Friday, 31 May 2013


This blog has served me well for many years now, but alas all things must change.
I've got a new website up and running for HilltopCloud, and the blog is moving over as well.
The old posts will remain here, as you never know, I may end up coming back here.

You can find the new blog (and all the old posts as well) here

I hope you'll come and join me.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Blending Fleece

On a day to day basis I most commonly work with commercially processed fibres, I use a huge amount of wool in an average week, and using fleece doesn't make sense logistically or economically, particularly because I don't have my own flock. 

My friend Katherine however does have her own flock of sheep, so of course wants to do things using their fleeces. I sold her fleeces on my stand at Wonderwool, and to help people decide what to do with them she spun some samples. 
Gotland works best in both our opinions, when blended with other fibres. It's more like mohair than most wool people commonly use. It has sheen, drape, and a very loose curl rather than a crimp. If you don't blend it with something else it makes a drapey, dense yarn. But add something else and it really excels. If you blend it with silk you get extra drape, and shine, or blend it with wool and you get more bounce. 

These samples are all blended with wool, the one at the back is plain Gotland spun semi worsted, and you can see how much longer that sample skein is compared to the others. 

The other thing I love is the depth of colour you get. This is the same principle I use when creating blends. Add multiple shades of dyed fibre, to a natural coloured base wool and you get a really lovely subtle effect. The colour isn't harsh, which makes it very easy to wear. 

It's also an easy way to add colour to a fleece with out dyeing. You can get commercially dyed merino, BFL or Shetland tops at very low prices, and can blend them in to your fleece using a drum carder, or hand carders. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Making Things from Handspun Part 3.... or is it 4

This is part of an ongoing series on making this from small amounts of handspun. The posts are slightly sporadic, and purely depend on me making something from some handspun, and as ever there just aren't enough hours in the day to spin and knit all the things I want to!

All the previous posts have featured something made just from handspun. I often only spin 100g or maybe 200g, so yardages are usually quite small, and as a result I make hats, or baby cardigans, or fingerless mitts or shawls. However, even if you don't want to spin enough yarn for a jumper you can still use you handspun in a larger project. 

This is Stilwell by Jared Flood. It's a lovely modern take on quite a traditional jumper style. I made a few modifications, the body is longer, as are the arms. Both are quite cropped in the original pattern, and I know that if I'm wearing a warm wool jumper I want to cover my wrists, and not have a draft up my back when I'm sitting down. 
It's knitted using some Troon Tweed from Texere. I love this yarn, it's an old fashioned oiled Aran weight, proper wool, and wears like iron, but isn't too scratchy. The colourwork though, is all handspun. The snowflake motif is using some Merino, Baby Camel and Alpaca I bought from Marianne at Fluff n Stuff, the border on the motif is just using my BFL/Baby Camel blend. In total I probably used under 200g of the handspun, so perfect for using up smaller amounts of more expensive indy blends. 
You do have to try to match the weight of your commercial yarn and the pattern, but it's amazing how you can get away with a difference in thickness. Here's the reverse of the colourwork section and you can see my handspun was quite a bit thicker. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

I want to ride my bicycle...

Things are very busy round here at the moment. I just came back from running a workshop in Oxfordshire, I had a lovely time, but it takes nearly 3 days out of my work week, the day before getting organised and packing the car, the day of the workshop, and then the unpacking and catching up when I get home. I love teaching workshops though, I nearly always learn something from the really experienced spinners out there who started spinning before I was even born. The participants seem to enjoy them as well, so it's all good. This year is pretty much full up, and next year is starting to look the same way, but if you think you'd like a workshop then send me an email. 

Back at home things are pretty busy as well, non-stop carding, and dyeing. I've just dyed up 3kg of a BFL/Ramie blend. I completely sold out of this at Wonderwool, and it really is a beautiful blend. It's drying in front of the fire now, because spring has taken a temporary vacation, and we're back to cold, damp and windy. Keep an eye out for a shop update, probably on Sunday.

I've also been busy plotting. Last year I didn't run a shop Tour de Fleece team, but this year I'm delighted to say I'm teaming up with my friend Katherine (BarberBlackSheep) and we're doing one together. Katherine is the person with the wonderful Gotland fleeces I was selling at Wonderwool, she lives just down the road from me, and also loves the Tour de Fleece.
For the unfamiliar, the Tour de France is the worlds biggest cycle race. The top professionals spend 3 weeks racing round France (with occasional detours to nearby countries), and the Tour de Fleece runs in parallel. You set your own challenge, but the aim is to spin every day. Last year I used the time to consolidate my handcarding and long draw spinning techniques, I got nearly 1600m of fingering weight 2 ply yarn spun up in the 3 weeks. The only thing you'll need to do to join in with the shop Team (Team HillSheep) is to spin something from HilltopCloud during the spin along.
I'm getting excited, partly because of the spinning, though spinning every day isn't that different for me, but also because I am a bit of a cycling nut. It's all the fault of the Tour de France knit along, I joined in when I first learnt to knit, and found myself learning more and more about the sport and now I'm addicted. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Displaying your wares

So the last week has been a bit crazy. Show weeks are always busy, there's the van to pack, then the long days at the show itself, then the unpacking, and dealing with the inbox and all the other things that pile up when I'm away for 3 days.

Things are approaching normality now, there's a shop update heading your way shortly, just need to get the camera out later.

My thoughts about this post came about while chatting on Ravelry. It's now a full year since I did my first festival and it's quite interesting to see how things have changed.

This was the very first year, it looks ok, but those white walls are very white, and very bare looking!

This year, much better. There's probably not a great deal more stock, but it looks much fuller. Mostly because of the samples. When I look at my Ravelry project page for the last year it seems rather empty in comparison to past years, but in reality I've made a huge number of samples for workshops and on the stand. They really help people understand how things look when spun, and fill up that empty wall space. 
I've also changed how I display the fibre. Far less is in plastic so people can touch and feel easily. It occasionally causes me slight headaches, why people think it's ok to dump their bags on top of a pile of batts is beyond me, but who can resist a bundle of bouncy loveliness!
At the end of each show I go through all the stock, anything that is too scruffy looking goes in to my pot luck pile, every now and again I do a 50% off sale using stock that has been to a show and come home a little worse for wear. 

One of the things I was really pleased to have with me this year were bags made by my Mum. She comes along to every show, covers for me while I go to the loo, keeps me supplied with food and drink and drives the van. I really couldn't do it without her, so it's nice she gets to share her work with others. If you couldn't make it to Wonderwool then she does have her own Etsy shop. so you can see all her beautiful creations there. 

Next up in Woolfest which brings it's own challenges, a single stall there is less than half the size of my Woolfest stall and it's a fine line between filling it so full you can't find anything, and not having a nice range of things...

Monday, 22 April 2013

Only in the country...

There are times when living in the middle of nowhere gets a little surreal. I've lost count of the times when Dilys in the local post office has know what's been happening here when we've not spoken to anyone for several days...
Some days however, the surreal ramps up a notch.

For the last 6 months there's been an abandoned car in the field opposite us. Someone crashed it late at night, and managed to walk away, and then it's sat there. The ambulances have stopped, the police have stopped, even the air ambulance ground transport have stopped, all to check there was no-one in this vehicle.
Eventually Mum had enough and rang the council to complain, not least because the engine fluids are presumably slowly draining out in to the local water course. Today it was finally taken away.
We live on a very busy trunk road, it's one of the major routes across Wales from the Midlands, but the traffic control consisted of a couple of men stood in the road waving at the cars. The crashed car itself had to be hauled out by a JCB, it was then dragged up the main road, dangling body work falling off as  it went, before being manoeuvred on to the back of the scrap vehicle lorry, barely bigger than the car itself, and already half full of scrap...

