Patwin Rug Wool Cutter has arrived

I bought this efficient little gadget on eBay last week, and it arrived today.  I have been cutting the wool manually with a gauge I made myself from 2 rectangles of heavy mount card stuck both sides a narrower rectangle of corrugated cardboard to allow for the scissors to be inserted to cut the wool. 

Here is how I made it.

And here is the dingy little Patwin Rug Wool Cutter with some of the shorter lengths.

Unfortunately the cutter cuts to a slghtly different length so I can’t use it as is for the rug I have already started. But being inventive I hope I can pad the drum of the cutter so that it cuts to the same length as my gauge. 

The rug I am currently making is a latched rug hooked into a mesh background. The wool is a British wool and Alpaca mix, which I suspect will shed a lot, although the he British wool should make it reasonably hard wearing. I was seduced into buying the yarn as it was very attractive colours, an soft eggshell blue and a cream which will fit in with most colour schemes, and then a darker teal blue with a rust accent. The design is based on an African textile weave in simple graded stripes broken by a middle stripe with diamond and zip zag patterns as in my working graph.

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A bit of kitchen and eco dyeing

This post is about a bit of experimenting I did last weekend. Dyeing is something I’ve mainly done with Dylon since leaving college myself. At college I learned to use acid and direct dyes in the correct chemicaly formulas, and I even went on a natural dyeing workshop many years ago but never seemed to have the time to put it into practise with small children around. I bought India Flint’s inspiring
So last week, having visited the Ethel Mairet archive at Ditchling Museum and been entranced by the naturally dyed yarns, plus talking to my students about natural dyeing, (which fits in nicely with the hand knit and hand spinning I am teaching a the moment), a.bit of wet work seemed just right.
To start with I dug out some ecru and natural yarns – one is alpaca and merino, and the other two are merino, all double knit weight. Only small, odd balls to play with as this is just fun.
I was regretting the state of a bunch of gorgeous deep red roses given to me on Valentine’s day by my lovely husband, which were dying, so I decided to use these to dye with. After a quite scoot around the internet I found these two helpful posts about dyeing with rose petals
and got cracking.
First I chopped the heads up finely – this is to release the most colour potential.
…and then put them into about twice their volume of water and brought it to the boil and simmered for about an hour to an hour and a half.  Then I squeezed poured it all into a fine sieve and pressed out all the juice and water to extract this lovely coloured liquid (below). The petals were now a beige, having given up all their gorgeous red. I got very excited at this point and began to boil up pans of red onion skins, orange peel, carrot peelings, the cat… (oh no, sorry not the cat)…whatever I thought might give me a dye. Cooking spaghetti bolognese for dinner gave me a range of dye ingredients from the by-products! Luckily I am a good multi-tasker so I don’t think any dye-stuff ended upon in the spag bol sauce, well no-one complained anyway…

Whilst the petals were simmering I had taken my yarns and wound them into hanks on a niddly-noddy – I would love a wooden one, but this rather ghastly plastic one works fine. Actually I think I might have a wooden one somewhere… must look through my cupboards.

Whilst hanking the yarns I inserted ‘leases’ at intevals around the hank (3 on this small hank). These prevent the yarn tangling during the dyeing process and make it easy to back wind into balls afterwards.

I do love the look of a hank twisted up tidily.
The hanks of yarn were then immersed in the vinegar mordant solution, (I used 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar). They were simmered in it for about an hour, and then left in a glass bowl until the liquid was cool. A plate on top kept them submerged.

 When they were ready, I took the hanks out of the mordant, drained them, and immersed the first one in the rose dye into which I had added a tsp of lemon juice as some people say this helps deepen the colour.

However, this is where I believe I went wrong. I had added salt when preparing it to help the dye stick, but I think I should have simmered the yarn in the dye at this stage, because the colour washed out even after an overnight soak. I did re-boil and simmer the next day but the lovely pink colour never returned, it went brownish. Not unattractive, but not the lovely pink it had promised after the first dyeing!

