Monday, 29 April 2013

Holst Jacket

Or as my friends have dubbed it: Big Old Hippie Jacket.

Here it is, my finished Holst jacket of many colours:

Yarn: Holst , mixed qualities, held double
Hook: 4mm
Pattern: Improvised - the stitch is the Short Wave stitch.

Pictures by Machelle Salmeen


The spoils of war....

So here it is, my unusually restrained pile of goodies from Wonderwool:

From back to front:

- About half a Shetland fleece, washed but pretty fresh off the sheep
- A pottery bowl bought at Erwood Station Craft shop on the way back
- containing a selection of cotton and silk embroidery yarns ordered by my mother
- 2 balls of Noro Silk Garden bought at a bargain price, to replace a hat that my aunt has lost.
- Buy of the Day: 100gr pure cashmere fibre in very subtle pebble colours, and only £15!
- Small amount of orange merino fibre for edging my hand spun Glacier Sweep
- Two big braids of Blueface Leicester from Oliver Twist. I'm planning on spinning one ply of each and plying them together.
- My hard-won skein of Fleece Artist SeaWool in Stone
- 2 hanks of pretty Juno yarn for my mother and one of her friends
- piece of dyed cotton scrim from Oliver Twist - apparently this is used in felting (?) but I'm just planning on hemming it and wearing it as a scarf!
- piece of patchwork fabric from Brecon.

Did you go to Wonderwool this weekend, or maybe some other yarn show? If so, what goodies did you come back with?


I woke up on Saturday having been giddy with excitment all week : finally time for Wonderwool Wales!
My favourite woolly, yarny event - I love it for the wealth of independent dyers and producers who attend (and the lack of big commercial ones), for its focus on Welsh and British wool and the showcase it offers to our local weaving and spinning guilds. I also really appreciate the setting at the Royal Welsh Showground which is at the heart of Welsh sheep trading, so going there to buy yarn feels like coming full circle.
It also helps that it is set in the Brecon Beacons National Park which makes for a stunningly scenic drive up.

Storey Arms valley
picture borrowed from Google Images - I was driving, my passenger
was having vertigo...
I had the good fortune to be travelling with my friend Machelle from Chopped Tomatoes , a mind who thinks alike and does a double take when she spots signs for Farmers Markets along the way. There was one such sign at the entrance of the small town of Brecon, and as impatient as we were to get to the show, we still decided that a small town market (and flea market!) on such a beautiful sunny morning would be perfection.
We arrived,  Machelle who is a city girl marvelled at the cheap parking (50p! for a whole hour!) and emerged from a little alley and straight onto Bobbins - a charming haberdashery and patchwork shop. The lady there was really friendly and chatty - I even bought a piece of fabric to maybe make a project bag with. (I do sew, but not very well or patiently...)

After a quick wizz around the flea market and some lovely cheese from the farmers section, we ploughed on and arrived in Builth at 11am - only an hour after opening time but to a rammed full parking lot! This was a good sign though: last years show suffered from some really unfortunate weather and there had been grumblings from exhibitors so I was happy to see so many people attending.
That said, all these eager shoppers caused a bit of a problem when we first got to the show - the inability to see any of the actual yarns! Between the packed stalls, keeping track of eachother, looking for the rest of our knitting group, looking for people I needed to meet up with and keeping up with the shopping lists my mother was texting me, I just didn't know where to start at all!
We peeled of for our traditional knitting group lunch and a chance to organise my thoughts.

The idea is to make or bake things at home for sharing
I'm looking at you, tesco sandwiches and coke at the back ;p

The afternoon was lovely - I went and made friends with the sheep and explored a lot of fibres which really inspired me to spend more time with my spinning wheel. I spent a long time amongst the splendid colours at the Oliver Twist stall. I also spent a long time explaining how my Holst cardigan works as so many people were stopping me about it (more on that later).

The impossibly tidy-looking Poll Dorsets
A Gotland sheep, who didn't ask me for the pattern for my sweater 

In the end I had collected a nice little selection of fibres, from the barely house-trained Half-A-Sheep-In-a-Bag to some exquisite pure cashmere. And then it struck me: apart from things bought for friends and family, I had not bought a single skein of yarn for myself. Not one hank! It's tricky being a dyer and a shopper at the same time, there is always a niggling feeling of having a house full of yarn, and many of us use similar kinds of base yarns. Nonetheless, I refused to leave the show without something for me! I took several increasingly frantic rounds through the stalls looking for that unique hank to speak to me. My friend had given up and sat down for coffee and behind her sat a lady crocheting in the most amazing, deep, warm orange yarn. I asked her where she'd got it from and she did say she'd bought the last of that colour, but it was a stall that I hadn't quite paid too much attention too so I felt it worth another look. It paid off : I took down the details I needed for the orange yarn and found an unusual blend of wool and seacell fibre which I hadn't yet tried for my special yarn from the day. It sounds silly, but choosing an actual yarn just made the day feel complete for me.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Spring dinner

And now for some gratuitous food pictures: I was a little proud of the grown-up dinner I cooked last night, and I thought it looked so pretty in the pan!

Tagliatelle with garlic sauteed courgettes, edamame beans, feta cheese, mint and chili

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Guilty pleasure

Another new base yarn, and one that I decided to work with for completely selfish reasons: Squishy Merino!
The same high twist, slightly-heavier-than-4ply as the Squishy Sock, but in 100% indulgent Merino Wool - one of my all time favourite yarns! I have shown this to people who have absent-mindedly spent the rest of the conversation stroking it and squeezing it. It also takes colours beautifully.

First couple of colours out of the pan - I have been working on developing more subtle shades, but there will be bright ones to follow!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Finding gold...

