Sunday, 16 December 2018

are we there yet, are we there yet????

the last week before christmas it always feels to me like that - checking my to-do list and how many days are left is a constant now! sometimes I wish I could just book a nice swiss chalet in the snow for the 2 weeks before and leave without letting anyone know! I could bring my knitting or spinning and sit in front of an open fire, working away - or going out into the snow without worrying about how to get my shopping done or will the mail be there in time! I think christmas should be whenever I've finished all I had planned to (though that would probably mean it only comes once every 10 years or so:)
I've been working away on different things - but just now I realized that I've taken several "finished" pix with the tablet:( meaning - the pictures are still in there, not on the computer up here... well, that's technology for you! but I have a few things to show.
after our session of WWSIP in september, where I used my blending board to make that autumn medley I suddenly had the idea to make an advent calendar for a spinning friend. that night I didn't sleep well, because I constantly worked over in my mind how to go about it. and if I made a board full of fibre, wouldn't that give me more rolags in each colour? I decided to do a little calendar give-away for the group. but there are only a few spinners, most are knitters, some patchworkers... one or two don't really do anything textile... what to do for them? after getting up at 4 in the morning without any sleep I decided to do one for knitters with 24 small skeins of yarns, one for patchworkers, with 24 pieces of fabric - and one for those non-textilers - with 24 little pewter charms. I should have enough stuff in my stash - and it would mean that I'd get rid of some!
well, after a few weeks of just thinking about it I realized that most of the work is in the wrapping, not the collecting of materials! I wrapped the fabric in small paper tubes and glued them on a cardboard circle... bit of decorating, putting on the numbers, easy... for the charms I used matchboxes - the charms are small, so I only glued together twelve of the boxes, decorated them, split them in half - so the box can be used on both sides, like little drawers... now for the yarn skeins! the plan was to use toilet roll inners... but I didn't have enough collected in the short time! putting two skeins in each? no, too big. and how to close them, so that they could be opened easily? the whole thing turned into a bit of a packing nightmare - and the clock was ticking by then:) eventually I decided on putting the skeins and the rolags into paper bags. but making 24 for each of the 5 or 6 calendars would take ages... buying them? phh, they are either in huge amounts (5000 paper bags anyone?:) or quite costly. with the deadline coming steadily closer I finally realized that I could use paper sandwich bags.... of which our supermarket had exactly one pack left! for a hefty price, but so be it. together with the ones I still had in stock (I use them for wrapping seed heads in the garden, to dry and collect the seeds!) I nearly made it - only had to fold and glue four more by hand. but they were boring white, so I dug through my collection of stamps - and colouring pens... numbers on, now just the filling... you see the bags in the photo below... 6 x 24 - and the stamps took ages to dry, but it worked. two days before the due date (there's no point in sending out advent calendars too late - nobody wants to open 20 bags shortly before christmas:) I just had to do the rolags... which took me most of one day:)
sometimes sleepless nights can mean great ideas - sometimes it just means making a huge load of work for yourself:)
well, I only took pictures of the rolags - but the idea was to make two skeins/fabrics/charms/rolags for each month. and I tried to follow the year, so january = white/icy/sparkly etc.. if I had bought the materials for this, it would have been easier, but it worked out ok, I think - best of course with the rolags, because I could put together which colours I wanted. these are the 24 rolags for one calendar - you can see the tips of the other 3 sets above them.. and the decorated bags on the left..... after handing all of them out I used up the last fibres/rolags of each blend to spin up a ball of my own "seasons" - not sure what to make from that though... maybe something double knit with a single colour?


