December 26, 2007

Wintery Wonderland

Christmas was wonderful. All the kids were home. We had good food, family games, the traditional jigsaw puzzle which also seems to be tradtionally missing pieces, and of course presents. This morning I woke up to see the world wrapped in frosty lace. I was able to get a few photos before the sun burnt off the fog and returned the world to it's normal winter landscape. These were taken with a lower end Sony that my husband managed to win at a golf tournament of all places. Still, it takes great photos and these were taken on the snow setting, so not too shabby I think. The frost coated Queen Anne's Lace or wild carrot is from my garden.
The wintery landscape is from just down the road. Hubby had to run out to Golf town to spend his gift certificates on the driver which he desperately wanted and conveniently was on sale. Last year's model so it was really on sale. We took the back way home and I got my little rural country life dose in. There were even animals outside.. lots of horses and even a solitary sheep, sunning herself outside of the little door to her barn. So peaceful looking.

On the fibre side of life, I've almost finished spinning the fibre for hats and mitts. I'm still not 100% on the new drafting method I've been trying, but it is getting much more consistent and the soft and lofty yarn will make up into wonderfully warm and yummy hats and mitts. It's very fast as well, although not what I'd really want to weave with.

December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas to Me!

I have a wonderful friend who lives in Tennessee. We've been friends for years and met online, on a miniature dollmaking forum. We have only been able to visit a couple of times, but she and her husband are absolutely lovely people. She has seen me through a huge doll making spree and supported me through dozens of other projects. When I get frustrated I can rant at her and she tells me all the sensible things I need to hear and even reminds me to get on the ball when I start slacking off.
I know she is an enabler. Go to her house and you end up doing all sorts of neat crafty things.. However, I didn't know how much of an enabler, until I received this years Christmas Pressie..
I got a box in the mail yesterday. When she said I could open it early, I pulled out this bag of amazing fleece. It is soft, smells delicate, isn't greasy or sticky and this pictures doesn't show the lovely fawn colour properly. It has to be alpaca since there are no guard hairs( llama) and absolutely no lanolin ( sheep). I pulled out the bag to check for a card and instead, what did I find but this bag underneath the first one. Can you believe it is softer than the first? It feels like the cria fleece we got to spin last spring on an Alpaca to shawl demo, only it seems softer and it is the same gorgeous fawn colour. All I want to do is pull out the combs and play with it.
However, I need to find space in the sewing room for my son who is coming home for a week over the holidays. Plus I'm spinning up hat yarn from the leftovers of the fleece we got from the Royal Agriculture Fair Sheep to Shawl competition. Donna, from Wellington Fibres, cleaned and carded it, divided it up and gave it to the team members. It is gorgeous. They do a fantastic job of processing should anyone want a reference for a high quality fibre processor in Ontario.

Donna thought it was probably Romney wool. I've been practicing a modified long draw to make lofty, fatter than I normally spin yarn. It is very soft and far more lofty than the Shetland I've been spinning the past while. It is a dream to spin and makes me want to try a greater variety of fleeces varieties. This drafts so well, has no neps or noils which can be a huge problem with Shetland. It is soft enough to wear next to the skin. It won't be white for long though. It begs to be dyed! Only one or two skeins more and I can play with the new fawn fibre.

December 03, 2007

Project Update

The two major projects that I've been working on this year are finished. The first was a natural dye colour wheel, representing Anglo-Scandinavian colours which could have been used pre-1200 A.D.. The plants were chosen based on archaeological research, traditional natural dyes and paleo-botanical evidence. It was so much fun and for some reason an awful lot more work than I had anticipated. There were some amazing surprises as well, like the wonderful colours of all parts of the Dock and Sorrel Plants, the horrendous smell of stewing Tansy and Yarrow and the rather uninspiring colours of mallow and vetch. I got some wonderful results from madder which made the whole project more than worth while.
The second project was taking two Shetland sheep fleeces, spinning them into singles and then weaving them into enough fabric to make myself a gown based on one of the Greenland finds. I spun, spun and spun some more. Then I had to figure out what to use for sizing the singles, dress the loom and weave what turned out to be 9 3/4 yards of fabric. It was such a lovely grey colour that I couldn't bear to dye it. The dress turned out awesomely thanks to pattern drafting lessons from my friend Truly. It hangs nicely, is comfortable and has a most wonderful swish to the skirt. Talk about a dress which makes you feel good about yourself.

