Spinning workshop (part 2)

Last Saturday I attended the second part of the spinning workshop. Sadly this time I forgot my SLR camera at home. I realized it when I was already at the metro, but at least I had my cellphone with me. It was just a pity that I was going to work with spinning wheels for the first time in my life and my camera was at home! I have to say that the drastic weather change gave me a bad migraine so I guess I have an excuse. I had to take painkillers and the teacher explained that those were not very good for coordination, so no wonder my spinning didn’t go very well.

The first thing we had to do was just pedaling and nothing else, and then get used to pedaling while doing something, talking, singing, … The teacher learned in London thirty years ago and she told us that her first time she had to pedal while singing a song about parts of the body and touching those parts.

Then we started to spin combed wool and later on the carded wool we had prepared the week before. I don’t know if it was the headache, the painkillers or the weather, but I found problems coordinating my hands and foot. It’s one of those things which requires a lot of practice.

After having some yards of wool we proceeded to ply it and these are the mini-skeins we made.

One of the girls was also plying using the drop spindle. I takes much longer, but I think that’s going to be my next step at home. I still don’t feel very comfortable with the spinning wheel and I find the drop spindle very very relaxing.

Carding wool

Lala gave me some fleece after the spinning class of last Saturday so that I could practice during the week. I tried yesterday after work and I think I’m improving. My biggest problem is that I don’t fill the carder with enough fleece before starting. It’s like I’m in a hurry and I don’t stop to take my time to do this task properly.

In my first attempt yesterday, like other times, I thought the carder was full enough:

But the result was quite poor:

The second time I tried I put more fleece on the carder:

And that led to better results:

Like most of handwork, it’s not difficult, but it requires practice.

Spinning workshop (part 1)

Last Saturday I attended the first part of a spinning workshop. The complete workshop is 7 hours and it runs on two consecutive Saturdays, so we’ll have the second part next Saturday.

Lala came to the shop where the workshop was organized, fully loaded with fleece, fiber in several states, drop spindles and cards. I was very exciting to be surrounded by so much wool while listening to the explanations and Lala’s wisdom. She traveled several times to the UK to learn about this since the tradition is almost forgotten here. She explained the full process from the sheep to the finished wool and also explained a bit of why we don’t have very good quality wool in Spain nowadays since the merino sheep is originality from here. Sadly knitting and other wool crafts are not really trendy here and the traditions are being lost, keeping the sheeps only for their meat and their cheese. Other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, Argentina or Uruguay, have kept the traditions and have improved the first merino sheeps arrived from Spain. It’s such a pity that all is lost here.

In the wool process, the oiling is a very important part. The lanolin, present in the wool from the sheep, should be removed if you want to store the fiber, in order to prevent it from catching moth, but later on we need to oil it again before carding it and spin it. The recipe is 50% of any oil and 50% of water, and it has to be sprayed on the wool, and then wrapped in blotting paper to absorb the excess of the mix. Normal newspaper could be used for this.

We were then spinning with traditional drop spindles, a little bit different from what we find in shops. The spindle I recently bough is a bit more modern and I find the shape of the traditional one a bit more difficult to use (the circle is on top in mine and at the bottom on the traditional), but perhaps because I got used to mine. I observed that with the traditional spindle you use it while standing up and you do everything at once being careful to be coordinated. With this method you don’t do the “parking”. I found very difficult to work like this and kept spinning like I was doing at home, grabbing the spindle like mine, and finding the shape of the traditional spindle a bit awkward. All in all my spoon wool was almost perfect and very thin. It was clear that it was not my first time. In the meantime the other two girls were having a lot of trouble.

The carding was another story. It was my first time and I completely suck at it. One of the girls enjoyed it very much but I had troubles to know when I had enough fleece on my cards and then to coordinate my hands to do it right. I bought there a pair of cards and Lala gave me some fleece so that I could practice this week at home. I need to get over it! Carding can be a messy process. The fleece is already washed once, but it still keeps twigs and other stuff, plus the oil or lanolin, so an apron is needed and the floor has to be cleaned afterwards.

