Spinning and not doing what you’re told.


If you’ve spun for years you will be very familiar with spinning thinly as the go to method when you want to zone out, watch TV or generally spin without thinking.  And although everyone will say this to you as a beginner, once you reach the Holy Grail of fine yarn it is very difficult to go back to spinning a thicker yarn consistently.

It can be easy to get stuck in a spinning rut.  We find our comfort zone, our favourite fibre, drafting technique, wheel and we just stay right there.  We’re not alone in this regard.  How often have you seen on the Great British Bake Off, Sewing Bee, X Factor, people who are excellent at one area of their craft only to fail miserably when asked to bake bread instead of cake, sew on silk or sing a song which is wildly outside their comfort zone.

This is the reason why I dither over whether to attempt the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Certificate of Achievement.  Participants are tasked with preparing, carding and spinning various breeds fleeces, creating a portfolio of examples which show your creativity and detailed records.  This would certainly push any spinner out of their comfort zone with an organised plan and a deadline to meet – although there is plenty of time to accomplish the whole thing.  It’s that commitment that holds me back.  I can’t be sure I would see it through.

So with that in mind, I bought Jill Moreno’s book Yarnitecture – A Knitters Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want.  It’s a fantastic book and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.  She goes through the building of a yarn as an architect would a house, creating it from the ground up, helping you to think outside your little comfort zone and get the best out of your spinning.

So I was inspired to try something new and began with Drafting against Type.  I decided to take some top and spin it woollen and see what happened.  Woollen spinning has always been a mystery to me and having been told that you cannot spin woollen if it’s top ( and even if you could it wouldn’t be right) I didn’t really attempt it.  Why didn’t I?  Well Jill said you can and so I did.


It’s not perfect by any means but I very much enjoyed spinning with a different technique.  It’s strange because when I’ve attempted spinning woollen before I’ve given up because 1) people told me it was hard 2) because I tend to spin with top and people told me it wasn’t possible or worth it.

What a lesson learned.  I need to not take everything people tell me as gospel and also be careful what I say to other spinners, I could be putting them off techniques that they will love.




This is the top spun woollen and I hope you can see it’s slightly fuzzy, with the fibres showing more.  This would produce a lofty yarn, with air trapped within the fibres making it a warmer garment once knit.


This is the top spun worsted, you can see the stitch definition is clear and there aren’t as many fibres floating around.  The resulting knit would be more compact.

So I’m going to push my boundaries a little and see what happens. Its gone well so far.




Learning  to knit

My mum, Jean who teaches the spinning workshops with me has been knitting she was a child and has designed with both commercial and handspun yarn. She was keen to attend Sarah Hatton’s Pattern making workshop at Black Sheep wools and so I  happily went along. Black Sheep workshops are always a treat – they’re quality through and through and you get lunch and cake included. Seriously – what is not to like.

My background is in embroidery, I learnt to spin initially to create my own textured yarns for large canvas embroidery.  Add to matters that I have problems with my fingers and knitting has not been top of my to do list.  I can knit and purl, turn out an easy project but it takes me a long, long time. As my Nan says, I knit like a child.

I’ve loved creating my latest hand dyed yarns, the colours and the lovley soft merino that I want to knit myself and I want to knit like a woman!

Ruby Port and two skeins of Jessamy 4 ply merino Superwash 

I started the Knit Me scarf by Louise Zass Bangham, an easy knit in this yarn, the Green Zinnia and I’m loving it but it was growing so slowly.

So someone suggested to me to try continental knitting where you use the left hand rather than the right hand to wrap your yarn around the needle. I so wish I’d discovered this years ago. I’m sure it would have made all the difference to me.

For the knit stitch, insert the needle as you would for English knitting but take the wool in the left hand, wrap it around the needle and then take the needle to the right hand side of the yarn and hook the yarn through.  It’s a similar action to crochet and I find it so much easier.  Now the purl stitch isn’t necessarily the easiest but with a bit of practise I’m sure it’ll come right. At the moment though I’m dropping stitches and making mistakes like nobody’s business. 

My word- my photos are so large! I really must work it all out!

If you want to take a look at some Continental Knitting videos, You Tube is great and this one in particular has been a great help to me

You tube Continental Knitting

If you have a go, let me know how you get on.

New Niddy Noddies

I posted some time back about Jim who is the genius behind the Niddy Noddies that I stock, I won’t go into lots of details but that again only to say that his attention to detail is perhaps even more now than before.  Nothing, nothing I tell you goes unchecked.

He stopped making for a little while as he was redoing his kitchen and rightly so domestic matters came first but now he is back on top form and I collected nine new designs just yesterday.

There is so much thought behind how these are made.  Here’s just a little insight into what Jim thinks about before setting to work.

1) The distribution of weight.  So the handles are thick – that’s where the weight is so that when you move your arm back and forth it won’t ache as quickly.  If you look at other Niddy Noddies, they are top and bottom heavy.  That will impact on your arm

2) The middle is thick enough so your nails won’t dig into your palm.

