Monthly Archives: August 2013

(Kind of) Jacob Damask

I finished the Damask Shawl last week and have been wearing it a lot, I LOVE it

20130831-194422.jpg
I found it a very easy pattern to follow, despite having a rather fuddled brain due to an M.E. flare up and finished it very quickly, I think the whole thing took about 4 days to knit.

20130831-195012.jpg
(Please excuse the messy garden in the background…) It is lovely, soft and snugly, just what you want from a shawl and as I have been feeling unwell, it makes me feel hugged which is just what is needed right now. The cream and greys (there is a very light grey next to the cream) are handspun from fleece from Sarah and Al’s very cute Jacobs and the almost black (it reminds me of very bitter dark chocolate) yarn is from a Shetland Zwarbtle cross fleece that was grown in Dunnet, the most Northerly mainland village in the UK.

20130831-195230.jpg

20130831-195311.jpg
I am off ‘proper’ work at the moment after seeing my GP this week and since then have crashed significantly. This is going to have lots of implications in respect to my long-term ability to work and I am awaiting news regarding the steps my employer will be taking in respect to this. It’s a bit scary but I trust that all will be well. I find knitting therapeutic and I believe that it is well established as an effective occupational therapy. I’ve often wondered whether my future lies in some kind of yarny exploits, watch this space….

My tribe

I love knitters. By that I include spinners, crocheters and other generally woolly folk (I try to be inclusive). I believe, based on my experience that we are generally Good People. I like to think that most people are kind, friendly, sensible and pleasant souls but I am a tad biased when it comes to those belonging to the knitty variety. Since I started knitting about 5 years ago, I have been inspired by the friends and other people (I read lots of knitting blogs and while I like to think of them as my friends I think that this isn’t how they would describe me!) I have come across.
This is for lots of reasons, some of which I will probably forget until I have already posted this but I will try and note down some I can think of now. Firstly, we tend to knit for others; this might not be often but I don’t think I have met a knitter who hasn’t made something for someone else. Now, as most of you probably know, this takes a lot of time and energy (not to mention cost – yarn is expensive!) in ways that non knitters can’t imagine, yet we still do it which requires considerable generosity of spirit. Secondly, we are, by definition, creative; we adapt patterns, substitute different yarn, design things and use our imagination to keep us going when that half knitted lace shawl looks like a dishcloth. We are also, in my experience, very complimentary; we see the beauty in other’s finished objects – just look at Ravelry and how often we ‘love’ Raveler’s projects. Even when something hasn’t turned out quite how it could have, we still see the genius hiding in between the dropped stitches and lopsided seams. Another quality is that we embrace diversity; we adore that each of has a preference for a different fibre/colour scheme/lace versus cables/needle type etc etc. Although these may seem like trivial differences, I believe they are reflective of our wider attitudes as well.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that ALL knitters are wonderful types without a bad bone in their stashes (I have certainly got my fair share), but I think we are less likely to have excessive amounts of less attractive qualities.
What has led to this post I hear you cry? Well, I am undergoing a period of change, somewhat unwanted and like most of my experiences of change brings with it mixed emotions and a sense of loss. What has carried me through so far (she says dramatically when it is early days really) is the support from my friends and family, most of whom are knitters (or married to one so it affects them via a yarny kind of osmosis), well, all of whom actually when I think about it!
I am confident that all will be well, in fact all is well and there is no point in worrying about ifs, buts and maybes . That doesn’t take away that this is a difficult process however, especially as I am a person who likes to know and it is all a bit up in the air. One thing I am certain of is that there will be much knitting over the coming weeks, if I have anything to do with it!

20130827-231130.jpg

Faves

There have been less posts recently as I have been quite unwell. The familiar weight of M.E has settled over me, making my limbs heavy and my mind fogged. I am improving however and the knowledge that it gets better as long as I listen to my body helps.
Anyway, I now have much to update you with.

There hasn’t been much progress on Alcott (anyone who knows how to link a pattern on Ravelry directly without being taken to the login page, please let me know!), I have been distracted by Damask, a very pretty shawl that I first read about via Yarn Harlot, who knit a version in her own hand spun Jacob wool which was beautiful as she very cleverly graduated the shades from white to black. As some of you may know, I have some very lovely Jacob fleeces that I am yet to make up my mind what to do with in entirety but I did decide to use some towards making a copycat version. I spun a couple of small skeins in a pale grey and a dark grey and had planned to spin some more in other shades (the temptation to call this entry ’50 shades of grey’ was almost impossible to resist!) but since being ‘energy compromised’ I haven’t been able to and was too impatient to wait so got started using some of the suint washed fleece from a previous post (which is actually shetland zwartble cross, not Jacob at all but we’ll draw a veil over that one). It is a very quick knit and deceptively easy with a very clear pattern.

I am loving it, it is definitely more satisfying to knit with your own wool, especially when from the raw fleece. I know I will feel very bereft when it is finished. This made me think about what I have most enjoyed knitting, a difficult question to ask. I generally like to knit with ‘woolly’ wool and found an online yarn shop called Natural Yarn which sells the most lovely wool from British breed sheep. The woman who runs it, Jean, has been very generous and sent me fleece with my orders. Anyway, I’ve become distracted, my point is that I really like knitting with this wool and have made two projects (paper dolls and hare and tortoise), both from Kate Davies in this wool. I really enjoyed the knitting and have also worn them a lot. What have been your faves? Have you enjoyed knitting something but then never worn it?
Also on the knitting front, I made another Multnomah, this time in my hand dyed lace weight yarn, as a sample knit.
Now I personally am not keen on lace weight yarn, it’s too flimsy for me and I envy those who have the patience to make those stunning lace weight shawls that are so intricate and light.

Ok enough of the knitting, our hens have been working overtime and are both producing an egg a day, any suggestions as to what to make that uses lots of eggs would be very appreciated (not involving merengue or custard please). Although the Great British Bake Off has started again so I’m sure it won’t be long before the caking bug gets me…

Finally, I absolutely hate crane flies. I didn’t used to, in fact I haven’t really paid that much attention to them in the past apart from being vaguely aware that they are around as summer draws to a close. However, this year we have been invaded, there are millions (there really are, I have counted them) of the little blighters. Presumable the weather conditions have been in their favour? Apparently it has been the warmest July in Caithness for some years and this has resulted in daddy long legs everywhere. As I said I had no particular feelings about them, they were just there. Now however, they are everywhere; they settle all over the windows during the day, staring at me and somehow get into the house at night (I have started to believe they can melt through glass) hundreds lots of them.

All buzzing about and the worst of the worst was when at least two decided to settle in my hair when I was trying to sleep….URGHHH. I am now a little phobic and go around checking at night, on a mission to seek and destroy. I probably shouldn’t say this but my best ally in my war is Fin, our black lab collie cross; he eats them. What a star!
PS for some reason, probably due to my addled brain, the pics have all ended up at the bottom, I’ll leave you to work out which one goes where! Until next time, go well.
20130825-090158.jpg20130825-091604.jpg

20130825-092319.jpg

20130825-092327.jpg

20130825-092125.jpg

One extreme to the other…

I am just home from the spinning group; we meet twice monthly, once on a weekend and the other time on a Thursday evening. Generally the Thursday one tends to be quieter, some of our members travel a long way and I think it must just be too far for them on a week night. This means for me I tend to achieve less spinning and more blethering! I love catching up with what everyone has been up too and I love being around like minded folk, it is just so inspiring and I bring back lots of ideas and plans all involving wool, fleece, dyeing and knitting.
I admit I also enjoy showing off my latest project to people who know just how much work goes into it. The other spinners are incredibly talented women (unfortunately at present we have no men, I’m yet to persuade Mr Knittingkitten) and, at risk of sounding a bit schmaltzy, I am always amazed at their skills. Tonight someone brought their weaving made from hand spun yarn, it was just so clever and the yarn was stunning.
I always come back feeling better than before I went and, just for today, I am able to do it without being wiped out afterwards. My M.E appears to be receding and for someone who just a year ago was unable to drive to spinning, let alone spin and talk and then get home and write, this is wonderful.

Ha ha, I wrote the above on Thursday evening, how things can change in a few days. I had a late night on Thursday after starting yet another knitting project. I dyed some yarn last week and without trying, it came out the same colour way as a skein I had dyed previously. I must be subconsciously drawn to those particular colours! It also snapped when I was winding it off so I decided (not a hard decision I must add…) to use it for a sample knit. I aim to have a stall at some wooly events next year so will need some knitted items to show off the yarn. Consequently I didn’t get to sleep until late and woke up the following morning with that familiar feeling of fatigue creeping in…work was fine however but yesterday was a very tired day and I slept a lot then today has brought yet more symptoms. It is just so frustrating and I don’t seem to learn that this is maybe something I will be living with for a while and is not going to magically vanish. I am very thankful that this is all I live with.
Anyway, back to the knitting

20130818-123939.jpg
I decided on another multnomah as I’m not great at lace knitting, it’s not my project of choice, and when I’m unwell I’m not able to focus on anything too complicated. This is a great pattern but simple and I thought I could throw in a few beads just for a touch of added glamour! The yarn is my hand dyed blue faced Leicester laced weight in ‘purple hill’ (colouredinCaithness)

20130818-124340.jpg

So today is going to be filled with more knitting and then off to Wick for a carvery at the Norseman tonight which is a proper treat. So until next time, go well.

John o’Groats Harbour Day

It was the Harbour Day at John o’Groats today which was a really good day out and the weather was relatively good as well – sunshine with a few heavy showers just to spice things up a bit.
We arrived mid-afternoon when everything was in full swing; there was the Thurso Pipe Band

20130811-175442.jpg
They were excellent, I’m sure I heard over the tannoy that each set (?) of bagpipes costs £7000, surely not?!? I must remember to google it to find out.
The best bit though was the display put on by HM Coastguard and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute who staged a sea rescue just feet from the seashore

20130811-175735.jpg
that was all very dramatic. Mr Knittingkitten thoroughly enjoyed it, something about noisy helicopters and man stuff I think.
We had an exclusive show once we got home too as they were flying back and forth over our garden which was even better.
On the knitting front Alcottt is coming along nicely

20130811-180136.jpg
I am loving the colours and I am equally charmed by the back as well

20130811-180306.jpg
Finally, I bought a copy of hatopia, an excellent ebook containing 10 patterns for hats by the very talented woollywormhead being sold to raise funds to support the campaign against the eviction of Mutonia. I am supporting this by making a donation of £2 from every sale from my Etsy shop colouredinCaithness if you quote ‘Hatopia’ at the checkout.
That’s all for today, go well.

Yarn stuff

Well, I have lots of exciting yarny plans. It was my birthday last week and with my birthday money (I’m a very lucky wifey) I decided to spend it upon a kit from jamieson and smith called Alcott which is a pattern featured in The Knitter magazine a while ago. It is a gorgeous fair isle tank top in cream and pastels, not my usual colours but very pretty. The yarn arrived very soon after:

20130808-193759.jpg
It reminds me of sherbet and I couldn’t wait to get started…so I did! I carefully cast on 312 (gulp) stitches and joined to work in the round. Now I have a bit of a sloppy relaxed attitude to knitting and never worry about twisting when doing this. However this time I paid close attention to ensuring there were no twists and happily carried on knitting away (you know what happens don’t you?), and finished about 7 painfully slow rounds before realising, to my horror, that was a socking great twist in it. Arrhggggg. I had to frog the whole lot (after several fantasies involving a weird kind of steek thing) and start over. Three nights later this is what I have

20130808-194441.jpg
I think this will be a very long knit…
On fleecy news I tried a suint bath. I had not heard of this before coming across it a couple of weeks ago, don’t ask what I was looking for online that led me to this but it had something to do with my usual yarn obsession. Now, for those of you not in the know, a suint bath uses fermentation to break down the lanolin, bugs and vegetable matter in the fleece. All you have to do is soak the fleece in a huge bucket of soft water for around 7 days. Lovely Mr Knittingkitten rigged up an impressive water butt that could be easily filled and drained without too much of the water getting any where. This was important because I had read that by a week the whole lot completely honks. The fleece I decided to ‘bathe’ was one I acquired earlier this year from a farm in Dunnet and is, if I remember rightly a shetland zwartble cross.

20130808-195156.jpg
It’s a lovely fleece and needed very little skirting. I saved some of it to wash as usual so I could compare results and the rest promptly went into soak

20130808-195335.jpg
I almost immediately regretted it as I discovered that the more lanolin-y a fleece is the better, something to do with how this reacts with the water (think of soap) and Shetlands aren’t especially that way inclined. This was compounded after washing the small part of fleece, carding it and spinning it as it is the most beautiful wool, very soft and easy to work with. Anyway, that was a week ago so we rescued the soaking fleece this morning, it was fairly smelly and there was an unpleasant scum on top but we drained it left it to dry this afternoon

20130808-195946.jpg
Fingers crossed, I am hoping for lovely fluffy clean fleece….

International (well, kind of) spin along

It’s been a very busy day for us spinners in Caithness today as the spinning group I attend had a spin along with another spinning group in Port Stanley, the Falklands. Via all kinds of complicated satellite thingys we were able to see them and vice versa, it was all very exciting!

20130803-213351.jpg

It had been organised by Ann, our spinning ‘leader’ (she hates being called this!) as she has a link with a woman who spins in the Falklands and it was agreed that both groups would start with a local fleece, this would be carded, spun, plied and finally knit into squares to make cushion covers that we would swap.

20130803-213742.jpg

Above you can see the baskets of washed and carded wool that we used. It is a cheviot fleece from a flock at the Castle of Mey, where Prince Charles stays when he visits Caithness each summer (by coincidence he was staying today as it was also the Mey Highland Games).
The Falklands are 4 hours behind us so we started at lunchtime, as this was fairly early for them! We were fortunate to be visited by Lady Thurso who introduced our group on the satellite link and spoke a little about Caithness and Castlehill Heritage Centre which is where the spinning group is held.

20130803-214520.jpg
There you can see the screen showing the Falklands group. It was so interesting talking to them, it is wintertime there and they was saying it had been very very chilly, so strange to think as we have had such lovely weather this summer. Like us, some of them had been spinning for years and others just a few months and they were all very warm and friendly.

20130803-214945.jpg
As I try to manage my energy because I have M.E., I left before the end so don’t know if the whole cushions were completed today (I think probably not as we all spent a little too much time chatting, drinking tea and eating biscuits!) but it was incredible to be part of something so simple in some ways but so complex in others. What I learnt was that spinners, wherever we are, love sheep and real wool, are passionate about our craft, and love to blether!