Friday, 31 May 2013

Handbag Socks

The great thing about "handbag socks" (ie a sock project that lives in your bag and can be picked up whenever you get a spare couple of minutes) is that eventually they turn into a Finished Object. They haven't been washed yet, but I popped them on my sock blockers to show you...


This is another variation of my favourite Basic Gusset Heel sock, made from Araucania Ranco Multi. It's a sturdy sock yarn and using 2.5mm needles has resulted in socks that feel like they are made to last - which is a good thing! This is true mindless knitting and with each new pair I consider starting something challenging and then remember these are for my bag, and have to be easy to pick up and put down frequently. I've cast on another pair, but this time with a slight pattern on the instep - the Diagonal Lace Socks from the same book  - the simple chart looks easy to remember. Let's hope.

Those following on Facebook and Instagram will have already seen my extreme delight with another little project yesterday - a hexipuff made from my own handspun yarn. I am rediculously excited by this and it feels amazingly soft and scumptoius. For those who have asked, the fibre came from Shamu Makes

I've had lots of people comment, email or tell me in person that they are inspired to start spinning after seeing how quick it can be to progress from lumpy thick-and-thin "rope" to useable finer weight yarn, and I would heartily encourage anyone who is so inclined to give it a go - especially if you already enjoy knitting with different yarns, as there really is nothing better than something you have spun yourself. I can't wait until I have enough to make something bigger - perhaps Faraway so Close...?

I'll be back over the weekend with a few new posts including Pin It Forward UK, and a room makeover competiton which has me running around like a headless chicken today. Hope to see you then! 
Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Plied (in) Cymru*

After beautiful sunshine at the Brighton seaside on Monday, yesterday's weather reverted to heavy rain just in time for the four hour to drive to my grandparents' house. I was able to leave the kids at home with my mum and could enjoy the whole afternoon with my folks without any nagging, interruptions or small people getting "booooored". It's years since I have done this and I enjoyed the chance to just 'be' there - drinking tea, chatting... and laughing, always laughing. I do wish it was easier to spend time with them - regular phone calls are better than nothing, but you can't give the phone a cwtch and a kiss can you?

So last night, my quiet hotel room soon looked like this...
Knitting: the rib on my Vanilla (handbag) socks
Reading: The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood & Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd
Planning: my next pair of socks - on the ChiaoGoos, my favourites for socks
Spinning: I finished plying my firsShamu Makes fluff (shown here)!
Listening to: Inferno by Dan Brown

Although you can't really see it very clearly in this picture, I am especially pleased with the spinning. It was a 50g braid and I have made it into a few balls to try out some different plying methods. The big ball was plied with 2 centre pull balls in the red 'Fluff' bag - secured by the poppers so they couldn't escape, and this worked really well. The medium sized ball was plied with the two centre pull balls on the floor and didn't work so well, and the smallest ball was plied from both ends of one centre pull ball and I was really pleased with how that worked out, which surprised me a little. It's my neatest spinning to date, and you can see the process here, although the picture quality varies! 
Spinning progress.
The first half of Inferno was a good travelling companion. If you have read any of the other Dan Brown books,  you will know what to expect. It's typically formulaic - Harvard Professor Robert Langdon wakes up in hospital after being shot in the head. He has no short-term memory and must figure out why he is being chased, and what it has to do with Dante's Inferno and the strange visions that he has upon waking. The chapters are characteristically short and punchy and there is an (attractive) female sidekick. You know how it goes by now, but it's easy listening and made the long drive pass more quickly. I'll be listening to the rest while spinning and doing the housework this week - if you haven't already tried one, you might like to try Audible for 30 days for free, and download a free audiobook (I'd recommend 'Life After Life' from last week!)

I've almost finished The Knitting Circle. It was bought for me because of the word 'knitting' and probably isn't something I'd normally pick up but having finished the first half of it in one sitting, it must be good. There are just a few chapters left and despite the terribly sad subject matter - recovering from the death of a 5 year old daughter - I can relate to a lot of the characters and how they have found solace in the meditative rhythm of knitting which has also brought them all together. Yes, I like it. 
*For international readers, this is a pun - Cymru = Wales and  Plaid Cymru is the National (political) Party of Wales
Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Mastering Embroidery (or not, in my case!)

