Monday, 31 December 2012


2012 has been an adventurous year. The weather has been dreadful, but fortunately everything else has been fantastic.

January saw winds strong enough to peel roofs off houses, the launch of handblended fibre club, and my converted barn neared completion.


February was the coldest month of the winter, our water supply froze up, and I moved in to my barn.

March saw the arrival of the chickens, the daffodils appearing, in the hottest March I've ever known, I was wearing shorts and sweating as I dyed fibre in the caravan. at the time I was worrying that a dry summer might mean we ran out of water and I wouldn't be able to do much more dyeing that year, if only I'd known what was in store!

April was a busy month, I was in the last stages of preparing for WonderWool, my first proper show, but the weather was still doing odd things, this frost put paid to any hopes of fruit from our orchard this year. 

I also took HilltopCloud to it's very first Fibre Festival, it was cold, very cold, but I had a lovely time meeting lots of online customers for the very first time.

In May, I got inventive and worked out how to use a Singer sewing machine treadle to power my drum carder, I then got even more drum carder envy on our guild trip out to Quarry Bank Cotton Mill, I went to Shropshire show and was interviewed on the radio about spinning. 

June was a busy month, and my laptop dyed on me, I did however take HilltopCloud to Woolfest where it rained, and rained, and rained. For my birthday I got a Charkha.

In July we got our bees, and I visited FibreEast, and handed over my Woolsack cushion as part of the cultural Olympiad. 

I also developed new labels for my fibre.

August didn't see much of a change in the weather, but we did get our first slow worm sighting of the summer, and work started on my deck from my upstairs door in the barn. 

September was still wet and cold, but I did go over to Welshpool to see the Tour of Britain cycle race, I also started my blogposts featuring small quantities of handspun yarn, I'm always after new ideas, particularly as samples for shows, please leave me a comment if you think you've done something particularly yummy. 

In October I did a series of posts featuring things customers had made using my Learn to Spin kits. We enjoyed reclaiming our beaches from the tourists, and I went up to Glasgow for the Glasgow School of Yarn

November was cool and misty, perfect for wearing my new Warriston jumper, I also ran my first full scale workshop for my guild. I took a break from work, headed inland, and drove through a beautiful temperature inversion

I've just been out to take photos of yet more flooded rivers, we're currently experiencing yet more heavy rain, the chickens are miserable so I've just put them in the polytunnel to dry out a little. 

My over-riding memory of 2012 has been rain, the wet stuff falling from the sky has been unrelenting for much of the year. I know Wales is renowned for it's rain, but it's been a bit much. 2012 has also been the year which has seen me turn HilltopCloud in to my full time, wage paying job. I hope 2013 treats me just as kindly, and I'm excited that I'm going to be at far more shows this year.

Thank You for your support this year.

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Rain

It's rained.... a lot.
It's rained on top of ground that was already saturated, the rain has never really stopped all summer, you might remember the flooding in the Aberystwyth area earlier this summer. Six months on and we've got floods again.
Every time I mention rain and flooding there are always some very kind people who post or tweet asking me if we're ok. We're actually quite a long way inland and it's the rain that falls on us that causes the flooding down river. We went for a walk yesterday morning, after a day of rain and already the water levels in the river was dropping, the floods rise quickly and fall quickly round here.

This is the River Dugoed at the bottom of our valley, we live around 30metres above the height of the river, it also runs through a very steep cut gorge, the noise of the river is incredible, but if it ever reaches our house then the apocalypse has probably arrived!

Oh, and it's still raining... 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Seasons Greetings

Have a very merry Christmas everyone, hope that Santa brings you lots of goodies, particularly fibrey ones, I know a few people will be getting something nice in their stockings, there are some very considerate husbands and partners out there!

The shop is staying open over the holidays, today is my last day of work, but I'll be answering emails. BoB parcels are going to go out on the 27th.

Post will be pretty unaffected, the post office will be open on my usual Monday and Thursday posting days so I'll carry on sending things out as normal.

I'm going away for New Year, not quite sure of the dates yet, but I'll be starting on the Handblended parcels when I get back.

Thank You for making 2012 such a fantastic year, here's to 2013 being just as good, if not better.


Saturday, 15 December 2012


This was the fibre that went out for the handblended club in August. It was inspired by the Mawddach estuary, just down the road from our house. I wanted to pick up the magical murky swirling colours you get as the river enters the sea. It also picks out the tones of the gorse bushes in the foreground. 
Coming up with this blend was a challenge, there are so many beautiful shades, but I've found the key with blends is to keep things simple, trying to include too many aspects of the inspiration doesn't produce as harmonious a blend. 
One of the key things I do when I'm working on a blend is to sample, drafting blends colours further, and a smooth yarn often looks very different to the original fluffy fibre. 

Here's a skein of the finished yarn, a subtle blue, with hints of brown, a colour that will go with lots of things, and look good when worn by lots of people. 

Things have been a bit busy round here as people do their Christmas shopping, there are going to be quite a few new spinners over the next few weeks. Hopefully in the New Year I'll be able to be a better blogger, and post here a bit more often.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Wooly Christmas

I've just finished putting up my Christmas decorations. They're pretty minimal, and long time blog readers will recognise them from previous posts.
The Christmas music is on, and I'll be wrapping presents as soon as I finish writing this. I'm using brown paper this year, tied up with leftover bits of handspun, and the tags printed from here.

There's rather a lot of wool going on in my decorations. This advent calendar is made from wool felt, just stitched up round the edges and then a number embroidered on the flap. Slip in the sweet treat of your choice, and when you open it take out the patterned disc so you know where you're up to. The pattern is here

This is my nod to a Christmas tree, it could do with a little more stuffing as the poor things is a little dumpy, it nestles nicely next to the phones, and hides the dust on the Freesat box nicely! Pattern here

And finally my growing collection of Christmas stockings. Two are hand sewn and embroidered the rest are knitted. Now who can I persuade to fill all of them with goodies on Christmas morning?

Speaking of goodies, dates for Christmas posting
Asia, New Zealand, Far East, Australia- 5th December
Africa, Caribbean, Central and South America, Middle East- 7th December
Eastern Europe, USA, Canada- 10th December
Western Europe- 12th December
UK- 18th December

Though if you wanted to point a relative in the direction of something, then you could always try my handblended club. Signups have just opened and you'll get a parcel of wooly goodness at the start of January, February and March. Or there are gift vouchers available here. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Out of the fog

The last couple of weeks have been going past in a bit of a blur, Christmas is coming, and with it the (very welcome) up turn in sales of Learn to Spin Kits, and general bustle that we all get at this time of year as social occasions come round as a welcome distraction from the weather.

This weekend I decided a day off was in order so took myself off to my friend Katherine. As the crow flies she lives about 15 miles inland, of course this being mid-Wales the route doesn't go as the crow flies and the drive takes a surprisingly long time.
The weather in our valley was beautiful for a change, and unusually as I headed inland the fog rolled in.  Normally the opposite is true, our valley is the first hills that the weather fronts hit as they come in off the sea and we get the corresponding amount of rain.
As I got near to Katherine's house, driving up the narrow country lanes, I emerged out of the fog.

Of course with in the next half hour the fog had carried on rolling up the hill, and we spent the rest of the day in the gloom, such is the way of living in the UK in the winter, I'm already ready for spring, or at least a bit of snow. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Or something like that.
Inspiration for writing blog posts is becoming a bit lacking at the moment. The shortening days and poor weather haven't helped, there's not much going on that's worth photographing right now.

It's also bee a rather busy week or so.  Last Thursday I heading north to collect a new-to-me spinning wheel. I'm now the proud owner of a Matchless, and I can honestly say it lives up to the hype. I've always been a bit sceptical about expensive spinning wheels, but having now spun on one, I can honestly say it's worth every penny. Keep an eye out for a second hand one though, I paid just over half the price of a new one, and despite being nearly as old as me (made in 1988), it spins beautifully.

This weekend was also the first time I ran a full day workshop for a guild on colour blending. I used my own guild as a bit of a test run, and it worked just how I'd planned. I used to be a teacher so I'm used to engaging with people about new ideas, and explaining new concepts, but it's still a relief that the random thoughts in my head can be translated in to something that others can understand!
I've just been contacting all the local spinning groups and guilds about visiting them, but if you are a member of a spinning group or guild and would like me to come and run a workshop then get in touch.

I love talking about what I do, and feel very lucky that I get to do it full time. Though of course, it's not all plain sailing, this comic in particular has made me smile this afternoon. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Knitting with handspun

I love knitting with my handspun. 
The texture, is amazing, and I love that I can spin up yarn that I could never buy in the shop. 

This is Shaelyn, knitted slightly larger by adding more repeats, using 200g of fibre from the March edition of my handblended club. This fibre had a few sceptics when it arrived in the post. 

The base colour was blue, but I'd picked to pair it with an accent colour of bright pink, however, when you spun it up you ended up with a tweedy style yarn.

The fibre was a blend of Shetland, Merino and Silk, nice and soft, yet strong, and with a sheen from the silk. 
You don't see the tweedy look from a distance, but get close, and the pink flecks become more obvious. 

