Sunday, 22 December 2013

A New Pattern: The Draft Excluder Cowl

We all love snuggly necks don't we?

I conceived of this pattern because I wanted to eliminate those pesky winter drafts from coming in to the 'V' created when wearing coats, jumpers, etc. The ultimate solution for chilly and windy days.

One more plus ... it won't migrate and become displaced like some scarves and cowls do, because it's shaped to fit from your chin to your breast bone.

This shaped cowl can be worn under a normal scarf or in place of a scarf, and it is customisable to fit all ... from children to adults.

It's a fun project that knits up really quickly in either commercial or handspun chunky yarn.

Please find it available for purchase in my Ravelry store. Here's the link:

Many thanks and happy knitting :)

Friday, 6 September 2013

SAL/KAL: Age of Brass & Steam Shawl


Come and join in the fun via Instagram ... #salkalageofbrass

Or Ravelry ... AYARNLOVINGMAMA group.

Or Facebook ... A Yarn Loving Mama page.

Looking forward to seeing everyone's creations.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A Yarn Loving Mama on Facebook

So excited to show you a video that I submitted to Raise The Roof Productions company earlier on this year, with a view to introducing the concept of spinning wool on a drop spindle.

If you can provide a short how-to video showing how you create your hand crafted goods, please go along to Facebook page KIRSTIE'S HANDMADE BRITAIN for details on how to submit yours.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Handspun Capucine Hat FO

From dye pot to finished garment ... here's my handspun Capucine hat FO write-up.

I started off with 200g of undyed BFL fiber which I dyed with green(ish) & pink Kool-Aid. It looked so gorgeous straight out of the dye pot ...

When dry, the colours became much less vibrant, and I was worried that I might have felted the fiber slightly.

But after some pre-drafting, I began to spin it up (during the Tour de Fleece in July this year).

With the Capucine pattern in mind, I spun it in bulky/superbulky weight. As my first batch of handspun of the TdF it was a little uneven and over-spun in places, but I was still more than happy with the result.

Then, on my trip to Cornwall last week, I cast on during the four hour drive to the caravan park.

I do so love a bulky knit, as it seems to grow before your eyes.

I finished the main bulk of the hat quite early into the holiday, but forgot to pack my DPNs so had an agonising wait to finish it off.

A few days later, on the evening of returning home, I completed the last few decrease rows and closed the peak of the hat up, added braids, sewed the ends in and tried the hat on immediately.

I think you can see from the photo how pleased I am with the hat, which fits perfectly and is remarkably warm.

I just adore making the whole item from start to finish and can't quite explain how satisfying it is. It's just a wonderful feeling.


Taking part in Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch's SPINNING SHOW & TELL meme today. Please go along and take a look at her gorgeous blog.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Wensleydale Locks - A First Attempt at Art Yarn

Today, I am delighted to be guest blogging for Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch on her 'Spinning Show & Tell' weekly spinning meme.

When Sarah emailed to say she was going on holiday and would I like to write a guest post on spinning I jumped at the chance. I decided straight away that I would attempt something outside of my comfort zone for the project with a 'show & tell' style blog post for Sarah, and a more in depth 'how-to' for my blog.

I have been spinning since 2009 and have, to date, focused on the attainment of a good conventional and functional yarn. I have been mostly stuck in 2-ply Yarn Land, practicing a variety of yarn weights and using a variety of animal fibers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a perpetual desire to spin the most even and perfect skein of yarn, but after completing 2-ply skein number 11 at the close of the Tour de Fleece last month, I made a personal and conscious decision to try something new.

With a burgeoning desire to broaden my spinning horizons I took to Instagram, YouTube and new spinning magazine PLY for inspiration.

Good old Ebay provided me with the raw materials for the project, which on this occasion was 100g of scoured Wensleydale locks, and 100g of Wensleydale top.

I began by spinning the whole 100g top as a singles yarn at an even(ish) sock/fingering weight.

The following evening, I prepared the locks by separating each one from the main bulk of fiber and laid them on my lap ready to incorporate into my spun singles.

Attaching the singles onto an empty bobbin via a leader yarn in such a way as to create the first loop needed for the Navajo or chain ply method, I was ready to go.

I began by plying a few feet of yarn to get myself into the swing of things, all the while feeling the excited anticipation of the addition of locks.

Having done a fair amount of online research about how to attach the locks to my yarn, I eventually chose to try a method where you push the top (sheared) end of the lock through the end of the loop created in the crochet chain type action of the Navajo ply. This secures the lock in place, and then you continue to ply down the length of the lock, leaving the curly tip to poke out at the bottom. If done correctly, the lock will then be completely anchored into place within the 3-ply yarn.

