    Climate positive yarn – they take part in a tree-planting scheme

Spinning-specific
John Arbon and Rusty Ferret from the list above also offer spinning supplies.

  • Hilltop Cloud
    Often uses non plastic packaging – paper mailers
    Has lots of info on her packaging choices
    Lots of non nylon/non superwash options
  • Shunklies
    Has a lot of different sheep breeds and non superwash fibre
    Uses plastic packaging
  • Cat and Sparrow
    Lots of different dyed braids, fibre blends, spinning supplies and also yarn available!
    Unsure about packaging as haven’t yet ordered

Starting book binding while trying to work out ‘simple living’

These days, I’ve been thinking more and more about things like simple living and avoiding over consumption of resources. I actually haven’t been able to knit all that much recently as working from home has meant that my left forearm is a little sore… I better work on my desk set-up soon to stop it getting any worse… Anyway, so some of the time I would have spent knitting, I have ended up on the simple living and anti-consumption subreddits.

I’m going to nab the definition of simple living from the reddit as it puts it more succinctly than I could: Breaking free of the work/spend/borrow cycle in order to live more fully, sustainably, and cooperatively.

I do wonder though, as a craft dabbler – I knit, spin, crochet, draw, paint, sew a little – how can I avoid accumulating stuff, be frugal, and try to soften my impact on the environment?

Any crafter will know that often picking up a creative hobby involves getting at least a few bits of equipment/supplies. And being a crocheter/knitter/weaver often entails a stash of yarn – which I also have (see my previous post for a photo of it).

This year I was hoping to learn book binding as yet another craft in my arsenal. The past 2 days I have made a couple of extremely rudimentary books. I didn’t have the tools or materials required in this tutorial so I substituted a bunch of them and ended up with passable yet slightly ugly results!

I glued some remnant fabric I had to the cover, however had no idea how to secure the edges as my glue is also just old children’s craft glue. I tried to glue the edges around the inside of the cover but it didn’t work at all, so in my first attempt (underneath) I ended up rushing and just stapling the fabric on! My second attempt (on top) involved stitching roughly around the edge of the book. This is also not ideal and still involves raw edges on the corners and inside. Ideally I would like to get some nice paper to cover the cardboard instead, as it will behave better and not fray. Hence hoping to get more craft supplies!

If I want to make slightly nicer books I will need at least a couple of useful tools, like an awl, which I’ve been substituting with my etching needle (which unfortunately leaves marks on the paper when piercing it)… and a folder – for which I don’t know what I could use as a substitute. I would also need a little bit of board (I substituted with cardboard, which didn’t work well!) and some decorative paper.

I did decide to invest in these bits, considering they take up a small amount of space and I can buy them from the UK… and book binding can at least use up a load of other supplies which I already have. On top of this, the notebooks I produce will mostly be made out of paper and natural fibres (linen thread), so they could be recycled or composted at the end of their lives.

I bought an awl, a folder, glue, some card and paper from this shop. I am thinking about getting a couple more pieces of decorative paper just so I can produce a variety of small books for practice. I know that just the mileage of creating and practicing over and over again is a great way to improve quality.

I’m going to try not to feel guilty about having invested in craft supplies. Going forward, I’m going to try to do these things in relation to my crafting and encouraging sustainability and thoughtful consumption:

  • Think carefully about where I’m buying from – supporting local and independent businesses, not certain mega-corporations who don’t treat their staff nicely. Be aware of where materials are sourced (what country?) from where possible as well.
  • Try to use natural materials that can be recycled and composted. Prioritise buying from companies which try to avoid plastic in their packaging. A good example of this for spinners would be John Arbon (they do use plastic to send their items but from what I’ve received you can tell that it’s been reused/repurposed, and I noticed the fibre they sent was in a compostable bag) and Hilltop Cloud (Katie is transparent about her packaging and uses paper mailers). For crocheters and knitters, Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co is a lovely company, Emma’s yarns are all plastic free as is her packaging.
  • Keep using what I have. I’ve worked hard in 2020 to work from my knitting and fibre stash and I want to continue this. The Crimson Stitchery podcast did a great video about working with stash here.
  • Use materials more than once – for example, scrap printer paper (which I end up with when printing postal labels) could be used within book binding as a way to give those papers another use before ending up recycled.
  • Make space in my life/home by selling or gifting things I may never use again. And, tacked on to this one, I perhaps would work on a 1 in, 1 or 2 out policy for acquiring new things! Having that rule would likely slow down the rate of acquisition as well as I would need to be more considered with my purchases.
  • Gifting creations I will no longer use (at least when I know the recipient would want and appreciate said item)… I have already started doing this. I know my aunt loved one of my hand knitted shawls… and lately I haven’t worn it, so I would like to use it to make her happy instead. Also, my mum asked for a beanie hat and given that I’m not knitting at the moment, I will send her one of my already-knitted ones for her to enjoy while winter is still about.
  • Repurposing textile waste; in my knitting, spinning and sewing, I end up with some scraps in some way or another. While a lot of what I work with nowadays is natural fibre based and therefore compostable, sometimes I do also have yarn scraps with nylon in or a mystery piece of fabric. So to avoid contributing to landfill, I’m currently using my scraps (including those which could also be composted) to stuff a draught excluder for a window! Once that one’s done, I’m sure I will be able to sew more draught excluders, and I need a tailor’s ham at some point too.
    I think this is also a good way to deal with irreparable pieces of clothing that can’t be donated.
  • Share. If we weren’t in a global pandemic, this one I would try to do a lot more, in person! I think it would be great to have a crafty community, to share what equipment I do have with others and to give any excess materials I might have that someone else needs! This is definitely one for the future – perhaps I would have to join a guild or start a community.
    (Note: This is partially doable online for small things like fibre scraps, although probably not practical for if I want to share usage of my spinning wheel, for example!)

Do you have any thoughts on this or tips you might want to share?

December 2020 Spin – Countess Ablaze

2 skeins of dark yarn with muted rainbow colours blended into it.

One of my most recent spins!

‘Nerds Prefer Their Rainbows Darker’ – 100g, 50% shetland, 35% merino, 15% baby alpaca.
Chain plied (3 ply), probably between DK and aran weight.
Countess Ablaze yarn shop (Manchester, UK based)
Ravelry Handspun page

The fibre was dreamy and soft, easy and relaxing to spin. I love the heathery effect of the bright colours blended with the black. It’s hard to photograph this yarn well with my rudimentary camera skills, but it’s very nice fibre!


I guess I would describe myself as an intuitive spinner. Or, an impulsive spinner. I’m not sure of the best words to describe my habits. I don’t generally make plans, I just spin. I don’t think much while I’m spinning and I am usually watching or listening to something.

I would like to develop the technical side of my spinning, but I feel like for me, I need to take gradual steps, introducing myself to something new every so often and then practicing it from time to time until I’m more accustomed to it.

I avoided learning chain plying for quite some time, because I didn’t understand how it worked! Eventually I did watch a video of it and from time to time I try out chain plying… this is one of those projects. And it’s definitely getting easier!

I think these skeins are destined to become leg warmers for me. I sit at my desk for most of the day while working from home, and everything just gets cold!

What a time

Well, hasn’t 2020 been a weird one? To anyone who reads this, I hope you, your family and your friends are safe and well. I hope you’ve had a good Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Yuletide/other festive event if you happen to celebrate.

I have to admit to neglecting this blog, and for that I’m sorry! While I have had more at-home time thanks to working from home and avoiding the unreliable commute on Northern Rail trains, I feel like I have about the same amount of time as I always have. Housework expands to fill its time-container?

I think it’s been a crafty year… I completed my 30th birthday sweater in advance of my January birthday (see below), and managed to spin up all of my fibre braids and batts residing in the stash.

A birkin colourwork hand knitted sweater is laid on the bed. It is black with floral motifs across the shoulders. Also on the bed are some skeins of undyed yarn, some batts of blended fibre, 1 issue of Ply magazine and some other odds and ends like yarn balls, fibre and a drawing of a cat, obscured by the sweater's sleeve.
Pattern link: Birkin (unfortunately only appears to be available on Ravelry and not on the designer’s website – so beware if you are prone to migraines etc. as after their recent update many people have suffered symptoms)

Dyeing…

When I started getting really into knitting, specifically into indie dyed yarns and indie pattern designers, I had fantasies of magically escaping from my day job and becoming a yarn dyer (fuelled quite possibly by watching podcasts by dyers).

I’m discovering I’m pretty risk averse and super reluctant to invest £££ into buying a large inventory blank yarn! But – I have found a balance. I can’t remember if I mentioned but earlier this year I traded 6 skeins of handspun yarn with my teacher for some Japanese lessons. My lovely teacher has once again put in a request for a shawl’s worth of hand dyed yarn (you can see the blank skeins peeking out in the photo above).

So! While I’m not free from the day job, dyeing and frolicking (don’t worry, I am aware that dyeing is in fact a very labour intensive job – I’m sure I wouldn’t actually do much frolicking if I were actually a Proper Indie Dyer – at least not during the work day), I am taking tiny steps, dipping my toes in the dye water.

