The mohair bear was my last project of the old year…and the hat is my first thing cast on (for me!) this new one. After a few evenings of swatching trying out different needle sizes and stitch patterns, l’ve settled on casting on 72 stitches on size 4.5mm needles, a brim in 2×2 rib followed by some colour work inspired by this project. I’m hoping it will knit up fairly quickly into a cozy beanie because we’ve started the year with a real cold snap and amazingly and after knitting up so many hats for my menfolk recently, I don’t seem to have anything adequate to keep my own head warm! I’m really excited to see how the colour work turns out and think it will be the perfect way to use up the leftover balls of yarn from one of my favourite hand spun projects of 2016.
As for my making, I have some intentions for the coming year, which I’ll talk more about in a future post. For now, it is enough to go slowly & gently into this new year. Wishing you a very happy 2017 and hope you are warm and cozy wherever you are!
ps: I’d love to hear about your last & first projects, whether knitting, spinning, sewing or otherwise, if you’d like to share below!
Autumn will soon be giving way to winter and all around me dear women in my life are entering or on the cusp of entering a new season in their lives, that of motherhood. One of my oldest childhood friends has just become a maman here in France, and there is also a dear friend expecting her second child and a special cousin expecting her first. All in all, it’s the perfect excuse to dive deep into my stash & get stuck into some baby knitting.
Perhaps once I’ve made it to the end of the list of things I want to knit for these new little people, I’ll have made a significant dent in some of the yarns I’ve accumulated since I was pregnant and never got round to using for our own dear baby boy? I’m also anticipating it as the perfect opportunity to discover some lovely new knits for littles.
I’ve started off the proceedings with this gorgeous garter stitch cardigan designed by Carrie Hoge. It’s a pattern I’ve only very recently discovered and I so wish I had known about it when I was expecting. Garter stitch has rapidly become one of my favourite stitches for baby knits, as much for the cozy fabric it produces as for the practicality, I find it so much easier than stocking stitch to manoeuvre on to tiny limbs!
I started by knitting it up in a Burgundy cotton, something from my deep, deep stash…before realising 3/4 in that I didn’t have enough yarn to make it to the end. So I ripped it back and made it instead from this nautical navy blue cotton/linen/tencel blend. Just perfect for my friend’s little boy, as she met her Mauritian husband whilst they were both working below stairs on an ocean liner. Keeping with the nautical theme, I’m making a little fish mobile to hang in little baby E’s nursery with the leftovers from this and another project.
Annabelle Babe Cardigan // pattern // my project
Fish on the line Mobile // pattern // my project
Outside the home, the November mornings have been adrift with fog in pockets of the valley. There was the first snowfalls of this autumn, which have had us reaching for the woolly clothes during the day and the woolly blankets at night.
Inside, things have been rather busy in our little family, leaving little time for the more energetic or involved woolly pursuits (fibre preparation, spinning, natural dyeing…) once the sun has gone down.
I have however managed to find some little pockets of time in between for some Wovembering – reading, researching, sharing and plenty of reflecting. This month dedicated to wool has given me much to think about in terms of both my own crafting practices and some of the wider woolly questions of the industry here in France and also across Europe. I am excited at the prospect of slowly working through some the strands in the coming months and sharing them here, when time and energy allow.
I have also managed a little knitting in the evenings. I cast off a second Quynn hat for our little man just in time for the first snows. I have also been working on my WovemberWAL project (I am on the verge of casting off as I write) as well as a series of little woollen love hearts improvised from some hand spun scraps. I’m thinking of scribbling down the pattern, let me know if you’d be interested?
What have you been doing with wool this past month?
As October comes to a close, I’m excited to introduce a new strand: Lately, in wool. Here you’ll find a brief round-up of what woolly pursuits have been keeping me busy the past month. I’m hoping it will be a manageable way to keep a visual journal of my progress and experiments. But I’d also love you to join in and share what you’ve been up to with wool recently on your own blog, whether it be spinning, knitting, crochet, sewing, natural dyeing or just simple wool gathering (i.e. enhancing your stash!). If you do, please leave a link to your post in the comments so I can drop by and take a look!
Where spinning has been concerned, October has been about finishing off projects that were languishing on the bobbins since the summer:
- Plying up some Ryeland singles (spun from some sliver left over from my Tour de Fleece spindle spin).
- Finishing off a 2 ply sample skein of Lourdaise, spun “in the grease” from hand-carded rolags.
- Gradually working my way through a big bag of carded Texel fleece (French reared, sheared & prepared) that I acquired at the same time as my (second-hand) Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel.
At the start of the month, some dear friends came to stay with us for a week. I had been feeling like I was caught in a place of stasis where my knitting was concerned recently, but having a friend to knit with certainly helped pull me out of the rut! Florine is an incredibly talented & prolific knitter (as well as being the sweetest person), and I was so glad to be able to knit & chat with her once the baby was tucked up in bed each evening. Whilst they were here,
- I made some real headway on my Papa Bear Jumper finishing up both sleeves during their stay, meaning I now have knitted all the pieces of the jumper. A few days later I was able to block them and now all that’s left is to knit the neckband and do the seaming when I next have some spare energy.
- I also cast on another Quynn hat for little man, as we seem to have misplaced last year’s one! It would probably have been too small for him now anyway, as after measuring his head we’ve now gone up to the biggest size.
The mists of the start of the month seem to have given way to some unseasonally warm weather – just perfect for some natural dye experiments. I have to wait until the baby is in bed (or out for a few hours with Papa) and so am gradually working out a system of splitting up all the different tasks associated with the process of dyeing – and learning the importance of extensive note taking in the process! As with all woolly pursuits these days, progress can be slow. But it does mean I’m really enjoying the process all that more.
When our babe was just a few weeks old, I dropped by one afternoon to our local blanket maker’s to proudly show him off to the owner and his wife. The last time they had seen me, I was just a week off giving birth, and had waddled in searching for an emergency skein of yarn to finish off his first blanket…
After a happy ten minutes of the owner’s wife cooing over baby, I inadvertently came back home with four skeins of freshly milled yarn, made using wool reared & sheared in our valley from the local breed of Barégeoise sheep. Oops!
I wasn’t supposed to be buying any more yarn then. But it was hard to resist those smooshy skeins; from the light & lofty woollen spin of the yarn, to the creamy, subtly flecked oatmeal shade (obtained by the light blending of a dash of natural black with the white fleeces), this yarn was just perfect for a first post-partum knitting project I had in mind. And the fact that the yarn was spun using fleeces from the Autumn 2014 clip of wool (when I was in the first few weeks of pregnancy) made it even more irresistible.
Do you have any extra special skeins of yarns in your stash? If so, I’d love to hear about them below!
Spindrift on the Néouvielle, January 2011 (Hautes Pyrénées)
The name “Spindrift” comes from a lot of different places.
It’s a beautiful little word of Scottish origin, referring to both the spray blown up from the surface of the sea or the powdery snow blown off a mountain top.
Born and raised on the south coast of Britain, I now find myself living on a mountainside in the French Pyrénées, raising a joyful little boy with my French sweetheart.
Where salt in the air and sand between my toes always felt like the smell and feel of home for me, now the scent of pine trees on a summer’s afternoon and the distant tinkling of sheep bells are also anchor points for me. Where once I missed the energy of a blustery walk along the seashore on a stormy day, now I find I miss the familiar contours of the mountains when I am away from them too long.
And so for someone who came from the sea and now finds herself settled on a mountainside, Spindrift seems the perfect way to bring these two threads together.
For me, “Spindrift” also signifies a steady but intentionally slow movement. Not seeking to rush, but rather letting oneself be gently carried along by the gentle pace of things; love, nature, life. It’s a value we actively seek to incorporate into every aspect of our daily lives, and one I would love this space to embody.
Finally, that drifting also encompasses the idea of unexpected deviation from an intended course. I would never, could never have expected the shape of my life to be turning out as it is now. But here I am, abandoning myself to the natural flow of things.
This is what early autumn feels like in our mountains : misty and chilly when we wake up to find our view eclipsed by the clouds that sit on the neighbouring mountain top. They hang like a thick veil across the sky, obscuring everything until the sun finally breaks through in the late morning.
It is already October. Already a year has gone by since I moved into this space, when our baby was just three months old. I had so many intentions and plans, all of which have steadily fallen by the wayside as the year has unfolded. Because although the words, the motivation and the dreams have been there deep down inside, I’ve been struggling to let them out into the fresh air. Partly because I’ve been undecided about just how much I want to document and share about our daily life as three. But mainly because in the grand scheme of things, blogging hasn’t really been my greatest priority this past year.
Because underneath this silence, that has hung like a mist, so much life has happened. Twelve months that have passed by in a haze spent with a dear little boy we feel we have always known. Such a joyful time this has been for us three. And also such a time of learning & discovery. Becoming a parent is an enormous challenge for anyone. Becoming a parent when you suffer from a long term chronic illness makes things just that little more interesting.
So whilst much has had to be put on the back burner, just knowing this little place existed, was waiting patiently for me has been such a comfort. It’s been like an anchor, of sorts. Now one year on, it feels as if I am slowly emerging out of the mist of early motherhood.
And so I return to this little place. A place to gather all my crafts together, to delight in slow & sustainable wool. Wool that’s been grown, gathered, spun & dyed in our mountains: hand-spun on spindle & wheel, dyed with plants, knitted on my needles.
More news to come, no doubt. But first a night of sleep. And then a mug of steaming rooibos tea. Lots of rooibos.
I’m Fran, a slow yarn maker, knitter & natural dyer.
I live with my French sweetheart and our darling little baby in a mountain village in the Hautes Pyrénées – stick a pin in a map between Lourdes and Spain and you’ll find us somewhere in the mountains.
We are immersed in this landscape – these green mountains are what inspire and sustain us through the ups and downs of life.
They are also ultimately what steered the course of my life (back) towards craft, and specifically wool & natural fibres. It was whilst searching for a way to weave more meaningful connections with the natural world & pastoral traditions that surround us that I remembered a long held desire to hand spin & naturally dye my own yarn. One fleece led to another…and all of a sudden, I found myself involved in an incredibly rich & satisfying activity that just won’t seem to let me go!
When I became a mama in 2015, we knew it was now or never to embrace projects that fulfil and sustain us. And so both the name & intention of Spindrift were born in the same week as our son.
This coming year (2016), as our little man begins to take his first steps, we also hope to begin taking baby steps towards a more manageable & sustainable life as a family. One which will have us outside in the great wide open as much as possible. And ultimately one which will also enable me to work with wool, dye & fibre plants more closely.
We are interested in learning more about permaculture, self-sufficiency and off grid living. We hope very soon to have a patch of earth to call our own…a place where we can build a little (woolly) nest, grow our own fibre & dye plants…and maybe keep a few sheep.
Until then, this will remain a place to delight in slow & sustainable wool. Wool that’s been grown, gathered, spun & dyed in our mountains: hand-spun on spindle & wheel, dyed with plants, knitted on my needles.