What I didn’t tell you about Sock Madness: Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch

Not long ago, as March had just started, I told you about Sock Madness, this fun online (sock-) knitting competition where camaraderie is the centre of it all. Well, I might have omitted to tell you of one thing. But for my defence, I was not allowed to!

What I didn’t tell you is that one of the rounds of the competition would feature a design from me. The design was revealed on Monday (April 14th, about 4pm UK time) and I am quite proud of it:

Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch Socks ©Aurelie Colas

Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch Socks – ©Aurelie Colas

Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch socks, which can be worn cuff up, or folded down! The little blurb to introduce them runs as follows:

Knit colourful and happy stripes in your socks, and sing “somewhere over the rainbow

A few words about…
Linen stitch: it provides a wonderful texture similar to that of woven fabric. Playing with colours adds a new dimension to linen stitch, and creates a fabric that is equally lovely fabrics on both sides. This naturally led me to create socks that would best show the two fabrics by wearing the cuff up, or folded down.

I-cords: they can be addictive. Knitting a very long I-cord is not appealing, but combining short I-cords in multiple colours opens the door to playing with colours in another way. And helps create the perfect tab for a cuff too!

Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch Socks ©Aurelie Colas

Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch Socks – Cuff up, or folded down!
©Aurelie Colas

Of course, to remain in the competition, I have to knit another pair myself, and attempt to finish in time as there are 33 knitters per team this round, and only 26 spots available… This time, I chose white as the main colour, and the recipient (if I ever finish them) is Janice (of course!). On Wednesday, here is where I was.

Rainbow Pipes - Some progress

Rainbow Pipes – Some progress

At this point, Sunday 7pm, the fastest team has only one spot left! And in my team, 19 knitters at least have completed their socks, so there are 7 spots left maximum! Crazy, huh? And I am nowhere near done… So I am very doubtful I will make the cut, but I will try.

Rainbow Pipes - Some more progress...

Rainbow Pipes – Where I am on Sunday evening…

Suspense is high! Will I make it?



Posted in Design, Knitting, Socks | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April is Daffodils time

I hope you’ll forgive me to interrupt Janice’s interesting posts about testing and designing for this little personal message…

April is a special month to me. Last year, April brought sorrow. And one of the things that was striking me then was that all daffodils were in bloom. For those of you who are not familiar with the UK in spring, you must imagine blankets of daffodils in bloom on every grassy spot. Everywhere. Everywhere you look, you can see bright and delicate golden shades of daffodils.

And now, it is daffodils time again, and I can’t believe we are approaching the first birthday of my little star.

Petit Prince and Little Star - ©Aurelie Colas

Petit Prince and Little Star – ©Aurelie Colas

Last September, I released a sock design in his memory: Petit Prince and Little Star. This month, I would like to bring attention to these one-of-a-kind fraternal socks.

With coupon code daffodil2014, get 50% off until end of April 2014 (end of day GMT). More important: £1.00 will be donated to SANDS charity (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) for every sale of this pattern, in memory of my little star. Click here, and the coupon code will be added automatically.

I would love to be able to make a significant donation to SANDS thanks to all of you.

Thank you for all your support, past and present. It means a lot to me. Thank you so much.

Aurelie / spinnygonzalez

PS: For more information about SANDS, and in particular SANDS Aberdeen, their website can be found here.

Posted in Design, Knitting, Sale, Socks | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Testing Times for The Woolly Alliance

Definition of blether

Looking back at the blog over the last couple of months it is obvious (to myself at least) that my posts are rather short and to the point. Which is actually quite odd, because if there was a ‘blethering’ competition between Aurelie and myself, I would undoubtably be the winner!

And so, I racked my brains trying to think of a topic which would be interesting, funny, surprising!

Eventually I decided on a topic that many of you may know very little about but which will probably be a bit of an eye opener! So, on this occasion bear with me and I will try very hard to hold your attention for longer than my usual 2 minutes!

