Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Colours of January

Sue at Life Looms Large has asked for Colours of January. It's been interesting actually thinking about photography again. Once upon a time I used to have a darkroom. I took tons of photos and even developed my own black and white piccys. I had great cameras and good lenses. I even had photos published in magazines as a teen... with articles no less. Life intervened and now I've only got a simple point and shoot to play around with. It's good for a little point and shoot. I love the easy and simplicity of digital photography and I don't really miss messing around in the darkroom. Winter has been mild this year. The frigid temperatures we would normally expect, just haven't materialized. We've had lots of mist, fog, rain and light flurries though. One misty day, I took the camera outside to play..... A pine tree in the back yard, heavy with frost.

We've had sunshine too! I love winter sunshine. We don't always get many sunny winter days. I was digging around the flowerbed and found these freeze dried roses!

Our Maple tree on one of those days that the sky is actually a deep blue instead of the pale, watery blue we normally get as a winter sky.

One of the roses on one of the cold, snowy days.

There is nothing special about this photo except that it was taken yesterday! On January 25, 2010, we had green grass! I'm not certain that I've ever seen grass in January before, so I had to document it!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Harvest socks and blackwork

The socks are finished! My son dubbed them the Harvest socks, because of their colours. They've washed up incredibly soft and yummy! Interesting colour, interesting texture, soft and warm.. what more could one ask for in a pair of socks? The home stretch of the last sock was an interesting voyage. I had to "tink" back the heel gusset ( tink is knit backwards.. hehehe) and redo it as I'd managed to include a near fatal error in picking up the gusset stitches. Then I had to redo the toe and tink it back twice until I realized that I couldn't watch Joss Wheden's Dollhouse series and count toe decreases at the same time. After putting it down, I redid the toe the next morning and voila - beautiful finished socks. I really like the look and simplicity of making "fraternal" socks. I really had only about 2 metres of yarn left in the skein after the first sock, so didn't want to waste yarn looking for the same starting point on the second one.

I'm finishing up spinning the wildly pink and purple rovings which should be destined for a woven vest. I can at least always spin while watching the telly, although normally I can knit as well.

I've also started a new outfit for my sweetie. I owe him several that have been backlogged over the past couple of years. A new early period outfit, two or three 16th c outfits; - sigh, I lost track exactly sometime last year when most of the materials and started projects got tossed into storage. One step at a time..... starting with a new shirt! With being able to set up the sewing machine and hook it up to the computer, I did some digitizing and stitched out the following blackwork for him to choose from. Right now his first choice and mine aren't the same, so I may have to do up a 4th sample for him. Even though I'm doing the blackwork by machine, it does take time for the designs to stitch out. You need to be attentive to the machine, the thread and once each pattern repeat stitches out, you need to reset the hoop for the next one. Each colour change has to be rethreaded as well... a definate upside to blackwork is the single colour.

SEEDS - the first seed order has arrived. I've always had spectacular service from Richter's and they shipped on Monday and the seeds arrived on Wed. I have most of the new herb garden and the dye garden seeds now. The dye garden will have a few new additions this year. Along with the Golden Marguerite, Weld, Madder, Woad, Yellow Bedstraw and Dyer's Greenweed - presuming the latter survives the winter after transplanting, there will be Elecampane, Black Hollyhocks, Coreopsis Tinctoria, Red Yarrow and Chinese Woad. I'm in the process of trying to procure some more Dyer's Knotweed seed this year as well. The having to start ALL over again and replant everything is going to be alot of work so hopefully there will be a bit of a harvest the first year to make up for that. I'm not exactly sure what Mr. Inspector Kitty find so interesting in the seed packets, but as soon as they are anywhere he can reach them, he's pawing at them, rolling on them and otherwise making his delight being known!

Friday, 15 January 2010

How Cool is this?

I started the new socks.

Then my sweetie took me on a road trip and I found a cool thermometer for the green house which marks the highest and lowest temps. This should help to start pinning down plant starting timing, or if I need any heating aids in there.

I also found a store with some plain white superwash sock yarn and I bought a couple of skeins to play with. I knew I should wait a bit, but I couldn't. Playing with colour is far too exciting and intriguing to let plain white skeins sit in a bag, which with my recent track record, I'd just misplace anyway.

So I broke out some more modern dyes and went at a bit of vat/kettle dyeing.

How cool are the results?

I had to force myself to set the skeins aside and finish up the "other" socks first before I start another pair. Otherwise for certain I'd have a single orange striped sock sitting around making me feel guilty everytime I looked at it.. for years! Anyway... yummy varigated colours and I can't wait to see how it knits up for more socks!
Of course there are a half dozen things I should be doing first, not to mention finishing up that first pair of socks.

Needing some colour to spin, I dug out some previously dyed madder fleece. Generally, I prefer dyeing yarn, but I had way too much colour and not enough yarn. The problem is that I didn't get all the madder out of it and it was a tad sticky, so there may have been a bit of lanolin left in it. The risk of felting while rinsing can increase when one gets the urge to smoosh, swirl, wiggle, flip or perform some other sort of agitation in hurrying the rinsing process. It took another 3 or 4 rinses to get the water to run clear and I stayed well away from the fibre in the process. After it drained, I lay it out on a towel in front of the fire to dry. Isn't it pretty?
It was still a tad damp when I went to bed, so I set a towel on it, to act as a cat deterrent. The cat will sit on dry fibre but I've not seen him snuggle up to covered fibre. I figured I was pretty safe. The next day my son congratulated me on making such a nice cat bed!
Now I get to do alot of combing and prepping before I can run the fibre through the drum carder.

Garden update - seeds are ordered - plans are being made - I'll replace the herb garden I left at the old house and plant a new dye garden, with a few more varities of dye plants in it. The rest will be veggies. I'll start redoing the perennial beds to have plants and flowers that I like. Right now the main bed has lots of low growing non-flowering green stuff, some oriental poppies and a bit of golden rod. The rest around the house has hostas, hostas, hostas and lots of what I'm told is Euronymus......... and...........weeds............. lots.............and...........lots..........of..............weeds.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Hide and Seek

When we were packing to move, I remember trying to pack sensibly.. all the stuff from one room in properly labelled boxes or packing like items with like, such as whole bins of fibre or sewing supplies. There are only a couple of items that I willed myself to remember packing. One of the items was the cable which connects the sewing machine to the computer so that I can download embroidery designs and stitch patterns. Yes it's a cool machine, but it's ancient; one of the first out there and no longer supported by the manufacturer. My software package is a manual stitch placement pattern digitizing program designed for Windows 3.1 originally, although they may have updated it for Windows 95 :) It's on a 3.5 floppy which took a bit of time to figure out how to put the software back on my computer since I no longer have a 3.5 floppy drive!

At anyrate, I digress... I was finally able to digitize some new designs for blackwork and a household badge. I went to hook up the machine to do some test stitching and couldn't find the cable. I KNEW.. absolutely positively remembered that I'd packed it in a pocket in the sewing notions wall caddy. It wasn't there. I checked the sewing table drawer.. nope.. the sewing basket, the bins with fibre tools, the sewing machine cases... I checked everything twice or three times over and distinctly remembered thinking to myself to pack this cable where I'd find it and thinking about my sewing room.
After a time I even tried pricing a new one. Hmmmm, they don't make new ones... there are probably 2 replacment cables, after market at that, for this model machine left in the world and they are $120 u.s. Yikes!

So I sat down with a cup of tea.. stopped panicking .. and had a revelation.. no, it was packed with the computer items not yet unpacked 'cause that was where I normally kept the cable. There are a few boxes with misc. computer and office items still unpacked. It was in the second one, sitting happily waiting for me.

Insert here..............HUGE SIGH of RELIEF ..........

Several weeks before Christmas I bought 2 balls of fine weight sock yarn to make a new pair of socks. I'd not had a chance to start before so on Boxing Day I decided to start them. The wool was gone. I'd hunted high and low and still no sock yarn. It was like the two balls had just disappeared. On and off since then, I've hunted for those 2 balls of wool. Even my son helped one one day. After a bit of a rant about my mushy brain, my sweet hubby, being the thoughtful sort, dug out a bag that was in the bedroom and proudly presented it to me as the missing wool. It was the wool I'd bought at the K-W knitting fair to make a blanket with - 10 skeins of sport weight wool singles - Realizing that this was a good time to start this project as the loom was empty and it is winter after all.. good lap blanket weather... I started once again to look for the yarn swift. I hadn't unpacked it yet from the move, not for lack of trying.

My yarn swift was a gift from a dear friend and I love it dearly. It's a plain jane utilitarian sort of swift, but it has never failed to do exactly what I need it to do and also reminds me of friendship when I use it. I've been looking for the swift since we first unpacked! It was always kept on a shelf with other fibre tools in the livingroom. I'd checked all the livingroom boxes and there are none left to unpack. I found all the other tools but not the swift - nor one of my quilting rulers, the long, fat one - but at any rate, the swift was MIA. Without the swift, my middle son, has been having to do the two hands holding the wool while I wind it thing for me. Finally in an exhausted heap from moving boxes and digging though them, I sat down with a cup of tea, and I asked myself, where would I pack something like that.
My mushy brain said.. pack like with like and special items where you'll find them.. and I glanced over and there was the cardboard box with the drum carder in it. It travelled with me in the car.. I personally unloaded it into the house, leaving it beside the loom where I'd never misplace the box. The drum carder just couldn't go missing! It's been there from the day we moved here..... I opened the box. There sitting beside the drumcarder was the yarn swift.. and the missing quilting ruler to boot!

Insert here.......... another HUGE SIGH of RELIEF............

Those 10 skeins have no been wound into centre pull balls so that I can now easily dress the loom with a new project.

On a roll now, I made another cup of tea, went into my sewing room and looked about the mess. There was a basket which was in the diningroom before the holidays. On it was an Elizabethan flat cap and under the cap... was the missing yarn........

Moral of the story........ Drink More Tea!............. It obviously solves many, many problems.............

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Spinning and Weaving and Cats... :)

My friend Vandy posted one of hers and he was awfully cute. Here's our cat toasting himself in front of our woodstove. When the stove isn't hot and going strong, he'll yowl and pace in front of it to make sure we're aware that it might have gone out! Once he's warm and toasty, he'll retire to the sheepskin I put on one of his favourite resting places. Hubby says I spoil the cat, but it's much easier than listening to his very vocal complaints! Besides, I'm rather fond of my Mr. Inspector Helper Kitty.

The towels are off the loom. They turned out much better than I anticipated in the beginning. I used red, green and white as weft colours. The green one is okay. The red is the one I like the best of the lot. The white are nice enough, but a little washed out for my taste. On the other hand, the white really shows how soft such a wide range of deeper colours can really be modified. I used a bit of black tencel at the beginning to draw in the warp and check for errors and between each towel to separate them. If I had black cotton I would have used it because the black brought out the colours beautifully. No, they aren't hemmed yet.. sigh...

I spun up two bobbins of the black shetland. I plied them with the jumbo flyer to see how much I could get on a bobbin. 473 yards of fingering weight yarn in one skein. There is still a bit left on one bobbin. I haven't decided whether to add a bit to it and then ply it from a centre pull ball or just ply it to make a small skein. I've got two large skeins of the black now, a partial ball left from the mittens and a smaller skein spun up before. I have enough to do something with, I'm just not sure what! I think I need a bit of inspiration with this project. I'm not out of black fleece yet either. There isn't an awful lot left, but a bit. I think I'm tired of spinning black though for the moment. I think I need some colour or at least the potential for colour.