Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Sunday 5th October: The Opening Ceremony

Well what a sunrise, worth a wet day to get this!

We decided to have a quiet morning, the opening ceremony was taking place at Mareel , also at the Hay's Dock area of Lerwick. Mareel is another great facility for Shetland, it is 'new' to us as it was being built when we were last there. It has a cafe, which is open well into the evening, and overlooks the waterfront, and lots of cinema screen. Another great place to meet people.

We drove to Hay's Dock and went to the Hub and I thought I'd have a nice quiet spin, Netta ( the young lady from Israel watched me). She learnt to use a drop spindle yesterday and I left her having a go on my Joy spinning wheel being helped by another lady when I went to lunch. This is an example of what happens at the Hub! Netta is coming up to Unst for the Designing a Fine Lace Scarf Workshop that I am going on Wed, so we wonder who the other 2 participants are.

We bump into each other again as we queue to go into the opening ceremony and I admire her first spin yarn on a wheel- a great achievement! Netta's story of how she found Shetland Wool Week is amazing and the map of places where people have come from is filling up - just incredible. The array of different hats was breathtaking and eventually we go into the hall and the ceremony starts. Stalls around the outside of activities on offer during the week, with a chance to talk to the leaders, wonderful music, wine and super cake, some speeches, a chance to other wool week paticipants and it really feels like this is happening now!

I managed to sneak out and meet up with Michael for afternoon tea in Hay's Dock cafe before it closed and as we drove back to Levenwick we noted that it was getting rather windy, we might need to change our parking position again tonight!

The interesting thing was the picture taken of the event that went on fb and the front page of the Shetland Times had my hat in the middle!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Saturday 4th October : Day 1 of Shetland Wool Week

Our first really wet morning, we had planned to go to the Sheep Sales but decided to give that a miss in the rain! Instead we left the campsite and called at Tesco but were so early there were no papers! These have to come over by plane I guess and 10 am was too early, so onto Hay's Dock for coffee and to register for Wool Week in the Boat Hall hub. I was one of the first but several people around, I collected my bag and met Selina who will be organising Shetland Wool Week 2015 and filled in our tab on the map. I noticed already that one is from Israel!
Sheep at the hub!

Horror of horrors then struck me as I realised that my memory stick was corrupt and all the photos I had taken so far were inaccessible. I had a few really good ones on the camera but the majority would not open. Selina was brilliant and suggested trying both a camera shop and computer shop in Lerwick and told me who to ask for. Of course I always take a back up UNTIL I am on Unst and have a migraine and do it last Thursday! Bad news.
The only thing to do was leave well alone and have lunch - super lentil coconut and apricot soup in Hay's Dock restaurant!
During Wool Week I had booked a number of workshops but there are also lots of other things that are open that are either free or open for a small charge. One of these was the Shetland Textile Museum at The Bod. I had looked round this before but the exhibitions change and it was definitely on my list for the week so decided to fit this in this afternoon. Ella (from Jamieson and Smith) had curated an exhibition on Shetland Knitwear during the Oil Boom which was very interesting and there was also an exhibition of Fine Shetland Lace. I can't describe it all here, it is a MUST visit place if you go to Shetland- do allow enough time for your visit. The volunteers are fantastic and very knowledgeable. I spent a long time in conversation with a lady from the local Guild who was spinning about spinning and dyeing that we do. My favourite item? Too difficult a question that! I did love the cockleshell scarves with the different colours towards the edges and the lace stockings particularly. The shop has an array of beautiful items too. I was particularly taken by this card by Monica Pothecary which I had not seen before and I was able to buy it and bring it home - notice the knitting machine. (I have plans to see other knitting machines during the week! )

So the next stop was to see about the memory stick - so I called at the computer shop, and the lad confirmed it wasn't behaving as a memory stick and suggested I called back on Monday when the real expert would be in! I decided to buy a new stick from him and start again.

Postscript to the photo problem: I decided that I knew a clever lady who could help me when I got home and she sure did. She knows who she is and she took my stick, downloaded a programme, popped the memory stick into the computer and the photos appeared. Thank you so much you are wonderful. I will always do a backup and not do anything complicated when I have a migraine!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Friday 3rd October Moving onto Mainland

Well last night was quite exciting. I was hibernating with a migraine but the tide never showed any signs of moving down to low tide - ie it was so stormy that it gave the impression it was a continual high tide and was so close to the quay and our van that Michael decided to move the van higher up and behind the Youth Hostel. Suddenly it was SO much quieter as the wind was missing! It also gave us the opportunity for our first 'wild camp' ie no hook up and relying on the LPG and insulation of the van ( one of its selling features!). We had a very good night's sleep and in the morning it was just wet. I felt a whole lot better - in fact a different person and the only thing I needed mains electricity for ie the hostel was the hair dryer and straighteners! Message to self to look for some 12 volt versions for later 'wild camping' forays!
Then even the rain stopped. We decided to get an early ferry from Unst and were dismayed when a massive lorry turned up and thought we stood no chance of getting on the ferry ..... but we did as the men working on the ferries are brilliant at their job. During the wait I booked the ferries for next week so no worries about that.
This is our van that I keep talking about about at the ferry point on Unst.

It was a day for booking, we had lunch at Hay's Dock Cafe Restaurant again - look at this fantastic cockleshell lace inset into a table at the restaurant. All the tables have some beautiful work like this with the owner's name displayed by the till where you pay - just one such brilliant idea that makes the place so special. This beautiful cockleshell mini scarf is by Jan Sawford. So several lunches and dinner for next week booked.

Then onto Levenwick and our other campsite for our stay in Shetland. This is South of Lerwick on the main road towards the airport and quite high up, so no fear or high tides. Quite a sharp turn of the road. Again we were the only residents. A wonderful view.

The warden, John, turned up to meet us at 8 a very friendly man who discussed the mayhem being caused in the village by the invading twitchers looking for the Siberian ruby throat in his neighbours garden!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Thursday 2nd October The journey catches up on us

Well I guess it was inevitable. The journey from home was 645miles and we have been on the go ever since. 230 of these were by ferry but it was still quite a bit of driving. We both felt as though we needed a rest day. Michael was happy to potter, look for birds, chat to the resident bird expert at the hostel and I decided I would plan a pair of fingerless gloves with the remaining wool from my shwook hat.
This is the picture of the seaweed from Skaw beach that inspired the hat - it was on Facebook but some people seem not to have seen it.

I was worried about not having enough wool, but the result of this was that I have plenty to spare. I spent what seemed like all day trying to get a good tension and length for the gloves with endless different sized needles. I aimed to knit Old Shale Lace sideways as I've done a pair like this before ( based on alchemilla mollis ) and found them effective. I will wear these ( when finished!) when I am taking photos and they will be a wonderful reminder of Wool Week. The plan is to make them in spare moments during the week.

I thought I brought a good range of needles with me - but as it turned out I didn't bring a large enough pair so Friday when we drive back to mainland I have a wonderful reason for going into Jamieson and Smiths. So not being able to get started on the knitting I decided to organise yesterday's photos into folders on the laptop - more about this later.
As the day progressed it became increasingly obvious that my slowness was my chronic migraine getting to me - so I had to 'go with the flow' take myself to bed with the medication. Only positive thinking works, I was able to get to Shetland Wool Week and some months ago that was not looking a possibility, the wonderful NHS have helped make my life so much better - for most of the time! Tomorrow would be a new day and hopefully I would be feeling a whole lot better.

