Notes from Fibre East (things I enjoyed but did not buy)

  • Lovely yarn bowls at Emily Cross Ceramics. I have a yarn bowl that I never use (actually, it stores spindles), but these are beautiful. I particularly loved the glazes, and the bowls with feet; they look medieval to me.
  • Beautiful – really beautiful – yarns at Riverknits. Rich, dark, expressive solids/nearly-solids. Possibly my favourite eye-candy of the show.
  • Felted art from Beverly Neeves. I actually already have a postcard-sized picture of hers (and must hang it sometime), but there was a larger format work that I might yet contact her to see if I can purchase it.
  • A whole shelf of batts that looked like copper-laced nebulae from Spin City.
  • The blanket display at Janie Crow. Rarely does crochet look quite this awesome. There will be some of this in my future; there just has to be.

Stealth reboot

After multiple years of attempting to stash down, and condense storage, and be ‘good’, and (recently) a Tour de Fleece project with fleece that I should have had the good sense to throw out years ago, I decided it was time for a little stash enhancement.

Collected purchases from Fibre East. Mostly fibre, plus one cone of yarn
Stashing up!

Turns out that Fibre East is actually a pretty cool place to do that.

One fleece, 600+g of broken tops (John Arbon), 700+g of lovely stripy top (also John Arbon – their measures are generous), a cone of yarn for an ongoing weaving project, and (coming in the post someday soon), 5 skeins of Noro Kureyon.

Why in the post? Because there wasn’t any to buy at the show. And it was on the shopping list. (I’ve restarted my Lizard Ridge blanket project from 2008 (Ravelry link), and it’s feeling very fun right now)

More details of the new fibre stash on Ravelry, or additional pictures below.

Project: Sweater Heaven!

So – the new job is now four weeks old, and things are going well.

Reasonably well, in any case.  I managed to distinguish myself on a two-day training course in Rotterdam by having a severe stomach upset the day after we all went out for dinner and beers.  So clearly, I now have a reputation as the Girl Who Had The Hangover.  (Note: this is an unfairness.  I’m not going to say that the beer was helpful, in this scenario, but that was *not* a hangover).  Still – could be worse – I was very nearly The Girl Who Threw Up All Over The Hotel Lobby, which would have been infinitely worse.

No – the biggest problem with my current job is that it is always FREEZING COLD at my desk.  I sit right next to hte downdraft from the air conditioning system, which means I have a gentle, cold breeze blowing onto my hands and upper body all day – and swirling round my legs and feet, too.  I can see that I will be wearing autumn styles all year round, which can only mean one thing – lots of opportunities to wear lovely, lovely handknits!

A few years ago, I was reliably churning out a sweater a month.  Admittedly, some were pretty simple- and others used larger gauges than I really enjoy wearing now – but mostly, I stopped knitting sweaters because I had enough of the things.  Since then, a few have worn out (but not many!); a few have fallen out of favour and been given away.  Others are just not what I need for a chilly office environment.  Here’s my list of requirements:

  • Style.  What is style?  I don’t know, but I recognise it when I find it!  I like my clothes (for the office, at least) to have a certain stylishness without being too very quirky.  I’m currently enjoying Peruvian Connection’s aesthetic (if not their prices), as they seem individual and classic at the same time.  Anthropologie sometimes get it bang-on, too as do White Stuff and Fat Face.
  • Warmth.  The whole point of this is that I’m feeling cold a lot of the time.  In particular, I need coverage on my front, between my navel and my throat.  This means that the open cardigan designs and the U-necked vests I have loved for so long don’t actually help me all that much – one of the main reasons I need to knit some more garments.  Garments need to either cover my upper chest (cowl necks, turtlenecks etc) or they need to support wearing other garments that do (toppers for turtlenecks).  Extra points for garments that involve special warmth in that area – stranded or cabled yokes spring immediately to mind.
  • Flexibility.  I want to be able to wear any given garment as part of lots of different outfits.
  • Stashbusting.  I really need to go and mark out sweater quantities in my stash – either single yarns or groups of yarns.

