Archive for the ‘yarncraft’ Category

Something old, something new…

November 22, 2014

Recently a friend asked me whether I could make her a cot quilt for a baby girl. I’m no expert, but have made a few quilts now, and she’s just beginning to learn and didn’t feel confident enough yet to make one for a present. She didn’t need to twist my arm, although I have lots of other calls on my time just now; quilting is always a pleasure and a welcome retreat from the stresses & strains of everyday life. She wanted me to use new materials, and I happened to need to take a trip down west, so off I trotted to the lovely Becca’s Fabric Larder and ran riot with her budget. I need to point out here that making a quilt with new fabric of decent quality isn’t a cheap exercise; you can find fabric much cheaper, but will it stand up to the regular washing an item in constant use will get without shrinking or shredding? I actually prefer to use old, pre-used fabric, which is pre-shrunk and often of much higher quality than anything I can afford to use that’s available now. However, I do go to local quilt group stash-sales, and sometimes pick up bits other people haven’t used at affordable prices, and two of these fitted in with the other fabrics rather well, so they got used too.

Anyway, having over the last few years invested in some good-quality secondhand tools, after much patient watching, stalking & last-minute-bidding on Ebay, I was able to cut, piece, back, quilt & bind a 3′ x 4′ raggy quilt in a little over 4 days, alongside general family & business activities. Becca didn’t have the batting I wanted, but I was lucky enough to find a king-size portion online that someone else hadn’t used & was selling for less then half the price of buying new, including postage; it’ll do 4 cot quilts and a few bags too. And when it came to the binding, I wasn’t able to find anything ready-made that went with the fabrics I’d used. But at the market on Saturday, I was offered a deal I couldn’t refuse, by one of the house-clearance firms; three boxes, one containing filthy vintage handbags, one containing vintage clothes, and one of fabric scraps, for £10.

There are 15 high-quality leather handbags in the first box, including a Prada bag. Well worth cleaning up; they’ll earn that £10 back, and a fair bit more! Enough decent clothes in the second to keep me from clearing the clothes rails in my shed for a while, and in the third, some excellent fabric, including a length of pristine pure wool tweed, worth over £10 on its own. But what clinched the deal was spotting some dusky pink glazed cotton, just exactly the right colour to bind the quilt, easily enough to make a number of bias cuts. Imagine my surprise on getting it home and finding that there were two generous pieces, already cut on the diagonal – and two more blue pieces, cut just the same – they’d clearly come from a quilter’s stash! So I gathered my courage and cut my own binding; to my surprise it wasn’t hard, and I won’t be scared to do it next time. Anyway – quilt finished, washed, tumble-dried to fluff up the raggy bits, and handed over.

Raggy cot quilt

Raggy cot quilt


But there were bits left over… another friend had recently asked me to find her a knitting needle roll, and as she’s been kind enough to give us 3 beautiful budgies over the years, I thought I’d like to make her one to say thank-you. So the little left-over bits got themselves made up into this one:


Knitting needle roll pieced from small scraps

And then I realised that the friend who’d asked me to make the quilt had a birthday, the very day that I was handing the quilt to her! And she’s rather fond of yarncrafts too, so the bigger leftovers, along with a few other scraps, were whisked up into this one:


Big scrappy needle roll, with space for scissors, patterns etc.

So, I may have had to spend some money on all this (although it wasn’t actually my money anyway) but I have to say I’ve had so much fun with a  few bits of fabric that in my mind, at least, it was money well-spent!






Ooooh – nice!

April 23, 2012

Bit of luck yesterday – I went down to the Tip with loads of cardboard, polystyrene (aaaargh – horrible stuff!) and wrapping from the utility room revamp. “We’ve got something for you!” Lee greeted me. “Some alpaca, in fact.”
Curious, I trotted over to the covered skip, thinking most likely I’d find a bit of raw fleece from an older animal that someone had meant to use for toy stuffing, perhaps. But no – two big bags of absolutely gorgeous-quality, squishy-soft, white, crimpy, supremely spinnable fluff, labelled “weanling”… the sort of stuff I’d have to hand over at least £30-£40 a bag for, if I were inclined to actually buy any. I love spinning (and wearing) alpaca, but don’t usually feel I can justify spending that much on my hobby – maybe £4 for a little bag once in a while. I spun up a quick sample skein last night and enjoyed it hugely; it almost spins itself. There was also a bag of washed Jacob’s fleece, which I shall give to my neighbour, as I already have 4 bags of it. I have to ask  – who throws these things away? There’s no sign of moths or  mice or anything else that would make me reject it. It may have belonged to someone who isn’t spinning or felting any more, for whatever reason, but how come they couldn’t find anyone to give it to, rather than just dumping it? Not that it matters; luckily the gents were alert & it’s made its way into my stash now. Into the very top, the next-project bit of it, as it happens.

What a lovely find! I’m a very happy bunny. Thanks, gents…

And I’m hardly even going to mention the pheasant – poor little fellow threw himself in front of a car (not ours, I hasten to add) on a country road at the weekend whilst we were helping with the move. We drove one way; the road was clear. We offloaded & drove back again 10 minutes later; there he was, dead as a dodo. He was on a bend & anything much shorter than a human would have been hugely at risk of being squished themselves, trying to drag him away – so who could resist? A large pot of delicious stock & several tasty salads later, I’m very grateful to him…

Use up your scraps!

November 18, 2011

It’s been a good week, in many ways – any week in which an elderly Bernina virtually lands in my lap is a good week. But yesterday I enjoyed best of all; I sold one of my scrap-yarn shawls, crocheted on a 15mm double-ended Tunisian hook, and the gentleman who bought it for his wife evidently thought it was the most glamorous thing he  could possibly have found for her, which was lovely. And then I did a fingercrochet workshop.

How could I have gone so long without the wonderful feeling of creating something useful and hopefully attractive too, just using my fingers and yarns that no-one wanted, or that were otherwise surplus to requirements, in a  very short space of time? It’s so simple, it’s easy to forget how rewarding it is. For those of you who haven’t yet come across it, fingercrochet is exactly what it says on the tin – crochet done on your finger, without a hook. You just wrap the yarn around a finger – I’ve recently discovered that my ring finger works best – and use that instead of a hook. Because it’s a fairly big implement, in my case at least, you need to use either very chunky yarn, or several strands, to achieve any kind of “coverage” but because the stitches are so big, you can make a hat up very fast. You soon find that your finger, although not as smooth as a metal hook, is rather more helpful and bendable, and that you can feel the tension in a way that simply isn’t possible with a hook.

My one “pupil” was very dubious that she would be going home with a fully-formed hat inside two hours. But not only did she complete it, she had time to make a pompom to add to the top! I’ve added a new page for the pattern (and also now for a matching collar) so that all of you who crochet can make one at home… I look forward to seeing your photos, here or on Ravelry.

Sarah models one of the fingercrochet hats...

Been MIA for a bit…

August 29, 2011

…and “missing in ACTION” it certainly has been. My feet haven’t touched the ground for the last couple of months, but it’s been great. You know you’re actually reaching people when someone walks into your shop and the first thing they say is, “Aha! That’s the very sofa itself! I read about that on your blog!” And indeed she (and her husband too) have spent some time cosily esconced on said sofa, over the last few days, weaving happily away on their new-to-them peg loom and cutting rags into strips.

I’m just beginning to find my feet now and find a little time for writing – which is just as well, as I have an article to write before going off on holiday. It may seem a little perverse, trotting off on holiday just when things were getting off the ground, but believe me, I need it…

I’ve been surprised and delighted by how I do seem to have found a real gap in the market; people are genuinely pleased to find affordable stuff and somewhere they can just try things out. They may already be expert-level at, say, P&Q, but wanting to have a go at crochet, without committing to weeks of lessons or a jumper’s-worth of yarn. Or professional cardmakers who’ve always wanted to try their hand at knitting. I’ve done a whole lot of wet-felting, too; seems to be the one thing everyone wants a go at, even people who’ve done it many times before!

Here’s a link to a nice tribute from one of my friends – great to see you last week, Carrie! – and here’s one to our local newspaper’s account. And below is something I made earlier… it’s great to have some time & space just to sit & make things, and a good excuse to do so!

