Wool Maker Lane

knitting, spinning and life with alpacas

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International Mitten Knitting Rule 1: Pay More Attention!

What a difference a millimetre makes

Do you find that one of your hands is bigger than the other?  Will a ring that fits on say the ring finger of one hand fail to fit on its equivalent finger on the other?  Yes I find that too.  By sheer good fortune my right hand is a tad bigger than my left basically because I am right handed.  And the reason that this is so fortunate is because I recently returned to Bristol and took up where I had left off a month previously knitting the second of a pair of beautifully soft, moss green mittens.  I had brought my pattern book with all of my notes with me so I was simply following these.  I proudly knitted up to the wonderful tips of the fingers and sewed up the side with pride.  Eventually I went to the drawer to find the matching mitten and what a shock I got when I found that, with the exception of the colour and the basic design, the latest mitten was way bigger than the original.  Yes I had neglected to pay attention to the needle size and instead of using 4mm needles I used 5mm.  It’s a simple mistake to make but I really must be more careful when I make notes as this was a serious omission.  These mittens were destined for the ‘Christmas Pressie’ Pile but now they shall adorn my own hands and I can have a giggle each time I look at them.


Sun, Cross and other design features

While I was away I got the chance to browse in lots of local charity shops.  There is a super charity bookshop nearby and I spied a book called ‘Sun and Cross’ (1984, Floris Books, Edinburgh) which is a history book written by a Swiss guy called Jakob Streit.  It chronicles the cultural changes in Ireland from pagan times to the arrival of Christianity.  What I suppose I found most interesting was the intermingling of the two cultures.  The book is full of splendid black and white photographs which depict lots of ancient stone  monuments with their spirals and lozenge designs.  The pictures then move onto the Celtic cross style of monuments and show how initially these pictorial pagan elements were incorporated into the carvings. Interestingly Ireland is now at a similar crossroads where, through immigration, many new religions are now being practised and there is also a strong movement towards secularism.     Socially it’s a very exciting time to be living here and it will be fascinating to see how our society will shift to accommodate and integrate new ways of thought and living.


New Skein

During my charity shop rambles I came across this gorgeous skein of petrol coloured wool. It had no label on but is incredibly similar to Donegal Tweed.  It only cost £2 so I shall leave it in Bristol and make a lovely hat during my next visit (paying close attention to the needle size of course!).  It is a tiny bit scratchy so I’ll see what it is like when it has been made up and washed but I may have to consider a lining if the hat is still coarse.




Lovely Albie’s eye is all better now for which I am extremely grateful.  I must say that I was extremely worried but he has made a super recovery and is now back to his tip top self.  It took about three weeks for his ulcer to heal altogether.

Spinning Wheel Fix Up

Last year I bought a second hand spinning wheel in Bristol.  It’s an Ashford Traditional model from New Zealand.  It required a lot of TLC.  I took the bobbins and the Lazy Kate from it and brought them to Ireland to use.  Having a lot of fleece in Ireland to spin I thought that it would be a good idea to get the Bristol wheel up and running so that I can do some spinning when I’m in England.  I sent off to a suppliers and got a new fly wheel, brake band, bobbins and a spring and my wonderful husband crafted a footman for it out of a length of wood.  Can you spot the additions?



I just can’t wait to use it.

Meanwhile I have been spinning the alpaca’s fleece for a friend in Sydney who wants to make a hat.  Here is a combination of Bert (2 plies) and Albie/Bootsy (1ply).  I loved carding and spinning the Albie/Bootsy combination.  It will be great to see the beanie when it’s finished.


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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.