British Wool Advent Calendar

For a few months now, I’ve been working towards selling my own hand dyed yarn. Finally, I’ve begun to do this! My first major product that I’m selling is my British Wool Advent Calendar which you can buy here at Etsy for £36.

British Yarn Advent Calendar


From the 1st to the 25th December there is a parcel to open every day. There are 10 that each contain 10g of hand dyed British 4ply yarn, one for Christmas Day that contains 50g of hand dyed British 4ply yarn, and 14 craft related treats and gifts.

Please take a look, and if you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact me.

Tour de Sock 2015 – (Or 2 months of crazy sock knitting)

You may recall if you are a regular reader that last year I took part in a competition called Sock Madness. This year I decided not to do that. However I couldn’t go a whole year without entering some sort of mad knitting competition so I entered Tour de Sock instead. It runs along side the Tour de France, hence its name. There are 6 stages, each lasting 10 days, and the idea is to finish your pair of socks within that time. The quicker you finish, the more points you get. There is also a team option (which I decided to go for) in which 7 of you try and get as many points as possible for the team. The first 5 to finish each stage get their points counted. You get bonus points for using sponsor yarn or doing little extra tasks.

The first stage began on 1st June at 2.30pm. The pattern is Virrat and is fairly simple but a little tedious. I chose to knit it using some John Arbon Alpaca Sock in the Rose colour. I finished it  on 3rd June at 8.30pm and finished 63rd out of 330 entrants which I’m pretty pleased with, although I think I could have finished sooner if work hadn’t gotten in the way. Total knitting time was about 22 hours. During the 54 hours between pattern release and completion I knit for 22 hours, worked for 16 hours, travelled for 3 hours, prepared/ate food/did general stuff required to live for 2 hours, and slept for about 11 hours. I think I used my time pretty efficiently.


The next stage, which began on 11th June at 6.30pm, was a little more conveniently timed for me. I only had 8 hours of work spread over the two following days, plus 4 hours of travel. The pattern is Far into the Forest and I used some yarn I bought from Lidl a long time ago. I completed in on 14th June at 2am. It took a lot more work than the first stage but the result was fabulous. I finished 20th out of 196 that finished the pattern on time. Unfortunately these socks don’t fit.

Far into the Forest

The third stage began on 21st June at 2.30pm with the pattern Touring Bubbles. The pattern was inspired by the fact that the riders get a glass of champagne on the morning of the final race. I had some champagne so I had some fun with the photos. For this I used some West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply in the Pennyroyal colour. I finished this stage at 12.15am on the 23rd June so it didn’t take me very long. I would have finished quicker but I had work on the 22nd. I came 52nd out of 284 finishers.

Touring Bubbles

The fourth stage started on 1st July at 2.30am. The pattern is From a Distance. I used some yarn  I dyed myself. Unfortunately I had work on the day of the pattern release and then every day until 5th July which is when I finally finished at 7.30pm. I didn’t have to use beads on the whole sock but gained a bonus point for doing so. I finished 63rd out of 188 finishers which surprised me considering how long I took. The photo is awful. I couldn’t get the socks to lay flat and I can’t put them on because the cast on is two tight. The second of two pairs that don’t fit, but only a small modification required.

From a Distance

The penultimate stage began with the pattern Ophidia on 11th July at 11.30am. I was at work so couldn’t start knitting until about 5pm. I was then also at work for the following days. I finished it at 7.25am on 14th July finishing 40th of 152. For this stage I used some more yarn I dyed.


The final stage was perfectly timed for me. It was released at 11pm on 21st July, right in the middle of my week off. I spent the day relaxing with a friend (picking our own fruit then turning it into some rather delicious jam) as she is a doctor and was working nights. Then when the pattern, Nordic Stripes, was released I began knitting. And I didn’t stop knitting until 7.30pm the next day, gaining me 12th position out of an unknown amount of finishers (the competition doesn’t end until the 31st). This was also my favourite pattern and I’m quite tempted to knit it again sometime. I used all sorts of random bits of yarn I had (and still have plenty of!).

Nordic Stripes

My team is set to come 4th of all the teams in Tour de Sock, which is a perfectly respectable result for a group of working people and mums with a lot of other things going on in their lives.


Day 5 of the blogging from A to Z challenge. E is for Ease.

In many knitting patterns, especially for garments, there is a word that a lot of people don’t seem to understand, and that word is ease. So today I thought I’d take the time to do a quick guide about what it means.

Garments either have positive, negative, or no ease. Positive ease means the garment is a little (or sometimes more in the case of a slouchy jumper) bigger than your measurements, negative means it’s smaller than your measurements so will stretch to fit you, and no ease means it’s exactly the same so should fit like a glove.

Here’s a handy diagram to try and describe this a bit better. It shows your measurements (black) compared to the garment’s measurements (green).


The problem a lot of people have is that various terminology for ease is used in patterns. For example the pattern could say that the garment has built in ease. This means you don’t have to worry about it, just pick the size that most closely matches your measurements because the designer has taken ease into account and done all the calculating. If you pick the size closest to yours, the finished garment will come out with the ease that the designer intended, so either a little bigger or a little smaller than you. Sometimes however, the pattern mentions how the garment should fit, ie. knit with positive ease. In this case you will have to knit the size or two bigger than your measurements to end up with a finished garment with the intended ease.

I hope this clears up some confusion on the subject. Please do comment if you have any questions.


Day 4 of the blogging from A to Z challenge. D is for Designing.

I know I’m a little late on this post as it was due on Saturday.

Because of the wonderful site that is Ravelry, more and more knitters and crocheters are getting the chance to design patterns. In a way this is a wonderful thing as it allows so many more ideas and techniques to be shared, but in another way it makes it difficult for anybody to stand out. Obviously there are various well known designers in the knitting and crochet world, but the majority of them aren’t. Then there’s the matter of cost and time. Many hours go into creating a pattern, but many patterns on Ravelry are free which makes it pretty difficult to sell any, especially if there are similar alternatives.

But still, all this aside, I’m giving it a go. I have two sock designs and a shawl on the go at the moment. One sock I’m just finishing writing up the pattern so people can test it. The other I’m just starting on. The shawl I’ve mostly designed but am getting some yarn custom dyed for it so I’m waiting on that. I haven’t decided how much to charge for each pattern yet.

It takes a long time to design something. Obviously I’m new at it so it probably takes me longer than most. From the initial idea to working out stitch patterns and whether those patterns fit into certain row and stitch counts, then the bit I’m finding most difficult at the moment, writing the pattern itself in a way that someone who has no idea what your intentions are can understand.

It’s fun though, and I hope in the next month or so I’ll be able to release my first pattern.


Day 3 of the blogging from A to Z challenge. C is for Customers.

As a few of you are aware, my day job is in the restaurant of a garden centre. I won’t reveal where, and I deliberately haven’t written about it much, but today I want to say a word about customers.

Most of my day is spent at the till and making coffees. I should note that we have a soft play area in the restaurant, and that it costs £1.50 per hour. We serve main meals, sandwiches, toasties, various drinks and cakes. Most of the time there are three or four of us working there. To be at full efficiency we need five: One cooking, one on till, one making drinks, one on dishwasher and one delivering food/collecting dirty plates. 75% of the time there are only three of us. One cooking, one on till/making drinks, one on dishwasher/food/dirty plates. Then we all help each other out when we get a moment.

Here is a list of things you could do to make our lives a tiny bit easier. It’s not much to ask, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who don’t think about any of these.

  • Please put your dirty plates back on your tray and put it on the rack. It’s there for a reason. Especially don’t put them on the counter while I’m serving a long queue of people.
  • Don’t let your children turn the pots of sugar sachets upside down and empty them all over the floor. Even worse if you don’t clean it up. Even worse if you don’t even acknowledge your child has done something wrong.
  • Don’t let your children run around the restaurant. There’s an enclosed soft play area for that.
  • Don’t let your children just take food from the cabinet whenever they like.
  • Don’t sit your child on the counter while you’re paying unless you can control them. Letting them touch anything, especially cutlery with their dribble covered hands, means a lot more work for us.
  • Don’t slide your tray across towards you over the wide counter until I’ve put your drinks down. Leaning that far while holding hot drinks is not easy. I’ll push it towards you when I’m done.
  • Don’t expect me to be able to hand you your milkshake/smoothie immediately, especially when I’m on my own at the till and have a long queue. They take a while to make.
  • Don’t complain that I’ve given you a filter coffee when you asked for a coffee. I’m not psychic, I can’t tell that you actually wanted a latte. 99% of people say coffee and mean just a normal black or white coffee.
  • There is no such size as ‘normal’ or ‘regular’. We do small, medium or large. ‘Regular’ is medium on the till, but 75% of you mean small.
  • Don’t complain that your food is taking too long unless it really is. 15 minutes for gammon steak cooked from raw is not too long.
  • Smile, say hello, or acknowledge somehow that we aren’t just robots.
  • Don’t jump the queue for a glass of water/to ask a question unless it really is urgent.
  • The sauces are right in front of you at the till and I even told you this when you ordered. Please pay attention.
  • Your fish cannot possibly be under cooked. Insist as much as you like, but each and every portion is temperature checked when it comes out of the fryer.
  • Don’t expect toasties/paninis to be done in two minutes. They take time to toast.
  • Try and order everything in one or two goes. Coming to the till 10 times during your visit gets annoying for both of us.
  • If you’ve been in the queue for a while you should know what you’re ordering, there’s a menu right in front of you. Don’t then get to the front of the queue, ask for a menu, look at it for a while, then have to decide on a drink. This is why the queue is so long.
  • We have two big menus and several childrens’ menus dotted around. They’re quite obvious. Use your eyes.
  • We do run out of food sometimes, for which we’re very sorry. We try and predict demand, but when you sell one jacket potato one day, so cook less the next, we’ll run out if ten people then decide it’s jacket potato day. Or sometimes like yesterday we’ll run out of ham because there’s a delivery problem. We’ll do our best to accommodate you with something else, even if it’s off menu, but don’t start getting angry. We do our best.

I didn’t realise quite how much annoys me. I’m off to work now, so I may have more to add when I get back.


Day 2 of the blogging from A to Z challenge. B is for British.

Regular readers of my blog may have noticed that I have a ‘thing’ for British yarn (this actually extends to most things, but I’m going to limit myself to yarn here). I try my best to buy only British yarn, unless it’s something like cotton, which I don’t buy much of anyway. We have so many amazing different breeds of sheep, we have alpaca, we have angora rabbits and we have cashmere goats, that I don’t really see the need to import wool.

Many people believe British wool is expensive, but it isn’t any more expensive than wool from anywhere else. For example you can buy from the New Lanark Mill and pay only £4.50 for 100g of aran weight yarn, and the money goes towards the upkeep of the historic mill. Yes, you can find expensive British yarn, but you can find expensive imported yarn too.

Then there are places like Blacker, who sell not only the more well known Blue Faced Leicester, but also sell the wool from various different rare sheep, helping keep the breeds alive. Even these aren’t what I would call expensive, with prices at around £5 per 50g.

The most local yarn I ever bought was from the Winchester farmers’ market. It was spun from a flock of sheep from a local smallholding, and also hand dyed with natural dyes. So commercial producers aren’t the only place excellent yarn can be found.

I haven’t been able to try anywhere near all the British yarns available and I’m certainly not an expert on the subject. If you do want to learn more about the wonders of British wool, take a trip to KnitBritish.

I should mention that if you’re reading this and you aren’t from Britain, I highly recommend you research yarn and wool local to you. You might find something interesting to try.