Tag Archives: alpaca

Slippers old and new

Warning.  This post contains many images created in poor lighting conditions! Apologies in advance.

Oh dear.  A much loved and well worn pair of slippers came back to me from a friend for examination. I thought I would have matching yarn but I really didn’t.  In the end I went for visible mending of this pair and also decided to knit her a new pair. #Menditmay I thought!

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Here they are about to be returned to their owner over breakfast (in May), with big mends in the heels.  The inside sole is black so these darns will be less visible when they are being worn, perhaps!  I cast on the new pair…

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The next step was knitting a new pair.  Two pairs for different people, in the end, and two dinners with associated felting (no end to the thrills when you visit us!)  With appalling photographs to match.  This pair are a rich purple and they are on a blue background, not that it shows.


They went to a new home with a cherished friend who has been feeling the cold terribly.  She also scored these hand warmers, knit from the remainder of a ball of Noro sock yarn some time ago and awaiting the right moment.  They look better on!


Then, my beloved negotiated handover of a small pile of pre-loved and partially felted socks that will fit my friend better than my beloved at this stage.  Some required running repairs.


Some were too felted for anything other than brutal patching.  No way to knit a patch in.  Can’t find any stitches to pick up! Some of these socks were knit before I really understood the kind of yarn that was suitable.  But pairs like this, made from Bendigo Woollen Mills 8 ply alpaca, were such a hit among my friends I made a lot of them anyway.


I’ve since had an email about blue socks being worn at Pilates class and a photo of my friend’s ankle as she heads out to dinner in handspun, handknit socks!  Too good.  These are the people for whom hand knits should, indeed, be made.  And finally, the friend whose slippers I was darning at the top of the post came over and I felted her new slippers to size.  She arrived wearing hand knit socks… perfect!





Filed under Knitting, Sewing

Spinning for slippers

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Suri alpaca cross.  I could not resist these when they came into the Guild with a local grower.

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I dyed them… and carding was quite a challenge. Some went to a friend at the Guild who showed up with wheel but no fibre one night when I was there with fibre and combs and carder but no wheel!

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I also dyed some local gift sheep fleece from a sheep called ‘Lentil’.  I had been taken in by Lentil’s lowly status as a lawnmower and the filth of the fleece.  Actually, Lentil’s is a long and lustrous fleece with a burden of burrs.

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The first batts look great–

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And perhaps they are destined to become slippers–because I am trying to spin for the things I knit this year.  Really, I knit slippers and socks.  So.  Here we go!

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Lentil in berry colours on the left, and suri cross in pale greens on the right.

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Lentil in shades of blue. It might be almost time for slipper knitting…

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Filed under Spinning

An outbreak of hats

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This is an oatmeal Blue Faced Leicester dyed by The Thylacine and spun three ply by me.

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It is rather fine, but I decided to knit a hat anyway and settled on one from Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the top, which is more of a concept plan than a pattern.  Perfect for handspun.  And then it turned out I could use the DPNs a friend surprised me by giving me a while back (I had helped her out with i-cord, and it was sheer pleasure, but I think that may have triggered the gift in some way).  They are a rather unusual size, delectably pretty and perfect for the job.

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While this hat was on the needles, I decided to cast on another in grey corriedale, dyed with eucalyptus and spun three ply and about 10 ply (worsted).  I made a rolled brim hat from Knitting for Peace. Easy and fast.  My picture taking was interrupted by our house guest, who turned out to be camera shy.

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At about this point, there was a hiatus and that first hat sat on the needles until holidays rolled around.  And then, there was an absolute outbreak that continued for some time after we returned from holidays.  There were some with oddments of experimental yarns (some early corespun in this case).

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Here is some handspun natural polwarth with some Noro sock yarn for contrast. Blocking wouldn’t hurt it a bit.

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Indigo dyes, logwood exhaust dye, eucalyptus bark dyes…

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Mohair, alpaca blend… you name it!  I even used up random commercial black yarn.

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I made some doll and bear hats. What else are oddments for?

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Then came the day I cast on with some super thick, super soft eucalyptus dyed wool of mystery and stopped.  Last night I managed to finish, finally.  I lashed out and blocked this one just to show I can.

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Most of these are Jared Flood’s Turn A Square.  More or less.  That first hat–I did finish it, and it was claimed by a friend while we were on holiday.  I don’t think she would really want her photo on the interwebs, so you’ll just have to trust me about it being finished.  However, half the skein remains so there may yet be a reprise. If I can ever bear to knit another hat!  I am the person doing all these repetitive series of makes, and even I find it hard to understand…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Cotton socks

My mother can’t do wool socks.  It took her a while to explain this to me. Partly because the first pair I knit her were made from crochet cotton (because I was ignorant and it was cheap and pretty).  Those socks may have violated some key principles of received sock knitting wisdom, but eventually she told me that they were her favourites, that she likes that they are short, and that she loves to wear them when she gardens.  The more complicated ones I knit from fabulous sock yarns made mostly of wool, she can neither wear nor bear to part with.  But I am glad she finally told me so I didn’t have to foist this curious arrangement on her with yet more unwearable pairs!2015-12-26 11.50.56

Quite some time ago I was wondering what might work for her and looking for a wool free sock yarn I had managed to find in the shop on some previous visit.  There was no more wool free sock yarn to be had that day in that place.  However, I came across this Misti alpaca, cotton and silk blend.  I cast on with enthusiasm, and then they sat languishing for months due to concern that I might not have enough yarn to finish them.  It is hard to say what it could be about a long period in the naughty corner that might cause more yarn to magically appear in the knitting bag, but apparently hope springs eternal!

