Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Busy or Not Busy - that was the question

Depending on how I look back at the past week and a half, it's been both busy and not busy.   We had this crazy wind storm for 3 days.   To the south of us, they also had crazy snow, but we had only flurries.  However, the wind was ridiculously strong and the day I had to go into town, I think it was trying to blow all the cute little cars away (hopefully to someplace warm and sunny!)   The stormy days were good ones to be reading!  Days spent reading definitely feel not busy, even if I'm running around doing chores and stuff in between chapters.

I helped teach a class on weaving rag rugs.   It was hit or miss if we were going to have the class at first, but almost everyone made it in, despite the weather.   It was fun, and all participants finished their projects.    We had a teenager weaving who produced a lovely rug.  When I talked to her, it turned out that she weaves on a regular basis, on a jacquard loom no less!   We were lucky with the warps though.  We had wound on what should have been enough for 2 projects, but the first class was allowed to weave whatever amount they wanted and no-one thought to see how much would be leftover.    It was just barely enough but since it wasn't my class to organize, it didn't even occur to me when I had to step in to help out.   Next time though, I will suggest they either actually measure each person's project or put on extra warp length for security.   They all chose lovely colours and ended up with really nice looking mats.

The next two days were spent at Westfield for the March Break Maple Syrup days program.  The Wednesday was brutally cold and windy.   I was in the Lockhart log cabin, which used to be one of my favourite buildings, but it's a bit of a barn in terms of size - it's a huge log cabin, and it doesn't warm up.   There were two of us, standing right in front of the blazing hearth and we could still see our breath.  It quickly changed my feelings for working that building.   It was too cold to be enjoyable.   I had brought the fixings for a vegetable soup for lunch and I put a pork roast and veggies in a dutch oven to bring home for dinner.   The soup was delicious but because I'd used the same veggies for both, it meant a lot of carrots, potatoes and pumpkin to eat for that day.

I cut a pair of jeans into 1/2 inch strips and wove off another sample of the log cabin project warp. When I did the math, I calculated the whole project, including the normal amount of loom waste, despite the fact I was tying it on to the old warp.  The magic number was 3.3 yards and I rounded up to 4 yards, to make for easier winding.   Now I'm wondering why I did that, because I've got 3 samples woven and it looks like between 1/3 and 1/2 of the warp still left to weave off... ARGH!   I'm ready for a new project but not quite so ready to cut it off.

I've bottled 4 gallons of cider - 1 of apple cider, which was really tasty and 3 gallons of apple/cherry cider.  My auto siphon decided to have issues and at one point I was spraying cider and Star San everywhere.  The rest of the time though, it just sucked air in through a loose hose and I didn't have enough experience to figure it out while I was bottling.   A hose clamp will fix the issue until I can replace the plastic tubing. The other issue I have with the auto siphon is actually height related and there is not much I can do about that.   Tonight I'm bottling 5 gallons of an Irish Red Ale.  I'm waiting until later so that he with longer arms can prime the auto siphon for me.    I really think know I need a bottling bucket.  They work so much easier for short arms.    I don't think I'll do 5 gallon batches too often though.  Do you know how many bottles that is? 

Bettina - the reason you didn't see the error was because I hadn't actually posted the photo of the rug with the glaring mistake.  But here it is in all it's glory.  I love the feel of this rug and the look, just wondering how I could actually miss that mistake!

I'm still spinning white cotton.   I think I'm going to have to dye up some funky roving or something, just to have a bit of a colour break for spinning.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Washing and weaving

I've been washing fibre.  It's one of the fleeces I picked up at the Ontario Wool Growers coop last summer.   It's short, soft and springy.  It was a smallish fleece, but still, it's turning out to be a lot of washing.  Because I'm drying it inside and not in front of the fire, it's taking a little longer to dry.   It's cleaning up nicely.  I'm using a degreaser as well as Dawn dish detergent.   I've been so tempted to start dyeing the fleece, but I'm worried I will have too many small amount of fibre and no real project in mind for the colours.

