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.

My North Ronaldsay Arrow Shawl

Goodmorning, I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend. Yesterday I took myself off in my car to Haxby which is a village north of York city in search of real bread so very little knitting took place. I did, however, finally decide which Hap I was going to knit for the Knit British Hapalong that’s hap-pening (gotta love a pun eh?) on Ravelry right now. Anyway, I shall post properly about that next week. This week I want to post about my Arrow shawl because I never posted about it as a FO and whenever I wear it I get lots of lovely comments about it.


I knit the arrow out of two skeins of North Ronalsay 2ply that I got from Baaramewe years ago. Knitting this was an absolute joy because the yarn was so beautiful to knit with and the different options to decide how your shawl will turn out. I loved how it took the whole idea of knitting something personally unique one step further without having to actually do maths yourself. Totally brilliant! Ysolda has been one of my favourite designers since I joined Ravelry and this has to be my favourite of all her patterns so far.

My final choices for the clues were 1B, 2A, 3B, 3A, 3A, 3A, 4B, 5A. This enabled me to use up all of the two skeins that I bought and gave me a lovely big shawl to keep my neck and shoulders warm. I actually needed to spin some North Ronalsay roving to complete the last 6 rows because I ran out and the yarn was out of stock.


North Ronaldsay yarn has a lovely rustic look to it as you would expect from a primative Breed of sheep that live on the coast of North Ronaldsay eating seaweed for most of the year. There are fine black hairs that run through the yarn that almost look like guard hair but they aren’t stiff or scratchy or noticeable on the skin at all. It’s lovely and soft and light and snuggly with lovely stitch definition. Seriously, if you get the chance to buy some of this, don’t pass it up.



Despite being worn almost continuosly since I knit it, it still looks good as new, no pilling or other signs of wear. I know it’s a shawl and not a garment but it really has been worn and worn. I will definitely be buying more North Ronaldsay yarn in the future, maybe for a Hap shawl in all the various natural shades. Mmm, Hap shawls…


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


Well hello there, I’ve had such a whirlwind few weeks I hardly know where to start. I know I never blogged here about Edinburgh Yarn Fest but I did on the Richmond Knitters blog.

The weekend was an absolute blast and there was so much to do and see that it could have easily gone on for a day or two longer for me. Bee and I decided to spend the first day shopping and then we’d booked a class for the morning of the second day. We arrived just before the doors opened and already there was a queue around the block of knitters eagerly waiting to get in.

There were lots of vendors that I’d never heard of and a few who I’d heard of but not had a chance to check out properly. I’ve taken a lot of business cards with a view to future purchases too. I am actually trying to stashdown a bit believe it or not. The plan is that when my stash is at a level I feel comfortable with I can decide what I want to knit and then buy appropriate yarn. I’ve decided that I like to be spontaneous with my knitting and having a big stash prevents me from doing that. However, things didn’t quite go to plan and I ended up with quite a haul but most of it has a project in mind and not all of it was yarn.

The first thing I bought was a project bag by Fiona Daly. It has a picture of a Welsh Mountain ram on it and a woven tab from Welsh Mountain yarn. The first British Breed that I knit and spun were Welsh Mountain so I have a particular fondness for the breed.


The pic is a bit crappy, sorry. Fiona also had cushions and I’m keen to get some for the sofa at a later date.

I bought buttons from Magictea who have an etsy shop because… Buttons!


I can see the tartan buttons adorning a grey cardigan and the grey buttons on a mustardy yellow cardigan and the other two on tealy-turquoisey or neutral coloured cardigans and of course, it goes without saying that in my head they are all sitting in my wardrobe because that’s the way it works doesn’t it?

I bought a kit for an Icelandic Spring shawl from Helene Magnusson herself who was very lovely and helped me pick out colours. The yarn Gryla is just gorgeous, quite crisp with a bit of residual lanolin and I think it will knit up light and airy for a worsted yarn, especially after a soak.


One of the vendors I knew I wanted to check out was Midwinter Yarns because I love the Nordic thing and they didn’t disappoint. I don’t quite have a plan for these yet but… Erm, yarn!




I’m going to swatch the yellow for maybe a Turmeric jumper and I have two of the blue and grey and they will become a shawl of some description because you can never have too many shawls. This yarn has a softer hand feel to the Gryla and a lovely halo to it. From the samples they had it softens up after a soak but it’s never going to be as soft as Merino, which is probably why I love it so much. I’m definitely going to be buying more from them.

I had in mind that I was going to look for yarn for the Abalone cardigan that I’ve had in my favourites for ages and I found the perfect yarn at Ginger Twist Studio’s stall. I’m so envious that GInger Twist is Bee’s LYS I can’t tell you.The yarn is a hand dyed by GTS BFL/silk/cashmere.


The other yarn that I bought was from J.C. Rennie mini balls in 2ply fingering weight Shetland for my Bee Keepers Quilt. Twenty little balls of joy and though I tried to get twenty different colours I managed to get two balls in my favourite ice-blue colour. My subconscious need for all the blue green things is obviously deeply ingrained.


Oopsie, I fibbed a bit, there were two balls of Sock yarn that slipped in too. Roma by Wendy in lovely vintagey colours.


After that there were fat quarters of tweed from Jamiesons and their shade card and project bag. The fat quarters will become a quilt one day when I’ve found some more and a suitable backing fabric. The shade card I could drool over all day.


The first day was topped off with en evening’s entertainment from Knitsonik and Ysolda which was hilarious and informative at the same time. It was also a good time to meet other knitters and catch up with knitting friends like lovely Jules (Woollenflower) who had been working all day on her much admired stall and still managed to look gorgeous.


On the Sunday Bee and I attended a class on Fairisle knitting with Hazel Tindall. We were pretty excited!


With Hazel’s words of wisdom and encouragement I managed to knit the cuff project and in very ‘me’ colours too.


So that was our EYF 2015. We will definitely be back next year and I can’t wait.

My bad

Oh dear, I’m sorry, I’ve neglected you so badly and really I’ve no excuses except the usual about time and lost mojo but I’m back now and feeling much better.

So well, I have been knitting but not nearly as prolific as before. I’ve spun a little too and I went to Edinburgh Yarn Festival but that’s a post on it’s own, I did post about EYF a little because it was a huge event and I couldn’t cover it all but a lot in that it’s not exactly a short paragraph on the Richmond Knitters blog. (Does that make sense?)

Anyhoo, I’m currently knitting a scarf for my uncle. It’s from some handspun yarn and unfortunately it hasn’t been a straightforward knit. The first issue was a shortage of yarn. I realised that the scarf was going to be very short around 2/3 of the way through the ball and then kept knitting some more because well, denial. Eventually I gave in and ripped it all back. It was one of my earlier yarns so it was quite dense so I decided to run it through the Hansen to relax the ply twist somewhat and hopefully eek out a liitle more length as a bonus. I re-soaked, thwacked and dried it again and did a bit of stash diving to find another handspun yarn that I could combine so as to add more length. I then tried striping the yarns but changed my mind about the pattern I was using. I’m now using a 1×1 rib, slipping the first stitch à la Jarrod Flood’s classic Noro scarf.  Stitch count was an issue too, as it needs to be wide enough but only just as I’m worried about having enough yarn. So after much knitting and re-knitting I’ve ended up with this.


I’m happier with it now, the fabric is lovely and elastic and sproingy. The colours are lovely; purple is my uncle’s favourite colour.

Has this put me off knitting with handspun? Not likely! I still get more joy out of knitting yarn I spun than anything else, even if I have to knit and re-knit again and again.

Hopefully, I’ll have this finished soon so I can cast on for a second sock, though there may be running out of yarn issues on that too. Anyway, I hope you’re all well.

toodle pip Melanie x


Channelling Sharondoubleknit

The other day my son requested we get a bath mat but being on a tight budget, as in necessities first, I didn’t want to buy one as I think there are heaps of things we need before bathmats. However, I recalled how the very wonderful Sharondoubleknit had made her bathmats so I went stash diving. I came up with some of my very first attempts at spinning and dyeing and thought that they would be appropriate for my first handknit for the house and the colours match the colourscheme in the bathroom. My sons we skeptical, “won’t it get soggy?” “How will you wash it?” Were among the comments made. I reassured them with facts about wool’s amazing properties or at least I tried to.