It’s been a while…

May 22, 2011

…because I’ve been busy. Very very busy, in fact, in the nicest possible way, because there suddenly seems to be a lot of interest in what I’m doing, So I’m taking the plunge & have rented a small workshop/shop in the centre of our little town, to open up; website to be set up over the next few days.
I’m really excited but there’s a lot of work to do; the unit needs painting & some other stuff like hot water & flooring sorted out, and I’m trying to source just about all the fittings secondhand, recycled or reclaimed, with one or two exceptions for electrical safety’s sake. There’s a side room for my VintageCraftStuff, and also some gallery space to display our own creations and those of other local crafters. There’ll be human-powered sewing machines & spinning wheels, giant knitting needles, inkle looms, spinning & felting supplies, handspun yarn, and reclaimed fabric, yarn and buttons for sale, and of course, books and magazines… open for retail Mon-Fri, 11-4 pm.
The idea is to run FREE lunchtime “craftalong” sessions – bring your sarnies, or buy something yummie & inexpensive from the Riverside Cafe next door, and sit & stitch/knit/crochet/whittle – whatever, as long as it’s creative! – for free in good company, anytime from 12-2 pm. Then 2-4 pm will be inexpensive have-a-go themed workshops, probably about £4 per person including materials (if it can be done) on simple basic stuff – cardmaking, scrapbooking, bookmaking, wet felting, needlefelting, learn to spin/knit/crochet/stiitch – and there will be expert workshops in the evenings & some weekends, with more advanced tutors. Everything will be small scale, partly because of space limitations but also because it’s nicer & easier to learn that way.
There’s a little garden space at the back to grow a few dye plants, herbs & flowers in tubs & baskets, and sit & stitch or spin in the sunshine on nice days. The river runs right outside the door, so it’s a very green & natural space for a town-centre location.
So I’m really, really busy trying to sort all the background stuff like insurance, website & fittings out right now. I’ll post again just before we open, so wish me luck, watch this space & plan to come & visit us when you’re down this way!

The Dishcloth Files…

August 20, 2010

I've been busy...

Life has been astonishingly busy for the past few months. My feet haven’t touched the ground since the end of exam time; I blew a fuse and booked a holiday to Spain to recover, which was most unsustainable but a wonderful, relaxing break in a beautiful, unspoilt spot with crystal-clear water & lots of much-needed sunshine. And cheaper than the area we normally go to, where our relatives live, too. Now we’ve survived the trauma of A level results (they both did really, really well) and are preparing to send two of the Offspring out into the world, whilst “Real Life” continues to whirl past at breakneck speed. And I’ve discovered dishcloths!

I signed up for a dishcloth swap on one of my favourite forums (Creative Living – originally a wild seedling that popped up from HF-W’s River Cottage site) and started looking on Ravelry for suitable (free) crochet patterns. Needless to say, there are hundreds to choose from; I now have a complete file full of intriguing little patterns awaiting a spare moment or two… I picked one that particularly appealed, grabbed a ball of charity shop yarn that I was virtually certain was cotton, and started hooking. About an hour later, I realised that I’d forgotten to translate it from American to English (we call different stitches by the same names) but it was so nearly finished that I just carried on. The resulting item was both pretty & practical and hardly took any time or concentration; an ideal stick-it-in-your-pocket-for-quiet-moments project, in effect. So I hunted up another couple of balls of cotton, one recycled from an unpicked beach bag and one left over from another project, and made a different one, then another – I’m hooked, in more ways than one!

Dishcloths are soooo simple. They only take a couple of hours and they’re an ideal project for using up odd scraps. Each one can be different and you can afford to experiment, as on that scale it only takes a moment to put any glaring incongruities right. It doesn’t matter if they don’t lie flat or aren’t completely regular in shape. And they’re useful too, which makes them a decently thoughtful little gift for anyone who doesn’t like aimless clutter, or already has quite enough of it, like us. I picked up a couple of cones of almost-certainly-cotton yarn at the Dorset Scrapstore (which I’m just about to pick the expert brains over on Ravelry for a proper ID for) and carried on…

There are probably 1001 other things I should be doing or sorting out, but these are keeping my fingers busy, using up oddments, and probably keeping my blood pressure down too. In other words, dishcloths are a  practical recycler’s dream…

And there's more where these came from...

My name’s Angie and I’m an addict…

June 6, 2010

“Oh dear… Prepare to do your own washing and cook your own tea for a few weeks. Mum’s been to the car boot sale…”

There are times when you’re brought face to face with your weaknesses, and I well know that one of mine is a total, slavish addiction to 1970s handicraft magazines, the “Golden Hands” series in particular. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted the familiar logo through the sides of a battered plastic box at the car boot sale. “How much are the mags?” I enquired, trying to sound casual, flicking through a couple on the top. “Ooooh, I don’t know…” the vendor muttered, turning to her husband and spreading her hands. “What would you think – about one pound for the box?” “What, for all of them?!” I gasped, all pretence at disinterest shattered. “Yes, all of them – and you could take this fabric, too. Please…” They were having a loft conversion and just needed shot of everything that had been up there. She was clearly someone who had been a more-than-competent creative dabbler in the past; I think she was pleased to find someone who still valued them.

Well, I can’t believe my luck. In that box, as well as some of the standard GHs, there are all 15 of the sequel magazine, “GH New Guide”, 81 of the 98 issues of the GH Encyclopedia of Crafts and one issue of GH Monthly – I already have a few more of those. I have hunted down over the years, & now own, a full set of the standard series, so those will end up in my shop, but I didn’t have any of the Encyclopedias & now I only have 17 left to find! But better still, there was one issue of something called “Fashion Maker – the GH encyclopedia of patterns for everything you will ever want to make” which I’d no idea existed. It came in 98 parts, so there are 97 of those left to hunt for, provided they printed the whole set – that should keep me happily occupied for ages!

