Handspun Alpaca Polar Bear Chullo

I'm so chuffed with this hat, it's my second colourwork project. I'm still not a big fan of stranded work but I'm slowly warming to it. Warming being the operative word because with the floats at the back the fabric is almost double-thickness. Very cosy. Plus the earflap design (slightly oversize I have to admit) engulfs my massive head. It's unusual for me to have a hat that fits, let alone generously.

This project started with a request to take part in the Appleton Back to Back Challenge (please support if you're able, it'll be a fun event for a very good cause)

Worried about making a fool of myself when it came to the spinning, I asked for a sample of the fibre for practice. John, the owner of the alpacas sent me a very generous amount in three beautiful and complimentary shades; jet black, mid and dark brown (I'm sure that in the alpaca world these colours have official names - I'll have to ask).

The spinning went far better than I'd hoped and produced far more yarn than I'd expected.

Alpaca doesn't contain lanolin, so even straight off the animal it feels very clean. It's tempting to simply spin the locks without washing. However, the locks contain a surprising amount of dirt which (even after carding, during which much dropped out) turned into dust, went up my nose and covered my wheel and the room generally. In future I'll try washing before carding. Unfortunately that won't be an option at the Challenge because the beast will be clipped and we'll have to start work right away.

While spinning I was searching for suitable patterns. The gorgeous colours obviously ask to be used in a colourwork project, and I had enough for a hat and thought that an alpaca pattern would be perfect. After much searching I spotted the polar bear chullo and fell in love! The link between alpacas and polars eludes me but that incongruity amuses me. (I had to spin some white from white locks that I had already.)

Mary Jane slippers

This is the first time I've knitted with multiple strands and I love it! It makes a quick and very chunky knit and I also love the way that it blends the colours.

This is some yarn I made during Spinzilla. It's been waiting for the right project.
I used some similar fibre for this cowl. In that case I navajo-plied to keep the colours together and went for a striped finish. This time I wanted to mix the colours up, but even with 2-ply there are blue areas and pink areas (and other colours too this time).

Knitting six strands was easy - I made three centre-pull balls and pulled from the outside and inside of each.

Taking many strands at once really blended the colours together. You get a 'heathered' look close up and a more blended look from a distance:

The pattern is Leethal Mary Janes. They're not dangerous - that's just a play on the designer's name, but you may want to add some Sock Stop to be on the safe side. I found the pattern while compiling the forthcoming Hand Spinning News and fell in love with it. It was so perfect for this yarn, I had no choice but to drop everything and cast on!

A productive year

2014 has without doubt been my most productive year ever. Below are nine finished projects.

Not all are made using handspun yarn but most are, including the two cardies, both using Glacial from Ruth Garcia-Alcantud. One uses fleece washed, dyed, carded and spun by me, the other uses luxury fibre artisan-dyed by Picperfic, one of my favourite indie dyers. Weaving and crochet make an appearance but knitting with handspun yarn is clearly my favourite craft.

More info about these projects is in my notebook on Ravelry

p2tog for iPhone

The p2tog.com shop is now available as an iOS app (iOS7 and higher). It's currently available for iPhone and the iPad version will follow shortly.

For a limited time, orders received via this iPhone app will have free postage and include a project bag and other goodies.

Silly Shark Sock

My friend Ruth is a great sport - she hinted that she’d like this for Silly Sock Day (in aid of Autism) - having lost a leg makes this an even more wicked joke!

It’s a real shame I couldn’t get hold of a copy of the best shark sock pattern, Shark Sock Week, this is the best of the alternatives that I could find at the time.

I’ve not done much crochet so this was a nice challenge for me (and the reason that the tail is untidy and gets neater closer to the front!)

I absolutely love it and think mine looks better than the pattern (tips - use a blue/grey for the body, embroider small eyes and sew some blood-red yarn around the teeth) 

Ravelry project here

Roisin Wrist/Ankle Warmers from Yarn Works by W J Johnson

Yarn Works is a new book subtitled How to Spin, Dye and Knit Your Own Yarn. It's aimed at knitters who are interested in spinning and dyeing.

I received the book for review and decided that the best way would be to work one of the projects.

The book is organised into 4 main sections; Fibre workshop, Spinning workshop, Dyeing workshop and Knitting workshop. This meant that for working one of the projects meant referring back to various earlier pages for details of mordanting, using the cochineal and spinning. I was also a little confused by quantities; I found a contradiction re quantity of dyestuff needed and the quantity of fibre / yarn given in the project is far more than actually needed to make the item. This last point isn't a problem at all, the yarn is beautiful and I have enough left over now to make a bigger project.

The project I chose is simple, spinning alpaca appealed to me and I've not used cochineal before (if you find the idea of using the actual bugs a bit grizzly then there are powder or liquid options). The pattern is just 16 stitches knit until long enough but a garter edge, a cable pattern and buttonholes make it interesting.

Cochineal gives alpaca a lovely dusky rose colour. The fibre I used is a bit pricey but it's beautiful to work with. I went with the quantity of cochineal given in the Dye workshop section, a remarkably small pile of bugs. The dye wasn't quite exhausted after a prolonged simmer, so they really do seem to contain a lot of colour.

Beware - alpaca is very easy to felt, so handle carefully when dyeing, rinsing and drying.

The book suggested carding locks and spinning from rolags. This is the only instruction I didn't follow to the letter. I spun my prepared roving woollen by spinning from the fold. After navajo-plying the yarn is very soft and nice and even.

The warmers were a very quick knit, each one a single sitting, or maybe even both in a single sitting if you knit quickly or can sit for longer than me. My buttons are from Helen Dixon.

There's a large appendices section at the end. Some of this information is detailed information on topics such as fibre blending, determining WPI and twist count, troubleshooting your wheel, the colour wheel and mixing dyes. This would all seem to fit well in the relevant chapters, but I assume that this more advanced information has been separated out to keep the workshops uncomplicated for those trying the techniques for the first time. There's an appendix about making various tools on the cheap if you're on a budget. There's also a wealth of reference information such as weights & measures and knitting abbreviations.

More of my pictures from this project are here on Flickr

Knitting Kate Davies' Sheep Carousel Tea Cosy with multi-coloured sheep

The Ravelympics is really about personal challenge (no unfair disqualifications here) and so it seemed appropriate to use a project which includes some new-to-me techniques.

Kate Davies' pattern uses two colours. I bought a plait of natural-colour masham wool at Wonderwool last year to make this teapot. It seemed appropriate to make the sheep multi-colours, and I'm very pleased with the result.

This was a challenge because if knit in the round as per the pattern, then there would be 4 colours in some rows. I hate floats and ends and so used intarsia (still a lot of work to weave in ends!) That means knitting two sides and joining them rather than knitting it in the round.

It was a little bit of a cheat to buy the teapot after making the cosy. It's a little bit tight but I'm hoping it'll give a little when it's washed and blocked.

Pattern here

Ravelry project here