The variety of natural things that yield colour for dyeing is remarkable and there are things such as lichens, twigs and cones that can be gathered at this time of the year.
If you're relatively new to spinning, welcome, there are articles this month that will help you along - Jillian Moreno writes about knowing your worsted from your woollen yarn and Laura Hulslander outlines some things that you need to know about knitting or crocheting with handspun yarn.
Blending using hand cards, combs or drum carders is well-covered this time - in a couple of cases to make a gradient, in another case to mix a deep colour that has a 'heathery depth'.
Appropriately for the time of year, the pattern choices include some cosy cowls, hats and socks, even some underwear! And for the pets, a pet-bed tutorial, some dog-coat patterns and a finished handspun dog jumper.
Read on for this month's collection of spinning-related news, views, cues and reviews; patterns, inspiration and finished projects. This is the free issue for February 2018.
Find out how to receive a longer version of HSN a couple of weeks earlier.
Photo right: LB Handknits, recovering shawlophobic. Cover photo by Mauricio Fanfa from Unsplash
- In the news
Wool and knitting in the Olympic games
- From Blogland
Natural dyeing, blending
- Tips and tutorials
Colour theory, fractal spinning, combing and chair height
Banana khadi, new process for 'spinning' fine fibres and treating natural fibres
50 Tips from Shetland Knitters DVD
Showing off some of the best images I've seen this month
- Free patterns
A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn
- Not so free patterns
More project ideas which will work well with handspun yarn
Essential 2018 woolly dates for your diary
- And finally...
Believe it or not...
In the news
Lifechanging knitted knockers for breast cancer survivors
Barbara Demorest experienced her lowest point sitting in her doctor's office after her mastectomy surgery. her doctor suggested knitted knockers and her friend found a pattern online.
"when I put that in my bra, it was so soft and light and beautiful, and I could give a hug with it ... I could wear a regular bra and shop like I always could that it was literally life-changing to me."
There are now a number of donation points across the US and more information and patterns are at www.knittedknockers.org.
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From the Blogosphere
Wool Exploration: Ryeland
The third breed in the KnitBritish Wool Exploration is Ryeland, the "teddy bears of the sheep world".
Louise invites knitters everywhere to spin and/or knit with the chosen breed and write their findings.
Episode 100 of the KnitBritish podcast has the results of January's North Ronaldsay exploration (skip to 45:10 for the North Ronaldsay part). I do recommend a listen, some of the information about their habits and diet is delightful.
Possibly the best fun you can have with wool!
Is this the most fun you can have with wool? Freyalyn thinks so.
This started out as naturally-dyed fleece in two colours. Freyalyn has used a drum carder to make batts in the original red and yellow colours, plus the in-between blends. She says "you get such a lovely heathery quality of colour when you dye in the wool and then blend, rather than dye the spun yarn".
Jen and Rich of Whispering Pines have shared this picture from the Shetland Museum showing the 'rooing'. It looks like an activity for all the family.
Some breeds have a natural weak spot in the fleece called the 'rise' which allows the fleece to naturally shed, or in this case be easily taken off by hand.
The old picture is quite large and sharp if you click to enlarge.
This is Victoria looking characteristically unamused. In Alexander Melville's portrait she's holding a blanket, needles and yarn. The Empress knitted and crocheted for charity.
Ann Kinstone is giving a talk with the title 'Crafty Victorians'. Here she shares some of her findings.
My great white whale
This is a very interesting demonstration of how multiple colours can blend together to make a single colour with a "heathery depth".
The yarn is to make another shawl similar to one that she lost.
In this case Fiber Sprite Pamela has blended a number of different component colours and it's fascinating that they combine to make a deep green. She used combs, pulling the fibres through a diz.
Woolen and worsted: what does it mean?
If you're relatively new to spinning you may have seen these terms but not be clear about what they mean.
This is a very comprehensive article by Jillian Moreno explaining the differences which include look & feel, stitch definition, depth of colour, durability, warmth and weight.
This article is written for knitters but still very applicable to spinners.
When spinning teachers disagree
I'm sure we've all heard a teacher make an assertion that seems doubtful, or that contradicts something that we've heard elsewhere.
