Friday, 5 December 2008

Come to We Make Christmas tomorrow!

Come to We Make Christmas tomorrow on Tottenham Court Road to see these little guys and many more gifts made by talented UK crafters! Full details on

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Charity Prize Draw

A prize draw for charity has been started by a fellow blogger, Cherryred, to raise money for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. This draw is in memory of her mum, who sadly passed away in November.

Every £2 donated is worth one prize draw entry. Prizes include handspun yarn, stitch markers, and fibre.

Please visit her blog for full details:

Friday, 21 November 2008

Two weeks to the craft fair!

My yarn has been measured and the labels are made. My price list is set and a poster for it created. I've started packing my suitcase of stuff to bring with me to the fair, and figured out what types of baskets and other display items to bring - mostly, anyway.

All but two of the bigger stuffed animals are finished, and I still have some mini-sheep faces to make, but other than that all the knitted/crocheted items are done. I still have to put together the sock dyeing kits, though.

Once I get all the yarn labelled I'll take a photo!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Here's a photo of the finished roving, from the experiment a couple of days ago. I like it!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The promised Workshop photos

Shots from a weekend dyeing workshop at Handweaver's Studio - highly recommended.

The general activity hub:

Very colourful results in wool, hanging to dry:

Now we get messy - this was my favourite part!

Some results of experimentation:

Dry, labelled, and ready to be squished!

Monday, 17 November 2008

My new dyeing training

I spent the past weekend taking the two-day Dyeing workshop at Handweaver's Studio in East London. It was great fun and I'll be posting some photos in the next update - they're uploading right now.

While you're waiting, I can show you what I'm working on right now. During the workshop I wanted to know how I could use my existing equipment to make the dyed rovings that I love so much (and spend so much money on!) One reason I'd like to make my own dyed rovings is because sometimes, after I spin and wash a pre-dyed roving that I buy, the colour washes out. It's incredibly frustrating, and I figure that if I dyed my own rovings then either they wouldn't wash out or I'd have no one to blame but myself!

So - I measured out about 100g of Bluefaced Leicester roving, and put it in a soak of water with a touch of Ecover washing detergent. While it soaked, I prepared three dye stocks from my Kool-aid stash. In each of three canning jars I put two packs of Koolaid (5g each), 10g of white vinegar, 250ml boiling water and 250ml cold water. I chose Lemon Lime, Orange, and Black Cherry for my colours.

Once this was done I laid a strip of cling-film (saran wrap) in the tub - I chose the tub because when I did this in the class I got dye all over the place!) I picked up the roving from the soak and let the extra water drain away, then laid it out on the cling-film. Using a 10ml syringe (without a needle!) I placed dye on the roving like this:

Then I rolled up the cling-film, from one long edge to the other. This sealed all the dye inside. Afterward I rolled it from end to end, and put it in a heatproof baking bag:

Then I placed this package inside the crock pot, which had a few inches of water in it, and semi-sealed the bag with a plastic tie (I want the heat to build up but I don't want anything exploding!). It'll be in the crockpot on high for a few hours, then I'll cool it overnight and take it out in the morning.

Fun times!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Three weeks to the fair!

Less than a month before the We make London craft fair. I've got nearly all of my animals finished (still have to embroider a face on a glow-in-the-dark-sheep) and a large quantity of handspun yarn that needs to be measured and labelled, but a lot of the logistical details of preparing for a craft stall are finished. If you're coming along, be sure to try out my Dark Bag - a little patch of nighttime where you can see the glow in the dark animals working!

In other news, I am currently spinning up this lot, which you might remember from July:

It's Donegal wool, dyed with Koolaid. I've got a full bobbin so far and I'm trying to decide whether to ply it with glow in the dark or to ply it with itself, since I have so much of it. I think I'm leaning toward plying it with itself, and maybe I'll end up with enough yarn to make something bigger than a two-foot-tall teddy bear. I've been carding it on my drum carder which has been remarkably easy to do, a lot easier than when I was carding the Romney wool that I have. But I think I was trying to card too much Romney at a time.

This weekend I'm taking a Dyeing workshop at the Handweaver's Studio in London. I'll bring my camera!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The kindness of strangers

And a stranger's just a friend you haven't met!

Yesterday I received a gift of a Brother KH-710 knitting machine from a Londoner on Ravelry who unfortunately is moving out of the country. She wanted it to go to someone who would get use out of it. I am really grateful to her, because I've been intensely curious about knitting machines for a long time but had no idea where to start or what kind of investment would be needed.

Here's a photo of my first properly-cast-on project, the details of which I can't go into detail until after Christmas:

Shortly after taking this photo, unfortunately, I was merrily knitting along when disaster struck. I'm not sure how, but it appears that an entire row of stitches didn't take, and just left a string of yarn in *front* of the machine. When I started moving back the other way, the stitches promptly knitted onto thin air and the entire thing began to curl off the machine! I caught it about a third of the way across and eventually managed to restore order (triage with a lifeline and then painstaking work with various hooks and needles). Fortunately I was close enough to the end of the project that I was able to improvise and repair things. It was really weird though, and didn't happen until I was several hundred rows in!

You know what this machine really means though? I can try knitting up sock blanks for dyeing! I probably won't get to really go into that till after my craft fair, but I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, 19 October 2008


My pile of animals for the craft fair is growing...

Four bunnies, three sheep, two cats, one mouse, a bear in a jumper and a really big bear in the middle.

All of them are handknit, nearly all of them are from handspun yarn, and several of them are hand-dyed as well. The bunnies at top right and bottom left glow in the dark.

Some of these guys are available (or will be available) on my Etsy shops - links on the right. Anything that doesn't sell by the end of the craft fair will go up on the shops too.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

My sheep is famous.

A very nice person convo'd me on Etsy to tell me that my knitted sheep has been featured in someone's Treasury collection. Here's the link to the collection, which is called "Wanna Snuggle???":

How fun!

I'm still busily crafting away for the fair. I have about a dozen stuffed animals finished, not including the glow in the dark one that sold on Etsy last month.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Been busily crafting...

A month of silence...sorry about that! I've been spending every free minute spinning, knitting or crocheting for the craft fair. I haven't even had a chance to take photos of the animals I've been making. Hopefully this weekend.

Today I receive a batch of glow in the dark yarn from my supplier, as well as some extra spinning bobbins, so I'm all set for a weekend of making glow in the dark handspun! I've got a full bobbin of white Wensleydale Longwool ready to ply with the glowing stuff, which should make a white, fuzzy glowing plied yarn.

I'm about to send off my "freebies" too - promotional items to be placed in the We Make Christmas bags. On the day, visitors will be able to buy decorated tote bags filled with little handcrafted goodies from vendors. This week we're sending in samples that will be given to the media so they can advertise the fair. My freebies are crocheted star/flower keychains and tiny knitted sheep!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Upcoming craft fair!

I'm proud to announce the participation of Sheepshape Spinning in an upcoming London craft fair! We Make Christmas will be held on 6 December on Tottenham Court Road. See this blog for full details:

We Make London Blog

I'll be spending the next few months building up my stock - handspun yarn, handspun sock yarn, and knitted animals will be my primary items, but I'm also working on Christmas stockings. My very special item will be glow in the dark teddy bears! Made with handspun and glow in the dark yarn, like the cat I made earlier.

This is going to be a lot of work, but a lot of fun too!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Using up lots of yarn...and some glows!

This weekend I made a Fuzzy Mitten present for my husband, using some of the Freecycle yarn that I received a few weeks ago. Here he is!

Also, I finally finished my present to myself - a stuffed cat (again a Fuzzy Mitten pattern) using glow in the dark yarn that I spun myself! I really like it - though next time I will use a different pattern for the head, as I think it could have been better shaped around the muzzle:

I am hoping to make glow in the dark toys for my etsy shop but first I need to get more glow in the dark yarn.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Fuzzy Mitten patterns rock

I spent a very enjoyable weekend watching Star Trek on TV and knitting a polar bear. And a mini jumper.

This is one of a set of patterns by Barbara Prime, owner of Fuzzy Mitten. I really like her patterns. I am very much a newbie knitter but even I can manage them. I bought her book of patterns from, and these coupled with a huge lot of yarn that I received from Freecycle last week mean there are many little knitted animals in the Sheepshape future - though I need to learn to knit less tensely, I think. My bad elbow hurts a bit today, so I need to give it a rest for a little while..

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

More dyeing experiments

I dyed some more roving yesterday and would like to post a picture but my memory card adaptor and my computer seem to not be talking to each other at the moment. I'll have to try to get them off the camera using a different adaptor. Sorry!

I can at least describe what I did. I've been working with braided dyed rovings from HipKnits lately and wondered if I could make something similar. So I took a length of Romney roving and braided it to itself (the remembered skills of my seven-year-old self do come in handy sometimes!). I then soaked it in water while I prepared the dye baths.

I decided to dye the roving three colours, in sections. I mentally divided the roving braid in half and folded it over so that the centre of each half would stick down into a jar. I then prepared Berry Blue and Orange Kool-aid in two different canning jars. I put the folded fibre into the jar, leaving the ends and centre of the whole braid out. I let these cook on medium for a few hours, and then pulled them out and rinsed them.

Then I prepped a third jar with red (well, it was leftover red, I don't know which mix it was) and put the still-white centre of the braid into the red. I left that for a few hours as well.

This morning everything had cooled. I rinsed the braid, unbraided it and left it to dry. It looked really cool, and I took a picture to show you, but unfortunately I can't get it off the camera at the moment. I need to find my other card reader...

Edited - OK, I've gotten the photo sorted out now:

Saturday, 19 July 2008

New camera = new pictures!

I've gotten a new digital camera (Casio EX-Z1080, on sale at Jessops) and that will help me get photos taken and uploaded more quickly.

So here are some new photos!

The first is some of that Donegal wool that I mentioned in my last post. I took some of it and dyed it with blue and red Kool-aid, both colours at once in a slow cooker. I really liked how it's turned out but I can't decide the best way to prepare it for spinning - carding or combing. Suggestions?

The second pic is a collection of some of the handspun I've done in the last few months.

The two green ones are from a large Ebay lot of wool and they turned out surprisingly nicely, but I don't know for certain what type of wool they are. I will probably make a stuffed animal from them, as there seems to be enough of it for that.

The brown at the top is the first skein of my most current spinning project. It's Shetland Moorit. One single was prepared roving and the other (lumpier) single is from wool that I washed and carded myself. I have a whole bobbin full of the single from the roving, but am balking at carding more of the's been very difficult.

The two multicolour skeins (well, one is a ball) are from home dyeing projects with Koolaid earlier this year.

The blue skein is some of the dyed roving I bought at Wonderwool Wales this year. It's very soft and is from the same seller as the pink yarn that is currently in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Back from my sheepy holiday

I just got back from Ireland last night, and most of my checked baggage was wool! I really wish I had been able to take all the wool that was offered to me - it was amazing how it kept turning up.

I got some carded and coloured wool from Studio Donegal in Kilcar, which wasn't too expensive, and I got to go into their back rooms to pick out whatever I wanted from their stock. They literally upended big black bags of roving onto the floor for me to pick and choose from!

I also got a white and brown alpaca fleece from a friend of a friend who has an alpaca farm in Kilcar - once she found out I was a spinner she brought over a huge bag of wool.

AND one of the farmers in Glencolumbkille gave several fleeces to another spinner who was visiting, and once she had chosen her fill she offered them to me! It was painful to leave behind three or four nearly complete fleeces but I got as much as I could manage into my bag.

I also learned some Aran knitting stitches while there and am making a scarf from some locally produced donegal tweed yarn but I had to take it off the needles for the flight home, so that's on hold until I get it back on again.

Finally, a friend from the states brought me a bunch of Berry Blue Koolaid, so I am restocked for blue yarn dyeing!

And that's just the crafty side of the holiday! My Irish language skills are polished up again, and I need to work harder at keeping them from tarnishing this time....might have to update my Gaeilge blog!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Temporarily out of the country

I'm off to Ireland on Saturday! It'll be my second trip and my first one as a fibrecrafter, so I'm looking forward to seeing what fibre goodies I can discover. Back after the first week of July and I promise I will get more photos up of recent craft activities!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Same dye + different fibres = different colours

This skein is pretty interesting. I spun it in a workshop at Wonderwool Wales where we used a variety of materials - wool, alpaca, silk, cotton, and I think a few more I can’t remember. Once back home I navajo-plied it on itself and dyed it in a slow cooker with one pack of Lemon-Lime Koolaid. The different materials took the dye differently - one material even turned tan instead of green!

Unfortunately, other than the silk (the darkest colour), I am having trouble identifying the different materials. I think we may even have used two different types of silk (I do remember the word ‘tussah’), because some seems to have taken quite a lot of green while another has stayed pure white.

Has anyone else done something similar?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Mmm, grapes!

My house smelled like Grape Koolaid for much of Saturday. Having recently taken possession of a large number of Grape packets I decided to put some to use and find out what sort of purple would emerge. Turns out that a very nice purple emerges!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Knitting with handspun

So far I've found that I have trouble actually *using* my handspun, because I don't make enough of it for standard sized projects. I tried looking in those "one skein" books, but since I'm not really into hats, handbags and other fashion accessories I didn't care for most of the patterns in them.

But recently I purchased the online book "Fuzzy Knits" from and discovered that they are the perfect size to use up little bits of yarn. There's a free lamb pattern on her site if you want to give it a try - I did, and here's the result. I proudly introduce my first non-rectangle, non-sock and non-workshop knitted project!

The darker yarn is a navajo-plied Zwartble fleece and the lighter one is from a merino pencil roving that I got from Handweaver's Studio in east London. Now I have to work out how to make one of those miniature jumpers from the book...or maybe I'll just stick with the scarf.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Decreasing the stash

Stashing is fun - I'm the first to admit it. But when I can bring home four folding plastic storage boxes from Wilkinson's and fill them all with fibre within minutes of arriving home, I can't help but think that I need to do more spinning and less stashing. Granted, this was after Wonderwool and a marathon of fleece-washing, but still...

To that end, I tackled some of my Wonderwool stash this weekend - two of the pink dyed fibre braids from the "Sunday haul" photo in my previous post. They were from and one of the sellers is "hipknitskerrie" on Ravelry. (I need to remember to contact them and ask what kind of wool this is!) They spun up really quickly, I was actually rather surprised - so I can conclude that 1) hipknitskerrie sells good stash and 2) my skills must be improving! I was very careful not to overtwist the ply this time too, which made for slow plying but a better result.

The yarn is actually still a bit wet in the photo - it's hung up to dry all day but I wanted to get the photo done before the light faded. Pink isn't really my thing so I imagine it'll go onto Etsy once it's dry and measured.

I learned a few things from spinning this one, which is a two ply of as-yet-unknown length or wpi:

* I shouldn't spin while listening to music unless the music has the same beat throughout all the tracks. Instead I kept a particular tv advert in my head this time which has a good beat to it and that really made it a lot easier to spin consistently. (If you're curious, it's the one with the girl singing "beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep go the horns on the cars in the street..." It wouldn't get out of my head, so I put it to work.) *Plying* to music, though, didn't seem to be a problem since I kept stopping to check the twist anyway.

* Predrafting is pretty essential for me, and I should keep doing it, especially with fibre that has been stored in a braid.

* It's worth putting a bit more twist than you think you need into the singles when you're making them - I didn't have any problems with it breaking while I was plying, which normally happens at least once per bobbin.

I ended up - as usual - having more of one single than the other, so I've got a bit of leftover pink. I may end up taking all of these leftovers and making a completely wild skein - I could call it Technicolour Dreamcoat or something. What do you do with your leftover singles after plying?

I'm still not quite to the point where I will be able to spin my own sock yarn, but I think I'm getting there...

Monday, 28 April 2008

Back from Wonderwool Wales!

What a fantastic show! We just got back a few hours ago. There were massive amounts of fibre, yarn, dyes, equipment, etc etc. I was there from about 10 AM to 4 PM both days and still feel like I may have missed seeing something. I also took three workshops, which were great fun. But new stash!

On Saturday I got:

* an Inkle loom and a loom book
* 250g oatmeal Bluefaced Leicester tops
* two 100g packs of Sockstuff fibre from a fellow Raveller
* a Tunisian crochet hook and two booklets about using it
* A free Spinning door sign from a fellow Raveller, and a sock needle holder from the same person
* Alpaca gloves
* cashmere blend fingerless gloves with a sheep on the back! Wish they hadn’t run out of the fingered ones, I’d have bought both!
* A drum carder cleaner from Hedgehog Equipment
* A mini pompom maker
* 100g washed Teeswater wool (I hear it's hard to wash!)
* an embroidered sheep badge (I collect badges…got a Wales one too)
* 200g of Superwash white merino fibre and 100g spot dyed merino from the same seller
* A wooden needle holder for my sock knitting kit
* a great little “Know your sheep” book

AND - my wonderful husband bought me two presents while I was in the show! One was a painting of Rainbow sheep that I had admired in a shop window on Friday night, and the other was a sheep cushion for my spinning chair. He's so great!

Sunday was my bulk fibre day. I got:

* 12oz of unwashed Poll Dorset
* 7oz of midbrown Alpaca, unwashed, but not dirty looking
* a whole Shetland Moorit fleece, unwashed
* a large “crossbred” sheep fleece, unwashed
* 100g Llama fibre
* 200g Gotland fibre
* about 80g purple dyed continuous fibre, I think it was Shetland, from a fellow Raveller. It was the purchase that was “meant to be” on Sunday morning!
* 2 bags of “stuff your own” dyed fibre
* a whole (small) tabletop of dyed/braided fibre! It’s the first time I ever got to say “How much for everything on that table?” heehee

And I meant to get two braids of dyed fibre from Fyberspates, but when I went to buy it I had an unfortunate moment where I thought I had lost all of my money! Took me a while to recover from the shock and I didn’t get a chance to return and get it. I hope someone else did!

The workshops that I took were really fun. Two were for spinning (one each day) and one, on Sunday, was needle felting. I felted three things in the two hour class - a landscape of a sheep pasture, and two 3-D sheep! They are in the photo above.

Monday, 21 April 2008

The handdyed roving has been spun!

This weekend I finished spinning and plying the two skeins from my roving-dying project. Here's a photo of each bobbin, before plying:

You may remember that one roving got a lot more dye than the other one. The first roving, with less dye, is the bottom one in that picture.

Here's the plied skein:

As a reminder, this is Romney wool dyed with three colours of Kool-Aid in a slow cooker. Each of the two rovings weighed about 50g before dyeing. I haven't taken measurements on this yarn yet but I will try to add them in later.

I think I'll call this skein "Salt Water Taffy"'s got that interesting mix of muted colours that I associate with those strange sweets.

This coming weekend will be exciting - it's Wonderwool Wales time!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008



It's like dandruff, only sheep-scented.

Unfortunately one of the dark coloured fleeces I bought recently seems to have it. It shows up as little white specks near the base of each lock, apparently - this is according to a description in one of the online spinning groups I belong to. It's caused by mites on the sheep, I think. It doesn't wash out very easily, and the general consensus on the spinning group was that you can never get all of it out, and combing will get the most out of all preparation methods.

However, all is not lost. I've contacted the farmer and she was very apologetic, and offered to send me a new fleece! She says she will check this one over double-thoroughly to make sure there are no problems and that she will also have a word with their shearer. I'm going to send samples of the afflicted fleece (in lock, batt, and yarn forms) to show her what I found. I think it's entirely a case of something being accidentally overlooked and I am very pleased with the response of the seller. Which is why I am not identifying the breed or the farmer!

So the moral of the story is, if you think you have a flaky sheep fleece, contact the seller and enquire about it. Chances are they will welcome the opportunity to put things right. Farmers want to keep spinners happy, after all!

As for the scurfy fleece, I'm going to put it aside until I get some wool combs, then try combing each lock to see if I can get the bits to fall out. If that fails I can always use the wool as stuffing!

Friday, 11 April 2008

"Squishy" as an adjective for yarn

I've often seen the word "squishy" used to describe yarn, usually in the context of someone saying "It's just so squishy!" about a particular skein or type of yarn. I never really understood what it meant until recently.

I finished spinning this yarn last weekend:

It's a three ply - a gray Jacob Z twist, a green unknown wool Z twist, and a dark pink Merino S twist. They were plied together with an S twist. I figured this would be OK because the grey had been a bit overspun and the pink very loosely spun.

It worked. I ended up with a 115 yard, 110 gram skein measuring about 8.5 wpi. And after washing it, when I took it down from the shower rail where it had dried, one word popped into my head.


It was just the right word to use. It isn't a hard yarn (some of my very first ones definitely were!) and it compresses in your hands but springs back instantly when you let go. It's fluffy but not fuzzy. This is my only true three-ply to date (excluding Navajo ply, which uses only one single) and it makes me squishiness related to the number of plies? Or did I just get lucky with the amount of twist in each single. Was it mixing singles of Z and S twist? Would it have come out the same if I hadn't (seriously) overtwisted the grey single?

I have no idea. But I'm very much looking forward to experimenting to find out! I still have more green and pink singles, I just have to spin up a third single. I could do more grey....but do you have any recommendations for a good colour to go with the other two?

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Full results of roving dyeing

The second roving has finished drying, and I really like how all this has come out! It'll probably be a few weeks before I can get around to spinning it...the projects appear to be backing up quickly (darn this day job!) and I'm sure to come back from Wonderwool Wales later this month with even more to work on! I also have to learn how to thoroughly clean my drum carder, or I'll end up with bits of brown Zwartble wool in my nice white-and-homedyed mixes.

Here's a shot of both rovings on the radiator. The earlier one is the rolled up one.

Experimenting with roving dyeing

(Originally posted on my old blog on Tuesday 8 April 2008)

I got some undyed Romney roving in my bulk purchase, so I measured out about 50 grams of it to try spot dyeing in the crock pot. I'm not sure I've done it right, but we'll find out in a little while. I think maybe I should have put more water in, and more dye too.

This is the roving soaking, with the prepared dye close to hand. I used Orange Koolaid, Strawberry Mixade, and Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade Koolaid. (one packet, one tbsp vinegar and 6 oz water per jar, but I may change these ratios.)

Here's the roving in the pot with dye on it. I was afraid to put too much dye in because I was envisioning the whole bottom of the roving turning murky brown.

I think it probably would have been better if I had put more water in the crockpot, up to the top of the roving, and then squirted in the dye. As it was the dye seemed to be dripping down through the roving to the water underneath...

OK, some time has now passed and I've retrieved the roving. It doesn't look too bad, though there are some bits that have next to no colour and some that have a bit too much. Here it is in the salad spinner and then on the radiator:

Not bad. I'm starting another one, with substantially more dye this time:

I think I'll try spinning singles from each and plying them together - that should even out any saturation problems - and see what happens.

Moving House

I've just been made aware that the site I previously had my blog on, , won't let people leave comments if they are not members of the site.

I hate that.

So I'm moving things over to here, because a friend of mine uses this site and I know non-members can leave comments.