I decorate with sound

This post was inspired by listening to A Playful Day’s interview with Felicity Ford of Knitsonik. I recommend it highly! What a great adventure in sound, something I didn’t realize was so important. I am funny about sound, and I didn’t even know it.

I decorate with sound. I have certain bells on different doors in my home.  We’ve moved a lot. I’ve moved a lot. Since I lived in Taiwan I’ve had this little black bell. This to me is the sound of home. I hear the bell and I know I’m home.

I have small “noisy” decorations on other doors too. These mark going through rooms. They announce if someone is coming. They remind you that you’re home.


Sound is actually far more important to me than I thought. My husband’s voice is very important to me, and I am very sensitive to “ticking” and “drips” kinds of sounds others find innocuous. Anywho! After listening to the episode, I think I can’t “unhear it,” amazing.
So do listen to this episode of A Playful Day – an interview with Knitsonik. As the host rightly points out you may have to listen to it in two sittings, but it’s worth it! I will likely listen again, to be honest.
Felicity spoke about the soundscape around us. She prompted the listener to remember a sound, and explore sound memory. I paused the podcast and got the most amazing memories. They were mixed up with remembering smells. I can rarely remember smells. Try it!
She also spoke about the connection to knitting. The title “Knitsonik” describes her focus. The connection is about marking time in sound, and marking time in stitches. I really never understood the connection until then.
 Great stuff!

Review of Fenella – a lovely yarn by Susan Crawford Vintage

I took a class at Edinburgh Yarn Festival with Hazel Tindall to learn fair-isle colour work. I liked my little cuff I created that day, but I sensed that I wasn’t quite ready to dive into making my dream fair isle vest. I mention this, because I still have a fantasy that one day I’ll knit a fair isle vest. When I heard about Susan Crawford’s Vintage Shetland publishing project, I knew instantly I wanted to support it.

So I was delighted when I was offered a sample of Fenella yarn to try out! Susan launched the yarn in March 2014. She developed the yarn specifically for the Vintage Shetland project.

“Whilst working on the Vintage Shetland Project I have hit a snag with some of the garments that I wish to recreate. As most of the garments are from the 1930s to the 1950s, the most commonly used yarn weight in their construction is that all too elusive 3 ply. Added to this was the lack of appropriate colours available in any yarn that did happen to fit the weight I needed. I realised that the only way I was going to be able to successfully recreate these garments was to have yarn produced specifically for them.” – by Susan about Fenella yarn

The Feel of the Yarn

I hand-wound the balls on a long drive so I had some time to feel the yarn and ponder it before knitting. It feels so light and airy! And the colours really did seem to glow. This might be due to the airyness, with light passing through, as well as the natural transparency of wool. But the dye seems to be through the fibres and not just on the surface, if you know what I mean. Here’s a pic of “Baked Cherry.”

Now that I’m more familiar with spinning, I can see that Fenella is loosely plied. The fibers themselves are well spun in each strand, but the plying is loose and open. For comparison, I put it next to the shetland wool to show you the difference. This is Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight on the left. It’s dyed in the wool, and woolen spun. With the Fenella on the right, you can see there’s a definite lustre to the yarn. The label doesn’t specify the breed, but it looks like a long wool, and it looks worsted spun. (I wonder if I’m on the mark?) It actually reminds me a bit of John Arbon’s Exmoor Sock yarn just in the way it is plied (not the hairy texture).

In the Fair Isle class, Hazel Tindall responded to a question about using superwash for fair isle. Hazel said that superwash treated fibers tended to be “too stand-offish from each other,” the thought of which made me laugh. But it does make sense. The fibers need to grab on to each other. When you steek fair isle, you cut the strands. They fibers will have bonded well enough with friction that they hug each other affectionately. Meaning, they don’t unravel. Because Fenella is a light airy yarn, it would be perfect for colour work. I think this yarn would actually also work well for lace, and if I can think of a project I’d like to see what I can make with these yarns.

There’s also the added bonus that the colours really pop with brightness. Look at this funky Pthalo green!

Working with Fenella

I was given four colours: two light, two dark.


  • Myrtle (dark green)
  • Pthalo (bright green)
  • Delicot (peach)
  • Baked Cherry (red)

I took a picture of them in black and white and the lighter colours really looked to be the same tone. For the design, I opted to put the contrasting the colours together light v dark. I decided to refer to the awesome Knitsonik Colourwork book to create a new cuff. And I began doodling!

I started by drawing a grid to fit the number of stitches I needed in the round. I came up with the idea of writing “WOW” around the cuff. I used 3mm needles to knit with. If I were to do this again, I would probably go down to 2.75mm for colourwork, but I’m a loose knitter.

Contrary to what you might think, I didn’t find the yarn splitty. I struggle with that when I purl usually, but of course this was in the round and I only purled for the ribbing.

When I finished knitting I thought my stitches looked pretty wonky. I don’t have much experience with double pointed needles, so I was getting some gaps especially when starting new rounds.

I washed it and squeezed it a bit roughly. After squeezing out the water, I noticed my stitches looked more even and the colours blended better. I literally said “WOW” outloud, and then laughed, DUH. I had to explain this to my husband who did a good job of pretending to be impressed! Here you can see my little cuff swatch drying.

