Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas

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Autumn is coming

Autumn is certainly upon us even if the BBC weatherman announced this morning that it doesn’t officially start for another two days.  The weather has definitely turned chillier and the nights are now drawing in.  Last night it was dark at about 9.15 p.m.  The word for autumn in Irish is fómhar (pronounced fo-war) which means gather or harvest.  The farmers have been busy bringing in the hay but as there is very little arable land around here there aren’t many other signs of autumn yet.


Yesterday I bought two large bales of peat briquettes to start the fire going.

During my podcast fest in Bristol, I was watching Rosehip Knits where Hannah suggested a Dye a long.  This was like music to my ears.  I have always wanted to try my hand at dyeing wool and really just needed a ‘push’ to go ahead with it.  The dye a long  is open to all sorts of dyeing during the month of September and naturally I thought that there would be tonnes of blackberries on the bushes and I would have the end of Bert’s white fleece knocking around..what a great excuse to get myself some gorgeous purple wool.  I have hit a few stumbling blocks however but nothing that can’t be overcome.  I have been doing lots of homework courtesy of Shades of Lynx blog, Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour website and Wildcolours.co.uk.  I decided that I needed some alum.  I have been asking around locally in the wool shop in town and at chemists for it but it seems to be very hard to get in these parts without having to order it in the U.K.  I will keep trying though.   When I mentioned in the wool shop that I wanted it to dye wool with blackberries the lady gave me a grin and exclaimed, “Ooh that’s an awful waste of blackberries!”  And she might have a point.  However I went down to the field this afternoon and I don’t even know if the blackberries would be ready by the end of September, which is the dye a long cut off date.


If I get no further I shall try another tack but I’ll give it another week to see about the alum and the berries.  I think that elderberries may be ripe in the next couple of weeks so that’s another possibility.

Liam’s hat

My friend mentioned to me the other day that her little baby doesn’t yet have a hat and naturally what could I do but offer to make him one and I was only delighted to.

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I used Katia Merino Aran Plus which is 52% wool and 48% acrylic.  It is incredibly soft to touch and the colours are so cheery for a little one.  I needed just under 50g which means that I have enough yarn to knit another one.  I didn’t use a pattern.  I knew the circumference of Liam’s head so I cast on sufficient stitches and the garment just evolved.  I love it.  Hopefully it will keep him warm and cosy as the weather cools down.

Pointy topped mitts

Thanks to the strict rules of the U.K. Airport Authority I left my green mitt knitting back in Bristol for me to get on with on my next trip over.


I managed to complete one during my time there and finish the rib of the next one so that I can fire away as soon as I arrive next.  I experimented with the pointy top, as can be found on Eastern European type mitts, but I’m on the fence about this one really.  I may be too rooted in my own “round top mitt tradition” to embrace change.  Whatever the top they are beautifully soft and will keep somebody snuggly warm this Christmas … and beyond.



The boys’ fleeces are starting to get a little longer and now that the weather is turning I have bought some haylage for them to eat along with their nuts.  They did a great job keeping the grass down all summer.

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Back in ‘Bris’

I am back in Bristol for a few days just to end off the summer before buckling down to some serious projects at work next week.  It’s great to have a bolt hole to come to in the centre of the city.  In Ireland we live in a fairly remote place and so it is  a treat to be in a place which has shops at the end of the road whenever we run short of anything.

One thing that I did run short of this week was knitting.  I was in such a rush to get to the airport at 4 a.m. that I didn’t so much as forget, but I didn’t have time to carefully take the stitches from my latest project off the needles and place them onto a piece of wool to bring with me.  The security at Dublin Airport is so strict that the needles would have been confiscated so it was all left behind me.  This, of course, was a marvellous excuse to start a new project once I arrived (following a few hours of sleep).


Close to where we stay in Bristol is a wonderful craft shop called ‘Creativity.’  Here I managed to buy some lovely wool called Ramsdale by Wendy.  It’s a double knit which means that I have to use smaller needles than usual and also I have had to jiggle the numbers where the stitches are concerned but that’s all part of the fun.  It’s what I would call a ‘flat’ yarn in that it doesn’t have much spring or elasticity but it is very soft and is a beautiful natural fern green colour.  It reminds me a little of the type of wool that you can get from Donegal Studio.  I didn’t have any needles smaller than 5mm so I toddled around the corner to the charity shop.  When I inquired about knitting needles I was presented with an enormous box full of hundreds of needles of any size that I could have possibly wanted.  I just pulled out the 4mm and went happily on my way to cast on.  I’ve decided to get as far as I possibly can with these mitts and just leave them here, unfinished, until I return so that I don’t have these panics when I have a dash for the airport.

The following day I dropped into the friendly charity shop again as the chap behind the counter said that he would dig out some knitting books for me which were in the basement.  True to his word there were plenty to keep me busy.  I bought a couple but it’s very difficult to come across books that aren’t geared for a beginner.  The one which I really do love is ‘Knitting over the edge’ by Nicky Epstein.  It has 350 decorative border designs and I find many of them really insightful.


This book is definitely coming back to Ireland with me so that I can experiment with some edges on my next mitten project.

Another find in my favourite local charity shop was a Nordic Jumper.  Wow.  I love Norway and have had the pleasure of being there a couple of times and I have seen these jumpers in shops there but never managed to get one.  Anyway I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this brand new, never worn, jumper, complete with buckles, for £3.99.  There was no hesitation.  I just had to have it.  It will get plenty of use when the weather turns.


This afternoon I took a dander over to the Clifton Suspension Bridge which was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 19th Century.  He was only five foot tall and so he always wore a top hat to make himself appear taller.  The bridge spans the Avon Gorge and is Bristol’s most iconic building albeit an extremely functional one.



Bristol is also famous for its Georgian and Victorian architecture.  As a port Bristol city centre was heavily bombed during WWII but the area around Clifton seemed to be spared.  Many of the large houses are now split up into apartments.


The other great thing about being in Bristol is that I have access to decent wifi.  At home I am lucky if I can send an e mail but while I’m here I don’t know myself with the constant connectivity.  I have had the pleasure of being able to listen to lots of podcasts from knitters around the globe.  One, I must say, that I really enjoy is by Andre Sue who is based in the U.S.  I love the way that she shares so much information about both spinning and knitting and how she focuses on techniques.  It’s so good to be able to learn from her experiences while at times identify with them.  Her podcast can be found on YouTube. Sometimes knitting or spinning can feel like quite a solitary activity but with the internet you can really feel that you belong to a much broader community…although geographically speaking quite a large one.

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Work in progress


This has been one of those weeks when it has been hard to focus on any one particular activity which means that while I have been busily chipping away at projects nothing has actually been completed which is a bit of a shame but as long as I keep working away progress is being made.

I am still beavering away on Bert’s fleece, which is still as beautiful as ever and will be bound for a knitter in France very shortly.


I have been working away on these Solidago Socks which have been designed by Mary Jane Mucklestone.  They are really beautiful but I have to pay such close attention for a number of reasons

a: this is the first pair of socks that I have knitted on four needles

b: I am fairly new to intarsia although I am really enjoying the challenge.

In making these socks I have learned quite a lot about myself; mainly that I am not a good pattern follower and I like to go ‘off piste’ when I think that I can get away with it.  I did come a cropper while doing some of the shaping as I realised that there was a difference between some of the American knitting terminology and U.K./ Irish knitting terms.  But I got over that and as you can see I am plodding on in an effort to make a pair soon.


Back to mittens: now I’m in my comfort zone.  I have been making another pair of mitts with a family tree design on the front.  The wool is by Tivoli and the colour really is my favourite.  The second one is on the needles and I am getting through it quite quickly which really is the joy of working with aran weight yarn.

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Treating Bootsy’s ‘war wound’

Bootsy has a wound which always shows up in the same place (on his left shoulder) about a week after being shorn.  This year is no exception and ordinarily such a small thing would be no big deal to treat on an ordinary alpaca…but Bootsy is the anxious and highly strung sort who won’t let you anywhere near him.  Last year there we had tremendous fun and games trying to get an iodine solution onto the cut but it was impossible so the last resort, which works a treat, is to feed him in the pen and get out the water pistol filled with a solution of salt and water and fire it at the wound from a distance.


Essential kit for treating Bootsy’s wound – feed


– water pistol filled with a saline solution (€2 from the local €2 Shop)

11822268_1637326073219407_5309323362797513765_n-Bootsy in the ‘pen.’

I must say that the wound has healed very well and it didn’t really require treatment today but it was done to be on the safe side (ar eagla na heagla).