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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

today's the day!

it's done - we survived 9 long weeks of summer holidays:) if you don't have a moping teenage son at home, you might not know what I mean - I do wonder how we'll manage next year, with 3 months of summer hols looming:(( who's idea was it anyway???
so today is the first day of 5 long years in secondary school for DS. everything is fresh and new and I hope he won't only suffer with homework and such, but have some fun as well! we did have several shopping trips for this, new uniform, new school bag, heaps of books and all the rest that is needed to learn arithmancy and ancient runes (or in modern life business studies and all the rest of the stuff:)). look at this mountain (13 kg!) of knowledge:
I wish it was all in his head -  a lot of knowledge he has to cram in! on the other hand - I love new books of all kinds and wouldn't mind another few years in school! maybe not with maths, I could do without that:)) but the rest I'd have no problem, as a matter of fact I already read through bits and pieces of this stuff!







of course you need more than just books and a bit of paper: we bought heaps of pencils, rulers, a compass etc.... in fact it's so much that he'll have to bring in two school bags tomorrow to get it all in! luckily they do get a locker to keep some of the stuff....
in the weather we've had all summer everything is "upside down" - we have strawberries now, but only had a handful during strawberry season... those are supposedly "decorative", but they don't only sport pink flowers, they also produce strawbs.... we'll see about the taste! I also "found" 4 small plantlets of "mara de bois" in an overgrown bed, which I put into pots to plant them out again, when the bed is freshly "made"...

of course we do have some seasonal berries - my one (and so far only) blueberry bush has ripening berries, not a large amount yet, but it's only from last year, so I was quite happy with the result.

in the header pic you can see "bad weather" coming closer... I had high hopes for a real thunderstorm - but unfortunately this is something that doesn't happen often here. we usually only get a bit of thunder (I seem to miss the lightning beforehand:(() and rain. and funny clouds - shortly after the thunder had passed we had this formation in the sky, which looks like somebody's tea kettle boiling wildly:))



this is the leaf of an "eddoe" - an edible tuber that I found in the supermarket last year. I had plans to boil it, but then never did - until I noticed sprouts coming out of one end. I decided to plant all 4 tubers, and they all grew well for a while - in the glass house! they even kept their leaves during winter, but eventually the two in one of the pots died. this one has been in a pot outside since may and the leaves look big and healthy. they are very smooth and the water forms pretty beads after every rain....

on the textile "front" I am still working on the green/yellow cuddle blanket I started months ago - because I just couldn't decide on another larger project after the grey sweater! I wanted to knit a tunic for myself, but the yarn is fine and it would take time to work on it - and christmas, even though not exactly "looming" yet, is coming closer! and with it the need for presents... I think I'd better start on one of those to avoid a bad rush later in the year.... I did however fnish the next house, this time it's a "pub", which I had to rename for a pub in our town. pity though that our "hazel" doesn't have such nice colours, never mind such pretty flowers! the last pic is a sunflower I embroidered for a birthday card; if we don't have a proper sun I'll just embroider one myself:)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

film inspired

of course I didn't just knit silly birds and such - there is always at least one larger project in the making, or tv would mostly be unbearable:))
a few years back DS asked for a new sweater and chose his own colourway. I was naive enough to indulge him, and even spun the yarn for it. we didn't have hard winters at the time, so he only wore it once or twice. then the heating in school failed, the kids were asked to wear something warm - and when he came home he swore to me that he wouldn't wear that sweater again! apparently some of the kids sniggered about the colours - and the fact that his friend and his friends' sister liked it didn't change anything! the sweater has been "in storage" since then, but of course it's now far too small anyway....

of course the one thing I realized was: I'll never waste my time for something like that again:)) so when a new sweater had to be made, it was to be from commercial wool. when the new hp film came out the immediate reaction was: I want this sweater... ok, in lovely "colourful" - grey... teenagers: they want to be special, but "invisible" at the same time? well, anyway, after a bit of a hunt I found a grey yarn, not too fine, but not too chunky either. it's mostly wool, but machine washable (puh, what a relief!) - and most importantly it doesn't itch!
this is the result:
not a spectacular piece, but at least you can hide in a throng of people and nobody will see you:) and it was perfect tv knitting; not too boring but doable without looking much...it's also large enough to hopefully last another year or two - because I am sure that he will want more "make me invisible" sweaters for some time to come....  
there was enough yarn leftover from the kg of yarn I bought to make two hats. at first I just knit my standard: 2k/2p rib at the bottom and stockinette on the top. you can imagine what it looks like, no pix necessary... but I still had more than 2 balls left, so I thought I'll give something else a try. I started with double knitting a while back, but so far I'd only done straight up pieces. I knitted the same rib, long enough to double it up when in use. then I worked 1 k and 1 p into each stitch, but with two balls of yarn. I worked double knit straight for a while - and hunted out how to make decreases online:) hurray for the internet! unfortunately I also came across several double knitting books, which I "had" to put on my christmas wish list....
this is the top of the hat - looks like a normal one? yeah, that is how it is supposed to look:)) if I hadn't made one mistake in crossing the yarns it would be fully reversible - though as it is DH and DS weren't able to see the mistake... this is now the "cold winter" hat, the other will do for the normal irish temperatures:)) one thing I noticed though: it would probably have made the job easier if I had used two different colours! using both of the same makes it more difficult to see which one works the front and which one the back.... the decreases are actually very simple to work, not fussy at all.... 
 I also finished my weekly dose of embroidery - the original was called hair dresser, "friseur" in german. only, the translation was too long for the sign! and the irish form was - weird:)) so eventually I decided to give it the owners name - not that I know one named Tessa, but a lot of the irish salons are named for their owner, so it fits... those are the "art nouveau" colours I mentioned in the last post:)) the weirdest thing was that the next design, the village pub, has some of these colours in the original! mental waves sent over to germany??? which of course means that I had to put the pub somewhere else, not too close to the salon....
of course life isn't all knitting and embroidery - you have to look after your stomach, too:)) the first plums were ready - those are small ones from an ornamental plum. small, but very tasty! unfortunately we have to wait now for the real plums, because we already finished the first batch - sheer greed:)) well, if all else fails, we just have to make waffles with cherries or a few muffins or whatever else will take our fancy this weekend! school starts next tuesday and I promised to "celebrate" the last holiday weekend with something "cakey"....

Sunday, 21 August 2011

some finished business...

slowly but surely the mountain of damp, but not yet dyed yarns and fibres has diminished. I'd like to show you photos, but every time I think I can heap the mountain of fluff onto the outside table - it starts raining again:(( or rather, by the time I've used the dry hours for gardening etc. - it does. but it needs the work now because very soon autumn will be here and it will be too late for many of the jobs! yesterday I had a lot of washing and after checking the weather forecast I decided that it's ok to leave it outside... tough luck, it's ok alright, but only if you like continued rinsing on the line:(( well, let's hope that the rest of the forecast hits it a bit closer:))

I did finish a few things, some houses in my embroidered village, a bird called Emma - and DS's HP sweater in grey.... so as not to be too bright:)) photos of the latter will follow as soon as I've managed to convince the new owner to put it on for about 30 seconds....
this is the bookshop in my village - drats, I forgot to upload my "art noveau" coloured hair dresser house... I changed the original design colours to a few I found in my stash box....
 and this is Emma - in contrast to DS she's not camera shy and posed in the hanging basket....
..... and among the parsley in the window box! I found the pattern on the coats homepage and knitted her in handspun cotton, with "legs" (ok, for her fat bottom the legs do look rather spindly, but Emma is a sitting chick, not a walking one:)) from handspun naturally green(ish) cotton and details in madder dyed linen tape... this was a first attempt and only after finishing I realised that the maize, which was added as the bottom filling to give it weight shimmered through slightly. the rest is filled with light grey fibrefill... I think I'll give it another try with thinner needles - and maybe larger eyes, too.... she looks rather sneaky:)) I'll also knit with dpn to avoid most of the sewing, don't know why the pattern used straight needles? and maybe I'll double up the green for the legs as well - to give her legs a bit more of a chance! this one was sent away as a birthday present - but even though I am not really a "deco" person myself, I think I'd like one of my own "Emmas" (any other ideas for a name?) dangling her legs off a shelf here!

I also knitted one grey hat from the leftover HP sweater wool - and started another one to use up the two balls I still had flying about. the first one was straight stockinette with a rib of 2k/2p, but to make the most of the rest, I am working the same rib now (which is long enough to be doubled up later), but will work double-sided knitting for the rest of the crown. DH is a "hat killer", who either looses them or puts them into hot washes, so two new hats might just be enough to last the coming winter (assuming there is one, but after the last two I'd be surprised if we didn't get snow and ice again....)

on the side I am still working the embroidery for my piece of bunting (not much to see yet) and following a KAL for the "wellenreiter" shawl - very loosely. meaning: while I have seen photos of finished shawls on several blogs - mine is only in the very early stages of maybe 30 cm of finished knitting.... not sure how much textile stuff I can fit in today - maybe a bit of spinning in the evening, but after crawling around in the garden for hours I am usually too knackered to do much more. tomorrow we have to go to town - DS's new school is open for "business", namely the selling of new and 2nd hand school books, of which two are still missing from his by now eclectic collection (weighing about a ton altogether! I think they should force the people who decided on publishing school books so that 3 years worth of learning stuff go into one book, to carry the results on their backs for a few days! I am convinced that they'd change that in a jiffy!!:(( or not, because they'd be at home in their beds with acute sciatica!!)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

two in one day!

no entries in july - means I have to catch up a bit! I showed you all the "old" projects (apart from one grey HP sweater, which is nearly finished, just 1/2 an arm missing....) - but I started a new one as well. I haven't done any cross stitch for some time, but when I saw a SAL on a german blog I thought I'd give it a go. we are working lots of small houses or rather shops - and we can use whatever colours we already have in our stash. given that mine is quite substantial by now I thought this might be the right project to use up a bit of that. every sunday we can download another house and some "embellishments" - so far I have managed to keep up to date. I did however change the shop names into english/irish ones and I also changed the church design, because a church with an onion shaped roof is absolutely unknown in ireland (or at least I have never seen one like it:)). sorry for the crumpled up fabric, I should really have smoothed it out a bit before taking the photo:)) by now I have added a few more shops, but I think you'll get the drift of the design.
so far I have a textile craft shop (with my woolly bits name over the door - my one and probably only chance to "own" a wool shop:)), a chemist and a flower shop. you can't see the cafe, the book store and  the bakery, which I've also done so far. eventually I'll personalize the whole town by adding a few trees, statues, benches and a dog or two in between:)) if you fancy having a go yourself - you can still download the free designs here - the blog is german, but that shouldn't be a problem with cross stitch designs.....

part of the problem with blogging (or the lack of it:)) was that I had promised to do a workshop about dyeing with our spinning/craft group, the connacht textile crafters. the date for the next meeting was end of july and I had to get all the materials ready for this in time. all in all I thought it went ok, but if I ever had to organize this again, I'd make a few changes. we had started out with natural dyeing, my favourite, but soon some people said: but what about procion dyeing, what about something easier to use than natural dyes? we agreed that two more people from the group would show one of each, procion dyeing on cotton/linen/ramie and dyeing with gaywool dyes as a third. which was overkill to say it carefully:)) we only had a few hours to do it all and it ended with members wanting to try each technique, but not having enough time. we also had too much material and not enough members taking part - which wasn't a problem on the day really, but meant that I wound skeins for weeks, packed stuff, pre-mordanted far too much etc. of course the material isn't lost, but I wouldn't have needed half as much time if I had cut down the list of materials - but who was to know?

 never mind - though I am still working my way through a big fat binliner full of pre-mordanted wool tops, bundles of fibres and skeins of wool:)) here are a few of the results (all done at home, with the mayhem at the meeting there was no time whatsoever to take pix - I was glad to manage a cup of coffee and a piece of cake in a short break:))
this was a bit of a worry - I thought I had soaked brazilwood, but have never had that stain my cotton nappies such a sunflower yellow! for a short while I thought that maybe it was mislabelled for fustic....
luckily it turned out to be brazilwood after all - judging by the strong red that came on, when I put the fibres in (it's not quite as bright, stronger and darker, only the flash brought out this "danger" red....) 
 this is part of the dye "harvest", some madder reds (the first batches were redder and darker, but were taken by members at the meeting). the sockwool is darker as well, but hanging below the stuff here - I'll take some more pix,when I have finished all the dyeing.
the dark pink on the left is mohair top, dyed with cochineal - I love the colours it gives, but after a few days in a pot it develops such a stink, that I decided to put the leftovers away, even though there was probably another dyebath left in it. it smells like rotten meat after a few days - which is essentially what it is, crushed beetles boiled up:)
there are more yellows, greens and cochineal burgundy, purple and lavender - but they are already dry and stored away for the time being. I'll heap everything up on a table, when all is done....


 the grey greens and green in front are dyed with black hollyhock flowers. this is a very interesting dye, because there is a marked difference in the colours on wool or silk. the green in front is wool, the blueish/greys are silk - if you dye a blend that isn't mixed thoroughly you get these double effects - very nice when spun up! when you dye a very well blended mix of silk and wool, like the top on the picture above, you'll end up with a greenish grey, which might not look very tempting at first, but goes very well with a lot of the brighter colours, when spun!
this doesn't look much like "natural dyeing" - but it is! India Flint calls it hapa-zome in her book eco dyes - and I took materials to the workshop, partly because I thought it might help to fill the time while waiting for dye baths to get ready - and partly because I wanted to try it out myself. not that I had time to do so at the meeting, but I tried it the day before at home:)) it is not as wash or light fast as the "normal" natural dyes are - but at the meeting it was great fun and esp. visitors with kids were enjoying the technique - with a lot of loud hammering as proof:)) of course you don't need a lot of strength here, but kids.... like it noisy:)) I used pre-mordanted (alum) ironed cotton fabric from a marbling session earlier. you just pick fresh flowers, arrange them between two layers of the fabric, add a piece of cardboard on top and bottom and hammer lightly until you have "printed" your design. you can steam fix it (the colours will change and fade eventually!) and maybe embroider a bit or use it as it is as a card inlay etc... just don't smash the flowers completely - or you'll have a job scraping the flower pulp off the fabric again:)) btw - the flower on top was a double flowering fuchsia - really a bit too juicy for the job. the two flowers below were red crocosmia "Luzifer" (perfect for this) and the greenish stuff at the bottom were flowering oregano...

so now you know that I've had no time for blogging - I hope I am going to improve on that now that the workshops are all finished...
back to the brazilwood dyepot - and maybe some knitting in front of the tv as well!

time.....

I can't believe that it is august already! where did july go? I have no idea, but I have been busy with all kinds of things. some of the things I finished:
this is the KAL I started belatedly - the batwing shawl, slightly completely changed, with more stitches, a bat pattern in the middle and some simple lace along the edge... I like it, but I'd like it even better if it was much larger:) I only had a little piece of yarn left though, making it bigger wasn't an option....
I finished the "wicked witch" yarn that I started at the craft demo day in june, but I still have the salmon/green blend on the lendrum - somehow I haven't found the time to finish that one.... the bits of strong green in the witch mix have blended in so well, that they are hard to see even in reality - maybe the witch wasn't so wicked after all?
this is a batch of 500 g of black merino that I spun two-ply for a shrug. it's meant to be a present, but I didn't even start it yet, because the intended recipient hasn't given me the proper measurements yet. it was intended for a 50th birthday, but if nothing happens soon - we can add at least a year:))  
on the other hand - not knitting the shrug yet meant that I was able to try out another technique I've had my eyes on for some time - double knitting. I read about it somewhere and found the instructions quite complicated, but when I read all of it again in a german book about knitting potholders as test projects - I found it quite simple to do. all you need is a bit of care when counting stitches. other than that you should be able to knit with 2 colours on one finger and knit and purl. really, not difficult at all - you knit one stitch in the colour you want at the front, and then you purl one stitch that shows on the back. that's it, nothing much to it really! there are however lovely patterns e.g. in ravelry - and of course it will be slightly more complicated when increases and decreases have to be done. I plan to buy this book, but it only comes out in september - the double knit socks esp. tickle my fancy! you can see a few of the projects as preview on the author's blog here..... I think the deadly potholders are hilarious - just the right present for a cook with "slight problems":)) it's always good to receive a health warning before dinner is served!
I also finished the grey yarn with the dew drop beads - it looks better in reality and feels quite soft, but I had a few problems with the beads: 
 you can see here that some of them were quite loose - after plying! the plying takes out some of the twist and a few beads turned out to be too loosely fixed. I was able to mend this by pulling out one end of the green fibres, thread it into a needle with sharp tip and "re-attach" it into the main yarn. but it would have been better and less time consuming to just spin with more twist:) well, next time I'll know better! of course it might also help if the fibres inside the beads weren't quite as slippery as teeswater... something with a bit more crimp might attach better to the fibres of the main yarn?
the last of my "older" finished things is a 3ply sockwool that I spun from several remnants of blue fibres, mainly corriedale, but also a bit of merino here and there. the real colour is less bright, but at the time I couldn't find the right light conditions to match it better. the socks will be a bit chunkier than with commercial sock wool - just the right thing for the coming winter.... our longterm forecast was for a winter even longer and colder than the last two:(( 
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