Three Good Things

It’s been a long-standing habit of mine to do three positive things on days when I feel ill, and that has become every day lately.  I thought I would explain the system, and share what my things for yesterday and today were.

There’s no rule as to what counts, though I feel that it must be something that’s a struggle and so I might have avoided otherwise.  On a day when my lungs felt like fire and breathing was a task in itself, getting up made it on my list so that I didn’t simply stay in bed.  Yesterday was easier than that, but not by far, so went like this:

Get Bus in and back
I was going to Canterbury Umbrella Centre for art group, as I do every Tuesday that I don’t risk passing on something infectious.  I’d seriously thought about not going, but finishing the blanket which I made for one of the organisers the day before swung it in the end.  The next debate was whether to stand at a wind-whipped and rain-soaked bus stop, made even harder on the way back because I’d then suffered a series of combined epileptic seizure and pituitary spasm.  So it felt like an accomplishment, and was therefore treated as such.
Attempt to do art
It was only an attempt because of the above-mentioned problem, but since it was a real effort just to go sit at the table…
Sittin’ with my Knittin’
Knitting is usually therapeutic, but not when you keep dropping stitches and can’t remember how to change colour.  The movement is the same as the exercises for lymphoedema and osteoarthritis and the softness of the yarn was a bit soothing, so this was necessary

Less clear-cut.  I can’t count having rested, for example, because I did far less of that than I was meant to.

Wound and organised yarn, and tidied craft table
I think that only counts as one item, because it all works together.  But I’m going to ‘cheat’ and count it separately, which gives me my three.
I wound off two cones of yarn, which are being saved as base materials for an art project.  I’ve now gathered 15 of an estimated 20 required to allow the whole art group to participate.  I hate waste, and so was glad to see on scouring the web that the cones can be decorated as Christmas trees or dolls.
I’d been letting the colours I’ve used in a skirt scatter on the floor by the bookcase, so it was high time I put the 20-odd skeins away.  They can’t go far, as I’ll need to repeat some at least because I don’t have as many natural tones as bright and are striping the two types.  I also have two more skirts to make the same way, so the skeins are now in a bulging tote bag
I can now see roughly what’s on the table, instead of a jungle of yarn


The Science of Stuffing: Part Deux

After much deliberation, I’m making the move from using polyester to wool stuffing.  This may not seem like a big deal, but which fibre you use can alter the look and feel of an item for years to come.  And when you get as anal as I do about getting the right feels in a piece, this needed further investigation.  I have stuffed otherwise identical bears with polyester and different types of wool stuffing, in order to fully analyse which works best for me.



I’ve used a few different polyester stuffings over the years, and the only difference I’ve found between them is that old pillows etc that are no longer being used for their original purpose have been disused because they just don’t have that bounce.  However much you boil wash, fluff, card, or use any other reviving method on them, they will
never be as good.  Go ahead and use them when you have them, but please don’t buy them unless that’s all you can afford.  A 200g bag of fresh, new stuffing can be bought for as little as a penny a gram (less if you shop around or buy in bulk), and will produce a much better item.  As well as the ‘lifelessness’ described above, old stuffing has  matted up once and will easily form back into the same shape again.  It almost seems to remember what shape it used to be in, and is determined to get back to it.
Pros of poly: Inexpensive, widely available, non-allergenic
Cons of poly: Feels plasticy, will clump over time, flammable
Personal issues: I wanted to move away from using polyester for specific and persistent reasons.  Firstly, I have allergy/intolerance to other synthetic fibres and was concerned that prolonged exposure was starting a problem with poly (which a dermatologist has confirmed).  Second, I got a nagging feeling that something which feels sort of ‘scaly’ would not give the most enjoyable ‘squish’ to a toy. Third, it felt increasingly ridiculous to stuff items made with natural yarns with synthetic filling.

And so I felt the need for wool.  I purchased a sample of ‘budget filling’ (short strands of wool and some synthetic yarns in various colours and thicknesses), scoured lambswool, carded lambswool, and wool balls from World of Wool; and a bag of wool saddle flocking (also from there), and ‘seconds’ left after carding (a yarn from north ronaldsay).  I was surprised how differently the treatment of what was essentially the same fibre effected it.

