Monday, 20 June 2011

trying out beading

I've been spinning all those batts I made for the demo spinning some weeks ago. funnily enough my favourite is the "mopping up" batt, mostly white with the leftover fibres of the batts I did before:)) the white is white alpaca and merino, very soft, and the few other colours look a bit like marble to me in this yarn. I think I have to do some more like it - or similar at least, lots of white and only bits and pieces of added colours, grey and pink maybe, to match marble colours?
I only had one batt of the blue/rosy colours - because the dark blue was a leftover as well. never mind, I do have other yarns in those colours and I think I can mix and match.... 
 I am still spinning the last batt with grey/white/black plus some pink. at first I thought I'd add beads when plying, but then I remembered the arcticle in the latest spinoff, about adding stuff while spinning. I wanted to add clear glass beads with silver lining, to make it look like dew drops... it was quite late, when that idea hit me and I was too lazy to hunt around for grey or black alpaca - you need longer fibres to attach beads like this. it looks quite drab in the photo, much better in reality - I think!
eventually I decided to not go digging around my stash - and use handdyed teeswater top for this. it looks yellow in the photo, but it is actually a may green - and I like the resulting yarn. the good thing about spinning in beads on loose fibres is that the beads are fixed and don't slip around the way they tend to when added on another ply! getting the beads on the fibres is another matter - you need to fiddle about a bit to find a suitable needle - which goes through the bead, but has a big enough hole to get the fibres in as well:)

this morning, after one of many showers (again) I saw this blend of colours in my (handmade) "stone" trough - looks like tapestry to me:))

off to spin the last batt of grey/pink - I might even be able to finish plying with a simple grey commercial yarn that I already dug out this morning....

Saturday, 18 June 2011

change of set-up

I have been thinking about doing something to my spinning wheel ever since Peter Teal wrote in the OLG about changing the brakes. and I finally did - change the brake system! I tried it first on the louet, old wheel, does look "used" by now, so that it wouldn't be terrible if it didn't work out. but it did! the main problem I had with the normal wheel brake system (piece of leather, adjustable with a plastic screw) was that I could never "mark" the position of the brake. if I'd spun part of a fibre, did something else and came back to the first one - I was never sure just how tight the brake had been. no way to measure it on any of the wheels I know! why not?? Peter Teal (the man is full of brilliant ideas about spinning, wheels and spindles etc. - just look at his articles in SpinOff!) had the idea to use some weights instead of a screw of any kind. so I looked around in the shed for something suitable and found simple metal washers. of course they are not exactly beautiful - but you could paint them with varnish or something:)) the first thing I did was to weigh them all - they are between 3.4 to 4.3 g each, mostly around 4 g. I jotted each weight down on the washer with a lasting felt pen. if I remember correctly Peter used a sort of metal hook to put the washers on - but I just couldn't find the right material for that. so I grabbed a crochet hook and some leftover cotton yarn (I am a textile fan after all, right?:)) and made a little sack for my washers. the diameter is slightly larger than the one of the washers, to make adding or taking out easy. I made it longer than it would need to be - I tried it out and when I put in all the washers it can carry, the brake is fully on and the bobbin/flyer is barely able to move....
no need to put in that many, I think so far I used between 7 and 10. it's easy to make a note on a card for each yarn you make, just calculate the weight - and if you need to go back to make the same - add the same amount of washers! of course there are other things that influence the yarn results, but at least you have one more thing you can measure in handspinning! you don't really destroy anything with that set-up either - you can change over to the old system just by taking the sack off and putting the screw back in!
I made the small hook by bending a larger nail - no shop bought suitable sizes were available:)
the one thing I did miss however after removing the screw was my "holder", where I could wind the yarn in process around to keep the twist, when not spinning. I used to wind it around the brake screw. winding it around the hook/bag wasn't great, because it was fiddly to take off again. so eventually I asked my husband to fix a small timber knob in front - this stays on permanently now - it works great and doesn't look terribly intrusive either.  
the brake system of the Lendrum upright works similarly, rubber band with string tied up to a timber knob - but not at the front; it's located at the back behind the flyer. the set-up would be the same though, just make a loop at the end of the brake "thread", hang the hook/bag with weights there and off you go. can be changed back again as well. I kept the timber knob, because it would be easier to use when travelling than a dangling sack full of washers:)
the normal spinning head of the Lendrum has the hook pushed through a small hole at the front. this is where I usually tie up my yarn in progress. when I started to work art yarns on the plying head though I discovered that there is no such hook on this! you don't need a hook to push your yarn through that orifice, because it is so large. but if you wanted to tie up your yarn the only place would be the brake knob - quite far away at the back! so now I am the proud owner of a Lendrum plying head - with an extra knob at the front:)) 
looks ok to me and is very practical! 
of course I didn't only "decorate" my spinning wheels, I did spin a lot on them, too. the black merino is finished and ready to be wound into balls. the other stuff on the lendrum is still in process - but I can show you pix very soon.

