Many Hands Make Light Work

Hello! As you may know, in addition to my various personal knitting projects, I’m also involved in a community project: Aula in Blauw. It’s about a funeral space in the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden that has a beautiful view, but looks and feels terribly bleak inside. The plan is to make it into a more comfortable and comforting place using local wool and dye stuff.

The garbage bags leaning against the benches are filled with wool from a local flock of sheep. This is only a fraction of the total amount of wool needed. I took 2 batts home, weighing 564 grams together.

After spinning and plying, I ended up with five-and-a-half skeins of aran weight yarn, with a total weight of 540 grams. (The missing 24 grams were vegetable matter and unspinnable bits of wool).

It isn’t a lot, 540 grams, if you think of all the wall panels, furniture coverings and cushions that will be needed for the entire space. And a carpet, too. But I’m only one of the volunteers and many hands make light work.

Many hands make light work is one of the maxims of non-profit organization Pleed (a Dutch word for blanket, pronounced more or less as played) and this is one of their projects. From the waste product it now is, Pleed wants to make wool from local traditional sheep breeds into a valuable resource again. It feels good to be making a small contribution to that.

These are two pages from the Wool Rescue Handbook they’ve published. We were given a new edition at the kick-off of Aula in Blauw.

The bilingual booklet (Dutch & English) contains lots of information and tips for would-be wool rescuers that can be applied anywhere in the world. If you’d like a copy, don’t hesitate to contact Pleed here.

I put my hand spun wool in a box, added a nice card with the details of my skeins and sent it off.

Now it’ll go to another batch of volunteers – the dyers. They’ll dye everything beautiful shades of blue using woad.

Well, actually using woad leaves not flowers, but the flowers are more photogenic.

When it’s all been dyed, it’s my turn (and that of many others) again. Later this year, I get to knit a cushion cover. Or perhaps several – I don’t know yet. What I don’t know either is whether I’ll get my own yarn back or someone else’s. I’ll wait and see…

To close off today’s post, here’s a lovely quote from the Wool Rescue Handbook:


Working with your hands is relaxing. It frees your mind.
The quiet harmony of spinning a yarn,
the rhythm of a weaver’s loom,
the rubbing movement of felting,
or the sound of knitting needles:
all these activities are very enjoyable and relaxing.
Handling soft natural fabric is enjoyable.
The joy of making something passes on to the person receiving it.
A jumper made with love is so much nicer to wear.
What is made with love lasts longest.

Spinning for a Community Project

Hello! A slightly grubby street sign tells us that we’ve arrived at Schapendijkje (Sheep Lane). An apt name in view of why we’re here. So, where am I taking you today and why?

Well, we’re at a rather unusual place and I hope you won’t click away as soon as you know. We’re at the Noorderbegraafplaats – a large cemetery in the Frisian capital of Leeuwarden.

The reason we’re here is that it has a modern funeral space that urgently needs help from us, wool workers. (I’m using the word space instead of chapel because it is non-denominational.)

Come and take a look inside and you’ll understand why. With its white walls and wood-and-steel furniture, the interior is fresh, modern and spacious.

But the acoustics are terrible, sitting on the wooden benches for longer than five minutes is torture, and the atmosphere is rather bleak. The creative forces behind wool-rescuers’ organisation Pleed immediately saw possibilities and started the community project Aula in Blauw. In their words, the aim of the project is

‘to have a funeral space where people can feel embraced by
soft local woad-dyed blue wool.’

The plan is to improve the acoustics and atmosphere with felted wall panels, a hooked rug on the floor, long woven coverings for the backs and seats of the benches, and knitted and crocheted cushions.

Around sixty enthusiastic people showed up for the kick-off, and many more names are on the list of volunteers. I don’t feel comfortable placing pictures of their faces on the internet, but I think I can safely show their legs and feet.

For those of us volunteering as spinners, wool from the flock of sheep grazing the public green spaces in Leeuwarden was available.

I came home with two batts of washed (but still slightly greasy) and carded wool – 564 grams in total. The flock consists of Drenthe Heath Sheep, Schoonebekers and mixed breeds. I was told that ‘my’ wool is Drenthe Heath Sheep.

We’re asked to spin a fairly thick yarn and were given a length of blue-grey hand-spun wool as a guideline. My first two tries were too thin, but I think what I’m getting now is about right.

The 2-ply yarn I’m spinning is 10 wpi (wraps per inch), which amounts to a worsted-weight yarn. This is my wpi tool with its sunny smile:

The spinning needs to be finished by September, when the yarn will go to the next stage: the dyers.

Below, you can see my spinning set-up. My Louët S10 spinning wheel and an old kitchen chair. To the right a small basket for catching vegetable matter and unspinnable bits of wool. To the left a big basket of unspun wool. I’m spinning with a black tea towel on my lap, to protect my clothes and to better see what I’m doing with the white wool.

