FO: Tendrils

And to close out Wool Week, I thought I’d leave you with a final FO.

I actually finished this shawl several months ago, but I only got round to blocking it last weekend.  I had the boards and pins out for my Glasgow Rose, so it made sense to finally finish this one off as well.

The pattern is Tendrils, by Susanna IC.  It’s one she designed for Twist Collective, my favourite online knitting magazine.  She specialises in crescent shawls shaped with short rows, and I’ve made a couple of her designs.  It’s a very versatile and flattering shape that makes the most of a skein of yarn.

This yarn is I Knit or Dye‘s Eat To the Beat.  It’s a lovely mix of silk and camel in an airy laceweight.  The yarn was a gift from my MIL, who bought it for me one year at Woolfest when I wasn’t able to go.  She clearly knows my tastes well: this dusky mottled purple is one of my favourite shades.

It’s a beaded shawl, using about 20g of 6/0 beads.  I really struggle with matching beads to yarn.  I’m nervous about too obvious a contrast, but too close a match risks the beads being lost in the pattern.  I’m hoping the smoky amethyst beads I’ve used here (which were a near perfect colour match for the yarn) will add a subtle sparkle without overpowering the shawl.

New Lanark

I was in Glasgow for the weekend a couple of weeks ago.  One of the highlights of the visit was a trip to New Lanark.  As probably the first model village in the UK, it’s now one of Scotland’s six world heritage sites, owned by a preservation trust who manage the site.

The mill is located in a beautiful and sheltered valley south of Glasgow.  It has its own mill-race or ‘lade’ (the Scots word), which is a diverted branch of the Clyde.  There are spectacular waterfalls and scenery.

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New Lanark was built as a cotton mill, and the most interesting stages of its development occurred under the stewardship of one of its owners, Robert Owen.  Unusally for social reformers of the period, Owen was an atheist, and New Lanark was built and run on strict Benthamite principles.  Owen’s workers were able to access good food, education and healthcare, but were subject to very strict routines and oversight.  New Lanark has some fascinating exhibitions showing preserved living accommodation and working conditions, as well as the history of the mill.

But one of the chief attractions for me was that New Lanark is still a working mill.  The trustees have switched production from cotton to wool, producing a highly-regarded (by those in the know) range of hard-wearing and tweedy yarns in a wide range of colours.

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Their spinning is still powered by the river, except with a modern turbine instead of water wheels.  The Mill is entirely energy self-sufficient, its turbines providing power to the whole site (including a hotel and spa) as well as returning power to the National Grid.

Photo by Bronagh Miskelly

Part of the tour includes a walk through their working mill, using a lot of the existing belt-driven machinery, with the main turbine-powered spindle running the length of the room at ceiling height and always turning.

And at the end of the room was a basket full of finished yarn.  Big squishy hanks of it, rather like those body pillows that you see sometimes.  It was very tempting to try to stuff one into my bag and take it away with me, but I’m not sure they would have let me.  I think it would have been a little obvious if I’d tried to sneak it out with me, sadly.

And a working mill that produces its own yarn means a factory shop, hopefully full of bargains.  New Lanark yarn is tremendous value anyway, but buying straight from the manufacturer offers the prospect of unusual items not normally sold retail.  The shop had a bulging remnants basket, which was very tempting, but what I came home with was coned yarn.  It’s fantasically good value, at just under £23 for 570g of yarn.  Though it comes with the spinning oil still in it.  I’ve never worked with oiled yarn before, so I’ll have to do some research about how to use it.

IMG_1998I bought two shades, both in their wool/silk DK tweed.  Firstly, I bought two cones in a lovely warm brown shade.  The colour has a slight purple shade running through it, and some pretty white tweed neps.  I’m planning this will become a Rhinecliff cardigan, but I’ll probably lengthen the pattern quite a bit to mid-thigh rather than have it sit on the hip.  That should give me a lovely, hard-wearing cardigan I can wear with jeans or with a dress.  And you’ll see that I had the same problem taking this picture that I did with my Missy yarn!

IMG_2002I also bought a single cone of the same yarn in this beautiful, bright peacock blue.  I have no idea what it will become, but I just couldn’t resist the colour – it’s so vibrant.

I managed to restrain myself pretty well, I think.  I could have bought an awful lot of yarn there.  They had some lovely 1kg cones of aran weight tweed that were calling to me as well.  I suppose I’ll just have to go back another time.

New Lanark is a great place for a day out, particularly if you’re interested in industrial and social history, and textiles.  I’d strongly recommend a visit.

And did I mention they make their own ice cream?  It’s fabulous.



Missy Yarn

I’m feeling a little sad that I’m not at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally this year.  I keep seeing photos from friends showing all the beautiful yarn and amazing creations, and it’s making me a bit jealous.  I would say that my bank balance is thanking me, but one of the reasons I’m not going this year is that I’ve spent my money on rugby tickets, and I’m not exactly stinting on the yarn front either.

You might remember that I found a new indie yarn dyer while I was at Nine Worlds this year.  Third Vault Yarns specialise in geeky-inspired colourways.  Lola has a fantastic eye for colour and is producing some beautiful dying with a witty SF touch.  (Please, somebody buy the Nightcrawler and Vortex yarns before my hand slips.)