I was reminded how much I love knitting with handspun yarn. Considering that this yarn was very thick and thin, under spun in parts, overspun in other parts and equally as underplied and overplied it knitted up really well. I think that it was helped by the fact that the yarn was held double and knit on much smaller needles than you would normally, in order to obtain a nice dense fabric. I know a lot of new spinners out there don’t think that their newbie handspun offerings are worth knitting up but I honestly believe you can’t learn about making yarn until you start knitting with the yarn you make.

So how does the new mat fare? Well, deliciously warm underfoot and squidgy and it doesn’t feel cold and damp when it gets wet at all. I think my sons are quite impressed with it, I’ve even had a request for a 2″ x 3″ from Elliott. Not sure about that but I think I might consider getting some more Herdwick and maybe Swaledale fibre for spinning and knitting mitred squares to sew together in a rug, we’ll see.


A week to go

This time next week I shall be on the first leg of my flight back home. I’m very excited, as are my two sons who are moving back with me and my family who are waiting eagerly for our return. Most, if not all of the organizing is done. I’m quite pleased with my efforts in this regard since moving back to the other side of the world is no mean feat. The one thing I think I did badly however is plan appropriate knitting projects. Instead of knitting the several sweaters worth of aran and 12ply yarn into lovely warm sweaters in readiness for the English Winter I am knitting a 4ply sweater at quite a loose guage. Yeah, I didn’t quite think that one through.

The pattern is Reed by Cecily Glowick-McDonald but without the reedlike eyelets. The yarn is Skein BFL sockyarn in Cocoa and Beach Shack, alternating rows.


Hopefully the airline staff will look kindly on my short wooden interchangables.

In other news… My stash and books and other stuff should be delivered to my sister today, as in Friday but in England. Hurrah!

A look at 2013, looking forward to 2014

It’s been a helluva long time since I blogged, for many reasons that I will not go into but it’s time to get back on the horse so to speak. I thought I’d do this by looking at what I got up to in a crafty sense last year.

2013 wasn’t a particularly productive year as far as knitting was concerned. There was the ginormasquish blanket that took up half a year (fair does I think) but in total there were only 7 other projects completed. 2 pairs of socks, a shawl, 2 cowls, a scarf and a hat. This does seem like a pathetic effort so what the heck happened?

Well! There was spinning, lots of spinning!  2302 grams of spinning to be exact And you know how they say that practice makes perfect… well I wouldn’t say my spinning is perfect but it has definitely improved a lot.

So mostly, I’ve been spinning and some of the time there has been knitting and of course there has been a lot of the work stuff… oh yeah, I’ve also been organizing my move back to Yorkshire which is happening in 9 days time. *cue soap opera cliff-hanger music*

*Today’s post is photo free due to most of my handspun and projects being in England already and my iphoto library having had a spring clean recently.

**Yes, I have had terrible separation anxiety as a result of my stash being on a ship, floating halfway around the world.

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

Still here

So it’s been a while…

I’ve been kind of busy with stuff which is why I haven’t blogged for a while.

Anyhoo, some crafting has been happening but not much, I finished a pair of ankle socks yesterday. They were my usual toe-up in a really beautiful Skein colour way “Industrial Age” I just cast off as soon as the heel was completed to give them a cute curled edge look. Here is the obligatory FO pic.

IMG_1527The cast off was the purl 2 together pass stitch back onto the left needle cast off, I don’t know if it has a proper name or anything. Sonia helped me pick the yarn out of my stash for them and she has excellent taste as you can tell.

I’ve also been working on a squishy blanket that’s going to take FOREVER! Actually I hope it doesn’t take forever because I might need it at some point this year if it ever gets cold. I am sooo very over this hot summer we’ve been having.


The pattern is Stephen West’s Garter Squish Blanket and I’m knitting it in Cascade Ecological and Eco+. I seriously can’t wait for some cold weather to snuggle under it.