Friday, 21 April 2017

This week's wrap up

This was another week where it felt like I didn't accomplish very much, but I know that I did.  The grey skies and torrential downpours certainly didn't help, not did the intermittent wifi connections which seem to mess everything up, especially watching the hockey play offs.   On Easter Sunday I was at Westfield, where I demonstrated Pysanky making.   I love talking with the visitors as there are some really interesting people.  I did keep one egg from slithering off in the hands of a very sneaky child, but lost one to a lollipop laden child who drooled on one egg, causing the dyes to run.    I moved the tablecloth back before I started working with the wax and lit candle, so that I didn't drip on it.

The second skein of S twist singles from the Falkland top is off the wheel and wet finished.   It is ready to go but I'm trying  to decide whether to dye it with natural dyes or if I should just use acid dyes.   It shouldn't be such a big deal I guess, but right now the husband is making the new counters, making thorough planning a necessity.  There is no way I want to be caught finishing up a dyeing project when he wants to be fussing with the new countertops.   The small one done for an learning experience is gorgeous, so counters get the go ahead and dyeing takes the back seat for the moment. I'm waiting to put the spin patterned project on the loom until the yarn is dyed.  It really is easier to dye the yarn than the yardage.  There are probably close to 1200 yards in total of the singles, spun 38-40 wpi.  I'll definitely be putting on a dummy warp for this project.

I thought I was out of the naturally coloured cotton, with only a small sample packet of the varieties of "easy spin" cotton sliver.   However I found 100 g of naturally green cotton hiding on a shelf.  I started spinning it up just to keep the cotton technique going.  Cotton sliver is often easier to spin from one end than the other.  This seems to have an oddness about it and I find myself switching from end to end sometimes, just because it seems to want to clump in places.  Other areas seem to spin normally.  I'm finding those awkward areas are prone to a bit of uneven spinning, which makes me a bit unhappy.  That being said, it's still pretty nice yarn.  It will be plied together and get tossed in my bag of plied cotton waiting for a bigger project.

This is the main reason  for feeling like I've been a bit unproductive.  I've wanted to play the banjo for about 20 years but they aren't cheap instruments and there was always something more important.   However, one of these fell into my hands last week.   It is awesome and I've been practicing and practicing.   It's a bit slow going because I have little experience with stringed instruments.  However it is indeed going forward and I'm making some progress.   Without any instructors locally, I'm currently relying on a series of online lessons available through the library, several other online lessons, a couple of books and a husband who doesn't play the banjo, but plays other stringed instruments and is helping me out.   There are two main styles, of which I am currently playing neither, but I'm playing, so I figure all is good.   
Now if only the sun would shine, because I'm tired of all this grey weather.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Waffle Weave update, spring cards and woad seed planting

I hemmed all the waffle weave cloths by machine, which meant that they actually got hemmed in record time.    I had tried several different treadlings for the hems, but after trying them all, I preferred to just weave the hems in waffle weave.   They seem to look and act the nicest in the finished towels and are pretty easy to hem.
The two cloths I did with purple cottolin weft, were folded into bunny shapes.  I used them to hold hand poured vanilla scented candles. They are votives and now I'm thinking that I should have put them in votive holders, to make sure the kids burn them safely.  This one isn't waffle weave, but an inadvertent birdseye twill, because I set the treadles in correctly for the pattern I was using.   I even tested and checked it, so I really wasn't paying attention that day as I was halfway through the towel when I noticed it.
I carved this block of spring flowers.  I was thinking about a friend who loves snails, so I added a little snail to the picture.   My son's girlfriend thought they were pretty neat and suggest I sell these on Etsy.   I thought that was a rather nice compliment.
I planted some more Japanese Indigo seed, these ones are destined for the garden, whereas the first batch was grown early, in order to try to produce my own seed.   I also planted some woad seed.   I used old seed and only a few germinated.  I took some of that seed and soaked it overnight, and a few more germinated.  I soaked some seed overnight, layered it in paper towels and set it in a plastic bag, like that grade school science experiment with beans.   A few more seeds germinated.    Then I found the last remaining seeds that a friend gave me more recently.   I soaked those over night and planted them.  So far, none of these last batch have germinated.   But... (happy smile here ) so far enough of the old seed has germinated, using all those extreme methods, that I should have enough to play around with woad pigment later this summer, if I can keep them alive.  I think I have 20 seedlings so far.  If the fresher woad germinates, then I'll have a safety net as well.

I have fresh Madder seed if anyone needs any.  It's from last fall.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Pysanky Process

Apparently, like icons, pysanky are written, not drawn.   There is lots of symbolism in the designs.  The first found wax resist dyed egg dates from about the 15th century.  There are decorated eggs found from the neolithic era, although they are made of ceramic.   There is an ancient history for decorated eggs, that is for sure.
 2 kistka and a beeswax disk used to draw the wax lines on the eggs.   The small, pointed tip of the kistka is heated in a candle flame, then dipped in the wax, which melts and fills the reservoir, allowing lines to be drawn on the egg shell, like a pen.   Lightly drawn pencil lines can be used as guidelines, especially useful for long, straight lines.  The beeswax turns black when the candle soot mixes in.   This makes the wax easier to see on the egg, but doesn't affect the outcome.
 All the areas which you want to be white are covered with wax first.  The the egg is dipped into the first colour.   Once the egg is dyed to the desired depth of colour, it is removed from the dye and allowed to dry.  Then the areas which you want to be the next colour are covered with wax.   Here the orange egg has been dyed twice, with the white, yellow and orange areas covered with wax.  The dyes need to be applied in a particular order.  Green can contaminate other colours so is often painted in areas specifically and then covered, rather than dipping the whole egg in the dye.  Blue and green are usually dyed before red, but the blue will make the red turn a bit purple, so it is useful to plan out the colours ahead of time.  Brown eggs may not show all the colours clearly and the colours won't be as bright s on white eggs.

 The orange egg has been dyed red, but of course I took the photo before the red areas were covered.  The yellow egg took quite a while to cover all those triangles.   It took several hours in 2 different sessions.   You would think that the black sooty wax would show the areas missed when trying to completely cover an area, but it doesn't really.  
To remove the wax after all the dyeing is complete, the egg is held near the flame and the wax is wiped off as it melts.  You can only do a small area at a time as the wax cools down fairly quickly.  I'm a little disappointed in the yellow dye.  It has weakened fairly quickly and it doesn't dye the eggs evenly.  I don't know if that is an issue with the eggs or the dye.  Because of the weakness of the yellow dye, the contrast on the yellow and white triangles isn't quite enough to be really effective.  On the other hand, the purple egg, which is a replacement for the one I found cracked, is much nicer than the one that I originally made. 
I've 6 finished, although I really made 8, but 2 had cracks in them.   I might have time to make 1 or 2 more before I need them to fill the Easter Basket.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The week before Easter

I cut the purple waffle weave off the loom on Sunday and wet finished it.   I started sewing between each piece, to secure the threads when I ran out of thread of an appropriate colour.  I had no white thread left and only purple of an odd shade which looked horrid with the towels.  I had to go to town anyway yesterday, to get to the guild room, run some errands and get my cute little car in for an oil change, so I just added one more stop to pick up some thread.  Hopefully I'll get started on hemming the face cloths tonight.  This run of face clothes was done at a sett of 24, which makes for a very nice looking fabric.  I'm going to do a comparison of the waffle weave I did at sett 20 and these at sett 24.   The slightly looser ones have a lovely drape are are soft and absorbent when in use.  It will be interesting to see if these work the same way.

I started on the candy for the Easter Basket.  Milk chocolate rooster lollipops and peanut butter filled, dark chocolate frogs.  This is pretty easy stuff, melt the chocolate, pour in a mould, chill till hardened, pop the candy out and bag.  The gold twist ties make them look special though.  I wonder if I should get some jelly beans to add a bit of candy colour?

Every Easter basket needs Easter eggs.   It is hard to believe that it takes about 3 hours per egg to make these, and these are simple pysanky, done mainly freehand.  There are fancy electric kistka, the stylus used to spread the wax, lathes to make lines perfectly straight and even etc.  I just use a candle, a little tub of beeswax and very basic kistka, although I have 3 different sizes for thick, medium and thin lines. The one on the bottom right egg was cracked, so I need to make a replacement.   The blue egg, has turquoise details, but the colours are too similar to show well.  I'll redo that egg as well. I was supposed to demonstrate these on Friday, and then could give them to my kids on Sunday.  I was going to use these as samples for the demo.  However, because of a work schedule, we're gathering on Friday, so the original plan won't work, if I'm able to switch the demo to Sunday.   Not sure how I'm dealing with that yet.

I just realized that this stuff should all have been done last week, to keep this shorter week less rushed.   I guess that didn't work out in my planning.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Spin Patterning project update

Spin patterning project update...

I've spun about 1000 yards of Z twist singles from the Falkland top. They are wet finished and dried on the niddy noddy to keep the active twist tamed for the moment.   I am pretty sure that I'll size them using double strength gelatin because that is the process I've used successfully with wool singles before, but I'm still thinking about it.  They are very evenly spun, the twist is consistent and they seem to be quite strong, so I might not bother with the sizing.

I've started on the S twist singles, which look pretty much the same from a distance.  Except for the way the bobbin spins, and the way you need to twist the thread when you want to thin out a slub, it all spins the same.  Because of this sameness, I am spinning some Blue Faced Leicester sliver on the Sonata, just to switch things up.   The funny thing is that it's off white, so still white but it's destined for a dye pot, so it feels different, even though it isn't.  

I almost wound off the partial bobbin to free it up and start spinning some cotton for a demo day at the Marr shop at Westfield Heritage Village.  I'd started the process and put it back on, deciding it wouldn't matter.  Wouldn't you know that over half the visitors asked about cotton and it would have been the perfect teaching opportunity.  I spent the day spinning with Cat, who grows and processes flax.  She's really interesting and great fun to chat with. 
I put a narrow waffle weave project on the loom.  There are 2 threading errors.   I noticed them almost right away, while I was testing in the first inch of weaving.   However, I realized that I'd have to re-thread 3/4 of the heddles.   I looked at my timeline and decided that I really didn't want to spend 2 more days redoing the heddles and then rethreading the reed, thereby having to rush the weaving and finishing of the project.   These need to be woven off, wet finished, hemmed and turned into decorative bunnies before next Friday.  That timeline means my kids will get bunny shaped face cloths with threading errors.  The waffle weave should hide them pretty well though.

I'm reading some textile books at the moment, Ann Richards' Weaving Textiles That Shape Themselves, which is really interesting and Susan Faulkner Weaver's Handwoven Tape: Understanding and Weaving Early American and Contemporary Tape, which is just a little dryer but still really interesting, and finally an old copy of American Woven Coverlets by Carol Strickler which is my "easy" read for sticking in my bag when I have to sit around waiting for any reason.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Colours of April

Today I wandered out to the front garden to see if I could pick a bit of cat nip.  It grows there as a weed and Kevin especially, likes it when it is very fresh and very young.  Well, I only found a few little tiny catnip leaves, but I did find all sorts of other cool stuff.
The maple trees are flowering!   It is such a glorious sign of spring.  The flowers are tiny and a deep red colour, but they give the illusion that leaves are coming.   I noticed that the weeping willows are starting to turn that lovely early springtime yellowy green.  While we haven't had an awful winter, it does feel like we are really ready for spring.   I had to scrape off an inch of snow off my windshield on Thursday, and I am so over that fun!

The grackles and starlings have been flying overhead, in large, noisy flocks.   When I kept the bird feeder full through the springtime, we used to get an awful lot of birds nesting nearby, eating at the feeder and screeching their calls and birdsong in ways which were no longer charming.   Now, the feeder is empty and most of the grackles and starlings move on.   It's not nearly as loud here in the mornings anymore and it costs a whole lot less in bird feed as well.

The Siberian Irises are blooming.  What a tiny but vibrant flower!  There are these lighter violet colours with the yellow markings and a dark purple with white markings.   They are only a few inches tall but such a fancy little package they are!

The crocuses are looking a little ragged though.  First, I think I need to do some serious weeding and toss them a bit of fertilizer or compost.  Second, the chooks dig around the flower beds looking for bugs and worm.  They tend to tromp over the poor flowers.  Still, they are a pretty burst of colour this time of year.

I've naturalized some winter onions.  They are a perennial which are sometimes called Egyptian Walking onions.  They grow little onions at the top of a flower stalk, which falls over and the onions will self seed.   I tend to just pick them and plant them where I want them to grow.  They are ready to start harvesting.   These are quite sweet and really, they can be eaten out of hand if you are so daring.  In a quick lunchtime soup, they are a lovely addition.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Falkland Singles

The first bobbin of the Falkland singles for the spin patterning project is done.   This is 550 yards of singles, 40 wpi.   I wet finished them by soaking in hot water and then in cold, to full them a tiny bit.  I let them dry on the niddy noddy to keep the active twist from curling up too much.   I don`t like to pre-felt or totally full my wool yarn.  If it is properly spun, it will hold together without any extra effort.  Actually, from my experience, even unevenly spun yarn is pretty functional for weaving.

This yarn makes me happy!  Really, really happy!  It is so freaking awesome that I just want to show it off.  I am so hoping that the spin patterning shows up at least a little bit and all this effort is worth it.    I`m working on the second bobbin of Z twist singles.   Then I`ll do the S twist singles.   I had thought of doing them alternately, in hopes of getting the loom dressed and finishing the spinning at the same time but then I realized that I`d actually said I`d do a project in between, so there was no real reason to not just spin each type of yarn all at once.

My sweetie thought it would be sweet to make up Easter baskets for my grown kids this year.  We`ve negotiated it down to one basket to be shared.   Because we have an interesting mix of vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and omnivores, I usually end up making most of the items for things like this.  That way the I only eat organic today kid, still gets treats.

I`m making some waffle weave face cloths, that I can shape into bunnies and pair with some sort of spiffy soap.   That is presuming I actually get the project finished in time.  Easter is rapidly approaching and I`m pretty sure my idea to make Harry Potter chocolate frogs for the basket, won`t actually come to fruition.

I`m using cottolin and cotton, both stash items.  The cotton is 2 strands of 2/16 in that bleached white.  It is such a cold colour and I really don't like the way it pairs with almost any other colour.  It is just so stark, unfeeling and icy.  Most of the other colours have this softer undertone, so I find that the natural white tends to feel more organic and warm when paired together.   However, the white was in my stash and I'd no idea what I was going to use it for, so I figured who cares for wash cloths, whether for faces or the kitchen.  I have some 2/8 cottolin in a more natural white for the weft, which I'm hoping will take out a bit the reflective glare of the bleached white.

But check out those Falkland singles... so happy!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Cotton, wool and catkins

I've plied and wet finished the pima cotton.  The skein is about 435 yds.   I've stashed it with the rest of the cotton, waiting for a project.   I found another bag of natural brown cotton and still have the rest of the 1 lb of the pima.   I decided to switch things up a bit, so I'm putting the cotton away, despite not having quite enough to weave with at this time.

The guild is offering an in house design class, which is interesting, and the instructor really knows her stuff.  She was trained in England and did her Master Weaver specifically in the design process, so she comes at things a bit differently than a lot of weavers I know.  It seems to have confused a few people in the class but luckily, the difference in terminology really wasn't an issue for me.  The plus is that I've been used to doing fibre related homework whereas others didn't seem to be able to figure that part out.  It can be really hard to sit down and do a homework project.

 I've been spinning to weave again though, just because of this course.  I did the sett samples with handspun and now I'm spinning Falkland wool singles for the next project.  I've played around with spin patterning before, just once.  I tried stripes and while there is definitely a difference in the look of the fabric, I didn't like the fabric, nor was I sure that it wasn't just a variation in the fleece colour and texture that created the visual effect.    This time I'm using Falkland top.  I am spinning singles, 40 wpi, about 7 or so tpi.  I will dye it, most likely with woad as a friend and I had a discussion about spin patterning and we both figured that pigment would help the spin differences show up more.   I got a little bit excited about this yesterday and this bobbin is now over 3/4 full.  Who knew you could get sore muscles from spinning?

The spiles have been pulled from the maple trees and the buckets put away.  We did our last boil on Sunday and in total we have 5 1/2 litres of maple syrup this year.   The suggested finishing temperature recommened by Omafra info is 119°, but the info from Vermont suggests 220° gives a better taste and mouthfeel.   I finished the syrup at 220° this year and boy, it really does make a difference, in a really good way.

The other day, after some particularly cold and blustery weather, I found these little sprigs of birch catkins, laying on the deck, like a gift.   It was heartwarming.  Not quite pussy willows, but still, soft and fuzzy and a sure sign that leaves are on their way.

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.