October 31, 2010

Colours of October

I'm quite sad that Sue had decided to end her Colours of the Month Challenge.  I've really enjoyed challenging myself to find interesting ways to show the colours of our seasons.   In the early years of photography, I had my own darkroom and took a lot of black and white photos.  I even did a bit of freelancing for a magazine.  It's been fun getting back into picture taking and I have to say, I love digital cameras.  I miss a bit of the surprise and control of the darkroom, but once I figure out how to process RAW, I'm sure I'll get that back as well.

Anyway, here are the colours of southern Ontario for October.

 This is the side yard.  It's been wet and we've not been able to get the leaves up as quickly this year.   When we get them, they are piled up in the gardens to compost over the winter.  If we get any appreciable amount of snow, they'll be gone by the spring.

  A Maple tree.  I don't know exactly what type of Maple.  For a few short days, when the sun hits it early in the morning, it seems to glow!  It's very pretty.

The last of the red Maple leaves in the garden.   Against the blue sky, the colours were perfect.

Milkweed with the seed pods opening.     A few of us had a grand time letting the little fluffy seed bits fly around while we played.  I'm only sorry that I didn't have the clippers with me.   While Milkweed is food for Monarch butterflies, it's also perennial.  I would have liked to have clipped the stalks to try to process for fibre while knowing the plant would grow back next year to feed the Monarchs.

A change in the weather patterns brought a few brief moments of a lovely pink sky.   It was very pretty.

October 30, 2010

Master Spinner 2

The Master Spinner 2 course is done.  Talk about exhausting!   It was 5 days long, which should have been just fine.  However it started on a Sunday and I'm not sure that any of us figured out which day of the week it was the whole time.  Monday - Friday would have been so much better I think.   We learned an awful lot and it was very intensive.  Level 3 is going to be offered in the spring time, so I'm going to have to buckle down and get my homework done in a timely fashion.   It's a huge project which is due after the course.  The instructor told me that level one was expected to take about 175 hours, so I'm guessing that level 2 is at least that much or more.  Certainly the project guidelines suggest it's a little more intensive homework than level 1.

Being offered by Olds College, they've redone the program to bring it up to the college's standards.  That means they have to include exams.  I enjoy research and projects.  I've totally forgotten how to write exams.  One more thing to catch up on.

All in all, it was fun and informative.  The instructor was a dear.  The participants/students are amazing, fun, funny and interesting.   A great group of people to learn with.   There were a few downsides - had to move locations, issues with supplies but many more highlights.   On our field trip we went to an experimental plot where they were growing Kenaf.  It's a tall plant in the hibiscus family which they were growing to experiment with biofuels.  However it has a stalk with two different properties: the outer is long flax like fibres while the inner core is much shorter and can be used in the paper industry.   I've a few stalks to play with.  This plant grew over 6 feet tall, so it will be interesting to see if I can get any usable fibre from it.

October 21, 2010

The Saxon Hood Project continues

I'm still winding the warp.  Sigh..   It's been busy around here and I've been in a bit of a panic because I need to make 15 savoury pies for Saturday.  I decided to make them fresh.  They'll taste much better that way, plus I absolutely do not have freezer space for 15 pies right now.   The course - level 2 starts on Sunday, so I'm trying to pack for that as well. 

So the warp winding is going slowly.   I'm half way through the S twist threads right now.    I wound off all the Z twist threads and sleyed the reed, leaving spaces for the S twist threads.   I'm sleying the S twist threads as I wind off each bundle of warp threads.   At slightly over 700 threads, I think threading the heddles will be a long job.   I wonder how many Star Trek movies I have handy to watch or rather listen to while I thread heddles?

There is enough yardage for 2 hoods.   One will be warped  Z,S alternating every 10 threads  and the weft will be Z, S alternating every 10 threads in a broken chevron twill or herringbone.   The second will use the same warp but I may do the whole weft as Z twist.  Both arrangements of Z and S twist yarns have been found.  I haven't decided for certain on the second yet, but it might be interesting to see the difference.  