So spring is really trying its very hardest to spring, and gave us an opportunity to tackle some of the heavier gardening we've been waiting for. Amongst them, a bit of a re-organisation of our garden to finally install the raised bed we got at Easter and get rid of last years unsuccessful grow-bags.

I did have some help...most of which is currently smeared across our kitchen floor...

It may have been mostly down to the miserable wet summer we had last year, but I didn't think a single thing had grown in there, all of it wiped out either by enormous slugs or just bad drainage. But when I started transferring the earth into the new bed, I started finding tiny little balls of pale yellow gold! The tiniest, sweetest little potatoes, prettier than anything in Marks & Spencers miniature vegetable aisle! Something edible had actually grown!

I also took up and transplanted the healthy looking strawberry plants for use on our allotment, and planted my little tree peony which I have high hopes for.

In knitting and crochet news, I have reached the large shawl collar/ border on the coat of many colours. Since I like setting myself stressful and unrealistic goals, I'm hoping to have it ready and washed for Wonderwool on Saturday...

Also progressing quite effortlessly is my "handbag knitting" ie the project I keep in my handbag for emergencies: doctors waiting rooms, major traffic jams, being on hold on the phone to the gas company... I stole the idea straight off Jan in my knitting group who brought in a shawl in the new Zauberball Lace 100% wool - just completely plain to let the yarn do the talking, and on slightly bigger needles than the yarn requires for an airier and more textured fabric. Mine is in the 4ply 100% wool as that is what I had at home, but the effect is similar.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Mean and moody...

And another few new colours on the lovely new bases, including the Luxury Lace - beautiful British Bluefaced Leicester wool with 20% Silk for a glorious lace weight yarn.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Bright new things!

Introducing the very first new colours for spring


Available in the true 4ply Bluefaced Leicester and new super bouncy Squishy Sock (80% Merino, 20% Nylon)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I am greedy....

...and would really really like to win one of Mariannes fantastic prizes. In order to qualify, I need to promote the giveaway somewhere, and here is somewhere :)
Marianne is the wonderful lady who custom dyed the fibre for my Manly Man Hat and has plenty of gorgeous gorgeous hand painted fibre in her shop:
I find this one particularily breathtaking:

But I wouldn't say no to someone else doing the hard work on a quilted project bag for me either:
so pick me, pick me!! :)

Monday, 8 April 2013

Gentle food

The weekend was a little quiet. I am impatiently waiting for lots and lots of new base yarns to arrive so that I can finally revive the shop a little, now that we are essentially out of Gower Wool until the autumn. I really can't wait to play with some luxurious, squishy yarns and introduce them all to you!

Poppy is also waiting...

In the meantime, I've pottered round the house, tackled those bigger jobs I've been meaning to deal with for months, like laying the new bathroom floor (not a happy experience, but at least it's done) and finally had the weather to sow all those lovely veg we're hoping for this summer.

As Mark felt unwell in the night to Sunday, we weren't about to have ourselves any experimental cuisine, but it did give me the opportunity to finally use up all the odds and ends of currants and 4 different kinds of raisins I had left from the Christmas cake and bake him a nice Welsh Bara Brith.
Bara Brith means "mottled bread". It is a simple loaf made with tea-soaked fruits and not much else. In fact, Mary Berrys recipe seemed so simple that I had to look it up online to make sure there wasn't a typo in the book!
(it may seem like cheating to use Mary Berry for a traditional welsh cake - I did check my Welsh cookbooks but they all called for lard or wholemeal flour or other such gruesome things! Also, I haven't failed at a Berry recipe yet, so I'm just going to stick with those.)


Since Mark was busy scoffing hot buttered cake for his dinner, I took the opportunity to crack open the rosehip soup someone kindly brought back for me from Sweden last year. This may sound like a complete oddity, especially as its sister dish is blueberry soup, but this is what we were fed up and down the country on cold winter days when I was little. Schools served it, scout camps served it, blueberry soup is even the official drink of the Vasa cross-country ski race every year.
I'm always amazed at how evocative smells are - I had barely opened the packet when I immediately recognised the smell as that of cold winter afternoon, and of my after-school club. I even had a bag of the little miniature macaroons to scatter on top.


Only one thing I think might have changed in the last 20 or so years: I think some E-numbers got banned along the way, I remember it as a rather more vivid red colour. But the taste is definately the same!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

What I did in my Easter Break....

This weekend I met someone wearing the Inga cardigan by Rowan - the lady wearing it was working in her slightly chilly haberdashery, and looked so fantastically cosy in the thick, crocheted, multi-coloured tweedy fabric that I longed to wrap myself up in something similar then and there.

As it happened, I was visiting my mother at the time - a lady with a formidable yarn stash and a short attention span: she knits in a completely opposite manner to mine: where I like huuuuuge, cosy endurance knits, preferably in a single shade of grey or dirty green, my mother produces delicate little multicoloured delights, the more shades the better, but as long as it reaches around her neck once, that's all she needs.
Luckily for me, this means lots and lots of left over yarns! A trip to her basement is as good as visiting any yarn shop but without the paying part, and on this occasion it did not disappoint: probably a nearly complete set of the amazing Holst colours in a mix of qualities, but all the same thickness, perfect for my take on the cardigan.

I didn't think that the original shape would suit me and we didn't have the pattern at home - patience has never been my strong point and I was itching to cast on - so I devised an idea for a straighter, kimono jacket with a similar shawl collar. I am working it with the fine yarn held double - at the moment it does feel really very stiff and itchy, but I have every faith that it will soften and relax with washing and wearing. I'm really enjoying the actual stitch, a very simple 4 single crochet, 4 double crochet pattern which creates something so much more interesting than a plain stripe whilst still only working one colour at a time.