The reason I love these magazines so much is that they actually tell you how to do things from the bottom up. Some of the projects are dated, but most of them can be modernised extremely easily and to great effect, with a little imagination. Modern craft mags, or at least those easily available on the high street, sadly have a tendency to be 90% product placement & adverts, 10% patterns & techniques, and though I do crack & buy them sometimes, I’m nearly always disappointed & wish I’d saved my money for supplies instead. But good basic designs & techniques remain the same; the colours & the necklines (not to mention the hairstyles!) may have changed, but many of the patterns from 35 years ago would look perfectly at home at any gathering of Ravellers today. And I’ve got a whole host of new ideas & projects to tackle already, although I’ve only looked inside a few of them so far.

So I’m well-chuffed. But I’m finding it remarkably easy to lose all track of time whilst gloating over my unexpected treasures; in the immortal words of Baloo in Disney’s version of The Jungle Book, I’m gone, man, solid gone…

I may be gone for some time...

If at first you don’t succeed – don’t panic!

May 27, 2010

It’s been a hectic few weeks, ferrying offspring around to exams, job interviews etc. And I had a Guild challenge looming, and everything that possibly could go wrong with it, did.

Last summer, I took on the challenge of a 200g bag of Polworth fleece, “do with it what you will!” The person distributing it said when I took it, “It’s  the last bag; I’m afraid it’s a bit ropey, but I’m sure you’ll do something interesting with it…” which made me want to do something exceptionally fine with it! Knowing that Polworth is a very, very fine fleece, I thought I’d be very, very gentle with it, then spin some delicate laceweight, crochet something floaty but functional and let the fleece speak for itself. But I didn’t have time to tackle it until about November, when I popped it into a rainwater bath, as recommended by some older Guild members, outside in the garden. You can imagine my horror when I checked it about a month later and found it had gone green…

“Fermented Suint” as this method of cleaning fleece is called, needs warmth, and it wasn’t warm. You also need to exclude light (I’d used a glass lid) or algae will develop. Oooops.

So I washed it in nice, gentle washing liquid, rinsed it three times, the last time in rainwater, and left it to dry before carding it, whereupon luckily the green tips mostly broke right off.  But then I discovered it was full of neps, tiny short bits of wool, that leave bumps in your yarn if you don’t get them out. I’d been given some money for my birthday & Christmas, so I decided to invest in a set of woolcombs, which are the only real way of getting debris out of your fleece. But sadly they are only available made to order, and the winter was very cold, so the maker was unable to get out into his workshop, and I didn’t get the combs until the beginning of May – too late for the challenge fleece.

In the meantime, the fleece had somehow become horribly sticky. I now know that sometimes it takes more than one wash to clear lanolin out of a fleece that’s been stored for some time, as I gather this one had been. But I didn’t then; what to do with this horrible, sticky, lumpy mess? I decided, what the heck, go with the flow, and ordered some more neps, multicoloured ones, to card into it and make a novelty yarn. With great difficulty and a lot of swearing, I eventually produced a lumpy, chunky yarn that I then “wrapped” with some thin commercial multi-coloured machine-knitting yarn to hold it all together. I only had a week left… but when I washed the yarn to felt it slightly and set the twist, some of the stickiness dissolved. So I washed it a second time, and ended up with something soft enough that I felt I could actually work with. Almost enough to make a scarf, perhaps?

After an interlude of spinning up some midnight-black Hebridean to team it with, then finding that as it was the last of last year’s it wasn’t soft enough to wear around my neck, I picked some soft brown yarn I’d spun for a weaving project that had turned out a tad too chunky. Out with my trusty giant double-ended crochet hooks, which are a wonderfully fast way of making things, and a day later I have a finished, wearable scarf, with a whole 48 hours to spare… I even quite like it, and will wear it with pride!

When it all went wrong, I just wanted to throw the fleece away and forget all about it. But I felt I couldn’t, and now I’m glad, because I have learnt several lessons on the way. Which is what challenges are all about, I suppose!

6' scarf made with Guild challenge fleece - eventually!

How can I reconcile myself…

April 1, 2010

… to having become bionic? There’s nothing recycled about my new hip; it’s all-new titanium, ceramic & plastic grafted onto my somewhat-protesting femur & pevis. I think basically I am going to have to think of it that by replacing a worn-out part with something new to keep me on the road, I myself have become recycled.

