Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sunshine and showers

I've been a busy bee this week, work was suitably hectic (no surprises there); but my time has been filled too. I'd taken Friday off work to give me a good 4 day weekend as it's a Bank Holiday Monday again this Monday. It worked out rather well because it turned out that Ben's school sports day was on the Friday afternoon. I often have to miss it as it's difficult to get cover so that I can finish early and attend, so I was delighted when everything fell into place. But then rain fell out of the sky in large volumes on the Friday morning and sports day was cancelled. Boo!

Friday night/Saturday morning saw me take part in a local sponsored Midnight Walk. It was in aid of Hospice at Home. They are a wonderful charity offering care and support in the home for people in the latter stages of life and their families in the immediate time after losing loved ones. In my infinite wisdom I decided to knit a sock as I went around the 5 mile walk and raffle the socks off for the charity when they where completed.

The cancellation of sports day gave me some unexpected time in the afternoon, so I decided to cast on the toe of a sock in preparation for the walk. This is my first effort

I seem to have managed to lose the ball band, but it's a rather gorgeous single ply sock yarn. As I was knitting up the toe I quickly realised that this wasn't the sock to take out on a midnight walk. It was really easy to split the ply when knitting and working on 2.25mm needles meant that it was hardly going to be a quick project! So a re-think and quick shopping trip later resulted in me starting afresh with a ball of Regia 6-ply. Much better!

Dressing up in your nightwear was an option, but I wore jeans and a T-shirt as I really don't feel the world is ready to see me in my jammies! I walked with 5 other members of my team from work, our team is called the Penrith Pill Pushers! We all made it round and had a great time. At the end of the walk we got a certificate and a bacon butty! Yum!

I made good progress on the sock - I worked on it until I got to the gusset increases when I stopped knitting as it was tricky to do the increases in the dark!

 I visited my mum and dad on Saturday and stayed until this afternoon (Sunday) the drive down was stunning, I love the Lake District. I drove through stunning scenery. The sun bounced off the hills, pooled in the valleys and made the colours shine. It's days like this that make you realise that despite the horrors in this world, there is goodness too.

I often dread the drive.  It's only 2 hours, a drop in the ocean for some of you guys out there, but it's motorway driving and it's tedious especially on dull, dreary, wet days. Both journeys this weekend where glorious. I had the radio on and sang my heart out much to Ben's disgust!

It was a nice visit, my mum gave Ben a cardie she'd knitted for him. Now, at this point I'd like to say, that Ben is a good boy, he's polite and sensitive to the feelings of others; but I'd warned him about this cardie. Mum told me she was knitting him something and she was loving knitting it. She fell in love with the pattern when she saw a sample knitted up in a local yarn shop.  Mum doesn't knit often these days, she'd rather do paper crafting specifically card making. I was surprised when she said that she'd got yarn to knit both Ben and his cousin a cardie each.

Ben isn't really a cardie kind of guy. He's not a cold child by nature, and will spend the majority of his time in a T-shirt, even in the depths of winter I have to fight with him to put a coat on when he goes outside to play! I convinced my mum to send a photo of the finished object, mainly so that I could brief Ben and get him to look delighted...... So here it is!


I'm sorry, I love my Mum dearly but this is awful! The pockets are halfway up the chest, one's higher than the other and it's just not Ben's thing at all! I showed Ben the photo and asked him if he'd wear it, he said no.  I wasn't overly surprised. When Mum gave him the cardie, he tried it on and looked as grateful as he could manage bless him! She asked if he liked it and if he'd wear it and he cracked, there was no way he could tell even a little white lie to save his Grandma's feelings! He is only 10 after all! So she was a little deflated, but in all honesty I don't think she was surprised!

I had taken 3 projects down with me to work on, but this is what I actually produced -

I unravelled the offending cardie. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not, but I decided to pool this puddle of yarn with the yarn she'd bought to make Ben's cousin Andrew a cardie and make Andrew a blanket. I crocheted Ben a grannie square blanket and he uses it all the time. So that's my cunning plan - waste not want not!

On to the crafting -

What saw the love this week -

Well knitting wise I worked mostly on the Piper's Journey shawl. I finished it today and I'm delighted with the way it turned out. The applied edging is enhanced with the subtle stripes of the sock yarn.

