And the answer is…

I have one question which I am asked more than any other, even more often than “Rose fibre? You mean from real roses?” and the burning question which so many of you are desperate to know the answer to is whether or not my yarn is suitable for knitting socks.

And it got to the point where I was being asked so often that just saying “I don’t know” wasn’t really cutting it, so in the interests of fully answering your question I made my own custom blend of sock yarn (roughly half and half bamboo and faux cashmere) and I’ve been wearing it for a while to test it out.

So, without further ado, here is the result of my great sock experiment:

(The pattern I used is the Winwick Mum Basic Sock Pattern by Christine Perry, adjusted to create an ankle length sock)

 

Demystifying WPI

So you’ve bought a skein of hand spun yarn and it has some mystery code on it: “WPI”. What on Earth is it, what does it mean, and how is it going to help you?

Quite simply WPI stands for “Wraps Per Inch” and it’s the way that spinners calculate the weight of the yarn they have spun. But not only that, it is also incredibly useful if you’ve lost the tag for a ball of yarn and can’t remember what weight it was. Rather than blindly guessing, WPI will tell you exactly.

(Note: at this point it is useful to mention that when I say weight I don’t mean how heavy your ball of yarn is, you’ll need a set of scales for that! Rather I mean calculating whether your yarn is lace weight or super bulky)

Basically all you need to do is wrap your yarn around an object which has one inch marked on it, say a ruler, a pencil, or a specially made WPI gauge. Personally I use a little steel rule which I “acquired” from my husband’s desk (don’t worry, he’s got another!). Then the more wraps of your yarn that are required to fill up the whole of the marked inch, the finer the weight of your yarn. It really is quite simple!

Once you know your WPI you can then translate it into a yarn weight. There are several different tables available (some which I agree with and some which I definitely don’t!), so here is the table I use:

WPI Yarn Weight
>35 Lace
29-34 Heavy lace
23-28 Light fingering
19-22 Fingering
15-18 Sport
12-14 DK
9-11 Worsted
7-8 Bulky
<6 Super bulky

I have also written this out as a handy pdf which you can see here:  Yarn Weight from WPI.

And for those who prefer a video tutorial, I filmed myself measuring the WPI of one of my latest skeins. I hope you find it helpful!

New Yarns and Fibres!

It’s beginning to feel like spring is definitely on the way at last, with sweet little snowdrops appearing and the first signs of daffodils poking up from their underground hiding places. I’ve been embracing all the colours of the new season in eager anticipation, and I think it definitely shows through in today’s shop update! There are greens, yellows and pinks galore, like a glorious array of new blooms!

The spinning fibre section of the shop has been restocked, and there are now 9 cheery braids awaiting you. There is mint, rose, seacell, soybean, tencel, abaca and ramie, plenty to tempt both novice spinners and those who fancy trying a more challenging fibre.

Shop Fibre

 

I’ve been creating some heavier weight yarns this week too, to appeal to those of you who aren’t lace knitters. I know I tend to spin fine yarns, so I have made a concious effort to remember that not everyone likes the same as me! These 2 ply skeins are either DK or worsted weight, and are so gorgeously soft they will be delightful to snuggle into.

There is soybean, mint, rose, and a gorgeous blend made up of rose, seacell, bamboo and tencel fibres which is exquisite, even if I do say so myself!

 

 

 

 

 

But I haven’t strayed too far from tradition, and there are also these fine weight yarns available too: 3 lace weight and 1 light fingering weight, in rose, bamboo, abaca and tencel

Buy Now

 

 

 

 

 

And there are still fibre sample cards available in the shop, ideal for those of you who haven’t come across some of these more unusual fibres in real life and who would like to be introduced to them. Perfect too as a source of inspiration for your next project!

Sample Cards

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all from me for today, I’m off to watch some more of the winter olympics! Have you been enjoying the sport and dreaming of ski holidays as I have?

Perth Festival of Yarn!

Ooh I’m so very excited to share this big news with you all! You may have already seen this on Instagram or Facebook but for anyone who missed the announcement: I’m going to be a vendor at the Perth Festival of Yarn! (I should maybe add that it’s Perth, Scotland 😉 )

What makes it especially exciting is that Eva, the organiser, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in attending as they had one of the other vendors drop out. Apart from this being a huge honour to have been asked, I’m also so happy to see that they are going out of their way to make it as diverse and inclusive as possible by inviting someone who doesn’t sell wool. Much as I have enjoyed other events I’ve been to, it’s been more for meeting people and looking at patterns and accessories. The thought of being a part of a yarn festival that also caters to those who choose not to use wool is very appealing!

This will be my first in person event where I’ll be selling my yarn, and I do so hope to meet some of you there! Are you planning on attending? Let me know! And do stop by and say hi on the day!

An introduction to: tencel

The next fibre I’d like to introduce you to is tencel!

This amazing fibre is definitely one you should try out if you haven’t already. It has the most incredible lustre and shine, and when dyed it takes on the colour incredibly well to give truly beautiful results. Yarns made from tencel fibres are also smooth, soft and strong, making them delightful to work with. The company who produce Tencel, Lenzing AG, say “(tencel is) more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen.”

Tencel is actually a brand name for a fibre also called lyocell, which is regenerated from cellulose extracted from wood pulp. The wood used for the purpose is eucalyptus, which is sustainably grown on farms in Europe, on land which is unsuitable for agriculture. It therefore does not compete for space with crops, unlike cotton. It also uses 10-20% less water to produce than cotton. The farms which grow the trees have been awarded FSC certification to show they are environmentally and socially responsible.

The fibres are then extracted from the wood pulp using non-toxic chemicals in an almost 100% closed loop system, which means almost everything used in the process is recaptured and does not leak out to pollute surrounding land and waterways. And the fibres are naturally white so no bleach is used in the process to whiten them. Over 100 patents have been awarded to the company for the fibre extraction process, showing how important technology is in the production of eco-friendly fibres! The process is so good that the company has been awarded the “European Award for the Environment” from the European Union. Quite the achievement!

So now that you feel good about choosing tencel for its environmental qualities, what’s in it for you? Well, there’s lots to love about this fibre!

As it is so incredibly absorbant it makes an excellent choice to wear next to the skin, especially in summer when it gets hot and you start to sweat *ahem* sorry, glow! We ladies glow, don’t we 😉 The fibres draw the moisture away from the skin, keeping you cool and also preventing bacterial growth. The incredibly smooth surface of the fibres are so soft they are ideal for anyone with sensitive skin. Unlike wool for example which is covered in tiny barbs, the tencel fibres are so smooth they won’t irritate the skin.

Tencel fibres respond incredibly well to natural dyes, taking on beautifully deep colours, which look incredible when paired with the incredible lustre of the fibres. See an example here of some blue yarn (dyed with black beans), which has already been spun, and some yellow (gorse) and green (gorse then black beans) fibres which I’ll be spinning soon:

Have you tried tencel yet? If you are now excited to try some for yourself, you can check out my current stock of tencel yarn here.

(TENCEL® is a trademark of Lenzing AG)

Top tip: breaking in linen yarn

Hear me out, I’m not completely crazy!

If you have ever worked with linen yarn before you’ll know that it isn’t the softest, but finished pieces can become buttery soft by breaking them in. But just exactly how do you do that?

Well, here’s my lazy efficient knitter’s top tip for breaking in linen yarn: leave your finished piece in a hot car! (yes, really!) The heat softens up the fibres beautifully and really speeds up the breaking in process.

20170602_161842.jpg

I wouldn’t leave it in the full sun unless you want a shawl with a trendy faded look, but I also thought this was a better photo than the inside of my car boot! Leave it there for a day or two and you’ll find your garment is much softer than before, with absolutely minimal effort.

Other methods of breaking in linen yarn include bunching up your finished piece and sitting on it for a while (even better is you can combine this with more knitting time!), and threading it through the bars of a cot or chair back and gently pulling it from side to side over the bars.

Pictured above is the Snakes and Ladders shawl, which you can learn more about and buy from my Ravelry store here.

If you try any of these methods and they work for you, do share with your friends!

What is blocking anyway?

Blocking is basically the secret to creating perfect finished pieces!

Have you ever knitted (or crocheted) something that you’ve taken hours to make and poured your heart and soul into, just to end up with a wonky, lumpy looking thing that wasn’t what you’d pictured at all? Don’t panic and throw it in the naughty corner in despair, that’s where the magic of blocking comes in!

Blocking is simply the process of thoroughly wetting your finished creation, then gently stretching it to the right size and pinning it in place while it dries. This is an important step as it helps relax the yarn and evens out minor tension issues, and it can help get your finished piece to exactly the right size (which is obviously more important for a garment like a jumper, than a shawl).

Here I am going to talk specifically about blocking the Snakes and Ladders shawl, which is knitted in linen yarn. You can find out more about this pattern and buy it on Ravelry here.

There are various tools you can buy to make blocking easier, but all you really need is a flat surface and some pins. I recently invested in some T-pins (mainly to stop me bending my sewing pins from over enthusiastic blocking!) These pins are sturdier than sewing pins, with a T shape at the top for ease of use. (This post isn’t sponsored by the way, I bought these pins because I wanted them!). I also lay my projects out on these foam mats, which are exactly the same material as blocking mats, the only difference is they have numbers in the centre of each square (and I bought them for my kids in the charity shop for £1!). But a large towel on the floor also works just fine as a base. You can buy various other blocking aids such as flexible wires which are useful for blocking curved edges.

Once you have your base set up and your pins to hand, lay your thoroughly wetted shawl on the mat and stretch it out to roughly the right shape. I blocked mine folded in half so that it would turn out exactly symmetrical. Then starting from the top centre, pin and stretch as you go, maintaining the triangular shape of the shawl. You will probably find that you need to stretch it more sideways then lengthways to achieve the right shaping.

It’s best to not leave too big a gap between pins, especially on a piece that is being stretched quite a lot, as you will end up with an unintentional picot edging! By pinning your shawl at smaller intervals you reduce the tension on the fabric around each individual pin.

When you get to the edge you will need one pin at the apex of each triangle to help shape them. The best way to do this is to start with pins in each end, then in the middle, then at roughly 1/4 and 3/4, and finally the rest. This should maintain an even spacing, and stop any one triangle getting more stretched than the others.

An alternative method for blocking, which is also useful when you have washed your shawl after wearing, but have already blocked it properly, is shown here:

The weight from all the clothes pegs, placed at the apex of each triangle, is enough to gently block the shawl without over stretching it. (I was sceptical too, but it really does work!)

Once your shawl is dried it’s now ready to wear! You may find the linen is a little stiff feeling initially, but with a little breaking in the fibres will soften up beautifully, giving you a truly delightful summer shawl!

IMG_20170517_094748

Have you made a Snakes and Ladders shawl? I’d love to see it! If you share it, please do tag me on instagram @flora_fibres_yarn or use the hashtag #snakesandladdersshawl, and if you upload your project to Ravelry remember to link to the pattern page so we can all see!

New product: fibre samplers!

I thought I’d kick off my second year in business by finally making a product I’ve been thinking about for some time now: fibre sample cards!

There have been several times people have asked me what my fibres are like, and it’s really hard to describe. How do you quantify degrees of ‘soft’ or ‘lustrous’? So this is the perfect product for those who are interested in trying plant based yarns, without the financial commitment of having to buy multiple skeins of yarn in different fibres!

They come in 2 different styles: wrapped around the card, and looped. The looped style is perfect for feeling the different texture of the yarns, comparing their drape and really having a good play with the fibres. The wrapped style are neater to look at, and perfect for anyone who wants to unwrap one fibre at a time to examine it (and, as it was pointed out to me, also perfect for anyone with cats as the loops might prove too tempting!).

You can find the sample cards listed in my Etsy shop here

Exciting news!

I’m very excited to share my big news with you all!

I’ve​ taken the plunge and changed my business insurance, so as of today (Sunday 7th of May) I am now able to sell to anywhere in the world, including the USA and Canada! 

(Come on, the photo is clearly the Stars and Stripes! 😂)

So now everyone can enjoy my yarns and accessories. Yay!

And to celebrate there will be a shop update later today. You can browse the shop here!

Happy shopping, everyone! 🇨🇦🇺🇸

An introduction to: Rose

Let me just start by saying to those who don’t already know: yes. I do mean rose as in the beautiful plants!

This has got to be my favourite fibre to work with, it is certainly in the top three!

I was amazed when I first discovered that I could buy fibre produced from rose bushes. Back when I was still a brand new spinner and before I had even bought my wheel, I started researching cellulose fibres, what was available and where to buy them. And, I’ll be honest, I was totally overwhelmed by the choice available! I had no idea that most of these incredible fibres existed as they aren’t spun commercially.

So when I saw that I could buy a bag of fibre which had been extracted from the stems of rose bushes, I was really excited. Roses are my favourite flowers and the idea of being able to make yarn from them was amazing!

The processing of rose bushes into fibres is still relatively new. Like many of the cellulose fibres available, it is considered an “eco-fibre”, as it is environmentally friendly and will biodegrade at the end of its life. Rose fibres are naturally white, and have an incredible lustre, almost like the inside of a seashell. You can see this in the above photo. They are also incredibly soft to touch and the yarn produced from the fibres has a wonderful drape. This makes it an ideal alternative to silk, and it could be used as a substitute in any knitting or crochet pattern.

It also takes botanical dyes beautifully. You can see here a trilogy of rose yarns with the natural colour on the left, grey in the centre dyed using Berberis Darwinii berries, and violet on the right dyed using red cabbage.