I spun a sample using a long draw and it was rather nice to work with and the results were very lofty and soft.

I tied on a narrower warp to the previous rug warp.   I'd run out of 4/8 cotton, so used 2/8.  This worked well because these aren't actually rugs, but yardage meant to be bags or place mats, etc.   I think if I'd had more of the heavier yarn, the white squares would be much brighter, but still, the effect is still there.

I forgot to take a photo of the blue sample which I'd woven before the grey one.   This is the underside of the loom.  I'm using 3 strands of 2 ply carpet yarn for the grey, but the blue was 1 inch wide strips of jersey fabric from a thrift store sheet.  These are supposed to be used for samples for photographs for a future class the guild is teaching.

I was a little worried in between projects as Kevin decided that he was going to use the loom as a jungle gym.  He spent a rather long time exploring the hanging ends, which were only lightly tied in front of the reed.    Thankfully, he wasn't too invested in the exercise and was fairly easily distracted.  He only chewed on one thread, which wasn't going to be used anyway, since this project is only 11 inches wide and the warp I was tying on to, was 26 inches wide.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

One of those days..

I woke up at some ridiculously early hour this morning, with rain pounding on my window and the wind howling.   It was one of those moments which makes you wonder what the rest of the day will hold.   I snuggled back under the covers and amazingly got back to sleep - amazingly  because usually once I'm awake, I'm up and running.

Once the heaviest of the rain stopped, I let the chooks out of the barn.  In this mild weather, they hate being inside.   They don't like being out in the wind much, but they will come and go in this sort of weather but boy, if you don't open the barn door for them, they complain and complain like something is horribly wrong!

When I looked outside to the front, I realized that the culvert under the driveway wasn't happy.  It generally drains nicely, but for some reason, the ditch decided to drain on to our side yard and the driveway!  This has created a muddy mess!  

As I was contemplating this mess, the neighbour's dog, came running across our lawn.  I didn't used to care about their 2 dogs because they were friendly and kept away the racoons.  However, their current black lab is territorial and has started growling at me when I'm in my own yard and raising up a fuss when I go to do anything.    Today though, he went after one of my chooks.  I raced outside and caught up to them 3 feet from our garage.   I was able to get the dog to drop my girl, who miraculously was alive.    She ran off, while I chased the dog off.    After quite a while of searching and now worrying that my girl was hiding away, fatally injured, I found her in my front entryway (note to self - remember to close the door properly!)   While the poor chicken is quite friendly, she doesn't like to be handled, so I couldn't pick her up and she only huddled near the house door, trying to follow me inside several times.  She is a little chewed up, but doesn't look like she has taken any major damage.  There is a chance she may moult again though, from the stress, which means several months of no eggs.   I found a second girl, with possibly mauled feathers in the neighbour's field, far enough away that it looked like she'd been carried off.  She seems to be okay too.   I'm not happy though, with their dogs worrying my chickens.  Dogs will kill chickens for the fun of the chase.    

The rugs are off the loom.   The red one turned out quite nicely.  The last rug, from a navy blue jersey sheet has a glaring error in it, where I treadled two border patterns in a row, instead of a full block.  It is so obvious, that I can only think that my being so oblivious to the mistake was because I was rushing to get the rugs off the loom for the guild meeting.  Bad. Idea!!!!!

On top of everything,  the big box store where we ordered the Formica for our counters has the company's ads listing sizes available.  We ordered two of their advertised sizes and they won't actually sell the sizes as advertised.  Now we need to rethink the countertops.    And... my shoes are soaked from my foray outside, because to save the chook, speed was a necessity.  My barn boots are at the back door and I ran out the front, into that wet, soggy, muddy mess of a yard.  Some eaves trough fell off in the wind and the bathroom tap started leaking and why does it all happen on one day!   On top of everything, I've hardly accomplished anything at all :(

 Blech... not a great day so far.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Spinning, weaving, printing.

