clean sweep

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I started this blog in order to be transparent about our decluttering journey.  That was six years ago.  We have a lot less unnecessary stuff now than we did then and are quite a lot better about what we let across our threshold in the first place.  But one area where I have always had a problem is my studio.

It doesn’t usually look like this!  This is the “I have pulled everything out and now need to sort it” photo.  Which is the method that works best for me – get it out, sort it.  I know it doesn’t work for everyone but each to their own and if I had to give advice I would counsel choosing one area (a room, a cupboard, a drawer – the size doesn’t matter) and emptying it all out.  It does look a mess, it may seem insurmountable, but seeing it all in one place both shocks you into action and, strange as it may seem, is easier and quicker to address than pulling out items one by one and considering them individually.  You can make sweeping sorting decisions and then tackle each pile in more detail.  Also when you see it all in one place it is easier to spot multiple duplicates and far easier to let go of the ones you don’t need.

But back to craft rooms/studios/cupboards.  For me this is always an area of rapid accumulation because I can always justify keeping fabric oddments, clothes that are past repairing but the fabric is gorgeous, yarn ends etc. because I may be able to use them in a project later and hey I am upcycling/reusing so that’s good isn’t it?  No it isn’t because nine times out of ten those oddments never do get used by me.  They (a) take up space  and (b) could be taken by somebody who actually will use them.

Taking up space: my kist was full of fabric and yarn.  Not only was it a nightmare trying to find something I knew was in there, half the time I didn’t know what was in there.  I found both distressing and stressful and made me feel terribly guilty.

Somebody else will use them:  I hope that the people who did take them (via Freegle) will use the yarn and fabric and it won’t just fill up one of their cupboards, but I can’t police that.  I hope that somebody gets some pleasure out of them, I hope that they find a new life and new use and are appreciated.

A couple of samples of the oddments that went to new homes.

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Everything from cashmere to acrylic.  Including several balls from the same dye batch.

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Hi-Vis to Harris Tweed.

My kist is now half as full.  I know what is in there and am shocked by how much yarn I have accumulated and didn’t really know about because it was buried under bags of stuff .  I went to a wonderful wool festival last weekend and had a fabulous time admiring the indie dyed yarn and batts.  I attended two extremely good workshops and had a fun time with friends at the evening event, but I bought nothing.  I have started to allocate my yarn stash to specific projects and not only do I not need any  more yarn, actually I don’t want any.  I want to use and appreciate what I have first.

My studio now

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Finally fired up by success in my studio I spent a day whizzing around the house and removing the stuff that had been in my eyeline for departure for far too long.  My friend’s charity is very pleased to have received all this, and my house is breathing a little more easily now.

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Love Gillie x

 

 

beanie for wool week

58 days to go! 58 days until I climb aboard the ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick and head to my first ever Shetland Wool Week.

Let me take you back to the beginning.  Some time in 2018 I saw a link for the Loch Ness Knit Fest.  Since we used to have a house near Ardgay in Sutherland and been going to the Highlands since the heady days of the race to the last Ballachulish ferry (or the Glencoe Death Race as my mother called it) it didn’t take long to persuade Stuart that this would be the perfect birthday present.  And it was, we took a cottage just outside Dingwall, Bea and Eloise joined us for a couple of days up from Glasgow as did a friend heading home to Thurso from the south.  We revisited some old haunts and I had a whole day at the Loch Ness Knit Fest.

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A little purchase from Tine and Floyd at LNKF that became a fishing hat for Stuart.

Loch Ness Knit Fest is, imho, a standout amongst the many wool events sprouting up.  It’s not vast, but every stall is an interesting, independent supplier.  No big companies offloading unsold stock, or row after row of identical mass produced rubbish (Knitting and Stitching Fairs I am looking at you).  But real people with a passion to share, to talk and spread the wooly word.

The little things make the difference, plenty of places to sit, from tables to to big squishy sofas and chairs, homemade soup and cakes and a floor show from highland dancers and musicians to talks on sheep farming to spinning silk.

And it was here I discovered three new potential wooly destinations.  Shetland Wool Week, Prjónagleði – Iceland Knit Fest and Fanø Knit Festival in Denmark.  We had already had a holiday booked in Iceland in January, which provided for some serious wool research but did mean that punting for Prjónagleði was unlikely to be a goer.  A quick email to my Danish godmother and I had all the information I needed about Fanø together with the contact details of one of her friends who would be delighted to accompany me.

It helps to have a partner who is as obsessed with fishing as you are with wool if you want to tour some of the best yarn festivals.  So it was that we booked ourselves into a beautiful cottage in Sandwick,  and waited for the ferry timetable and festival tickets to be released.  Meanwhile Stuart researched fishing and made friends with the husband of a fellow knitter from Texas and sorted out several days of loch and seafish bothering.

Now the ferry is booked (hurry up LNER and release the October train tickets!), the workshops are booked, the birthday dinner is booked (The String) So it was time to get on and finish the Roadside Beanie, designed by Oliver Henry, this year’s wool week patron.

And I have,

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With a golden sun in the middle.

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And guess what … only 58 days to go!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

vital mending

I have a couple of free days, days where all I actually HAVE to do are the usual minutiae of life, no appointments, no deadlines.  Perfect for spinning or knitting.

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Only it’s not.  It’s too hot to be playing with wool, and I am not knitting with this on my lap.

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I’m not complaining about the weather (well I was when I was stuck in my daughter’s car for over an hour, no idea how to get home,  with no air con, no map (who doesn’t have a map in their car) and no phone charger, so no google maps either).  I was complaining about a lot then.

I have been doing a spot of decluttering over the past week (stay with me, there is a sequitur).  Finally, those irritating things around the house have tipped me over the edge and they are all allocated to new homes (divided between the local Clothing bank and a friend who runs charity sales every week – she ought to be on the route to canonisation if you are reading this up there!)   Even our old fridge (working but surplus to requirements), a duvet, some linen and a memory foam mattress went somewhere where they will be appreciated rather than snarled at as we pass by.

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Yesterday I decided it was time to face my studio, which is rather overstocked.  Part of the overstock is the pile of mending that has been waiting patiently for attention.  Top of the pile is a dress I made out of two dresses that no longer fitted.  It’s a summer dress, it’s cool (as in temperature, I wouldn’t dream of aspiring to social or fashion coolness) and perfect for the railway track melting temperatures we are currently experiencing.  Well it would be if I mended it.  So I did.

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Then I hemmed a pair of trousers, sewed on quite a lot of buttons, ran up a few seams and done!  I love the colours.  Now I have to wash and iron it all.

 

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I, like many of my generation, was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a family where mending was the norm.  There were times when my mother’s frugal ways mortified the arrogant youth in me.  Grating up soap heels to make new bars was something I don’t believe any of my friends did on a Saturday afternoon.  But guess what I still do it.

I’m not banging a new drum in saying that we have become a throwaway society, but we have done it at remarkable speed.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could become a mending society just as quickly.  Actually, it wouldn’t just be lovely …. it’s vital.

Love Gillie x

tour de fleece

Today is stage 6 of the Tour de France and all 160.5 km of it is pretty steep.  However, whilst Giulio Ciccone et al are spinning their wheels from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belle Filles, I and thousands of other people are spinning their wheels for yarn.

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The Tour de Fleece was started by Star Athina and a few friends back in 2006  The idea was to dedicate 21 days in July to spinning, and maybe watch a little cycling too.  Flash forward 14 years and there are thousands of spinners all around the world, spinning on thousands of different wheels and drop spindles all united in their desire to meet whatever personal challenge they have set themselves.

This is my first Tour de Fleece.  Mainly because although I have done a little drop spinning, I haven’t done much and I only learned to spin on a wheel earlier this year (with the lovely Katie Seal of Sealy MacWheely in Kirkintilloch).

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However, I have been making up for lost time, and whilst my new (to me) wheel is being given the once over by the superb Dr John, Physician to spinning wheels of distinction, I am currently spinning on Frankie, a wheel belonging to his lovely wife Carol.

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There are teams you can join, prizes, challenges and all sorts going on.  I am starting small.  I am a member of the FB group which is as close to a team membership as I have got and my challenge (met so far) is to spin a minimum of 30 minutes per day.

At the moment I am getting myself by into the spin of things (pun intended) by using up some Blue Faced Leicester which is nice and easy.  But I have some lovely fleece I bought in Iceland

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and a fabulous top and batt (which I designed myself)

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from Sealy MacWheely

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and when I am confident enough I shall move over to them.  I can’t wait!

Love Gillie x

I give you blood orange

First there was Spring Onion, now I give you Blood Orange.

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It’s a quiet weekend and I thought I was getting over the last of a nasty virus (I was wrong, it came back for a second wave last night) so I thought a quick visit to see Lucy at Woolaballo would perk me up.  It most certainly did – I had turned up in time for an impromptu dying session.

Dying with food dye is easy and offers such a huge potential for colour experiments.  Sadly I had come out without my phone so the photos are from the session I did with Lucy last year (the one that produced Spring Onion).  Lucy offers regular dying sessions,  so if you are in the area give her a call.  If you are a bit further afield, here are the instructions to make your own personal yarn.

