Clearing bobbins

I’m working on a new design at the moment, so I don’t have a lot of knitting to share.  So that’s a little tease and here are some finished yarns from clearing off my bobbins ready for Spinzilla.

1177m of 2plied super fine Shetland. I haven’t washed it yet but I expect it to be heavy lace weight/light fingering weight. Love the colour of this.

200g of Merino / Silk blend top became 800m of fingering weight yarn. I love 3plied yarn, so I spun roughly 66g onto each of 3bobbins and made this great 3ply. I N-plied the remnants.

I had some tiny sample bits on a few bobbins so I plied those off to go in my box of oddments. All N-plied, some dyed mulberry silk, undyed mulberry silk and cotton.

The result… 

… a big pile of bobbins! I have some many Schacht bobbins as each wheel comes with 3 or 4 bobbins and I have 3 Schacht wheels that take these bobbins. The huge bobbins are the Hansen Woolee Winder bobbins. My Schacht-Reeves bobbins were already clear and aren’t in the photo. I managed to clear all the bobbins on Friday thinking it was the end of October and Spinzilla started today! I have no idea where that week went in my brain, but I’m glad to have that week back! Spinzilla starts a week today.

Spinzilla prep

They forecast a bit of a heat wave for the south of England for today and tomorrow, 30C they said. I was a little grateful when it remained somewhat overcast, but a warm pleasant day.

Spinzilla is all about community and challenging yourself and of course spinning. The small fee also raises money for mentoring the spinners of tomorrow. You can find out more about Spinzilla here.

The only UK team did really well last year, I think we came 7th out of all the terms. It was our first year entering and I think we will spin even more this year. So many people were inspired by our team efforts that there are 3 UK teams this year!

The goal of Spinzilla really is maximum yardage in 7days. So I try and do any prep I want to do in advance and choose things that are quick and easy to spin. I have mainly chosen mill top, some we were given some by our team sponsors (Curtis Wool and John Arbon) and some which I bought to spin for a jumper. 

But I like variety and variety in spinning is better when you intent to spend a whole week spinning and doing very little else. So yesterday I blended some hand dyed BFL wool top with some hand dyed Silk top, into lovely airy rolags which are easy to spin and will break the monotony of the indeed tops I’ll otherwise be spinning.  

My method for getting even amounts of fibre in each rolag when blending tops, is to attentuate each length of top out to the same length, then hold them all together like a roving and braid (crochet chain) them all together. Then for each rolag I can simply pull another chunk of fibre off the roving and hand card it. It also makes it simple to stop part way through and carry on later without forgetting what proportions I was doing!

I was going to do some more today, but I was struck with a migraine, ugh! So I rested this morning until Bobcat decided that he was going outside and proceeded to shout at me, a lot!

By the time I was ready to oblige he had eaten his lunch and curled up on a blanket! Howver as soon as he heard the key in the door he changed his mind, trotting off out the cat flat, with Alan more cautiously following me out the door. Alan concurred his fear of the grass today, with the help of a bee that apparently looked exciting enough to risk walking on the strange wet grass! He didn’t catch the bee, which was probably for the best as a cat with a sting in its mouth is the wrong kind of excitement!He soon decided that sunbathing and watching Bobcat’s antics was a much better idea. He might look like a furry beast, but really he is delicate fella who prefers clean smooth carpet to wet grass or gravel and dirty mud. He still carefully picks his way over the patio as if the concrete is dreadfully uncomfortable.After spending nearly 2years as an indoor cat I was quite surprised that neither Bobcat nor his old play mate started a fight when Bobcat wandered up behind him. I’m sure there will be many scuffles as territories are reasserted, but I’ve never seen these 2 get really nasty with each other.

I sat and watched the cats and their silly adventures for nearly 2hours and as I was thinking about rounding them up to go back inside, a heard a voice in the road near by. Bobcat belly to the ground, ran for the door growling as he went and shot upstairs. Alan totally bewildered by the whole thing sensibly decided he should follow. Bobcat doesn’t much like people, especially those he doesn’t know and it’s good to know his instinct when scared is to leg it indoors!

My progress on this cardigan is painfully slow, though I’m really enjoying the knitting. I’ve been way too busy spinning the last few weeks. But I have now nearly finished the first sleeve, so hopefully I’ll have more to share later in the week. 

