Two New Patterns

I always love it when Barbara Brown of Ancient Arts Yarn emails me asking for a pattern.  This year it has happened twice.

The first one is crochet.  I have been doing quite a bit of crochet design for The Art of Crochet, and I had told Barb about a shawl I did for them.  She asked me to do one for AAY in their new bulky yarn.  Of course I said yes.

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Being a child of the 60s I hanker towards hippy fashion!   I love the current trend for fringing so I designed a shawl which would go both with floaty summer and evening dresses, with jeans and boots AND wrap round to form a warm winter scarf.

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The shawl comes in two sizes, about 56 (75)” long  x 15 (20)” wide; approx140 (188) x 37(50) cm excluding the fringe.  The smaller one takes 2 skeins of Big Squeeze and the larger one (pictured) 3 skeins.  The colourway is Eiffel Tower.

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The second pattern is one I started a few years ago but had never got round to publishing.  You know how much I like Scotties, and this is an I Love Scottie Scarf.  The first one I made was in a handspun yarn….

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… but AAY suggested the perfect yarn would be Black Scottie from their Woof Collection.  And I agree!

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You can buy the On The Fringe Shawl here and the Scottie scarf here.  While you are there, check out the glorious yarns.  AAY yarns are all brilliant to work with and such pretty colours.  I don’t think I am giving anything away if I say I don’t think this will be the last time I work with them?!


Tour de Fleece – the Rest of the Yarns

all yarns

Where does the time go?  I should have out these photos up ages ago, but I have been so busy.   But here they are.

As I was spinning away I found I needed more bobbins.  I looked in my tube for the spares and found one full of a lovely lime green single, and one with the ends of various bits of singles from a wide variety of projects.  So I did my usual trick and plied the green against the ends.  There were some ends left, so I plied the remainder of these against the remains of the earlier TdF singles.  Here are the results:

01 first 2 bobbins


I collect these bits of yarns and periodically knit them up into lengthways scarves, or hats.  The colours always seem to go with each other.

Now I had empty bobbins I filled them up!  The first was a set of rolags called ‘Tulips’.  I spun these fairly thick with a fairly loose twist. (They will be knitted and lightly felted.)  With singles I try to leave them on the bobbin for a while to help set the twist.

03 originals

04 one puni

05 whole bobbin

Next I went to a much gentler colourway and spun a much finer yarn.  This was another gradient colourway which spun up very easily.  I spun 5 rolags onto each of two bobbins and then plied them together.




I had time to spin up one more set of gradients.  This was 100g of wool-based fibre and 50 g of silk brick in the same colours.  I spun the wool up to about twice the thickness of the silk and then plied them together.  I was really pleased with the result.




12 silk wool

My complete haul for the 3 weeks or so was satisfying.  I hadn’t forced myself or set any goals this time, but I really enjoyed the spinning – which is the important bit!

Tour de Fleece 2016 – First Yarns

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For several years now, there has been a global spinning ‘event’ which happens during the cycling Tour de France.  The idea is that you spin every day the Tour is on, with your own challenges on the special stage days, and post photos of each day’s work on Ravelry.

This year I am taking part with Team Bliss.  We are spinning on our Bliss wheels and are an informal team, being more relaxed than the ‘pro’ teams!

I am spinning several different gradients, in different forms and different fibres.

The first is 100% merino, prepared as ‘punis’.  True punis are made from cotton, but these are rolags, often on a blending board, and rolled tightly round a stick.  They are used for long draw.

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These are from Shunklies, and called Mint Choc Banana.

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When opened up and straightened out you can see the colour change.

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I spun one from the chocolate to the mint and the next from the mint to the chocolate.

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I had 10 punis and spun 5 on one bobbin and 5 on the other.   Once plied it looked like this:

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And the final skein:

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My next fibre was two braids of top made from 50% merino, 25% rose and 25% yak, from Hilltop Cloud. These braids went from a very pale shade at one end to very dark at the other.

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I spun each one on a different bobbin, starting the turquoise one at the pale end and the tan one from the dark end.

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I then plied  the two to give an aran weight yarn:

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As expected. the whole skein ended up looking very ‘similar’.  The colour changed will only become obvious when knitted up.

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A Family Wedding

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As some of you know, I have a granddaughter called Natasha, or Tash for short.  Yesterday she married her longterm boyfriend, Sean.

The wedding took place in a clearing in a small wood called Happy Valley.  Unfortunately it poured with rain the whole time!

Here are a few photos I took before and after the actual ceremony.

The first three were taken by my son Ben in Kirkwall before we left for Happy Valley.  It was dry then!  The dogs belong to Nick, Tash’s father, and Ben was acting as dog sitter for 24 hours.

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My shawl is the one from my book, Magical Shetland Shawls.  Tash wore another from the same book, the Heirloom shawl.

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Although my son Nick is Tash’s biological father, she was brought up by her mother Rachael and a friend of Nick’, Craig.  So Nick and Craig decided to share the father-of-the-bride duties!  Both gave her away.  Here they are waiting to be called down to the clearing where the ceremony took place.  Tash’s sister Charlotte was in charge of Tash’s train, and with all the rain it had to be held up out of the mud!

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Nick, ever the clown, decided my hat would suit him…

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I had bought a brolly specially for the occasion, and Nick then hijacked that to try to keep Tash dry.

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As they got ready to move off down the path, I got this pic of Tash looking pensive…

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I then went back and sat in the car, as they were using frankincense, which I am allergic to.  (At least I stayed fairly dry!!)

The rain poured down throughout the whole ceremony, and when it was over, people rushed for their cars.  Tash was so wet, however, that she wasn’t bothered.

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(That is mud on the hem of her dress, legs and shoes, not lace!!)

It was lovely to see Tash and Sean so happy.  They are young, but they have been together for at least 5 years, and both know what they are doing.  I am sure they will be happy together.

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And finally, one of more of the kilts….!!

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Kirkwall’s Weeping Window

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To mark the start of WW1 an installation of poppies was set up at the Tower of London, with one poppy for every person killed in the war.  This year, smaller installations of some of the poppies are being set up round the UK, and Kirkwall was chosen as one of those sites.  The place was St Magnus Cathedral, right in the centre of town.

The timing was set to coincide with the commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of WW1, at the end of May. Today marks 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme, the longest and deadliest of land battles and it seems a good time to to show you ‘The Poppies’.

Installation started in early May, in awful weather.  The poppies are attached to a wire framework on scaffolding.   The ceramic poppy heads are then attached individually.

My first sight of them was in filthy weather!  The wind was preventing the use of the cherry picker to attached the higher poppies, and work on the lower ones had also stopped.

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You can see the gap where poppies still need to be attached.

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I returned a few days later in better weather.  The poppies on the scaffolding had all been placed and work was ongoing on those around the base.

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The display was called The Weeping Window, and started at a small window high on the front of the Cathedral.

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A close-up of the main drift of flowers shows the framework of entangled steel stems.

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Near the base, the frame spreads out to the main door of the Cathedral…..

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…. spilling down the steps ….

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… along the wall and on to the grass of the Kirk Green.

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These two poppies, waiting to be placed, show the ceramic construction of each flower, made at the Wedgewood factory.

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The poppies on the grass were ‘planted’ and then their height was adjusted to fit the overall effect.

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The next day the final finishing touches were being made.

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This last photo is by Tom O’Brien, a staff photographer on the Orcadian newspaper, taken from the roof of one of the buildings opposite the Cathedral.  It shows the completed installation, a moving tribute to those who died on all sides during the Great War.

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(c) Tom O’Brien

My New Wheel – a CPW

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For a long time I had thought a CPW would suit me, but the C stands for Canadian, and there are very few of them this side of the Pond.

My feelings were reinforced when I got to have a play with Anna’s wheel in Zurich last October.  I didn’t want to stop.  So when a Ravelry friend spotted a large wheel on ebay I was right there!  The photos were terrible, but I could see that it was indeed a CPW, so I bought it.  It was in Aberdeenshire, and I knew Littlejohn’s would pick it up and bring it home.  They did – and earlier than I expected too.  Which is why I hadn’t cleared the space for it!

So what is a CPW?  The Canadian Production Wheels were made in Quebec, in the eastern side of Canada, from the mid 1800s to about 1940.  They are sloping bed wheels with large wheels (mine is 31″), cast iron parts and ’tilt tension’.  Most have a knob on the flyer end, but this is just decorative and is not there to adjust the tension.  That is done by tilting the mother-of-all towards or away from the wheel.  For much more about the wheels and their history, see Caroline Foty’s ebook, Fabricants de Rouets. (Caroline is fiddletwist on Ravelry and the book is available from her.)

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I knew from the ebay photos that the crank was broken, but I also knew that was no problem living in a rural area where blacksmiths are used to mending things.  My motocross son was able to give me 3 or 4 names, and the first one said they can do it!

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The most obvious ‘problems’ are the least important.  There is a bit out of the wheel itself, and one joint has opened.  Neither will be a problem in use.

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I am not restoring it to its original condition, just cleaning it up and getting it working.  The wheel itself turned easily, but the flyer assembly was seized.  So my first job was to squirt plenty of 3-in-1 oil on to the screws of the tilt tension and the axle of the flyer.  I did this morning and night for a couple of days, and that did the trick.  I was able to move the maidens to get the flyer off, and then to get the whorl and bobbin off.  I cleaned it all, rubbed boiled linseed into the wood, and coated the axle with silicone gun oil and put it back together again.  It has now been sent off to Mike Williams to make a couple of new bobbins for it.

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One more night with the 3-in-1 and I was able to undo the butterfly and bolt that held the mother-of-all (MOA).  There was a fairly recent nail in the assembly.  I suspect it was put there to tighten up the tension at some point.

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There was a lot of gunk between the top and bottom parts of the saddle:

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Once I had removed some of this I was able to remove the MOA, to find even more gunk beneath it!  Many moons ago someone had put a layer of some sort of brown paper right round the MOA.  Some came away at once but some needed another night of 3-in-1 before I could get it all off.

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I then oiled the MOA and have given the leather several coats of leather cleaner to make it less brittle.  It is in good shape and should last me out!

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The main wheel is now ready to be picked up and taken off for the blacksmiths to do their bit.  And I just have to be patient….!