Belfast Bloggers! 

Last night at The Belfast Bloggers Meetup at Farset Labs I was able to put faces to names and meet folks from all sorts that I probably wouldn’t have met before.  Farset Labs is a great space, and rare in the city. It runs on donations and volunteer effort and buckets of good will. It’s hard to find a place like it.

One thing that connects us: blogging! You can check out the tweets and chat on #BelfastBloggersMeetup on Twitter. The speakers included:

Barry Adams @Badams drawn by @Live_Drawing

Barry Adams @Badams drawn by @Live_Drawing

Thanks to Brian O’Neill, I learned about the background of the labour of love that is Slugger O’Toole. Huge amounts of traffic, a key resource for news and political analysis in Ireland/Northern Ireland and it’s all run off the backs of volunteers and a tiny trickle of funding. (Tip: great place to advertise!)

Thanks to Barry Adams, I learned about the mechanics of blog traffic and Domain Authority; Why Long Reads Win, and the current state of SEO.  There were lots of questions related to the technical aspects of blogging, hosting, and also monetizing blogs. It was great to have the ear of professionals like Barry Adams who can speculate with an informed opinion on the state of Google’s search work and the consequences for content producers. The big takeaway is: Write quality content!

We were even treated to a little spoken word wandering by Brian John Spencer @brianjohnspencr who connected blogging back to the history of the essay, the invention of the printing, and how bloggers can be inspired by John Hewitt’s call to action to not sit by quietly, but speak out. It was a great brush with a newly forming political identity in Northern Ireland which is no longer tolerating bigotry and hate.

See you at the next event?

Since leaving my job I’ve met more people and had more fun connecting locally to my community. (BTW, Hire me!) I’m delighted I wandered down to Caffé Nero one fine evening and met Sarah of @TheSarahStoryNI, Ben of @LeoDanBen, and Adam of @BelfastBloggers/@nurdyninja.

The very first Blogs and Buns meet-up where we planned out this schedule!

The very first Blogs and Buns meet-up where we planned out this schedule! Adam, Ben, Sarah. I;m behind the camera!

We devised a plan for alternating larger, speaker-led events with casual getting-to-know you types of events. I have to say, Adam did the lion’s share of work, but he was glad to re-start these blogger meet-ups that he had running in years previous.

Please join us for next two events:

  • Blogs and Buns Meet-up at various locations in the city. People can bring their computers, and talk blogging shop. Next: Sept 16 at The Thinking Cup Cafe (no registration required)
  • Belfast Bloggers Meet-up at Farset Labs. Speakers and if time permits, small circle discussions.  Next: October 14 – Registration to be announced soon!

Will you join us? The Thinking Cup, where the Blogs and Buns event will be held is a social enterprise, and project of The Book Reserve. Pretty cool!

BTW One tweeter commented that there were no women on the list for the first event and I do regret that. We are addressing that in the next event! At the next meet-up at Farset Labs we’ll have Lana Richardson who will talk about writing viral content. And more speakers to be announced!

Heh, I had to add this. I just happen to have lots of pictures of Barry Adams for some reason! Here he’s being interviewed by Northern Visions TV.

Barry Adams interviewed by NVTV

Barry Adams interviewed by NVTV

Shibori – Indigo dye workshop with Mottainai

Catherine Quinn of Mottainai Textiles taught a dye workshop in Buncrana. I had no idea she was from Belfast! It was still a lovely day to visit Buncrana and the next day I was able to pop into the Hinamatsuri festival in Derry. Both events were organised by Junko and the group from Yarn Spinners of Inishowen.

Samples of work by Mottainai

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Step 1: Fold your fabric. How you fold changes the pattern you make. I chose the equilateral. This should have come out looking like hexagons. Hmm…

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Step 2: Soak the fabric. Then sew and completely bind the fabric.

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Step 3: Catherine mixes up the dye bath

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Step 4: Dip it in and out. I didn’t get any pics of the colour change since my hands were in very blue gloves.

It goes from Yellow, to Green to Blue as the dye oxidizes. It’s like magic.

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Finished student work

I wish I could remember everyone’s name! We were amazed how everything came out so unique, even though we followed the same processes.

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These two were mine. I have to admit, I loved the other student work 100x more than mine. But this just makes me want to try it again!

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Hinamatsuri festival in Derry

I couldn’t stay long since I had to get a train. But it was long enough that I got to see Catherine talk and give a talk about indigo dyeing.

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UK Fibre events: Spoilt for choice?

There’s a thread on Ravelry which asks: have we reached a saturation point for fibre events in the UK?

