Sunday, 9 December 2018

Blue Eggs!

A couple of years ago we had a costumed Victorian dinner with friends.   Margaret is an amazing cook and she served soup in lovely little two handled cups.   They were charming and elegant to use.   I've been hunting for some ever since.   The ones I've found were either part of a large and expensive set or rediculously priced.  Mainly though, they were just not easily found at all.   Until the other day when I popped into the thrift store.  There were 4 of these bowls, which were priced at 4 for $5.  I couldn't let them not come home with me for that price.   

Oddly enough, the local feed store was taking orders for ready to lay hens at the end of the summer.    I found out because I was asking if he could get in some heritage breeds or cross breeds from the big hatchery.    It's odd because it is the wrong time to get chooks.  Their laying habits are linked to daylight hours and with us getting so few in the autumn, it can mess up the laying cycles.   So he was ordering red sex links - which are fine, but he knew a guy who raises purebreds and sometimes has chicks for sale.   As long as they weren't Plymouth Barred Rocks - (my experience with them is that they are a bit mean and aggressive), I would take two of whatever breed he could get.  It turned out that he had Americauna chicks which would be ready to go about the same time as the regular hens would get in.   Americaunas are an American bred bird, which is like the Aracana but hardier, with less problems.  They lay blue and green eggs.  They were obviously younger than the sex links.  I knew that they might not start laying until the springtime because they weren't the super laying hybrids.   I chose a black and a grey, both pretty birds.   The black grew up to be an incredibly handsome rooster which the breeder traded me for another hen this week.  And ta-da!   I've gotten the first coloured eggs from them.  They are so cute.
It turned out that I did have a photo of the blue tea towel I wove at the guild studio.   What happened is that my phone was acting wonky and it didn't show up for some reason.    After a few more issues, which made it difficult to actually contact anyone, my sweetie insisted I replace it.  When I looked through the newly transferred photos, there it was.     The neutral warp makes all of the towels a little dull but it also meant we could use virtually any colour with the warp and it would look decent.

My favourite banjo strings are discontinued.  Because I can't find a way to contact the company, I don't know if they are no longer being made or just not being ordered by the local music store chain.  Our local store thinks they have found a couple more packets in various stores across the country.  I hope so.   Dean Markley Lights - 9's are very light, easy to pick, sound lovely and bright.    I've been trying other strings but they are either too heavy or made of a different metal which I just don't like at all.   I'm a bit sad about not finding them anymore.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Colours as dull as our weather, sadly

I wove off 6 of these tea towels.    They took forever.   I found it amazing that I could weave for 2 hours with minimal breaks at the guild studio, on the slightly smaller Artisat, but on my fanny I have to take regular breaks every 20 or 30 minutes.   It's a larger loom and it feels so different.  It weaves beautifully though.    I used a sett of 18, as a couple of big name weavers suggest that for absorbent towels.  They will be absorbent and are very soft, but I think the next ones will be a sett of 20.

This is the underside of the tea towels we were weaving off in the studio.   I meant to take a photo of the second one I was weaving off but my sweetie called me up and asked if I'd like to run into town for some errands with him, and I totally forgot in the 10 minutes I had left to finish up and head out. Four of us wove off towel, to get 6 done before the show.  It was interesting about the speed differences.  Pat said it was 11/2 hr project.  I said 2 hours, another gal said it took her 5 hours.   It was an intuitive pattern though and I found it easy to get into a rhythm, which does help with speed.

I found a ball of brown worsted weight wool yarn stuffed in a corner of a bin.   I'm turning it into mittens.  I can't find any of my mittens from last year.  Considering I had a coat pocket pair, a truck pair, a car pair and a spare pair, it's kind of a lot to go missing or misplace.   I did treat myself to a nice new set of wooden needles.  These are Knit Picks, which only became available in my town last year.   They are beautifully finished and lovely to knit with.  I like the wooden needles because they are so light that I feel like I can knit forever.

I made this cardigan  a while ago and didn't ever wear it.  It was too big and kept slipping off my shoulders.  It was on the ugly side as well.   I kept telling myself that I'd frog it and re-knit it into something that a)fit better and was more attractive.    I told myself that for the better part of a year.   I think I was putting it off because I'd done a darned good job of sewing it together and didn't want to figure out where all those ends were and the seaming theads.

I finally sat down to rip it apart.  What a pain in the patootie!   It's taking way longer than I'd anticipated.   So far I have the neck/button band, the front and 1/2 sleeve ripped out. Sheesh, the way this is going, it will be next summer before I can start knitting the sweater.  I've already tried that.  Knitting sweaters is definitely not a summer or warm weather activity.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

That S word, and mead -

 I woke up the other morning to this.  The only redeeming feature was that there were some patches of blue sky and no wind.   I grabbed the camera and played with camera settings.  It was pretty early and the sun wasn't really up yet.   The view across the road was really postcard pretty but I was in my pyjamas, parka and barn boots and thought that maybe it was better to stay closer to home.