As regular readers will know, I'm on a mission to extend my crafting beyond knitting and crochet and a few weeks ago I started spinning (now well documented) and a little stitching. As the spinning is going so well, my poor sampler has seen very little progress - I'll show you an update tomorrow - but I wanted to tell you about the book which inspired me to finally pick it up after a couple of years procraftination.

I first dabbled with embroidery as a teen, under my Nanna Shirl's tutelage and I liked it but for some reason it didn't continue beyond a few little projects. Then a few weeks ago, I was sent a copy of 'Mastering the Art of Embroidery' by Sophie Long, and my interest was re-kindled. It's from Jacqui Small - the same publisher as 'The Knitted Home' (reviewed here) which is one of my favourites.

The book is a celebration of embroidery of all types and includes illustrated tutorials from the most basic stitches to more complicated techniques and machine embroidery. It's a weighty hardcover book including contributions from and interesting profiles of numerous contemporary embroiderers, lots of tips, and many beautiful photographs showcasing different techniques.
There is something for all levels. The step-by-step tutorials and instructions are sufficiently thorough for a total novice, but there is plenty to interest a seasoned stitcher with many different techniques covered including surface embroidery, counted surface embroidery, embellishment, stumpwork, whitework, three-dimentional embroidery, free-motion and digital embroidery.

This is a beautifully put-together book and a great additon to any craft library. I can imagine I'll be referring to it a lot when I finally get back to that sampler! You can read more about the author (who worked on Kate Middleton's wedding dress!) on her website: Sophie Long

I'll be back tomorrow with my WIPs and some more books. Have a great Tuesday.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Stash enhancement & a tip for notch-less top whorl spindles

I love love LOVE getting 'fluffy' post so this morning's delivery put a huge smile on my face...
yarn, fibre, fiber, spinning,
This little lot came from Karen aka Shamu Makes, a surprise 'grab bag' of yarn and fibre. She chose perfectly for me - the colours are beautiful and I couldn't wait to get spinning. As my beautiful bottom-whorl rainbow spindle is already full (and I mean full!) of singles, I had no option but to make a truce with the top-whorl spindle I didn't really get on with a couple of weeks ago. 

I'm sure there is absolutely nothing wrong with the spindle - this is about my lack of experience - but I had two issues with it (a) there is no notch and my leader kept slipping which meant it was unravelling the cop, and (b) it doesn't spin for very long meaning a high risk of it stopping, changing direction and unspinning the twist... then dropping to the floor. 

Today, out of necessity, I remembered something I'd seen somewhere on the internet (when I remember or find it again, I'll come back and add the original link)....
Stash enhancement and spindling

Step 1 : After attaching the leader yarn, bring it up around the hook and then back down to the shaft to continue as normal - this will create a 'stopper'.
Step 2 : With the leader to start, and with the yarn after spinning and winding on, bring the spun yarn to one side of the stopper and then across it into the hook. When you spin, the stopper will prevent anything from moving or unravelling.

The answer to my second problem is really an experience thing - I am much more aware of what the spindle is doing now, and able to pre-empt it from stopping with an extra spin. It's going beautifully...
Stash enhancement and spindling
This spinning lark is seriously addictive!
Friday, 24 May 2013

A peek inside... my vintage suitcase

Following some recent comments and questions and in the absence of any completed projects, I'd planned today's post on wearing shawls. I was going to use my Boneyard for demonstration purposes. After half an hour of hunting, I must conclude it has disappeared (probably into one of my many handbags). While searching,  I realised that my storage place for small projects hasn't ever made it to the blog, and it seemed like a good time to remedy that. 
suitcase, vintage,
The case was a gift from my mum - we spotted it one day while mooching around The Cornstore, although she looked quite bemused that such a small old thing would be very useful. It's in pretty good condition although there are tell-tale signs of age on the handles and the inside might benefit from a make-over. The initials S.J.S. are written inside, and I often wonder who S.J.S. is (was?) and where they took the case - what memories would it hold for them? The unknown history is one of the things I love about vintage finds. 

