73) General update: the Very Bad Photos edition

Well.  My phone was fine for five days or so, then I started getting SIM card errors.  On boot up, or randomly in the middle of a conversation.  I made a not-very-convincing investigation into possible fixes, and then leapt with unseemly haste towards my local iPhone vendor.

I am starting to love the thing, but also feel that I should be doing absolutely everything with it.  I've been taking photos sporadically during the week, but it's taken me until today to get the things off the phone and onto my computer so I can document what I've been doing.  Unfortunately, I'm not yet impressed with the iPhone camera.  So!

Spinning:  This is the start of the yarn for Sandi Wisehart's Sweater KAL (available on Ravelry). I'm definitely very behind on this, as lots of people have knit up to the armholes already.  It took me a while to get the right sort of thickness for the singles – I want a DK weight 3 ply, and my fingers are now used to ultra-fine-laceweight – but I think I've got the hang of it now.


The photo is sort of hazy and blue.  I know why this was – something was occluding the flash and flaring it onto the lens.

Dogs:  Woody doesn't approve of the current cold snap in the weather.  However, if it means he gets extra sofa time, and a blanket, he's prepared to live with it.


He would like to point out he's not quite that yellow in real life, though.

Fibre acquisition: I bought this little lot from SpinGirl's destash – and one of the dogs (I suspect Kita) killed it as soon as it entered the house:

009 It isn't actually too badly damaged, and I was thinking of carding it anyway, so I'll let her off this time.  The exposure on this photo is about right, but it's much more pink in reality.

Then, I recently passed J's Nan's old sewing machine to a member of the Cambridge KTog knitting group – and in thanks, she gave me this lovely fibre!


It's not really that dark.  Let's try again:


Hmm.  Not a lot better.  The fibre – which is Corriedale – is lovely, though.  And has inspired…

A bit of fibre dyeing!  This is also Corriedale, and has dyed up to a lovely stormy grey.  This is the first time I've dyed Corriedale, and I'm impressed with how well it stands up to the process (read: no felty bits, even in this dark shade):


Exposure and colour: not too bad.  Focus: bah.

I have more very bad iPhone photographs to share with you, but I'll save them for another post.  I'll be trying a few more times, see if I can get a consistently good acceptable photograph with the New Technology, but it might be back to my old camera if the learning curve is too steep.

27) Purple patch

Yesterday was an awesome postal day.  I received my awesome new spindle (a Natalie silk spindle in purpleheart wood), and not one, but two wonderful batts from Franquemont Fibers – also in shades of purple.  Oddly, these were both ordered, from the US, exactly a month apart.  Customs have been holding my little spindle hostage!


Notice anything odd about the photo above?  One spindle, two batts, and… a plughole?!  Yes.  J's Dad is currently staying with us, and the boys are, together, refitting our whole bathroom; floor to ceiling, suite to walls.  This has at least something to do with the sheer overwhelm I've been feeling recently, as well as the lack of fiber-y activity, because my studio is out-of-bounds and the living room is full of boxes and tools.  Using the new sink as a photographical background was just a whimsy, really, but in terms of colour and lighting, it's one of the best I've ever taken.  A bit of vignetting from the curve of the bowl, and an errant highlight over to the left, but otherwise… move over, lightboxes!

Anyway, you can't leave a new spindle unchristened, and indeed, Natalie came with a little pouf of rayon/tussah fibre, according to the note slipped into the box.  I can tell that Natalie and I are going to be friends, because this was the result:


Around two metres of two-ply, around fingering weight.  We played together well right from the start; she spins fast, though not particularly long, and I might have to learn to draft faster to keep up, but I can see how she will be perfect for spinning long-staple fibre into high-twist yarns, just as advertised.


This was my first time spinning anything with rayon in it, and it definitely changed the character of the tussah (which I have spun with quite a bit).  It felt crunchy and squeaky, rather than soft and fluid, and I suspect that it needs slightly less twist than pure silk if you want to keep any softness and drape in the finished yarn.  I definitely prefer pure silk, but this was a lot of fun.  Yum!

105) Weaving in a Winter Wonderland

We've had more snow than we know what to do with here in Cambridgeshire.  Admittedly, more than a couple of inches tends to bring the entire country grinding (or sliding) to a halt, but this is what my car looked like at 11am on Friday:


What's more, it hasn't all melted away yet, which is truly incredible.

Apart from a few necessary shopping excursions (dog food, salt), and the obligatory walkies (Kita loves the snow, but actually had a nasty fall attempting to corner on ice; Woody's just dippy in all weathers), I've been using the opportunity to dig in at home and make a return to my multi-shaft table loom, via some of the random stash I acquired recently.  In fact, in a burst of wild optimism and enthusiasm on Sunday morning, I asked J, "So, how many scarves d'you think I can weave in a day, then?"  Oh, hubris.

Sunday I spent attempting to get a warp on the darned thing.  I'd forgotten how much more complicated it is than warping a rigid heddle loom, and in my arrogance, didn't refer to The Book until too late.  In addition, after doing all the sums (twice!!) I suddenly realised I was halfway through winding a six yard warp instead of a six foot one, and had to begin again.  When I did refer to the instructions, I started with the wrong set.  Eventually, I got it on the loom, then quit for the day and went for wine and cheese courtesy of Geodyne.

When I got back, I started weaving and realised that the sett was way too loose for the pattern I'd chosen, and it looked like ass.  I tried a couple of different wefts, and it still looked like ass, so I went to bed in a sulk.

Monday, I spent most of the day avoiding the loom and giving it evil stares whilst I wrapped presents, made a desultory attempt at packing and cooked a solstice dinner.  I did decide that the only thing to do was to resley more densely (i.e. bring the warp threads closer together), and actually unwove all my experiments from the night before so as not to waste my precious warp.  Only when I finished unweaving did it occur to me that I should have taken fail-photos for the blog.  To fail is to learn, they say.  Well.

I wove a fair bit, then decided the draft in the book wasn't giving me the pattern advertised. (Umm, it's at the bottom of page 71in the Handweaver's Directory; I liked the pattern well enough, but it didn't have the very cool travelling element that I loved in the sample).  I unwove that, too, and still forgot to take photos.  I figured the correct 'treadling' sequence out, and proceeded for a while:


Cool, huh?  Then I spotted an error made whilst re-sleying:


That loose stripe pretty much down the middle of the frame is where the warp threads were left too far apart.  You can see the wider spacing at the top of the shot, in fact.

Even over a very small area, you can see the difference it makes to the pattern; it loses all crispness, and looks very sloppy.  If the whole warp is too widely spaced, the pattern is almost completely lost.  I went to bed in a sulk.

Today, I cut off what I'd woven so far, fixed the sleying error and started over.  I'd completed a full pattern repeat before noticing that, actually, I was no longer weaving the pattern I'd originally intended:


Spot the difference?  Anyway, I've decided it's still good.  No more unweaving, no more cutting off; I'll keep it this way.  But by now my back was sore, and I had to stop weaving.  So, three days; no scarf.  I'm glad I'm not relying on production weaving for Christmas presents this year.

Speaking of which, I'm leaving the frozen South to travel to the frozen North tomorrow; Internet access may be limited.  So have a wondrous festive season, whatever you celebrate, and I'll be back sometime before the New Year…

103) Unofficial


I suppose this might – or might not – be a good time to admit that I have an 'official' stash and an 'unofficial' one.  Most of my cataloging attempts deal only with the 'official' portion of the stash.


Unofficial stash consists of, well… mostly bits and pieces.  It tends to arrive on cones, or as a free gift with something else.  I might pick it up in a charity shop, thinking "Oh, that'll be cool for…. something".


Unofficial stash tends not to have A Plan.


A Certain Person contributed heavily to my unofficial stash last week when she presented me with a large bag (and I *do* mean a *large* bag) of coned yarns which a friend of hers had salvaged from a skip(!) during a house clearance.  Apparently, the former owner of the yarns had been a keen machine knitter.


Scarlet had extracted the bits which interested her, and passed the rest on to me.

Some of these will definitely become official.  This cone, called 'Zanzibar', is soft, drapey, shimmery and just begging to be woven into a scarf:


Others will go towards practising my own machine knitting, and may possibly become whole projects:


Some are likely to go straight to a charity shop.  And others… will remain Unofficial for a while.


102) Time, tracking and TODO!

I'm a huge fan of lists.  I write them, sort them, organise them (usually using a spreadsheet – I love them, too!), colour-code them, and then, often, ignore them.  I love knowing where I am at a given point in time, but, like so many things, I'm very bad at maintaining the lists I create, so I end up making new lists rather than updating the old.  There must be a balance to strike between a list that is easy to maintain, and one that gives me the information I need, but I haven't found that magic formula yet!

The latest attempt at list-simplicity has been triggered by my recent destash efforts.  I have tried, quite hard, to eliminate anything from my stash that is there because it 'might come in useful', or 'is pretty'.  Things get to stay in my stash if I love them, know what I want to do with them, and look forwards to doing it – no more guilt-stash!

