This time last week I was in Suffolk taking part in the first ever Britspin Marathon. I’m not sure if I’ve really recovered yet. But I thought you’d like to share a little of my madness. Britspin was organised by a group of enthusiasts who wanted to have some fun and raise money for the air ambulance service.  I got involved when Martina from NB Burnt Oak asked if I could be in her team, and coming from Bedfordshire we would be known, along with 8 others as “team spinning in Beds.” We had both hoped to travel to Beds to spin together but as circumstances worked against us social media came to our rescue and we all kept in touch throughout the 4 day event. As the event kicked off at midnight we thought we’d go to bed well prepared.Martina took her wheel to bed and I out teddy in charge of my drop spindle And I woke up at 6 to get a few metres spun on my drop spindle, (no wonder Eric chose to stay on board Firecrest) But I’d got a box full of fluff and my wheel and more spindles were ready and waiting for me once daylight arrived. To keep us busy during the 4 days we were challenged to make our own drop spindle able to spin a minimum of 5 m I dutifully improvised a rose from the garden and one of Heather’s hand made glass beads I was quite impressed with the result, so were the judges, I got a joint third place badge for my efforts. I was a lot more productive using my wheel and proper drop spindles though and over the 4 days I managed to spin approx 800m of finished yarn. As each skein is made up of 2 yarns plied together that actually means I spun about 2363m in total, that’s about a mile and a half. My personal challenge was to pass the mile mark so I’m happy. I might have managed a bit more but Tim and Veve decided to visit, so it was a full house. They had visited a pumpkin patch and brought me a tiny pumpkin (or more officially a gourd) which was just crying out to feel the fibre fun,and I managed another 5m. I reckon I’d be ok if I got stranded on a desert island.

It took a few days for all the results to come through, but our team captain’s did a fantastic job collating all the totals. And here are the results….Everyone had fun, over £3000 was raised for the air ambulance service, with more still coming in, team spinning in Beds came 7th out of 24 teams, our team spun 22141m, and 506220m were spun in total. There were lots of crazy things done in the name of creativity that weekend and we’re all counting down to next year’s marathon I was a little bereft on Monday morning so I got the crochet hook out and made a pumpkin to add to the collection Tim and Veve gave us.

A week away

Having left Eric safely moored in Newark, or so I thought, I caught the train back to Suffolk so I could enjoy some precious mum and daughter time. Heather and I had booked our annual outing to indulge our creative souls. We were going to Fibre East; a 2 day extravaganza and shopping paradise for yarnies like us. We have a thriving and exciting independant fibre industry in this country and although it might not be going to make many millionaires, it makes a lot of people very happy. Sadly commercial sheep farmers have a hard time making money out of selling fleece due to the cost of shearing etc, and a lot of the yarn we see in shops is imported acrylic. Which I hasten to add has it’s place in the knitters world, it’s cheap cheerful and accessible. But if you are prepared to pay a bit more, you can get soft easycare woollen blends. But still being commercially dyed the colours are precise neat and tidy. The past 20 years and the advent of online sales has seen small independent companies, often kitchen table affairs grow, preparing, spinning and dying fleece and fibres in an array of colours way beyond the rainbow. And as knitting is now a hobby craft done for primarily for pleasure not just to keep the family warm and clothed, using exquisite quality materials just adds to the pleasure. And yarnies are sociable people, we ply our craft in small social groups, where we “knit and natter,” we join guilds to learn and help teach our skills to others and we recognise that we are healthier, happier and more content when we are immersed in fabulous fibre. Both Heather and I dye spin knit crochet and play with felt. Heather also weaves. And for us acquiring “stash” is an important part of the enjoyment. We’ll often buy a skein purely because the colour shouts buy me buy me. And because handproduced yarns and fibres aren’t cheap we rarely buy enough for a big garment so they sit in a colour candy box waiting for just the right pattern. And this weekend lived up to our expectations. Not only did we meet friends from around the country, including Martina from narrowboat Burnt Oak, and several sellers who work from their narrowboats. Heather also met friends who combine their hobbies, who are glass lamp workers as well, like she is.We were very restrained this weekend knowing that storage on a narrowboat is limited and I am trying to work on a one in one out principle, and that Heather was on course to have enough fibre to add a layer of insulation in the house. We both came home happy.

Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Eric. Our perfect mooring, beneath the castle, within easy walk of all the essentials, turned out to be too tempting for the local hooligans. And as we’d had to moor against the wall the roof of the boat was parralel with the towpath, it was just too much of an invitation to the thoughtless, that they found it amusing to jump onto Firecrest and run along at 1am in the morning. Other boaters had their ropes untied. The police were called and the flashing lights scared the villians off. Eric was equally scared and along with the other boaters moved to what they thought was a safer mooring. Only to have more trouble the next night, and again after another relocation for a third night running. We have repairable damage to the boat, but the damage done to our confidence has been huge. Boaters will always be more vulnerable than those inside bricks and mortar, and what seems to be petty intimidation to the hooligans, potentially has serious consequences to the boaters. We weren’t impressed with the police support. The culprits ran and hid, which seemed part of the game and certainly no deterrent not to do the same again to the next lot of boaters. On a positive note, we spoke to other boaters who had never had any trouble in Newark and likewise we have been moored where the doomsayers had warned us about areas that we felt safe in. We won’t let 3 nights trouble spoil the many many that have been idyllic and perfect.Eric eventually found safe harbour a couple of miles upstream. Close enough for him to be easily cruise back into Newark to collect me when I returned from my jaunt.

Winter blues

I’m feeling very British, needing to talk about the weather. It’s dire, bleak and wintery, with sleet and biting winds. The temptation is to snuggle down under the duvet and go into hibernation. I’m certainly not cruising anywhere whilst it’s like this.

Thankgoodness I had the foresight to fill the larder with enough food to see us through at least a week without any repetition or two or three weeks of pasta and tomato sauce.

We don’t even get any TV reception here so I’m making the most of this enforced idleness by catching up on some knitting projects.

A scarf that has been on the needles for too long and needs to get finished. And to add a splash of colour, last week I finished a cardigan for my new nephew, Solomon


Wonderful Wonderwool

Last weekend Heather and I got in the car and drove to Wales for the wonderful Wonderwool festival. Two days of self indulgence where 200 mainly independant fibre and yarn producers exhibit their wares to 1000’s of happy yarnies like us who can’t resist 1 or 2 or 3 ….. (Bagfuls) to feed our creative dreams. I reckon a lot of purchases don’t ever become a completed project, and remain as stash although as everyone knows wool makes excellent insulation so should be encouraged not frowned upon.

We browsed

And drooled

And oooed

And arred (angora bunnies)

And smiled (I think these are the mohair goats)

And yes we brought home a few goodies


And we took two mini classes, one with Jenny Barnet who showed us how to make a needle felted lamb and the other to make some dyed yarn using food colourings.

It was a great weekend and of all the fibre festivals we’ve visited over the past few years, this one was possibly the best. There are a few more around the country that we shall visit in time but for now we have work to do.

Change of scene

I’m taking a few days away from the boat so that Eric can work without distraction. No photos but Braidbar have double breasted one of their boats in build against Firecrest which means until they move it Eric can’t go cruising. And I’ve arranged to have a week of rain so he won’t be tempted to go walking. I’m staying with Mum in the Lakes so I’m not too far from water as there is a river running through the garden. Pity it’s not suitable for narrowboats to moor in.

Sadly the rain has come with me so I’ve spent the afternoon on the sofa knitting up the wool that I bought from Wiseheart studio. And I’m making a shawl known as the hitchhiker.

Wet felting workshop

“… do know there’s one place left on Sunday’s workshop, don’t you……” Well it would have been rude not to take it wouldn’t it….so having established that I didn’t need to take any equipement other than myself, I ventured forth to learn how to “wet felt”.

Broadly speaking, felting is a textile process of matting and compressing fibres together to make a dense fabric. It’s a technique that’s been used for millennia and of course it is commercially and economically manufactured now. So hand made felt is considered an art form which can be both practical or decorative. And the nice thing about it, is that it’s not difficult so ideal for a beginners workshop.

(And yes there is a dry felting technique, it’s called needle felting and in my opinion is a lot harder)

Everything at Wiseheart studio starts with home made cake and today was no different, Annie kept us well fuelled throughout the day.  Kate had everything prepared for us to make our first piece of felt and talked us through the process, within the hour we’d made two beautiful flowers.

Kate showed us how to layer the fibres, add highlights of colour and sparkle, and how much water and soap is needed.

Having encouraged the fibres to ‘stick’ together we then had to agitate them to compress and shrink them into a dense strong fabric by rolling the fibre mat up in a sushi roll mat, (I’m not sure sushi rolls were available when felt was first made but never mind)

I’ll embellish my ‘Derbyshire dale’ with some embroidery once it’s dry.

I had enough time to play with a few more colours and made a small piece of fabric that I can use later, probably to make a book cover.

It was a brilliant workshop and just to add the icing to the cake we were given a goodie bag full of fibre to encourage us to do more felting at home.

Warm feet.

Another quiet week on the boat, mainly because I left Eric to get on without me distracting him.  While I do some socialising back on dry land. I’ve also been able to get on finishing off some knitting projects.

Do you remember the lace shawl that I started the week before we moved onto the boat? I finished the knitting bit yonks ago but there a big problem with the boat, no where to block ( stretching it out to remove all the wrinkles) my projects. So I had to bring it back to the house to find a bit of space big enough to do that.

And as any serious lace knitter knows, shawls look like old dishcloths until they’ve been properly blocked, but then they magically transform into something very pretty. This shawl has now been gifted to someone special in need of a cosy hug.

I’ve also been knitting slippers this week, because the men in my family don’t appreciate lace shawls as much as warm feet. This pattern is for felted clogs which involves knitting in pure wool, comically large shapes that would suit a clown but then putting them into the the washing machine so they shrink down small enough to be moulded to the owners foot.

And each pair fits perfectly, these are for me.

my next knitting project is to make Eric a new wooly hat but for that I shall have to return to the boat because that’s where all my yarn is now.

I’ll be returning to Firecrest tomorrow to find out if Eric’s made as much progress as I have. I hear he’s taken to cruising without me, and I can’t have him making a habit of that. I hope I can find where he’s moored up.

A little light relief

They always say moving house is rated as one of life’s most stressful events, not a lot is said about moving onto a boat, but needless to say, the constant uncertainties about when our boat will be complete has been very stressful. Hence the need for a little light relief; I’m knitting a lacey shawl.

For those of you that know me, you’ll know how much time I spend working with fibre, knitting spinning and sewing. I’ve been promised I can have the space under the bed to store all the necessities of life. I’ll be sharing a few of my projects on my craft blog pages, although I can’t promise to be entirely truthful about how much wool I buy.

Good things come to those who wait. It won’t be long now.