All this while the traffic was whizzing along at 60mph past them!
The little lorry then put the lifting arm on top of the car to hold it in place, then headed off 40 miles north of here! Something tells me that the Health and Safety officer would be none to pleased.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Lambs and Fleece

Yesterday I went over to visit my friend Katherine. She's known as Barberblacksheep on Ravelry and has her own mini flock of sheep. Rather jokingly she calls them her useless flock as there's a lot of castrated males, and quite a few are getting on in years, but the reality is they produce lovely fleece, partly because they're castrated males, so no pressure of lambing which weakens the fleece, but also because she takes fantastic care of them, and shears them herself.
They're a bit of a motley bunch, partly pedigree Gotlands, some BFL's, and Welsh Mountains, but there's also some lovely cross breeds, her Black Welsh Mountain/BFL cross is a particular favourite of mine.

There were 2 main reasons for my visit. First was to say hello to the newest arrivals. Alfie and Siwan, BFL/Gotland crosses born less than 2 days ago.

First time mum Rusby and her lamb Alfie

Old hand Rasta and her lamb Siwan. 

Taking these photos involved a lot of lying around on the straw, and deletion of lots of blurry sheep photos! 

Rasta in particular is friendly, she got really ill last year, but Katherine nursed her back to health, and as a result she's worked out that humans have treats, and give good scratches. She spent lots of time trying to work out if the camera was going to give her any food. 

Looks like her daughter is going to inherit those friendly characteristics. 

I also got to do some lamb cuddling, though Rasta was feeling a little left out. The look on my face is probably similar to the look I gave her last weekend when I was house sitting. These girls were told very firmly to keep their legs crossed until Katherine was there to look after the new arrivals!

The second reason for my visit was this little lot

I helped Katherine go through her fleeces and we picked out and sorted and bagged up a collection for me to take to Wonderwool next weekend. They're mostly pure Gotland, but theres a few of the cross breeds. Some as whole fleeces, others in smaller amounts if you just want to try spinning this for yourself. If you won't be coming to Wonderwool then I'd recomend going and joining Katherine's Ravelry group as there are still a few fleeces she kept back to sell via the post. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013


It's hard to believe it's only a full year since I was heading off to my first fibre show as an exhibitor. A lot seems to have happened since then, but it's been the most fantastic experience.
My Wonderwool preparations for this year are all finished, something I'm very grateful for as it means I can take time out to support a close friend of mine. I knew my OCD tendencies would come in useful eventually!
I'll have lots of batts, hand blended roving, a full collection of all my gradients, all of my Birds Collection, Learn to Spin Kits, hand turned Niddy Noddys, Spindle Cases, Yarnmaker magazines (including the new edition), and dyed fibre. I've finally managed to unthaw the caravan and I got some Silk Brick, Cashmere, Baby Camel/Silk, Teeswater/Silk, BFL/Baby Camel, Jacob/Silk, Superwash BFL/Nylon, Southdown, BFL/Ramie, Silk Hankies, and Dyed Silk Noil, Longwool Locks, and Firestar dyed.

I'm at Stall K7 this year, one aisle further over than I was last year with a slightly bigger stand. It's till going to be packed with goodies though, I have lots of new things in comparison with a year ago, and a surprise which I think some people will be rather happy about.

Last year my surprise was this blend

Dafad was a blend of Shetland, BFL and Silk, exclusive to Wonderwool. Dafad is welsh for sheep, the local sheep breed is called Speckle Face. They're mostly white, with black markings around their eyes, so it seemed an appropriate name for a black and white gradient roving. 
It's blended in a way that lets you spin a gradually changing plyed yarn without any fiddling about dividing up a braid of fibre. Because it's handblended you also get super easy to spin fibre. 

This was the shawl Mum spun and knitted for me as a sample last year. 

