December 29, 2009

Small projects and Big surprises

The mittens are done! Why does the second of a pair take a gazillion times longer than the first one does? I swear that first mitten took only 3 days of intermittent knitting while the second mitt took until last night at 7:30 when I was sewing in the last tail!

After making a variety of wool scarves and the tencel experience , I decided to wind off a cotton tea towel warp. I hunted through my limited stash and there wasn't enough of any one particular colour to work with. There were lots of partial tubes that I'd picked up along the way and several that I'd purchased but didn't like the results. Nothing really "went" together in a traditional colour sense. So I tossed a bunch in a basket, used the two full tubes as background and randomly wound a third colour, changing whenever I felt like it. Four towels which should be about 36 x 20 before wet finishing.

I hated the warp halfway through winding it! I perservered... Threading the loom - 534 threads took a while because there was this holiday stuff happening in between, but I had planned it so I'd be weaving on Boxing day - as it's usually quiet. Nope.. I was still winding that darned thing on. Without a paddle, I separated the strands while winding with my fingers. Obviously I didn't do a very good job as it twisted around itself horribly.
It was a slow winding job and needed frustration breaks! I thought I'd broken tons of threads while winding, but it was only 5 :) More than I like but at least the warp is on, tensioned and I.... Can... NOW.... WEAVE.........YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guess what? after grumbling the whole way through about not liking the colours and worried that I'd hate weaving it... I don't! It's maybe not an elegant or pretty project, but it's interesting to weave, with all those colours. I'm glad that I didn't give up and cut it off. Not only does wasting that much thread go against the grain, but I learned much in patience, problem solving and that sometimes the project gets much better as it goes on. Ask me as I'm approaching half way through the last towel though. That is always the fatigue point for me, wanting to get on to a new project! hehehe

You know, none of my weaving books or magazines had a draft and tie up for waffle weave. This project would have been perfect to try it out with! Right now it's a plain twill. With all those colours, I didn't want to get too fussy with a pattern.

Sometimes people surprise you in amazing ways. Without my knowledge and totally nothing that I'd asked for Christmas, my hubby '' tricked" out my Kromski Minstrel spinning wheel! The Distaff is functional. There are extra bobbins! Who doesn't want extra bobbins so you can switch out projects or do a 3 ply wool? There is a very pretty upright lazy kate. Which I might add, I didn't need because he made me one which is plain but works perfectly. His reasoning was that the new one was "pretty". It is, I'm not complaining. And.. he added in something I'd have never in a million years thought about getting myself.... A Jumbo Flyer...... It's huge for making fat or novelty yarns (says she who loves to spin fine and smooth yarn) but also for plying larger amounts. The bobbins are enormous. I say bobbins because it comes with one and he added a second one as well! It's ratios are much slower and will take a while to get used to. It required a 3 second adjustment to the wheel - and a trip to town to get the required drill bit. I plied with it. I filled a regular bobbin overly full- so full that I couldn't actually get my fingers in to change the hooks. I used the jumbo flyer! I only filled the bobbin halfway! I have the biggest skein I've made yet!
For weaving, I can see that larger bobbins mean less waste from not quite long enough ends and less knots. This is a very, very good thing..
For spinning, I can see fatter yarns and more ease in plying. With a shawl project upcoming, which is designed to be woven with fatter yarns, this will make the project so much easier.

December 22, 2009

Colours of December

Inspired by Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream and by Life Looms Large. Sue at Life Looms Large challenged people to post their own set of colours. I'll say that in December, around here we don't have the range of colours that one might see further south. Still, it was interesting too try to capture them. These are from my yard.

The view from my front window - The hay field looks like gold when the sun shines on it.
A small shot of what is firing up the woodstove. It's a small stove but not doing too badly at keeping the rambling cottage comfortable. We'll still have to see how it performs at -20!
Our small barn. It's not very big but apparently housed 40 pigs at one time. I'm guessing they were weaners or something small like that. We're hoping to clean it out and set it up for a few chooks - some meat birds for the freezer and maybe even a few for eggs.

A cranky old blue jay chasing off a downy woodpecker. There are at least 6 blue jays, the woodpecker, a pair of cardinals, a couple of blackcapped chickadees, a gazillion junco's and a bunch of assorted brown wrens and sparrows that we see on a daily basis. They are hungry little beasties.Sunset through the trees. As the days are finally getting longer, it felt good to offer up a prayer of thanks to the sun for coming back once again.