September sun & a felted bag

I have no idea what is going on with the UK weather, usually September is the start of the weather I love. Autumn is my favourite season, with cooler days and nights and the start of a few rainy days and of course all the Autumn colours. (Autumn = Fall for my US friends)

But it has been unseasonably warm here this week, with the kids back at school without their coats and hats and mittens seeming like a distance concept still. I suppose I shouldn’t complain when the weather man says highs of 29C next week, but to be honest I’d rather it was a bit cooler and I could get on with some DIY with sweating!

So instead I’ve spent this week getting back into the work groove after 6weeks of school holidays off. During this long holidays I keep up with customer emails, Ravelry and knitting on current design ideas, but the actual hard work of designing and teaching gets set aside.

I’ve updated the blog and added some of my patterns to the pages here, which used to be available through my web shop, which is now closed. So I thought it would be helpful to have my designs all in 1 place here. So I’m nearly done with that. 

I’m re working one of my oldest patterns and that will be tech edited and rereleased in the next few weeks. 

Spinning, oh how I love to spin to relax after a busy day at the computer. 


With these 2 bobbins of slightly slubby chunky merino 2ply yarn finished, I settled down to make a felted bag for my Flatiron wheel. I like a bag to store the whorls, oil bottle, spare drive band and brake band and any other bits like WPI gauge. I decided to make this bag slightly bigger as I know I will take this wheel out to events and it would be nice to be able to tuck a spare bobbin in as well. 

For knitting that will be fulled (some just call this felted) I don’t bother finishing the yarn first, I find this makes for firmer felt fabric. So I lazily knitted straight from the bobbins. As soon as the knitting was done I went to the sink to felt it, and once it was wet and soapy, I thought “oh no, you silly woman! You should have taken a photo.” Before felting this bag was very loose and shapeless and obviously much bigger!

My method for felting knitting is as follows; 

Run a bowl of hot as I can get it warmer from the tap and top up from the kettle. I wear thick rubber gloves to prevent scolding myself! Add detergent I find dish washing liquid (aka Fairy Liquid) works well to the hot water. 

Soak the item in the hot water until it’s wetted through, then start felting. 

You can either run a 2nd bowl of cold water and refill it often so it doesn’t get warm, or use the cold tap running.

Aim of the game is to put the hot wet soapy knitting into really cold water, over and over. This is the quickest and least energetic felting process. 

I agitate the item in the hot soapy water, rubbing it between my hands and scrunching it up, then move it quickly to the cold move it around until it’s cold, squeeze the cold water out with my hands and return it to the hot water. Squeezing it out helps stop the hot water going cold and saves having to refresh the hot water. 

Repeat, repeat until it is firm and I’m reasonably happy with the size. This method works well and prevents sections getting stuck together or creases forming which is quite common if you just throw it in the washer. 

I was only at the sink about 15mins. It’s probably quicker if you are really vigorous and use a sink plunger or something, but I’m too laid back for that. 

Rinse all the soap out thoroughly, pull into shape. Then I put mine in the tumble drier as this firms the felt up really well. I put it in until it’s almost dry.

Then stretch over a form of some sort until fully dry. 


Finally a use for all the different shapes and sizes of tuppawear I own!

The finished bag hanging on my Schacht Flatiron. 


The bag has a row of eyelets around the top. I added extra twist to a length of the yarn and folded 4 strands and let it twist back on itself, making a cabled yarn. I then threaded this through the eyelets to hang up. It also has a small side pocket for the oil bottle as this is probably the item I use most often from the bag. 

Still loving my Flatiron. 

Schacht sent me these great pin badges, so I will share some with my fellow Schacht wheel owning friends.

Spinning and outdoor adventures

After finishing the dark Merino scraps for a little spinning wheel bag, I started on 200g of Merino/Silk blend tops.

The Flatiron really made spinning these singles a breeze. I will 3ply them for a fingering weight yarn. You can see a small ply back sample on the top of the bobbin.


After 2 years of having indoor cats, (because a local man who allowed his dog to enter my neighbours garden and kill her cats on 2 seperate occasions, he didn’t care) the risk seems to have gone and we have decided to let our furry beasts out again.  Alan had never set foot into the outside world before, so he was quite timid, mostly sniffing around the patio!

He had a little look at the grass, but thought better of it and pottered off back inside. Bobcat on the whole hand walked the whole garden perimeter and spent a lot of time munching grass!