In the next class we will be plying our wool and we’ll experiment with spinning wheels. I can’t wait!

Mad Men Dress Challenge

Here is my dress for the challenge. It’s based in a couple of dresses but I did not buy any special fabric since I knew I lacked time and this was not going to be a masterpiece. I recently found a shop here in Madrid where they have very cheap but good fabrics. Apparently they bought an old shop where the previous owner had lots of fabrics in store. The new owner doesn’t really know all they have and he’s selling vintage fabrics ridiculously cheap. I bought mine for 6.25 euros (2.5 meters). I made the pattern myself and I confess I had some troubles adjusting the skirt. I’m pear shaped and it’s not easy to make something for my huge hips. Taking into account the rush, I’m pleased with the result. I have one more dress to wear at dance parties.

After all the rush to finish it on time (I was almost feeling like the guys at the Great British Sewing Bee) I had an issue with my pictures. My SD card got somehow corrupted and most of the pictures were damaged, being much less then 1 MB and almost entirely grey. I wanted to throw my dress, the camera and my laptop against the wall, but I got over it and found a wonderful software that I can’t stop from recommending: it’s called Photorescue Expert and it does wonders.


I received yesterday a message from a friend who’s going to teach a workshop about sewing felt. Unfortunately I cannot go because I have another workshop that same day, but I’ve been wanting to work with felt for a long time since I started reading Future Girl’s blog. After talking to my friend, I started thinking that I could maybe try something by myself. If I haven’t done it before was just because I hate hand sewing and other things got in the way, like knitting, but this time I was going to make it! Some time ago I bought some scraps of felt for very little money and after reading again this post I had an idea. I have the same problem as Future Girl, Koen is asking almost everyday whether the things inside the dishwasher are either clean or dirty, so I decided to make a little thing to clarify the matters. My design is by far less funny and less original than Future Girl’s, but I wanted something simple.

I needed:

  • Some little peaces of felt.
  • A magnet.
  • Scissors.
  • Thread.
  • Sewing needle.
  • Stuffing (like the one used for amigurumis).

I started by marking the 2 circles of approx. 8 and 5.2 cm of diameter with a glass (top and bottom for the two sizes), then I cut the “steak” and the “fries” in red and yellow felt. I used this model for the steak. I sewed it on using white thread to form the lines of fat and yellow thread for the fries. Just a stitch per fry is enough to create the effect. Afterwards I started sewing the inner circle and placed the magnet inside. After doing this, I finished the circle.

Then I sewed the outer circle with a blanket stitch while I stuffed the border of the plate. You can find a nice blanket stitch tutorial on Future Girl’s blog.

Et voila, when the things in the dishwasher are clean you flip the dish so that the empty side is visible, and when they are dirty you flip it to the side with the food. It’s not that we put our dishes full of food into the dishwasher, but I thought this was descriptive enough and it looked nicer than just attaching some felt looking like a mess. Another funny thing is that we don’t eat steaks very often and we certainly almost never eat fries, but again, I thought this design was quite clear (and I had the right colors of felt!).

It looks so cute that it’s such a pity to show sometimes the empty side. I should make one day fridge magnets based on this idea. It’s a pretty good idea to make gifts for the family, at least for those who don’t really appreciate hand knitted garments. Tiny felt fridge magnets (or other items) are quick to make and almost everybody likes to fill their fridge door with beautiful little things.

The Great British Sewing Bee

This is my new discovery. Thanks to Tilly I have discovered this TV show from the BBC. I haven’t watched TV for years and I got tired long ago of those lame singing contests (I think there’s one now called Splash where famous people jump to a swimming pool, stupid). This uses the same formula, but it’s great! If you live in the UK, you can watch it directly from the BBC web site, but for those who live abroad we’ll always have YouTube.