I also took part in an exchange of the OLG. send out a coaster and receive one from your exchange partner in return. I received mine from canada - but apparently my set of leaves is still somewhere in the post:( I liked the different autumn colours and used my handspun to make another set for my friend, though this picture shows them unfelted. I put the 2nd set in the machine and they all felted nicely. though the crochet pattern is more obscured, but they are denser - and of course washable now! they show how the leaves turn from green to....orange, some red - and brown and dry eventually... 
 we also had a secret santa in our textile group. the group decided years back that we do one gift to exchange in the group - and one to put into a collection for the museum staff, who look after us so well. which is always a bit more difficult, because there's no way to know if a male or female will receive the gift! eventually I settled on making a "spa basket"... the basket itself is made in tunisian crochet in the round, 2 colours, the brown is a linen/cotton blend, the natural one is sea island cotton, which is very soft - and stays soft after washing! I made a wash mitt and a wash cloth in waffle stitch, one of those scrubbie balls, and 10 face scrubbies (make-up removers) with a little wash bag...
after making the make-up removers I realised that they might be a good gift to make for a lot of female friends and relatives as well - so I spent a large part of the last few weeks with making small rounds in puff stitch... can do them in my sleep now, after producing about 60 or more of them... they all come with a little "basket" to store them and a lacy washbag so as not to loose them in the machine... swimming on the eco gift wave:) and making good use of cotton yarn leftovers...
I also made a double knit cowl for the exchange between our members - but the photo is still "in the tablet"... and I made another one of those in a different pattern for myself - but I still have to close the upper edge with a whole load of kitchener:)
So after I've done all the baking (still working on it) and the gift wrapping, parcel packing, putting everything together in the house - I'm finally going to be free to do what I want - in things textile I mean. a while back a friend of mine fell in love with Kieran Foley's crescent scarves... lots of colour, interesting knits - of course I was all for making one for her:) it's just finding the right yarns in the right colours... you can buy them, but either they cost a small fortune or they don't come in the colours she wanted or they aren't very soft or... there was always something. when the UK company World of Wools did a 20% off sale on merino fibres I thought I'd go for it... to have some choice I bought some of her favourite colours, berry tones and turquoise/mallard/duck egg tones... some grey to tone it down if needed, some darker purples (which I can use for myself if not needed:), a bit of sari silk with turquose to set it off and just in case a contrast is needed the golden yellow (I have enough yellows to play with the stash if I need to blend). I think the pink is a bit iffy in this set-up but I couldn't resist that hot pink:) now I'll send her samples and she can decide which colours she'd want. and which of the 7 crescent scarves she likes best...
I think I am going to spend the christmas week with spinning some of those colours - they are the best medicine against cold and grey winter days! oh yes, I forgot to mention that I bought 300 g of natural brown merino (I want to knit the hexahap in the Kate Davies hap book. have the main colour spun up, but needed a yarn for the edge!) - and a kg of natural merino, just in case I need to test a dye urgently...



Why am I not allowed to write on the side or directly below the pictures??? very weird... anyway, I also wanted to test silks they have on offer... this one is called red eri silk - a natural wild silk with the most beautiful orange-golden colour (not red at all though...) I only bought a test sample of this....
but I bought 100 g of peduncle silk!
it's not exactly cheap, in fact it costs more than mulberry silk! but it is really special - I love it! it has this natural brown colour (peat?) and is soft and silky, but not as shiny as mulberry silk. I am going to spin it into a fine 2ply for a cowl for myself. this is so lovely that it will be my christmas gift to myself:) can't wait to spin it up!
I think this will be all for now - I still have to do more baking, more wrapping and packing - and I should really do something about sunday dinner now:) have a good time before christmas!


Saturday, 20 October 2018

time flies....

.... I can't believe that it'll only be another 2 months and a bit - and it'll be Christmas! maybe it's because the weather has turned mild again after a few colder days? it doesn't feel like winter - though the leaves have pretty much fallen. I love my little japanese maple above. the colour changes from green with a slightly red tinge to this fiery red within a day or two! unfortunately that colour won't last long either - another week or so and it's bare - like now. there isn't much colour on the patio left, apart from the few red leaves on the blueberries it's only a bit of green and nothing else..... I am always envious of gardens in the subtropics at this time of the year - but then I'd have to suffer their heat during summer as well, so maybe it's all for the best😏
the good thing about the change in season is that knitting weather is back! I mostly spun during the summer, knitted only small bits and pieces, mainly in cotton - but now it's time for longer evenings inside in front of the wheel or with bigger, woolly knitting projects in front of the TV. and it's high time, too - the christmas gifts won't knit themselves!
I also finished the one skein of autumn colour I started at the WWSIP last month. I grabbed everything in yellow, orange, red, some lighter green and a bit of silk - to make rolags on my blending board.
 from this mess.....
...to pretty rolags only takes a little while. but what a change!

 ...to this skein. it looks like a lot, when you have a shoebox full of rolags, but spun up it's only one skein after all! I do like the colour though - it'll be a good choice for "autumn", when I put together some advent calendars I want to use as gifts....
to our great surprise we had our first walnuts this year! the tree is huge, but never did a thing before - maybe it's down to the for us warm and dry summer? anyway, I got all excited - not because I like walnuts (I do:), but because this was the first time I was able to use the green hulls for dyeing! of course I didn't wear gloves, when I found the nuts - so by the time I was inside again my hands had turned a lovely, deep brown already. no need to start wearing gloves  for peeling and chopping, but I had brown stained hands for two weeks or so:) good thing I don't work in a kitchen or restaurant!  
I had mordanted about 500 g of teeswater top already, because the original plan was to pick reed flowers to dye green. but either the weather was too bad to wander down to the bog - or I was busy with other things. there's no need to pre-mordant for walnuts, but it doesn't do harm either, so after simmering the nuts I immediately dumped a small bit of fibres in that hadn't taken up any colour in a dye bath with purple fungi! look at the full dark brown of that small skein! I added a second batch into the dye bath, about 100 g this time - and it's still a lovely shade of brown - even though I am not usually a fan of beiges and brown! I did do a third batch, which ended up a teddy brown - but I haven't spun that one up yet. a lot of colour for the hulls of about 30 nuts! I do hope for more in the coming years..... one good thing coming from climate change?