Would you care to see what's inside? There is *just* enough space for 21 small projects at the moment - mainly shawls - but I might need to consider new options by the time Boneyard turns up and my current WIPs are finished. You can't see them all in this messy pile, but it gives you a flavour. 
knitted shawls and memories, handknits, knitting, yarn
It doesn't look like much considering the hours of enjoyment (and several of frustration) that were spent making them, but each one is special for a different reason, including what was happening when I was working on them (a holiday, a Royal wedding, chatting at the park), some are from yarn I bought on great days out, and some remind me of times they were worn. They are not just shawls to me - they hold a lot of memories. That's one of the things I love about handknits. 

When Boneyard turns up, I'll get the planned post finished. Thanks for popping in today - I hope you all have a lovely weekend... whatever the weather!
Thursday, 23 May 2013


Despite already being enrolled on several classes (not all yet completed) I'm feeling incredibly tempted this morning - Shawlscapes (Craftsy class) with Stephen West has just gone live!

Although I've already made a Boneyard Shawl (and several others) which is included in the course I am tempted to enroll for Stephen's tips, and of course, his personality - he's definitely one of my favourite designers.

I already gave into the temptation to order an XL Micro Trindle with the remainder of my birthday money. Have you seen them before? Or tried one? The first time I really became aware of them was on the Yarngasm Video podcast there is a review from The KnitGirllls here - I really can't wait to try it out - hopefully it won't take too long to arrive.

So what's tempting you these days..... and what have you already succumbed to? 
Wednesday, 22 May 2013

All things on the table (...almost)

My friend Rachel has a speciality which she calls "all things on the table". In place of any actual cooking, this 'meal' involves covering the table in lots of different foods which one can pick at. When I was thinking about today's WIP Wednesday update, I felt much like Rachel. I have done very little knitting this week and so I've laid out everything so you can see what I've been picking at. 
WIPs part 2 - ongoing
That's Whipporwill malingering at the back. I must get it finished. I'm going to finish it without the eyelets (discussed here), if for no other reason than I want those needles back! Then we have Hitchhiker, now with 28 'points' - leaving this at the side of the sofa might help to get it done, it's such a nice easy pattern but I forget to pick it up. An extra inch or so has been added to the vanilla (handbag project) socks and there are also some more 'multipuffs' on the go. I cast these on in bed which was the worst thing to do because I also started reading and promptly forgot about the knitting.

I loved Life After Life so much, I listened to the audio book when I wasn't able to read it, and never enjoyed the ironing more! The blurb tells you all you need to know:
"What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale. What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves."

It's our book club read for this month and I can't wait to see what everyone else thought - I really didn't want it to end. There is so much humour and wonderful observation, not to mention the interesting premise of eternal return. I'll definitely be reading more Kate Atkinson, although I might try Ann Hood's The Knitting Circle first - I've had that book for ages and have been meaning to read it.

Oh and I did make some more progress on Zuzu's Petals cowl, started my embroidery sampler and managed some more spinning, but more on those another day - this photo is a little out of date after last night's endeavours!

After all that I need a coffee... and then onto some more ironing with Dan Brown's new Inferno via audio book! Have a great Wednesday. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Passing skills through generations

child practicing spinning with a drop spindle

Little Miss* has been "playing at spinning" with a drop spindle over the weekend. When she gets the hang of spinning this long piece of (ready-made) yarn without the leader falling off the hook (she is so frustrated about that) I'll be giving her some roving to try out. And it's not just my daughter who wants to learn - I've already had to give my mum a demo and she is planning to get her own spindle!

I was quite fascinated to read about Abby Franquemont's spinning as a child and how at age 8, after 3 years of practice, she was finally considered 'good enough' although she was well behind her Andean peers who were already spinning fine strong yarn for their family's weaving supplies. In 'Respect the Spindle' she talks about taking her spinning gear everywhere and how playing with friends involved extreme spinning challenges (spinning off the side of a cliff until the spindle dropped etc). In a couple of recent intereviews (details soon) I talked about not remembering how or when I learned to knit - someone must have shown me, but I can't really remember who or when. Perhaps it was osmosis from my knitty mum and nanna!

