Cleaning the gunk off your iron: is this the world’s most boring chore?

Is the plate of your iron looking a bit gunked up? Mine gets distinctly grotty after using adhesive fabric backing and interlining. Here’s how I get rid of the gluey residue. As you can see, I have an iron with a shiny soleplate with no coating.

Warning! This may not work if your iron has a special non-stick coating. Please read your iron’s instructions if you are in doubt about using this method.

Please note: I don’t take responsibility for anything that happens to you, your equipment or your iron if you try this method. These instructions are for guidance only. You have to use common sense and make sure you don’t muck about with a hot iron, steam, scourers and electrical equipment.

You will need: a heatproof tray, an old cloth, some washing-up liquid or liquid shampoo and possibly a dish scourer suitable for non-stick cookware.

Squirt a little soap onto the damp cloth. Here, I have used an old facecloth.

First, wet the cloth, wring it out and lay it on the tray, then squirt some liquid soap all across the cloth. Here I have used an old facecloth as the texture of the towelling helps in this process, but a tea towel will work as well.

Switch on the iron to its hottest heat and when it is fully hot, switch it off and unplug it.

Place the iron, plate flat, on the cloth. It will hiss and make steam as the hot iron touches the damp soapy cloth. Move the iron around on the cloth to make a bit of a foam.

After unplugging the iron, put it onto the damp, soapy cloth and move it around slightly to make a foam.

You will see some of the gluey gunk quickly comes off the iron onto the cloth, but you will need to leave it in place, flat on the cloth for a while longer.

The gluey gunk comes off quite quickly onto the cloth

The glue won’t all come off straight away! This is the iron after 10 minutes. At this point, I removed the iron from the cloth and heated it up again. After unplugging again, I laid it back on the cloth and agitated it to get the foam up again, leaving it for a further ten minutes.

Here is the iron after a total of 20 minutes laying on the soapy cloth. These bits of glue are really stubborn and won’t come off without some extra help. At this point, the iron has completely cooled down. Do not do this if the iron is still hot! Here is where I used a gentle scourer to rub the remaining bits of glue. This scourer is suitable for non-stick cookware.

It’s not perfect, but I am now able to use my iron on nice fabrics again.

I hope this helps!

Surrey Tweed 2022; from fleece to fashion

It gives me such a sense of achievement to be able to show you some garments made using wool that I have washed, carded, spun and either hand knitted or woven on my rigid heddle loom into beautiful garments. Truly slow fashion.

In summer 2021, I was lucky enough to take possession of five lovely big sheep fleeces.

Two of the fleeces come from purebred Suffolk rams and three from Dartmoor Greyface ewes. They graze at Middle Chase Farm near Salisbury.  The sheep mainly eat grass from chalk pastures.  Each sheep has one acre of pasture and the farmer does not use any fertiliser at all. 

Each of the fleeces were laid out on a table and then skirted (where the dirty bits are taken off) and the remainder was washed by hand. This took place over several warm summer days, taking full advantage of the sunshine last summer to get the fleeces dried out by laying them out in the garden in the sunshine.

Now, I am part-way through carding and spinning both the Greyface fleeces and have spun a number of skeins of two-ply yarn. When it is carded, this fleece becomes incredibly soft and cloud-like. The yarn has come out roughly aran weight. This has been used to make several beanie and bobble hats and lovely snuggly scarves. It is a very strong yarn but has a lovely halo like mohair.

These items will be on sale in my online shop soon. If you’d like to buy one then please get in touch:

Perking up a veil or feathers

If your hat looks a bit sad or smells a bit musty when it’s unpacked from storage for your special day, then here’s an easy way to help perk it up using a bit of steam. Shown here are one of my bridal veils (with diamanté and hand rolled silk organdie roses) and a little red fascinator.

Before you begin, take care not to have any jewellery on (such as rings or bracelets) that may catch in the veil or feathers. Veil and feathers are quite fragile. They will withstand a bit of a tweak, but try to be as gentle as you can.

First, boil an electric kettle while you are unpacking your hat.

WARNING**This bit is hot and you must take care not to burn or scald yourself**

Then, once the kettle has boiled and itself switched off, but while the water is still steaming, open the kettle lid, for the steam to escape.

Taking care not to get your fingers, hands or arms in the flow of steam, gently waft just the veil or feathers in the flow of steam.

WARNING**Try not to get the main part of the hat in the steam, as this might alter its shape**

Remove from the steam flow and gently shake the hat, upside down if possible.

Taking care to be very gentle you may need to guide or tweak the veil or feathers into a nice shape.

Repeat if necessary. Put your hat on a nice clean stand to dry and rest. A vase or jug is usually sturdy enough for this job.

Once it is completely dry, wherever possible store your hat in a box large enough that the feathers aren’t squashed with uncoloured tissue paper

Get ready for Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot promotional leaflet

The invitations are coming out now for Royal Ascot this June. Get ahead of the game and organise your special hat well in advance.

For a special hat to perfectly complete your outfit, please get in touch with me for a chat. I have fifteen years’ experience of hand making couture hats, large and small specially to match or complement your special outfit.

send me an email or phone me on 07905657343 for an appointment. You may also wish to have a look at my website to see more of my beautiful hats.

A repair service and hat hire service is also available.

The Royal Ascot Style Guide is given HERE

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!


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:

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).