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Friday, 12 September 2014

Playing with Acid Dyes

Some wool blend sliver dyed in acid dyes
I need some dyed fibres, some in larger quantities and different colours than the commercially dyed ones I picked up a while ago. I set about mixing up some stock solutions to play with colour mixing.  It was right then that my scale decided that it was no longer going to measure out small quantities.  It used to, though the last time I used it it was getting fussy and I thought changing out the battery had done the trick of getting it back to rights.  Obviously not.   In the end, I had to wing the stock solutions and really didn't get quite the colours I'd had first envisioned, although they will work quite admirably for their purpose.


I'm unhappy with the yellow though as the dye didn't exhaust properly and I had to rinse it several times.  Luckily, I'm going to have to card everything to blend the colours before spinning, so I wasn't too worried about compaction.  Now to decide how I want to blend this.  I could easily put it through the drum carder or hand cards, but for hand cards there is a lot of fibre.  I'm thinking perhaps the hackles or even the blending board would work for this fibre.
bleached tussah silk
.
 I dyed up a bit of tussah silk to add in, although I'd hoped it would be a darker blue.  It is the colour of a lovely rich summer sky, that or horrible icky icing on a birthday cake that turns one's teeth blue when one has to eat that piece at the party.  I'll take the sky colour.

The brown is still in the pot.  I love the colour!  I had to blend in a bunch of yellow dye to make it a warm colour as I really didn't like the original brown.  It was much too cold, lifeless and dull looking.  I hope I like it as much when it's dry!    In total, there is about 400 g or a bit more of fibre in this dye experiment.   It's fun, easy but sheesh, keeping those dye vats at the required temperatures does take a lot of watching and time!



Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Fall Bounty

I was at Westfield on Sunday and I was in a building instead of at the bake oven.   On the table was a huge array of veggies.  If I was smart, I'd have taken a photo as it looked so pretty.  There were carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, parsnips and cauliflower.  It turned out that a particular Canadian 19th C murder mystery show was filming there the week before and one of the scenes required fall veggies.  They left them behind for us to play with.  I made a pot of veggie soup for lunch and it was very tasty.   Afterward, we divided up the veggies and took them home so they wouldn't get tossed out.  I was sad because a 50 lb bag of onions was left. I couldn't carry it to the truck, and I didn't have a bag to take it in bunches.  However, I did get 5 cauliflowers, a whole bunch of carrots, potatoes, squash and whatever spare onions were rolling around. 

 I spent all day yesterday freezing produce!  There are now bags upon bags of frozen cauliflower and carrots.  I don't normally freeze carrots but these needed to be used up.  I also cooked some for dinner and made a bunch to puree for use in a Victorian carrot pie recipe that I will try out next Sunday.    Luckily the boxes that the 1/2 bushels of tomatoes came in were still in the house, waiting for recycling, so I repurposed them in the pantry cupboard, for onion and potato storage.

I'm spinning Angora right now, as in Angora bunny not Angora goat/mohair.  It's super soft, but the bits that I have to play with are a bit compacted, so I have to hand card all of it before use.  The fibre has a range of staple lengths, making it interesting and a bit challenging to spin.  As well there are lots of bits about 1/4 inch in length, which I'm presuming are short cuts, so this would be cut, rather than plucked Angora.  I had to experiment before I found a spinning method that actually worked for me.   I need to loosen up the fibre by carding it and pull it off the cards into as much of a rolag that I can get.  Most of the fibre is too short to make a rolag, so it just sort of curls up a bit.  Then I fold it up and it makes this light, fluffy pile, like a cloud and it will spin nicely with a short forward draw.  It takes forever though, but I imagine that it will make pretty yarn.  I am looking forward to blending some as I think it will be quite enjoyable to spin that way.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

New Socks

My sock drawer is almost full.  I'm going to need to find a new sock storage facility.  It's not like I don't wear them though.   Really, the more socks you have the longer they last and it's nice to have a special pair of handmade wool socks for every possible occasion.    I started these 2 days ago.  The first time, with a lovely, soft, squishy yarn by Sweet Georgia.  I love the yarn but not only was the colour too dark to show the cables but the plies were splitting with each cable, making it a pain to knit.  I was 1/3 done the first sock cuff when I ripped it out.  The yarn will shine with a different pattern.

   I couldn't find the grey or the light blue that I was going to use.   I moved the skeins this summer, when I was anticipating bagging up little sock kits with yarn and patterns, for use over the winter.  Then I had to move some things quickly and hid them well.  I'm sure I tossed them in a basket and I'm not sure which one.  Either way, they are hidden with other skeins and fibre, which I didn't feel like sorting right now.  I did have this rather run of the mill sock yarn.  It's by Estelle and it's pretty enough and will wear and wash well.  Hopefully it will soften up a bit when washed.

 It's almost as dark as the first yarn, but not quite.  It still hides the cables more than I'd like but I'm not ripping it out and starting again.  I'm 14 rows from finishing the first cuff.  Of course I've made a mistake in those 14 rows 3 times, and have ripped it out those few rows as many times.  Now it's a matter of pride to just get the darned thing done.   It's not a difficult pattern, but it requires counting; something in which I'm obviously lacking practice.  Really, the highest number of stitches before changing patterns is 11.  How hard should that be?  Other than my counting issues, the sock is much easier than I anticipated and just flying off the needles.  Cables are fun, fast and easy.  Really, it's just knitting stitches out of order, so once you figure out the chart symbols, you're good to go.    The designers don't always use a standard set of symbols, so it's a smart idea to check before you start.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Labour Day labours

My son came home with 2 bags of fresh corn from the local farm produce stand.   They have delicious and very fresh corn.  Sometimes there are people milling about waiting for the shipment to arrive and the estimated time of arrival is announced on a blackboard.  They stock 3 types, peaches and cream, yellow and white.   You'll see people crowding around the peaches and cream type and a few at the yellow corn bin.  They white corn bin is usually ignored.  It's our favourite kind though.  The cobs and kernals are a tiny bit smaller than the other varieties but the corn is so sweet and tender that it's well worth it.   I didn't even bother cooking any of the corn for dinner.   I just started blanching it, cutting it off the cobs and ended up with 12 packets for the freezer.  Corn season will be done shortly and like beans, home frozen corn tastes so much better than commercially frozen.

Once a year, the grocery store gets in 25 lb boxes of plum tomatoes for a low price.  This year they were $6.77 a box.  That's cheaper than I can get them at the farmer's market or at the farm gate.

25 lbs is about 1/2 bushel of tomatoes.  I picked up 2 boxes of tomatoes or 50 lbs.   My daughter had dropped off some canning jars that someone had given her, that she decided she no longer needed, so I had plenty of jars, including the ones from last year's tomato canning.  I started canning on Saturday afternoon and after 21 jars, called it a night.  I'd finished up a whole box and the rest weren't so ripe that they wouldn't last until the next day.   I added all the tomatoes that were ripe in the garden to the pile.  There weren't enough to do a whole load by themselves, but enough to make a different in the final jar numbers.

  I realized as I was loading the canner with the second set of jars that I was using the ones my daughter gave me and a lot of them seemed to be pre-metric sizing.  They hold 1 pint instead of 500 mls and are just slightly smaller. 

  I've got 42 jars of tomatoes put up this year,   really 43 but one jar leaked.   It seems like there is always one that misbehaves.     There are 2 1/2 jars of tomatoes leftover but my canner is large and I didn't feel like keeping it boiling for another 45 minutes or more, for 2 measly jars.    Instead, I'll use them and the jar which leaked, to make tomato sauce for dinner tomorrow. 

My shelf is up on the wall.  All I need to do is paint the buttons to hide the screws.  I may add a little bit more brown paint to dirty up a bit of the scuffed areas which show a bit too much white for my liking.   My son pointed out the disconnect in furniture styles.  The shelf is over my computer desk, which is a 1930's dining table.   Definitely mixed eras, but I love my shelf, so I don't really care.




Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Yarnoire search continues


 I've been looking for fibre storage for ages.  Specifically, I've been looking for what I've been lovingly calling a Yarnoire.  An armoire cupboard of sorts, to hold lots of fibre and hide it adequately.  I'd probably hide it from myself with the put it in a safe place syndrome, but currently, my homework fibres are starting to be decorating elements in my living room.  The big problem is that I don't want a cheap mds armoire and my tastes are way out of line with my budget.  It seems I can zero in on every single armoire which starts at $1600 and goes way up from there.  There are obviously very few deals where I've been looking.  While open shelving works, Kevin, the exploring, naughty kitty also likes open shelving and bats the fibre bags down to play with them, hence the desire for a lovely closed armoire.

We were wandering through a thrift store the other day and I took  a quick gander down the line of dining tables and 1980's hutches.  There was this little chest of drawers with tacky hardware and a coat of teal paint.   It was pretty enough and I opened the drawers and it seemed sturdy.  I had hubby check it out and he declared it sturdy enough as well.  The drawing point for this chest of drawers, besides needing fibre storage, was the price.  It was priced at $35!  It was obviously wood and not fibre board or mds.   After thinking about it for about 2 1/2 minutes, I went and paid for it.  One of the workers helped hubby load it into the back of the truck, when I was told that for a little chest, it was really heavy.   It's not really that small either, but it looked tiny when it was dwarfed between two huge and ugly china hutches.

A good look at it in the daylight shows that we might have gotten a deal with this purchase.  It really
is heavy.  While there is a very thin sheet of plywood on the back, it covers up the original wooden slat back.   Two of the 3 drawer locks are there, though metal plugs have been put in two of the lock key holes.  I checked the drawer joints as they can tell a lot about how a piece is made. I had to look up this particular joinery type because I'd never seen it before.  It turns out it's a peg and scallop joint or a Knapp joint.  It was patented in 1867 by one Mr. C. Knapp.  It was a mechanized alternative to  hand made dovetail joinery.  By 1890 it had fallen out of fashion as mechanized dovetail machinery had been developed, which appealed to the Colonial Revival style which was fashionable at the time.  By about 1900, the dovetail had completely replaced the Knapp joint.