If you want to enable a few more people to be able to knit or crochet with their handspun then I've just added a new smaller Learn to Spin kit to the shop. It contains 50g of British processed Ryeland roving, in white or brown. Ryeland are a bit of an under appreciated breed of sheep, they used to have wool so fine that it rivalled the Spanish Merino and Queen Elizabeth I would only wear Ryeland stockings. Modern pressures for meat have meant the fleece has coarsened slightly, but it's still nice and soft. Having a proper roving, rather then the combed top we commonly call roving, makes life easier for beginners, it's easy to draft, yet at the same time grippy. 
It's slightly smaller than my existing Learn to Spin kit, which makes it lighter so postage abroad is much lower. 

Saturday, 3 November 2012


It's starting to feel like autumn is properly here now. This morning there was snow on The Arans in the distance, and the morning was cool and frosty.
The past few mornings have been misty and frosty.

This was taken a couple of weeks ago, but pretty much sums up our valley at this time of year. 

The frost took me by surprise a couple of days ago, I stepped out on to my decking and it was rather icey. I ended up sat on my bum in a state of shock, with a rather sore back. Luckily I'm still young enough to bounce and I'm fine!

The cold weather definitely has it's advantages, my Warriston jumper has been in use over the last couple of days. Perfect for when I don't want to bother with a coat, or when I've not lit the fire yet. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


There's nothing slapdash, about these wrist warmers.

These are the Splatterdash wristwarmers from Knitty, Pip knitted them in some of the handspun from her Learn to Spin kit. She used the solid coloured batt, and the variegated roving, and made them mirror images with how she used the colours.

If you're not confident with knitting with your handspun yet you could always use commercially spun yarn for the main body of the mittens, and then just use your handspun for the flap, this wraps over the top of the main part of the mitten so the sizing isn't quite so important. Lace tends to be quite forgiving of inconsistencies in size as well, the eyelets give the work a lot of flexibility.

If you've made something using HilltopCloud fibre then why not head over to the Ravelry Group. We have a prize draw thread for things made using my fibre, and I'd love to be able to show off more people's work on the blog.

There were 10 comments left in the silk giveaway as of this morning, the random number generator just picked out comment number 10, which is Susan's comment. I'll be in touch to find out an address and get the hankies in the post.
If you didn't win, keep an eye on the shop over the next couple of weeks, I'll be dyeing up some more.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Glasgow School of Yarn

I've just got back from a lovely weekend in Glasgow at an event called Glasgow School of Yarn. The event is organised by the wonderful Antje, owner of The Yarn Cake. In comparison to the big events like Wonderwool and Woolfest this is more compact, more friendly,  more relaxed. There are some wonderful classes that take place from world renowned tutors (we'll gloss over the part where I didn't recognise Amy Singer....), and there is lots of wonderful cake.

This is the view as you enter the marketplace, the tables in the middle were filled all day with people sitting, knitting, chatting, spinning, learning....
As ever, the Learn to Spin Kits proved to be popular, one of the nice things about this event is that it was relaxed enough to let me give people a hand as they took their first steps with a drop spindle. Normally at shows it's so busy that I don't know which way is up, let alone have chance to teach people. 

One of my challenges for the event was to squeeze everything on to a 6 foot table, not for the first time I was green with envy as I watched the yarn vendors stack up yarn, batts in plastic bags are sloppy and take up lots of space!
There were a few new things that I took to the event, I had thought I might bring some of them back with me, but they all sold. One of the most popular new things were some dyed silk. Amy Singer (off of Knitty) ran a silk spinning workshop, and at lunchtime her class descended on the stall like a hoard of vultures.
 I have one pack of silk hankies left, rather than photograph them and add them to the shop, you can won them by leaving a comment here. On the 30th October I'll randomly draw a name from a hat, and send the winner a message (make sure you don't comment anonymously). 

I'll be doing more silk dyeing soon, so keep an eye out for it in the shop.

The event is held in the Mackintosh Church, this was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and everywhere you look there are examples of his design, the same motifs appear everywhere, even on the toilet doors. 

If you can make it to Glasgow next year, Antje was heard to mutter that she'd be running another event,  then I hope to see you there.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Beach

Summer is over, the tourists have mostly gone home, and we can reclaim our beaches.
The dogs love the beach, nothing beats an open stretch of sand and some waves, and of course, a tennis ball!

The beach we go to most often is Aberdyfi, it's about 30 minutes drive from our house, and is also a great source of driftwood for making things. We always end up taking a rucsac full of wood back home with us, Dad takes them in to the garage and turns them in to mirrors and candle holders for our market stall. 

Meg will chase after her tennis ball all day if we let her, Gwen however prefers to play with the tennis ball thrower, even if you're trying to use it to throw the ball. 
The weather on Friday was beautiful, blue skies and high fluffy clouds, the beach acted like a mirror.