He’s a fat little cat and could do with the exercise after spending the last 2years indoors. He really loves it outside, I’m sure the grass won’t spoil his diet.

Tomorrow there will be knitting I promise.

The Flatiron

After an excited wait my new Flatiron from Schacht Spindle company arrived this week!

These great new wheels come totally flat packed, hence the reasonably small box for a 22″ saxony wheel. So I cleared the table and set about assembling this modern wheel. Looking at the table of parts might feel a little daunting if you’ve never assembled a wheel before.The team at Schacht have not only created a great product that is precision cut and beautifully finished, which makes the assembly straight forward, they also created this Assembly video which should put you at ease.

Assembly takes about 90mins and all you need is a Phillips head screwdriver and a straight head screwdriver, they have included all the other tools you need.  Only fully tighten things when you are told to and for the nuts and bolts holding the nut still with the spanner and turning the bolt with the screw driver/hex key is easiest.

90mins later and a few drops of oil and we were up and spinning!  She’s sturdy and quiet and nice and fast.

Oh and I didn’t tell the most unique thing about this wheel. You’ll notice the flyer is on the right, rather than on the left like most saxony wheels. Well Schacht came up with a design that means that every Schacht wheel can be set up with the flyer on the left or the right. Change your mind, loan your wheel to a friend, sell your wheel, then you can take it apart and reassemble it with the flyer on the other side. Brilliant!


I decided for her first spin I’d spin some oddments of black, navy and purple merino into a thick slightly textured yarn to knit into a little fulled bag to hang from my Flatiron with the oil bottle and spare whorls etc in.


At the moment I’m knitting a cardigan in natural grey Falkland 4ply yarn that I was given for my birthday. More on that next time.

Silk with Priscilla Lowry

Our local WSD guild was lucky enough to have Priscilla Lowry to visit this weekend, all the way from New Zealand.
She came to do a few workshops and give a talk on silk history.
Sadly I had to miss the silk history talk, but other guild members said it was fascinating.
We had a morning workshop on spinning lofty silk yarns for knitting, all about trapping air between the silk fibres.
On Sunday we had a full day workshop on spinning all different silk fibres, from A1 Mulberry Silk brick right through, tussah brick, short silk fibres, muwatas (hankies and caps), degummed silk cocoons, cocoon strippings, throwsters, to tussah noil a.k.a. floor sweepings.

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A friend spinning mulberry silk cut with scissors into 1-2″ long pieces then spun from the fold with plenty of twist.
The resulting single has tufts of silk ends all along it’s length, well secured by the twist. Like a beautiful eyelash yarn, spun from silk.

Close photos of yarns to follow.

To almost everyone’s surprise these lesser silk products were pretty fun to spin! The variety of yarns we could produce was phenomenal.
Accompanying all these wonderful yarns and techniques were Priscilla’s stories of how the beauty of fibres from silk cocoons was discovered, how the secrets of processing silk were hidden, how silk is produced and farmed today and the differences in the fibres and how they are all processed.

Like with all these things we can believe we know a reasonable amount about subject, then we meet an expert and realise our knowledge is a drop in the ocean.
So there was lots to be learnt and I think we all had a fantastic weekend spinning wormspit a.k.a. Silk!

Spinning for Fair Isle & A Poorly Cat

I’ve been quietly concerned about my old cat for a while now. Cuddles has just turned 19years old, which is a fantastic age. We’ve been lucky with him day one, with exception of being hit by a car when he was a kitten, he’s never had much need for a vet.
Sadly for the last 2years he’s had random bouts of diarrhoea and loosing weight, then he goes off his food. Each time the vet can find nothing wrong and further tests would require an anaesthetic, but he’s always got better and gained the weight back when his appetite returns. After several episodes like this the vet assumed it was some form of irritable bowel disease.