I think I should have taken close-up photos of the edging details, so I'll do just that and update my project page with them. It's destined for the Christmas gift draw once it's blocked.  Mum seems to be keen on it ending up with her, so we'll see.

Also seeing the love this weekend was the Walking socks. This is what I've named the charity socks. I turned the heel this afternoon and I'm now working up the leg of the first sock. I'm hoping to get this one finished by Tuesday so I can put it on a sock blocker to display at work. I'm hoping to get lots of people to buy raffle tickets and raise lots of money.

I have spun a little this week, but not enough to warrant posting another photo. I did finish the first 1/8th of the polwarth and I've started on the second.  The gorgeous black and purple fibre I'm spindle spinning saw some action too. I'm still keen to get the polwarth off the wheel by the start of the Tour de Fleece, but the way it's spinning so thin I'm starting to doubt that I'll get it done in time. 

Goals for next week -

Finish the first Walking Sock (can I do the pair in a week?!?)

Get a wiggle on with the spinning


Weight loss!?!?!


Have a great week - until next time x

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

There's no place like home

Hi there folks.

This post is in response to some lovely people I've found on Ravelry. While feeding my excitement for the upcoming Tour de Fleece, I found a group called Shiny Happy People. They are most certainly both shiny and happy people! They have made me feel most welcome in their group. They asked me to tell them more about me and where I live, so here it is - for all folk especially the shiny ones!

This will be the first time I've attempted to embed a video on a blog, so this will go one of two ways!

My plan was to film as I walked down to collect the child from school. I hadn't banked on the child using the camera last and leaving the battery almost flat! So all you have is a brief panorama of the view from my top lawn. One day, I  will show you more. I apologise for the wind noise too, it's a blustery kind of day!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

Hello there fluff fans.

Here on Planet Ellen it's been an ordinary week. There has been no excitement in my life! I've worked, I've come home. I've eaten, I've slept. I've done other things to stay alive, but you don't need the details!

Yesterday was a swimming day for Ben, another gala in Kendal. It's a long afternoon, and more so for Ben than normal as he had to swim a few races against 11 year olds as the team was short this week. He did well and held his own which is all we could expect.

On the weight loss front this week has been one to forget. My mind has wandered off course somewhat. I've cheated outrageously and this morning I paid the price. I put 2lb on. This is entirely to be expected and I'm hoping that I can re-focus my drive for the week to come. I really do want to lose a stone sooner rather than later.

Quickly onto the crafty things -

FO's -

The Half a Stone Socks are complete:

They aren't completely matching, but I think the patterning on the yarn is such that you can barely notice.  These are vanilla socks on 2.25mm needles. I knit them toe up with a gusset and short row heel and cast off using the Surprisingly Stretchy Bind off.
This week the socks have ruled the roost. I worked on the Half a Stone socks for the majority of my knitting time. Wisteria did see some action though, I've separated for the sleeves, and now I'm onto the body. I have had something of a revelation though, and not in a good way!  You may remember that I decided to cast on for the 44" bust. This was a cunning plan, or so I thought! I'd have lost some weight by the time the weather chilled sufficiently again to warrant an aran weight jumper. Yesterday I investigated my gauge and it's off! I'm fairly sure that I swatched before I cast on, but the more I think about it, the more I'm doubting myself. My gauge is off, way off. I'm getting 20 stitches to 4" rather than 18.  This means that my finished but measurement is going to be nearer 40".  Oh dear, I thought. That's some serious weight loss required! Still, if it's way too small, it can go into the Christmas gift drawer!
I frogged a sock on Friday night.  It was one I was designing, and it just refused to progress. I know, you need to knit on a sock to see it grow! I get that, but even so, no matter how long I did work on it, that leg just wouldn't get any longer! I'm still thinking that I want to do something with that slipped cable stitch, but I think that working it into a continuous rib is too much. You can't just mindlessly knit on it, you have to watch what you're knitting and it's fiddly. I'm all for a technical sock, but a constant battle with the stitches isn't fun at all. I think that the yarn I was using wasn't helping either mind you. I was knitting Regia world college 6 ply on 2.5mm needles which was creating a very dense fabric.
The yarn is lovely though, the colour I have is a gorgeous pallet of blues in various shades. It does stripe as you knit a sock, but the changes in hue are so subtle you can barely see them. I do like the yarn, so as soon as I balled it back up, I had to cast something else on. I decided to knit another Pipers journey. The first was knit for a Christmas gift last year. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm over half way through knitting the garter section already.

