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

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Letter To Santa 2016

Danish Fruit Salad
Dear Santa,

I know we don't talk much throughout the year but lately I have been thinking of you a lot. 

No, I haven't popped down to the local Mall to "have a chat" with you for two reasons 1) The nearest Mall is 40 mins drive and an angry car-park away and 2) I loath the Mall.

Santa, this was a year when we all needed a hero, a good person and some really good news. Last year when I wrote, Syria was being bombed and I kind of hoped you would see off one of the people responsible. Yeah, I know, it's not what you do...not "in your brief" so to speak.

It was a year we all got through but boy the angry people were out and about. Here, there was dismay. Privately some suited business-types felt their time had finally come but they kept a decency over it.

It was a year when I connected with my Family Tribe...that was just great; Actually that was one of the best things of the year.

Santa, I have been very, very good this year. I have been kind and know that. I hope the elves have been good and the reindeer aren't lame.

Could you see to this wee list would make me so happy. 

1. Happiness and peace for my two precious children.

2. That refugees from Aleppo are treated honourably.

3. That refugees in the camps in Lebanon know they can get to a safe place.

4. That I can get all of this new fleece spun and knitted before March 2017.

Much love,

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Isla waiting for me to finish.
ps. The Danish Fruit Salad is a Christmas favourite here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Saying "Goodbye" to 2016

Sunset light on the hills

This piece of writing has been brewing for a wee while in my head and while important to "get it out and down" it is not a rant, more a firm assessment of the year that is just finishing.

Next year I turn 55. It's a weird age....not old but not youthful either. I have become a bit more solid at the waist and I am doing my level best to accept it. I stopped dyeing the hair some years ago but have noticed my "bob" on far too many other women. I think I am facing the horror of being counted in that tribe of females I really don't want to be part of: Middle-Aged and Grey, driving a small hatchback and living mostly alone. 

I face it down regularly now, though not always calmly, and I defiantly cling to a sense of style outside of T-shirts and leggings. Today is a Liberty print sleeveless top with half-belt and 3/4 capris...and always war-paint!

I do my best.

This year has been a "crossroads" year for me. I have heard other women frame the years from 53-56 in much the same terms; the years when they stopped pleasing everyone, the years when they only started to really live their own lives, the year when they no longer had to care for parents and actually began to look after themselves.

I have heard women of these years talk about how they were determined to do that course, or open that studio, or finish that degree, do that Great Walk, or travel to that place.

For too many of us these years mean we get to suddenly be ourselves when it was denied prior by family responsibilities and obligations.

In my case, I made a firm decision not to tolerate tantrums from the adults in my life.

It wasn't easy to explain to everyone and it still is not completely understood, but it will, in the future. 

Essentially I now remove myself from potentially toxic situations and I am a great deal happier for it. 

I made the decision earlier this year and it's a life-changing one.

2016 was the year I charted the Family Map and found very interesting dusty corners of our history.... 

2016 was the year I reached out to my Irish Diaspora through Facebook. I found cousins, aunts, and photographs !!!!!

I began research on the Workhouse system in Mayo, Ireland.

I worked a gansey in alpaca for Chris...

Chris' Alpaca

I did the markets and sold wool...

I held an Open Studio in October and developed my profile as an honest artisan.

I maintained this web-site and set up a Facebook page too.

In short, I worked hard and just stopped putting up with rubbish. I am well-used to saying "no". 

I am learning not feel guilty about stuff from the past...this is the hard bit. Guilt gnaws at you.

But, if you watch any Teflon-Coated politician you can learn a lot about the Dark Art of not caring.

Seeing an end to 2016

Look out 2017: Big Stuff....more research.....and better writing.

Take care,

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Techo-Bug Baby Dragon

Highway 16 Cowl in its first launch onto Ravelry

Most of you will have realised that my knitting patterns are free. 

All of them are tested and two are professionally tech-edited.

One of them is due a re-write soon. I do this regularly anyway, and always after feedback.

Charging for patterns is a simple technological problem for me due to Tax Regulations overseas; Ethically I have no problem with Tax, but the system put in place for e-sales into the EU does not give me any confidence. I did research the whole process and it seemed simple enough but at the back of it all were the three monsters - The Fear of Being Audited By HMRC, The Need For Fast, Reliable Broadband, and Global Time Differences.

I have had enough experience with Government Departments to know that you need to have sufficient evidence for your defence and a willingness to work with whatever requests and impositions are put on you. Being audited by the Inland Revenue Department is scary and it's in your best interests not to invite suspicion. 

Fast, Reliable Broadband on the outer edge of Auckland City is a myth, a desirable and coveted aspiration perhaps. 

....and lastly, Global Time Differences for me here in NZ mean delays and waiting up at night to make a futile overseas phone call to a call-centre that is closed.

So, the decision to keep my life simple meant not charging for patterns.


-that does not mean the monsters are all appeased. I still have another one, a baby monster if you like, a playful dragon who roars and charges around occasionally through the back of Ravelry, Scribd and Blogspot chewing through links and nudging pages off their URL.

Me in the Highway 16 Lace Cowl hiding from the Techo-Bug Dragon
I use Blogspot for my web-page because it is free and it carries graphics and text reasonably well. I use Ravelry for display as it is free, perfect for knitters and formats information beautifully. I use Scribd for hosting my patterns because it is free and I can load large files there. To make all three sites hold hands, I have to point the links from Ravelry and Blogspot onto Scribd. Most of the time these web-sites all play nicely, but it doesn't take much before the baby Techo-Bug Dragon stomps around waving his head and tail knocking things over.

It's when they fall over that I generally start getting messages from knitters. I am eternally grateful for the patience of these people...and again, Gobal Time Differences come into the mix so delays abound. 

Whether it was wisdom or common sense or whether moving up a technological notch was just going to be too much for me to handle, I am relieved that the worry of pleasing paying customers by selling downloads of patterns never became a thing. I can relax knowing that "Free" means "I am willing to share so long as you know that this web-site is not a Hot-Shot Slick Techo thang!"'s a humble little venture and I am learning as I go along.

Highway16 Cowl without the Tech-Bug Dragon
So if you ever have trouble reaching the relevant sites I can send the file to you personally....have done that a few times already.

I do not want to move from free and accessible sites but it may be necessary if you and I are constantly being let down.

The pattern above (and down-loadable from the side-bar) was the latest to suffer from the Dragon Baby Tech-Bugs. It's still a popular one. I still wear the sample and it's a good entry into lace-knitting.

Please take care,


Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Balanced the mistake

Can you spot the mistake in this chart?

For too long lace charts were a silent menace to me.

Their matching cousins, "The Abbreviations"  were just mean, jeering, playground bullies.

SSK translated as a string of curses while K2Tog was the nickname of a thug. 

I could manage with the charts in the Burda Magazines because visually it was all laid out and as I come from a dressmaking background, I had no dilemma with garment construction.

Lace-knitting was a mystery and only for The Few.

While the battle for mastery of knitting was a personal battle for me, printed instructions for lace were undergoing their own global truce talks. In the Eighties charts were becoming more standardised in magazines and books while the matching abbreviations slunk off into two positions, American or British. Interestingly it was the Europeans who charmingly continued on in charts or with basic schematic drawings expecting one to make fabric to match; Fabulously unconcerned by customer queries. in 2016, feelings have thawed and British and American designers and publishers have simply put UK and US abbreviation versions together in the key alongside UK and US needle sizes. 

And here is where I get to explaining that the software programme I use carries more then one standard abbreviation for the symbol that represents the stitch...even I have had to disseminate the vagueries of decades of cold-war knitting symbols.

So when I began designing for lace-knitting, I was indeed more than a little nervous about the responsibility.

Have you worked out the mistake in that chart at the top?.....there's a clue in the key as one stitch symbol has been highlighted.

The mistake is not so much about THE WRONG STITCH but more about the "adding up" of all the stitches at the end of the row.

This is the corrected version......rows 7 and 15 would have been one stitch too long if you had followed the chart at the top. In the amended version I have placed a double centred decrease to capture that extra stitch and give symmetry to the design.

....and this all came about because I picked that original pattern from a Stitch Dictionary and I never thought there would be a mistake...shows you!

Fish Scale Lace as part of the Kilsalagh Lace Stole
I am grateful to my friend Pat McCormack who undertook a review of this early pattern of mine. It is now ready for download in the side-bar.

Take care,

Fiona MacBride

Tin Shed Yarns