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Month: June 2018

Sapient Pearwood socks

Making all the things

I love seeing what other people are making with yarn and fibre. There are just so many talented people out there, making breathtaking items with delicious yarns. I don’t claim to be making anything breathtaking – in fact, my knitting is a catalogue of errors, featuring tinking, frogging, fudging and occasionally dramatic hand wringing and cries of “Why, my God, why?’

I don’t know about you, but for me, knitting seems to be something that I’m compelled to do. It knocks me down, but I get back up again. One of my first projects was a little cardigan for my then one-year old daughter. I remember throwing it to the floor and jumping on it, because I’d completed two whole rows of moss stitch on a circular needle in the wrong direction.  Always remember people, the working yarn is on the right. Still, I did pick up that jumper, and I did finish it. It’s still being worn by babies in Melbourne’s western suburbs to this day.

“So, what are you up to?” I hear you all clamour. Well….

Sapient Pearwood socks by Rachel Coopey

Sapient Pearwood socksWhat’s your record for unsuccessful cast ons? This project is definitely mine. I cast on 10 times before I got it right. I used Judy’s Magic Cast on for DPNS and forgot to knit through the back loop on the second two needles the first two times. Then there were a couple of times when I just lost the plot. Then I knit the toe increase and realised I’d done the wrong size because my gauge swatch was wrong because I knitted it continental style. I couldn’t manage that consistently when doing the increases so stuck to throwing. Result: gauge madness. Then there were two more times when I didn’t do the back loop thingy. Then some other stuff happened. I may have cried.

However, perseverance is my middle name, apparently. I will not let a project beat me. Now that I’ve actually got it cast on and going strong, I’m really enjoying it. The yarn is dyed beautifully by my friend Clare, one half of Mr B’s Yarns, in Mother of Pearl. It’s a superwash merino/nylon blend, and I love it. If you haven’t come across their yarns before, check them out. They are really gorgeous.

The pattern is simple but interesting. It features single stitch cables and intermittent twisted rib sections. I haven’t decided which heel I’m doing yet.

Linum Tee by Bristol Ivy

Linum tee in handspun yarn

I’ve actually knitted this whole tee before but had to frog it because it was too small. Don’t ask me what happened – I did a gauge swatch and everything!  It’s supposed to have quite a bit of positive ease, and I can never tell whether that’s factored into the size or not with patterns, so it might be that I just chose my actual size, rather than my size plus ease.  Sigh.

I finished it in early spring last year, put it on, considered losing a couple of stone, and then frogged the whole thing.  It’s taken until now to get to the point where I felt ready to do it all over again a size larger. I love this yarn. It’s hand spun by me from some Hilltop Cloud fibre in Romney, silk and linen. It’s light and pleasingly textured. I love its slight roughness on my skin – it’s not at all itchy or scratchy though.

The pattern itself is lovely. It features quite a lot of stocking stitch in the round, which is great for TV knitting or if you’re in the pub trying to have a conversation. I’m trying to become a continental knitter, because it seems so much faster, and so far this whole project has been knit continental style, so I’m quite pleased. The rib was done mostly with my tongue sticking out and some swearing, but it’s there, and it looks good.

Jessica Jones Cowl by SMINE

Jessica Jones CowlThis is a lovely, super simple cowl pattern in linen stitch, which is divine. It’s quite a flat stitch, and almost looks woven. It’s beautifully drapey and easy peasy to knit. I say that, but I’ve somehow gone astray a couple of rows down and stopped knitting alternate stitches. I’m going to have to tink it back, which is tiresome, but I’ll probably do it on Sunday when I’m at Frome Independent market, where I have to be on my stall all day.

I’m knitting this in Cat & Sparrow Oh-So-Fine! Lace in Rock Pool.  It’s a heavy lace in Bluefaced Leicester and silk. I love this yarn so much. It’s so smooth and silky, and it drapes really nicely.

I’m holding it double because the pattern calls for a sock yarn. It’s perfect, because even though I’m using lace weight yarn, I’m using 5mm needles and it’s growing pretty quickly. I don’t think it’ll take me long to undo my mistake, particularly as half the stitches are slipped on each row anyway. I just love how the colours are working together. That bronze is one of my favourite colours to dye at the moment. I’m yet to find something it doesn’t go with.

The project of which we shall not speak

We all have one of these, don’t we? Good. Move along. Nothing to see here.

On the wheel

Cat & Sparrow Fibre ClubI have only one spinning project on the go at the moment, which is very rare for me. It’s Cat & Sparrow’s Fibre Club instalment for May 2018, which was based on African wild dogs. It’s the most beautifully soft alpaca top from John Arbon. I dyed it a mix of deep wine red, rust and chocolate brown, and I love how it’s coming out.

I’m spinning it into a low-twist single, and I think I’ll weave it into something soft and snuggly. It will be a treat to wear – it’s like spinning a baby cloud (if clouds weren’t wet).

I’ll be doing a post every month about a previous fibre club. I always make one for myself as well, and I really enjoy spinning with them.  There won’t be any spoilers though! I’ll make sure everyone has time to receive the package and squish the contents first.


So, that’s it for me this month. I’ll post some pics of the projects as they grow.

Pip Pip!

Turkish Spindle Tips

Crikey! I’m on fire this week. I’ve been meaning to make a video for people who’d like a simple guide to getting started on a drop spindle, and specifically on a Turkish spindle. I’ve met loads of you at shows who have said you’d like something like this, but I’ve been afraid to step out of my comfort zone and actually get in front of the camera until now.  I enjoyed it so much I’m planning a series!  You’ll never get rid of me now, mwahahahahaaaaa.

If you’d like to see a few tips and tricks on how to spin your own leader to get started on a drop spindle, how to do a half hitch easily every time and tips for winding on to make a nice neat turtle, check me out below, and you can also subscribe to my new channel (I know, right? Hollywood beckons).

I’m the European distributor for Turtlemade spindles, which makes me happy, because I love them, and love sharing them with other people.  They’re so well balanced and light, and they come in fab colours. What’s more, they’re sustainable and biodegradable!  What’s not to love? You can find the spindles here.

Happy spinning!

Fibre in Focus – Seacell

I’ve been meaning to write blog posts about fibres I love to work with for absolutely ages, so I’m planning on this becoming a regular feature.  Hit me in the comments with any fibres you’re interested in that you’d like to know more about.

This week’s focus is Seacell, which is a pretty fabulous fibre in so many ways. It’s plant-based, sustainable, has low environmental impact, is soft, strong and absorbent (but not in a loo-paper type of way) and it’s completely biodegradable.

Production and Environmental Credentials

I could get into a very long-winded explanation of how Seacell is produced, but if you really want to know more about that in detail, you can go here. In short, Seacell fibre is a blend of wood-based cellulose and seaweed, specifically knotted wrack, which anyone in the UK will be familiar with from trips to the seaside. The wrack is harvested sustainably once every four years, which allows the wrack beds to regenerate. The drying and cutting process is natural and doesn’t involve any chemical additives.

The seaweed is then added as an active ingredient to wood cellulose and is processed using the Lyocell method, which works on a closed loop processing system. With Lyocell, this means that caustic soda, the usual solvent used to extract the cellulose, is replaced by a non-toxic organic compound called NMMO. The water in which the cellulose is processed can then be filtered and reused, reducing the amount of water used and eliminating toxic waste from the process. Even better, the wood used in the production of Lyocell is harvested from sustainable eucalyptus forests.

There are some health giving properties ascribed to Seacell that sound almost magical, and of which I am healthily sceptical, Manufacturers claim that because the health-giving minerals and vitamins found in seaweed transfer through our skin into our systems, we benefit from wearing Seacell in more ways than just our comfort. For more information on this controversy, go here and here. I’m remaining on the fence until more scientific evidence is available!

What’s it like to spin?

Some people compare Seacell to silk when it comes to spinning, but I don’t find them particularly similar. They are both beautifully lustrous, but Seacell is smooth and much more slippery, and its fibres are shorter than silk fibres tend to be – it has a staple length of around 3-5 inches. The fibres slide over each other easily and, like bamboo, it can be tricky to control the consistency of the yarn. I haven’t tried spinning it into single ply yarn but I have heard that Seacell singles can come apart quite easily thanks to its slippery qualities. That suggests to me that it needs a pretty high amount of twist, and probably does much better as a plied yarn as a result.

It does make an exceptionally smooth and drapey two ply yarn, which is lovely to handle and feels very soft to the touch. It lacks natural elasticity, so blending it with other fibres works really well, especially if you want to make something like socks with it.

Where can I get hold of this magical stuff?

Well, it’s funny you should ask that… One of the first ever blends I designed uses Seacell, and I love it. It’s a mix of alpaca, Seacell and silk, and it’s beautifully soft, fluffy and drapey while being warm, light and breathable. Alpaca takes dye in a soft and muted way, silk with brilliance and Seacell not at all, so it’s lovely to spin with in terms of depth and complexity of colour too.  You can find it here in some deliciously sumptuous colourways.

If you want to try Seacell in its unblended form, you can get it from World of Wool or Adelaide Walker.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little in depth look into one of my favourite fibres. Next up – Muga silk.

Zen Garden
Alpaca/Seacell/Silk – Zen Garden
Alpaca/Seacell/Silk – Orchid
Tequila Sunrise
Alpaca/Seacell/Silk – Tequila Sunrise