Wednesday, 19 October 2011

crabapples anyone?

I could open a shop - just with crabapples, at least for a while:)) I am picking and picking and making juice, but the trees don't look as if I picked much at all. if I had a very small garden with only one tree in it - it would have to be the crab apple "Evereste"! in spring you get a cloud of white-pink flowers - and towards autumn the small apples shine red in the sun (if there is any that is:)). I wouldn't recommend eating them, they are small and extremely acidic - but they are brilliant for juice or a jelly, pinkish, when the apples were allowed to ripen fully. ok, you can get a darker reddish jelly if you use "Red Sentinel", and it looks really pretty - but the apples are the size of cherries and you'd need a whole orchard full of them to get enough apples:))
another two buckets full, one only evereste, the other has another variety at the bottom, looks similar, just less red - forgot the name, we have quite a few of them:)) golden hornet has yellow apples, as the name says, but they are quite early and this year they have some sort of scab. don't look terribly inviting, so I just use the nice ones - choosy:)) the rest of the apples are a few eaters, very small, nothing much on the tree, there never is (bad location I think!). the rest of the green ones are cider apples, I'll use them to make more juice, by steaming them....the small bucket in front contains ornamental quinces, which are extremely hard and quite small - but have a sensational scent and make a lovely jelly or jam, if you can be bothered to push the pulp through a sieve. I usually add cinnamon and or cloves - yummy for winter! the small brown "things" represent our pear harvest.... no words necessary?:)) 
when the weather is reasonable (we only had a few light showers today!) I am outside, but if not - I'll keep the dye pot going. remember the not very exciting yellow I managed with alderbuckthorn berries in cold vinegar? the one at the bottom... I thought I'd give it another try, picked a handful more of the berries and heated it all up with some water, too. I added alum mordanted wool - and bingo, I got a lovely green, which was very hard to catch with the digicam. it's bright and "shiny", if wool can be called that. at the bottom of the upper left pic you see the original yellow - didn't like it, put it into the pot again - at least it's green now and not another not very nice yellow:)) not the colour you can get on silk (right), but better than nothing. anyway, this was it from the rhamnus tree - I hope for a better harvest next year!
I also spun more purple - see the header picture. it's half wool, half silk, dyed with logwood on alum... on the knitting front I managed a bit of progress with the Moiraine scarf, but not much to show really. and I did a few "fillings" on my house hanging.... not terribly productive but all the "topping and tailing" of the tiny apples takes quite some time! 

Friday, 14 October 2011

foggy autumn days

you can see above how our autumn days look - and have been looking for weeks. everything feels damp, even though we have temps of about 12-15 deg. C - quite mild - nearly (irish) summer temperatures:))
but at least the yucky weather means that I don't have to have a bad conscience about the lack of gardening progress. instead - I knit... or spin, or do other textile things I like! this is my take on the hitchhiker idea, though a bit short for a scarf. quite soft though and I think it can be worn with a shawl pin as closure to keep it from slipping off. not at all my colours, it's going to go into the giveaway box....

I also finally finished and ironed my small houses - all that's missing now are a few trees and other bits in between. and a "frame" made of fabric of course, as I don't like picture frames for my embroidery all that much. it's quite large - I hope it'll still fit the wall space I made it for!

the last few weeks haven't seen all that much spinning, but I did manage two skeins of alpaca, dyed with logwood leftovers. I still have a lot of darker purple to spin; not sure what to use it for, but I still want to make a revontuli shawl - and the yarn might fit the bill.

I still have some pre-mordanted tops in storage, so when I picked the few ripe rhamnus berries I could find I remembered that I read somewhere about berry dyeing with vinegar. essentially most of the berry dyes are supposedly light faster, when soaked in vinegar. I put in berries and vinegar and added some wool top - in the hope that some of the deep purple liquid might attach.... hm, disappointment - no purple, just yellow. the tones on the left are done with ripe rhamnus berries on silk, with a normal dyebath, simmering in water etc. not really worth the bother of using all that vinegar, I'd say. well, now I know - if I have a better harvest next year again, I won't waste the berries for this!

