Hand Spinning & Natural Dyeing - Sarah Matthess

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Electric Brother Drum Carder Review - Video

Last year I took the plunge and bought a large electric drum carder to replace my hand-cranked Barnett carder that had served me well for years.  In researching this purchase, it became apparent that carders were cheaper and there was more selection, in America than in the UK.  So I've made this youtube video to review the electric carder I ended up purchasing.

Initially I was put off purchasing from America because of the voltage difference, so I decided to ring 'Brother' who make a selection of electric drum carders, and ask whether they manufactured a carder for the UK market.  They assured me their carders could be set up for the UK from their factory, and that I would not need a transformer.

Next hurdle was the import duty and tax. It was a little tricky working out exactly what that would be, and I have to say, it wasn't cheap to import. But, over-all I spent less and got more spec on the carder by buying from America, even with the added import costs, than if I had bought within the UK.

I chose Brother's 17" electric carder. It's hard to visualise until it's in front of you, but lets just say it's a large machine and I can get through a lot of fibre in a short space of time with it.

In my new Youtube review I've tried to cover everything I can think of about this carder. I hope it helps if you are contemplating buying one yourself.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Eco-Friendly Packaging

Have you ever wished the postman would bring you a parcel that was wrapped up like they used to be before everyone used plastic packaging? You know the kind of parcel I mean, wrapped in brown paper with string?

Well here's a new video I've just put together, showing you how I now package all my Etsy products. There's a link in the bio on the different products, and where to buy them. Hopefully this will inspire more online sellers to make eco-friendly choices!

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Handmade Journals

Everyone who hand-spins and hand-dyes their own wool will know the 'itch' to want to make something with it instead of just selling it as-is!

These journal covers are in 2 sizes, small is 6"x4" (below) and the larger is 6"x8" (above). The fun thing is that there's no pattern and I just create them as I go, matching yarns, and using small 'shots' of artyarns that perhaps would be too small to go in larger projects.

I had fun making this one below, because I had hand-painted some handspun skeins of Shetland wool with cochineal, madder root and onion skins, and I desperately wanted to see at least one of them knitted up! 

Book ends are made from 100% cotton, and I try to colour-match them to the yarn somehow. Either a zanny contrast, or something that blends. Bali Batik fabric like this one just below is very suitable because it's quite 'stiff' fabric. That's because the base fabric they dye on is more closely woven than normal quilt making fabric. So it makes a really good book-end even though it's slightly more expensive to buy.

The journal below was knitted from some of my 'Sea-Breeze' artyarn which contains little wave-tumbled sea-glass beads found on Northern Ireland beaches. I had them hand-drilled and incorporated them into the yarn as I spun it, along with some BFL locks. 'Beach-hut' fabric finished this off, with a lovely smoothed sea-pottery button, from Sand Between My Toes UK

This piece of pottery was found on a County Sligo beach and drilled specially for the colour-way I was using on this particular journal cover. 

More Bali Batick fabric below, except this piece has hand-painting on it as well, which I just love.  The zig-zag edge took a long time to knit, and was a bit fiddly, but worth it. This particular journal is entirely dyed using nettles gathered behind my house. I incorporated some BFL and antique looking lace in it as well.

I prefer to source buttons that are hand-made, and that's part of the fun, to match the button to the yarn-colours.

Loads of work, but it's work I love. Probably this is not a cost effective way to run a business but it's creative and enjoyable which is all part of life.

Journal inserts are available at Eason's and WHSmiths, as replacements when these are filled. I put lined journals inside each cover, but they could be plain sketch paper, and become art-journals, or scrap-books.  I make each cover to go on a 8.25"x6" (large size) journal, but because there's a little 'stretch' in the knitting, they would accomodate a very slightly larger or smaller book.

Have a go!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Knitting Instructions and Projects

Gummy Worms Hat!

My 'Gummy Worms' hat shown above was made from Adriafil Scozia 'Lochness' (blue) for the ribbing, and my own handspun art-yarn 'Gummy Worms' for the main body, and topped with a Scozia bobble to match the ribbing.  I have a new listing in my shop for 'Gummy Worms'.  But you can use any bulky art yarn. 'Gummy Worms' is approx. 5 wraps per inch. That means it can be wrapped around 1" on a ruler, 5 times, comfortably.  Obviously that's going to vary with many art yarns, that have thick-thin areas of spinning, with texture, so it may depend where on the yarn it is wrapped, but generally speaking 5wpi is the thickness for this particular project.

This project took 1x50g ball of 'Scozia' and almost 120 grams of 'Gummy Worms'.  A smaller hat would obviously take less yarn. These directions are for a large sized hat. Measurements below....

I started by measuring round the head I was knitting for and knitting a guage swatch in the Scozia yarn on 5.5mm double pointed knitting needles. I'm not going to give that guage here because everyone's knitting is different. Basically whatever the circumference of your finished hat, count your guage stitches, and multiply until you have the right amount of stitches to go around the head you are knitting for. In this instance I needed 72 stitches for a 23" head.

Measuring: I measure around the head with a piece of string, and then measure the string. Do not pull it tightly.  Start above the eye brows and go around the head where the ribbing will sit. I think you can see that imaginary 'line' in the picture below.

Just a word of caution. Hats tend to stretch. In my experience men prefer tight fitting hats that won't come off whilst they work, and women often like a looser hat that won't squash their hair too much.If I were knitting this as a tighter fitting work type hat, I would need to decrease the amount of stitches in both ribbing and stocking stitch.

I use extra long double pointed needles as I prefer them for hats because of the amount of stitches I end up with, but you might use shorter ones or circular needle.  Extra long double pointed needles are not readily available on the high street any more, but can be purchased online. All my sets have been purchased from charity shops so keep your eyes open for them. People don't know what to do with them so they end up in the charity box! Choose the size that best feels right to you, in my case I chose 5mm for the hat ribbing.

The manufacturers of Adriafil Scozia recommend 7mm needles as it's classed as a 'chunky' yarn, and is 67 yards per 50gram (1.75oz) ball. Although 7mm would be good for most items knitted with this yarn, I decided on a much firmer ribbing.

I cast on 72 stitches on 5mm needles, using the 2 needle method 
after which, I spread the 72 stitches evenly between the 4 needles, and commenced knitting, k2, p2, for 4". 

At the end of the ribbed knitting, I broke off  'Scozia' and joined on my 'Gummy Worms' yarn, changed needle size to a set of 7mm double pointed needles, and placed a marker on the knitting to show the start point. In the next round only I knitted 2 stitches, then knitted the next 2 together, and continued on round. The reason for this is because 'Gummy Worms' is a super-chunky yarn so the knitting would balloon out if the number of stitches were not decreased. You should now have 54 stitches on your needles. 'Gummy Worms' would normally be knitted on a much larger needle, perhaps 9 or 10mm, but once again, I wanted a very firm knit.

I then continued in stocking stitch with 'Gummy Worms' for a further 6.5" before decreasing for top shaping.  I wanted this hat to be roomy, so my idea was to knit it straight until right at the top and decrease in just a few rows to bring it in quickly at the top. This creats a slightly 'bunched up' effect at the top, which was the effect I wanted. 

1st shaping row: On the next round, I knitted 2 stitches together, then knitted 2 stitches in stocking stitch, then repeated that, all the way around. Keep moving your marker up your knitting so it's easy to tell where the 'beginning' is.
2nd shaping row:  Next row, knit stocking stitch all the way around without shaping.
3rd shaping row: Next row do the same again, knit 2 stitches together, then knit 2 in stocking stitch, and continue right round like that.
4th shaping row: Then do another round in stocking stitch.
5th shaping row: knit 2 together, knit one, knit 2 together, knit one, continue right round like that.
6th shaping row: knit every 2 stitches together.

Leaving a long tail, cut the yarn, thread a darning needle onto this cut yarn end and pick up each stitch from the knitting needles onto the darning needle, and gently work each stitch onto the darning needle thread.  It takes a bit of time to do this with this yarn because it's so textured.  If pulled too hard and fast, it might snap, but with a bit of patience, all the stitches can be then drawn up tight, and the tail darned off inside and out of sight.

I made a pompom out of what remained of the Scozia yarn because 'Gummy Worms' is essentially a corespun artyarn, and would not make a good pompom as it might unravel slightly when cut.

Great for freezing cold West Coast of Ireland beach combing days!
Check out my yarn listings, and watch for some 'Gummy Worms' hats that will soon be appearing in my shop!