Friday, 31 October 2014

Snakes and Ladders Hat Pattern

This yarn is spun from a 100g batt of North Ronaldsay fleece from The Spinning Barn at Spotty Pig Farm. It had a soft, short grey base mixed with a halo of fine dark hairs and was lovely to spin, so good tempered.  I brought it to spinning camp and learned how to tear off a 10cm length, lay on a few tufts of coloured fluff and roll the whole lot into a sort of rolag.  The coarser, coloured fibres drafted out in random clumps, adding texture and setting off the grey.
Two ply came out around aran weight with a gentle handle, low bounce, medium drape. Samples felt fine next to the skin, despite the hairs.   Dropping a single stitch on a 4mm needle and letting it unravel down the fabric gave a ladder about 2cm wide. This interesting effect maximises the yardage and minimises the knitting.  I'd think this hat could be made from the average single 50g ball of aran yarn.  My spinning doesn't show off the snakes to best effect.  Cable type patterns really need a round yarn made of three singles in a plain, pale colour.  Even so, I'm quite pleased with how the hat came out.

Snakes and Ladders

Take care when playing a bunch of self serving worms, lest you find yourself knocked off the ladder.  A hat for anyone out in the cold.


70 to 80m aran/worsted weight yarn (about 50g)
4mm circular needle and cable needle
darning needle for weaving in ends.


18 stitches to 10cm in stocking stitch


Cast on 60 stitches - a long tail cast on gives a stretchy edge - take care to keep it loose.  I put the other needle in between the cast on stitches to ensure I don't pull them too tight.  Join and knit rounds in a rib pattern of (knit 3 purl 1) repeated, until work measures 7cm.

At the beginning of the final rib round, place a marker before the second stitch in the runs of knit 3, missing every third set.  As the whole round has 15 repeats of knit 3 purl 1, you will end up with 10 markers dividing the stitches up into a group of 4 followed by a group of 8.  

Keeping the markers in place, purl all the stitches except the middle two in each group of 8, which are the knit stitches beginning each of the five snakes.  Repeat for 8 rounds.

Round 9  Make each snake start to bend to the left by holding the two knit stitches on the cable needle at the front of the work and purling the next stitch, before knitting the two on the cable needle.
Round 10 Purl or knit the same type of stitch as is on the left needle from the round below - just copy, same as before.
Repeat rounds 9 and 10 another two times, at which point the knit stitches for the snake will have a marker immediately on their left. Repeat Round 10 one more time.

Round 16 Make each snake bend to the right by holding the purl stitch before each pair of knit stitches on the cable needle at the back of the work.  Knit the two knit stitches and then purl the stitch off the cable needle.
Round 17 As Round 10.
Repeat rounds 16 and 17 twice more, until the knit stitches for the snake have one stitch between them and the marker on their right. 

Round 22 Make each snake bend to the left again by repeating Rounds 9 and 10 three times, so that the knit stitches for the snake have one stitch between them and the marker on their left.

Round 28 Make each snake bend to the right again by repeating Rounds 16 and 17 twice.

Now to drop the first set of ladders.
Round 32 At the same time as shifting the snakes right for the third time, as per Round 16, drop the purl stitch after the second and each alternate marker.  This is the stitch just before the one you put on the cable needle to bend the snakes right.  Gently unravel each column of dropped stitches to make a ladder to the bottom of the work.
Round 33 as Round 10 on the remaining 55 stitches.

Round 34 Make the snakes bend left by repeating Round 9 once, then Round 10 twice.

Round 37 At the same time as bending the snakes right by repeating Round 16, drop the purl stitch before the first and alternate markers to make the second set of ladders.  50 stitches remain.

Round 38 As Round 10, with the addition of purling two stitches together before each marker. 40 stitches remain.
Round 39 As Round 10, with the addition of knitting instead of purling the stitch on either side of each snake's body, to widen it to form the head.
Round 40 As Round 10, keeping the 4 knit stitch pattern for the snakes' heads and also purling 2 together before each marker and taking the markers off, except the one for the beginning of the round.  30 stitches remain.
Round 41 As round 10.
Round 42 As Round 10, except in each run of four knit stitches, knit 2 together through back of loops then knit 2 together, to narrow the snakes' heads.  20 stitches remain
Round 43 Purl all the purl stitches and on the pairs of knit stitches. knit through back of loop then knit 1, to slant each snake's head to a point. 
Round 44 Purl 1, (knit 2 together purl 2) repeat to last stitch and purl 1. 15 stitches remain.
Round 45 (Purl 1 purl 2 together) repeat.
Cut the yarn, leaving a length to thread onto a darning needle and pass through the remaining 10 stitches, pulling them tight and fastening off.