So, what am I thinking of knitting?

  • Another Gathered Pullover, using the handspun wool/alpaca blend mentioned here.  There’s more than enough for this and another sweater!  (This qualifies as a sweater that I can wear over other neck-warming garments, for those that were wondering).
  • A stranded-yoke sweaterdress-tunic type of thing.  I have a bunch of cabled embroidery wools that I worked up on the wheel, years ago.  I think I should have enough for a long length garment with lots of interest around the neck.  If I work it top down, I can just knit until I run out of the main colour…
  • Something with a cowl neck.  Possibly another tunic.
  • An Owls sweater
  • Maybe Rogue??  This one has been on the wishlist for years…

Actually, I don’t think I have all that many sweater quantities of yarn remaining.  Lots and lots of yarn, sure – but sweater quantities??  I seem to have picked up a little bit, here and there.  Souvenirs.  Enough for a pair of socks, or a shawl.

I might have to get spinning.

(Also, if you have any awesome ideas for sweaters that fit my wishlist – comment away!!)

All change at Yarnscape

::blows dust off of blog::

Errrmm…  Hi guys!  Is there anyone still out there?!

::looks around hesitantly::

well…  this has been a most interesting year and a bit, in which I’ve done an incredible amount of work (though of course never enough), met some fantastic people, travelled over large swathes of the country, and discovered some interesting truths about myself and self employment (hint: it’s not so much fun as it sounds).

To cut a long story short, I’m currently writing this from the desk assigned to me by my new employer.  Yep: I’ve gone back to the world of corporate insanity (and a regular paycheck), as of two weeks ago.  To my great sadness, I found that I wasn’t physically able to keep up with the demands of dyeing yarn full time, and probably not psychologically up to the task, either.  For me, self employment meant never, ever actually being off duty.  Combine that with the total uncertainty of how much money I will actually make – and when – and I’ve spent a lot of the last year hiding from myself, my life and the things I really enjoyed doing.

This last weekend was the first in a long, long time that I’ve actually spent two days not even thinking that I should, probably, do some work at some point.

So, what does this mean for Yarnscape?

Firstly, I will of course be seeing the current club out to its conclusion.  Secondly, though, I will be having a good long hiatus from dyework for a while.  I don’t know when, or if, I will continue trading – but I do know that I won’t start up again until I feel like I want to.  Yarnscape will return to being a paying hobby, not a second job.  I neither want nor need a second job – I need free time, creativity and enjoyment.

This is an incredibly bittersweet post to write – on the one hand, it means the end (at least for now) of a dream.  I thought that running Yarnscape full time would be incredibly liberating, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite.  And finding out that my body could not keep up with my hopes and dreams has been a nasty blow, too.  On the other hand, it is amazingly wonderful to get this post written.  It’s taken me a long time to do it. Partly because I didn’t know how to – and partly because writing about it makes it real, makes it public, and makes it final. It’s hard not to feel like a failure in these circumstances. I know I’m not a failure – my business was gaining momentum, profitable in its first year, and starting to make a real impact. But I still feel like I’ve let the whole thing down.

And going back to work!  Wow.  Well, I’m not going to deny that a regular paycheck will be a very, very nice thing to have.  And, as previously mentioned, I know that I will have more spare time as a result, not less.  You can definitely expect to see me around here more regularly – more spare time means more time to actually knit, spin and weave, as well as blog about it, and I won’t feel limited to only working on Yarnscape-relevant projects any more. Perhaps most importantly, though, I think I will be happier than I have been in a long time.  Employment is, in many ways, the easy option in our society.  It must be, or we would all be self-employed!  And I think this last year and a bit has helped me work ‘the dream’ out of my system, at least for a while.

Several people have contacted me, asking if I’m OK because I’ve been so quiet (thank you!!  You know who you are!), and the answer is – Yes.  Yes, I am OK – probably more OK than I’ve been for years.  Long may it last.

What’s on the wheel?

I’m very aware that I’ve not posted anything about my own projects here for ages.  I’ve been very tired and off-kilter since Wonderwool Wales (which is a bit scary, given that Woolfest is just around the corner now!), but it doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing.

My spinning wheel has received the most attention, because it lives near the sofa and is marvellously relaxing, no matter what else is going on…

I started spinning this wonderful silk brick early in May, at the last Rampton Spinner’s meet:

I bought it years ago, at Textiles in Focus.  It came from Silk Sacks, and the colourway is ‘Storm clouds‘.  Silk brick is not cheap to buy, but it was the one thing at the show that year that really spoke to me – so home it came.  Silk Sacks do not cater specifically to spinners, but it is a very spinnable fibre: this is actually the second brick of theirs that I’ve spun, the first being in ‘Aegean Waters’, I think, and was used for the Peacock Feathers shawl (Ravelry link); I still have a small amount of that yarn left (in fact – it’s for sale!).

The plan this time is to make a fine, smooth 2-ply yarn, and to weave a wide scarf/narrow stole, probably in some complex, undulating twill.  The first bobbin (half the fibre, by weight) is finished:

And the second is underway:

I’m enjoying spinning this a lot: it’s by no means a quick spin (I’m aiming for fairly fine singles, with lots of twist, and a little silk can go a very long way indeed), but it’s very satisfying.  Different areas of the brick draft and spin differently: some parts are sticky, with the fibres looking almost crimpy, and others are smooth-smooth-smoooooth.  (those are my favourites!).

Some -most- fibres are very long, but you also encounter the occasional little nest of short, fuzzy pieces.  I’m learning to overcome my natural instincts, which beg me not to waste a fibre, and to pick these out.  You can spin them – carefully – if you add lots and lots of twist to that area before you move on, but they never make a properly smooth single, and will inevitably create weak areas.  Weak not just in terms of tensile strength, but also abrasion resistance.  Since I want to weave with this yarn, both these kinds of weakness are bad news: warp threads must be able to withstand both tension, for fairly obvious reasons, and abrasion from both passing through the heddles and from the motion of the beater.  And when I say ‘inevitably’ weak, I really mean it.  Short fibres need more twist to make a similarly strong yarn, and twist is energy that moves as it wills.  Twist distributes itself along a single according to the thickness of the single – thinner areas accumulate more twist – but I know of nothing that makes twist stick to shorter fibres.  Even if you intentionally add more twist to an area made of short fibres, it will not stay there unless you are *extremely* careful and clever with your subsequent yarn handling.

I think it took me about three weeks to spin up the first bobbin’s worth  – we’ll see if I can keep up the pace for the second, though as I said, this is a long, slow spin. I’ve spun for at least an hour every day for the last three days.  The ‘second bobbin’ photograph was taken at the start of those days, and this is what it looks like right now:

Sixteen more sleeps…

Someone posted on Twitter yesterday that there are only “seventeen more sleeps” until Woolfest.  Oh, my word.

Of course, that was yesterday, so that makes only sixteen now.  Woolfest starts on a Friday, but I’ll be starting my journey up on the Wednesday, so fourteen until I go up.  Two weeks!!

So, how many preparation days?  Well, I try to give myself a good rest on the weekends, so that’s four days gone.  Ten prep days left, for all the dyeing, packing, labelling, drying, rewinding and so on.

I certainly won’t be able to dye anything the week of Woolfest itself – it wouldn’t have time to dry before I drive up – so that’s two days of the ten I certainly can’t use for dyeing.  So of the next sixteen days, I have maybe 8 that I can actually use for dye work.  Better get back to the dye pots…


Helloooo out there!

It’s safe to say that Wales, and Wonderwool, are starting to feel like they are a world away now.  Granted, I still have to unpack the car, and do the laundry, and re-activate the Etsy shop, but the show itself is almost a distant memory.  I only got back a couple of days ago!

Sunday at the show was a lot quieter than Saturday; as predicted, the weather took a sharp turn for the worse, and Sunday brought us driving rain, high winds and even colder temperatures than Saturday.  Despite wearing trousers under my skirt, and a long-sleeved t-shirt under my shirt (and a cardigan over my shirt and V-neck sweater), I still ended up wearing gloves more often than not, and the mini-Wolfram for most of the day.  I have to say I am really amazed at the difference an itty-bitty little cowl can make to the way you feel overall!

