wonderfully crafty friends: Woollenflower

Crafty friends are the best! They inspire and nourish our crafty selves and never ask you to justify your stash or time spent in crafty pursuits. They don’t even blink at the inch thick layer of dust and other neglected household duties because it doesn’t even need saying that crafts are way more important than dusting. One of the things I’ve missed most about Melbourne was the group of crafty friends I met with regularly, The Richmond Knitters. In an ideal world Melbourne would be as close as France is or all my knitting friends would decide that they too would love to come and live in the UK. I am extremely lucky that two of my crafty friends from Melbourne live in Scotland now and that’s really not too far away from me to travel. One of those is Jules or Woollenflower as she’s known on Ravelry.

I don’t think I ever mentioned how we originally met on here. It tickles me a bit when I think of it because Jules and I met in a kind of a crafty blind date kind of a way. Sonia had been telling me that I absolutely must meet her friend Jules because we loved the same kind of thing and Katie had been telling Jules that she should meet her friend Melanie because we loved the same kind of thing. We ended up meeting one Monday at the Richmond Knitters knit night and instantly hit ot off. Well, why wouldn’t we? We both love tweed and woolly (some would say scratchy) yarn and soft muted colours. Since then we have spent time dyeing with logwood and woad and mostly sitting, drinking tea, eating cake, chatting, knitting and laughing. Isn’t it lovely that you can have reminders of good times with crafty friends? Every time I touch or look at the yarns we dyed together I’m reminded of those times. Mmmm, woad dyed yarn. Dyeing with woad still feels like magic alchemy whenever I think of it. When you think about it though, friendship is a kind of magic alchemy too. I must revisit woad sometime maybe I’ll investigate getting some woad plants.


Jules has recently set up her online shop selling the colourwork cowls and Harris Tweed pouches which went down an absolute storm at the Edinburgh yarn festival, in fact they sold out. Here’s the webaddress of her shop http://woollenflower.bigcartel.com

I am lucky enough to be the proud owner of three of her cowls, photographed here quite badly and I apologise profusely for not doing them justice.


They are warm, stylish and beautifully made, how on Earth could I resist? I managed to narrow it down to three but that was hard work believe me. I know that Jules puts in a lot of work in sourcing the right materials for her pouches and cowls and the attention to detail and quality are very evident. I’ll be buying some of her tweed pouches when they come back in stock but I promise to play nice and let the other people have some too. Though I’m sure I could find a use and justification for one on every colour of both the cowls and pouches without trying too hard.

Jules has a professional background in horticulture and this inspires her work. She’s a talented and enthusiastic natural dyer and her photography of plants and landscape are breathtakingly beautiful. Check out her blog and you’ll see I’m right. She is also a generous and patient teacher of knitting techniques having worked in several yarn shops in Melbourne as a knitting teacher. I’m envious of those knitters in Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounding areas that can readily access her knitting classes at Fluph and Ginger Twist Studios and those in Melbourne who’ll be attending her classes at the Craft Sessions.

Jules and I have discussed more dyeing sessions in the future and I’m currently saving avocado skins and walnut shells for that very purpose. There will of course be blog posts about our future dyeing sessions when they occur. I’d like to try dyeing more fibre with plant dyes in the future I think.

I will be working this weekend but I wish you all a wonderfully crafty weekend, perhaps with some time spent with wonderfully crafty friends.

WiP update

I’m over 1/3 through my ginormasquish blanket and still in love with the project.  I’m making steady progress and I can’t wait to be able to snuggle underneath it. However, the thing with big projects like this, is that you really do have to be completely monogamous and diligently knit away at it otherwise it will loiter on the needles FOREVER!

Monogamous that is, with the exception of a portable project because let’s face it, this blanket is sooo not portable and PT without knitting just doesn’t bear thinking about.  So, in time honoured tradition I cast on a sock.



How pretty is that yarn? The deep, deep, deep blue with it’s subtle variation of tone. It was dyed by my amazingly talented friend Ursula. If you recall, it was Ursula who helped me turn the ancient bra handspun yarn into the beautiful ocean blue yarn. She has been dyeing for a while now and selling her wares to the Richmond knitter’s who greedily buy it all up. We know beautifully dyed yarn when we see it!

Here’s a picture of my most recent episode of yarn gluttony.



My photographic skills do not do them justice at all! They are all semi-solid BFL skeins but the red one is a BFL/nylon blend. As you know, I love knitting socks out of BFL, once washed they are every bit as soft as Merino but because BFL is a longwool it’s so much more durable and with a much better stitch definition than Merino.

Anyhoo, I need to return to blanket knitting.

ttfn x


So the ugly ducking turned into beautiful swan and everyone, lived happily ever after.



Incredibly, this beautiful shawlette is the fugly ancient bra handspun. Now a gorgeous shawlette made from the hitchhiker pattern. Rav link.

Needless to say. I’m very happy with it as a beautiful garment, a reminder of fun, crafty times with friends and a measure of how much my spinning has progressed.

Talking of transformation and progression, the end of 2012 was very trying with a major life change, brought on by me but 2013 is emerging as a year of positivity, possibility and progression. Sadly, my Etsy store has closed for the forseeable future but my fibre will be popping up for sale elsewhere so stay tuned!

ttfn x




They say that pride comes before a fall and irritatingly, They are usually right. Alfresco is a beautiful yarn and I remain very proud of it. Meringue however, not so much. It was the fibre that I blended and spun for the Spunout shawl SAL/KAL. However, I decided not to use a control card to help me maintain a relatively consistent thickness instead spinning to what I thought was my “default” thickness. I’d heard so much of spinners having a “default yarn” that I thought I should try to find mine. Turns out I don’t have one!

Whilst the thickness of the singles isn’t dramatically variable it is definitely inconsistent, in a very bad way, though this wasn’t immediately noticeable as singles on the bobbin.

I plied 2 bobbins of singles together and when they were finished and I slipped them off the noddy-noddy and astonishingly, the yarn was really balanced and I mean REALLY balanced! Before it’s bath and thwacking balanced!

Still, it looked like this…


…and that’s before we even mention that the yarn turned out the colour of ancient bra! Not the desired effect at all. For those who don’t know me IRL, ancient bra is on a par with baby poo and insipid apricot as my worst colours ever!

As the yarn was balanced, I didn’t think that passing it through the Hansen in a clockwise direction was going to improve matters, though perhaps I am wrong in that. One thing that I could do to improve the yarn was to dye it a prettier colour than “ancient bra”.

Fortunately, I’d planned a crafty meet up with Ursula and Bee. Ursula has a spectacular talent for dyeing so off I went in the hope of redeeming my fugly yarn.

So, we did a randomised uncontrolled  dyeing experiment in immersion dyeing, adding a bit of this colour and that colour and waiting to see what the end result is. To be completely honest I really didn’t care so long as it wasn’t one of the aforementioned colours in the end.

This is the result of that experiment.


I told you she was talented! I love the way it turned out even though it didn’t magically restore the yarn’s consistency problems or even hide them very much.

Anyway the proof will be in the knitting and I just have to figure out what to knit with it. I shall knit it very soon because let’s face it, I have no desire to have it hanging around in the skein so I can admire my spinning skills. I do however, want to knit it up to see how the colours behave.

Anyhoo, more positive news is on the horizon.

ttfn x


After a week at work my staycation feels like a distant memory already. That week of utter selfishness when I got up when I felt like it and did what I wanted to do with absolutely no regard for time, it was blissful and of course filled with crafty meet ups with friends.

One of those friends is a person I have admired for a long time, we share a love of tweedy rustic wool in natural or muted colour her knitting always makes me swoon with deep, deep, coveting admiration. On Ravelry she is known as Julesmoon and her blog is always filled with crafty inspiration and beautiful botanical photographs.

We got together  so she could introduce me to natural dyeing which is something that has intrigued me for a while but I thought it too complicated. It turns out it’s not really that complicated after all, well Jules certainly made it look easy. first we dyed with real logwood chips and then with a logwood extract. Here’s a few photo’s of my samples.

Yep, I still have my nostepinne obsession, hand wound yarn balls look cuter to me. Anyway so the darker of the three balls was done with the logwood chips and the other two were done with the extract the darker one had longer cooking than the lighter one. The three balls are merino and the  two mini-skeins are merino/silk. One of the merino/silk mini-skeins was dyed with the logwood chips and the other with the extract but to my eye they’re indistinguishable from each other.

The colours are incredibly beautiful to me, soft and I actually think more natural looking than the acid dyes I’ve used before. Does that make sense? I keep looking at them to see if I’m imagining it. I don’t think I am, there is something about their hue and tone that definitely looks more natural than when I dyed with acid dyes. I love how they are subtly different.

So thanks to Jules for my introduction, I hope we have many more crafty get togethers. Also thanks for the amazing lunch, I am still reminiscing about it.

Spinning news


I just thought I’d update on the spinning front.

I’m still spinning the Skein Merino/silk and trying to spin it really fine which I struggle with. Or more to the point I struggle to spin fine without overspinning. I’ve been playing slow music when I spin in an attempt to slow my treading down and I think it’s working.

I now have 2 bobbins of 100g and I’m very happy with them.

So I got out the third top and I started unravelling it width-ways, just because. I liked the unravelled top so much I took photos.

I had to lay it out on the floor because it’s so long (260cm) which meant I had to clean the floor first, but the extra mopping was well worth it I think.  I find it remarkable how there is not even a hint of felting or anything especially having dyed fibre myself and knowing how easy it is to felt it. Taking the fibre from the vinegar water bath to the table for dying is I think where I manage to felt it. Perhaps the use of a colander or something would help. I’d love to hear any tips on dyeing fibre without felting it too much if you have any.

My son Elliott was watching the photo shoot and was amazed at the sight of the unravelled tops, he got to pet it too (I made sure his hands were clean first). I like when the boys pet and admire the fibre, it’s important to nurture the wool love in them.

Reluctantly I split the tops lengthways for spinning.

Hopefully I should get the last bobbin spun up and the yarn plied by the end of the month, well that’s the plan…


Long time no post

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve had anything worth posting on here but that’s what life is like sometimes. I sometimes wonder if I should just post whatever but then after 10 minutes staring at the screen without touching the keyboard, I give up.

Anyhoo, there is some good news to post.  Idlewood Again has been finished and I love it! I loved knitting it and now I love wearing it! Except that it’s now coming into Melbourne Summer so there won’t be much wearing going on for quite some time.  Here are the details.

After an absolutely gorgeous lunch with Sonia last week, in one of Melbourne’s Southbank restaurants she took some photo’s of me wearing it and here they are…

See how it now fits and I’ve even knit a pocket for it, just one because I think that one is cute. Also, notice the cute skirt wot I made, love the fabric for this skirt but wish the skirt itself was a tad longer. Anyhow, the point is, Idlewood Again is now everything I intended it to be so I’m really glad that I chose to frog it completely (though if I’d have been smart I would have not frogged the cowl as that’s the same regardless of size). Ah, c’est la vie…

It has made me realise that getting the results you want is absolutely worth that extra time re-knitting, which brings me to the socks…

…I noticed that one cable was a row longer than it should have been and it irked me a bit but I continued to knit on.  Then, at knit night on Monday I knit some cables a row too short due to lack of concentration. So now, I’ve dropped the cable row and hopefully will be able to fix the problem. I’m still on the first sock but here it is.

The yarn, Stranded in Oz, Dye…my pretties in fairies in the garden is just delicious and I hope to be back on track again soon.

In other knitting news, I’ve decided to concentrate on just the handspun bee-keeper’s quilt  and scrap the other one. Mostly because the handspun one is more significant to me and also those puffs are larger so it will take me less time to make a decent sized quilt.

This leads me to spinning, oh it seems like now there is tonnes to blog about, what was I thinking?  I have been spinning but a little half-heartedly. Here is what I’m on with…

It’s still the Finn X Corriedale/Romney that I dyed but I’ve decided that I want to N-ply it and I felt the urge to get the spindle out for a Crafternoon I had with some of my Richmond Knitter friends so I’m spindling it too.  Because of this I’m thinking mitts/hat, maybe both but definitely not socks which was my first inclination. As for the half-heartedness about spinning this, I can’t really explain why, it’s just the way I feel.

So, that’s all my news, I hope it won’t be too long again before I have something to blog about.

ttfn Melanie x

Spot the difference

Hmmm, same colour, same dye lot…


Apparently Noro silk garden whilst it comes in 100 metre balls is dyed with 150 metre colour repeats. *big sigh* well, you live and learn!

So today I went back to the wool baa and the assistant got every ball of this colour way/dye lot out and I went through them to find one that started with black and grey and contained the rust and blue colours so it doesn’t look like a blind person chose the yarn for the socks.  These socks are extra big socks for my poor Dad whose feet and ankles have swollen badly due to his poor health.

Much better!

On a more positive note, remember this batt that I made at Bendigo on the Ashford drum carder?

Well last night I got my favourite Ken Ledbetter spindle out and spun it up, then Navajo plied it.  It looked very pretty.

Today I knit it up into a swatch.

Mmmm, yummy tweedy goodness.  A drum carder is definitely on my wish list so I can make tweedy yarn for tweedy jumpers (life’s too short to hand card for a jumper).


Hand-spun to hand-knit

I’m a bit excited by the results of knitting my hand-spun, hand-dyed, navajo plied yarn.  I need to share the sample I knit with you.

I think it’s pretty and also when I put it next to the bunny nuggets I can see progress, which is good.  I should do this more often.  The trouble is I want to knit with hand-spun most of the time but I also want a larger hand-spun to mill-spun ratio in my stash and in order to do this I must knit more mill-spun.

The most exciting thing about this though, is that now I’m reassured that I could spin well enough to make a beautiful hand-spun jumper which is a bit of an ambition of mine.  First of all though I need to make this jumper for Sam, should I feel bad that his jumper is going to be kind of a prototype?  Today I got him to stand still long enough for me to take measurements except that I forgot to take the top of shoulder to armhole measurement which is probably kind of crucial, doh!  I’m also going to be doing more swatching.  I’m having a bit of difficulty finding some zip up, mesh, laundry  bags so I can start washing my fleeces ready for spinning, the last 3 times I went to my local supermarket they didn’t have any, I’m going to try Kmart next.  Then I can make my hand-spun, hand-knit jumper, squeee!

Happy Birthday Julie

Here are the pics of your birthday yarn being made.

I took some beautiful BFL/Tussah silk tops.

I dyed it using colours I know you like.

I spun it into 2 bobbins of singles.

I plied the 2 singles and finished the yarn.

Then I knit my fellow homesick Yorkshire lass a Yorkshire rose, just because.


Wishing you a very happy birthday Julie x