I am also still trying to spin up my fibre stash! this came as a huge white cloud (batt), 25 % cashmere, 75 % "himalaya fibres". it was a gift, but I assume that those fibres are very soft wool... it's nice and squishy - good for next to the skin items. I also learned to spin long draw with this fibre - works like a dream.... because it's so fluffy it's fairly thick for me - I tend to spin thread rather than yarn most of the time:)  
some of it I turned into this cowl. the german pattern is called  Teufelszwirn,  devil's thread, named after a plant, has nothing to do with the devil, bad vibes or anything like that! the cowl is knit in a lacy pattern, but the holes of that lace come out in unexpected places - and the cowl is worn inside out! the effect is rather 3 D - easy to knit, but I hope nice to wear for the recipient as well..... for me that cowl would only be wearable in the coldest of winter, but then my friend lives in Bavaria, where the winters are usually colder than here! (the pattern is available in english now!) 

for my cold winters I am still working on the second part of the scarf for my scood! on the first side there are dogs at the bottom, so this side needed some cats. I adapted a chart I found online, with a few paw prints at the bottom. I still want to knit a Harry Potter inspired cowl, but I couldn't resist adding "dolores umbridge" colours to this one:) 
the next pattern after a small peerie is going to be owls - which are nearly finished by now. only in hindsight did I realize that owls would be a good HP pattern as well... not sure what I'll knit up next, maybe frogs? or spinning wheels? or some graphic pattern? to be continued....  

and to make sure that I won't run out of spinning fibres any time soon, I used up the rest of the mordanted teeswater by dyeing it brazilwood red. I like madder reds, but they don't suit me. brazilwood reds however are "blueish" reds, which I can wear much better. this batch isn't going to end up as a garment though - I am still dyeing more teeswater for my "Persian Dreams" blanket! I still need blues and maybe some stronger greens, and of course enough spun yarn for the basic colour, though I am still not sure if that should be left natural white - or dyed in a darker colour? there are lovely photos on ravelry - but they make it harder to decide which colour to choose! 

the brazilwood comes in powder form - which I inherited from a late dyer friend, who sent me a kg of it last year. I am going to be very mean with it, because it's next to impossible to find anymore after the ban on brazilwood, but I did need to check if it was the real thing - or a replacement, some of which only give apricot or light rose tones!
the other "problem" I have right now is that the same designer published a new pattern - at least as stunning as the persian dreams! it's called Indian Nights and I think it's simply spectacular! I get itchy fingers just by looking at it:) and I could even make one for our own sofa, because the dogs don't seem very interested in it anymore, after we exchanged the very old bottom cushions for new ones. it's not cheap in the original yarn, but then it's not a pattern for a quick knit that goes out of fashion any time soon.... I am extremely tempted:)

but before all that I have to make my last batch of blackberry jam - so off to do kitchen duty!


Friday, 14 September 2018


the weather has changed.... you can smell autumn. it's wetter, windier and the sunny spells are less frequent - or it only seems that way because we had a decent summer for once? in the header picture you can see the bog down in the valley - the pink heather is mostly gone, left are the greens and browns and you have to get very close to find small spots of colour. scabious in lavender, the darker purple devil's bit scabious with the little drumstick flowers, elderberries, blackberries, some red, most black - and some light rose blackberry flowers in between:) the colours are all muted, but I like this time of the year. not so cold that you have to wrap up, but when you walk, cycle or work you won't melt either!
this is the time for pumpkins - not my own in the garden, because for some reason they never want to grow for me. but if I can't grow them - I can always knit some!
this is a free pattern on the net, but I didn't save the link. there are plenty of pumpkin patterns around though. I added the little tendril and the leave from another pattern... the orange is handspun teeswater, dyed with food dyes. the green is commercial sock wool, dyed with reed flowers.
it's going to go to a new home tomorrow though, as a little thank you. 
the socks are a bit late for the season, but I wanted them finished; they can "rest" until next summer. I like wearing cotton sneaker socks in my gardening clogs - the woolly ones are to warm for summer! why the colourway is called kiwi though - I have no idea! and I think it's the first time that I managed twin sock without trying...