I’ve had some questions from another volunteer, so for anyone who’s interested, this is how I spin this yarn. I’m not saying this is the only way or the best way – it’s just how I do it.

I’m using a short forward draft, for a denser hard-wearing yarn. For spinning I’m using the largest ratio of my wheel (the largest disc). This will give the yarn the least amount of twist, which is most suitable for a thicker yarn. While I’m spinning, my wheel is turning to the right and I’m counting with every time I treadle: 1, 2, 3, let go.

I still get more twist than needed, though, because my hands aren’t fast enough feeding in the yarn. This is why I’m using the middle disc for plying. That will take enough of the twist out to make a stable, not overly twisted yarn. While I’m plying, my wheel is turning to the left and I’m counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, let go.

This isn’t the easiest wool I’ve ever worked with if I’m honest, and I was struggling a bit at first. But after I decided not to fight the wool anymore and accept its character we’ve been getting along fine together, the wool and I. I’m no longer trying to spin a perfectly smooth thread but aiming for a rustic yarn. Sounds good, doesn’t it, rustic? It’s a great lesson in embracing imperfection.

If you’ve discovered my blog only recently, here are a few related posts you may enjoy reading:

Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again next week!


Hello, and thank you for all of your lovely comments last week, here and on Ravelry. It seems that most of you are multi-project knitters/crafters, too, and it was interesting to read about your knitting and other projects and how you manage them.

Some of you asked things like, ‘where do you store all those baskets?’ and ‘could we see your crafting space?’ Well, I do not have a dedicated crafts room or anything. My knitting baskets are all in the living room, next to our yin-and-yang black-and-white Ikea chairs. Most of them are hidden between the black chair and the sofa.

Two small ones are next to the white chair. If you look closely, you can also see the strap and a corner of my crochet project bag hanging from the chair.

And that is just my knitting and crochet. Today, I’d like to tell you a bit about the basket next to my spinning wheel.

In it is what is, to me, a mountain of spinning fibre. The picture below was taken after spinning up part of it, and it still looks like a mountain:

It makes me think of Rumpelstiltskin, you know, the fairy tale where the king locks a miller’s daughter in a room filled with straw and she has to spin it into gold before morning or she’ll be killed. On three consecutive nights she is given more and more straw to spin. Fortunately a little man comes to her aid, all the straw is spun up and the miller’s daughter gets to marry the king.

In return for his services the little man makes the girl promise to give him their firstborn child. The only way for her to get out of that is to guess his name. In my book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, he rips himself in two when she finds out that his name is Rumpelstiltskin.

Even as a young girl, I had problems with this story. I mean, what kind of a ‘reward’ is it for the girl that she gets to marry a cruel and greedy king? Annet Schaap must have had the same feeling when she wrote De Meisjes, her retelling of seven fairy tales. (It was published in German as Mädchen and will be published in English as The Girls next year.)

The girls in these stories show us that it’s no good believing in fairy tales. Some of them take matters into their own hands. Some of them do dream of princes and keep waiting. But unexpected things happen, and don’t be surprised if the frog turns out to be better company than the prince.

The first story is called Meneer Pelsteel (mr. Pelstil). There is still a king, there is still a miller’s daughter who has to spin bales of straw into gold, and there is still this little man helping her. But the ending is very different…

It’s a great little book – very imaginative, poetic, wise and funny, with lovely illustrations by the author. Because of its sometimes ominous undertones I don’t think it’s suitable for young children, though.

The difference between the miller’s daughter and me is that I’d love to be locked up in a room with my spinning fibres. In fact, these spinning fibres are already gold before they’re spun. A friend gave me 200 grams of Ashford silk/merino sliver in a shade called Salvia (bobbin below right). Instead of turning it into a shawl or scarf, I’m adding 600 grams of John Arbon’s Harvest Hues top, a merino/zwartbles blend in their Woad shade (bobbin below left).

All in all, this is a generous sweater quantity and I have now spun and plied about a third of it. I’m plying two threads of Harvest Hues with one of the Ashford blend.

To see what it will look like when knit up, I’ve knit a swatch. It’s an aran-weight yarn with a gauge of 17-18 stitches to 10 cm/4 inches on 4.5 mm/US 7 needles.

It is ‘busier’ than I expected, so I think I’ll also spin some in just the semi-solid darker blue to tone things down a bit, perhaps for the ribbings.

This tale will be continued at a later date. If I don’t prick my finger on my spinning wheel (how???) and fall asleep for a hundred years, I’ll be back with something else next week. Bye for now!

May 2022 Miscellany


The other day, a friend wrote that it is like Mayvember in her part of the world, the Pacific Northwest of the US (waving at you P!). In the Netherlands it is more like Maygust – warm and very dry. Here are a few unconnected things I’ve seen and done this month so far. No, wait, not entirely unconnected. The common denominator seems to be wool – what else?

Lambing Season
The Sunday before last we were lucky. On our walk we happened to pass the sheep fold at the very moment the shepherd was gathering the flock for a walk. The ewes with the youngest lambs were staying at home, with several daring lambs high up on a bale of hay.

The rest of the flock was peacefully grazing in the field where they spend the night.

But in a matter of minutes the shepherd and his dogs had gathered them all together and were driving them towards the corner where the gate is.

Here they are all ready to go out for their day job:

Well done, boy!

The flock’s job is eating grass and young trees. Without them, the heathland would soon become a forest. Thanks to the sheep, we can keep enjoying this beautiful open landscape.

It is not just about the landscape, but also about the reptiles, birds and plant species depending on this habitat. I love gazing around at the open space, and also getting on my knees looking for special plants. This is one of them:

We call it Heidekartelblad. I looked it up and found out that it is called common lousewort in English – rather a lousy name for this far from common plant, don’t you think?

Blackbird Tragedy
The blackbirds have been flying off and on with worms and trying very hard to chase the magpies away, but alas… On Sunday morning we found the nest empty, bar one unhatched egg.

Magpies and their chicks need to eat, too, but still rather sad. It’s early enough in the season for the blackbirds to build another nest. Let’s hope they’ll hide it better the second time around.

Spinning Wheel Extension
My husband has made an extension for my spinning wheel to accommodate a second bobbin rack. Unfortunately the block I bought at the manufacturer’s a while ago didn’t fit onto my particular model. Fortunately my DH has two right hands and this is what he came up with.

The aluminium strips of the new extension slide around the lower bar of the spinning wheel. So there was no need to drill into my precious wheel and the extension can easily be removed when not in use. Now I can make 3-ply and even 4-ply yarns.

Knit leaves
I have been knitting leaf prototypes for a small project I have in mind.

They’re all different: Stocking stitch, garter stitch, different increases and decreases, long or short vein, different sizes and shapes. There is one among them that is exactly what I was looking for. (To be continued…)

Farmers Market
After a 6-month winter break the Farmers Market was back last weekend. It’s was so nice, chatting with the stall holders again, looking at the fresh produce and young plants for vegetable gardens…

… and trying (and buying) some homemade chutneys and dressings.

There is also a spinner and knitter selling her hand spun yarns and her colourful hand knit socks in children’s and adult’s sizes, each pair unique.

I wonder if other people realize how many hours of knitting and spinning the wares displayed on her racks and in her baskets represent. I do, and I’m in awe.

Well, that’s all for today. Back to my own knitting and spinning now. Bye!

Lazy Kate


Before I embark on the story of Lazy Kate, I’d like to share some news with you. As some of you have already guessed from a few subtle clues in my previous post, I’m going to be a grandmother! It takes some getting used to the idea (how did I suddenly get so old?), but I’m thrilled to bits! And very, very happy for the mum-and-dad-to-be.

I’ve hesitated about talking about it here, as I don’t believe in sharing everything online. But I’d have to lead a strange kind of double life to not talk about it here. (Don’t worry, I won’t talk about it all the time.) It just feels good to know that you know, and not to have to be secretive about it anymore.

I also don’t feel very comfortable sharing pictures of loved ones online, but I think it’s okay to show our daughter’s feet here, together with those of the other great love of her life beside her husband.

And I think the girl with the big, hairy white feet doesn’t mind if I share a picture here. She loves going for a walk in the woods, rustling through the autumn leaves just as much as we do.

Neither this sweet-tempered pony nor our daugher is called Kate, and neither of them is lazy. So, who is Lazy Kate?

Well, actually this isn’t about who but about what – it is about a lazy kate (with indefinite article and without capitals). For the non-spinners among you: A lazy kate is a thing that holds yarn bobbins and comes in useful when plying several threads together after having spun them. It comes in different shapes and can be a separate box or rack that is placed beside the spinning wheel or it can be integrated.

This is my spinning wheel – a 21-year-old Louët S10.

I looked up the receipt and saw that I bought it in March 2000 for 515,00 guilders. Guilders, not euros! Goodness, a different era. It is still functioning just as smoothly as when it was new.

It has an integrated lazy kate – the rack with the two filled bobbins beside the treadle in the picture above. This is what it looks like without the bobbins.

With two bobbins I can make a 2-ply yarn, but the problem is that I now want to make a 3-ply yarn. I could hold the third bobbin on my lap, or place it in a basket or box beside the spinning wheel, but it would be much better to have an additional lazy kate.

So I decided to order one, and as the Louët spinning wheel factory is just around the corner from the stables where our daughter’s pony lives, I thought I might as well collect it instead of having it delivered. Do come along!

At the entrance there is a spinning wheel very much like mine, only more colourful.

Louët doesn’t have a factory shop, and it isn’t possible to visit the factory itself right now, but we are allowed to take a look around in their upstairs showroom. My spinning wheel is their very first model.

Since then it has evolved and several other models have been added. From what I understand, it is now even possible to have a spinning wheel put together to your own specifications, with single or double treadle, Scotch or Irish tension, etcetera.

The factory also produces all kinds of tools for fibre preparation, like combs, small and large hand carders, and drum carders.

On a shelf there is a niddy noddy, used for making skeins, and some fun hand spun yarns.

What I didn’t know, is that they also make weaving looms. Here is the very smallest and simplest one.

And here is one of the larger and more elaborate looms.

I don’t know anything about weaving, but just looking at the fabrics in progress on the looms is enjoyable, too.

Well, it’s time to collect my lazy kate and the block needed to attach it to my spinning wheel. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little virtual outing. I’ll tell you more about the yarn I’m spinning when there is more to show.

If you’d like more in-depth information about these spinning wheels or looms, please visit the Louët website. And if you’d like some chat about I-don’t-know-what-exactly-yet, please visit me again next week 😉. Bye!

An Inspiring Friend


It’s been an unsettling and busy week. Certain things have taken up so much of my attention that other things have piled up. Now what am I going to do? Rush around the house cleaning and tidying? Tackle a pile of ironing? Do some admin? Or write a blog post? Reading this, you know the answer.

Ah, it’s good to sit here, look through my photos and chat with you. Today I’m going to chat about a belated birthday visit to one of my dearest friends, who is a wonderful knitter, spinner and yarn dyer.

Shortly before leaving home, I hopped onto my bicycle for a quick visit to the flower garden just outside our village. (In case you have found my blog recently, you can read more about it here.)

Armed with a bunch of flowers and a bag filled with small birthday gifts, I set off for my friend’s place. I won’t give you a full account of my visit – you can imagine that: sitting in her garden with mugs of tea, cake, and endless talk and laughter. What I’d like to show you, is how my friend inspires me.

Last year she gave me some spinning fibres in a gradient of blues.

I spun the yarn a long time ago – looking back through my blog posts I saw that I mentioned it in August 2020. And then it stayed on the bobbin for almost a year!

I wasn’t sure what to do with it. In order to keep the gradient intact, I could do various things:

  • I could have split the fibres up in two portions and made it into a 2-ply yarn, but I didn’t. I spun it into a fairly thin single ply.
  • I could ply this single thread in on itself (aka chain plying or Navajo plying).
  • I could ply it with another thread.

Chain plying would have given me a fairly short yardage, and the possibilities for things to knit with it would be limited. So, after thinking it over for a loooooong time, I decided on the last option. I could have spun a thread to ply the gradient with myself, but I chose a commercial thread instead.

This is a lace-weight silk yarn sold as ‘Shantung Yaspee’ by two weird and wonderful Belgian guys who stock some very special yarns and fibres. (Ever heard of the fibre categories Bizaroides, Experimental Recycle Upcycling, or Brazilian Chicken?!)

My inspiring friend had used this technique before, and I was curious to see how it would work out. It was very handy that the silk yarn fitted onto the bobbin holder of my spinning wheel.

Plying these two different fibres together went very well. It gave a lovely barber pole effect at the dark end of the gradient.

At the light end, the effect was more subtle. All in all the shantung silk, with its nubs of white and royal blue, and my hand-spun merino-and-Tencel, made a lovely tweedy kind of yarn, from deep navy to start with…

… to a pale baby blue.

Here it is – 138 grams/572 m/625 yds of a merino/Tencel/silk blend…

… ready to be knit up into… something. I have a vague idea, but it’ll take a while to take shape.

I arrived at my friend’s place bearing gifts, and also left with gifts. Tidying her crafts room she came across some fibres she wasn’t going to use and thought I might be happy with. And I am!

This is what she gave me – some turquoise-and-lime wool blended with undyed silk:

And a box filled with small quantities of wool from various sheep breeds.

I think I’ll start spinning the turquoise-and-lime blend straightaway – such cheerful colours!

What with the current explosion of Covid-numbers in this country, the extreme downpours and flooding in the south and our surrounding countries, and news of unprecedented heatwaves and conflicts in other parts of the world I sometimes have the feeling that the end of the world is near.

Will spinning yarn save the world? No, of course not. What spinning (and an inspiring friend) can do, is lift my mood of gloom and doom, so that I can keep functioning and making a positive contribution, albeit in a very small way. Spinning is such a gentle, soothing thing to do. Do consider giving it a try, if you are not a spinner already.

Again, I hope you’re all safe and well. Take care!