Postscript: These are the finished fingerless gloves, they did not get done during the week - there was far too much of interest to occupy me. But they are now finished and I am really pleased with them. The reverse side contains the other colours of the hat.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Wednesday 1st October A Day on Unst

Apologies for the change of text (font and size ) in the previous post – it must be user error but no idea how it happened. I will try harder with this one!
Although the night was windy and damp the morning was bright so I managed an hour on the shore with my camera - bliss! Lots of great macro photos of seaweed and photos from a deserted cottage to be used in textile designing later. Following an early lunch at the hostel we travelled north on the island. We had to make the customary stop at the stores in Baltasound and treated ourselves to another pair of mugs for the van : the new ones read ' Unst the Isle above all others'- just great, and post a card at the post office which will be stamped as coming from Britain's most northerly post office. The post office also sells knitwear made by the ladies of Unst. Then in glorious sunshine we drove on to Norwick beach where the waves were getting pretty choppy. We had only been here in June before so not seen it quite like this.
Then it was on the Skaw beach - the most northern beach in Britain and to me very special for its colourful seaweed. It is always an 'interesting' journey by a single track high road with passing places. You really do hope that you don't meet anyone! Also we were in the new motorhome which was a metre longer than the VW too.... Anyway we did not meet anyone. Michael was tasked with taking a photo of me wearing my shwook hat. ( see blog posts of August 19th– Sept 24th 2014 if you have not been following this). Our biggest problem was that the sun was very bright and it was very difficult to get a photo without big shadows or the sea cutting my head from my body.... I really did want a photo as this was the beach where the seaweed came from that inspired the hat, so we spent a while fiddling around and eventually got some photos that filled the bill and then took the following which shows us both. Michael is wearing the practice hat that I knitted to know how much yarn to dye!

Yes, the whole thing was a labour of love but well worth it.
What a wonderful day this had been.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Tuesday 30th Sept Lerwick to Unst

We quickly bought a few provisions in Tesco and parked on the quay. Barbara had warned me that I would have to be careful that one of the accommodation ship might give me a migraine attack - I saw what she meant ! Quite a startling view but also quite beautiful in a way.

We had to visit the tourist information centre, always charming assistants and a trip to the Shetland Times Bookshop ( where I had only intended to browse today but within an hour of arriving had made my first textile purchase of the holiday Kate Davies' Colours of Shetland. I just loved the patterns but just as much - if not more- I loved the text and photos! I was also tempted by Traditional Nordic Knitting but that must be for a later visit....
We had a coffee in our favourite coffee spot of Hay's Dock cafe/restaurant ( after all where else do you get such a view and textiles inset into the tables and wire lace knit lampshades? Today we sat at a table with beautiful cockleshell lace by Jan Sawford which I posted on my facebook page.
We also had to visit the facilities of the Museum, these must be THE best loos ( loo designers take note) and this year lovely poems on the back of the doors - more about these later. We decided we had to go as we were driving up to our favourite Isle of Unst which meant two ferries!
We made it to the Yell ferry point and made a quick lunch in the van then had a quiet journey over Yell.
We were disappointed not to get on the first ferry to Unst but this was a lesson - all ferries to and from Unst had to be booked.
We arrived at Gardiesfauld youth hostel  on Unst in glorious sunshine where we were having a hook up for the van on the front - what a view. (Youth Hostel is the white building, our van on the front)


This is an independent youth hostel which is brilliant and to be recommended. Besides us there was one other 'resident' who like us was not actually saying in the hostel - he was camping in a small tent and bird watching, being resident there for several weeks. We were very envious but it was great company, especially for my husband who is a keen birdwatcher.
We are so blessed to have such a wonderful view for our 'bedroom' tonight.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Journey to Shetland

Over the next several posts I will summarise some my fantastic experiences at Shetland Wool Week 2014. I will try and add to this every other day, but life is hectic at the moment so please forgive me if it doesn't quite happen that often. It was the 5 th Shetland Wool Week(  and took place from 4th  to 12th October. I had my tickets booked for several months  and been part of a dedicated facebook group. We had been to Shetland twice before and love the place. I had been wanting to go to Wool Week for several years and finally managed it this year. We were travelling and staying in our new WildAx Motorhome which was a fantastic success. We only got this at the beginning of September so had only been way for one weekend to Bala to try it out!
We decided to be in Shetland for 2 weeks so that we could visit more of our favourite spots so were there nearly a week before it started and left a day for 'wool shopping' after the events finished before catching the ferry back.
We drove from Cheshire to Perth the first day - glorious sunshine and  quiet roads. I managed a photo opportunity with textiles in mind at Perth campsite then onto to Aberdeen to the ferry.