All this had me thinking about the skills we pass onto our children. Did you learn your craft from an older family member? What skills do you have that you'd like to pass on to your future generations? Have you taught the older generations any new skills? I'd love to know.
*I am relieved to see that even she has a double chin in a spinning photo, she took some (blurry) pics of me too, and I thought it was just a(nother) sign of getting older. 
Friday, 17 May 2013

My Spinning Journey - Part 2

It's Finished Object Friday and my 'FO' this week is a little swatch made from my first handspun.
What a difference a week makes - last weekend I was desperately trying to get to grips with my drop spindle. After regular practice (of between 15 and 30 minutes most days) things are really starting to come together. It's pleasing to have made what feels like considerable progress this week and also to have received many lovely comments and messages from readers and social-media friends who are inspired to give it a try too. It would seem many of you did the same as me and quickly gave up on spinning after a brief unsuccesful attempt. There are really only two things to get to grips with... and I struggled with both of them at first.  I hope thes links below will be useful to others beginning on their own journey - they are the videos that really made it 'click' for me.

1. Controlling the Spindle:
Quite simply, I couldn't concentrate on the spindle and fiber at the same time, it was too much to think about and so the 'Park and Draft' technique came into its own. There are lots of videos online and I found some of the old YouTube tutorials from Megan LaCore especially helpful. This one makes it look very simple (and really, it is): 

    I don't know about mass distribution or rotational dynamics, but I did know that my spindle was wobbling around a lot and affecting my rhythm, in that I didn't have time to get into one before it would stop and change direction. Reading more about it, it seemed the problem was caused by my inexperienced winding of the 'cop' - ie the way the spun fiber was wound around the spindle. The key is to maintain what I can only think of as it's centre of gravity so as to prevent it becoming unbalanced, and this is done by winding the spun yarn close to the whorl, gradually tapering along the shaft.

    In 'Respect the Spindle', Abby Franquemont suggests trying out both top- and bottom-whorl spindles and this has proven useful advice. So far I have found a slightly heavier bottom whorl to be a lot easier than the lightweight top-whorl starter spindle I first tried. It spins for longer and feels more controlled. This has been fundamental in moving beyond 'P&D'. (It will be interesting to try a top-whorl spindle again when my technique improves further.)
      2. Drafting:
      With the 'Park & Draft" technique sussed, I was able to focus exclusively on drafting, and this clear video from A Yarn Loving Mama was really helpful. 

        Allowing just a little practice each day, the 'thick and thin' spinning soon started to even out, becoming almost automatic and within a couple of days I was only 'parking' the spindle to join new fiber, and not after every few inches as before. As each day passes, various nuances are becoming clearer - like the way the spun yarn starts to feel different to the finger tips just before the spindle starts to turn back on itself. It's as if all the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.  Definitely worth the effort. 
          My technique is very far from perfect and must look quite comical - I start off sitting, and then find myself standing with arms outstretched to delay stopping to wind the yarn on. As suspected, spinning is very addictive ("just one more strip of roving") and actually rather meditative.

          A few people have asked when I'm going to get a spinning wheel - there is an air of inevitability in the question, as if spindles are merely a stepping stone to 'proper' spinning. The answer is that I might well try a wheel at some point in the future, but right now I am absolutely loving the 'hands on' nature of using a spindle and have no plans to switch.

          I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I'll be back next week with more knitting, some stitching and perhaps just a little spinning.

          See also: My Spinning Journey (Part One) and Experimentation & Learning for more useful links. 
          Wednesday, 15 May 2013

          WIPs & Books: All things new

          WIPs and books.
          Knitting: Zuzu's Petals by Carina Spencer in 'lucky dip' yarn from John Arbon
          Spinning: Gray Jacob from Hilltop Cloud
          Reading & listening toLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
          Re-reading (for the umpteenth time): His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

          Spurred on by the excitement of yesterday's handspun, I made a start on the next lot of roving - something more understated and plain. The fiber is lovely and the spinning is going really well so far. As several people have commented (and emailed) with questions about spinning and which links/tutes I have used etc, I'll be posting more about it later this week - but if you missed my previous spining posts you may like to take a look here and here.