So my opportunities for recycling-in-action have been somewhat limited for the last 7 weeks, though I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in my very-comfortable leather-effect ergonomic chair with matching footstool, gleaned from the Tip for a fiver when I realised we had nothing the right height for me to sit on after the op. So I’ve spent the time learning new skills & practising old ones, unashamedly using new materials – some bought-in pre-prepared handpainted wool tops, for example, to take part in the first round of the Ravelry UK Spinners Scraps Swap. But I did dye my own for Round 3… I also invested in some garden twine; I bought a book called “Quick Crochet, Huge Hooks” secondhand from a fellow-Raveller, and it sparked a little bit of inventiveness on my part. I looked at one project & thought, “That’d be even quicker & easier in double-ended Tunisian…”   Three hours later I had this:

String bag made from garden twine

But I forgot how they stretch, and made both the bag & the handle a bit too long (doesn’t matter, I can always wear it cross-ways anyway, better for my back) so I sat down for a further 2 hours & 10 minutes & refined the idea a bit further to to this:

A smaller, more manageable version of same...

 …which is a little more manageable. I’ll get round to posting the pattern shortly, whilst you go & research “double-ended Tunisian crochet” on YouTube & work out how you’re going to make or get hold of a 15 x 50 cm hook…! I bought mine from Mike Williams realising that it was going to be a worthwhile investment, but now I think I might have a go at “bodging” one up for rough projects like this. I’ve picked up a windfallen good straight cherry-plum stick to try with , so watch this space!

Peace at last!

November 24, 2009

Shawl, "blocking" after a little light fulling...

At long last I’ve caught up with myself a bit. After keeping my head down all week learning how to use my tri-loom (which I’m afraid I did buy new; I ran out of time to make one, even if  several 7′ lengths of seasoned oak had somehow materialised) I’ve finally completed a commission I was given back in the summer, for a shawl in rich browns, gold & oranges.  It’s been a learning process… I know now that the tri-loom produces a much more substantial & even weave than the scrap loom, but as the threads are under far more tension, haloed, “sticky” or underspun yarns are not the best materials to pick. So if they are what I happen to have to work with, back to the scrap loom, which is a much quicker technique too. But for top-quality stuff, the tri-loom it shall be.

In the meantime, my car has been filling up with goodies – there’s fabric, yarn, several nice handcranked sewing machines including a “Queen Alexandra” Jones FCS in fine shape, a sturdy 50s concertina sewing box and some very interesting books in there, as far as I remember! (Not to mention a bale of barley straw for the chickens & rabbits – it’s dry in there, and not in anyone’s way.)  But there they will probably have to stay until after the weekend, as we have guests and there’s enough “clutter” already inside.  I’ve also been busy networking on the Transition front; we’re planning a “Skills Taster” day early next year and I’m having quite a lot of fun going round to various groups & asking them to come & demonstrate.

I’ve also sold off my Louet S20 spinning wheel. I’m sad it had to go, but since my diagnosis I’ve realised why it had started to hurt to spin for any length of time on it; I needed a double-treadle or wide-treadle wheel. I chased a few on Ebay and won one, an EasySpin, which is absolutely beautiful & spins very nicely too, but is made of some kind of hardwood which is very brittle where it’s cut thin, such as the bobbin ends. So it’s not up to everyday life in a hectic household; I will try to hang onto it until I have my workshop as I do love it, but don’t want to risk damaging it. So what to use? As I already had quite a few Louet accessories & spares & their wheels seem to suit my style of spinning, as well as having a relatively small footprint, the answer was obvious. So I’ve dug into my rapidly-decreasing little savings pot & acquired a very lovely brand-new Louet S75, which I hope will be my “forever after” wheel. I haven’t had time to do much on her yet, but am working on two gorgeous Gotland fleeces, in very different colours but both beautifully soft, blended with a little angelina, and will post a pic when I’ve plied the first two bobbins-full together. The wheel is a dream to spin on; light & easy to treadle and very smooth, with the classic big Louet bobbins & good-size orifice. Lighter than the S20 to move, too, but with rubber feet so she doesn’t slip gently away from me as the S20 used to.

So now I have to behave myself for at least a year – NO more new equipment! I have enough supplies to keep me busy until next summer, by which time I should have acquired my bionic hip & be able to run my stall again, well stocked up!  Anything I really think I need will have to come to me secondhand or rescued, be made by me, or wait until my birthday and/or Christmas 2010. It shouldn’t be a hardship; I’m very lucky to have as much equipment as I do, and I really don’t have room for any more. So that’s my challenge to myself for the next year; to do what I need or want to do with what I already have, or can make for myself, am given or rescue.