I did get a bit waylaid though, when I saw a batwing shawl pattern here. I liked the shape of the small shawl, so I went and dug out the wollmeise poison yarn I had problems with before. I started to knit following the pattern, but I had to change the needle size. and I don't really like garter stitch... and anyway I needed a few more stitches in the middle part. I do have 50 g more on that ball than is used in the pattern. eventually I decided to use needle 3 mm instead of 3.5. and knit stockinette instead of garter. and use 21 instead of 11 stitches in the middle. I worked 4 instead of 2 edge stitches in garter and to avoid rolling along the middle of the cast-on I attached an i-cord. because I wanted it to be a bit more interesting to knit I added the bat pattern of book 3 by B. Walker:)) essentially I changed everything apart from the base shape of the shawl.... when I started to knit the first bat I realized that I didn't think it quite through after all - because if I just followed the pattern, the bats would be upside down! and they don't usually hang like that with their wings spread out, do they? after a moment's hesitation I decided to just turn the book upside down and work the bat like that. of course it looks slightly different because the stitches don't "stack up" normally - but the bat is still visible even in non-blocked state, so I'll just keep on knitting until most of the yarn is used. I am not sure how far I can knit yet, either I'll finish with another i-cord - or maybe, if I have enough yarn left, I might add a narrow lace border at the bottom, too....
I am still not perfectly happy with the way the yarn colours work, but I'll finish it as it is now. the downside of many of the multicolour yarns is that a lot of the patterns don't work out too well. the skeins look fab - the knitted results don't always do!

Sunday, 12 June 2011


I have received an award from Sandra, the "versatile blogger award". thank you - if versatile means "dabbling in everything" it might be in the right spot here:)
I already thanked the award giver (is that a word?) and linked to her blog. the rules say that I am supposed to hand this award over to another 15 people, but I don't know all that many bloggers and most people, who might even be a bit flattered by receiving the reward - are usually not terribly keen on sending it on. so - even if the world comes tumbling down on me as punishment - I'll let it end here:))

I am also supposed to write 7 facts about me, that people don't know about - puh, here it goes:

1. I am a gardener - but most of the time I wish someone else would come and do all the hard bits and jobs - so that I'd just be left with snipping off a few wilted blooms here and there and maybe plant a few nice new plants, whenever I feel like it!

2. I like cooking - and baking even more - but I am actually not really all that keen on eating - chocolates! I know, I am weird, but I prefer liquorice, esp. the "adult" stuff that brings tears to most people's eyes! (I have a feeling that I've told you that before somewhere?:))

3. I always tell people that I am not a "jewelry person" - and it's true, I hardly ever wear any. if I do go somewhere I might just remember to put earrings in (and sometimes I even put on my wedding ring, ahem:)) - but other than that - niente. the really weird thing is that I like making jewelry! I make stitch markers, earrings, even necklaces - but it all ends up as giveaways (ok, I kept a few stitchmarkers, but do they count as jewelry?)

4. like my niece I don't like the telephone. I prefer emails, where I can. I can choose when to answer them, they don't interfer with things I want to do (or have to). I don't have to justify why I am not up yet, still up in the early hours etc... for years people couldn't believe that we didn't own mobile phones! we do have one now - but it's never switched on, it's here purely for emergencies! I could happily live without a phone - if the taxi driver agreed to come out on email pre-order:)

5. I love natural dyeing - I have a pot going nearly all the time. but I am still reluctant to do indigo dyeing. I have the stuff here, I even have the chemicals, but for some reason I have only done it twice (apart from those fake times, where I used ready-prepared "saxon" blue) up until now! I am looking forward to all the results of those intrepid dyers, who went to ISEND to find out more about the "fructose dyeing" - so guys, keep going and I'll follow in your footsteps:))

6. I love reading - ok, that's not news for people who know me! I read somewhere that a person devours books - yep, that'll be me, alright. if I can't read at least a bit for any length of time I miss it... what I don't miss are those people who think they can judge people by the books they read! I read a lot and very often I read books that I've seen reviewed somewhere else. I don't like all of them, but I do read quite different styles all the time. sometimes I read books just to see how the main character in the book keeps going, even though I don't find the rest of the book extremely thrilling. no need to wrinkle your nose, just because you don't like the style or even that particular book. some people like reading mills & boone - so what, does that make them bad people? I'd rather have people read books that I personally don't like - than not have them read at all!!

7. I am no good at speaking in public. it's kind of ok, when I only have to talk in front of a few people, esp. if I know them. but doing a talk in front of strangers, big no-no, I wouldn't sleep a wink even days before the date! I still remember those days in school, where we had to prepare a paper/talk to present in front of the class:(( I hated it, even though I do like to prepare the paper itself! any written work, no problem, I'll do it - but doing the actual presentation... let's just say I am glad that those days are over:))

so, now you know a few more things about me - nothing earth shattering I suppose, just those odds and ends every person has in his or her life....

oh, and did I tell you that it's still raining:(( I actually did manage two hours of pricking out and re-potting plants yesterday evening, but there are still bucketloads of plants and I can only hope that the forecast is true for tomorrow and the day after to finish the rest of the job! of course I am still knitting (grey DS sweater) and spinning (black merino), but nothing exciting to show for it just yet....

Monday, 6 June 2011

june bank holiday

june bank holiday is always the date for the Ballyhaunis summer festival here. I haven't been there for quite some time, but earlier this year I was invited to grab my spinning wheel to demonstrate.... I had my doubts, because I have no stall or marquee to sit under and I didn't want to sell anything (i.e rent a stall), so I had to sit "on the pavement". the weather hasn't been great these last few weeks, but on thursday and friday it was quite hot (ok, for us at least:)). my worry about rain turned to worries about melting in bright sunhine - but only for a short while, because the weather forecast put me right again very soon after! it was going to be cool and showery... well, what's new - for the west of ireland? only, yesterday morning it drizzled.... one of those days they call "soft" (= dripping wet, not with squally showers, but with constant persistent drizzle...). and drizzled.... and drizzled... you get my drift! I wrapped everything into plastic bags and waited for my lift. we came into town quite early, nobody there yet apart from a few early stall holders. lucky for me the shop, where my allocated space was, is closed on sundays. I decided to just take my chances and set up wheel, folding chair and folding table right in the shop entrance - and started spinning. I think every single visitor, who stopped to look at me spinning mentioned that I had chosen a very "cozy" spot! I don't know about other people, but cozy evokes something warm and comfortable for me:)) ok, I admit I should have worn socks, but somehow I didn't think my feet would get quite so cold in summer! I don't get cold easily, but at lunchtime I decided to do something about it, before my feet might fall off or I'd get chillblains! I rushed to the local supermarket and bought - acrylic thermo socks:)) I know, it's a disgrace for a spinner and sock knitter, but then the choice in a supermarket on a sunday was rather limited and I wanted the warmest socks I could find there.... after putting on the socks the rest was a doddle - and of course soon after the weather picked up, the rain stopped, the sun came out - and with it loads of visitors! I think everybody had a good time after all - even though I staid in my shop entrance, because with the sun a cool wind blew down main street.

I didn't see much of the festival, but I met two other spinners and talked to countless people, about wool, about natural dyes, about spinning and wheels - even about Indian charkhas and cotton spinning! I was astonished to see how many people from Pakistan (we have quite a large community of Pakistanis in town - Ballyhaunis even has a mosque!) apparently knew about spinning and wheels, even though the traditional wheels there look quite different to my modern Lendrum. I was also surprised that a lot of older men were very interested in spinning - they all reminisced about seeing it as children, though again the wheels would have looked very different. smaller kids of course are always curious, when they see gadgets they don't know and colourful stuff they can touch...
all in all I spun for about 8 hours - and this is the result:
 I carded some batts on saturday, roughly only, to get a bit of colour on the wheel. I didn't bother to blend very carefully - a few lumps and bumps didn't matter and I was able to spin without looking too closely, when talking to people. I made three batts each, apart from the white and the lower red/blue in the right corner. the former was some white south american top (a lucky find in my stash, nearly a kg of white top on a roll = perfect for some more dyeing sessions:)), which I blended with the leftover fibres from the previous few batts (I don't like to throw away fibres, but I think there could have been a bit more leftover to see more of it in the end result. well, if it's too white as yarn - I can always overdye it!)

I used the plying head with large bobbins, so that I didn't have to change the bobbins all the time. this is a blend of merino, lambswool, some white angora, some green soy silk - the red was madder dyed, the rest... I think the greens were both dyed with reed flowers, but I am not entirely sure about that. too many small dyed balls in green and yellow! without labels of course.
 this is my "witch mix" (the flash brightens the colour, the original is much darker; see above) - some naturally black alpaca top, some black merino, some purple corriedale, pink merino and some glitzy angelina - oh yes, and some wicked green, but only very little. it looks dark and sinister but seeing the glitter in it made a lot of little girls go ooh and aahh:))
I think I will add some green beads to the yarn later, to make the yarn look even more witchy and evil:)) I had planned to fix them by spinning them in, but I decided fiddling about with small beads stringed onto some longer fibres (alpaca?) might not be the best idea for spinning demonstrations....
I also took a basket full of handspun samples with me to show. which proved that everybody always goes for the coloured designer yarns first - you can see if the visitor is a spinner as they are the only ones to grab soft and squishy special fibres from the mix, even (or perhaps because?) when the yarn is fine and evenly spun and undyed. on seeing this photo I realized I have to do some more bright reds very soon, and maybe something in yellow, too!

weirdly enough we had another festival exactly on the same dates as the one above. this is in the neighbouring village of Aghamore - a music festival, designed to challenge  other big do's like Oxegen etc. we had our doubts whether or not this will work out (the village is really small and where would 5000 visitors come from?) - and so far we haven't really heard much about it. I admit that I don't know any of the names, but that doesn't mean much; I wouldn't exactly call myself a connaisseur in that area. we were just glad that the noise level was bearable - but I wonder if it was a success or not. I suppose paying 60 euros for one day would be rather costly, esp. if you don't want to go all by yourself? they had quite a list of vendors on their homepage, but you couldn't reach any of them if you didn't pay the ticket price to get behind the fenced off areas:(( so no buffalo burgers for us!
the last picture shows my reward yesterday evening after 8 hours of spinning:)) ok, it was a leftover from saturday's birthday cake (DH), but it was nice to drink a hot cuppa (and wear proper woolly socks again, though I have to admit that the thermos were quite cozy on my feet, despite being acrylic) and eat something nice with it.

