Learning to Felt Boots

I went to a felting workshop last year with the Tawe Guild.

It was the first time that I ever felted anything (on purpose) and it’s something that I’ve been wanting to try again ever since.

I’ve also been wanting a new pair of boots – but didn’t want the same old same old that I’ve been buying for years.

So a new quest was born – how to felt myself a great pair of boots.

I found a fantastic website called Felt Magnet which has step by step guides to making duct taps foot lasts and wet felted slippers so I thought I’d have a go.

The foot lasts were fun to make.  I bought a roll of duct tape for £7.99 and spent a happy Sunday  afternoon duct taping my feet over an old pair of black socks.  It was very easy to do but time consuming.  By the end, though, I had a pair of a lasts that were pretty fair matches for my feet.

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I then dug out my bag of scrap tops and roving and started to felt.

I used an old vinegar bottle which I filled with hot water and washing up liquid.  I covered the foot lasts with three layers of white merino, soaking each layer with hot soapy water and rubbing gently over a nylon sheet until the wool stuck to itself and the nylon sheet could be pulled away gently.

I then added one layer of coloured tops as a pattern and began to rub the boots all over with bubble wrap to begin the felting process.

I rubbed the boots for around 45 minutes, by which time my arms and hands were starting to get tired.  At this point, the boots were starting to felt really nicely but I could see that it would take a reeeeeally long time to felt them this way – I thought it was time for a bit of an experiment.

I wrapped each boot in the leg of a pair of tights and bunged them in the washing machine with some washing up liquid for a 1 hour wash.  I then put them through the tumble drier for about 45 minutes.

When I took them out, the boots were felted very nicely, but they were awfully thick.  I think I’d “over topped” them because, in places, the felt was nearly 3/4″ thick!

I knew that the boots would never work as they were so I decided to cut them down and use them as slippers instead.  I removed them (with difficulty!) from the lasts and found that the felt was so thick that I couldn’t get them over my feet!.

There was no help for it – to get them on my feet at all I had to cut most of the boot away.  So I grabbed a pair of scissors and started cutting.

I know I’ve cut them a wee bit too short but they still fit really nicely on my feet so I know that making lasts this way works.  What I’m left with is  a pair of slippers that fit my feet really well, if a bit short around the heel, but they don’t fall off and they feel great.

For a first attempt, to get something that will actually stay on my feet at all feels like a great achievement and next time I’ll learn from my mistakes.  I’ll make a pattern from wellington boots and try to get enough width in the leg to make a tongue that I can use to lace the boots up.

Meanwhile, I have a pair of slippers that fit really well – even if they look a bit crap!

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Christmas Over – Time for Some New Projects

I haven’t blogged here for a while because I haven’t been doing much experimenting lately – I’ve been too busy knitting for Christmas.

I made myself a hat a little while ago for the Guild summer exhibition.  The theme was “Lumps and Bumps” which I found a little intimidating – I mean, what on earth could I make for that?  Anyway, I eventually decided to make a hat which would have a “lumpy bumpy” band around it which I could remove after the exhibition.

I spun up some white merino 70s which I had lying around, dyed it with some Wilton violet food dye and knitted up this Cloche hat

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which I chose because it was such a quick and easy knit.  The felting was done in the washing machine with washing up liquid and a 40 degree 30 minute wash.  I put it through the cycle 3 times to get it to felt down and, when it was finished, I didn’t end up with a cloche hat like the photo, but with more of a bowler hat shape – which I absolutely love!

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I think the shape suits me much better than the cloche hat would have done:

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Anyway, I showed my hat and woven scarf to my mother and sister who both wanted one.  I made one for Mum before Christmas but my sister said she would have hers for Christmas – but she wanted hers in black.

I had to make Sis’s hat twice because the first time I made it from some white handspun that I already had, thinking I could dye it black once it was made.  Unfortunately it didn’t work – I ended up with a felt hat that was a completely horrid browny green colour – really really awful!  So I had to hunt out some black handspun that I’d made ages ago – very badly spun and all kinds of thick’n’thin – to quickly knit up another one and felt it.

Luckily this one turned out okay and I was able to give it to Sis, with a woven scarf like mine, for Christmas.

The other knitting I had to was a pair of slippers for Mother.  She’s always got cold feet  so I regularly make her socks and slippers.

As this was for Christmas, I wanted to make something a bit prettier than the everyday ones I make.  I found a very sweet  and very easy bootie pattern and then set out to find some nice yarn to knit it.  The pattern called for super-chunky but the variety on offer in my local Hobbycraft was, to be honest a bit pants, so I eventually decided on some James Brett Marble Chunky which I thought could be held double to get the right weight.

The colours were fab and the pattern only needed a little bit of modification – I thought they were too short so knitted the cuff longer and then picked up all around the top to make the turnover.  Anyway, I think they turned out quite nicely and Mum certainly liked them – she’s been raving about them since Christmas morning!  It’s nice to be appreciated!

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I loved the colours in this yarn so much that I’ve made myself a hoodie out of it – I’ll upload a couple of photos when it’s finished being blocked.  7

I’ve also cast on yet another vest – this time in Drops Karisma – a wool/alpaca blend in rust for Hubs – he’s finally asked me to make him something so I couldn’t really refuse.

I am, however, hankering to make something a little more complicated – all the stocking stitch is getting a bit boring.

I do have a lovely lace weight alpaca/silk blend which is think would be gorgeous knitted up into Malgven so I might cast this on tomorrow – just to give me something interesting to knit.

 

Weaving my first scarf

I got drunk a little while ago and spent the evening going nuts with my blending board.

I made a ton of rolags, all different colours and fibres, by just grabbing the next bit of fibre that came to hand so the colours were all jumbled together completely randomly.

I kept them in a bag for ages until I decided that I really need to spin them up. I’d just learned to spin long draw so I thought I’d use up the rolags as practise rather than use my white merino – the rolags were just sitting there after all.

So I spun them really roughly, just concentrating on the technique of long draw rather than on getting an even yarn.  After spinning them I plied them quickly with some gold thread, just to play and, amazingly, I ended up with these :

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which were much prettier than I thought they’d be – much prettier than they had any right to be really considering how slapdash the spinning of them was!

So – what to do with them?  There wasn’t enough of them to knit anything really so I eventually bit the bullet and dragged out my rigid heddle loom.

I bought the loom (a Kromski Harp 24″) and stand at Wonderwool Wales in April but I’ve only had a couple of half hearted goes at it – I haven’t really been able to get into weaving at all.  Liz at Guild said it was probably because I’ve been trying to weave fine fabrics with 4 ply and lace weight yarns which are a bit too fiddly for a beginner.  She suggested that I use thicker yarns and just have fun with it without worrying too much about balancing the weave and getting the edges perfectly straight.

Taking this advice to heart, I decided that I’d warp the loom with some black chunky yarn that I had lying around and then use the spun rolags as the weft – just as an experiment.

Here’s the loom halfway warped :

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You can really see how thick the yarn is which made warping a breeze because it only took around 15 minutes.  The warp ended up being 9 foot long altogether although I didn’t intend to use the whole length, I just wanted to make sure there was more than enough warp to make a decent length scarf – if it turned out nice.

I used toilet paper to straighten out the warp – I’d seen this done on a YouTube video and it seemed like a good idea so I thought I’d give it a go . . .

20161120_152542it actually worked really well and gave me a nice, even warp to begin weaving.

I just grabbed the first ball of yarn, filled up the shuttle and began weaving.  There were lots of little slubby bits in the yarn where I hadn’t spun it quite evenly so, instead of losing these in the weft, I decided to make a feature out of them and pulled them up out of the weave, twisting them a bit so they make little nubby bobbles all over the surface of the fabric.  I didn’t do this in any sort of pattern, just as they appeared, I’d pull and twist to make the bobbles.  I really liked the look so kept this up all throughout the weave.  You can see them quite well in this photo :

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When I finished the weave, I hemstitched each end leaving about 6 inches of fringe, washed and dried it and am extremely happy with the way it looks.