          Despite the appalling mid-May weather (7°C and wet today!) thoughts have turned to summer knits and the next knitalong. If you'd like to join in the conversation, please leave a comment below or visit the facebook page where the consensus seems to be a lightweight shawl, or a choice of shawls from a chosen designer. What do you think? Zuzu's Petals cowl was suggested and whilst I feel it's too small a project for a knitalong (I could finish it in a day if I had a whole day to knit) loved the pattern and cast  on immediately. I'm onto the lace section and plan to have it finished at the weekend. If the weather doesn't improve I'll be wearing it this 'summer'. 

          Our book club novel this month is Life After Life. I am enjoying it so much that I also downloaded it from Audible to listen whilst busy around the house, and when spinning in the evening. I'll tell you more about it when it's finished - which will probably be quite soon as I'm over half way already. I'm also dipping into my favourite book after receiving a new edition.  

          So there's a lot going on, and I still have a few books (and projects) I need to tell you about - I'll try to sneak in an extra post over the weekend. 

          Today's links: WIP Wednesday & Yarn Along
          Tuesday, 14 May 2013

          A different kind of exciting

          My birthday ceased being particularly exciting when I got to 32. (It is no co-incidence that our first child was born a couple of months later.) Until then we had a double income, our only dependants could be dropped off at the cattery en route to the airport, and we were keen to out-do one another with the scale and cunning of our surprises - for example I planned a surprise trip to NYC for D's 30th. He trumped that by proposing on Central Park Lake and taking me to a (pre-arranged) champagne brunch at the Waldorf (complete with harpist) while we were there. 

          These days my birthday is usually much like any other day, especially when it falls at the beginning of the week. Like today. A rainy Tuesday. I woke at 6 to discover D had already left for work, dashing all hopes of a cuppa-in-bed. The children started playing (noisily) without realising there was anything different about the day. The dishwasher still needed sorting, breakfast had to be made, children readied for and then dispatched to (pre)/school. Thankfully a friend and my mum came around early which cheered things up somewhat.

          I treated myself to a morning 'off' which meant that instead of working through my list of chores, I sat in the Cwtch with a new novel and some yarn and cast on (I'll tell you about that tomorrow) in the peace and quiet of an empty house. It really was very lovely. 

          I had lunch with Little Miss and one of D's sisters, and when My Boy came home the kids prepared a "tea party" with my Mum's help. They were really happy to have organised the sandwiches and cakes themselves and seeing their excitement made up for the rainy weekday birthday.
          My "party"
          When the food was eaten and the children in need of some rest, I took up my spindle and after a few minutes of spinning (without needing to park and draft!!!) tried plying my singles together. You know what? The thick/thin yarn wasn't half as bad as I was expecting and, even more exciting, the improvement over the last week was really noticeable - despite only spinning for around 3 hours in total, the contents of the second spindle were fairly regular and fairly thin.

          In no time at all, I ended up with this little 38g ball of wool. Yes, that's right - a ball of wool! I made a little ball of wool!!!!!! I have made lots of things over the last couple of years, but I think this is certainly one of the most exciting yet. Imagine taking a load of fluff, twisting it, and coming up with your own yarn - an inconsistent scrappy looking yarn, but still! It's amazing! Definitely worth the discipline of daily practice, even just for 15 minutes (my goal) and I can't believe that waited a whole year to give it a proper try. 

          My very first plied handspun - 38g of inconsistent yarn, and I couldn't be more excited!

          So yes, all in all, I've had a pretty exciting birthday - albeit a different kind of exciting. I am also excited to show you what I'm doing with the yarn... hopefully on Friday. 

          Monday, 13 May 2013

          Cwtch-speak lesson 3: Procraftination

          pro-craft-in-ate* verb
          1. To put off doing something (necessary), in favour of (unnecessary) crafting
          Oh yes, I am at it again - digging around in my craft supplies instead of getting on with existing projects or, heaven-forbid, doing some housework. In fairness, this lovely Alphabet Sampler kit from Alicia Poulson has been waiting patiently for some time, and deserves attention. It also deserves someone more accomplished - this will be my first attempt at any embroidery since I was a child. A small hoop has been ordered and as soon as it arrives I'll make a start. In the meantime I'd better start practicing those stitches. Wish me luck!