oh yes, and if any of the organizers of the summer festival read this entry - well done - and thanks for the nice surprise at the end of the day:)) and, of course, thanks for the lifts by two volunteers.... 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

lazy blogging

I am doing it again - thinking I should blog about things, but then not making the time to do so:(( bad habit....
I have been busy with lots of things, but it's one of those times, where I do stuff all over the place, but hardly ever finish things to show:(( looking on the bright side: the weather is finally picking up, at least for a few days we have sunshine predicted and higher temps going with that as well. high time, the last two weeks we barely made it to 10-12 deg. C - more like late autumn than the start of summer! you can see it outside too - 4 weeks ago everything seemed to be too early for the time of year, but the cold weather has set plants back to their normal levels again. I saw the first elderberry bushes with flowers - a sign for us that summer is here.
the garden is a jungle just now - esp. "nice" if you try to reach the tunnel after a shower and get drenched from the wet leaves that grow too close to the entrance:)) my punishment for not cutting back the hydrangea that grows there! on the other hand - half of europe is complaining of drought - you can't have it both ways!

anyway, I did some textile things, too. I don't know where all that yarn went, but I finished winding my last bit of sock wool from the large 3.5 kg cone. I know that I dyed a bag full and I knitted a few pairs, but surely not that many? does anybody know what happened to the rest of my yarn? I have no idea, honestly.... I had some coffee that smelled (and tasted!) quite stale, so I threw it in the dye pot to boil it up. this is the result:

I put the skeins around a dowel again, the light colour was only dipped into the liquid briefly, to take the contrast of the naturally white yarn out. the medium colour is from the coffee dye bath. I tried to deepen it more, but the contrast didn't turn stronger. so I decided to cheat in my "cafe latte" yarn and overdyed part of the brown - with cutch. now I do like the contrast though I am not terribly fond of brown (socks)....

I also have to mordant more fibres and yarn; I have 4 skeins of sock wool left, each with 100 g, but I think I'll have to get in some more or I'll run out of yarn to dye very soon! not good right in the middle of the dyeing season:)) I do still have some very fine pencil roving, but it's not very stable and I would have to spin it up into a singles yarn first. it comes in flat balls, which I don't want to dye as they are, so I'll have to put a bit more work into that first.
I am also spinning along with the black merino, which spins up nice enough, but is rather boring. I don't yet know which pattern I'll work, but it is going to become a shrug of some kind. I finished the first 1 1/2 skeins, but I don't think I'll need the whole pound. so maybe I'll start knitting before I have spun all of it after all.... decisions, decisions:) I am spinning on the louet, because I have several other things on the bobbins of my lendrum. and some solar dyed superwash fibres on the second bobbin of the louet, so that I have to wind half of the black merino onto a ball before plying. too much choice on the wheel makes me careless with my work, I think! but it's tempting to put a bit of colour on the wheel in between all that boring white and dreary black. I am going to sit and spin on sunday of our summer festival this weekend, and I think it's nicer to look at when there is some colour going on during spinning! good excuse to get the drumcarder out again, isn't it? I prefer to spin my "comfort yarn" at shows like this, because you have to talk to people a lot and can't concentrate terribly well on your spinning. that's why I don't usually take fibres for special projects to shows - I prefer to just let fibres "run onto" the wheel, never mind a few lumps and bumps here and there!

and then there's the new addition to our household - meet Elvis:
Elvis is a baby penguin - a present from my friend I received yesterday. he looks very cute, with a fluffy tummy, grey (large) feet and small beady eyes - and he was called Elvis because his black head looks like the king from behind:)) I also received the book behind Elvis - lots of colourful patterns in "Fearless Fair-Isle Knitting". when I checked the pattern close-up I realized that the sleeveless hoodie on the front cover is done with only two yarns: cheating fair-isle with multicoloured yarn:)) I still like it though - I just found online that I can get the Crystal Palace yarns from several suppliers in the UK as well! very tempting, but maybe I should finish a few other projects first.
I also ordered the design book by Shirley Paden - I think it's time to do a book review or two very soon... if I can't finish anything else I can at least dwell in new books:)