My first even published paper pattern - 1987

My first ever published paper pattern – 1987

A very, very long time ago when I was young, childless and wrinkle free, I embarked very naively on my designing career. I am ashamed to say that in desperation of finding work I may have lied exaggerated about my experience as a pattern writer. (Youth brought a confidence that I no longer possess!) And so I began working as a freelance designer, knitting garments for photography and writing knitting patterns. (On a typewriter!!!!) I was busy, happy and oblivious to the real world of knitting, i.e. the lovely folks that were buying my patterns and knitting them up!

A few years later, I was married, expecting my first child and circumstances meant I chose to stop designing and become a full-time mum. It was the dawn of ‘fleece’ fabric, no one wanted hand knits, and my own children refused to wear them……. so I stopped knitting.

Fast forward a few years…….. I dust the cobwebs off my needles, start to knit again and take on the position of Rowan Design Consultant in John Lewis, Aberdeen. Thanks to Marie Wallin, the opportunity arises to do a little designing. (At this point I seemed to morph into a toy designer?) I do the knitting, pattern writing and send the finished articles off for photography, the patterns are checked for errors and published. Easy! And, very exciting!

However, in my new role in retail, I am for the first time meeting the ‘knitters’. You know, those nice people who buy knitting patterns, yarn, needles and follow the instructions faithfully (Or not, as the case may be!) to produced beautiful pieces of craftwork.  Slowly, I begin to realise that the way things work in the design world is not necessarily the best way for the ‘knitter’. At this point I guess you will be asking, what is she talking about?

Well ladies (and gentlemen), I am talking about ‘Testing’. You may not be aware or have even given any thought to this subject. But, the fact is that for most large companies the testing process is not quite as thorough as you may think. It is usual, for instance, to ‘test knit’ only one size. A size that will fit the model for photography. There may be a second or third test required if something is not quite right, but not always. This means that you could be the first to knit your chosen size! Now, if the pattern is scaled up correctly then 9 times out of 10, there will be no issue. And, to be fair, for companies producing a high volume of new designs with each season I question whether there really is any other way? Financially, even taking into account what we are about to discuss, I am unsure as to how they could proceed and still survive.

At this point I thoroughly encourage you to read this short article:

A Triumph of Web Knitting and Crochet

Regardless, to all of the above, that continued interaction with the ‘knitter’ while working in retail has completely changed how I look at the whole process. I am extremely grateful to those companies who gave me my break back in to designing, but I am afraid that 5 years down the line I have made the decision to concentrate on self-publishing.

Of course, my designer head appreciates the positives of freelancing to a ‘brand’. You have yarn support, which is crucial if money is tight. The audience and pattern distribution is huge! You have instant recognition in an industry with hundreds of hugely talented people. I have also found that being ‘published’ seems to install a certain trust in the ‘knitter’.

The downside however is you have little control and seldom own the copyright of your design. So, no royalties there then!

This realisation has led me to embrace the benefits of small-scale production, of holding your own copyright, knowing your customer and even having the pleasure of getting to know some of them personally.

And how can I do this…..the power of the internet but mostly, the power of Ravelry…

(… to be continued)


Posted in Baby, Child, Community, Design, Knitting, Toddler, Toy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Of Blanket, Socks, Madness and Sharks

March is already upon us, and I just can’t believe it. Surely, it can’t be right. I apologise for taking so long to write another post. But I hope to compensate with enough information and little stories. Stop reading now, go grab a coffee, and make yourself comfortable.

Strips of Stripes ©Aurelie Colas

Strips of Stripes – Cover Photo
©Aurelie Colas

First, I owe you some news from my stripy blanket. It has a name and is called Strips of Stripes. I have released the pattern on February 27th, so technically, I was one day ahead of my self-imposed deadline of end-of-February. I know it’s silly, but it was enough to make me happy that day. Anyway, this “little” blanket has had lots of lovely comments, and some people actually plan to knit one too really soon! There are some people who are just as crazy as me. This is great news!

