Friday, 12 May 2017

It's don't need chemicals but you DO need boiled water.

These skeins are ducklings.

They are soft, squishy, white and they smell of new wool.

I adore new wool.

It makes me feel inspired to create fabulous projects and cosy knitted things for little just does my soul SO much good.

It's wool I made, with real fleece from real sheep.

I made it using a hand-comb.....

Hand-Comb and Fleece

....combing out staples and spinning from the outer end....

Combed staples ready for spinning 

...into singles, which I plied and then wound into a skein...

Unwashed skein of plied singles 

...and then soaked overnight in a bucket with a cup full of wool wash and three kettles of boiling water...

Wash buckets 

.....then rinse in more boiled water...and hang to dry.

Washed skeins hanging to dry 

No forced drying.

No wet-spinning.

No additives.

No fillers.

No solvents.

Completely natural.

Local hand-raised sheep.

No breaking down of the wool structure.

....and ready to knit or weave with.

...and available here.......Tin Shed Yarns on Etsy

Take care

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Sunday, 23 April 2017

When a Man tells you how to "improve" your work.

The Shed at Tin Shed Yarns ('s a Tin Shed)
I'm assuming that most of you already sense the tone of this piece just from the title.

I have over the last ten years removed myself from the constant criticism and competitiveness of the business and technocrat world and now live a far quieter life in a rural town north-west of Auckland. I was used to being told how I could and should adjust to the realities of the open market. Of course I resisted.

For the most part that world has since faded away but every year at Tax Time, I have to deal with The Trustee and his Financial Company who sign everything off. It's a legacy of the Marriage Settlement and it is a reminder of That World from Before.
I have it down to a fine art now, only dealing with the CA assigned to me and bless, they keep assigning me the same lovely chatty woman who is scarily efficient and yet sensible. I actually trust her.

Bobbin on workshop bench 
So every year I send everything in pertaining to what I have earned. This year was the year where I wondered about sending my PayPal Account details in.

See, the thing is, Love Knitting pays into PayPal, but I haven't been with them long enough to make any sales...

...and that is all I can honestly say.

I did make a couple of hundred dollars (NZ) last winter with chunky 8ply sales but that was one good month.

Those cash sales are all detailed in my "ledger" and will go to Elaine (my accountant). She will cough politely and ring me to ask a few more questions. Her job is not to criticise, but it will be her Boss' job, and I am awaiting being once more told by a man how to improve my sales or more likely in this case, a sneering -why bother?

Plied skein with details 
I bother because -Spinning hand-raised wool is a good thing.
                          -Spinning keeps me calm and is cheaper than professional therapy.
                          -Spinning raw-fleece is good for my hands.
                          -Designing patterns from my wool keeps my brain buzzing.
                          -Designing is a maths exercise and stems Dementia.
                          -Designing from a natural product is good for the soul.
                          -Fleeces are readily available here and are often wasted.
                          -Fleeces from odd sheep often produce the most exquisite yarn.
                          -Fleeces smell so gorgeous.

.....and I could go on and on about ecology, the environment, water use, fleece management, climate, sheep health,loss of knowledge about wool,......

Yup...that's my Hand-Comb 
I am a big girl now and I am learning to let the criticism roll off me; they are not my people.

I also am determined to stay my course onto consistent high quality spun wool. No lowering of quality to meet a less appreciative market, and no rushing to meet deadlines. I'll work like a Man, take breaks, value my output and my quality and occasionally brag about it too.

Smug Technocrats will advise me to have the fleeces milled off-shore and put my label on them saying they were Designed in NZ. Baffled Technocrats will suggest using a Trade-Aid village where women and children can do the not get me started.

Washed skein 
I recently put a statement out on my FB page stating that I do not readily offer a fleece-spinning service but if I did I would charge $500 (NZ) per fleece. It's a flat rate that should make people think twice about the value they put on work.

An average fleece (non-skirted) will weigh between 5-6 kg. If I end up with just over 5 kg of usable fleece, I waste 20% in combings (they go on my compost) so 4kg ends up as skeins. That's $125 per kg ready for knitting. That's not too bad for ethically raised, hand-combed, hand-spun, mill-equivalent consistency that has not been harshly scoured or stripped or chemically altered.

Fabulous wool in its finished state. 

So, on with the battle. 

I'll fill that basket above with more skeins and put them up on Etsy and Love Knitting and thoroughly enjoy my work.

Love to all,

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Saturday, 25 March 2017

It's live now on Ravelry and Etsy...and in Breaking News, on Love Knitting

...and we're there.

A huge sigh of relief and thanks.

The pattern is now available here 

and here

Thanks to my lovely model Sue, in whose home this shot was taken.

