Monday, 19 December 2011

Fruit Cake & Baking Bread

We normally head off to Center Parcs at this time of year but as Mimi has started High School this year we thought we'd better be good and keep her in school.  So!  We've decided to have bonding days instead.  This Tuesday was bread baking and cake making.

I haven't posted a recipe on this blog before but this is a seriously good one, easy too.

Boil in the Pan Fruit Cake

Cooking Time  approx 1 1/4 hours

Oven Temp 150 electric  gas mark 2


4oz butter
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups self raising flour
at least 2 cups dried fruit
2 eggs

Put the butter, sugar, milk and fruit into a pan, melt it all together and then bring to the boil.  Let it boil for five minutes, stirring once or twice to mix.

Let it stand for 5 minutes.  Whisk the eggs, then alternatively add the flour and eggs to the pan and mix.

Line bread tin with greaseproof paper and put the mixture in, cover the top loosely with tin foil.

Cook for 1 hour then remove the foil and cook for approximately 15 minutes more.  Keep checking to see when it's ready.  Much will depend on the amount of fruit and your own oven.

Try not to make the mistake as I did a few weeks ago of adding the flour before you try to boil the mixture.  But! if you do, it's not the end of the world.  It tasted fine.

Note the carefully placed greaseproof paper. Are you worried Nigella?

Our bread making went something like this:
We used Nigella's bread recipe which uses half white bread flour and half wholemeal which produces a lighter loaf.  Not that my dad and me are competitive, but he was told about five years ago on a bread making course that he had made the best loaf.  Have I ever heard the last of it? 

So our loaves went something like this
Kneading the loaf.  He doesn't want to be pictured since that unfortunate incident in Lytham in 1967.
                                                           Loaf ready to be left to rise

My dad decided to go for the old boring tin method.  I have to say though with the sun shining through the window it's pretty enough to make the Hovis boy weep.  And it tasted good too.  
Slightly ashamed of my cow pat version, even with the sun on it.  Tasted great though!

I promise we'll be back to woolly things soon.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

December Spinning Workshop & New Fibres

Saturday was spent in the safety of Knit-Wise's upstairs, out of the chilly wind and the rain, drinking tea, eating biscuits and fighting with spinning wheels.  Despite checking the wheels on Friday there was definitely a case of revenge of the machines, even from Alison's NEW Ashford Joy wheel which she brought from home.

Despite this, Gill and Annette managed to spin two skeins each and Alison spun Corriedale and Soybean fibre  The women were victorious!!

                                                      Annette with the first of her skeins

                                  Gill with her first skein, could be smiling or could be about to
                                                    throw the wheel right out of the window

It's always great to meet new friends through a love of textiles and Annette and Gill are both incredibly interesting, both have done City & Guilds in Textiles and Annette is in the process of completing a Fine Arts Degree at John Moores University in Liverpool.  It will be interesting to see how have spinning fibre as another string to their quite substantial bows shows itself.

I'm drowning a little bit in fibre at the moment,  hopefully in the next few days I'll be posting some new fibre onto my etsy shop (which I have to say is looking a little bit depleted at the moment).  The aforementioned soybean fibre, which both myself and Alison loved, will be on there in packs of 100g and also smaller packs to have a little go at if you're not sure.  I think this image shows the beautiful colour of the soybean which spins similarly to silk, a short staple and quite a lot of it up your nose.

It's either like a cossetted Princess' flowing locks or a tatty dogs underbelly.  You can decide.
The bamboo fibres look very lovely too

Beautiful.. but not as lovely as the Princess locks soybean.  There will also be some flax and some Wensleydale. Not sure about flax really, but as soon as I've spun some I will report back.
Just to finish on, here's a link to something that has had me laughing all week.  If you're feeling a bit down, watch this a couple of times. It you don't laugh, check your pulse!

See you soon

Monday, 28 November 2011

Waste Dye Dilemma

None of us want to be accused of wasting anything these days -frugal is very much the way forward.  Ask my daughter who has manfully tried to put on a brave face despite clearly disliking fried potato cakes (from last nights mash). She's a trouper!

So no dyer worth her salt would leave any dye in her pot that had not been soaked up by fibres!

I dyed some dark blue/navy merino fibres for the felted lilies that I rambled on about in the last post.  I'd also dyed some red dye for the little kits that go along with the Lydia flower on the same day and there was clearly way too much dye just to throw down the drain.  From a money point of view but also from a green angle - you can't just be tipping it away!

So I decided to do a little experiement and post it on here - would the resulting left over dye be anything to shout about. I was soooo tempted to stick some other colours in there with the blue, it looked a little bit boring and insiped - but in the interests of a deeply important and scientific experiment I let it be and didn't interfere in any way.

With the blue dye, I had clearly not thought everything through (see, it didn't stay scientific for long) and weighed out too many fibres for the amount of dye water that remained in the pot so already the insipid dye was going to be watered down further. ( I feel this lack of attention to detail will limit my attempts at a nobel prize).  With the red dye, there was plenty of water so the 200g of merino just went straight in.  I also put an extra glug of vinegar in for good measure - I don't like dye that runs.

The resulting blue  fibres  I really like - they have a smoky grey hue to them and I'd like to spin them up.  I think that I have slightly felted them which is annoying, but not so much that I couldn't spin them so I'll keep them for me. Me me me.

The red dye, well I don't know.  The original red is post boxy and rich and the remainder fibres are lipsticky and pink.  Do I not like them because they aren't very nice or do I not like them because they are not naturally my colours?  Was that sentence gramatically incorrect in every way?

Lovely richy redness

Is it lovely or is it insipid?

While I do think that it's important not to pollute, or to waste dye, I also think that it's no good having lots of dyed fibres in colours you don't like waiting for a project that you may never do.  The pink may stay.  I'll see....

Felted Flowers

One piece of advice that my Grandad gave to me when I was about 14 and he didn't talk very much so it has stayed etched in my mind is 'don't volunteer to do anything'.  At the time I thought it was a little bit of an unkind thing to say but I can't tell you how many times it has come back to haunt me over the years.

I volunteered to make some felted flowers for a wedding, I'd seen something that I'd like to do at Woolfest last year, felted lilies and so I was inspired to have a go - FOR A WEDDING!  Not for fun.

So I got in touch with Liz Brown from Heartfelt by Liz and she sent me some information.  I have to say that I'd already starting experimenting and so didn't go down the road Liz took for her flowers (she uses silk hankies which from experience spend most of the time sticking to anywhere other than where they should be.  So, I decided to go it alone, but I'd definitely recommend Liz's felted flower pack if you want to have a go.

The difficulty with petals is that you can't lay the fibres in adjacent layers, because if you use merino as I do, the staple (length) of the fibre is too long so you are unable to get a thin petal, like you would need in a lily. You therefore have to make sure you have enough layers to make sure that your petal is thick enough.  This is why, I'm sure, the hankies are used in a nuno felt style.

I laid the fibres out in a petal style, I used white for the base layers, at least four of them and then over that laid some blue wispy layers. I covered the petals with net and bubble wrap and then squirted hot soapy water over. I then rolled it gently with a rolling pin.  This gives an even pressure and stops your design from moving too much - sometimes even gentle pressure with the hands can be too much.  After a couple of rolls, I lifted the net and placed on a line of dark fibre down the centre of the petal.

 These darker accent fibres could be rolled in your fingers first so that they stay in the line you want rather than being wispy like the lighter blue.

Then you're off with the rolling, opening, turning, rolling, opening, turning of feltmaking until our fibres have felted together and started to shrink.

I wanted the centre to be very firm and so I rolled it for a while in the bamboo mat like this

Be careful at this point that your fibres don't become felted to each other!  I also moulded the middle on the end of the niddy noddy, or you could use the rolling pin from earlier if you don't have a niddy noddy.  Why would you not have a niddy noddy?

Anyway, keep working it, your felt will become firm, but if you need any extra stiffener, you can use fabric stiffener, I have some that I bought from Art Van Go.  Some places will recommend that watered down PVA is good to stiffen fabric but I wouldn't use it, it has the tendency to discolour (and can be a little bit smelly)

Here's our finished flowers (on my kitchen table).  I have to thank my friend Linda for all her help and stickability.  I was losing the will to live at about a quarter of the way through!

I hope this has made some kind of sense.  If you have a go, let me see your finished articles.  We can swap notes!

Next time

Friday, 18 November 2011

Spinning Workshop & Attaching fibre

We had a lovely day on Saturday at Knit-Wise at the spinning workshop.  There was just the three of us, Diane from Southport who brought with her just the prettiest wheel I have seen in a long time and Rachel who came all the way over from Wakefield as a birthday present from her friend Debbie.

After dealing with the Ormskirk one way system for forty five minutes Debbie finally found somewhere to park and we were pleased that she'd stuck with it and hadn't turned on her heel and got straight back over the border back to Yorkshire.  Rachel took to spinning very quickly, although it feels like you're the slowest spinner in the west when you're a beginner, Rachel really did well and by the end of the day had two skeins, only equaled by Heather Two Skeins from September fame!

Diane had spun before and was coming to check her attaching the wool ability, which I have to say was just fine.  Remember that the fibres at the end of your tops or rolag want to join onto the leader,  but if you're relatively new at spinning or a little unsure, give it at least 10cm for those fibres to hold onto.   Lay the fibres underneath the leader and treadle a little, let the fibres attach and then slowly pull your tops or rolag down, letting the spin take hold of the fibres. The spin will make the fibres strong.  Practise it a few times, we all want to do it well but also remember that if you're a beginner, these things will come.  If you can't do it as well as you want for now, give it a little bit of a break and come back to it.  Long concentration and tiredness will all make learning difficulter.

Our next two workshops are full so we're looking a February now for classes which is just fantastic - more people wanting to learn is a great thing and helps keep the craft alive!

Just a note on Diane's wheel which was really the prettiest wheel I've ever seen, the photo doesn't do it justice, but (and I'm sure she wouldn't mind me saying) it was second hand. It just shows you that if you shop around you can find a wonderful second hand wheel without breaking the bank.  Before you part with your well earned, get in touch with your local guild and ask them to ask around, believe me there is a bargain to be had.

Speak soon


Friday, 11 November 2011

The launch of the Wrathall Niddy Noddy

This post could change spinning forever! 

Meet Jim - apart from being the cleverest man on earth, Jim is a dab hand in the woodwork department

Now you can see from the picture that this is Jim in the nerve centre/control room and this is where he controls the world  Lately he has been slightly distracted making bobbins, niddy noddies and lazykates for me, which is possibly why Eurozone has gone a little bit to pot.

But!  Have you seen the niddy noddy?

It's made of pine and is incredibly light, so it means that if you're winding a lot of yarn, you arm doesn't become so tired.  He's also put the little ridges to stop the yarn slipping so that you have more control and your measurement is more exact (so if you're selling your yarn, that's a real plus).  And the measurement of two yards is exact.

This one is sold and I had to borrow it back (thanks Marie) to photograph it.  The ladies in our guild were all very enthusiastic and orders are in, but if you would like it, here is a link to my etsy page.

There is a lazykate on the way too, which I'll post asap.

It's very interesting to get an engineers perspective on spinning accessories. As spinners, probably our motivation is the love of the yarn, the fibre or our sheep.  But Jim asked so many questions - why do you do this?  What happens if...?  And so the items he makes answer the questions you don't even realise you ask.  For instance,  Jim said

"The way this lazykate is made means that when you ply from the table, it will fall over.  What do you do about that"

"I ply with the lazykate on the floor."

"Don't you sometimes want to ply with it on the table?"


"What do you do then?"

"I don't"

You see - deep and meaningful conversations, that have come up with some very interesting things made by Jim.  I took his lazykate to the guild on Tuesday and left it in the shop so I haven't got a photograph of it, but I will take one tomorrow and post it on Monday.  It kind of blew our minds a little bit.

Thank goodness he uses his powers for good!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Lydia Flower available on Ravelry too!

Here is the second of our free downloads back again on Ravelry  - like the Alice Scarf & Beanie it was first seen in Knit on the Net but hasn't been available for a while.  So we hope you like it and knit away.

here's a little link:

I was having a look at UK Handmade magazine website and found, under the local section was the Hoolala Circus who are hosting a Bicycle Basket Boutique craft fair at Southport Market.  I think it looks fab.  I thought that I could knit a few Lydia flowers for the outside of my bike basket!  Unfortunately I'm away in Manchester that weekend so I can't attend but I think it's a great idea and I'm sorry I can't join in.

Just imagine how much yarn you could fit in that huge basket.

What made me laugh was the list of do's and don'ts. (the apostrophes don't look right there but the whole thing is making me a bit light-headed).

Goods allowed for sale: handmade goods, homegrown vegetables, paintings & art, vintage & collectables (20 years or older), textiles knitting & crochet, homemade cakes & biscuits, and clothing.

Goods NOT allowed for sale: antiquities from ancient burial sites, live animals, body parts, firearms & weapons, poisons & witchcraft, grated goods.

I think a couple of chickens in that basket along with a false leg and an AK47 would look quite interesting.  In fact, I thought I saw someone with a witches hat riding a bike just like that round here on Halloween.

They have a facebook page if you want to like it, you could pop over and have a look at mine too if you like!

Anyway, I think that's enough links to be going on for now, even for a devoted link lover like me!

See you soon

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Alice Scarf & Beanie available again!

Who thought that there would be some much to learn re computers when it comes to spinning/knitting/dyeing etc?!  I spent yesterday changing patterns to pdf and uploading pictures patterns etc.  My very small brain meant that the whole process took about three times longer than it should have done and involved hitting my head on the table while Mark & Myra (knit-wise)  brought me cups of tea and made there there sounds.

But here it is, the uploaded, new photographed Alice Scarf and Beanie which was first published in Knit on the net by computer types but now is on ravelry as a pdf download for free, done by me!!  I only needed tech support on ravelry about three times! Now I've done it, I think I'll do it again.

Here is lovely Millie is her best Cherly Cole staring into middle distance pose (some models have just got it you know!)  She was very brave because it was a bit chilly.

 Here's a close up of the flower which can be embellished with buttons, beads, or if you're a fan of felted balls you could do a little one and put it in the middle.  I've used my own handspun yarn in double knitting for this scarf (you could use any yarn, but don't tell anyone).

Here's the link

I'll be uploading again soon.  (If I say it here, it means I have to do it)

See you soon

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Childrens Felting at Knit-Wise

These are the words that accompany my husband's visits to the Lake District - walking, fresh air, fells, hiking, deep breaths, bracing, pub.  These are mine - sitting, log fires, hot chocolate, shopping, reading the paper, pub.

At least there is one thing we agree on and I suppose that's all you need. We spent a couple of hours at the Wainwright pub somewhere in the Lakes and a lovely mooch around Chesters by the River at Skelwith bridge. And we did see a deer, in it's natural habitat as it bounded through the bracken to escape us and the dog.  The dog did try to do a deer impression by bounding too, it lasted about 30 seconds on account of her big fat belly. I had my camera round my neck, but was so amazed at seeing a deer in it's natural habitat I didn't photograph it.  What a fool!

Here is a picture of my daughter looking suspiciously superimposed on the image but it is true, and it gives an idea of the different greens you can see at this time of year.  We had decided to do a sample of greens in our sketchbooks (get us), but the cold rock we were sitting on was pile inducing so we moved on.

Today we spent the morning felting at Knit-Wise in Ormskirk with a motley crew of  6 children.  Fun seemed to be had by all and then a lie down was needed by anyone over 21.

The felt that the children made was really good.  I was impressed with their ability and they went away with a new set of skills to carry on at home.

We used hand dyed fibres for todays class and because of the dyes in the fibres, the children were able to mix the colours which gave a wonderful effect. At one point there was felting, knitting, colouring and beading going on at the same time which obviously had been planned by the children to keep us adults on our toes but we survived.  Sometimes we even gave the impression that we were in control.

Here's one of the finished items, with embellishment!

I think this is wonderful, probably one of the best pieces of felt that I have seen in a long, long time  Who did it?  Oh, my neice!

See you soon x

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Fame on sfeltaccessories blog!

Now we're all settled in to our new place and our friends are settled into the boat for the winter, I can get back onto more pressing matters - spinning!

Ann at sfeltaccessories has featured me in her blog.  I feel really honoured!  Take a look here -

Thanks Ann!

So here's what I've been up to:

I've finished some chunky spinning, I'd tried to do an eliza dye lot which is pictured first here, and in the middle of dyeing I realised one of my dyes was missing (I later found that I'd dropped it in the studio (shed)).  I went ahead with it anyway and it just shows you how different the dye lot turns out.
I realise that that is quite an obvious statement seeing as one of the dyes wasn't there!  Anyway although I was a little bit unsure of the new dye at first, I'm really pleased now it's all done.  The knitters at the knit'n'natter gave it the thumbs up and they are a very honest bunch.

Here it is in the pot

And here is the finished yarn in all its glory

I think I'll be using this particular yarn in the new beret kit.  It'll be nice to have an option of shades.
And this is what's on the bobbin at the moment, a lovely lilac/navy which I'm spinning thinly. This enables me to watch Strictly at the same time.

I've started from this week writing the blog for Knit-Wise, so I'll be trying my best not to get the two confused, have a look over there too if you want to see what's going on at our lys!

Off to the Lakes tomorrow, which is a sure sign for rain!


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

World Record Attempt

Here's the information about the world record attempt, very kindly left by Misty Cottage Crafts on the comments. The info is from

We're Record Breakers!
Well, to be more precise Ruth is a Guinness World Record breaker.

On the 23rd of September Ruth set the record for the worlds longest continuous thread spun in an hour. Coming in at 99.45m this was verified by the official adjudicator and Ruth was presented with the official Guinness Certificate.

The thread was a 2-ply yarn made of Shetland fleece, entirely prepared and spun by hand. We're all wondering what's next, and with winter looming on the horizon it just may have to be the worlds longest scarf! Congratulations!

Thanks Misty for letting us know.

Monday, 3 October 2011

New Dyes and Moving House

I heard on the weather report that despite having some beautiful weather over the last few days, the North West is going to feel the effects of a hurricane coming over from the USA so I'm trying to get some dyeing done and drying before the weather turns.

There's a lot of teal about at the moment and it is a colour that I wouldn't normally wear but my friend Lenka bought me a lovely scarf and it completely changed my mind about it.  It's worth having someone elses opinion when it comes to colour, we can so easily get stuck in a rut over what colours suit us that we don't keep experimenting.

So, here's the latest dyes from my cauldrons - a teal, blue mix.  They are still in the pans while I'm posting and it does look like the teal has taken slightly lighter than I thought it would, but it's hard to tell at this stage.

I did a couple of experimental dyes last week, normally I'm a chuck it in and see kind of dyer (that's part of the appeal for me) but I mixed this particular dye in a jug before had to see if I liked the way it took.  It's a much gentle dye which I like and I think it has took in a more consistant way.  See what you think. The other one is my usual method and a much stronger dye with purples and blues.  Both of these fibres, which are Blueface Leicester are on my Etsy page, so if they are up your street, why not take a look.

I've been trying to find out the result of the World Record attempt in handspinning and can't find anything at all so if anyone knows any news can you let me know, I'd be very interested.

I'm also in the process of putting together a kit for the D'arcy Spice beret, so it's been photographed again here and will shortly be available on Etsy too.

It does seem weird with everything being so mild at the moment that cold weather is due for the end of the week - even frost, so with that in mind we have decided to move off the boat over the winter.  This is the view down our path at the moment

It's only October and already we are struggling with the mud, so we will be moving slowly over to a little rented house about 5 minutes away to avoid another freezing cold winter. We have friends (who are tougher than us) who are moving into the boat and taking care of our hens and duck so everything there will carry on as normal. 

It will be a novelty to have a washing machine - just there!  And a bath whenever we want, but I know we will miss the wildlife (saw a Cormorant this morning) and the peace and the freedom.  Still, can't have everything!  And they'll be pleased that I won't be treading mud through Knit-Wise anymore!!

See you soon


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Workshop News

Had a boring old week really - had to spend each day of this week at the hospital which has been really frustrating!

Still! We had a good laugh on Saturday at the workshop at Knit-Wise with Mark, Heather and Alison who all spun valiantly all day through wind rain and cold.  We were inside drinking tea and coffee like there was no tomorrow but some poor bride braved the elements to get married so we didn't feel too badly done by.

Here are the finished skeins by the rightly proud spinners, it's always great to meet people with the same passion as yours, but also new friends from Ravelry and Etsy.  Alison came all the way down from Blackpool - thats dedication and Heather came from locally but is off to London so it was nice to have her company even for a short time.  Mark ventured upstairs from the shop and gave everyone the height of abuse but even so I've put his picture on here.

Heather is the first of my students ever to have spun two skeins on the day and as well as her superior intellect and natural talent I think that her having drop spindled made a lot of difference. 

 We're spinning again at Knit Wise on the 15th of October if you'd like to come along. 

There is a world record spinning attempt on the 24th of September, some brave spinners are attempting to spin the longest piece of unbroken yarn for an hour and we all wish them the best.  There is more information on the Campaign for Wool website.  I'll try and post the outcome on here.

The niddy noddies and lazykates that I've had on my etsy page are sold out through the shop but I'm hoping to get more made up asap.  I'd like to have some that are a bit more fancy for next time.  Special occasion Niddy Noddies!  Can't wait.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Winter Inspiration

We've been away on our hols over the last week or so, up to Gathurst on our boat which is a beautiful part of Lancashire.  We pressganged some of my daughters friends to help us through locks and bridges and pottered from pub to restaurant and back again.  It's a strange way to travel, with huge chunks of time doing nothing interspersed with moments of sheer terror going through strange bridges while holding up swathes of traffic.  But I feel that the weather has changed over the last week and we're not going to get many more summery days so...

Here's some inspiration from Kim Hargreaves


It's a beautiful collection of garments and well worth a look.  If only for the tights/shoes combo on the front cover. 


I loved this - could I knit it?  Possibly with lots of encouragement. Could I breathe in long enough to wear it?  I don't think so.
I've been contiuing with my knitting and completed two,(two I tell you ) hot water bottle covers. I'm pleased to have completed them at all as I'm very good at starting and not so good at finishing.

My next project I think is going to be a blanket and so I checked the colours due in for Autumn/Winter and dyed some fibres in midnight blues and lilacs. My wheel, which is lumped about with little regard for it's welfare has finally put its foot down and is complaining by not drafting in no matter what I fix or fasten.  So this wool is not the best I've ever spun but as I'm going to knit it myself I'm not overly concerned.  I'm happy with the shades though.

Here's the fibres, with the spun yarn and also a couple of felt balls just for good measure.  We visited Fibre & Clay in Knutsford which is a wonderful yarn/gallery and well worth a visit. These midnight blue buttons were crying out to be used with this yarn so we'll see what we can do.  I had planned to keep this yarn for myself but it seems to have already been nabbed!

There are new knitting boxes posted on my etsy shop in case your needles and notions are all over the place.  They are beautifully made by a local craftsman who supplies wooden items that we sell in the shop. We're really pleased with them and hope they go to a knitter who will take good care as they have been so well made they deserve a good home!

As well as all this, we've got niddy noddys and lazykates on offer, so have a good look.

The next spinning workshop at Knit-Wise is fully booked but October 15th is available if any of you would like to come along.  Our little guild is still going strong and we're celebrating Wool Week with a cake and a coffee on Tuesday night if you're around.  Bring your knitting, crochet, or whatever woolly thing you're into, we'd love to see you

42 Church Street
L39 3AW
01695 580590