I also needed a simple knitting project for those evenings, where I am too tired for complicated cables and such. I stumbled across a new KAL - the pattern is called Moiraine. this is only a test for now. I would like to use the pattern for a narrow silk scarf in dark blue (handspun), but I need to see how it looks before I start to go off buying expensive beads etc. the yarn is nearly black (with purple parts) sockwool, dyed with logwood, and some lustre beads from my stash. the patterns seems easy enough, but I think my beads could be a tad bit bigger.... 

last but not least the food: elderberries are quite scarce this year (again), but I managed to pick enough for two large jars of juice. I still have two from last year, which should be enough to fight colds during winter with a hot "elderberry grog" and maybe a bit of elderberry brandy as well.... nice gift for christmas, I found last year:))

Sunday, 9 October 2011

my first socks ever!

no, I didn't just finish my first pair of handknit socks.... I stopped counting a long time ago - but I received a very nice surprise package last week! in it were the first handknitted socks I received! ever! most people probably think that as a knitter I can make them myself  - and of course I can (and do). but it is so much nicer to receive them ready to wear like this:
 very colourful - I could probably see my feet in the dark with them on:)) I would never wear a cardie, sweater or any other larger garment in those shades, but for socks I love bright colours! they are fun and I only wear woollen socks in my Birkies anyway, which are not exactly the most elegant outfit to have. and even though it's not terribly cold here yet, they are very snug and comfy to wear. and they fit:)) which doesn't come as a surprise as the knitter, my oldest niece, has the same shoe size I have!
Sandra also sent me a little notebook, handmade - covered in purple paper, because I "complained" in her blog that I would prefer one in purple - hint, hint:)) thanks Sandra, though it's much to nice to be used.......
in this weather, drizzle or rain, some wind, grey all the time - there has been no progress in the garden, but I cannot bring myself to weed or dig in the constant rain:(( good thing I am not prone to depression! this weather is really going on everbody's nerves by now! someone talked about a golden october some time back - unfortunately they didn't say where exactly we can find one!

on the other hand I've been working on several projects inside. I am still knitting the Snapdragon flip-top mittens from Ysolda Teague, in black alpaca - the first christmas present. and I had planned to work her Damson shawl next, most likely with the pink/black silk/alpaca yarn I made recently. it has a pretty shape, but not too much pattern, so that the two-coloured yarn won't take away anything from a more complicated project. a while back I bought both of her "whimsical knits" e-books and I am quite happy with many of the designs; they are pretty without being fussy - but not too simple either.
but - unfortunately I got waylaid by something else... I stumbled across my "spring" handspun, a soft blend of merino, silk and soysilk, naturally dyed last summer. it literally fell down in front of me, when I was looking for something else - so I couldn't just ignore it:)) I am not really all that keen on knitting patterns that have been going through pretty much every blog - but I decided to give a "hitchhiker" my own spin. the yarn is quite chunky, so I decided to make larger steps on one side, a kind of giant sawtooth edge, while the other one is smooth (in fact I made it even smoother by knitting an attached i-cord:)).... my scarf is shorter, and more crescent shaped - unfortunately I couldn't take a photo, because the weather was wet all day today and yesterday - and the light was dysmal inside:(( I'll take one as soon as we have a few dry hours (or minutes?)

and there are my little embroidered houses - I have to do just one more to fill a hole on one side. I did the school and nearly finished the toy store, all I need now in my little town is a fashion shop:)) and a few bits and pieces in between - bikes, dogs, statues etc... I'll take a photo once all the main houses are done - and might just start the Christmas SAL in between, urghs... I know, I shouldn't, but just now this is very tempting - probably because of the ugly weather! or maybe because I heard a radio program today, lyric fm, the irish station for classics and jazz. I didn't believe my ears when all of a sudden this afternoon I heard a swing rendition of "oh tannenbaum". honestly! not quite what I expected in mid-october, but hey - we're just 10 weeks away!!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

more finished "bits"