I continued on in this fashion, adding a new lock every (or every other) time I needed to perform a new ‘chain’ section of my ply.

As I have a normal flyer on my Ashford Joy spinning wheel, I sometimes had to feed the bulkier sections of yarn through the orifice and hooks by hand, but this was easily and quickly achieved.

Very soon I noticed that my bobbin was filling up nicely.

By the time the bobbin was full to capacity, I was feeling very jaded from a high level of sustained and complete concentration, so I left it where it was and called it a night.

First thing in the morning, I was excited to wind the yarn onto a niddy noddy and inspect my work.

So far so good. I really liked what I saw, but my fibery transformation wasn't over yet.

On to the dye job!

Securing the yarn in four places with white acrylic yarn using the figure of eight style, I took it off the niddy noddy and off for its first bath ... a nice half hour soak in luke warm water.

Meanwhile, I filled a large saucepan with one litre of water to which I added three tablespoons of citric acid, two 10g Sky Blue and two 10g Lime Green Dr. Oetker food colour gel tubes. I turned the hob on to a low heat and stirred until all the ingredients were completely dissolved.

After carefully squeezing out as much water as I could from my art yarn, I lowered it into the dye bath and turned up the heat to bring up to a gentle simmer.

I allowed the pot to simmer away for approximately twenty minutes until I was content that the yarn had taken up as much of the dye as it needed. Having used this food colour to dye fiber before, I knew that it doesn't completely absorb all the colour as is usually recommended. The green gel colour tends to leave a yellow in the water that doesn't take to the fiber easily. As I didn’t want the yarn to become a felted mass, I took the pot off the heat and let it stand for a couple of hours.

Once completely cool, I was able to take the yarn for another soak; This time in a weak detergent bath. Then a rinse to wash any excess dye and soap suds away. Next rolling it up in a nice dry towel, standing on it to squeeze out as much fluid as possible, and then I hung it up to dry with a big smile all over my face.

By early evening the same day, the yarn was dry and I took great satisfaction in re-skeining it for a photo shoot.

I am immensely happy with how this yarn has turned out, in so much as I had an idea of how I wanted this yarn to look in my best case scenario imagination, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the fruits of my labour.

Will I use this yarn as yarn? ... Maybe.

Will I admire it, have it out on show and stroke it a whole lot? ... Oh yes!

So I guess that what I’m saying is that there’s no need to fear spinning, in any of its guises. If you are spinning-curious then you can look to purchase a drop spindle spinning kit and get started creating your very own yarn.

And if you have already started this wonderful craft and are feeling the need to progress on to different methods, I’d say GO FOR IT. I wholeheartedly recommend that if you admire a certain look, texture or colour of yarn, then go out and make it happen ... fearlessly.

Play with different fibers ... animal, vegetable and synthetic ... research different ways of creating yarns in a variety of textures, colours and sizes.

I can assure you it’s a whole lot of fun, with a heaped tablespoon of creative satisfaction on the top.

Many thanks for reading.

I'd love to hear from you if you've been inspired to try something new too :)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Tour de Fleece 2013

This was the year I took the plunge and joined in with the Tour de Fleece, and I'm so glad I did because I loved every minute of it.

Through the hottest British summer since 2006, I still managed to spin every day that the Tour de France cycled ... even if I had to wait until the evening so it was cool enough to do so.

Here's my final tally ... all 845g of it!!

I managed these 11 skeins of completed yarn, all 2-ply, but in a variety of fibers and in a variety of weights.

I especially love this skein of BFL sock weight yarn in a 'Watermelon Tourmaline' colour scheme I had custom dyed by Danielle of A Stash Addict.

I also tried spinning alpaca for the first time, albeit in a blend of merino and silk, but it was my first alpaca experience nonetheless. I'm really pleased with the results of this uber-soft DK weight yarn.

I also tried spinning a singles yarn for the first time. I'm seriously over the moon about this one as it ended up better than I expected. After asking some TdF team mates for advice, I slightly fulled the yarn by alternating it in a hot versus cold bath, and then hung it to dry with a weight on the end. I will definitely be trying this out again soon, as it provides you with so much more yardage than a 2-ply.

I was disappointed about not being able to finish the rainbow merino fiber on my drop spindle, but it really was too hot to spin yarn during the day. Despite that, I did have all the good intentions, and took my spindle out on numerous day excursions ... only to give up actually spinning after the first 10 minutes, drenched in sweat and in fear of felting my fiber between my hands! Here's a photo of me feeling optimistic on route to the beach, spindle in hand.

