Tour de Fleece 2017

And they’re off!

Well the spinners started yesterday but I was up in sunny Anglesey for a couple of days and so missed the first day of spinning as I was driving home again.

As usual we have a small but friendly team of cheerful spinners on Team BarberBlackSheep – the lovely members of the group have already kicked off in style and produced some beautiful singles yesterday from various BBS fibres as well as those from other dyers and fibre suppliers. It’s so nice to spin along in company and it’s always good to see pictures of what we’re all doing! If you think you’d like to join us this year, it’s not too late – hop over the Revelry group and pitch in! You can spin anything you want (but please note only BBS fibre is eligible for the randomly-drawn prize I award at the end of the tour).

For myself I’ve been caught up in lots of non-spinning stuff recently so I’ve only just got myself sorted out with my first TdF spinning fibre today. We discussed the popular “Combo-Spin” technique a few weeks back which involves spinning sections of fibre in a random order to make a variegated yarn which could have a certain amount of planning in its design or be completely down to chance and how your fibres turn out. It’s a good way of putting together those one-off skeins that somehow wheedle their way into our lives but stubbornly resist getting involved in a project because of being just 100g or 4 oz or so.

I decided to put a BBS “spin” (see what I did there?!) on it by spinning random chunks of my Haunui/Merino batt sets together to combine.

When I designed the forerunner of these multi-colour-packs aeons ago it seems – the SweaterBox batts and then the Three Of A Kind batts – I put in the listing that they could be spun in several ways including being spun in random sections. I’d always intended it as an option for you … but haven’t got around to doing it as a project myself.

I don’t actually need a sweater quantity just now (a quick look in both fibre and yarn stash reveals enough sweater-possibilities to last me till Doomsday!) but I do want to try it so I’ve scaled it down for an amount that would work for a shawl or perhaps a hat/mitten set or something.

I found an image I liked that served as a starting point (I can’t copy it here without infringing copyright unfortunately but the general principle of using images to inspire colour combinations is very useful for a starting point that you can bend to your own tastes.

I’ve made up half-size batts picking out colours from both the Josie set and the Passiflora set pictures above. Which gives me a colour combination like this.

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My intention is to spin randomly for one ply and then to use another ply of undyed Black Haunui to create a random barber-pole yarn. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of barber-pole yarns as they are but they do usually knit up beautifully in plain knitting. I have the idea of how this works in my head – the proof will be in the making though! I’m literally nailing my colours to the mast by telling you before I start!

The possibilities for scaling this up into sweater quantities are pretty much limitless, either by combing more batt sets or by using multiples of the same colour way. I’d love to see if other people use this idea for Haunui / Merino batts too – if you do, please post pictures in my Revelry group so we can all see!

Build a Batt Box – October – “Ruska’

Well the months roll round so fast don’t they. And here we are in Autumn and the leaves are turning and starting to drift to the ground. The quality of light at this time of year is golden and warm and to me it almost has a audible quality unlike the still watery pale light of the Spring Equinox at the opposite end of the year and seasons. So it’s unsurprising that I’ve chosen these inspirations for my October Build a Batt Box

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Autumn as I’ve mentioned before is my very favourite time of year. I feel as though the earth is winding down gradually towards the calmness and rest of winter without that season’s bleakness and deathlike embrace. I love watching the leaves float down like a more friendly grown up version of snow falling and it’s just as much fun to go walking through the leaves on the woodland floor as it is to kick up powder snow some months later. The smells of decaying leaf and bark, the fresh spicy damp scents of heavy dews after a chilly night and the drifting smokiness of bonfires and newly lit wood stoves trickling out of cottage chimneys and the rich sharpness of the last fruits from the garden and hedgerow make an all round sensory experience that would almost be too much if it wasn’t also so soothing and kind.

So I thought it might be fun to add another layer to this month’s Batt Box post – I can’t give you scents of bonfires and leaf mould on here (although you could always try these delicious natural perfumes I’ve recently “sniffed out” on Etsy – I ordered tiny samples of Winter Kitty, London Fog and November and they are all delicious! Especially pleasing as I can’t wear regular synthetic perfumes). I’ve decided to embed some seasonally inspiring music videos on here (and hope that they work!!) as well as the photos I’ve taken to show where my colours came from.

Autumn leaf colour is something people across the planet in temperate climates appreciate. Here our own British deciduous woodlands put on a long show over September and October and often reaching well into November before all the leaves are down and battered into the soil or tarmac by autumn storms, tyres and pressing feet and make walks around parks and countryside such a treat for at least a couple of months. I understand (but have yet to experience myself) the glorious intensity of Fall colour on the east coasts of America and Canada where there’s actually something of a tourist industry for “leaf peeping” as it’s called. One day I’d love to track this colour down the coast. When I’m rich maybe. Ha!…

In Japan I believe they do something similar – called Momijigari – and who could blame them when the beauty of Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum) are so spectacular when they start to change colour? I took these photos in the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park some 5 years ago when I visited with my best friend Kate and her husband and baby daughter. This was back when I used my 35mm SLR and the film was ancient sadly so the colours once developed were distorted. But I’ve ‘shopped them a bit to restore some of the depth and it’s made them more atmospheric if less life like. I’d love to go back soon – armed with a decent camera!

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But the title for this month’s box is “Ruska” which is the Finnish word for Autumn Leaf colour. Again, this is somewhere I would love to visit and I think even to an English speaker the word Ruska is a descriptive sound for the warm gingery russet colours of the leaves and foliage.

At times I can be a sad soul and melancholy songs tend to be my favourite and one of these is the much recorded and covered “Autumn Leaves”. There are several cracking versions out there and in the past I’ve also arranged it myself for singing a cappella and also with guitar or piano (and before you start to worry, none of these involve me singing or playing anything!!!! ;0) Look for the versions by Diana Krall or Eric Clapton for different styles. My very favourite version however is the stunning one by Eva Cassidy.

When I was teenager, my best friend and I used to meet up most days after school to play music together – we both played the piano, she played the clarinet and I the flute and we both used to sing. In the colder weather we’d make hot chocolate and park ourselves by the Aga in our kitchen and discuss our favourite pieces of music – being of Generation X back in the low tech days when you still made mix tapes for friends or the significant person you quite liked… we used to make tapes of “Nice Bits” which were sometimes really quite short extracts out of favourites songs and pieces of music and these were eclectic in the extreme!! I think I’ve still got one of these somewhere that she made for me – including Nina Simone, a chunk from the Bach Double Violin Concerto, various piano pieces mostly our adored Rachmaninov, Chopin and Liszt, songs from Cats, Miss Saigon, and Phantom, a few hits from REM, U2 and excerpts of film soundtracks. One of our favourite pieces about that time was the piano piece Automne by Cecile Chaminade and I think we were equally charmed by the fact she was that all to rare thing – a female composer – as well as the tempestuous showy runs up and down the keyboard in the middle section which we attempted endlessly and hopelessly (probably to the dismay of our families).

And for something very different here is a piece actually called Ruska by the Finnish metal cello band Apocalyptica.

So back to the Batt Box!!! This month’s colours are all about rusts and blood orange with hits of red and burgundy and gold and green tying it back to it’s leafy origins.

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Merino in 5 shades

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Silk noil in citrus shades of tangerine, lemon and lime, natural soy silk, orange bamboo, peachy silk brick and copper firestar.

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We’ve moved back to Gotland this month – marmalade curls – and copper beech shades of alpaca but for something different instead of BFL I’ve chosen Shetland direct from Shetland Wool Brokers in the Shetland Isles dyed in shades of moss and lichen. Very bouncy and soft even if not quite as fine as BFL. And perfect because in October it’s Shetland Wool Week :0)

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And a super squooshy soft batt “Bonfire” created from merino, damson silk, natural brown Finnish wool (Ruska remember? It had to be Finnish this month!) and natural brown alpaca I’ve prepped from local baby alpaca fleece grown just 3 miles from my home. There are also flashes of forest green Angelina to represent the sparks from the bonfire which you can’t really see that well in this photo.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this multi media blog post – I’ll leave you with some more photos I took over this past week whilst walking in the lanes around my home here in Wales. Hopefully they’ll give you some ideas for batt making and spinning wonderful autumnal yarns! Don’t forget to post pictures in my Ravelry group if you do – I’d love to see what you make!

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Shall we begin…

I’ve considered a writing a blog in the past but always felt slightly uncomfortable with the thought that maybe it’s a little like one’s own private soapbox, pontificating into the ether. And nobody’s listening anyway.

For the past couple of years I’ve “hung out online” on my Ravelry group instead with likeminded knitters, spinners and crafters and preferred the idea that the conversation is at least dialogue and democratic and somebody somewhere can always prick your bubble if you get too high and mighty. Or click your buttons. Oh the shame of being cut down to size by a button click….

Recently a few people have suggested I start writing a blog. After due extended mulling-over and sheeplike procrastination I finally realised how much I enjoy following other people’s blogs and reading about the things that they make and do – and with nary a soapbox in sight – and that some of those friends who suggested dipping my toe into the blog-pond are folks not on Ravelry nor are they likely to ever be. Perhaps it was time to start a blog after all. So here we go.

In the main this will be about making things (textiles featuring heavily, you have been warned) and growing things in my beloved veggie plot. Hopefully those things will mostly be vegetables. The animals like to take a twirl in the limelight every now and then, some more so than others I suspect  frowns at a certain small furry feline person. Living in rural Wales will probably flavour the writing as well as the cooking.

Who knows where it will go, we’ll probably have to suck it and see. Just wash the mud off first though okay…