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.


Hello all, I hope you’ve had a great Easter weekend. I worked all of Saturday and Sunday but that’s ok because the previous weekend was so full of gadding about and yarniness that I don’t feel the slightest bit deprived.

So last weekend I went to Glasgow to stay with my good friend Jules of Woolenflower. Jules and hubby have recently moved from Melbourne and Jules had a stall at Edinburgh Yarn Festival selling beautiful colourwork cowls and Harris Tweed tool pouches. You can find her online store at http://woollenflower.bigcartel.com. It was lovely to spend time with them as Edinburgh was so busy that we barely had any time at all to catch up at all.

I have to say that I fell as much in love with Glasgow as I did with Edinburgh, both of them are fantastic cities. I have a bit of Scottish blood running through my veins through my maternal grandmother so I guess it’s inevitable that I would feel completely at home there. Even before I’d left the train station there were signs that I’d love it here such as a delicious oat stout at the Beer House. This place has Welcome Melanie written all over it!


I love those streets lined with sandstone houses and even the back laneways are lovely.


There are hidden treasures everywhere, like this wooden carving.


On the Friday we attended a talk on Knitting in Wartime organised by Glasgow University. There were interesting discussions on knitting as women’s work, how knitters were organised to provide ‘comforts’ to the troops and the culture of thrift. On display were many patterns, knitting tools and knitted garments from that time. I found as a scrub nurse, this knitted theatre swab particularly interesting along with knitted slings and supports for injured soldiers.


One of the tools on display was a Speedweve, a darning tool, cutely described as Lancashire’s smallest loom. I’ve since bought one on eBay and I promise to post my first attempt at using it soon.


The vintage colour books also caught my eye.



The day that followed involved a trip into the city centre where we enjoyed bagpipes and drums


On our way to The Queen of Purls, a beautiful yarn shop on the heart of Glasgow. I have to say, I am seriously jealous, we have nothing comparable in Hull. The shop has a cute and welcoming atmosphere and the variety and quality of yarns are excellent. I bought 300g of Garthenor Organic Lleyn DK because I couldn’t stop squishing and sniffing and snuggling it. I’m actually wearing around my neck at the moment. It’s completely gorgeous in it’s undyed state and I may even keep it like that. They also had some Ardalanish which I’m going back for one day but I want to find the perfect project for it.

My last day in Glasgow came all too soon. We met up with Bee for a spot of lunch and shopping because lunch and shopping with knitting friends is the best.

imageMy thanks to Jules and Scot for a wonderful few days in Glasgow. X

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.


Dithering, stalling, procrastinating, call it what you will I’ve been doing a lot of that this weekend with regard to knitting.  I’ve had nothing on the needles for the longest time and felt no urge to knit either.

Sonia thinks it’s because of my new craft obsession, namely sewing but it’s not that.  I think maybe a collection of things, like the fact that so many of my friends are knitting from their handspun and I’m envious.  I have some other projects I wanted to get done like the Noro stripy socks for Socktober and the Noro stripy scarf for Norovember and Sam’s contiguous jumper and I want to knit them but I want to knit a handspun OWLS too.  Oh I sound like a sulky child and that irritates me, grrrr, suck it up Princess! I think I’m also more than a bit disheartened about having to frog Idlewood and completely re-knit it too, bleugh the self pity! Get over yourself Melanie!

I know there is nothing to stop me knitting whatever I want except that first I must finish preparing the fibre and then spin the yarn and by then it will be too darn hot to knit a chunky jumper.  Tonight at knit night it was 29 degrees C and I managed to knit exactly half a puff!  It’s not even the first day of Spring! As a solution to the handspun knitting envy I’m going to knit some of my handspun singles bits into puffs.  Thanks Katie for the idea.  I have no solutions to the hot knit night problem except maybe a whip round to get some air con for our favourite cafe. As for Idlewood I shall just re-knit that later and I could try to be less annoyingly sulky and self pitying too.

However, I swear after Sam’s jumper I shall knit Ian a scarf and from then on I shall knit spontaneously only what I feel like knitting, no obligation and no planning. So I’m planning not to plan, OMG have I lost it? I’m babbling and dithering, oh dear me!

The dithering hasn’t been all bad though, I have tied up a loose end in that Coraline has finally got some buttons on it and I made the button loops too.  This is the Coraline that I finished almost 12 months ago!  They aren’t the buttons I wanted but they are a cute second best and I love the button loops I will definitely make them again.  Coraline is my favourite cardigan, ever!  So I’m really glad it’s now complete.

I also spun 100g of Gotland/Polwarth carded roving.

I spun it long draw so it looks a bit shit but hopefully after I’ve spun the other 100g of singles and ply the 2 bobbins this weekend it should turn out ok.