A variegated skein of yarn drying on a radiator. The skein is predominantly purple, and has some pink and blue areas.
You can tell I don’t have the infrastructure for dyeing for multiple people! Also, I should really start using reusable zip ties to keep the skeins in check while dyeing as these are a total yarn barfy mess. PS this is 100% SW merino.

I’ll post a proper photo once the rest of the skeins have dried and been tidied up! I think I may invest in a bigger niddy noddy and a swift, finally. These would be useful for my own crafts as well as useful when prepping any yarn intended for other people…


Stash…

Aside from that, 2020 has been about trying to reduce my stash – either through my own knitting or giving to my mum. Apart from the raw fleeces and the fibre that I have for my blending board, I have managed to drastically reduce my knitting-yarn stash, which I’m really happy about.

A glass fronted cabinet holding all sorts of art and craft supplies. On the top shelf there are supplies for printmaking. On the middle shelf are some pencil tins and paintbrushes, and lots of skeins of yarns of different varieties. The bottom shelf is sparsely populated. There is a shoebox and a small pile of yarn.
Photo of my yarn stash inside the general crafty cabinet.

Here’s a picture of the crafty cabinet in our spare room. The middle shelf features my personal yarn stash. A lot of the skeins there are already earmarked for various projects, and I hope I can work through them gradually throughout 2021. The small pile of yarn on the bottom shelf are currently in the shop (shop is on holiday mode until Jan 2021).

My slow, back-and-forth march towards a slightly simpler life continues! My ultimate goal is to have a stash of perhaps 1 or 2 sock yarns, and 1 project’s worth of yarn. I’m still trying to focus on non nylon and non superwash yarns when appropriate – but I’m not being super strict on myself because I have learned that it doesn’t work if I try to punish myself into things!


OK. As with all my ‘long time no see!’ posts, we have ended up with a winding ramble – I hope you don’t mind. I will just share with you my last thoughts and my intentions for 2021 – feel free to tell me about yours!


A fibre news space…

I have found myself from time to time googling ‘craft news’ or ‘knitting news’ or ‘guardian craft’, just because I want to spend some time enjoying reading up on the goings on of our crafty community. But, outside from the podcasts, ravelry, magazines (Pom Pom, Amirisu…) and instagram, as well as crafters’ personal blogs (Fringe Association springs to mind however it is currently on hiatus), is there a place where we can find crafty news online – a dedicated space? I know Knitty magazine is free online, although I embarassingly haven’t really got to grips with its format!

I wonder if I can provide some sort of fibre arts writing here which fills the space – well – writing what I want to be able to find online.


2021 intentions…

  1. Appreciate and enjoy my stash before I seek the dopamine hit of buying more things – my current sweater project is a stripy scrappy sweater, a great way to make use of my precious indie dyed neon scraps!
  2. Keep working towards a me-made, natural fibre wardrobe.
  3. Prep the raw fleeces in my possession, get better at fibre prep, spin them up!
  4. Explore book binding!

First shop update featuring yarn!

My etsy shop

Image depicts 4 piece of paper with watercolour illustrations on them (fantasy themed portraits, 2 of which are characters from anime/video games). Below, there are 6 skeins of handspun yarn.
This month’s shop update

I give a lot of my extra handspun yarn to my mum, and occasionally send sample skeins out for my friends to play with! I’ve wanted to actually maybe try selling some yarn though (I have done in the past, but very little) and I suppose the time has come to give it a go.

I have an etsy shop for my art adventures but this evening I’m branching out to sharing my yarny adventures too. I have a handful of small handspun yarns available.

Note: updates are once every month on the last Friday of the month.

A photo of a skein of yarn, untwisted and positioned in a spiral shape.
A skein of hand dyed merino handspun which I’m particularly happy with…

I’m nervous about selling my handspun to people I don’t know, but the first step is just to try, I think. I’ll try to make sure I have as much detail included in the listings as possible… I would be happy to hear any feedback anyone has, by the way!

A colourful twisted skein of yarn
A zero waste skein, featuring many different types of singles plied together to make a colourful yarn.

I am not sure what else to write right now, as I’m feeling a bit preoccupied with unnecessary nervousness! I just wanted to say, I appreciate your reading of this post and I hope you have a good weekend!

More about wool

Hi all,

Remember how I tried to contain a bunch of facts about wool in one of my blog posts?

I am not a well practiced writer (see? Practised or practiced? Does that sentence even make sense). So I know that post wasn’t exactly laid out perfectly or written well.

Luckily, I also came across this post by Raincloud & Sage, an online woollen mill/yarn peddler. They outline some of the very attractive qualities of wool fibre in an easy to read post!

Just wanted to share that with you all.

As an aside, lots of crafting is happening here and I need to make an update post sharing it with you all. It’ll get done 🙂

Thanks!

Elysia