Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas

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Summery Projects

Infinite Cables

It’s been a busy summer with LOTS of events going on so knitterly projects have been attended to in fits and starts.  I started to swatch a cable and found that I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t stop…


It is still on the needles and I am trying to decide whether to simply sew the ends together and turn it into a headband for the winter or to pick up the stitches on one side of the band and to make it into a hat.  No doubt I will make a choice when the bad weather comes in.

Hata Shéamuis


This is Hata Shéamuis (pronounced Hata Hamish).  It comes under my ‘auto pilot’ knitting category.  I spent a long time in a waiting room recently and had the forethought to bring a couple of balls of wool and some needles with me.  The bulk of the hat was knitted at this time and by the end of my visit I had managed to get up to the decreases. Two different types of wool were used.  The darker one, which looks almost blue in this picture but is actually an emerald green, is Donegal Tweed and the multicoloured yarn is from Katia.  The hat was knitted on a 5 mm circular needle.


Albie’s Eye Alert


Poor old Albs got another eye infection.  I went to the local vet and was given two bottles of eye ointments…to be administered an hour apart.  Now anybody who knows alpacas will understand that you might be able to fool them once with a bit of extra grub to get them into a pen, allowing the squeezing of eye drops to take place, but there is no way that they’re going to fall for that trick 60 minutes later.  With this knowledge I decided to leave Albs in the pen while I had a spot of lunch…..Forty five minutes later I returned to an empty pen.  Albs had crushed the sheep wire and had leapt over it.  I could spy him at the bottom of the back field but I knew that no more medical intervention was going to take place that afternoon.  Miraculously the following day the eye had all cleared up.  This was amazing and quite a relief as the vet had said that if he didn’t recover he would have to go to UCD in Dublin  All is well thankfully and the eye problem was less serious than I’d expected.

Peg Weaving


Last Sunday my mother and I had the joy of going a long to the Irish Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers’ meeting in The Constant Knitter in Francis Street in Dublin.  Here we met lots of interesting women with their various wheels, spindles and table looms.  It was a wonderful opportunity to share both experiences and information about yarn and fabric- making issues in a really relaxed and supportive environment.  As we were the only people who’d arrived sans projet we were introduced to peg weaving and were really taken with it.  Merely the idea of looping a warp to the bottom of small sticks seems remarkable to me and it was just such an easy way of making a braid or a belt.  It would also be a great way of introducing children to weaving.


Private Spinning Fest


Earlier in the summer I arrived in Bristol with LOTS of fleece with the expectation that I would have it spun up and ready to knit.  What I hadn’t banked on was leaving all of the bobbins in Ireland and as a consequence no spinning occurred.  This gave me the opportunity when I returned to Ireland to card even more fleece which, given the beautiful weather we had, was no hardship.  Last week I returned to Bristol, laden with plenty of Bootsy’s gorgeous carded fleece and plenty of bobbins.  14022183_314004035611903_2940642724327335998_n

This is my current project…and given the rainy conditions outside there’s no better place to be other than in the lounge chatting and spinning.  Perfect!




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Meet The Midwife’s Bunny….


There has been a lot of interest recently in the BBC series ‘Call the Midwife.’  It’s a drama about a group of midwives working in London in the late 1950’s and early 60’s.  This has produced a certain amount of interest in the knitting and crochet world as a result of the beautiful infant clothes and baby blankets that are often shown on the screen.   Rebecca, from Littlemonkeyscrochet.com was so taken with the handiwork on display that she has written a crochet pattern for one of the blankets which she calls ‘The Midwife Blanket.’

I have my own tale to tell about the work of the London midwife during the 1960’s.  The other day as I was going through a box of belongings I pulled out ‘Bunny.’  This little fella was knitted for me by the midwife who delivered me nearly fifty years ago.  How wonderful is that?  It just goes to show how these amazing nurses really went (and still go) the extra mile for their patients.

It has been knit in a basic garter stitch  using white and blue wool, blue being used to imply clothing, and finished off with embroidered facial features and buttons.  Bunny was stuffed with either nylons or stockings.  I’m not sure which but there is a little piece poking out of the back of its left arm.


I feel so lucky to still have this toy which was given to me by a most important person and it is such a privilege to be able to share this story with you all.


Minty Humbug is off to Germany!


This week I managed to complete Minty Humbug which I was delighted with but also a bit sad about as I had enjoyed knitting it so much.  Anybody who has knitted for children knows that the sooner you finish your project the better because if you’re not careful the child will have already outgrown the garment – especially at the baby stage.

To get good measurements to help me to project the child’s size in a few months I consulted the Craft Yarn Council website where I found the industry standard sizes ( http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/ ).  The amount of detail was superb and assisted me greatly when I was working out stitches and gauge.   My notes for this jumper were rather rudimentary to say the least and for a lot of the project I just worked by eye as I went along.

For the yarn I used a combination of Albie’s brown fleece and natural Aran wool.   I had spun Albie’s fleece into a 2 ply yarn during my last trip to Bristol (I seem to do so much more spinning when I’m away!).  The Aran came from Blarney Woollen Mills and was left over from my Barley Twist pullover.  The two colours worked really well beside each other.  13600120_292968394382134_2152869494523988849_n

I used a combination of straight and circular 4.5mm and 5 mm needles for the ribbing and the body on the front and back.   Circular needles used for the collar and DPNs for the sleeves.  For ease of getting the jumper on and off I made a tab with buttons on the right shoulder.  I had considered  going to Dublin to buy the buttons as I thought that there would be plenty of choice but decided to nip into my local wool shop where I was delighted to find gorgeous rustic buttons that suited the jumper perfectly.

And now the Minty Humbug is all ready to be wrapped up and sent over to its beautiful new owner.



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Those needles ROCK!

KNit drummer

I really wish that I had taken this photo but it is a clue to the punch line of a story that I am about to tell you.  Yesterday I visited our local €2 Shop in Navan for nothing more than a browse when I came across these massive wooden needles on a shelf in the back of the store.  They were size 20 mm and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them to start experimenting.  I brought them up to the young male cashier who looked puzzled when I handed them to him.  ‘I didn’t know we sold drum sticks!’ he declared.  When I told him that they were meant to be knitting needles we both began laughing.  It was a lovely exchange.


Meanwhile, back at home, I decided to give my new ‘drumsticks’ a go with some super thick wool that I recently bought for another project.  I couldn’t believe it; fifteen stitches and you have enough width for a scarf.  Utterly wonderful..not to mention how fast the knitting grows.  Obviously there are slight drawbacks e.g. the weight of the needles for a start, and the fact that my index finger isn’t capable of flicking the wool around the needle with as much ease, or for that matter, with any ease as my whole right hand has to leave the needle to complete the stitch.  All that said, I am really enjoying using them and simply having a go.  I don’t know that I will go much further than the picture shows as this wool is ‘earmarked’ but I won’t rule out the odd scarf being produced as Christmastime approaches.


Minty Humbug


I’ve started Minty Humbug, a new pullover for a little person in Berlin.  It is being made with handspun yarn from Albie’s fleece and Aran wool from Bunratty Woollen Mills.  So far it has been knit on a circular needle up to the arm holes and then straight needles were used to work the upper front and back.  The collar and one and a half sleeves have also been produced since this picture was taken so it is very close to finishing which will be great.

Rain prevents shearing


Albie and Bootsy desperately need to be shorn however the weather has been so wet recently that there hasn’t been an opportunity to do this.  It’s really crucial that their fleeces are cut soon as the later that it is left the colder it will be for them come the winter time as there won’t have been enough time for it to grow back so I’m hoping for some good weather this week and a shearer who has time for a visit.




Intercultural Cables

On a recent trip to the UK I was fortunate enough to buy a mesmerising book by Elsebeth Lavold called Viking Patterns for Knitting.


In her research Lavold studied the interwoven artwork found on old Viking artefacts in Scandinavia and England.   She translated these patterns into knitted designs and  incorporated them into beautiful garments many of which, I am sure, will stand the tests of time.

Down through history there is evidence of many cultures, Arabic, Indian, Roman etc., using interlacing cables in their art work.  The Celtic knotwork that we are so familiar with today most likely arises from the ornate illustrations, produced by monks during the 8th Century, such as those found in the gospels like The Book of Kells.  Soon after this period the Vikings arrived in Ireland.  Lavold acknowledges the similarities between Celtic knotwork and designs created during the Viking era explaining that while Vikings came into contact with many cultures, rather than copy new designs that they would come across, they would incorporate new aspects of design into their own.

Much of the book is devoted to charts and illustrated swatches of the cable work that she came across.  She also explains a method that she devised of picking up additional stitches to keep the design true to the original.  I couldn’t wait to have a try:


Lavold’s chart was really easy to follow.  The swatch begins and ends with angles which is new to me.  The inspiration for this ‘lattice’ work came from a gravestone in Hellvi, Gotland, in Sweden.





Introducing The Barley Twist


Today my sweater, The Barley Twist, is ready for presentation and I have to say that I am extremely pleased with it.  I wanted to knit a jumper using aran wool that gave a nod to aran design without being overcome with a pattern that was so dense with stitches that it was too heavy to wear.  It’s a very simple shape with a roll neck, cuffs and base.  The cable design, which goes up the front side,  meets the same cable from the back of the jumper at the shoulder.  I had been tempted to put a smaller cable up one of the sleeves but I’m glad now that I didn’t.


I used Blarney Woollen Mills Aran Handknitting Wool which I bought in Bunratty last November.  It’s a beautiful shade of creamy white and as a wool it is very strong.  On a scale of softness from one to ten I would give it a six.   The jumper was knitted on 5. 5mm needles so I do expect it to keep its shape and hopefully it won’t pill so easily as can happen with softer wools and looser knits.

I thought that I would have this jumper completed quickly but as I was knitting from scratch I had to be meticulous with measurements and numbers so it took a lot longer than anticipated.  Luckily I’ve kept good notes so that if I wanted to make another it would be a much swifter affair.   Alongside this creation other events requiring a quickly knitted hat or baby cardy kept coming up and so the inevitable diversions occurred.

I chose the name Barley Twist because the colour of the wool resembles growing barley and, of course, the twist part refers to the cables.

I’m really looking forward to wearing it on a cool evening.



Bootsy admiring my finished jumper.  


Dublin 7 Yarn bombed!


I have always been ambivalent about the concept of ‘yarn bombing.’  Part of me was concerned about the use of yarn to cover an object that, functionally, doesn’t really require it.  Yesterday, however, my mind was changed.  I found myself driving in Phibsborough in North Dublin which is a very old Victorian part of the city full of red brick houses.  During the day it is usually a bottle neck full of stationary traffic.  To a driver Phibsborough just means a boring traffic jam.  NO LONGER THOUGH. People suffering at traffic lights merely need to take a glance at the pavements for a visual treat:


(Bohs is the abbreviation for the local soccer team ‘Bohemians.’  )

At the moment I find myself driving almost daily through this part of the city and I have to admit that my mind has so changed about using yarn to decorate a place and to bring joy  to the people in an area.  I don’t quite know the background to the community of people who created this but I am so glad that they did.   I now look forward to the traffic lights going red so that I can enjoy these pieces of pavement art.  A big thank you to all involved.