Picture of the grey dress..

If you want to see the info about the above projects, go to Darc website. Then on the left hand side menu, click projects and then go to Textiles. Click on either Odette's Colour Wheel or Odette's Interpretation of the Greenland Gown. I'll get real pictures soon. Of course when I got to wear the gown in November, I had my camera in my basket and did I remember to take it out? Nope.. and missed some amazing photos of projects displayed at the Ealdormere Kingdom A&S event.

November 13, 2007

Sheep to Shawl

I wasn't really supposed to be spinning alot as I'd pulled a muscle and was supposed to let it rest. However, I got the medical okay if I followed certain conditions. I was part of the Guelph Handweavers and Spinners Guild team for the Sheep to Shawl competition at the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, which competed in the Sheep to Shawl competition last weekend. It was a huge amount of fun and an equally huge amount of work.
We had a lovely hand dyed warp on the loom with very fine wool. We had to spin a fairly freshly shorn Ramboulet fleece (or so we think) to match not only the warp but each other's spinning. We had 4 hours to make a shawl that was about 24 inches wide by 72 inches long, not including fringes. It took us almost 3.5 hours to get the necessary wool spun and a few more minutes to get the shawl off the loom, checked over and on the judges table. We scored 97 of 100, garnering perfect points on the display ( it was awesome, interactive and beautiful) and losing 1 point each for timing ( we were the 2nd shawl on the table by a time of 1 minute), the spinning and the weave structure. The shawl was woven in a plain twill, with undulating stripes from grey to blue. It was soft, draped well and was so pretty. Our shawl won 1st place. We won a nice monetary prize for our guild and each received a pretty rosette to commemorate the occasion. It was so much fun!

November 06, 2007

sewing and cattiness

I've been sewing, and sewing, and sewing and sewing. By hand. I don't find spinning fine yarn tedious, no matter how long it takes to fill a bobbin. I don't find any process of the weaving tedious, although I do get a little impatient sometimes near the end of a project when I wonder why I put such a long warp on. Handsewing though, I find to be on the somewhat tedious level. It looks nice to have the handfinished seams, but this gown seems to be taking longer than any other I've done. No pictures yet because.. I'm still sewing the darned thing.

Today the cat jumped on my hubby at dinner time and stole a chicken leg right off of his plate. If the dog did that, he'd be told no and not allowed to eat the food. He ( the dog) is much too well behaved to steal off someone's plate. He just waits patiently while drooling on your knee. Did the cat get told no? No! Instead, hubby let him lick the chicken and then peeled off a little bit of meat for him. Can you say spoiled rotten cat?

October 24, 2007

Mad about Madder

I've been playing with madder again! This time I used madder roots from the garden. I cleaned them off and poured water over them. After soaking for a few minutes, I noticed that the water was quite yellow. I poured that water off and put fresh water over it. After a day or two, I noticed that my pail of soaking madder was bubbling. As long as the pail had a bit of a fermenting happening, I was fine. After about two weeks though, it looked like something solid was forming. That was my cue to heat it slowly and buzz it through the blender a bit to make the larger roots into smaller bits. I kept the dye vat temps below 75C and mainly kept it at about 65C ( 150 F or so ). I also checked the PH and popped in a few pinches of baking soda to get the dye vat a tad more alkaline when it started looking brownish/orange. That dragged it back to the red side. The pic shows the carded batts to be a tad pinker than they really are. Still I'm happy with madder red. It is a pretty colour.