Once on the ferry as we went to dinner we literally bumped into Barbara Ridland from Shetland who I first met while she taught me so much about machine knitting ( to experiment more for one!) the best start possible to our Shetland holiday catching up like this.
It was a lovely calm crossing and we arrived in Lerwick having had our breakfast at ready to go to the only Tesco in Shetland to top up supplies before driving up to Unst.
The ferry to Shetland is big. It leaves Aberdeen at 19.00 and arrives at Lerwick at 7.30. You can sit up all night or have all sorts of sleeping arrangements but we have an outer ensuite cabin, you even get tea included.

Barbara was returning from an exhibition she is part of: ‘This Beloved Earth’ Basketry at It is open until November 23rd 2014.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Dyeing the yarn for Shetland Wool Week 3

This was relatively easy to dye as I had samples in my stash already and the source material growing in my garden - marjoram. So once the plant was picked, chopped & stewed up it was just a matter of straining it and using it to dye the wool. After the wool was dyed I needed to modify the colour with iron to get the correct shade. I actually did this shade of DARK OLIVE first as I knew I could obtain a lovely rich hue. On drying I was pleased with it.

I was intending to use the natural yarn as the background. I have left a skein of this in with the yarns. It is the 3rd on the left skein of blog post of 19 th of August. It looks far too pale with the other yarns. Earlier in the summer I set up some solar dyeing - reported on fb. One of these jars contained an extract of red clover, the red clover being collected on South Uist during a glorious holiday in 2005. Since then it had been stored in the garage. It had dyed the yarn what I judged from my photo a suitable background beach colour so scaling up the volume of the jar to the mass of the yarn used in the jar, I used the same ratio to dye the yarn for the beach for this hat! Hence the colour of the skein which in the photo is 4 th from the right and looks much better with the other colours than the starker natural white of the fleece. I love using natural colours so I am still wondering about trying to work some natural colour into the hat somewhere!

Obtaining this shade of purple took much experimenting and even when I had obtained the correct hue on commercial yarn the hue on the handspun was more 'heathery' but I actually liked it better ( fortunately). So to obtain this hue, I dipped the skein in an indigo vat 3 times to get a medium blue; then over dyed it with a 5% cochineal overdye. After that I dipped it in the indigo vat briefly to get a more bluer as opposed to pinker purple. This was tricky as I was judging wet colours !

GOLD ( see previous post)

This hue was worked in the same way as the purple on a separate occasion - too much for me in the same dye bath at the same time - but with one dip in the indigo initially. It took up the indigo far better than the commercial yarn so there was a moment of sheer panic, thinking I was going to get a lilac that was too close to the purple- ugh! But all was OK.

Anyway all the colours are done and now to see if they work in the hat. The dyeing has been fun. It doesn't matter how long you have been natural dyeing there is still so much to learn. If you have never tried natural dyeing do have a try you can get great colours.

The finished hat from the side

PS . I found more details for the recipe for the grey, it was 10% logwood.

I have another hat project planned, to knit a hat in the colours of Horsey beach (Norfolk) but the dyeing is done for that!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Dyeing the yarn for Shetland Wool Week 2


Getting this lighter olive was quite a challenge as it was the second green I was aiming for and needed to be lighter than the one I had produced already ( 2 skeins to the right on image of August 19th). Part of the problem was I needed to get a darker shade 'wet' as when it was dry it would be lighter . However it was not to be so dark it would be too close to the dark olive I already had. As I have noted already I was doing trial skeins - but on different yarn and as anyone who has done natural dyeing knows it is not an exact science and seemingly doing everything the same can sometimes give different results.

So for this olive I used elder leaves and stems that I gathered fresh, boiled up and allowed to cool overnight. I then heated the wool with the elder extract ( it gave a glorious bright yellow) then removed the wool. After adding modifiers of copper, vinegar and iron I heated the wool in the extract again and produced this glorious olive colour, I added further iron until I judged the olive was the right olive. After rinsing and noting as always the fastness of the colour it hung on the line to dry and I was pleased and relieved to say it was distinctively lighter than the olive I already had. Another success!

This colour was not dyed specifically for the hat, but is the exact colour that I needed so I decided to use it. The wool is some previous handspun Jacob and I had dyed it with heather ( again following an alum mordant) and then modified with tin. For some reason I had done two small skeins which was just perfect as I could put them between the two olives and purples to see how they would look on the hat! They were dyed in 2004. The rest of the yarn was used in a cushion and they were left over so I am pleased they now have a use.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Dyeing the yarn for Shetland Wool Week 1

I knitted a sample hat to work out how much yarn to dye and tried to remember to note the length of each colour used! I tried to use colours something like I was aiming to use.

All dyeing was carried out on well scoured yarn which was mordanted with alum and cream of tartar.

Following the picture (post of August 19th)
The left hand side DEEP PINK
This will be the centre area of the crown (as in the sample hat) and is the most striking part of the hat. It was one of the most straightforward to dye. It was dyed with 10% cochineal, starting with crushing the beetles!

Second from the left GREY
Getting grey was difficult. For many of the colours I did several trial runs. I had a supply of 10g skeins of commercial yarn already mordanted, I knew these would give me a reasonable, although not entirely accurate, match. However everything I tried was way out on grey. I had got all the other colours complete and my options were running out on getting grey when I remembered that I had a solution in my store in the garage. This was left over from making a part of a fancy yarn a few years ago for an exhibition entry. So I tried this on one of my trial yarns and it was perfect. My only regret is that it was not labelled that well - it just said 'logwood, elder and tin, 2011' but I have no-one to blame only myself. I do like to know exactly how I get a colour but in this instance it does not matter. In the unlikely event that I need some more I do have plenty left. Natural dyeing is not an exact science but I can make sure that my labelling is more meaningful in future than just giving me names!

The next post will follow along, although the next skein is the natural washed fleece – just for comparison – so lovely on its own. I decided it was too stark on its own and did dye it 'beach' colour!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Dyeing for Wool Week 2014

I have dyed this wool to knit my hat for Shetland wool week, you can see a picture of the seaweed that has been the inspiration for this – taken on Skaw the most northerly beach of Unst –the most northerly beach on Shetland. I have also included a picture of the hat that I knitted as a sample this was so that I could work out how much wool I would need in each colour!

All the yarn for the real hat was hand spun. I intended that it was all going to come from the fleece that I hand picked from Jamieson and Smith on my visit to Shetland in 2012. I think it was Ella that helped me on that Saturday afternoon in the fleece store! However to enable me to get the gold colour I had to cut a corner and use some of my early handspun Jacob yarn (the gold), but this brings back pleasant memories too so I am happy to include it.

The dyes I used for the hat were : cochineal, elder, heather, indigo, logwood, marjoram and silver weed. The yarn was mordanted with alum first and some yarns were over dyed whilst others were treated with modifiers to get the exact shades, well as exact as I could get.

More about the dyeing to follow !

If it doesn’t work out I can still wear the sample hat – that is either Jamieson and Smith’s best jumper weight yarn or some of my own handspun and hand dyed!

There are some pictures on my facebook page at

Friday, 7 March 2014

Repurposing vintage embroidered linen

As some of you know life has been a little difficult for me over the past few months. In hindsight this is been for about nine months now, although I didn't realise how bad I was getting until about November! I have now been diagnosed with chronic migraine. This is a relief as it is nothing more sinister but for those of us with chronic migraine it is a challenging & unpredictable condition. I am gradually getting to grips with the situation but still in the position of only having occasional days when I am completely headache free. The challenge at the moment is not to try and run around headless doing everything that I previously did on those days.

I have treated myself to a mini iPad that I can dictate to and hence spend less time at the laptop. This is being a big success.

I am on the look out for enjoyable textile projects that I can complete while headache free. It is a long time since I have done any real embroidery so I have set myself one!  It is to make a sleeve for my mini iPad for when in my handbag. I have a linen chair back saved while clearing my aunt's house.

It have used the 1950's floral arrangement for the sleeve front – apologies for the photos- the linen has played havoc with the photography!

I have researched some ideas from my textile library for a complimentary embroidery for the back of the case and enjoyed working this bluebell one.

I have backed this with iron on interfacing & padded it to give the case some body. Then I formed the sleeve and added some vintage mother of pearl buttons and two matching loops.

 I am delighted with my new iPad sleeve I hope you enjoy seeing it too.

There is more of her vintage needlework in the drawer - I have a plan for a case for the paper tissues I carry in my handbag too! So watch this space!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Shetland fleece washed and unwashed

This is a comparison of Shetland fleece washed by my version of the fermented suint method. I am delighted with how it has turned out.

the unwashed version, as  shown ( and discussed) on Sept 1st 2013!
Quite a striking difference!

I used a separate bath for the Shetland and the Jacob fleece and washed sections of each fleece at a time to make the process manageable.

Washing Fleece My Fermented Suint Method

For those that have been following this you will know that I first started writing about this in September when I had got round to washing some fleece. I then got distracted and never actually described what I had done. So here goes – but remember I did do this in September, it was warmer and as it must involve a chemical reaction it will be a lot slower now. However, come late February /early March I am looking forward to setting this up again ( as I have been really lucky to have been given a super Jacob fleece!)

Basically the suint (sweat from the sheep) and the lanolin in the fleece along with rainwater makes ‘soap’ so you will not need to add any soap or detergent. It appears that the fleece gets clean on its own. Having tried this on a fairly fresh Shetland fleece and an older Jacob fleece I can say that the method has worked well for me and I will continue to use it in future.

I liked the fact that the rinsed and dried fleece still had some lanolin in it – it did not feel completely dry and lacklustre!

What you need to start:
An outdoor space
Large container with a lid  – I used a large translucent plastic storage box with lid and also a vintage galvanised round bath with lid
Container to rinse the fleece in

Watering can for adding the rinse water to the garden
Rubber gloves
Washing machine
Large net – eg net curtain  eg to go over a triangular washing line / tree for drying the fleece

 How to set the ‘fleece washing bath up’
Add rainwater to the container until it is between half and three quarters full. Add fleece to this , you need to be able to swirl it about so it must not be crammed in too full. I would say to get a good result less rather than more if you are dithering about adding more! The fleece needs to be submerged, so add a bit more water as needed (don’t worry about odd bits that come to the surface). Now you are going to put the lid on and leave it for 7 days. If the sun can get to it so much the better, if it is not sunny but cooler it will take longer than 7 days. You can go and look at it, it will start to smell, the water will go brown and it will get a film on the surface. Look at some of the locks, give them a little rub. You will know when the bath has ‘worked’.

The trick is to keep as much of this wonderful ‘fermented suint bath’ as you can. So I would take out sections of fleece at a time and squeeze them and put them straight away into another container.  YOU ARE GOING TO KEEP THE VERY DIRTY LOOKING WATER TO WASH THE REST OF THE FLEECE. If you have unlimited rainwater use it, however I used tap water for the rinsing and it worked well. I did find that I did 5 /6 rinsings until the rinse water ran clear. I collected all the rinse water and added it to the garden. The plants loved it. So although it seemed arduous at the time it was being as sustainable as possible. At this point I put the fleece in a pillow case and put it in the washing machine for a slow spin ( no rinse just a slow spin). After that I opened up and pegged the net curtain on the washing line and spread the fleece on this – if the weather is not up to that then on a sheet on a spare bit of floor – garage / kitchen ???? will work. It won’t take long to dry but do make sure it is really dry before storing it and again a pillowcase is the ideal storage method- with an accurate label tied on, and the top tied up so no moth can get in.

Back to your ‘Fleece Washing Bath’

You now take the next section of your unwashed fleece and add it to the very dirty and smelly water that you have just taken the fleece out of! Again make sure you have not added so much it is crammed in too tight. Add a bit more rainwater if the level has dropped. I have found that you will only need to leave the fleece in this potent mixture for 48 hours. Then take it out and rinse it as before.  Add more fleece to the even smellier bath and leave that for another 48 hours and so on….

Even though when you take the fleece out of the fermented suint bath it has an odour that you think you won’t be able to get rid of, don’t worry – it will come out in the rinse and the air as it dries and the texture of the washed fleece is, in my opinion, the best I have had from any sort of fleece washing I have done.

When you have finished washing all of the fleece you can put the contents of this washing bath on the garden too – it might be a bit potent – so I would make sure it didn’t go on any plant directly.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Machine Knitting is good for the brain!

My aim is to alternate sorting out my newly acquired knitting machines with actually producing garments. So today was one of these days. The task was to knit a second sleeve for a wool jumper for my husband. I have modified the pattern (more in a later post) so I am knitting the sleeves first to triple check the tension etc.
I completed the rib and set the machine for stocking stitch. However when I returned and knitted this it seemed to be taking more rows to get to the armhole! Had I not reset the row counter correctly? The Knitleader sheet certainly appeared to be moving as I knitted each row.
Well as I got to the armhole I noticed the row counter was double the number I expected! This told me that the Knitleader was only moving forward as the carriage moved in one direction.
( This had happened to me previously, so having done a temporary fix  I bought a replacement Knitleader from eBay. The Knitleaders are probably 30 years old so is it surprising they are now failing? )

So how I solved this problem - knitting with no yarn was needed. I marked the length of 60 rows (14.7cm) on the Knitleader and knitted 60 rows with no yarn - yes only 7.4cm was actually knitted which confirmed why the sleeve was too long. I added my custom modification to one arm on the Knitleader & repeated knitting the 60 rows, the distance knitted was still 7.4cm.
So, I swapped the modification to the other arm and knitted the 60 rows again and this time I got the full 14.7 cm.
So the immediate problem is solved & as long as I check this modification is not slipping every 20 or so rows it should function.
Longer term I have to decide whether to have the Knitleader professionally mended or just work out shapings from my schematic pattern diagrams.
These vintage knitting machines ( in general) work very well, once the sponge bar is replaced, and they have been thoroughly cleaned and oiled. My experience is that whether it is a Knit radar/contour from a knitmaster ( which tends to get gummed up) or a Brother Knitleader ( in which the triggering mechanism seems to get worn) these devices need more TLC than the actual knitting machine to get functioning well.
So fingers crossed all will work well now and I can finish this jumper for DH.

** The modification works as it provides sufficient extra leverage when the carriage passes to 'trip' the knitleader to register a row.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Knitmaster SK700 Knitting Machine

What a great 'textile' way to start a New Year! During the latter part of 2013 I've been increasing my range of Knitting Machines- to include both Brother and ( now) Knitmaster. (that is in addition to the 3 even more Vintage models).

I am concentrating on a Knitmaster 700SK made in 1985. Having replaced the sponge bar foam (see later for supplier *) & given it a thorough clean (& oil **) yesterday I found time to actually knit with it! In it's hey day it was described as ' top of the range' and given what it will do and how robust it is - I think the advertising was very accurate.

What a treat this was, so all patterning now tried - plain, fair- isle, tuck, tuck- lace, slip, intarsia & punch lace! Punch lace being the real reason I bought the machine! I am delighted with the machine. The Ribber looks even more exciting- but that is for later.
I have made a list of Projects - Machine Knitting, Sewing, Weaving and Other. I have decided to alternate making progress in producing a garment/ item with making progress in getting my ‘new’ machines in working order.

*Xena Knits recommended for their replacement foam & fixing instructions - allow several hours to do this well. I use Nail Varnish remover to get rid of the 'old' glue that I can't scrape out.
**Metropolitan Machine Knitting sell Ballistol Oil that comes in a 'pen' which can be refilled. Great to use once all the black goey grease that has built up over the years has been removed from the knitting machine. Do not use 'Three in One'.
For those wanting to know more about cleaning Knitting Machine there is great advice from the Guild of Machine Knitters at

Manuals: if you have an 'old' Knitting Machine and no manual many are available for free download from