The braids I listed in the shop have already sold out, but I'll be making more, and I'll also have some on the stand at Wonderwool. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Crooked Beauty

For the most part things on this blog are kept pretty light hearted. There's more than enough doom and gloom, and sometimes down right nastiness on the internet, and I'm a firm believer in the need to keep things positive in what is my own personal space on the internet.

Sometimes though, I like to break my own rules. The lovely Wooolly Wormhead posted this video on her blog, and while I watched it this morning it really struck a cord.

It's a trailer for a film called Crooked Beauty which explores mental health and living a life outside the social norm.
Now before anyone gets any worried ideas, I have never experienced abuse, my own mental health issues were definitely on the lesser degree of the spectrum of mental health problems, but there are things in this video that I can definitely relate to.

Three years ago I was just leaving my job as a teacher. I went to university, did a degree in Biology and loved it. I knew I didn't want to continue in academia so did a PGCE because it seemed like the right choice. I qualified as a teacher, got a job in a school I loved, with colleagues I enjoyed working with, but it was only a temporary post. My next job wasn't such a good fit, I hated the atmosphere, was bullied by the headteacher and her team of senior management, and ended up being signed of work with stress and anxiety.
I got help, and made a plan, mostly involving going back to teaching, because I thought I wanted to beat the demons that had developed. Turns out that was the wrong choice. My next job was with people I loved working with, but in the end I realised that this wasn't the path I wanted to go down for the rest of my life. I loved the teaching part, but there's far more to being a teacher than that. I'd never had any real career ambitions, I'd always viewed it as a job I enjoyed (and was good at), that paid reasonably well, and gave me enough time off to indulge in my hobbies and other passions. When I stopped having time to do those other things then part of my reason for choosing this career path disappeared. I could feel myself slipping back in to a very unhappy place mentally speaking, and decided that enough was enough.

I moved a couple of hundred miles away, gave up my job, (my boyfriend), and ended up living in my parents spare room. I then had to decide what to do next, but knew that it needed to be something different. I have a friend with a wheat allergy, if she eats it her arthritis flares up along with other health issues. So she avoids eating wheat. My situation is no different, a mainstream job makes my mental health issues flare up, so I chose a different path.
As a society our attitude towards mental health problems is to medicate it, and go to therapy about it. Sometimes though you have to get to the root cause of a problem. Our brains don't all work in the same way, and for some of us choosing an alternative way of living, and earning a crust is a part of living healthily.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Feet up

A few days ago I showed you some pictures of the length of cloth I wove using some handspun.
It's now been transformed in to a new cover for my footstool.

The different fibres didn't shrink in at all the way I was expecting, normally Gotland felts very readily, but instead the BFL/Silk blend has shrunk the most. I do love it though. Most evenings I sit in my chair, in front of the fire. quite often if I'm spinning I'll have one foot on the footstool and the other on the treadle, definitely lazy style spinning!

Sunday, 31 March 2013


The unseasonal snow arrived at just the wrong time for hill farmer and their lambs. Round here and in most hill farms the rams go in with the ewes around Bonfire Night (November 5th) with the aim to get lambs on April 1st, which is of course this weekend. There's a bit of variation in these dates, but unlike the lowland flocks lambs don't tend to be born until the back end of March when we might get a patch of snow, but the worst of the winter weather should be over.
Of course Mother Nature has ways of messing up the best laid plans. Hill ewes are tough, and excellent mothers, but even they struggle in several feet of snow, and sub zero temperatures for days on end.

These were taken on our walk today, still plenty of snow up on the tops of the hills, and the thaw has been underway for several days. 
Most farmers have got their flocks in lower fields though, and with some extra feed they seem to be doing ok, even if the lambs regard the feeding troughs as a convenient place to have a rest!

Walking back down the valley we came across this, the water form the stream has frozen over the twigs, making a beautiful ice sculpture. 

