Appropriately for the weather we've been experiencing, out comes the special snow-covered title. And a woven snowman. [NB It's hard to imagine now but the country was knee-deep in snow when the full version of this issue went out]
It's certainly the right weather to be wearing a cowl-neck. Or is that a polo neck? LB Handknits clears this up for us and you'll be surprised how many variations there are on the raised neckline.
Do you know the best way to collect cashmere fibre from a goat? Anne Merrow presents an article which explains. Maybe you'd like to try Salish knitting for extra warmth, spin a cabled yarn or make an ombre pompom?
Christmas jumpers are in the news. As a more ethical alternative to buying a 'throwaway' one, there are some handmade ones on show this month and (given the limited time available now) tips on how to use duplicate stitch and chain stitch to make a plain one more festive.
Read on for this month's collection of spinning-related news, views, cues and reviews; patterns, inspiration and finished projects. And a delightful number of pictures of human / sheep greetings. This is the edited, free issue for December 2017. Scroll to the bottom to find out how to receive a longer version of HSN a couple of weeks earlier.
Photo right: Surprise Snowman by Schacht using Zoom Loom squares. Cover photo John William Waterhouse, "Penelope and the Suitors" (aka "go away, I'm crafting")
Sheep put the Faroe Islands on the map
The Faroe Island archipelago is comprised of 18 rocky islands situated about half way between Scotland and Iceland.
More sheep live there (about 80,000 it turns out) than people.
In what looks suspiciously like a publicity stunt, Google have mounted their Streetview cameras onto some sheep in order to capture the beauty of the place. An entertaining video nonetheless, and an interesting glimpse of the place.
At time of writing, Google Maps' street view is available for the Faroe islands and you can explore away from the tarmac roads if you drop the little man onto one of the circles to see a 'photosphere'. But these appear to have been made by humans because you can see shoes or a tripod when you look down.
Wool Exploration in 2018
These Gotland sheep look suitably pleased that their breed has been chosen by KnitBritish as one of the first breeds in their 2018 wool exploration.
Each month there will be a specific breed for you to seek out and try. This can be commercial yarn (100% wool of the chosen breed) or handspun yarn.
Louise will collate and report the findings in the KnitBritish podcast. The first four breeds will be North Ronaldsay, Gotland, Ryeland and Jacob.
More information is in this blog post.
All wool is yarn, but not all yarn is wool
With no apologies, this is another mention for the KnitBritish podcast. You may have noticed that I rarely link to podcasts; it's just a personal preference for the brevity of the written word.
I mentioned the Wool Exploration just above. In this episode of her KnitBritish show, Louise discusses that project. She also spends some time talking about #wovember. I didn't fully appreciate that it has its foundations in campaigning for proper use of the term 'wool'. In particular, against the misappropriation of the term by the fashion industry, and the less deliberate misuse of the word generally.
In 2018 I hope to put a little more emphasis on British Wool in a number of ways, watch this space as 2018 unfolds.
Yarn bombers give 25 Hertford post boxes festive makeovers
Following on from the remembrance-day yarn-bombing reported in the last issue, Hereford woke to find its post boxes topped with some knitted delights including fishing penguins, santa and firefighters putting out a pudding.
The stunt aimed to raise £1000 for a hospice charity and it looks certain to smash that target.
If you're anywhere near, then there's an interactive map at the link below. If not, there's a great photo gallery.
Related: Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire and Stratford upon Avon .
Quarter of Christmas jumpers were worn once and discarded last year
Thanks to Kate Davies for flagging this newspaper article. One in four 'Christmas jumpers' purchased last year were either binned or are unlikely to be worn again. More than a third of people admit they only wear their jumper once in the festive period.
Kate says "I'm wearing [my Boreal] jumper today, just as I've worn it through six festive (and not so festive) seasons. I like this jolly jumper just as much now as I did when I first created it. The cuffs are worn and darned but it is still going strong."
I'll echo that, Boreal is a tasteful but eyecatching design to wear, not just at Christmas, and when you've spun the wool as well as knitted the garment, you certainly won't throw it away after wearing once.
I know that I'm speaking to the converted but I was shocked by these statistics. A quick Google shows that this isn't just a Christmas problem, the fashion industry is responsible for a vast amount of waste at all times of the year.
Click through for the wholly depressing statistics.
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From the Blogosphere
Polo neck, funnel neck, cowl neck? Variations on the wintry neckline
Who knew that there were so many types of raised neck for knitted garments?
LBHandknits was inspired to write this article after struggling to answer a question about the difference between a cowl neck and a polo neck.
Crafting your way to wellness
There a a few articles popping up about fibre crafting being good for stress relief, which is a dubious reflection of a season that's supposed to be joyous.
This one from L B says that the benefits of a crafting hobby go beyond the obvious.
A list of non-acrylic vegan yarns
An interesting conversation developed on the Hand Spinning News Ravelry group about vegan (or at least welfare-conscious) fibre.
The consensus seems to be that there are some dangerous myths about sheep welfare and that there are some environmental downsides to alternatives such as acrylic.
Thank you to all contributors because we obviously all have to make our own choices and the more well-informed those choices, the better.
All of this came to mind after seeing this list compiled by evinok. It's a list of 'non-acrylic, vegan' yarns. Animal alternatives that may be more environmentally-friendly than acrylic yarn.
Although this is a list of yarns, evinok lists the fibres they contain, and many of those fibres are available to us as spinners.
Conservation of Miss Busby's spinning wheel
What's left of this wheel was donated to The Australian War Memorial's Collection in very poor shape.
It's at least a hundred years old as it was used by Miss Augusta Dora Merewether Busby during the First World War. There's no word on how old it was then, but the conservators found evidence of previous repairs.
The memorial's objects conservation department have cleaned, stabilised and repaired the broken parts and replaced some missing ones (the drive wheel, not shown in the first picture, did exist but needed work). In this article there are more details and pictures of the restoration
Comb, shed, or shear? The best way to collect cashmere fiber
The title here is deceptive, this isn't a quick look at the best way to collect fibre from a goat. It's an interesting read about the goats of Kyrgistan, and attempts that are being made to improve the product as well as animal welfare through education and a new design of comb.
My link from the picture and below go to a summary of the article on the interweave blog. This link goes to the full article from Spin Off magazine which I accidentally found. As it appears in a Google search I don't think there will be a problem with me providing the link.
Spinning on a Scottish spindle
These spindles have occasionally come up in articles. They're referred to here as 'scottish spindles' but you may know the shape as a dealgan.
It combines the functionality of a spindle and a nosteppine, and a step-by-step guide is here on the Interweave site.
I don't usually recommend products, but I've seen some lovely dealgan spindles made by Rachel (who has a lathe and knows how to use it) Ravelry: Happay. I don't know whether she takes orders but contact her to find out more.
How much fibre do you need for a project?
It's always good when you get an actual answer to a question (even if a ballpark) rather than "it depends".
I tend to think in multiples of 100g, and Beth's ballpark figures are in ounces, so bear in mind that 4 ounces is about 100g.
I have to admit that this picture attracted me as much as the useful table of figures. Who doesn't love a photo of a human rubbing noses with a sheep?
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Tips and tutorials
There's a huge amount to learn from this innocent-looking patch-pocket.
Louisa talks about colour dominance - in short, how you hold your two colours determines now much your detail stands out from the background. Louisa links to two other blog posts which explain how this works and in all cases the photographs showing the difference are surprising.
Almost in passing, she mentions that she's using Salish knitting for this project. After some extensive research (ie I googled 'Salish knitting') it turns out that Salish knitting is the technique used by Cowichan knitters.
It makes a thicker warmer fabric while still being elastic and best of all it doesn't leave floats on the back to catch when Louisa puts her hands in these pockets
Tutorial: ombre pom-pom
Pompom tutorials are aplenty at the moment (though the current fashion seems to be for the faux-fur type).
If, like me, you're firmly in the "good old-fashioned yarn and cardboard discs" camp, then you'll find this tutorial interesting.
