This has been an emotionally intense project for me and brings together some of the most important people in my life in one shawl.  The yarn started life as fibre blended at Creating Space on my friend Lindi’s drum carder, Spike.  A blend of 2 shades of fine Haunui fibre and a little copper flash angelina, the resultant batts were meant to remind me of my mum, particularly the colour of her hair.

 

My mum was a very special lady (second from the right in the photo) – a musician whose encouragement and example allowed me find my voice, a fearless and practical woman who was first up a ladder despite her dislike of heights, an openhearted soul who would find time and shelter for those who had none, and a brave and beautiful warrior who stared down cancer until her last painful breath when I was just sixteen.

Over the course of a year, I gradually spun over 1400 metres of this gently varigated brown and slightly sparkley 2-ply yarn.

I looked long and hard for pattern that would have meaning for me, and that would show off the evenness, soft bloom and interesting texture of the yarn. The colour drifts that are shown in this photograph were a feature that only became evident after I’d begun to knit.  One of the things I love so much about handspun yarn is the constant surprises that are revealed as you work with it.  I settled on a Boo Knits pattern called Ictis, inspired by the beauty of Cornwall, a place that my mum enjoyed spending time alone and with friends.

The beads on the edge – 4mm Swarovski 5328 Xilion Bicone in Crystal Copper – were a gift from my loving fiance, and bind us all together in this one piece of handcrafted love.

The whole thing took a little over 3 weeks to knit, although for part of that time I was banned from knitting lace as I was doped up on painkillers following a general anaesthetic and 2 fewer wisdom teeth.  With finished dimensions of a wingspan of 2 metres and a  depth of 90 cm, this is a huge hug, wrapping me in love and memories.

 

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“I sort of made the pattern up as I went along, I loved the smoothness and evenness of the yarn, and the subtle colour changes.” – Machelle: www.chopped-tomatoes.com

A while back a friend of mine – a talented designer, dye artist, spinner, and writer – came to see me.  I’d just revealed to my friends and family that I was spinning, and she immediately announced that she was not only going to buy a skein, but that she was going to make the hours long trip from Cardiff to interview me for her blog.  I was both delighted and terrified.  If she did that, this whole spinning thing was going to be real, and I’d really have to take the leap into selling something that I’d made.  Despite my fears and after a little talking down from off the ceiling, a skein was purchased, mailed and knitted up in super quick time.  A few days later Machelle was awake super early to get the train from Wales.

Machelle’s trip to Cambridge was lovely, we had  glorious weather and after talking for hours about spinning, yarn, knitting, food and much more besides, my fiance and I took her and her shawl on a tour of scenic Grantchester.  We had tea and cake in the Orchard and my beloved took a photo of the three of us together in Grantchester Meadows.  As you can see, my yarn likes it out in the wild, and seems to enjoy photo opportunities next to fences.

Machelle shoots from the hip when it comes to reviews, she’s brutally honest and I love her for it.  I loved her even more when she said that she couldn’t think of a bad word to say about my yarn.  She really put it through it’s paces too.  Machelle made up the pattern for her Silver Screen Shawl, and there were a couple of places where she ripped out quite a bit of the pattern to make changes.  When she was done she blocked it fairly brutally, took it up before it was dry and ironed it because it wasn’t drying fast enough – she wanted to wear it!  Having heard the extent to which my yarn was tested, I became fairly confident that it could handle most usual (and more unusual) wear and tear!  However, please do remember folks – if you buy a skein of Secret Spinner yarn, it is 99% of the time going to be spun from a pure wool or wool blend and if you put it in a washing machine, or even hand wash it too hot, it will more than likely felt.  Unless you are trying to do that deliberately, please keep it away from the tumble dryer too.

All of my yarn is spun on my Ashford Traditional wheel Ariadne. There are no short-cut’s taken and all of the measurements are done in the traditional way on a niddy-noddy, which is why I only ever approximate the length of a skein.  I under estimate so that you’ll hopefully always have enough yarn for the project that you have in mind and since I calculate the price based on the final length of the skein you’re always getting a little extra for your money, not to mention the energetic hug from having positive energy and kindness spun into every inch.

A big thank you has to go to Machelle for letting me use the images that she took of us and her finished shawl for this post.  If you would like to read the original interview you can find it at the Chopped Tomatoes blog.  I should also mention that this week Machelle is launching her eco friendly knitting design journal recipes.knit.  It’s awesome and wonderfully useful, and I’m glad that Machelle is back with us in the land of the living after spending months with her head in the book!