This tree also caught my eye, the valleys round us have the feeling of being incredibly ancient. Not many people live here, so the ancient woodland still exists.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Tying up the loose ends

Quite literally in the case of this project

It's a proper length of handwoven fabric. Not a simple scarf like I usually dabble in. I have a little Cricket loom which I use for my weaving. It's nothing fancy, just a simple rigid heddle, if I set to, I can usually warp and weave a scarf in an evening should I so desire. For this however, I had a plan, and it required a slightly bigger loom. I'd got some beautifully dyed Gotland from the Wildcraft fibre club, and knew I wanted to weave it, but also knew I didn't just want a scarf from it. 

I have a footstool in my living room, just a basic Ikea chipboard cube, with some foam on top and a grey cover, nothing fancy but it works. I came up with the plan of using the Gotland, but knew I'd need lots more yarn. 

When I go to shows I often spindle spin for most of the day, nothing fancy, just ransom scraps of fibre, as usually I'll be stopping and starting, and I won't be fully concentrating, so the thickness often varies over the course of a day. I'd saved up all those balls of singles, then plyed them, and the grey's toned really nicely with the Gotland. Add in some purple Masham from the August edition of my Best of British club, and some pink longwool singles that had been gifted to me, and I had a pretty huge pile of yarn. When I was at Texere on the Skip North weekend I picked up 2 cones of grey wool/nylon blend to use for the warp, and I got going. 

I borrowed my friend Katherine's Flip loom, worked out the length I needed, added some width on as I knew it would shrink widthways when I took it off the loom and washed it. I wound the yarns on to the shuttle in a random order and used a spit splice to join them. 
Definitely not classical weaving, but I love it, and it's a great way to use up scraps of handspun. It's been washed here, but still needs an iron.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring.... or not

Last year I was sat outside, in shorts and t-shirt. 
I think if I did that this year I'd be suffering from serious frost bite!

It started snowing on thursday night, and it's not really stopped since. It was forecast, but I didn't think we'd be looking at this much! The main road is clear, but the cars are stuck at the bottom of our drive, fingers crossed we can dig them out, particularly as the temperatures are due to drop once the snow stops. Here's hoping I can get out to post parcels on Monday morning...

We keep getting mini avalanches off the roof, which keeps me on my toes, the sound of the snow falling and hitting the roof of the back passage is quite startling. 

On the plus side, the delivery man bought my wool delivery yesterday, so I have plenty of new fibre to play with!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Skip North

This weekend I took a bit of time out away from the pressures of work. It's only 5 weeks until Wonderwool, and the next few weeks are going to be rather busy.
I went up to Skip North, it's a knitty and spinny social gathering, based in Haworth Youth Hostel (the village where the Brontes lived). There's trips to local fibre and yarn suppliers, and workshops, and generally a chance to share my passion for all things wooly with like minded individuals.

First stop of the day on Saturday was Texere, this is a huge emporium of yarn of every type. I particularly like their Troon Tweed oiled aran weight, and hatched a plan involving some cones of linen....

That afternoon we got to go on a steam train, I've not been on one since I was a child, so taht was a real treat. The line we went along was the one used in the filming of The Railway Children, and still has lots of period features from the heyday of steam travel in the Victorian era.

Some features are from later in the Railway's history, this advertising sign in particular made me smile!

Star of the show, was of course the steam train itself, a great big black monster, belching steam and smoke. I only wish the ride lasted longer, but before you knew it we were back in Haworth, and it was time to get off. 

Sunday was a trip over to see  Wingham Woolwork, with the added highlight of some rather pretty scatterings of snow on the moors, but before I knew it I was on my way back home again, purse lighter, stomach full of cake, and feeling ready to get back to work. 

The shop will be a bit light on updates over the next few weeks, but odd bits and pieces will no doubt appear from time to time. Make sure you come over and check out the Ravelry group, and I'll let you know when I add new things. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

An eggcident

Something clearly went wrong here....