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These socks came on holiday part finished, and they were completed in double quick time.  They have been handed over and now I’ve even had a cheery text from Mum which shows them on her feet.  She says they fit, and more importantly, that they are comfy!  I am sure  a moment after she took that snap, she whipped them off her too-hot feet and set them aside to wait for winter…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Gift slippers

There is no end to the slipper making.  I just have to embrace my fate!  My brother-out-law let me know he wouldn’t mind another pair a while back, and perhaps he rigged the family Kris Kringle, because I ended up with him as my Kris Kringle. I knew what to do.

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It’s the ever popular Fibertrends Felted Clog pattern by Bev Galeskas.  Knit from Bendigo Woollen Mills alpaca blend, which works extremely well.

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Here they are, knit and ready to sew together.

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Sewn and ready to felt.

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Partway through felting at 65C.

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Ready for recipient, just in time for our departure!


Filed under Knitting, Sewing

Learn to spin day

We have friends with a farm they are revegetating and rehabilitating in a most thoughtful and wonderful way.  They have alpacas keeping their sheep safe, and the time came for shearing.  And the question came whether I would be able to teach people to spin.  Of course!!  I love sharing the joy and the skills, so my friends organised the event and eventually informed me there would be 14 people.  Some of the alpaca was washed and picked in advance, and I brought along sheep fleece in case the alpaca proved a bit challenging for beginners.

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We considered all the possibilities from spinning straight from the animal’s back (in the case of alpacas, this brings me out in hayfever, so I don’t do it anymore), through carding and dyeing and such.  The carder got a fabulous workout. Some people created their very first ever batts.

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We ran a dye pot of eucalyptus leaves in the background and pulled it out to show off at the end of the afternoon.  I mostly forgot to take pictures of most things and also forgot to ask permission for people’s images to be on the internet!  I organised a display table so people could get a sense of how different preparations and fibres look and feel and behave.

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We separated out guard fibres and talked about wise use of different fibres.

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Big people had their first attempts at spinning.  Some had spun years before and rehabilitated their wheels after years of disuse.  One father hadn’t spun since the day his son was born (a few years ago now).

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Some small people had their first attempts at spinning too.  Spinning is made a lot harder when you can’t keep yourself on the chair and reach the treadle at the same time and have to choose between these two activities.  I clean forgot the spindles, which would have simplified this process…

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There was spinning…

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And more spinning… and cups of tea and cake and baby snuggling…

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And in the end, there were first skeins of yarn of all manner of types…

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Plain and fancy!  Lots of people made yarn.  And I have to say, lots of people made alpaca yarn even without prior experience of spinning. I have been told that alpaca is too hard for beginners… but maybe, like everything else, it all depends.  I am always interested by talk of what beginners can and should do at my Guild.  Because I learned so much by myself before I found the Guild and joined up, I didn’t know what was easy and what was hard.  I knew I was a beginner, and therefore I expected to find things difficult at first.  But I didn’t have preconceptions about which skills were basic or advanced and as a result I learned some things quite early on that other people think are hard to learn or should only be attempted by advanced spinners.

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It interests me that people bring so much to the learning process, and so much of what they bring is unhelpful to learning. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we could leave more and more of that fret and fear of failure and worry and impatience and feeling stupid out of it, what learning would be like.  Perhaps it would be like learning to yodel was for me. Charley Pride did it on Mum and Dad’s records, so clearly it could be done.  I don’t remember wondering why I had never heard anyone else do it.  I just assumed that I would be able to do it.  I didn’t ask anyone else’s opinion, so no one told me it was difficult, and as a result, I’ve been able to yodel since I was a small child with a lot of land to wander about in singing at the top of my voice, yodelling optional…


Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

I’m just a girl who can’t say no to knitting slippers

It is that time of year again here in Australia, when slippers are called for.  Just when I think I can’t bear to ever knit another one, I whip a few out.  I had a virus that made me so stupid I had a couple of days off work doing mindless knitting and watching appalling daytime TV.  That helped.  And, completely charming stories of people’s slipper love come my way and make me weaken.

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The red pair are for a friend who is struggling with cuts to public sector services in her workplace.  It breaks my heart to see people who want to contribute to making things better for people whose lives are very hard indeed… and who have committed their skills and passion to this task… being treated so badly.  By sheer happy coincidence, I got these to her in the week of her birthday.  I am so glad she got born and I got to know her!

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Her last pair of slippers had been worn to holes and shreds, and hopefully the sheep hide soles will help this pair go the distance.  yes, this is the left over local sheep hide in the previous post.  The green pair have gone to a wonderful organic gardener who runs a farm, and a pale blue pair that didn’t make it into the sunshine to have their photo taken have gone to her beloved co-farmer.  The two of them do an amazing job.  I handed these two pairs over at the farmer’s market where they have a stall, and right back at me came mandarins, pak tsoi, silverbeet (chard) and such. They are so generous!

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A very discouraged friend gave me a sleeveless vest a while back.  She had already knit it twice and I perhaps also partially felted it in an effort to get fit and finally given up in frustration.  The wool is handspun and hand dyed.  In all likelihood, by one of my Guild friends.  I wanted to honour all the work that went into this wool, now a little past its prime.  I tell you what, when you unravel a garment you learn a lot about the design and about the knitting skills of the maker.  My friend has a very thorough and diligent way of darning in ends!  I feel so sad that her vest didn’t work out after so much effort.  I don’t think I have developed the patience to knit the same garment twice.  Evidently, knitting the same slipper pattern dozens of times is different…

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Eventually I got the vest apart and decided I really did have to wash the wool to unwrinkle it a bit.  These photos are the ‘after’ photos.  And now, all that wool is a pair of slippers for a young father, teacher and farmer, whose sheep hide is going to be sewn onto the soles. I have one more pair on my mental queue and needles and then I can make a pair for the mother, community development worker and farmer side of their partnership… so the season of slipper knitting isn’t over yet.  I made slippers for both parties for their wedding, and I had in mind to make them fresh pairs when their second child came along recently. But my intentions didn’t get turned into actions very quickly… best keep knitting!

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Filed under Knitting, Sewing

New year’s crafty wrap up

I realise that new year passed a while back… but there are a few things to report.  I did some serious plying on my January holidays–

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This is the indigo dyed grey crossbred fleece you might remember.

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Surprisingly hard to photograph, but I like it very much.

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I also plied two immense hanks of black alpaca yarn.  The fleece was a gift from a community with lawnmowing sheep and alpacas.  I am thinking I will check whether any of the resident knitters would like this yarn.  It is deep black and happily… now virtually free of scurf.  Spinning is such an educational pursuit!  I had not encountered animal dandruff before, but my online research reassured me it was just one more of the things to pull and shake out and nothing to be afraid of… 2015-01-14 15.19.11

Last year’s calendars have been turned into envelopes, as they so often are.   This lovely piece of whimsy covered in Indigenous animals and detail of lunar cycles is by now-local artist Lucy Everitt. She also has delectable cards and other items for sale, and a beautiful blog. Her 2015 lunar calendar is available here.

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This calendar, all about Japanese art.

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Did I mention the shopping trolley?  My beloved and one of our friends restored the metal parts of this vintage item to their former glory.

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I had the job of taking the ripped, torn and stained vinyl cover (yellow, green and white) and making a new one from red vinyl.  It didn’t convert me to vinyl at all!

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And then there were the late 2014 slippers.  Two different models in blue alpaca yarns. 2015-01-17 08.39.54

Apparently the procession of slippers will never end, as I have long suspected might be the case… 2015-01-17 08.39.34


Filed under Knitting, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing, Spinning

More workshop preparation: batts, batts and more batts!

I spent a lot of hours recently creating batts for my spinning workshop.  I had all kinds of bits and bobs, some gifted from Guildies, some fleece washed and (sometimes) dyed right here at home, some from here and there and all over the place.  Even recycled sari silk.

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Batts based on natural undyed polwarth; batts based on indigo-dyed polwarth; batts based on eucalyptus-dyed corriedale…

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And then some based on merino and crossbred roving from the Guild trading table in all manner of wild colours.  The pile kept growing….

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Textured spinning is the goal, so in went silk noil, silk roving, silk yarn scraps, viscose, sparkly bits, alpaca locks, mohair, you name it!  Phew.  There’s a lot to do to get ready 🙂



Filed under Fibre preparation

What? More slippers?

I know, I know.  There are repeating themes in my knitting life.  Socks and slippers. Credit where it is due, these are knit from a new-to-me pattern, the Trim Clogs by Katie Starzman.  More or less… since, with no provocation at all,  I ignored her yarn suggestions, substituted an Australian alpaca yarn in a different gauge to the one she proposes, held it double instead of single, and changed the needle size.  I also knit 5 instead of the required 4 since I had a monumental pattern reading failure.  Needless to say, I cursed the pattern a lot and could not understand what the problem was.  The short version is that I failed to grasp that two named sizes were being knit in the same identical manner, until I had managed to knit an entire slipper.  Once I’d worked it out, it was obvious.

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The penny dropped eventually and I think these are rather lovely.  I also had a colossal felting surprise–the kind of thing you know can happen, but that I nevertheless did not expect.  These slippers all came out of the washing machine one chilly night after the same amount of time in the machine, together.  They started out the same size and were knit in different colourways of the same yarn.  What’s with that?

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Filed under Knitting