          *Unlike previous cwtch-speak lessons, I am unable to recall where I first came across this word, but being so perfectly descriptive, is now firmly in my vocabulary.
          Saturday, 11 May 2013

          Experimentation & learning


          There's nothing like learning new things to blow away the cobwebs and get creative inspiration flowing. Between delivering refreshments to the sick (D and Mum now have that horrid lurgy) looking after the kids, and dodging April May showers, I've been practicing spinning and learning about wool.

          UntitledAs part of last year's Campaign for Wool I was sent a free copy of the British Wool Marketing Board's book 'British Sheep & Wool' and, once the kids had marvelled over the different sheep, duly filed it on my bookshelf. This week it came into it's own. You see, something quite fascinating happened when a bag of Hilltop Cloud fiber arrived in the post, naturally coloured and smelling of animal - I had a real urge to know more about it and the animals it came from. The book is great for a summary of each breed, their origins, and details of the handle, colour, weight and staple length of the wool - which actually made sense as I've also been watching the (free) online course Know Your Wool.

          If you're wondering what else is pictured, it's a spindle bag from the same vendor, perfect for storing spindle and fiber and for travelling - it has a bottle sewn inside the fabric to give added protection. (I love creative upcycling!) With all this to inspire me, I've practiced spindling for 15 minutes a day since Thursday, and it's getting better. Especially since my new bottom-whorl rainbow spindle arrived today from A Yarn Loving Mama. I much prefer this one - it spins for longer, is much more balanced and is just nicer to use. I'm still experimenting with different ways to draft and hold the fiber, but I think I can see some improvement in today's attempt - can't you?
          There is something quite exciting about the idea of making my own yarn - I can't wait until it's good enough to knit with. Oh and I think it could be quite addictive, I actually looked at the sky earlier and imagined drafting the clouds!

          Thursday, 9 May 2013


          It's been a bit quiet around here, hasn't it? I'd love to tell you it's because we have been off doing exciting things, but the truth is the children and I were hit by a nasty stomach bug and I haven't even thought about knitting, blogging or spinning since Monday. Little Miss has been better for the last couple of days and the lad and I are just about getting there.

          Yesterday, with LM at pre-school and then out with a friend (she left me a picture and they brought home flowers!) I had a whole day of cuddles with My Boy. We spent the morning in bed -  ok, I slept through most of it - but each time I stirred he was there, kissing my head or rubbing my arm. He was "looking after" me. In the afternoon we snuggled on the sofa. No need to talk, just 'being' with one another. Despite feeling dreadful, it was great to have this time together.

          Sadly, the very minute his sister came back they started bickering (at one another) and grizzling (at me). I am pretty sure they do love each other in their own way, but it was upsetting to see such a marked difference in him when she got home. They are like chemicals - inert and harmless individually but explosive when together. Maybe it will change as they get older. Please, tell me there is hope....
          Monday, 6 May 2013

