First you boil your sheep

Carding on the machine All aligned Same thing by hand The rolag Feeding the spinning wheel Taking of the yarn A splendid red Various colours
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture Soldier boy Tommy With his haversack With Clare

Knitting more than his socks

February 2009

Our friend Hilary is a dab hand at all things knitwear. Not only did she manage to repair the sleeve on my pullover, but I would reckon that she has the coveted skill of mending the elbows in grandad cardigans !

At Christmas she was busy knitting socks for portable phones and whilst showing me some of those she also showed me some of the dolls that she has knitted.

Now knitting the things is probably the easy bit because Hilary goes a lot further than merely knitting.

She prepares her own woollen yarns from the raw fleece as well as making many of the dyes that she uses to colour the wool.

Granny and Granda

Granny and Granda

Fascinated - I insisted that she show me how it was all done.

It is all very time consuming, the cost of the materials is the least of it, but in the end when the work is done, the result is something that is unique in its own right.

Even if the pattern is the same, the colours won't be. The dyes made from natural resources (Onion skins make yellows) will never be up to Dulux colour control standards - you just can't get identical onions !

If the wool is to be dyed it needs to be carefully washed beforehand to get rid of the lanolin which prevents the dye from holding.

Whether its natural colour or dyed the fleece has to prepared before it can be spun into yarn.

The first stage is to card the fleece to ensure that the strands of wool are perfectly aligned and this is either done by machine or by hand. The hand cards are easier to clean off than the roller so for smaller batches of coloured wools Hilary says it is quicker to work that way than have to clean off the roller.

The carded fleece is then carefully rolled into a rolag which is the ball of fleece which she will feed into the spinning wheel to make up the yarn.

It would appear that the secret at this stage is to relax, too tense and you rip the thread. One of the methods of making up the skeins is to use what she described as the Navajo method which involved loops and lots of finger waving. I think the fact it was pouring outside was ancillary as opposed to an effect.

I had suggested that perhaps some of the people that I have out on the battlefields might like something very personal and different as a souvenir and so working from photographs of the uniforms from the First World War, Hilary prepared and dyed the wools with which she created this remarkable soldier of the British Empire.

He is hand knitted from his tin hat down to his puttees and boots, and carries a light haversack.

A new addition has been Clare inspired by the diary of a Canadian Nurse who worked in and around the area where I live.

And, just like the real thing - they are washable !

As you can see though her talents don't stop there. From grannies and grandas to phone socks and pullovers Hilary can make them all.

If you are looking for an exceptional present that won't cost the earth - just a continent or two - then get in touch.

Nurse and soldier

See also

The gardening continues

Festive Season 2008

Heritage Weekend 2008