A little hat for a little girl

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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!

 

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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

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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!

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

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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

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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).

 

 

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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)

 


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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!).

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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).

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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!

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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!

 

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

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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.

 

 

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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?

Upcycling Granny’s dress

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When I spotted this dress (left) in Reign Wear, probably my favourite vintage clothing shop in Oxford, I just knew I had to buy it.

But once at home, I eventually realized it was way too long, with an ugly plastic belt and  an uptight schoolgirl look, complete with long sleeves and rond collar.

Still, I liked the fabric, the lovely pleats that became fashionable again like two years ago –  and it was a polka-dot dress! So I just thought a little upcycling could save it from rubbish or from an indefinite, unattended stay in my wardrobe.

 

Problem: it is not like I do not like sewing, rather sewing does not quite like me:

 

 

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To cut a long story short, and being without Cinderella mice, I took my efficient though rather unemployed  sewing machine (Janome Green) and started to work on the dress.

 

I eventually shortened the dress to knee-length, trimmed the sleeves adding red bias binding and above all, I got rid of the ugly belt and made a red cotton one.

 

To be 100% honest it is not yet perfect BUT I can wear it with a smile AND it actually matches my Almodovarish Chie Mihara pumps.

 

And now, a photo of me in the dress – a huge dose of old-fashioned sexism might be hinted here.

 

 

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Knitting takes balls / Knitting celebs

As a tribute to the awareness campaign for male cancers during April, I wanted to write a proper post on male knitters in popular culture.

Are you ready for this?

The hairiest

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Gromit

 The malest

Russell Crowe

The hottest (obviously)

Paul Rudd

 The most awkward

Chris Parnell (right), in the amazing Five-Year Engagement

The most eccentric

Gene Simmons (Kiss) ? Actually no, it is just a fun ad for hi-fi!

The most genuine knitter


David Arquette

The knitting Dodger

Ryan Gosling is a gorgeous man who no longer needs introduction and who repeatedly claimed that knitting was one of his hobbies (probably a token of his Mormon education). Problem: no visual evidence of Ryan Gosling’s knitting can be found on the Net. This did not prevent Internet users from creating a solid Internet meme on the subject:

Drop a comment if you think of other male knitters I could add to this list!