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…

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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

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

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

I got a blending board~

If you’re not sure what a blending board is or how to use one, Mina Phillip of the Knitting Expat has a great video on actually making your own DIY blending board (I was too lazy/impatient/myriad reasons) and after that she shows you how to use it. There’s also one on making mini batts on a blending board.

Yep, I now have an Ashford blending board… I think that all this staying at home has made me antsy, looking around on the internet for new hobbies, tools, etc. I was looking at batts, and thinking about getting a drum carder eventually – until I thought more about getting a blending board as a kind of step before a drum carder… then at least it would give me a bit more of an idea about whether I liked making and working with woollen prepped fibre.

(Woollen prepped fibre: batts, rolags, roving, etc. These fibres have been prepared in a way where the fibres are pointing in all directions, as opposed to a worsted prep like top where all the fibres have been combed to go in the same direction.)

There is of course the idea in the back of my head that if I enjoy and become decent at making batts and rolags, I might want to think about selling the fibre I prep. A weird thing has happened lately where I’ve been more of a spinner than a knitter – resulting in more yarn than I need – and a happy mother who willingly receives the surplus! But… I will not pressure myself and just allow myself to enjoy experimenting.

First off, I carded up 3 mini batts and in all 3 situations I believe that the blending board could have held more fibre than I put on – but that’s something to note for next time.

The first mini batt – dyed merino (by me) + eri silk + white corriedale.
The first mini batt, curled up the way you see most mini batts displayed in online shops etc.
Mini batt 2 shown in the front: same hand dyed merino + black welsh mountain + eri silk and possibly a bit of white corriedale

I also did a 3rd batt but for some reason didn’t think to photograph it. I have however spun them all up into singles and you can see the photo below.

Note: The yarn spun from the red mini batt includes red/pink Malabrigo Nube merino fibre (colourway called English Rose), eri silk & a bit of the hand dyed merino from me.

For the third batt I used some fibre from a failed spinning project – I had been trying to spin Malabrigo Nube merino fibre in its original ‘top’ preparation, however I was having issues drafting it and so I decided to scrap that project and just use the nube for future blending board projects.

All of these spun singles as you can see are a bit thick and thin in their diameters, as I was just going for fast spinning at a heavier weight than my regular spins. I’m trying to get used to spinning thicker again after I gradually trained myself to spin a fairly consistent thin-ish default style yarn.

I’m thinking of plying these with a black yarn, perhaps handspun or I could save my time and buy a black laceweight wool yarn. I thought about spinning with gold thread but for now I want to avoid bringing new petroleum based yarns into the world!

(Yes, I know they will still be produced, but at least I can avoid adding to the demand so much.)

My goal is to create lots of nice batts and rolags from natural fibres, making use of things like soy silk in addition to the usual suspects, in order to get a bit of shine and different texture without reaching for the sparkle of stellina, etc. But, I won’t absolutely ban myself from these things as I don’t think my brain responds well to outright bans!

As for silk, I am going to continue to use it fairly sparingly. I bought eri silk, recycled sari silk and tussah silk noil – I believe that the eri silk is harvested without killing the silk worms, and the sari silk is recycled, so that gives me peace of mind… and the silk noil, I think that might be a kind of ‘waste’ or byproduct so again to me that’s not something I am super worried about.

That’s it for now friends! Thanks for stopping by.

Knitting up some handspun socks!

Hi all, thought I would share some photos of my recent handspun sock project. These will be my 2nd pair of handspun socks I believe, as I made a dk weight pair of bed socks for my mum using some handspun from Hilltop Cloud.

Today’s fibre comes from one of my favourites, Rusty Ferret! They had a fairly recent fibre update from which I got 2 braids of Cheviot hand dyed fibre. I’ll admit, I keep going back to their shop and eyeing up some more fibre, but I know that I really have way too much right now and need to spin and knit up what I have before I can justify buying any more…

Anyway, on to the fibre!

A photo of a braid of British Cheviot fibre, hand dyed in different shades of purple.

Apologies for the not so aesthetically pleasing photo, I think I was just too eager to get spinning on it! It was enjoyable to spin, and drafted easily. I believe I spun all the singles in 4 batches of 25g on my drop spindle, and then plied it on my wheel. I tend to prefer plying on the wheel as the spindle ends up getting a bit overloaded with ~50g of fibre on it.

Image showing 3 items on a mattress; 1) a hank of yarn with a band of paper around it. The paper features branding for Rusty Ferret, a yarn and fibre online shop. 2) a hand knitted sock made from the yarn. 3) a small ball of the yarn left over.
Handspun British Cheviot yarn dyed by Rusty Ferret (link to shop above).

Here we go, the fibre was spun up pretty quickly and I cast on my sock soon after. It’s definitely heavier than a fingering weight yarn. I need to get my hands on a WPI tool (I know I can measure it myself too…) so that I know weights for sure. I believe it’s sport to DK weight. I cast on 52 stitches for this sock, and just followed my default sock making technique, and googled heel flap instructions for a 26 stitch heel.

I want to add a bit more detail here to say that I hope to spin up more of these non-nylon fibres, in order to make my own collection of socks/accessories/garments that can return to the earth (be composted!) once they have been worn to oblivion!

A close up image of the hand knit sock, showing the cuff, leg, heel and part of the foot. The toe is not showing. You can see the knitted stitches in detail.
More of a close up of the sock so you can see the yarn a bit more clearly. It’s not super even but it’s pretty good for my spinning!

So there you have it! One sock done and one more to go. I just finished casting on about 5 minutes ago and will work a bit on the cuff now while catching up with fibre arts podcasts!