A dog walk and a sunset walk

Here in the UK we are basking in a glorious early heatwave.  We can only hope there is more to come, and that this isn’t all the summer we are going to get this year.  British people joke about this all the time, for example, ‘I hope summer falls on a weekend’ and so on.   Well I made the most of it yesterday with two beautiful and very different walks.

I did my usual Saturday dogwalk with Meggie & Badger (or Madge as they are affectionately known).  I was thrilled to be joined by my friend and her 3 month old puppy Bluebell, out mingling with the big dogs for the first time after her vaccinations.  There are lots of regular walkers in the local park so it’s always sociable, but even more so with a new puppy.  We had a great time talking to our dogwalking friends and watching Bluebell interact.   She was so good and just wanted to play.  The other dogs were great with her and it was fascinating to watch her learn.  She was allowed off lead for a short while and she ran around madly with Meggie which was wonderful to see.  She raced after her ball but has yet to learn that she needs to bring it back – I wonder if Meggie can teach her this important rule?

Later on I accompanied the OH on a walk on the moors to catch the sunset.   It’s usually a lot colder up there and almost always windy, but we found it balmy and still.  With hardly a cloud in the sky we watched a beautiful sunset at ‘The Hut’.  This is an abandoned shepherd’s hut by a large pond in the middle of the moor, inaccessible by car.  It’s quite substantial for a hut: stone-built with two rooms and an ancient kitchen range inside.  It has a real air of mystery and makes a great focal point for pictures.

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We have done this walk loads of times in the biting cold and snow, sometimes we are almost blown backwards by the winds, so it felt quite special to be there in the fresh warm air, after such a long winter.

 

 

 

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Puppy Love

A birthday lunch in the pub with my BFF and her new border collie puppy.    Bluebell is 12 weeks old and so keen to learn.  She already has ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, and ‘Paw’.  She is such a good girl….for a puppy anyway!

Fortunately my friend understands that you have to be firm right from the start, or you end up with an annoying dog that you can’t take anywhere.  When the food arrived (steak pie no less!) Bluebell wanted to get her face in it.  She was leashed to the table leg and went frantic.  We moved to the next table out of reach and ignored her.  In a couple of minutes she settled down for a snooze.

Thank goodness for dog-friendly pubs!  We were in the Three Merry Lads at Redmires, on the edge of Sheffield, not far from Stanage Edge and the beautiful Hope Valley.  The food is hearty and wholesome and the staff are lovely and patient with dogs in training.  There is even a jar of dog treats on the bar.  We will definitely be going back, to do some long walks too when Bluebell is a bit older, she will need tiring out!

 

Giant Knitting Cat Baskets are here!

…and they’ve been well and truly road-tested by all three crew members.  I think we have the seal of approval.

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It was useful to make two baskets.  One came out a bit tighter than the other, and that turned out to be the best one.  This is because, over a few days’ constant use, they stretch.  So the looser basket has ended up a bit on the floppy side, and the tighter basket is just about right.  Also, as I knitted the base more tightly, the sides appear taller.

The crew spent hours lounging around in their new beds, which enabled us to take lots of scrumptious photos of them.  My partner is a professional photographer (thesheffieldlens.com) – I am sure you can tell which are his pictures and which one is off my iphone!

I am excited to make the next batch.  I might try a different colour, or at least, a different sheep….

Giant Knitting Cat Baskets here soon!

The new yarn is on the needles, and the cat basket is in progress…

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Wow this yarn is even better than I expected.  It’s bigger and thicker than the yarn I used for the original baskets.  And it knits up fine using the needles I already have.  So I don’t have to order a load more knitting needles to be custom-made in bigger sizes.

I have amended my pattern slightly to accommodate the thicker yarn.  I was a bit worried that I hadn’t maintained an even thickness and twist on all of it.  After all, the wet felting was a bit of an experiment.  But working the yarn, it doesn’t seem to matter.  There is enough twist and felting to give it a bit of structure.  In fact, I think it performs even better than the old yarn.

 

It’s easier to get a flatter base.

It’s softer, less like rope.  More like a big, squishy soft strand.

It’s got that characteristic, fleecy scent.

The stitches are massive, with loads more visual impact.

And….the cats love it.

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It’s not finished yet, Monty.

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Make your own giant yarn

Today I wet felted the whole batch of texel wool roving, to make my own version of giant yarn.  If it works, the cat baskets are back on.  This is a very exciting prospect for me, and worth the effort.

And it took quite a bit of effort too, transforming this

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into this

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and hanging it out to dry.

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Three and a half kilos of wet wool is really heavy, as I found when I lugged it down the stairs and into the garden.  It drips a lot, so that was the best place for it.

It took me about 4 hours to process the whole batch, including a couple of false starts and working out the best approach. There is nothing online that shows you how to do this (believe me, I looked!)  So it was a matter of trial and error.  I can see how my technique improved as I went along.  I needed to achieve an even thickness of yarn whilst not disrupting the fibres too much.  From about halfway through, I was happy with the result.

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The new yarn is a lot thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will need to re-write my patterns and possibly use larger doublepins than the set I have now.  Giant wooden knitting needles are easily available, as are giant circulars, but giant doublepins are rare so will probably need to be custom-made….

I’m very excited about getting my new yarn onto some needles soon!  Watch this space…

Wool has arrived…

…and it really is, actual, wool.  One continuous length of clean, combed, white fleece.  I even know the breed of sheep it has come from – the texel.

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A pedigree texel sheep

It feels wonderful and has that typically woolly scent, which is very evocative for me.  I realised as I opened the package and handled the wool, that this is what my Auntie’s house used to smell of, and it took me right back there.

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I adored visiting her as a child and some of my happiest early memories were made at her house.  She was brilliant at most hand crafts, and always had some wool at some stage of processing for me to get involved in.  I remember handling greasy, bitty raw fleece, preparing wool for hand-carding, and even had a go at spinning on her spinning wheel (I was rubbish at it).  I tried to knit up my hand-spun yarn and it was hopelessly uneven.  But such fun to try.  So in a way, embarking on this project feels like a home-coming.

Finding the ends of the strand took a while.  I had to tip the wool out of the bag and run my hands along it until eventually one end appeared, and then another.  I marked each end with a coloured tie.

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Now I have to experiment with preparing the wool for knitting.  Although it’s surprisingly sturdy in its unprocessed state, and I could go ahead and arm-knit with it, the kind of structured pieces I intend to make will need a firmer, more ‘finished’ yarn.

Friction felting is not that effective and takes too long, especially with a large batch of wool.  Wet felting is probably the way to go, but must be done gently by hand.   So I think I’ll be filling the bath tub, swooshing it around, and then trying to get it dry.

The resulting yarn will be thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will have to knit up samples and work out how to adapt my patterns.  There may be other advantages which I haven’t discovered yet.  What’s really exciting is that there are all kinds of wool tops available, from many different breeds of sheep, some of which are different, natural colours.  So I could work with beautiful shades of brown and grey – all undyed, all from the sheep’s natural colour.

If my Auntie was still here, how I’d love to tell her about this!  She was, and still is, my inspiration, and there’s a bit of her in all of this.

I just took the plunge…

…back into knitting, big time.  I had a word with myself, and went and ordered a load of natural wool tops from World of Wool.  I don’t know if it’s right for my project, so I will need to experiment, but this is the start of a creative journey, something that’s been missing for too long.

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Why on earth I chose to do it now, when I am busier than ever, I don’t know.  I checked back at my last knitting notes, when I was trying to source some alternative giant natural yarns, and I was shocked to find that I wrote them two years ago.  The article I stumbled across the other day, about knitting being really good for you, was undoubtedly needling away at my subconscious.

I can’t wait for my new yarn to arrive.  Actually it’s not even yarn yet, I will have to make it into yarn myself.  I will felt it into the size I need to fit the needles I have, and then test its strength and softness.  I’ve never custom-made my own yarn before so this is another dimension.

It’s time to stop prioritising everything else, get something on the needles and see where it takes me.