Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Woolfest

Two years ago we spent a week of glorious sunshine in Cumbria, and attended Woolfest as part of our holiday.

We were moving house last year, so I couldn’t go.

This year, we decided to take a long weekend, so we headed off to Cockermouth on Thursday 23rd to stay in Rose Cottage B&B for three nights.

On the way we stopped off at somewhere called the Alpaca Centre. They had alpaca jumpers, gloves, hats, alpaca rugs, a stuffed cria; the works! They also had some real live alpaca in their field.

Alpacas

After a much needed cup of tea, we arrived in Cockermouth at about lunchtime. As the B&B wasn’t yet open for arrivals, we headed into town for some lunch and a wander. There were some interesting craft shops, and Hubby spent some time in the music shop there.

Friday was Woolfest. It usually runs on the Friday and Saturday, and I like to go on the Friday. We didn’t spend too long queueing, which was nice, and then we had a wander around. I like to do one loop where I don’t buy anything, and then re-visit everywhere I want to buy from.

I came back with quite a haul!

Woolfest_Haul

Here’s a bit of a breakdown
The black "sheep" item is a limited edition bag. It says "It's all about the sheep" and is very cool.

Woolfest Shopping

This is a plying tool. After my disastrous attempts at Andean plying (big tangled mess) I’m quite excited to find this tool. I can’t for the life of me remember who I bought it from…

Woolfest Shopping

Because I know I will never get around to making myself one, this is a roll for my crochet hooks to live in. rather than the tatty plastic cases they live in right now.

Woolfest Shopping

Sock yarn, made from Teeswater sheep (though not from Teeside). Each skein is unique, and this was such a pretty colour. Also the Teeswater is very lustrous. I don’t know if it will be socks or something else. The little bag it’s sitting on is a hand-made gingham bag; lovely!

Woolfest Shopping

Fyberspates Lace weight Scrumptious (buy it here) yarn. It really is that pretty shade of blue. It’s amazing. I also bought the Scrumptious Collection book, which Jeni signed for me! I’m already planning to make one of the tops in the book with the yarn I picked up! I have to finish my Apr├Ęs Surf Hoodie first though.

Woolfest Shopping

Manx/Wensleydale Organic Laceweight. It’s lovely and soft and pretty and naturally that colour. What more could you ask for? It’s amazing.

Woolfest Shopping

500g of “caramel” coloured alpaca fleece, ready to spin. Lovely. It’s a shopping bag full, and when it’s spun I have a bag I can shop with (though it will be a bit hairy for a while!)

Woolfest Shopping

I stopped off at Felt Studio UK’s stand and watched Daniella spin for a (very short) time, before buying some lovely Jacob hand-dyed top. It’s a nice fat squishy braid too!

Woolfest Shopping

I bought a 100g bag of Hebridean fibre to spin with too. It looks pretty hairy, but it doesn’t feel rough to touch. I’m hopeful that if it is a bit rough I might be able to felt something from it.

Woolfest Shopping

Angora Bunny fur from Skyrack Angoras. This is a lovely greyish colour. I had a lovely chat with the lady about how to spin this. She recommended blending it with something else. I think that I’d like to get it to be about 50% angora, but I don’t know yet what I want to blend it with. And I only have some small hand cards. I might need to get on Ravelry in the UK Spinners forum and ask them what they recommend.
Woolfest Shopping



Woolfest Shopping

I stopped off at the Winghams stand and selected these bargains. 50g balls of merino silk for £3.50. Lush colours too. And now I’ve seen it in person, I’ll be reasonably happy to pick some more up online. Well, when I’ve spun more of my spinning stash anyway.

Woolfest Shopping

Manx Loughton fibre, carded (there were also rollags available!) ready for spinning. As you might have gathered, I’m keen to try spinning as many different breeds of fibre (including non-sheep) as possible!

Woolfest Shopping

All the colours on Freyalyn’s stand were amazing. I was determined to buy some as the sample I got (that I killed by trying to Andean ply it) from the fiberholics box was really nice colours. This isn’t merino though, it’s BFL and silk. (I went a bit gooey for silk blends this woolfest!)

