Friday, 23 June 2017

Starting holiday projects

 The steam tractor was out giving wagon rides at Westfield on Father's Day.   What a cool piece of equipment but noisy!   Not the chugging as it drove around the site, but when it blew the whistle, it was really loud.   I was in a building close to the bandstand, which was cool because there was an old time band , which played fun music for the better part of the afternoon.   It threatened to rain, which probably stopped some people from visiting, but the rain held off until closing time, so the day was pretty awesome.
I've started my holiday projects.   This is a cuff for a pair of mittens.   I had to restart this after I'd made the second bobble, because the way I was reading the pattern directions, the 2 yarn overs made an extra stitch, which didn't get eliminated in the pattern.   I based the size on the hand circumference but now am wondering, as the wrist fits quite small.  It's taken more time than I expected to get this far, with still 1/4 of the pattern to go for the cuff.   Once I got all the cable details and the bobble down, it's gotten faster.

I've been weeding and mulching the garden.   I use cardboard and newspaper for mulch.   I've been told it's ugly and why do that, but it's very effective.  By the end of the season, it's starting to break down and it easily works into the garden in the springtime when we till.   I really like how it blocks the weeds so effectively and it's really inexpensive.    I tried using old straw one year, which really worked well, except a) it costs a lot more than the paper/cardboard which is usually free and b) there were so many seeds in it, that my mulch looked like a wheat field.  It kept the other weeds at bay, but I had to weed out the wheat!

The rug warp is wound on and ready to weave.   I'm spinning some of the weft for one rug, so decided to play around with some different colours.   This one is definitely being unwoven as it's really ugly.  I was looking for dark coloured sheets at thrift stores, but I didn't find any.   Old jeans would likely work as well but I'll need to take another trip to town for those.  Meanwhile I have a few yards of blue wool fabric which I might strip down for weft.  There  doesn't seem to be quite enough yardage for a skirt, so better to use it than leave it sitting there for the moths.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Painted warp and hand card catastrophe

 The past few days have been busy.  I've played in the garden.  I was so excited that the pumpkins had germinated that apparently when I was on the phone with my daughter, I yelled.   Since nothing grew in that area last summer, mainly weather issues, it was great to see the pumpkins growing this year.  I had to put a lot of sticks in the area to keep the chickens from sunbathing in the pumpkin patch.

I have finally started putting the multi coloured dyed rug warp on the loom.  I know it was a rescued warp -  a whole lot of threads removed from a guild project that wasn't working out as planned.   The threads were removed, a cross put in them and it was chained.  The cross wasn't actually a true cross.   The cross keeps the threads in order.  Without it, there are a lot of randomly bunched and messed up areas.   I did finally undo the chain and add choke ties.  What is messing me up right now is that not all of the threads were caught up in the cross, so there are loose threads periodically.   Those just get tangled up.  There was a large handful of really short bits that I found by accident and luckily didn't try to thread those, plus I caught them before I started winding on the warp.    I'm having to comb out parts of the rest as I wind it on to ease out the tangles.  It's not my favourite way to put on a warp, but it's a rescue warp, so I'm happy to get it used.  Plus, look at those awesome colours!   Pain in the patootie to dress the loom aside, the colours are fun to work with.

I did a lot of hours volunteering this week.   I went into a grade 4 classroom and answered a lot of questions about the Middle Ages.   The teacher sent me a list of questions.   I dug around and found Illuminations which illustrated the answers and did the research for the rest.  In all, the questions were really interesting and thought out.   The follow up questions from the kids in class, were also thoughtful and good.  The kids were amazingly well behaved and I enjoyed it very much.


In the grade 3 class, I did some fibre activities for the pioneer theme.  Sadly, my hand cards were damaged by the rougher kids.    I really like my handcards.  These ones have a gentle curve and the carding cloth works with a lot of different fibres.   I'm hoping they can be glued and clamped back together.  It isn't in the budget right now to replace them.  

Garden update:   The birds ate all my bean plant seedlings.... talk about unhappy!  Well the birds are happy.   I have little leafless stems sticking up from the ground, which doesn't make me happy.   They ate every single one of them!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Painted Rug Warp

This is the 11 1/2 yard white rug warp which I ended up with when last month when we were clearing out the guild room.   It was stark white and while it would have made perfectly fine rugs.  With the denim and solids I have on hand for the weft, they would have been plain, serviceable rugs.  My imagination started working, so I dug out the Procion MX dyes and mixed up a set of primary colours at 2%.  I used 2% strength, only because that was what I'd previously mixed up and the storage jars were already labelled that way.   It ended up being a better idea as I needed less dye volume, and was easier to work with.

I started taking a series of photos, but conditions weren't conducive to good pictures.  It was a grey, really cool day, threatening rain.   It was also very windy.   Every time I grabbed the camera, something tried to blow away.   Since I was working on the deck due to the size of this project, in the ended up just playing.  

I used Procion MX Fibre Reactive dyes, which give lovely colours and are relatively safe to use.   The one downside is there is a bit of rinsing since the dyes bond both with the water and the fibre.  The upside is you don't need any heat to set the dyes.  

