My best loaf yet…I hope

I’ve called this post ‘my best loaf yet… I hope’, because I haven’t sliced this sourdough loaf yet.

Sprinkled with a little stardust… Specially for the ‘ear’

Typically this was rather thrown together on a hot day day.and baked in a hurry, straight from the fridge, before I went out this morning. I used the same Sourly recipe as my last loaf, with 50g of the bread flour swapped for 50g Spelt. As I suspected I was allowing my shaped dough you over-prove, I put it straight in the fridge after shaping – without leaving it out for the 80 minutes that is suggested. I think in the winter it will probably need this, but the temperatures at the moment here in the UK are in the 30s so it works best without.

The starter is still my original one made from raisin-water yeast that I started in January 2020. I feed it with plain flour and occasionally with spelt or rye – just to give it a bit of a different flavour. I feed the starter with 100 g of flour and 100g of water to 100g of starter so I think this makes it 100% hydrated? Not sure.

As with my own recipe the bread dough comes out as about 70 – 72% hydrated after mixing. The main difference between the recipes is that Sourly’s uses 130g starter, and I was using 94g. I prefer using 130g as there is less starter to discard each time. Then it’s just a matter of less flour and less water to manorial the ‘baker’s percentage’. You can read more about the ‘baker’s perecentage’ in my post here.

Update – crumb is as good as the crust!

Open crumb loaf sourced open

Brother KH710 knitting machine refurbishment

I have purchased one of these older machines and it’s not in too bad nick. The main problems are one sticking button and rusty needles. I’ve just removed the needles and some are quite badly rusted. After a wipe with alcohol to remove oily residue they have been put into a jar of 10% citric acid to see if I can shift the rust. I plan to leave them there for about an hour and take a look.

I have a fond memories of these machines; Jones KH588 machines were the first ones I used at college when I started my degree.


I’ve just made up a new sponge bar using a kit from Xena Knits. https://www.xenaknits.com/product-category/sponge-bar-kits/

These not only save money, but it’s environmentally preferable to reuse the old bar.

It’s quite easy to replace the sponge on an old bar.

Sourdough bread-baking update

I’ve purchased some new tools for my bread making. The first was a bread cloche (well my version of this). More recently I indulged in a bannetton basket with liner and a plasterer’s spatula. These are not only useful, but fun to use and experiment with. I’ve written a bit more about using these, and how they have aided my sourdough baking in my page Getting a Great Crust on Sourdough Bread.

If purchasing a plasterer’s spatula, make sure it has a stainless steel blade.

Still practising scoring…

Ergonomic knitting machine table upgrade

I’ve been having back problems and unable to use my knitting machine for several months which had been frustrating. Especially as I am coming towards the end of writing my latest book and wanted to knit some of the final samples. The same was of course true of trying to sit down to write the text of the book, or do any work at the computer.

I had seen sit-stand desks, and fancied one for computer work when I first looked at the start of the panedemic in the UK, but they were terribly expensive. My son acquired one for his work as a computer programmer and it looked an interesting solution for spending a long time writing at the computer. I tried putting my computer on a static raised desk, which was great for teaching as I could move about, but then I couldn’t sit down to do the accompanying admin and ended up with real back problems. After the best part of two years struggling with WFH teaching online, (actually we were all trying to do most things online weren’t we) as well as writing a book, my back finally gave up with an acute bout of sciatica

Several months down the line I am still plagued by this problem, and have invested in a sit-stand desk converter. So far this is proving to be a solution for computer work, (along with a timer telling me to take a walk). I chose a converter because I didn’t want to lose the lovely desk my husband had built for me.

Back to the knitting machine. Yes I know this is a round about way of telling the story, but I’m getting there.

The physiotherapist from whom I am receiving treatment for my back problem suggested putting the knitting machine on a high table to improve the ergonomics of working on it. I have long wanted to do this so that I could stand whilst working on it – as if it was a Dubied – but I also sometimes want it lower, for example with or without ribber. The practicalities of moving machines from high table to low table, let alone the space I would need to do this made a static high table a poor solution. Recently, whilst investigating sit-stand converters it dawned on me that I might be able to solve both of these ‘wants’ by using a sit-stand desk as the table for my knitting machine. Having been put off by the price when I had looked before, I did a fresh internet trawl and found the price first these desks has become almost sensible – lots of demand I guess – so I decided to research a combination that would work.

The max load for the lower priced, single motor ones seemed to be 70kilos, and my machine plus ribber comes within that. Next questions were, ‘would it overbalance? and ‘would there be room for the clamps?’ I bought the powered version, frame only and we fitted a separate top so that it could be positioned to address these issues. In fact the frame is pretty sturdy, and the feet quite deep, so the balance works OK and the top overlaps at front and back sufficiently to allow room for clamps. Another advantage of fitting our own top was that the controller could be fixed to the side so it isn’t obscured by the ribber. Cable management was next, and not to arduous and then my machine was ready to zoom up and down – well not too fast!

Price-wise this solution cost probably five or six times that of a standard machine table, but I hope it will mean I can use my machine comfortably both now and in the future. So far its going well, and I am very pleased with the result. The top is wide enough for two single bed machines back to back instead of the double bed if I want to do this at some point in the future. Let’s hope it lasts long enough for me to test this arrangement!