Yesterday I went to the nest box to collect the eggs and very nearly missed this miniature egg. It's definitely from the chickens as it's shell matches their normal eggs, but it's tiny, about the size of a cadbury mini egg. Normally they lay creme egg sized eggs (on the top left), which given my bantams are half the size of an ordinary hen is still pretty impressive, there's a normal egg on the right for scale. 

Who knows what happened, the egg itself is normal, with a yolk, it's just like it's been shrunk however. The chickens are there usual perky selves, with the exception of the one who has gone broody already, so I don't think it's a problem, just a rather intriguing bit of chicken biology!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Goodies in the post...

Look what arrived today!

Two new drum carders from Paul at Classic Carders. These are on long term loan for me to take out and about with me when I run workshops.  It's a good relationship for both of us, I have more carders for the workshops, and people get to try out Paul's carders who might not have seen them before. The UK fibre industry is great like this, for the most part businesses are highly supportive of one another. When things like the huge postal rises get announced we tend to band together and try to work out how to get round things. 

I've been working on a semi-secret project with Paul for a while now, and hopefully he'll be launching that something new at Wonderwool. I love working with Paul, he's passionate about what he does, and strives for the absolute best in every single carder that he sends out of the workshop (these 2 are supposedly cosmetic seconds because of a blemish on the wood and I can't find the blemish anywhere!). He actually lives just over the border from me, I visited his workshop last summer and we had a lovely discussion about how he started his business, and the technicalities of drum carders.

I use a Classic for all the carding I do for my shop, and hands down it's the carder I recommend. They work fantastically, Paul's customer service is great, and they're made in the UK.
I'll be taking these 2 around the country with me over the next few months, so they'll be put to the test by lots of people.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Spring Inspiration

I just started a colour inspiration thread over on my Ravelry group. (If you're not a member come join us). Sometimes my brain starts to run a bit empty on the colours I want to use, and I love taking inspiration from pictures, so thought I'd ask others to see what they like.

My friend Katherine posted this picture

Isn't it gorgeous? It's one of her bees drinking nectar from some early spring flowers. The bees are just starting to come out again after the cold winter. In sunny weather like we have today our hives are buzzing away like crazy, and the bees are heading off foraging, even at this time of year they can usually find something that's flowering. That's partly why it's really important we plant a variety of things in our garden, at this time of year the bees need a source of food, they're run down after the winter, and are possibly at their most vulnerable. This blogpost highlights exactly what we should be growing. 

I chose to pull out the colour at the tips of the unopened buds, I took a pale yellow, a pale green, and some white, and added a sprinkle of pink angelina.

It's a bit more obvious in this photo

Perfect for spring spinning.

There are still a few batts left in the shop from last night's update, but most of them sold really quickly, if you want to get an email in your inbox when I do updates in the future the mailing list signup is over on the right sidebar.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Plastic Fantastic

This weekend at Unravel I was trying out a new device.
It's a way of taking card payments, using my iPad. Conventional card terminals that you get in shops don't work out to be very cost effective for small businesses like me. I do less than 6 shows a year, and go months during the winter where I do no shows at all, if you have a conventional card terminal you're stuck with paying rental agreements, and contacts involving set fees.

This however, changes all that, there's no hire fee, no monthly cost, and it means I can accept cards for pretty much the same fee as it costs me to take a payment using paypal.

It's a chip and pin reader that connects to my iPad using bluetooth, and then processes payments just like a regular card terminal. 

I use the iPad to key in the amount, the card slots in the bottom of the reader, you enter your pin to authorise the payment, the iPad talks to your bank over a 3G signal, just like a regular mobile card terminal, and it's as simple as that. 

I used the chip and signature version at Unravel, and it worked flawlessly. I picked iZettle because they were one of the first options available in the UK, but there's more companies offering this sort of device all the time. I know quite a few fellow indie dyers and fibre artists have one, or are getting one, so I think it's going to be a pretty common sight at UK festivals this year. It's just as secure as using a regular mobile card terminal like this one, but an awful lot cheaper for a small business like me. 