Here’s the finished scarf, which I love and wear all the time.

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I’ve had tons of compliments when I’ve worn it out and my sister has asked for one for Christmas so I’m in the middle of weaving another one.

Result!!!!

 

 

Spinning Silk – Soya Silk Top

So, here I am with 200g of soya silk top looking at me and being, tbh, a bit afraid of it.

Up until now I’ve only really spun with wool and the occasional wool/silk blend which behaved pretty much the same as pure wool.

I spent ages on YouTube and other websites trying to work out how best to spin this stuff but, in the end, I just had to bite the bullet and get started.

The first decision was whether to dye the fibre before or after spinning.  I eventually plumped for dying it afterwards because I was a bit nervous that the fibres would end up a completely tangled mess after dyeing and I wouldn’t be able to spin it at all.  I thought that, as a complete newbie to spinning silk, it would be easier to spin it first and then dye the yarn which would be all tied up nicely in a neat skein.

Initially I found it quite difficult to spin the soya silk.  Although it looks quite coarse compared to “real” silk, it’s still pretty difficult to draft from a top because it slips through your fingers so easily.

Because I wanted to spin a very fine yarn, I set up my wheel with a high speed kit that Clive had bought for me last year for my birthday (and which I’d never used before).

It’s quite difficult to get enough twist into the soya silk to make a stable yarn so the high speed flyer really helped.  Even so, I found that the yarn still floated apart very easily and began putting ever more twist into it until the spun yarn was kinking like crazy.

There’s a very strange feel to the soya silk – it just feel artificial.  I can’t really describe it any better than that.  It sort of “squeaks” through your fingers as you’re drafting it, especially if your hands get hot, although the long staple length of the fibres means that, once you manage to get enough twist in it, the yarn itself is very strong.

I wish I’d taken photos of the spinning process, or a video even, but I didn’t think of it at the time.

Anyway, out of 200g of fibre I managed to get 650m of single.

I dyed the single using blue Wilton food dye and, because I wanted an even colour throughout the yarn, I dyed it on the stove top using 3 litres of water, 1/2 tsp of food dye and 1/2 cup of white vinegar and the initial colour was lovely – a nice soft blue.

I then decided to ply it with a single silver thread  because I wanted to keep the length of yarn that I had and didn’t want to increase the weight of yarn, which was coming in at a true lace weight.

After plying I gave it a wash to set the twist and stabilise the yarn and that’s where the problem started.  The blue dye just kept on washing out.  I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed trying to get the end of the bleed but it didn’t stop and the colour was leeching out like crazy, leaving the yarn colour lighter and lighter.

At this rate I thought I was going to end up with a natural coloured yarn again!

I decided that desperate times call for desperate measure so I resoaked the yarn in vinegar water (2 cups of vinegar to 2 litres of water) and brought it back up to a simmer and left it to simmer for 20 minutes, hoping that this would encourage the dye to bond with the fibre.  I know that 2 cups is a heck of a lot of acid but it was the only thing I could think of.  I knew that the acid wouldn’t affect the fibres, but I had to be careful with the temperature of the water because I didn’t think that the silver thread I’d use for plying would stand up to a very high heat without melting.

Luckily it seems to have worked and I’ve ended up with a pale blue & silver lace weight yarn which, if anything , is even prettier than the blue I thought I was going to get.

I’m using it to make a shawl called Grouchy Geisha which I’m hoping will show off the sheen of the soy silk.

In knitting, the yarn has a very soft hand and drapes beautifully.  I’m only partway through the first half of the shawl at the moment but here’so some picciesof how it’s getting on.

There pretty bad picsbecause it’s difficult to get the colour right and the cable on the circ is curling up but I think it’s going to be beautiful and I’m extremely pleased at how the soya silk has spun up – Just remember that it needs a shedload of vinegar for the dye to strike and hold!!

Spinning Silk (Part 1)

Recently I seem to have acquired a lot of silk fibres which I now need to learn to spin.

It all started when I was browsing shawl patterns on Ravelry and I saw this little beauty

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Peony Pfinsgstrose shawl and instantly fell in love and the only fibre I wanted to make this in was pure silk.