The Blue Faced Leicester is plied.  I used the jumbo flyer for my Kromski Minstrel to make a huge skein of about 430 yards.  It's soft, squishy and I'm happy with the spinning.    There is so much roving left that when I eventually get around to finish spinning it, that I'm sure to have enough to do something with.  I just have to convince myself not to dye it before it is all spun up!  I'm spinning up a bit of cotton sliver right now.  I thought it would change things up a bit, but it's white too and really sort of feels the same, even though it's a totally different spinning technique for the cotton.  It is still white.

After a bit of trial and error on the loom, I'm half done the 2nd log cabin rug.  I tried using two colours and I really disliked the lighter tan that I'd used.  It looked grubby to me.  Log cabin uses 2 shuttles, but adding a second colour also added a 3rd shuttle, which I didn't really enjoy using.  I tried just manually setting in strips, which helped a lot, but in the end, after about 8 inches of weaving, I unwove it and started again. 
Next I tried 3 strands of 2  ply rug wool.  It was a dark grey and looked fabulous.  If I'd had a narrower piece on, it would have made great tote bags, but with a rug width, it was just too light weight.   I will either try it with 6 strands of yarn or use it for a warp specifically for tote bags.   I did have this dark red sheet, already cut up into strips and waiting for me to use it.  I'm happy with it and it's a quick weave.

I played around with making a new block print.   This only took a couple of hours to carve.  I tried using an acrylic paint, which is why the stamp is stained black, but I didn't read the fine print on the label.  I'd presumed that acrylic paint, meant just that, but this is matte finish and I'm guessing is kids tempera paint.  It covered well, but had a horrible texture once dry.   I worried it would flake off in time.   I used the purple ink, the only colour I have at the moment, to make a few cards with this print.  I have learned I need a barren, to rub over the applied stamp or carved block , to help keep the ink adhering evenly.  My son who can actually draw, sculpt and paint (really do so, not just dabble like myself) suggested a small paintbrush to add a bit of extra ink to places where it tends to be lighter.   I'm officially out of supplies though, and for the moment I can't do anything new.   There is no art supply store locally, so it means a trip to a nearby city at some point, and I've no idea when that will happen.

Despite it being cold today, the sun is out and the wind is fairly gentle, at least compared to the past couple of days.   The chooks are enjoying the sunshine.  This girl is determined to dig up the front flower beds with her sunning and dust bathing.  She really looked like she was enjoying herself, so I let her dig away.  Hopefully she'll dig up some of those weeds.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A New Rug Project

This is a short 6  yard warp which caused me no end of problems.  First, I wanted to use 4/8 cotton in black and natural.  The natural was fine, but I'd gotten to the halfway point and realized that instead of the tube of 4/8 black, I'd grabbed a 2/8 my mistake.  To late to worry about it, I trudged on.  This should have given me some indication of how much attention I was giving this project.   I had a threading error.  I knew I had a threading error but couldn't find it.  Did I stop?  Nope, I kept telling myself that it probably wasn't there and finally when I was 2/3 done the threading, I stopped threading and took a day off to do the block printing.  The next day though, I saw the error so easily.  It was like it had a blinking neon light with an arrow pointing to the mistake. Sheesh..

I unthreaded to just before the halfway mark and figured it all out, except that I hadn't noticed 2 sleying mistakes until I'd already woven way more than I wanted to take out.  I cut it off when finished so that I can resley and will hopefully get 2 more rugs out of the deal,which won't have the mistake in them.

I love blocks of colour and optical illusions; such cool results from an easy weave.

Rug is cut off the loom.  I'll retie the warp after resleying the first block.  I'm going to do one rug in 2 or 3 strands of heavy wool.  The other one I'm considering doing as a multi colour weft.   There is nothing special about this weave structure.  It's just a log cabin done with rags for the dark colour and 4/8 cotton for the light.  I'm happy with the results!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Playing with Block Printing

I should have been weaving by now.  With the last of the samples off the loom, I wound off a warp for 3 rugs, wanting a fun, fast and simple project.   I managed to make a threading error at about 1/3 of the warp and didn't find it until I had 2/3 threaded.   I took it out and have been rethreading.  Then I was tired and it was dark and in frustration, I marked the section of threads which was giving me issues and walked away for a cup of tea and an early night.   I took a day off because I'd promised a friend I'd help her with a dry run of a class she wants to teach.  

There were 5 of us who had never done block printing on fabric before.   We each got a jar of paint, a handle with 5 blades and a piece of soft, rubbery, easy to carve material, from which to make our own stamps.     I'd missed the memo on bringing a pre-chosen design in an appropriate size, but I'd sketched out a couple of pages of designs which were luckily in the right ballpark for size. We transferred our images to the block using carbon paper and then carved away, sticking a block of wood on the back using contact cement when we were done.  Well Percival actually did all the contact cement work, since he was finished first and had the tin of glue and brush in front of him. 

This class was for the SCA, so most people did something heraldic, but I chose this vine design.  If I'd thought it out a tad more carefully, I'd have made sure that the central vine matched up exactly at the top and bottom, but it's close enough to be charming, if not perfect.   The block I carved is on the left and is a reverse of what you actually get when you stamp.  I didn't have a way to properly clean the stamp until I got home, so it's a bit stained. 

The stamping on silk was really clear and clean but there was some paint bleed through to the back.  The grey linen took the ink well, but the image isn't quite as clear in places.  Most of the paint on the linen, stayed to the top of the fabric.

We did a sample on wool fabric, but it was really fuzzy and the test sample on paper, to see if the block stamp produced an image we were happy with, was lovely and clear.   As I was heading home, in the gusty wind, with big flakes of snow swirling around on the road and rushing through the air, I came to the conclusion that these simple stamps would make lovely cards and gift tags.

Westfield had a volunteer enrichment day a couple of weeks ago, where I got to make a very cute, lovely card, using scrap booking methods.  While I liked the outcome, I realized that I really didn't have the time, desire, space and $ to amass the amount of paper, cutters, stamps and inks it would take to do these cards justice.   However, I'd been wanting to make cards for ages and with making and stamping them, all the supplies could be kept in a tiny, little bin, cost would be negligible, and the only real investment would be my time.  Plus, while I enjoyed the cuteness, I think that the fake wood block print is much more my style.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Mmmm Maple Syrup

What a fiasco the first syrup boil was!   I thought that my sweetie was only cooking up 5 gallons of sap.  Instead he did 10 gallons.  He was out there boiling all day Monday and I finished it up yesterday.   I didn't have enough jars sterilized, so one pint went into the fridge for immediate use.   We ended up with about 2 litres from the effort though.  It's light amber and a bit watery, more like a high grade syrup.   It has a good flavour though.  That being said, we prefer the darker syrups which are supposed to come a bit later in the season.   Still, I'm having waffles for lunch ;)

The handspun BFL sett samples are off the loom and wet finished.   They need a good hard press.   While I wouldn't want to spin enough for sett samples every time, it was pretty interesting to see the differences in the fabric which was made for each sett.  With the twill, there was one I'd use for a blanket or shawl and another which I'd use if I wanted to make an item of clothing.   Good information to know.

I'm winding a warp now for a set of rugs, just for some fast, fun weaving.  I'm spinning more of the BFL, but a trip to Fibre Garden last weekend netted me a whole pound of cotton sliver to play with.

The Japanese Indigo is growing nicely.  I have 2 pots and some soil to transplant these into at some point.   I should probably do it sooner rather than later, but I'm concerned that Kevin will try to eat the seedlings.  He's taken to chewing up a pot of cat grass, which is fine because that is for him.  However, there are teeth marks on both Christmas cacti, the snake plant and an aloe vera plant.   I'm not sure that these little seedlings could stand the wrath or curiosity of Kevin yet.