On the second photo you can see the different shades of blue. You can also see where the yarn has been knitted before. I can only hope that settles down with blocking! I hadn't noticed that really before. Darn it!
Any hoo! Onward!
Spinning -
My desire to spin all the things continues with a vengeance! This week I finished plying the blue Wingham Wool Works blue merino/silk blend. I finished up with a rather yummy DK to sport weight yarn. I got 390yds and I'm happy with that.
I also plied the hateful evilness that was the massam. I N-plied it and ended up with 200yds of a worsted weight. That is destined to be made into something like a bag for felting.
As for what's spinning right now - I'm working feverishly on the Cornfield polwarth fibre. I'm still on the first 1/2 oz. If you remember, I'm fractal spinning it. I'm concentrating on keeping my consistency and I'm hoping for a laceweight to light fingering yarn at the end. I'm loving the results so far -

You can clearly see the colour changes. Despite the short colour repeats on the original braid, because I'm spinning it so thin, I'm getting long sections of colour from the smaller 1/8th sections of fibre. The 1/2 section I'm going to spin as the second single is going to give really long colour changes. I'm excited to see the resulting barber poling. 

My spindle spinning is progressing too. I'm spinning this when I can get a chance at work, so I don't expect to finish it for a while yet, but I'm loving the colour and I'm enjoying spinning on my home made drop spindle.

As the title of this week's blog suggests, I'm starting to plan ahead.  This year I'm hoping to take part in the Tour de Fleece. I'm hoping that Nunoco is going to put a team together, as I've decided to fly their flag and spin some of the mountain of fibre of theirs I'm amassing! So, to the planning. I have about one month left before the Tour starts. I aim to get the polwarth finished and off the wheel by then. I'd also like to get the purple BFL done too so that my decks are clear for my new projects.

I'm going to spin the green merino from Nunoco as my main project. I'm wanting to blend the four colours into a gradient. I'm going to split each colour into 4 and then mix them to form a continuous colour change and Navajo ply it. I don't have a drum carder to blend the colours together, but I'm hoping that if I draft them together I should get a half decent blend. Finger crossed! For the special stage, I think I'd like to try to spin a bulky yarn. So far in my spinning career, I've aimed to get the greatest yardage out of my fibre as I possibly can, but this creates spinning projects that take ages to complete. I thoroughly enjoyed spinning the last 2 skeins thicker and loved the relative immediacy of the product. So, I'm hoping I can get a bulky yarn spun, plied and skeined in a day. 100g is doable, yes?

Goals for next week -

To keep slogging at the Wisteria, stockinette is getting mind numbing!

To get the garter section of the Piper's Journey finished and start on the edging

To get at least one more 1/8th of the polwarth fibre spun

To shift those evil pounds I put on this week!

Have a good one guys, until next time


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ouch! Bitten by the spinning bug.

As weeks go, it's been hectic but uneventful. On Tuesday Woolmakers announced who had been selected to receive their last 4 wheels, Ben and I weren't successful. The chances of us getting a wheel where slim to none, I knew that, but you can't help being a little disappointed.

While searching Ravelry for groups local to me (something I do every few months or so) I found a yarn shop that was new to me. It's up in Carlisle which is about 30 miles away. Their website isn't up and running yet, and as soon as it is I'll link it in the blog. It's called Truly Twisted Yarns and I can feel a visit coming on. I'm thinking I'll wait a couple of weeks because the owner Sue ordered one of the Bliss wheels from Woolmakers. I fancy having a go and then I can decide how much I need one of my own. They're reasonably priced at €230 for a single treadle and €260 for the double treadle. We'll see.

In an effort to achieve my first weight loss goal, I have swam my little heart out. I've done 368 lengths. That's 9.2km. I'm rather pleased with my efforts. I just need to keep it up next week! It did push me to my 5% loss goal though. Next week my eyes are on 1 stone.

Thinking about crafty things -


Ptchar! Right! That's a no then! Not even close

WIP's -

Only my half stone socks have really seen any love. I'm working down to foot at the moment. I'm not far from starting the gusset increases.  I don't think I've even managed to complete a
round on the Wiseteria jumper. Let's just say that my mind has been elsewhere this week!

Spinning -

Well, this is where my mind has been. I felt the need to spin ALL the things!

Last week I started the blue merino/silk blend from Wingham Wool  Works. This week I finished the second single and I've started plying it this morning (Sunday)

I hope to get it finished tonight after swimming and dinner are out of the way.

Whilst I was waiting for the singles of the blue merino to settle I decided to spindle spin. And why not? It's been ages since I picked up a spindle.  I spun up a sample from Brazen Stitchery. It's Polwarth in their Tree of Life colourway. It was from the October Phat Fiber Sample box. Please don't use the coupon code on the label as it expired last year and I'd hate for you to be disappointed.
I spun it as thin as I dare on my home made spindle and then Navajo plied it on my wheel. I am really happy with the resulting 35yds of a light fingering weight yarn.

I also stash-dived this week and found a braid of Massam from Hilltopcloud. Katie's shop has gorgeous fibre and assorted delights. I have to say though, I have mainly hated spinning this Massam. I thought I would to be honest as my previous experience of this breed's fibre wasn't great! I bought the braid last year when the KnitGirllls were spinning it as part of their Expand Your Horizons spinning challenge. It's a natural braid of top, I can't fault Katie's fibre prep, but I don't think there's much you can do to make this a pleasant spin. To put it nicely this fibre is wirey, it shed VM and broken fibre pieces and had lots of thick, stubborn guard hairs. Bleugh! Nasty stuff.


I was desperate to spin it as each time I go into my fibre bag it glares at me. So now it's done. I have 100g of a sport to aran weight single and after I've given it a while to chill, I'm going to Navajo ply it into a chunky weight. It's such an itchy single, it's going to have to be made into something that's not in direct contact with the skin I think.

I finished spinning this last night and thought, yes, I have knitting to do; but I soooo don't want to pick up the needles! So back into the fibre bag of goodness I went. I closed my eyes and dug deep and came up with another  braid of Polwarth in a colourway called Corn Field. This time from Longdrawjames.

The shop is closed at the moment as the proprietor, a young man by the name of James, is away at uni. The braid is a lovely combination of saturated yellow, blues and greens with the odd fleck of the natural white.  I've spun a few of his braids before and they're a dream to spin. He hand paints his fibre and there are no set colour repeats. I used to spin a braid by splitting it in half by measuring 50g and then breaking pulling the fibre apart, next I'd pre-draft the fibre to within an inch of its life before spinning each single and plying as normal. All this pre-drafting leads to short colour changes and a muddying of the original colours, especially once it's knit up.

I've increased in confidence since then and now I'm happy to draft straight from the braid, so I've decided to give fractal spinning a go. I split the braid in half lengthwise; the first half I then split into 4 further braid-lets.

I'll spin the first single from the half of the braid giving long colour changes. The second single will be from the 4 braid-lets and will give shorter colour changes. When I ply them together the theory is that I'll still get great barber poling, but hopefully with less muddying of the colours.

I completed all of this prep-work and then realised that I only had one bobbin free! Disaster. I have 5 bobbins - 2 on the blue merino/silk blend, one on the Massam, one free and the fifth one is in use by Ben and I didn't have the heart to take his efforts off the bobbin so that I could ply the blue singles. So I set that to one side and started spindle spinning again.  This time it's from The Woolclip, hand dyed combed BLF top from Jan and Cecilia. The colours are devine black and darkest purple - right up my street.  Again, I'm spinning as thin as I can and I'll ultimately Navajo ply it on the wheel.

So onto next week's goals -

To knit more!

Oh, and lose my first stone, and spin the rest of the things I didn't get done this week!

Next weekend is a busy one as there is a Diddy League swimming gala on again, so my spinning time is going to be short, but on the plus side, I have 2 hours on a coach to fill with knitting!

Have a great week,
Until next time x

Monday, 6 May 2013

A "HO", and a wee toe!

Hey there fluff fans. This week's instalment is a little late. Is a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK and everything is a bit laid back. Three day weekends are the way forward!

The week at work was uneventful, I was sure that all hell would break loose as we would be shut on the bank holiday Monday; but the mania never arrived. This concerns me slightly.  I'm sure I'll pay dearly for it tomorrow (Tuesday). Still I'll think happy thoughts and all will be well!