Now all you need is a lovely niece to wear it.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Making a Skein Necklace

Wearing a washed skein of yarn around my neck dries it quickly, though it does leave me open to abuse.  The offspring will kick off when unnerved.  Presumably, they dread maternal madness, rising like Medusa with Black Welsh Mountain dreadlocks.  Them spending Sundays dutifully visiting my padded cell, poking a bit of wool roving through the hatch and watching me caper about. I rather enjoy the smell of damp wool in a cloud about me, then tend to forget the skein is there until I take it off to knit and miss the warmth on my neck.
In the picture is a skein necklace, yarn made by spinning the waste from flicking raw locks of a very soft Corriedale X Gotland lamb's fleece.  Clearing the decks after finishing a shawl, the heap of tangled fluff seemed far too good to chuck on the compost heap.  I just took a handful, pulled up a tuft to twist onto a leader and drafted it out randomly, spun however it came, knots and all. Didn't take long to empty the basket, starting the palest and ending with the darkest clumps. 

Navajo plied to keep the colour gradient, there was only 25m yarn, with fluffy bumps sticking out and uneven plying, much tighter over the skinnier lengths.  To my mind, a lovely texture and very soft round the neck while drying out after a proper scouring.  Far too little to knit anything.  By Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos - a spot of weaving could disguise this skein as a necklace I could even wear to work.

Using some fingering weight yarn left over from knitting the shawl as the weft, I treated the skein on the niddy noddy as the warp.  A long needle to thread fine yarn under then over alternate strands.

Making one stretch of weaving on each of the four spaces on the niddy noddy, it was easy enough to fasten in both ends by weaving a couple of rows back inside the first and last gaps. This niddy noddy winds a skein 1.5m in circumference.  Add a few twists and loop it double.
Chic and in no way certifiable.  Who would suspect this might be an apotropaic accessory?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Spinning a Lamb's Fleece in the Grease from the Fold

This is the fleece of a Corriedale X Gotland lamb.  I have had shearling fleeces before, the first clip from a hogg just over a year old, but never a real lamb's wool. It was an impulse buy from the first stall I stopped at at the Llandovery Wool Fair.  While the soft fine fibres felt lush, it was the colours that seduced me into paying £30 for it.  I know.  Hell of a price for what turned out to be 700g raw fleece.  

I was all of a quiver as I went on round the marquee, immediately regretting having spent practically all the money I had brought. Plenty of other interesting wool I could have chosen in much greater quantity for the same amount. Luckily, himself was prepared to indulge me with tea, cake and comforting comments about other women who would spend that much having their hair done and not think twice.  As it goes, I really do need a haircut for a reunion do tomorrow, ah well, one large gin and I shan't care.

Truly, this was a clean fleece, hardly any dirt even on the tips. As I sorted the locks into different shades, there was only the odd scrap of dried grass to pick out and a handful of matted fibres to discard. The smell was sheepy, but not pungent.  After time consuming salvage operations on my badly washed fibre, what a bonus to be able to work on raw locks.  I even invested in a proper flicker, instead of using the dog brush.

In the Spinners' Book of Fleece, Beth Smith describes two techniques, the classic combing action or just bouncing the flicker on the ends of the locks while you hold the other end firmly.  The latter method opened up the fibres gently, without causing any neps or producing much waste. I read that spinning from the fold means bending a lock over your forefinger and drafting from your finger tip,
but I couldn't seem to keep control, not being able to keep the tips and butts wrapped away from the drafting zone. The staple length of under 7cm may not have helped.  Simply holding the folded lock went much better.  I find spinning wool in the grease most soothing to scaley skin, plus the added drag from the lanolin makes fibres far easier to draft finely and evenly.

I sorted best part of the fleece by colour. All of the locks had some grey and some brown, the bulk of them being in the palest shades.  Though my spinning from the fold did not achieve perfectly even singles, I did manage to spin to the crimp, which was 6 per inch.  By my calculations that meant one treadle on the 10:1 ratio wheel for just over an inch of forward drafting, to put in 9 twists per inch of single.  This was enough to hold the fairly short staple fibres properly secure.  I had also read that overplying a little will give a better balanced yarn after washing and I think that turned out to be true. The yarn had to have a proper hot wash to scour it, each skein gently brought up to 80 degrees Centigrade in a pan of detergent and water, allowed to cool to 50 degrees before having three hot rinses. 
was pleased to have no hassle with felting of the strands, even when I slapped the skeins about to full them.  Such soft, pretty yarn, I was head over heels about the subtlety of the spun colours and what better destiny than a lace scarf from the In Love Collection from Boo?  Starting with these paler locks, I had a lovely time, spinning a shade and knitting a shade.