This is the view back towards the Dyfi estuary, well worth taking a morning off, we've not had many days like this during the summer!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Sheep to Yarn to Sheep

More ideas of what to do with your first handspun, or even a scrap of leftover handspun.  This idea comes from the lovely Linda. she bought one of my basic Learn to Spin Kits .

Her yarn is pretty good for a first attempt, as she says in her project notes, plying evens out the finished yarn quite dramatically. 

She then crocheted it in to her very own little sheep. 

You can find the pattern here. The original sheep was designed to be stuffed with a scented sachet, and with Christmas on the way it strikes me that these might be ideal quick Christmas gifts to use up scraps of handspun. The knobbly crochet just seems to suit the texture of the sheep perfectly. I don't really crochet, but I might have to give one of these a go to take with me to Glasgow School of Yarn

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Learn to Spin

One of the frequent questions I get asked in relation to my Learn to Spin kits is "what can I make with the yarn I've spun"

The answer, is as ever, it depends. It depends on how quickly you grasp the technique, how consistent your yarn is, and what you like making.

Some people, it has to be said, are naturals, this is Pip's 3rd ever yarn, made using the batt and handblended roving from the kits

I want to hate her, but she such a lovely person that I can't quite manage it!
That's 85g of fibre turned in to 156m of sport weight yarn. 

And then a pair of flip top mittens. Knitted quite densely to keep the chill off.


For anyone who's wondering about what to make with first skeins of handspun, mittens are a pretty good answer. They don't need much yardage, and tend to get worn in quite quickly. Moving the fabric as you move your hands evens out the stitches and fluff fills any slightly looser sections. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Just 100g

The last few weeks have been a bit hectic. Just before I wrote the last post I went down to Pembrokeshire Guild of Weavers and Dyers for their open day (if you would like me to visit your guild with the shop, or to run a workshop then get in touch). Just 5 days later I was heading in to the Peak District to BOB the Underground festival. It was a great weekend, but all shows are tiring and the work keep piling up while you're not at home. I've spent the rest of the week unpacking, organising, and dyeing for my Best of British club. 

However, this is not a moan, just gives you an idea about why occasionally things fall a bit silent on the blog!

When I'm at shows I often get comments of "oooh it's lovely, but what can I make with 100g', so over the winter I'm hoping to make a few samples to answer just that question. I'm particularly after things that aren't shawls.

Here's one of my new samples-

 It's less than 100g, in fact  I had some yarn leftiver so it's only took about 70g of fibre. The fibre was  some of my handcarded batts containing BFL, Merino and Angora, I spun them up longdraw in to a fluffy worsted weight yarn.

The finished yarn has a beautiful halo, and yes it would be handwash only, but I think more and more parents are appreciating how to care for more delicate garments. Most washing machines now have a handwash cycle, I use it for my handknits all the time and it works beautifully. 

The pattern, if you would like to create your own version, is One Baby Sweater. I think it's a lovely little versatile pattern, that would work for boys and girls.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


Yesterday I drove over to Welshpool to watch the start of Tour of Britain cycle race. For the non-clycling fans out there it's pretty similar to the Tour de France, except it doesn't last for as many days, not as many of the big teams compete, and the hills aren't as big as the Alps or Pyrenees. 
The Welsh stage of the race traditionally leaves from Powis Castle which is down the road from me, and this year I decided to make the effort to go and watch the start of the race. British cycling has never been more popular, and it showed, the number of fans there was huge, and getting off the car park at the end was something of a competitive event in itself!

The team buses, cars and vans all pulled up in to the main car park, and most people milled around, waiting to spot famous rider, and pointing at very expensive bikes. Highlight of the morning was when one of the Garmin cars reversed over a bike that had been left leaning on the back bumper. I suspect that was a rather expensive oops...

Until however, the Sky bus pulled up. It was the only bus to have it's own barriers erected round it, and with in seconds the crowds were 10 deep...


This was about as close as I got to Mark Cavendish, however, I'm so glad I went because having a British road racing champion is pretty special. 


Even getting in a position to see the start line was something of a competitive event.


There are still a couple of days racing left and if you live near the route then it's well worth popping out for half an hour to watch them go past.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


My younger brother is home for the weekend, and his first comment was "you've not shown the pictures of the finished deck on your blog", so just for you Nick, and because you worked very hard building it, here's the finished decking.

I no longer have a 2 metre drop out of the door, instead I can stroll out and sit in the sunshine. 

Of course, Nick doesn't get to come home and just have a relaxing weekend, he and Dad are currently on the roof of the workshop replacing the roofing. Maybe someday we'll finish all the jobs that need doing...