It's said that joinery of this style easily dates a piece of furniture. So I'm guessing that this is an Eastlake style chest from the latter part of the 19th century.  It's probably Oak, though I don't really know anything about identifying wood. I'm going on the fact that I read that much Eastlake style furniture was made of oak and walnut.   You know, oak is light coloured, walnut is dark.  At $35, it was a  real bargain.  I've priced replacement hardware, both originals and reproductions.  It's going to cost me more to replace the hardware than the price of the chest itself.  There there is that teal paint.  That might be a job for next spring.

I'm still looking for my Yarnoire though.  As pretty as this little chest is, it won't hold all the necessary fibre.



Saturday, 23 August 2014

Farewell my friend

Toby was a pound rescue who came in with a box full of what looked like purebred Newfoundland puppies.  He had a Newfie tail, and webbed feet, but was obviously sired by some sort of collie by the looks of him.When we brought him home, he was 16 weeks old and had rarely been outside.  He was afraid of almost everything.  He was great inside and with the family, but outside, even a bird call he'd never heard before would send him running back in to safety.   The neighbour used to babysit a huge yellow Labrador Retriever and one evening she asked if we'd like to go with them for a walk.  Toby walked carefully by the Labs side and soon started imitating his behavior.  It was really interesting watching Toby suddenly not be quite so afraid of things.  After that evening, he was quite the brave little dog. 

While he enjoyed agility work, his favourite thing in all the world were tennis balls.   He was a mouthy dog and chewed them after he'd played with them for a while. We never pursued flyball for that reason.  He didn't just want to chase the balls, but when he was tired, he liked to chew them.  The expensive ones would last forever but once a week, the two of us would climb in the car and go grocery shopping.  Beside the grocery store was a dollar shop.  I'd pop in there, pick up a packet of cheap tennis balls.  I'd leave them in the car and he'd stick his nose in the bag, just touching the packet of tennis balls and not move the whole way home.   He'd carry his packet of tennis balls into the house or wait excitedly until he got one to play with.




He was a good was a good pet.  He was good with people and kids.  He never did figure out that he was bigger and stronger than the cats though.   While I never had to do formal obedience training with him, he learned so quickly that it seemed he was well behaved without training.  His house manners were impeccable.    When we lived in town, the neighbours once asked me if he actually was able to bark as they knew we had a dog, but had never heard him bark in over 2 years.  He did bark, when it was necessary but only then.  He was active up until the last couple of weeks of his 13 years.  He will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Tape trims, masking tape and sweet endings...

 The shelf is almost finished.  It's taken two coats of each colour, with drying time in between.  The edge between the yellow and blue shows that even with masking tape, I'm only adequate at painting straight lines.  Not bad, but not perfect.  Now, to get brave enough to sand it down and apply the glaze.  I took the leftover ivory paint from the livingroom walls and mixed it with the leftover very pale yellow paint from the bathroom.  It's not quite as yellow as the photo shows.  I didn't want the back of my shelf to blend in too much with the wall, but didn't want a large slab of blue on the wall either.

I'm teaching a couple of friends to tablet weave later this week.  I'm using a 10 card, simple backwards and forwards design, which accommodates the continuous warping or fast warping method.  I thought I should brush up on some skills and make sure my pattern draft was accurate.  There are 2 metres of the green and white trim here.  I used an inkle loom and it really isn't worth spending the time warping it up for a small sample.  It doesn't take all that long to weave off the whole length.  I could have done another 1/2 metre or so but broke a warp thread and it wasn't worth tying on a new one for that short extra bit.  I mean, it really is just a sample.



 The inkle loom is made of Walnut and is  quite heavy.  That means that it doesn't move at all when in use.  It's beautifully finished and works like a charm.  I've been playing with the two shuttles to see which I prefer.  I've a couple of other styles as well, which I'm hoping to have tested by the end of this length.  I didn't put as much warp on the loom, so the tape should be a tad shorter than the green one.  It's pretty though.    I'm also playing with arborite cards which Maureen's handy husband made.  They have a slight curve in there, but it's a non-issue.  They work beautifully.  I only have a few though, so I'll have to see if there are leftovers after the fact.  I'd hate to see them languishing in some drawer someplace, when they'd be awesome for wider project experiments.


Peach jam, with sadly floating fruit.   Since I've still not managed to replace my food processor, I chopped these peaches by hand.  I think the pieces were still larger than they should have been.  In hindsight, I'd have run the peaches through the grinder.  The good thing is that the jam tastes just fine.  It just looks a bit ugly.  For family use though, it will be fine.  If I go to make more jam this year though, stop me.  There is plenty in the pantry: apricot jam, peach jam, raspberry jelly, strawberry jam.  Plus, there is almost a kilo of currants in the freezer.  I really don't think I need more jam this year.