We had learnt to live with this occasional problem and it didn’t seem to be getting worse.
But over the last 6months he’s got more doddery on his back legs, unable to jump as well, and unable to sit down properly. He’s old and didn’t seem to be in pain with it (though it’s often hard to tell with cats) so we assumed it was old age causing stiffness and maybe arthritis. But in the last 2months those diarrhoea accidents have turned into solid poop accidents. Which from a super clean cat who washes obsessively was very odd. I noticed he was a bit smelly, and put it down to the pooping and washing less. He shows many signs of dementia so we gave him plenty of leeway and again didn’t worry as he seemed happy.
In the last 2 weeks I noticed slightly wet patches in his bed and on the floor (thankfully he’s been shut out of carpeted rooms for a while), saw him do solid poos while walking about and seeming totally surprised. Then when sleeping on my lap he wet himself (or should I say he wet me!!) I knew something was really wrong and off to the vets we went.
The vet didn’t seem sure and ran some full blood tests, wondering about thyroid, kidney disease, urinary infection (and dementia while doesn’t show in blood tests!).

So the last 2days I’ve nervously waited for the results, wondering if his time had come to an end.
I stayed up very late spinning both evenings plying some BFL/silk in yellows and oranges and spinning and plying some Romney fleece I’d dyed purple.

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The plan for these contrasting mini skeins is a fair isle bag from the latest spin off magazine.

More cat news to follow as the results come in.

Flicking Shetland

I’ve had a 3week long battle with a dental abscess and the dentist. I won’t bore you with all the details, but today we got to;
Dentist “I didn’t know you were in pain last time I saw you.”
Me “I told you I was. And the receptionist.”
Dentist “you didn’t tell me or I would have prescribed some antibiotics.”
Me “The receptionist told me there was no way for me to get an appointment any earlier (than 2weeks), that I’d have to wait, even though I told her I was in pain.”
Dentist “You could have come back sooner.”
Me “As I said before the receptionist said the earliest I could be seen was …”
Me “The only reason I called today was because my GP said you HAD to see me today. So I thought I’d try.”

So the result so far? Another course of antibiotics, stronger ones for anaerobic bacteria this time, hopefully they will work and we can get on with treatment.
The toothache is bad enough but I’ve been getting waves of the most horrific pain all up that side of my face, jaw and neck. These waves of pain leave me unable to do anything but lay there shaking and sobbing until they pass, usually about half an hour later. There doesn’t seem to be a trigger and the painkillers make no difference. I just hope the antibiotics work quick!

So as you can imagine I haven’t done much knitting in the last 2weeks and especially not the last few days.
Between waves of pain I’ve managed to knit most of the raglan for a jumper for my daughter.

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The wool is beautiful Superfine Australian 8ply, maximum of 18microns. It doest say it’s merino, but it must be at that kind of fineness. It’s superwash and bright red of course so perfect for my daughter. It was a very kind gift from an Australian Ravelry friend.

Last night I thought maybe I could work through the pain by flicking some beautiful Shetland locks. I got some done before the pain overwhelmed me again.
The fleece is a White Shetland Ewe fleece I bought at Wonderwool last year. It’s beautiful; fine wool with a good crimp, no break.
Hand washed by me.

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A box of flicked locks.

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This is probably the simplest, easiest and cheapest method of processing fleece except for spinning directly from the unwashed fleece.
All you need a small flicker, you can buy one from your spinning supplier, but you don’t need to. A dog slicker from your local pet shop or discount store will work just as well. I paid about £2.50 for mine from Wilkinsons.
I’ll try and post a photo later so you know what you are looking for.
You’ll also want a piece of leather or thick plastic to lay over your lap to flick on, otherwise you’ll soon have a whole in your trousers.

As a final thought, I’ll show you the pretty card my daughter made for me. Wow her feet have got big since she was that tiny baby I bought home.

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Leather Spinning Journal

A new year, a new journal. A hand bound leather spinning journal.
Each leaf has a detail section for spinning project, holes for attaching samples and a notes section on the reverse.

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Hand sewn using a technique that allows the book to lay flat when opened.

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With a firm real leather cover that will protect and really last.

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I made a mini spinning journal last year but am really loving this A6 size for all the technical details.

I’m in the process of making some more journals in a variety of leathers with different ribbon ties. I’m also making some wrap around style journals which are beautiful too.

If you are interested in buying one please leave a note in the comments, email me or send me a message on twitter @ninjabex
Prices will vary depending on the size, style and number of pages, From £15.

Happy New Year Spinners!

