Wednesday, 26 September 2007

autumn = harvest time!

the weather has calmed down a bit again, only light wind, the sun is peaking out here and there - and I took the chance and went into the garden with the camera. I had an autumnal feeling for quite some time now - no wonder after this summer - but it's here for sure now! the leaves are falling and there are apples and pears and other fruit all over the place - rich pickings! we have so many cider and crab apples this year that I wonder what to do with it all! apple juice and apple jelly - maybe we should invest in a proper press too? I like the look of shelves full with bottles of juice and jars of colourful jam, if only it wasn't so much work beforehand:)) this picture shows "Evereste" - a very fitting name as the tree is covered in whitish-pink flowers in spring - and in small orange-red apples during autumn. the yield is so heavy that the branches are all hanging down!

caution - stranded whale in the garden....
we (ok, mostly Michael:)) have also been working on another project - our polytunnel needed urgent repairs! the northern side had been covered with corrugated plastic since the start, but the plastic on the southern side was shredded, esp. where the folds have been moving in the wind! both sides are now covered with the corrugated plastic, more sturdy and also,the tunnel plastic is easier to fix tightly, as there is no area, where it has to be stretched around a bend (it'll be wound around slats of timber, which are screwed under the rim along the metal bows!)also, the shelving was rotting in parts and the table was only usable with a closed door. not very nice during hot summer days! it is on the other side now and I can stand in a nice draught, when sowing and propagating! we thought we'd still have enough plastic to reclad but it turned out to be too narrow to cover the tunnel..... all the other jobs have been done, but now we have to wait and order new plastic before I can do anything inside! there are interesting varieties available now, special plastic with bubbles in it, which is not only more sturdy than normal tunnel plastic, but also more insulating and with special "light filtering" features. of course, it's a bit more expensive too, but our last tunnel lasted for 11 years, so it would probably be a good idea to invest a few euros more.... I hope we'll have new plastic together with a reasonably good day - no fun in recladding a polytunnel with gale force winds and/or pouring rain! however, it's a good thing that it remains uncovered for a while, as it will wash out residues and salts that have accumulated in the ground over the last few years. just watering can never replace a good soaking with rain! might improve the harvest in the coming years again....

Thursday, 20 September 2007

the scarf...

... is done too now - just in time. I had a bit of a problem with the picture, as it is rather difficult to take one of yourself, wearing the scarf:)) in the end I took a cloth hanger with a shirt over it and draped the scarf around. it looks a bit silly like this, but at least the embroidered part is visible. I am happy with the result - but not with the fact that I have to make another one as a gift, because I like this one too much to give it away (it's purple, need I say more?)! the second project I keep for myself in a row - previously unheard of!:)) I probably have to send out another order to germany for more.... I do have two silk chiffon scarves in dark blue and one in turquoise, but I think I can only embroider small designs onto them - the fabric is so light, that it might not drape well anymore with too much stitched to it. well, anyway, my part of the workshop is pretty much done for now, so I can relax a bit and get down to work with some of my other projects. spinning wheel - here I come! (I am suffering withdrawal symptoms....again)

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

latest results

I have been fairly quiet these days - with good reason. it's not that I was lazing around, far from it - I had to finish several projects and (what's new?) I set myself tight deadlines - too tight maybe? so far I managed all of them - just about! only two more to go and I think I might just make it in time! last year, wenn the steering group of the Online Guild decided to offer a workshop for "spinning for embroidery", I agreed to do a project or two as well. I wanted to do a "textile" bum bag for a while, so I decided on this as my first project. I like the result much more than the plastic thingy I've worn during several holidays - and I enjoyed working on it too. I am also doing an embroidered scarf, handspun and handdyed silk yarns on woollen mousseline, which I am going to introduce on thursday - which concludes my work for this workshop. during the first week we had crewel embroidery and I liked the shown camel in full regalia so much, that I decided to make my own - not a camel, but an elephant, decorated with the usual indian attire for a riding animal. of course I didn't have all that much time yet, but I managed to spin some fine grey-marled alpaca and a mix of one thread of this alpaca and one fine thread of brownish tussah silk, to stitch in a bit more than just grey. of course the real fun with this project is the deco, for which I am going to use some of the leftovers of my silk scarf and some newly dyed fine silk yarns - still to be done. the howdah will be embroidered with thicker tussah silk in natural beige, I hope this will look like a basket material when finished. (Kokiri, my elephant lady, does have feet - and the parasol looks a bit different in the drawing too - but it didn't fit onto the scanner in one go.....)

what totally baffles me is the reaction to this workshop. usually we have lively discussions, plenty of questions and a lot of resonance. this month must be one of the quietest that I have experienced in the group so far. now, either everybody is veeery busy spinning and stitching - or there is hardly anybody interested in this kind of work - I guess it's the latter:(( I don't know why though - I had great fun designing my projects and even more now in following the crewel work. we had a few people writing that they will eventually start something, but I don't set out much hope in seeing finished projects. nothing to be done about it - at least our time wasn't a total waste, as each of us has finished projects to use or to give away!

when I am not working on those projects I am working on DS's new winter sweater, in the strong colour mix I showed earlier. it's easy to knit, very soft and pleasing to touch - and the kg of fibres was done very quickly too. not mashine washable - but what the heck, we don't often have really cold weather and the sweater won't be worn all the time like a fleece.
I am also working on some gadgets that are called "huettenschuh" in german - socks with leather soles underneath. the sock is knitted like any other handknit sock, but in thicker yarn, a 6ply. the soles I bought ready-made, they are suede underneath to give a better grip, have a border sewn around with holes it it to first crochet around and then sew them to the sock. I have some of my own (nice and warm), but Michael wanted some too, so he'll have them as a small (we are not prone to give away new cars, long holidays or expensive jewelry in our family:)) present for our 10th wedding anniversary next week..... which leaves the cushion for his favourite chair in front of the radio and his alpaca dubbelmossa still to be finished - for which he received vouchers a while ago!:)) I better get them finished before the next christmas is looming!
next on my list is the dyeing for the hummingbird challenge, 5 colours, which will be spun and later knitted into a lace shawl with "feathery" patterns. and of course I have to spin more of the grey alpaca, together with black and white - to work on the projects for christmas! I have to dye two colours for the pattern I want to knit, though I am not sure yet which one to choose. two purple/lilac tones or two reds - with white, grey and black. I was thinking of dyeing with just one colour - but put in some white and some of the grey to get two different shades that work well together.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Sunburst bag for Janet

Janet, I promised you more detailed pictures of my bag - this is the one I use at the moment, more ornately decorated and a bit stronger in colour! I used a lambswool singles, dyed with brazilwood on alum - a very strong red. from a friend in Berlin I received a bag full of different guilded brass wheels, normally used by watchmakers. I knitted them into the front, simply by slipping the opening over the stitch. the embroidery is more detailed too, but again I used the "once-off" mixture by Oliver Twists. the little wheels are held only on one side: to avoid them sticking out after felting I stitched them down on the loose side.

the make-up of the bag is easy: you knit two "pi" circles first. for this I cast on 9 stitches on 3 dpn and knit one round. I doubled the stitches by working a yo after each stitch (don't forget to knit the last yo on the needle - they tend to "vanish"). then I doubled the number of rounds, well, I knitted 3. again doubling the stitches, then doubling the rounds, ie. by now you should have 36 stitches and you should have knitted 3 rounds after the first doubling and 6 rounds after the second one. you work this way until your circle is big enough for your needs.You could simply cast off now and work the long narrow rectangle that forms the handle. for this you just cast on as many stitches as you like, I think I had 15 or 16 for my bag. it forms the handle and the middle part of the bag, so knit it double the length you want your bag to hang - but don't forget that the felting shrinks it in length quite a bit!

I felt that the rims of the circles needed a bit more work to look nice, so I didn't just cast off. I worked one row of knit 2 together and yo and continued with 4 or 5 more plain rounds, then cast off. I then put the rectangle in around the circles, so that an opening remains (the rectangle was sewn together along the cast-on and cast-off first). then I used some sewing thread (anything smooth like cotton will do) and folded over the rim along the "hole" round to form a "toothy" edge. I sewed it down with the sewing thread on both sides, loosely with a basting stitch. this makes the edge felt together and defines the rim better - see in the photo. after felting at 60 deg. C in the washing machine you can pull out this basting thread.
the handle part rolls in on itself and is felted together to a roll - which makes the handle more stable. you could of course knit it with moss stitch or all in garter to prevent the rolling up, if you prefer a flatter handle.

if you have doubled stitches and rounds to say 24 rounds - but would like the bag slightly larger (working 48 rounds might end in a huge bag!), you can adapt the size easily too. work another round of increase - but don't double the stitches! just increase for every second, third or fourth stitch. then work the following rounds accordingly, i.e. don't double the amount of rounds, but work 1/2, 1/3 or 1/4 the rounds - and you still end up with a flat circle. if it still looks a bit wobbly you can either block it before sewing it together - or pull it into shape after felting, when it is still damp.
you can decorate the bag as you wish, but don't forget to add some sort of closure. here the folded over seam comes in handy! you can either sew it close around the opening too (when doing the basting) - or you can easily leave a small bit loose in the middle. if you put in a small piece of cotton fabric or even plastic, it will keep the folded over edge from felting to the main part and you can add a bag magnet after felting. just pull out the fabric or plastic and add the magnet - it won't be visible on the outside. you can of course add a closure with a loop on one side and a tassel to pull through on the other side (my bag has magnets and a tassel - but no loop, the tassel is just deco and used up a few of the leftover embroidery threads). if you like you could also knit a rectangle and sew it to the inside as a small pocket for coins, pens, keys etc. - but don't forget to put a piece of fabric or plastic between pocket and bag or they will felt together!
everyone is welcome to use this pattern, even copy it for friends (it would be nice if you mentioned the source:)) - but please don't start to sell it for yourself - or I'll be very cross when I find out!!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

long time no see

I haven't had much time lately to look after my blog; the workshop for the OLG kept me busy. now the major files are uploaded, I can finally manage a small entry again. not that I finished all that much! I just about managed another "pi bag" (two circles, with a handle in between) as a present for my aunt with a teeny bit of embroidery on it. it's dyed with natural dyes, tea, phormium, chestnuts, cherry bark etc. - and put into the wash cycle once after assembly. the green and olive yarns are from Oliver Twist's "once-offs" - I desperately need to buy new ones in november on the knitting & stitching show in dublin. last time I was in such a rush after spinning on the guild stall, that I must have passed her stall without noticing it:( not good for my stash:)) of course I could dye my own - but there are usually 7 or 8 different threads in one bundle, so I'd need to stock different rayon, viskose and cotton yarns - plus the colours that go with those threads. natural colours aren't very good to use for this kind of material and the multicolours don't work so well either. we'll see, maybe I will buy at least one cone of some of them (she usually offers white material for dyeing too) and maybe some basic colours of a suitable dye and try my luck.

one small embroidery, because DS pestered me for so long to have something "harry-pottery" again. really more suitable for Halloween, but he likes it anyway. in reality the red is more fiery and less pink, but you get the drift. the pattern is from the small booklet dmc published some years ago. there are more like that on his wish list, but for now that'll do.
the other bit I managed was one sock, not really special, just simple regia "india" sockwool. a bit of mindless tv knitting - the second one is in the making.
I am very much looking forward to more spinning soon, I suffer from withdrawal symptoms - haven't touched the wheel for at least 2 weeks:( and some dyeing, I need to test which colours to use to get the lustrous blues, greens, reds and golds for my chosen hummingbird! we did push the deadline back a bit for that challenge, as we all suffer from the same problem: lack of time (or lack of more hands....). once I have the rest of the space dyed merino finished for DS's sweater, it is all go on the alpaca - high time, as I don't only have to spin but also knit it - before christmas! did anyone notice that the years seem to go shorter??? or is it just me?