So I began a hunt for the perfect pure silk yarn.  It didn’t take long until I ran across DyeForYarn on Etsy which, let’s be honest, is just like a porn shop for knitters!  I’ve never seen colours like the ones they have.  Every time I visit there I’m struck anew by how beautiful their yarn is and I want it – especially the two called Dolphin in my Whirlpool and Rose Which Shall Not Be Named, but I wouldn’t say no to anything at all from that store.  It’s all gorgeous.

Unfortunately, my bank balance doesn’t allow me shop there too often and I’d need to buy 2 skeins to make the Peony shawl which, when you add on postage, brings the cost up to around £50.00 for a shawl- that’s a bit too pricey for me I’m afraid.

Anyway, I was at Guild, moaning about how I wanted to make this shawl in silk when Brenda said “why not buy some silk top and make it yourself”.  I began to waffle on about dying it and how difficult it is to spin silk but she put an immediate stop to that by saying “Pffft!  Have a go – what’s the worst that could happen?”

The next day found me trawling through World of Wool and Wingham Wool Work to see what they were offering in the way of silky stuff.

Quite a lot as it happened!

I came away having ordered 200g of soy silk, 200g of mulberry silk top, 100g of degummed cocoons and 200g of a gorgeous baby camel/tussah silk blend which I just couldn’t resist and, as I’d spend so much already it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to just add it to the order  . . . . .

Here’s a sample of each, from top to bottom, soy silk, degummed cocoons,  baby camel/tussah and pure mulberry – doesn’t it look pretty?

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20161112_115838So, here I am, with all this lovely silk stuff and feeling my way through spinning it.

I decided to leave the mulberry silk top until last and practice on some of the other stuff first.  So I began with the soy silk because, in my head, nothing died to produce it so I wouldn’t feel so terrible if I screwed it up.

Onwards then to the soy silk spinning & dyeing experiment . . . . .

 

Handspun BFL Jacket Project

I completely forgot that I had this blog site until today – hence the reason I haven’t posted anything for nearly 2 years!!

It was only that I was thinking earlier today that it would be nice to have somewhere to document my adventures in knitting/spinning/dying and fibre arts in general that I suddenly remembered it so I’m hoping it will be a useful resource for me to upload pictures of what I’m doing and use it as an aide memoir to remember how/why I’ve done certain things and how they turn out.

So, the latest thing I’ve been doing is knitting this jacket out of handspun BFL.  I bought the BFL as humbug coloured tops from World of Wool intending to knit a sweater for C. but he decided that he didn’t want a heavy sweater so I decided to make it for myself.  I’d spun the BFL to a chunky weight and wanted a nice, plainish pattern to show off the textures of the handspun/  I eventually decided on  this pattern by Patons which was free on Ravelry.  The pattern looked nice and simple – an easy knit, which is what I wanted.  I always have a couple of complicated projects on the go and like to have a nice, straightforward project on hand as well for knitting in front of the telly or when I don’t feel like concentrating.

I knitted the stocking stitch using 3 balls at a time, one row of each, which has helped enormously to disguise any inconsistencies in the thickness of the spun yarn. This technique worked  beautifully and here is the finished jacket being blocked – helped as always by Chloe . .

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I love the look of it, it’s got a lovely sort of tweedy look to it but I now think it might be a bit too plain.  I think it might look nice with some natural coloured i-cord swirls sewn on it.  The only problem is, I absolutely hate, hate, hate making i-cord!

I did consider crocheting chain stitches directly into the sweater and making the swirls that way but (a) I’m not very good at crochet and (b) I didn’t know how I’d go about planning out the swirly patterns and then transferring that pattern onto the fabric of the jacket.

I’ve been pondering the problem for a couple of days now and then, inspiration struck when I was in Dunelm Mills yesterday and spotted one of these :

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We used to call them Knitting Nancies when I was a kid and, as you can see, I’ve already started making the i-cord out of some undyed 4-ply which I had hanging around.

It’s been so much fun using this little toy – it makes me feel like I’m about 7 again when we used to make miles of this stuff and sew it in spirals to make place mats or mats for hot saucepans and give them to our mothers.  Mum was always very gracious about the horrible bits of badly sewn wool that I gave her and always made to sure to use them.

Anyway, the plan is to make enough of this i-cord to make spiraly patterns all over the sleeves, front and back of the jacket and sew them on.  I’m not really sure how it will look when I’ve finished but, because it will be i-cord sewn onto the fabric, it will be easy to remove it if I decide I don’t like it after all.

The other thing I want to do with the jacket is to disguise the tape of the zip that I’ve put into it.  The zip comes sort of half way up the neck of the jacket so, if you don’t zip it up all the way, the neck falls open a little (which looks lovely by the way) and exposes the zip (which I don’t like the look of at all).

I’ve been thinking that I might try just picking up some stitches from the inside of the neck, along the length of the zip, and knitting a small placket that can be sewn over the zip tape, disguising it when the neck falls open.  I’ll have a go at this later and upload some before and after photos when I’ve finished.

An hour or so later. . . . . . . . . .

Okay, so I’ve spent a little while fiddling about and these are the results.

First of all, here’s a photo of the zip and neckline as they were “before”.  The zip is sewn into the jacket and you can clearly see the zip tape on the inside of the neckline – pretty ugly I think.

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So what I’ve done is to pick up stitches all along the inside of the jacket, along the line where I originally picked up the stitches to make the zip band.  I knitted two rows then cast off using the K1K2tog cast off to make sure it was nice and stretchy.  I then hand sewed the edge of the new knitted placket along the edge of the zip tape, pulling it nice and close to the zip teeth.  Here’s a comparison after I finished one side.

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It’s not perfect but it looks a hundred times better than just the zip tape showing.  Less home-made and more hand-made!

I’ve also finished a section of the i-cord so I’ve laid it across the front of the jacket – just to see what it looks like.  I’m not sure whether or not to attach it so I’ll just leave the photo here so I can come back and look at it a few times until I make up my mind.

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Stardate 2912.14

I’ve just spent my first evening stargazing – Hubby bought me a telescope for Christmas – and it’s been an absolutely perfect night for my first go.

The Moon was up at around 1630 hrs so it was still light, which made it a lot easier to learn to use the viewfinder, find the Moon (not as easy as it might seem actually coz it’s a slippery little bugger and just when you think you’ve got it centred in the viewfinder you discover that it doesn’t actually appear in the lens) and focus the lens.  Once you *do* get the Moon centred in the lens and focussed though – Oh My God!!!  It was, quite possibly, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen – up to that point (of which more later).

 

The craters were crystal clear and it was so bright!  Just lovely.

 

Later on, when Orion came up, I spent a happy half hour looking at Betelgeuse, Bellatrix and Rigel before girding my loins and aiming the viewfinder at where (approximately) I though the Orion Nebula might be.  It look me ages  – 45 minutes or so – but eventually I found it and again — Oh My God!!  I  mean, I’ve seen photos of nebulae where you can see all the baby starts being born and the clouds of gas, but I didn’t know I would actually see those things through the telescope, if you know what I mean.  I mean, there weren’t any colours, it was just black and white, obviously, but still – there it was – a whole, proper, grown up nebula right there in the lens of my very own telescope.  It was, quite possibly, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen – up to that point (of which more later).

 

Just when I thought I’d have to go in (partly because of the cold but mostly because my wine glass was empty), I saw Jupiter rising over the roof of the house next door and “What the Hell” I thought – “why not have a pop at Big Jupe as well.   Again, it took a fair bit of fiddling but once I got it focussed, there was Jupiter!  It was so beautiful – I could see three of the Galileo moons and some of the banding across the planet.  Now, that *was* the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

 

That’s when Hubby dragged me back in because there was ice forming on the tube of the telescope and he was afraid I’d send up sticking to it!!

 

Anyway, not bad for my first night of stargazing – I’ve bagged a moon, a nebula and a planet plus moons.  I think I’ve found a new obsession – Oh Dear . . . . . .