Buy Fenella Yarn

You can buy Fenella Yarn right from Susan Crawford’s shop, Deramore’s and Love KnittingOh! And ALERT! There’s a sale on Baa Baa Brighouse right now

Support the Vintage Shetland Project

At the time I’m writing, the project is 253% funded(!) This is a great chance to not only support her publishing project, but you can get a few little extras too. The Pubslush campaign is on for just a few more hours!

If you’d like to see more of the projects and inspiration – you can check out the blog tour.

Review of CreativeLive – social creative learning

At the most essential, all of the online learning platforms I’m reviewing in this series have similar features: Online videos, some student interaction, a way to share projects – these are all common features. Most of the courses also follow a formula where the outcome is fairly clear. Such as “Learn to do X”, where the instructor starts with a clear “Here’s one I made earlier” example. The sizzle of the spontaneous learning experience that arises from interaction among students and the teacher is lost. It’s very hard to replicate that experience online in a self-paced asynchronous environment. Craftsy manages this by inserting comments at various timecodes, so you see others’ comments in context. But that doesn’t feel spontaneous.

CreativeLive is the most unique platform in that the first time courses are run, they are done so in front of a live audience, both in the studio, and sometimes online. This means you as a live viewer can influence the content of the course. As a viewer watching the recording you also benefit from the fact that people are most likely asking for the same clarification and extensions that you would like to know. The “Live” aspect of CreativeLive is what makes it truly unique.

Video tour of CreativeLive

I’ve recorded a quick video tour so you can see what CreativeLive courses are like.

What’s in the CreativeLive box?

The CreativeLive platform includes:

  • Video player – streaming only
  • Note taking and bookmarking capability.
  • Downloadable PDFs (depending on the course).
  • Sometimes discount codes for services and software.

Interactivity includes:

  • Live Q+A – if you attend the course live.
  • Chat rooms – both a casual lounge and on-topic chat room.
  • Student projects and peer feedback.
  • Sometimes Facebook groups or off-site groups run by the instructors.

Tips to get the most out of CreativeLive:

  • CreativeLive accounts are free, but you pay per course.
  • Pop into the live listing to see what courses are rebroadcasting right now.
  • Watch sample previews to get a sense of the instructor and the content to see if it’s worth investing.
  • RSVP to Join the upcoming/live courses for free. Click “Chat” to join the chatrooms for the live course.

Overall impressions of CreativeLive

Of all the platforms I’m reviewing, CreativeLive does the best job of connecting learners with each other and with the instructors. The social aspects to this platform are some of the most valuable. They seem to encourage plenty of off-site interaction too.

For example a course on Ditching your Day Job also includes a Facebook group you can join. While many online learning platforms may dream of being the all-in-one solution, the problem is that “The Conversation” has moved off of membership based sites and on to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. The ubiquity of Facebook for example, cannot be beat. If you don’t work with it, learners will work around you and create Facebook groups themselves.

Instructors on CreativeLive seem to know this very well. It also means that CreativeLive doesn’t have crusty old message boards – which in terms of community vibe is a real killer. facebook-group In addition to reducing communication barriers, they also make it easier to connect emotionally to the content. I noticed that CreativeLive instructors, even when they talk about fairly straightforward topics, they tend to dig a bit deeper into what drives you as a creative person. In the live course I attended on using  YouTube for marketing the instructor, Whippycake, zeroed in on the thing that is holding many people back. For many it’s not for lack of technical knowledge, it’s having the guts to get in front of the camera. She brought out emotional aspects to engaging your audience to the heart of the course topic. I was actually bowled over with her honesty about her own struggles. Somehow Whippycake manages to create her videos in a home-studio, with four kids running about the place! Many topics in CreativeLive are sort of like that. Let’s look at the catalog next.

CreativeLive’s catalog

CreativeLive does have some straightforward step-by-step types of practical courses on specific techniques for crafts, photography, etc. If they were just competing on those craft techniques courses, then I don’t think it would be very competitive. One thing you might notice as you browse CreativeLive courses is that are a little more expensive than the snackable prices of other platforms such as CreativeBug (at $4.99 a month) or Craftsy which has courses sometimes for $9.99. They are also longer (1 day or 2 day courses) and more in-depth. What makes the CreativeLive catalog special is that there are more courses which could inspire you to take action on your dreams; enhance your job prospects; or help you build a business by determining your market, your pricing and optimize marketing and production.

For this reason, I assume CreativeLive would appeal to an audience who was taking their craft a little more seriously – as in: They can justify the prices because it’s a business expense for professional development. And when you compare the cost of these courses against similar in-person courses, the pricing is pretty reasonable. Michelle Ward charges over $3300 USD for her coaching services; and she also offers CreativeLive courses. In comparison to either her own coaching services or even a local career counsellor, her online classes such as Ditch your day job ($99) or Create your dream career ($99) look like pretty good deals. While it’s not going to be the same as having a career counseller working 1:1 with you, it might be a good first step to get you in gear.

