Once upon a time………..in John Lewis?

Once upon a time far, far away, (well about 12 miles actually) in the fair city of Aberdeen, I had a part-time job as the Rowan Design Consultant in John Lewis. Many customers came and went and many of them were really lovely. Two of these customers became my friends and have remained so. The first is Aurelie, of whom you all know so well! The second is Sue.

Sue was a great customer, who regularly knitted from the latest Rowan magazine. A beautiful knitter who always had something new on her pins. Sue knitted for herself, her girls, hubby, friends, friends children and children’s friends! I can also recall a few exquisite Christmas pudding hats! (Sue is pretty talented with her own creations too!) It was during this time that Sue taught her daughter Kelly to knit.

One day Sue came to John Lewis to let me know she was leaving Aberdeen as her hubby had been posted elsewhere. We have kept in touch via occasional emails ever since. In early 2014 I received news that both Sue’s daughters were to be married in 2015, just weeks apart. Happy celebrations were in preparation.

A telephone conversation followed during which……a slightly nervous Sue told me that Kelly wanted a small and friendly wedding with a handmade dress that she hoped to knit with the expert help of her mum. And so it all began…….we chatted about yarns, tension  and how to adapt Kelly’s chosen design, #21 Lace Dress by Shirley Paden.

Over the following months many people were involved, Isabelle Randall made the underskirt (By altering a silk nightie!) and Sue’s friend Catherine crocheted the delicate edgings that  finished off the dress. And we all met up on occasion for fitting etc. However, The majority of the work was done by Kelly and Sue.… What a team!

With Kelly and her new hubby Alasdair’s permission I would like to share with you a very special day in which I feel honoured to have played, a (very small) part. x

Lace skirt by Kelly, delicate crochet edgings by Catherine.

Lace skirt by Kelly.  Delicate crochet edgings by Catherine.


The finished wedding dress complete with silk underskirt, lace cap sleeves and lace hem by Isabelle Randall

The bride and groom at Strathpeffer Village Pavillion

The bride and groom at Strathpeffer Village Pavillion

Origami bouquet by Kelly

Amazing origami bouquet handmade by Kelly

Woodland near the village of Strathpeffer

Kelly models in woodland near the village of Strathpeffer

The back opening

The back opening

I love those shoes!

I love those shoes!

Silk Bow by Isabelle Randall

Silk Bow by Isabelle Randall

The evening reception.

Dancing at the evening reception.

Congratulations Kelly and Alastair! I hope you have many happy years together. Your memories of the day will last a lifetime x

P.S. You can read more about the making of Kelly’s dress here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Where does time go? Woolfest recap at last

I cannot believe it has been two full weeks since I went to Woolfest. I feel like I spent a few hours at Woolfest in the middle of holidays with my family, finished said holidays a couple days after, came back home, did a few random things that “don’t take long”, and it’s already today. How did this happen?

Walking in the sheep field...  ©Aurelie Colas

Walking in the sheep field…
Photo ©Aurelie Colas

We spent a few days in the Northern part of the Lake District, where we had never been. The Man, Little Man, Little Miss and I (and silly doggy too) enjoyed some short walks along the rivers and lakes. The weather was so-so (apparently, it was a lot more summer-y at home, boooo), but it was fair enough.

Aira Force Waterfals, near Ullswater  ©Aurelie Colas

Aira Force Waterfalls, near Ullswater
Photo ©Aurelie Colas

On Saturday, we headed to Cockermouth. The sun was shining, the sky was so blue… Almost a shame to go indoors!

On entering the festival, we could see the inspiring exhibition, with wool felt and fabric. First, this awesome portrait by Gill Curwen (see more of her work here):

Herdwick portrait made out of wool, by Gill Curwen - Photo ©Aurelie Colas

Herdwick portrait made out of wool, by Gill Curwen – Photo ©Aurelie Colas

Those amazing coats and jackets were sticking:

WoolClip Exhibition Photo ©Aurelie Colas

As per the Little Man’s request, we headed straight to the sheep pens to admire the many breeds. His favourite were each littlest sheep from the last pen we had just past. After a very welcome lunch in the marquee, we went for more sheep sighting…

(Janice, look, there are your sheep… they were a bit camera shy, sorry)

We bumped into a friend from Edinburgh. We also saw a few cashmere goats, we briefly spotted the alpacas through the crowd, and went to see the angora bunnies… and then I tried to do some yarn and fibre chase. It can be a little stressful to shop with little people. Definitely makes browsing a luxury. Luckily, The Man offered to take care of the Little Man so I had 30-45 minutes of “free-time” (with Little Miss) to do my shopping. This is when I did the most “damage”. Apparently, I don’t do well under pressure with a shopping-list in hand.

Sock yarn - Indigo dyed by The Border Tart

Sock yarn – Indigo dyed by The Border Tart

So, I bought my first skein of yarn from The Border Tart, along with two lovely sets of buttons which I forgot to photograph (you will see some of them shortly though as they have been used already…). It is a subtle denim blue. I like that no two skeins are the same, but yet all died with the same method: indigo. I spent a few minutes trying to find the right shade of blue to match what I had in mind. I think I found it!

Silk Hankies from HilltopCloud

Silk Hankies from HilltopCloud

I knew I wanted to buy something from the always inviting HilltopCloud shop, but definitely not needed anymore fibre given my spinning rate. So I bought some silk hankies which I am hoping to knit from directly. I dithered a long time over the colours, and ended up with the first one that grabbed my attention.

RipplesCrafts Na Dannsairean 4ply in Copper Beech

RipplesCrafts Na Dannsairean 4ply in Copper Beech

Then I had the pleasure to have a quick chat with Helen, from RipplesCrafts. Again, I knew I wanted to get something from her (as I always do), but didn’t need anything really. I kept on coming back to a skein of Na Dannsairean 4ply in the amazing Copper Beech colourway. Helen is discontinuing this base sadly, and despite my resolution of not buying discontinued yarn (so I can design with it), the colour was just calling me, and I couldn’t resist. So much for the self control… but, isn’t it gorgeous?

Disclaimer: I take no responsibilities for the next purchases. I totally blame Louise (and Jo too for the Lyonesse) for having been so weak in that stall. They weren’t with me in person to place all the pretty balls of British yarn in my grabby hands, but it was just like they were 🙂

One of the stalls that was on my to-buy-from list was Blacker Yarns, and this is where my resolutions of not buying too much yarn went through the window. I wanted to look at the colours of the new Lyonesse 4ply in person (an interesting wool/linen blend), to check if the “green” was the right green for what I had in mind. I also wanted to have a feel of their Swan Falkland yarn. Weeeeell…. I might have succumbed to a few more balls than what was on my shopping list. The clock was ticking and I was to meet up The Man and Little Man for the sheep shearing demonstration a few minutes after. I lost all self-control, and ended up with a bag full of sheepy loveliness.


So… here is what I brought home (along with some sheepy postcards from the Wool Clip, and lovely buttons from The Border Tart). I’ve been naughty, haven’t I? Also… I wonder if I’m in a green/blue phase just now…



And then came the sheep shearing demonstration. It was a great experience, and I strongly recommend it. The (female!) shearer was very interesting to listen to, and it was very impressive to watch her shear the few sheep, while she took the time to walk us through what she was doing, explaining the differences between the breeds she was demo-ing with, etc.

Talented Cathy Cassie explaining her job as a shearer Photo ©Aurelie Colas

Talented Cathy Cassie explaining her job as a shearer. First sheep is a Herdwick hogg (first clip).
Photo ©Aurelie Colas

She started with three Herdwick hoggs. Seeing their black / dark grey skein / undercoat appear as she shears them is great.