I'd always rather take payments in cash as there's no fee for me to pay cash in at my bank, but if you are coming to a show, and would rather pay for something by card, you do now have that option. 

Oh, and just so this isn't an all shop talk post, here's a chicken picture!

They spotted me head outside to take pictures of my new toy, and headed over to check if I had any food. As soon as they realised I hadn't they resumed digging up the vegetable beds. For little birds they manage to send soil flying everywhere as you can see in the blur of dirt and feathers!

A shop update with lots of batts is on it's way tomorrow, and I'll be putting up pre-orders for my Odin's Ravens colourways as well. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


The calendar for 2013 is looking pretty full. Nearly every month for this year I'll be heading off to various parts of the country for a show or event. The full list of where I'll be is here.

The first show is Unravel in just 3 days time, things are pretty much ready, all the fibre is dyed and carded, and ready to be packed in the van. This has meant the shop has been a bit neglected recently, but when I get back I'm planning on spending a bit of time restocking the shelves.

Not too much time though, because in 2 months time (April) I'll be off to my local show, Wonderwool Wales, probably my favourite of all the fibre festivals. I've got a bigger stand this year, so I've moved along an aisle from where I was last time, still in roughly the same part of the building though.

After that comes the grandaddy of British wool shows at the end of June, Woolfest was the original UK fibre festival, this year I'm hoping for slightly better weather! I'll be in exactly the same spot as last year, hopefully minus the leaky roof.

One month later in July I'll be at FibreEast in Bedford. I went as a visitor last year on a very muddy Sunday, but this year they've moved to a brand new indoor venue.

In August the Association of Guilds of Weaver, Spinners and Dyers Summer School is being held just down the road from me in Carmarthen. At the end of the week they hold a trade fair for local suppliers, and on Saturday 10th August the fair is open to the general public.

In September I'll be at a brand new event, Yarndale in Skipton, Yorkshire. There are already lots of great suppliers signed up to attend, so it looks like being a fabulous weekend.

October is looking like being a busy month, the start of October is the All Wales Guild event, this is in Llanidloes at the Minerva Centre. And finally, we twisted Antje's arm and there's going to be a Glasgow School of Yarn this year. No more details about that one, but keep an eye out for further announcements, there's usually a stellar cast of teachers (Amy Singer from Knitty, Woolly Wormhead, and Liz Lovik last year) offering workshops, and I'm sure this year will be no exception!

I love going to shows, both as a purchaser and an exhibitor. If you've never made it along to an event I really recommend it, there's something happening nearly everywhere in the country now. There's usually a corner where people are sitting creating, sharing skills and enabling others. Some of the big shows like Wonderwool and Woolfest have a designated interactive area where you can try drum carding, hackling, and generally ask for help on any particular skill. There's also nothing like seeing things in person. I always have a huge range of colours and fibres with me at shows, far more than is listed in the shop at any one point in time, and there are a few fantastic suppliers who don't have web shops.
If you do come along to a show, please stop by and say hello, I love meeting internet people in the flesh.

P.S. You're not too late to leave me a comment here, and win yourself a copy of Yarnmaker.

PPS. 20/2/13 Just picked the winner of the copy of Yarnmaker, I gave all the comments except mine a number and used a random number generator, which picked comment number 2, which is Joanne. Joanne, an email should be in your inbox.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Fit for a Queen

Meet Brenhines, my new pattern, designed for handspun, in the latest edition of Yarnmaker magazine. Brenhines means Queen in Welsh.

It's a short cape, designed to keep the chill off your shoulders. I designed it with tailspun art yarn in mind, I'm always being told "these look pretty but how do you use them?", and now I have an example of how you can. 
It's worked in alternate rows with a plain grey Shetland, so it's not overwhelmingly full of locks. 