Taking the final pictures of the blanket was very fun. I had laid it nicely on the guest bed, with a few props: comfy pillows, my faithful sheep stuffed toy (gift from my mum), one of my favourite books* (Willy Ronis – “Derriere l’objectif de Willy Ronis” — a wonderful, inspiring and educational book on traditional black and white photography), and a tray with a tea pot and my sheepy mug.

Strips of Stripes ©Aurelie Colas

Strips of Stripes
©Aurelie Colas

And just as I started taking a few pictures, The Little Man decided to give me a hand. I tried to tell him that he would be able to play in just 5 minutes, but no. He wasn’t ready to listen… So instead, I thought I’d just include him in the pictures, and hope for the best (low light doesn’t make for sharp pictures when a toddler is around…). And that’s how I ended up with pictures where the teapot is up in the air, “pouring tea” in the mug, or where the sheepy mug is suddenly missing, then reappears… The Little Man loved “making tea” for mummy. I hope you’ll like the picture I selected as my “cover picture” for the blanket design.

And suddenly, March was there.

As some of you may know, I fell into sock knitting in 2012. I have knitted something like 40 pairs of socks since then. What is it about socks, you may ask? Socks are boring, you have to make two of the same thing, they end up hidden in your shoes, and they wear out after a while.

My latest stripy socks, made with 100% British yarn. Yummy-ness for my feet!

My latest stripy socks, made with 100% British yarn. Yummy-ness for my feet!

Well, my point of view is slightly different: socks are portable and so they can be knitted anywhere; handknitted socks are extremely comfortable; you knit them to fit exactly your foot, unlike store bought socks where one-shape-fits-all; they only take one skein of yarn; they are a great way to try out new techniques (and if you screw it up, it’s ok, it’s in your shoes!); they can be simple or complicated, beautiful all the same; and did I say how comfortable they were? They also keep your feet warm even if they are wet (like that time The Man and I ended up walking on a very wet path for hours… he will still bring it up in 20 years time…); they don’t make your feet sweat as much as cotton/synthetic socks (no more smelly feet either!), and they keep your feet warm in winter, and cool when it’s warm in summer (that’s British summer, not 35 degree Celsius summer, you don’t wear socks then!).

So, long story short: I wear my handknitted wool socks all year long. And yes, some are being a little worn out, but I can darn them. And simply knit more of them. If they were never wearing out, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to knit more of them, right? Well, I probably would, but there is a point where one would need to buy more drawers…

Anyway, I have had some socks recently showing some sign of wear (do you remember my recent post on darning?). And luckily, March is upon us. What is special about March? March is the beginning of… Sock Madness!

(You may need to refill your mug of coffee at this point…)

Sock Madness?? What’s that, you may ask. I had briefly mentioned Sock Madness in a post that’s very dear to my heart. I had written that Sock Madness is a competition where “an international and friendly bunch of knitters gather online and get challenged to knit crazy sock designs in no time”. It is, in my opinion, a good description of the event, but I think it is time to explain a little better what it is.

Sock Madness is an online competition starting in March, organised by two lovely ladies on a group/forum on Ravelry. It consists of 7 rounds (with one rest-round somewhere in the middle), with one unique exclusive sock pattern per round, designed by talented and creative volunteer designers.

The first round aims at filtering the registered competitors to enter them in a team. The aim of this round is to complete a pair of socks (following pattern released for this round of course)  within 2 weeks. Anyone not managing to complete the two socks in those two weeks is out of the competition.

After that, the competitors still in the run are assigned to a team. From Round 2 to the second-to-last Round, the goal is to knit faster than your team mates, as there is a set number of spots available at the end of each round. For instance, you may start Round 2 with 40 people in your team, and only the first 30 who complete that round will move on to the next round.

At the end of the second-to-last round, only one knitter per team is still in the competition. The last round aims at “crowning” the fastest of all teams, who becomes the Sock Madness Queen. Last year, Karin (from the Netherlands) was the Queen, and she has incredibly speedy fingers.