CreativeLive’s special sauce: The live buzz

When you attend as live online class, you can join in a live chatroom at the same time. I found the ongoing live chat is fun. Sometimes it descended into back channel chatter, so I preferred to watch the “on topic” chat room. The facilitators do a great job of monitoring consensus and bringing the questions forward in the classroom. I was amazed in the class when a remark I made was mentioned in the class and the instructor responded(!) That really opened my eyes and I understood the value of having a live event. creativelive-chat Just one tip about finding the chat room: I was watching the class for a while before I realize you have to click the “Chat” link, which opens a pop-up window. creativelive-chat-questions And after that, there are two tabs in the pop-up window. Monitor the Lounge for random chatter, or click the main tab for on-topic chatter. creativelive-chat-tabs

Tip: Get the most out of CreativeLive by attending the free live broadcasts

Look through the list of upcoming, live courses. RSVP for a course and attend the live online class to participate in a discussion. creative-live-rsvp The fact is, attending a course for hours is going to be tricky for most people. The times for the course I attended was 5pm-midnight in my timezone. It went well the first night, but the second night, I received multiple family phone calls which lasted for a long time, and this meant I couldn’t attend the entire class. Of course, you always buy the course! And that is clearly why they allow participants to try before you buy. As one reviewer wrote, “I did try to tune in for the free streaming but I had technical issues and missed most of it. I ended up buying the Optimize Your Online Store workshop and I’m so glad I did.”

No good deed goes unpunished of course. I was amazed some viewers still expected more for free. During the second night of the class I took, I was a bit annoyed by a viewer who complained a few times when the facilitators would remind viewers that the class they were viewing (FOR FREE, mind you) was also available to purchase. The viewer complained that the facilitators were pushing the class purchase. What?! Um, guys, they are a business. And isn’t it nice they let you watch for free? I think they are building great good will within their learner community by offering so much for free, with no credit card required.

I’ve been pleased with the quality of the courses and content, and I’m certainly going to be taking advantage of the current 30% off sale.I think that ends July 27th!!

Have you signed up for any CreativeLive courses?

Yarn review: Lyonesse by Blacker Yarns a linen-wool blend

I was very pleased when Sonja of Blacker Yarns offered to send me sample skeins of their new Lyonesse yarn to review, and I’m delighted to share a review with you. I was given two samples to play with: One icy blue Aquamarine in DK and a shimmery Ruby in 4 ply.

Blacker yarns - linen wool blend yarn

I have to say right off, I’m a massive fan of Blacker Yarns, so this review might be biased! I credit them with getting me into learning more about sheep breeds and eventually learning to spin. However, I’m going to stick to the facts so you can get an idea of what it’s like to work with.

In this review I take a close look at the yarn to give you an idea of what it’s like.

  • The theory
  • In the ball
  • Swatching and knitting with it
  • Washing
  • Wear testing
  • Overall Impressions
  • Pattern ideas

Theory: For a state of constant transition

Here’s the theory: The worsted spin of this squishy soft wool blended 50/50 with linen means this will yield a drapey fabric that would hold its block. It might even wrinkle or loosen with wear, but the wool will give it that bit of elastic spring back. Exactly what I’m looking for.

I love the idea of transitional clothing which is warm but cooling, light and easy to layer. Spring or autumn, seasonal transition might mean warm and balmy in an afternoon, and cold in the evening. Where I live, we’re pretty much transitional weather all year round, and you rarely get balmy weather at all. And with air conditioning and heated building, you need to dress in layers to adjust to the transitioning temps all year round.

Intuitively, I’ve wanted to use linen/wool blends. Though I’ve never spun or knit with pure linen before, but I’ve spun with a flax/wool blend from Hedgehog Fibres recently and I was truly amazed at the benefits of both fibres. You’d be surprised to find there aren’t actually that many wool/linen blend yarns on Ravelry (12 in DK weight.) I was delighted to know hear Blacker have a new wool/linen blend launching soon!

In the ball

If you judge a yarn like this in the ball, you’ll be completely misled. It doesn’t yield when you squeeze it, with the strong linen fibres pushing back. I suspected it was going to be fun to swatch and discover the transformation.

This is a very well-blended combination. You can see little errant flecks of linen here and there, so it’s not so blended that you can’t see the distinct fibres. The sheen of the linen does come through, as does the way the dye is take up differently by the fibres.

  • The 4 ply yarn has two plies, and it’s not tightly plied. I’d expect this to take lace very well and for the stockinette to be a bit nubbly.
  • The DK weight yarn has three plies (the same singles in the 4 ply weight), and it’s nice and round. I’d expect this to work well with lace and subtle textures.


I decided to start my experimentation by making two flat swatches in each yarn, one in the suggested needle size, and one in the needle size up. Going up a size could emphasise the drape, and it’s often used for adding a little swing to a project such as a tee or tunic, which are precisely the types of garments I have in mind.

The yarn was really nice to work with. It’s a bit grabby, so I used metal chaigoo needles. I didn’t find it rough in the hand like I’ve heard reported about pure linen yarns. It was easy to work with.

