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???