I had to hire my Crazy Molly to help me knit for Sock Madness 2012. I had made the (red) leg too tight, so had to re-do it.  These socks are Frick-Frack: one sock is knitted toe-up, the other top-down and... they look completely identical thanks to the reversible cable, heel, and moss stitch! Mad!

I had to hire my Crazy Molly to help me knit for Sock Madness 2012. I had made the (red) leg too tight, so had to re-do it. These socks are called Frick-Frack: one sock is knitted toe-up, the other top-down and… they look completely identical thanks to the reversible cable, heel, and moss stitch! Crazy!

These are the general rules. But in reality, there is a lot more to that. Sock Madness is also a lot about camaraderie, cheering on each other, knitting along (even if you get eliminated from the competition, you still receive the patterns and are more than welcome to knit along), helping each other at figuring out new techniques, why things go wrong, etc. There are even talented story tellers to help us waiting in between rounds!  It is quite amazing actually.

So, last month, I signed myself up for another Sock Madness. It is the 8th edition, and my 3rd time participating. (Janice didn’t sign up. She’ll be jealous that I have a drawer full of new socks after Sock Madness is over!). And soon after March started, I received the first pattern, which kicks-off the competition. The pattern is called Brucie, and is named after a character of one of the numerous stories and tales of Sock Madness. Brucie is a Shark! The Great Gansey Shark!

(Need more coffee? A piece of cake perhaps?…)

MaryAnn, one of the “ancient” Sock Madness-ers, explains: “All know the tales of the Great Gansey Shark. When people start to knit a Gansey and never finish is what calls to the Great Gansey Shark. It is said that the Great Gansey Shark will come in the night and pull those poor souls whom have not finished their Gansey down to the depths of the ocean itself, down to Davy Jones’s own locker, where they will be forced to spend all eternity singing bad sea chanty’s with the sailor claimed by Davy Jones himself.”

The sock pattern, Brucie, is split in sections from cuff to toe: “Shaaaaark” is the first section, with fins splitting the water. The second section is aptly named “Fish are Friends, Not Food” and features scales. The heel flap section is called “My What Sharp Teeth you Have”; while the foot bears the perfect name of “The Great Gansey Sock”. Pretty awesome, huh?

Am I done with these socks, you may ask? Of course not! I am not too far from reaching the toe decreases on the first sock. Yes, I have a while to go still… But it has been less than a week since the pattern was released. So technically, I am not behind schedule… yet! Although, you know, the first two finishers for this round completed their pair of socks in less than a day. (One of them is the Queen from last year…) And they crossed the finish line (= sent their email to claim they’re done) just 15 minutes apart! How crazy is that? There are speedy fingers in this world, I tell you.

Fish are friends - not food! Brucie socks at Macduff Aquarium

Fish are friends – not food!
Brucie sock at Macduff Aquarium

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about my Brucie socks. Today, I took them for a trip up North, in Macduff. Macduff is a little town just across the bigger town of Banff, on the North coast of North-East of Scotland. It is mostly known for its fishing and ship building industry. But also for its marine aquarium! This is where I took The Little Man and my Shark socks today. And we had a great time.

There were lots and lots of “fishies”. Big ones, small ones, red ones, black ones, striped ones, spotted ones, round ones, skinny ones, flat ones, long ones… you get the idea.

There were also jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, starfish, and…. sharks!!!

My Brucie socks had a bad fright...

My Brucie sock had a bad fright…

I learned lots of things today. In particular, that there are sharks along the coast of Scotland. Yup. Small sharks, but sharks all the same, right? They are dogfish. Most of them I think (if not all) were Lesser-Spotted Dogfish. I had never heard of those… in English at least. In French? They are called “petite roussette”, and although I knew the name, I had never met one!

Mermaid's purses (with embryos) and baby dogfish... and Brucie sock.