 

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Enchanted Reef went off to find her new home with fabulous writer Debora Geary, author of the Modern Witch and Witchlight series of books.  There was a secret conversation between them – a whispering of what she could become – and before I could blink, Enchanted Reef was flying across the pond (although not on a broomstick as far as I know).  Almost as soon as she’d landed in Debora’s mailbox, she was wound from skein to ball and on her way to becoming the Trousseau Shawl by Carol Feller.  Debora chose to follow the instructions for the small version of the pattern, and soon she began sharing tantalising ‘WIP’ pictures of her shawl.

Even in this early picture we start to see the gentle striping and colour transitions that I had a glimpse of during her creation, but sitting at the wheel it’s so hard to know what a finished piece will look like as much depends on the pattern that is chosen and the way the piece is constructed.  I thought the suspense would drive me crazy but Debora’s shawl worked up super fast and in no time more pictures appeared.

This one is so cute and shows the shawl finished but unblocked on the shoulders of one of Debora’s children.  The striping is visible, although not fully revealed, but I just had to share this photo to once again sing the virtues of the blocking process.  What looks like a tiny, crunched up piece of knitted fabric becomes something altogether different with the application of water, wire, pins and patience.

 

After the blocking process the finished article – an Enchanted Writing Shawl for Debora’s office – is revealed in all it’s beauty and gorgeousness.  As the spinner in this process I take little credit for the final work of fibre art.  I am a small piece of the puzzle, a short chapter in the story of becoming that this fibre has been on, from when it was dyed by GeminiKnits to being knitted up by Debora.

So now for the beauty shot – a delightful demonstration of the colour transitions and finished size of Debora’s Enchanted Reef Writing Shawl.  I hope that it brings her many years of pleasure and warmth, a practical and beautiful object of adornment.  A huge thank you must go to Debora for allowing me to use her photographs for this article to share with you all.

 

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Here begins a new series of posts about what happens to Secret Spinner Yarns when they go off to create lives with someone new.  My yarns are made to be used, worked into something useful and treasured for their uniqueness, bringing to their adoptive carer a blend of beauty and practicality.  I think of my yarns as my babies, my creations, they are birthed from a place of love and creativity, of passion and stillness.  When it comes time to let them go, I think of it as releasing a living, breathing entitiy into the wild where it can flourish and grow, where it can become.

Into the Wild posts will form a working chronicle of Secret Spinner Yarn journeys.  If you have a Secret Spinner yarn that you would like to have included in the Into the Wild series just drop me a message and I’ll be in touch 🙂

 

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You may be able to guess that the inspiration for this scarf was the eccentric sartorial styling of Doctor Who.  When I snaffled this fabulous yarn from a Ravelry.com destash I was immediately reminded of the swirling temporal vortex that can be viewed through the Untempered Schism (yes folks, I am a geek) and so Beyond Gallifrey was born – a super long scarf that can easily be wrapped thrice around the neck with length to spare.

I love the way that I can see landscapes and space dust in the colours of this yarn when it’s worked this way.  I never get tired of looking at it.

It’s also lovely and effective way to use up two slightly mis-matched skeins of yarn.  The horizontal, alternating ball construction gives you a more subtle stripe than a vertically knitted scarf and is easily handled on a long circular needle.

If you are a Ravelry user you can download this pattern direct.  If you’d like to knit it and aren’t on Ravelry it’s available in my Etsy store.  So in the words of the tenth Doctor: Allons-y!

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I have a friend. An amazing woman I consider a sister who I have known for more than half my life.  She was there for me when my mother died, she looked out for me when I was a grieving teen totally incapable of processing the pain and loss I was experiencing.  She has been there for me through my joy and pain, my hope and my dispair.  I love her.  She has a shining heart and she’s 200 miles away and I miss her.  This year for her birthday, I sent her a heart made of merino and cashmere that could keep her warm when I’m too far away for a hug.

It’s Annie Lee’s Sweet Heart Scarf knitted in more of that gorgeous discontinued yarn from Chopped Tomatoes.

It features a nice easy start and the simple garter stitch body was great TV knitting.  The increases for the ruffle were a little difficult, purely because I didn’t have enough spare yarn to work with.  I’m not a tight knitter either, so if I were to knit this again I’d probably go up a needle size the row before to give me a little extra manouvre room.  After some intuitive and not at all counted fudging I managed to end up with 449 stitches on either side of the marker.  Thank you to whomever was watching over me at that point!  The ruffle was easy going although a little mind-numbing since there are just over 900 stitches to work for each pass at this point.
I chose to block this with no wires, just pins and I experimented a little with the ruffle once it was blocked, just to see if I could get a nicer wave with some steam blocking and it turned out well.  It looks lovely – a great little pattern with great results.

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I’m sure you might have guessed but I love knitting.  I love the sensual experience of choosing, working and wearing thoughtfully crafted knitwear.  A while back Machelle over at Chopped Tomatoes decided to stop selling 4-ply yarn.  A sad day for fibre lovers, but being a devotee of the Design Kitchen I decided to buy some of those precious last skeins.  And the Yarn gods did smile, for lo, there was a technical error and the beautiful Machelle sent me an apology in the form of More Yarn.  I’ve not been spinning much lately, as I’m in the middle of moving house and my wheel is buried behind stuff.

More Yarn + Buried Spinning Wheel = Mucho Knitting

I’ve knitted a gift for a friend whose birthday is tomorrow so I’ll post about that one then so as not to accidentally ruin the surprise.  I’ve knitted a big shawl and a smaller cape type one. Want to see?  Oh, go on then…

Thunderheads

Named for the colours in the gorgeous yarn from Machelle this cape-ish type shawl was adapted from the Sunshine Shawl by Amanda Reed.  I realised fairly  early on that I was going to have much more yarn left than the pattern implied, so I went off piste, making it longer and larger and improvising the bottom of the pattern so that the whole thing flowed and didn’t look like I’d tinkered with it too much.

I liked this pattern for it’s simplicity.  It is a clever mix of stockinette and garter stitch, creating texture in a very simple and effective way.  It works very much like a triangular shawl, but with two extra sets of yarn overs, creating the cape like shape that allows for better shoulder warmth and less slippage when worn. When I began knitting this, I decided that I was going to go up a half needle size at the beginning of the project, as the yarn is beautifully lofty and can easily handle a 4mm needle.  I added an extra 44 rows overall, going up another half needle size for the second section in keeping with the original pattern.  Even after using the super stretchy bind off I still had yarn to spare.

Whilst still on the needles for section one I added the following rows:
repeat rows 9-14
repeat rows 1-8

Change needles and follow the pattern as written then:
Knit row 1 then use the WS instructions for row 1 from the 1st section. (3 times)
Knit rows 1 and 2 a further 12 times for a total of 24 rows.

Using the super-stretchy bind off gives the maximum real estate for blocking and gives my favourite edge. It’s the one that goes: K2 then…
K1, replace knitted stitch back on LH needle, K2tog tbl. Repeat until finished 🙂

When I started blocking this shawl I was very surprised.  It was huge. I had 24 square feet of blocking tiles on the floor.  It touched 3 edges.  Off the pins and around my chilly shoulders I was really happy with the way this shawl turned out.  It’s perfect for  throwing on when watching tv or knitting on the sofa – lovely.

 

Nemetona

Named for the Goddess of the Sacred Groves this shawl is one of my favourites.  It is the Lady of the Forest shawl by Ilga Leja.  She is an awesome designer.  I’ve never knitted anything constructed this way before and I have to admit being a little daunted at first.  However, Ilga explains everything so clearly in her pattern that my fears were soon extinguished beneath the big silver snuffer of the Goddess of ‘I knew you could do it’.  Beginning at the bottom of the back of the shawl, construction starts with easy increase/decrease shaping.  Then there’s some clever jiggery pokery with stitch holders, short row shaping, pick up and knitting (over 300 stitches) and before you know it, you’re finishing the front edges and Voila!  One lovely shawl all ready for blocking…

Now – as you can see this dwarfs my little dining table.  That there is 36 square feet of blocking mat.  Yep.  It took me a while to get it all wired up and pinned out, but the larger than recommended needle size:yarn ratio that this pattern calls for means there was lots of lovely fresh air able to get into the fabric and it dried in a trice.  The next day it was off the pins and with a little sewing to finish off – nothing too scary just stright lines down the front – it was around my shoulders and held together with my lovely Nicholas and Felice shawl pin.

 

I really enjoyed knitting both of these shawls and the second one inspired my first published pattern my Super Quick Wrist warmers. They are all super toasty and luxuriously soft thanks to the lovely blend of merino and cashmere that goes into the yarn.

I’m having such fun knitting at the moment it’s become a really comforting place to drop anchor in the whirlwind that is selling, buying, and moving house.  I’ve finished the second Shared Secrets pattern and  am working hard on a third.  The second pattern is a lovely scarf and should be available to purchase in the middle of Feburary-ish providing the box I put it in is within reach!

Happy trails folks – enjoy your adventures, treasure your journey and find joy in the little things 🙂

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I wrote this post some time ago but couldn’t bring myself to upload it.  This year has been incredibly hard.  I’ve lost a mother and a sister, neither one related by blood, but the loss has hit me just as hard as losing my own mother did when I was a teen.  I originally intended for this webspace to be just about my spinning and fibre related shenannigans, but after a year of challenges and introspection I’ve decided to broaden it’s reach.  My fibrecraft is a fairly recent addition to my creative life, but I have come to realise that it is also one of the most important parts of it.  I am learning to trust myself, to go with the flow of creativity and inspiration and not to let my Self be broken down by the critic in my head that tells me I’m not any good at anything.  I’m not fishing for anything when I say this, it is simply a statement of how things have felt for me for too long. So I’m going to talk about the stuff I’m doing and thinking about when I’m not elbow deep in fibre.  I hope you’ll stick with me on the journey, but I understand if that’s not your path to walk.

Of Butterflies, Sparkles and Unbounded Celebration

Sitting quietly in the sundrenched morning mist a butterfly fluttered by and I am touched.

Blessed am I to have known a sister so briefly and become deeply changed for the better.  A lady so grace full, so strong and thoroughly kind, brimming with humour and music.

In celebration of her time this time, I created a yarn that makes me think of her instantly, makes me smile and give thanks for our friendship.  A blend of wool and silk, both strong and warm with a little angelina sparkle to make it extra special.  Purple – naturally.

I hear her.  In my head.  Chiding my inner critic so gently but with absolute authority, so that when it pipes up to challenge my validity, my worth, it is unceremoniously silenced with a simple “Now Sweetie, you know that’s nonsense.”  And I smile.  She is with me, part of me, always.

There are times though that my heart aches, the cracks in my joy of knowing her widen and the tears flow.  Though tears are not what she wanted, they escape and I wish for her gentle hugs and unconditional support, for her touch and the sound of her laugh.

In celebration of her generosity, I have gifted some of this yarn to her Purple Circle, just some of the women she inspired with her creativity, passion and joy for crafting and life.

 

Losing the the mother who was not my Mother has been unbelieveably hard, and the ripples are still widening.  She took me into her home four years ago without expectation or question.  I love her son and that was enough.  I was enough.  I watched her slip away from us, fighting until the end that came sooner than anybody could have predicted.  I’ve retreated, cocooned from my life, both online and elsewhere.  I’ve knitted, cried, slept and done what I have to to keep my life ticking over.  But plans are afoot that I hope will benefit not just me but the wider community.  I am slowly emerging – adding back the things that I’ve let slide – and beginning again.  I want to return to my Holistic and Complementary Healthcare studies and services, providing comfort to those who need.  There are possibilities I could never have dreamed of on the horizon but they are secret and safe for now in their cocoon too, not quite ready to spread their wings and fly.

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Creating Space is your monthly permission slip to be creative with fibre for a whole day.  Yes folks, a whole day for you to make, create, do and most importantly, be.  You can bring those big jobs that drive your family nuts or bring your knitting and just sit and do it in a space where no one will nag you to do the housework or clean the car.  Mostly you get to have fun playing with your stash and getting inspired.  The other great thing is that you have people around you who are excited to share their knowledge, help you if you get stuck, or just lend an extra pair of hands.  You get to express yourself and your fibre-passions in a safe space, with other folk who love fibre just as much as you – how brilliant is that?

Who can come?

Little people can get involved too!

Absolutely anyone, that’s the beauty of Creating Space. From young folks to older folks, fibre novices, knitting beginners, yarn genius dyers, sewing machine whizzes and everyone between and beyond has a place.  Each session has a different flavour be it planned or organic, depending on who arrives and with what kit.  Every session has its own personality but it will always be friendly, welcoming and a great experience, whatever your level of skill.

 

Peg loom rug making.

What do you do there?

Well, the list is varied and growing but so far there has been knitting, crochet, spinning, dying, weaving, fibre sorting, drum carding and fibre preparation, sewing machine embroidery and surface embellishment and felting.  Whoo, this is a brilliant and not exhaustive list – how cool is that?

We also share snacks, cups of coffee and fibre related fun and companionship.  There is a great sense of fellowship, of shared experiences and crafting joy and more practically there is oodles of space for you to do those big jobs that at home you really just don’t have the space to spread out and do.

 

When and where does it happen?

Alpaca and silk on hand carders.

Creating space runs once a month on the second Saturday from 9-ish in the morning to 4-ish in the afternoon.  At the moment the sessions only run at Harston Village Hall in Harston, Cambridge.  We use one of the two biggest rooms in the building so there is plenty of space for folks to spread out and do exactly what they want to do and there are tables for people to sit and work at if that is what you need for your project.  Monthly email reminders happen to give you a gentle nudge if you’ve neglected your crafting self and we also have a group for Ravelry folk to join if they wish – joining is easy, just search the groups area for Creating Space.

 

A special Happy Birthday snack array.

How can I get involved?

Creating Space is open to all ages and skill levels so you can just turn up with whatever you need – sometimes that might be your spinning wheel and sometimes just curiosity.  You don’t have to come for the whole day, and you certainly don’t have to commit in advance, although it is helpful to know so if you do plan on coming and have the time, do try to drop us an email at creatingspace @ spindependence. com – Take out the spaces and you’re sorted.

 

Don’t worry if you’re a total beginner, there is someone who is willing to show you how to get stuck in with what you want to learn, and there might even be starter equipment there for you to have a go with.  We also try to feature recently finished projects, a stuff-swap and self made sale tables.

There is a small charge for the group – £3 – just to help cover some of the costs.  There is usually instant with caffine coffee and ‘ordinary’  tea for people to drink and often people bring cakes or snacks to share with the group.

Spinning fun!

Is there anything else we should know?

A proud moment and a beautiful skein of yarn.

One of our leaders is very allergic to angora from rabbits, so if you’re coming please leave angora filled projects and clothes at home.  We don’t like to have restrictions but it would be very sad if our leading lady was allergic to her own group!  Other than that we look forward to seeing you there.  If you would like any more information about Creating Space, please email creatingspace @ spindependence. com (make sure to take out the anti-spam spaces).

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Grey 'Mother of the Bride' Shawl

Well, quite a lot actually.  I took Secret Spinner to a wedding fair and was asked to make a shawl for a ‘Mother of the Bride’ outfit.  The lady in question was very happy with her finished shawl and I believe she looked a million dollars in it on the day.

I’ve also been busy with a Sekrit Project, which is only fitting I suppose – all will be revealed in due course but all I can tell you right now is that involves yummy scrummy luxury fibres and my Secret Spinner touch.

Dragon's Blood on its bobbin

I’ve finished a custom spinning project for a friend of mine who saw some fibre that was earmarked for the Etsy Shop and called dibs on the finished yarn before I’d even started it! Here’s the fibre on the bobbin, and in it’s finished state – the colours are a little off as I’m still getting aquainted with my new camera, and there are a few gremlins left in the matrix… or something.

Dragon's Blood in it's skein

I’m working on some new colourways for the shop at the moment and also on a project in celebration of the life of a dear friend who transitioned in January this year.  She was an amazingly talented artist, working with metal, fabric and anything else she could find.  She was an inspiration to everyone who knew her and in honour of that I have been working on a purple sparkly lace weight yarn that I can gift some of her friends with when we meet in to celebrate our friend in May.  I’m up to 978 meters so far, so about two thirds of the way there.  The first batch is drying in the airing cupboard as I type.

Purple Sparkles

The sneaky peak pictures are of this first batch and they are still a little damp from their bath, so it doesn’t look as plump as it will once they’re dry. The flash really makes the angelina sparkles that I added to this shine and there’s some silk in there too, so the finished article will be a little more subdued than the picture suggests – still, I wanted to post some WIP shots so here it is.

In other news, I’m going away for a week in May, and the shop will be closed from the 7th to the 14th.  My partner, his mum and I are all going for a well deserved break in Fuertaventura for the week.  Hopefully there will be sun, sea, spa and bar time for all of us, and gives us some time together without the stress and concerns of everyday living.  Unfortunately, it does mean that I will miss my monthly crafty outing  – a wonderful enabling day facilitated by a friend of mine.  Watch out for a whole post dedicated to this brilliant group ‘Creating Space’.  If you’re in the Cambridge area and free on the 14th of May, the group runs from 9am-ish to 4pm-ish and is a total bargain at £3.  Everyone is super friendly and will have you involved in something in no time at all.  It’s all happening at Harston Village Hall, so enjoy the fun, and tell me all about what I missed!

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for the unveiling of Chopped Tomatoes’ new blog.  The lovely Machelle came to stay this week and a wonderful time was had by all.  We talked yarn and fibre and movies and food… oh and we went on a outing to historic Granchester and had tea and ice cream at The Orchard tea garden, famously frequented by Rupert Brooke.  Machelle is going to be featuring Secret Spinner Yarns and I’m so excited!  Earlier this year Machelle gave Silver Screen a new home and it is now a truely decadent shawl.  Look out for the give-away portion of the article – you could be the lucky winner of some unique handspun yarn made by me – Yay for free stuff!

 

 

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