Sadly, by the time I got back inside and started feeding the cats, the blue sky had vanished.  Sadly, we've had more snow since then, including one horrible day dumping although a small amount of snow, only 12 cm, it was a sticky, wet snow which clung to everything including the roads.   I am so not ready for this weather!

A few weeks ago I made some mead.  A hydromel to be exact as I'm not fond of higher alcohol drinks.   A hydromel is a lower alcohol volume mead.  I'd read a lot about it being a watered mead, but then someone called it a session mead, which is much more attractive.   I'd wanted to do two types of fruits, frozen blackberries from my garden and commercially frozen cherries,  in the secondaries, to try different flavours.   Because I hadn't prepared ahead of time, it took me forever to get the blackberries thawed and strained of most of the seeds.   Such bad planning on my part.    I used a bit of pectin enzyme, to help it clear.   The black cherries went straight from the freezer and into the food processor, rather than thawing and mashing, simply because I was running out of time, stupid blackberries.  The last bit of mead in the big carboy filled up a 2 litre carboy, which I left plain for comparison.  Because I didn't chemically kill the yeast, after a couple of days, the fruited carboys showed signs of renewed fermentation, so I popped them into to the sunporch where it is too cold for the yeast.       I'll let it sit there for a few weeks while I figure out what to do next.

I used 2.5 gallons of water, 3 lbs of honey and a packet of Lavlin EC-118 yeast.   Because I tossed in the yeast while the water was probably still too warm, when it cooled, I added a packet of Cooper's Ale yeast, which I had on hand, just to be sure.  I've never used a Cooper's yeast before, so I'm not sure what to expect in terms of flavour.  The packet of yeast was an impulse purchase when I needed an emergency back up last year as it was very inexpensive compared to the other yeasts available.  It's been sitting in my fridge every since.

After the primary fermentation had stopped, I racked the hydromel over the fruits, into smaller carboys, dividing it up into 3 batches, the blackberry, from my own home grown blackberries, the cherry, from commercial frozen cherries and plain.  At some point I'll have to bottle and decide what to do about keeping the sugars from the fruits from fermenting once the mead warms up.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Catching up with chores.

 The other day we finally got hit with frost.    Just a light frost, but enough to finish off the 2 remaining tomato plants and one of the lettuce plants.  There is still Swiss chard, some lettuce and a couple of turnips in in the beds.

My friend Shannon gave me a bunch of garlic, which I planted in to the garden.   Then I found that the feed store had some seed garlic in stock, so I bought 4 heads just to have a bit extra.

The forecast said it would snow today, so I wanted to make sure all the garlic was planted before then, so yesterday was a garden day.  The garlic was all planted and most of the beds have been cleared.   Then I realised there were a few more potatoes to dig up, so I got those done as well.   I haven't purchased potatoes since the beginning of August, except for last week as they were $1 for 10 lbs.   I ended up with almost 5 lbs of potatoes from the last few plants.   They aren't huge but they are big enough.  The weather was such that I'm super happy with the harvest.

Grey ramie is on the wheel.    There is only 50 g of it.  I started spinning it the other day.  It's done now and I have to figure out what to do with the singles.   I should have divided the fibre into equal halves before I started spinning.  I tried to with just a few grams spun but the weighing got weird, and either this packed was grossly underweight or something was wrong with my scale.  Instead I just went on a spinning marathon, and while I don't normally watch TV, due to being spooked last night, because of marauding raccoons, while I was alone, I actually did watch a show or 2.  It was a good way to keep from hearing them rustling and banging outside.

Today, almost all day, it has been snowing.  Enough said about that!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

I'm back

October has been a write-off month for getting personal projects done.   The guild found a new studio so it seems like everything was about getting the space finalized, the equipment moved in and organized.   We met with the building owner both productively and unproductively.  We had two moving days, one where we got a few of the looms in and the second where the movers came and brought the library, shelves, the 12 and 8 shaft looms, reeds, shuttles and what I've now come to realize is enough heddles to supply several generations of weavers.  It seems like I've had little time to finish up my own projects in between.

Not to say I got nothing done.   I wound a warp.   I dressed the loom.  I re-threaded the last 1/3 of the threads a second time.  I re-threaded the last 60 threads 2 more times.   I finally added 3 repair heddles and was done with it.    It is the project for my September guild challenge, where we brought in 50 g of thread or fibre and pulled someone else's out of the hat.   I got a partial spool of 2/8 cotton in a light gold colour that was handed over by Kathryn with the comment that she hated that colour.   This is what I've done with the colour.  I didn't have enough thread to do stripes on both sides though.

 I finished spinning the blue and plying the multi-coloured singles for the blue marled yarn.   There are almost 600 yards here.  There is way more than enough yarn for a pair of socks here, so now I'm not sure what to do with it all.   It seems a waste to pull 200 yards out of it for socks and then not have enough for a larger project.  Then again, I don't like knitting shawlettes or scarves, which would use the full amount.   I guess I need to see about a possible weaving project.  That would eat it up pretty quickly.

I have some tow linen on the wheel.   It's not advertised as such, but that is what it is.  It is some special linen roving or sliver.   However, it is made with shorter bits.  So far the longest strands are maybe 10 inches long.  Most are between 6 and 8 inches.  There is lots of short stuff too, fuzzy bits about 2 inches more and definitely less.  It's strong thread, needing scissors to cut it rather than just being able to break the thread with your hands.   There seems to be a limit as to how fine I can spin it as well, so I might just keep this as singles and use it that way.   It's a bit fuzzy because I didn't bother to spin it wet. It's so processed that I found it didn't really make a difference either way, so it was easier to not wet it, than to do so.

It's Hallowe'en, Apparently we don't need the apostrophe any more and spell check doesn't like it with it.  I didn't even have time to put together a costume this year.  Oh well, more time to work on it for next.    I did get an 1830's hat pattern from Westfield so that I could try making one or two over the winter.   There is definitely a shortage of hats from that era in the costume department.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Eeek how time flies

A perfect gluten free and dairy free pumpkin pie.  The crust turned out to be quite easy to work with, unlike my previous attempts at gluten free pie crust.   The pumpkin was one I processed myself and the whole pie turned out to be not overly sweet with a tender crust which wasn't soggy or gritty.    It was absolutely delicious.   It was pretty too!

 The navy and brightly coloured yarn plied together.   This is the partial bobbin that I'd spun up as a tester.  I'm still spinning the rest of the navy for the full bobbin.   It definitely subdued the bright colours, but since I was worried about muddying the colours up when they were plied, this is definitely not muddy!  I rather like this combination of colours, even though I'm not always a huge fan of marled yarns.
I had just about 100 g of superwash merino left in the bag.  I tossed it in the pot with some brown, blue and black dye.    I'm really happy with this bit of fibre.  I like the more subdued colours in this batch.  It's a bit of a change from the bright colours I often use.  I used weak acid dyes, with a low immersion technique.

It's been crazy busy here.  Some days I didn't even get a chance to practice the banjo because it felt like I was hardly home.   The grey, wet weather has been putting a damper on things too, as it's been delaying projects.

I made this hat.  I need to needle felt some decorations for it.  I made a second hat in a different style, without the brim, which is going to get some embroidery on it, if I get the time.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Colours out of my kitchen

 I've been dyeing. 

  This is a commercial white tweedy bit that was an awfully, stark shade of white.   I've not yet found a project that particular shade of white worked with, so each time, I dyed it.  I'd bought 10 or 15 balls on super sale.  The last two balls were turned into large skeins, tied with 4 ties and ceremonially dumped into a pot of grey weak acid dye.  I used a 1% dye stock with vinegar as my acid.   It's still wet here, but it turned out perfectly.

This is fibre reactive dyes on superwash Merino.   The brightness of the colours always bring me joy.  I learned to dye wool with fibre reactive dyes, using a 2% stock solution.  The last time I mixed up dyes, I'd just done new acid dyes at 1% and did the same with the fibre reactive dyes.   However, what I found was gorgeous colours on wool, that exhausted, rather than leaving excess dye to wash out.  I'll need to explore this more.

 I was using up the last of a batch of red acid dye.  I was actually hoping for a graduation of reds to purples, ending in blue, but the red seemed to strike immediately, in my blends and the result was lots of reds and pinks, and lots of purplish blues.   The colour breaking/striking fast was my fault as I'd inadvertently poured in too much vinegar and pre-heated the water I was using.  It's pretty though.  It will likely spin up to be quite purpley.

 Pumpkin coloured acid dyes on superwash Merino mill ends.   In the pot, this was gorgeous.   However, despite getting it to temperature for more than enough time, when I rinsed it,  yellow dye kept running off.  I put it back in the pot, with more vinegar, brought it up to temperature, kept it there for an hour again.  Despite the dye pot water exhausting, it still ran yellow when rinsed.   I tried one more time, dumping in a whole whack load of vinegar.   I heated it for almost 2 hours.   So far it seems okay, but it's lost those lovely variations in colour and the oranges of sort of melded into one shade.

 Speaking of orange - gratuitous photo of a lounging Phil.  He can be very vocal and pushy when he wants to be petted.   He has a much nicer coat, after a year of decent food.  When he adopted us and we let him in the house, he had almost no undercoat. I don't think he would have survived the winter outside.   He would sleep under the covers on the very cold evenings.   He still does like a cuddle on cooler days.
This is on my Minstrel right now.  It's jelly bean or ju jube coloured merino/cashmere blend.   It's spinning beautifully.  I'm trying to decide if I want to ply it with itself, or spin up some navy blue for plying...