Friday, 31 December 2010

Weaving out the old year..

It took 2 days to thread the heddles, sley the reed and tension it up evenly.  Really, I did most of it in a day but the second day I had only a couple of inches left to thread and the reed to sley, which went quite well.   It's threaded at a sett of 20 epi, using 2/8 cotton in natural and blue.  The draft is easy peasy to thread and the only real requirements are 2 shuttles and being able to count to 8, since it is a 16 thread repeat pattern with a switch in order after 8 threads.  There is a good online draft of the log cabin colour threading here, at All Fiber Arts .   I'm doing a tabby, so all the pattern is simply in the order of throwing the shuttles!  How perfect is that for stress free weaving after muddling through homework?

The grey and white colourwork socks have been frogged 4  times and reknit.  First I had cast on too few stitches, then the border was wrong, so I redrew the pattern.  I got it wrong again and redid it a second time.  Finally I changed the colourwork border to stripes and it flew along until I made a mistake in the pattern and realized that I need a way to keep track of the rows that I'm on more easily.  I'm now trying to decide whether to forge through this project, or set it aside for another time as I've lots of spiffy new sock patterns to try out.

Gratuitious cat and dog picture!  The dog loves to sneak up on the couch to sleep and the cat loves to sleep there when we leave a blanket out, though normally he only sleeps on the wool blanket!   Today the cat was in the dog's preferred spot and the dog was trying to sneak on the couch as well.  Oddly enough all this happened when I was in the room and watching!  Brave puppy!  It's an interesting way to end the year.

Tonight, I will be celebrating by snuggling down with seed catalogues to start narrowing down decisions for the spring garden.  I may even toast the New year with a small sip of Ice wine, although I don't normally drink.   May the New Year bring much joy and sunshine to all.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

December Colour Wrap up

It's been a white month here.  I missed November's photos and I'm sorely wishing I had that sort of weather and photos to post now.  We've hardly had any blue sky or sunshine.  There has been lots of snow, dreary grey skies and today, it's drizzling, so not only is it wet, but foggy!  blech..

 Taken during a snow fall, just at first light.  Poor chooks had to wait a few minutes for their water as I ran back inside for the camera.  The heavy, wet and dense snow, with the early morning light made the entire landscape look like a black and white photo!

The same snowfall, although the woodpile added a bit of colour, the only colour I could see.

 The short winter hike... looking for colour and playing with RAW.  I'd love to know exactly what I am doing when I'm playing with moving contrast, colour and other lines to adjust the colours and depth.  It's very much like playing in a darkroom with exposures.  I brought up the contrast and some of the warmer colours in a bid to soften this photo and add whatever colour I could, while still letting it look natural.

 Another winter hike photo, along the river.  There were ducks.  They were swimming faster than I was walking, so catching them on film was tricky.  Please note, there are no ducks in this photo!

All the photos are dark and gloomy.  Our sun is rather low in the sky.  Our days are short and it's still dark at 7 am.   Making the photos brighter looked to unrealistic, so I left them like it was.   Now, if the sun were shining, all that white would reflect the light.  It would be gloriously bright and almost blinding! 

Friday, 24 December 2010

On Cookies of all kinds!

 Yesterday, I spent the morning visiting with a friend, fully intending to race home and start the holiday baking, which I'd been putting off.  Putting it off mainly because I wanted to have some left for the holidays and the hungry boy people here would scarf it all down beforehand otherwise!  However, my friend gave me a lovely pressie,  Knit. Sock. Love.  by Cookie A, autographed by the author no less!  It's a beautiful book to look at and is full of brilliant sock patterns as well.  I got home and found the fire almost out... that lead to waiting for the stove to cool enough to clean it out.  After I rebuilt the fire,  I had a cup of tea and a gander at the book instead of baking.. big mistake as my afternoon baking session disappeared into a relaxing afternoon of brilliant book perusing and napping!  Oh well..  Today is definitely baking day. 

The must have cookies are just out of the oven.  The official name is Spicy Raisin Crinkles, but we call them Ginger Crinkles, because we've bumped up the ginger to give them a bit of zip.

Ginger Crinkles
3/4 cup unsalted  butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup finely chopped crystalized (candied) ginger
extra sugar for rolling cookies in

oven - 350, 10 minutes or until just starting to barely brown on the bottom
cream butter and sugar, add molasses and egg, beating well after each addition.   Stir in dry ingredients, raisins and ginger.   Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls.  Coat each cookie ball in sugar by rolling it around in the sugar.    Place on parchment covered baking sheet.  Press down with a fork or not as you choose.  I don't worry about it.  They don't flatten out totally, but do stay moist and chewy in the middle.  Bake for about 10 minutes.

The filled date cookies are out of the oven and assembled.  Talk about yummy and because they are loaded with oatmeal and fruits -yes, dates are a fruit, you almost don't feel too guilty eating this gems.  I couldn't find the medium sized round cookie cutter and the large one is biscuit sized, so way too big.  This year, we got stars since it was the only cookie cutter the right size.  Well, there was the dog bone one, but some how that didn't seem appropriately festive!

The cherry nut cookies may be a miss this year because I have 2 things left to sew and I cannot sew and bake cookies at the same time!    I could get the pies in the oven and start to sew, since they have a longer and more flexible baking time, so I'm not likely to forget them or at least the one more minute to finish a seam won't really affect the pie in the same way it will the cookies.

So why am I wasting my time on the computer when I have so many things to do ?  Tea break.  If I don't sit down to drink my tea, I'll set it down someplace, forget about it and not find it again until it's stone cold and miserable.  This way, I get to drink it nice and hot and get a break:)   The bonus is that I know exactly where my tea mug is for the next cuppa!     Happy Christmas!



Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Winding Warps and winterscapes

I had this wonderful vision of weaving a set of tea towels.   I thought pink, purple or turquoise and navy would be bright and cheerful.  My second choice would have been yellows, oranges and bright greens.  I looked through the stash I could find..  taupe, off white navy and a tiny bit of yellow.  When we packed away when we were clearing out the sewing room, ostensibly to see what was behind the icky 70's panelling but instead it turned into a makeshift  guest room.   I don't know where the box of yarn cones and tubes is hiding right now!  At least I know it's "safe", if that's really any consolation.

So I worked up a blue and white warp in 2/8 unmercerized cotton.  It's going to be a log cabin pattern.  Simple yes, but I'm starting into my homework for level 2 and want something on the warp I can play with, that will take little concentration and be fun.  Level one took so much energy that I didn't warp the loom up the whole time I was working on the homework.  This time, there will be a warp on the loom so I can weave when I need to feel like I'm doing something productive.   Believe me, a gazillion 10 yard sample skeins, even ones to certain specifications, does not feel productive at times.  Of course, by the time I get to towel 5, I'll probably be kicking myself for putting on such a long warp with no options for variation.

On Sunday we went out for a short hike and photoshoot.  It was short because not all of us were dressed for the weather!  I played around with shooting RAW for the first time.   Not sure if I want to use that much memory each and every time I take a photo though.  I really did like the processing though and I was just playing around without any idea what I was really doing.   I think I need more info on this before I jump in to it with abandon.

The trail was along the river and fairly sheltered.   The water is running still, so not frozen in this part of the river.  While it wasn't snowing, we had our normal winter grey sky.  I would so like to have some real sunshine with a blue sky!  

The chooks are still laying though not as heavily as before.  We're still getting 3-5 eggs a day, good, solid big eggs since they aren't all laying every day.  As the days get longer, they should increase production again.  I think in the spring, when we get our meaties, I'll look for some new replacement hens.  Not that we need them right away, but I've got this idea that maybe some Chanteclers would be nice or maybe a hardy hen that lays dark brown eggs.   Of course that would mean expanding the hen house a bit and making their room bigger.  There's lots of space though, it must means adding a bit and moving a wall.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Rainbow of Yarn

I was playing around with blending coloured fibres the past few days.  Starting with 3 primaries, I blended the colours to make 3 secondary and 6 tertiary colours.  It is so cool to see the colours changing while carding them.   I carded them with hand carders first but the blue fibres were pretty sketchy; shorter than either the red or yellow fibres and with a different texture.  They didn't blend easily at all.   In the end, I had to run the two colour ranges with blue though the drum carder and even after multiple passes, I couldn't get it to blend evenly, due mainly I think to the variances in staple length.

Regardless, it was a fun activity but time consuming.  I think I've spent a good part of this week just working on blending and spinning small amounts.   Each colour range took  much experimentation to get it right and none of the "recipes" were the same, so I couldn't just assume that because blue and yellow took a certain ratio to make a secondary green, that red and blue would take the same ratio to make the secondary purple. 

I also finished plying the hood project singles.  I've a bunch of skeins ready to go, especially if I ignore the plying twist differences.  I also spun up a small skein of Dyer's Knotweed dyed roving from earlier this fall, just in case I needed a bit more colour.  It's a pretty blue.  I ran the roving through the drum carder to blend it nicely, for a fairly even blend.  I say fairly because there are a few differences and I didn't take the extra step of blending the carded batts together to get a more even colour.   This is merino rovings and I didn't want to risk getting any neps or noils, so stopped when the batts were lovely, light, fluffy and perfect.  I tried to match the Knotweed merino in size with the Romney hood project yarns in case I wanted to make something out of them, so I'd have enough yarn.   But my little old imagination keeps on wandering toward the rainbow colours.   Except that I really don't want to blend and spin enough for a blanket or some such thing, wouldn't they make a cool colour gamp project?

I ended up fulling the hood fabric a bit more.  I tossed it in the washer for a few minutes but got distracted and it was in there for a couple of minutes more than I'd intended.  I spun out the water and layed the fabric over the kindling bucket to dry in front of the fire.  The cat looked disdainfully at it until it started to dry a bit.  Then it was deemed a good place to sleep!   In the end, I'm really happy I left it in the washer for the few extra minutes.   It's soft and yummy now.  It will make the perfect hood!  It's interesting that the stripes show up quite well from the Z/S differences but the broken diamond pattern is lost.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Tis the Season, I guess

A few weeks ago, my sweetie took me to a little conservation area for a hike and a photo shoot.  The picture taking part at least, we try to do on a regular basis.  The hike was an incredibly nice bonus.   We'd never been to that particular spot before and were amazed at how busy it was, despite the fact it was off season.   It was beautiful, with a reasonably well groomed trail but not so much so that it was like city walking.  We tried one local trail a while back but found it to be paved bike trails, which I just hated walking on.

 This is what the trail looked like at the beginning.  The greens were pretty vibrant for late November.

 One of the treed areas, probably white pine.  For many years all reforestation was done with white pine, even though we are on the edge of Carolinian forest.  There should be many more deciduous trees here!
  Still you can't knock how pretty the light is streaming through the trees.

 The sky was blue.   I like blue skies.  In the winter, we seem to get few of them.

 This is the remains of a glade filled with Golden Rod.  I need to go back later next summer because the colours would be spectacular.

My back yard today.  This is a colour photo, there just isn't any colour!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Off the Loom

It's off the loom.   Weaving it took way longer than it should have.   Between "real" life happening and dark gloomy skies it took a concerted effort to sit down and weave.   For some reason, when it's miserable outside, I just find it difficult to get started weaving, despite 2 large picture windows cornering my loom.   But it's off, it's wet finished and is out drying now.   It's too cold outside to dry it outside, which would be my preference.   I think I may want to full it up a little bit more, but will wait until it's dry to tell for certain.

The colour in the photo isn't accurate as it is more brown than grey now that it is washed and sitting in the sunshine.    Normally I'd weave as far into the loom waste as I can go without skipping threads or distorting things.   However by the time I got to the end of my required bit for weaving, the sizing was starting to wear off and a few threads snapped.   I decided that I wasn't going to fight to get the last few inches out of the handspun.  Instead, I would just weave to my planned length and be done with it.

Interestingly enough, with the projects like this I've done on the jack loom, it was difficult to keep the weft from packing in more densely than I wanted.  With the Fanny, it's the total opposite.  I have to be careful it's not to lightly beaten.   Not better or worse, just different.  Also, I had more than enough spun for the weft, perhaps because of the above.   At any rate, I've left over Z and S singles.  I'll probably just ply them together and stash them for some future project, along with the rest of the fleece.

Now, to find my hood pattern and get the final stages of the Saxon hood project started. 

The next project will have some COLOUR!  Lots and lots of colour!  One of those colours will not be brownish-grey!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Phew, what a week!

Two days before my son's birthday, he mentioned to me that he really wanted a new toque as a gift.  I thought about it and realized he wanted me to knit him a toque rather than purchase one.  Luckily I had some commercial grey, marled yarn on hand, so he got his hand knit toque, just not with handspun yarn.  Because I didn't have a pattern, I sort of made it up as I went along.  There were a couple of false starts until I got the correct number of stitches on to make a hat that would fit.   Then it was 2 days with lots of knitting, although it did knit of fairly quickly all things considered.

I had to make a cake in there as well.  My kids get to choose what we eat for dinner (within reason) and what they want for a cake.   My oldest son has always specified anything but chocolate, my youngest usually wants anything as long as it's chocolate.  My daughter goes for out of season shortcakes and the middle son has asked, every year since he was 4, for Worms in Dirt.  That's a nasty but somewhat tasty concoction of graham cracker crumb base, chocolate pudding, Coolwhip topping and ground chocolate cream filled cookies, topped with more cookie crumbs and gummy worms.  Luckily it's only once a year, but I swear I've made 22 of those in a row!

The Saxon hood project is going along slowly.  I've been putting off weaving and finally, one day when I looked out the window, it struck me that the colour of the yarn is not only the same colour as our deck, but also the colour of the dreary winterscape outside.  It is the same colour as our driveway, the roadside shoulder, the trees and branches.  Mix that with a miserable grey winter sky and lots of rain, I'm just begging for something fun.   I so want to put on a new warp, one for a belt which I owe a friend and the other for a guitar strap for an amazing guitarist, who has asked me for a guitar strap, not necessarily handwoven.  A trip to the music store showed me that I disliked the commercial straps, stamped with store advertizing and made of ugly, nylon webbing.

The new walnut shuttle does the trick for keeping the Z and S twist yarns organized, but it's a bit too light and way too slippery.  It flies across the warp (I don't think that the counterbalance loom has a shuttle race) and off the other side with regularity.  If it were any heavier, I swear I would have put it through the picture window several times, but as it is, it just tumbles under the plant table, terrifying the sleeping cat and making me crawl on my belly to reach it!

I started a new pair of socks.  I used to do lots of colourwork, both stranded and intarsia, but it's been years.  These socks are stranded colourwork - like fairisle stitches, but fairisle is specific type of patterns, and this is a funky deer pattern.    If you're on Ravelry, check out Anne Rutten's deer pattern.  After redoing the cuff and first row of colourwork 3 times, I've finally got it right.  Once I get the pattern bit done, I'll share it with you and my reasons for doing this particular pattern.