Budget Filling


The great yarn escape

I’ve used short ends of yarn and clippings of (clean) hair many times, and was expecting the budget stuff to look and feel like those two smooshed together.  I was disappointed; comparing this filling to my yarn ends would be like comparing old and fresh poly, this being very much the old and bedraggled fibre.  I weighed each of my four fibre samples before use, and while they all weighed the same they all filled a little differently.  This filling gave the least ‘coverage’, the whole sample not filling the bottom of my bear no matter how I teased it out.  I couldn’t feel much synthetic content in the sample (between 10-20%), but it was enough to be unpleasant and may well have caused an allergic flare-up if there had been more.
Pros of Budget: Eco-friendly, cheap
Cons of Budget: Synthetic content, wool is a common allergy, fibre more likely to escape
Personal issues: Having a bad reaction to some synthetic fibres, I would be unhappy purchasing something with ambiguous content again.  It has some definite benefits for those with no such problem, however.  Being a ‘waste product’ (sorry if that conjures unfortunate images, but that’s the correct term), it is both cheap and eco-friendly because you’re using an item which would otherwise have been landfill.  It’s less expensive than basic polyester filling (based on both at 1kg quantity from the same website), and hasn’t used extra labour and power to produce.  The only real downside is that yarn stuffing (which this essentially is) is more likely to work its way through any chinks than a fluffy fibre will.  If your stuffing is prone to escaping, then use this on items large enough to line with fabric.

North Ronaldsay Seconds


At 90p for 200g, and the p&p was also about £1 less than World of Wool.  I got this stuffing for personal use (the other is for making toys for charity on a far grander scale than my own consumption), and it was only a bit more expensive than if I were to purchase poly from the market.  This is my initial point of comparison, after all.  While poly comes in white and sometimes black if you’re lucky, this was varying shades of brown.  It is softer and firmer than the poly, and went further.  Because of how it filled the bear, which may purely have been due to shorter strands being more manageable, it made it more mouldable.  It was softer than the scoured lambswool, and easier to tease out from the slight clumps that it formed into.  This is also ecological due to being a ‘waste product’, and because it’s produced within a community in the Uk and from one of the rarer breeds
Pros: Soft, natural, Inexpensive, firm coverage, only need 2 pinches for a small toy, eco-friendly, short strands
Cons:  may cause allergies, slightly prone to clumping
Personal issues: Of the six types of wool stuffing and one synthetic, this is the one that I unequivocally love, and will continue to buy for personal use. 

Saddle Flocking


I bought 1kg of this rather than a sample, as it was the least expensive I could get in that weight.  When I opened the bag, it smelled slightly lemony.  When I dipped a hand in, it felt like candyfloss.  At just £1.50 more than poly flocking per kg, this is relatively inexpensive.  The long fibres make it a little harder to control than the seconds, and I would suggest this when you want a soft fill.  This fibre is used in saddles due to its ‘wicking’ qualities, meaning that it’s less likely to hold onto the moisture should it get a bit wet
Pros: Relatively inexpensive, soft feel and coverage, smells gorgeous, breathable, soaks up oil and water
Cons: may cause allergies
Personal issues: I should really use the seconds for charity projects due to being less expensive, but I wanted to try the difference and easily determine between the two (since they were paid for from different sources).  I will probably buy more seconds for charity projects once the bag is used, time will tell.

Scoured Lambswool


I’m listing these in order of expense, with this being more expensive than the softer flocking.  This wool has been commercially washed to remove the bits of straw and other stuff that the sheep picked up before sheering.  There’s something in the commercial scouring process that has been shown to cause some of the wool allergies, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it is; I want to say hydrochloric acid, but please don’t quote me on that.  Anyway, this fibre has been cleaned but received no further processing.  It has more ‘coverage’ than the budget filling, as it filled the whole bear with a bit left over, but needed to be teased out to fluff even a little.  It was softer than the previous stuffings, but less so than what is to come.  If I were to use more of this, I would want to prepare it with a teazle brush before use.  Side note on teazle brushes- these are usually used to fluff up knitted items for a mohair effect, but an uncommon use is for gently carding wool (a less laborious process, and the brush is typically less expensive)
Pros: 100% clean, natural fibre, medium fill
Cons: More expensive than the flocking, and slightly less coverage
Personal issues: Unless you really want medium fill, I would buy the softer saddle flocking instead

Carded Lambswool


Like the scoured, this is best for a medium fill.  It is a little less soft than the flocking, as well as being more expensive.  The coverage is better, however, filling one and a half bears. The length of the fibres and softness makes this the easiest to handle
Pros: Medium cover, easy to handle, goes further
Cons: Pricey

Wool Balls


Recommended for toys, pillows, and cushions, this is the most expensive of the stuffings.  It naturally clumps together a little, and is not at all suitable for knitted or crocheted items.  I didn’t close this bear, as I will need to unstuff it
Pros: Firm, soft
Cons: expensive, hard to use

Not according to plan

So last time I promised to show you my original plan for a whole lot of finger knitting.  I’m now here to deliver the goods.  Extreme knitting gets me amped; there’s just something wonderful about holding needles (nearly) as thick as your arm, even if it sometimes feels like a combination between rowing and wrestling and should count as your daily exercise.  There is a point to this, and it’s coming right up.
I hadn’t done any extreme knitting since discovering my allergy to acrylic and thus blowing the cheapest source of yarn out of the water, as I was convinced that this yarn-eating method would prove too pricey with anything else.  Then my interest in finger knitting was revived, and I was curious how well I could recreate a previous project as a rug.
This is the previous project, made holding 10 strands of roughly dk weight together and using extreme cable needles as giant dpns


The pattern is the beekeeper’s quilt, and the little speck in a different hue on it is a hexagon in the original size.
So I thought that doing and open cast off on my later one made with finger knitting instead of holding the yarn together would make a nice flat piece if I pushed out and spread it from the middle.  I think we can all agree that it worked perfectly


Since tone is rather hard to convey in writing, I’ll tell you here that I know it went badly.  So badly that I was seriously considering not making this post and denying all knowledge of a project.  And then I told myself that, while anyone who stumbles in here will be the only ones besides myself and himself that see it, at least it’s useable.  Since it’s larger than both of his feet together, it will mean putting feet onto fluffy fug (not a typo) rather than potentially freezing floorboards on winter mornings, and I spent no money as I worked from scrap.  I also know how to make a better rug next time, should I wish to again.

Make a Rug, without the fug

Because I finger knitted my yarn together before getting down to the knitting, the process saved quite a bit of yarn but did make things thinner in areas. The irregularity was caused by using everything from thread through to aran, whereas I had a consistent thickness previously. Stick to the same yarn weight for anything with shaping, and don’t try to alter the end shape as I did. Using a French knitter with different heads for different yarn thicknesses (such as the Clover Wonder Knitter, the only one I know of with this feature) would create less variation in thicknesses if you do want to mix your weights

Stay tuned for a post about toys from Tuesday

DIY Bondage Cord

We moved house on the last day of the months, and one the items that got lost along the way was our cord.  It was not a priority item to replace, but I guess that Himself felt the loss as he started stroking the finger knitting that I was turning into a thicker piece for further knitting.  Something about it made me wonder if it would work for *ahem* other purposes.  Rigorous testing shows that it not only works, but is a more enjoyable experience.  If you’ve never finger knitted, this might be the time to start.


This is what 9.6m of tickly soft, strong rope looks like

How much yarn
I had a selection of weights and thicknesses to hand, none of them more than 25g.  25g of chunky cotton/silk made a rope roughly 15 feet long, while the lace mohair pictured was 3g.  I suggest grabbing some small balls that you like the feel of and, if there’s enough of it to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand then just work until you run out.
Think about the sensation that you want, and choose your yarn to match: tickly mohair (with nylon for added strength), whispering silk, absorbent cotton (if things get messy)

You will essentially be using your non-dominant hand as a small loom, creating a cord approximately 1/2inch wide.  The width may vary somewhat according to yarn thickness, but that’s the finest I’ve known it.
With the palm of your non-dominant hand facing you, take the end of your yarn in your dominant hand and tuck it between your thumb and forefinger, clamping it in place.  Wind the yarn behind your forefinger, in front of your middle, behind the ring, and right around the pinkie.  Coming back towards the thumb, go in front of the ring, behind the middle, and in front of the fore.  You will repeat this process once more, creating two loops on each finger; using your dominant forefinger, grab the lower of each pair of loops in turn, and slowly lift it over the finger and off.
One loop will stay on each finger until the end, and you will weave around as above to create the second.  Your work will grow down the back of your hand, and tugging on the bottom every now and then will keep it neater and help the loops lie lower on your fingers.  It takes a little while to get into the rhythm, but it grows quickly once you do.
If you need a break, slide each loop in turn onto something cylindrical (I used a spent AAA battery).  Once you are near out of yarn, cast off by taking the single loop off your forefinger, placing it on your middle finger, lifting the lower loop as before, and repeating along your fingers.  When you get to the last loop, pull the yarn through and tighten until it snugs up.  Secure both ends of yarn by sewing them into your rope, and enjoy your new cord.  Please don’t show me photos of it in use.

Want to see what I originally intended the cord for? I’m currently working on that project, and will show you when it’s finished.

From Rags to Bags

I hate to throw out useable items, as I feel a sort of guilt that I’m not letting them live up to their full potential.  It also feels decadently wasteful, as money was always tight when I was a kid.  Not to the level where we might go to school without shoes, more where every penny had to be thought about before being spent.  It lead to some unique holidays in a camper van that probably cost about the same as one holiday in Spain, which everyone else I knew did every time even though they didn’t seem massively keen.
Before I drift hopelessly off course, I’ll get to my point.  I made my mother a pillow slip to cover an offcut of foam a while back, which proved quite a challenge to my limited sewing skills.  When it came time to discard this because the foam was ‘well used’, I got a nagging feeling that the cover could still be used.  And then it hit me…
A while back, my knitting group had the incomplete front and back of a jumper donated among some yarn.  I saved the lovely cablework from being unraveled by turning it into a bag.  I’d recently read an article on turning towels into bags, so it wasn’t much of a leap for me to add ribbing at the top to match what was at the bottom, fold it in half and sew up the sides.
Then I hit a snag.  The towelbags had used webbing as straps, and all I had was rainbow pattern.  Low funds and the fact that even webbing is quite rough and so not the best thing against bare shoulders.  I was suddenly reminded that Tunisian Simple Stitch looks a lot like webbing, and also has a thick, sturdy construction.  I had flirted with the idea of trying it a few times at that point, but this was when I struck on a project to make with it.
All of this was in my head as a stripped the foam filler from the cover, and took it inside for a good wash.  And here is the result


I decided on the strap length by working out where I wanted the bag to sit (just under the arm), and measuring from that point up over my shoulder and down to the same point the other side.  I then added 4 inches to allow for attaching the ends to the outside, and another 2 to allow for bulkier clothing.  I used an 8mm hook for aran weight and 8 stitches, because I’d previously used a 7mm with 10 stitches for dk and that was perfect.  The pockets are 20 stitches x 15 rows for the large, and 10 x 8 for the small.  The yarn is Rico Creative Cotton Aran in Emerald, and I used about 50g; so I got a ‘new’ and unique bag for £2

Acrylic? Achoooo!

Me again, I know it’s been a while.  You could probably hear the bouncing of yarn from your corner of the globe, and couldn’t have missed the huge amounts of sneezing.  Of all the allergies and intolerances that I have, not being able to use acrylic without coming over all hayfeverish is perhaps the most galling.  I have accumulated a lot of it over the roughly 3 years that I’ve been yarncrafting, and first became aware that it was a problem when I made myself a shawl that I felt feverish as soon as I put on.  I then switched to a thicker wool wrap, and the pain was gone!

So I have been trying to use this yarn up recently, but when I was sneezing my head off while making granny squares for a challenge (89 in as many days, and made it), I decided that I had had it.  So I am finishing my WIPs that use it, and have so far amassed 1 small shopping trolley, 1 suitcase, 1 tote, and a carrier bag full of allergen-inducing acrylic for my knittens.  I suspect that I have the odd bit tucked away still and I’m still using some, but the bulk of it will have left the building soon.  And so the largesse of my stash is in three matching tote bags: one for mercerized acrylic and blends that I can use painlessly for short amounts of time but will not purchase/accept again, one for cotton and similar, one for wool and similar.

The latter two bags were swelled last month by an order to, which I will be doing more of in future.  With no LYS or anywhere else that sells anything other than acrylic here, their distribution centre is the quickest that I can get yarn near me.  Within a week of the first order, one of my crochet hooks broke and a coupon code on my invoice made that free and allowed me to order yarn to start on, which I had intended as a reward for sorting the acrylic out.

Apart from availability, one reason why I relied heavily on acrylic was its cheapness.  I’ve worked out that I have no problem with a 50% acrylic blend and enjoy being able to fit all of my stash into a relatively small space (yarn, kits, felting and dyeing supplies, tools, and stuffing all fitting into a cupboard no wider than a single bed and about half as deep), and so I will plan ahead and order yarn accordingly in future.


Have you ever put up with an allergy for the sake of a project?  Let me know below