You can see in my unblocked samples that my knitting suffers from “rowing out”. I do a lazy purl which means my purl rows are shorter and use less yarn than my continental knit stitches. I know that linen is meant to show every tension problem you have, but I was curious if the wool would be more forgiving.

  • 4 ply: As I said, I have a funny way of purling which sort of unplies the yarn, so I did notice some splitting with the 4 ply. I still loved knitting with it.
  • DK: I expected some splitting, but I didn’t have any trouble with that with this 3-ply DK.

Here you can see I swatched with garter stitch edges. Unwashed, the swatches curled at the ends. I was curious if I was going to need to pin them after washing.

Lyoness 4 ply yarn - curling before washing


This yarn didn’t melt in the water like some silks and merinos do. It held its own. I gave it a good 30 mins soak in warm water with a tiny bit of wool wash. Overnight, they dried perfectly flat with no pinning needed.

And sure enough, my wonky stitches and rows looked more even after washing. Yay for wool!

When I picked up the swatches I found them crispy to touch. They weren’t floppy or squishy, but had quite a lot of body, like new linen. I was sort of disappointed that they didn’t have the drape I expected: but my test wasn’t yet finished! After wear-testing, the yarn was transformed.

Wear testing

On first squeeze, the swatches get wrinkled and hold a shape!

Wear testing

But as soon as I flattened them out, the wrinkles smoothed out instantly. Literally, just after smoothing out, the wrinkles were disappearing as you can see in this pic. With more wear later, they even got smoother, the wrinkles are gone as if I had pressed them.


Wow! I roughed up the swatches vigorously, rubbing them together and generally abusing them. I saw some blurring with individual strands of flax giving way, but no pills whatsoever.

In fact, the more I roughed up the swatch, the softer and more supple it got.


Now the drape of linen and the worsted spun wool was coming through! I love the old linens my mum has given me. They are soft and supple like nothing else. As linen ages, the fibres break down and get softer, while still staying very strong. Overtime I’d expect a garment knit in this yarn to get softer and softer.

I’m super excited about the way this yarn wears. I think you could wear this all day and still look pretty sharp.

What surprised me was the elasticity of the swatches. Cotton or Linen yarns are known for not springing back, but I don’t think that is a worry here at all. The wrinkles smoothed out instantly, and looked so sharp and nice. I found myself thinking “tailored” as I look at the swatches.

Overall Impressions

In this pic, left is DK, right is 4ply. Top is recommended needle size, bottom is one size up, both after washing and wear-testing.

For the 4 ply yarn:

  • 3mm – 27 sts x 39 rows. 4 mm – 22 sts x 32 rows.
  • I liked the yarn in a needle size up, 4 mm, as compared with the 3mm needle. It’s light and airy feeling.
  • The 3mm fabric was intriguing though, it wasn’t stiff, but it was firm, almost had a tailored feel to it.
  • This is the same singles in the DK yarn, but in two plies. This indicates that lace patterns will show up well. I even noticed that the simple yarn overs I created to mark my needle size stayed nice and open. And yes, the stockinette does have a slight nubbly look it it, but I really like that.

For the DK yarn:

  • 4mm – 21.5 sts x 30 rows. 5mm – 17.5 sts x 24 rows
  • I noticed I liked the recommended needle size for 4mm more than the results with 5 mm. At 5mm, the fabric was a bit slack, whereas the drape was great on the recommended 4mm needles and it has a nice plush squish to it.
  • This is the same singles as in the 4 ply yarn, but in three plies so texture is going to show up well, as would any twisted or mock cable patterns. Lace patterns would hold a strong block, and for that reason it would suit all sorts of shawl patterns which need drape rather than squish.
  • The stockinette is so smooth and sharp.

Here you can see the crepe-like surface of the two plies in the 4-ply weight yarn at the bottom. And the smoother surface of the round three plies in the DK weight yarn.

Pattern ideas: Transitional knits

I have trawled Ravelry recently gathering up 74 tee patterns and 50 tanks in my faves list. I really love tees and tanks, I layer over a cardigan or hoodie and feel comfortable, whereas I feel a bit locked-in with a pullover. Eventually I’d like to replace my collection of free tech tees with handknit ones.

One of my favourite garments to wear is a grey knit linen tunic, with large matte metal beads on it. It’s drapey, and it’s gotten softer overtime. I wear it all year round, layered under various weights of cardigans, and over a tighter tank top. I’d love to knit another beaded tunic like it, or a lace tunic.

Another of my favourite items of clothing is a boxy tee, but its bright white and coral scream “summer” so I usually let it rest over winter. Because of the drape you can choose boxy patterns and they’ll look pretty not bulky.

  • 4 ply: Because of the two plies this would be lovely for lacy garments.
  • DK: I think the DK weight would be a perfect open cardigan. Patterns which have waterfall sides would benefit from the drape and sheen of the linen.

Get your hands on it!

Lyonesse will be available May 1st. You can stalk Lyonesse yarn on Ravelry here.

You can order the colour cards here. My default is usually blues and greys, and I certainly love the Aquamarine, but what’s interesting is that the deeper Ruby tone shows off the linen contrast more. I really like that flecked look which would be more visible in the darker colours.