I also (finally) finished DH's birthday present from june, ahem:) it was nearly done, but the weather turned so hot that I couldn't bring myself to knit wool tweed yarn to finish it in time. and even though the weather turned cooler in august, I lost my wool knitting mojo - it only came back at the beginning of september!
the pattern is a very simple, straight one, with a bit of "fair isle" basket weave at the bottom. the yarn on a cone (directly from kilkarra donegal yarns) is prepared for knitting machines, a fine singles, slightly oiled. this gives it a bit of an odd feel when spinning by hand, but once washed it has a very nice hand. my husband likes it warm and he loves anything woolly to wear over shirts etc. 
remember the colourful sweater my son didn't want to wear? this is the yarn after taking it all apart. it's a single, but with practically no wear it was easy to unravel. I think I will use it for a larger knit/felted bag for me, knitted in domino style, to make the short colour changes less fussy. have to do a sample first though - I always find it surprising how different the shrinkage rate during felting can be, not only with different yarns, but also with different stitch patterns and esp. between knitting and crochet! I have 750 g - should be plenty for even a larger bag.

but now I better pack up my stuff for tomorrow - because it's WWSIP - worldwide spin in public day! we have set up our first ever event at the museum, where our textile craft group meets - and I hope we'll have some visiting spinners on the day. the weather will not be great - but we can sit inside and spin away the day:)

Friday, 31 August 2018

another rainy day....

this day already started grey - and didn't improve! shortly after lunch it started to drizzle, first tiny sprays, but by now it's like a white wall of mist out there... no point in doing anything outside, drizzle is just as wet as rain - it only takes slightly longer to get drenched in it:)
it does look quite autumnal though - it's still too warm for autumn, about 18 deg.C, but often windy and we had a good bit of rain last week. humid - and my potatoes won't like it. I hope they don't "catch" blight - they have a bit of catching up to do, because I was late in planting them. the blue and pink fleshed varieties stay fairly small anyway, but pea-sized spuds are not really a delight to use:)
I did persevere with my boucle practice over the last few days - and eventually managed a yarn that deserves that name! not sure what to use it for yet, but at least it looks like boucle and has a soft hand! and it's all protein fibres, so I can dye it without much ado if I want to.
 in the middle is my first try, with linen = potscrubber. on the left the second, a bit better, but not really a boucle, it's too densely coiled. on the right finally a boucle - yay:) I think I'll have to buy new alpaca top to spin an amount that I can actually use for a project.... it's a lot of work - for quite a small amount of yardage!

Maisie is loosing her summer coat, she's shedding like mad. I've collected a box full of her undercoat in spring, and together with my "harvest" now I spun a small skein of "chiengora". one wash and the doggy smell is gone, luckily she doesn't have a strong dog odour - yet? in my experience most younger dogs don't have that pong that older dogs can develop... so I'll make the most of it now! this is the second small skein - I think eventually I'll have enough for a hat? oddly enough Maisie is a border collie, black and white - but the yarn is dark brown. very soft though.... 
 the last bit of spinning were two skeins of a three-ply. I spun two bobbins full of slightly rougher yarn and overplied them together. the last strand is a fine (softer) fibre from the same dyepot - I think a remnant of superwash? anyway, I put some clear, silverlined glass beads on it and plied it again. the skein on top is the leftover soft ply, chain-plied together, because I wanted approx. the same thickness as with the beaded yarn. now what to do with it? and when I chain-plied that last bit I didn't think and spun in the wrong direction! I was nearly done and surprised about the odd look of the yarn, when I realized what I had done - so I had to treadle like mad for double the amount and in the other direction to get a proper yarn:)
when I cycle to town, I pass a small stand of goldenrod, solidago virgaurea... usually the county council mows it around this time, so I try to pick it for dyeing. 200 g of teeswater top on the left are from that dye bath; a "cold" yellow with a slightly greenish tinge. the softer yellows on the right side are dyed with frozen dahlia flowers that I wanted to use up. I didn't have enough of my favourite red pompom dahlias, which give a lovely soft orange, so I mixed whatever I had in my bag plus a few fresh blossoms, which ended up a less strong dyebath, but still nice I think. the brown skein across is more teeswater, but from an older dyebath. as usual I have forgotten the dye plant - but I don't care:) it all goes in the bin for my "persian tile blanket".... now I just have to go down to the bog to pick a bag full of reed flowers - I do need a few nice green tones for that blanket!

to show that I didn't slack during my blog pause - here is a photo of a blanket I knitted for my mother. it's called stornoway. I used doubled up fine tweed yarn from kilkarra tweed, which fluffs up nicely after washing - perfect for a warm lap blanket! the main part was a bit boring (esp. as I worked on it during summer - not a good idea, too warm underneath:), just a knit and purl pattern, but I loved knitting the attached cable edging! I think I'll make another one for myself soon. I still have a small cone of this colour and another one of a darker petrol tone, which should go together nicely. 
this is an old sweater I made for my son many years back, which I dug out of my stash! I know, it's colourful.... I wouldn't have chosen that colourway myself, but he was a small kid and wanted this one - so I spun and knitted it for him. he was quite happy with it - until he wore it to school one day. normally they wear uniforms here, but they needed to repair the heating, so the kids were told to wear something warm that they like. he came back utterly crushed:( several kids told him that he looks stupid and that they don't like that sweater. he never wore it again, which made me so angry! not because of the work I put in but because he was made so unhappy and insecure that he never wore this again - and has pretty much been wearing dark, muted colours ever since:( I think I will frog the whole thing and make something else with it - a bag maybe? knitted and felted it should be strong enough - and if someone has a problem with me using it as a bag - they can stuff it! luckily at my age I have the luxury of not giving a hoot what other people think about my taste:)  

and to finish it off - here is a picture of one of two sunflowers the slugs haven't managed to finish off in the early stages! it's about 2.20 m high and has three flower buds on top - this big one and two smaller ones behind it! the downside is that I have to stake every sunflower here, because otherwise the wind will just snap them right off:( but I am hoping that the seeds will attract some finches again like last year, where we had a whole group of them partying on several big seed heads for days:)

Tuesday, 7 August 2018


logging into this account is like entering fort knox by now:( first it doesn't recognize my password (I had the right one, because I put them down in writing!). then, when I finally get a code to change it, I get complaints that it's not safe enough! I tried and tried - and finally, when I chose a very insulting one, it worked! apparently you have to use swearwords now to get into your account:) but don't forget to add a number or a sign - or you'll get another complaint....

ok, so here I am. change of plan - instead of more gardening I am going to stay inside - it's raining... I measured and calculated all my finished skeins of yarn instead and labelled them... well, nearly all of them. I didn't bother with two. one is a small sample from a fibre book I took part in years ago. I threw out most of them eventually (too high-risk for moths!) and kept only special ones. I think this one is very special - it's not made from wire! but it feels like it:) no idea why I kept it - maybe because it's a natural brown?
 I lost the label in the bag, so I don't know which breed it is. but it must be something double-coated! some double cuts as well, but I was able to pick those out before or during carding. some very long brown guard hair - which I tried to pull out. some wiry, dark brown "hair" and medium grey-brown main fibres. I wouldn't call it down - more like pot scrubber feeling, but I spun it anyway. and either it was poorly scoured or not at all - it was quite greasy, but didn't smell like unwashed. mystery fibres anybody? long story cut short: not something I'd buy in a hurry - I think I might give it to a friend, who can unspin it again to use as a dwarf's beard.... it's too small to be saved for rug weaving - maybe a massage glove?
the second small skein that I won't measure is - boucle! I've been spinning for so long, but I've never tried boucle before. I was re-reading part of Sarah Anderson's book about yarn design and because I had also found and spun a sample of white mohair, I thought I'd give it a try. of course it was late and I was too lazy to dig around for a base yarn, so I chose a dove blue commercial 2ply, I think a mix of viscose or silk or something else shiny with linen? anyway, plying the first time wasn't terribly difficult - as long as the base yarn has the extra twist released regularly! I thought maybe I should put it on a spindle and let it dangle, but as I said - it was late and I kept going. 
some spots are ok, nice and loopy.... 
 in others I didn't have enough "room" for the loops, they plied too tightly to push up properly - like here. the loops can't open if they don't have enough yarn to even form loops!
 and of course the yarn turned out quite hard - entirely my own fault, because I used a white linen yarn (commercial) for the binder. did I mention that I found the fine (and much softer) silk a day later? well, it looks like boucle, but there is loads of room to improve! I started a fine white alpaca for the 2nd try - I put the fine silk aside already - all I need now is a reasonably soft yarn as base. because it gets more twist added during the ply I think I should be safe with a commercial wool yarn... of course Sarah Anderson is absolutely right in saying that using all wool/silk makes dyeing your boucle so much easier! maybe I shouldn't spin all my stash - we might be doing a "worldwide spin in public" event in September - I hope I have enough fibres left by then for a day of spinning:) 

I couldn't leave without a picture of my favourite fuchsia right now! it didn't look like much after spending the winter in the polytunnel, but after re-potting and fertilizing it again, it has recovered splendidly! I like fuchsias in general - they have such interesting flower shapes, but this one has a very pleasing tone-in-tone colour, whereas most of my others have a strong contrast, either white-pink, white red or, very common here and even growing wild is "fuchsia" with a purplish corolla... and it has nearly round buds - most of the others are much longer and thinner. 
they don't mind the rain as much as petunias, they really flower all summer long, they even form edible berries (no great taste though) and they are easy to grow from cuttings - what else could a gardener want?:) they look like little ballerinas with flowing skirts, arms outstretched!

off to do a bit more alpaca spinning - and finishing my second shopping net. I changed the design of the base - so now I am going to change the handle as well!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

On time?

I am a bit late with posting the results of my TdF sessions... but first we had a lot of rain (no good light for photos inside) and then other things had to be done and it kind of slipped my mind. but today I found all of the skeins - and the weather was at least dry! so here are my results of 2 weeks of spinning:
doesn't look like all that much? actually it's only 499 g - but 2276 meters altogether! the last batch, the pinkish cotton, took a lot longer than the other fibres - it's short and I haven't spun cotton for a good while, had to get used to that again. but at least another small batch is done now; I just have to work up all those small samples and dye tests! and all of them are plied - so that makes it double the kilometers?:) I count the cotton as my challenge - though that makes it sound worse than it actually was. it's just a big jump from the smooth long-fibred silk to the much shorter cotton.
 this colour combo reminds me of neapolitan ice cream:)
when I had finished the cotton, I started on another leftover, a small amount of superwash wool, dyed with coffee a small eternity ago. the colour isn't too bad, but I don't like the feel of the fibres, artifical and somehow sticky. but at least it's done now - that was the very last remnant of superwash fibres I've had in stash!
on the right side is a sample of "Gentile di Puglia", not merino soft, but with a very nice crimp and super to spin with a long draw! it's bouncy and lofty and would make a very nice sweater - if only I had more of the fibres! it's from a fibre book exchange - and I have no idea where to find more of that.... but I am sure there are similar breeds available closer to home.
I handcarded that - and right now I have  light brown fibres on the wheel - no idea which breed, but fairly long, a bit rougher - and unfortunately with some 2nd cuts that I have to pick out. what a difference to the apricot silk brick:)

we had our crafter's meeting last week and I needed a small gift, so I decided to try a pattern for a "shopping bag" I found a while back. it should be washable, so I used some cotton for it. you start with a circular base and do the main part in a very open yarnover pattern. a simple and quick knit, but I found that I had to change the handle design a bit. it's obvious that the bag stretches when filled - but I don't like handles that grow longer every time I use them! so I knitted that part in garter stich as given in the pattern - but added a line of attached i-cord on each side. this makes it much more stable I hope. I started a 2nd one immediately, but changed the design of the circular bottom. I see "baggy" times coming, but they are perfect as gifts, so I'll make a few of them, but I'll change the pattern slightly each time - don't want to bore myself endlessly:)
  Pringles of course had to check out what I was doing - I am not sure that he approves, but he's a bit out of sorts, because we had to go to the vet with him today (nothing major, just a small injury on the chin - probably a bite from a fight...). giving him his AB 4 days in a row is another story.... dogs are so much easier to treat, at least when they are as greedy as ours. just roll it in a bit of cheese, they'll swallow it whole! with the cat we need one person to hold him, and another to stuff the tablet in, hold his mouth shut and blow into his face until it's down... which usually gets both persons nicely scratched and a huffy cat running off under a shelf or cupboard! why don't they develop a nice, fishy tasting tablet just for cats???

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

time's ticking.... for the Tour de Fleece

.... only a few more days to go and I have the feeling that I didn't spin all that much! the cyclists certainly had a worse deal:) but I did finish the apricot coloured silk - and the handle is lovely. I think it would make a nice cowl or even longer shawl. it only weighs 117 g, but has a yardage of about 750 m! that's not too bad for a single skein and I am sure that I'll find a nice pattern for it - something lacy I think! I'll admit though that the pink of the rose isn't exactly a great match😉

I also dug out two smaller balls of narrow top - I think this must be soy silk, because it is just a narrow band (and doesn't smell like silk when wet)... the silk above was from a brick, much wider and I had much more to spin. both of those together are less than 50 g - and they're already spun and plied! I plied both with a light grey wool/silk blend - but it's dripping wet and not terribly attractive just now! Originally I thought I'd make two separate yarns, 2plies. but it was so little that I know I'd only end up with two balls of yarn that are never used.... as it is I now have two full bobbins of yarn - enough for a proper project.
I am not sure what I'll spin next - first I have to do a small "in between" knitting project as a small gift that's needed on saturday - so today (and tomorrow?) are going to be my rest days during the TdF - after the change of the challenge days there isn't much left of the original structure - I am just spinning away without restrictions... but I think I'll grab one of the chunky skeins of teeswater from the shed again - maybe the minty green tone? more yarns for my Persian Tile blanket.
but before I go (more watering to do, what else?) I should really introduce you to the "new" member of our household - very belatedly! this is Maisie - who has been living here for more than 2 years now. after Dobby died we only had Minnie left (and the cat, of course), and the house felt so empty that we decided to look for another dog. Dobby wasn't able to walk much anymore and I wanted a dog that's fit enough to go on walks with me, so I contacted the local MSPCA if I could come and look. Maisie was about 1 year old, fully grown and scared of people! well, no, not scared, more like terrified. she most likely hadn't been socialised to humans at all, left in a barn or shed to herself, the poor dog.  it took me a good while to gain her trust, but eventually she realized that we don't mean her harm - and after a few weeks she was totally changed! she's still afraid of strangers, but around the house she's happy and carefree - and she loves walks, running around in the bog and playing with Minnie and the cat - happy ending?!  we don't have many visitors, if we do she can hide if she wants to - other than that she fits in so well that we think we picked the perfect dog - for us at least:)

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Second week of Tour de Fleece

I think I might have prepared the TdF a bit better! Maybe I should have prepared small amounts of different fibres that I can finish every day - or at least every second? as it is I have been spinning several days of boring beige alpaca - then only a day each with small amounts, which was fun. now I am back again with spinning days of the same colour - not so much fun! but on the other hand, if I spun only a small amount of one fibre - I'd end up with my usual problem of not spinning the same way for both amounts. the beige alpaca proves the point: my first smaller skein from March is a good deal finer than the main batch from last week:( which means that either I have to use them for two different projects - or I'll have to fiddle about, using the finer yarn for a smaller bit of knitting, and the thicker yarn for the main part. and 250 g of it doesn't leave a lot of choice for projects, where I could use two different amounts:( the woes of hand spinning!

here are the two beige alpaca skeins - on the right. the rest are the naturally dyed fibres that I couldn't find for the last entry.I think all of them were dyed with madder, same dyebath, just different stages - and different temperatures! my favourite is the brighter red on the right - which must have been in the first dye bath, because it didn't get the higher temps of the others. madder turns brick red to brownish, when it gets too hot - and even though they all go well together, the brownish red tones don't suit me terribly well. on the other hand I barely knit woollies for myself, so no worries:) maybe I should start selling my skeins?
 after I finished the alpaca I dug out this sample of camel/silk blend. I think the silk is noil, lots of tiny white slubs - that are not particularly fun to spin. the picture isn't great, but I nearly forgot to take it - and had to use flash inside - or wait until the next day with the spinning... and I did forget to take a picture of the sample of white tussah - which spun up nicely - but was too little to use for a separate project. so I plied both of them together. I had a bit more of the camel - that's the browner part in the skein. it is soft, but nubbly and bumpy at the same time.

This is my latest TdF fibre - either silk or soy silk, I don't know. I think maybe the latter, but either way it spins up into a smooth, shiny single yarn. I will ply it though, as it is it's too fine even for lace knits. I know that I dyed it myself - but I have no idea what the dye stuff was. maybe I should keep better notes???
you can see how fine it is - even with the full amount the bobbin won't be full to capacity! the plying will take forever - I have to be careful not to start it late in the evening - or I'll end up with a late night plying session to prevent the cat "knitting" it up! he isn't interested in the wheel or the fibres lying around, but finding a small ball or the freely hanging plies is irresistible to him. the dogs don't really care, but sometimes they just have to climb to my left side - where the lazy kate stands when in use - which wouldn't be the first time with disastrous consequences....
during our hot spell (over now, back to the normal summer temps of 16 to 18 deg. C:) I dug out my embroidery stuff. after finishing an UFO I made 4 small cards to give away (yes, four, I sent one out too fast and forgot to take a picture). these two were for friends, who needed a bit of a pick-me-up...
... and this (and the missing one) were for birthdays. the other embroidery project in the works is a game board for "snakes and ladders" - which "rested" in my stash for a long time.
I don't know why, but somehow I cannot bring myself to knit much these days. there's a sneaker sock in cotton in the works, but if I can convince myself to take it up, I loose interest after a row or two:( I also have to finish the sleeveless vest for DH - not much missing, but I avoid it like the plague just now. I don't even fancy starting a new project - there must be something wrong with me! maybe I just have to finish with the TdF to find my knitting mojo again?

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Years later.....

... I had planned to write posts many times, but there was always something more urgent to do... but of course I haven't stopped crafting; I think you'd have to cut my arms off to keep me away from fibres and yarns! I did take photos most of the time, but if I listed all of them now, this entry wouldn't be finished any time soon...
so I decided I might show pix here and there from things I made during the last two or so years, but only if the projects were "special" - no point in showing you the umpteenth pair of ordinary socks etc.
for now I only changed the header - as you can see summer is in full swing here! actually, we haven't had a summer like this since I first came over! we had no rain whatsoever for practically a whole month (luckily we had a massive "downpour" - for an hour - on the 8th of june, which filled all of our tanks!) - and we had several days with well over 30 deg. C - extremely unusual for us! there is a hosepipe ban in many areas now and tourists are gobsmacked, when they come with raingear and wellies - and need shorts and sunscreen:)  
I am not a fan of high temperatures - I am happy enough with 20 deg. C,  or even less when I have to cycle! so I try to work outside before 10 am and after 8 pm - otherwise I might just melt:( but I have to admit that everything that I do water grows well just now. it must be a warm summer here - as I discovered this evening, a rare artemisia plant, which only ever flowers in very warm climates has set its first flower bud! I've had that plant for at least 15 years, if not more - it's never flowered before, so I am looking forward to the result:) pity that my Dictamnus died a few years back - or I might have been able to see for myself that during great heat the ess. oils of the flowering plants can ignite!
anyway, enough of the catching up - the main thing that convinced me to start blogging again was the TdF - the Tour de Fleece! I have never taken part - but I thought I might give it a try, seeing as I can't work outside during the day anyway. not that I wouldn't spin otherwise - it's far to warm to knit anything woolly - so I have been spinning practically daily - and here is proof:
the batch on the left is teeswater top - I had to use up this years' batch of easter egg colours and when I saw the fibres I couldn't resist spinning them up. I think eventually I'll make the "Persian Tiles" blanket with some of them - but for now they've gone from the fibre stash to the yarn stash....
the softer colours on the right are teeswater as well, but dyed with natural dyes a good while back. I have no idea, which colour goes with what plant though, but it doesn't really matter anyway. the white hank in the middle is ramie - and the beige skein on the right of it is a naturally beige alpaca I was given a few months ago. it was named top, but I am quite sure that it isn't. it's soft enough, but contains a lot of short fibres and looks more like a batt stripped lengthwise? when I started spinning it the weather was grey and cold - and after one bobbin full I couldn't face beige anymore - that's when I started with the vibrant easter egg funk:)  
 teeswater top is nice to spin - for a while. after all those hanks in the 1st picture, I needed something different though, so I started to dig around in my stash - and found a large bag full of naturally dyed tops. I had forgotten about those! we did a dyeing session in our craft group a few years back, but we had way to many fibres prepared, so we divided them between the members - and I think this lot was south american top. it's not as cottony soft as merino, has more grip - but the yarn is soft enough to be worn close to the skin. I have no idea (again, recurring theme.....) how I dyed, but looking at the picture I realize that I must have put quite a few madder dyed skeins elsewhere... and there was some yellow, too. never mind, but as you can see - I've been spinning regularly during the last few months:)
I decided not to buy anything new for the TdF - plenty of fibres in stash to use up! first of all, while I am still full of drive, I'll finish the beige alpaca. if I don't dawdle I should manage that in two or three days! I can always reward myself with something more colourful afterwards:) I'll spin more "default" yarn, 2ply, not too chunky, so that all the yarns could be used together eventually.
this was my spinning spot outside for today - it was bearable under the parasol, but I might have to move back inside again if it gets any warmer. because I spun the first skein of alpaca on the old Louet I'll keep using it, so that the yarn comes out the same (without thinking about it, I am sure I could fiddle around with the Lendrum to make it match, but I am too lazy to do that:)
 and this is a close-up of the alpaca - as you can see it's quite "flat" and more batt-like than like top? of course tea and cookies are needed for fortification purposes:)
so I am going to try to post at least every few days - maybe once the fibres are finished and I start something new again. I haven't decided yet what to do on the "challenge" days - I wanted to try boucles again, but I think I don't have suitable fibres for that. maybe cotton or even hemp? not sure yet, but there's still time to dig something "challenging" up for the monday after next. I'd rather spin nettles - then cycle the mountain days the cyclists have to face:)
are you spinning the TdF as well?