Monday, 30 June 2014

Bumper Shop Update!

The shop has been updated with four 100% BFL aran, two BFL/Nylon sock and two North Ronaldsay lace weight skeins.

The lace weight is a new base for me - and is 100% British heritage wool. North Ronaldsay wool is pretty rare - but is a lovely strong, sturdy lace perfect for lace shawls. Both of the colourways are Robot Unicorn Attack II-themed. Veil of Wrath is a lovely goth blend of purple, lilac and deep black, while Celestial Resonator is a blended mix of blues and purples. Both are inspired by unicorn body parts from the game, so I guess a little morbid gothness is right!

I've also restocked Team Rainbow - which seems to sell within the same day every time I restock! It's one of my favourite colourways, I love how the white space blends with the bright colours and I love that it's showing Team Rainbow pride!

Cotton Candy is a new colourway for me - and is inspired by a 1980's My Little Pony. It feels odd to be using the American word rather than candy floss, but I'm going with the My Little Pony name! This is shaping up to be one of my favourite colorways - both to dye and the finished product.

It's also available in 100% BFL aran.

I've also added a pretty special skein - based on a myth about Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Rumours are flying about that it was designed to be played alongside The Wizard of Oz. I'm not sure how true the rumours are - but it made a pretty unusual yarn - Dark Side of the Rainbow!

Finally, I've added a couple of semi-solid colours. Both are inspired by myth and legend - which seems only right considering I am the CRYPTOzoologist!

Firstly there's Gorgeia - inspired by the Greek legend about the origin of coral.

And finally there's Kelpie, inspired by the Celtic myth about tiny little water spirits.

All are currently available in the shop!

Behind The Business: White Space

As a new dyer, the first thing you are told in class is to avoid white patches - don't tie your skeins too tight, make sure the dye covers both sides of the skein, rub the colour in etc. But why should we be so cautious to cover up the white? I mean, it's not exactly white - it's more a lovely creamy, milky natural colour. And I, for one, think it's far too beautiful to cover up.

Some of my most popular colourways - such as Team Rainbow - utilise the white space to counterbalance the WOWBRIGHT of the rainbow colours, whereas others, such as Cotton Candy use it to facilitate a blend between the two main colours.

It can be difficult to retain the natural colour - as dye can run, but if you are careful with exhausting the dye bath and with how to wrap the skein before heating then it should be fine.

I love seeing natural wool colour shine through, and it's wonderful to see the colours that different wools are. Wool is beautiful, and I don't see why it can't be just as desirable as the bright colours that dye can achieve!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Final Fantasy & Robot Unicorn Attack II Colourways

The shop has been updated to include a pair of 100% British BFL Aran-weight skeins.

The first is called Carbuncle, named after Final Fantasy 8's adorable little green pixie pal who you can summon to protect your party. He's such a cute little scamp I couldn't not dye a colourway inspired by him. And as it turns out, it looks beautiful - the blue and turquoise meld perfectly, while the red adds a pretty cool pop.

The second skein is inspired by the insidious Team Inferno from Robot Unicorn Attack II. My husband (who is in Team Inferno), pointed out that I have a Team Rainbow it's only fair I include a Team Inferno. I'm torn up upside, although I bleed rainbow for my team, this skein is PRETTY. It's a blend of fiery colours inspired by hellfire and smouldering coals.

The BFL base takes colour beautifully, and just glows in the sunlight, and I'm proud to be supporting the British wool trade. These skeins (and all of the yarn I sell) were spun in my home county, which just fills me with pride.

Artist in the Limelight

This week I'm featured over at the lovely Katrina Sophia's blog as her Artist in the Limelight.

I'm chatting about yarn inspiration, British wool, David Lynch and weird knitwear.

You can view the interview here:

Thank you so much for having me Katrina!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

FO Friday

Yes, I know. I'm a day late! But since the Tyrian shawl was finished yesterday, it still counts - right?

I can't rave about this shawl enough. I spoke about my problems with my previous Game of Thrones KAL that I was doing with Karen, so I was thrilled to find the almost Tyrion, Tyrian. It seemed like fate.

I heartily recommended the pattern to Karen, as I've made a Sister Joan by the designer Sivia Harding before, and I loved both the process and the finished object. Sivia just seems to make lace knitting seem a breeze. Tyrian is not a lace shawl for the faint-hearted though, there are no real rest rows, and the lace is double sided, and of course the beading slows things down a bit. But it's actually not so complicated to memorise and read, and it is definitely worth the while. I found the whole process really relaxing and almost meditative in the measured knitting.

The lace design is just beautiful, and so cleverly done. As for the yarn and beads - I think the earthy tones of the Malabrigo sock and the gold beads I used work perfectly together. It's a very forest shawl, but gleams in the sunshine.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Final Fantasy & Elder Scrolls Colourways

I love video games. I could easily waste full days exploring fantasy worlds, and fighting strange beasts. SO, with that in mind, I wanted to dye some yarn inspired by two of my absolute favourite games to exist - Final Fantasy (specifically 8) and the Elder Scrolls (specifically Oblivion). So, without further ado, here they are!

Brothers is inspired by the Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII, and is dyed purple, red-pink and brown. Brothers is a surprisingly cute pair of Minotaurs, who team up together to play badass Stone, Paper, Scissors. I loved the quest to fight and get them - and it seemed only right to make a nice earthy, purply-red colourway inspired by them.

Tonberry is inspired by the Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII, and is dyed yellow, green and brown.
So, Tonberrys are adorable. Right. Even when they are shambling towards you, brandishing a chef knife ready to stab you in the belly. But, wait. Look at the cute little turtle-face and sad little eyes. Awww.

Shiva is inspired by the Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII, and is dyed yellow, turquoise, yellow, white and purple. Shiva was always my favourite summon in Final Fantasy - and I loved the progression of her throughout the games. I wanted to make an icy, but still colourful approximation of her colours.

Harcane Grove is inspired by The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and is dyed blue, green and brown. Harcane Grove is a beautiful, quiet grove in Oblivion. Quiet except the for brutal Minotaurs and bloodthirsty unicorn that is. But how could I not make a yarn based on a place with a unicorn??

All of the above yarns are also on my brand new base. It's a lovely, soft, plump BFL Aran - perfect for making hats, gloves, shawls - anything you want really. Currently all are in stock in my shop. 

In addition to this I also trialled a new type of base - Jacob DK. It is GORGEOUS. I'm completely in love, it's so squishy and lofty. 

There's just one skein of it in my shop at the moment - but there will be more added soon. For now - here's the one, special skein.

Moon Sugar is inspired by The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and is dyed pink, grey and white.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Behind the Business: Inspiration

Following on from my post about the dyeing process, I thought I would talk about some of my inspirations for colourways today.

One of the things that always bothered me in the past with buying yarn is...let's be honest here, some of the names are bad. Really bad. I've seen innumerable skeins of purples of varying shades called 'Lavender' and swathes of blue skeins simply named 'Ocean'. Which is fine, but it's not a name you remember is it?

My process starts with an inspiration and a name, and then I choose the colours that match up to the inspiration. I love to dye this way, it not only let's me choose unusual colour combinations that I know will complement each other but it gives me a clear goal. Plus, it gives me the chance to loose some of the geekdom onto the world. Final Fantasy-themed yarn? Check. Studio Ghibli-themed yarn? Check. Robot Unicorn Attack II-themed yarn. CHECK!

 So, let's look at a couple of my colourways and what inspired them.

One of the very first yarns I dyed is called Princess Skylark.

It's a blend of turquoisey greens, purples and pink - and is actually based on my favourite childhood toy. Back in the day, I was obsessed with My Little Pony. I had so many I was actually featured in the official magazine - cool, I know. My absolute favourite of these ponies was Princess Skylark.

Forest Spirit is a blend of red, turquoise, white and brown.

It's inspired by the Studio Ghibli animation Princess Mononoke. The film features a deer god, who guards the forest. I like to take my inspiration from lesser characters in films, games and books, rather than focusing immediately on the main characters. So, rather than chose Ashitaka or San - I turned my attentions to the beautifully coloured forest god.

The first line of yarns I introduced into my shop were Robot Unicorn Attack 2-themed. Among them is Celestial Resonator.

This is actually one of my kettle-dyed yarns and is a blend of different pinks, blues and purples inspired by a customisable unicorn from the RUA 2 game.

And finally, one of the latest yarns up in the shop is Ifrit.

Ifrit is a blend of fiery colours, reds, yellows, oranges and peach all inspired by the summon from the Final Fantasy series. I used the FF8 incarnation, because it's my favourite of the series. And that's saying something because I LOVE all Final Fantasy games. Except FFX-2, that one was bad. Very bad.

So, you probably see a lot of my colourways are inspired by, rather than a carbon copy of. I hope you found this interesting!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Kickstarter Update

I'm so excited to tell you, I reached my Kickstarter goal! In fact, I not only achieved funding - I overachieved, which means I am currently sitting at around 112% funded. This is great news for someone who forgot to factor in shipping prices for the rewards....duh.

I'm so incredibly grateful for every retweet, supportive message and backer that words can't really express it. I am constantly humbled by how kind people can be. I'm also proud, the success of my campaign has reinforced my belief that I am good at what I do, and there is a market for my product. It's also a huge boost to your self-confidence when people believe in you.

There are still ten days left of my campaign and I would be so thankful for continuing pledges - additional financial support would see me able to buy more base yarn - potentially using rare British breed sheep, or more luxurious blends such as merino, cashmere and nylon. No money will be wasted and I appreciate every single penny. Much more than I can tell you.

In addition to this if you pledge £25+ you are eligible to claim a yarn reward - which will be a Kickstarter campaign only limited edition colourway. And I promise you, it's a beauty!

You can pledge here:

Friday, 6 June 2014

Behind the Business: The Dyeing Process

I thought it might be fun to share my method of dyeing with you today. There are a number of different ways to dye yarn - kettle dyeing, immersion baths, dip-dyeing and hand-painting. I like to hand paint my skeins - I find it gives me more control over the dyeing process, and means that if I want to replicate a skein I can do so easily. I adore kettle dyed yarn, and do occasionally use this method (such as The Great Forest and Celestial Resonator). However, you don't really have much control over where the dye goes in kettle dyeing, and you can only really use colours that blend well together.

So, to begin with I use white acrylic to tie my yarn together - this stops it from becoming noodle soup during the dyeing process. I find white acrylic best as it doesn't absorb the dye, and the colour doesn't run. It's also important to not tie the loops too tight, or you will be left with white patches in your colour.

Once the yarn is tied, I soak it in room temperature water, with a cup of vinegar. This cleans up any dirt or grease, allowing the yarn to be more absorbent to the dye. The vinegar also helps the yarn take the dye, and can soften up rough bases.

After about an hour I take the yarn from the vinegar bath, make sure I squeeze out all of the water, and lay each damp skein separately on cling film.

Then I mix up the dyes that I want to use - you can use almost anything to dye yarn with. In the past I've used Kool Aid, vegetables and Wilton's food dye. Next I apply the dye like I am painting. Adding the colours individually and blending as I go. I find it's best to use light colours first, and then add the dark colours - this means if you spill any drops of light dye then you can cover them with the darker colours.

Once the yarn is completely covered in dye - I wrap it in cling film. I do this by adding another layer on top of the yarn and then rolling the yarn inside it, so the colours are all completely isolated. This is one of the most important steps for me, because I love dyeing yarn with natural tones mixed in. If you don't isolate the different colours, then they can run during the heating process and discolour your yarn.

Then you pop the wrapped up yarn into a microwaveable tub.  I also find it useful to have a container with two sections (rather than just a plain old tub) because this means I can separate out the dark and light colours. I microwave the yarn in two minute intervals - so microwave for 2 minutes, stand for 2, microwave for 2, stand for two etc. until the excess water runs clear.

I let the yarn stand for around 10 minutes - then carefully unwrap it (watch out for the steam, it's boiling hot!). I then let it cool completely. Next the yarn gets soaked in a cold water bath, with wool wash such as Soak or Eucalan. This helps to ensure colourfastness, and also makes the yarn smell nice!

The final step is to hang the yarn out in the sunshine, and let it dry!

Monday, 2 June 2014

May Knitting

May wasn't the greatest month for knitting project - I was ill for a big chunk of it, and dyeing took up a bit portion of my time. But, I did start and finish some projects. So here's what I was working on.

I couldn't resist knitting the Undersized Unicorn from Rebecca Danger's 50 Yards of Fun book. What unicorn girl could resist?

I had some lovely sparkly Louisa Harding Mila yarn leftover which was just perfect, because everyone knows real unicorns sparkle.

The Mila was leftover from TinyOwlKnits' Moonbeam Duster , because like every unicorn, I just wanted to sparkle! I'm really enjoying making the duster, the waistcoat part was done in a jiffy so now I'm just working on the fringe. It's mad, bright and colourful and I LOVE it.

I also couldn't resist knitting Hilary Smith Callis' beautiful Itineris shawl - the stripes just really called to me. I'd been looking for the perfect project for my The Uncommon Thread Confetti yarn which had a pretty short yardage for sock weight. So, stripes seemed like the perfect solution. I paired it with the lovely and spangley Bigger on the Inside by KnittingGoddess.

I couldn't stop knitting this shawl. It was just the perfect pattern to get really stuck into and the construction is so clever and unusual. It kept the striping from being a bit monotonous to knit. Plus, it's really squishy and warm - the perfect Spring shawl.

I finished my 2014 May socks in Countess Ablaze's amazing This Ain't A Scene sock yarn. I really like how one is a little darker than the other. Brothers rather than twins! The sock pattern wasn't so great and neither was my knitting to be perfectly honest. It's ended up with ladders up the sides - bah!

I also replaced my Game of Thrones disastrous KAL with Sivia Harding's gorgeous Tyrian. I' m knitting this in the most beautiful earth-toned Malabrigo sock. It's actually a bit of a joke at my local yarn store about how much I love Malabrigo. I just can't help it, the colours are always amazing and the yarn is so, SO soft.

I'm using gold beads, which seem to blend well with the yarn without fading into the background. I am hoping than in sunshine they will get a lovely glow. I can't wait to see Karen's interpretation of this shawl.

Finally - I have begun my June socks using my The Cryptozoologist Stormborn yarn. I REALLY love knitting with it. I'm using Yarnissima's Spiceman pattern, which is without a doubt my favourite sock pattern.


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