Songs and Sock Yarn

There’s nothing quite like waking up to a massive pile of laundry and a weirdly affectionate cat to make you realise that the holiday is most definitely over.

What’s more, this week I’ve been tackling the laundry single-handed, as the Yarn Widower abandoned me for the delights of the European Geosciences Union General Assembly, and then has to dash off to a gig in Edinburgh first thing tomorrow. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though, as he seems to have had a grand old time in Vienna.

My travels have been rather less glamorous, but the embryonic ballgown (all one and a half inches of it!) and I had a little trip to Flint Mountain on Sunday to sing in a concert. It was great fun, and there was an impressive turnout for a Sunday afternoon, even if I did have to sleep for 14 hours afterwards.


Sadly, I was in too much of a rush to obtain conclusive photographic proof that I was in a church without spontaneously combusting, but I did take pictures of yarn and music.


For those that aren’t familiar, the above photos show the ballgown cozying up to the Big Yellow Book, as it’s affectionately known. It’s pretty much a bible for first and second year singers at music college, and is full of a selection of Baroque songs that come with utterly ridiculous, over-the-top accompaniments courtesy of its 19th century editors. It’s completely bonkers, and therefore great fun to sing.

After I’d returned to a more or less functional state, I decided to take advantage of the extra downstairs space by bringing my wheel down so I could spin while watching trashy TV (which is so truly awful that I can’t bring myself to admit what it is).

My project for the week involved some delightful BFL roving from Countess Ablaze in the OOAK colour Tropical. Now, the lustre and long staple length of BFL screams socks to me so I did a bit of research. As the aforementioned Countess has recently pointed out, not all four ply is sock-worthy, and there’s nothing worse than spending loads of time on a pair of socks that promptly stretch out of shape or sprout holes. Particularly when you’ve gone to the trouble of spinning the yarn yourself.


This is (half) of what I started with. I forgot to take photos until half the singles were already spun. I know, bad blogger.

BFL is already a good fit for socks, as it’s pretty tough, but I wanted to make this stuff as close to bombproof as possible, with loads of twist. Enter cable spun yarn. This involved spinning (in my case) four lots of singles, which then became two bobbins of heavily overplied two-ply.


Excuse the poor light, but I’m a massive insomniac, so this is perfect witching hour, bore-yourself-to-sleep spinning. As I’m a chronic underplier, I ran it through the wheel twice on a high ratio to make sure. The two-ply is then plied together (i.e. in the same direction that the singles were originally spun). The result should be a really tough, rounded yarn that gives excellent stitch definition and can really take a beating.


This is the actual end result, helpfully modelled by a local tree. It’s in a public space, so I was worried that someone would ask what I was doing, and I would have to say “photographing yarn in a tree” as if it were a perfectly normal thing to do. I mean, I think it is, but it’s not really that kind of neighbourhood.

I don’t think it’s bad for a first attempt at a new spinning technique, but the real test will be how the eventual socks hold up. Patterns, anyone?


The Total Perspective Vortex

The Total Perspective Vortex

I have a trip coming up. Two dear friends are getting married on Skye next week, and we’ve been invited. It’s a fair old trek, so naturally my first thought was travel knitting. Aside from getting to the wedding, we’re also going to explore around a bit and make a week of it.

This means lots of driving, and since the Yarn Widower gets carsick, it also means a lot of passenger time for, plenty of it on winding roads. So, I need something I can do without looking at my hands much. It also needs to be whisky-related screw-up proof: we’re going to Islay as well, so it’d be rude not to.

Lots of stocking stitch in the round seems an obvious choice. There are lots of options: plain socks, break the back of a bottom-up jumper, a plain pi shawl…

Or something else entirely.

Fans of Douglas Adams will be familiar with the Total Perspective Vortex. It is known as the worst torture to which anyone can be subjected, and was invented by Trin Tragula to get back at his wife, who frequently claimed he had no sense of proportion. The Vortex destroys the mind of anyone placed within it by showing how small and insignificant they are in relation to the whole universe. This is because, according to Adams, “In an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion”.

Reader, I fear I may be in need of it. What I have settled on involves a great deal of stocking stitch in the round, but on quite a grand scale. I’m making a ball gown. Out of laceweight. On 2.5mm needles (yes, I’ve checked my tension and that is the size I need). I must be mad.

The armaments (ambient mess not included)

Some background: I’ve had the yarn and pattern (Arwen by Marie Wallin) for a while, so this isn’t totally out of the blue – I’ve just been trying to get the stamina up to dive in. In case any of you think I’m totally insane, I don’t expect to manage the whole thing in the week we’re away. Maybe give it a few years?

As a jobbing singer, I get a reasonable amount of use out of my eveningwear, and a knitted dress seems like a good antidote to chilly country churches.

So this seems like the perfect opportunity. I have 10,500 metres of yarn, which is just as well, since it’s been discontinued, and I bought it in bulk when it was on clearance – thirty balls, to be precise. That’s about twice as much as the pattern says I’ll need, but I love the colour and I like to be prepared. If you’re interested, it’s Sublime Extra Fine Merino Lace in Ikat (shade 401).

I have yarn. I have needles. I have a round trip to the Hebrides. My friends, wish me luck, wish me courage, just don’t wish me a sense of proportion. It’s the one thing I can’t afford right now.