Thanks to Corinna Wylie who gave me the fleece to spin from her friendly sheep Mike 

pictured under the peach tree in her garden.

More pictures of the Stole....

...and yes that is the back yard of Tin Shed Yarns....

....more pictures?

Sue has the right colouring for this garment...and we caught her after a long day at work yet she still looked great.

Project Notes:

-Uses 360gm of 8oly hand-spun natural wool.
-Gauge was 22 sts over 20 rows.
-Measurements 1.76m x 43cm.
-Needles 3mm straights.
-Blocking....use a frame if you can get one.
-Wool was spun in the grease and plied to about a 12 twists per inch. It was washed and      shrunk AFTER spinning.
-Fleece came from a hand-raised happy sheep.
-No solvents, no stripping chemicals, no dyes and no fillers.


Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Notice of a Derailment.......and the projects That Didn't Make It.

Named "Night Sky Over Kaipara" this shawl was all about the yarn and not the technique.

Don't you despise those oh-so-smug designers who rattle off knitting perfection about once a month?....

This is a piece about trying too hard to be like someone I am clearly not.

It is also about working for my values and not feeding my self-doubt...which I have in truckloads by the way.

This all started about a month ago after I finished a Stole in hand-spun wool from a local fleece. I felt so damned proud of myself that even the lovely people who grew the wool were invited in to see the finished product. There began a discussion which I should have left at the workshop door, but no, my ego allowed in to the studio and the house.

There was generous talk of marketing though I already knew the answer "No-one will pay you what this item is worth"...and the lovely couple did agree because they know that their fleeces are not work anything at the wool buyers.

Working title is "Connemara Stole"
Now, I ought to explain that this "Connemara Stole" was itself the pragmatic down-sized version of an Epic Project which was started back in December....

Project sample...a curved edge.
With this project I was going to storm the National Wool Crafters competition here in NZ, I was going to be victorious, I could sell my work, I would be able to get teaching gigs, etc, etc...(snort). 


The Epic Project became The Stole. End of Story. I never entered it in the National Wool Crafting Competition. I just made it properly and finished it properly.

There was some background noise stuff...and it derailed me a little.

See, I get derailed when unsettled.

I have absolutely no idea how designers keep up the pace of new work -maybe they don't have family to worry about , maybe that's all it is...

Maybe they put all their feelings in a little box and leave it on the shelf...I don't know how to work creatively and NOT be shunted a bit by stuff. I never learnt that habit.

The little Shawl at the top of this piece in blue?...the one with the lyrical name, well I think the name alone killed it. It was a confection of matching hues of Rowan Kid-Silk haze and Malabrigo Merino/Silk. The angora/silk stretched beautifully over the bias while the merino/silk edging ended up too tight....DON'T ASK, IT WAS ALL A LONG TIME AGO.

After the majesty of the Stole (now cautiously named The Connemara Stole) I felt amazing and ready to up-grade my on-line presence ready for sales etc. This was what my ego deserved.

Well....I am still hovering and bothering on this because I am so scared.



So I went and spun a nice fleece instead.

Hand-spun black lambswool and sock-needles.
I did so enjoy that. I relaxed into it working right from the fleece-

...and ended up with a sportweight/8ply.

I KNOW..I KNOW. 8ply strong lambswool does NOT make for cosy soft socks. You would think I would know huh? Lambswool is designed to be waterproof, windproof, fluid-proof, almost bullet-proof...hence its wiriness.

Ripping out that sock was quite therapeutic and purging actually.

This all happened only last week, I might add.

The need to have a straightforward project in my hands was getting to my that I had created, with wool I had created, that wouldn't be so epic that my family could be cherished and that could end up as a not-so-scary pattern. Perhaps I am limiting my world a little...narrowing my focus...perhaps.

Halo Wool Cowl.
Then I got the news that the lady who grew the fleece that made the Stole had been involved in a serious car crash.

There is nothing like a crisis to focus the mind once again on what is manageable, possible and achievable.

So I went back to my basics; hand-spun wool. This from 10yrs ago when my head was turned by the notion of happy sheep. This fleece was a gift. It was platinum white when washed, with a halo effect and I dyed 300gm of it with a Periwinkle wasn't a scientific dye project, but I loved it.

The Wave pattern is an old favourite of mine early entry into lace-knitting for me, so it has fond memories.

It is knitting up beautifully and has saved me from the unfathomable rabbit-hole of Big Ideas.

These Ideas will come back again -I know, along with others. Trialing them is good....making the decision not to pursue them at the present time has integrity, I feel.

I'm hedging....again!

Wave Pattern on the Halo Cowl.

As for that black lambs-wool?, oh it will go into a Slip-Over (see pattern down the side). That pattern deserves a long-sleeved version and this wool is perfect for it.

The Cowl will go to the lady in the car crash.


Take care,

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Blocking a Shawl or Stole

Connemara Stole blocked on a frame.

By the time I get to finishing a lace-knit garment I desperately want to see the item opened up and blocked. That is when I get a true sense of the work.

I work very quickly and do not organise a filming of the whole process. I simply get the garment out of the rinse bucket and onto the frame or table-top and get stretching.

I do, however, lie in bed in the days before the blocking and think through how I am going to go about the process.

This garment demanded a firm finishing, square edges and straight sides, therefore a frame was mandatory.

Lighter yarns will survive blocking with T-pins (office supplies shops stock these).

Weather plays a part too; My stole was blocked during a muggy rain shower. 

Being Aries, everything has to work smoothly and easily and though I adore the traditional process of hand-knits, I do zoom around using modern tech and quick-fits (or life-hacks) to get the job done. In this blocking preparation I thought a lot about zip-ties.

I knew I had a stash of about 3000 bought for various DIY jobs, so the remaining 2897 had sat in the shed innocently until called upon this week.

Zip-ties along the edge of the frame.
They threaded easily through the outer two stitches of the garter stitch edge and neatly pulled the points out of the ends of the stole.

It was an experienced decision that made me set the frame at a 60cm x 1.6m oblong. Don't ask me to explain that one...only that I knew from previous work that this garment had a one-third stretch (meaning it would stretch at least a third longer and wider).

The zip-ties held the stole beautifully and you can see in the colour changes of the plastic zip-ties that I went around the frame dividing the spaces between zip-ties into twos as I pulled the wool out to the edge of the frame. 

The zip-ties didn't slip on the wet wool and could be slid around until I was happy with the placement and then locked into place. This would have been a laborious task with pins or lacing.

The video below adds more and tells you can take those zip-ties out and re-use them.


I like this idea, hope you do too.

Take care,

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Recipes from the 1960s

A hundred years ago when I was 4 glamour entered my life via a young hip relative from Ireland living near us in Manchester. She was a cellist with the Halle Orchestra and her mother was a cousin of my Dad's. I think my Dad was meant to keep a kindly eye on her over the years in this "fast" world of ungodliness known as England. She had safely married and had children so my dad was able to stop worrying. 
Danish Fruit Salad (as known to my family)

If anything, it was the hip relative who became the fab cool support for my mother. You see, there was an entire swathe of women in the 1950s and 60s who were terrified of cooking. Well, actually, they were terrified of running a kitchen. My hip relative had a mother back in Howth (nr Dublin) who ran an extensive kitchen so there was an understanding of "where food came from". My mother had not had that background and she struggled with regular meals and desperately wanted to be The Bestest Hostess Ever.

After more than one crisis the hip young relative was dispatched to my mother with the latest weapon in solving The Dinner Party Drama....the glossy magazine! Complete with photographs and step by step instructions the gap between those bewildered by stockpots and hand-cranked moules, could be deftly navigated on to Summer Supper for Four at least.

The recipe for Danish Fruit Salad from that magazine sat folded inside the manual for the mixer....and that clipping was a frightening evocation of the Sixties in all its wood-grained and daisies glory. The mixer was needed for whipping the cream!

Danish Fruit Salad (best in summer)

You will need the following:

-a posh serving bowl...large.
-600ml (a pint) of fresh cream...not lite, not added to in any way, just old fashioned runny cream.
-Something to whip the cream with.
-lots (up to 2kg( just under 4 pounds) of fresh summer fruits. The core flavours are banana,            strawberry, apple and whatever else you can get.
-a 400gm (1 pound) block of good quality milk chocolate (35% cocoa at least).
-100gm (1/4 pound) halved walnuts.
- Grated chocolate for the topping (I use Flake bars and crumble them up).


Whip the cream to just under what most would call whipped.
Chop all the fruits into bite-sized chunks as you would a fruit salad. Leave the skins on (except for the banana of course). Work quickly as the apples will brown in the air.
Put all the fruit straight into the bowl with the whipped cream to keep the fruit covered.
Chop/break up the chocolate into bite-sized pieces. Put into bowl with the fruit.
Add the walnuts.
Turn the mixture through only a few times to distribute the ingredients. There should be a light covering of cream over the bite-sized items.
Turn the mixture in to your posh serving bowl. Clean the rim of the serving bowl with a paper towel.
Sprinkle the top with grated chocolate or crushed Flake bars (2 at least).
Put into the fridge covered and bring out when needed, This will need to be eaten with 24 hrs (sigh).

.....and yes, the dish does exist...I checked earlier.


Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns