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Playing with new Fibre ...

My lovely friend Laura recently went on a visit to Winghams on a Fibre Sampling Mission and brought me back some of thier Ile de France Fibre. The sheep this wool comes from was originally developed from crossing Leicester with Rambouillet Merino, so I was quite excited to get it, as I love the handle of Rambouillet. 



And at £1.35 per 100g, it's quite a bargain!


Things have been a bit bonkers round here because of birthdays, plus the weather has been rubbish, so it took me a few days to get around to dyeing it up!


But it was worth the wait, as I think it's taken the colour beautifully... I am really pleased!

I've split the colours out for test spinning... so I'll have one ply of the blues/greens, another of orange/yellow/lime and then I'll stash dive to choose a third solid ply. 

It's spinning up really well too, very bouncy, no slippiness at all, so I think it's a fibre suitable for all ability levels.

It was dry enough today for me to take a sample of it to my local Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers meeting, and it got quite a response from all that saw it, which is always a good thing :)

We had a 'Spinning Wheel Speed Dating' event at guild today, a few members brought more unique/less popular wheels for others to try.  I got to try and get a Frank Herring Saxony to work, but he was having none of it... little monkey! Great fun though !




I have a 40g dyed sample of the Ile de France to give away, lucky you :)
Just leave me a comment and you'll go into a hat to win the fibre sample and free postage off your next order from my etsy shop !

Please be sure to let me know how to contact you... Rav/IG username etc
03.19.2016 | 23 Comments

Give-away results!!

There's been birthday madness around here the last week or so, as my eldest son was 17 on Sunday, and today is my youngest sons 13th birthday ! !

I am pleased to announce the winner, drawn out of my wonderful Sumner Hat by my beautiful Teenogre, is....


Congratulations Marce!!
And thank you all for your comments, better luck next time !!
03.16.2016 | 1 Comment

Looking Forward

So, I am really looking forward to better weather, so I can get into the studio and dye to my hearts content. I have quite a few new albums that need their colours documented !
I am also trying very hard to keep to the resolution I made to myself in this post at the moment... fighting the urge to allow headspace to particular demons that are continually plaguing me and repeating the Dog's lies. 
Kinda hard when you're fighting your way through a bout of insomnia, which allows the cracks to widen, and the irrationality/lack of patience seep in...
Perfect example of this was yesterday. 
Now, anyone who knows my youngest, knows he's a breath of fresh air... sails through his days without much of a care. This is something I envy, but it's also something that irritates me greatly, especially when homeworks aren't done and forms are 'misplaced'. 
It's not that I care so much about these things in a 'obey the man' kinda way, it's the fact that he's just so disorganised ! Being a mother, it's my job to help him with this life skill, and I fail miserably at it. I keep telling myself that there has to be a line where I have to stop 'helping' as he needs to learn it for himself, but eventually, the buck will always stop with me, as I am his mother.
He just has other priorities, ones that don't involve remembering where you put boring school stuff :P 
Anyway, he came home from school yesterday, and within 10 minutes of him being home, my spoons were completely gone and my head had caved in. 
One ... thing ... after ... another... 
It was like I was in the ring with myself. 
Every positive move I made was being preempted and countered.
Control lost. 
Uppercut.
Sarah down.

The crazy then decided to infect my spinning, as suddenly my plying went haywire and I was like... WTF??!!!



Plying for me is like being on autopilot, and for it to demand any attention from me denotes extreme turbulence and the need to STOP.
...so I stopped, and stayed down and out for the count.

Good job really. 

This yarn I have just finished is a beauty, if I say so myself :) 

The two main ingredients are some beautiful Merino/Bamboo (60/40) from Ginny over at Fatcatknits and some Polwarth from David at Southern Cross Fibres ... the third ply is solid merino, in a new colour I have named Grellow, because it couldn't make up if it was on Team Yellow, or Team Green :P




(top 'Budgie' Polwarth from SCF, bottom Merino/Boo from FCK)



The resulting yarn is amazing, very springy, and it shines beautifully because of the bamboo and the flashes of white/undyed fibre from that particular ply. Ginny is so right when she says that white is a colour :)




It weighs in at around 149g and prebath it measured @322 yds.

The Merino/Boo ran out first, and there was a fair amount left on the other two bobbins, so I spun some more of it, resulting in a crazy little mini-skein (on the right), as the Grellow then ran out so it was replaced in the mix with some purple.



If you'd like the chance at winning these two mini-skeins, just leave a comment for me, telling me how you are 'looking forward' and in a week from today, I'll get the carefree manshape/awesome warp tensioning Master to choose a winner :)
You'll get the handspun mini-skeins (well, they're not THAT mini, they weight 80g all together!) and a voucher code for free postage (anywhere in the world) for my etsy shop.

Please be sure to let me know how to contact you... Rav/IG username etc

Thanks for getting this far!
Much love and light to you, my friends :)
03.04.2016 | 10 Comments

After the Sulk

So, after my previous posts on how much I was in love with my Loom, we recently fell out... BIG TIME :(


I'd just started a new project, and as I was tensioning it all after winding on to the fabric beam, something snapped, and it all unravelled into a pile of sadness on the floor. 

I was having a particularly black day at the time, so this didn't cheer me any. 

After a quick inspection, I got straight onto the phone to Ann at Spinwise. I ordered a replacement ratchet and pawl set, in metal, (as opposed to the flimsy, plastic one that was on there) and when that arrived I got it all fixed and retensioned. But, whilst re-assembling it, the warp and fabric beams both developed splits (insert a few choice swears here).. GGRRRR! ! !

So I fell out with it for a bit, hahaha :P

Apparently this is a common problem with Kromski Harps... not that it made me feel any better!

Last week, I decided to stop sulking and just get on with weaving something so I could use the warp up and get cracking on a new project, as I got some lovely new heddles for Christmas and my Birthday...

So this piece of fabric is called 'After the Sulk' and it was very quick, as it's a plain weave. I just used some black aran for the weft, as I'd used some rather bright hand-dyed aran for the warp.


It grew really quickly, and once I'd taken it off the loom I was unsure of what to do with the fringes, as I felt knotting them would not do the piece any justice.
After much deliberation, I decided to twist them, in pairs, then hand-felt them.


For those of you wondering how to to this, I made a little video tutorial :)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGpcGj0NQ-E]


Once both sides were done, I trimmed them so they looked a little less straggly. Took me about two hours to do it, over two days as it's quite labour intensive and hard on the hands!


The extra time I spent finishing the piece was totally worth it, and I am thrilled with the result!!
02.23.2016 | Add new comment

Road Trip to a very special Laundrette


This week I went on a most excellent adventure with some of my Spinzilla 2015 team-mates to the Haworth Scouring Company in Bradford, the largest commission wool scouring company in the Northern Hemisphere.
This was a proper treat for all of us, and as Curtis Wool Direct were our team sponsor, we got a personal tour by none other than Martin Curtis himself.

Scouring is the process by which raw sheep's wool is cleansed to prepare it for a wide range of textile uses, and the plant in Bradford takes it through every stage, with the utmost care and attention. Not only to the wool itself, but they also care greatly about their impact on the environment, as this plant has the capacity to process up to 1 million tonnes of wool per week. Every stage is monitored, and most of the by-products are reused which in turn reduces the
amount of waste that needs to be dealt with.



This conveyor belt is where the wool starts its journey onto the scouring line, it's separated and fed into it's first bath. The water temperature, pH and detergent levels in these baths are constantly monitored...

They have a team of scientists on site that keep them in line :P

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWHserCQUHs]

Look how dirty the water is after it's first dunking !!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tft12-uJQ4k]


Bubbles!
This is the water after it's last wash...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9geqDvh_EI]

.... much better :)


After it's last wash, it's fed through the dryer (where the temperature is closely regulated) and then the wool is hand sorted, to check for all kinds of impurities.

You should have seen the big pile of metal (barbed wire etc) that had been
pulled out at this stage!


This stage in the tour was *extremely* dusty, and Martin showed us a room that was set aside just to collect this extracted dust, which is then being sold on to be spread on the local fields... nothing is wasted! 
They re-purpose the suint too... some going to cosmetic companies, even some to feed prawns :D

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paeBP8gn77U]

A Woolly Storm!! 


These blending bins fill up with the scoured, blended and dried wool, which is fed through pipes and then through a rotary spreader which fills the bin evenly and helps to evenly distribute the fibres...
These fibres then go on to be packed into 330 kg bales, marking the end of the line for some of the wool, as these bales will then go on to their new homes :)


Bales and the machine that makes them


These bales then get sorted into orders and covered in different final layers of packaging as per the customers preferences... 
These then get shipped out to customers who have their own carding facilities.


After our tour of the scouring plant, we moved onto the carding plant, and to be honest this is where it all gets a bit haaaazy for me, as I was mostly off with the fibre faeries, being seduced by all the beautiful mountains of floof :D




This is the first carder... huge, noisy and A M A Z i N G

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuNP0gJmwoA]

The fibre sliver that comes off this carder is worsted, and this then gets transferred to other machines that keep refining and combing until it's all processed into the type of combed tops you can get from the various fibre merchants we all know, and love :)

A 10kg bump being made...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrSVXefXJyE]



We were treated to a fabulous lunch and Martins son, Adam, transformed a little corner of the conference centre into a little shop for us. 

It was a truly awesome day, and I cannot thank Martin, Adam and all the people involved, that made us all feel so welcome at Haworth Scouring, and a special shout goes out to all the very conscientious forklift drivers, hehehe :)

We all learned so much, and it was really something else to feel the heat and smell the smells of it all. It's so important that this manufacturing process continues to thrive and succeed, and I for one will continue to support UK wool manufacturing in any way I can. 
Yes, you may pay a little more for it, but by buying British you are supporting a proud textile heritage and also a hardworking bunch of people; from the farmers who keep the flocks, to the awesome chap who picks the barbed wire out of the freshly scoured fleece to stop it jamming the rest of the production line :)


Martin Curtis (far left) and a few of the members of Team Handspinning News UK
02.21.2016 | Add new comment

Control



I've just finished spinning a HilltopCloud BFL Gradient, gifted to me as part of a secret Santa. I started it on a day when I was battling the Dog, and needed something to immerse myself in.
I am not a huge fan of BFL, not because I find it difficult to work with, it's just a bit smelly, especially when it warms up from handling.

At the time, I had no idea why I was drawn to it, but on reflection, it's not difficult to see why I was.

It was about control.

The top, once shaken out a bit, opened up into 4 distinct pieces, which I then split and weighed, making sure I had around 50g x 2.


Once I was happy with the balance, I predrafted (left on the pic) a whole strip out and started spinning.
After finishing the two bobbins of gradient, I just knew I wasn't going to be happy leaving them as a 2ply, so I spun up some delicious Polwarth/Tencel in a steely~blue colour to add in, to add shine and help make the yarn more robust.


The Polwarth/tencel went a very long way, as I only had about 35g of it, and still had a little left after plying the two 50g bobbins of BFL. 

Once I finished plying it, all that was left of the BFL gradient was about 6 inches of one single.

I really enjoyed this project, it was a real test of my spinning with regard to evenness and constistency... or to put it another way, my control over the fibres and my wheel.

This project has helped me realise that I can sometimes default to controlling behaviour in certain situations, which in itself is a little worrying, haha, but not so bad when directed at creative endeavours, especially when it works out like this has.


I think all of us have a little Control Freak somewhere inside of us though?
02.09.2016 | 1 Comment

Goodbye 2015...

2015 has been a hard one for me in so many ways, predominantly battling my Black Dog and dealing with emotional fallout.

But I have had so many people in my corner, and I am so grateful for that.

Don't think I could have done it without the selfless, unwavering support from my wonderful Husbeast. He's been there right by my side, even when I have been in truly impossible places... he really is a wonderful man, who I could never be without.



Those of you who suffer with depression and anxiety know how irrational our feelings can be, and no matter how hard we try to understand it, sometimes working through it is the only way to beat it. 

A good friend taught me that :)

Anyway, I am done with looking back. If I carry my past, I'll be too tired to embrace my future...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgT9zGkiLig]


2015 also brought a lot of very good things...

My eldest son Daniel, took, and passed his GCSEs... both myself and Beast are so proud of him. He's got self discipline, something I never had, and a will to succeed. That makes me happy!




Joel is, and always will be my little ray of sunshine, He is his own person, and has little fear (to a point) of what people think of him. I also love his view of life, he's always lived for the moment... I hope this stays with him forever.