Here's a close up of the back so you can see what I mean. The locks themselves will stay pretty much intact as you wash and wear the cape, they come off the sheep like that, and sheep aren't know for being gentle with their hair do. 

Of course, if art yarns aren't your thing it also works in a plain yarn. This was worked using some Shetland fleece. 

If you want to spin your own tailspun I can recommend Spin Art by Jacey Boggs, or if you don't fancy spinning your own there are plenty of spinners out there on Etsy

If you would like to knit this, for now the pattern is only available in Edition 13 of Yarnmaker. I have 1 copy left in the shop, but have more on their way to me, or it will be available as a download when the rights revert to me. The Ravelry pattern page is here if you want to favourite it, or add it to your queue. 

Meanwhile, I'm giving away my contributors copy, just leave me a comment below, and I'll pick a winner on the 20th February. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Long Draw

I spent Saturday learning how to do English style long draw at my spinning guild. I'd already taught myself to do American long draw, and until Saturday had presumed the difference would be pretty minimal and I'd just be able to swap between the 2 styles. Half an hour of muttering and swearing later, it quickly became apparent that the 2 styles have rather different nuances of technique, but by the afternoon I'd got there.

The middle skein is from my first attempt, the fleece I was using wasn;t idea, it was a bit too long, and a bit too sticky from some lanolin that had been left in from the washing process. I switched to baby camel (the back skein) which was a bit easier while I taught my hands what to do, and the front skein is the original fleece, but spun once I'd grasped the technique. 

The resulting skeins are beautifully bouncy, really plump and well rounded, they'd be perfect for colour work, and anything where you want warmth. 

Amanda Hannaford ran our workshop, and it was a really excellent day, thoroughly recommended if you get the chance to do one of her workshops.

If you don't live close enough to do a workshop then this video by Amanda is excellent.

Friday, 1 February 2013

A find!

Earlier this week I had a trip to Ikea, we live far enough away that it's a full on day out, usually we're out for 12 hours, so it's pretty exhausting.
While we were looking at fabrics I spotted a cushion, I'd ben looking at cushions all day, but I have a plan that involves weaving some of my own, so hadn't quite seen anything that was "just right".
This one however was perfect!

My very own sheepy cushion, and it was the very last one!

It's not made of wool, but when we got it home and gave it a quick iron it was discovered that it was made of Ramie. Ramie is one of my favourite things for adding to blends at the moment. It's made in the same way as linen, but from nettle stems. It gives a really similar effect to linen, the same drape, with shine, and feel. Works great in wool blends as well. 

As for the sheep they're mostly a mystery. I can definitely spot a Merino, and a Texel,

A Badger Faced

 and a Swaledale

The rest though, are a bit more of a challenge!

Any suggestions, leave them in the comments!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Estuary part 2

Back in December I shared the transformation from batts to yarn in this post. 
The batts in question were a muted brown with flecks of blue, inspired by the colours of the Mawddach estuary. When you spun them, the blue became a little more obvious, creating a subtle, shimmery yarn.

I've since turned the skein of yarn in to a sample shawl for using on the stall at shows, it's also part of my talk that I dod for guilds and spinning groups about combining colours. 

From a distance the subtleness of the blend is apparent

Get a bit closer, and the flecks you saw in the yarn become more obvious. The white bits are partly some of the seacell, partly snow, I photographed this last week trying to do it today would lead to me chasing the shawl half way to England, it's a bit windy out there!

The pattern is Pipers Journey by Paula Emmons-Fuessle,  I think it's great for handspun, I love how garter stitch looks using handspun yarn. This took a smidge over 100g, but I know other people have done it using 100g of fibre, you could always use handspun for the garter stitch, and then do the border in a complementary colour. I love this shape of shawl as well, I end to wear shawls backwards, with the  point at the front, and then the 2 ends wrapped round my neck, and that works best if you have a crescent shape rather than a pure triangle.