At anyrate, I was trying to figure out how to keep my Z and S warp threads identified while weaving.  I have 2 boat shuttles but they are the exact same.   If I were to make a treadling error or start to day dream while weaving and lose conscious track of what I was doing - sometimes the hands and feet just keep going and when I wake up, it's like OMG - where am I in the pattern.. most disconcerting, or if someone should talk at me while I'm weaving, I'd not easily be able to tell the threads apart.  In reality, the only difference between the two threads is the twist and not discernibly different unless using a magnifier.

Top shuttle is a Leclerc, bottom one is the new Walnut shuttle
When visiting a friend, the one with the woodworker husband, I saw handmade shuttles sitting on the table.  Handmade boat shuttles in pretty, pretty woods.   There were 3 or 4 different ones and a couple I liked a little better than this beauty but I felt they were a tad too similar for me to tell them apart while I'm not paying attention.  This walnut one will be easy to keep track of.   It uses these very cool earth magnets to hold down the bobbin rod.  I can't wait to try it! 

Just before I left he handed me one of the new items he just made; shawl pins.  It's lovely.  He finishes his wood so nicely.   You just want to keep petting it, it's so soft and smooth.

October 16, 2010

It all started with a simple question..

I asked my sweetie if he'd mind if I painted over the icky bathroom wallpaper as a quick fix.   It was completely covered in wallpaper from the late 80's.   I wasn't able to wash it because it was paper, not vinyl and it was filthy.   I was tired of the nasty peach and off white which looked dark, drab and dirty.   I did check to see that indeed, you could paint over wallpaper by first coating it with a decent primer. 

But no, my sweetie said he'd just strip the wallpaper off and then we could paint.  Then he decided that we could get rid of the nasty peel and stick tiles because the room was small enough for vinyl flooring remnants which are usually available inexpensively.   More work than I'd anticipated, but still not an awful lot.   Then I mentioned that I'd paint the ugly plywood vanity as well.  It was painted in that awful off-white paint and no longer came clean.  I guess that happens when your paint is 20 years old.  The vanity counter top seeped dirt and didn't quite fit the bottom part, so my sweetie figured we should just change it out too.  And so the discussion went....   Just so you know, this particular redo wasn't in the works for a couple of years since it was useable, just ugly and nasty.

 Then came the actual work part.   The wallpaper was stuck to wallpaper which was stuck directly to the drywall.   We couldn't even get the wallpaper off by steaming it.  It was a horrible job,  beyond words.  Why would anyone not put a basecoat of something on fresh drywall?   We couldn't find an affordable piece of flooring in town and weren't going into the city so ended up with ceramic tile, which at least is fairly easy to install.

  I wasn't fast enough to get a full before picture.  This one is missing the different wallpaper print on the bottom half and the little border separating the two of them.  I've been told that the old cupboards were better built than anything you can get nowadays, but the drawer fronts were starting to wiggle off amongst other problems with it.  Cheap plywood is still cheap plywood whether it is new or old.. not better I think.

 It still needs decorating and a punch of colour, plus some details like towel bars added and some towel storage etc,  but to all extents and purposes, it's finally done.   It's brighter now.  It is easier to clean and I think it looks much better.

October 14, 2010

Project Updates

The winding of the warp has begun!   I've all the Z twist wound and the reed sleyed.   The S twist is taking it's turn on the warping board and when it's all wound, I'll sley it in the spaces.   I recalculated my set so am going with 24 rather than 21.  This means using more warp threads but I think the effect will be worth it.  It's easier to sley at anyrate, especially using two different threads that you can't tell apart!

I will definitely need to card more batts and start spinning more weft or I'll have a dressed loom and nothing to weave with.  