This pattern is called Promise Me. My version has some errors, but I don't think they will show when I'm wearing it.  This shawl is for me and it's called 'Smitten'.  I fell for that little fleece and have no regrets about the price I paid. Lesley Wickham said when I bought it that I would enjoy spinning it in the grease, from the fold, without hours of preparation and she was absolutely right.  This is a link to her online shop if you would like to try one of the fleeces from Cwmchwerfru Farm for yourself.  I'm told that lamb will be white next year, but hey - I still have 500g left.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Calculus Hoody Knitting Pattern

It is officially Wool Week in the UK from 6th to 12th October. Having spun 1.2kg raw weight of Welsh Black Mountain X Gotland fleece during the Tour de Fleece, I was determined to have it knitted up into a hoody for my son before this week was over. Had to abandon Plan A when I realised I had miscalculated and knitted the whole of the body tube too narrow. Since my daughter is about the right size, I carried on knitting, using symbols on the yoke suited to a student of engineering.  Knitted on some more, making a long tubular neck, then closed the top and steeked it to fit a zip. A hoody after all, called Calculus, because it all worked out in the end. The yarn would have run out before I finished a larger item and what's more, my son would never have been so good natured as to pose while I took photos.


840g (1110m or 1213 yards) double knitting yarn for main colour
50g (65m or 71 yards) double knitting yarn for pattern
As the knitting will be cut and steeked, it would be safest to choose a yarn that will felt a bit when washed.  I'd guess at least 50% wool, but you could test out the steek's stability on your tension gauge piece.
4mm circular needle, long cord for the body, I prefer to change to a shorter one when doing the sleeves.  4mm needle for holding the top of the pocket and stitch holders.
Blunt needle for weaving in ends and doing Kitchener stitch.
3.5mm crochet hook and scissors for steeking.
50cm zip, matching cotton and needle to sew it in.


18 stitches and 28 rows to 10cm square after washing.
My knitted fabric got a little wider and 5% shorter after washing, so the pattern has reminders to self to knit the intended measurements that much longer.

Final Size 


Chest 96cm (38")
Body length to armpit 42cm (16.5")
Sleeve - cuff to armpit 48cm (19")
Cuff circumference 20cm enlarging to 36cm at join to yoke.
Front pocket 20cm long
Hood 30cm high.


k1p1 = knit one purl one
k2tog = knit 2 stitches together
m1left = increase by making 1 stitch left
m1right = increase by making 1 stitch right
p2tog = purl 2 stitches together
s1k1psso = slip one, knit one and pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch


Cast on 198 stitches on a 4mm circular needle.  Join into a circle, placing a marker at the beginning of the round and work in k1p1 rib for 20 rounds.  Next, knit 10 rounds of stocking stitch, which is knit stitches only in a circular piece.
To make front pocket
From start of round, knit 10, place another marker, knit 79 and turn, pulling a length of cable out from the bunched up knitting beyond, to free the pocket front to be worked separately from the main piece. Purl back to the marker and turn again, pulling through another length of the circular needle cable.
Next row *s1k1psso then knit to last 2 stitches and k2tog (77 stitches).
Turn and purl back*  repeat from * to * twice more (73 stitches).
Knit and purl alternate rows in stocking stitch until pocket front measures 20cm (+5% for shrinkage =22.5cm) then transfer stitches to a holder.
To make the inside of the pocket and the lower body
Take a new ball of yarn and cast on 81 stitches onto the right of the circular needle, then working back and forth, purl row followed by knit row, make 10 rows.  On the eleventh row (wrong side facing) p2tog purl to last 2 stitches and p2tog.  Turn, knit across the 79 remaining stitches and continue straight on knitting round the main body and rejoining the circle. When you have knitted about 10cm more of the body, sew the cast on edge of the pocket lining against the upper edge of the ribbing on the wrong side of the body, so it is all held in its final alignment. Continue knitting in rounds until the tube of the body reaches the same height as the top of the pocket. From the marker at the beginning of the next round, k13.  
Transfer the 73 stitches of the top of the pocket from their holder to a 4mm straight knitting needle and knit one from this needle together with one stitch from the main body until all stitches are off the straight needle and the top of the pocket has been joined to the main body tube.
Continue knitting rounds until the body measures 42cm (+ 5% for shrinkage = 46cm).
From the start of the next round, k95, cast off 8 for the right armpit, k91 and cast off 8 for the left armpit, moving the marker for the start of the round from the fifth cast off stitch and replacing it on the first stitch beyond the armpit.  Knit 91 to the start of the right armpit.


Knit two the same.
On a 4mm circular needle, cast on 58 stitches. Place marker for beginning of round and work in rounds of k1p1 rib until cuff measures 6cm (+5% for shrinkage = 6.3cm).
Knit 8 rounds.  On the next and on the 10 following ninth rounds, starting at the round marker, work increase rows as follows
k2 m1left, k to last 2 stitches m1right k2.  Total 72 stitches.  

Continue straight until sleeve measures 48cm (+5% for shrinkage = 50.4cm).  
On the last round, knit to the last 4 stitches before the marker and cast off 8 stitches, removing the marker.


Comprises 91 stitches along the front, 72 stitches around the right sleeve, 91 stitches across the back and 72 stitches around the left sleeve = 326 stitches.
With the front pocket of the main piece facing you, the working yarn is at the right armpit. Hold the cast off stitches of one sleeve aligned with the cast off stitches on the body, place a marker and knit on round the right sleeve, place a marker and continue along the back to the cast off stitches.  Hold the cast off stitches of the other sleeve in alignment with the left armpit, place a marker and work round the left sleeve from the back to return to the original marker for the start of the round.
Shaping the Underarms
In the next three rounds, after each marker k2 s1k1psso and 4 stitches before each marker, k2tog k2 (302 stitches).
In the next 12 rounds, repeat the same decreases on alternate rounds (254 stitches).
Knit one more round removing all markers except at the beginning of the round and decreasing one stitch at the centre of each shoulder (252 stitches).
Using the contrast colour skein for the black squares, begin knitting the chart (from the bottom right X going left) starting at the round marker and repeating the pattern 21 times within each round. Don't forget to keep the unused colour yarn nice and loose behind the knit stitches and twist it in to the working thread if the pattern has more than two consecutive stitches of the other colour.  I used markers to show where each repeat begins. The squares marked / \ are two stitches to be knitted together in that round.  The first 12 stitch repeat block is the symbol for infinity, the second 11 stitch repeat block represents binary, the third 10 stitch repeat block is the symbol for 'approximately equal' and the last 9 stitch block indicates field range.






































At the end of the 32 charted rounds, 168 stitches remain.
Knit 4 rounds and on the fifth, decrease one stitch in every 8 stitch repeat (147 stitches).
Knit 4 rounds and on the fifth, decrease one stitch in every 7 stitch repeat (126 stitches).
Knit 2 rounds and on the third, decrease one stitch in every 6 stitch repeat (105 stitches).


Knit rounds until the tube for the hood is 10cm long (+ 5% for shrinkage = 10.5cm). Move the marker to the centre stitch at the back.  As you knit the next 9 rounds, when you reach the marker, m1left, slip marker, k1 m1right.  Continue knitting a further 15cm of the wider tube, then decrease as follows.
Knit to 10 stitches before marker and place another marker, sl1k1psso, k8 remove marker k9 k2tog and place a marker. *Knit round to the first marker, sl1k1psso knit to two stitches before second marker and k2tog.*  Repeat for * to * until there is only one stitch between the markers and remove them.
Cut yarn, leaving 1.5m for closing the top of the hood and thread it on a darning needle. Hold the two ends of the circular needle parallel and use Kitchener stitch to anneal the two sides of the knitting seamlessly, just like the toe of a sock.  Fasten off when the top of the hood is closed, leaving a loose end of yarn to mark the spot.


This was my first time cutting into knitting and I was highly anxious about the whole thing unravelling.  On this account, the following steek is secured in three different ways, which is probably more than was really needed.  This link takes you to a series of interesting articles on steeking and a step by step tutorial to the first crochet stitch I used.
Using the contrast yarn, make a starting loop on the 3,5mm crochet hook and starting to the right of the fastened off hood closure stitch, working from the outside of the hood, follow Kate Davies' instructions for crocheting one side of the central column of knitting stitches to the adjacent side of the next column.  At the level of the Binary Pattern, make a couple of crochet stitches to turn 180 degrees and work back up 

binding the other side of the midline column of knitted stitches to the adjacent side of the column on the left.  To be doubly secure, I follwed this with a second steek method, a chain of crochet stitches worked through the knitting with the yarn held at the back, pulling a loop through one stitch, pulling a loop through the next stitch, then slipping the first loop over it and off the hook.  
The chain runs all the way round, encircling the edge of the first steek crochet rows.  
Weave in any loose ends on the knitting and steeking, sew up the armpits and wash the hoody. While it is damp, cut the steek, snipping the transverse thread of each knit stitch where it runs between the inner edges of the primary crochet steek rows.

Pin a 50cm zip into the slit, block out and leave to dry before sewing in the zip as the final steek reinforcement.  This hoody can be worn with the zip done up right to eye level in cold weather, though my daughter wore it open, which I think looks really good.

Calculus is the mathematical study of change. 

I can't even get a stitch count right, but the Calculus Hoody can differentiate, hood up or hood down, zip open or zipped shut, concordant with a change in the weather.