Monday, August 29, 2011

Clearing the decks

Wailey, wailey! My holiday is nearly over and, as usual, I don't seem to have got all the things I planned done. Nevermind. I have enjoyed the things I have done, so it's all good.

Spent yesterday evening plying up the yarn I have been spinning. It's Corriedale from My Heart Exposed. Helen called the fibre 'The Magic of Rhubarb' and 'Seasons of Change', which I love. I've spun them together, fractally, to make a larger amount of yarn. I'm very pleased with the finished yarn, which I'm calling Mellow Fruitfulness. There's about 290grams here. (Helen is always very generous with her weights.)

It's a dk weight yarn. Some bits are still thicker than others (hey, I'm still a beginner!) but it should balance out overall.

I can't really express how much I love spinning. It's something I always wanted to learn to do, from being a child. I've always been drawn to making things, particularly from scratch. I really love the scope to play with colour that spinning affords. And I'm enjoying challenging some people's preconceptions that anything handspun has to by lumpy and oatmealy. (See high visibility cowl from yesterday's post).

On the knitting front, I'm trying to resist starting any more projects until I have cleared some of the four that are on the go at the moment:

1. Turmeric sweater. This is in very fine yarn and I've restarted it four times now for one reason or another. Hopefully, now I've got guage and it's starting to look a bit more like it should, I'll crack on with it. My hands are still struggling a bit with the 2.75mm circulars it's done on and my brain is struggling with the madness of knitting a sweater in such a small guage, to be honest.

2. Fiddlehead Mittens. In Rowan 4ply and Mini Mochi. These have been on my 'want to do' list for years. I really have to be concentrating and to be in good light to work on these.

3. Vitamin D cardigan. (Rav link). I'm furthest on with this and the yarn isn't too fine, so I think this is what I will tackle first.

I'm making this in King Cole baby alpaca, which is lovely. I love the colour. It's called Plum, but is really more a gunmetal grey. I love grey, but am wary of adding too much grey and black into my wardrobe after a couple of years of trying to move towards brighter things.

4. Plain vanilla, toe-up (because I can do these now!) socks for J. This is my hospital and appointment project for when it looks wierd to be sitting playing Angry Birds at my age. I can't believe I just wrote that knitting socks seems less wierd than playing Angry Birds on my phone...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A little moment of calm

Twinings Moment of Calm, chamomile and spiced apple, tea with home made cheesy oatcakes. The perfect thing for the person who can't have sugar, doesn't tolerate bread very well, but sometimes still feels like a little home-baking experience.

225 grams wholemeal organic porridge oats, blitzed a bit in the food processor
1 large heaped tablespoon butter
A quarter of a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
A quarter of a teaspoon of salt
Handful of grated cheese
Teaspoon mixed dried herbs
150mls hot water

Mix all together
Panic because it all looks too wet and sloppy
Relax as it starts to firm up into a loose dough
Roll out thinnishly with some wholemeal flour to stop it sticking
Bake at 180 degrees C until firm and starting to crisp
Leave to cool or until you can't wait any longer.


Bit of a rough night last night last night and not much better this morning. Can't decide whether it's related to (what I'm worried is) a return of the old fibromyalgia or just to being a perimenopausal old bag. Both feel very similar sometimes.

Got up quite early and sewed the ribbon and buttons onto this:

Very happy with it - I spun the yarn! Bring on the winter! Oh, yes, it's still here isn't it?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The spirit of autumn takes a first stealing flight

After all the renovation work, I finally managed to bring my spinning wheel down from j's room, where it was living in relative safety, and find it a home where it's easy to access. So, I'm spinning again.

I bought two pieces of wool top from My Heart Exposed, in sympathetic colours and broke them down into lengths for fractal spinning. I'm doing one of each in turn. I'm trying to create yarns in larger quantities than the 100g batches I have been spinning so far, so combining the colours of some of the fibre I have accumulated so far seems like an interesting idea.

I like the way it's coming out, so far. The colours remind me of the end of Summer and beginning of Autumn. The greens are still vibrant, the roses and poppies are still in bloom, but there are plums and apples starting to ripen and the leaves on the hollyhocks are starting to rust.

It's not a set of colours I would normally choose, especially for clothes, but I'm trying to experiment a bit.

I can't decode whether the singles will be best plied together of each Navajo-plied on it's own. I've yet to start practising Navajo plying, but have been watching this video.

I got a new Wold bowl. Perfect for handspun skeins. (Or apples, I guess.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

There were these tree fellers

Actually, most days there were just two.

But the Eucalyptus that was leaning towards the house, in a menacing way, is down now. It got to about 60 feet tall a couple of years ago, so J and a couple of friends (the tree fellers, say it with an Irish accent) took the top and most of the big branches off it. Last winter is developed a diagonal crack down the trunk, so it had to go. They cut it down to 30 feet to minimise the risk of it coming down on the house, but the weight of the ivy that covers it and the shallow roots meant that it continued to loom at the house - pointing directly at my new bathroom and living room!

So, down it came in three sections.

The ivy stems are as wide as my wrist.

No wonder it was so heavy.

It's just lying here now, waiting to be chainsawed into moveable pieces and turned into plant stands and a series of really aromatic bonfires.

The residents of the pond are a bit disgruntled, but J managed to ensure that nothing came down into their home.