Wonderwool was my first really big show, but I’ve traded at several multi-day shows now, and there is a distinct attendance pattern that seems to apply across the board, along with several types of attendee.  It seems to go something like this (not including husbands, children and other assorted hangers-on):

  1. Serious Shoppers show up on the first day of a show.  These guys don’t want to miss out on any good stuff by coming late – and they probably have A Plan.  They may well have a budget, and will trawl round the whole show, making notes, before deciding to go round for a second, focussed spending round.  The level of organisation can be impressive: I saw more people with pens and notepads – or marking up their show programme! – at Wonderwool than I ever had before.
  2. Browsers show up on the second day.  These are people who want a nice day out in congenial surroundings with like-minded friends.  They might have a budget in mind, and will buy a skein or two that catches their fancy, but in general you’re less likely to sell sweater quantities or expensive tools to the second day crowd.  The nasty weather may well account for the fact that last Sunday was even quieter than expected.
  3. Real Hardcore Festival Goers will show up both days!  Whether they’ve booked into a B&B or are dedicated enough to camp (and last weekend, camping took serious dedication, believe me!), these folks don’t want to miss out on anything.  They will probably follow the same pattern as other visitors, though, falling into the Serious Shopper category on the first day, and relaxing into Browse mode for the second.
  4. Other Stallholders form a fourth, and quite separate, category.  Because the first day is often so much busier than the second, you probably won’t get to see other stallholders much on the first day.  (Not unless you are en route to the loos, anyway!).  By the second day, though, the adrenaline is dying down slightly, and everyone has a bit more breathing space.  An hour or so before the show ends, a kind of itchy restlessness sets in: it’s not time to pack up yet, but people are preparing for it, psychologically, and there seems to be an urge to move around a bit more.  Any sales in the last half hour are likely to be to other stallholders who have finally managed a bit of shopping time for themselves.

I met a bunch of amazing people over the weekend; some I knew before from Ravelry or Twitter; some I did not.  I also completely failed to meet up with a bunch of people I really had meant to find – bugger it!  The list of links will have to wait for another post, though; this one is getting quite long enough right now.  Besides, I have to do the laundry.

P.S.: as it finishes, so it begins.  I booked accommodation for Woolfest this morning – anyone coming?!

One day done; another to follow…


The first day of Wonderwool Wales is over and done; it’s going too fast!!  I’ve spent so much time and effort preparing for this event, and it’s flying by like you wouldn’t believe.  I feel like a child who’s climbed the steps to the biggest slide ever, only to realise that I’ll be down in a fraction of the time it took to get up…

Still, the ride is fun, (if chilly).

So, harking back to yesterday, this is what a Wonderwool stall looks like when you first arrive:

Big, white, intimidating!  (Just to give you a sense of scale, the stall is 4 metres wide.  The tables stacked to one side are 2 metres long…)  The boards that make the stall space are mostly white – which is nice!  There’s no need to cover them if you don’t want to.  They’re also at least 2.5 metres tall, and quite thick.  I’d planned to make a backdrop using black fabric suspended from broom handles, which were to be held up by S-hooks over the top of the partitions.

Except my S-hooks aren’t big enough to fit over the partitions.  Happily, there are quite a lot of nails and other protrusions in the top of the boards, so I was able to loop wool around the nails, then hang the S-hooks from the woolly loops, and then deploy the broom handles as planned.  The final effect is great (as long as you don’t know that the I ended up using parcel tape to hold the fabric round the broom handles, anyway)…

The backdrop took several hours to put in place, and the rest of the stall went up much more quickly.  I’m pleased with it!  (Though not with my photography, ahem):

Following a lovely dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Sparkleduck and Sophie from Twist Yarns, I drove back to my B&B to collapse into bed and wake well refreshed for the first day of trading…

…which has been neither so chaotic nor so exhausting as I expected.  The crowds seem thinner than at Woolfest (though perhaps it’s just that the aisles are wider), but very enthusiastic.  Even the credit card processing went seamlessly – or at least, very nearly so.  And the dogs!  I’ve never seen so many friendly, well behaved and (mostly) quiet dogs at a show!  (We will perhaps gloss over the spaniel that trotted off with a ball of yarn from one of my neighbour’s displays.  I think it must have smelled just too enticingly sheepy!)

The day was somewhat spoiled by the presence of at a thief in the crowd.  To the best of my knowledge, I wasn’t affected, but wool was stolen from at least one other trader.  It’s so sad!!  We are a small community – it’s amazing how many people all know each other! – and generally tightly knit (if you’ll pardon the pun).  Small indy dyers like myself and the victim of the theft work on pretty small margins, generally speaking, and know we’re very unlikely to become rich from our efforts.  We do it because we love it.  But we still need to make our money, and thefts like this can remove all the profit from a venture.  I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so I won’t go on, but – Bah!!

One bad apple, though, did not spoil the barrel in this case.  I can’t say enough about the joy of being surrounded by happy, excited people, or about the warm welcome we’ve all had here.  I havent’ just sold yarn today; I have taught spindle spinning, educated people on the joys of correct gauge, encouraged and – I hope! – inspired.  Thank you, Wonderwool, for a fabulous first day’s trading amongst the ‘big boys’; may there be many more to come.

First Welsh bulletin!

This post brought to you by a cozy B&B room, a glass of wine, and a long car journey – so apologies if I’m less than coherent.  (It’s also well past my normal bedtime, but I still need to decompress from the drive…)

Wonderwool prep has gone fairly smoothly this week: there has been winding:

Packing into bags:


And packing into cars.

I had hoped to have a new, larger car for this venture, but that’s one of the many things I ran out of time for.  I did (just) manage to get everything in my tiny, under-powered Polo, even allowing me to see out of the back window(!) and I have to say I’m glad I wasn’t driving an unfamiliar car today.  First of all, it’s a long drive.  Secondly, the weather was dreadful for much of it.  Thirdly, the route from Cambridge to Powys involves lots of dual carriageway/motorway driving until just past Birmingham – and then No More Motorway.  I thought the SatNav was just being persnickety at first, but apparently that’s just how it is.  The roads are very eventful for someone who learned to drive in the flatlands; there are ups, downs and sudden curves – occasionally following a blind summit.  The roads are v. narrow in places, too.  (Yes, I grew up in North Yorkshire, but being driven around twisty roads does not – in any way – prepare you to drive them yourself.  It just doesn’t!).  Suffice it to say that the second part of the journey was much harder work than the first – but Oh! so much more beautiful.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, I have to admit.  On the shiny side of things, my display units arrived on Wednesday, and the substitute printer held out long enough for me to get some of almost everything printed.  (There is a truly puny amount of ink in the cartridges I bought for it, though.  Bah!).  I even got a bunch of weaving kits made up!

Unfortunately, I managed to dump almost a whole cup of tea in the box with the weaving kits in it as I was packing the car this morning.  I don’t believe there will be any lasting damage, at least not to the yarn, but they certainly won’t be making it to this show.  (Then again, there might not have been space in the car…)

This morning also saw the catastrophic failure of my paper guillotine, the total disappearance of the SatNav I usually use, and a complete panic about the level of brake fluid in my car.  I now have a new guillotine, the spare SatNav (which is actually newer than the regular one, but which hasn’t had a recent map update, and only holds charge for about 90 mins without giving up), and the lovely man at the local garage checked out the brake fluid and pronounced it Just Fine.  For free.

So tomorrow is setup day! (with final labelling earlier in the day – setup doesn’t start till 12).  This is the crunch point – have I really remembered everything?  Have I actually got enough stock?  And where did I put the screwdriver, anyway?  Wish me luck – I think it will be a long day.  The only thing harder than setting up is tearing down – and that’s only because you’re already knackered.

Sleep well!  I hope to.  🙂