Mermaid’s purses (with embryos) and baby dogfish… and Brucie sock.

So I took Brucie out, and presented it(him? her?) some of its relatives.

First we met baby sharks, and pre-baby sharks. Those things hanging are called “mermaid’s purses” and are actually eggs-cases. Funny to think that there are so many sharks-in-progress just behind the glass… and I have one shark-(sock)-in progress in my hands!

Then, I took Brucie and The Little Man to see the bigger fishies, amongst them the adult sharks. But Brucie-sock seemed to scare them off!

First we tried saying hello to the Lesser-Spotted Dogfish. Funny that he’s called “lesser-spotted” with all those spots, right?

Hiya! My name is Brucie. How are you, Mr Shark?

Hiya! My name is Brucie. How are you, Mr Shark?

Oops, Brucie scared him off!

Oops, Brucie scared him off!

Woosh! The shark is gone!

Woosh! The shark is gone!

Then, we tried saying hi to another Lesser-Spotted Dogfish who lives in the big kelp reef. This is an impressive “fish tank”, open to the sky, which forms the centre of the aquarium, and can be viewed from nearly all the rooms. It has natural daylight, and a big block of concrete (or something similar) going up and down mimics the waves at the surface.

The dogfish was playing hide-and-seek with me, and when Brucie-sock appeared, he swam away promptly! Brucie must have scared him off too!

Brucie-sock, The Little Man and I had a nice time at the aquarium. If only there were more well-behaved kids around (and more well-behaved parents!), it would have been perfect.

Oh, and as we were heading back to the car, there were a few dolphins swimming by the coast and jumping, and playing… No picture, no video. Let’s say it was just for the pleasure of our eyes, and for our little brain to remember.

(That’s me off to take a coffee now… my cup is empty.)

Speak to you soon, I have a pair of sharks socks to finish.

Aurelie / spinnygonzalez

Posted in Design, Knitting, Scotland, Socks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Supported spindling: magic and addictive!

Grab a coffee, I’m being chatty tonight…

Once again, it has been a while since I last posted. Of course, I have excuses (who doesn’t?): I have been working on two designs that should be released soon (see at the end of this post for a picture of one of them), and I have been traveling. But that’s not all.

I have new toys. And they’re addictive. And fun. And magic. A bit like a magic wand, but even better than that. I am hooked, although there is no hook on these: I am now the proud owner of two supported spindles (and a spinning bowl), and I could see more supported spindles in my future…

But before I tell you about them, let me tell you a little about my “journey” as a beginner spinner (I still am a beginner, believe me). If you get bored, I won’t be offended, just jump ahead to the sections with pictures!

Once upon a time… a year or two after I started knitting, there was this knitter at knit-night who was more and more often bringing her spinning instead of her knitting. And I was captivated, watching her spin, and  asking question about how it works. And she taught me about staple length*, and twist*, and I kept watching her transforming fluff into (lovely) useable yarn. [For those of you who are not (yet) spinners, you may not know about all the spinning terms. So I'll try to add a little glossary at the bottom of this post]

One day, she talked me into trying with a drop spindle. Somehow, it clicked pretty much immediately, and soon I too was turning fluff into yarn. Not as pretty as hers, but definitely useable. She said I was a “natural” spinner. I didn’t believe her, but it sure was a nice thing to hear when one expect to just make a big mess of that yummy fluff.

Now, she also had a wheel… And one day, she invited me over at her place to knit and chat… and to have a go at her wheel. Just like for the drop spindling experience, I first spent a good while watching her treadling and moving her hands and asking questions about how the flyer* and the bobbin* work, etc. And then she told me to give it a try. And I sat at the wheel, and… it clicked too.