Not being put off I then dyed one hand in the orange peel bath and the other in the red onion skin one. I used only salt on the onion yarn. As with the rose version, I simmered it in a salt water solution and added salt to the dye bath as well and then simmered the yarn in that for an hour. The orange peel and carrot yarn was mordanted in vinegar as the rose yarn had been, salt was added to the dye bath and the yarn simmered in the dye for an  hour.
Above are the hanks hung up to dry after rinsing well,
and below are the final yarns
 I will knit these up once my cold has gone and I feel able to concentrate, and post the result…

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Review of The Knitting Book

Thank you ‘butterfly reader’ for your review of The Knitting Book:

‘I do use other books as well as this one but this is the one I return to when I can’t remember how to do something’

read the complete review at:

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Sequin yarn on a drop spindle

Its that time of year again when I become inspired afresh to spin when I freshen up my skills to teach basic principles and practise of spinning to the first year knit students. This year, I am concentrating on using drop spindles as the wheel can be quite intimidating as an introduction to spinning. Drop spindles are so accessible, and the look of pleasure on their faces when the first successful section of yarn is spun is so rewarding makes them the ideal introductory tool.

We start with tops so they don’t have to card (time is short for the workshop), and I buy both tops and spindles from Wingham Wool Works, and find the dyed Merino tops a really easy one for beginners as the long fibre is more forgiving of slipping fingers and fumbled drafting.
I have made a few quite successful drop spindles out of chop sticks and wooden toy wheels which work well for those who choose not to purchase their own spindle (although as these cost less than a round of drinks I try to persuade them to invest). I discovered the wheels weren’t quite heavy enough, so have added a few pennies secured with BluTak as an interim measure – seems OK for the moment.
So whilst demonstrating I have spun a reasonable amount of purple tops up, and spent last evening plying this with a thread onto which I have threaded sequins – so have now got a pretty decorative yarn I will knit up and post here when done. Hopefully I have balanced the yarn sufficiently – but we will see. The fibre length for this was much shorter than merino so it is consequently a more woollen effect yarn.

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Report on cross-breed sheep for higher quality wool and John Arbontextiles in North Devon

Devon Mule sheep cross bred Devon breed with Blue Faced Leincester produces softer but strong wool, used in this instance for walking socks.

Countryfile BBC1 Sunday 24th January 2016.

Or catch up on iPlayer 
Posted in Devon, socks, Wool, yarn | Leave a comment

How Zen is Your Knitting?

Do you enjoy knitting in a group? 

Mary Mussett and Dr Vikki Haffenden are very excited to be bringing these developmental Knitting Workshops to various venues in Brighton during 2016. In these workshops we will be combining our professional experience to provide you with the opportunity to enhance your skills in both mindfulness and the craft practice of knitting. 
More information to follow soon

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Correction to ‘Felted Tote Bag’ in The Knitting Book p 350-351.

Correction to ‘Felted Tote Bag’ in The Knitting Book p 350-351. Corrections in bold and italics. 

Cast on 50sts.
Starting with a k row, and working in st st, inc at both eds on 5th row. Work 10 rows without shaping. (52sts).
Row 16 (WS): Inc in first st. p15, cast off 20sts. p15 inc in last st. (54sts)
Carry on as pattern is printed.

Apologies – just have to remember that those wonderful pattern checkers are not infallible. It’s all in the numbers…

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British Knitting Awards 2015

A big thanks to all of those who voted for The Knitting Book in the British Knitting Awards 2015.

‘The Knitting Book is the book of all books for the knitter, whether you are a beginner or have been knitting for years…This book is so full of great information that it’s an essential companion for every knitter.’
( )

The Knitting Book is available in Australia and the US, and has been translated into Dutch and German.

Knit Step by Step
is also available in German and Portugese.

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Patterns on Ravelry

My hand knit patterns from Rooster Book One are downloadable from Ravelry:

Man and Babies’s Hat

 Soft Baby Blanket

both patterns are worked in the lovely Rooster yarns.

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My Passap E6000 is out of the cupboard!

I have finally unearthed my Passap E6000 from its hibernation and even got the motor running!
Of course I still don’t have much time to use it – but last night I stole a few hours to try to remember how to use it. Luckily I spent the summer servicing a ‘green’ Passap and bringing it back to life, its just the electronic patterning that I have lost touch with.
So here is my first piece off the machine that even warrants mentioning. Its a racked tuck pattern with a needle selection on the front bed, knitted with manual settings only as I didn’t have the energy to tackle the controller at the time. Its knitted in 2/16nm lambswool and washed.

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