Tap when you knit? Use this cute finger protector.

I think Bernie (Bear in Sheep’s Clothing Yarn) isn’t the only knitter who taps when she knits. Once she showed me a welt in her index finger from where she taps on the needle as she knits. Like, a HOLE in the skin. She said she winces each time she taps, but can’t really knit any other way. I’ve heard other knitters get calluses, sores, and cuts.

When I was in Japan, I saw these rubber finger covers and thought they’d be perfect! And here’s Bernie delighted with her new finger protector.

How you can get one of these magical knitting finger protectors

I’m sure someone more clever could fashion a finger protector out of all sorts of things, or cut the top off of rubber finger thimbles. But if you want one of these from Japan, they are easy to get and might save you lots of pain, while still being stylish.

They are called メクリッコ, which sounds like mekurikko. (me-ku-riko). You can search for them on Amazon. I’ve looked around, and I think if you’re shopping from outside Japan, Amazon is handy because they handle the customs declaration for you.

If the Amazon site comes up in Japanese, make sure to switch out for English in the footer at the bottom.


Why so many kinds of finger covers in Japan?

I first found some kind of smelly rubber ones that covered the finger entirely. They were sold in the stationary section. The later, I found MUCH cuter ones which just wrapped around the finger pads, came in pastel colours, and had little bows on them! For example, メクリッコsweet.

As you can see on this ad, mostly they seem to be for managing flipping through A LOT of paper. And people love paper in Japan. They haven’t gone digital and they read many many more magazines and books than we do out here in the UK/Ireland. At least from what I can tell! My mind was boggled with all the beautiful magazines they have, and that seem to take up a much larger floor space in comparison.

The cutest finger protectors I found were advertised for ID protection. Very clever marketing! See, they proved in Jan 2017 that someone could theoretically nick your fingerprint from a photo taken nine foot away. And in Japan, it’s common to take a selfie with your friends posing making a peace sign! This puts anyone taking an innocuous selfie at risk. (Side note: I noticed Japanese folks I follow on Instagram generally much more protective of their online identity, and savvy in general. For example, they tend to blur or block faces in photos to protect them from facial recognition.)

So I think in this case, I saw some finger covers that were rebranded as “ID protectors” – which were basically the same exact product, for a new potential security-conscious market.

And next, I think they should rebrand them as KNITTING FINGER PROTECTORS! 😀


A simple spinning on a stick demo for shows

In my previous rant about the student spindle, I pointed out you’d be better off showing people to spin with a CD spindle, and showing them how simple it is to make one, than giving them a way-too-heavy spindle.

You really can spin with anything, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

And spinning with a stick is a great way to teach anyone the power of twist.

How to give a simple handspinning demo with a stick

I did this demo when we went with my guildies to the Rare Breeds Show & Sale recently. This is basically a very condensed version of Abby Franquemont’s Make yarn with a pencil demo. I found I could make it shorter, because you I had lots of takers coming over and waiting to have a go!

Probably all of the terminology will go over someone’s head when you demo this. But the idea of adding twist to keep fibres together will be clearly understood at the end. It looks long, but takes about 7 mins do the demo with groups of 3-4.

Supplies: Good combed top. I used BFL, and it was nice and not compacted. Very important. Sticks. I used sticks from cat toys, chop sticks, etc. Stick should be somewhat smooth if possible?

  1. Set up the challenge: Using combed top, show how to take the very end of the tip and pull a tiny bit out from your fibre supply. Everyone gets a tiny floating piece, which they pull out from the end.
    • Explain this grew from a sheep.
    • Staple length: You can’t pull it apart if you keep your hands close, but if you put your hands at the ends, you can slowly draft out, and pull it apart. Let them see how gently they pull it until it comes apart.
    • OK now we have a challenge! We don’t want it to pull apart. We need twist.
    • At this point they understand that the top is made of fibres that would come apart if you pulled them.
  2. The fibre: Using combed top, rip down a thumb’s width strip about 16 inches long. Give one to each kid, and one for you! (this will come in handy later.)
    • Drafting: Show how you can gently pull the fibre again, but don’t pull too hard because you will pull it apart. Move along the length, and show how you can draft.
    • If someone breaks theirs, hand them yours.
  3. The stick: Now add the stick.
    • With your thumb holding down on the end of the fibre, show how you take the other end and wind it around the stick.
    • If they run our of space they can push it down.
  4. The magic reveal: Check the twist!
    • Take someone’s example, and unroll it. Show how the twist was added when they wrapped around the stick, and it’s not lost when you unroll it.
    • Show you can tug it and it won’t come apart.
    • Ask: Why is that? At this point they can see they added twist and the fibres won’t come apart.
    • You might need to add a little twist as you unwind, to help it along!
  5. Plying and tying
    • You hold both ends and ask them to hold the centre point. Then you bring two ends together to fold it. You can explain this is “plying” which means to fold.
    • And you tie the two ends together to lock the twist.
    • Then they can see their little fibre strip now looks like yarn!
  6. Let them take it home. They are delighted to have something they can take with them. So simple 🙂

Below you can see all the lovely new yarn they made. Usually, the kids were automatically comparing and could see some were better than others.  If they start comparing, you could ask what they think they could do to improve – and they can usually figure it out!


In this example, where mum is helping, they are wrapping it the wrong way, letting the fibres slip so they wrap flat.  She was leading the fibre to wrap around the stick without adding twist. You can see the fibre is flat against the stick. We spotted that and then the kid got set up and was able to do this on her own. She was 4!

Handspinning with a pencil

Abby Franquemont breaks down a demo of teaching spinning on a pencil. You can learn enough in this demo to understand staple length, drafting and the power of twist.

Handspinning from the tip of a stick

This technique is an upgrade from that would be to spin off the tip from a stick. This is nearly how the Navajo Spindle works, except without the whorl. It would work if you had people sitting down, so they could get to their lap easier.




The talented Mr. Thayer Syme of TravelKate

My theory on Lazy Kate is that Kate was sick and tired of making plying balls.  She thought of a way she could pop the bobbins down on her a contraption so she could spin away. And boom, the Lazy Kate was born. Her sister, Lazy Susan was impressed!

I went to the US in December last year mostly for work, but also got a chance to see my family. And even met a very talented craftsperson, Thayer Syme of Travel Kate.

When I contacted TravelKate about purchasing a lazy kate and having it posted, he said it would be cheaper for him to just drive over to meet me!

Thayer Syme of TravelKate.com

Thayer Syme of TravelKate.com

He brought an array of the woods he had available.


Each of the woods was beautiful on its own, but I especially liked the shimmer of the Tiger Maple. If he didn’t have that, then the Black Walnut would have been awesome too.

I was worried about the heaviness of the hickory, but now that I’ve used it, probably the weight is a good thing. Depends on how you travel!

“Tool Based” Solutions

Something interesting I read the other day. On a beginner spinner thread on Ravelry, Abby Franquemont mentioned that people in the US tend to focus on a “tool based solutions” and they get really geeked out on technical aspects of the tools they use.

I find that kind of fascinating if something like that is true.

What I do see in the US is lots of invention and small scale manufacturing. I think it owes to the accessibility of manufacturing and even just the tools required for wood crafting for example. Anyway, something interesting to think about!

 Many lovely woods available Visit: http://travelkate.com/


Power scour v Dish washing detergent for washing fleece

I have LOTS of fleece to wash, and if I don’t get it all washed by Fibre East, I’m not allowed another one for a whole year. (My rules!) So I want to get it done quickly, effectively and create as little waste as possible.

I’ve come across people saying they use dish washing liquid for scouring wool because it’s cheaper. I got suspicious when I saw you have to use quantities such as 1/2 a cup of dishwashing liquid, whereas when I use Unicorn Power Scour, I use about a 5ml tsp per wash.

Washing fleece

Thankfully, someone else has done the math!

Both found the initial cost higher but overall the cost per pound was cheaper. They didn’t see a significant difference in the outcome. However Sockpr0n factored in being able to use less energy due to not needing to boil water.

Power Scour is effective at a lower temperature. The directions call for 140 degree water. Sockpr0n process involves more washing than mine. Three washes, three rinses. The Elusive thread uses 2 washes and 2 rinses. I do:

  • Two washes, rubbing tips of dirtiest locks.
    • An initial wash with about 5 ml to a small basin, and a second with slightly less. I don’t let these rest more than 12 mins, so the water doesn’t cool too much.
  • One rinse.

And for the particular fleece I’m focusing on now, a one year old greasy corriedale, it’s perfectly fine! I’ve tried more washes and it’s not needed.

It was interesting they both found they spend less and consume less product/bottles because of the tiny amount you need. And it doesn’t require you to heat water on the stove. So it’s more economical and energy saving.

I want to use as little water as possible, but I’m too much of a wimp to try the au naturale fermented suint scouring process. Apparently, nature provided for a self-detergent effect in wool, the main issue is space and well, neighbours. Suint fermenting will have an odour.

Anyway, I bought mine at WildCraft, and it came super fast and well-packed 🙂

Clean Fleece

After this batch I started being a little rougher with rubbing the tips, getting better at it.


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 Woolsack.org 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 http://sheersheep.co.uk/ 

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 http://sheersheep.co.uk/

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!

Ingenuity: Sirka Row Counter

Since I’m in the US I wanted to purchase some items that I’ve been admiring.

The Sirka counter was designed to handle “at the same time” instruction. It’s really more than a row counter, and looks very different from any row counters designed to date.

So if you have say, a top down raglan with shaping, and buttons, and a pattern repeat- this would be the counter to help you. Instead for 4-5 pieces of paper you carry with you, and lose. I am only working on my first sweater, but when I saw this little machine it made perfect sense to me.

I love that this row counter is made by people who earn a living wage.

When I visit the US, I always notice little engineering companies. Small manufacturing is really all over the place. It’s something I don’t see too much of in Ireland/N. Ireland. I think these small companies benefit from having free access to a larger market, and larger manufacturers who buy their component parts.

Unboxing the Sirka Counter

This is how nicely packaged it was. 

And here it is, unwrapped!

The Sirka Counter Demo

I don’t have my cardigan on this trip with me, but I’m keen to try using it. I’ll start with my current shawl, which isn’t that complex really.

I have to say, I found this product demo very funny 🙂

Ways to label swatches

I really enjoy the knitting meet-ups with the Ravelry group. They are once a month-ish at the Dock Cafe, which is an honesty café. You pay what you like. You can bring your own lunch. I only noticed in tiny fine print last time, it’s run as a sort of church.

“Why did you have to swear?” She was clearly glowering at me. I went bright red trying to think of what I’d just said. I assumed in an instant she was very religious and I had offended her with my usual potty-mouth. (One summer at sea, and I swear like a sailor.) But I think all I had said was “damn”, oh dear.

“What did I say?” I asked, afraid of the answer.


Then I laughed, we laughed *phew*.

But lesson learned, swatching, at least in this knitting group is a dirty word.

I feel so rebellious because I’ve discovered I really enjoy it.

I like not having the pressure of making “something” and can just enjoy the yarn, and see how it looks. I can faff about, try different stitches and it’s no biggie.

I’ve not yet tried swatching to match a pattern, so I don’t know the pain of swatching.

For now I just like making them.

Labelling swatches

I now understand why you have to label them. I had swatches I did just last week and I couldn’t remember what the heck the needle was.

There are handy tricks ways to do it. Such as adding knots in the tails to mark how many stitches and what needle as shown on a blog called Slow Knits.

In her book Little Red in the City, Ysolda advises using yarn overs to mark whole needle sizes and purl bumps to mark 1/4s. So a 3.25 mm would have 3 yo, and 1 purl bump.  I saw some swatches from Amy Herzog’s advice on swatching and they look to use the same system.

I want more info. What yarn, the stitch count, etc. I think in future I’ll measure before and after dimensions of the swatch too.

I like Deb Robson’s idea of “Serious (and Silly) Swatching” in her Know your wool course on Craftsy. (Free course!)

Deb advises making 2 (probably more!) swatches.

  • Swatch 1 = a 10 cm center with moss or garter to minimize curl ins.
  • Swatch 2 = a pattern swatch, with 15 cm approx in center.

Deb’s advice for Serious silly swatch Labels:

  • Yarn name
  • Company/source
  • Needles, size which ones.
  • Stitches in swatch
  • Also an extra yarn tail on tag.
  • She doesn’t tie the label onto the tail.

I think I also want to add gauge information as well. I wish I had measured the entire swatch and took pics before and after, but I was keen to get it soaking ASAP that night so it would dry overnight.

I like the remark Deb made in the resources in the Craftsy course. 

If it isn’t fun, I don’t finish! I reclaim my yarn and start over with something that will be fun!- Deb Robson