I finished a few other things - first you have projects in progress everywhere - and all of a sudden there are cleared out corners that need to be filled again:))

this is the test knit of a "spinning bag" - pattern available (german and english) via ravelry. I had no problems with the pattern, there were a few minor alterations, but nothing major. I didn't use the given yarn but took some lambswool I dyed myself. normally I'd knit this yarn with needle size 3.5 to 4 mm, but I've used it in felting before and found that the texture is nicer, when knitted on larger needles to give room for shrinkage. I used 5 mm needles - and when the bag was finished it looked more the size of a sailor's rucksack:)) I have never been tighter with any yarn! to finish the i-cord around the opening I had to use the dark wool for the handle loops and cut off the leftover yarn from the cast-on! I had just enough left to sew in the end, not an inch to spare:) I also ran tight with the darker brown for handles, so instead I used a third colour, also naturally dyed. this one was done with tree lichen, a colour I dyed many years ago. it's unbelievable, but the smell of the lichen is still recognizable after so many years and 2 washing cycles at 60 C.!!  which proves that natural dyes are quite wash proof! and gives the bag a nice "psychedelic"scent:))
this is a close-up of the handles - I used i-cords to sew around the handles - the original pattern used small rectangles.  you can also see the i-cord along the opening.

this is the end result - after felting in the washing machine twice at 60 deg. C. with a few added towels, but without washing powder! it's always a risk to use this, when felting naturally dyed yarns, because very often the colour change dramatically! usually still nice, but not always so - I didn't want to run the risk of ending up with mustard/grey yarn colours:)) the light sandy brown was dyed with the flowers of NZ flax (2nd bath), the darker brown was dyed with cheap irish tea. and the handles with lichen... I enjoyed the knitting of Bea's pattern - thanks for letting me do the test knit!
I am thinking of using this pattern again - this time for a smaller bag. I'd use sock wool and instead of felting the end result I'd knit the whole thing in double knit. this would avoid the constant crossing of threads while knitting and give a stable lining, too. of course it would take more time, but still - I like the pattern a lot and think it's worth the work. alternatively I had the idea to make a "fibre bag" instead - similar basic pattern, but instead of spinning wheels I might make my own chart, with a lot of different fibre names plus maybe a handspindle here and there? we'll see.... probably not before christmas though!
after finishing the two letters I also had to keep working on my houses in x-stitch! the designer of the SAL, Renate, was kind enough to make a post office esp. for me, I just changed colours a bit and added a post box. the weird thing the subconscience can do: when I checked the post office recently - there was in fact a poster in the window with some strong orange around! I chose the colour in the window totally at random - or so I thought!! it's not an exact replica of our local post office, but it comes pretty close, even though Renate has never seen the real one....  

I have a few more to go, right now I am working on the school. after this I have a fashion boutique to do and maybe also a kitchen supplies shop, depending on how much empty space I have left on the fabric. I did the zoo already - and when those houses are done I have to add "fillings", small charts that fill the spaces between the houses. I am still undecided about adding a small cottage such as ours.... but if I don't finish soon, I won't be able to take part in her christmas sal - which I definitely want to do.
it's a shame though - I checked my supplies for this and found fabric in different colours. but not enough christmas green and christmas red embroidery yarn - can you believe it, with all those boxes full of threads.... off to find an online shop for embroidery supplies....
I finished the batch of black alpaca/pink silk, I should have plenty of yarn for a shawl; haven't decided on a pattern yet, but it's very soft and silky and I am tempted to knit with it soon!

I also finally finished the blend I made for the spinning demo I did in july - which leaves the lendrum empty and ready to go for a bit of christmas spinning:)) the yarn on the left is a blend of lambswool, silk and some soy silk, all dyed naturally - plied with a commercial tussah silk. I like the soft muted colours, but they definitely won't be for me - I can't wear those autumnal shades or I look gravely ill....
to avoid an empty bobbin on my wheel I started with some logwood dyed lilac alpaca on the louet - I just have to decide which bigger project (apart from the green/yellow cuddly blanked...) I'll knit next!