Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I think it was back in January that I hatched the idea of crocheting some tiny, untidy nests in which to nestle easter eggs. They had to be untidy, as for years I have treasured a description of one species of bird's nest (one of the crovids, but can't remember if it is a magpie or raven/rook/crow). Anyway, the description read "like an untidy washerwoman's basket". Is it the washerwoman that is untidy, or her basket? Are the nests strewn with windblown knickers/sheets etc, or are there twigs slipping out and large holes in the side of the nest?

Cut to March and I've finally found time to execute my plan. Not only that, my lovely friend Wye Sue presented me with raffia and "washed and combed Blue Faced Leicester locks" (from a wonderfully-named firm: Moral Fibre) whilst we were at SkipNorth last weekend. But the final inspiration for the project came as I made my annual, ritual SkipNorth 'phone call: I always ring Dad as we pass through Huddersfield, not least because the coach sometimes drives (literally) over where my grandparents used to live. (The house was demolished for road widening in the late 60s). As I spoke to Dad I had a sudden memory of my grandad showing me a blackbrid's nest in the garden, then taking all the eggs out and teaching me how to blow an egg. Not the sort of thing I'd ever consider doing nowadays, but it was legal back in 1966.

Suddenly I knew that I just had to have some felted eggs in the nest. So, carding combs in hand, I blended together wool tops in three different shades and then asked Roger Prime (the tutor of the wonderful experimental textiles classes that I go on Thursday evenings) if he could think of a way of using the felt-ball making technique he'd shown us to make felt eggs. And he did!

For the nests themselves, I decided to eschew my usual technique of crocheting, then felting in the washing machine, not least because I wanted to incorporate materials (raffia, sheep's locks) that were unlikely to survive the washing machine. Instead, I decided to pinch a technique from Irish crochet: crocheting around a cord. I dived deep into the stash and emerged with some ancient extra-thick green yarn to use as the cord, and some chunky brown yarn to work over it

I then cut snippets of raffia and some of my sludge-coloured handspun and worked these and the locks into the nest as I crocheted. I also created "moss" using some of the bargain, 99p, Wendy Cosmic yarn that I found at Coldspring Mill last Saturday.

And here's the end result (with one nest shown empty, though I have 5 eggs for each):

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

lettuce and ladybirds

About this time last year, two interesting projects collided in my brain. First, Emily made a simple, but absolutely exquisite, brooch: a knitted leaf with a ladybird button stitched on. Then, when I heard Daina Taimina talking about hyperbolic geometry, she mentioned lettuce as a prime example of the supposedly "impossible" geometry that had been on mathematicians' plates all along...

And so the idea for "ladybirds on lettuce" was born. (And yes, it is just my basic sea anemone formula, what took the time was mixing a sufficiently lettuce-like dye!)

The buttons are by Injabulo, who supply fair trade imports from South Africa. I got mine in Norfolk Yarn in Norwich. The Cascade 220 that I dyed came from Wibbling Wools in Bury St Edmunds.

I've made them to sell (I can picture them filled with tiny, foil-wrapped Easter eggs), but may not be able to part with them (see previous note re Easter eggs). time will tell!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

production line

I've been so entranced by my newly-dyed yarns that almost every spare minute of the last week has been devoted to crocheting. I'll show you the fruits of my labours soon.

But first, please excuse me whilst I shout, dance sing and giggle with excitement. for yes, it is almost time for me to Skip North again. I'm off to Howarth on Friday for another bout of yarn shopping and cake eating in the company of fellow yarnaholics. As much of our time will be spent in t'mills, I've been reading The Blackpool Highflyer, one of Andrew Martin's books featuring Jim Stringer, Railway Detective. This one is set in and around Halifax and features engines, mills, anarchists and ventriloquists.

Back to the pots. First of all,and I'm afraid it is rather blurred, this is the pot that used the two-tone grey yarn that I overdyed. The frill is done in the plain yarn:

Next, this week's crop before being thrown into the washing machine...

And a glimpse of them drying in the airing cupboard

Of all the yarns I dyed last week, my favourite is the one used for the pot front right. It reminds me of the colours of violets nestled in moss. And my favourite pot combines this yarn (for the base) with the robin's egg blue yarn. You can see it in the "before" picture, bottom left.
You might have spotted that (most unusually) I've done a couple of pots where I've used the same colour for sides and trim. I've got a special plan for these...watch this space!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

marmite girtonoise

No, panic not, this is not a post about that yeasty spread that people either love or hate (though, for the record, I fall into the love camp).

Instead, this is where I reveal the fruits of last week's dyeing session. And what, you may well be asking, does that have to do with marmite?

Marmite happens to be the French for "cooking pot" and is an alternative name for my cauldron (aka steamer). I spent about 7 hours by the stove last Wednesday (during which time bad Mr Caught Knitting took great delight in telling assorted neighbours that "Rosie is dying, but don't worry, that's dyeing with a silent E"). In the end I produced 1.7kg of vividness.

It was deepest, darkest night when I put the last few skeins out on the line. You may also be able to spot the BIG mistake I made. Cascade comes in skeins, which is great, as they are ready to dye. But what I'd forgotten is that they are tied in only one place and, to survive all the saoking, painting, steaming etc, a skein really needs to be tied in at least 3 places. I've got some untangling fun ahead of me...

As ever, I seem to have ended up with far more green, turquoise, purple and pink-based colourways than intended and none of the dramatic reds I'd been intending to produce.
But I'm very happy with what I've got. I started crocheting with them yesterday and have produced 2 sea anemone pots (currently "cooking" in the washing machine. Here's the first one hot off the hook:

I love the plump felt that I get from Cascade 220).

Speaking of Cascade 220, on my latest trip to Wibbling Wools I was able to pick up some which was marled in 2 shades of grey and I used this, as well as the usual plain natural as a base.

I like the end result very much, though it isn't very obvious when crocheted up. (You'll have to take my word for this, as I've thrown the marled pot in the washer without snapping a "before" shot!)

I should have taken more care over this shot! The mottled grey yarn is on the right, the solid on the left.

Now I must go and sew brooch backs onto the latest batch of floral corsages. Or, to use another of Mr CK's dreadful puns: I'm off to Broochback Mounting...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Cases of mistaken identity and life turning full circle

As Mr Caught Knitting and I strolled through the grounds of King's College yesterday, I was rather surprised to see a tall, casually dressed young lady, with distinctive strawberry blonde tresses, walking out of a door. Surprised because I though it was Graham's daughter, who now lives in London. I thought maybe she was back in town to see her PhD supervisor, but he's at a different college. As we got closer I realised that my middle-aged eyesight had let me down again. This girl's hair was darker and curlier than Laura's. But once we'd passed the young woman in question, Graham nudged me in the ribs and whispered: "Did you see her? Did you see her?".

By this stage I was quite confused. Surely, if it had been Laura, father and daughter would have greeted each other? Of course not! It turns out that the person whom I'd mistaken for my stepdaughter was, in fact, supermodel (and Cambridge student) Lily Cole...

There was a further case of mistaken identity this afternoon, when I answered a lound knock at the door. There stood the window cleaner, who said "Oh, I didn't think it would be you, I was expecting your father." Again, I was somewhat confused, as Pa lives some 40 miles away. And then the penny dropped. Well, honestly, I know that Mr Caught Knitting is a good 19+ years older than me, but really! As Mr CK himself says, was the window cleaner trying to flatter me, or insult him? Hmm.

Meanwhile, on matters crafty, I'm suffering from major impatience. I hand-painted a large batch of yarn (17 x 100g skeins) on Wedenesday and they're still not dry. Having had a major run on my sea anemone pots (I've sold 14 in the last fortnight and the handpainted ones are currently outselling the ones in Twilleys Freedom Spirit) I'm eager to make more. I've also had one of those strange moments when you realise that something in your life has come round full circle. Last month I designed and crocheted a batch of berets, using Patons Shadow Tweed (which has some scrumptious colours). Last week I sold two of them via the local Country Market (the markets formerly known as WI Markets). Acouple of days later I had a vivid flashback to being 12 years old, in town, shopping with Dad. There on the Saturday Market Place was a new, and fascinating, stall full of homemade things. The lady on the stall explained that this was the "WI Market" and that they usually just had a stall on the Tuesday Market.I was utterly smitten and dug deep into my pocket money to buy myself some flapjack and a gorgeous crocheted beret!

Enough reminiscing, I'm off to work on a knitscape (I'll reveal more about those in a future post).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

'twas the pigeons what done it!

Yay! After weeks of ever-decreasing internet availbility, coupled with an increasingly crackly 'phone line, I'm back in the blogosphere.

We finally had the line sorted out today. Apparently various vital wires had been corroded by pigeon droppings.

The internet connection is still a bit "on again - off again" in the evenings (I suspect this has to do with the broadband supplier) but, really, who'd have thought that pigeon poo could cause such havoc?