Build a Batt Box detail – “Mermaids Singing”

July’s BaBB was themed around a line from T S Eliot’s Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock and the colours were inspired by the sea and coast. The sea has an especial poignancy for me and these shades of blue and green are my very favourite colours so this box was a real treat for me to put together. I drew on some photos I took on holiday last September and the childhood memories of the same place and put them together in a box full of sea greens and blues.


mermaids singing copy

This box sold out quite quickly – it appears that I’m not the only person who loves these hues! I’m really looking forward to seeing what people might have made with their fibres. If you’ve used these in your projects, don’t forget to post pictures on my Ravelry group to inspire us will you!

I made up a few batts to experiment with the odds and ends of fibres left over.


This one is a base of Bleu de Maine fleece dyed by me which came from my friend’s flock and I carded it with some of the merino and the green bamboo from the box. I added some extra sparkle in the form of gold firestar (if you have the August Sweet Meadow box this is the firestar from that one)


This batt is a mixture of the shades of merino and a little extra bamboo and some silk noil in turquoise. It also has some of the dyed silk brick and a few hints of Angelina in blue as an extra from my own stash (which sparkle you can’t see in this photo)


This is a mixture of the paler shades of merino with some soy silk and orange silk noil.

I also had a play around with some fancy yarns. I had some leftover merino in a pretty shade of petrol blue that was manufacturing waste – it had felted and nipped in the carding I think and I was given it by someone. I’d used the bulk of it by combing it and saving the best of it and it was part of a chunky soft bolero I spun and knitted last year but the waste fibres were sitting around – too short to spin on their own comfortably and too lumpy to make a nice yarn, they needed something else with them and I was loathe to throw them away. So I decided to roughly card them with some of the merino in duck egg and a little of the firestar from this box and used the resulting textured batts to make a soft corespun yarn which I then spiral plied with a cashmere/silk/merino commercial cobweb yarn to make a super bouncy lightweight but bulky yarn. I think I’ll knit this up into a winter cowl of some sort but for now I’m pleased with the skeins on their own!


And I’ll include this picture too even though this isn’t from the box itself but the fibres are very similar and you could do something like it using the BaBB. Last year I spun this sample skein of cocoon yarn using merino as the singles yarn and wrapping it with shiny little cocoons of silk/merino which I blended from hand dyed green silk with some blue merino. It’s been sitting around for over a year and I had some leftover silk warp on my loom yesterday which i didn’t want to waste before cutting off the project it belonged to so I grabbed this yarn and wove a small sample for fun. I’ve pulled the cocoons up through the warp as the pick was lying in the open shed and twisting them into a loop before beating the pick back – they are randomly placed but there’s mostly a looped cocoon on each row. Not sure what I’d use this for and this piece is too small for much anyway but it was interesting and fun to play around with!


P1120955 - Version 2




Build a Batt Box detail – “Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly”

I said I’d look at each of my BarberBlackSheep’s Build a Batt Boxes individually in blog posts. So let’s start with the first one I did for June 2014: Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly, Lavender’s Green.

To recap what a Build a Batt Box is – this is a limited edition monthly box of fibres put together by me around a colour theme of my choosing. When you start to card up your own fibre blends it can be expensive to buy up all the colours you’d like to put in your batts or rolags and some fibres you only really need a small amount of anyway, e.g. Firestar/Trilobal Nylon and other sparkly fibres and also textured fibres like silk noil go a very long way indeed! Other fibres add something special to a blend but you might only need a small amount in a blend, for example bamboo or mulberry silk give extra softness and lustre to wool blends but as little as 10% can really change the blend and be far more cost effective than adding large amounts of more expensive fibres. It’s not always possible to get fibres in the exact colours you want to go together (although there is of course a huge range of fibres and colours already commercially dyed out there) so some of the fibres I’ve chosen are hand dyed by me to fit within the range of colours of my chosen inspiration.

You can use all the fibres in a Build a Batt Box together – it varies slightly from month to month but it’s basically around 275g of fibres in total. But the idea is that it’s more a starting point for your imagination and also a way to build up a little stash of various fibres in colours you like and then you can always add more later in similar colours to make it go further. Quite a few of us quickly accumulate fibres and fleeces when we start spinning; visiting some of the amazing fibre shows we have in the UK over the course of the year seems to be a fail safe way of liberating cash from one’s purse! And when buying fleeces – whilst they lose a bit in mass when you skirt them and wash them, even after that, most fleeces are still far far bigger than one project and so by adding other fibres to your washed and carded fleece you can create totally different yarns and get several projects out of one precious purchase. It’s a great way of making a very special fleece go further.

We all like different colours and combinations. The idea of having a limited number of boxes available means that there’s more variety because there’ll be another colour theme in a months time so if the current theme doesn’t float your boat, there’ll be another one coming along shortly which might just be the thing. It’s not like being in a fibre club, you can always sit out a month or more if it doesn’t appeal or you’ve plenty else to be getting on with. (The downside though is that if others like the colours too then they can sell out quickly – as happened this month! ;0)

Sooo… The “lavender” June box.


It’s made up of hand dyed BlueFaced Leicester (BFL) and alpaca and a selection of 5 commercially dyed merino tops.


Other fibres included (from left to right)

Hand dyed firestar (sparkle), Hand dyed mulberry silk, Commercially dyed bamboo, natural soy silk, Hand dyed silk noil


And to compliment that some hand dyed Gotland curls from my own sheep, a hand carded mini batt (this month was Earl Grey) and some hand dyed silk throwsters waste. (The mulberry silk crept into this photo too for some reason!!)


Here I made a few rolags with some of the fibres to give an idea of some colour/fibre combinations.


My friend Fiona is currently working on a shawl project in shades of purple and green and has slowly amassed a fantastic collection of gorgeous batts she’s made up herself from fibres from several different sellers including fibres from this particular Batt Box in her project. She’s happy for me to use her project photo here to give some ideas and inspiration! A lot of the fibres in these batts below were ones she’d already bought or had in her stash – I love this because it shows you don’t have to be limited by what’s in the box. The only real limitations are your imaginations: it’s a starting point to creating something really individual and unique to you!

Fiona batts

I think the Quaker Yarn Stretcher Boomerang shawl pattern (by Susan Ashcroft) Fiona’s picked out for this project will show off the colour changes beautifully and it’s perfect for hand spun yarn. Another similar pattern I think would work brilliantly for these kinds of yarns and one I might knit myself soon is the Dangling Conversation shawlette/kerchief (by Mindy Ross) also on Ravelry.

Other ideas include colourwork for a yoke of a sweater, perhaps spinning up yarns for a weaving project or crochet project, small knitted items such as hat and mittens set or even push yourself to learn something new and build them up into quirky innovative art yarns for knitting and weaving with or even just to admire for their own beauty! There’s also plenty of texture and colour for other fibre media artists – everything in the box would work well for wet felting or needle felting/embellishing – the wools and alpaca will wet felt readily and the other non-felting fibres can be incorporated into felted items by entrapment, needles felting or using an embellishing machine. 

So many things to do with fibres: What will you do with yours? If you’ve bought one of my Build a Batt Boxes and you’re on Ravelry then please do drop by my group BarberBlackSheep and post pictures of your batts, yarns or even finished objects – I’d love to see them and I’m sure everyone will find it really inspiring to see what ideas you’ve come up with. The “Lavender’s Blue” June Box thread is here.

I’ll come back in due course with the next box I did in July – and some more pictures hopefully!!

Doing It Yourself

Times flies yet again! It’s weeks since I posted here, there are lots of things to show for it at home but nothing much online!

My hay harvest is now safely gathered – stressful as ever with huge amounts of drama but it worked out OK in the end and it’s good to know that the animals have plenty of good food for winter months. We’re also planning ahead for fuel and I’ve spent a lot of time lately stacking logs we’ve had split and delivered – we don’t grow the bulk of our own fuel but all our heating and hot water in winter is run off wood which means it’s really important to get it in. Most of what I’ve been stacking is in fact for winter 2015/2016 as I work at least one year ahead or two if I can manage it. It’s vital for efficiency that wood is properly seasoned. Damp wood doesn’t burn well nor does it burn hot. So not only do you not get much heat from it (and it’s annoying trying to get the fire to draw properly!) but the low fire temperature means that tarry deposits from the combustion process choke up the chimneys and stoves and they don’t work as efficiently and more worrying, tarry deposits can lead to chimney fires eventually. It’s harder to keep the chimney clean and finally it is bad for the environment as the bad gasses are still floating out into the atmosphere instead of being burned off at high temperature for fuel in the firebox itself. Living with wood as your only source of heat is a bit of an art form but very satisfying when you understand how to do it. The sight of a well stacked log pile is as comforting as the sight of a barn filled with sweet meadow hay…

On the fibre front all sorts has been happening and I’ve not blogged about any of it!! Woolfest was busy and went in a blur – and I’m came back with a cold that turned into cough and over 6 weeks later I’m just about shaking it off! I do have some photos of the show (sheep mainly!) and I might do a post about them later on.

More recently my friend Katie organised a spinning workshop with the wonderful Sarah Anderson, author of The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design who was over in UK to teach for a couple of weeks. We had the workshop at our local guild last Saturday and had visitors from all over UK as well as one of our friends flying back especially from holiday in Holland – so good was it!! We had a fab time, Sarah was brilliant and charming and we all learned lots. More about this in a later blog post too.

I’ve not had masses of time for either spinning or knitting. What little work I’ve done has been on dyeing for my Etsy shop and my most recent “idea” is actually now in it’s third month and I’ve still not got around to blogging about it!

However, I’ve been making up something I call “Build a Batt Box” which is a monthly box of fibre based around a colour theme. The idea behind it is that often you only want a small amount of fibres to blend together to make batts rolags and punis to spin from and you don’t want to buy a whole lot of one thing only. Buying a Build a Batt Box means you get small amounts of fibre in toning colours to try out and play around with. You can use them all together or add them to fibres you might already have in your stash or blending with fleece. I also try to add things to the shop in toning colours so you can make it all go much further.

Fibres in the Build a Batt Box include 5 shades of merino, hand dyed BlueFaced Leicester, hand dyed alpaca and hand dyed Gotland (from my sheep!) and a variety of add ins such as hand dyed silks and bamboo and soy silk with a touch of sparkle for those like me who enjoy a bit of bling in their spinning. 

The boxes are limited edition. Once they’ve gone, they’ve gone I’m afraid and I try to get them on sale the first week of the month.

I thought I’d put up pictures to show you what has been up so far and then I’ll talk a little more about them in another post.

June was “Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly, Lavender’s Green” – shades of purple and green


Then in July we paid a visit to the seaside and this month’s box was called “Mermaid’s Singing” after a line in T S Eliots poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. These were all shades of sea green and blue with hints of orange to add some complimentary shades



 And then this month’s box theme was inspired by the summer fields on my farm and is called ‘Sweet Meadow”. It’s made up of sage greens and golds with hints of dusky rose pink.


Both “Mermaid’s Singing” and “Sweet Meadow” have sold out now but there are still some “Lavender’s Blue” left in the shop if you fancy having a play with some colours and fibres! And September’s box will be out in just under a month’s time – but that theme’s still secret! ;0)