          My Spinning Journey - Part 1

          A year ago my sister gave me a beginner's spindle and fibre set. I tried it for half an hour, found it quite tricky and put it back in the box, with an imaginary label marked "for another day". You see, my first attempt, and the thick uneven yarn I produced, left me feeling quite disheartened - I like to be good at things and I just didn't 'get' it. The spindle kept wobbling all over the place, the unspun fibre was getting tangled in the spindle and it really just didn't work out so well. Ever since that day I've had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind - I would have to return to the spindle at some point to figure out how to use it. 
          I recently started watching the YarnGasm video podcast. Beginning with the most recent episode, I worked backwards through the archives and seeing Kristin's spinning progress - in reverse order - inspired me to get give it a proper try. This weekend, armed with YouTube and the excellent book 'Respect the Spindle' I was given for Mother's Day, finally got my head around the following:
          • It's only adding twist to some fibre, in essence it's very simple and a just matter of practice. I can do that. 
          • It doesn't matter how the first lot turns out - while I practice it's about the process not the product (ok, I'm still struggling with this one).
          • It's called a "drop spindle" for a reason - when you're not doing it right, it will drop. It's like a built in quality-check and very helpful when learning. 
          • I changed hands - the first time I tried I held the fibre in my right hand and turned the spindle with my left, this time I reversed it and it seems more natural, although I have been twisting anti-clockwise which is the opposite way to all the people I have watched online. Next time I'll try clockwise, although I don't think this is crucial.
          • A drop spindle isn't just a "gateway drug" to spinning with a wheel, but it's a great (portable, lightweight, easily stored) tool in it's own right. Abby Franquemont says it's like a pen to the spinning wheel's printing press - they are related but different, they have different purposes. Learning more about it really has given me a healthy respect for spindling and it's traditions and I'm more determined than ever to learn how to use it. 
          I was advised on Instagram that once I master it, I won't be able to re-create my first attempts and they should be treasured. For that reason I'm recording my progress here. This is day one...
          Day 1 of my spinning journey.
          It's uneven and probably has too much twist, but I realise it's ok. I have fibre, and the more I use it, the better I'll get. The general advice seems to be that 15 minutes a day is a good aim for beginners and so that's my plan - I'll keep you posted.
          Sunday, 5 May 2013

          YOP Update #22: Steadily busting it!

          With less than two months until the end of the second Year of Projects, this update is long overdue. Since my last post, I've been making some stashbusting progress with three current projects and two already completed. Of course, this has made way for some newer aquisitions so it's working out very well. 
          Year of projects update
          1. Whiippoorwill in Kauni EQ Rainbow gradient - hibernating
          2. Hitchhiker in Regia World College 6 Ply - cast on this weekend
          3. Vanilla socks in Araucania Ranco Multi - current handbag project
          4. "Déjà Vu" Vanilla socks in Stash Addict sock yarn
          5. Bowl Jumper in Patons Silenzio Chunky

          I'm already wondering what will come after this (will there be a 3rd YoP?). I seem to have managed quite a lot of  progress this year despite infrequent updates. You can see my summary is hereI feel like a new challenge is in order from July - perhaps 12 patterns from a particular book, or a dozen pairs of socks, or something else I haven't thought of yet. What would you do?
          Before I go, a little reminder of the Crochet at Play book & yarn giveaway (which ends next Sunday 12th May) and the Roterfaden discount (for the first 20 readers to use the code). See you tomorrow! 
          Saturday, 4 May 2013

          Say hello in May...

          I don't know if all people who like yarn also like stationery, but it seems that many of my readers have a passion for both. Following the recent "peek inside my knitting bag" post, I've had a LOT of questions about my 'knitting folder' - actually a Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter - and so I spoke to the manufacturer to find out more about the background to the product I use daily, and was quite suprised to learn how this small German company first came about.

          Beate Mangrig, the designer behind the Taschenbegleiter, came up with the idea as part of a degree thesis. The brief was to look at ways that personal organisers could be improved, avoiding perforation and so that notebooks and standard sized papers could be well-organised inside with "maximum freedom". Beate's solution came in the form of metal clips which, after much trial and error, were finally perfected. Using the clips, standard A4 documents can be folded in half to fit into the A5 organiser I have, and books which are A5 or smaller can also be clipped in - EZ's Knitter's Almanac fits perfectly! 

          The design went on to gain a distinction at the Academy of Fine Arts Saar and with increasing interest in the original product, Roterfaden was set up and the range developed. Several years on, the company has expanded via the online store and bricks and mortar shop in Saarbrüchen, but each organiser is still handmade with care and attention to detail. 

          The handmade nature of the organiser means that there is quite a lot of flexibility about the configuration (such as space for electronic gadgets, extra pockets, custom embroidery etc). Of course, crafty customers may also like to have pockets for knitting needles/crochet hooks or interchangeable cables, and could make their own inserts too (example pictured). It's quite interesting to look at the product gallery and see how the different fabrics and colours work together.

          If you missed the original post, you may like to read more about how I use my Taschenbegleiter for knitting. 'Taschenbegleiter' means 'bag companion' and that is exactly what this is. It's essentially how I organise my patterns, my (knitting) notebook and any other bits and pieces I might need for different 'in progress' projects - yes, I keep all of my knitting clutter in here, including ball bands for current projects, swatches (when I make them) and spare circular needles in the right size. My patterns are kept in the plastic sheet protectors so they can be taken out when I'm travelling light, keeping them clean and safe from small grubby fingers and handbag detritus. The clip system is simple and easy to use, but very effective.

          If I didn't like the product and the people I've spoken to at the company enough already, the links Beate sent me included various photos of 'yarnbombs' near their shop - I feel destined to visit there one day. In the meantime, I am really pleased to tell you that she is offering a discount to Crafts from the Cwtch readers. The first 20 people to use the special code "15_ Cwtch" will receive 15% off their order. Of course now I'm wondering whether I can possibly justify getting another in coral red leather, after all it's my birthday in May!

          Have a great weekend - if you're in the UK, I hope you enjoy the Bank Holiday. I'll be back tomorrow with a long overdue Year of projects update - see you then!
          Friday, 3 May 2013

          Déjà Done!

          There was a time - several times, actually - when I thought I'd never see this yarn knitted up into a finished object, but I'm delighted to tell you that the Déjà Vu socks - so called because I kept posting different socks I'd started and then frogged - are finished. Not only that, but they are my favourite to date.

          If the socks fit...
          Off the needles & on the feet
          You see, through sheer bad luck, the weight of bearing children, genetics, or something else entirely (but definitely NOT the incredibly pointy shoes I was fond of pre-children, no not those) I appear to have developed what I can only bring myself to refer to as slight hallux abducto valgus deformitiesWhatever the reason for these 'protruburances', my feet are now wider at the front, something I hadn't accounted for in my earlier handknit socks, because sometimes I just don't use my brain at all.

          Since enrolling on Amy Herzog's Knit to Flatter course I can't help myself looking at ways to improve fit, and the socks were no exception. The simple matter of a 4 stitch decrease after the widest part of my foot had it sorted and I now have the perfect pair of socks. And the perfect 'vanilla sock' template. You can find my modifications to Wendy D Johnson's Gusset Heel Basic Socks on my Ravelry notes if you are so inclined.
          More handknit socks!!!!
          ...the NEXT pair!

          The yarn was an early colourway from A Stash Addict and has been in my stash for ever, just waiting for the right project. I have some left too, certainly enough for a small pile of hexipuffs. Of course the thing about socks is, as soon as one pair is off the needles, it's time to cast on more,  and luckily I had another colourful skein of Araucania Ranco Multi awaiting transformation. No guesses what I'm doing this weekend! 

          For more FOs, pop over to Tamis Amis
          Thursday, 2 May 2013

          Dust, anyone?

          A friend recently posted this poem on facebook and I think it's worth sharing on the day I abandoned the house, TWO mountains of ironing and lots of mess to go pink-shoe-shopping with my girl. 

          In the garden
          Dust if you must.
          But wouldn’t it be better,
          To paint a picture, or write a letter,
          Bake a cake, or plant a seed
          Ponder the difference between want and need.

          Dust if you must.
          But there is not much time
          With rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
          Music to hear, and books to read,
          Friends to cherish and life to lead.

          Dust if you must.
          But the world’s out there
          With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
          A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
          This day will not come round again.

          Dust if you must.
          But bear in mind,
          Old age will come and it’s not kind.
          And when you go, and go you must,
          You, yourself, will make more dust.

          Written by Mrs Rose Milligan and published in The Lady Magazine Sept 1988
          Wednesday, 1 May 2013

          Grand Plans. Aborted.

          I had grand plans to tell you all about the GBSB book, my new socks (yes, the Deja Vu socks are finally cast off), and more on my crochet today. Unfortunately it's already past 2pm which means I'm about to head into the busiest time of the day, which will no doubt continue until I'm too tired to write. Instead I'll show you a picture and make a promise to come back to it another day...

          WIPs and books - May 1st

          While you are visiting, you may like to enter the 'Crochet at Play' book and yarn giveaway!!!
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          DISCLAIMER: Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.

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