We're not usually people for cutesy garden ornaments, but j chose this when he was about 4 years old. It came to light somewhere under the tree. Can't help worrying that it might have marked the grave of some small pet (fish or hamster). Anyway, he's sitting, eating his sandwich, in one of J's deck pots now. Somewhere out there is another of j's gnomes. It's a 1950s painted plaster job, given to him by the old lady who lived out the back of my mum. I wonder if that survived the tree fellers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Up the Creek.

When I was a child, in the 1970s, there was the last vestiges of a community of houseboats down on Greatham Creek. My Grandad's uncle used to have one - probably in th 1920's, so it was a well-established little place. Most of the homes were swept away by a violent storm in the 1950's, tearing apart the community. After that, most of them were used only as holiday cottages. There are only the remains of the wooden footings visible now.

I was trying to find some information about them when I came across this amazing exhibition. I really didn't know anything about Ian Macdonald, peviously, but his work is stunning.

Yesterday, J and I went for a walk along the creek to see the colony of common seals that has made the area it's home now.

My pictures aren't in his league, but it was an interesting walk.

Meadow Brown butterfly, probably a female.

The Creek towards Greatham.

The view back over Seals Sands petrochemical plants.

Seals with the Transporter Bridge in the background.

Wooden footings of the houseboats still visible.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Woke up this morning and I got myself a

Sorry, Jim, not a beer, actually. A Pumphrey's Daterra Bruzzi. Not as Rock and Roll, but much better suited to a Sunday morning.

Maybe when I drag J to Masham Sheep Fair at the end of September, I'll tag along on the brewery tour and pick up a couple of bottles.

Despite falling asleep, exhausted, at 9pm last night after a day of moving ivy, bits of tree and thorny berberis (which has left my arms looking like I self-harm) I was awake early, as usual.

A pyjama-clad, make-upless shot to show how much my Propello hat, knit in handspun from Jacqui at Spinning a Yarn, improved with blocking.

More tree shifting on the agenda today. What fun! So, I'm grabbing 10 minutes while I drink my coffee to work on this:

More handspun. Details to follow when I have more progress to share.

Yesterday, before I was on labouring duty, I unpacked the contents of the living room from their temporary storage in boxes in the dining room into the new cupboards I assembled for the living room. I say assembled rather than built, as I don't want IKEA to feel under-appreciated for their role in the whole process. I can't believe they (J and j) have so many dvds and cds. There's hardly any space left for hiding my stuff!

After that, I sorted out the, now dry, wool top I dyed the other day. I'm very pleased with the outcome!

Bottom L: Dusk to Dawn spotted, top: Dusk to Dawn dilute, bottom R: Dusk to Dawn saturated. I have 300gms of this Falkland fibre and I may fractal spin it all together to make enough yarn for a waistcoat/vest/cardigan if I get it fine enough.

75g of left-over needle felting (I am so never going there again!) shetland. I like this a lot. It's not unlike something I bought at Woolfest.

110g Blue Faced Leicester. The colours are not really true in this shot. It's more subtle and less turquoise. The grey is also really dusky pale purple.

100g alpaca. This has come out much better than I ever hoped. It was looking a bit sad and frightening during the drying process. You know what cats look like when they get wet? Well, the alpaca is the wet cat of the roving world.

I learned how to plait the fibre from this handy video.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What's that sound?

While we were in the garden today, cutting up the ivy that was clinging to our dead eucalyptus tree before it comes down, I heard a tapping noise in the undergrowth. It was this mother thrush, breaking open snails on a 'thrush's anvil' stone to feed her two babies.

Lovely to see.

Pictures are rubbish as it was so gloomy and she moved so fast.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And Life is Colour and Warmth and Light

I've had a wonderful morning! Inspired by the work of other local crafters, I dug out the dyes I bought at Woolfest yesterday and prepared them into bottles of dye stock. I'm glad I did this yesterday as it took longer than I anticipated, especially as I was completely paranoid about getting the kitchen covered in multi-coloured splotches. Everything was carefully covered in polythene and old curtains and it went without mishap.

This morning, after J had left for work (he really doesn't need to know how messy this could be. It wouldn't be good for his stress levels ;)), I prepared my working area again.

I dug out our old vegetable steamer and some new microwavable bowls I bought from Discounts UK (99p for a set of 3).

I set my wool top (some Falkland, some Blue Faced Leicester and some alpaca) off to soak in a mix of water, white vinegar and a little washing up liquid.

I wrestled with a new pack of cling film and eventually laid out two lengths on a damp surface. I put the wet, but squeezed out, fibre on top, snaking it backwards and forwards and poured on the acid dyes.)

Then I wrapped it up in cling film, massaged it a bit to spread the dye and put it in the steamer for an hour. I did three lots using these colours in various ways; one deep, saturated batch, another lighter, more dilute batch and a spt dyed batch.

Then I did it again with a different set of colours.

I put this lot in the microwave for 5 minutes.

Yesterday, I did some more prep. I had a cone of wool and silk yarn from Alexanders of Selkirk. Can't remember where it came from (eBay or charity shop). It was a bit grubby on the edges and had the spinning oil still in it. So, I skeined it up and washed it in hanks.

It bloomed nicely and feels much better.
I soaked half of it and dyed it a kind of variegated grey colour.

The other half, I left natural. I see more stripes in my future.

After all the fibre had cooled down, I rinsed it until the water ran clear and set up an improvised drying rack in the garden.

It's all still out there and seems to drying nicely. Pictures of the finished product to follow when it's all dry!