Friday, 23 May 2008

busy, busy

at the moment the days seem to be too short to get anything done properly.... preparations for our visitors, work in the garden, doing presents - not to forget trying to get something done for the running workshop of the olg! but I have to set priorities - that's why I finished cleaning out my wool room (aka guest room...) yesterday. all the washed fleeces were packed into plastic bags - with moth balls, just in case. they all went into the turf shed - only for 2 weeks, mind you, I don't wont any nasties lurking there to move into my fleeces! I have to admit that I finally took the plunge and threw some older bags out, some with wool so tough, I could have used it as wirewool. others quite dirty and not at all tempting to spin! I did find some nice things too - some useful for the veggie dyeing, such as hemp, kapok and linen. others just plain nice - satin angora, camel down and yak:)) once the visitors are gone I'll have plenty of small bags to play with! who am I kidding - I received a parcel yesterday - filled to the rim with nice, black (but unwashed) lamb's fleece of a Zwartbles! the colour very much like the black welsh, but the handle seems to be softer - as far as I can judge it from the unwashed fleece! it had to go into the shed too - our visitors don't like the sheepy smell of fresh fleeces as much as I do:))
to finish off the room I finally managed to make up the lamp shade that I had "in the making" for quite some time now! I knew I had some copper rings as a base for a lampshade somewhere(bought for one in painted silk decades ago....) - but I had to dig deep to get them out! to my amazement the knitted part (made out of handspun ramie) fitted like a glove at the first try, no measuring, sheer guesswork! I wanted it to look like an upside down cone, but decided at the last minute that I also wanted some corners hanging over the ring. the result is a cone with three triangles hanging down, weighted down with some pieces of mother-of-pearl, shells and beads. and a few glass marbles for the middle, as the shell deco wasn't heavy enough to weigh it down as much as I wanted! the result looks a bit oriental, but I like it - and DS does too, as he asked for a similar one for his room!
I also received some nice presents in the mail - the two books of lace knitting by M. Kinzl - and this handmade roll-up for my sock needles! with "knitting yarn fabric" no less! I filled it immediately - well, at least with those dpn I had in my overflowing box - the rest are still in use, but there's enough space left for all of them! thank you, Sabine - I rarely do receive handmade presents! usually I am told to make my own, as I do so many things myself.... but that's just not the same:)) pity that the circs. don't fit into it - I have to think about something like that for storage at some stage, as the timber box is too small for all of my needles - and the longer ones don't fit the cd booklets available!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

real "whackies"

even though I am rather busy at the moment (visitors coming in less than 2 weeks - countdown is running....) - I just couldn't resist spinning something entirely different - and not at all artificial! a few days ago I stumbled across a small bag of thistle down, which I collected last year - but didn't manage to use yet. so I decided to make up my own blend - the first one is a mixture of black welsh mountain - with some dandelion fluff! roughly handcarded, just for a test.... the carding was easy enough - though I ended up with quite a few loose seeds on the patio - which I cleaned off as we already have enough weeds sprouting in between the slabs! then I spun the yarn today in a long draw, which worked quite well. the black welsh isn't very soft, but suitable for sweaters and other outer wear, I think. and the colour is pretty special too, the darkest of the natural browns I've had so far! medium length, so good to card into rolags too. the only problem I had was that most of the seeds dropped out during spinning - more cleaning of the floor - not a good thing when spinning inside, on a carpet maybe! but the fluff stayed mostly in the mix and this is the result of my test:

it looks a bit like small bits of feathers - and that's where my new idea came from! wondering what to do with a yarn that's probably not suitable for washing (otherwise it might start sprouting dandelions!) I decided to do some other mixes; first of all the thistle down, then some feathers I collected over time - and if I can get hold of some, maybe a bit of cotton grass fluff too. I would still like to complete my squares for an "irish" wallhanging (two of the squares are done. we got them back after the hanging from the k&s show - done by the connaught group - was taken apart) - and what better material to use than wool from irish sheep (I received two fleeces of black welsh from another member of the group) with materials mixed in that grew around the area? I like the idea and I think I might just do a small square in tapestry weaving .
I hope I'll find the time to do some more in the next few days - but we started to do mixes with the "normal whackies" in the workshop as well - and I didn't even try out all the tops I have here....pity that I don't have a tumble dryer - maybe one could mix the fluff out of that with some fibre and spin it?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

"whacky fibres"

Whackies to follow - but first a picture of the sunset from yesterday evening. the day had been rather hazy, even cloudy during the afternoon, but all that vanished and the sun came out nicely for a brief visit before it set.... the Nephin mountain looks a bit like a volcano with a smoke flag rising out of it:)) but it's not - the area (quite far away from us) is boggy and heathery and not at all like a volcano (at least not one I would imagine!)
but now to the Whackies... we have begun a new workshop in the OLG at the beginning of may - whacky fibres. now, what falls under that hat? of course the really whacky fibres are the ones that are not obtainable from any shop, such as cotton grass, milkweeds, broom or even dandelion and thistle fluff. but there has been quite a development in the commercial fibre area, too! I am not sure that all of them are really necessary, but I wanted to give them a try anyway. so I ordered a few samples from Ros at Forest Fibres and received my packet on friday (of all the days - I had to leave the bags and do the shopping first:))). I already had some soy (on the upper left corner, apricot colour), some linen (white upper right), bamboo in white (lower right) and viscose (lower left - all tops). the rest are ingeo, banana silk and tencel above the card and trilobal nylon, milk protein and black diamond bamboo below the card (all from left to right).
the fibres are very different in looks; while ingeo, black diamond and milk protein are all very fine, they are rather matte in appearance - the black diamond (more grey than black) looks like the pelt of a mole! the banana fibres are super shiny - but a bit of a mess. I didn't try to spin them yet, but apparently they give nice yarns either spun from that mass - or carded into rolags.
the tencel looks pretty much like the viscose, feels similar, too. the trilobal feels as artificial as it is - I suspect I'd use it in blends to give a bit of sparkle, but not as a yarn in pure form!
all the fibres I tried so far have a slightly "dead" feel to them; no crimp, no elasticity, even though it seems to be quite easy to spin fine and even yarns. I am waiting for the part in the workshop where we do blends - in the meantime I'll try the rest of the lot to see how they spin up - so far I did the soy, the bamboo and the black diamond bamboo' all of them worsted or semi-worsted, and all of them fairly fine and even, in 2ply.
I am not too sure about the production of some of them either. ok, soy is supposedly done with leftovers from the tofu production. I am all for using what goes to waste otherwise - but what about the milk protein? wouldn't that be useful in feeding others - rather than use it for fibre production? and nearly all of those "new" fibres are produced not like linen or hemp, directly from the plant, but like viscose or tencel, i.e. with a chemical process, where everything is turned into a "liquid" of some kind, that is pressed through nozzles later into another chemical (acid?) to form fibres. I am aware that producing other fibres doesn't work without water and energy either - but is it really as "eco" as the producers want us to believe?

just a bit of colour at the end of my entry - I couldn't resist the shocking pink of the pelargonium. it looked nearly dead over winter, but recovered miraculously and is in full flower just now - a change from all the light yellow and light purple that is covering the countryside just now (primulas and violas). the bees and bumble bees go haywire over it - though I don't think that it has much to offer as reward.......