Episode 3: So much colour!

Episode 3 of Along The Lanes, my knitting podcast about knitting, crafts and fluffy things, is now up on YouTube.

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In this episode, I show off rainbow noodle yarn, start flirting with a few future projects, and I can’t make up my mind! Head over and vote on your favourite combo on the Exploration Station colour scheme to help me out :D

Twitter list of knitty and crafty people I love – Don’t forget to let me know if you tweet about your crafts and would like me to add you!

Don’t forget to subscribe, and say hi on Twitter (@vero) and Ravelry (thatcanadiangirl). And THANK YOU for watching! :D

Peace, love and no dropped stitches,

Show notes:

Simple Ziggurat by Åsa Tricosa
Exploration Station by Stephen West
Driven by Veera Välimäki
Coronis by Emily Ringelman
Music is “Tiny Tempo” by Safakash

Stash Enhancement Edition: EasyKnits special!


When the post arrived, I couldn’t keep my hands off this huge bag of yarn! Take a look at the short EasyKnits special episode for the fantastic yarn that arrived last week! :D

stash enhancement

Along The Lanes: Episode 2 – Time Travel

Last night, I published Episode 2 of Along The Lanes, my new podcast about knitting, crafts and fluffy things. This week, I’m sharing some progress updates, the story of my most worn and least worn Finished Objects, and opening some exciting post.

episode 2 along the lanes

You can watch it now on my new YouTube channel.

As I’ve moved to a new channel, please re-subscribe to be notified when I add new videos! I already can’t wait to record the next one, and I suspect I’ll have some great stash acquisition to share in the next few days.

And THANK YOU for watching! :D

Show notes

My Hitofude project page:

Trillian by Martina Behm:

Alegria by Manos del Uruguay:

Strokkur project page:

Hogwarts Express project page:

Pompom magazine:

Along The Lanes: Episode 1 – New knitting podcast

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After talking about it for… months? or years? I’ve finally got my act together and recorded my first podcast / vlog about knitting, crafts and squishy yarny things.

I had so much fun recording and editing the first one that it’ll hopefully become a regular thing. It’s a good chance to play with video editing in ways that wouldn’t necessarily be suitable for work-related videos, and I get to waffle on about my favourite new yarns, patterns and projects – and anyone who’s ever got me started on those will know I’ve got a lot of love for the wonderful designs that are being created in recent years!

There are about a million crafty podcasts out there, so I won’t be the first or the last, but I hope I can make mine a fun and bright place for viewers to spend a few minutes with me in their week. I promise an avalanche of wildly colourful yarn, tales of WIPs, frogged projects and beautiful FOs. :D

If you enjoy the video, don’t forget to subscribe and give it thumbs up!

Tips for VAT MOSS Registration

VAT MOSS is the latest brainchild of HMRC (the UK’s Tax & Customs part of the government) and it’s been giving everyone some weird and wonderful headaches. While I don’t have time to go into details about why it’s going to hurt small businesses a lot (here’s Ysolda’s great summary), I wanted to quickly pop a post up as it seems many others are getting the error message I got to. (Skip to the end if you’re in a rush)

When logging in to the Government Gateway site, the logical first place to look to register for MOSS (Mini One Stop Shop) is under the “Services you can add” header; This is where I previously had to register for other services. You’ll find a link to register for MOSS for Union and non-Union businesses.

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Pick the right one for your business (if you’re in the UK, you’re Union).

However, when using this link to register, I encountered this error:

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No matter how many times I checked our details (which I knew were right), still that error.

I tried tweeting the @HMRCCustomers Twitter account and got flat-out ignored. I then proceeded to email the Online Services Helpdesk. Two weeks later, they responded with the following:

“For security reasons we are unable to provide any information, or carry out any actions, requested by email.”

I was instructed to phone the VAT helpline, which I did earlier today. After half an hour on hold, and an almighty battle with the voice recognition system (Did you say “I want to cancel child benefits”?, Did you say “I want to import a car into the UK?”), I managed to speak to a nice Scottish chap. After quite openly explaining that they were helpless and hoping for more information soon, he put me on hold a while longer and then pointed me to a completely different section through which you register. Of course. Because that makes sense…

You’ll find the registration section you need under “Register for HMRC Taxes”, accompanied by the confidence inducing “This is a ‘beta’ service” message.

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Once you’re in there, it shouldn’t take you long to register, but somehow, it has been absolutely teeth-pullingly impossible to get the information needed to get this far.

Good luck to everyone else who’s having to wrestle VAT MOSS for 2015!

Being Creative is Exhausting!

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my brain might explode. We’ve been fairly busy with work, but it’s all been good, manageable work towards our next product. Yet, as soon as I have time to spare, my head goes back to crafts and a squizzillion ideas fight their way around my brain like desperate parents battling their way into Wal-Mart to buy the last Furby for Christmas.

This September, I’ve been knitting for four years, and yarn dyeing, spinning and crocheting for two. In between, I’ve been sidetracked by various types of jewellery making, weaving, papercrafts and lately, I’ve fallen madly in love with resin jewellery. (Can’t wait to share a few photos of the gorgeous pieces I’m making!) Oh and I’ve always done bits of sewing whenever the fancy takes me.

And that’s just the crafts I can think of while looking at what’s in plain sight in my craft room; Forget the bags of alpaca and sheep fleece in the garage or the paintbrushes in the cupboard. You get the idea…

I remember when I started getting into drinking better coffee, a friend said to me:

“Beware, it’s a very deep rabbit hole once you start considering grinding your own coffee beans, and then possibly roasting them yourselves!”

Admittedly, it’s Andrew who fell down that particular rabbit hole of making the Perfect Coffee (an endeavour from which I reap the benefits every morning), but in reality, every craft, book and TV show should come with that warning as far as I’m concerned.

Knitting led to buying yarn hand-dyed by others, then dyeing my own, then spinning fibre blended by others, then blending hand-dyed fibre on my drum carder. And now I’m considering getting my own alpacas (one day!)

The pattern seems to be repeating itself with jewellery, as I’ve started making my own mixed media paper bases and I’m about to enrol into a silversmithing course at a local college. I can’t keep anything simple, can I?!

I’ve managed to carve a day a week, greedily reserved for making lovely handcrafted things and swanning around my craft room, and I spend the rest of the week longing for that special time. The only difficulty is choosing what to do on the day!

Plant ALL THE THINGS! (aka being a newbie gardener)

It’s the end of May of my first springtime as a gardener. Well… I say “a gardener”. I have major impostor syndrome when it comes to it, because I really have no idea what I’m doing and am winging it all the way. Having said that, I’ve planted seeds, they’ve grown into little plants and are still alive. I guess that makes me at least a bit of a gardener.

Apparently, a common mistake of newbie gardeners is to plant too much. *raises hand* Yep, sounds about right. We’ve got… a lot planted, and so far, much to my surprise, most is still alive.

We’ve replaced our old greenhouse, which was made of rotten wood and brittle glass, and held together with paint and wishful thinking. The new greenhouse is gorgeous, feels much sturdier and safer, and has loads of planting and storage space.


Planted in the greenhouse

Inside the greenhouse, about 2/3 of the ground is concrete and the other 1/3 is a planting bed. This is where I’ve put six tomato plants and five peppers. This leaves three gaps for two “Mini Munch” cucumber plants and one “Gherkin” cucumber plant once these have grown beyond tiny seedlings (once I bring back the chilli plant on the left back inside the house).


Each plant has its own grow pot, so they can be watered through the outer ring to get straight to the roots, hopefully giving me the best chance of not-totally-killing-them.

The tomatoes are San Marzano, Orange Berry, Ildi, Cour di Bue, Red Pear and Tigerella and will be deeeelicious when they’re ready. The hot peppers are Jalapeño, Fresno, Sweet Banana and Red Cherry, and the sweet pepper is Rubens.

A few more tomatoes and one Purple Beauty pepper are in grow bags against the side wall.


There are still quite a few small seedlings living in the greenhouse, but they’ll get booted to the great outdoors as soon as they’re big enough. I’m particularly looking forward to the aubergines being ready to transplant into patio pots.

Planted outside

As of today, here’s what lives outside:

First, courgettes; Planted outside today, we’ve got 10 plants in 6 varieties; Soleil (yellow long ones), Black beauty (dark green long ones), Patty pan (Small light green roundish ones), De Nice a fruit rond (pale geen ball shaped), Yellow scallop (yellow small round) and Lebanese (pale green long ones). Alongside them is also a single marrow, Mrs Marrow, who will become the resident alcoholic. Her future lies in making marrow rum.

A few troughs of herbs serve as windbreaker, containing oregano, sage, orange thyme, apple mint, Corsican mint and horseradish.

More of the same tomatoes and peppers reside outside, to allow me to compare how they grow outside vs inside the greenhouse; San Marzano, Ildi, Orange Berry and Tigerella outside, along with two more Jalapeños and one Sweet Banana.


We’ve built a frame for peas and beans, which has runner beans, french beans and mangetout peas climbing happily along (though there seem to have been some recent slug visits that need to be seen to). At the end of this raised bed are some Calendula flowers, as they apparently are good companion plants to just about everything.

In the same large concrete bed, there are carrots, swiss chard, Sturon onions, garlic and elephant garlic. Wait until you see the size of the heads of elephant garlic!

Beyond these beds is the raspberry jungle that continues to grow, with loads of fruit forming and juuust starting to blush. They’ll probably be ripe by mid-June, so to make sure the birds don’t eat them all before we do, I’ve started building a makeshift frame. (I’ve made more progress since this photo, but it chronically starts raining every time I go back out to add another bit of netting so it’s not quite done!)


The back raised bed has two types of beetroots (Boltardy and Cardeal), two types of cabbages that don’t seem to have started coming up yet (Attraction green cabbage and Kalibos red cabbage) and some cauliflowers that also haven’t come up yet.

There’s also Andrew’s much-awaited sweetcorn still growing well and about 2ft tall now. In the hope of staggering the harvest, I’ve planted them at different times in seedling pots, but I’m worried now that batch #3, which was planted directly into the soil, won’t come up. Oh well, it’ll still be about 13 plants worth of sweetcorn, which ain’t too bad.


The potatoes are starting to look good, with the earlies promising to be ready in late June or so.


The garden gnomes are protecting the gooseberry bushes.



And the flowers are popping up everywhere in the rest of the garden, along with unidentified weeds I no doubt need to tackle (once I figure out what’s good and bad!)



As you can see, it’s a perfectly sensible (ahem…) selection of plants for a first-year gardener… right? ;)

Discovering My Green Thumb


Flowers from the garden

I’ve always assumed I’d never be much of a green thumb; When anyone gave me potted plants from the supermarket, they’d be dead within weeks. And while the thought of eating fruits and vegetables that had actual flavour, I never had the inclination to dig up the grass to plant my own.

Then in August, we moved house and everything changed. Rather than the miserable always-shaded garden from our old house, where 12 neighbours’ windows were always overlooking, we’d just moved to a house with a large allotment*. That’s when I realised that, with the right setting, gardening could actually be a lot of fun.

[* “Allotment” is a term used in the UK to describe a green space used to grow fruit and veg. In urban areas, these are often communal areas where everyone rents a little patch of their own. We’re very lucky that ours is at the end of the backyard and quite spacious, but I do envy the sense of community and amount of advice that must exist in shared allotments.]

Over the autumn and winter, we let the garden get rather weedy, so much of March was spent weeding. Not the kind of dainty weeding where you walk around in your straw hat and pick up a little weed here and there. Picture Indiana Jones in the jungle with a machete. Yes, that’s more like it.

By the first week of April, enough had been cleared out to consider planting the first potatoes. I bought a bag of three types of potatoes to be planted at about 3 weeks intervals, so I should have some nice variety this summer! The first ones (Colleen variety) are showing lots of leaves now, closely followed by the Remarka potatoes in the second row. The third ones (Sarpo Mira) aren’t visible yet.


Who knew potato plants looked so pretty?

Amusingly, while looking at the weeds that are starting to grow in the areas we haven’t planted in, it looks like we also have Surprise potatoes; otherwise known as ones the previous house owner planted last year that are now in random spots in the ground and growing of their own accord.

Another legacy from the previous gardener is a corner of raspberry canes. Again, these were only tended to in the Spring so there are a LOT of new canes that will need to be dug out at the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll have some amazing raspberries this year – if I can stop the birds from getting at them first!


Raspberry madness

And a few random asparagus shoots have also reared their heads.


New asparagus spears shoot up every time I look away!

The remainder of the garden is all a bit of a wild meadow, with loads of perennials covering the garden in new colours every week. Once we get to know what’s already there, we’ll be able to add our own touches, but this year, it’s mostly a process of discovery.


Wild meadow flowers

The Jade Sweater: An Adventure in Spinning and Knitting My First Top

As they say. when it rains, it pours! No blog posts in 9 months, and now two in one day? The woman’s gone mad!

On Monday, my new spinning wheel arrived; an Ashford Joy 2. It’s a dinky little thing, intended to be very portable. It even comes with its own backpack to be carried around.


She joins her sister, Maya, an Ashford Traveller into my very small herd of spinning wheels.

I’ve already spun a lovely braid of Texel wool from Hilltop Cloud, from this…


into this lovely woolen-spun two-ply yarn.


I bought my spinning wheel from Wingham Wool Work in South Yorkshire (same as my previous wheel) and the kind folks there include either a voucher for £15 of free fibre, or credit you £15 on any fibre you purchase with the wheel. I decided I’d take on the ultimate spinner challenge: Spinning a whole sweater worth of yarn, then knitting my own sweater.

Now, before I show you the amazing fibre I picked, I’ll just clarify the term “sweater”. It’s an all-encompassing term knitters seem to have agreed on to represent all pullovers, cardigans, jumpers and other usually long-sleeved tops you wear to keep warm. I don’t yet know whether I’ll make a pullover or a cardigan that opens at the front, but either way I need to spin roughly the same quantity.

The fibre I picked is a lovely blend of 70% merino and 30% silk in teal blue, with a bit of darker blue and white silk. It’s a gorgeously soft blend and I’ve got 500g of it to play with! And yes, the fibre matches the cushion… :P


And so begins the Jade Sweater Adventure.

Rainbow Dyeing Experiment: The Long-Awaited Tutorial

Before I begin with my tutorial, I’ve been meaning to post this since last year, but back when I first spent a few hours putting the post together, the dog ate my homework Squarespace ate my blog post. Disheartened as I was, I never got around to re-writing it. Thankfully, I’ve now switched back to WordPress, which is far smarter than I am and saves my drafts as I work on them!

This is a fun rainbow dyeing tutorial for those who like experimenting with colours and creating their own colours with yarn or fibre to be spun, knitted, crocheted, woven to your heart’s content afterwards. It was a brilliant fun afternoon, heavily documented with poorly-taken photos and I highly recommend trying it.

The objective is to create a wheel of rainbow-dyed fibre by using just the three primary colours (or your choice of three colours). It’s particularly effective with raw fibre; sheep fleece that is still coated in lanolin, the natural greasy coating produced by the sheep. Of course, you can use commercially purchased fleece or undyed yarn if you don’t have a sheep handy.


Gathering your materials

Most of the materials used for this experiment are readily available, but it’s important that you keep these utensils and pots separate from the ones you cook food in. The acid dyes I use are not food-safe and should be kept away from curious kids, pets and used according to safety instructions.

  • A large cooking pot with a lid (glass lid is ideal)
  • Undyed yarn or fibre of your choice (more on choosing your fibre below)
  • A bottle of dish soap (Fairy, Dawn, etc)
  • A plastic spoon or two
  • A pair of plastic-tipped tongs (optional, but very useful)
  • A plastic tray or container for your wet fibre
  • Somewhere to lay or hang the fibre
  • An old towel
  • Fibre dyes (I use Landscape Dyes, but you can use Ashford, Kemtex, Eurolana dyes and more)
  • Vinegar if you’re using dyes that aren’t all-in-one (see your dye instructions for any extras you might need)

Choosing your fibre or yarn

Different fibres react differently to dye. For example, fibres like wool and silk (protein-based fibres) can take on a deep, rich shade when dyed with acid dyes. Meanwhile, acid dyes won’t take on bamboo and other plant-based fibres.

If this is the first time you experiment with rainbow dyeing, I would suggest getting a good resilient fibre that doesn’t felt too easily. I used long, curly locks of Gotland fibre. Sheep like Southdown, Ryeland and plenty more will cope with relatively rough handling without felting.

As I said above, if you fancy using superwash yarn (which is yarn that has been chemically processed so that it doesn’t felt as easily), go for it!

Preparing the fibre

If you’re using raw sheep fibre as I did (it had been lightly washed but still had lanolin in it), you’ll need to split the locks into manageable chunks.


If you’re using yarn, you’ll need to tie loops around your skeins at regular intervals to avoid creating a spaghetti mess once you drop it in the water.

Getting the pot ready

Pop your non-food cooking pot on the hob and fill it with enough cold water so that it’ll cover your fibre later. Mine was about 10cm full. Add a couple of squirts of dish soap and swirl it around.

Lay out the fleece or yarn in a circle. For the fleece, I put all the tips together in the middle and the cut ends towards the outside (like a sun or the hands of a clock). For yarn, I’d suggest making two overlapped circles with it. Very gently push the fibre down under water so that it’s wet through. If need be, top up with a bit more water.


Turn the heat on to medium-ish so that it bubbles very gently – and get ready to start making a rainbow!

Creating your rainbow

I picked three primary colours of Kraftkolour Landscapes Dyes, which you can get in the UK from Wingham Wool Work. The colours I used are Chamomile (yellow), Marine (blue) and Plum (magenta).


Before we start putting dye on, here’s a tiny primer on how acid dyes work: The quantity of dye used is relative to the amount of fibre you want to dye, not to the amount of water you use. When the fibre and the dye meet, the dye will set onto the fibre. If you’ve used the right quantity of dye, you’ll see your water eventually becoming clear again.

Lay a towel on the countertops to avoid getting any dye on your kitchen. Use a spoon to pick up a small amount of dye from the first colour. Don’t sprinkle directly from your pot of dye, as you’ll get steam inside the pot which isn’t good. You’ll also have much more control over the quantity of sprinkles with a spoon!

Imagine you have six pizza slices, you want to sprinkle three of the slices, leaving almost a full blank slice in between each one. At first, it looks like some areas will remain white, but given a bit of time, the colours will spread and mix, creating your three secondary colours; orange, green and purple.


At this point, you want the water to be bubbling very gently. Furiously strong bubbling will mess up the fibre and might felt it, or you might burn the bottom fibres on the bottom of the pot. Pop the lid on and leave it about 20 minutes. Resist the urge to stir – Stirring can felt fibres and will muddle up your rainbow.

After 20 minutes, use a plastic spoon to gently move some of the fibre to the side. How clear is your water? If it’s clear and you’re satisfied that your fibres have taken up enough colour, you’ve gauged your dye quantity very well! If there’s too much undyed fibre, you might want to verrrry gently move fibres and sprinkle more dye on.

If there’s a bit of colour left in the pot but it’s getting there, you can squirt a little white vinegar into the pot. This will help the final bits if dye exhaust onto the fibre.

When you’re happy with the depth of colour and the white pizza slices are now nice and colourful, turn off the heat. Set a timer for an hour or two to let the water cool down.

Draining, rinsing and drying the fibre

Once the water’s cooled down enough, use your tongs to pick up the fibre and lay it out on a tray to cool further. While the fibre cools down, fill the sink or your pot with water and gently swish handfuls of the fibre to get the superfluous dye off. Again, gentleness is key – you don’t want your fibre felting now after all the hard work’s done!

Lay the fibre out on a rack or mesh to dry. I use a drying rack with old cotton fabric pinned to it into “hammocks”.

When dry, split off the dyes and arrange into a rainbow. Admire your magical work :D


What’s next?

If, like me, you’ve got fibre, it’s time to spin it. You can either spin it into a neat gradient yarn or use the locks in really wild tailspun art yarn! Even though my rainbow is imperfect, the locks that had blue and yellow on them appeared greener once spun as the colours mix together some more.

If you’ve dyed yarn, start knitting or crocheting with it!

The next tutorial (which hopefully won’t take me a year to publish!) will cover a few ways of spinning yarn I really enjoy, from lace to art yarns.

If you experiment with rainbow dyeing, I would LOVE to see your results so please do share your own photos! :D

[Credits: Thank you to Sally aka Castlemilk on Ravelry for the original stove-top rainbow dyeing experiment.]

Oh hello there!

I'm Véro - a crafty, knitty, spinny gal who enjoys making (and drinking) a cocktail or three. If you've stumbled here, you might enjoy browsing some of my older posts with the tags over to the right or finding out more about me.

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