Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Every house needs play silks

It has been too long since I last posted. I'd love to say it was because I was working on top secret Christmas crafting, but the sad fact is I've simply been snowed under with work. But it is half term here now so I'm spending a week with my girls. Emma only just started at school in September, and while I'm really pleased that she is settling in so well and really enjoying it, I do really miss her. So this week we are pottering around doing all our favourite things together and having a thoroughly lovely time. Lucy is enjoying having her big sister back too.

This morning, Emma pulled the play silks out of the toy box. I bought them about three years ago as seven undyed silk scarves and dyed them in rainbow colours with food colouring and vinegar. Since then they have been a firm favourite in this house. Super hero capes, princess dresses, making rainbows, hide and seek, making dens... the possibilities are endless and limited only by imagination! Today we decided that half term holidays were not right without a trip to the sea side, but unfortunately the weather is not that great here, and we live about as far from the sea as you can get! So we have made our own.

Yellow play silk for sand, blue and indigo for the sea, purple and red for rocks, green for seaweed. Add some coloured ribbons for more seaweed, a few shells, and some cuddly penguins and all you need is hats and sun cream! We've been having great fun building "sand castles", going for a swim, sunbathing, looking for shells, and I think that after lunch we might just have to have an ice-cream. :)

 Every house with children needs play silks - they are just such a great simple toy. And dyeing them with food colouring and vinegar couldn't be easier. This video is for dyeing yarn, but you can do silk using the same method.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Indigo In The Sunshine

Although autumn is drawing in, today was a delightfully sunny day. Emma was at school and Lucy was having a seriously sleepy morning, so I decided to grab my gloves and do a spot of indigo dyeing in the garden. 

I used to do a lot of indigo work, but haven't had a chance to get my vat organised since moving into this house. Indigo is insoluble and needs to be chemically reduced in a vat before it can be used for dyeing. You can create a permanent "living" vat which can remain in use for years. Or you can use chemicals to create the same effect - which is what I used this time. 

The indigo is mixed into a paste, and carefully added to the vat without introducing any oxygen.

I had some undyed merino fibre, and also some local Wallingford Wool from Wool and Willow. I soaked them in water before dyeing. I dipped the merino fibre first, just for a few minutes, but I kept it quite screwed up to create a mottled effect which will look lovey when it is spun. 
I wanted a stronger colour on the yarn, so suspended the skeins and dipped section by section in the vat which created a semi-solid effect.


When you first pull the yarn out of the indigo, it is like nothing has changed. Then it goes through this amazing colour transition from yellow to green to blue as it oxidizes in the air. It is wonderful to watch - I should video it some time!

I rinsed (and rinsed... and rinsed... and rinsed... oh I hate rinsing!) I then washed them in Woolishous which I got from Flufftastic. It is my absolute favourite wool wash - smells heavenly and leaves yarn really soft. Here they are, drying in the sunshine.

And later on, nice and dry.  

I really must make more time for dyeing - it was such a lovely morning!

Monday, 5 September 2011

A little bit of sparkle

A friend from our local knitting group asked me if I could spin some special yarn as a gift for her friend recently. Her friend is a big lover of sock knitting, so the yarn needed to be suitable for that. So I opted for 70% Blue Faced Leicester and 30% sparkly trilobyl nylon dyed in bright jewel colours and spun a fine 3ply. It glints and glistens in the sunshine beautifully. I'm so pleased with the end result and can't wait to see it knitted up - hopefully she will like it as much as I do.

I rarely spin true 3ply yarn, but after this I think I will be doing it more often. It gives such a lovely depth of colour, and I was impressed with the meterage I got. (approx 350m from 100g).

I'll be starting on some beautiful merino/silk blend tomorrow. Can't wait!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Hexipuffs and fairy pillows

As soon as I saw the Beekeepers Quilt pattern from Stephanie Dosen over at Tiny Owl Knits, I was utterly hooked on hexipuffs! 390 little tiny knitted hexagons, all sewn together into the smoochiest quilt ever. It is perfect for using up all those little bits of spare sock yarn, but I decided instead that this will be a handspun project. There are three sources that I'm going to use. Firstly all the end scraps of yarn from handspun knitting projects that I've finished. Secondly all those little end bits from uneven bobbins of singles will be plied together and used up. And finally I have a couple of braids of really pretty fibre that I've earmarked for the majority of the quilt. 

So how is it going... well I've just finished the 12th! So quite a way to go. I've added a little ticker into my sidebar!

The only problem I'm coming across is that the girls keep "borrowing" them because they look like fairy pillows. I wonder how many extra I will end up knitting!

I'm planning on knitting the majority of them, but I also want to encorporate a few fabric hexagons as well to add even more interest and texture. 

I'm off to make number 13!!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Elf travel - meet Gaston

All has been quiet on the blogging front, because I was away at my father's house in The Hague. It is a lovely place to visit, and blissfully quiet because he has no internet connection! I spend a lot of time online for work (and play!) so it is nice to get away from time to time. We used to live in Holland, so it is great to go back for a visit from time to time.

While there, I visited the gorgeous little local yarn shop Woool. Emma was in a bit of a mood following a sleepless night, and didn't want to go in at all. She stood in the corner with her nose against the wall having a sulk while I looked around. Not fun! After a while she crept up to me and said in a very little voice, "Mummy... will you make me something?" Ahhh I love those words! She is obsessed with Little Kingdom - Ben the elf and Holly the fairy have all kinds of fun adventures together. Much of it revolves around the fact that Holly is a fairy who can fly and do magic, and Ben is an elf who can't do those things but is good at making stuff. He has a pet ladybird called Gaston who flies him around. Emma has little toy Ben and Holly dolls that go everywhere with her. "Mummy... Ben can't fly. But Holly can. It isn't fair on Ben and he is sad. Pleeeeeease will you make a Gaston so he can fly too?" What could I say? I asked her to look for some red wool, and she came back with some rather scary looking fluffy yarn with sequins, proclaiming that Ben would be sparkling!

Once I got home, I found some black Baby Cashmerino which had been liberated from a project-gone-wrong. I held it double, used size 5.5mm needles, and made a hexigon. I repeated this for the top, adding in some colour and features. I made legs, sewed together and stuffed, and he is all done. Easy peasy! I really should make toys more often. :-)

He's by no means perfect, but Emma loves him, and sleeps with him every night. We have had long complicated discussions about whether he needs to have antennae, but they will get in the way if she takes him to bed. Apparently, Ben can hold onto the fluffy bits when flying so it is ok! Lucy seems to have fallen for him too, and keeps running off with him when she is tired. So she gets the honor of today's picture!

We had a lovely time over in Holland, but all too short. Now we are into the last week before Emma starts school. On the one hand I'm really excited about it for her, but feeling a little melancholy too. I'll miss having my little fairy around me all day. But I am excited to see what the next term will bring for her.

Monday, 15 August 2011

From Fibre to Finished Cardigan... ta-dah!

I finally finished knitting my hand spun cardigan at the end of last week, so it is time for a "ta-dah!!!" post.

The fibre was 200g extra fine merino, dyed by the extremely talented Helen, Angelica and Imogen Jacobs-Grant at My Heart Exposed fibres. Their fibres are dyed with all natural dyes- dried flower heads, crushed fresh herbs, various roots and other unusual ingredients, which yields beautiful colours and subtle hues that you just can't create with chemicals. One braid was a semi solid pink (Rosetta) dyed with cochineal, and the other was pink, yellow and orange (Cosmos). I spun them to a 2 ply fingering weight yarn on my Ashford Traveller.

Originally I planned to make a pretty summer shawl, but anyone who knows me knows that I have shawls-a-plenty so I decided to make a light cardigan instead. The pattern is Kaleidoscope and it is certainly one that I will use again. It is knit as one piece, so no horrible seaming to worry about. :-) I started it in late May, but took a long break in the middle to work on other projects. So all in all I think it was about 3 weeks of knitting.

