Sunday, 28 February 2010

Weaving, Dyeing and more

How 'bout those Canadian Hockey players.. eh?

In between Olympic excitement, I managed to get a few things done. I was able to weave off the cat blanket almost to the very end of the loom waste. In this case it didn't matter as it wasn't going to throw the measurements off that much. There was only 10 inches between the end of the blanket and the knots on the back beam. I was hoping to use some of it up, just because I was a bit short of yarn, but getting that much out of it makes me pretty happy.

I divided the length of woven fabric in half and hand stitched it together along one side. It was time consuming but really easy to just pick up the weft loops back and forth. It makes a good seam for a blanket. Hemming was done by hand with some leftover grey thread, so it doesn't show. I wet finished it in the washer for a few minutes and that quick wash really softened up the Briggs and Little wool. While it will be durable, it isn't scratchy. That's a win win situation. I believe it has passed the most important inspection test.. The cat seems to like it well enough.

The wool I dyed at the outside winter demo with Regia is washed and dried. The Red is from Madder extract and the yellow is dried Weld and frozen Golden Marguerite. The night before the demo, I boiled up the two together in a stainless steel pot and let it cool and soak overnight. In the morning I transfered it to a bucket and at the event, it was heated in the rivet plate iron pot.

I tossed my last bit of Madder extract into my basket on a whim as we were leaving the house. I wouldn't normally use extract to dye with at a medieval period demo, but I had nothing else prepared for emergencies. It was a good thing as the young lads were indulging in a bit of horseplay around the firebox and toppled the tripod with the yellow dye after only two skeins.

After we cleaned up the mess, one of the lads was helpful by collecting snow to melt for a new dyepot, with the madder extract. We secured the pot on a trivet, instead of the tripod and these lovely reds popped out of the Madder vat. I can't tell you how much extract nor how much water was used because it was 3/4 pot of melted snow water and a sprinkle of extract. Pretty results though!

I've had to replant the parsley, chives and basil plants from the little peat starter pellets into larger containers. The basil smells so yummy. I can't wait for it to grow larger enough to use. The rest of the seeds came in with one small disappointment. The Amish Paste Tomato seeds weren't available due to a crop failure. Since I won't put an order in for only one packet of seeds, I'll just have to keep looking on various store racks for replacement paste tomato seeds.

There is a new project on the loom. It's pettable and yummy. That's all I'll say about it for now...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Colours of February

February has been a month of up and down temperatures, with lots of grey skies. Spring is on it's way though. You can feel it in the air. The buds are starting to swell and the tips of the tree branches are starting to just change a bit in colour, from dead brown to pinkish or goldish in colour, because the sap is starting to run. We've actually had a few temperatures which get just past freezing and the sun finally feels warm.

A February sunrise. It was around 7 am, maybe at bit earlier but not much. The dog doesn't normally like to go out in the morning while it's still dark! The sky was purple, pink and beautiful.

It was a cloudy, grey day. All of a sudden, the sun's rays broke through the cloud cover, reflecting off the barn and silos. The magic lasted only a few minutes unfortunately.

A visit to my friend's farm to check out the new addition. Pachino the Shetland ram is checking out the camera. What a sweet face! His coat is dense and crimpy.... pretty boy!

Chicken and Leek soup, cooked over the fire. There are sausages in the smaller pot and peppered apples just peeking at the bottom of the photo. This was a winter Saxon/Viking demo and that was our lunch! The rest of the photos are on a friend's camera, so I'll have to wait until I get copies of them to use them. It was fun but cold.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Plying and Playing in the Dirt

Yesterday I spun Shetland wool. Today I spun Shetland wool. Tomorrow I'll be waiting for the propane guy to come repair the hot water heater. (Washing dishes with water heated in the kettle wouldn't be so bad if the ancient sink stoppers actually worked. As it currently is, you have to be really fast to get the dishes done before the water trickles out.) Then I'll hopefully get to head out to a friend's for the afternoon. When I come home, I'll do some spinning. I'm now about 2/3 the way through spinning. Is that light at the end of the tunnel?

This afternoon though, I took a break from spinning and played in the dirt! I tried some winter sewing. You know how the bird seed germinates into beautiful flowers or leftover tomato seeds grow to be volunteers in the garden? Well supposedly winter sowing helps this natural germination along. In plastic containers to be mini-greenhouses, I poked some drainage holes and dumped in some dampened soil. I planted a few seeds in them, sealed them up and stuck them outside. Theoretically this will stratify if necessary and get the plants growing in a natural cycle. There are Dyer's Greenweed and Elecampane in those containers. I really only need one more Dyer's Greenweed bush and only as security as I'm not sure one survived transplanting. The Elecampane is a Zone 3 plant so will hopefully do well with this technique. I've extra seeds to start early inside or in the greenhouse to compare with. I may end up with a gazillion plants if it all goes well.

I did a small planning survey of the garden space and I may have bigger plans than planting area. If I sort of shift my 2 new raised beds and fill in the middle walkway that I left, I think I can do it with some intensive growing techniques. Hubby doesn't like that idea as it will be much harder to weed. Do you think he'd notice if I filled in the 4 foot by 30 foot walkway without mentioning it to him?

I found my sourdough starter which I haven't fed in a few weeks. I've several different ones which I've kept going for nearly a year. Unfortunately I haven't fed them lately. I dumped out most of one and have re-started it. It seems to be fine. Herman, my second one, may not make it and I might have to start that one all over again. Herman made the absolutely best pancakes, so I'm hoping he survives.

Re-potted Chives for your pre-springtime growing pleasure!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

soon to be blues and projects

How could I forget? My big seed coup for this year was to procure a packet of Dyer's Knotweed. Also known as Japanese Indigo or Polygonum Tinctorium, it's another dye plant which gives blue and grows well in our climate. The seed is hard to find and tends to be rather expensive when you do find it. It will give a lot of blue dye though; more than Woad but less than true Indigo. I am hoping to be able to save the seeds this year. It flowers late in the season, when light levels are declining. Unfortunately this also means that we start getting frosts. Last time I tried it, the frosts and cool temps stopped the flowers before they could even open properly!

On the loom.... Finally.... This warp was wound ages ago and been waiting for me to get around to dressing the loom. It's Briggs and Little wool that I got at the KW Knitter's Fair. I sort of guestimated what I'd need and slightly understimated. Somehow I thought I'd get a blanket and a shawl from what I'd purchased. Instead, I'm getting the blanket and a slightly smaller one than planned at that. It's a 4 shaft, 10 thread birdseye twill found in M. Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book. The yarn is 100% wool singles. It will be woven in one long piece, cut in half and the two sides sewn together to make up the desired width. My loom is only 36 inches wide and really, that is about as far as I can conveniently throw a shuttle. In order to get something wider than my loom, I need to either weave double weave or piece it. Double weave gets me only a tabby as I only have 4 shaft. While it would have been less yarn but it wouldn't drape as nicely. Since this is a cat blanket.. yes, for the cat to snuggle.. You see he doesn't like sitting on laps. However if you snuggle under a wool blanket, sometimes he forgets that you are under it and snuggles up the the blanket which is on your lap. It's the only way to get a cat snuggle in my house!

Spinning.. more shawl yarn for Tammy's shawl. This is just about 1300 yards of it. That's about a third of what I need. Believe me I've been spinning for what seems like days. Well that is a bit of an exaggeration - only 4 or 5 hours a day for more than a week. Depending on how long it actually takes me to spin the shawl yarn, will depend on what order it makes it onto the loom.

Oh and the Parsley has germinated and the chives are almost ready to re-pot! Yay for growing things way to early in the season. Fresh chives sprinkled on a baked potato or omelet. Yum!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Garden Plans

The plans for the new gardens are underway. Seeds have been ordered from two different companies. Richter's Seeds, which I highly recommend has most of the herbs and dye plants that I wanted to replace. They have superb service and my packet of seeds came very quickly. The rest I ordered from William Dam, which sent a notice for a 3-6 week delivery delay. From checking out reviews, this seems to be standard with them for early orders. I'm still waiting for this packet. I had checked out seed catalogues from several Heritage seed companies. I noticed that the two companies I ordered from had many of the same seed varieties in packets with larger seed counts at about half the price.

The Dye Garden -

I decided not to replace absolutely everything the first year, but to get the basics established with a few extras as well...

replacement dye garden plants..............

- Golden Marguerite - easy to grow, self seeding, short lived perennial. It gives a very nice yellow and stores easily by tossing the flowers in a ziplock bag in the freezer.
- Woad - easy to grow blue. I've two different varieties myself and some seeds from a friend. One variety was originally from Richter's, the second was a gift. They have very different leaft types. Of the third from a friend, I'm not certain of their origin or variety.
-Chinese Woad - Never tried this variety officially before. I have an inkling it might be similar to my second variety, but this is the easiest way for me to tell.
Madder - I'll have to figure out where to put these seedlings so they can grow undisturbed for a few years. Hopefully this will be in an area where they can somewhat self seed and stem root.
Yellow Bedstraw- This gives a lovely soft yellow colour several times a year from cutting it back. The roots should give a red, but I've not been able to try them yet. It's another one which will take a couple of years before it gives reliably large harvests.
Weld - yellow - a grass which is easy to grow. It's a biennial so I'll have to plant some next year as well for a continuous harvest.
Yarrow (Red) - should give the same yellow as the white in the old garden, but with a red flower. It stinks when used in a dyebath, but one can always do it outside.
Coreopsis Tinctoria - these will get planted where they can't get mowed down by over zealous lawn mowers!

New for this year!

Black Hollyhocks... I don't know how useful these will be. They are self seeding though and I can toss some plants in by the barn and let them grow there. It was a whimsy selection, reminding me of a childhood home.

Elecampane - supposed to give yellows and oranges. It's another not so pretty flower but one I've been wanting to try for a while. It's listed in several medieval cookery books as an ingredient. It's supposed to attract bees and pollinators, so another good reason to have it.

Flowers -
Rudbekia Goldsturm - just 'cause it's one of my favourite late blooming perennials

Marigiolds - for pest repelling properties and because they're pretty


Summer Savory,
winter Savory
Flat Leaf Parsley
Sweet Basil,
Greek Oregano
English Thyme

brought from other house - Sage and Lavender

Veggies -

Garlic - planted this past fall
The following seeds are Open Pollinated and some are Heritage seeds

Scarlet Runner Beans
Blue Lake Bush Beans
Rocdor Yellow Bush Beans
Touchstone gold beets
Bandit Leeks
Elizafen long white German radish
Amish Paste tomato
Brandywine Red tomato
Yellow Pear tomato
Bloomsdale spinach
Bon Vivant - summer lettuce mixture
Mesclun - early spring salad green mixture
National Pickling Cucumber

Honey Select sweet corn - hybrid
Rainbow carrots - hybrid

Other seeds - from store rack -

generic labeled green onion seeds
generic labeled sunflower seeds
Icelandic poppies

Isn't that enough for one year?
well, I wouldn't mind having a red or black cherry tomato, maybe a squash or pumpkin and a summer squash variety as well.

Friday, 5 February 2010

She thought she wasn't busy.... BUT.......

I really was.

Every year I take my Ashford traveller, give her a good wipe down and re-apply the tung oil finish. Turns out I should be doing it every 6 months, so this summer I will take some fine steel wool and sand her down before I apply the next coat. I can do it outside, which will be nicer. It took 3 days to do this but after a good cleaning, two coats of tung oil, oiling and waxing all the moving bits, she spins like new.

My sweetie calls her my forgotten wheel, but she is only a tad neglected sometimes, never forgotten. I'm spinning the Shetland Shawl project on her. Tammy provided the rovings and I'm spinning and weaving them into a shawl for her. The rovings are from some of her favourite sheep. I'm spinning the shawl project on the Traveller so I can drag the wheel and the project out to the Guild spin-ins. There are 3 a month and I've found them to be a really good way to set away a block of spinning time. Since this skein of 263 yards of plied shetland wool took most of my free time for two days, having a few blocks of time devoted to spinning this yarn is a going to help a lot in time management.

I finished spinning up the pink and purple polwarth rovings. I really hope that I have enough to weave with, but I'm not sure. There are only 500 gms of them. I was initially planning to make a woven vest with them but I might have to do the back of some sort of contrasting, commercial fabric as I'm not sure I'll have enough.

I broke down and started a few herb seeds. There were a few potted herbs in a local grocery store and they were very sad looking plants. I didn't think I could bring them back, they looked so far gone. Instead, I put a grow light and a few peat pellets in a tray and planted some Flat leaf Parsley, Chives and Sweet Basil. The parsley seems to be a bit of a slow grower, but the others are making me very happy. These will be for inside pots. It's really too early to start seedlings yet here.

That being said, I may try Winter Sowing some Weld and Dyer's Greenweed seeds. This is supposed to be a good way to start perennials. You plant them in a clear plastic lidded container and leave them outside to freeze and thaw as the weather conditions dictate. This stratifies if necessary and lets them start as soon as they can. It is supposed to give strong plants.

I made two Anglo Saxon style hoods - one from handwoven wool fabric dyed with Yellow Bedstraw. The other is just a plain commercially woven wool fabric. Both are lined with linen. They are for a Regia Anglorum N.A outing this weekend.

Right now, I'm mordanting yarn and cooking up some dried Weld for the Regia outing. It's outside and the weather looks good - sunny and -8C. I'm dragging out the dye pots, or at least the nice steel pot and I'm going to try dyeing over an open fire in February. I'm not sure I'm willing to risk the clay dye pot to temperature extremes for a winter demo.