Musings on Spinning Wheels and Low Tech Processing

A knitty friend of mine once told me that, “Spinning is a slippery slope which, if you’re not careful, ends in a flock of sheep”.

I began spinning, as many people do, with a drop spindle.

Then, when my Dad tipped me off about a wheel in a local charity shop, I bought a 1970s Ashford Traditional, which I tested with a bit of string and carried home on the bus. That was an interesting journey, with great conversations.

Then I saw a sweet little flax wheel and spinning stool, and bought that, meaning I had a wheel at home and a wheel at the studio.

After losing the studio I have been trying to find a way to store 2 spinning wheels and assorted gubbins at home.

No sheep, yet.

Natural dye books

Whether it was the weather, or enthusiasm, or losing the studio, I’m not sure, but last year I spent quite a bit of time at the allotment.

The salads I brought home were amazing – packed full of young kale, nasturtium flowers, and leaves, many different kinds of salad leaf and spinach.  Everything was freshly picked, and delicious.

Moving on from slippery commercially prepared wool, I began cleaning fleece in rainwater at the allotment, and drying in the sun – clean fibre for me, fertiliser for the plants.

It was very enjoyable.

There’s something wonderful about the process – cleaning gently and naturally, using natural dyes (like the elderberry I showed last year), and basic tools to make yarn. This is something I want to explore and share with you this year.

Actually, the colours available from nature might have influenced my seed shopping just a little. Plus I’m saving daffodil heads and onion skins already.

I intend to teach crochet classes again this year, and I’m considering different venues. I do feel it needs to be consistent and I’m looking for a long-term solution where we can really be comfortable. I’ll have more information about that soon.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017

Northern Yarns

I was pleased to be visiting Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the first time this year, especially pleased as we finished moving the last of the studio items on Thursday evening – Friday and Saturday were something of a luxury!

So come on, show and tell time… I took my trusty Northern Yarns tote and carried it with pride. Thanks Kate.

Northern Yarns

I travelled up early on Friday morning, and met a fellow KnitBod, which was unexpectedly lovely. We found another knitter (or did she find us?) so we travelled together and chatted whilst playing ‘Spot the Knitwear’, a popular pastime it seems!

Once at the Corn Exchange I had a quick sweep around to get my bearings, then started to investigate. I had my map, on which I had noted my budget (ha!), stalls to visit and my wishlist in order of priority.

Oh ok, time to see what’s inside the bag…

My shopping EYF2017

 

I really wanted some better hand carders – I found some at Once Upon A Sheep (who were lovely). 9″ short circulars were on my list too, since being converted to them for socks. No more Second Sock Syndrome for me – now I can knit 2 at once!

I looked for some fingering weight yak to contrast my green, but only found double knit weight, so I decided to buy the crochet shawl book instead.

It was had to resist the Dorset button kits from TJ Frog (have you heard her podcast? Super stuff). I stopped resisting and bought a kit, since one of my goals for the visit was to learn something new.

I bought some combed tops too for spinning – beautiful, soft and clouds, rich Blue Spruce and Pomegranate.

Yarn wise, I bought some Tamar from Blacker Yarns, after being so impressed with the way the small ball I bought blocked, and also some small balls of 3 ply by Jamieson.

The two wooden things you can see on the right are tapestry bobbins. I’ve been working on a large weaving and thought they would be useful, so I have one from Dovecot Gallery, which I visited on Saturday, and one from the Threshing Barn at EYF.

The podcast lounge was very busy but I spoke to a Louise (@KnitBritish) briefly and shouted “Quiche!” at Louise from @CaithnessCrafts, which was fun.

On Saturday I had a little walk around Edinburgh and recorded a podcast to share with you as I wandered. I’ll try to get that edited this week.

It was a smashing break and I met some wonderful people from all around the world (Scotland, Italy, America…), visited some fun places and spotted some fantastic knits. Thanks Edinburgh, I’ll be back.

Here today, gone tomorrow

Ok, bit of a surprise for you, so sit down and grab a brew while we chat.

 

The landlord of Oxheys Mill Studios has decided that it’s time to sell the building. Sadly, this leaves us artists with the mammoth task of emptying our studios and putting into storage things we want to keep until we find new premises.

 

I am relocating classes which were to be held at Oxheys, or where that isn’t possible, cancelling them and refunding people. It’s going to take some time to find somewhere new, and while that happens I’ll be working at home. I don’t think it’s fair to continue booking places while I’m on the move, so just for the moment, I am closing the shop.

 

I will have some things for sale (materials, yarns, etc) at the Oxheys closing event to be held on Thursday 2nd March 6-8pm. Anything that isn’t sold on the night will go to auction on my Facebook Page on the Friday.

 

I will be back next month with updates, and hopefully new regular venues. Onwards and upwards!

My favourite crochet class

During the 6 years or so I’ve been teaching knitting and crochet, I’ve tried various classes. Some, I run quite often because there is a demand for them, others, rarely (only when there are enough people interested), and the odd one or two I have changed or just ditched altogether. I’m pleased there aren’t many of those.

In the spirit of February, love and cuddly things, I would like to share my favourite class with you and why I adore it.

Sensational Crocheted Squares was the first ‘real’ crochet class I developed, back in 2011. I know it’s a bit of a mouthful to say, but I’ve resisted changing the name because

1. they are awesome

2. most of the motifs are squares

3. It’s crochet, and if I say ‘crocheted square’, lots of people know what I mean (it’s a classic)

A granny square has a simple, repetitive rhythm, making them perfect to relax with and infinitely soothing – a real zoning out project.

I added other squares and hexagons to the class so that people could learn other techniques in the same course. All of the motifs are very portable and quick, so they are ideal for busy people or people who like to complete one little thing each night.

On a more personal level, I love the Sensational Crocheted Squares course because at it’s heart, I’m passing on the patterns and skills I learnt as a child. It feels great.

One of the things which drew me to crochet was my Great Nanna, with her basket of colourful squares, quickly joining them together as I picked out the next one. It was a warm, cosy holiday in her little cottage, and I learnt things like how to light a coal fire using newspaper (safety first, kids, I must have been about 5!), and what the names of the wildflowers were which grew down the side of the canal.

This reminds me of family history and the interconnectedness of women through the generations. In a sense, the stitches and textiles made form the fabric of our lives, surrounding us, cocooning us and keeping us safe like a magical spell.

I would love to hear your thoughts about how crafts and textiles fit into your life – find me on Facebook at happymakesart or on Twitter at CarryYarnCaro.

Caroline. x

If you are interested in the Sensational Crocheted Squares course, I will have more details soon. Follow me on Twitter!

UK – US Crochet Stitch Conversion Chart with symbols

Something I hear a lot is how it’s so confusing using UK and US crochet terms and stitch names. Let’s face it, when you are a beginner you don’t need to be learning the lingo too.

No more confusion!

Banish those blues!

Here’s a new stitch conversion chart for you (updated from my popular old one). Just save the image, print it in landscape, then flip the paper over and print the other side.

Bingo! You have 3 charts, 1 for your essentials bag, 2 for your mates (or keep them as bookmarks).

Folded, they are less than credit card sized and perfect for keeping in your purse or wallet so you can check the wraps per inch before you buy that impulse yarn, or double check how to make a UK double crochet stitch.