I was also half way through some lace weight luxury 50% baby camel and 50% tussah silk yarn when the TdF ended.

Badly timed I know, but the end of the event just crept up on me so quickly.

Not yet sick of spinning, I carried on my daily spinning to get it finished.

As I didn't want to be a Rookie-No-Mates, Team AYLM was founded on Instagram and Ravelry. Thanks so much to all who joined in. I've had some lovely messages from team mates who wrote to say that they also thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Please go for a look at all the beautiful yarn and spinning via hashtag #teamaylmtdf13 on Instagram.

As a thank you to my team mates, I pledged a prize drawn at random of a custom made drop spindle.

And I'm so pleased to announce that the lovely Jenni (IG username @baamekniits) was the winning member.

So it's over for 2013, and now I've done my first I can say that I will be there with bells on next year and probably every year after that.

It's such a wonderful opportunity to be inspired by others, develop your own skills, grow as a fiber artist, make new like-minded friends and enhance that wonderfully OOAK handspun yarn stash.

See you all there next year :)

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Summery Sock KAL 2013

Many thanks to all the lovely knitters on Instagram and Ravelry who took part in the first Summery Sock KAL this year. With the success of the event, I'm planning on organising it for the 1st June 2014 also.

So with the beautiful array of socks knitted by participants of the event, I thought that I would bombard you all with a feast for the eyes in this KAL write-up.

This years pattern was the fabulous 'Hermione's Everyday Socks' by Erica Lueder.

After a false start (!) I decided to make it easier on myself and omit the contrasting toe, heel & cuff. I also decided to do them one-at-a-time/top-down.

At the end of the month I'd allocated to the KAL, I'd only managed to finish one of the socks, but have cast on my second so that I have a WIP rather than a potential second sock syndrome issue.

I was also delighted that two of the KAL participants used yarn dyed by my own fair hands in my own little workshop at home.

Here are @amberweinberg's beautiful socks from my first batch 'Epiphany' self-striping sock yarn.

And here are @scarffaces' finished socks from my 'Afternoon Tea' sock yarn.

So the following pic is a lovely montage of some of the early days of the KAL, showing the exciting start of things to come.

And now on to some more progress pics of peoples' beautiful knitting.

As you may or may not know, purple is one of my favourite colours, and I particularly enjoyed looking at the high percentage of people who chose this wonderful colour to make their socks with.

And here are some TA-DAH moments from some of the KAL participants who achieved an FO!

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to offer prizes to KAL participants. Ramona Burke (IG name @ramonarose) got in touch to say that I could award two lucky KAL-ers with one of her gorgeous and practical Sock Sack patterns.

I decided I would give one of the prizes to my 'favourite' pair of socks, and one to a random participant. On the 30th June, I made my selections.

The favourite prize went to @rijelviolent who knit her socks with 'Across The Universe' by Lynai Yarns, which is just a beautiful array of some of my favourite shades.

However, this honest young lady got in touch to say that she was very grateful for the prize, but that because she already owned the Sock Sack pattern, that she would rather offer her prize to someone else.

So, I chose another favourite ... by @stripeymonkey.

The film geek in me loves these socks because they are totally in theme for the Harry Potter inspired Hermione pattern because they are in Gryffindor colours. And the eccentric side in me loves the fact that there is an odd green contrast toe that the creator of the socks calls her 'lucky green toe', which I think is fabulous!

And then on to the winner chosen using a random number generator was @milliemull, but very deservedly so with her stunning earthy green socks.

If you would like to go onto Instagram and look at more photos of the event, please do a search under hashtag #summerysockkal13.

The KAL was also run alongside IG in my Ravelry Group: AYARNLOVINGMAMA.

So let's add to that ever-growing pile of hand-knitted socks ... See you all again next year :)

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Tour de Fleece Begins: 2013

It's Saturday the 29th June 2013, which means only one thing! ... Well two things actually ...
  1. It's the start of the annual Tour de Fleece event. The (yarn) spinning event for worldwide lovers of fiber, making yarn whilst watching Wimbledon, drinking copious amounts of tea, and steaming through the ample stash in the hopes of creating space for yet more fluff.

  2. Also the start of the annual Tour de France event. The (cycling) spinning event for worldwide lovers of hard physical graft, hill climbs, heavy bouts of sweating, and tight lycra outfits.
Needless to say, I will only be participating in one of these events.

As usual, I called upon my lovely Instagram friends to join me in what will be my Rookie year for the event.

I've been a TdF lurker/stalker for a couple of years, but felt that this was the year to get stuck in and get involved.

Having recently set up my own Ravelry Group for all things 'ayarnlovingmama' related, I decided it would be fun to have an AYLM Team for this spinning event. This is especially exciting for me this year, as a number of the participants will be joining me using one (or more) of my handmade drop spindles.

Lovely friends on IG and Ravelry have been eager to get involved with me. There's already a wealth of beautiful photos and videos on Instagram via hashtag #teamAYLMtdf13.

I will be taking part with my three spinning tools ...
  • My beloved Ashford Joy D/T Spinning Wheel

  • My Enid Ashcroft Midi Turkish Drop Spindle

  • My handmade Top Whorl Rainbow Drop Spindle
It really doesn't matter what tools you own, as long as you try to spin some yarn every day that the Tour de France cycles (29th June to the 21st July), rest when they rest (8th & 15th July), and challenge yourself on the 18th July when the cyclists have to do the Alpe d'Huez twice!

What I love about this event is that it is a wonderful opportunity to improve your technique, learn from others and be inspired/encouraged by the event which sees over 6,000 people taking part over the world.

If you want to read all about it, please visit the main Tour de Fleece page on Ravelry HERE.

I couldn't set up a team of my own without some benefits to participants, so this year I'm really happy to announce that members will receive 10% discount on fiber from the awe inspiring A Stash Addict shop.

Also, there will be a random giveaway at the end of the event for one lucky group member who will get to have a custom 'ayarnlovingmama' drop spindle made especially for them.

I am going to attempt to spin all of this yummy fibery goodness! The two at the bottom were hand-dyed by me, and then above are my hand-carded punis/rolags, then we have a 200g bag of 'Alpaca Supreme' and a 200g bag of undyed Organic Merino from John Arbon Textiles, and the gorgeous colourful fiber at the back is from Danielle of A Stash Addict.

Such a feast for the eyes.

I can't wait to see what everyone creates.

I really will be in seventh heaven for the next month.

Please get involved if you feel inspired by reading this article. It would be amazing to have you along for the ride :)

Saturday, 8 June 2013

My Hand-Dyed Great Divide Shawl FO

I took part in a fun KAL recently, and just have to share the results.

The pattern was the Great Divide Shawl by kisskisskiddo on Ravelry, and I must say that it's my favourite shawl knit to date. It was fun, easy to memorize and quickly knit up with DK weight yarn.

Loving the creative freedom of dyeing my own yarn, I decided to take on a self-made challenge and dye with a specific project in mind for the first time.

As a relative dyeing noob, I'm still messing about with Kool Aid, but am constantly amazed by the richness and contrast of colours that can be achieved from what is essentially a powdered drink for children!

So, with my undyed 100% merino yarn, I set to work in the kitchen with the kettle dye method. I started with two contrasting colours, and here is what I came up with:

I called the one on the left 'Bluebell' as it features the beautiful range of purples, lilacs and blues found in the flowers of the same name. The one on the right is 'Earth Mother' as it reminds me of the earthy colours found so frequently on our planet; oranges, browns, rusts and greens.

I couldn't wait for this yarn to dry so I could cast on.

I just love the cast on for shawls, when the rows are short and you make fast progress.

With this pattern, I was excited to be able to use my contrasting colour very soon after starting the project. It is always a thrill to see how the colours you have chosen work together in the flesh, rather than in the imagination.

Being a sucker for texture as well as colour, I was in seventh heaven with this pattern ... as you can see, the stitches form a gorgeous repeating striping pattern with a great tactile design.

Being DK weight with a frequent set of increases, the main bulk of the shawl was knit up in no time, and I began to think on what I wanted to do about the bottom border. Initially, I was just going to knit the bottom edge with the remainder of the Bluebell coloured yarn, but as the shawl progressed, I started to visualise a third colour, so I set to work with the dye pots again.

I wanted a nice Spring-fresh green that would complement the other seasonal colours, and was really pleased with the results of my third skein of yarn.

Green is my favourite colour, and I usually like a slightly earthier shade, but I was really happy with the tonality I achieved in the bright limey-yellowy green pictured above, and it was exactly what I wanted to ofset the other bright colours featured in my shawl.

I am really happy with the three colours I chose, and even more so that I dyed them myself.

The finished shawl is my quintessential Spring and Summer Shawl for chilly British weather ... so bright and cheerful.

I am one very happy dyer / knitter indeed.

If you are on Instagram, please use hashtag #greatdividekal to see all the other wonderful knitters who took part in the KAL.


Taking part in Tami's Amis and Other Creations FO Friday. Please go along and see all the other wonderful FOs :)