We also went to Trotter’s World of Animals which was good fun! They had a nice selection of animals there, the meercats were cute, but my favourite were the gibbons! So I’ll leave you with this video of a gibbon running away. Brilliant!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In the Groove

I’ve finally got back into my crafting groove!

After the honeymoon, I started a new baby sweater (I linked it in a recent post). I’m part way through my second one now, only the sleeves and button bands to go.

garter-yoke-buttons

Pattern: Garter Yoke Baby Cardi by Jennifer Hoel
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Ecobaby Fairtrade (2 balls of 14005 – sea blue)
Needles: 3.5mm
Modifications: None!
Verdict: I like this little baby cardi. It’s a quick enough knit and is suitable for either sex of baby. I would consider knitting on the button band as it’s worked for future cardis, but for the first two I’ve done it as written.

garter-yoke

Since then I have also been working on my honeymoon shawl. I’m pretty pleased with how that has turned out too.

Elise Shawl

Pattern: Elise Shawl by Evan Plevinski
Yarn: Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball (1 ball of cranberry)
Hook: 6mm
Modifications: Instead of the 11 repeats suggested I did 16 repeats of the two pattern rows. I also used a larger hook (5.5mm was recommended). Finally, at the point instead of a picot to make the point have a twin point rather than the single point
Verdict: I really enjoyed working on this; in fact it’s really won me over to crochet! I’ve done small things in the past (bags and slippers) but this is so pretty and was so simple. It also had the benefit of being good aeroplane work, as it’s not permitted to take knitting needles on flights out of the UK.

Elise Shawl

Elise Shawl
Elise Shawl

I’ve also been doing a spot of spinning. This was fluffy BFL fibre that I picked up from Grace and Jacob a short while ago.

Grace & Jacob BFL pre-spinning

I was totally drawn to the colours, so vibrant and pretty. I wasn’t sure about such discrete stripes, so I decided to go for another attempt at fractal spinning.

Grace & Jacob BFL pre-spinning

There were some patches where the dye hadn’t penetrated the whole way through the fibre, which gave me some interesting pale patches. At first I was cross about this, but now that its spun I quite like the effect!

Here’s the yarn now that it’s finished. It was spun, plied, washed, whacked, spun in the washer and then hung in my garage.

Grace & Jacob BFL spun

Fiber: Grace and Jacob BFL Superwash
Colourway: Summer Pudding
Spun using: Ashford Traveller, highest ratio
Spin direction: Z (wheel turning anticlockwise, spin to the left)
Plying type/direction: 2ply, S (wheel turning clockwise, spin to the right)
Yarn Stats: ~100g / 426yds (wpi tbc, approx. laceweight)
Verdict: This was quite fun to spin, and when I got into the swing of things it took very little time (almost all of it was spun in one weekend!). I wasn’t sure about the pale patches until it was plied and they actually look quite nice, though we’ll see how it knits up. It was quite easy to spin too, the BFL is nice and grippy.

So, lots done.
It's woolfest on Friday/Saturday, so I'm going to Cumbria! Woo! I'm taking the second baby cardi, the sweater-that-didn't-make-it-on-honeymoon and maybe my socks, so I'll have choice of what to knit!
Anyway, my husband wants his tea, so I'll be off for now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It’s been quite quiet on the knitting and spinning front for a while, hasn’t it? I’m afraid I have only one finished object since the bookmark I made with my handspun from MHE.

I have been doing some spinning; I was working on some lovely super wash merino. It spun up nicely, though it was drifting in places, and I decided to Andean ply it. This, it seems, was a mistake. I now have a tangled mess of singles in my waste bag :( fortunately it was just a sample 10g. I’ve moved on to some BFL from a local shop, Grace and Jacob. It is shocking pink and red, exactly what I feel like spinning at the moment. I’m managing quite a fine but high twist single. I’ve split the fibre in half, and then split one half into 4 lengthways to try to minimise the striped effect. It’s like the fractal experiment I tried recently, but not.
I’ve barely spun any yet though, but I will.