I didn’t know about all the different types of wheels, “castle” or “Saxony” type (with the bobbin and flyer above the wheel, or on the contrary, to the side). I didn’t know about the different brands, about ratio*, intake*, about single or double drive*, about single or double treadle. I didn’t know where to buy a wheel either, and I simply gave a call to the shop where I had bought some fluff and they were really kind and indicated that they had a lady who contacted them, as she was looking to sell her wheel since she was not spinning anymore. I had no idea about the fact that it’s better to try a wheel first, to try many wheels before making a choice, to look for potential issues on a second hand wheel… So what did I do? I drove South an hour or so from home, met the lady in the middle of nowhere. We had a little chat. And I bought her wheel without trying it or anything. It turns out it’s one of the earliest versions of the Ashford Traditional, and certainly needed some maintenance (and still needs some). But I was happy, and took it home, and learned some more about spinning.

And then, spinning got put aside for a few years as I was knitting every free minute. And also doing other crafts and arty things. But last year, as I needed something to empty my little brain and at the same time, find a way to relax, I came back to it. I took care of my old wheel (which turns to be older than me, how fun!). It certainly has some temper and a mind of its own, but so do I. And so far, I think we’ve managed to cohabitate pretty well. And we make yarn together.

Ashford Drop Spindle and HilltopCloud pin-drafted roving

Ashford Drop Spindle and HilltopCloud pin-drafted roving

I also dug for my drop spindles, and got reminded how portable they are. For sure, it’s slower to spin on them compared to the wheel, but just like a plain stockinette sock: they are great to work on every now and again, everywhere, any time. And so progress can be quite quick too in the end!

Pictured on the left: my current spinning project on my drop spindle: some heavenly soft pin-drafted roving (a dream to spin) which is a mix of llama, merino and shetland. Hilltop Cloud is amongst my favourite shops for fibre; she also focuses on British breeds, and it’s great!

And one day, I was looking at pretty pictures of people spinning fluffy little batts* onto spindles that didn’t look like my drop spindles at all: they were supported, and their tip twirled in a curved bowl. This time, there was no one I knew for real, to ask for details. Only a few people online, and the maze of Internet. And I found these, and watched them a couple times:

This one: Fleegle spins on a Russian spindle

and this one too: Fleegle spins on a Tibetan spindle

No need for words really. I was speechless (and believe me, it doesn’t happen that often) just watching the spindle twirl endlessly and the yarn magically forming from the fluff.

You may now guess what happened next: in the next hour, I had put an “ad” on Ravelry, in the “UK Classified” forum, which read as follows:

Well mannered spinner in spindle-friendly home (lots of yummy fluff!) looking for well balanced supported spindle for long evenings together.
Ideally Tibetan or Russian type (I’ve got a thing for oriental-type spindles I guess!), the elected supported spindle needs not be too selfish, as some fluff will have to be shared with the 3 resident drop spindles and the granny wheel. However, it may well become The Favourite Spindle… and so will get all the yummy fibre in priority!
All applications will be considered. Supported Spindle with a spinning bowl in their luggage might be given priority.

While I was eagerly waiting for a reply, although I didn’t really believe anyone would want to sell a supported spindle to me, I looked for Russian or Tibetan spindles handturned in the UK. I didn’t find any. And ended up eyeing one from a US Etsy shop (TexasJeans), which seemed to have great reviews.

And someone replied to my ad above. And I bought a second-hand Russian type spindle, which came with its little bowl.

Russian type spindle with its spinning bowl. Imagine it a little slimmer under the little bit of yarn spun on it.

Russian type spindle with its spinning bowl. Imagine it a little slimmer under the little bit of yarn spun on it.

But I have also been weak, and I bought this Tibetan spindle I was eyeing from TexasJeans’s shop. Coming from across the pond, it was going to take a while to reach me…

TexasJeans Tibetan and Nunoco batts (2 x 50g) awaiting to be spun

TexasJeans Tibetan and Nunoco batts (2 x 50g) awaiting to be spun

Luckily, the Russian came really quickly, and I started playing straight away, trying to do a little like I remembered from Fleegle’s awesome videos. Did I watch the videos again? No. I was too busy doing my usual “trial and error” method. And it clicked. And a few minutes after, I was making a nice, quite even, single. It’s magic. Just magic, to see the spindle turn and turn and do its little dance, and the fluff elongating and turning into a nice length of yarn. Magic, I tell you.

