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Wovembers Robins Pincushion Pi

DSC04757It’s taken a year in the making but it’s finally complete. The Robins Pincushion project is done.  Spun for Spinzilla, knitted for Wovember, covering me up on the sofa whilst binge watching too much crappy TV in December/January/and or February.

As you may well be aware, I love walking my local woods and fields. On one of these walks I became completely obsessed with the Robins Pincushions that were infesting the wild dog roses. These amazing galls are caused by a gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae) which induces the most gorgeous distortion of an unopened leaf axillary on field roses or dog roses.

They have a spectacular appearance. All wild wind spun sugar in colours running from
gold through rose to brilliant scarlet reds and on to rusty dried blood reds and browns.

Bedeguar Gall or Robins Pincushion

Unsurprising these common galls have a rich dense folk lore attached to them. The Robin referred to here is the Woodland sprite Robin Goodfellow  aka the mischievous and malicious Puck, he of Midsummer night’s Dream fame. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he is a jolly trickster who loves nothing better to “change shape, mislead travellers, spoil milk, frighten young girls and trip up venerable old dames”. He may also be a derivation of the great Norse Trickster Loki.  Although you wouldn’t think that from Cecily Mary Barkers 1928 very lovely and whimsical autumn fairy print:robins pincushion fairy cicely mary barker

From a technical stand point this was quite a taxing work. I knew it had to be circular, I also knew that it needed a colour graduation from the centre out changing from golds through greens, onto reds and finally to rusty reddy browns. The pattern structure also needed to spiral out from a dense and textured centre gradually become looser and lacier as it spiralled outwards. And points. It had to have pointy bits.

Never one to shy away from a technical challenge I wanted to make a 2-ply yarn rather than my usual low twist single. This was going to bring some major headaches on how to dye up the fibre so it would spin into two roughly equal singles that, when plied would match (or mostly match) colourwise.

The dyeing was solved by space dyeing four carded batts of Romney (each wieghing 65 g giving a total of 260g fibre).  These were laid butted up together in two strips (each two batts long). The dyes were then painted on in series across both batts:  Each strip was then rolled up in a cling film sausage and streamed.  These were hand carded in two roughly matching series of rolags to spin long draw:


All this was done in preparation for spinning up the yarn for Spinzilla (you get credit for plying hence the two ply…er herm…embarrassed cough).  Spinzilla equals spinning fast.  Not very beautifully.  But fast.  Very fast.  My wheel blurred like a time machine.  The yarn turned out thicker than intended, close to a double knit rather than my usual 4-ply.  The total came to 767 meters.

I knew I wanted to use the great Zimmermans Pi circular shawl template as the starting point. But didn’t really have any fast and firm ideas for the textural and lace patterns. So I knitted up the lace patterns on the fly without much planning or forethought.  The consequence to this (very lazy) approach was that it certainly lived up to its namesake and was a tricky testing thing indeed. But that’s my own fault for not planning ahead but just rolling with where it wanted to go.

Starting with a 6mm circular needle and plain garter stitch for the first few sections. Then moss stitch for the next 12 rows.  Changing up needle size to 8mm.  For the following 24 rows I used pattern no 48 in Leili Reimann’s Pitilised Koekirjad.


I hadn’t a clue for the following sections.  The lace patterns I thought I wanted to use didn’t knit up well.  So after much frogging and faffing I altered the original pattern (I turned it upside down and changed the starting row to give a distinctive flower on a stem).

DSC04761The final band a lace pattern I made up.  Which just about used up most of my yarn.  To get the open lacey edge I cast off using a crochet cast off.  Miraculously I had exactly the right amount of yarn.  So maybe Puck smiled on me in the end.

You can find out more details on my Ravelry Robins Pincushion Pi project page if you are interested.  I might write the pattern up.  Do you think anyone would be interested?

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Wovember 2015

buttonWovember 2015 is here. Wovember, established in 2011, is a celebration and campaign for clearer labelling and honest marketing of woollen clothing. Wovember is about demonstrating a collective appreciation of wool by wearing as much of it as possible, by sharing woolly and fibrous stories and images throughout November.  The campaign is shepherded by Team Wovember: Felicity Ford, Louise Scollay, Kate Davies and Tom van Deijnen.

I’ve a couple of projects planned.  The first is to knit out that Robins Pincushion circular throw from the yarn that was dyed and spun up during Spinzilla.

The second project, which fits in perfectly with this years Wovember theme: Year of the small producer.  Which has got me thinking.  I, er herm embarrassed cough,  ‘aquire’ quite a bit of fleece throughout the year from various folk that have sheep but no need of the troublesome fluff that they have to remove every year.  Free, gratis, niet, nought. I always gift something back.  The most recent is a donation from Oliver in the village from one of his Norfolk Horns.   So my second project will be a gift back to say thankyou.  I’ll let you know what I do when I’ve done it and why I did what I did in a coming post.

In the meantime we can all contribute through words, pictures and by joining in with the Wovember Wool-A-Long  and through the Ravelry group.  And most importantly wear as much wool as you can.

Check it out.  Your Wovember Needs You!  Let me know what you do.IMG_20151110_140630827_HDR

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Holiday knits cap n’ mitts

Masham hat and mitsBeing away for a few days gave me time for getting cracking with a back log of knitting from a burgeoning stash.  I managed to start and finish this hat and mitt combo.  Me optimistic re sunnies, anything but, I don’t think I’ve seen the sun for days…


The yarn is a low spun single spun worsted I spun from combed Masham locks. I dyed the resulting yarn dyed in two lots the first was a chocolate brown for the main base colour.  The second was in my favourite space-dyed combination of blue, chartreuse and turquoise all toned down with a drop of black (about 1% – 2%).


I used the colour to work a series of fair isle patterns.  Rather than the convention of only two colours on each row I wanted to see what happens with a space dyed yarn where the the colour is left to blend itself through the pattern.  Cunningly removing the need for time spent charting colours (or even thinking about the fairisle patterns themselves) and the dreaded analysis paralysis of having to make decisions on colour.  Too much effort at the moment.  Camera ran out of battery before I could get a good close up of fairisle to show you up close what I mean.

I really like the way the colours blend and flow through the pattern.  Its definitely something I am going to come back to and experiment more with.

The yarn has a lovely sheen and bloom to it.  I was going to give it to Jason the Shepherd, the provider of my Masham fleece, but its probably a bit too girly.  I will have to think of something else.

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Autumn Glory in Edale


Have you noticed how glorious, vibrant and just darned wonderful the autumn colours are this year?  We have spent a very happy few days in Edale with the gathered clan blown in from the four corners (actually it was just the two sets, east and west but four sounds more poetic).  The autumn was well ahead of home.  The colours in the leaves were stunning.  The most amazingly vibrant chartreuses, rusts, golds, greens and purples.  The leaves seem to be especially vibrant this year.  Aside from the mild damp days causing the intensity of colour, does it also mean something predictive for winter?


Sadly my rubbish camera failed to pick up the colours in their most amazing glory.  The best I could get was this view taken from our bedroom window:


On a quick walk up hill and down dale we came across the cutest of sheep:


Absolutely no idea what breed they are.  But in a Galaxy far far away in a few millennia I have my suspicions they may just evolve to become Ewoks.  If you do know the breed please put me out of my misery and let me know.  Aside from the fact there were sheep everywhere.  EVERYWHERE!  Got me thinking again about the history of wool in East Anglia and the lack thereof these days.  A reading project for the list.

I was compelled (propelled?) to get in the workshop when I got home.  Those leaves just had to come out in a dye job: