Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘handspinning’

Hooters Hall 2016: our five year anniversary

Another year at Hooters Hall has ended and we’ve been here five years now. We’ve done a lot in those five years but there’s still a lot to do. In 2016 we were able to spend more time growing our own produce and our experiment with straw bale gardening was very sucessful. The fruit trees, particularly the apricots were very productive and my squash forest gave us 75 winter squash which should see us all the way through the winter.

The straw bales we used are still intact and I think they will do a second growing season. I’ve still got some red cabbage and spring onions growing in them. Looking back on our harvest for 2016 and making plans for 2017 I’m going to be growing more elephant garlic, spring onions, sweet peppers and melons. I think I’ll skip the Kohl rabi for 2017 it grew really well but there’s only so much you can eat. The same with turnips. I had early success with baby turnips, got a bit carried away and we had a bit of a turnip glut. Fortunately the pigs helped us out with that. I’m also going have a year off growing peas and beans. They are nice but there’s only so much room in the polytunnel and I want to try some different growing challenges.

One of the best growing experiences of 2016 was harvesting fresh, homegrown melons and raspberries from the polytunnel for my breakfast. The tomatoes did really well this year too and although we had a bit of a glut it wasn’t overwhelming because we made good use of our dehydrator which means we’re still enjoying our tomato harvest now. At the end of the season we had a lot of green tomatoes and they made a really nice chutney.

Here are some pictures of our 2016 harvest

 

When we first moved to Hooters Hall five years ago I thought I might like to take up knitting but I remember telling a friend I didn’t think I would get into spinning my own yarn or any other fibre crafts. How wrong I was. I’ve got two spinning wheels and several weaving looms now and we’ve turned one of the rooms in the piggery into a fibre processing room. My super chunky handspun yarn is proving very popular in USA as well as UK and hopefully there will be a lot more fibre craft to come in 2017. Here’s some pictures for the yarn lovers.

The fibre we process at Hooters Hall is our own Jacob wool and mohair from our Angora goats. The sheep did really well in 2016. All but one of our ewes had twins and they are all thriving. We had a much earlier lambing than previous years because we kept our ram in with the flock from Summer through the autumn. February lambing did work quite well the lambs got to enjoy the best of the Spring /Summer grass and have grown really well with lovely fleeces. We moved each ewe inside when she lambed and kept ewes and the lambs inside for a few days before returning them to the flock We have had predator attacks over the past 5 years and learnt through experience it’s better to keep the lambs inside for the first few days. Unfortunately Amber our Angora doe didn’t fall pregnant this year but fingers crossed for 2017. We did add another goat breed to our herd with the arrival of Jen the Bagot goat. She’s doing really well and is now quite happy to eat out of my hand and even sits on my lap.

Here’s some pictures of some of the other residents of Hooters Hall in 2016 including Big cockerel one of our first batch of home hatched chickens.

If you follow Hooters Hall on Instagram or facebook you’ll have seen some of my natural dye experiments throughout 2016. I’ve tried some rust dyeing using rusty objects found on the farm as well as some eco printing using foraged plant material and dyeing with botanical dyes that I’ve grown in my dye garden. In Spring and Summer we sell freshly harvested hedgerow dyes in the Hooters Hall farm shop. I’ve already posted pictures of the results of willow dyeing and in 2017 I’ll be showing what the other hedgerow dyes can do. Here’s s selection of my natural dye and eco print experiments on cotton.

In the five years that we’ve been at Hooters Hall we’ve really got into outdoor cooking. In the Summer, weather permitting, we’ll generally cook on the campfire enjoying our own Gloucestershire Old Spot pork with herbs and vegetables from the garden and polytunnel. We’ve shared a few recipes on our facebook page and there’ll be more to come in 2017. We’re going to be exploring the world of herbal syrups and I’m sure there will be more sausage and pork recipes.

Before we moved to Hooters Hall we lived in South London. I loved living in London but you can’t beat Fenland for big skies and beautiful sunsets. Also the dark winter days are more bearable when you can watch the sun rise while doing the morning feed. Here are some of the best big skies of the Fens from 2016.

We spent our New year’s bank holiday doing a bit of polytunnel maintenance so now I’m itching to get growing again and it’s definitely time to start browsing the seed catalogues. We might be lambing again in a few weeks as well so keep an eye on our facebook and instagram for cute lamb pictures.

Hooters Hall Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HootersHall/

Hooters Hall Instagram https://www.instagram.com/hootershall/

Using Hand spun Yarn

Being a spinner I’m quite happy knitting with hand spun yarn but the world of hand spun can seem a bit daunting especially to those new to knitting.

I think for most knitters part of the reason for knitting is to make something special and different to mass produced, shop bought things and what could be more special and less mass produced than hand spun yarn.

It’s true that hand spun yarns don’t usually come with all the details you get on the label of commercial yarns but it’s easy enough to work out what you need to know. It’s also true that there is usually some variability in hand spun yarn but that’s what makes it and your knitting unique.

To get the best out of your hand spun yarn you need to take the time to consider its individual characteristics. What does the yarn feel like ? will it suit being next to your skin? will it stand up to regular washing or does it need a gentle handwash? Yarns can be spun in different ways to create yarns that are smooth, lustrous, fuzzy, light and fluffy. A fuzzy yarn is likely to get even fuzzier over time which will lead to a less well defined stitch pattern. Woolen yarns have a softer look compared to a smoother worsted yarn. So consider these points when thinking about which projects to use your hand spun in. The number of plies in a yarn will also have a big impact on the look of your finished project. Three ply yarns will have much greater stitch definition but being quite round will tend to fill in the holes in a lacy knit. Strength of yarn is also affected by the number of plies, the more there are the stronger the yarn.

Lots of hand spun yarns are fat singles. A fat single is a single yarn that hasn’t been plied with another single to create e.g. a double ply. Of course because it is a single the yarn won’t be as strong as a plied yarn but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot with it.

Straight off the spinning wheel fat singles turn into a curly, twirly mess, they’re usually described as having a lot of energy. The reason for this is that there only twist in one direction. With a double ply yarn two fat singles are spun the opposite way when plied together, reducing the energy in the twist. It’s really easy to tone down the energy / twist in a fat single though, you just need to give it a nice hot soak after spinning. I wash all my hand spun yarns after spinning but if you have a yarn that you’re not certain has been washed just dunk it some hot water for a bit of a soak.

Commercial yarns will generally have a description of the yarn thickness  as well a weight in grams and perhaps a guide to length / yardage. Some hand spun yarns might come with some,all or none of this information but it’s easy to work out yourself.

Quite often you will see the wraps per inch (w.p.i) for a hand spun yarn. This is a very simple measure to indicate the thickness of the yarn. To calculate wraps per inch simply wind the yarn around a ruler over an inch and work out how many wraps there are per inch. Here’s a rough guide to w.p.i, type of yarn and stitches per inch.

  • 4-8 wpi = bulky yarn = 3.3.5 stitches per inch
  • 9-12 wpi = worsted yarn= 4-4.5 stitches per inch
  • 11-13 wpi = DK yarn = 5-5.5 stitches per inch
  • 14-18 wpi = sport yarn = 6-6.5 stitches per inch
  • 19-22 wpi = fingering yarn =7-8 stitches per inch

Often you will get an approximate weight for hand spun but you can weigh it yourself on the kitchen scales. To work out the length of your yarn you can weigh specific length e.g. 1metre and then calculate the length of the remaining yarn e.g. if 1m of yarn weighs 2grams then 100grams of yarn is about 50metres long. You can also buy yarn calculators (they have some on amazon) that will tell you the length of your yarn.

So, once you’ve found out about your yarn characteristics what can you use it for ? the simple answer is anything if you have enough of it. But if you’ve only got a small amount why not use your hand spun yarn together with a commercial yarn to add a bit of an extra special something to your project. Use your hand spun yarn as an accent, as an edging or for a specific part of a pattern.

If you want to use hand spun yarn for an entire project here’s a rough guide to how much you might need.

Project yarn 7-8 wpi yarn 6-6.5 wpi yarn 5-5.5 wpi yarn 4-4.5 wpi
Scarf 8inch x 60inch 675 yards 617 m 575 yards 525m 450 yards 450 yards 411m
Hat 20 inch 300 yards 274m 260 yards 237m 200 yards 183m 150 yards 137m
Adult size mittens 300 yards 274m 260 yards 237m 200 yards 183m 150 yards 137m
Socks adult size 8 400 yards 365m 350 yards 320m 250yards 229m 200 yards 183m
Socks size adult 11 500 yards 457m 450 yards 411m 350 yards 320m 250 yards 229m

Feeling more confident about using handspun now? Here’s some pictures of Hooters hall handspun yarn to whet your appetite

You can buy Hooters Hall handspun yarn from our website www.hootershall.co.uk

Folksy http://folksy.com/shops/HootersHall

or Etsy http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/HootersHall

The Wool Project: Fleece to Yarn in an Afternoon

With all the spinning I’ve been doing I’m getting through my rovings and wool batts that I bought on ebay pretty quickly. So today I decided to process a fleece that I had already washed, I’ll be processing all the fleeces from our flock of Jacob sheep in the next few weeks so needed to get some practice.

I washed the fleece a month or so ago and had stored it in a pillowcase. The first step was to pick through the fleece and remove all the bits of twig and grass that remained after washing. The easiest way to do this is to sit with the unpicked fleece on one side of you, a piece of newspaper between your feet and something to put the picked fleece in on your other side.

Here’s a picture of the bits I picked out

And the fleece ready for carding

You can use hand carders to prepare your fleece but it takes a lot of elbow grease so I’ve bought a drum carder which makes the process a bit faster and less labour intensive. The point of carding is to get the fibres in the wool lying in the same direction.

Here’s a picture of my drum carder

The fleece is fed in gradually to the smaller cylinder and then picked up and combed by the larger cylinder. The drum carder came with a doffer pin to lever the carded wool batt off the drum carder. It’s a bit like a blunt knitting needle with a wooden handle.

The drum carder is very easy to operate but I got quite impatient and fed too much wool in too quickly so I got a fair bit stuck on the smaller cylinder. It was easy enough to get off though.

Here’s a picture

Once the wool has been passed though the carder it is a wool batt. The batt is then separated into smaller batts just by pulling the wool apart and then each of these is passed though the drum carder another two or more times until you’re happy with it.

Here’s a batt and a batt separated.

The wool really is lovely and fluffy once it’s gone through the carder.

You could store the batt as it is but I decided to pull mine into a long strip or sliver and then wrap it into a ball.

That’s it, apart from the spinning. I experimented with spinning some slub yarn with variable results but it was great getting from fleece to yarn in one afternoon