December 18, 2009

Backwards Brain Day

When knitting with a particular grist of yarn, generally it can be said that more stitches equates with a larger size. So knowing that I was going to make a pair of mittens for my hubby with the same black lambs wool I made the half mitts from, I reasoned that they should be just slightly larger than the half mitts. Knowing that I cast on 54 stitches for the half mitts, using a ribbing pattern that was 4 stitches (2 knit, 2 purl), I'd need to cast on either 56 or 60 stitches to make a men's size small mitt. Knowing this and thinking about it at the time, I re-did the math, just to make sure I had it correct and then I cast on ....... 52 stitches......... yup... 52... How did I not notice that 52 is not more than 54? Then I started knitting. I was half-way up the cuff and thought to myself, this looks a bit small but a 2, 2 ribbing does squish in more than a 1,1 ribbing. I kept knitting. Half-way through the thumb gusset, I thought, hmmm, this looks a tad small, but figured that I still had lots of stitches to go, not to worry. A thumb gusset has generally about 1/3 the stitches as the rest of the mitten. By the time I got to that 1/3, I had half a mitten that I knew would fit my little hand and not much else.
I wasn't going to waste that much knitting though, so I'm now on the second one.

I've been spinning fatter yarn for some reason and it became perfectly clear when my evil research project enabling friend hooked me into looking up information about knitted Tudor flat caps. Start here from the link she sent me, which led to info on the Mary Rose and then to the Museum of London and the V&A where then have online photos of extant caps. I realized that I was spinning to make one of these caps. However, my fat spinning that I figured was a nice worsted weight yarn - that I measured out - all of it- isn't actually worsted weight - which is what I'd likely need for this project. It's fingering weight - it's not fat at all! All that embroidery thread I've been spinning turned my perceptions upside down and now I get to start again. sigh.. all backwards again. It might be easier to do this project by just buying the yarn but EGADS!... buying yarn? Don't know if I can do it.... giggle

On the other hand, the casing trim is up on most of the windows, the baseboards are starting to be cut and painted. The crown moulding will be last. It's needed to hide hide the large and unfinished seam between the ugly stucco ceiling and the nice, newly painted walls! We've used a semi-gloss durable, scrubbable paint for the trim. It's white and looks clean and pretty. Did I mention that the livingroom is almost done? Yay!

December 11, 2009

Done, Done and Done!

The embroidery thread project is finished. I ended up fussing about with a bit of overdyeing and put one of the grey skeins in the madder vat to see what would happen. I also used one of the extra yellow skeins in the madder exhaust and got a really nice soft orangy colour. They will become 2 sets of threads, 5 duplicate skeins and then the rest will have to be divided up somehow. The colours are really pretty. Each skein took forever to spin though.

The rest of the Coopworth rovings are used up. In order to feel productive because honestly, spinning teeny, tiny skeins of embroidery wools, means that after spending a week spinning and plying, you get 2 little skeins of about 30 - 35 yards plied, to show for it, I spun up the the brown coopworth. The slightly fatter yarn spins quickly mainly I think because the drafting technique is much less fussy than for the worsted lace weight stuff. This skein has 342 yards in it! I'm hoping that it is about the same weight as the grey from last week so I can make a hat with it. I managed to put the grey skein in a safe place, so I wasn't really able to compare the two to make sure!

The black shetland half mitts are also done! There is still bits of chaff in them because the beast the fibre came from is a bit of a piggy natured animal. He's adorable though and likes to be petted. The wool was difficult to spin because it really wanted to be something I didn't want at the time. This meant that the knitting was interesting because the skein I'd used was the first I'd spun and it isn't entirely even... yup, badly spun might be one term for it. This was a case of the fleece deciding exactly what it wanted to be and when I reconciled myself to it, all was good. However, regardless of the above, the mitts are exceedingly soft and most likely be very warm. They are also very pretty because of the colour. I hope the recipient likes them :)

The living room furniture is in a jumbled pile in the middle of the room. We have started painting! The poor gal at the store didn't want to sell me satin finish paint because apparently living rooms should have flat paint and not be easily cleaned. Ha I say to that.. Handprints and puppy nose prints begone!

December 06, 2009

Homemade Vanilla and other stuff

I love the smell of vanilla. It is the scent of good things, of home, of good baking and general yummyness. It dawned on me that I'd seen several cooking shows way back when we still had t.v. reception, that showed chefs using vanilla from a jar with vanilla beans and a dark brown liquid. It turns out that vanilla extract is easily made, from vanilla beans and vodka or rum, if you want a stronger flavoured vanilla.

I purchased some vodka, well hubby chose it after a long explanation from the gal working at the L.C.B.O and I bought vanilla beans from the the cheapest place I could find, which was 2 beans for $5. I'm sure there is a better place to find them, but for now, I could start. The recipe is split open and chop up vanilla beans, between 3-8 per cup of liquor. Put the beans into clean jars and top with alcohol. Shake once a day for a couple of weeks and then once in a while after that. It should be ready in about 6-8 weeks. You can add more vanilla beans and more alcohol to top it up as needed, when it gets to be 1/2-3/4 empty. After only one day, the vodka is starting to colour.

The silk-wool blend scarves are off the loom and finished. They are nice and soft and I think they are quite pretty. I think the blue one will be for hubby to give away and the grey one will be a present for a family member. Nothing is on the loom right now... egads.... I need to size some singles for the warp of the next project. I should actually do some calculations to make sure I have enough spun first though.

I tried to start the socks at least 4 more times but kept ripping them out 'cause I'd lose a stitch on the first round or some other silly reason like that. Finally I hunted around and found the missing black handspun shetland, the 1 finished half-mitt and the addi stainless needles I'd sure I'd lost. Funny enough, they weren't lost but exactly where I'd left them.. hehehe... Anyway, my intuition must have been telling me something 'cause the second mitt went on perfectly firs time. These mitts are for a friend. I had to get a 3rd friend to try the one on for me to size it as my other friend has slightly larger hands than I. It's hard to judge sometimes to fit things without proper measurements. Since they are supposed to be a Christmas gift, I figured it was a good thing to get them done.

Finally, the wallpaper in the livingroom is almost all gone! Yay. The awful plant shelf which ran around in front of the windows is gone, leaving of course a horrid gold strip of carpet which was underneath and not removed when the recarpeted the room. Hubby took out a rather oddly shaped built in shelf, which was rather delightfully made of very dark, awful fake panelling from about the 70's. I couldn't get it clean; dark, nasty, icky gunk kept coming up each time I'd wipe it down. So it got ripped out, only to find it not sealed in anyway behind the joins of the old house and the addition. You could see right to the outside. No wonder we have had a gazillion and 22 stupid orange ladybugs in the house during the last couple of months. It's been sealed now, insulated and vapour barrier added. The new drywall is up and ready to be mudded!

December 01, 2009

A Wooly Week

I've think I've discovered that I'm a bit of a yarn snob! I've been wanting to knit a new pair of socks. I've got one- yes, only one, skein of superwash sock yarn in my possession. I like the colourway - really, I like almost any colour but white, so that isn't much of an issue - but it's a 6 ply instead of a 4 ply! Every time I start to knit it up, I cringe and rip it out. I like fine sock yarn, I cannot tell a lie! This stuff just curdles my blood in a horribly icky way - and it's lovely yarn, in the skein. It would make super boot socks or something, but just not socks for little ol' me because it seems that I love to knit socks with lots of stitches. I can't even pretend to spin some sock yarn because superwash means I can toss it in the washer and I just don't happen to have any superwash rovings kicking around right now. I can't even make socks for one of my boys with it because this skein has an awful lot of pink.

The tencel scarf is off the loom. I made it a tad shorter than my first plans were. I realized that making it as long as I'd thought would make it a little less practical. Then I was left with a little more loom waste than I'd though, so I changed my treadling pattern and started weaving off the rest. Then wham- all of a sudden I had 6 or 7 broken threads in just a few minutes. The broken threads were only purple ones. Did I come across a weak spot in the cone of tencel? Another inch of weaving and another broken purple thread suggests that I did. Not wanting to have tons of little weights and threads hanging off the back, I broke down and cut the loom waste off early. I figured that I'd already completed the project and this was just the end bit, so that made it much easier.

There is a new scarf project on the loom. Hubby asked me to make as a thank you gift to a coworker. The warp is a silk/wool blend in a pale blue and cream heathered look. The weft is grey wool. The weave structure is a broken twill. I'm working on a second scarf, but I used a dark blue wool for the weft and am not sure I like the darker colour. I'm waiting to see what I really think on that one before I continue.

I found out that sometimes I can actually get enough bandwidth to watch an online episode of a program from I grabbed my spinning wheel and spun up the rest of the grey wool while watching Chef Michael Smith make chicken and a barley risotto. This is a woolen fatter yarn in contrast to the grey embroidery threads I'd spun before from the same rovings. I just needed to spin something that would be soft and quick. I think maybe this fat skein will become a hat. It might be faster to just knit a new one than try to figure out which box the rest of the hats and mitts are packed in!

There is wallpaper stripping, wall priming and a hole found in the wall, behind a built in bookshelf.. but the camera batteries have died and I can't find the rechargeable ones or the packet of new batteries. I did find the charger though, so I'm halfway there.