Currently there are 6 events with dates confirmed in the UK and Fibre events group on Ravelry. I am having trouble finding a record, but it looks like there was double that in 2014. Correction! @TravelKnitter lists 22 events on her site! So more events are likely confirming plans and haven’t announced dates yet.

Shouldn’t this be a good thing?

On the one hand, the community has been craving access to more events, and local events. I’d love similar events in Ireland, and it seems there are plans-a-foot. I am jealous of people in England, Wales and Scotland who have such great options and not far away.

On the other hand, it puts a strain on the organizers and stall holders who need a certain SCALE to make it economical. Most of the events are labours of love, done with minimum budgets and lots of elbow grease and volunteer effort. The stall holders output an enormous expense. The booth rental being one part, but moving the inventory, set up, staffing, lost work time, etc. Holding an event is costly.

I think it was insightful on the thread that newer stall holders said it was great to see more events. It meant that they didn’t have to wait on loooong waiting lists to get into exclusive shows. It improved access to new vendors as well. It makes it more interesting then, for people to visit multiple events. Which hopefully people are doing!

I think the greater risks are for the brave souls who put on the events. So it’s bears some thought: could they be more mindful of when they schedule their events?

By Martin Thomas.  Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

By Martin Thomas.
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

An equal share of the yarn cake

I went to my first two fibre events last year, in the UK. I was able to swing two events in a short space of time thanks to first of all planning to go to Fibre East, and then a work trip not long after which meant I could justify Unwind Brighton. So really I have nothing whatsoever to compare my experience too.

Both seemed to me, busy and chock full of great stalls. I found Fibre East a bit more absorbing since I’m interested in spinning and knitting. Also, I found the Unwind Brighton venue really too hot and stuffy. But what can you say? It was a hot summer. I saw very different stall holders at each. And there were many stall holders who didn’t even sell online so that was eye opening. There are many things you actually CAN’T get online. I would say it was very much worth going to the events. Given different circumstances though, would I have attended two in that short a time? No.

This blog post From the Millamia Blog sort of summed up some conversations I had heard people having:

“I wondered to myself on the way home if we are now experiencing too much of a good thing. It feels like the knitting/crafting community has been craving some really good quality shows for a good long time, and now we almost have a glut! Perhaps a shuffle of the calendar for 2015 will help to ensure that all the shows receive an equal share of the (yarn) cake.”

This would mean organizers could be more considerate of what is going on regionally, what has been established, and then try fit with that is happening in their community already. It could be their catchment areas overlap or are larger than they think.

Someone on the Ravelry thread mentions there were organizers struggling last year to get enough stall holders. This meant they couldn’t publish their market lists until later… which meant less time in promotion which put further challenges to a larger attendance.

It depends on the capacity within the population for fibre events. Everything will sort itself out in the market… but I hate to think of the individuals involved. I think the Fibre community has good will, enthusiasm and optimism. But this should be tempered somewhat before these creative souls get burnout and stop.

Otherwise, there’s a risk. It could be that a few large highly commercial events will dominate and we will miss out on the regionality of the current schedule of events.

However with people coming from all over Europe… are we thinking too small? The UK and Irish knitting and Fibre scene, and in turn the wool industry, is well organized.


I’m likely going to make it over to England for a show for sure this summer. And I hope to attend one in Ireland. Just waiting to see more schedules pop up!


Fibrary from Fibre East

Deb Robson’s 2-day Introduction to Wool Types at Fibre East was fantastic. It wasn’t exactly a beginner class, but I was helped and encouraged to keep pace and gained some great skills. After all, I only learned spinning so I could take this class!

Everyone else there was an experienced spinner and most brought their own wheels. They knew much about breeds already, and Jane of is even a shepherdess with her own flock of Boreray up in Orkney. I was well in the deep end, and they were swimming, while I was wearing inflatable arm bands. I did get lots of help with my spindling, from other workshop attendees, and Deb showed me how to use the tools. It was amazing and worth every minute.

So much more to say about the workshop and Fibre East, but I wanted to start *somewhere*.

Meet My Fibrary

We came home with many samples. I said to my husband that I now owned a fibre library, to which he said, “You mean A FIBRARY?” Indeed!

Deb had organized them to contrast differences in the down breeds with longer locks; and samples with kemp and hairs so we could recognize them and understand how to work with them. We each got a small sample bag and a ‘tasting notes’ card. Deb encouraged us to open the locks, inspect the crimp and try different preparations.

In that way it reminded me of wine tasting. The contrast helps you compare and discern differences you might otherwise miss if you lumped “down breeds” together, for example. I loved the crescendo on Day 2, looking at the crosses, and learning about breed development.

This photo shows the samples we received, and in the order we reviewed them. I’m heartbroken my Lonk sample was lost 😦

Fleece for Deb Robson's workshop

  1. Rouge
  2. Hampshire Down
  3. Ryeland
  4. Hebredian
  5. Romney
  6. Lincoln (no pack sample, but a lock was handed out)
  7. Oussant, two colours.
  8. Texel
  9. North Country Cheviot
  10. Badgerface (Day 2)
  11. Lleyn
  12. Lonk (lost this sample, so sad!!)
  13. Soft Fell
  14. Saxon Merino
  15. Corriedale
  16. Polwarth (samples handed out, but not in a sample pack)

Here you can see a sample card showing Soft Fell, and as you can see I didn’t even get to finish my tasting notes. We had to move pretty fast. This is the sheep of the week in the Ravelry Blacker and Beyond group, where you can find notes and pictures about this special sheep. Not yet a recognized breed I think?

Soft Fell - Deb Robson's workshop at Fibre East

Pretty much everyone oo’d and aah’d!

Until now, I only used commercially prepared combed top. My attempts to MacGuyver tools out of household combs and cat brushes were not successful before, (try making a tiny rolag on a cat brush with combed top, when you have no idea what you’re doing).

Fleece prep tools

When I checked my bag, the attendant asked if I had anything sharp in it. Uh.. yep.

Adding to my fibrary

I also added to this by getting a range of fibres from Griffiths Mill, adding to my fibrary even more. They process small batches of fleece, sell their own yarns and fibres from many British breeds, and raise awareness of rare breeds for conservancy. It’s an amazing service they provide for small holders and spinners alike. Looking forward to playing with these 🙂

  • Border Leicester
  • Kerry Hill
  • Lleyn
  • Polwarth


And I bought a fleece from Michael at 

OK, OK… I bought TWO. But the second one isn’t here yet, (so it doesn’t count?) One is a Corriedale, the other is from Daniel, a cross: Llenwenog (mom) x Oxford Down (dad). I will write more about Daniel and seeing him shorn, and all about picking the fleece…  but already this post is too long, I have fleece to wash!

Look at this lovely bag 🙂


This is the corriedale from

I’m following Deb Robson’s instructions for washing fleece.

The big points: (1) Don’t worry. (2) Don’t agitate. (3) Don’t let the water cool off too much between baths.

I nicked a couple samples of the Power Scour she had on hand 🙂 So that is getting me started. It smells lovely! Right now I’m on the 2nd wash, and I’ve got a rinse or two to go.


Getting ready to wash fleece for the first time!

Time to go rinse!

p/hop: putting the fun in fundraiser at unwind brighton

So Saturday morning, at Unwind Brighton you can find me at the p/hop table from 11am. p/hop is a knitting fundraiser for MSF. The slogan is pennies per hour of pleasure. There are volunteers slotted in all day, so the load isn’t too much for anyone.

“Choose your pattern, enjoy your knitting, make a donation. Turn your joy of knitting into vaccines, midwives, malaria treatments… See more at:”

There are currently 52 patterns you can purchase via donation. The first time I heard about p/hop was when I saw this lovely Southfields Sweater design by Miranda Jollie. They’ve done really well! Raised: 95% of target £45,325.47 raised of £47,500.00. I’m curious to find out how much they raise this weekend.

Volunteering for selfish reasons is OK, right?

They do calls out for event volunteers on their Ravelry group: p/hop. If you’re going to an event and have some extra time, do check it out.

I have to admit, I offered to help partially for selfish reasons! I have a fear of going to events and not talking to anyone and just being my generally shy self. I remember at a primary school event I went into the kitchen to help do dishes and the ladies were saying how nice I was. Truth is, I just feel better DOING something, and having a purpose. So I think sitting down to help sell some patterns is going to make it easier to meet people. And good people they are!

I just realized that p/hop’s fundraiser page is organised by Nathalie Fergie of the Yarn Yard, which has some wool and fibre I’ve been admiring. There’s lots of great people involved, likely very busy anyway, but they find the time to do this too. Pretty cool!

Going to Unwind Brighton! Knitting, yarn and crochet festival

I found out recently I’m going to be in London for a work related week of intense work/fun/production. So I could easily rationalize getting to London on the Friday before to check out Unwind Brighton. Quel coincidence! Minor problem is that I had *already* rationalized booking into Fibre East one week later in July. Why so much good stuff all at once?!
Wooly people need to spread all this good stuff around better. There’s some months which are sorely lacking.

Unwind Brighton fun workshops

Unwind Brighton is a weekend event with a marketplace and workshops. There’s also apparently a printed guide planned which will include nice things like a free pattern by Joji Knits and the design contest’s winning entry by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade.

There are many classes and workshops during the event. There are still workshops with some places and 2nd runs of some workshops have been opened up.

I signed up for a workshop by the lady organizing the event, Dani Sunshine.

Do I Really Need to Swatch? with Dani Sunshine

Sunday, 13th July 2014 12:00 – 13:00 Register here £10.00

I’m excited to see the results in the workshop. As “homework” before the event, you have to bring a swatch in sock weight yarn; 40 sts, 50 rows on 3.75 mm needles. How cool will it be to see everyone’s results?And I have no business in the workshop about Contiguous Method of sleeves with Susie Meyers, but she’s like, a knitting unventor, which is kind of amazing.

Map of Unwind

On the Unwind chat thread, a user named Dutte created a map of the locations. That is super handy.


Admittedly it is a far hop down to the south of England. Even Louise of Knit British spoke of suffering from “FOMO” (fear of missing out). Which is a terrible affliction. I only just heard about it, but I know exactly what she means.

I get FOMO everytime there’s a DrupalCon (open source software event) on and I’m not there. But events like that are really expensive. I had to call it quits on DrupalCons when my husband copped on to the fact that it doesn’t count as a holiday. Since I am there run off my feet from 8am in the morning til 3am the following morning…. Each day. Somehow I sense Unwind isn’t going to be that insane. However, there’s also the added danger of purchasing wool when you get near places like this. It will be my first fibre-related festival or event. So we’ll see if I can survive the temptation.

Brighton is beautiful

I’ve been to Brighton before. It’s lovely. I’m sort of at the “what to pack stage now. I have to bring work clothes for the following week, so I’m going to look like I’m at work unless I pack some extras… but YARN and FIBRE needs space. These are good problems to have. If the weather is really fine though you could actually swim! I can bring a swimsuit just in case.

Here’s a good map of the beach there, it made me laugh!


Going to Fibre East: I need to learn how to spin wool?! Uh oh…

I’m very excited about attending my first actual fibre festival. As far as I can tell, there don’t seem to be any events like them in Ireland, which is sad. Good thing is Fibre East is really easy to get to from Luton airport nearby. And so it’s a short hop for me from Belfast airport. They did the site over and it looks great!

The Ravelry group for Fibre East is very active, and so friendly. I mentioned when I was coming and I was offered a lift from the airport. How cool is that? I’m also volunteering on the Thursday before. I’m keen to meet folks and see what goes into these events.

Uh oh, I need to learn how to spin wool??

I received the materials supplies list for the workshop I’m attending at Fibre East. I thought “Uh oh!” I couldn’t tell you what many of the items are and I don’t have most of them. But the main thing missing in my toolset is the actual spinning skill. I sort of knew this when I signed up, but I was sort of ignoring the fact, I guess?

Meanwhile, the problem didn’t go away. Weeks have passed and I still haven’t touched the spindle.
The workshop will be with Deb Robson, (Introduction to Wool Types), who I probably mention in every other post on this blog. So I wasn’t going to let a little matter of not knowing how to spin deter me for signing up.

So I figure I wouldn’t get much out of just petting the wool all day at the workshop. I must be know how to spin the stuff.

The fibre is from Winona Queen who apparently doesn’t even sell online anymore.

In Respect the Spindle, Abby Franquemont says you can learn spinning by practicing about 15 minutes a day for several weeks. Oh. Really? Well I have the book. And some fibre! I will be traveling to the US, so I hope I can find time to practice everyday. I’ll keep a log of my progress.

I should admit, I did try spinning before on a weekend meeting up with some Ravelry folks in 2008. This was what I ended up with during the workshop. But when I went home to try and practice what I had learned, all I got was a lumpy length of wool. Thick and thin and over spun. I have no pic of that!

Anyway, I found it intriguing enough to buy some hand dyed roving. But never used it.

Abby Franquemont is actually teaching a spindle spinning class on Friday. But that is day 2 of my fibre workshop. In a perfect scenario, I could have signed up for Abby’s spinning class first, ha ha!

I am going into this area simply as an observer. I’m more interested in learning more about yarn, and what goes into it, who makes it.

So I really need to be careful! It’s clearly an absorbing practice on its own. I was amazed by the scientific approach Rebecca of Niddle & Spindle is taking in her studies of the ratio of spinning to the staple length. Pretty cool!