Last week she was polling views on which of three test dyes should be her new Waters Of Mars colourway, commemorating the discovery of water on Mars with a Who-inspired colourway.  I fell instantly in love with one of her test skeins and bought it.  More on that in a later post.

But while we were talking on Facebook, she spotted my Missy cosplay profile picture.  And this happened.   I ended up entirely accidentally commissioning Lola to custom dye me some Missy inspired yarn.  I’ve never commissioned a custom dye before, so it was really exciting.  Naturally, the yarn is purple and red.  I asked for two skeins, on her pure merino Companion 4 ply, to give me some options about what to make.  I’d really welcome ideas, actually, about what this could become.

It took me a few goes to get that picture, by the way.  The first few looked a bit like this.  

What a helpful cat!

FO: Jasper Baby Cardigan

I’ve just finished the second of my run of gifts for the autumn 2015 babies.  This is the Jasper Baby Cardigan.

The pattern was originally designed for a 4ply yarn, but I’ve worked it in Baby Cashmerino.  And yes, it has sleeves – I just tucked them in for this picture.

The thing I found toughest about this pattern was the written instructions for the cable and lace panel on the fronts.  I’ve got so used to working from charts that I really struggled to work out what I was doing.  I even ended up putting this one to one side for a while and starting something else.  It was only a weekend away with a long train trip each way and deliberately limited options that made me pick it up again.

But to even do that I had to spend some time on the train turning the written instructions into a chart.  And I’m glad I did.  One thing that wasn’t clear from the written instructions was that one is only meant to work once into the double yarnovers of the row below.  That only became apparent once I’d started charting the pattern, counted the stitches and looked at how the knit and purl stitches stacked up on top of each other.

I ended up finishing this one just in the nick of time too.  I was sewing the buttons onto it on the train on my way into work, on the colleague it was intended for’s last day before she went on maternity leave.

Wool Week 2015

Here in the UK it’s Wool Week, a festival organised by the Campaign for Wool to highlight the beauty and versatility of wool as a fibre.  There are lots of things going on around the country to help celebrate it.

It’s also National Knitting Week.  The UK Handknitting Association are encouraging us all to get involved by doing one of the following things:


  • Commit to Knit – a campaign to get 1,000 knitters and crocheters to sign up to make at least one item for charity this autumn.  My own favourite knitting charity is p/hop, a fundraiser for Medecins Sans Frontieres (known as Doctors Without Borders in the USA).  They run an honesty box system, seeking donations in exchange for patterns kindly donated by designers.  You make a donation based on the estimated enjoyment you’ve had making the item.  Hence p/hop: pennies per hour of pleasure.  They have an active group on Ravelry, which engages in all sorts of fundraising fun, and you will see the p/hop stand raising money at many UK yarn festivals.
  • This Friday is the Campaign for Wool Woolly Hat Day, in aid of the Mission to Seafarers.  Knit or make a hat to raise funds for them.
  • Knitting groups are a great way to meet new people, learn new techniques or to just have an excuse to knit without interruption for a while. My craft group at work are going to have a special extra session for National Knitting Week, with an extra push to encourage new people – including learners – to come along.
  • And if you don’t fancy being quite that organised, why not knit on the bus or in a public place and chat to the people who ask you about your knitting.  Or just wear your best hand knits all week.

Me, I’m going to try to up the knitting content on this blog during Wool Week/Knitting Week.  I started last night with a post about a recent FO, but expect lots of yarny content this week from me.


FO: Glasgow Rose Shawl

There’s something magical about blocking lace knitting. You take something that’s crumpled and eggboxy and turn it into the airiest, crispest, most beautiful thing.  Blocking lace appeals to the same part of me that likes a good Ugly Duckling story.

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I took my Glasgow Rose Shawl on holiday with me to Prague (blog post on that to follow when I get the time to put my thoughts in order).  I was desperate to finish it and have time to block it before going to Glasgow for a long weekend (blog post also intended), where I planned to wear it. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired design was perfect to take and wear in his home town.

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I’d finished the main set of charts quite a while before I left for Prague, but I had the option to keep doing repeats of the main section and edging until I (nearly) ran out of yarn to make it larger.  So the clock was ticking.  I finally cast it off with 15g of yarn remaining, with each repeat of the edging charts taking … about 15g of yarn.  Which is close enough for comfort!  I really didn’t want to risk another repeat.  All in all, I managed five extra repeats of that edging chart, giving me a much bigger shawl than it might otherwise have been.

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As always, the blocking process did not disappoint.  My shawl grew by about a third once it was wet and pinned out, and the proportions changed completely.  What was quite a shallow triangle pre-blocking became much more even.  I could probably have even squeezed a bit more size out of it if I’d stretched it further, but I didn’t want to risk snapping the single ply yarn (single ply can be pretty fragile) and, let’s face it, I’d run out of space on my blocking mats on the spare bed.

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For those of you wondering, the yarn is Madeleine Tosh Prairie in a colourway called Coquette.  I bought it at Unwind in Brighton last year.  It’s a very intensely dyed single ply yarn, with subtle variegation in the colour.

The pattern (designed by Lucy Hague) is relatively straightforward.  It’s worked from the point up, with the edging knitted as one goes.  The most complicated part is the rose motif at the point, which includes some quite complex 3-into-7 stitches.  It needed a lot of concentration,.  But by the time I’d got to the top, the bold and graphic design meant it had transitioned into pub knitting.

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I’m really pleased with how it turned out.