So my latest tracking spreadsheet is project-driven.  Rather than creating a massive inventory of what yarn, fabric, fibre etc. I have, and where, I have created lists of projects I want to carry out, and what I want to use for them.  I've split the list down into dressmaking, quilting, spinning, weaving and knitting lists.  Here's a peek at my dressmaking list:


Things in there are more of an aide memoire for myself, rather than anything that would be of use to anyone else.  I've also made an effort to indicate how committed to each project I am, whether it's for everyday use or SCA, and whether it's a garment that would get most use in the summer or in the winter.  Unsurprisingly, it seems I plan mostly to knit cold weather garments – but buy fabric mostly for warm weather ones! 

I though it would be interesting to estimate just how long it would take to work through my new (reduced! lean! efficient!!) stash.  I normally reckon it takes me a month to finish a sweater-sized
knitting project or a complex shawl, but recently things have been going slower than

that, because I've been working on other things, too. Other projects are normally quicker, particularly dressmaking and spinning ones.  As are small knitting projects.  So let's say I can finish two projects per month.  So, totalling up the waiting projects, we have:

Dressmaking projects:       31
Quilting projects:                7
Mending/alterations:           5
Spinning projects:             19
Knitting projects:              62 (ouch!!)
Weaving projects:             12

Grand total: 136 projects.

One hundred and thirty six.  Good grief.  Even if I finish two projects per month, that's five and a half years' worth of projects stacked up there.  And that's without allowing for the fact that spinning projects turn into weaving projects or knitting projects when they're done.  And, in fact, that weaving projects may themselves turn into sewing projects.  Or that I will not be able to resist buying more materials as time goes by.

I'm going to try and keep up with this list, and work out how many projects I do actually finish per month.  Let's see if I can, at least, stick to the rule that I should finish more projects per month than I accumulate.


101) Silk, Spindles, Swag, and So, how do you make those little diagrams, anyway?

Today was the Christmas Special meeting at Rampton Spinners.  This one's a different beast from our usual meetings; there is a pot-luck lunch, and P&M Woolcraft come to visit.  We generally make it *very* worth their while.  I will admit to a certain restraint this year; I stuck to my budget and bought one book and two tools:


I'm quite excited about the flick-carder.  I've wanted one for ages, and I'm hoping it'll help a whole pile with some of the less processed fibre I have in my, umm, backlog.  The niddy-noddy is slated to become part of my spindling kit, which itself will live in my Rampton challenge bag; it's cute and tiny and my regular one just doesn't fit so well.

Last year, I got precious little spinning done at our Christmas meet, what with the shopping and the scoffing and the socialising, so this year I decided to take a spindle along rather than lug the wheel the whole long way.  I span a lot more than I anticipated:


This is part of my ongoing silk spindling project, which I think I photographed but did not really talk about back in July.  I have a long-standing habit of buying small packets of pretty silk whenever it takes my fancy; 10g here, 15g there.  A small habit, but they add up.  So I've been spindling my way through them at a leisurely pace, and they will all become warp for a luscious silk scarf.  The weft will be plain tussah silk, and may or may not be spindle-spun.  This is my spun silk so far:


It turned out to be a seriously spindlelicious meeting; Sarah aspindlerated several people (some already spinners, some not), and a couple of other people had brought spindles instead of wheels, too.  I'm certain I've never seen that many working spindles at one meeting before.

So, how do you make those krokbragd  pictures?
Ahh, yes, I've had a few people ask about these.  I didn't use any fancy weaving software to make them; I used PowerPoint  NB:  you don't even need PowerPoint to do this!!  You can do it in Word, too, or anything that allows you to draw rectangles and group them together.  Consider OpenOffice for a totally free alternative – it can even read and create Microsoft Office files!  If you don't know what I mean by grouping things in a drawing, you might want to check out the online help for your software.

So.  The fabric is reresented by a grid of rectangles.  Each row consists of three groups of rectangles.  A group represents a throw of the shuttle, and its rectangles indicate the places where the threads show for that throw:


This picture shows six groups spread out as if they haven't been beaten down to cover the warp.  The group at the top of the picture is selected:


The magic of grouping means that if you click on one of the rectangles in a group, it selects the whole group.  And if you change the colour of one of those rectangles, then the other rectangles in the group will also change colour:


So, by playing with the paint-pot/fill tool, you can colour in your grid any way you like, and it should be a 'weavable' krokbragd design.  Cool, huh??

Want to play with this? 
Drop me an email or a comment with your email address in, and I'll email you a copy of 'The Krokbragd Colouring Book'.  I would like to offer it simply for download, but I need to sort out hosting first!  I don't think you can offer downloads from TypePad accounts…


  • This is a PowerPoint presentation, but you can open it in OpenOffice.  I have no idea what the compatibility with Macs is like these days.
  • Be aware that PowerPoint files, like anything that allows macros, can include viruses/malicious content.  I run a virus checker.  So should you.
  • This is effectively an untested tool.  Sample, sample, sample!
  • This system doesn't account for the deflection of the
    yarn caused by being squished.  So these are theoretical patterns, and
    might not weave up to look exactly like they do on the screen (well,
  • Feel free to distribute this, play with it, give it to your friends, show it at your guild.  But please also leave the notice with my name and blog address in place, and if you show it to other people, credit would be nice!

61) …and I haven’t even made it to Woolfest, yet!

After a fairly heinous mix-up last week re: holidays and work and other stuff, I'm grabbing a couple of days of holiday in the sunny North East, staying with my parents.  Who live conveniently within reach of Cockermouth, aka Woolfest.

Today, though, was Whitby and Staithes, where we witnessed the locals paddling:


and cycling:


Hmm.  Well, I suppose if it's good for horses, it's good for cyclists.  Maybe not so good for the bike itself, though.

Whitby is home to Bobbins, a very lovely yarn shop where I typically browse for an hour or so and then leave empty handed.  Today, though, I may have bought yarn:


Two skeins of Noro Silk Garden lite/sock, in beautiful soft, pale neutrals.  I'm not actually sure I can remember the last time I bought pretty yarn for myself, just because; I'm planning a lacy, garden party-style shrug with this little lot.

4) The state of the stash (installment 1)

Yes, it's that time of the year again.  How much yarn do I really have, and where is it? 

Two years ago I found out that I had over 92 kilometers of knitting yarn, or 43.7 kilogrammes of the stuff.  Thanks to a reasonably well-maintained spreadsheet, today it was only the work of an hour or so to find out that I now only have 64 km of yarn, or 28.5 kg.  Progress!  Or so it seems…

That's the *knitting* yarn.  I now have weaving yarn, dyeing yarn and machine knitting yarn.  That, my friends, is as yet uncatalogued.

There's also the spinning fibre (which can turn into knitting yarn or dyeing yarn or… yeah).  That is catalogued, although I don't think I've found it all as yet.  I have 2.4kg of spinnables.  Plus the rest of Rod, Jane and Freddy's fleece, which I am not yet ready to face.  This year, I really want to keep track of what gets used and when.  I'll try and check in with this, monthly.

My word

I’ve just entered my stash on Ravelry (courtesy of a really dull conference call, and having already emailed my stash spreadsheet to myself at work).  Now, bear in mind that this is *not* entirely complete, and it is also only my knitting yarns; no weaving or dyeing yarns.

According to Ravelry, I have 88 stash ‘items’ (i.e. yarn/colourway combinations).  That doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realise that each of those items is probably, on average, one project’s worth of yarn.  If it takes me a month (again, on average) to knit one project, that is over seven years’ worth of knitting.

I know I have a lot of stash.  It’s no surprise.  But this is a new way of looking at it.


OK, I’ve been totting up the stash.  I wanted to be able to present a grand overview picture of what yarn I have hidden away at the beginning of 2008.

It’s taken a while.

I’m pretty bored with spreadsheets now, and I’ve given up striving for 100% completeness, but I can tell you that I have:

  • 75.454 km, or 32.294 kg, of knitting yarn;
  • 17.010 km, or  1.940 kg of weaving yarn;
  • 84.552 km, or 10.765 kg of yarn for dyeing.

I’m particularly shocked by the dyeing stash; I haven’t actually even got round to mixing my stock solutions yet, so where the *heck* did all that come from?!?  The vast meterage compared to the weight is telling; most of it is laceweight and/or sock yarn.

So, there we have it.  I’ll do my *best* to update monthly on my stash reduction progress.

And yes, I’m aware that this doesn’t even mention spinning fibre or the three fleeces in the garage.

On the positive side, I can also tell you that at the beginning of 2007 I had 93.952km, or 44.453kg, of knitting yarn at the beginning of last year.  So I have achieved nearly a 20% reduction by length, or a 25% reduction by mass, in my knitting stash over the last year.

Not bad going!