You'll notice that the green yarn used in the hat has a fade, and so do the pompoms. Read on to find out how that's done.
How to spin cabled yarn
From memory we've seen some articles recently about cabled yarns.
I tend to think of thicker yarns (they'll have the minimum of four plies) but Kate Larson says that this type of yarn is comfortable, retains shape, has good stitch definition and lasts when knit into socks.
Her article (originally appearing in the Summer 2017 Spin Off) gives a good step-by-step tutorial with troubleshooting.
No, really, the chart is correct: four tricks for reading lace charts
Recently someone contacted me (presumably having run out of places to turn). In 60 years she hadn't seen anything like this, but there it was as a grey square on her chart and the key said 'no stitch'.
I've a feeling this may be a result of computer charting software which insists on having the same number of squares in each row of the grid.
But it also serves to keep things nicely lined up in the chart. The answer to this and more chart-related questions is in this useful article.
Let's twist again
Team HSN's own NinjaBex is full of tips this month. Watch her make a twisted fringe using this five pound hair braider.
It looks fast and easy, and as Bex says, "because of the pull cord it puts in the same amount of twist each time".
Duplicate stitch and chain stitch
Wool and the Gang are at the spearhead of making knitting cool, cultivating instant (or at least fairly quick) gratification with their big needles and big yarn.
They have published many tutorials but this is a particularly good one. Their big yarn makes the steps very clear and their pictures demonstrate how effective these two techniques can be.
The two tutorials turn plain jumpers into eye-catching custom Christmas jumpers in no time.
A New Spin on Color by Alanna Wilcox
As I write this, there's still a little time to order for Christmas.
Beth reviews A New Spin on Color and is impressed by the content and the quality of the printed version.
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Sometimes just a picture is enough
...in which she finally finishes a sweater
The fibre used here is called "Romoca", a blend of Romney wool, mohair, and alpaca from Singleton Fiber Processing.
The spinning of this goes back a couple of years and I may have linked to it at the time. Now Janelle has finished the jumper and has posted lots of pictures along with lots of tips for making a jumper like this in handspun yarn.
Amazing stitch definition here in SJ's Plummy Mitts in her handspun targee. "They are incredibly squishy and cozy, and I kind of want to wear them all the time", she says.
More details and link to the pattern in this blog post.
SewPerfectPurls' Vortex Shawl
Thanks to SewPerfectPurls for sharing her Vortex Shawl with the Hand Spinning News Ravelry Group
She says "I ended up having to unexpectedly end this because the yarn was so underspun at the end of the skein."
She also notes that she severely blocked it.
This picture is another gem and sums up a spinner's relationship with sheep. It makes me look forward to the 2018 shows.
Obviously the fleece in the bag isn't from the sheep in the picture, but Rebecca does know the spinner who bought the white sheep's fleece and says "It is always a thrill to spin from someone you have met."
The larger part of this blog post is a good read about Rebecca ordering, collecting and sampling a Finn x Corriedale fleece.
I think I prefer this 'darkside' version of Kate Davies' Port Charlotte design from her Inspired by Islay book.
The slip-stitch design means that the colourful yoke is knit using only one colour per row.
Maria made the jumper using her handspun. Fibre is from Hilltop Cloud's Silk Road. Thanks to Katie for sharing.
Dog fur hats and headbands
These bright handspun hats use dog fur. Instagram user dogfibres says that "dog fur hats and headbands are very warm".
Pure eri silk
This month's sexy spindle shot looks incredibly sophisticated. It looks like pure gold being spun on this Jenkins Kuchulu. (Is actually eri silk.)
I see that Jenkins have recently introduced an even tinier Turkish spindle to their range than the Kuchulu; the 'Bee hummingbird', only 3 grams.
Thanks to spinneanne for the elegant picture.
Christmas handspun sweater
NinjaBex's Christmas Sweater uses handspun yarn from Spinzilla. It's shown here before steeking and blocking.
Earlier in the year after starting, Bex decided that there wasn't enough contrast between the yarns and overdyed the grey to make it darker.
The snowflakes are beaded and she's considering adding further snowflakes using duplicate stitch.
Vision becomes a reality
There are a number of pictures on threewatersfarm's Instagram feed showing the progress of this project from fibre to art yarn to finished woven scarf.
Alisa decided to spin two different yarns from two different braids, a single and a 'beehive yarn'.
She wove them by rigid heddle into this attractive and heavily-textured scarf
milancorrine's latest jumper does look glamorous and Christmassy (click through to the larger picture to see the colours properly).
Appropriately she spun the alpaca and silk last Christmas.
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A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.
I love using the Zoom Loom* (it's fast, addictive with very little waste) If you need further convincing, here are Interweave's five reasons why you should try it.
But I have to admit I've generally found patterns for Zoom Loom squares a little lacklustre.
I was amazed to find that this adorable snowman is made from zoom loom squares. Yes, you can draw up the edges of a square to make a ball, and sew more than one square together and draw up the edges to make larger balls.
Step-by-step instructions are on this page.
*Other pin looms are available
Little happy things
These socks look handspun but aren't. They are in a commercial yarn which has a handspun look.
They're making josiekitten happy. She says, "they are really cushy with the rounds of garter stitch. I haven't written up the pattern but will do so if you'd like it."
So write to josiekitten if you like the pattern. I'm guessing that it won't be too tricky to work the garter stitch into your favourite sock pattern if you want to get started before she does that.
Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West
The shawl shown in the picture is April's project, she made hers using aran weight handspun yarn and says that it's "cosy, just the right size to wear under a coat".
April says that the simple stockinette with garter ridges is "good autopilot knitting" and the changes of colour in her yarn kept her going because she wanted to see what colour would come next.
Crochet legwarmers by Kathryn Senior
As a teen of the 80s I can confirm that legwarmers did become very fashionable, and it says here that they've made a reappearance.
It's unusual to find a crochet pattern for these. The stitch pattern used here has sideways stretch, and also tapers to be narrower at the bottom, which all makes for a good fit.
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Zetta Scarf by Tabetha Hedrick
I do love the stitch pattern here, and some will love these bright colours but I would choose a more muted scheme.
Fortunately Tabetha says "You can easily work this scarf in one colour by ignoring the colour change notes or go full on personalised by working it in as many colours as you wish."
The pattern is both written and charted
Elodia Socks by by Sarah Jordan
I've bought this pattern though I may attempt to use the chart in a toe-up sock because yardage is of the essence when knitting with handspun. (When knitting toe-up you can divide your yarn into two by weight, and then simply knit the leg of each sock until you run out of yarn.)
Bottoms Up Booties by Anne Hanson
Bottoms-up sounds like an appropriate name for Christmas, as does the idea of warm booties.
Designer Anne says that they're a "quick, cute, giftable project to knit in december" and "a great candidate for that 'insurance' pile".
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Washing Machine: The Feature Film
While searching for these spinning stories I have to wade through vast numbers of news stories and articles about non-spinning-spinning-stuff, such as the kind of spinning that you do on a stationary bike in a smelly room, the kind that politicians do, cars and heicopters spinning out of control and more recently 'fidget spinners'.
But I've rarely turned up films about washing machines before now.
There's a shorter ad-length version and the feature-length film version for fans of slow TV. (Have you watched the Norwegian 'Knitting Night' yet? 8 hours of real-time knitting and spinning with a back-to-back challenge - now on Netflix )
Yes, it's an ad for the washer in the title role. And it seems to do a great job of washing already-spotless laundry. The film has limited dramatic structure, although there is a tense pause around a third of the way through when the supporting actress pops in the fabric conditioner. Or maybe a stray sock, I'm not sure.
But for me the genuinely compelling thing is that it has a soundtrack scored by Michael Nyman ('The Piano' among many other soundtracks plus many other minimalist compositions). The music follows the action of the film and just like an early silent film, Michael himself sits at a piano and performs alongside the washer.
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Happy spinning, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Shiela Dixon - Editor / curator
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