I think I’m zeroing in on stripes using Lyonesse 4ply in Ruby with a natural contrast stripe on on 4mm needles. This would be nice in a boxy tee like Vasa or tank like Saco stripes.  The Vasa tee would need 1 skein natural and 5 skeins in Ruby. At £5.75 a ball, that’s £34.50 for a large sized boxy tee, and hours of knitting fun.

Five great knitting and spinning video podcasts

I wanted to point out some great video podcasts which focus on knitting and/or spinning. I notice some of the podcasts I’ve listened to in the past are switching over to video. I think it’s a bonafide TREND.

First let me say, I appreciate the time any podcaster takes to make great content I can listen to, but video likely has an even bigger overhead. Also, it’s harder to fudge with editing as you can with audio. And you need courage.

I’m attempting to make some video content myself. It’s not easy, lemme tell ya. I am so impressed with how brave these people are. I am mortified just recording upstairs in case my husband hears me talking to myself. Must get over that!

If you saw my other post on knitting podcasts, you know I’m not super fond of reading from scripts, over- processed, animated segues, and mucho music. So my taste might not be yours. Also, this is a crazy short list. There are some long-standing and more famous video podcasts, but if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen those. There’s a great list of video podcasts here, not exhaustive, but you can mine that for more video content if ya like.

1) Bakery Bears Podcast

  • Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSCe5aRydK0. FYI: They don’t seem to have an independent site, their videos aren’t on iTunes, so if you want to find them, you will need to check out their YouTube page.
  • Back Catalog?  Listen to me: just start from Episode 1 for this one. There’s only 15 episodes at this point. Let the drama unfold!

This is a husband and wife team (sometimes kid too!)

Yes! Hubby knits (*looking at my husband: if only*) and he finds it rather relaxing. Dan learned when he was a kid, but he didn’t pick up knitting again til he was 36 or something. Kay taught him properly how to knit. He clearly adores her for it, and he’s constantly trying to get a laugh out of her. Which makes this such a fun show to watch!

This podcast just launched in May 2014 when they launched Bakery Bears first ever knitting pattern. So not only is this video podcast funny, friendly and amusing to watch- but it’s also great insight into their challenges and successes. You will be rooting for them too.

Confession: I used to make dolls and bears. And then one time someone made a remark: “Why would you ever crochet hand made knit toys when children have so many stuffed animals, and they never play with them?” It crushed me, and I started to see my little creations as kind of sad and weird. Even though I enjoyed it so so much. I felt like some creepy old lady with dolls. Many years later, a friend asked me to fix her precious crocheted bunny. So little of the original crochet-cotton bunny, carefully fixed over the years. Anyway – I…. what was my point?

I might not have picked this podcast to watch because of the apparent topic (and I don’t make bears!). However, they knit all kinds of things, go on adventures and just have the craic. Well it’s amazing. Here’s they started only in May 2014 to make and publish Bakery Bear bear patterns. And she’s it’s been successful despite personal challenges. Oh it’s good, just go subscribe!

I heard about this podcast through the next on my list: Little Yellow Yuke.

2) Little Yellow Yuke

Zena had a podcast previously, but after a break, she switched over to a video format in the autumn of 2014. She knits, crochets, sews, embroiders, does tatting and spins! If there’s a craft, Zena will give it a go and report back. I think I’m saving money by watching her podcast. I love that she’s curious and learning all the time.
One nice thing about video podcasts is the “show and tell” aspect. For example, Zena shares the books she’s reading, and of course a peek at her works in progress. I love the range of work she shows off. Like I said, no craft will escape her talents. She also has great style, but she also has eclectic taste, so you’re not bored with one range of projects. So it might be a wacky reindeer Christmas jumper or another time a pretty shawl.
This is a nice, relaxed podcast. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but Zena can knit while she’s talking through the podcast. That’s how chill this podcast is.  It reminds me of just relaxing under a tree and knitting… this is what I *would* have been doing when I met Zena at Unwind Brighton. But I got totally attacked with an urge to shop and descended into the maelstrom marketplace, and never returned.
Well at least now I can follow along with her projects.

3) Stitched together

Chrissy has been podcasting and blogging for a while, but switched over to a video podcast last autumn. Chrissy is very natural and just like she’s chatting to you directly. In fact if I do meet her in person I hope I could sit for a cup of tea and a chat. She is honest on the show about her opinions – she’s spicy! And she is totally charming and is having a good time on the show. It’s a fun, relaxing show to watch.

It takes bravery – real bravery to make a video podcast especially because you have to sit in front of a camera. And I think Chrissy is Super Brave for being open and honest about her chronic illness when it comes up. Her personal story is compelling- crafting isn’t just a diversion for her, and it can’t be an occupation due to her situation. I can relate to the fact that for Chrissy, her site and her podcast are an escape. (I rarely talk about my personal life, illness or work on my blog.) Her podcast is certainly about her knitting projects, not her pain, it’s just that when you hear about how awkward it is to just get some blocking done with chronic pain- it’s humbling. But again, it’s only as minor aspect of the show. I like this show in particular because it’s based around where I live and she talks about events and KALs in this neck of the woods.

