It’s a new dawn…

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It’s New Year’s Eve and traditionally the time for decrying all the disasters and misery of the past year and making promising about slinking into the next year with perfectly coiffured hair, two dress sizes smaller, speaking six new languages whilst simultaneously completing an MBA and running an ultramarathon.

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I’m not entirely sure whether to write 2016 off as a year of disastrous underachievement. There are still five billion works in progress that haven’t really progressed as much as they should, there are still projects and designs that haven’t made it off the pages of sketchbooks and the stash monster looks like it may be making territorial gains.

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Please Mind the Gap

It has been far too long since I’ve had chance to update my blog thanks to a rather excessive amount of international travel. I’ve blogged before about the joys and tribulations of travel and how to try and find ways to stop all your craft projects getting lost in work-in-progress (WIP) oblivion while on the road but I really need to learn to take my own advice.

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The worst part is I’m still not quite done with the anxious hours at airports. I have a few days of respite at home before the final leg starts. With any luck, I can get some sleep after that and I might finally be on the correct time zone and not jet lagged before New Year!

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Spinzilla Part 2

At the beginning of Spinzilla, I was busy preparing some fibre for actually getting on with some spinning. By the end of Spinzilla, I had one finished skein to admire!

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This is the 50/50 silk/merino that you can see some of the preparation for here. It’s a little uneven and bulkier than I had originally intended but I absolutely love the colour. It’s a really lofty, shiny yarn with some good snuggle factor as well.

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Spinzilla Part 1

It’s Spinzilla week! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spinzilla, it’s a week for burnt thumbs, sore shoulders and empty-looking stashes as you spin as much fibre as you can in a week.

While spinners across the globe eagerly awaited the clock to strike midnight for spinning time to commence, with their piles of combed top and carded batts prepped for the wheel, I was struggling to sleep with what was going to turn out to be a really miserable cold. My fibre stash also better resembled an aimless fluff pile than anything with a plan in mind.

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That’s why Day 1 of spinning time turned into Day 1 of fibre prep time…

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Creative Metalwork

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Durham isn’t often a city I end up passing through, which is a bit of a shame as it’s home to one of the nicest embroidery studios I’ve ever seen, belonging to Tracy A Franklin.

Tracy is a Royal School of Needlework-trained embroider whose work is mind-bogglingly amazing. You can see some of her pieces on her Instagram page here. Her studio is tucked away in a lovely little area by the river called Fowler’s Yard, which is home to range of creative studios and stores, with a conveniently located wool shop for your knitting and fibre needs.

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I was very fortunate as Tracy was kind enough to find me space on one of her classes so I could learn all about doing creative metalwork.

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Heating Procion MX Dyes and Science Sundays

While discovering that Procion MX dyes are very happy to dye wools, I came across something else that gave me pause for thought. Although there’s not a wealth of information on using Procion MX dyes with acid, most of the advice that is out there says you need to steam or heat the fibre after applying the dye.

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For acid dyes, heating the dyebath is standard practice to help fix the dyes. Fibre reactive dyes, like Procion MX, don’t require this, which is definitely an advantage when trying to do large bits of tie-dying. The standard advice when working with fibre reactive dyes on cellulose fibres and silks is to do your dyeing, then leave your fibre damp with the dye on it for at least a good few hours, closer to 24, if you want strong colours.

As I tend to like very intense, saturated colours, I tend to err on the side of giving the dye a longer reaction time.  For some short-sighted reason, I’d always assumed that there was some kind of degradation of the Procion dyes at higher temperatures, hence leaving them to react at ‘room temperature’ but seeing as steaming the wool lately with Procion dyes had worked just fine, that obviously couldn’t be the case.

Was there really a way to go speed up Procion dyeing so I didn’t have to wait so long to see what wonderful mess I’d made?

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Course Review: Basics of Digital Photography

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One of the great things that this blog has encouraged me to do is not only buy my first DSLR camera but to really start thinking about photography beyond a ‘point and click’ process.

However, as those of you with your own DSLRs might remember when you first got them, they’re not necessarily the most intuitive things in the world straight out the box and whilst they do often come with comprehensive manuals, who wants to sit there looking up every stupid acronym?

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Learning to take a photograph isn’t just about understanding that AE on your camera standards for Automatic Exposure but it’s about understanding how to manipulate those settings to achieve the effects you want.  Sometimes that is faithfully reproducing what your eye sees, sometimes that’s playing with exposure times and light levels to do something a little more creative.

For those of you not familiar with Craftsy, it is an online learning platform where you can buy video courses for a whole variety of crafty subjects, as well as feedback and support from the tutor running the course. For photography, this is an excellent format for learning as you just pause to check comparable settings on your own make of camera and it gives you flexible time periods for practicing the skills you’re learning, that are often weather and light dependent.

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Wool with Procion MX Dyes

A common theme of frustration since I’ve started dyeing has been how difficult it can be to get good, informative resources on the hows and whys of certain dyeing techniques. For most other techniques, I have a series of ‘go to’ reference books which I can consult to at least have some idea of what I’m doing but I’ve yet to find something similar for dyeing. Fellow dyers, what is your favourite literature on the subject?

I’d seen in a few places that Procion MX dyes could in fact to be used to dye wools, as well as cellulous fibres and silk. The only thing you needed to change to use Procion MX dyes with wool is that, instead of using an alkaline dye bath with soda ash, you needed something acidic instead.

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There was some ambiguity in the sources I’d read as to whether the wool could be left in the dye to react just at room temperature or required steaming, so I thought I’d give up reading and just see what results I’d get for myself.

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Tutorial: Making Paper Quills

What do criminals and crafters have in common? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, quite a lot! Their definition of the noun ‘stash’ is as follows:

stash, n.1 slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.).

1 a. Something, or a collection of things, stashed away; a hoard, stock; a cache.

  1. A cache of an (illegal) drug; a quantity (of a drug); the drug itself.
  2. slang (orig. Criminals’). A hiding-place, a hide-out; a rendezvous; a dwelling, ‘pad’.

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The meaning of the verb ‘to stash’ isn’t much better either:

  1. To bring to an end, stop, desist from (a matter, a practice); to quit (a place). Often imp. stash it!, stash that!, †to stash the glim: to cease using the light. to stash up: to bring to an abrupt end.
  2. To conceal, to hide; to put aside for safe keeping; to stow or store. Freq. with away. Formerly Criminals’ slang; orig. U.S. in revived mod. use.

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The Sea Monster

I’m going to be participating in Spinzilla this year, which is a global event where the sole goal is to spin as much yarn as possible. Of course there’s plenty of silly events to be enjoyed too, like photo challenges, and the general, good social atmosphere to be enjoyed with these big events. Spinzilla will be running 3 – 9th October this year and registration is still open until the end of September if you want to join in!

I very much doubt I’ll be winning any competitions for most spun but I thought it’d be good to get a bit of practice in before the start of Spinzilla. Plus, this poor silk top has been sat, half-spun, for far too long. I’ve even got a pattern picked and needles prepped for the final yarn…

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