Added some more photos for you. Will post good pics when the light allows…

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Change of pace

Since the autumn started the onset of cold weather has left me struggling to manage my ongoing pain. Which has meant a lot less spinning and almost no dyeing.
It has given me a chance to do some Christmas gift knitting and finish a few WIP’s. Here’s a small selection;


Knitted Christmas Baubles (from “55 Christmas Balls to knit” and hanging stars based on a free Ravelry pattern)

Double knit Coasters
Double knitting (2colour, 2sided) Coasters in 4ply wool (based on a free Ravelry pattern for pot holders)

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Cute red hat with reversible ear flaps using the Owls chart, this is to match a Cardigan for Emily. Still needs beads for eyes.

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Simple yet effective lavender favours to keep draws smelly nice.

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Another cute hat, this time with stranded colourwork bunnies and a bunny tail style pompon and earflaps.

Schacht Wheel Reviews Coming Soon

I am working on reviews for the Schacht Spinning Wheels, and perhaps a comparison chart to help people to choose which one is right for them.
I think I’ve now owned all 4 wheels, the Matchless, Ladybug, Sidekick and 30″ Schacht-Reeves Saxony wheel, long enough to be able to provide you with detailed and helpful information.

If there is anything specific or unusual you would like me to cover let me know in the comments.

I have no association with Schacht and am not a Schacht dealer, just a happy customer spreading the love for beautiful, carefully crafted wheels.

Spinning for a project – Use of colour

I am quite keen on making the most of both the time I spend spinning and the fibre I use, to that end I spin most of my yarns with a project in mind.
Hand dyed spinning fibre is a big temptation, but so many spinners are disappointed with how their yarns knit up. Due to; muddied colours, barber pole effects, length of colour repeats, strong striping, dye lot changes, etc. The list is endless.
So I thought I would write some blog posts addressing these issues.

The first issue I thought I would address is the effect on the length of colour stripes when the width of the knitting fabric changes.
Eg. You spin some beautiful yarn from hand dyed top or graduated batts, and proceed to knit a triangular shawl which starts with a few stitches per row and increases to several hundred per row.
The closer you get to the edge the thinner the bands of colour become, to the extent that the edge doesn’t even have stripes.
The effect may be pleasing, or it might not.

To keep the bands of colour more equal make a simple change to the way you prepare your fibre before you start spinning.

Here is an example:
I have 100grams of hand painted top which has repeats of colour along its length and 100grams of hand dyed top which has very little variation in colour.
I plan to spin both lots of fibre and ply them together to form a 2ply.
I then want to use it to knit a large circular shawl, If I work from the top as I received it, without any splitting the resulting shawl with have a large circular of colour in the middle with the bands of colour getting smaller and smaller towards the edge and even mottled at the far edge.
If I want the bands of colour to have a similar width across the diameter of shawl I can strategicly divide the fibre before I start spinning.
For this example I will just divide the fibre for 1 ply and leave the second more solid fibre as is.

Undivided Top

fig1: Undivided Top

I split the fibre in half length ways as my fibre is a silk brick which is much wider than regular top, so for regular top skip this step or your fibre may be too thin to split further.

Split in half lengthwise

fig2: Split in half lengthwise

fig2 diagram

fig2 diagram

Next comes the strategic dividing of fibre. I broke the top into 5 fairly equal pieces, you can do this based on the colour repeats in your fibre for best results.
The first piece is not split at all (1). The next piece is split in half lengthways to make 2 thinner strips (1/2). The next piece is split into 3 lengthwise for even thinner strips (1/3). The next piece is split into 4 lengthwise (1/4). The last piece is split into 6 lengthwise (1/6) (I can’t manage to get 5 equal strips so I do 6, I do this by spliting in half, then spliting each into 3.) You can see in the photo the piles of fibre getting thinner from left to right.

fig3: Strategic dividing

fig3: Strategic dividing


fig3 diagram

fig3 diagram

I then crochet chain the strips of top in order so that they don’t get mixed up before spinning, if you want the colours to follow in sequence make sure you take note of the ‘start end’ and the ‘end end’.
You can see in this picture that the chain goes from fat, to thin and then thinner, the thinnest I rolled into a ball as it would be messy to chain.

fig4: final chained top

fig4: final chained top


When you have spun and plied your yarn you want to use the end with the short colour changes at the small part of your shawl (centre for round shawls) and the slow colour change end will be for the longer edge of your shawl.
For this fibre I will straight 2 ply with the 2nd solid ply, but you could navajo ply for great colour alignment. Or if you are really confident in your dividing skills divide in the same way for both plies for a matched 2ply.
I’ll update this post with a photo of the shawl when its finished.