On the knitting front, I haven’t gone back to my hoody yet, though I shall. First though, I want to finish the second of these baby cardigans. The one linked has already gone to its new home, and I am on a green one now. There are a number of babies on the way at the moment, so I might have to consider a different pattern for the next one, though this one is nice and quick, and quite easy to adjust. I’ve also got some way still to go on my honeymoon shawl. Perhaps I’ll pick that back up tonight. It’s an easy enough pattern, and I have plenty of yarn left. I’m going to finish the ball to give me the biggest shawl I can manage from 400yds of Zauberball!

I have promised myself I will knit something with some of my handspun too, though I don’t know what to knit, or which handspun. Sadly they’re different enough colours that they wouldn’t really work as one garment (there’s an excuse to spin more).

MHE Shetland KaleidoscopeBonkers FlamingoGeyser Peach on Skein

they are also plied differently, the middle one was Navajo plied, I think the other two were both just two-plied from bobbins.

I have been keeping an eye on the scrap swap on ravelry though, which is giving me ideas! I’ve been thinking about buying a pack of small amounts (5-10g per colour) which would normally be for felting, and then having a go with that. Or maybe buying up some plain undyed fibre and dying it myself…

Or, as I saw in a post by MHE’s Helen, I could take several “skeins” of fibre, line them up in order of a colour progression, split them in half to create two plies and then “shift” one ply to fade from colour to colour.

e.g.

Before Sorting.After Sorting
AA.AA
AA.AB
BB.BB
BB.BC
CC.CC
CC.CD
DD.DD
DD.DA

That would give the effect of “barber pole” where A and B overlap, and where B and C overlap etc. If they’re similar colours then this would be quite subtle. For more contrasting colours it would be a definite stripe! Of course for a 3ply this effect could be made all the more striking. I saw an article, I think it was in spin-off about a scarf knitted like that, using lace weight yarn but knitting with six strands held together, changing out one strand for the second colour until all the strands were of the second colour. It worked really well! I love that subtle fade stripe effect, similar to that in Noro yarns. Of course if fibres A, B, C and D were all hand dyed fibre too, and were not solid colours, then this might be even more interesting!

This is the trouble I have though; I have all these ideas but no time to bring them to fruition! It sucks! I guess too much inspiration is better than not enough though. Certainly if I want to be creative I have many outlets though which I can express myself, whether it’s painting, cardmaking, knitting, sewing, crocheting, spinning, writing this blog, designing, cooking, gardening... the possibilities are (almost) endless!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Honeymoon Part 2 - 8 nights on Meeru (in the Maldives)

Well, after the fairly hectic schedule of the first 6 nights, we were ready to take it easy for a while.

We had a mid-day flight with Sri Lankan Air. They were pretty good. We transferred to our island, Meeru, by speedboat and once we'd been greeted we were shown to our room. Our room was amazing. We were in a jacuzzi water villa.
This was our view:
 And the walk into resort (or back of an evening) was none too shabby either...
It was pretty, and peaceful, there were few children and no louts.
We relaxed a lot.
We relaxed in the infinity pool (adults only, by the bar at the end of our jetty)
We relaxed over dinner in the beautiful dining room
We relaxed while watching sunsets...



...and dolphins...
I crocheted on my honeymoon shawl
we did a spot of kayaking, in the rain!

we drank cocktails from coconuts
and did some sunbathing
we even went snorkelling



and relaxed in the infinity pool some more, with "all inclusive cocktail of the day" - in this case, cosmohito. Yum!


Amazing! Lovely and relaxed.
But no, I haven't finished the shawl yet (I've done what the pattern said, but it's barely a shawlette, so I'm doing more!) I'm already looking forwards to our next holiday, though that's in Cumbria so I'm not expecting this sort of weather!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Honeymoon Part 1 – 6 nights in Sri Lanka

After a night at the airport, and a couple of hours in the VIP lounge, we boarded our first flight at lunchtime on Monday. The first leg was on an Airbus A380 – the Super-Jumbo. It’s a great plane, even in cattle class we had a good amount of space. We were flying with Emirates, so all the in flight food and entertainment was good. I enjoyed having a choice of food! We changed at Dubai in the middle of the night, and so we tried to sleep for much of the next leg. We were on a Boeing 777 for that leg, which doesn’t really compare! Still, we arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at about 8am local time, and once we’d picked up our bags we headed out to meet our Kuoni rep and our Driver.

Day 1
Once we’d met Monroe, our driver, he took us away from Colombo and we got on the road to Kandy. One thing to say about Sri Lanka is that the transit system isn’t exactly the autobahn. However, before we really knew it we were at our first stop. A small museum dedicated to the Asian Elephant. We found out some interesting facts, such as that the Asian Elephant’s ear is shaped like India. (Okay, we knew that too) or that only 3% of male Asian Elephants have tusks (we didn’t know that) and that they’re used in Sri Lanka in much the same way as horses were (and sometimes still are) used in the UK.



We visited a suspension bridge where part of Indiana Jones was filmed, which was pretty cool. It was amazingly humid!


We had a massage to round off the day (the rest was travel! Kandy is a long way from Colombo!) and a lovely evening in our first hotel, the Chaaya Citadel. It was a really nice hotel!

Day 2
Our second day we headed off to an ancient monument in Sri Lanka, known as Lion Rock (Sigiriya).


We climbed up to the frescoes and saw those, it’s a shame how much has been lost over the centuries, but it was well worth seeing. These frescoes were centuries old!

 
Then we climbed up the last scary set of steps to the very top of the rock. The top part would have been the summer palace, we were told, with the gardens on the way up being part of the winter palace. I think that the main difference between summer and winter is the amount of rain that they have.



It took us a long time to get all the way up, and about half that time to get back down again.
It looks cloudy, and it was a bit cloudy, but it was so hot you wouldn't believe! 

I bought some lovely carved elephants there too! On the way back we stopped off at a giant golden Buddha. I’m pretty sure it’s painted gold as opposed to being actual gold.




Day 3
We packed up our stuff, as we were moving hotels, and headed off to the Temple of the Tooth during the time when the tooth is “visible” – by which I mean that you can see it from three rooms away, and it’s in its own container, so no actual tooth seeing.


 It's the white thing back three rooms in that picture. See?

Still, the temple itself is amazing, and there is lots to see there. Our driver conducted a personal tour for us, which was great because there wasn’t a lot of signage.


Our next stop was Nuwara Eliya, in the tea district. I loved this part of the trip.


The weather was a little cooler, and much less humid. There were rose trees everywhere! And it smelled of tea. Everywhere you looked there were tea plants. It was amazing. We drank tea there too, and brought some home. Tea in this country is a shadow in comparison to proper Sri Lankan tea!

Day 4
We had a nice relaxed day. I spent some time in the morning reading in the gardens (it was a nice temperature to sit out in) and pottering around. (Hubby was feeling ill, so stayed in bed).


In the afternoon, when he was feeling better, we went to the botanical gardens nearby.


It was beautiful, and I really enjoyed the quiet pace of the day. (It set us up well for the next day which was to be hectic.) On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the post office in Nuwara Eliya itself, where they had a King George VI post box!


We had another night at the hotel there, the Tea Factory. The service there was amazing, and the staff were all so helpful when I asked them not to disturb hubby as he wasn't feeling well - they even offered to call the doctor if we needed him!

Day 5
Most of the morning of day 5 was travelling, though we stopped off at a nice waterfall on the way, and saw some wildlife.


But that was just on the way to the highlight of the day: Safari!





 Well, the pictures speak for themselves, don't they?

We even saw more elephants on the way to our final hotel in Colombo... This was on the elephant highway, so they are behind an electric fence.


Where we bid farewell to our guide, and checked in for one last night.


The hotel was amazing, it had its own beach too. There were at least three weddings going on while we were there! I loved the traditional saris, and there was a girl in a very European looking gown too, but different somehow - more sparkly I think!


It was an amazing 7 days, and then we had the pleasure of jetting off to the Maldives for the second half of our honeymoon. I'll post about that later.