Thursday, 31 October 2013

Day release

Wednesday morning, I had an appointment at the hospital in Abergavenny, some 25miles of scenic drive away from home in the opposite direction from my job in Cardiff. As Abergavenny is a town that I like going to, and the appointment was at an awkward time to be able to return to work afterwards, I decided to book the day off altogether and have an outing.
Walking in from the car park, I was immediately greated by some seasonal alterations to the Shepherd and Sheep statue:

Good job too, as the autumn days are finally turning decidedly crisper.

I was amazed at how busy the town was with plenty of people milling around. I had expected a small town up in the Valleys to be all quiet mid-week, but a combination of half-term and cattle market meant that it was as lively as any Saturday.
I headed towards the old Market Hall as the Wednesday Flea Market was on, again, much bigger and busier that I had expected. They also had wonderful new harvest-time decorations hanging from the ceiling:


 The flea market itself was not bad at all, stock was a little older than the kind of thing I go for, but certainly quality items and a pleasant athmosphere.

Living close to Cardiff as I do, it's easy to assume that the rest of the country is just sleepy valley towns, but it is testimony to the ongoing importance of farming in Wales that a town so far from the motorway and shiny modern offices still comes alive with people and trading on Cattle Market day.

Of course, no visit to Abergavenny would be complete without stopping by Ginevra and The Wool Croft with some feeble excuse to just spend time in her lovely shop. Turns out that the Wool Croft are indeed the mischief-makers behind the woolly socks on the sheep statue!
I picked up some interchangeable tips for a future project, and a little ball of Noro Kureyon for my blanket (which I really need to do some more work on) and by then there was a slight lull in business so I could finally take some pictures inside!

the very last of the Gower Wool - hoping to bring Ginevra
and all of you more very soon!

As is my habit when driving anywhere around the Valleys, I got lost on the way home. Actually, I wasn't really lost as the signs were telling me that I was heading towards Newport all the time, but on a road that I had never been on before and I didn't recognise any of my surroundings until I emerged from a roundabout 5 miles from home! But of course, getting lost driving in Wales is not quite like getting lost in other places. You are rewarded with stunning views of autumnal valleys and even the odd staggering statue such as this: The Guardian of the Valleys, a 20 meter high memorial to the Six Bells mining disaster near Cwmtillery.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

When bad felting happens to (reasonably) good people

This was going to be the post in which I showed off my newly finished, lovely sweater for this autumn. I've been working on it on and off for nearly a year: 4ply Swedish pure wool in a very scandinavian choice of 3 greys with occasional green and mustard stripes, all in garter stitch in an unusual construction. I'd done all the knitting and edging and found it hard to take it off whenever I tried it on, it was so cosy. All that was left to do was to run it in the machine just to full it out a little and shrink it a touch as all that garter stitch was showing sign of stretching well beyond the end of my arms.
It's not the first time I've put knitted garments in the machine and they have all come out magically improved for it.
Not this time.
Oh no.
I'm not sure what I did differently - I remember hesitating a minute before putting soap in - but what came out was very stiff, half inch thick, solid felt....about 1/3 of the size of what had gone in. This was not slightly shrunk in need of a good stretch. This was beyond all salvation unless I could find a five year old that wanted a jacket they wouldn't be able to bend their arms in.

I've done all kinds of bodging and rescuing projects before, but never messed something up so badly that it was completely unusable. There were tears, I'm not afraid to admit.  There was a lot of swearing. And then I turned around and saw this:

The thing wasn't even dry yet, but the thick wooly felt was just too much for one little kitty to resist.
So there we are. I didn't get a new sweater for work tomorrow, but apparently, this is the best thing I have ever made ever in the whole universe.

Pictures taken  within 10 seconds of my attaching the last thread - he was sitting on the table watching me with a "is it ready yet?" look on his face.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


For those of you who don't like to wallow in the autumn gloom and are instead looking for something to brighten up the murk and darkness:

Elfyn's Lace in First Leaf, Tainted Love, Orla, Dark Denim and natural Winter White

All available in the etsy shop now :)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Weaving 2.0

So you may remember that a few months back, my friend passed me an antique weaving loom that she in turn had been given by an old lady who was no longer using it. I posted a brief mention about it here but didn't really delve into it much further...the reason for that is that the loom and I did not get on. It was a 4-shaft table loom and had hundreds and hundreds of little wire heddles and it took an entire day and a lot of swearing to warp it up and I hated the thing, frankly. It has since travelled on to its next victim and I thought I would live happily ever after never weaving again.
But then one day, as I was having a clear-out in the craft room and putting a fixed weaving frame up on ebay, I came across rigid heddle looms. They looked lovely and simple and promised to be warped up ready to weave within an hour, and although they couldn't do the fancy patterns, they looked like they could do everything I'd ever want to on a loom.
So I trawled ebay. Then I trawled Ravelry and fell in with all sorts of weaving crowds leading me astray. Then I entered into financial negotiations with Santa. And then finally, someone offered me the exact size and make loom that I was after, and in the lovely town of Stroud too. Incidentally, my spinning wheel was an ebay purchase picked up from Stroud as well!
So here it is: my Ashford 32" rigid heddle loom. It's a thing of absolute simplicity and I love it for it. It even has lime green cogs and bits that matches our coffee table perfectly.

As you know from my last blog post, our trip to Stroud took a little longer than expected, but I still had the loom all warped up and ready to go that evening. It took perhaps a little closer to two hours as it was all a bit new, but I can see how it will get faster the more I do it. It is simple and smooth and easy to get right and you don't go blind doing it and your partner doesn't run away with the milk man in the mean time.
Sunday morning, I dug out the bag of beautiful , plant dyed yarns that my mothers colleague had left me when she'd moved. I think they were dyed in the 70s, and had neat little labels with the different substances used on them. They were one of those small gifts that I had been very honoured to receive. However, the yarn itself was a little too rough for knitting with....but for weaving, it was perfect!

This was the full length that I made - it took exactly a week of short bursts of weaving - the loom is so big that it takes up the whole coffee table, so I try and work with it when Mark is out or otherwise occupied. I gave the fabric a wash and let it dry in the autumn sun yesterday, and stitched it into my very first "proper" woven item:

It's just a cushion, but I'm stupidly delighted with it. I actually can't wait to warp up the next thing, I've seen so many inspiring projects out there, and in such varied materials - rag rugs, soft merino scarves, cotton blankets, tea towels...all which can be made on that one loom, just using different size heddles and yarns.