I took sewing break.  I'd found a pattern which I though would look good in handwoven yardage but decided to do a sample up first using polar fleece and use it as a mucking around jacket.   It took me a while to find the polar fleece.  The one fabric store prices were way more than I really wanted to pay and they only had kids prints.  The other had several acceptable prints but nothing suitable to line it with, in that I wanted to line it with fleece as well.   After hunting around the second store, I found that they indeed did have something I could use, but the store is new and laid out in an interesting but somewhat non-intuitive way.  In the end, I got sherpa fleece - almost a fake fur sheepskin for the lining.  Much heavier than I first wanted but it looked nice with the plaid.   The jacket was easy to sew up. Next time I'd make the sleeves shorter.  Matching the plaid took an extra 1/2 yard but was easy to do and sure makes a difference.   It still needs buttons and button holes.  I'm sure glad that I took the store clerks advice on getting a size smaller than I had chosen.   The amount of design ease is quite large.  If I had made it with high end, expensive drapey fabrics, it would have been fine, but as it is, it's a boxy jacket which should be just dandy for the winter.

October 09, 2010

Oh Noes!!!!!!!!!

I've knit new socks and I can't find them 'cause they're camouflaged.   Hehehe....  

Early last spring, I found a bin of On Your Toes Sock yarn on sale for a really good price.  I was hunting for a solid colour - any solid colour, just not bright self striping yarn.    There wasn't a single solid colour in the bin, but since the price was good, my sweetie grabbed a particular ball of yarn he'd noticed and pointed out that it was mainly black with only a little green and that perhaps darkish would be a nice change.   I didn't look too quickly but it seemed like it would be okay, so I headed to the check out.     Later when I went to knit it up, I found that no pattern at all looked good in what I now realized was camouflage print yarn!   I tried basket weave patterns, ribbing and even a lace pattern.   So, I finally just put a plain stockinette sock on the needles.  Even better is that they stitch up so quickly, that while I didn't really enjoy knitting this colourway, I enjoyed how quickly they popped off the needles.  

   If I had had enough yarn, I'd have knit up a pair of camo socks for a certain 12 year old boy that I know who is really into camo prints these days.  Unfortunately he has humongous feet and I only had 100 grams of yarn!  The upside of these socks is that they are super comfortable and you can't go wrong with that!  My foot is fairly narrow, so I dropped down two needle sizes for the foot and it was absolutely perfect!

October 07, 2010

More blue and warp spinning....

I harvested more Dyer's Knotweed.   I used the same method as the last only this time I didn't add the 1/2 tsp of acetic acid to each jar.   While it was a good amount of pigment, I think the slight acidification of the water, makes a bit of a difference so I will continue to do so in the future.  I might have gotten the last skein a little bit darker if I'd added a bit more Thiox and re-reduced the vat.  However, I had evening plans so used the vat as is.  These are 100 gram skeins of Patons Classic Wool.   I was able to dye 500 grams of the wool in the end.

I have more leaves to harvest.  I covered the plants and in the end we didn't have frost, although it did get pretty close temperature wise.  I can do at least one more Dyer's Knotweed vat and probably two.  The plants are amazingly hardy.  They are still putting out fresh growth.  One area is flowering profusely.   I've brought in some of the flowers to see if I can get them to actually go to seed.

I've spun more thread to use as the warp of the hood project.  It's been sized and is outside drying.   I didn't feel like hunting down dowels or sticks to hang and weight it from.   There isn't any area convenient to do that here.  The other house had a tree branch perfectly placed from which to hang a stick laden with skeins.  Here however, all the trees are big and no rack handy at the moment.  I'll deal with the curly bits as I go.  I'll go back over my numbers shortly to see where I miscalculated the warp.  However, according to how many ends I got from the last batch, I should have enough now.    I'll spin the weft as I need it - one skein of each Z twist and S twist as is needed.  If I start now, I should be able to keep up with my weaving, since I'm not even finished winding the warp yet.

Once it's dry, I can start winding warp again.   I'll do all the Z twist threads first.  Then I'll thread them into the reed front to back, as if I were doing a random stripe pattern, leaving spaces between the Z twists for the rest of the ends.  Then I'll wind the S twist warp and fill in the spaces.  This should hopefully help keep the threads in the appropriate order.   In a couple of days, I'll show you the nifty plan to keep the Z and S twist weft threads easily identifiable for weaving.

October 03, 2010

Really Blue weekend..

'Cause I was dyeing with Dyer's Knotweed again!   They are calling for frost this weekend, so I did another Knotweed harvest yesterday.   This time I had enough to pack 4 jars full- all about 1 litre sizes.   I was a tad worried that because it was late in the season, and some were new growth from one of the earlier harvests, that there wouldn't be very much pigment in them.  

 I tried something a tad different after reading about processing woad leaves in a slightly acidic waterbath. I added  a 1/2 teaspoon of plain old acetic acid ( white vinegar) to each jar of leaves.   I set them to soak in the bain marie - much nicer name than double boiler, although it is the same thing and followed the same method I have used before.  If this dye vat didn't work because I was fiddling too much or the pigment levels were low, due to the fact that it is October, I wasn't too worried, because, well, it really is October and any plants I'm harvesting now are a bonus.

I had to run some errands, so I got the dye vat ready to reduce and ran to town.   I did have to add a wee bit more Thiox when I got home, as it wasn't reduced to my satisfaction, but about 15 minutes later, I was able to add my rovings..  I had 250 grams of Bluefaced Leicester rovings, purchased at the K-W Knitter's Fair, just for this purpose.   I also found 9 balls of Patons classic wool which I picked up for $1 a ball.   It is a grey and white barberpole stripe, which I bought because I thought it would give interesting dyeing results.

 Awesome blues ... one was really too dark, but it's my own fault for not checking it quickly enough.  I'll cover the knotweed tonight just in case it will help it survive the frost and I can work on getting the rest of the balls of wool dyed as well.

October 01, 2010

Walnut Dyeing

Last Friday we had fairly strong winds on a sunny day.  I was coming home from running a few errands and notice several places where walnuts were being blown from the trees.  Having a sweetie who is very supportive of large buckets of who knows what soaking, fermenting and creating colour chaos in the kitchen, who also had a day off, we headed out again to harvest.  It's much easier to have him drive and me scout the dye stuffs, gather and not have to worry about my truck parked on a narrow shoulder on the road.

I thought I'd grabbed a few more bags, but only had two for some reason.   It was a tad disappointing when I got to one place with fresh, unbruised, non-wormy walnuts and the very nice farmer came out yelling at me, to just go on his property and take all that I wanted!  I would have gladly filled more than my two bags if I'd had more with me.

At home, I grabbed a hammer and headed outside, remembering my gloves and an apron.   Walnut doesn't need a mordant and dyes hands and clothing with as much ease as it does wool!    Despite precautions, my thumbs and a couple of fingers on each hand have been brown since last Friday afternoon.   With the hammer, I cracked open the husks and discarded the nuts.   The dye is in the outer green husks.   I filled my large dyepot  with husks and had to put the remainder in the medium pot.   I filled the pots with water and put them on the stove to soak and heat.   I'd every intention of getting to the walnut dye in a timely fashion, but didn't have time to get them strained and used until yesterday!  They were soaking, with an occasional heating to keep any moulds down for almost a week.

I used wool yarn, not fleece or rovings.   My past experience with Walnut suggests that it takes more than a few soakings to rinse out the excess.   I really didn't want to risk felting rovings or fleece by needing multiple rinses so I dug out about 400 grams of wool yarn which had been excess from a previous dyeing project.      I put in one skein, unmordanted into the pot and let it cook and then added about 12% alum to the pot for the next two skeins and the final one, used whatever was still left in the pot.   I found that with the alum, the fibres picked up the yellow undertones and made a softer, warmer colour.   The darker skeins on the right were the first into the pot and the lighter colours on the left were the exhaust colours.  I'm sure there were many more shades of brown, but I was out of handily available yarn and out of time.