My creative mojo came back after an excruciatingly long hiatus in the latter part of this year, and you have no idea how thankful I am for that. That signalled to me that maybe this enormous cloud of shit I've been carrying around was finally starting to dissipate... 

I think Spinzilla 2015 was the pinnacle of this, I was on the only UK team, and I spun as hard as I have ever done, amongst others spinning miles and miles and making it look effortless.

Those who know me well, will understand how difficult it was to be a part of something like this and not knock it out of the park, as I am so competitive. But, the amount of encouragement from my other team members to just 'enjoy' showed me that everyone was valued, regardless of yardage.

I also got a loom, something I have been resisting for years. I can see 2016 being filled with weaving and spinning and maybe some dyeing :P

Creativity FTW, right?

To thank the very best friends in my life for their love and support over the last year, I made them woven scarves... 



They are both very different people, so I used the same 'ingredients' to cook up something unique to them both. I am very much a newbie weaver, but I pick things up very quickly, due to my inner child wanting to be the best, hahaha, damn her! 

Love you both so much, wear your scarves as a big hug from me whenever you need it :)

Thankyou for sticking with me, when I literally didn't want to stick with myself. I am hoping 2016 will bring good stuff for us all.

Babylonglegs will be changing a little, I have to do that to make it work for me. I am going to dye stuff I want to dye, because when I am happy my work shines brightly... of course, if there's something specific you want, I'll always be down with that.

That will never change.

Happy New Year :)






12.31.2015 | 1 Comment

My Friend

Here's me thinking I was being *clever* by taking the last spot on Woolly's 10th Anniversary Blog Tour... I didn't anticipate sitting here feeling a little speechless, because everyone has covered a lot of the things that I was going to say :P

But , you know me right? 
Never short of a few choice words :)

Woolly and I have been friends for around 7 years, but I know I bumped into her quite early on in our *online* lives, as we both started blogging in 2005. 
I followed a lot of blogs around that time, being a stay at home Mum to two beautiful boys, and knitting woolly trousers and shorts to be used over cloth nappies to keep me creative.

I remember sending her these yarn oddments... and how completely *fangirl* I felt being mentioned on her blog... hahaha :P



Woolly's adventures with her dyeing and spinning inspired me to follow my own woolly dreams... and a few years later she was including my hand dyed and hand spun yarns in her patterns !


I loved reading about her life... feeling so closely connected to her through her words, as I struggled with my own darkness... 
Her frankness about her feelings and how she made sense (or not) of it all always comforted me... and still does :)

We met 'for realz' in 2007, at Skipnorth, an annual get together of knitterly folk at Hawarth in Yorkshire and then again later in that year at Woolfest, where I got a sneak peak at the samples for her first book, 'Going Straight' ...



Rainbow Warrior and me :)

The move to 'Mutonia' in 2008 saw her really begin to blossom as a designer, and having such a beautiful son to inspire her has opened up a whole new world of playful constructions.  Being a mother unlocks a whole new level of emotion (both good and bad) and these feelings are expressed by us sensitive, creative types in the only way we know. Living in such an artistic community has also encouraged so much wonderful work to emerge, and also allowed for a much simpler way of life for her and her Boys...  something that wouldn't be possible to achieve within the stifling constraints of bricks and mortar.



On her returns to the UK, we always try to meet up at least once, if not a few times (Wool Shows, Teaching and Hat Clinic schedules permitting) and Summer family get togethers at my houze are fast becoming a tradition... 

There's always a lot of laughter, always alcohol (in varying quantities) and ALWAYS some time to go clothes shopping :P



Over the last 4 or so years, we've been growing increasingly closer to each other in the dark times, the friendship becoming stronger because of it. 
She's gently schooled me on ways to cope with the darkness, to embrace it and work through it. 
You have to understand how it works to ever think of overcoming it, and that knowledge is a real gift, one that I am thankful for every day. 
Without her unwavering guidance I would still be drowning, especially with the mess that is my head over losing my Mother so unexpectedly.

As you all know, I have an incurable Hat addiction... and for my 40th Birthday, she designed 'Sarahs Slouch' for me ... my very own WoollyWormhead design, from one of my very best friends in the world.


And that's it for me, plain and simple.
She is my friend, and I love her with all of my heart :)

I feel unfaithful if I contemplate knitting any hat other than one of Woolly's *GRiNS*
The way I see it though, I have no need to look any further than Woolly's comprehensive inventory of 8 Books and over 150 single patterns to find something amazing to knit. Her written instructions are so simple to understand (that's perfect for me!) teaches me new techniques, and new ways of looking at construction.
A lot of the other Guest Bloggers have chosen their favourites, but I am afraid I cannot, because they are all awesome!


Now, you guys know how important Music is to me, I live for it and the way it wrenches feelings out of me ... 
Woolly and I have shared a memorable kareoke moment or two, hehe, but over on the Instagram recently, she shared a fantastic song, 'Vagabonds' by the New Model Army.
I dunno if any of you have been to a NMA gig ? I have, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my University years. The passion and absolute surrender to the music of the fans was astonishing to me at the time, being a newbie gig goer at the time... and it coloured my Live music appreciation forever. 

So, Woolly, this one is for you, my soul sister. 
Thankyou for being in my life, and for helping me to attend to my head, in more ways than one!

Sing it LOUD !

'We are old, we are young, we are in this together
Vagabonds and children, prisoners forever
With pulses a-raging and eyes full of wonder
Kicking out behind us again'

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZW_lY1bxwg]

As per previous blog posts, you guys have the opportunity to win a totally, one of a kind, reversible project bag, sewn with love by Woolly.... 



..of course, being a Yarnie, you will also get a skein of yarn from me. 
Because I love ya :P
....just leave me and Woolly a comment here, telling us what you'd say to us, if you met us in the street... away from all the bluster the industry creates... and also what hat patten you'd like to receive!

... because at the end of the day, we both are just, as my youngest son says, Hoomans :) 

Be excellent to each other... !


12.22.2015 | 12 Comments

#MakeGoodFeelGood

Kate at APlayfulday recently blogged about #makegoodfeelgood ... and this week I have been in dire need of a creative distraction, to help me run away from my Black Dog.
Insomnia-fuelled anxiety is a big downside of my depression, mix this with bad dreams and a large side of seasonal pressure, and you have an unpredictable and very highly strung Sarah.
The only way for me to channel this negative energy is to create, whether it be dyeing (not possible at the moment with it being so cold), spinning or weaving... 
My medium of choice at the moment is weaving. 
I needed a bright and quick-to-complete project for an instant hit of happiness, and this pattern (along with a green/teal heavy palette) is a real winner :)


Some of these yarns I hand-dyed specifically for a 'quick hit' project, and some are from stash


..this is the warp plan, 3 repeats were used

When my little warping helper (aka Joel) got in from school yesterday, he helped me wind the warp, and I had it all threaded and tied off very quickly... am getting faster and faster at it.


...and had it all woven and off the loom within 5 hours... 


The felting side of it doesn't take any time at all either :)

This pattern is right up my street when the angst sets in, but I think I might be ready to move onto a plain weave now, as my edges and tension are getting better. 
I am sure I will return to it though, in times of need... the effect this pattern produces is really beautiful, and is a perfect way for me express the colours in my heart.

12.17.2015 | Add new comment

Did someone say Rabbit Hole?




I finished weaving this scarf last night, it was super quick to do actually... which helped in my yearning for gratification :P
It's a pattern from 'The Weavers Idea Book' :)
Pre-felted it and trimmed it straight away, and the wool softened up brilliantly through that process which I am really pleased about, nothing worse than a scratchy scarf right?



Dip dyed black to grey, then over-dyed again with Teal and then Turquoise...




The difference between to two is astonishing, isn't it? You can see the pattern so much better when it's a semi-solid colour, and the fronds dreadlocked up too!

 *GRiNS* 

I can see quite a few more of these in my future, as I have a sizeable amount of vintage pure wool in 25g balls that I can use, plus, practicing warp winding is important, so I have learned the hard way :P 
It's also the perfect pattern for me to explore textures and colours. 
I love constructed holes, and also the fact you don't have to be so precise in your work because you're going to felt it after you are done.
And then adding an over-dye into the mix just gives it another point of interest for me!




What is not to love?



12.02.2015 | Add new comment
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