Russian spindle and FondantFibre rolags

Russian spindle and FondantFibre rolags. Here is where I am at the moment. On the spindle is one third of the fibre. The bunch of rolags pictured above are another third, to give an idea of how spinning is magic.

Now, as much as I’m having fun with the Russian, I got a little frustrated that it doesn’t swirl for very long each time (although it’s definitely spinning for a lot longer as there is more yarn added around it). And then, I received the Tibetan spindle. I gave it a quick try and…

TexasJeans Tibetan and Nunoco batts

TexasJeans Tibetan and Nunoco batts

I’m in love. This thing spins forever. I still need to mate it, as it seems to have a mind of its own too. But like I said, so do I.

Picture on the left: my first spinning project on the Tibetan spindle: 2 x 50g batts from Nunoco (my favourite place for squishy batts, with a great sense of colours), in a lovely grey/yellow combo to die (dye?) for. Fibre content: merino, silk noil and soya.

I am just a beginner at spinning, and a very early beginner at supported spindling. But I’m loving it. I am now the proud owner of two magic wands, and a little wooded “cauldron” to spin into. And I’m loving being a spinning witch, with the amazing power of turning fluff into yarn.

So, if you’re not a spinner (yet), are you itching to try your hands at some magic now???


Oh, and I was about to forget… Do you still want to see a (progress) picture of one of my two designs to be released soon?

©Aurelie Colas - 2014

©Aurelie Colas – 2014

A little (humble) glossary for those who may not know the vocabulary of spinning (yet). I don’t pretend to be literate in spinning, but I hope this can help understand how things work:

staple length: the length of fibre, determined by the length of the fleece at sheering time. It can be determined by pulling on a bit of fluff by the tip of the fibres: the length of the piece of fluff that gets loose is the staple length.

twist: the twist in the fluff is what makes the fluff “stick” together and form yarn. With no twist, the fibre would pull apart as the lengths of fibre slide along each other.

flyer: a U-shape piece that is set in motion by turning the wheel, and which turns around the bobbin (which is where the spun fibre is stored on the fly as it is being made).

ratio: the number of times the flyer turns around the bobbin when the wheel accomplishes one full revolution.

intake: how much the wheel “pulls” on the yarn being spun, determined by how much friction there is on the bobbin and/or the braking system.

single/double drive: defines whether the bobbin is directly connected (with a piece of string / the driveband) to the wheel just like the flyer (double drive), or independent from the wheel, and controlled by a braking system (single drive)

batts: a type of fibre preparation that looks like an tidy little pillow. It is created usually by using a drum carder. There are many ways to spin from a batt. Most ways produce a very airy yarn.

rolags: a type of fibre preparation that looks like “sausages”. It is created usually by using a blending board and a dowel to roll the fibre onto. Spinning from the end of a rolag produces a very lofty yarn as the air is trapped between the fibre which lay more or less perpendicular to the axis of spinning

Posted in Design, Knitting, Spinning | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Help ma kilt, it’s Ramsay MacSporran!


Piping in the Haggis 2014

At long last I can introduce you to Wee Ramsay. He was a long time coming, but for once I am actually quite pleased with how he turned out.  He ‘piped in the haggis’ at the family Burns Supper and finished the night off with a spot of dancing.

Highland Fling

Highland Fling

Our Wee Sheep was chuffed with his new Highland dress and particularly proud of his new sporran. This addition to the pattern was inspired by a St. Andrew’s Day dinner attended recently with my other half.  Lovely meal, lovely company and lot’s of lovely men in kilts, one of which was sporting a rather fetching sporran. (After some polite interrogation took place the wearer admitted his sporran was actually a childs back-pack.)