Ok, enough exhausted rambling, I’m off to bed, work in the morning, but i had to get it off my chest so I can sleep.  We’ve just had a thunderstorm so it’s cooled down a bit too.

On the bandwagon

There appears to be quite a buzz (pun intended, sorry) at the moment amongst my knitting friends surrounding “the bee-keepers quilt” by tiny owl knits.  Calls have gone out for spare scraps of sock yarn all over the place.  It seems such a perfect way of using up sock yarn and also knitting a blanket without the agony of knitting a blanket.  I kind of resisted at first, for why, I don’t know.  I love hand-dyed sock yarn and hate wasted yarn, the blanket then seems to be a perfect solution.  So today, I succumbed and bought the pattern after seeing the charming video, then I knit my first hexapuff.

Doesn’t take much yarn, doesn’t take much time, genius! Yep, I think I may be hooked.  Though as I have given away all my bits of sock yarn I may have to start frantically knitting socks to make up more hexapuffs. In a years time I should have a blanket to show you.


Yesterday I went to the Bendigo wool and sheep show for the first time.  I can’t believe I haven’t been before, what on earth was I thinking, missing the highlight of the woolly year here in Victoria, how stupid of me not to have gone before now.  Anyway, that mistake has been rectified and I now intend to go every year.

For those of you who don’t know, the Bendigo show is literally a three day celebration of all that is woolly and pertaining to wool.  There are sheep dog trials, sheep shearing and sheep showing, woodturners creating spindles, distaffs, shawl pins etc and stalls and stalls of fibre, fleece and yarn and everything else a knitter/spinner/felter/weaver could need plus the two big spinning wheel companies from New Zealand, Ashford and Majacraft were here to show their wares.  It’s a bit flippin’ exciting, the sheep fumes and the buzz of retail therapy, the heady, heady thrill of it all!

We made a road trip of it, Bendigo being about 2 1/2 hours away, Julie was our designated driver and Sonia, Sharon and Ursula made up the rest of the posse.  Sonia and Sharon are Bendigo veterans and us three English expats the noobs.

The day before I was panicking a bit, it’s winter here and I needed a warm jumper to wear.  I had intended to wear Owls to Bendigo and since that wasn’t going to happen I decided that Idlewood would be second best.  However Idlewood is short sleeved and it occurred to me it might be cold so at around dinner time I decided I might attempt to make a pair of arm warmers to wear, encouraged by Sharon.  I cast on for toast just before dinner and stopped knitting for the night at midnight.  The next day I started knitting whilst I waited for the girls to arrive and managed to finish just as we pulled into the Show-ground car park, I tucked the ends in as I didn’t have time to weave them in and wore them all day.  I reckon about 8 hours knitting in total, what a knitter can achieve when she’s determined is not to be sniffed at!

As it happens, it was a beautiful day and the sun shone, all day. Before we even set off Sharon gave me a kilo of beautiful brown fleece, that is OMG gorgeous, thank you, thank you, thank you I love it.

Sonia gave me a mini skein of Wensleydale that she spun, which is just beautiful (I’m so spoilt).

So excellent start to the day already! However, here’s my haul…

A darning mushroom, because I’ve lusted after one since seeing Sonia’s.  I don’t know how to darn YET, but I WILL learn.  Purchased from a man wearing a knitted Viking costume no less.

2 skeins of Stranded in Oz sock yarn in ‘Fairies in the garden’ colourway yummy or what!

Pear Tree had a clearance sale, 1 kilo for $40 of mixed skeins, I went halves with Sharon.

700g of Polwarth roving from Dennis Polwarths, they look like different colours in the photo but they are both the same colour the one on the left being the most accurate colour.

1/2 a coated Polwarth fleece from Andyle.  I’m a bit in love with Polwarth which is a breed from Merino crossed with Lincolns, I’m also a bit in love with Andyle fleeces, they were all so gorgeous, choosing was a very difficult task.

I also bought stuff like dyes, stitch markers and wool scour, wash and rinse from Unicorn, posh scented moth repelling thingys and a spinners control card from Spun Out but I won’t bore you with a photo of them.  I made two carded batts using an Ashford drum carder with the help of Richard Ashford himself who was utterly lovely. I was allowed to keep mine (below) and Sonia was given the second.

The day couldn’t have been more perfect, we bumped into other knitting and spinning friends which was fantastic. We ate lunch whist watching the sheep dog trials with Debs, Susanne and Raoul and compared acquisitions.  I have to say that all of the stallholders were so genuinely friendly and passionate and not at all pushy or insincere which was wonderful because I’m allergic to pushy, insincere salespeople.  I am so looking forward to next year’s show.

ttfn Melanie x