hap boards and squared paper

A2C2E848-EDED-4525-B37C-8E7BAE06107B

Morning has broken in Sandwick and a jolly fine one it is too.  Today I will be mostly knitting in the Hub and doing some natural dyeing.  But yesterday was all about the technical stuff.  Sometimes it is when you are forced down a route you had not planned upon that the journey becomes most fun.  Yesterday was a case in point.

I had not been able to get one of the classes I had hoped for, it had sold out in minutes.  So as my second choice I opted for Dressing Shetland Knitwear, in other words how to block your knitwear once you finally get it off the needles.  When I first began to knit I was desperate to wear my creations, I didn’t want to have to wait for them to be blocked. But now I understand the magic that takes place when the knitting, upon which you have  bestowed some of the best hours of your life, is transformed from mere knitting to a thing of beauty – and a thing that actually fits – blocking can be a dark art too!

I, like most knitters, usually block with pins.  This involves finding a very large unoccupied double bed or a room with a huge clear floor upon which no animal (two, four, six or eight legged) will roam unhindered and then painstakingly shaping and pinning and reshaping and repining, stopping for tea, resuming the pinning stopping for gin to lift the sagging soul and finally accepting that this is the best that can be achieved (and that sleeve hanging over the side of the bed will be fine really).

Rachel and Freya Hunter put a stop to that pain.  It will involve Stuart (a) doing some magic with 4 x 4 and creating a hap board and possibly “investing” in a jumper board (if I can find one for sale) but it will be worth it.

50DFC5BD-8E08-4C60-A750-90851F34A778

This hap is about 5ft square.  That is a lot of hap!  Once washed and spun dry a single piece of mercerised cotton is threaded through the edges (being careful to thread through a couple of rows of knit to ensure the yarn doesn’t snap as it dries!)

AFDBFD6D-0EFE-4BEE-B716-5E16955A9770

Once all the loops are wrapped around the pins it is time to start pulling and stretching to ensure that the hap is evenly laid across the board.  It is slightly scary pulling something so beautiful so tight but the yarn (in this case 2ply jumper weight) is strong – AS LONG AS IT IS DAMP!  If you let it dry and pull tightly it can snap so keep a spray bottle to hand if it feels as if it is drying before you have finished the adjustments.

The hap board is a VAST improvement over pinning on the floor.  Not only is it far easier to adjust and obtain a neat square (or circle) but it stands upright so takes up almost no space and as it is open to the air on both sides it dries faster and more evenly.  Stuart has been given his instructions!

The jumper board was a thing of wonder and beauty, but also rather hard to obtain (believe me I have been trying).

2C4743A9-1FC3-4C1B-8DF0-023087C9982A

This too is fully adjustable and ensures an even blocking on both sides.  I think creation of this may be beyond even Stuart, but if there are any joiners out there who would like to give it a go, please let me know.

Lacework has to be blocked, even the most beautiful work (which mine is not) has a tendency to look like a dishcloth until it is given the blocking treatment.  But did I ever think about using a board for lace scarves?  Reader I did not!

C11F2E9F-DC9F-4013-9B4C-CC226A723D3D

First we folded this cockleshell scarf in half and tacked the sides using running stitch.  Then it was pulled over the end of the board and adjusted until the sides were flush.  Three lengths of yarn, each four times the length of the end of the scarf to the end of the board were threaded through each peak (again make sure you thread at least two rows in).  Then the thread was carefully pulled and tied with a slip knot and the peaks adjusted until they were exactly (ish – we weren’t entering our scarf in a competition where symmetry is measured in mm!) the same length and matched on the back on the front.   How simple, yet how clever is that?

Finally hats, gloves, socks and mittens.  Meet Fred.

C8003DE9-4563-4019-86FF-B49A7A644BE3

This is my 2019 Wool Week Roadside Beanie.  Traditionally hats would have been blocked on balls but a balloon (ecological caveats notwithstanding) enables you to match the hat size to your own head.  Measure your head where the brim will lie.  Blow up the balloon to the same size, thread waste yarn through the edge of the ribbing and fit the damp hat over the balloon (and in my case insert ear plugs as the noise is horrible!).  Tighten the waste yarn.  Face optional.

There was time for a very quick cheese and pickle sandwich and then I hotfooted it (with Fred in tow) up to Market Street for a workshop designing a stranded colour work motif for a shawl based on flowers from the Shetlands.

