Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas


Ho Ho Ho

Wow what a busy and industrious time of year this is.  I can sit back and say that now having come through the madness of the run up to Christmas and the actual day itself.   A great time of year to eat, drink and think…

The Aran Special

About a month ago I purchased a large amount of Aran wool from the Blarney Woollen Mills and I have been experimenting with it on and off since I got it.  The best experiment was this hat: 1935660_1683698675248813_7157555390564601111_n

I interspersed moss stitch with a family tree design which I tried to keep going as long as possible by only decreasing at either end of the moss stitch panels.  This actually worked really well and allowed the hat to taper in nicely with a lovely dome shape while reducing the number of branches slightly on the final trees at the top.  I felt that it still needed a little something more so I plaited six strands of wool and added a tassel to give the hat a bit of extra style.


Knitting the hat was tremendous fun but when considering the transfer of these stitches to a pullover I must say that I hesitate with the family tree design.  As I knitted the hat on a circular needle (yippee I actually managed it) it was easy to see the design work in front of me all of the time and therefore not make any mistakes but if I use two needles for a jumper I would need my wits about me on the wrong side rows.

This has led me to what I call doodling with wool.  Over much of the Christmas period I have been just playing around with needles and wool trying out stitches, ripping out, and further experimenting.  It’s all very interesting stuff while watching little of substance on the telly and waiting for the rain to stop.


I have also been studying images and patterns of your typical Aran jumper which is extremely busy with designs and I’m veering away from the pattern overload in favour of something more simple.  Still working it out …will get there ..eventually.



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Into the darkness…

Heading towards the shortest day

Near where we live in County Meath there is a massive Neolithic passage tomb called Newgrange. It was built over 5000 years ago and is older than either Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza. Each year on the mornings around the time of the winter solstice the rising sun shines through a roofbox and illuminates the passageway and the centre of the tomb. It is quite spectacular. The tomb is quite small inside and there is a lottery each year so that members of the public can have the chance to witness this incredible event.


Newgrange / Brú na Bóinne

The lack of daylight at this time of year affects all of us. I dislike going to work in the dark and also coming home in it. It means that I don’t get to see the alpacas at all other than at the weekends. When I feed them it is with a torch in my hand which is a shame but I look forward to the days getting longer in the new year. The lack of sunlight this time of the year can also have an effect on the alpacas’ health so we have to give them a vitamin supplement. Usually this would be administered by shooting it into the back of their mouth with a large syringe but when we originally tried this it was spat straight back at us. Now we just mix a tiny bit into their food everyday and they seem quite content with this arrangement although it does have to be stirred in thoroughly or they will leave it. It is vitally important for them though to keep healthy over the winter period.


Bootsy awaits his daily rations

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Deliberations over Albie’s wool



I have been busy trying to find the time to spin some of Albie’s fleece this week. I must say it was so dirty. He really has been such a boldie this summer…rolling around in the gravel trying to keep cool while we waited patiently for the shearer to come. As I watch his wool drying over the fire I wonder to myself whether I should incorporate it into my jumper that I am planning to work on over the Christmas. My main concern would be that although Albie’s wool is three ply it would not be the same thickness as the Aran wool that I would be working with (yes I know I should go to my Craftsy Class and go back over the numbers!). Also being handspun the thickness isn’t quite as uniform throughout but that’s part of its charm.

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The Bramble Beauty

My lovely cousin sent me a book on dyeing for my birthday and would you credit it it is the same as Jenny Dean book, Wild Color, that I already have. I have to say that I was delighted to get it as it means that I can bring it to England when I go and leave it there as it will give me the opportunity to dye whilst I am over. It is much cheaper to get undyed wool in the UK but I will need to be on the look out for dye stuff. I have spun a skein of Bert’s second best fleece and I am considering what to dye it with. The days are very short here at the moment which curtails my foraging activities in the garden and the woods. I am wondering whether I should go with onions or ivy. There are plenty of ivy leaves around but I just don’t know how long it would take me to gather a sufficient amount for a dye bath. I do get very excited thinking about the possibilities though I must say.

The wool that I did manage to dye successfully with blackberries I made into a hat which I have called the ‘Bramble Beauty.’ I love to wear it and I’ve received a number of compliments which multiply once I explain the process of achieving the colours.


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The Numbers Game

Garment Design Course

In an effort to make a garment that really fits me properly I decided to sign up to a Craftsy Class called ‘Handknit Garment Design.’  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I’ve bought what I hope is a sufficient amount of aran wool to make a jumper and would like to make a good go of it during the Christmas break…or at least get past the ribbing section.  In the past when I have knitted jumpers without a pattern they have followed a very rudimentary design; square for the back and front, two rectangles for the sleeves and a slash neck.  This formula always worked well in earlier years however I would really like to make a better go of it this time.  I’m slightly older now and while I certainly don’t have more time on my hands I’m not in such a rush to get things finished as I would have been before.   I want to enjoy the process as well as to learn from it.


I have learned a lot so far from the Craftsy Class.  The instructor is Shirley Paden.  She is extremely thorough and seems, like me, to have a love of maths as numbers have featured a lot in the lessons so far.  One of the early topics deals with how to take measurements.  I have to say I just kept watching in utter amazement as the realisation dawned on me that there is so much more to this knit a jumper business than I had previously accounted for.   Paden goes to great lengths visually to explain the importance of pattern flow in shaping especially when stitching changes alter the gauge.  One aspect that I have found extremely useful is how to work out the amount of yarn required for the project prior to starting.  Hopefully by the end of the course I shall know whether I need to go back to the wool shop or not.