The weekend has been most productive. I borrowed Ben's best friend for the weekend. They had a great time playing out and playing on the computer. It gave me a great chance to craft. Sunday was swim training. The second session I coach are the club's "C" squad. They're all competent swimmers and age between 8 and 11. I set them off doing the set I swim when I train. Now, let me tell you guys that there are corpses out there with better fitness levels than me! So I thought this set would be easy for the kids. They've got 20-odd years on me and I assumed were a damn-site fitter than me! It's a 20 length set - 4x front crawl, 4x front crawl arms only, 2x front crawl legs only, 2x breast stroke legs only, 4x (1x butterfly legs only on the back and 1x breast stroke). Well they moaned and huffed and puffed. It takes me a little over 10 minutes to do it and they took well over 15! I have to be honest and say I was chuffed they found it tricky. I means I'm maybe not a unfit as I thought!

On the subject of diet and fitness, the diet is going well. Last week saw me reach my first half stone lost (hence the name of last weeks' sock). This week sees me heading happily to my first goal of losing 5% of my starting weight. I'm thinking positive thoughts that I can reach this target next week. I'm swimming harder and longer than I used to. This morning I swam 80 lengths, 2km; that's 4 of my sets. I was really chuffed. They took me just under an hour. I'm hoping I can get some good swims in around work this week.

On to the crafting.


No FO, but as the title suggests I've got a HO!

This is knit out of Opal Hairdresser sock yarn. It's a lovely yarn to use. I like the way it's patterning.  I  also invested in a similar ball that's orange rather than pink. Maybe that will be the one stone socks!


I wanted to get to the end of the yoke chart of the wisteria jumper. I've just achieved that this morning. I had been knitting it on my shortest interchangeable wire. The stitches were severely crushed so I've swapped to using my longest! That gave me the opportunity to try it on too. I'm happy with the way it's coming out.

Now I look at this photo I can see the increases around the cabling. Hum..... I hope those block out a bit better, else I can see myself wandering around the yoke with a darning needle and some yarn. Grr!
The only other knitting I've done this week can be seen above. The Half Stone socks are progressing nicely and I aim to finish the toe and start on the foot today, ready for it to return to my handbag for the week ahead at work. It's my lunchtime knitting project of choice.  I'm knitting while I catch up  on pod casts and listen to audio books. 
I'm hoping to get far enough along with the Wisteria to cast on with Mel from Single Handed Knits on the 15th May. She's doing a read-along, knit-along of the Old Man and the Sea. The book is by Hemingway (obviously) and the pattern is designed by Mel. I've purchased the audio book, and I've started to listen to it. I knew that I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of reading and knitting and keeping up with the KAL. There's just not enough time in the day for me!
Spinning -
I'm delighted to say that not only did I finish the second single of the Dark Wings batt from Nunoco, but I actually managed to get it plied too! I'm delighted with the result - 906 yards of a light fingering yarn.  I'm disappointed with myself though, I had a cunning plan to use up the remaining single left on one bobbin by making a centre pull ball and using it up by adding it to the end of the yarn I plied already (does that make any sense!?) Any how, I made barf! It seems my single was way too energised to come out of the ball from the centre and the end at the same time without becoming a nasty mess...... so I lit the fire with it! Sob!!! Won't try that again in a hurry! Normally I use any singles left to practise my Navajo plying and make a cute little skein-let. I'll keep to that idea! Less waste.

In my efforts to spin all the things I started on a new fibre. Its from Wingham Wool Works and it's their dark blue merino/silk blend. I've spun this fibre before in different colours and it's lovely. The merino is beautifully soft and the silk element gives gorgeous shine to the yarn. My only complaint (and it's being picky really) is that sometimes the silk is a little clumpy with bits of what I assume is the glue the caterpillar stuck the silk together with. It's not a huge problem, but it takes a bit of picking out. I have finished the first single, I spun it thicker than I usually do, I'm aiming for a chunky weight. 

Goals for next week -

Finish the Half Stone socks

Make significant progress on the raglan shaping for the Wisteria Jumper
Start and finish the second single on the Blue chunky yarn
Achieve my 5% loss target!!!

Wish me luck guys - I think I may need a few extra hours in the day!
Have a great week

Ellen x