Darning socks

I have a favourite pair of hand knitted bedsocks that are looking rather worn out under the heels.

The yarn they were knitted from was handspun pure wool, so it was always liable to wear out quite quickly. (If you are going to knit a pair of socks, then use a yarn with a bit of nylon in the content as that won’t wear out so quickly)

Here’s how I darned my socks:

First of all, you’ll need a large sewing needle, some matching yarn and if possible, a darning mushroom. Darning mushrooms are often found in charity shops and many different brands are available online at varying prices. You might use a cup or jam jar instead. Sewing needles that have an eye large enough to sew with yarn are available from craft and at some hardware shops.

First, turn your sock inside out. Sew large running stitches along one side of the worn area and pull the darning yarn through, leaving a short end. Then with your needle facing the opposite way, go back with a row of running stitches parallel to the first row and pull the darning yarn through, but don’t pull it tight. Repeat this making parallel rows up and down across the whole of the worn area, until you get to the other side. It will still look a bit threadbare, but here comes the next bit!

You are now going to sew your running stitches across the worn out area at right angles to your existing stitches (see green arrows on the picture below left). Keep on sewing your parallel lines of running stitches back and forth across the whole area until you have got to the other end of the worn out bit. The area should now be covered with your stitches criss-crossing over the worn-out area. The short end you left at the start can now be snipped off, as can the remaining finished end of your yarn. (I won’t advise tying a knot or oversewing to finish off, as this will leave a lump under the heel of your sock.) Once your darned sock has been washed and worn a couple of times, the darning will blend in with the original knitting.

I have darned here using matching yarn. You may wish to use a contrasting yarn to make a feature out of the mend. There are loads of possibilities to highlight your mending skills. Have a look on You Tube for colourful darning tutorials.

Bubbles (the sheep) at Deen City Farm

Bubbles is a Zwartbles breed of sheep and she lives at Deen City Farm. You can visit her and several other Zwartbles sheep there.

Zwartbles sheep are very tame and gentle.  They were originally bred in the Netherlands and were brought to the UK in the 1990’s

The sheep are mainly used for their milk rather than their wool.

The name Zwartbles means “Black with a white blaze”

All Zwartbles sheep have patches of white or a strip of white down their faces, white socks on their back legs and sometimes a flash of white fleece on the front of their chests and the tip of their tail.

The fleece is very springy and is black in colour, although the sun may bleach it to dark brown.

Most sheep have fleece that grows all year round and this is shorn (cut off) by shearers who are specially trained to do this. This doesn’t hurt the sheep and is just like you or I having a hair cut.

The cut fleece has to be skirted (remove the really dirty bits and short hairs), and scoured (washed) to get any dirt out.

Here is Bubbles’ Fleece after it has been washed. It is laid out in the sun to dry.

Then it is carded (brushed) or combed to untangle each fibre.

This carded fleece can be spun on a spinning wheel into yarn that might be woven into fabric or used for knitting.

Fleece Fibre

Here is a lock of Bubbles’ fleece from when she was shorn in 2020. You can see how the individual fibres are very springy

a lock of Bubbles’ fleece.

The fleece then needs to be combed or carded to untangle the fibres.  Once it is carded, it looks like this:

Bubbles’ fleece has been carded. You can see it is lovely and fluffy, but it is still full of little bits of straw!

Now it can be spun, so that we can use it to make something else.

Spinning the Fleece

Spinning the fleece using a spinning wheel like this twists the fibres together into yarn called a single. The more singles that are plied (twisted together), the stronger the yarn.

This is a modern spinning wheel made by Ashford.

Here’s an example of Bubbles’ fleece spun into a two-ply yarn:

Two single strands are plied (twisted) together

Here’s an example of Bubbles’ fleece spun into a three-ply yarn:

Three single strands are plied (twisted) together.

Here’s what Bubbles’ Fleece looks like when it’s been knitted into a square:

And here’s what Bubbles’ fleece looks like when knitted into a toy sheep!

Links:

Deen City Farm

Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers

British Wool animal welfare resources and videos

Ashford spinning wheels

Washing your handwoven scarf or wrap

Handwoven scarves tend to be quite easy to pull out of shape or snag threads, so you’ll need to be a bit more careful when washing them.

Remove rings and jewellery, so you won’t catch the on the scarf while you’re working.

You will need the following: lukewarm water, a sink, bowl or bucket, some liquid soap, optional fabric conditioner, a bath towel (or two smaller hand towels laid end-to-end), somewhere to dry your scarf.

Fill a bowl, sink or bucket with lukewarm (hand hot) water and put in a little squirt of liquid soap.

Now put the scarf into the water and agitate it gently for a few seconds to make sure the whole garment is wet through.

Leave it to soak for about five minutes

Take the scarf out of the soapy water and tip it out. Refill the bowl with clean lukewarm water and immerse the scarf to wash out the soap suds.

You may need to do this a couple of times to get all the soap out.

You may wish to put a small amount of fabric conditioner in the final rinse.

Place a bath towel on a flat surface (kitchen worktop shown here) ready for when you have finished the rinsing.

Take the scarf out of the final rinse water and very gently give it a squeeze, so it’s not dripping with water.

Place it nice and flat on the towel.

Now begin to roll the wrap the scarf up inside the towel like a Swiss roll. This will soak up most of the water left in the scarf.

Now your scarf is ready to dry naturally, indoors or outdoors, either flat on a rack or hanging up (shown here on a radiator airer).

What size hat do I need?

If you are looking for a fitted hat, then you’ll need to know what size your head is.

Here’s a quick guide to measuring your head:

Put a tape measure around your head where the hat will sit, so that is above the ears, above the eyebrows and just below the bump at the back of your head.

In the photo above, the measurement is just under 60 centimetres, so the size to choose is large.

The size to choose for this measurement (above) of just over 54cm is small.

Here’s a handy size guide:

SizeSmall
Medium
Large
Ex Large
Size UK6 3/46 7/877 1/87 1/47 3/87 1/2
In cms55 cm56 cm57 cm58 cm59 cm60 cm61 cm
In inches21 5/8”22”22 1/2”22 3/4”23 1/4”23 5/8”24”

Knitting for TV (The Third Day)

This was a lovely job knitting beanie hats for the TV series The Third Day (Sky TV September 2020).

I knitted Fair Isle-type pockets for waistcoats for a couple of the cast and well as several beanie hats with a Fair Isle-type design around the band.

The yarn was all double knitting thickness from Jamieson’s of Shetland.

The design was created specially for the programme.

Here are some of the hats:

Here is a tiny image from the programme:

Blocking a finished knitting project (Burrafirth Shawl)

Blocking a finished knitting project is quite straightforward as long as you follow a couple of rules. Rule one, make plenty of space and rule two, take plenty of time.

Before blocking your shawl, you will need to have washed and partly dried it. Please see my blog on “Washing your woollen hat” for advice on how to do this.

To block this shawl, I used the following equipment:

  1. A space on a carpeted floor. You can use a rug, child’s rubber play mats, camping mats, gym mats, and so on but make sure they are clean and colour fast before blocking.
  2. Plenty of clean towels
  3. Dressmaker’s pins

Firstly, make plenty of space and lay out your towels so that your knitting has enough space to lay out flat.

There’s plenty of space on the towels for the shawl.

Take your time. Pin out first, one edge of the knitting without stretching it.

Have a look at it from above or from a different angle and tweak it if it doesn’t look right

The straight edge still isn’t right, so it needs pinning again

Making sure not to stretch the garment, re-do it if it isn’t right first time.

This edge is stretched out too far and needs to be un-pinned and re-done
This is much better, but still needs to be evened out

Gently smooth the garment out with the flat of your hand.

The shawl took about an hour to pin out (and re-pin several times!) and about 24 hours to fully dry. It’s well worth the effort to take the time.Once dry, carefully remove all the pins and you can now wear your shawl!

The pattern for the Burrafirth Shawl is by Gudrun Johnston and was found in the Shetland Wool week annual 2019.

This shawl was made using handspun yarn mainly from a shetland fleece (pale cream and light grey) with some Jacob (dark grey) and Merino (mid grey).

Adjusting the size of your hat or cap

Many of my hats and caps are fitted with an adjustable head fitting.

Here’s how it works:

Firstly, undo the centre back knot and separate the two pieces of elastic at the centre back of the hat.

Undo the knot at the centre back of the cap.

Then put on your hat while still holding the two pieces of elastic (it may be easier to get someone else to help at this point).

Now, while the hat is on your head, tie a single knot in the elastic so that the hat fits comfortably and take the hat off without letting the knot undo.

Finally, take off the hat and secure the knot, making sure that the ends are tucked back inside the channels.

Once the knot ids tied up, tuck the ends back in.

You can repeat the process whenever necessary.

Remember that your hat will mould itself to your head to fit you with more wear and will need adjusting periodically.

This cap is made from Yorkshire Tweed and is available to buy in my online shop

Knitting for TV (The Terror)

I was privileged to be asked to knit for the first series of The Terror (aired 2018). This is a dramatisation of Dan Simmons’ book of the same name. It tells a dramatised story of the (real) British Naval expedition, led by Captain John Franklin in 1845, to find the North West Passage.  The expedition fails and all lives are lost when the two ships, Erebus and Terror are trapped in thick ice in the depths of the polar winter.

I was asked to knit a number of Welsh Wigs, which were standard issue to Naval Officers at the time.  This is a very finely knitted headpiece that mimics a wig and can be worn underneath  a uniform hat, as required by the Naval officers in the story. The pattern is by Sally Pointer and is available to buy on Ravelry or she will make one for you (link below).  It was a delight to knit and very satisfying to complete.  This garment was used to keep the men’s heads, ears and necks warm in polar conditions.

This garment was popular at the time, so a great number were required for the characters in many “hair” colours. My knitting was for the principal actors.  Many others were knitted for the crowd by a team of knitters in Europe.

Here they are being worn by the actors:

My brief was to also provide samples of authentic period (1850’s) naval and civilian knitted headwear. I was given photos and illustrations of the type of garment required and then I knitted these up into samples for the costume designer to use or have copied by the team of knitters.

Here are some being worn by the actors:

Links:

Sally Pointer’s Welsh wig

The Terror TV series info

Washing your wool hat

Only hand wash your wool hat!

Use hand-hot water with a little squirt of washing-up liquid in a bowl, sink or bucket. It’s best to wash your hat on its own in case any of the dye runs.

Gently agitate it so that the water is absorbed into the hat.

Leave the hat in the soapy water for 10-15 minutes to allow the dirt to soak out.

gently squeeze the soapy water out of the hat

Remove the hat from the soapy water and squeeze it gently to remove most of the water. Don’t twist or wring it! (That will make your hat stretch out of shape)

You may see some dye in the water.

To rinse, submerge the hat in clean hand-hot water and gently agitate. Repeat.

The water should now be clear. If it’s not, then you’ll need to rinse again.

Gently squeeze the rinsing water out of the hat and place it flat on a clean towel.

Roll the hat up inside the towel into a firm sausage shape. This will absorb most of the water out of the hat.

Lay the hat nice and flat to dry, either on a drying rack (a cake cooling rack would be fine) or on a clean flat surface.

Try not to stretch or shape your hat before it’s dry.

Lay the hat nice and flat to dry.

Couture Maths: A Kaleidocycle Headpiece

For many years I have been inspired by the art of M C Escher and recently was lucky enough to visit the museum in his honour in The Hague, Netherlands.

My first proper hat collection contained a fascinator based on Escher’s Mobius strip and I was a runner-up in the Hat Designer of the Year in 2009 with a similar headpiece.

The Mobius Strip headpiece from my first hat collection
The Mobius Strip fascinator as part of my entry in the Hat Designer of the Year competition 2009

Way back in the mists of time, my first maths lesson at secondary school was making 3-D mathematical models. If that’s all that maths was about, then I would have been delighted. Sadly, the curriculum moved on and it wasn’t until winter 2019 that I had an opportunity to have another go.

I discovered this book tucked away in a second-hand bookshop in Frome (lovely Town and well worth a visit.

I have translated and adapted the templates given in the book to enable me to use silk (my favourite fabric) and still get nice sharp corners and edges on each triangle piece.

I made three headpieces using different coloured silk and different sizes of kaleidocycle. One has three points in the centre, one four and one five. Each silk piece worked as a kaleidocycle when joined together (it continuously turns in on itself) and was then stitched into place on a specially made wire head fitting.

Here’s a video demo of how the kaleidocycle works.

A little bit of embellishment was added and now we have Couture Maths!

Link to Escher in Het Paleis museum, Den Haag, Netherlands here

Link to Visit Frome Here