I had no idea what to expect and Felicity of Knitsonik  did not disappoint any of my rather wobbly expectations of what I might be able to achieve.  First we had to choose our colour.  No problem there, orange please.  And then our flower.  Fox and Cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca).

F9A8D0BA-5538-47B8-A85C-2D47E8B72325

But then the hard work began, how to turn the idea of the flower above into a motif that can be repeated throughout the shawl using the colours not to paint a picture of the flower but to represent the flower throughout the shawl.  Much chewing of pencils over squared paper and much creation of strange pacman like flowers but I got there in the end.

I’m not explaining this very well I know.  Maybe it’s best to have a look at Felicity’s website!

However these are my colours

E88D7CC3-1A35-4075-8787-9D9ABC6FA5C1

I would love to show you my finished motif.  But sadly I didn’t finish it!  However, I now think I know what I am doing and have the resources to start the multicoloured swatch.  Watch this space.

Now time to get my tam out and get those needles clicking.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

ferries and fair isle

E013B8B3-8E88-4FC1-A9BC-16EA3B066153

There are several signs that you are grown up:

  • Snow has the ability to be a pain in the arse as well as quite pretty;
  • You no longer get excited by an envelope with your name on,  in fact frequently quite the reverse’
  • Christmas comes around jolly quickly these days.

Fortunately, whilst Christmas may rock up with greater speed each year, so does Shetland Wool Week.   It is almost a year ago that I returned from Loch Ness Knit Fest with the knowledge that there were three other knit festivals that definitely  warranted attendance.  Today I am tucked up in Da Peerie Hoose in Sandwick on Shetland after my first day at Shetland Wool Week and I am still pinching myself (I’m getting quite sore actually!)

Accommodation was booked first (I can highly recommend Da Peerie Hoose, it wasn’t finished when we booked it back in October last year, but it’s already a popular cottage and rightly so).  I registered for the summer sailing alert on NorthLink Ferries and then waited anxiously for the morning in March when I could book tickets for the vast array of workshops, tours and events that comprise Shetland Wool Week.   For those old enough to remember, it was like a hybrid of the first day of the Harrods Sale and opening your A-level results; mad chaos and intense anticipation.

One of the advantages of a couple where one is a yarn and fibre lover and the other loves to bother fish is that both activities can usually be accommodated in similar geographical locations.  Note – Shetland Wool Week, Loch Ness Knit Fest, Fanø Strikkefestival (Denmark), Iceland Wool Week.  Stuart has ample opportunities to dangle a line in fresh and sea water whilst I indulge in some fibre love.  Consequently this is Stuart on Sunday morning at the start of our travels to Shetland.

9CA04794-EE98-4E99-8A65-5F5BA1BB2290

This is the equipment I took with me.

8D3ADC44-0B26-44E6-82EE-A59DAAAEBEFA

Hmmm….

The ferry crossing was pleasantly uneventful (I gather crossings earlier in the week were a tad bumpier, I am glad I missed them)  I was faintly amused by this sign.

85B96FB7-7E98-4A72-990E-DD95764C0A19

I wondered if it referred to bad weather when perhaps walking up and down stairs was replaced by a more rapid “transit”.

Monday morning was bright and clear and we managed to pack all of Stuart’s fishing tackle/bait/goodness knows what into our little hire car and went to explore.  Our priorities were:

  • Check location of Fishing Tackle shop (no prizes who that was for)
  • Obtain 1 x 2.00 mm 40 cm circular needle (even I was surprised I didn’t have one!)
  • Obtain hearing aid batteries.  Whilst I am quite happy to potter around in semi-sludgy silence when it’s just Stuart and me (!) I did want to be able to hear the workshop leaders and chat to all the other knitters from around the world (New Zealand is the furthest travelled I have met thus far) and I had forgotten my spare set.
  • Breakfast.

It was in forgetting the hearing aid batteries we met Tommy who is the Lerwick equivalent of Six Dinner Sid and was planning his adventures for the day whilst chilling out in Boots.

66271A20-88BF-4482-AFB8-DFDF81CE736A

Breakfast at The Dowry and this was our view.

75479F44-F231-4BF6-A019-55C837E6FA56

The food was pretty darn good too and after a potter down to the Hub we returned for lunch and met Stuart’s partner in fish bothering crime, the lovely Adam from Connecticut.  His wife Anne, who I met through the SWW facebook page also has a fabulous knitting podcast,  I thought I knew how.

