Hello there – just a quick holiday note to share a holiday experience: teaching a kid to knit!

 

Many knitters I met often told me they had learnt the craft when they were a child, mostly with their grandmas – for some of them it just clicked while others did not knit for many years until they picked it up again.

Obviously, knitting has evolved a great deal over the last three or four decades.

When my grandma tried to teach me to knit, the endless red garter stitch acrylic scarf was the only option, sometimes with antediluvian supplies. Giving up the whole thing was very tempting then.

There are definitely nicer ways to go around it today although the main difficulty is still the kid who can get bored soo easily.

My guinea pig has been a very sweet seven-year-old girl who is always eager to do new activities with grown-ups.

She and I have been doing crafts for a couple of years now: necklaces, drawing, scrapbooking etc.

For knitting, I had a few ideas on how to proceed:

SUPPLIES

Obviously, cheap, synthetic yarn is still the way to go, preferably of a colour the kid likes, quality Sport because it knits quickly.

 

Addi makes coloured needles for kids. The great thing about them is that a pair is two-colour, which makes it easier for a child at the beginning!

 

Then comes the question of a first project, which basically has to be garter stitch rectangle.

 

A scarf for a kid is way too long and boring, but a scarf for a teddy bear or a headband for a girl are more interesting options in my opinion.

Personally, I just went for a tiny bow made of a few rows of 8 stitches each. Once it is done you just roll a yarn at the centre and here you go! Then you can put it on a bag or a hairpin.

 

Photo du 15-08-14 à 12.27

We eventually decided to go further and knit a small purse.

Tutorial:

- CO 20 stitches on 2 pairs of needles and knit two garter stitch squares.

- Then knit a couple of extra rows on one of the squares before decreasing every row until you have six stitches left.

Sew a button and make a few simple crochet stitches to make a buttonhole.

The purse strap was just a plait of several yarns.

At this stage, I feel quite silly because I forgot to take a picture of the bag before the kid left.

Fortunately, Gimp (kindof) made up for my  oversight.

 

 

sacines

Ok so no, it does not look ridiculous, it just matches the anarchic stitches of my pupil.

To conclude, I have a mixed feeling on the experience. I am positive she liked it, but mostly because she had a bag at the end- here I must add that I knitted most of it toward the end so that she could actually leave with it! I think she was just a bit impatient for knitting, which is ok given that at 7, children just begin to learn in a serious way, but may be reluctant to do so for activities which just seem fun.

 

Any experience to share?

Spinning with a Fantasia wheel

I have been busy for the last few days practising my latest passion!

My birthday gift this year was a fantastic spinning wheel! Not an old thing bought from a garage sale with a warped wheel but a brandnew machine, ie the Fantasia by Kromski that I found on a secondhand website from a young woman who had decided spinning was not her thing after all. As for me, I am still busy trying to convince my friends I have not turned into a crazy survivalist but that it is a true, noble hobby.

 

So this is a Fantasia:

DSC08669

Obviously, it does not look like a vintage item, I wouldn’t have minded because I am rather fond of Saxony-like/princess spinning wheels – it has a modern, curvy design and it just works perfectly.

 

I have been sitting on my baclony looking on the sea with a (gorgeous! sensational!) BFL roving from Oxford Fiberworks and I pumped away on this two-treadle beauty.

 

DSC08673

A moment later, I had some yarn on a bobbin:

DSC08670

 

The key-thing about spinning is the same as in knitting, crochet or sewing: it’s all about getting the right tension!

Here my yarn is not perfectly even but it is fine – it is a single yarn. To make it more resistant it has to be plyed with another yarn.

And here again, tension is the key – the tension is not quite even on my skein - I tend to underply.

 

 

DSC08677

And lastly, a tiny knitted gauge where you can see the irregularities – but I am happy with my skein, it is warm and soft and will make a cool project.

DSC08680

 

I am currently spinning part of Coco’s fleece – Coco is a lovely alpaca from Oxfordshire, I will show you the result shortly.

 

This is what I see from my balcony (Ploemeur, Brittany).

 

DSC08675

A little hat for a little girl

DSC08659

 

 

I have a feeling this place has been left unatteded for a while!

 

But here I am again, with a quick knit i.e. a hat for a one-year-old kiddo whose Dad has been kind enough to give me some of his sheep fleeces that I have been washing and carding for a few days now in order to spin the fibers!

 

DSC08662

As for the hat itself it was highly improvised from 95 stitches cast on 3mm needles – 2/2 ribbing, fancy stitch (purl row, 1/1 row), yo row, garter stitch, stockinette stitch and a pom pom made this medley hat. The emerald yarn I used is fab, Lana Seta Baruffa DK (70% wool / 30% silk) – it is a soft and well-defined yarn.

 

 

 

 

A (truly) dreadful Nessie

DSC08636

 

Here is my second goodbye gift made for the French Fellow in Merton College, who happens to be Scottish!

 

Very originally, I decided to go beyond the marketing clichés around Scotland, by needlefelting a Loch Ness Monster!

 

 

 

 

nessie

 

 

I do not have much to say in terms of technical details, it was mostly made from merino roving, except for the Tam which I needlefelted from Wensleydale fiber that I dyed red using Kool Aid (but Wensleydale gives a very fuzzy felting due to its long fibers).

All supplies from Oxford Fiberworks!

 

nessie2

 

I also wanted to mention this amazing knit&Scotland book - Knit Your Own Scotland – Nessie, William Wallace et Robert Burns become knitting projects in this!

Spinning début

DSC08602

 

Knitting as a resurgent craft is one thing: doing what our grannies were doing when we were kids and the pleasure of making handmade gifts seem very valid motivations, and your friends’ jokes about your hobby must have been less and less frequent in the last few years.

 

But spinning? As in, making one’s yarn for knitting/crochet projects?! Well, that’s quite another (weird) story.

 

And yet, it had been on my mind for a while now, the more so as I could see all the fantastic, handspun stuff some bloggers were making.

To get myself started, I went to a class at the Fibreworks, leaving with roving and a spindle to practise at home. And I am adamant that spinning is really addictive once you get it.

 

I am already considering buying a spinning wheel, and I am usually not someone rushing a love story!

 

But pictures will tell it better – here is my very first attempt, from various fleeces, some carded, some straight from the sheep (ok it looks slightly hippie, but who cares).

 

 

DSC08599

Quel bel échantillon de pull "Le père Noël est une ordure"

And gradually:

 

Echevette réalisée à partir d'un ruban de mérinos peigné

This is a tiny skein made from a merino roving

Echantillon tricoté gros à partir d'un petit filage de Wensleydale, une laine de mouton aux propriétés très proches de l'angora (longues fibres brillantes et douces)

That is a gauge from my first foray into spinning Wensleydale fibers – very long, soft and shiny fibers, like angora!

 

Now I must say that the wrong part of this story is that handspinning is basically about increasing one’s stash (oops). BUT, the good news is, I can use fibers to needlefelt when I am not spinning them.

 

Are you interested in spinning yarn or do you think knitting your projects is already quite enough?

 

TIP: gorgeous handmade drop spindles to be found on Etsy (just saying)

Trendy Châle

I made a scarf for the Fellow I have been working with, as a goodbye gift. Only I did not have the time to take decent pictures, so let’s just say Mr Trendy (named after the Trendy Châle pattern by French designer Mademoiselle Sophie – a garter stitch triangle with increased stitch every row) is slighty shy (also it is a very popular project among French knitters, so he feels like a déjà-vu thing)

 


DSC08605

 

You can find my first Trendy here.

 

For this one, I cast on about 220 stitches and knitted two stitches together every row. I used Malabrigo lace merino yarn (colour Butter) and UK Fyberspates Cumulus made of 75% Baby Alpaca and 25% Mulberry silk (yummy!). The colour is Teal – I bought the balls when I was in Manchester (and I have some left!).

 

 

 

 

DSC08609

 

I have not a very steady publication rhythm at the moment, there is much going on and I am also making a lot of goodbye  gifts as I will be leaving Oxford pretty soon!

 

The good news is that I actually  have many things to show you/tell you about… Yarn spinning and needlefelting will be part of it…How about that?

 

 

What a Kool Way to Dye!

 

I have just finished a knitting project (at last!) but first I wanted to tell you about my weekend little experiments!

 

teinture

 

 

 

I have taken a recent interest in all the aspects of yarn making (before it is actually knitted)(just to make sure the name of the blog is appropriate): that means dyeing, carding and of course spinning, on which I will talk very soon!

 

For my first foray into dyeing, I wanted to take it slowly, making sure I would not ruin my lab (=my kitchen) or my finances.

After some investigation, I found that there was a magical product to dye yarn and fabrics: Kool Aid.

 

DSC08584

 

For those who may not know it, Kool Aid is a powder you are supposed to mix with water to obtain a highly coloured, highly artificial drink (But unsweetened, there is a sweetened version of Kool Aid but it does not work for dyeing).

 

This powder has both bright pigments and a great dose of citric acid (don’t fret, you find that in fruit as well) which means you do not have to add white vinegar or any kind of mordant to make dye: just Kool Aid.

It is great if you want to do it with kids or if you are just slightly  awkward (like me)

 

 

The way to do it is pretty simple if you just follow some basic rules: you can only dye animal yarn (that means no cotton or acrylic), you dye from a skein and not from a ball and lastly, it is completely ok to “cook” yarn, you must only be careful with the sudden variations in temperature (those make yarn felt).

 

 

Step-by-step

1.  Briefly wash you skein with lukewarm water and some dishwasher product (or yarn shampoo)

2.  While the yarn is in the water, prepare a Kool Aid-lukewarm mix (you can make several if you want a multicoloured yarn) – you will find Kool Aid colour charts on the Web but you can also improvise! Personnally my mistake was to add an orange sachet to the yellow one to get a dark yellow, but really all I got was bright orange (which is not really my colour, shame).

DSC08589

 

3.Put the pans on hobs and slowly bring the liquid to simmering, making sure the yarn is uniformly dyed. Let the whole thing rest – you should notice that the water becomes gradually clear (left of the pic)

 

4.When all the dye is absorbed and the liquid is lukewarm again, wash clear and let dry. Then you can put your skein into a ball and knit it away!

 

 

 

DSC08592

 

You will find more pictures on the blog page on Facebook . There are many different possibilities, I suggest you have a look at the Ravalery page, complete with Kool Aid yarn stash and projects  What a Kool Way to Dye !

 

 

Please do ask if you have any question or share your experience with yarn dyeing!

 

 

A weekend in Amsterdam

Avertissement préalable : vous voyez le genre de personne vissée à son appareil photo, en particulier en vacances, qui immortalise chaque moment, jusqu’à prendre un cliché des toilettes des restaus ?

Warning: there are people who spend holidays literally behind their cameras, taking pictures at every second including toilets in a restaurant.

Well I am not exactly like that and given I do not have a smartphone I can’t really make up for my photo laziness. So my apologies this is not classic traveling post fraught with dozens of amazing pics.

 

 

A weekend in Amsterdam… Our accomodation option was a room at a family’s place via Airbnb. That is partly because budget hotels (well, around 80 euros per night for a double room with private bathroom) have rather annoying booking policies, either demanding that you should book at least three nights or Saturday AND Sunday nights.

 

We therefore spent two nights at a lovely family’s in iJburg, a large residential, family-friendly neighbourhood located on an artifical island with amazing modern architecture and parks, truly a nice and interesting urbanistic space – the weather was so great we even went to the iJburg beach!

 

iJburg island is ten minute away from the Centraal station via tram.

 

For another striking architectural experience, the Entrepotdok (Eastern neighborourhood) is the place to go – it consists in former warehouses turned into accomodation and offices by a lovely canal.

More generally speaking, walking about the Eastern part of Amsterdam is a good way to escape the crowded streets of the city centre. You can relax in the Oosterpark and/or drink a craft beer in the brewery by the De Gooyer Mill.

 

Of course we also went to the Red Light District and the Historic city centre. The former, although it is definitely a must-see, can become slightly tiresome due to the massive groups of noisy, intoxicated tourists, not to mention the aggressive cycling that makes the helpless pedestrian fear for their lives. In short, it is funny but slightly oppressive.

Still for the must-see visits/sights, we wanted to go to Rijksmuseum which attracts millions of tourists thanks to Rembrandt’s canvas (the Night Watch is like a Dutch Mona Lisa) and Vermeer’s, but the museum is full of surprises with a cool V&A musem twist (jewelry, doll houses (!)) and a XIXth century gallery where I discovered Isaac Israels’s paintings.

And of course, the Jordaan district complete with picturesque canals, lovely cafés and trendy shops is very agreeable walk in the city.

 

 

Couple of tips if you plan to visit

- Museums are expensive, even for permanent galleries, about 15 euros. There is an Iamsterdam pass which costs 40 euros which can be an option if you want to do several museums (which we did not because the weather was so nice).

- I was disappointed by the food offer: you should know that most restaurants are simply closed for lunch (when it’s cheaper to enjoy fine restaurants). People just go for eetcafés, but they can be pricey for random food quality.

Amsterdam has a Chinatown just by the Red Light District which is a decent option: during the weekend, we had dinner in a small Indonesien restaurant (THE exotic food in Holland), Bunga Mawar which has small selection of dishes, home-cooked food and cheap prices.

By the way, you don’t order tapwater in a Dutch restaurant, you pay for every drink.

 

 

 

So, Areyoumsterdam ?

Knitting in Amsterdam!

 

Hiya – or should I say Hallo, since I am about to tell you a few things about the weekend I have just spent in Amsterdam with my boyfriend.

I will write on our visits and experiences in a separate note, today I just wanted to give some helpful information for knitters going to Amsterdam.

 

 

DSC08494

 

There are two main yarn/knitting supplies shops in Amsterdam, but I have only been to Penelope Craft, which is in a very nice, quiet street (Kerstraat 117), a stone’s throw from the Rijksmuseum – the ideal shopping place after having broadened one’s mind.

 

 

DSC08495

 

The shop offers a wide range of gorgeous yarns, from local skeins (I will come back on this in a minute) to superstar yarns (Cascade, Madelintosh). The decoration of the place is very characteristic of indie yarn shops, with a Scandinavian touch and lovely knitted throws and amigurumis.

I particulary liked the “Unattented partners will get a beer and free WiFi” sign – only my boyfriend did not dare enter this place of knitting decadence and waited outside while I was doing my shopping.

 

In the end, I bought:

- Two skeins of hand-dyed yarn by Loret Karman – local Dutch stuff! Unfortunately, the shop was out of her Dutch Palettes, a collection of hand-dyed skeins made after Dutch paintings.

I picked unisex colours intending to knit a scarf for both my boyfriend and I to remind us of the weekend!

 

DSC08524

 

- And a now traditional impulse buy, namely a skein of Danish tweed silk (BC Garn).

DSC08525

 

The shop also has a weekly knitting group on Thursdays.

The other knitting shop is De Afstap, I have not been there but I read it had an impressive range of Rowan yarns beside Loret Karman hand-dyed skeins. It is very close from the lovely Jordaan district.

 

…Now who said that yarn was not exactly what I should have brought back from Amsterdam?

Stashbusting

Apologies for the short interruption of the blog, I have been rather busy and the two knitting projets I am currently working on are quite long and slightly tedious to make  (one is all 1×1 ribbing, the other consists of monochromatic granny squares).

But today, I wanted to deal with a very major knitting issue: stashbusting. Because, with food just like with yarn, it is not satisfying to only achieve grand projects: one has to skillfully cope with leftovers.

 

 

DSC08470

Any knitter, crocheter or seamstress, any crafty person repeatedly faces this problem: the absolute necessity to get rid of remaining yarn balls, to bust their stash, in a word to clear the place and to stop stocking yarn – for a (little) while.

 

Why leftovers?

Two major causes account for this strange phenomenon. The first and the most obvious one is simply that it is impossible to foretell the exact amount of yarn that is needed for a specific project. Even if it was the case, because yarn is mostly sold in 50/100grs balls, some projects merely require and in-between length of yarn.

The problem is that beside this mathematical fatality of knitting, a lot of knitters actually make their cases worst by compulsively buying and stocking single balls of yarn for which it is eventually very hard to find a satisfying project.

 

Hence stashbusting.

 

a) Granny squares: a lot of knitters enroll in granny challenge to bust their stash by knitting a great deal of squares that will eventually turn into throws/blankets, bags, tops, pillowcases etc.

 

 

 

Of course, you’d better be into vintage design and gypsy fashion. But it is pretty cool.

 

b) Babywear: with one ball of slightly less than a ball, it is quite easy to make a baby hat or baby booties and anyway babies do not excatly mind gaudy clothing.

 

c) Les amigurumis : while amigurumis often need specific shades of yarn for the main body (flesh/fur), their clothing is completely up to you – who will complain should you decide to make an orange&purple&navy jumper for a doll?

*Also works for pieces of clothing for toys.

d) Generally speaking, stashbusting applies for all kind of accessories for which you do not feel too picky about colour palettes: slippers or headband for your gym workout or your skincare sessions.

 

Any other suggestion?