Monday, 29 October 2007

colourful felting....

we are going to go to the knitting & stitching show on thursday - and this year DS is happy to be on the train, because he can take his nintendo ds and play all the time! I tried to buy one of those sets where there is a cover for the gadget,
but couldn't find one around. of course for a knitter that's not really a serious issue - as long as the recipient is allowed to choose the colours. he chose a strong red, dyed with brazilwood, from the stash. and a dark purple, dyed with logwood. I have knit-felted with this yarn before and had a sample to check for the size. to make the fabric as strong as possible, I knitted squares with two colours - the yarn led along the back gives a nice cushiony effect on the inside, but it felts tight enough not to get in the way when in use - no lining necessary here.
I knitted according to the sample, sewed the sides together and cleaned up the ede with crab stitch around it. I thought it might be better to do it later - after the felting - and I should have done this, as the border is slightly wavy, again! not too bad on a small project like this, but it wouldn't have looked great on a larger bag! for some reason crochet doesn't felt as tightly as the knitted part does - something to remember for a coming project!
then there's the colour change! quite dramatic
again, esp. in the red and purple. a bit more subtle in the second project - a cover for the digicam (it has a small bag, but it's only covered with elastic on the sides and I don't want it to be damaged accidentally during the pushing and shoving at the RDS). it always happens when I felt knitted bits in the washing machine that are dyed with natural dyes! I've had beige change to mustard and yellows change to moss green - and now red to purple:)) it seems to be done by using normal washing powder as it doesn't happen when I felt without using this. brazilwood has had the most stunning changes, from wine red to strong pink or, like now, from strong red to purple. it's not down to the purple of the logwood - as this has happened before, without any other colour in the wash! something to be explored more fully in the future, I am sure...
now everything is well prepared for the show - the wish list is written, all the gadgets are safe - the only thing we need now is a willing taxi driver and hopefully no major botch-ups with irish rail! we have had the most bizarre trips in the past - and I just hope that everything is going ok. I do like adventure holidays - just not when only a day trip to a k&s is planned:))

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

the end is in sight!

I can't believe that I am still fiddling about with those apples! we had 5 buckets from all other trees together (quite a few!) - and nearly 7 from a single specimen of "everest" (could be renamend into avalanche:))! unbelievable really. I wish my normal apple trees would carry only a quarter of that amount! the juice from crab apples is quite aromatic, but there isn't all that much else that can be done with it. and how much apple jelly can 2.5 people use in one year? but of course we can't leave the apples hanging. when they drop they make a rotten mash on the ground and it kind of goes against the grain of self-sufficiency anyway (and who knows how next year is going to be?).....

on the textile front I am still working on a quite boring project. when my friend came with a kit of a guinea-pig in cross stitch, I volunteered to do it for her as she doesn't do cross stitch (no, don't ask, I don't know why she bought it in the first place, but she loves the little creatures and can't resist anything with a picture of them on it). it's not all that big really, but I have been working on it for quite some time and half of it is still unfinished:(( the reason for this is simply bad design. it's made from a photo by one of those cross stitch design programs. this works very well if a good base photo is chosen, e.g. a painting of some kind or a photo with not too much detail. other than that it comes up with single crosses in odd colours, that make no sense really and fuss up the whole design:(( apart from that it's difficult to see because the symbols for the colours are too similar to each other and not easily distinguished. it's not a good idea to choose four different triangles, all in full black, for a small design like that! normally I would just throw the stuff in the bin - but I promised and now I have to keep my promise! lesson learned: be careful with promises like that:))
I have been spinning a bit here and there, but not as much as I should given the fact, that I still have to work lots of yarn to make several xmas presents! somehow the days are really getting shorter, not only the daylight hours! the only thing I did get on with a bit was Stefan's colourful sweater. I finished front and back in a basket weave pattern and just need to do the two sleeves now, should be finished fairly quickly. if all else fails I just take it with me on the train next week. people always look at me funnily when I fiddle about with a set of sock needles:) maybe they are afraid of being attacked?

then there is the knitting & stitching show in Dublin next thursday. a whole day just for a few hours of browsing and hunting for a few materials. but I could use some bits and pieces that are difficult to find over here - even though I know already, that I am going to be rather annoyed with all those stalls that have nothing whatsoever to do with either knitting or stitching or any other textile crafts! again... "same procedure as last year, miss sophie"! and of course there are no stalls for handspinners - apart from a few lucky finds maybe on the felters stall. two years ago they had small bags of different fibres in natural colours on offer, but I couldn't find them last year. might be down to me running around in a mad hurry though - I didn't even see Oliver Twists - a mainstay for me normally! even though I have a bad conscience about it - I won't be spinning at the irish guild stall this year as the time is just too short for me, when I have to catch the train:(( this should leave me enough time to for browsing, I hope!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


I bought two balls of regia bamboo sock yarn early this year, and started to knit. I had just finished the rib of the first sock, when I saw the interesting pattern by Cat Bordhi, published in vogue knitting last year. frog, frog - but then I realised that I'd need to use the yarn doubled up and with shoesize 42 I was afraid that I wouldn't have enough for this. eventually I decided to buy another lot later, and more this time, to try it out - and use these balls for simple lace socks. ok, they were planned for the summer - only, there was none at the usual time, i.e. between june to august, so I stuffed the knitting into a corner. until now (and no, even though the weather is reasonably good, I wouldn't call it summer) - with all the urgent projects finished I decided to give those socks another chance of life. the yarn knits up nicely, it's smooth and quite soft to the touch - might be nice for a scarf too, maybe doubled up to save time? it's reasonably elastic, because it's not pure bamboo - I am not so sure how it would feel in pure bamboo? one is finished - the other one halfway down the leg, should be done in a day or two more. (the lace isn't all that easy to make out - maybe I should have painted my foot black before taking the pic?:))

I have spun bamboo fibre before. the first time it was a small batch I bought at the K&S in dublin, a mess of fine white fibres with a funny "chemical" smell.... not difficult to spin, but not quite as nice as the soy fibres I bought at the same time. it lacked the lustre and the softness of the soy, so I didnt' think all that much of it. then I found a supplier of bamboo top - what a difference! not only did the fibres spin much more smoothly, the yarn felt differently, too! I used some of it to make dye samples and it even took natural colours reasonably well (lighter than wool and silk)! even though I read in the spinoff that it belongs to vegetable fibres, which don't usually dye well with alum and natural dyes! it still wasn't quite as soft as the soy, but with less twist during spinning and plying I ended up with a nice yarn for knitting (or crochet, I presume). it seems to be quite versatile, depending on how it is spun and I definitely will try some more of it.

I am not so sure though about those comments about its great value as a regrowable resource etc. the fibre (according to internet sources) is not produced like hemp or linen fibre. it is processed from pulp, rather like viscose, and to my mind this takes quite a few "industrial" steps - far more than wool, hemp or linen do. all regrowable resources - and nobody makes quite such a fuss about those? maybe it's because the bamboo feels nicer to the touch? I am always a bit suspicious about the advertisement of companies who claim to have "invented" the ultimate product - usually it turns out not to be quite so on closer inspection. I don 't think much about all the other properties claimed, such as being anti-bacterial etc. most people seem to forget that some bacterias are actually good ones (probably some buy bamboo because of it's anti-bacterial properties - and at the same time they buy pro-biotic yogurts to add bacteria:)) - and I don't feel I need this in my clothing. same for additions of aloe vera etc. in sock yarn and such. I have been knitting and wearing socks made from "normal" yarns for most of my life and don't really feel a need to change this. now, don't get me wrong: I am not totally green and fool enough to think that I am perfect in everything I do and use. I do use superwash wool, even though I am aware of the fact, that the production of it isn't quite blame-free! but I am not all that keen on handwashing socks, even though I am careful with the rest of my woollies.... enough work already and not keen on adding more to the list.... I just try to do as much as is practical to me, I feel that everybody has to make up his or her mind. I do use handspun untreated wool for socks too - sometimes, but they do take more care in washing, or I'll risk ending up with tough felted socks - too small for anyone to wear! now - back to finishing the other sock!

Monday, 8 October 2007

not exactly textile

I have been busy during the last days - finishing several things for workshops, cleaning up the mess in the workroom afterwards, some gardening etc. - we received the plastic for the polytunnel - but the weather hasn't been great for putting it up yet. eventually, when I had managed to get past the looming deadlines - I hit a "black hole", where I couldn't bring myself to do anything much at all, apart from the standby's such as sock knitting etc.

but I still had promised one thing - to help Stefan to build the wizard's castle. I bought him a book with cardboard pieces for this at the last guild meeting in the museum of country life - but it turned out to be quite fiddly and time consuming - and patience is a virtue Stefan doesn't really have in abundance! I ended up cutting, scoring and glueing everything myself, down to the last bits like flags etc. all of a sudden I was brought back to my childhood - I loved doing things like that and could spend hours putting together shapes and houses, though I used to draw most of them myself - there wasn't much available ready-made at the time.

and I remembered another project I always wanted to do - building a doll's house! I was never one for playing with dolls, but the building of furniture and putting up the rooms appealed to me! the downside always were the lack of space and the cost for all the bits and pieces a large doll's house includes. of course, making miniature quilts, carpets etc. might be fun too! and where to put this in a smallish cottage - and who'd clean it out every few days with all the ash from the range flying about?:)) it's simply not practical -that's why I decided to do something different: I am going to build a small "shed" like the ones in nativity plays. Stefan has a large box full of real clay bricks to build houses, and mortar for it - everything can be taken apart again just by soaking it in water. I have instructions for the necessary figures, the holy family, the three kings etc. in crochet and there is enough material to be found around the house to decorate this too. the good thing is that everything can be used for something else later - I have enough xmas bits and pieces of deco in all corners and don't want to add more to find storage place for!
of course halloween is coming closer, too! and this time Stefan does not want to be harry potter. so we had a look through a german catalogue of "Fasching" costumes... at first it was an old wizard that appealed to him, then he changed to a ninja outfit. the day I had planned to order fabric and pattern - he decided to be a devil! now I am going to order everything before he can change his ideas again! I have planned to make a large cape in black - this will have to serve for several years. but it can easily be redecorated later. I'll make a red tail, buy some red face paint and ready-made horns and ears. I'll decorate everything with some fabric printed with flames - and he already bought the "fork" in the local supermarket. the fabric should be enough to make a hood too - if lined with the flame fabric that has do be devilish enough for one outing!
and then - christmas! I know it's idiotic, but I am in a more christmassy (messy?:)) mood than a week before the actual celebration. might be the weather - or maybe the fact that I started looking for some patterns and decorations? I still have to frame some cross stitch patterns I made 2! years ago with suitable patchwork fabric to hang them up - or they'll fly about the workroom for another year. and I have to start my "to buy" list for the knitting & stitching show, which is coming closer fast!
I shouldn't really be dithering about - too much to do - as usual. I forgot to mention my trials with the new OLG workshop - nalbinding! not quite so easy, and the results so far haven't been in photo quality to brag about.... more practising might be useful!