4) Yarngasm (Voolenvine)

Kristin is in the US, I only mention that because she is topical and local to NY though. So I can only feel envy about an event she’s speaking at on blogging and knitting at the public library. However, it’s great to hear how it is for people in a larger fiber community.

Kristin knits, spins and dyes yarn- for her JOB. If you’re super curious, her blog is a record of her personal transformation from being freelance/unemployed to finding her place in the fiber world. However the old audio podcasts are no longer on Libsyn. Again, the content is very much current and topical now, so I don’t think I’ll dish out the major $$ for vintage Yarngasm bootlegs on ebay (j/k!).

Kristin is very good in remembering to talk about the tools she uses, and shows off what she’s using. That is one of the great advantages of the video podcast, being visual, it’s easier to understand what the host is drooling over. I guess that is stating the obvious, but you’ll see… she ensures the close-up images come into focus and she’s careful of the quality. She also “signs off” before continuing to talk about shop updates and general blether, which is just personal updates – so she gives the viewers some options.

Oh! and she also does demonstrations of any specific technique she’s talking about, for example a handspinning technique. I love that. When I imagine my own special video podcast I picture doing tutorials and chat like this.

5) Franklin Fiber

  • Website: https://franklinfiber.wordpress.com
  • Backcatalog? There’s some early episodes available on YouTube. Some cover when Julie lived in Guatemala working with artisan groups. Check out the titles to see what grabs you!

Here’s another podcast from the states! Julie is chatting away and showing off work she’s making progress on. Projects include knitting as well as spinning and weaving. This is the only podcast I’ve listed which includes lots of spinning. She’s very skilled and tries experiments with different techniques too. She cares about fibre and where it comes from, so you’ll learn about her materials as much as the projects and inspirations. And she’s both enthusiastic about her work and honest when it’s going kind of crap.

Julie is friendly and this isn’t a tightly structured show, so you just feel like you’re sitting there with her, sometimes in the living room and sometimes on the porch. It just sort of flows naturally.

I like that kind of format. This might sound prejumadicial, but I find most US-based video podcasts to have a little too much “segue animation” going on. Many folks are getting a little too hot-and heavy with the ol’ transition button over there. I know that is my bias, but hey. It’s my blog. Welcome!

These are all brave souls and I am incredibly impressed with anyone who attempts to do this.

Video podcasts? What say you?

These are just some I like, what do you think about video podcasts?

Any good ones you’d recommend? Tell me why. Also any in the UK/Ireland I should check out?

Footnote: Gretchen Rubin on happiness and habits

As a footnote, I also wanted to pop in this video channel: Gretchen Rubin. Somehow she can be inspiring without being cheezy. I listened to her book The Happiness Project, and I enjoyed it so much I listened again! That is super rare for me. She bases her advice in lots of research, which helps it be convincing. She talks about forming habits, so lots of the ideas she shares are simple, small and achievable. Her videos come in frequently, but they’re only 2-5 mins long.


Review: Spinners Book of Fleece, the missing link!

Oh how I wish I had this book about two weeks ago before I ventured into the woolly world of fleece selection and preparation. Still, I’m fortunate to have discovered it as early as I have.  The Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith is like deep-diving into a breed study workshop. (If you’re lucky enough you could actually study with her in person.)

I think if you’re sort of learning on your own, and you don’t have access to a breed study workshop and you don’t know anyone else that spins: This book is your new friend. I also think experienced spinners will be delighted with having all this detail in one reference. The production quality is very high and the photography is lovely. I’m not exactly a fashion guru but I’m sure this is a very now blue.

The missing link in my library

Cover of spinners book of fleeceAfter lots of searching, these are the spinning books in my library:

  • Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook covers sheep breeds, but also fibres from other animals. It has tips on processing and spinning the fleece which is typical of given breed. Simply due to the breadth, it doesn’t cover selection or scouring.
  • Respect the Spindle includes great details on spindle selection use and the science behind it. In terms of fibre it does cover different types, but only commercially prepared wool. It doesn’t cover fibre prep and finishing yarn (much).
  • Spinners Book of Yarn Designs covers spinning and plying in great depth, but not much detail on specific fleece or fibres, and not colour. It’s all about plying and texture, but again, very little on finishing yarn. That is done on purpose, to eliminate some variables.

The Spinner’s Book of Fleece fits into this set very well! She breaks down sheep fleece (no other animals included) into four main types; and introduces distinct breeds which fit into those types. For each she offers tips on:

  • Choosing the source. Purchasing and breed selection.
  • Best scouring, preparation, spinning techniques, finishing for each type.
  • Tracking and measuring results of your experiments, twist, WPI (and recording what you did so you learn!)
  • Best applications for these choices of source + preparation + finishing.

There’s so much included here that I haven’t seen covered much in other books and not much online either (unless you mine the rich ore of Ravelry). Did you know you could reconstitute the crimp in a commercially prepared fibre which has been compressed for so long? Had you considered the degrees of fulling yarns when setting twist? Or why you would? I’ve seen instruction on how to “thwack” the yarn, but hadn’t considered the degrees to which you might do this and to what effect. For this reason, I think even experienced spinners will find something surprising in this book.

It’s really the perfect companion to put in practice the info in the Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook, and help you prepare for using your spindle (Respect the Spindle) and making gorgeous yarns (Spinners Book of Yarn Designs).

Beth Smith’s main message: PLAY!

My biggest take away is what Beth Smith refers to as “sampling”, which is what the book made of: lovely, inspiring, intriguing samples. The sample photos show lots of detail. For example a tag might say “Flicked/worsted spun from cut end/ 2 ply”.

close up from spinners book of fleece

Shows detailed notes of prep and plying.

I want to get experimenting for its own end and not to “make something”. She makes me want to try more prep techniques and get more textural results such as spinning from the cloud. I tried it in Deb Robson’s Introduction to Wool Types workshop at Fibre East, but felt my lumpy bumpy yarn wasn’t adequate. But that’s what it should be like if you spin from the cloud.

Beth Smith makes me want to get organised and undertake my personal breed study. She advises experimenting and keeping records, and provides practical advice on storage, and inspiration of experiments to try.

She includes spinning advice for knitting, types of stitches which work best with a given yarn. She also makes distinctions between finishing yarns for knitting or weaving. There’s nothing specific on twist and crochet, which I’ve seen covered in other sources, but the weaving detail is very interesting. (I know pretty much nothing about weaving heh.)

Keep on playing!

A deft enabler, Beth Smith advises: try a breed at least twice. Because the first time you don’t know what factors are affecting the fleece. She is constantly encouraging the reader to think beyond the reputation of certain wools like the Lincoln. There can be lots of variety in a breed from sheep to sheep. This makes lots of sense to me.

She recommends starting with at least an ounce of fleece (28 grams) to get three or more samples per fleece. I wish I had only washed that small amount from my fleece to start. I would like to undo some of the scouring decisions I made.

Beth made a brave choice to include some problematic fleeces. For example, a Southdown with lots of second cuts led to a nep-tastic yarn. This gave her the opportunity of advising on handling difficult fleeces, which is great! For example, with fine springy yarn, don’t over card.

showing the problematic results. which are actually pretty nice

showing the problematic results, which are actually pretty nice

Great advice on fleece selection

I wrote about my own experience in choosing fleece. Yep, this book could have helped me quite a bit. This book covers fleece selection in great detail. It’s more comprehensive than anything I’ve seen online. She helps you with identifying fleece faults, and even etiquette around inspecting fleece which is something I didn’t know about!

The book includes is good mix of UK breeds and many US Breeds I’ve never heard of, but that isn’t really the point. Beth has chosen representative types, with ideas in cleaning, prepping and spinning, plying for each. When you find your new mystery breed, you can use the examples and a guide.

When you need a biased point of view

Beth has clear opinions on what preparation or spinning technique works best with which types of fleece, which is helpful when you’re starting out. Biased opinions can be very useful way points especially for novices.

Beth will say “this is my favourite way to do this” but then she also shows the alternatives. For example, the difference between curved carders or flat ones. She also shows photos of the “right way” to comb, and what the “wrong way” looks like. Being able to detect when you’re doing something “wrong” is a crucial step in learning. I’m delighted to see instructions which include models of incorrect techniques!

I think Deb Robson’s favourite phrase she says with her characteristic wry grin is: “it depends”. Deb encourages breaking the rules. For the Intro to Breeds workshop full of experienced spinners and even shepherds, a message like that is important. The experienced craftsperson can detect and respond to the nuances of a subject, and they should be testing the boundaries. Beth Smith takes a stand on measuring crimp and estimating how many twists per inch in a ply, but I could imagine enjoying listening to her debate this point with other spinners who might say “it depends” 😉

If you consider the novice’s experience, I believe it’s good to give guidance on “one way that works”, and teaching those rules so you know you’re breaking them and how. I think Beth Smith’s book is a great resource for establishing those rules, if (like me) you don’t already know them. But again, she does talk about alternative methods, and even in her samples she bends the rules and shares the results.

Get the guide for a fibre adventure

Go on and get that puppy sheep! The Spinner’s Book of Fleece  You can get a detailed preview here.

You can also see videos by Beth about spinning. In fact, I think the video showing her daughter doing ‘park and draft” was a video I saw really early on 🙂 If a kid could do it, so could I.

Spinners Book of Fleece is chock full of inspiration. I’ve just booked my summer “staycation” at home and I’m not sorry I can’t travel because I’ll be elbow deep in fleece 🙂 Thank you Beth for this guidebook, it’s so full of woolly love and care.

5 very good knitting podcasts

this is a scene from where i walk

this is a scene from where i walk nearby

This isn’t ALL the knitting podcasts. These are just the ones I’ve really gotten into and listened to consistently.

Edited to add: I’ve since started watching video podcasts now that I’m spinning more and can knit for small stretches without looking. Check out 5 spinning and knitting video podcasts.

Some of these hosts are going to be at the Podcaster Meet-up at Unwind Brighton. 1pm, Saturday 12th July in the Mezzanine Café at the Corn Exchange. More info on A Playful Day. I actually thought it was just for podcasters, but it’s for anyone who wants to find out about podcasts! So I’m hoping to discover some more when I’m there. I like to listen to podcasts when I knit, or when I go for a walk. I used to listen exclusively to audio books. I have a hard time following fiction, so I usually listen to some popular science flavour of the month about happiness and brain science. I also listen to work-related podcasts, and was chuffed recently to be interviewed on a few. I like podcasts which have interviews, because they are conversational and engaging. The new “No Such Thing As a Fish” podcast from the QI elves is soooo good! Here are a few of my favourite knitting podcasts.

Knit British

Well to be fair, Knit British was the first knitting podcast I’ve listened to in any dedicated fashion. There’s minimal music, mainly at the end, and some nice natural sound effects to offset the sections. Knit British is a great podcast just about knitting. I’ve heard Louise’s needles clacking, and I was knitting while listening. Sort of felt like sitting with her. What I imagine it would be if I had a close friend that knit. She talks about what she’s working on, things you shouldn’t miss. And she also now does fun “on-location” interviews, and she has exclusive news she shares about events or other offers. I keep on forgetting she’s NOT coming to Unwind Brighton. 😦 Get a flavour: Episode 8.5. In her latest episode, she shared some news via an interview with Jess James, of Ginger Twist Studio, and designer Clare Devine about a new pattern series with a discount code. In Episode 8, she interviews a yarn dyer, George from Yarn Garden.

Curious Handmade

Because this podcast comes out frequently, you sort of want to follow along. I get sort of wrapped up in her story, and I’m cheering along for her. In one episode Helen spoke about quickly whipping up a design to enter in a contest. I was delighted she won! I had actually voted for her design before I connected it to her podcast, since I didn’t know her name at the time. Each episode has certain segments so she does talk about her current knitting projects. I thought it was hilarious that she shared her experience of locating a knitting pattern for a sweater, and then in a later episode: PLOT TWIST, it really turned out not to be the right design for her. Just the way it evolved, it had me laughin 🙂 But along the way you’re learning too. Helen has recently been recapping her experience Squam, which just sounds like a Shangri-la of creative fun. Right now, on her blog there’s a “Design along”, where each week you can vote to choose the next direction for the design. This week: Lace or Textured or BOTH? Helen WILL be at the Podcaster meet-up in Unwind Brighton, yep. Get a flavour: There are loads of great episodes. Just go subscribe! Episode CH 31: With Squam Art Workshops founder Elizabeth Duvivier, CH 28: Mindful knitting and a review of Love at First Stitch

A Playful Day

This podcast comes out frequently (2x a month), and there’s lots of news and up to date info about events. I just realized I don’t even know her name and I can’t seem to find it anywhere! She also speaks and writes about life in general too. We actually went and made pesto after I saw the pesto recipe on her blog. The Playful Day blog has also been coming down with tons of contests and freebies, so it’s certainly worth subscribing to. Her blog has features of small companies in the yarny world and independent designers. She’s been re-blogging great posts about being a small “indie” business. For example, this post Love Our Indies: Karie Westermann. It’s nearly infuriating to hear how difficult it is to do work in a sector where the handwork is so devalued. I feel like A Playful Day has a strong message and point of view. And it’s damned inspiring. It also makes me think about supporting the little guy and how I spend my time and money. And A Playful Day is organizing the Podcast meet-up, so she will certainly be there. Get a flavour: Interview with Emily Wessel of TinCanKnits – basically just dig into the archive!

Electric Sheep

this is a scene from where i walk

what i see when i’m out listening to podcasts. hard to find visuals for “podcasts”

Electric sheep seems to come out when it feels like it. So while Katie doesn’t have a consistent schedule, there’s great content if you dig into the archives. This means if you are new, there’s plenty to listen to!  In most of the podcasts, it sounds like she’s reading to you. This means the words are well-considered and it’s more like listening to a radio program than a podcast. I’m not sure if she’s coming to the podcast meetup. Get a flavour: Listen to Episode 111, an interview with Jared Flood.


Knit.fm reflects the hosts’ style. Hannah Fettig’s designs with pure stockinette, and nothing to hide behind; or Pam Allens brand style. Sometimes you can see good artists have an incredible consistency to everything they do. I have to admit, I have a new pet peeve about too much music in podcasts. Some of the video podcasts are trying to be like breakfast television with long intros and over processed fluff. Not really for me. I decided I don’t really like video podcasts right now. (updated! I like them!)

So my next podcast recommendation is Knit.fm… Oh it’s refreshing in the minimal sound editing, so you have long unbroken stretches of chatter, and a little back tracking, as happens in real conversation. I know there is editing and they do plan the shows. But it has a very spontaneous feeling to it. Pam Allen and Hanah Fettig just start talking, all about yarn/design/technique. Not about events, not about life. They just get down to business. They start the series talking about Gauge, then Yarn, then design. It’s fascinating from end to end. Anyway I’m going to keep on the lookout for friendly, natural and relaxed podcasts. This team is based in the US, so I’m guessing they aren’t coming over, nope. Get a flavour: Basically listen to ALL of them, starting with Episode 1.