Friday, 31 January 2014

Clean and Colourful

I'm still officially tired of all this silly cold weather.  Yesterday's high of -6 felt warm and balmy!  We've used so much wood already, I'm hoping we have enough to last until the spring.  However, to distract myself from woodstove cleaning and loading, I decided to break out of the winter rut, and just get back to playing with fibre and colour.    I have some Shetland fleece that I haven't been able to get clean.  There is so much lanolin in it that by the time I start getting it out, the fleece is starting to felt up.  I asked my friend Linda what she used because she sells fibre from her sheep.  She put me on to a commercial degreaser from the hardware store.  I figured it would be worth the $4 and change to try a handful. 

The degreaser (orange Zep) comes with all sorts of horrid warnings, like keep away from sparks  and to let sit for 1 minute on surfaces before removing, among them, but I put a small amount in a sink full of hot water and put in my handful of greasy fibre.   I left it about 1 minute and I could visibly see the water get cloudy and icky.  When I pulled the fibre out, there was a noticeable change.  I washed it 2 times normally afterwards, with 2 rinses.  The fibre is perfectly clean!  It's soft, not overwashed and brittle.  There isn't any felting at all.  While I still despair at having to pick out the tons of VM, I'm thrilled with the fact that this fibre is clean and not sticky at all.

 On a roll with successful projects, I spun up a couple of skeins of yarn I was happy with as well, I broke out the dyes.  While I have no issues with tossing a bunch of weeds in a pot and whipping up a nature dye, sometimes I hesitate with acid dyes, for no discernable reason that I can find.  The easiest thing for me to do, is to just jump in, so with a goal of using just 2 colours and a pot, I mixed up a 1% solution of burgandy and navy.  I first chose 100 grams of white Shetland.  I decided on just non-scientific kettle dyeing and a few spoons of dye here and there, simmering for a while, letting it cool overnight and poof - fabulous colour!

The next day, after I got home from a sloper drafting day out, I put the pot on again.  I put in 100 grams of light grey roving.  I used 1/3 the amount of dye as I'd used for the red roving and got this spectacular pink, purple and blue.   This was a really fun and productive couple of days, to get the creative muscles stretching, with fibres I'm going to love spinning.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Scouring and Bleaching Linen

The costuming department at the heritage village requires all interpreters to have their hair covered.   While by the late 1900's day caps weren't really worn in a lot of places, it does keep costuming consistent and hides the modern hairstyles.  I don't mind at all, though it does mean some sewing.  While there are quite acceptable day caps available in the costume department, it's a trip to one end of the park to another and another 15 or 20 minutes of time.  Since I already drive almost an hour, I decided that I
need to make my own day caps.  I've not been able to find the types of fine cottons that many of the extant day and morning caps were made from, nor any acceptable substitutes locally.  I do have a soft, white cotton  that I can use but I only bought a half yard and I think the pattern I was given takes a little more than that.  It's not really an economical use of the fabric, so is probably a modern pattern which makes up to look like a period pattern, rather than a true 19th c. pattern.  However, it looks nice enough, so I'm using it for now.  I do have a good deal of natural linen gauze in the stash though.  This could be perfect if I could get it to bleach out light enough.

  I decided now was the perfect time to do a bit of an experiment in linen scouring and bleaching.   I'd
tried bleaching this particular linen gauze before but got really yellow results.  I didn't however scour the linen first.  According the the book Linen, From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth, all natural linen handspun threads should be scoured before using.  It's supposed to remove those yellow particles, lighten up the linen threads as well as soften them.  I just happened to have the ingredients on hand, soap and sodium carbonate.   I mixed up a triple batch and put it in a scrupulously clean dye pot. I simmered it for over an hour and let it cool.  There was a noticeable lighter in colour.  The water was a horrible, murky, chocolate brown colour.

 There were suggestions for a number of different methods to keep whitening the linen.  These included laying the fabric over fresh snow to bleach, keeping it moist and on the grass - not happening in January, in this part of the world, and finally more modern chemical methods using hydrogen peroxide, chlorine bleach etc.   I put water in the washer, added a bit of oxygen pre-soak and let the linen gauze sit for an hour, agitating once in a while in order to keep the fabric from having too many fold lines.  Then I added about 1/2 cup of house hold bleach and kept the same soaking routine for another hour and a half.  After running the fabric through the entire wash cycle with 2 rinses, I'm quite happy with the results.   This time, no yellow at all!.  The yardage is a bit lighter than the photo shows.  It's almost a half-white colour and will work just fine.    I just wish I'd used a little more yardarge as there was a good bit of shrinkage

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Another week spinning and baking

 150 grams of Icelandic done in a single, lopi style.  It's worsted weight at about 10 wpi. It's pretty and it's soft, really soft.  I will actually use this for something knitted.  While I could have made it thicker, I know that I just wouldn't use anything heavier than worsted weight.  It was fun to spin.  Normally I gravitate to fine yarns for weaving, so forcing myself to spin at a thicker grist is something I have to do once in a while
A spontaneous suggestion to visit a local antique mall on Sunday for a quick walk through ended up with me finding this treasure.  It was late in the day and we really only had the time and energy to do one of the three floors.  Sitting on a shelf, beckoning me was this red lamp.  It was labeled pink but really, that ruby colour in the photo is pretty accurate.  It isn't exactly the same as the lamp with the milk glass shade, but it's pretty darned close.  With a new wick, it will be functional.  That means that most of the lamps are actually able to be used.  I'd like to find a place to get a couple of replacement hurricane shades, a replacement burner for the one that is seized up and a bunch of wicking.

I played around with a recipe for Currant Buns from the Ladies New Book of Cookery, 1852.   When I take recipes and make them using weight of  ingredients, I tend to have great results.  Transferring the weights to cups has been at times challenging because our flour is different than others.  It seems to be heavier at times and absorbs much more liquid.  I've found this sometimes with modern recipes as well.   My biggest problem was that my yeast was getting old and I chose the day it was a high of -23° outside to bake bread.   That meant that no matter how hard I tried to stoke the fire, the rest of the house wouldn't get warmer than 52°.  Even though I proofed the yeast and it was fine, it took all day for the dough to rise, even in front of the fire.  The buns were fruit heavy and really tasty but I'll have to make them again on a warmer day with fresh yeast.   I'll definitely halve the batch too since it makes way too much for one family to easily eat in a couple of days.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


At least the strips were mainly serendipitous.  I don't usually bother with making matchy matchy striped socks when I use self striping yarn.  There tends to be a lot of waste with the yarn, trying to find matching points.  Smaller bits and pieces of leftover yarn are harder to keep track of.  Then sometimes the balls are wound with the stripes going one way on one ball and the other on the next, or there is a knot in the middle, changing up the pattern and making for more waste.  Once I even found the striping pattern reversing it self part way through the skein and I couldn't find a suitable starting point on the second skein, so matching would be a horror with that one.   Toward the end of the foot on the 1st sock, I hit a knot.  I untied it and just kept knitting because matching wasn't going to be an issue I was worried about.

 When I got to the toe, I grafted off and started the second sock.  I decided to use up the rest of the first ball of yarn because it's easier to keep track of one larger  leftover ball rather than two smaller bits of leftovers.   It sure surprised me when the stripes just started matching of their own accord!   So much at perfectly matching, that I rewound the second skein to get the strips running in the right direction and then forwarded through the yarn to what I'd hoped would be a good matching point to continue on.  Even when I came to the knotted point, I realized that the small ball of yarn I'd wound off was almost a perfect starting point to match up the oversized grey stripe on the toe.  In the end, I used up the entire smaller bit that I'd wound off to finish up and have only the one leftover cake of yarn left.   Not my normal, lazy, everyday sock routine, but they do look nice.

Some of our kids got together and sent us to the big city for a couple of days.  We got a set of train tickets, we were met at the train station, taken out to lunch, and then went back to my son's for a visit.  After the visit, we were ensconced in a  downtown hotel, taken for dinner and then to see Les Miserables!  It was an awesome evening.  The next day we spent more time visiting and then went to the Bata Shoe Museum, which was cool although the modern sneaker exhibit was much less to my liking that the historical shoes.   My sweetie realized afterwards that we could have gone to the Hockey Hall of Fame instead and was a little disappointed at his timing at that thought.  Oh well, next time.

My son lives just a couple of blocks from Romni Wools, which meant I'd had to visit.  I'd not realized it was their Boxing Day Sale, which was 25% off everything.  I found this lovely combo of Merino roving - just standard Louet offerings, but it's so nice to work with.  If' I'd realized it was such a huge sale, I'd have probably bought more but I got what I needed for a project which has been simmering in the back of my mind,  so all is good. 

I'm tired of the bitter cold.  The bird feeder has been emptied every single day until the Crows came back.  They tend to keep some of the Blue Jays and Mourning Doves away.  Considering we've been feeding 8 Blue Jays and over a dozen Mourning Doves, along with dozens of Juncos and dozens of finches, sparrows and wrens, it might not be such a problem.   Before we put the wire fence around the garden space, a small group of Crows would come and clean up the fallen seed, mainly uneaten millet and strut around the yard, following the buried rodent trails I found out later, during the spring melt.   However once the fence went up, they stayed away.  This extreme cold has them back though.  First just one, with 18 of them standing guard.  Now the whole family of 4 or 5 is back, still with the rest of them standing guard.  They are pretty wary but after a couple of days of watching them, I was able to get my camera out and take their photo through the window.   I don't mind them hanging around though because they do clean up what the other birds don't eat, which means much less waste and less weeds in the spring, from the germinating bird seed.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sunday Stills

I thought I'd play around with Sunday Stills as a way to play with photos.  It's too easy to forget to bring the camera out to play, especially this time of year.  Today's topic is WHITE. 

 A view from my backyard.


A rare day of sunshine and yes, the sky is a blue,although a pale, watery blue.

You can't tell here, but it's snowing up a storm today.  The heavy grey clouds blanket the sky.  At least it isn't -17C as a high today.