Ann Merrow says that it's better to try and see what happens. She quotes Maggie Casey, "It depends" and Judith MacKenzie, "You can if you like".
I was enjoying this article until I came to the story of two famous spinning wheel makers who "once literally took a disagreement outside". Wait - who? When? Who won?
If anyone knows about that, please do tell. In the meantime, Ann's article is a good read. A reminder not to take everything at face value. Listen, research and test.
How long did it take you to weave this scarf?
Susan Horton writes about that moment when a customer looks at the price label, asks how long a scarf takes to make and comments that she's doing well. But the price actually works out to less than minimum wage, without taking design, sampling, fixing problems and other things into account.
Once again, "It depends" may be the best answer. At least it's an opportunity to educate someone about our crafts.
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Tips and tutorials
Tricks for choosing colours
It's a difficult balance to strike. Being adventurous or creative in a new project without spending lots of time and money on something that you won't like.
There's nothing very magical about these tricks, but they are worth a read because there's some useful colour-theory within.
Spinning fractal yarn
Fractal spinning is a very effective technique, it produces more graceful and even striping in the knitted fabric. The technique can be described in a few words (and often is) but if you'd like more then Fiber Sprite has written loads of details with pictures
Using single and double pitch combs
Combing and carding prepare wool differently. Combing aligns the fibres and separates the better / longer fibres.
Here is combing in two parts. My main link is what Beth calls a 'short bit' about combing (20 mins) in which she demonstrates her combing method, comb safety and also the difference between single and double pitch combs.
You may first want to look at this page about terminology. Beth defines pitch, single pitch, double pitch, mini combs and more.
Spinning chair height
This is a fairly inconclusive article ("do some experimenting") but this is a subject that I've rarely seen discussed, if ever. It's very interesting to read someone's thoughts about her sitting / treadling style.
Note that there's a very useful comment from a reader, giving a formula for calculating the best height and depth for your chair.
Pulling roving from a drum carder with a diz
Don't worry if you don't speak German, there are no words in the video!
Chantimanou demonstrates how to pull a roving from a drum carder and chain it into a very neat-looking braid.
How to reclaim handspun yarn
This is Benjamin of Schacht Spindle Co looking very happy with his herringbone woven scarf.
The yarn was originally crocheted into a vest that he wore many times before it had a hole eaten into it.
Rather than mend, he decided to unravel and use the yarn in a different project.
He writes details of reclaiming and making the scarf.
stretchy Drive Bands
A poly drive band is a great addition to a single-drive wheel. It's grippy and therefore requires very little tension. It really does make a difference to the ease of your treadling.
If you have one it may have become stretched so that it no longer fits your smaller whorls. Beth discusses these bands and some tips for keeping them working longer. She also gives some alternative sources for the material.
Handspinning Tips from 40 Years of Spin Off
There are a couple of practical plying tips here, along with words of wisdom and good opinions.
A couple of these tie in with other stories elsewhere in this issue - "Always value your work by putting a fair price on your services" and "answer questions with good, coherent answers, the more appreciative the public becomes of what it takes".
Don't be quick to judge
It's well known that blocking makes a dramatic difference to lace knitting.
Our own Ninja Bex demonstrates what a difference the process also makes to colourwork. Says Bex, "don't judge your fair isle until it's washed and blocked".
Banana khadi makes for a-peel-ing attire
An assistant professor at an Indian university has perfected a technique to soften the fibres in banana leaves so that they can be spun and woven into fabric.
It does sound as if the fibres are being extracted and softened rather than pulped and extruded as per many of the manufactured cellulose fibres that are available to us.
Less moisture in natural fibers
I find this a very optimistic story. The summary at the top of the page says in a few sentences that natural fibres are better in many ways that man-made fibres and that with a little science, one main disadvantage can be overcome.
it's the first time I've read "biological transformation". This means that we're looking forward to a future using more sustainable natural materials rather than unsustainable oil and coal.
Read more about a new treatment to make natural fibres less absorbent.
If you like Yvonne, click the image to find her page, you can use next and previous to explore more cartoons, and join the mailing list for a regular digest email.
Jigsaw - online
Why not try an Yvonne jigsaw on your computer or tablet? I've set them up with 35 - 42 pieces, just the right number for a coffee-break challenge and you gradually reveal the cartoon.
Thanks so much to Amy King for the idea, she takes photographs of her own sheep and 'jigsaws' them. You can follow her blog or sign up for her newsletter.
Keeping this wheel spinning
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Sometimes just a picture is enough
We have blanket
Louisa says that her blanket is "soft and warm and light". She made it from leftover yarns, with some overdyed green.
There are many more details of the weaving, construction and finishing in the post.
Silver birch cushion
You may remember Team HSN's own Jenn writing about the Norfolk Horn breed last year.
This beautiful finished project uses some of her Norfolk Horn fleece. It includes silk and there are some other breeds in there. Jenn says "Knitting the square on the diagonal is perfect for using up random bits of yarn of diverse nature and letting the yarn show off".
Spring-y felted singles
Knittingsarah is looking forward to the spring with this particular braid of fibre.
She doesn't feel that singles are her strong area or that this palette is within her comfort zone, but she started the project as an exercise in using the larger whorl of her wheel.
I think the resulting skein is very attractive and she says that it changes depending on the angle that you look at it.
The post has a lot of information about the fibre and colours. Sarah has also written a tutorial for felting singles yarn like this.
Daria's ragdoll cat socks
TutleyMutley takes pet-fur spinning commissions and spun this rag-doll cat yarn a couple of years ago. She declined to knit the yarn at the time but has since been persuaded to do so.
She has made a pair of socks and a pair of gloves. She says that the yarn became softer as she knit with it, "this bedsock has exploded into ploofy softness!"
How the world's softest wool is made
Mati Ventrillon is a crofter and knitwear designer / producer living on Fair Isle.
(The title of the Youtube video is probably misleading. As Mati says in the video, Shetland was once known as one of the softest wools. The trophy now probably goes to merino breeders.)
She has her wool processed, dyed and spun at Jamieson's and knits by machine. By contrast she demonstrates shearing using hand clippers.
The video shows brief clips of the whole process from sheep to finished jumper. With thanks to Sherill for sharing.
Notes From a Recovering(?) Shawlophobic
Although LB Handknits is a self-confessed shawlophobic, she is "ridiculously happy" with her improvised "basic triangle shawl with some eyelets".
The yarn is handspun Gotland yarn from Woolly Mammoth Fibres.
Time to start plying
This month's sexy spindle shot is a collection of happay's own tiny dealgan spindles with neat cops, arranged geometrically. The singles look very tweedy. I've not found a picture yet of the finished plied yarn.
Simple knit cap
Dj Stefek's cap demonstrates that a very simple stitch pattern is good for showing off beautiful colour changes in handspun yarn.
The fibre is "Haunui NZ Halfbred/silk blend fibre from @blacksheepfibre".
Another plain and simple design, this time in a solid handspun.
The pattern is Perfect Process by Stitchnerd. It's a pattern that uses measurements and percentages rather than stitch count, which means that it automatically adjusts for different weights of yarn.
Handspun Esker Scarf
This project shows off the beautifully-executed gradient in this handspun yarn. The stitch pattern repeats coincide very nicely with the colour changes.
This pattern is the free Esker Scarf by Jen May.
Another geometrically-arranged spindle collection courtesy teatime.creations.uk with a beautiful deep green fibre.
She says that she's using her entire collection because she's trying to put less fibre on each spindle which keeps them easier to flick.
Knitted pictures of Oxfordshire
it's amazing how much the seasons change the landscape. I initially took these knitted pictures of Oxfordshire to be different scenes, but they're made using the same pattern, just with different colours (and a couple of embroidered seasonal details).
There are lots of work-in-progress snaps and details of the techniques in the post. thetwistedyarn is clearly pleased with the result.
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A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.
Mamelucker by Maja Karlsson
February has been fairly typical here in the UK; cold snaps with frost, ice and some snow.
How about these shorts to help keep the chills out. "The ribbed side wedges provide for a very good fit. They are perfect as warm underwear on the skiing tour or as a fashionable accessory on the dance floor."
Thank you to Lena of A Wee Bit Knitty for recommending.
Gummy Worms Hat by Colours of Northern Ireland
Colours of Northern Ireland's hat uses her own handspun art-yarn 'Gummy Worms' which is approximately 5 wraps per inch.
Click through to see the yarn as well as the finished hat. She's included full instructions on the page, as well as some useful tips for getting hats to fit.
Bluemoon by Jillian Moreno
This cowl is designed for a thick-and-thin spiral-ply handspun art yarn (one thin ply and one that has fat puffs). Jillian admits that it's not easy to tell what the stitches are after you've knit them with this kind of yarn.
It's made on a 10mm needle which makes an open gauge but 100g of woolly puffs around your neck is sure to be warm.
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Vintersol by Jennifer Steingass
This type of yoked jumper is smart and very warm. You can use handspun yarn throughout or just for the colours in the yoke.
The pattern calls for Worsted weight (9 wpi) but the designer suggests that you could hold two strands of light fingering weight.
Equilibrium Cowl by Carolyn Kern
This cowl is reversible - not just the same pattern on the opposite side with opposite colours, but a different pattern. It's not double-knitting but a tube construction.
That double-layer of stranded colourwork makes it warm too.
It asks for 330 - 400 yards of worsted-weight (9 wpi) yarn. Alpaca is suggested.
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If their lordships are regular HSN readers then they will have been grateful for the advice in a couple of stories in May 2017's issue.
In a nightmare scenario, they're batting away moths in the chamber of the House of Lords. There are fears for artwork and soft furnishings, and that their clothes "will be turned to lace".
Mice are regularly seen too, possibly dwelling in the historic woolsack.
This all results in a large pest-control bill for the taxpayer. One obvious solution to the mouse problem has been ruled out by health and safety.
Pest controllers have deployed pheremone traps and even a hawk.
My own advice to the peers is that the pheremone traps are pretty effective. They should also regularly hoover or otherwise disturb every inch of carpet and anything else that the moths might like. Particularly in corners and under furniture. The moths love areas which are dark and undisturbed.
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Edinburgh Yarn Festival
15 - 17 March 2018, Edinburgh Corn Exchange
(classes from Friday 19 January)
A celebration of all things related to yarn, wool, knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving and felting. A fantastic market place with around 100 selected vendors, great workshops and a host of other attractions
28 - 29 April 2018, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells
Promoting wool and natural fibre production and its use.
Exhibitors and trade stands covering all aspects of felting, knitting, weaving, spinning, crochet and textile art with raw materials, equipment, books and finished products for sale. Competitions and a range of hands-on workshops.
A list of accommodation and camping in the surrounding area is available on the Wonderwool website.
Fri 22 and Sat 23 June 2018, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Woolfest was founded to provide a showcase and a celebration of the best of wool and wool crafts.
The event is all about creativity and design with beautiful quality, amazing colours and skilled craftsmanship.
British Wool Show (formerly British Wool Weekend Show)
Friday 10 and Saturday 11 August, York Auction Centre, Murton Lane, Murton, York, YO19 5GF
Supporting the Campaign for Wool.
Exciting treasures to discover; wool from fleece to finished items and other items you will need to spin, weave, knit, crochet, hand dye, cross stitch, embroider or make felt.
The Wool Event, Masham Sheep Fair
Saturday 29 Sep and Sunday 30 Sep 2018, Masham Town Hall
Craft market and fleece stalls, specialising in British wool to compliment the sheep-related events that fill the square of Masham over the weekend.
Perth Festival Of Yarn
8 and 9 September 2018. Dewars Centre, Glover St, Perth
Bringing together independent dyers, farmers, knitters, spinners, felters and weavers. A quarter of the 60 confirmed vendors will have materials, tools and equipment relating to spinning.
Classes will run over the weekend including two spinning classes led by Janet Renouf-Miller.
29 and 30 September 2018, Skipton Auction Mart, North Yorkshire
For you if you love yarn and are passionate about all things woolly. It aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity of wool, cotton, linen and silk fibres in all their forms.
Bakewell Wool Gathering
Bakewell Agricultural Centre Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October
This year sees the sixth year of the Bakewell Wool Gathering, an event for wool lovers in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales.
There will be exhibitors, demonstrations of fibre crafts and a fleece stand selling plenty of local fleece
Shiela Dixon - Editor / curator
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