I draped plastic wrap on the patio table to both protect the table and to use to wrap the warp chain in afterwards to keep it damp and protected.   It would have been smarter to use a sheet of plastic like a cheap table cloth, vapour barrier or an old shower curtain to protect the table.  The syringes were a gift from Carol who has Alpaca ( and a brand new cria which was born yesterday)  Yay!   They are perfect for measuring out dye for painting the warp.   I like that I can dilute the dyes as well, but filling half the syringe with water and then just adding the dye.  This makes it easier to adjust shades.  The plastic wrap wasn't enough to actually seal the dyes in the chain, so there was a bit of seepage and some of my oranges and bright yellows are more burgandy and brown.   I let the warp sit and cure for 48 hours because it never really got warm.  Cooler temperatures equal longer curing times for good colours.  The warp is still damp, so it won't be quite as bright as this when it's dry.

I wasn't really going for any particular colour range. I didn't measure rug lengths and change colours for each rug, or even plan anything ahead of time.   In my mind I saw rugs with bright splashes of colour to add interest.   I'm pretty sure I've accomplished that with this warp. Now I just hope  the finished product looks as exciting as the pictures in my imagination.

The sad thing is that I will most likely not be selling these rugs or any of my handcrafted items at the guild shows this fall.   My guild is spectacularly unsupportive of hand spinners, which is mainly due to the attitude of a small number of members.  I've been told that no items will be allowed which are made with hand spun yarn as all hand spun items are only suitable for church bazaar items (meant in a derogatory manner).   Most other guilds who have spinners, don't seem to have an issue with this but apparently ours does and I'm only allowed to put in skeins of hand spun yarn.   So rather than change what I do, I'll just change the venue where I sell items.   It makes me unhappy in a way, as I do a lot to support the guild, and the commission would help the guild bring in speakers and pay for a new site when we find one.  The upside is that I'll likely have less commission to pay and may be able to put a wider variety of items for sale, especially if I go the Etsy or FB page sales route.   I just need to figure out how to set those things up.


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A couple of quick projects



Half of the Polar Vortex, Blue Faced Leicester sliver has been spun.   If I'd chain plied it, the colour changes were long enough to make a pretty rotation of solid colours.  However I didn't want a 3 ply yarn, so I just plied it together and called it good.  It's a little bit brighter than the photo shows, but it's pretty enough.  I have a pattern for mittens which seems like a good match for this yarn.

The purse I whipped up last year before holidays was starting to fray at the zipper.   Since I'd wanted a small denim bag and had only a part of a single pant leg on hand, that is what I used.   Considering it took about 30 minutes in total to figure out what I was doing, sew the whole thing together, including lining with a welted, zippered pocket and a zipper to close the whole bag, I'm pretty happy it lasted this long.    But instead of repairing it as it's more of a functional bag than fun and attractive, I decided to make a new one.

This one is also made from recycled denim, but I had a whole pair of jeans to work with.   I really wish I had time to make a denim strap for it, however due to time constraints, I used a bit of nylon webbing.   I'm also refinishing a little kitchen island workbench, packing, doing stuff for my son who's moving tomorrow, just brewed a batch of beer and my sweetie is home on holidays, which seems to make less available time for projects.   I'm hoping I'll sit down and make the denim strap next week, but since we're off to a Jays game and a concert tomorrow, I opted for the quick fix.   Because I lined the bag, with the obligatory zippered welt pocket for my keys and a patch pocket for other stuff, it took a bit more effort.  There are a few miss-steps, but in all, it's cute, fun and is quite roomy compared to the bags I've been using lately.  The lining matches the belt.

 Both apple trees blossomed this year, although the new one bloomed in two stages, half just after the Northern Spy had finished blooming.   I've no idea if anything got pollinated, as we had so much wet, windy weather I don't remember seeing any bees around at all.  I guess time will tell.   But aren't they pretty, whether or not we get any apples this year.   A friend of mine has an apple press and knows of an abandoned orchard.  She's thinking we should get together for an apple pressing day.  Wouldn't that be fun!




Friday, 26 May 2017

What happend at home...

 While I was away last weekend, I received text updates, with photos on what my boys were doing at home.  They were installing the counters.  Friday night I got the photo of the installed counters, without the sink.  On Sunday morning, the sink and tap had been installed, all the caulking dried and it was complete.  I'm sure my friends were tired of me showing them the tiny, phone photos, but it all came together so much faster than I'd anticipated.

   I absolutely love the counters!  They're just formica trimmed with maple, but they look great.     There are only a few things left to do in the kitchen.  We're putting bulkheads in over the counters.  This is because there were some there before and the previous owners didn't bother to finish the whole ceiling last time, just up to the bulkheads, so it's either redo the whole ceiling or redo them like the original kitchen.   It's less work to remake them than to redo the whole ceiling.   We need the trim around the window, doorways and floor.   There are two cabinets which need to be remade which go on either side of the
sink.  Who knows when that will get done.  Because of a last minute choice to frame in the outside wall for extra insulation, the previously made cabinets are too big. We're using them elsewhere though.

I do love my kitchen now!   It's bright, cheery, easy to work in and enjoyable to just hang out in there.


We also got the first load of wood in.   In the past, we've gotten the logs already chopped up, but sometimes the lengths are too long for the stove, but not long enough to be chopped in to two pieces.   This time they just dumped the whole logs.   When the dump truck drove into the yard, my old kitty ran off to hide in a bedroom.  Keven though, ran to the window.  He watched the truck drive up, was intrigued by the whole dumping process and watched the driver and Al while they chatted and talked about taking down a large tree in the yard.  It was rather peculiar cat behaviour, as he's so curious and interested in what happens, rather than hiding or ignoring things.    I wonder how long it will take to chop up and split the logs?




Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Fruits of Our Labours

I was away for the Victoria Day weekend again this year.   I go to FOOL or Fruits of Our Labours, an SCA event dedicated to teaching arts and sciences.    It's always lots of fun.  I always drag along a spinning wheel, but hardly ever have time to actually spin.  This year I got about an hour of spinning in but really nothing to bother even showing.

On Saturday though, we did some natural dyeing.  We mordanted with alum, iron and copper.   We dyed with ferns, cochineal, dandelion and bedstraw.   The bedstraw was disappointing in that it didn't give us any colour at all.   It wasn't quite flowering yet and the dye vat water was literally colourless after almost an hour of cooking.    It was quite cool and windy, and we were outside, so it's possible the bedstraw just didn't get enough time in the pot.   The cochineal vat though, was awesome.   We got beautiful pinks and purples.  There was much dye left in the pot and I sent it home with one of the people in the class.
The results from the fern dye pot were also disappointing.   I think that is my fault for allowing only 4 hours from start to finish and with the weather being cool and breezy, we just didn't have time to do it all in the outdoor class.   My previous results with ferns were soft but bright gorgeous greens.

We had results - some good and some not so good but still, we had results and those pinks and purples are really luscious.

Orla, one of the gals in our group is mundanely, a jewellery maker.  Her work is gorgeous.   Several years now, she's run an enameling class.   A couple of years ago, I made a little cloisonne pin.  This year I did an etched pin, based on an Anglo-Saxon original.  It's the one on the left which looks awful because it had just been heated to cherry red with the blow torch, to melt the glass onto the copper and it's just cooling down in this photo.   I ran out of time to get it finished, so it went home with the instructor and I'll fetch it at a later date.

There were a couple of other classes that I wanted to take, but with teaching on Saturday and the weather streaming down rain all day Sunday, I ended up not doing all I'd hoped.  Still, it was a great weekend and we've already started planning next year's event.




Monday, 15 May 2017

Fawn fleece in the garage

My sweetie was cleaning the garage yesterday and found a plastic bag full of obviously forgotten fibre.   It was likely cold so I had him put it in the upper loft area of the garage for storage and forgot about it.    It's labelled fawn, so it's probably Shetland.   It's definitely brown but isn't sold brown.  There are pale browns, creams and some tan/grey looking areas.   It has a lot of VM, but much of it seems to be larger bits, which are easier to get out.  The lanolin has hardened, so it was difficult to tell how soft it was.   I'd obviously used some of this as when I unrolled it, there seemed to be a missing bit.

The staple length is all over the spectrum.   Some areas are only a couple of inches long -  leg and belly maybe?   Except that the leg areas would have been skirted off and the belly as well, since it's usually pretty icky with bits you don't want to bother with.   Some areas have a stable length of close to 6 inches.   That is a huge variation. 

Because of how it looks to have a definitely break of colour in the locks, I'm thinking it's a double coat - with both the white and the brown fibres, except that the brown doesn't go all the way up to the cut end - weird.

So I put a bit of fibre in a laundry lingerie bag and washed it - then realized that I'd use the same amount of soap and degreaser for a laundry tub full, so filled 4 more bags up and washed those as well.    It's all hanging to dry, either in the bags on the line, or it's laid out on the rack, inside to dry.  It's so windy out there, less than yesterday when I washed it, but still, if it's not pegged down, it would definitely end up in the neighbour's field.

This morning I processed a small handful of the now clean and dry fibre.  I picked out the larger stuff, used hand cards to make rolags, but did a few passes first, to shake out a bit more of the smaller VM.   The two colours are definitely separate fibres, which blended nicely on the hand cards.    I should have taken a photo of the rolags as they were quite beautiful.  The fibre is super soft and fine but has some neps in it.   I figured it would be the brown weathered tips, but they are all white.   I'm wondering if maybe the sheepie was starting to roo and those little neps were bits of the new coat coming in. 

The neps and some of the fleece length differential caused spinning to be a little fussy at some times.   I used a tradition longdraw with the rolags and thought it would be a horribly uneven yard.  It's not though.  It's quite consistent and look at that lovely heathery look too the yarn.  So different than the original fleece.   It's soft and pretty.    It will be fun to play with.