Monday, 17 July 2017

Solar Dying with kids in the British Summer Holidays

We just got back from the Wild Weekend at Avon Heath country park, where I spent two busy days teaching knitting, spinning and chatting with visitors. I mentioned to numerous interested parents that Solar Dying was a safe option for kids. SO I thought I had better write a post on it!

Equipment You will need

  1. A glass jar with a lid (coffee jars are perfect for this)
  2. Dye plants (see list of suggestions further down)
  3. A rusty nail
  4. Vinegar
  5. Water
  6. A loose skein of wool or some roving or fleece (must be a plant or animal fibre)
 Once you have collected some dye plants, smush them with a spoon or break them into pieces. Add about 4 tablespoons of vinegar (this doesn't have to be too precise) and fill the jar about 3/4 s full of water, drop in your rusty nail. Add half your dye plant stir and pop your wool in on top then add the other half of your dye plant. You can even layer different dye plants and your skein of wool to create multicoloured yarns (although results for this can be variable as the colours will leach into each other with time) Put the lid on and find a sunny spot to place your jar in the garden, windowsill or if you have one the greenhouse. let the sun work its magic for as long as you can but at least 2 weeks, you can check on the progress of your jar to see how strong the dye is. This is a great project for over the summer holidays. The hotter the sun and the longer you leave it the stronger the dye. Once you are happy remove your wool and place it on a clean surface like a plant tray to dry out over night (if left a long time these can get smelly so its probably best to do this outside on a good day. The next day give it a rinse in some cool water to remove any debris or pieces of dye plant stuck to the wool! hang it up to dry and and enjoy your solar dyed yarn, perhaps have a go at weaving it between some sticks or for older kids knitting, crochet or braiding. You could even make a pin loom from an old small wooden picture frame and more nails and weave some squares.
Blackberry dye results from the dye jar

Ideas for dye plants that are easy to find (although it is fun to encourage the kids to choose plants based on what they know stains and what colour they think it will make) :
Onion skins
Marigold flowers
Avacado seeds
Red cabbage
Oak bark

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Real Wool Vs Acrylic yarn

You might be a lover of acrylic or a lover of wool, wool lovers often get labelled 'Yarn Snobs' So I want to outline some of the reasons it pays to be a yarn snob!

  1. Wool is better for the environment in so many ways you could almost write a university thesis on it.... there's the impact of acrylic fibres on our oceans (in a scandle so huge it makes microbeads seem insignificant!). There is also the impact of the sheep on land management, they promote biodiversity through selective grazing and plant fertilisation. No grown crop even hemp can boast that!
  2. Wool is an excellent moisture regulator, it helps keep the moisture levels of the skin just right pure merino underwear is now often recommended for eczma sufferers as it helps maintain a healthy skin balance Determining Effects of Superfine Sheep wool in Infantile Eczema
  3. Wool is an excellent thermoregulator, (thanks to the structure of the hair!) those phosphor bonds work just the same as the phosphor bonds in our own hair. The only thing different between wool and our own hair (which are both made from keratin and contain disulphide bonds which control the level of curl) is the thickness of each strand the smoothness of the keratin scales, the level of curl and the length of the fibres and also the amount produced.
    A Human hair

    Different fibres commonly used for knitting
  4. Wool is good for so many crafts those disulphide bonds I mentioned mean with heat (like when you curl or straighten your hair) you can change the shape of the fibre, and as long as the heat is below a certain temperature it will spring back to its original shape! Or you can deliberately felt the wool using friction with some heat to help it on its way (a bit like when creating dreadlocks in hair)
  5. Cost... but real wool is more expensive I hear you cry! When you look at the cost of purchasing an acrylic sweater in a high street sweater (or in my case charity shop) vs the cost of buying a few balls of acrylic yarn, knitting the sweater yourself doesn't give much of a saving compared to the length of time you put in. But when you look at the cost of buying some real wool and knitting a sweater compared to the cost of buying a pure wool sweater from the high street (or even from a charity shop) you will often find you make a saving. Both sweaters will take you the same length of time but one will give you more of a saving over buying than the other.
  6. But what about washing..... many pure wools can go in the washing machine on a gentle 30c wool wash without shrinking  or felting, not all sheep breeds felt as easily. Or soaked in a no rinse wool wash for 15 minutes rolled in a towel and laid out to dry they will dry quite quickly. Acrylic also really benefits from the same treatment as plastic melts and stretches at high temperatures, leaving your beautifully knit sweater stringy and out of shape, not to mention shedding huge amounts of fibre into the wash. You can also iron a wool jumper, an acrylic one is more likely to melt

Thursday, 27 April 2017

How not to become a moth or dust mite farmer!

Whether you have wool sweaters, balls of wool, roving or fleece its important to store and protect it properly. The two biggest enemies of wool in the UK are moths and dust mites. While moths damage the wool a dust mite infestation will lead you sniffing and sneezing and worse. So here are my top tips for protecting and storing your wool


Tineola bisselliella the wool moth or carpet moth larvae will feed on anything from wool, silk, and sometimes cotton. The adults lay the eggs the larvae hatch and they will nibble holes in your yarn, and clothes or feed on your fleece and roving.

Lavender is a great moth deterrent use lavender bags in drawers, wash clothes to remove the tiny eggs and try not leave your wool in storage. My own recipe no rinse wool wash available in my etsy shop RockfordRose  Aunty Emmas no rinse wool wash  also contains lavender and eucalyptus which helps deter moths (and smells rather lovely!)

Cedar blocks can help or for your yarn, fleece and roving you could keep it in a cedar chest, or you could just endeavour to knit it all before  you get a problem. I also use my wool wash when preparing my roving and find this a big help.

Dust mites

Dust mites feed on skin cells partially broken down by mold.... yes its a lovely thought! It is the dust mite poop that causes allergic reactions runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing. Dust mites need humidity and warm temperatures to survive ( carpets on concrete flooring are the perfect place).

For clothing regular washing and drying on the line will help reduce the amount of skin on the clothing for them to feed on. UV from the sun also kills dust mites helping control their population (although it does not remove the dust mite poop). Make sure the clothes are bone dry before putting them away, warm humid airing cupboards are perfect for dust mites.

To avoid turning your fleece and roving into a dust mite farm, there are a few simple rules you can follow, buy fresh fleece, wash it and prepare it immediately (I recommend soaking in ecover as a great fleece wash for raw fleece) , this helps reduce the amount of dust mould etc for the mites to feed on. Always dry your fresh washed wool fleece in the sun. Buy your fleece as fresh as possible many farms in the UK start shearing in May so this is the perfect time to buy fleece. Another option if you cant prepare your wool immediately is to freeze it, although unless you want to run a chest freezer just to keep your sheep fleece fresh this is not an option for most!). 

Never store fleece or roving in plastic as this will increase the humidity and be perfect for dust mites, store it in pillow cases or small amounts in paper bags and cardboard boxes. When preparing your fleece make sure it has dried thoroughly in the sun (the sun also does a wonderful job of killing some bacteria and mould spores) before putting it into storage. My last piece of advice is to get on and use the fleece and roving once you have prepared it, don't keep it hanging around, it will only gather dust!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Last minute gifts: Too cool for a Christmas hat hat.

I designed this hat thinking about my crazy nephews who range in age between toddler and teenager, all are completely crazy and unique, I wanted to make hats for them that would be comfortable, festive (but not too festive) and most importantly that they might actually wear (even if its just for a quick family photo!)

Yarn : Drops Andes or any yarn with an approximate gauge of 10 sts and 14 rows to 10 cm
Needles : 9mm double pointed needles
Extras: pom pom ( or make one using a pom pom maker or some card)
Time: 1-2 hours
Skills: basic - knit in the round and long tail tubular cast on 
long tail tubular cast on by Ysolda Teague (this is also a super quick cast on method as well as making for a great stretchy edge)
Sizes: Toddler ( kid , Teen)

Using tubular cast on method, cast on 36 (40, 46)
Join in the round
work K1 P1 rib for 6 rows
Work in stocking stitch (knit) till hat measures
6" (7" 9")  ( 15cm, 18cm, 23cm)
on Toddler and teen sizes k2 tog at end of last row

next round: K3 K2tog, repeat to end
Work 3 rows stocking stitch (knit)
Next round: K2 K2tog, repeat to end
Work 2 rounds stocking stitch
Next round: K1 K2tog, repeat to end
Work 1 row
Next round: K2tog repeat to end
Break yarn and thread through remaining stitches secure tightly and sew in loose ends
Make a pom pom using either a pom pom maker or some card to make a pom pom and sew securely on the top

Enjoy! You should have time to make at least one of these whilst watching a Christmas movie, this year our favourite movie is Arthur Christmas or as Ruby calls it the man with the googly eye slippers and the little elf.  

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Last minute gifts - Quick Little legs warmers

So this year I had a request for more leg warmers, short on time I luckily have some chunky wool but couldn't find a free ready-made pattern on Ravelry. So I have written my own to share with you. I know a lot of little girls who like to wear tutus and still be princesses even when the weather is not suitable so these little leg warmers will keep them warm while they are dancing and running around

Size: 0-2 years and 3-6 years
Materials:  50-100 grams of super chunky yarn (I used Sirdar Kiko which I had left over from another project, you can just double up thinner yarn to get the right gauge)
Gauge : 9 sts and 12 rows to 10cm square
Needles: uk 7mm double pointed needles
Extras: Cable needle
Project time : 1-2 hours (make these while watching a Christmas movie or on your lunch breaks)
(you can work these leg warmers flat just reverse the knits and purls on the alternate rows, however this will mean you get a chunky seam which may not be as comfortable on little legs)


Cast on 17 (23) sts
Row 1: (K2 P1) 2x (3x) K4 (P1 K2) 2x (3x)
repeat row 1 three more times
Row 5: (K2 P1) 2x (3x) C4F (slip next 2 sts onto cable needle hold at front of work knit next 2 sts then knit 2 from cable needle)

Repeat rows 1-5: 3(5) times
Work rows 1-4 once more then cast off loosely

I hope you enjoyed this pattern I also have a selection of my own knitting Patterns available in my fibre arts supply shop wildforestwool 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Last minute hand made Christmas Gifts - Roving Fairies tutorial

I have been meaning to share some craft tutorials for a while now, unfortunately Christmas the opening of a second shop and a Toddler who requires constant entertainment has meant that this project has been on the back burner for a while. Maybe next year Ill manage to get everything done.... Anyway the same reasons that have led me to neglect this blog have also lead me to end up with not enough time to make all the handmade Christmas gifts traditionally required by my family. So as I make my last minute gifts this year I will share them so you can enjoy a bit of Christmas crafting.

My First Tutorial will be for roving Christmas fairies.


Materials Needed:
Wool roving
Large wooden bead
Craft wire
sewing needle
wire pliers

Thread wire through the bead twist a loop at each end tie a ribbon to the top loop then take a second piece of wire add a loop at each end and twist around the body for the arms
wrap arms and body in yarn to secure arms in place (you can also run the yarn through the centre of the bead and secure to the top loop to stop the arms dropping down)
Start building the fairies dress by taking strips of roving stretching them out and wrapping over her shoulders and around her waist (tying the first layer or two can help add volume and shape. Use a needle to carefully felt the dress a little around the waist (little gentle stabbing action, watch your fingers!) then take some yarn and wrap and sew around her waist (again you can anchor this through the head and into the top loop)

To make the hair start by attaching a long length of yarn to the wire loop at the top of the head, wind the yarn round you hand several times to make a big loop, wind the yarn around the top of the loop and attach again to the top of the head. Position the hair loop and tie and at the back into a pony tailthen take another length of yarn and loosely run it between the pony tie and the top of the head to fill in the fairies bald spot, trim the end off of the hair plait and tie at the bottom with another piece of yarn

Trim and tidy your fairies skirt and add embellishments, enjoy experimenting with different hairstyles and details to create lots of unique fairy decorations to hang in the tree or you could make lots of little fairies and use a hoop decorated with Ribbons to make a Waldorf style fairy mobile.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Washing your woolies

"Washing instructions are quite as important as knitting instructions" (Patons and Balwins 15th edition Woolcraft)

 Recently I have started to learn the tips I was taught as a child and take for granted are not common knowledge! I recently took on a few hours at my local pub and my comments have been met with suprise. I had thought it common knowledge if something was slow to ripen to put it in a fruit bowl with some ripe bananas, or to check if an egg is okay to eat pop it in a glass of water, if it sinks its good.

Practical knitting (1940s copy)

 I was in my garden preparing a raw sheep fleece for spinning and chatting to the neighbor over the garden fence, he had a lot of questions about washing wool. Wool washing does need to be done carefully as you can ruin a hand knit very quickly with improper care. This also applies to acrylic yarns as well as real wool! 

 Acrylic; Acrylic fibers can be machine washed (although I do recommend a gentle wool cycle) and can be tumble dried, but if you want them to last and keep their shape you should avoid the tumble drier and dry them flat, the stitches can become elongated when hung on the line and the fibers can get stretched. Some yarns especially soft and fuzzy acrylics can shed fibers quite heavily making them become brittle and stringy. You need to use a mild laundry detergent as some chemicals such as nail polish remover (acetone) will dissolve acrylic fibers (this is also a great way to test if a ball of wool is real wool or not!)

 Woolens; some woolens can be machine washed but they should never be tumble dried! Pure wool or 100% wool and wool blends are best hand washed to avoid shrinking and felting.

 How to wash your woolens step by step

Step 1: Fill an empty washing up bowl with warm water not too hot it needs to be comfortable on your hands.

Step 2: Add some laundry powder suitable for hand washing (wear gloves to protect your hands) and mix it up into a thick lather, if you're on a budget you can use just a small amount and really whisk it up. Always use a bleach free laundry powder for wool!

Step 3: Add in your woolens (wash dark colors separately) immerse them in the water and lather and gently squish the lather into the woolens. NEVER RUB the woolens friction causes felting. you can leave them to soak for 5- 10 minutes if you wish

Step 4: Remove the clothes and rinse the bowl fill with clean warm water the same as before and immerse woolens again removing the soap, repeat this step a few times more till the water runs clear

Step 5: Gently squish excess water from the woolens, you can lay them on a towel, roll it up and squish to remove more water. Then lay flat to dry in its original shape on a rack or a flat topped clothes horse in the garden. 

From Vogue knitting 23rd edition (produced in the 1940s)

Some extra wooly facts!

The sun helps kill bacteria but can bleach and fade colors (to keep 
whites white dry them outside!). Wool does not need washing as regularly as other clothing, you can just air them in the garden between wearing, trust me they wont smell. You are less likely to sweat in wool and it is thermo regulating, it will keep you warm or cool. Camel wool is the warmest and coolest of all wools keeping camels warm in freezing temperatures at night and cool in baking temperatures during the day, sheeps wool is also pretty good at this. Wool has amazing wicking properties and the natural lanolin helps keep it clean and bacteria free (its the bacteria that make sweat smell), wearing wool socks can help prevent some foot proplems caused by sweaty feet or for those that have smelly feet you need to change the type of sock you are wearing, if cottons not working for you try wool especially merino!

Practical knitting illustrated
Don't be afraid of the care involved with woolens its not as labour intensive as some people believe! I often see vintage lifestyle programs, you know the type, where families are sent to live in 'the past'. Inevitably the women spend hours washing clothing and complaining about the labour intensive process of all the washing they have to do. The problem is no one told them that 1940s women did not spend their entire days washing, many had jobs and families to take care of along with other social responsibilities. Woolens require less washing they would be washed once a week if needed, and these women took their looks seriously trust me they wouldn't leave the house stinky. If they spent their time washing in their free time they would not have had the time to craft those elaborate hairstyles and do all that knitting!

From Practical knitting illustrated