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Thursday, 28 February 2019

Monthly Musing - February 2019 - Weather warnings

I was watching the weather report on TV last night and apparently this February is the warmest on record for the UK – quite a difference from last year when the “Beast from the East” brought snow and the country to a standstill – and strangely unsettling in a country that expects the winter weather to go on for another few months yet.  

Meterological Spring starts tomorrow on 1 March and already the plants and trees are waking up; the daffodils are out in the garden; the catkins are showing their furry coats on the willow trees and leaves and buds are sprouting everywhere.  On the face of it, a week of warm weather timed just right for the school holidays is about as good as it gets at this time of year, but a whole month of unseasonably warm weather – or unseasonably cold or ridiculously hot depending on where you are in the world – isn’t necessarily good news at all.  Here in the UK we seem to have bypassed winter altogether (apart from a few cold weeks); elsewhere the winter has served a double dose of cold winds and snow, or the summer sun has turned the landscape into a tinder box ready to ignite at the slightest spark.  It appears that global warming is well and truly here.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Exciting times!

It's half term here in our part of the world which means lazy mornings and small daughter attempting to eat biscuits for breakfast ... but it's also been a super-exciting few days!  

On Sunday, it was the first day of the CHSI Stitches trade show and I headed down to the NEC exhibition centre in Birmingham to join West Yorkshire Spinners on their stand for the launch of the Winwick Mum Collection yarn.  Oh my life!  It sounds crazy but even though I've chosen the colours, seen the the yarn being created, designed the patterns and knitted the socks, it wasn't until I saw them and the balls of yarn on display that it finally hit me that this is really happening!  It's really happening!!

The West Yorkshire Spinners stand looked amazing - a beacon of rainbow colours in the exhibition hall - and it was amazing to be part of the team for the day.  My yarns (my yarns!) and the sample socks were beautifully displayed and some of them even had pride of place in the centre of the stand.  It was an incredible moment to see them there!  I got to speak to lots of yarn shop owners which is always a lovely thing to do, I got to admire socks (lots of socks in progress in bags, something of which I heartily approve) and there were even a few trouser leg lifts which I think may becoming a Winwick Mum thing.  I got to say "yes, that's my yarn" more times than I had ever imagined - and it felt great! 


Saturday, 16 February 2019

Signs of Spring

There are still a few weeks until the Vernal (Spring) Equinox on 20 March (meterological Spring starts on 1 March) but already I'm noticing signs of Spring when I'm out with the dog.  I'm trying not to think that the Winter is over already because we all know that the weather ignores the seasons and does what it pleases, and it's entirely likely there'll be snow in March (it happened last year!), but it is lovely to see the flowers appearing.

At Culcheth Linear Park, there are crocuses in various shades of purple.  


Wednesday, 13 February 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - Back t'mill

Wow!  To say that I am bowled over by your reactions to the Winwick Mum yarn colours is an understatement!  Thank you so much for all your lovely comments, I am so thrilled that it looks like yarn you would like to knit!  

It's been wonderful to share this adventure with you and today, I'm going to tell you a bit more about what's been going on.  In my last post about the yarn, I talked about my colour inspiration and about how West Yorkshire Spinners' Colour Genius, Sarah, brought my ideas to fabulous woolly life.  We've actually done the blog post equivalent of fast-forwarding the adverts on a TV programme as I didn't get to see the yarn in balls until the end of the process and I was ready to start knitting, but I wanted to show you sooner than that - and now we need to rewind a little bit!  (Warning:  this post is picture heavy!)

Let's go back t'mill ....



West Yorkshire Spinners are a family-run business, first set up in 1997 and moving to their current premises in Keighley in 2011 as the business expanded.  They are one of the last remaining Worsted Spinning mills in the UK; yarns are generally either worsted or woollen spun (sometimes a combination of both) depending on the type of mill.  Worsted yarns have had the fibres within the fleece combed before spinning so that they all lie in the same direction which gives the yarn sheen, drape and durability and makes it less likely to pill with wearing.  These are some pictures from when I went to visit the mill a couple of years ago.  You can see the "tops" (they're the ropes of fleece that look a bit like candy floss) being pulled into one big thick strand together ...



This isn't my yarn, it's going to be grey sock yarn - you can see the white nylon added for strength and right at the back is a bale of black fleece which will be blended in with the cream to produce a pale grey.  Once the tops have been pulled together into one big thick strand, it goes through the square part of this machine which combs the fibres into the same direction and it "pours" out of the tap at the other end of the machine ready for spinning.  If you're interested in the process that the fleece goes through, you'll find it all in my mill visit blog post


It may come as a surprise to you if you've been using WYS yarns for a while that they only started producing yarn under their own name in 2012.  It feels as if they have been around for much longer than that!  Peter and Richard Longbottom, the father and son team who run the mill, made the decision that they wanted combine British raw materials with state of the art technology and using their combined skills and extensive knowledge of spinning and the yarn industry, they took the market by storm.  Nowadays, their range covers pretty much any weight of yarn you'd want to use from laceweight to chunky and comes in an amazing rainbow of colours.

The West Yorkshire Spinners dye house is where the Colour Magic happens.  It's all top secret as you'd expect, but Sarah has very kindly taken some photos for me so that we can see some of what happens.  It's probably just as well that they didn't let me in as I'd have no doubt got in the way hopping up and down with excitement!

Sarah's dye lab is right in the middle of the dye house so she can keep a close eye on what the dyeing machinery is doing.  She has detailed records of every recipe that makes up each colour in the new yarns and also how much of each colour is to be used in every dye run.  You'll have guessed from looking at the balls in my previous post that the Winwick Mum colours are going to knit up into stripes because I really love stripy socks (and especially matching stripy socks) and Sarah has created very special Winwick Mum stripes just for me which are quite different to the Country Birds and Cocktail colours you might have knitted before.  It's really quite incredible what can be done with dyeing technology!

Once the yarn is dyed, it's steamed to set the colours, then scoured and washed to remove any excess dye before being put into a huge spin dryer to remove the water.  This is the Wildflower colourway coming out of the spin dryer ...  



Each band of yarn is a huge hank which is put onto racks and the yarn is gently dried in a special drying machine ...


Eek!  Look at that!  I feel quite giddy with excitement looking at all that Wildflower squishiness!  


The last process before winding the yarn into balls is to fluff it up as the washing and drying leaves it rather flat.  I'm sure there's a more technical term than "fluffing it up" but that's essentially what's happening here as the yarn travels down this conveyor belt whilst air is puffed up gently from underneath.  It's quite mesmerising to see it all laid out like that, isn't it?  A sea of Wildflowers!


Seascape really does look like waves ...


and Hidden Gem is so very purple that it makes me sigh with pure delight!  Oh, how I adore these shades of purple!


Finally, here's Brightside ... 


Can you see the yarn next to it on the right in the picture below?  That's Mallard from the Country Birds range and it was this photo that really caught my breath.  Those are my colours next to a hugely popular Signature 4ply colourway!  When I visited the mill back in 2016, I never imagined that I would ever see this photo, although it's around that time that I wrote my daydream list after seeing how the yarn was made first-hand.  I feel that I should keep this photo on my desk forever to remind myself that daydreams and wish lists aren't something fanciful that we should dismiss as only ever happening to someone else, and that consistently working towards whatever it is that you dream about can only bring it closer.  As is happening to this yarn: the conveyor belt brings it closer and closer, and that yellow streak that you can see is the same yarn being wound onto the ball.


Getting closer - and still winding!


The yarn gets wound into balls by this machine and the ball bands are put on at the same time.  This is another picture from my mill visit; you can see dark grey balls of yarn at the bottom with the ball bands all ready to be slid over the yarn into place.  (There are more photos in my mill visit post)


Brightside is in the ball!  At least, it's in four of them.  There are more at the mill so don't worry if this was your favourite colourway 😀


Look!  There's Hidden Gem as well!


I would definitely have been a liability if I'd been in the dye house on the day this was done as my excitement levels would have been stratospheric by now - plus I'd probably have caused offence by trying to sneak all of it home under my coat 😀


It does look pretty amazing with the Winwick Mum logo on the ball band.  Big daughter's best friend designed my logo for me (she's a graphic designer) and it's been wonderful to be able to show her how her artwork has been reproduced on badges, on my patterns and now on yarn ball bands.  I love how it feels so much like a family effort: my Winwick Mum family with the West Yorkshire Spinners family - and I hope that these will make fabulous socks (yes, yes, or any other project, not just socks 😀) for your family too.  I love how yarn connects us all.  It's magic.


Next time ... samples, I promise! 😀
  

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Weekend stuff

This is going to feel like such a mundane post after the excitement of the last one when I showed you the new yarn colours!  I've loved reading your comments and I'm so pleased that you like them!  I'll be telling you more about what's been going on with it very soon, but today is Saturday and today's post is about weekend stuff 😀

Weekends are always a time when I feel like I should catch up with everything that I haven't done during the week, although I do try not to overdo it and remind myself that it's OK to have a day off.  I may have - ahem - bought myself a planner after saying that I wasn't going to bother this year and at last I have one that works for me!  I'm still rather shocked that it could have been designed just for me and I still don't have any magic fairies to do the jobs on my to-do list, but there is loads of space for writing lists in this planner so it's been such a relief to have everything in one place and I've felt much more organised.  I've had it since the middle of January and although that's only a few weeks, this planner fits me so well I know that I'm not going to stop using it.  (And you can hold me to that - I'll check back with you in a couple of months!)

This week has been one of those weeks of car insurance renewals, poking at blocked drains (I need to pick up some drain cover keys this morning which makes me feel very builder-like but also tells you that poking at a blocked drain doesn't always do the trick), and knitting.  Lots of knitting!  I went up to see Lucy in Skipton at the beginning of the week which was just lovely as always, and we chatted and chatted, and in the afternoon I knitted and chatted at the knit n natter group.  

Monday, 4 February 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - colour inspiration

Hellooo!  It's lovely to see you back again, and thanks once again for all your comments!  I'm doing my best to keep up with replying to them all, and although I'm a bit behind, I promise you that I do read them and appreciate them very much!  As much as it's super-exciting, I've been quite nervous about sharing this new yarn with you as it's something so different from anything I've done before, so I'm really glad that you approve! 😀

I thought I'd tell you a bit more about the colours of the yarn today, and where they came from.  There are four shades in the collection (four!  I'm surprised you couldn't see my grin from where you are when WYS said that's what they wanted! 😀) and I knew exactly what I wanted each of those four shades to be - although that's when I learnt that there's quite a difference from having colour shades in your head to being able to show someone else what you've got in mind!  Luckily for me, Sarah the Colour Genius (seriously, that should really be her job title) at West Yorkshire Spinners has a magic box full of colours and also a magic ability to understand what's going on in my head - but more of that later.

Look at all those colours!  Don't you just want to riffle through them all?  It's incredible to think that there are so many subtle nuances to each of the colours and I could have quite happily have played with those cards for some considerable time, but there was work to be done!



Saturday, 2 February 2019

And now, the weather ...

Hello, it's lovely to see you again!  One thing you can be sure of on this blog is that if I'm not talking about socks, there's a good chance that I'm going to mention the weather.  There's been plenty about sock (yarn) on the blog just recently so I'm going for the full weather fix today!  WARNING: there is snow giddiness in this post! 😀  

I just need to say before I launch into this post that I know that other parts of the world are in the grip of icy blasts and weather far worse than anything I get giddy over, so if that's where you are, I hope you're staying safe and warm xx

We've had quite a lot of fog recently.  I tend to associate fog with November rather than January but we've had more foggy days recently than not so maybe I'll have to review my association!  When the weather's like this, it's always a bit of a gamble whether to take the dog for a lead walk where I know I'll have him safely attached or to go where I can let him off and hope that he doesn't disappear (this dog is a big hairy toddler even at the age of 7 and a half!).  On this particular morning, although it was a very foggy drive to the Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park (I've written about this place a number of times before), by the time we got there it had lifted a little and just seemed to be foggy "around the edges".