3). The top is tapered so the wool can slide off but also slanted for a smooth slide.

4) The is a little bit of decoration or interest on each one but never where your hand will go and no grooves so dust or grime won’t get in there and on your wool.

5) The top and bottom of the Niddy Noddy can be removed but will fit back snuggly but not overly tight.  The wood is smoothed into a clockwise direction so it slides easily.

6) They’re very light so that if you’re winding laceweight your arm won’t get tired as quickly.

They are wonderful, I have one of Jims Niddy Noddies and I also have a leading manufacturers which I take and let my students compare the weight of, there’s no comparison, Jims win every time.

So my Niddy Noddies might be a little bit more expensive than others but your certainly get what you pay for. I hope you love yours as much as I do


Indie Dye Day

I spent Saturday with Sheena and Phil playing with dyes and yarn – a perfect day in my book. Sometimes dyeing win a stranger can be a little intimidating so I have lots of cheaper mini skeins of yarn just for experimenting on.

Not that Sheena and Phil were holding back and it was fascinating for me to watch them work. They very much wanted to create their own shades and so I was able to shad with them my favourite blog that explains how to recreate your smaller dye shades on larger quantities of yarn

It’s a wonderful comprehensive blog post that will help anyone starting off. We know we should keep notes of all our dye shades but look at this thing! It’s fabulous.

It helps to have an assistants itch an A level in chemistry as Phil has if you’re going to be working professionally but beautiful yarn and fibre can be created by experimenting with colour. A little bit of knowledge of the colour wheel helps but often gut feeling towards colours are a great start. Sheena said she learnt a lot about herself in terms of the colours she thought she would love when actually her favourites were more neutral shades

Colour mixing

Dyed Bluefaced Leicester skeins

Dyed Bluefaced Leicester fibre using immersion dyeing

So there are more Indie Dye Days planned for next year, there’s more information and gift vouchers (!) available on Crafts Courses if you’d like to join me. You know I don’t need an excuse to spend the day playing with colour and eating cake!


Spin & Dye Weekend

This past weekend was really exciting for me, I joined with Justine from The Wild Dyery to create a workshop where we would teach spinning on day one and then go on the following day to dye the handspun skeins with natural dyes.

We met in Saturday morning, Rosie, Gill, Fiona, Jean and Anne.

We spent Saturday learning how to spin, a skill that I’m sure anyone who has attempted takes a little while to master.  Often it will be compare to patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but you know there’s way more to it than that.

Then there is a eureka moment when the penny drops, the hands catch up with the brain and calm begins to reign.

So we ended up with various lengths and gauges of yarn. When you first learn to spin, you want to spin so thinly and you hate those slubs and bumps. And then later on, you wish you could still produce those bumps when you want to create some fancy art yarn.

On the Sunday the ladies started off with an introduction to natural dyeing and how different mordants (which are the elements used to fix the dyes)  will affect the colours.

The colours they produced in their yarns were soft and subtle, something that can be difficult to produce using acid dyes. I hope the ladies had a great time, they certainly worked hard enough!

Embroidered Butterfly Buttons

We decided to have a taster day at Knit Wise, one of the places I hold Spinning Workshops. The idea was to give anyone who wanted a chance to try a new craft. We held 45 minute mini classes in spinning, weaving, felting, Tunisian crochet, knitting and finally button making.

So I remembered my embroidered butterfly from years ago and decided to do some little versions to cover the buttons

I embroidered a small butterfly as a sample piece to show what could be achieved. As it happens, I cut it slightly too small for,the button so it couldn’t be used, which was a shame because I really liked it!

So my first buttons seemed to go fine and then disaster, I lost them. They’re in my house but who knows where. I’ve searched every place I can think of and I’m starting to think I might have thrown them away by accident. All that hard work.

Sorry about these enormous photos!

So I started again and here are the new butterflies, all ready for Christine Cummins Ceramics Open Studio on the 19th June. I love making them, it’s been so much fun. Off now to do some Ladybirds!

Artisans in the Palmhouse

I’m at the Artisans in the Palmhouse event at Sefton Park, Liverpool this Friday evening and all day Saturday, 27th and 28th November. 

Craft Fairs and Events are part and parcel of working for yourself. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to meet other stall holders to network and connect with. It’s also a chance to check that your work is up to standard, that the quality of your presentation is top notch and also fire ideas off each other.

I adore attending artisan fairs, the buzz, the creativity and the food!! I love being a vendor at artisan fairs. If its a fair that you respect and that you have to apply for and you get in, well that is a great confidence booster, you know you’re doing something right.

Nearer the day it can be hectic, traumatic and nerve wracking while everything is prepared. It can be difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the amount of boxes to be ticked – and most of the stall holders will have other work as well 

So this post from the Design Trust on getting organised was incredibly helpful

There is a huge amount of advice for those who feel like there is a small woman hitting top c in their head for the week before a fair- it’s great and exactly what you need so that you’re not only prepared but relaxed and can even have some fun.

We’re going to have some kits for sale, hand dyed fibre and yarn and new for this fair, hand dyed hand spun tapestry threads. And of course I’ll be spinning- all day! ( What a treat) So please, if you’re able to get there it’s always nice to see familiar faces. 

And if you needed one final reason to pop over -Liverpool Gin Company are going to be there!

See you next time

Lydia Flower Pattern

When we first started out spinning and writing patterns and kits – nearly seven years ago now, one of the first to appear on Knit on the Net, the online knitting magazine fun by Susan Crawford was this one, the Lydia Flower.

The pattern ended up on my ravelry page as a free download and it was really popular – downloaded hundreds of times and we received lots of lovely comments of thanks from fellow ravelry friends.

But then someone got in touch and I realised I’d made an error in the writing. It was a tiny error, the missing of an asterisk but it would have thrown a new knitter and I felt so bad that I removed it.

Anyway, the lovely Frances from weavingwillow.blogspot.ca left a comment asking for it, so here it is all correct and no mistakes.  I really hope you enjoy knitting it Frances and anyone else who fancies having a go, it’s very easy (even I can knit it!)

  So get knitting and stick your flowers on hats, wear them as brooches, place them on your slippers! If you do, please send me a photo and let me see them.


Catching Up

I know, I know, it’s been a very long time. Here’s what’s been going on.

I’ve been taking an embroidery course at Knit Wise in Ormskirk.  It’s gone very well.  Embroidery was my first love and the reason that I started to spin in the first place.  I started as many people do with across Stitch and went on to other forms of embroidery, stumpwork, Hardanger. Tapestry, I had a go at the lot.

I attended the workshops of Ann McTavish, a textile artist based in Liverpool. She used very textured threads in her wallhangings and I wanted to create my own so began spinning.

Stumpwork Butterfly by Cathy Wright

So it’s ben such a buzz to run an embroidery course of my own, starting from running stitch at the very beginning through the work of Helen Stevens, Marna Lunt and Annemieke Mein. Embroidery is such a huge medium the ten week course only touches the surface. 

Frog embroidery by Annemieke Mein

So I’m hoping to incorporate my own handspun yarn into the embroidery course and in my own embroidery too so that there are possibilities for those that love to spin but don’t necessarily love to knit.  There has to be more than just me out there!

Ten week embroidery course running again from January 2016.  If embroidery could be your thing, come along and give it a try. We try to keep costs low so it’s just £10 for two hours, you can bring your own materials along or buy in the shop for a 10% discount on the day. I would love to meet like minded people and once we’re off we’ll be launching our Stitchers Social where we can all stitch together.  How cool is that!

Skills Event Updates

It’s been an incredibly buy few weeks for me, I’ll start with the Manchester and  Rochdale Skills Events which I was invited to by the Alliance Project. This is a scheme run by Lord Alliance, formerly of Coats Crafts and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to look into the repatriation of the textile industry. There is a huge skill shortage in this country and the Alliance Project is a scheme tht is trying o address that. So where better to stat with than at Option level school children.

We began on the Monday at the Manchester Convention Centre (formerly the GMEX) with our stand showcasingBritish  Weaving Companies such as the Very English Weaving Company http://www.englishweavers.co.uk and Mallalieus of Oldham who have been manufacturing in Britain since 1840 http://www.mallalieus.co.uk There was also Dionne Swift, textile designer and Lisa Watson, quiltmaker. I felt very honoured to be there.



The event itself was quiet, the students were slightly reserved and we really had to encourage them to get involved and I have to say that the teachers were not particularly in evidence. I spoke to one textile teacher all day which was disappointing considering we were trying to give support to their subject. Take up of Textiles as a subject has been dropping over the past few years.


We were visited though by the local Police, who loved the looms and even started to teach some of the students themselves. The lads were definitely more happy to be taught by a man.



Wednesday at Heywood Distribution Centre was a completely different event, it was loud and manic and the students were completely engaged, willing to have a go at everything!

Our group was joined by Manchester University Textile Department and Heather Jacks, the winner of the Great British Sewing Bee last year. It was such a brilliant day and the teachers couldn’t have been more enthusiastic.


It would be wonderful if textiles could have more of a role in this country’s manufacturing and let’s hope that events like this are the start, there lots of very talented people out there that we don’t hear about. I don’t know if it was a good idea that I heard about them (keeping an eye on my credit card)



I’d like to thank everyone who donated wool, fibre, buttons, beads and fabric for this event, it was brilliant to have such a varied amount of materials and they definitely inspired everyone to have a go. The little looms were wonderful, so user friendly. I’ll be using them again, so if anyone wants a go…….