Episode 1:


Episode 2:


I am enjoying this ennourmously. When I see them suffering there I think of myself trying to finish my dress for the Mad Men Challenge.


This past weekend was going to be a calm one. There were neither swing parties nor any kind of workshop announced. Time for ourselves and our things. One of the urgent projects for me was modifying Koen’s respro cycling mask. He goes to work by bike almost everyday. It’s a nearly 20 Km ride each way, and even some of the journey is outside the city, some part takes place amongst cars, with the big amount of pollution that this entails. He recently bought a pollution mask which looked something like this:

You can notice the band that goes under your ears and attaches with a velcro on the high part of your back neck. The mask is great but this attachment is quite uncomfortable for Koen, since it creates pressure on his nose and then he can only use his mouth for breathing. He asked me if I could attach a second stripe higher to be able to attach it over his ears. Since I recently got a new sewing machine and Koen was with me, I got down to work this Saturday afternoon.

I made two tapered stripes in the most similar material I could find and sewed on some velcro to the thin end. I had to cut the velcro sides a bit since it was a bit wider than the stripe. The result was good and Koen is happy to be able to use his nose again while cycling on the streets of Madrid.

Another thing that I tried to do, after reading Mamatronic’s last post, was organizing my wool stash but I miserably failed. The good thing is that I found a sock yarn (Jawoll Magic) that I bought last year, and that I’m planning to use soon, since I’ve recently gifted two of my new pairs of hand knitted socks to my mother. I say that I failed because I fished out lots of old acrylic that I’ve never used and that I’m not planning to. I bought a lot when I started to crochet some years ago since it was very cheap and I didn’t know better. Later on I started to knit and I learned to love fancy fibers and honestly I don’t know what to do with the crappy acrylic that I’ve accumulated over time.

I also found leftovers of good yarn: two skeins of cascade yarns 220 (red and grey), almost two skeins of malabrigo rios (orange), one skein of malabrigo worsted (blue), half a skein of malabrigo silky merino (green) and almost one skein of malabrigo chunky (pink). It’s nice to have something left of these lovely yarns, but it always bothers me to have such small quantities. I guess I’ll have to check the Ravelry groups One skein projects and Only half a skein.

Another thing that I’ve found was an almost finished summer dress from last year. It has a nice and fresh cotton fabric. I’ve cut it in the bias so I expect a nice drape to it. I will give more details as soon as I finish it.

The spring has finally kicked in and it feels more like the beginning summer, at least how summer is in other areas. People were outside just sunbathing and drinking with high spirits. We had 27 ºC (80ºF) this weekend, but we expect to have even a bit more than 40ºC (104ºC)  during the real summer. This late start means that the sycamore maple pollen season was delayed until this weekend, so we’ll have this and the grass together for a small a period of time. My allergies are also blooming. My asthma has gotten slightly worse (I expect it to get even worse in one month) and I have rashes appearing everywhere. Saturday I had a bit of my chest, Sunday the right side of my back and today the left side. I also have rashes in my hands and arms, but it’s still not too bad. I remember when I was living in Belgium, during the birch season. I had to sleep almost siting with several pillows because I had problems breathing, I had to use special soap and shampoo and my face looked like a map during times of war. My face is mostly untouched until now, let’s see in one month.

With the weather improvement we need to reorganize our clothes and put back at the bottom of the closet the ones for winter. I’ve already mentioned ours is a very small apartment and one of the difficulties we had when we arrived was the space for clothes. Nowadays it’s still a challenge that has only one way out: decluttering. So we’ve been doing a bit of that. Old clothes and shoes, and even not so old but that haven’t been worn in ages, have been put in bags to be donated.

I’ve discovered a software called Dress Assistant, which I’m currently testing. With such a small place, lots of clothes and my crazy head I always end up wearing the same clothes and most of the time I forget about those at the end of the drawer. Let’s see if I finally like the program and it helps me with this to finally buy the license.

What about you? How was your weekend? How do you organize your clothes? Do you declutter often?

Mad Men Sew Along

I’ve recently started to read blogs about sewing. What I’m learning during class is not enough and I dream of making beautiful vintage dresses. The other day I stumbled upon this:

And I immediately wanted to participate. The challenge finishes in just 8 days, and I’ve started my dress two days ago. It’s a bit tight but I think I’ll be able to finish in time. Let’s see what comes out of this.

I don’t have much time these days to write decent posts. I’m working on a shawl, I’m finishing a dress and I’m working on this Mad Men Challenge. Oh, my, I wish the days had 48 hours!

New coat: a copy-cat

One of the things I wanted to try when I started my sewing classes was making a nice and elegant coat. After browsing the internet and setting my Pinterest on fire, I found this:

And this is my version of it:

I changed the back a bit, but I’m very happy with the result:

Ok, I have to iron it again and after trying it again I need to move a bit two of the buttons, but overall I am very pleased. At first I thought of making bound buttonholes, but being the fabric a bit on the thick side, that would create a lot of bulk. I finally settled for regular buttonholes.

Stewardess in distress

I’ve came to spend the weekend with my mother. She’s finally coming out of the pneumonia, but still, I wanted to come and visit her. She’s staying  these weeks with one of my aunts at the house that used to belong to my grandparents. The weather is usually worse than the one in Vigo and much worse than the one in Madrid. It’s cold and damp for the most part of the year. If you don’t pay continuous attention, you’ll have black stuff growing everywhere. As you see these are the ideal conditions for an asthmatic and a dust mites allergic like me. The town is small and oppressive. It’s the kind of place which is loved by children, because they can play outside, but then left by teenagers and young people because it’s just too small and there aren’t enough jobs. Most of the people I see on the street are old relics from a time long gone. There are some abandoned houses covered in grass, lichen and more of that black stuff.

Arriving there by public transport is exactly like when my mother was a child. Three daily buses run from it to the capital of the region, and then you have to take another one to reach the airport.

The house is big and it feels empty. The big living room, my grandmother bedroom and the bathroom she used are at the end of the house and those are areas seldom visited. It’s strange how a place can change so much from my childhood days, full of pleasant memories to the one that it’ve become now, empty and dark. I have to confess that I don’t come here as often as I should, but remembering the last months of my grandma here is so painful that my memory just can’t go there.

I made a short movie about that some years ago as the final project for my studies of video. I should add subtitles, since it’s in Spanish, but there’s very little dialogue, so I think it can be easily understood. I promise I will add subtitles soon.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/5841891 w=500&h=375]

I finished the Clapotis in the plane going there. While I was working on it one of the stewardesses approached me and knelt to my side (I had aisle) and asked me if the security guys had let me pass with those needles and what they were made of. She was touching my KnitPro wooden interchangeable needles while saying this. I was surprised, since this was the first time I was questioned about them. I explained that they were made of wood, but I couldn’t add more because she came out to explain that she was also interested in knitting while flying but she was not sure whether she could get the security check passed with her needles. Imagine my face when a stewardess asked me for advice about carrying knitting needles in a plane. She then told me that she’d just had a baby and he was allergic to wool, so she was looking for nice cotton to knit him some things. It was a very nice moment and I hope the information I gave her will be useful to her. I’ve never thought of it, but I should maybe make some little cards to give away in situations like this. There’s a group in Ravelry about this, but I had a hard time to explain it to her, since she didn’t know about Ravelry at all.

And here you have my Clapotis. I apologize for the quality of the pictures, but I couldn’t pack the SLR due to the strict policy the airline has with carry-on baggage (max 10 Kg and 1 very small bag where you need to fit everything, including your handbag). I didn’t want to check in a suitcase for such a short weekend and for the sake of being fast at the airport.