So far from madder I've gotten a range of colours including rusts, oranges, salmons, corals, reds, maroons, pinks and plums. Phew! That is a mighty versatile plant root!

Not only that but I've harvested a goodly number of madder seeds this fall that are almost dry and ready to share!

October 13, 2007

Kitty Pictures

Such a cute kitty, wrapped up in wool.

No, he's not sleeping. He's terrorizing the fabric. He attacked it and held it between his front paws, while biting the wool and rapidly batting his hind paws on it. Not quite so cute, but he doesn't use his claws much when he does this. Just playing as he absolutely loves wool.. roving, fresh off the sheep and obviously, freshly woven fabric. I can't fault him there. I totally agree with him.

Now the cat is in my colour samples. I had them out to pet them and drool. It seems that he wanted to do that as well. The moment the wool was out of it's bag, the kitty was in the middle of it. I guess though, he is the right kitty for this family. I can't imagine having a kitty that hated wool.

October 08, 2007

Madder again

I believe in the dye gods. My friend Karen says they are dye goddesses. That I can believe most of the time, except when it is obvious that Loki has been up to tricks again. His antics show mainly when I start dyeing with madder. I of course decided to do up a quick madder dye vat ( is there a quick dye vat?) and was going to only do 60 grams of wool to try for that red. I've gotten 240 grams so far, using the exhaust vats and I think if I really wanted more pale pink, I could get another vat or two before it totally exhaust. The first round gave me the dark purple, which was a bright and scary fuchsia before it dried. I realized that my madder vat was on the alkaline side, so I started adding capfuls of vinegar until it tested more neutral. I know that an acidic madder bath will get you orange and I didn't want that. My second try gave me red, albeit a tad on the purple side with successive tries were pink. They are pretty colours and I was thrilled with the results.

After this weekend's rains, I was able to dig some fresh madder. One three year old plant and two year old one. The two year old plant was in a garden bed which was really well prepared. It had larger roots than the three year old plant. I rinsed them well and took off all the new shoots which were surprisingly orangy yellow. Then I soaked them for about 5 minutes and realized that the water was bright yellow. I quickly strained the roots and tossed that first soaking water. I really didn't want lots of yellow pigment. The plastic bucket that I'm using to soak them had a yellow stain where the water reached already. Of course, this is a holiday weekend here and all the stores are closed, so I'm unable to get more distilled water. I wanted to use distilled to get rid of any effect that chlorine might have, since our city water is well chlorinated. Instead I had to boil water which I've been told would remove much of the chlorine and the resulting soaking water is reddish now. Phew... I don't want another orange madder vat!

September 27, 2007

Almost done

Here is what the back beam looked like when I started this project. Yesterday I went on a weaving binge. I wove and wove and wove.... I did have to start using bits and pieces. As well, I used some light grey icelandic wool, blended with black and darker grey shetland to mix in with the last bit. I've been weaving alternate threads. Luckily I did a pretty good job of colour matching so it doesn't look out of place.
I got a fair bit done and now am starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Who knew though, that one could get sore muscles from weaving. Throwing shuttles and treadling use a bunch of muscles I was only slightly acquainted with before!This is what the back beam looks like now. Woo Hoo, I know I'm getting close to the end.

Will I miss this mega project? I don't think so. I like the planning of the projects, which includes researching it. I like the playing with the material, be that spinning the fibre or warping the loom with purchased threads. I like all aspects of dressing the the loom and possibly the only part of weaving that I like a little less, is the last metre or two of a project on the loom, when I get a little impatient to see it off the loom. Then I can play with it some more by finishing the fabric or starting a new project. Please notice that I've said nothing about fringing. I'm not fond of fringing by hand as it wears your poor finger tips to nubs.

September 25, 2007

Still Weaving

I'm still weaving. Turns out it is a huge amount of weaving. Somehow I thought it would go a little faster than it is. I think it is like watching your pot boil. Whenever I check my back beam to see how much is still there, it looks like I've done nothing! I am however, almost out of spun yarn, so I must be accomplishing something. I had hoped to have it off the loom today. I'm thinking more realistically another week or two, if I'm lucky. It seems to be alot of weaving. I still love the colour though. I've caught myself petting it time and again.

September 19, 2007

Addendum ..

I redid my calculations for the warp below. They are correct! That means should have spun enough yarn, plus a bit of extra for safety. So what went wrong? The only thing I can think of is that because it was in two bags, one has gotten misplaced. I put the spun skeins in the perfectly sized green kitchen bags that we also must use for compostables for our trash pickup. So is there a chance that it got sent to our composting facility? Scary thought.. but possible. I will however, search high and low in case it got stuck in a wool storage container.. not like there aren't a few around here and am picking up a drum carder tonight to blend and start spinning more, just incase!

The long and scary warp ...

These handspun singles were a pain in the patootie to warp the loom with. The were hairy, scarily fragile and very, very long. It took 3 days to wind off the threads and get them to the loom. Then it took me another couple of days to thread the reed and heddles. To cap it off, I was only able to wind the threads on at a rate of less than 2 yards per hour, so it took me something silly like 8 hours just to wind the warp and get it ready to weave. Six threads broke while winding and at this point, I was really worried that the project was in huge trouble of not succeeding as the first few inches of weaving was pretty scary. Threads caught and the shed wouldn't open. Then poof.. all of a sudden I got all the tension right and so far so good, ( touch wood) it is weaving as it should.
The real problem? I underestimated my yarn requirements. I would have had enough had I alternated the light grey and dark grey threads, but my calculations suggested that I'd have enough of the light grey alone and wouldn't need to mix them. So I went with the light grey. Then I realized I was going through it at twice the rate I thought I would. Turns out I had underestimated the picks per inch and instead of having an unbalanced weave, I have a lovely balanced tabby.

The colour reminds me of the grey flannel pants that the boys had to wear as part of their school uniform. It is so pretty that I am glad I didn't dye it. So, if I can borrow a drum carder, I will be able to mix some grey fleece to hopefully match, and be spinning and weaving my little heart out for the next couple of weeks. If not, well it will end up being two toned as I have far too little light grey to finish the project as is. Happy about the way the project is turning out but unhappy about the wool quantity discrepancy.

September 12, 2007

Warp Weighted Loom

It's done! I cut the blue checky fabric off the loom this afternoon. Phew. I was in a bit of a rush as I'd ignored it all summer due to the lack of a brake which could be operated by myself alone and my husbands separated shoulder which prevented him from helping me. I was in a bit of a rush, as I'd been given 'til this weekend to get it finished and the loom out of the kitchen in order to facilitate the installation of a dishwasher.
I ended up adding extra sand to my weight bags which sped up the weaving by 2/3rds. However it was like lifting weights as now each time I moved the shed bar it was like slinging 20 lbs.
I ended up with about 4 yards of fabric. I've no idea what to do with it as it was just a sample to learn how to use the loom. It is awfully skinny fabric. Next time I'd do a wider project and not necessarily as long. It is in the washer right now getting a bit of a fulling and fingers are crossed that it is as nice after that as it was right off the loom.

September 10, 2007

Natural Dyeing - Linen

Linen is supposed to be difficult to dye and then it is supposed to only take very pale colours. I've also read that you need to do an alum/tanin/alum mordant procedure to get the pale colours to stay on linen. I present to you the results of the madder, woad and weld dye vats on linen. The linen was mordanted with alum. We were pretty overwhelmed with the fantastic and totally unexpected results. I haven't redone this experiment to see if it was a fluke or the real deal. It does however give some credence to recreating the findings of early period blue and red dyed linens. I was thrilled to bits with this particular experiment.

September 04, 2007

More Natural Dyes

This past weekend I went to an amazing SCA event called Fruits of our Labours. There a friend and I taught a class on natural dyeing. We used woad that I'd grown in the garden, weld and madder. We had put wool and linen samples in the dye vats. The dyeing gods shined upon us and we had spectacular results. It was so much fun... the class as well as the whole event. The blue was gorgeous and interestingly it started off very turquoise, but a quick rinse took all the yellow out. The madder dyed this intense brick red/tangerine colour.. totally awesome and the weld, well it is this incredibly bright, deep lemon yellow. It was the best space to do a dye class in; outside, lots of space, fire pit, 15 feet from a water tap and best of all, Vincenzo practicing dulcimer 20 feet away, so we got serenaded while we played.

August 28, 2007

Woad Vat

A friend and I are teaching a class on natural dyeing this weekend. We will be doing Madder, Weld and Woad dye vats. The woad is supposed to come from my garden, however the weather this year has not been conducive to lots of growth. The lack of rain really affected the woad and much of it really was only at 4-8 tiny leaves for most of the summer, despite my trying to keep it watered. We've had rain lately though and it has finally started growing. This means I had enough to do a trial vat today. I'd had nightmares of doing the class dye vat and finding my woad leaves were lacking any or at least enough pigment to form indigotin.
I am not worried now. I got a fairly nice medium dark blue/grey on some off white silk, and the yellows I stuck in.. Lady's bedstraw or yellow bedstraw and Dyer's Greenweed, turned nice greens. I can relax as the woad is harbouring pigment afterall.

August 18, 2007

Phew, home from holidays

We got back from holidays last Saturday. We'd been camping at Pennsic for almost two weeks. A week and a half before we left, hubby managed to fall while fencing and separated his shoulder. Friday at physio, he was told he could doff the sling and slowly start using his arm normally. He's incredibly happy about this as the sling was getting awfully frustrating.
I've done about 40 loads of laundry as the weather in PA was either incredibly hot and humid or warm and wet, making for damp gear, clothes etc. The kids too remarkable care of the beasties while we were gone. They're all adults so they should but I think I'll always have a bit of the Mom worries. Unfortunately the computer decided to have a hissy fit just before our return. Thus I update today's blog on my brand new computer, with a 250 gig hard drive with 2 gig of ram and a LCD monitor which is large enough for me to see without glasses if I so choose! Hey, I can remember when our first computer used a tape recorder for a drive and the first floppys that were conveniently available cost almost $300! And typing in games programs.. ohh..that's a few years ago.
Tomatoes and peppers abound in the garden, although I did have to water as it's been so dry here that the pepper plants were wilting and the tomatoes turning yellow.

July 27, 2007

Pattern Notcher

This is the coolest tool I've had in a long time. It is a pattern notcher. Notches on a pattern tell you where to line up the edges of the pattern pieces, so you can get them to fit together correctly. This little punch tool make the notches simple to make on a home made pattern. It also makes the home made brown paper pattern look so professional just by the merit of having lovely, even and accurate notches!
It was a birthday present. I'm thrilled. It was one of the most thoughtful, extremely useful and fun gifts I've received in ages. I've already tried it out :) It is totally something I would have never bought for myself.
Thank you!

July 25, 2007

Drum Carders

I'd been sending out my fleeces to get professionally processed. The problem is that some of them come back, not being exactly what I had expected or hoped for before I sent them out. I was okay with this as I'm spinning to weave with and although I love combing, I find that I can't comb quickly enough to keep up with spinning to weave with.
However my beloved spinning wheel has been acting up lately. It has gotten noisy, squeaky and cranky, despite my constant oiling and adjusting. For my birthday, I'd gotten the go ahead to look for a replacement. Hubby was sidelined this weekend with a separated shoulder and while sitting around trying to keep the shoulder immobile, he took a good look at the wheel and decided that when he's finally able to move again, he'll take it apart, reassemble it and for under $50, he can have it running as good as new! Since I couldn't decide on what wheel I wanted to replace it with... Lendrum... Kromski .... Lendrum.... Kromski... Schacht? What it means is I can give in to my DRUM CARDER LUST! I've started looking around at drum carders. I think I've got it narrowed down to either a Strauch or Pat Green drum carder.
All this decided just a couple of days before I leave for holidays. Oh the pain of it all :)
I've no idea which one to choose, although perhaps the Pat Green has a slight advantage being a Canadian company and all.

July 24, 2007

Garden Goodies

This is a picture of my first real harvest from the garden. A yummy green pepper. An unknown cultivar of tomato. All I know is that it wasn't a Beefsteak variety. A handful of raspberries which promptly got eaten. A single serving of yellow beans and some basil and thyme. All got eaten for dinner tonight.
It has been an odd summer weather-wise, with late frosts and little rain. The Golden Rod is just about blooming, which is a little early and the Rudebekia as well. I lost a few of the herbs due to lack of moisture, despite my watering them regularly . The woad should have yielded at least one harvest already, but not yet. On the plus side, the Madder has flowered and is producing berries. Yay! I'm really hoping that my home grown Madder will produce better reds than my current source. I'm able to get awesome oranges, corals, salmons and rusty colours with this stuff, just not brilliant red. I was also able to harvest enough Golden Margeurite to do a small dye bath this year. The flowers are in the freezer until I get back from holidays.

July 15, 2007

Cherry Jam

I bought a pail of pitted sour cherries since finally, Ontario locally grown cherries are available. I then spent the better part of the day making cherry jam. I miscalculated earlier in the season with Ontario grown strawberries and ended up with 21 jars of strawberry jam. I used larger jars this time, so it doesn't seem quite as much. This jam is miles better than the strawberry, so I don't mind at all. My middle son keeps asking when peach season is as peach jam absolutely rocks. Of course I keep forgetting that I don't have 4 hungry little kids at home any more and the adults and teens don't seem to eat quite as much jam. Did you notice the little almost empty jar on the left? That was what everyone had to sample for lunch today, along with fresh bread and brie, mmmmm.

July 06, 2007

The Pink Cushion

I was asked by a friend to make a cushion for another friend. Well, voluntold would be the real word. My services were offered by someone I like and respect, so I didn't mind at all. It was to be a special upholstery job for the new Princess of Ealdormere. Ealdormere is most of the heavily populated areas of Ontario, Canada, from Ottawa to Sarnia and North to Sudbury. It is a Kingdom in a medieval historical re-creation group known as the Society for Creative Anachronism.
The initial contact suggested it was just a small cushion or a cushion cover, although when I actually talked to Princess Kayla, she cheerfully showed me the actual throne cushion which was to be in pink, instead of red.
I then spent a couple of weeks a) figuring out how to upholster b) documenting a suitable shade of pink and c) making it with my fingers crossed that it would be tasteful. Kayla loved it. I was thrilled with how it turned out. I think I achieved tasteful and large pink trillium cushion in the same sentence. It looks far better on the actual throne than on my sofa!

June 27, 2007

warp weighted loom

My new toy is a warp weighted loom. I've currently got a project on it that is of wool yarn that I picked up at a thrift store. Not enough of one colour, the project is checked and after weaving about 4 or 5 feet of it, I'd highly advise using a solid colour or a warp of one colour/weft of another for a first project. The warp weighted loom is slower than a treadled horizontal loom to begin with, however having to switch threads every 6 picks is even slower. It is fairly pretty though. The cat likes the dangling warp threads. So far he's been acceptably careful. Considering he sits upon every sewing project I start, every piece of fabric I buy, weave or own and rolls around in a most undignified way on all the fleece that I own until it is spun and dyed, I do appreciate this.