Here is the machine on the desk, with a little demo of it rising up. The motor is a bit noisy, but nothing like as loud as the machine!

Googling myself again!

I took a quick look at the Amazon page for my book Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting and thought I would share some reviews.

I notice that subscribe wishes to express their annoyance because the price has been reduced. I fully appreciate how annoying this can be, and wonder if retailers understand how this upsets customers. I felt similarly annoyed when I bought a new drawing tablet only to see it was reduced by £40 in the Black Friday sale two weeks later! They wasn’t much I could do but accept that I’d had two week’s use of the tablet already, (working on my next book). So although this is beyond my control, my apologies to anyone to whom this has happened.

So moving on from issues of frustrated shoppers, here are some of the very nice things said about the book.

JayBards from the US writes, ‘5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Coverage of Topics, Great Photos and Illustrations’, and finishes the review with, ‘The text is really well-written, very clearly presented, easy on the eyes, and a pleasure to read. This book will become an important part of my extensive library on knitting. In short, I LOVE this book! Congratulations to Dr. Haffenden on an excellent book that should become a classic.’

Thank you JayBard for your feedback and review.

Meceo from Canada writes, ‘This is one of the best books I’ve purchased covering the hand knit patterns converting to knitting machines. It is beautifully done with lots of photos and information to help anyone interested in this type of knitting.’

Sharon Sullivan from the US writes. ‘Very well written book. Haven’t had the book very long, but the time I’ve spent going through it so far, it’s an A+ book. Content is excellent. Photography is excellent. Easy to understand. Definitely worth the cost. I don’t usually do reviews, but think everyone should know that this book will help a machine knitter immensely.’

Its so helpful as an author to get feedback, and positive criticism, (suggesting improvements rather than just pointing out what you don’t like) is the most helpful.

So thanks to all who have taken time to review my book and help others decide if it is right for them.

Renovating an Imperia circular sock machine

Through one of my fellow members of the Woolly Umbrella spinning group I was asked if I would help renovate a vintage sock machine. The machine is part of the Stanmer Preservation Society collection and they hoped it could be got working for their Heritage Week this week.

Sue sent me a photo of the manual, but with little info on the machine apart from. ‘It worked a few years ago’, I was in the dark.

So today I packed a range of tools, oil and cloths etc and set off for Stanmer not sure what I would find. The machine was in a sad state. Not really bad, and most of the parts seem to be there, but it was pretty rusty. It seems to have been left uncovered and un-oiled in a damp shed for the last few years so had a thick layer of dust along with the rust.

Luckily the instruction manual is with the machine, but there is no maintenance manual. Having used one of these before I know the general points about it, but not the precise specifics. A quick YouTube trawl found some useful videos and it was time to tackle the job.

The rib dial was not attached and I didn’t want to address that in this session. My aim was to get the machine working well single bed first. So the rib dial stayed in the somewhat dusty and rusty spares box for now.

A thorough dusting helped a bit, but there was no air hose or even a vacuum cleaner so it was down to cloths and some blowing and picking the dust out of cracks. I dismantled the top tension and removed the yarn feeder. That was a bit rusty so some gentle fine emery paper was needed to clean it up. Next came removing the spring to allow the needles to be taken out and the dial removed. Most needles were slightly rusty on the hook if not the shaft as well, so I gently emery papered the bad areas and then soaked them in surgical spirit and oil for a while. Two broken and two bent needles were rejected at this point as too far gone to salvage. Meanwhile the cams were now revealed and could now be inspected and cleaned.

Once all seemed OK, if not in perfect condition, I reassembled the machine. Some needles still felt sticky, so it was a matter of replacing them one by one in the jamming areas to eliminate bad ones.

The Imperia sock machine being re-needled

Time to cast on with that horrible little ‘daisy’ claw tool. A job that I hate, but went OK in fact. Sticky latches caused several repeating ladders and miss stitching, but after some use, and easing the latches it began to knit properly. Only one needed to be replaced before the whole dial would work! So satisfying.

I want to get the machine knitting a reciprocating sock heel before I tackle the rib dial, but if that goes well next time, I hope to be able to tackle the rib dial after that. There seem to be some spare needles for the rib dial, but not sure if there are enough. We will see…

I’ve marked the dial into quarters; the half way mark was already filed of the needle truck. So far it’s working for a creating the heel, but returning the needles to work causes holes.

We took it to pieces again in better light, and found that the cam is a little with on one end, but I’m not sure that’s the problem.

https://youtu.be/T-0_rSJCrbw

Plein-aire spinning

A bit like outdoor anything – providing its not raining or freezing – spinning is enhanced by the open-air. I took my little Louet wheel with me whilst on holiday on the Pembroke coast recently. We were being careful and avoiding towns etc in our caravan sitting on a farm, so there was plenty of opportunity to spin in the lovely sunshine. It seems ages ago now, but was so refreshing.

Victoria beside the caravan, enjoying the view.

I took a bag full of mixed colour Jacob’s fleece and sorted it into dark and light before hand carding it. Ifirst of all spun a skein of cream to test the tpi and grist I was aiming at and on a rainy day decided to dye it with the onion skins from our soup.

All very earthy!

I can’t resist a marl yarn, so plied the colours into variations on this.

From left: knot or knop marl, slubby marl, onion dyed 2 ply, chain plied random carded colours