Thursday, February 26, 2015

Links and Paths and Luck

I can't get over how things are invisibly linked in your life without you even knowing about it.  None of us exist in isolation and this was proved to me just today.

I recently sold a couple of items on Etsy to a lovely crafter in Fife - Aileen Clarke.  She lives not twenty miles from me.  What she did with my fibre really blew me away.  I feel like she took my creativity, added her own and the total was greater than the sum of its parts.  She is a real artist and I feel privileged that she chose to use my fibre in her work.

Anyway, enough with the gushing!  This is what she bought from my Etsy shop, SnowdaySpinning

Silk and Merino hand carded batt
Hand dyed silk hankies in blues and greens 

and this beautiful creation is what she made with it all......

Glorious, isn't it??

I know that you are now champing at the bit, saying, 'for God's sake tell me where she sells her stuff!!'  Well, since you asked so nicely.....

Aileen sells both from her website at  and also on Etsy, where you'll find her at Aileen Clarke Crafts

I dare you to have a look at her stuff and not want to buy at least five things - I know I did!!

Happy Spinning - and Felting!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Food memories - Jean's Meatloaf

This blog isn't always going to be about spinning.  No-one's one dimensional and I'm no different to anyone else.  I love food as well as fibre, so occasionally, I'll be throwing out a few recipes for stuff I love.  Hope you enjoy!

This meatloaf is a moveable feast that is always delicious.  I've been making it for over twenty years and have never served it to anyone without them asking for the recipe.  I'm almost embarrassed to tell them how to make it; it's so simple.  But delicious.  So delicious.  And the sandwiches it makes the day after are out of this world.

This is my mum in law's meatloaf.  Jean was one of a kind and I loved and love her very much.  

Half as much finely chopped streaky smoked bacon to however much leftover roast chicken or turkey you have to hand.  One packet of bread sauce mix (I know, I know, but trust me!).  3-4 eggs or more if you are making a larger quantity.  You need enough egg to make the mix feel very slightly sloppy when you mix it, but not runny with egg.

If you should have any little pockets of jellified juices in the corner of the roasting tray, add them to the mix, too.  It's all delicious flavour.

Turn out the mixture into a loaf tin - or two if you've got a lot of mixture - lined with a greaseproof paper liner.  Do not use foil.  Repeat - Do. Not. Use. Foil.  It will stick like sticky stuff on a particularly sticky day.

Bake at Gas 5, 180 degrees C, 360 degrees F, until golden brown.  When you insert a thin-bladed knife and pull it out to touch it, it should feel uncomfortably hot.

Let cool a little and serve with either mashed potatoes and more bread sauce and peas or with little cubes of roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes.  Either way it's delish!  It slices better the next day once things have settled a bit and cooled, but even hot and crumbly it's amazing.

And now I know what I want for dinner tonight........

Happy Spinning - and Eating!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Passing it On

I have a very cool daughter.  She knows who she is and is full of justified confidence and beauty.  But she doesn't knit very much.  Somehow, I manage to love her anyway.

This Christmas, she went through a spurt of knitting enthusiasm when she was home over the festive period, but it waned, as it always tends to.

She had wanted to knit a cosy blanket.  She shares my loathing of ever being cold.  So, I took the five big squares she had knitted and stuffed into a basket alongside my stash - a mixture of acrylic, millspun and hanspun yarns in shades of turquoise and blues and greys - and added a new square of my own.  I bordered them each with one block of log cabin and then put it all together.

The seaming was a little hampered by our Westie deciding to sleep on the squares as I was sewing, but eventually, after much shoogling and persuading, that part was finished.
The mischief-maker in question - Deil, the Westie
One final block of log cabin around the very edge and it was done.  A collaborative project to keep her toes warm or sit across our knees while we watch RuPaul's Drag Race and drink chai together on the sofa.

So, I haven't passed the knitting and spinning bug onto my daughter.  She might take it up later, she might never lay hands on needles again.  It doesn't matter.  After all, non-knitters are people, too :o)

One thing I have found is that I'm passing my skills backwards instead of forwards - back to my mum instead of onward to my child.

My Mum was always a brilliant knitter, but has steadily gravitated towards simpler projects as she's gotten older.  But I've introduced her to knitting on circulars to take the strain from her arthritic wrists and she's mastered mitered squares for cosy blankets for her grandkids and great-grandkids.  She's even almost got the hang of applied i-cord.  She loves Elizabeth Zimmermann - the DVD's I loaned to her and the books that hold all the wonderful, timeless EZ patterns and she calls her 'that clever woman'.

So, it's not always about passing on our passions and fiber creativity onto the next generation; there are others who've come before who we can teach as we learn from their journey.  Teaching someone a new technique schools you as much as it does them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Great Cardigan Adventure

It started with an idea.

My husband is always hot stuff.  In every way.  He gets too overheated wearing full jumpers unless we're talking 15 degrees below outside or he's ill.  He's already got a sweater made from a combination of silk and wool which he loves and looks especially cute in.  It's from Knits Men Want by Bruce Weinstein.  If you knit for a man you love and want to make him something he'll actually want to wear rather than feel obliged to - treat yourself and buy or borrow a copy.

Anyway, after this sweater came the idea of making him a cardigan out of my handspun.  So far, so good.  I have some lovely Jacob yarn in a light double knit kind of weight already spun up - would that do?  Hmmmm, not quite right.  Some Shetland, then?  Spun fine so as not to be too warm?  Yeah, no.

And then the summer crop of fleeces started to arrive and in amongst the bounty was a lovely coloured Ryeland fleece.

Really delicious colours - you can see that from the photos.  Deep chocolate brown, lighter browns, dark greys and flashes of lighter grey.  When it's all carded together into batts, the colours blend and weave together harmoniously.  We had a winner.

But.  This stuff is not the most fun I've ever had spinning.  I prefer a mid to long staple fleece and this stuff is short - only two inches at the max.  And there are lumps and bumps everywhere in the batts.  Surely this will make an inferior yarn, I thought?  Turns out, no.  I set to work on my ever-ready Ashford Kiwi and I have to say that the finished yarn is squishy, bouncy and just wants to be petted once it's in the skein.  It's also heavier than I ever thought I'd knit up for any garment I'd ever make for him - an aran weight at an educated guess.

I'm 5 skeins - almost 6 -  in to the adventure.  Soon it'll be time to start swatching for the cardigan.  Again the unexpected strikes.  Makes life interesting, doesn't it?

Happy Sunday Spinning!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Process.....

There are a lot of posts and discussions on Ravelry about spinning and there are gorgeous pictures of finished yarn and the projects that are made from this lovely stuff.  This post is a bit different.  I wanted to show how I take a bag of deliciously stinky fleece and transform it into actual knitting yarn.  That part of it still feels transformative and magic to me.  So, here is my process.  Yours might be different, but so long as we both end up with results that please us, does it matter?