I wished I could have eeked out 3/4 length sleeves, but I only had 6 inches of yarn left so I am happy enough simply to have them even! I'm really pleased with the end result though. It has a lovely wide neckline which shows off summery tanned shoulders in a vest top very nicely!

The buttons are from Textile Garden. I was very impressed with them - their prices are extremely reasonable, and they delivered in a flash. Less than 24 hours from ordering!

Thanks for letting me share!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Simple Sun Dresses

Last week the weather got really hot. But both of my girls are growing like weeds at the moment and I was really struggling for clothes cool enough for them to wear. So I dusted down the long neglected sewing machine, rifled through my fabric box, and sewed up a couple of lovely simple sun dresses.

There are lots of tutorials out there about how to make these, but I rather like this one. I had enough fabric left over to make nice bias binding for the arms - I really love the kitchness of matchy matchy bias binding! :-)

Young Lucy was very happy in her new frock! She is very much a climber at the moment, and she found this loose enough to not cause any difficulties.

They both wore their new dresses to go and visit my mother. It was a beautiful day, so Emma helped with some tomato picking...

...while young Lucy explored and hunted for ladybirds.

Lovely dresses, gorgeous sunshine, and a beautiful day in my favourite garden!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tour de Fleece - the finishing line!

A very spinny update today, because Tour de Fleece 2011 finished this week! For those who haven't come across it, TdF runs on Ravelry during the Tour de France. You spin every day, setting personal goals and challenges. This was my first year, and I really enjoyed it. Spinning a bit every day was great - sometimes it was just 10 minutes before bed. Sometimes it was several hours. There were no hard and fast rules about it.

I had a few things I wanted to achieve, but my main project took a lot longer than I'd anticipated. This was Daring To Shine - a stunning woad dyed merino braid from My Heart Exposed. I have been suffering from bad wrists so wanted to spin long draw rather than worsted, but I don’t have much experience. I practised spinning long draw straight from top but didn’t get on with it very well. So I dusted off my very neglected hand carders and for the first time ever made rolags. I loved spinning this way - I think I’ve finally found my ideal style after a year of spinning! And the result was possibly the nicest yarn I’ve ever produced. Can you tell how pleased I am with it? :-) I can't wait to knit with it, but it will have to be a very special project.

This was quite a time consuming project, so I did sneak a couple of others in to break it up a bit. This was some Blue Faced Leicester mixed with sparkly nylon, 2 ply and about DK weight. I have a weaving project in mind for this one!

And this was a low spun single spun from a textured batt. It was a very quick project, but I'm pleased with the results. It brings a whole new meaning to the word "soft"!

Here they are in all their glory! I did also want to get to grips with core-spinning, but that is going to have to wait for another time. I'm really pleased with what I achieved during the Tour though, and already looking forward to next year! I feel like I've refound my spinning mojo. :-)

Now... where did I put those knitting needles?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Over the Rainbow - Emma's ta dah!

You remember the rainbow yarn that I posted about recently...
Well it is now a very special finished project that I thought I'd share with you.
Emma has finished at pre-school this week, and is all set to start "big school" next term. She is very excited about it, but also sad about the idea that she will not go to pre-school again. She has grown up so much there in the last year, and changed from a quiet, shy little fairy into a confident, sociable little girl. We decided to do a project together to mark the end of this time. As her pre-school is called "Rainbow" it didn't take a
n awful lot of time to come up with an idea!

We spun some rainbow yarn together (ok... I did most of the spinning, but she helped with picking out colours, and did a bit of plying with me!) and then warped the loom with some lovely natural yarn from a farm down the road in Cholsey. Emma really enjoyed learning about weaving - I thoroughly recommend it for her age group because they can really get involved! She liked pulling the shuttle through and beating, and it has been the basis of many silly made up songs over the past couple of weeks. :-)

Once we'd woven a rainbow, we backed it in neon green linen (Emma's choice - it was her project after all!) and edged it with blue felt. I cut out some letters for Emma to decorate (again she chose the colours... hence all the pink and purple!) and I sewed them on for her.

So here it is - Emma's first blogging "ta-dah"! She was so pleased with it, and took great pleasure in giving it to the pre-school yesterday.
Working on and finishing this project together has been a lovely way for Emma to understand that this time is coming to an end and that soon things will change. And I really enjoyed working on crafts that are close to my heart with my little girl. She'll be out-spinning me before I know it I'm sure.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Long car journeys mean lots done!

It has been rather a long time since my last post, because Brett was off work for a week so we have been here, there and everywhere. We spent a couple of days in Ripon, a day in York to visit old haunts, popped in on my lovely aunt Jane near Halifax, came home for a day, went to Bournemouth for 3 hours of seaside fun, up to Nottingham to visit a dear friend... I think that is about it! 800 miles in a week - my bottom has now changed to a bizarre car seat shape!!

All that sitting around in the car means I've got rather a lot done craft wise. Tour de Fleece started this month, which is a daily spin-a-long following the Tour de France, and I was delighted to discover that I can manage to spindle spin in the car. It is slow going, but really relaxing! I'm spinning some merino/tencel blend really fine (it will be a heavy lace weight when plied) on my IST spindle.
I also made really good progress on my cardigan. This is made with handspun merino, which was dyed with natural dyes by the very talented Helen, Angelica and Imogen at My Heart Exposed. I had only done a couple of rows before last week, so I'm really starting to make headway with it now.

Speaking of Tour de Fleece, I finished this beautiful sparkly Blue Faced Leicester blend last night. I'm not 100% happy with the plying, so may run it through the wheel once again, but we'll see how it looks after I make a sample with it. The colours are lovely though, and there is something that I really love about sparkly yarn. It brings out the little magpie in me!

In non crafty news, Emma had her first taster day at "big school" last week. She absolutely loved it, and I think she is going to be very happy when she starts there in September. Me - well I felt like a silly quivering wreck when I dropped her off, which is even more daft when I remember that she has been at pre-school for a year. She is growing up so fast! And Lucy... well she is just little Lucy! A tiny little ball of energy, always happy, and usually up to something a bit naughty. We were very excited to find that one of our sunflowers had burst into flower this week. Emma has tended to it very carefully every day since she planted the seed with my mum a few months ago.

Phew that was a long update! More tomorrow...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Spinning a Rainbow

This is part of a project that will be a gift to Emma's preschool at the end of term. I don't want to say too much but it is oh so pretty so far! The fibre is from a sample pack of commercially dyed merino, which I spun (with a little help from Emma) and chain plied on my brand new Schacht Ladybug. Emma has been learning about wool and where it comes from, about how it is spun, and she helped to decide on the colour order. We've been having a lot of fun with this! It was spun quickly so isn't the tidiest yarn ever, but that is how I wanted it for this project. More to come as soon as I make progress!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Meet Lola

As a mother to two girls who love to be carried, I often find myself giving demonstrations about how to use soft baby slings and wraps safely. I recently went on a training course with Trageschule UK to learn even more about the teaching side - it was fascinating! But for some time I've been without a demo doll. (Yes, my kids are very compliant but I don't want to use them as teaching aids!) You can buy purpose made weighted dolls, but they are expensive and quite frankly a little sinister. So I took matters into my own hands. Say hello to Lola! She is 52cm tall, weighs 3kg, and is perfectly proportioned for sling demos!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Well hello there!

At last - a quiet little corner for me to natter in! I'm Catherine - self employed work at homemother to two young girls (Emma - 4 and Lucy - 1) and wife to Brett. Spare time is hard to come by in this house, but when I get any I tend to use it for something crafty. I spin, knit, crochet, sew, and am just starting to learn about weaving.

So why start to blog now? Well why not - it seemed as good a time as any. I have a new spinning wheel to add to the family this week (more on that later), Tour de Fleece is coming up, and I'm taking part in A Year Of Projects over on Ravelry. More than anything though, I wanted a place where I can look back on my little creations and milestones, and the things that make me smile each day.