We also spotted these

5857E1AE-3686-4FED-8ABB-0207D878245C

Are they not quite beautiful?  Currently on my needles is the Twageos Tam O’Shanter from The Vintage Shetland Project by Susan Crawford.

 

Screenshot 2019-10-01 at 07.48.09

When I have mastered that, I may try some of the other glorious vintage patterns, but whether I achieve the delicacy and intricate colour work of these is debatable!

Then time for our first workshops.  Stuart was playing with fused glass and I learned to knit my first ever afterthought heel.  I am so impressed with myself, I kept having to stop and admire this thing of beauty.

493A960E-BC70-4C9D-A6FA-A692C5EAF716

Front

96A565DE-C016-4AFB-955B-3AC63F9C7693

And back.

This is where I have to confess that I didn’t knit the sock itself, that was prepared for us by the wonderful Lesley Smith who made Fair Isle Afterthought Heels a complete breeze!

Finally we arrived at our home for the week.  Oh my, it is like living in the little house you dreamed of when you were a little girl.

3A00A9F1-50F7-4A14-9776-F821669CA99C

The welcome.

50FE0F44-ED0C-4062-ACE4-52D7F7FB54E9

Our cosy and very comfortable bed.

468F8C57-5F25-4DE5-86ED-F1A32CF7A28C

The amazingly well stocked kitchen.

70F800A4-AE15-4767-A027-0082944DEA15

The instant meals are ours – we weren’t in the mood for cooking!

This  morning we are up bright and early after a night knitting (me) reading and planning fishing (him) by the fire.

Have a great day wherever you are.

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.

2019-07-26 09.24.17

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

2019-07-26 09.23.38

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.

2019-07-26 08.56.02

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.

2019-07-26 09.01.14

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.

 

2019-07-26 09.41.36

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

I give you blood orange

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

93024CB0-E98F-449E-A41B-67C502A6C12A

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.

B3DEF13C-E800-4BD8-A9A8-9443633A5097

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.

C9F05210-72DF-49BD-A7DD-C78C2827D2D3

Then roll up like a multicoloured Cumberland sausage.

AB83F499-3E01-4637-92ED-3CA172FB6E3A

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!

C64A9637-2239-4490-8FE7-7AE73139C654

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.

56047CFC-BDDB-4B72-AD4B-7728C9D3C033

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.

A92DDA98-08F4-44F3-A008-4708F15584D2

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.

57BA20B1-6DC4-4338-9FA5-95A39AA863E0

 

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.

5AB1168F-36E1-42AE-BD3F-B45930EEA779

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.

356BDB60-B2D4-44DB-9415-D1A0ADD27C75

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!

816B09DC-8912-4ABA-ADD0-EA30F5B4DD81

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.

582F14DE-BD07-4AEA-82DF-CD45AF860D1C

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.

8A6A4C85-EB2C-448B-88EF-E6DBFC2C9AA6

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

IMG_5187_small2

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

 

 

lacework


It was  many years before I was brave enough to try lace work.  I will never forget going to a workshop at the wonderful WhistlebareYarns and after we had chosen our yarn and settled down I saw a line that could have been written in Arabic for all I understood it.  I panicked.  I looked at the women around me who were all happily clicking away.  And then I got to the dreaded line, it was line 9 I can remember it well.

My heart headed south faster than a swallow in autumn.  But do you know what it was dead easy!  Just follow the instructions and keep knitting.  It does help to  have pencil and paper to record where you are up to.  I rather like these as well.

mbll

Also if you are easily distracted, don’t do the lace row when you are watching television or people are trying to talk to you.  It is the Devil’s own job to frog a lace row!

When people look at lacework so many of them take a deep in breath and declaim they couldn’t possibly do that.  But in all honesty all lacework is is a planned pattern of holes!  I think we can all put our hand on our hearts and say we can make holes in knitting.  If you can knit, purl and wind yarn around a needle you can do lacework!

This is my work in progress using the silk and baby camel hair (just writing that makes me go all gooey) I bought from Dye Ninjaat Loch Ness Knit Fest.  The pattern is Rogue Wrap by Helen Dillon (available on Ravelry) and is a doddle to knit, particularly when using such gorgeous yarn.

Only a short post today as the weather is awful and it feels like a knitting kind of day!

Love Gillie x

P.S.  Don’t worry if you lacework looks like a dishrag!  All lacework looks like a dishrag until it is blocked (well mine does!).