You need

  • warm water
  • white distilled vinegar
  • food colouring gels (I used Wiltons) they are stronger than most liquid colour
  • dropper (the ones that come with liquid paracetamol are perfect)
  • Wide paintbrush

The first step is to soak the yarn in a white vinegar and water mix (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water).  Food dyes need an acid environment to fix the colour and prevent it running off in the first wash.  It doesn’t need long,  15-30 minutes is fine.  Remove and squeeze out the excess liquid.

Now comes the fun, and the messy part.  Dissolve your chosen food colouring in warm water.  Add colouring until you get the strength you want, test by dropping on a piece of kitchen paper or an old white cloth.  Then start painting your yarn.

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Both Spring Onion and Blood Orange were dyed in solid blocks, but you can get a lovely  mottled effect by dropping dye on the yarn using the dropper/paracetamol syringe.  If you are going for the block colour look you will need to turn your yarn over and ensure that you have covered it entirely with dye.

Once you are happy with your yarn you will need to set it.  You have two options.  Either roll up and place in a steamer on the oven top for 45-60 minutes.  Or if time is limited you can microwave.  The latter works just as well but you must be careful not to overheat or you will felt your yarn.

If you are going to microwave you will need cling film (personally imho a good reason to go for the stove top method which doesn’t require plastic) but everyone has different needs and in a workshop or perhaps a birthday party, the steamer method might not be practical!  Wrap up your yarn into a long sausage ensuring that there are no gaps or holes where water or steam can escape.

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Then roll up like a multicoloured Cumberland sausage.

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This is where you need to pay attention.  Place in the microwave slightly below top temperature (about 75% depending on how fancy your microwave is – mine is extremely basic).  Heat for 60 seconds and remove,  let it cool until you can comfortably touch it and pour off any water that has escaped.  Repeat until the water you have poured off runs clear (usually three goes).

Leave to cool, unwrap the cling film and leave to cool again until you can comfortably hold the yarn.  Wash in warm water with a little washing up liquid.  Rinse in warm water (not cold).  Squeeze out the excess liquid and hang up to dry – or give it a go in a salad spinner!

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Bespoke yarn 🙂

Thank you to Lucy for introducing me to dying with food colouring.  Now I am going to take Blood Orange and have a root through Ravelry for the best pattern to show her off.

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Love Gillie x

knitting in a not quite summer

Despite purchasing a pair of splendid summer shoes, summer has failed to turn up in our corner of the UK.

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The upside is that the garden is wild and lush, a northeastern jungle.  Unfortunately it is too wet to actually sit in it and enjoy the smell and sounds.  We have to admire it through the window.

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However, it does make for excellent knitting.  At this time of year I am usually more inclined to sew or embroider, knitting in hot weather can be a little hard work.  But this year the productivity rate is soaring.

These came along with me on our trip to London a couple of weeks ago.  I dyed the yarn using Wilton’s food dye on a wonderful Saturday morning with Lucy at Woolaballoo.  There is definitely a yellow and green theme to my wardrobe this [not quite] summer.

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Unfortunately I forgot the stitch holder and the yarn shop I found only had large ones ,  too big for my socks.  So I had little option but to put them aside and purchase a replacement yarn.  I couldn’t spend the entire weekend without something to knit!

I discovered The Village Haberdashery was only a hop, skip and a jump from our Airbnb and I was persuaded to step back from the yellows and greens so plumped for this gorgeous colour combination, Almond Rocks from Knit the Bed.

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Meanwhile back at home (too big for a weekend away project) The Boxy by Joji Locatelli is coming along well.  The yarn is The Barber by Uschitita.  I originally read the name as The Berber, which explained why I failed to find any examples of what it looked like knitted up!

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However, I am feeling the urge for something a little more challenging.  So I intend to finish the socks this weekend and start on The Roadside Beanie so I am ready for Shetland Wool Week.  I think that will play along nicely with the Boxy, something to think about and something I can knit on autopilot.  Perfect.

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Love Gillie

 

hats

On my return from Loch Ness Knit Fest in October, I showed the Boss my purchases.  Yes, all my purchases!  One of them was this gorgeous little number from Tine and Floyd.

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The Boss took a shine to it and suggested it would make a fine hat.  In particular it would make a fine hat with ear flaps.  A fine hat with ear flaps that would be perfect to keep his head and ears warm whilst out fishing.   Since the wind off the North Sea is pretty piercing if you are on land I can only assume it is vicious when out at sea.

So I disappeared down the rabbit hole that is Ravelry and found this wonderful pattern by Mitzy Moore

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Obviously I am doing it in one colour way, but after a month or so of lacework I am loving the speed with which it knits up!  I’m not sure about the bobble though.  Not quite his style I don’t think!

What’s on your needles today?

Love Gillie x