Heilan' Coo Sporran

Heilan’ Coo Sporran

And the result of this evening out ……..was Ramsay and the ‘Heilan Coo’ sporran.

And, for those of you curious ladies (or gents) who are wondering “What does a Wee Black Faced Sheep wear under his kilt?”

The Perfect Undergarment

The Perfect Undergarment

Did mention in my last post that our friend popped into Jamieson’s of Shetland on his way back from the North Pole? It appears that while our wee friend was in Lerwick he found the perfect undergarment….guaranteed to keep everything cosy and  completely under control!

Posted in Burns Supper, Child, Design, History, Knitting, Robbie Burns, Scotland, Scottish Traditions, Tartan, Toy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Oh, Darn!

This morning was like many other mornings: I  started folding the laundry away. There was “regular” laundry (what goes in the washing machine), and “woollies” laundry (handwashed). So, there were lots of socks, from both laundries, as I handwash and maching-wash socks, depending on the yarn they’re made of.

So, there I was, folding the laundry while listening to some podcast (most probably), when I noticed a weird shadow on one sock. And not any sock… my first (and only) pair of socks made of handspun yarn! I looked closer: nothing too bad, a stitch had got thin or caught on something, and broke. I carefully put them away to be fixed later with duplicate stitch.

A hole on the ball of the foot of my Da Treehouse!

A hole on the ball of the foot of my Da Treehouse!

And I continue folding my socks, this time inspecting them a little closer. And there it was: another pair of socks, some of my favourite socks: my Da Treehouse socks (a design from Adrienne Fong and Debi Woods). With a hole in one sock! And some dangerously thin parts in other places too! These are special socks, which have been on my feet on some days I’ll never forget. Definitely, I was not ready to get rid of them. And the hole was quite small anyway.

I had noticed that I’d been a little harder on my socks recently. I guess it’s due to the different flooring surfaces compared to our previous place. Still, it’s never really pleasant to find a hole in your hand knitted socks. Especially in your favourite, best fitting or most comfortable socks. So I thought I’d be brave, and attempt some darning.

I got myself a darning “mushroom”, as it was the only thing that could be found in my local haberdashery place. One day, I hope to upgrade to a proper “egg”, perhaps more appropriate for the shape of the socks.

And I got busy.

First I fixed my handspun socks (stupidly didn’t think of taking pictures to show you the progress…), as I could go away with duplicate stitch on that small hole. It gave me confidence that I could fix bigger holes. I was about to fold them… and noticed a second hole! I tend to wear my socks on two spots: the ball of the foot (on the outside of the foot), and under the big toe. I know, I’m weird like that. So sure enough, that second hole (bigger) was under the big toe. I managed to fix it again with some duplicate stitch, albeit not quite as pretty.

Then I moved to the “da Treehouse” socks. First, I worked on the sock with no hole, but with a very thin area at the same spot, and I reinforced it with duplicate stitches.

Duplicate stitches over a thin area, to prevent future holes to appear

Duplicate stitches over a thin area, to prevent future holes to appear

Then, I took care of the hole. And I tried to be careful and weave yarn to make a patch, first weaving horizontally, picking one leg of each stitch (and the other leg on the alternate rows). And then weaving in the other direction, going above and below the horizontal “lines”.

That will do until the next hole

That will do until the next hole!

Finally, I reinforced the area under the big toe, where the yarn was getting thin too. In the process, I have learned to like this little mushroom. It’s not the best for socks, probably. But it was better than nothing, definitely!

I am by no means good at darning. I am just learning. I am probably not working “the right way”. But like any other craft, I’ll learn from trials and errors…

So that will do… Until the next hole!

What about you? What do you do with your socks if they get hole-y?

Edit: A recent article from Twist Collective has been recommended for me to read on the subject of darning, and I thought I’d share it with you. Of course, I found about it after I had “fixed” my socks. But I will probably refer to it again for my next darning session!

Posted in Knitting, Make do and mend, Socks | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment