8 Essentials to Make your First Sheep Shearing Awesome

So you’re about to head to your first sheep shearing and you’re wondering what you need? This was me two days ago.

It started with knitting, then dyeing and then spinning. And next I wanted to see where my wool came from. Don’t get me wrong here. I know wool comes from sheep. But there are only so many tutorials you can read and videos you can watch on YouTube. None of this can replace the experience of being there and helping out with sheep shearing day on an actual farm.

I will talk more about the day later, but for now if you are visiting a local farm to help out, then here are my top “I wish I hads” and “I’m glad I hads” that I hope will have you prepared for your first sheep shearing day.

8 Essentials to Make your First Sheep Shearing Awesome Pinterest

1. A proper breakfast!

A yoghurt to prepare yourself for a day of hard-work will just not cut it. A Full English Breakfast or a large bowl of cereal are much better ideas!

2. Good solid boots

Fair enough if you want to turn up in flip flops or trainers. But change quickly into a pair of good solid boots. You need grip and covered feet.

3. A sturdy pair of jeans

Diamante and “designer cuts”? Leave them at home. And unless you want your Levi’s covered in lanolin, dirt, and sheep $*%& a cheap pair from your local supermarket will more than suffice.

4. Layers

Sheep shearing is hard-work, which means you will get hot. As the day goes on you will want to be able to strip off the coat and jumper.

5. A hair tie and sunblock

The hair tie is for those of you with longish hair. If it can be tied back, do it. And sunblock in case the sun comes out because your face, shoulders, and arms are likely to be bare by this point.


6. A bottle of water

Ideally in a bottle with one of the caps you can open with your mouth than a twist top. Your hands will get dirty very quickly. Drink lots of water otherwise you risk becoming disorientated and passing out! Seriously, it is hard work.

7. An expectation to get sheep $*%& on you

You may be skirting the fleeces (i.e. pulling the $*%& off the fleece), helping move sheep between pens, wrestling with them, being pushed on to the floor (remember the solid boots?), and if you are lucky, even shearing one yourself. Whatever it is you do, more than dirt is going to get under your nails (and everywhere else). Deal with it before you arrive on the farm.

8. Enthusiasm

This is the most important of all my tips. Farmers are hard-working people. They get stuck in to what needs doing. Be willing to help with any job, no matter how small it may seem to you, and your presence will be appreciated. You may even be invited back next year!

So those are my tips. The only ones I didn’t have were sunblock, and the big hearty breakfast. But I had a crackingly awesome time and I even got to shear my own sheep. That’s one more thing off the bucket list!

Do you have any of your own “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I hads” for your first sheep shearing? Were any of mine useful to you? Please let me know by leaving a comment.

Happy Crafting!

This 1 Easy Process to Keep your Stash Under Control

My yarn stash is out of control! My fibre stash is not! But what have I done differently? This simple process I have put together, if followed religiously, will help new spinners keep what is very likely to become a new addiction under control.

A few months ago a dear enabler friend loaned me her spinning wheel. As an obsessed avid knitter, dyer, and designer, spinning was naturally going to be the next vice craft for me to partake in. But with such an unruly exciting yarn stash, I could easily see fibre taking over following the same path.

Then an even worse thought entered my head! More fibre and more spinning, leads to even more yarn! Clearly this seemingly traditional and stress reducing craft has a dark side.

In 2014, before spinning, I decided to go cold sheep*. Bear with me here. For the uninitiated, this is where you buy no new yarn for a set period of time. Usually a year. You are allowed to swap yarn, but no newly bought yarn. Anyway, surprisingly, I survived the year. And I was OK about it. Don’t start building any shrines though. There were moments of weakness where yummy skeins of yarn were added to my cart, but no “Pay Now” buttons were clicked. By saying a 100% no, my self-restraint could cope. No was no.

Stash 2013
My yarn stash before the 2014 cold sheep experiment

This previous experience triggered an idea. What if I could buy a braid of fibre, spin it AND knit it, all before I buy the next braid of fibre? This would require a higher level of self-control. I would be allowing myself to buy fibre, but only under certain conditions. Though, would I start trying to justify a purchase to myself? I might start saying “but I need two braids to make the yarn to knit this” or “it might not be here next time”. I’ve been in this situation with yarn and I’ve caved into the little devil sitting on my shoulder before.

A few days passed and I was starting to think that, really, this is still a no means no situation. Which I succeeded at before. Why would this be any different? So I started. My first spinning was a braid of my own. A Polwarth and Merino D’Arles top in the colour Tropics. I finished spinning, I knitted it up, and I even gifted the item to my enabling dear friend. Then I purchased my next braid from Artist’s Palette Yarns. I spun it, knitted it up, and then went in search for my next braid. It was working.

Handspun Tropics-1.jpg
My first hand spun and knitted garment using the Whirl Me Away Cowl pattern

Today, I still have no extra fibre in my stash. I am waiting for our excellent post man to deliver my next parcel so that I may again repeat the process that is so far working for me. As with my year of cold sheep with yarn, fibre has made it into carts during moments of weakness. But no “Pay Now” buttons or credit cards have been handed over whilst I have not completed a braid in progress from fibre to finished item.

If you are new to spinning then maybe this could work for you too! If you are not new to spinning, then perhaps a tweaked version of this would work. Maybe you spin and knit two braids, before you buy the next one?

*I did allow myself one yarn purchase. And this was purely because our holiday that year was in Iceland and I was not going to be leaving the country unless I had some of the famous Icelandic lopi! I left with 4 x 50g balls of natural coloured lace and a pattern book of Icelandic lace shawls. That was it.

Thank you!

Being nervous about how my latest knitting pattern – Juliet’s Shawl – would be received, I was elated to watch it climb the Hot Right Now list on Ravelry.

Before going to sleep I saw this:


My pattern made it to number 2! Unable to stay awake any longer to see if it made it any further, I drifted to sleep. By the time morning came around and I woke again the seasoned designers had once again taken their place in the top spots. But I had not only made it to the top 20, and the top 5, but I made second! Only those on the other side of the globe will know if first was achieved.

So, thank you! Thank you to everyone who looked at my patterns, visited my shop, browsed my projects and those of my testers, and visited Juliet’s shop too. It is the awesomeness of Ravelers that encourages me to keep going!

Storm Cloud – Colour Profile

Storm Cloud, as you can imagine, was created out of the very dark and moody blue storm cloud that lurked on the horizon one day.

It goes through a total of three dye stages to build up the colour, with the water never even reaching a simmer.

First it has a short bath in some teal:


Then a longer bath in some violet:


And finally it has a dip in a touch of black:


I’ve been dyeing some more of this today, and finished just as another storm cloud loomed on the horizon!


Flat Rate Postal Changes

Here at Gradiance Yarns I have always operated a flat rate postage fee. No matter how little or much you order, your postage cost will still be the same.

On 1st April 2016, Royal Mail will once again be increasing their parcel prices. I will continue to operate the flat rate fees, but as of 1st April 2016 my postage rates will be as follows:

UK = £3.10

EU and Europe = £4.20

Rest of the World = £5.50

This also includes part of the increase in my packaging costs. UK mail will continue to be sent 2nd Class, and all other countries will be sent by International Standard services.

I’m still waiting for the day that yarn can be teleported free of charge. Until then, thank you for understanding about the costs of postage.

Juliet’s Shawl – New Pattern

Have you been following this pattern test on Ravelry? Do you want to make it? Well now you can! Not only was the pattern released a few moments ago, but it is also free to the first 500ish people who download it, AND there will be a KAL in the Gradiance Yarns Ravelry group!

So, yes. The pattern is available for free to the first 500ish people who download it. There is no need to enter a coupon code. Just add it to your Ravelry library through the pattern page here. I say 500ish, because this relies on me regularly checking in to see what number the counter has reached, and then switching the listing over to a paid pattern. I regularly miss the free download mark and extras go out! The pattern will be £4.00 (plus your local VAT) after this initial period.

I will also be hosting a KAL in our Ravelry group. Please feel free to join the KAL. Share your newly ordered or stash yarn and (optional) beads, share your progress, receive support from me and the awesome Ravelry community, and more than likely click the love button on projects! There will be a prize or two at the end drawn at random for a couple of lucky participants.

The lady who I named this shawl after, Juliet, is the reason I adore hand dyed yarns in the first place and it was an honour to name this after her. My sample was after all made using one of her yarns. I hope you’ll join me in the KAL thread.

Squish! Squish! Squish!

No I don’t mean the sound under feet as you walk around outside today. Well, actually yes, but that’s not what I’m here to write about today. I’m here to introduce you to Squish – an aran weight yarn!

Squish is relatively new to my collection, and is the king of the aran weights in my shop. It is 100% Bluefaced wool and it just loves to slurp up dye. This means beautiful bold and bright colours for you. But it does soft and subtle too (I think!)

Squish is also a 2-ply yarn. This gives it such an energetic bounce and loftiness you will just want to sit there all day and watch it bounce back. It is where some of my day goes! Squish, and squish, and squish!

With my most recent update primarily made up of Squish, now is the perfect time to grab a skein for your collection.

My First (unsupervised) Spinning!

Technically my first hand-spun was created around 5 or 6 years ago. I was gifted a 2 day course for my Birthday in beginner spinning at Mayshot Orchard by my parents. A gorgeous cottage in the countryside of East Anglia and a pear orchard with a small flock of rare breed sheep. Jayne had several wheels of differing sizes and constructions, bags upon bags of fleece, and oodles of knowledge to pass on to willing pupils. I even remember her telling us that the cavity walls of the house were filled with sheep fleece as insulation – yarny heaven!

Upon arrival the wheels were set up for us. We were introduced to the basics of sheep fleece, practised some carding, and were then let loose on the wheels under her guidance and supervision. We even went for a stroll to the orchard to meet the sheep whose fleeces we were spinning. Leaving after two days of learning and spinning I took away a little ball of yarn containing a huge range of sheep breeds and alpaca. Even a little dog hair!

Now I’ve been lent a wheel by a lovely lady and I’ve started spinning on my own. Hence why I’m calling this my first hand-spun unsupervised. I set myself up in my craft room, duly named because it really isn’t much use as a spare bedroom anymore! A very different environment from the quaint cottage I first learnt in, but workable all the same.

With no carders available my Suffolk sheep fleeces were to sit there a little longer, and instead I broke open one of the Polwarth and Merino D’Arles tops from the shop. Splitting the top down the middle, I carefully (and somewhat clumsily) spun two relatively uneven plies of wool. They were then plied together to create the yarn in the photo.

The final yarn varies between a fingering, double knit, and aran weight yarn, and I’m chuffed to bits with it! I will enjoy finding the perfect pattern for this. But for now my foot just wants to keep pedalling. It has been a long time since Mayshot Orchard, but one skein and I think I have another fibre related addiction!