Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Three Parcels

Before looking at the parcels, let's talk about weather. (People said Brits love to talk about weather. Though am not a Brit, do in Rome as the Romans do, right?)

We finally have had the first snow of the season here in London. It started at about 2am when I was binding off my Echo Flower Shawl. At first it was just flurry or very light snow. I took this photo at about 6am.


But it hasn't stopped snowing for the whole day. Became heavier too. It's another photo I took when I went out to PO at four. I haven't been in London for too long but I bet it's still a bit abnormal to have such a heavy snow in late November? I remember the first snow last winter was in mid Dec.

It was only a five-minute walk from the post office back to home. But I already got half buried by snow. Quite glad that I did put on enough layers before going out.

Okay. Have talked enough about weather. Time to talk about parcels!

(1) The first parcel is the one arrived this morning. Yay! Christmas comes early! It's a Sliding Jumbo Flyer for Ashford Traveller wheel. I also got 3 extra jumbo bobbins. They're from Sheila of She not only has the best price (among 6 online shops I've checked) but also offers super fast FREE delivery. I placed my order on Monday morning, they're already with me on Tue at 9am. Very very impressed. I think I'll try them out tonight. Wait... or am I supposed to wait till Boxing Day before I can play with my pressie?


(2) The second parcel is... sorry to disappoint you, it's not a knittery one. They are the textbooks I need for my study. Usually I use or Bookdepository for books. But I found them cheaper by two independent sellers sold via Amazon Market Place. The saving was quite significant. They cost £90 on Amazon but I only paid about £68 now.


However I found some light scuffs and bent corners on the front/back covers on both books. They look perfectly fine and brand new otherwise.Maybe that's why they were sold at discount? I don't really mind a few imperfections. I would still have bought them even if I knew it earlier. But I think it'd be a better business practice if the sellers have mentioned it earlier in the descriptions.


(3) The third parcel is the one I sent out this afternoon. It's for Socktopods Secret Santa Sock Swap. So if you're participating in the swap and haven't received your parcel yet, it can be yours! Please don't click into the following spoiler link to ruin the surprise. For those who aren't in the swap, feel free to have a peek... :)


I am quite nervous about the swap. It's my first time to do a Secret Santa Swap, I honestly don't know what to expect or what people are expecting. After seeing the photos of other parcels on Ravelry, I feel mine doesn't have enough non-knitting festive goodies. Have to admit I was a bit upset about it. Hum... Fingers crossed. I hope she'll love what I picked.

By the way, I really love the yarn I gave away. Almost can't part with it. I'll need to restash it as soon as I have chance.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Southbank Christmas Market

While many parts of UK had suffered (enjoyed?) with snow, we haven't had any wintery showers in London yet. But it's quite cold. Day time temperature was at freezing point. Honestly I won't mind staying at home, having a cuppa and then sitting next to a radiator, either to knit or spin, or simply watch some trashy tele.

But we did go out. DH has been working for 90+ hours a week lately. Today was the very first weekend in months that he didn't need to work. We felt obliged to go out to get some fresh air so we headed out to Southbank Christmas Market. We stayed at bed till noon so it's already getting dark when we arrived there at about half three.


The market was right next to The London Eye. There were only about 20-30 shops, all selling some very ordinary things that we can see in any Sunday markets. But I guess that's the best we can get in London unless we travel hundred miles to Bath or Lincoln?


Well. The market wasn't too bad. At least we got some festive food and drinks, which are always the highlights of Christmas markets. DH got currywurst, which was mildly curry-ish.


I got Käsekrainer, a cheese-filling sausage. YUM!


Then we got crêpe with Nutella, marshmallow and syrup. Soooo sweet. The melted marshmallows were simply divine.


Of course there's mulled wine. Am never a big fan of this spicy warm wine. But a journey to Christmas market can never be completed without having a sip of it.


That's all for now.

In the meantime, I am busy wrapping up a parcel for my Socktopods Secret Santa Sock Swap partner. Will talk about it later. My Echo Flower shawl is still happening, too. I finally have gained some momentum and am currently on the 2nd edging row. Only 6 more rows to go. Hopefully I can show you a FO next time.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

FO: Handspun Gherkin Hat

I finished it last night. No. It's not the Gherkin

It's a hat designed by Silja Devine. I first saw this hat in Spunky Eclectic group on Ravelry and instantly fell in love with this patten. It is simple but it looks very classic. The 4x4 rib also gives it a great deal of elasticity so it fits both DH's and my heads.


Haven't blocked it  yet so the stitches look a bit untidy. But who cares? I just wore it this afternoon to supermarket. It's sooooo warm. 

I used the chunky scrap yarn I spun up from some scrap fibre last week. The colourway is a mix of blues, dark green and natural brown. Quite a manly colour perfect for DH.


The pattern is easy and written very clearly. But I've made some modifications to accommodate my yarn choice:

(1)  my handspun is thicker than DK called for the pattern. So I cast on fewer stitches (only 72 instead of 144) and used bigger needles. I started with size 10 but didn't like the loose fabric. I ended up casting on with 9s before going further down to size 8 after about 10 rounds. Looks great.

(2) I started decreasing earlier because DH's head is smaller than an average man so the brim is shorter. The bonus of this mod is... I, with a bigger-than-average head, can also wear this head keeping the edge down without brim.

(3) I did a round of k2tog after the last round of k1p1 before cutting the yarn and threading it through the remaining stitches.


Sorry for the poor FO pic. Well... as a self portrait done in bathroom with a mirror, it isn't really that bad right? Will ask DH to pose for a better one and post it later!


Look what I did on Saturday morning!

Two skeins of Cheviot from Wildcraft in colourway Shamrock. I am becoming more into greens in the past few months. Plus I was very interested to try out Cheviot so I grabbed this together with another braid in yellow immediately after I saw them on Wildcraft webshop.

I was planning to do a standard 2-ply so I divided the top into two halves in the middle, then further divided each lengthwise into thin strips of about 3-5 grams.

It's my first time to spin Cheviot. I loved it! It's softer than the English Wool Blend I usually got from Wildcraft. With a medium staple length of about 3-5 inches (according to Wikipedia), it is easy to draft and perfect for a beginning spinner like me.

The colours were lovely. I was amazed by the different shades and depths of greens remained upon spinning. I wasn't sure if the subtle changes in colour would stay after plying, so I changed my mind and decided to keep the two bobbins as singles. Hum... I still don't know if it's really a good idea. Because the two bobbins of single were still quite overspun and very kinky even after I ran them into opposite direction once.

It's also my first time to really "whack" my handspun. I usually finish my handspun yarn by a normal bath in lurk water. But recently I saw some discussions on Ravelry about whacking and fulling singles and understand single yarn needs some agitation to get the lovely "softened & smooth round" look. So I decided to give it a try. I gave the yarn hot-and-cold baths 2 times (Hot, cold, hot, cold). I was quite worried it would become some ugly felted ropes, but I think it managed to survive. The slightly felted look not only made the singles stronger but also gave it a cozy bouncy look which I am really happy with!

I now got two skeins of Cheviot. Both are 52 grams in weight. The pre-wash yardage were 157m and 163m. Pretty close right? Honestly I am quite proud of it. They are relatively even (relatively! to me!). However I noticed a significant shrinkage in the length of both skins. I tried to put it back on to the niddy noddy and found  both skein was about 3-4 inches too short to go back so I think the shrinkage is about 5%. Should still be enough to make a shawlette or a pair of mittens I guess?

Saturday, 20 November 2010



Few months ago, not long after I started learning to spin with a spindle, I got a fibre bag from Fibreholics. It contained fibre samples from ten different dyers in the UK. I didn't really spin much as I was really bad at spindling -- I still am.

Last Thursday night, we were watching The Simpsons after dinner. I didn't feel like to knit. Nor did I want to leave my fingers idle. Hence I took all the scraps out and was planning some practice. I left all the bright and feminine colours behind, only picking about 60 grams of darker shades from three dyers. Too bad that I lost all the labels so couldn't tell where they were from. Sigh. A note to myself: Should keep a better record next time if I order any sample bag again.

The three samples I used were:

(1) Royal blue - Only used a teeny bit as it was a bit felted and was difficult to draft. :(

(2) Grey/blue - probably an overdyed grey Shetland. Got a hunch that it's from The Thylacine. Good stuff!

(3) Dark green

I split all the above samples into 4-5 short strips so each was about 4-5 grams in weight. I also found 50 grams of natural brown Corriedale which came with my spindle. It was also split into 5-gram segments. Then I mixed them up and spun all up randomly into two bobbins of single at 10:1 on Ashford Traveller.After plying there was about 86grams with 90 metres pre-wash.

It's generally chunky, but there are some places of thins as fingering. Maybe I should have done more pre-drafting for a better control. Although this attempt at thicker yarn wasn't very successful, I think it's an  enjoyable spin. It's so quick, too. What an instant gratification.

Surprisingly it's not as rough as I thought, though not soft enough to be a cowl. I think I will make a hat or a pair of mitts out of it. :)

Friday, 19 November 2010



I honestly don't think I have a huge stash. Many ladies I met in knit nights or on Ravelry have FAR bigger stash than I do.

But my flat is small. And I knit way too slow.

More importantly, I feel guilty to possess some very good yarn but not utilize it. Sometimes I feel sad when I look at my stash.

Therefore I am thinking to do a giveaway. In fact I want to do a regular giveaway on bi-monthly or quarterly basis. I hope some lovelies can go to good homes and turn into beautiful hand knits.

Here are some preliminary thoughts:

I haven't decided what to give away yet. But it should include some partial skeins as well as some new gorgeous yarn in balls and hanks, such as Rowan Kidsilk Haze (I have almost 20 balls of KSH in stash!), Fyberspates Scrumptious DK, a sweater worth (2 hanks, 500g, 900 yards) of Cascade Ecological Wool and a skein or two of Wollmeise Sock Yarn. I know I may be able to get back some cash by destashing them on Ravelry. But I believe in good karma.

The first giveaway will be in January, a month full of joy and love. It's the beginning of a brand new year. Both my and DH's birthdays are in January, so as our engagement day. It makes perfect sense to celebrate by doing some giveaways right?

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Just a quick post to tell you what have been filling up my life lately:


I started an Echo Flower Shawl after knowing my friend CrochetCynth's doing one. It's been growing very slowly because I am spending more time on another thing...


... which is an Icelanic Yoke Sweater. Am about to start another sleeve then can proceed to the yoke. I know a chunky sweater is the last thing I should think of given my chubby body shape. But I don't care. I need something warm. Really really warm. I don't care if I look like a Michelin man.

(Méribel, image from Wikipedia)

Non knitting wise, we've just booked a skiing trip to Les Trois Vallées in late January. It's one of the largest ski areas in the world with over 300 slopes and 600km of pistes. Honestly I am just a beginner so it doesn't bother me as long as they have some green and blue runs. We'll go by overnight channel-crossing coach so it's gonna be a tough ride. I can never sleep on overnight coach. But it will give us more time (a whooping 6 days!) on slope and about one-thirds cheaper than the flight option.

Also I've got my iMac back. DH fixed it by replacing the dead hard drive with a new one. Now it has a huge 1.5TB hard drive in which I can keep lots of photos and music.

We went to Adelphi Theatre with DH's cousin who's coming from Dublin for a medical conference last weekend. We went to the musical Love Never Dies, which is a sequel to The Phantom of The Opera. Hum... it's not too bad but can't say it's my fav. A bit disappointed.


We dined in Belgo Centraal, my favourite mussel place in London. They also get a very wide selection of Belgian Beer. Can't recommend enough.

Last but not the least, I've got a new mate -- Mr Monk. Looks familiar? Yep. He's the monkey in PG Tips tea.

Alright. Time to return to my knitting. I wanna get my Michelin-Sweater done by next week.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

SPIN006: Low-Twist Singles

I spun up 120grams of BFL/silk yesterday morning.

The fibre was the November installment of Wildcraft Fibre Club. I wanted to try out some BFL blends for a while. Karen from Wildcraft suggested that BFL/silk or BFL/mohair may be a good start (while BFL/nylon can be trickier).  So I was really delighted to find a braid of BFL/silk when I unwrapped the parcel.


The colour repeats were quite long. About 4 regular repeats over the whole braid. Potentially it could become some stripy yarn. But I finally decided to split the braids into 3 different colours: yellows, reds and the intersections between yellows and reds. Spinning at 5.5:1, which is the slowest ratio on my Ashford Traveller, I got a total yardage of about 448 metres, pre-bath.


It's my first attempt at a low-twist single, too. Lots of unintentional thicks and thins. But I guess I should be more forgiving to my first low-twist singles. I wasn't able to get the right twists neither. They were definitely not low-twist enough. Therefore I had all singles spun over once again in an opposite direction to offset some excessive twists. The result was... well, funny. It turned out that the yellow was just right. It didn't twist by itself when taking off from the niddy noddy. The orange (from the intersections between yellow and reds) was still over-twisted and coiled up. The red one became under-twisted. It broke several times when I reskeined it with a niddy noddy. What to do? I felt it immediately by rubbing the breaks on my palm with a few drops of water. Not sure if it'll survive when it's knit up though.


I find BFL/silk a bit difficult to draft and spin compared to BFL. But no doubt it is a very beautiful fibre. The saffron-like yellow becomes a luxurious gold after spun up. Pretty. And it's soooo soft.

Now I have 3 mini skeins of 58m, 160m and 230m respectively. This time I am very determined to knit something with them. But I am still thinking what to do... Mitts or cowls? Or shawls?


Geez I LOVE spinning. I really do. Knitting and dyeing are great. But spinning, and all sorts of preps involved, really brings the pleasure and enjoyment up to another level. Even though handspuns may not look perfect compared to millspuns lying on John Lewis shelves, it's the unique experience and the learning process making this craft meaningful and addictive.

Hum... what to spin next? Maybe the Targhee from Spunky Eclectic or the natural-coloured BFL from WoW?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

FO: One-Row Scarf in Wisdom Blues

Hehe, remember I told you previously that I'd start my holiday knitting with something super easy? So here comes my first FO for Holiday Challenge.


2.6 balls of Wisdom Poems are used. I bought them from WEBS at deep discount last March when I was still studying in Chicago. What a shame that UK doesn't have anything like WEBS. Not even close!

The pattern is One-Row Handspun Scarf by Yarn Harlot. It's a truly clever pattern. With a very simple 4-stitch pattern (knit, knit, knit through back loop, yarn over), it creates a reversible scarf which is suitable for both men and women. This pattern is super easy and quick too. It took me about 2 hours to knit 30 grams. It means next time when I knit this scarf again, I can budget about 9 hours for it. Sounds sweet. In theory it can be done in two or three nights, which can definitely be a wonderful last minute gift.

By the way, it's not my first One-Row Handspun Scarf. I did knit one using my own handspun in early October but forgot to blog about it.


Next time I'll definitely blog about it when I knit this scarf again using my own handspun. What? Of course! Of course I'll knit this again! Where can I find another easy but lovely pattern to show off beautiful (and my not so beautiful) handspun yarn?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Oct/Nov Club Fibre *SPOILER*

I decided to join several fibre clubs in early October. Finally they are all here. I am so glad that all parcels arrived safely!

Ok! Ready for some eye candies?

These two braids arrived last weekend from Spunky Eclectic. They are Targhee, which I think is a native American sheep breed. I heard that Targhee is mushy and rough, not an enjoyable spin. But other club members said on Ravelry that Amy's one is definitely a good prep and is really wonderful. I haven't started spinning yet but did draft out about 3 grams at one end. It is not as soft as BFL but definitely softer than the English 56s. Maybe similar to Shetland? I'll try to spin a few grams to see if I can do a low-twist single. Sounds a bit too ambitious for a beginner like me huh?


Then yesterday came the Thylacine November club fibre. It's a very interesting blend of English 56s, Alpaca and Black Bamboo. Honestly the fibre content looks a bit challenging for me so it probably will stay in my stash for a while. But I love its humbug look. As usual, Megan's dye work is greatly inspired by Australian landscapes and cultures (as she's from Tasmania). This colourway is called Coolibah Tree. Megan's inspiration was from a poem/song called Waltzing Coolibah Tree which mentioned rivers and shades.

The postie brought me two parcels this morning. One of them was the November club fibre from Wildcraft. It's a BFL/Silk blend dyed in reds and yellows.I think the BFL is mixed BFL as it has a cute humbug look. I absolutely love it! I meant to try spinning BFL/Silk for a while so this braid just came at a perfect time. I also love the relatively longer repeats of each colour. Hope it will get some crispy and distinct colour changes when spun up. Maybe for a stripey scarf?


Another parcel is not a club fibre but an order with WoW. Alright. I cheated. I am not supposed to buy any yarn until 2011. But wait, it's fibre, so it doesn't count right? Anyway I think I deserve some credit for being able to resist the Wollmeise wave heating Loop. Plus the 500 grams of tops I got from WoW worth less than half a skein of Wollmeise in Loop. Not a bad deal right? :D

WoW does sell commercially dyed fibre but all I got are in natural colours. From top left-hand corner: White Superwash English 56, Grey Shetland, Shetland blended with bleached Tussah Silk, Oatmeal BFL, Humbug BFL blended with white, oatmeal and brown.


Among them, the two packs of BFL are definitely my favourites. So soft! The natural colours look sweet too. I am really looking forward to spinning with them.

I am currently on a very very very tight schedule for my Holiday Challenge. Ok. Totally my fault. Who would start holiday knitting in November? Especially those with in-laws living on another side of the earth. I can't afford do anything spinning until early January unless I can finish my Holiday Challenge ahead of schedule. Well. These parcels are wonderful motivators. I'll try to finish my Xmas knitting asap in order to spin!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

FO: Ivory Kidsilk Haze Ishbel

Just a few after-blocking pics of my third Ishbel.

Before gifting it to my friend, I shamelessly dressed up and posed for some FO pics. Yes. It's me! I took these photos with a manual-focused camera and a tripod.

I made a small Ishbel last year which was way too small. This time I knit a large stockinette with a small-sized lace. The size turns out to be just right for petite women like me and my friend (We're only about 5'3").

Despite its good size, the shawl is feather-light -- it's only 37 grams in weight. Only one and a half skein of Rowan Kidsilk Haze has been used.

Kidsilk Haze isn't the best yarn to knit with. No doubt. Honestly have you heard of anyone saying that they enjoyed knitting it or it's a dream to work with? No. I haven't..

It's so so so fuzzy and hairy. Very unforgiving. Next to impossible to frog - you have to be 100% sure it's really the pattern you want to do and you can do. I wasted half skein in an Estonian knitted lace shawl a while ago. Frog? Nah. It just tangled beyond imagination. Sob sob.

But who can deny Kidsilk Haze a dream to wear? It looks very very pretty. Elegant and luxurious. I bet these are the right adjectives. Every time when I wear something knit in Kidsilk Haze, I can hear Debussy -- usually Arabesque No.1, sometimes Reverie. I can almost imagine I was in Claude Monet's paintings.

The shawl has been gifted to my good friend Wings this afternoon. It's now on its way to Hong Kong. I hope Hong Kong is still warm enough that she can wear it in the two weddings she'll attend in the next two weeks.


Still got 1.5 skeins of Kidsilk Haze left in my stash. I seriously think I need to knit myself another one.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Holiday Knitting Challenge

This post is inspired by JD Knitter. I even shamelessly copy her title.. though my goal is nothing compared with hers.

Anyway, here's my first-ever Holiday Knitting Challenge:

(1) Two Scarves

(2)  Three Shawls/Shawlettes

(3) A pair of gloves (For DH. So I don't need to meet postal deadline)

(4) A Sweater (this one is for myself. And I plan to use Unspun Lopi held double or triple. Should be easy and fast I guess? So it's the last of the list. I can start it after mid December)

I still have about seven weeks left. It means,  have to finish one item every week, on average.

I'll start with something super easy. How easy? You'll see when I post my next FO pic. :)

But the most challenging part is...



Time to dig out some old Cascade Ecological Wool...

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

SPIN005: Am I ready to spin Merino?

After resting for two weeks, today I started spinning again!

This is my 5th spinning practice. Well. I guess it's not quite a complete practice as I only spun up about 22 grams.

I wanted to get a roving from Alchemy Fibre Arts for a while. Her colours are very catchy, very bold and very vibrant. Funny enough I am never into bright colours. I don't usually knit nor wear any shocking colours. But I am very curious to know how those colours blend in and how it looks after spun up. However the tops sold on Alchemy are mainly BFL, Merino, Superwash Merino and Merino/Silk blend. BFL seems to be the only beginner-friendly option. I love FL but I don't quite want to get non-superwash ones. So I waited till I felt ready to spin Merino.

No no. Honestly I don't really feel READY for merino yet. But my hands are itching to try something else. Maybe Falkland? Or some BFL blends. So I mooched around Etsy and typed in "UK Roving" as search keywords. Alchemy came up as the first search result. That's how I finally ended up placing an order yesterday morning.

One thing I love about Alchemy Fibre Arts is the rovings are priced according to its breed as well as weight. That's perfect for me as all I need was just a taster. I don't want to pay a few quid more to get a 155-gram top. Finally I picked two braids of Superwash Merino which were among the lightest in weight. This one was only about 84 grams in weight. It may not be enough for most projects. But it's just right for practice and experiment.

The colours are very shocking. Yes. You may find the colours hurt your eyes. But that's what makes Alchemy rovings very energetic and distinct.

This roving was handpainted with random colours. I couldn't find any repeating pattern. Each colour part is quite short, with an exception of green/yellow. Therefore I decided to spin straight off the roving, hoping to get bigger blocks of colours.

While the colours in roving looked very distinct, it blended in a lot and became a little bit muddied when spinning up. Have to admit it's very much related to my poor drafting skills. The staple length is shorter than most colour repeats, so I am sure better spinners should be able to get crispier colour changes. But apparently spinning straight off doesn't work for me.

Therefore I decided to stop spinning and start chain plying. I got 22 grams and about 42 metres spun before washing.

So... am I ready to spin Merino yet?

Hum.. Not quite, given the fact that the single broke dozen times while spinning. But it's a good start. Because I liked it! Spinning merino is soooooo different from other fibres I've previously spun (English Wool Blend, Shetland, Corriedale and BFL). Merino is sooooo soft and smooth. And they do have limbs because they simply drafted themselves and fled into the whorl! In order to have better grip, I changed to use a lower ratio (10:1) with an increased tension. I think it helped.

I still have about 61 grams left unspun. I plan to divide it lengthwise into 4-5 thinner stripes later. Hope it will help retain the colours.