Then she clipped a couple Shetland sheep (with hand shears). One of the fleeces was quickly auctioned, and I was really tempted to bid, but realistically, I don’t have the time to wash, card and spin a little fleece (not to mention I lack the experience too).

Finally, she shore two gorgeous Bluefaced Leicester. And there too, a fleece was auctioned. It was really really interesting, and I am really glad I could attend all of this with Little Man (and Little Miss too, but she is too young to understand), and use it as a chance to chat about how the wool grows, and to discuss once again where fibre and clothes come from, etc.

Circle of Stones, near Thelkeld Photo ©Aurelie Colas

Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Thelkeld
Photo ©Aurelie Colas

And then, we left Woolfest, and I gently walked the dog around the Castlerigg stone circle while the children were sleeping in the car, looked after by The Man. Lake District is a definitely nice place to walk and dream, and a great place to learn more about sheep and wool.

The sheep have a lovely view in Lake District Photo ©Aurelie Colas

The sheep have a lovely view in Lake District
Photo ©Aurelie Colas


Hobby Horse for Little Knights ©Aurelie Colas

Hobby Horse for Little Knights
©Aurelie Colas

Since being back home, like I wrote, I did a couple things. One of these was self-publishing the pattern for a quirky design which I like very much. I am proud to present  Hobby Horse for Little Knights (and Princesses too, if you prefer), with a cute face, removable bridle and complete with instructions on how to make the stick body too.

(Pattern is available for purchase both on Ravelry and on LoveKnitting.)


Apart from that, I have worked on a few other things here and there. I hope I can tell you more about these soon… Stay tuned 🙂


Happy knitting,
Aurelie / spinnygonzalez


Posted in British Yarn, Community, Design, Travel, Woolfest, Yarn | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sharing the love for spinning

It is this time of year when my spinning wheel calls my name again and again. I have not responded much to it, but I am dying to sit in front of it and admire the magical process of transforming some fluff into yarn.

While I was (and still am) struggling to find some time to devote to spinning regularly, I jumped at the opportunity to share a little bit of spinning with fifteen or so very special people: I did a little talk and demo to a group of under-4s. It was a very interesting challenge to keep up their interest while sharing some knowledge with them. Speaking in front of little people is great fun, but yes… challenging.

Miranda - by Janice Anderson

Miranda – by Janice Anderson

I had brought a few samples and objects with me: raw (cleaned) locks of wool, two huge squishy batts of prepared fibre, some handspun yarn, a hand knit stuffed sheep (Miranda the Masham Sheep – designed by Janice), a drop spindle and my spinning wheel. Obviously, their interest was drawn to the wheel, but we started by a little chat about wool: where it comes from (Miranda!); what colour sheep are (no, not just white, and they knew that!), what we can use yarn for (knitting?), and to knit what, etc. The children got to squish the wool, look at the locks, smell the batts. It was really lovely to see their faces and listen to their chatter.

I had flicked a few locks of wool to show how fibre can be pulled apart, and ‘glued’ back together. And how adding a little bit of twist made it strong enough that it couldn’t be pulled apart. Magic!

And so, we discussed the wheel. I certainly didn’t expect them to understand how the flyer and bobbin work, but we discussed about how the pedal/treadle makes the big wheel turn, and how the big wheel makes the little wheel turn. And obviously, safety rules: do not put little fingers under the treadle, or don’t try to touch the flyer when it turns… And when I sat at the wheel and did a little demo, transforming a white cloud of wool into yarn, their excitement was priceless.

As they were getting restless (20 minutes is quite long at this age…), I quickly made an Andean bracelet with what I had spun, and quickly plied it, wrapped around my forearm and made a mini-skein for them to add to their class folder, along with some fibre. Hopefully, a few of them will remember some of the process, and some of the magic, and… who knows, maybe they will want to spin some day?

Gotland Sheep

Gotland Sheep

Since then, I spun (part of) one of the batts I took to the demo. And I learned a lesson: never ever leave Gotland fibre to rest: spin it right away. I had read that Gotland can felt just like that, even in gentle storage with no movement whatsoever, and I didn’t quite believe it. Well, now, I do. The outer layer of the batt had felted slightly and was not suitable for spinning. I have saved it for now and will try to felt it more and turn it into something (a bag maybe? not sure).

No matter our age, it’s all about learning, right?


Woolly yours,
Aurelie / spinnygonzalez


PS: Speaking about sheep, fibre and all the good things, Woolfest is coming soon and I will be there! If you are heading that way too and want to meet up, please drop me a line and we can arrange something. I will be there on Saturday. Less than a week to go now… (bounce bounce bounce)

Posted in Child, Community, Spinning, Toddler, Woolfest | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Making progress…..

Firstly, I would like to say ‘thank you’ for the encouraging comments received after my last post. Wearing my New Years resolution ‘hat’ has certainly provided new enthusiasm for jobs and tasks which have been idle for way too long. Unfortunately, you may notice (by my minimal contributions), this work ethic has yet to extend to my participation in The (Auld) Woolly Alliance blog and Ravelry group. Thank goodness for the lovely Aurelie, who despite her hands being ever full, keeps everything going regardless.

Today I have returned with a wee update and once again I must say how good it feels to be on this path, I would encourage you all to try it if you can.

Roseberry by Ann Kingstone

Roseberry by Ann Kingstone

My progress in the last month has been very satisfying. In the knitting department I have finished ‘Roseberry’, intended as a 1st birthday gift for a certain ‘little lady’, who at this tender age (Judging by Aurelie’s stories) is already on the way to achieving notoriety. Not,  one would imagine, as the world’s youngest knitter but by becoming a baby version of Alain Robert, the French ‘Spiderman’!

Roseberry started life as Escape which I began knitting 5 or so years ago, when I was…. thinner! On resurrecting this WIP I realised my current body would not allow access to this lovely Louisa Harding design. Nor had I purchased enough yarn to make a larger size. A little frogging was required…and ‘little M’ became the new beneficiary of Roseberry by Anne Kingstone.


Next on the wip list was a project started just over 2 years ago when a past Rowan colleague began a ‘Square a Week’ crochet challenge on her blog, Made with Loops. Needless to say, life got in the way and after only three weeks my squares were stuffed in a bag and forgotten…until now! Sorry Heike! I have named my cushion after you as a mark of respect.

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My daughter loves her new cushion…..Do you remember that trunk from the previous post?

My proudest accomplishment since starting this journey has to be my latest cushion. In 1988 my husband bought me a Kaffe Fasset tapestry kit for our first wedding anniversary.  I completed the tapestry in 1998, had it stretched in 2008 and have finally completed the cushion in April 2015. Thank goodness it is a ‘timeless’ design!

Kaffe Fasset Cushion born 1988

Kaffe Fasset Cushion born 1988

When I began writing this post (I am slow at this too!), I was proud to say that I had now reached a point where the only WIP’s left were ‘promises’, i.e. projects which I had listed on my Ravelry page but had not actually cast on. The first, Aurelie’s beautiful Grillage socks and the second Lush from Tin Can Knits.

Despite the photo the socks are almost complete, I just need my mum’s dainty wee feet to model them. The Whippety household has only Hobbit feet available for photography.

Mindless knitting

Mindless knitting

Can you believe I am finally in control of my knitting? Two projects on the needles and only one long-term knit (To pick up when only mindless knitting is possible). My detox is complete!

A few weeks ago I found this little ditty on Facebook. It was so relevant I had to share it with you as it made me laugh so much. And, we do need to laugh more, right?

I am passing this on as it worked for me today. A doctor on TV said that in order to have inner peace in our lives, we should always finish things that we started.

Since we could all use more calm in our lives I looked around our house to find things I had started but not finished. I finished a bottle of Merlot and a bottle of Chardonnay, a boodle of Bailey’s and a budle of wum, the mainder of Valiuminum scriptions, and a box of choclutz. You huz no idr how fablus i feelz rite now. Sned this to all yur frenz who nids inner piss and tell um i luv um.

P.S. For those of you interested in DIY progress. The ‘door’ is restored and back in place, the ‘trunk’ has a loving new home and is beginning a new career, as a handbag holder! My skills in wallpaper removal have returned with vengeance and in the process I found this tiny piece of original wallpaper, 100+ years old! (I would like to note here that the glue used in the early 20th century, I think from horse hooves, was much, much, MUCH stronger than today’s wallpaper paste!)

Amazingly, the colour has been completely preserved in time. With a little (Or, perhaps quite a lot) of imagination……One can see this room would have made quite a statement in Volcano Red.

Meanwhile, I am off to see if I have anything else lying around that requires finishing….Chink, chink….See yuz all agin vary snoon, botumz up! x

Posted in Baby, Crochet, DIY, Gift, Knitting, Socks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

With Gratitude

It has been over a month since I last posted on the blog. This post would have been a very fitting entry for the Playful Day challenge, since the theme for the last week of April was ‘Gratitude’. Let’s say it is a belated contribution…

I have had the opportunity to reflect on a few things recently, and I have been focusing on things I am grateful for. What best way to reflect and ponder than to sit and spin and let the fluffy clouds transform into orderly yarn by the magic of twisting and drafting? After many months of inaction, I re-installed my little trusty wheel in front of the window facing the garden. I sat in front of it, with a lovely braid of fibre generously sent to me from across the pond. The fibre was new-to-me (100% Falkland), the colours were exactly all the colours that make my heart sing. And it was a pleasure to spin.

‘With Gratitude’ is the name I gave to this skein of yarn: it may not be technically faultless, but its unevenness is character to me. With a bit of kindness, it is a perfect squishy skein.


Remember the Daffodils ©Aurelie Colas 2015 Photo ©Jenny Rose Photography

Remember the Daffodils
©Aurelie Colas 2015
Photo ©Jenny Rose Photography

Speaking of kindness…

For the second time, I have been able to make a donation to Aberdeen SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society), on behalf of knitters around the world who have kindly purchased a copy of Petit Prince and Little Star, or of Remember the Daffodils (or the associated ebook) in the past year. Thanks to all of you, £27 have been raised and donated to help create and maintain a lovely Baby Memorial Garden, located on the grounds of Hazlehead Cemetery in Aberdeen, in the “baby corner”. This little garden provides a place to sit and remember, and brings a little bit of peace to bereaved families.

Many many thanks,
Aurelie/spinnygonzalez PS: For more information about SANDS, and in particular SANDS Aberdeen, their website can be found here.

Posted in Community, General, Spinning | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

It all started because of Granma … and muffins too

A Playful DayFollowing the first blog post on the ‘Love your Blog’ Challenge, I would like to thank you all who stopped by, and a huge thank you to those who left a comment, or subscribed.

The second theme for the Playful Day ‘Love your Blog’ Challenge has been revealed earlier last week (‘Beginnings’), and I’ve been pondering what to write for days. This post was all written in my head on Friday, with the outline jotted down on good ol’ paper, but I struggled to write it down on the computer for some reason. Maybe because it is this time of the year that is very sad, and marks that another year has passed since my Little Star was born. Maybe also because it was my granny’s birthday, and I miss her too.

It may not be the most cheerful post, so if you feel down, you may prefer to read Janice’s post from a few days ago on DIY and knitting if you haven’t already. That one has inspiring picture pictures, and happiness thrown in.


Like many knitters, I owe my first contact with yarn and needles to my grand-mother. She would cast on twenty stitches or so, knit a few rows in garter stitch, show me once again how to work the knit stitch, and let me have a play for a few minutes while she knits a few rows on her project. At the time (I was 7-8 maybe), she was not knitting much, and I only remember of one project: something (a small jumper?) in light blue yarn. I remember I tried knitting on these few stitches a handful times at most. I had the great plan of making a scarf for my teddy. Poor teddy never received it.

Fast forward 10 years, and my grandparents passed away a few weeks from each other. When it was time to empty their house, mum asked me what I would like to keep from granny. I replied: the sewing box, and the sewing machine. Now and again, I would help her carry the (very heavy) sewing machine from the cupboard in the hallway, and bring it to the kitchen where she would sew something, usually per my request. Last thing I remember was when she helped me sew together a canopy and bed sheet for the doll rocking bed I engineered for my little sister. I did the woodwork, painting, etc. Granny helped me with the ‘soft furnishing’: pillow, mattress, sheet and canopy. Anyway, the knitting needles and yarn (which all fitted in one tall round box) were donated (I suppose), as we knew no one who knitted anymore.

Fast forward another few years, and I settled in Scotland with The Man, who had already moved there several months before. I was supposed to just stay a few weeks before heading to Dublin for a PhD. I was tired of the unsettled student life, and decided to quit the fully funded PhD and my chances to dive in the exciting world of epigenetics. And I started to search for a job, in a city that had nothing to offer in the field of bioinformatics. The Man was working a lot. We had no Internet, no phone, no TV in the flat. So when the Internet cafe was shut, I would still spend many hours alone at home before The Man would be back from work. So I was baking. We both love food and hand-bakes, so I baked. A few days (weeks?) passed of me searching for a job during daytime, and cooking and baking afterwards…

And one day, I realised that there was no way The Man and I would eat the 75 muffins I had baked the day before. And we knew no one in the city yet. Really, for our own good, I had better find another hobby… The next morning, I woke up with the feeling of a motion that my hands and arms were doing. It took me a few minutes to understand that this motion was that of me mimicking the ‘needle in, yarn round, bring the stitch out’ motion. It was like a shock: I remembered how to do the knit stitch.

knittersbibleThat day, I went to the only bookstore I knew of, discovered their craft section, and bought my first knitting book: The Knitter’s Bible by Claire Crompton. I also bought three balls of yarn (I knew nothing about yarn, so yes, it was acrylic) and needles to knit my sister a striped scarf. The book had clear illustrations which helped me figure out how to cast on and purl. And it all started from there. The scarf looked like a scarf, but I wouldn’t be offended if my sister never wore it.

Speaking about cast on… Have you ever noticed that, when teaching someone to knit, it is quite common that one would cast on and knit a few rows for the ‘apprentice’ to directly start with the knitting. Basically, we often don’t start with the beginning: casting on.


I wanted to tell you about cast on, but it is bringing me tears. So we will stop for now. One day maybe, I will tell you about the only time I twisted the cast on when joining in the round. It was for a blanket. A very special one. If I believed in some sort of voodoo, I would question whether failing the cast on had cast a bad spell on the recipient… Yes, better stop now.


Before I go, I thought I’d give you a little update on the fundraising for SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society), a charity which provides support for bereaved families after the loss of their baby. For every purchase of Remember the Daffodils, or Petit Prince and Little Star socks, and for every purchase of the Castle Fraser eBook (from the moment Remember the Daffodils was published), I donate £1.00 to SANDS Aberdeen. I make the donation at the end of April. Last year, I donated £50.00 on behalf of knitters all over the world.

At this point, I have collected £13.00 to donate for this year (from May 2014 to now). If you are interested in any of these designs, to purchase for yourself, or as a gift, please consider making a purchase. From today until the end of the month, I will donate £2.00 for every copy bought or bought as a gift. Thank you.


Woolly yours,
Aurelie / spinnygonzalez



Posted in Community, Knitting | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments