Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas

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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.

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Spring projects

New Toy


I’ve been lucky enough to have some time off work and this means that I can get on with projects and indulge in podcast and periscope watching.  One of the benefits of all of this viewing is being able to learn from different knitters’ perspectives and experiences from all over the world.  One lovely and quite simple object that I have learned about from AlpakkaAnna in Sweden is a nostepenne.  This is a stick type of object which is used to wind wool from a skein into a ball.  On her periscope video she demonstrated for us how she used her one.  Now my collection of textile paraphernalia does not run to swifts and ball winders, for the simple reason that there is nowhere to put such items, but I knew that something small like this would do the job perfectly and not take up oodles of space.  It needs to be noted that improvisation can be employed here.  I did have a go at using an old chair leg….but the hole in the centre of the ball of wool was too big (and I won’t mention wood worm).  I tried the wooden spoon, which worked pretty well only I feared that the wool may end up wafting of curry and so I went to the effort of buying a nostepenne online.  Oh it’s lovely.  And it creates the most beautiful balls of wool and when I am working I can pull the strand of yarn out from the centre of the ball so that it does not end up leaping all over the place.


Sleeves a – growing


My jumper is coming along now which is so delightful.  Both the back and the front are now complete and it’s a really exciting part because it means that I can truly imagine what it is now going to look like…and I can’t wait.  I need to be patient though while the sleeves are underway.  I have been doing a lot of tweaking where the sleeves are concerned.  The sleeve in the picture above has been a while in the making as it has taken me three goes so far.  The numbers just didn’t seem to be right as the sleeve seemed to be getting way to wide too quickly so twice I went back to the drawing board and now I am finally happy.  I just need to keep ploughing away and get the first one finished so that I can feel that I am on the home stretch.

Continental knitting


One of the chatter threads running through the podcast/periscope community is about the style of knitting that people do.  I’ve always known that there are a number of knitting styles but I wasn’t aware that they had a geographical basis, although now with YouTube tutorials I doubt that this is now the case.  I knit English style and the reason for this is because my mother, who taught me, knits English style and no doubt my granny, who taught her, knitted the same way.  It’s a generational thing.  It does mean that I am a slow knitter.  This is why I was amazed to see videos of continental knitters flying through their stitches with very little effort.  My immediate thoughts were “I must have a go at that.” So above is my first attempt.    For me there was a lot more action in the wrists and the tension was very tight.  I’m sure that that this could be ironed out with practice.  I think that if I were to knit colour work it would definitely be worth considering a style alteration but for the moment I’ll continue as I am.

Flirty Bertie off the needles


Whilst I was in the UK I managed to complete my cousin’s Christmas present (sorry Karen if I was a continental knitter you would have had it on time!).  I loved knitting this hat.  As you can see it is quite simply a 1 x 1 rib at the bottom with four rows of colour work using Bert’s white wool and Albie’ brown wool. After knitting 7 inches in total I then divided the total number of stitches by 8 and started decreasing.  All of the fleece was taken from the saddle area so the hat is extremely soft and I have been informed that it is lovely to wear. I’ve called the hat after Bert as he sadly passed away and so this will be one of the last items made from his fleece.

A visitor upsets the alpacas’ routine


Recently my father’s dog, Flash, has come to stay with us and the alpacas are not very happy about it.  Bootsy charged at Flash yesterday morning but Flash just stood his ground staring up at him while Boots managed to put on his brakes!  In an effort to keep the animals separate I have erected a fence keeping the alpacas out of the garden.  This morning I noticed that they found a gap in the fence and they were merrily chomping the lawn for breakfast…They are so hilarious.