To mark Mental Health Awareness Week we are taking part in the Circles of the Mind event at Forge Urban Revival on the 17th May 2018. There will be a range of activities including some colourful crafting in the form of circular crochet patterns and stitched circles. In the crochet community the ‘mandala’ has become something […]
Author: Mary Lewis, YarnTangler
Just a few little projects using little wool….
Occasionally my worlds of wool and wood collide. Last week this happened with a rather large woolly project in the form of an 18ft diameter needlefelted wool yurt liner. Traditional Central Asian yurts have felted wool covers with a high insulation value. Felt is not so good in our damp temperate climate but felt is still often used as an insulation layer under the canvas to give some protection from the cold and the heat of the sun.
This is me almost buried under 8mm wool felt. It’s a fabulous natural material that smells authentically sheepy and, when compared with other felt products that we have used, it doesn’t shed many fibres. It does come with some bonus bits of felted in thistle and occasional patches of brown fleece that shows that it is definitely straight from the back of a sheep. We borrowed a friend’s workshop for the sewing (thanks very much Loz) and, no, I don’t know why there is leopard above my head.
It was really quite successful although it is definitely a two person job as that felt weighs a ton. It has now been installed in it’s yurty home in Wiltshire where is hopefully keeping things a bit cooler in this hot, dry summer. I can happily report that it fitted perfectly!
Sockywocky doo dah
My new year’s resolution last year was to learn to knit and my resolution this year was to learn to knit socks. Tick. I have always loved hand knitted socks and I wear them all year round in place of (or as well as) slippers. I like how they feel on wooden floors, inside my wellies and nestled by the fire.
So, tah dah! I can knit socks and I am particularly pleased with myself. These are my second pair of socks and, despite a few dramas along the way and and quite a lot of imperfections, they are definitely socky enough to pass muster.
I used Drops Fabel in green/turquoise and it is particularly good for baffling non-knitters into assuming that you are some kind of fairisle pattern genius. This lovely yarn is great value for money and the self-patterning covers a multitude of sins.
I used 2.5mm birch circular needles in a style of my own that I call the ‘broken needle’ technique. It arose because one of my newly ordered needles snapped as soon as I got it out of the packet and I was too impatient to send it back and wait for a replacement. Henry kindly drilled out the needle from the attached cord and I whittled and reglued the broken off tip so that I ended up with one short and one long needle. You can actually buy sock needles like this but they are on very short cables, these are on a 40cm cable which allows me to do a kind of half magic loop, where I just keep pulling the cable through every 20 stitches or so. It works for me! This was brilliant until my 4 yr old trod on the long needle and broke that one too, marvellous. I will now have to buy another set of needles and break one on purpose, seems wrong somehow.
These were my first socks. I knitted them in Noro because that’s what I happened to have in my knitting bag and my lovely friend Imola sat by me patiently while I turned my first heel. There is no doubt that I wouldn’t have got this far so quickly without her attentive tutorial. The noro is pretty and the socks are cosy but it isn’t sock yarn so I can see already that they will stretch and wear out very quickly.
Can you spot the mistake here? The right sock has a baggy heel that I realised was happening because I knit much more loosely when going back and forward than when I am knitting in the round. On the left sock I consciously kept my purling tension tighter and I ended up with a much better sock.
The other thing that is great about socks is that they make such a portable project. They went with me on a business trip to Rome and I knitted on the plane whilst all around me were tapping away on their laptops, very satisfying.
With more than 10 years of nomadic tent making experience under our belts, we like to think that we know quite a lot about making yurts. But have you heard of the Alachigh (A-la -cheeg)?
I first came across Alachighs some years ago at the Bishops Wood Environment Centre where they had one made by Steve Place with a stunning hand-felted cover by Anne Belgrave. The frame was based on a traditional one from North West Iran that is in the Horniman Musuem in South London.
This is a delight for my woolly and woody eyes! This tent had quite an impact on me some years ago after I attended a felt making course with Anne and I have always remembered it. Alachighs originate from Persia and are still used today by the Shahsavan tribe in Northern Iran. They are a similar construction to yurts but without the wall trellis.
Yurtmaker are currently working with Penhein Glamping in Monmouthshire on their luxury Alachigh campsite. The original alachighs were beautifully made by Yurts for Life and we have been commissioned to add an additional tent and replace the frame of an imported Iranian tent that had not fared so well in the damp british climate. It has been a new and different challenge to make these beautiful tents in collaboration with the marvellous Spirits Intent, who have made the covers in their snowy, mountainous home.
The photos are a bit murky and Januaryish but here are the alachighs under construction. There are lots of interesting bendy bits of wood going on.
The new Yurtmaker alachighs are due to be delivered in the next few weeks and I will post some pictures of the finished article when they are complete. If you want a bit of pure luxury under canvas we would recommend Penheim, the alachighs come with ensuite toilet pods, wood burners and all the trimmings.
Wool & Wood
In another life I like to make to wooden spoons. I don’t do it as often as I would like to but when I do I get totally absorbed by it, even more so than with yarny craft. There is something so very satisfying in finding a bit of tree and then fashioning it into a useful object. It’s a bit of a messy hobby though, and I tend to spend more time knitting because it is more conducive to the sofa/telly/woodburner/wine position of which I am fond. It was a few weeks ago now that I spotted a plea from a fellow spoon maker on FB that he had lost his favourite hat and could someone make him one in return for a wooden spoon and bowl. Bargain! I love craft swapping, it is such a brilliant way to come by beautiful objects. I was one of several women who answered his plea, so I am obviously not so unusual at being into both woolly and woody pastimes. I think he now has quite a lot of hats.
This is the lovely, spalted birch bowl and spoon that I received packaged in wood shavings, a nice early Xmas present to myself.
I had some nice Drops Nepal wool alpaca mix in Deep Ocean left over from the short sleeve jumper I knitted recently. I am mighty proud of this jumper as it is the first proper garment that I have ever knitted and I actually love it. I was fully prepared for my first jumper to be unwearable and, although it is a long way from perfect in terms of knitting, I have worn it a lot in the recent chilly weather.
I am a big fan of Drops Nepal yarn which I think gives fantastic value for money whilst looking and feeling like a much more expensive yarn. At £2 a ball it is very affordable and the range of muted, natural looking colours are right up my street.
Anyway, It has also now become a large hat (he told me that he has a big head) for a cold green wood worker on the chilly east coast of Scotland. It was a simple, quick make using back-post trebles to add a bit of interest. I also added a border in some unidentified grey wool lurking in my project bag.
I think it probably suited him better! I don’t do hats very well.
Learning to knit
Knitting has been my bete noir for some time. I have had a Pinterest board called ‘Must Learn to Knit’ for a couple of years and all the gorgeous jumpers that I would love to make have been sitting there taunting me. I love the speed and versatility of crochet but it just doesn’t work so well for garments. I finally grasped the nettle a couple of months ago and actually knitted something that wasn’t just a square that I chucked in my project bag in disgust.
And here it is….isn’t it pretty?
It’s a small circle scarf with diagonal stripes made with two balls of Noro silk garden in two shades that I have lost the labels for! So it is basically a stripe pattern with an increase and decrease on the end of every knit row. Simple but effective. It’s not perfect by any means but I really enjoyed watching the unexpected colour changes emerge.
I really like the noro when knitted up (I hated crocheting with it, the colour changes don’t work) and I like that the scarf is small and I can wear it all day without it getting in my way. I have been very glad of it in the recent cold snap, although today I have my office door open because it is too hot.
I am really chuffed that I have finally won the battle of the wills with the knitting needles. Next project….a jumper.
It was distinctly nippy here at YurtMaker headquarters this morning and so a good time to feel smug about our sizeable log pile! We run our central heating and hot water for the house on wood and solar and we are now processing and stacking our firewood for winter 2017/18. We also have wood burners in the two workshops that run on waste yurt wood and shavings.
We source green hardwood from local sources, this load came from the Small Woods Association and was felled less than 5 miles from here. Chopping wood is Henry’s favourite hobby, he is in his element!
We decided that we would have a go at circular wood stacks this year and the first of these does look mighty attractive. We had a bonfire party last weekend and several guests said ‘you aren’t planning to burn that are you?’ The stacking takes a little practice and more attention to detail than the standard linear stack but I found it quite addictive.
It was worth doing the circular stack because all the family wanted to get involved. We share our house with my parents and our two children, so we had quite a few willing helpers. I was stacking too, not just taking pictures, I promise.
These are my feet in my hand knitted Scottish socks (obviously) enjoying the warmth from the Morso boiler stove. I prefer channel Morso to the TV to be honest, and this is where I am to be found happily crafting most winter evenings. Wood and wool, my happy place xx
Harmony Sunburst Blanket
So it is finally finished! All 204 titchy little squares. I have written about this blanket before in Harmony Sunburst Granny, WIP and Never ending squares so I won’t go over all the details again, but it has turned out to be really rather lovely.
I made this for the big daughter, Holly, but here is the littlest pickle testing the unfinished blanket for cosiness in her usual helpful manner.
It looks like I might have to make another one…maybe next winter.
I should mention again that I have used the Attic 24 Harmony Blanket Kit from Wool Warehouse which was good value for money and the colours are well put together. It is acrylic, which is never my first choice, but it is intended for a child’s bed and washability is a priority.
Can you spot two squares the same? There are some. It is interesting looking at the whole blanket like this and seeing which colours pop out. I particularly like the lime and I have subconsciously used quite a lot of it. I detest that sickly Aster pink but it looks great against the other colours and seems to lift it.
There are a few issues with it. Because I left it for so long between making squares (I was utterly fed up with it for a while) my tension was totally different and some of the later squares are inexplicably much bigger than others, which offends my desire for regularity. This also means that the edges are a bit wavy in places. It got a lot better when I blocked it and in just a couple of weeks of use it seems to have settled down. The edges will never be totally straight but it still looks good.
I toyed with various edgings picking up my favourite colours from the blanket but, as ever, I settled for simplicity with a plain petrol blue edging. I won’t be making another in a hurry although I love how it turned out. The next one will have bigger squares, much bigger squares.
Bringing the yurts home
It is amazing to us that we have made a successful business out of yurts! We started out by living in a little yurt that Henry made with old hand tools in his mum and dad’s outhouse and now we make 40ft and even 50ft gurt yurts that go to prestigious events, nearly feature in a Bridget Jones film (ours was in the outtakes!) and have seen so many lovely, happy couples get wed.
We spend most of the summer months moving bits of yurt around the country to weddings, festivals and events. It has been a long season this year! We love our job but it is also good to come home, take stock and put the yurts to bed for the winter.
The last outing this year for the 42ft was for our own community. We live as part of a little self-build community where I grew up and that we now live as an extended family. Lightmoor New Community had its 30th birthday party (I was eight when we moved here, I will let you do the maths) and a party was definitely in order. It was a fantastic day of silly games, home-grown music, performances by the children and remembering the 30 years we have lived and worked together to build our special little community.
We discovered that a circular dance floor makes for a perfect human hungry hippos arena.
It is important to us that we can give a little back with our business. This year we also have supported Greenpeace, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and local good causes by donating yurts and giving discounts.
After a much needed break messing about with giant trousers, silly science experiments, dancing our socks off and sampling the local real ale, we are now back in the workshop doing essential maintenance and making new yurts. We are also making some new flags, a bar and updating our lighting package…it’s all getting busy again.