September 29, 2011

So Far This Week

I've finished spinning up the superwash Merino, Sari Silk, Icicle blend.  I'm quite happy with it.  The large skein has 220 yds, while the small one has another 60 yds.  That's the yardage based on the niddy noddy count.  I've no idea what to do with this pretty yarn though.

I cut and sewed up 2 tote bags.   They are a little fussy because they are fully lined and have pockets.  I will say though, that these are the 3rd and 4th bags I've made, and they have gotten a fair bit faster to make than the first one.  It's nice that they are completely machine sewn.  I make them out of sturdy material, although the one with hearts is just a plain quilting cotton, interlined with Pellon interfacing to give it the needed umph to make a good tote bag.  It's a nice size bag, so having an extra one around is useful.  One is for me and the second is for a gift.

The first dye vat for the embroidery wools was Coreopsis Tinctoria.  With only an alum mordant, in the pot at that, not pre-mordanting like I would normally do, yielded this lovely soft orange.  How pretty is that?  I'm thrilled with the colour and will definitely plant this variety of Coreopsis again.

September 26, 2011

Spinning, carding and the dreaded laundry drama

It's autumn.  The weather has cooled off and it's been rainy.   The washer went on the fritz in the middle of a load of clothes, on a wet, miserable day and I had to wring out each piece of clothing by hand.  Of course I do cold water washes (brrrr) and I was washing heavy, linen camp clothes, so it was a more than miserable job.  I spent two days finding it's replacement, convincing the salesperson that if I couldn't take it home with me, I'd go elsewhere ( no, I did not want to wait a week to get the washer) and getting it home.  The evening of day three was allotted for hooking it up since it was raining anyway and not suitable for hanging clothes outside.  I'm finally caught up with the laundry..  yay..

 20m skeins of plied embroidery wools
In between laundry dramas, I was spinning.   I started off spinning East Friesian Milk Sheep fleece and ended up with some generic fibre blend sliver.   I'm supposedly making embroidery wools and the East Friesian just wasn't spinning up fine enough, although the bit of luster was really nice.   It's not bad, just not quite what I wanted.  The generic sliver was finer and as a result, I have a couple of skeins of really nice yarn.   Most of this will be naturally dyed sometime this week.
We were out and about on Saturday, mainly to Ealdormere's Coronation, an SCA event which was held in St. Catherine's.   It was a  lovely event but to get there, we have to drive by a small town called Jordan which is the location of The Fibre Garden, an awesome spinner's supply store.  As we drove by, I chose not to stop in on our way there as we were running late as it was.   However after the main festivities, my sweet husband whispered in my ear, that if I didn't mind leaving early, we'd stop in on our way home.  How could I pass up that offer?    They had mill ends on sale, which card up beautifully and Sari Silk - which I've been wanting to play with and Icicle top -which is a sparkly nylon you can add to fibre to give it a bit of sparkle/shine!   This is what came out of my drum carder..  please note, it's black, not grey but I was only going to fuss with the light for so long.    I've used about 10-15% Sari Silk and 1% Icicle sliver.  It's spinning up so nicely.   And I have to give kudos to the boys at The Fibre Garden, who make shopping there so much fun, are so accommodating and don't think anything of it, when you show up in weird medieval costumes because you left without changing in your hurry to get there before they closed.... and selection... phew, they have so much fibre there, it's amazing.

September 19, 2011

A Fun and Fabulous Weekend - Icelandic Althing

Spit with clay, copper, rivet pots and fry pan.
This weekend we were reenactment camping.   The weather was on the cool side, which meant lots of blankets and a good reason to wear the wool tunics we make.   It was an early Norse themed event and the second reenactment group I play with, camped together to do some awesome period playing.   

We had two cooking fires going.  One spit held pots with peppered apples, hot cider, veggies, water, stew and sausages.  The other started off with a dye pot and a pan for flat breads but ended up with a huge roast beef, which was our dinner.

Cooking flatbreads, while watching the beef.
The owners of the property had hoped to get a permanent outdoor cob oven built (which we were going to get to play with), but real life intervened and they weren't able to get it built.    What they did do, was cobble together some wonderful supplies for us to make a temporary oven to try out.  We piled up cinder blocks, put on two kiln shelves and made a little enclosure of soft fire brick.   We were pretty certain that it would hold enough heat to bake bread, despite a couple of people who were sure it wouldn't work.   My small pottery kiln uses fire brick to insulate the kiln, keeping the heat fairly well contained and allows it to cool down slowly. 

Experimental temporary bread oven
We built a fire in it and kept it going for a little over 4 hours, until the fire brick was quite warm to the touch.   We scraped out the fire, did a quick clean out of the ash and promptly popped in a loaf of bread dough, totally forgetting that we needed to let the oven soak, or sit closed for a few minutes to allow the temperature to even out.   Our first loaf, was burnt on the outside, but cooked on the inside.   It was pretty amazing how quickly people decided to check it out and ripping off the burnt edges, devoured the yummy insides.    We were able to cook 3 more loaves of bread after that, with each loaf taking a few minutes longer than the previous loaf simply because of heat loss due to opening the door and of course because there wasn't enough extra insulation to hold in the heat for a long time.

Bread from the oven and the charred remains of the first loaf

We were thrilled with the results and thankful that the event organizers had gone to the extra effort of getting us the materials to play with. We were over the top with excitement after getting the first useable loaf from the oven.  That we got 3 delicious loaves was beyond expectations.  How cool was it that the event organizers facilitated such a fantastic experience for us on a great day?  Our group was collectively overwhelmed and over the top with excitement.

September 12, 2011

Road Trip

On Sunday, my sweetie and I headed out for a short road trip.   It was a dreary, grey, drizzly day at home but we took the chance of rain was slim elsewhere, so I packed up the camera and we left for our first destination, an antique and flea market.  There were some beautiful pieces of furniture which I would have loved to bring home, but they were way out of our budget.    There was one spinning wheel for $65, old and in great shape, except it was missing it's flyer assembly :(.  No spinning tools or weaving tools and one butter mould which was falling apart.  I did find the cutest little matchbox holder though, which was in pristine shape and I talked the man down to $10.   My grandmother had one in her kitchen, which was cream with red trim and red and yellow flowers on the front.   This one is turquoise with black trim, and design.   Since we heat with wood, I think we'll actually use this little delight.

We went to Elora for lunch and some sight seeing.   It's a very beautiful, old town.  My daughter's wedding reception was held at the Elora Mill Inn.  We spent the night there, in a room with ancient windows and walls which were approx. 30 cm thick.  It was at the back of the Inn, so you could hear the water from the river rushing down the rapids and what was the mill race.    Unfortunately, the Inn is closed for renovations.    

We parked in an area near the Horse and Buggy parking.  It's designated with a sign stating Horse and Buggies only!  It's Mennonite country! 

We walked down a steep hill toward the Elora Mill Inn.  We walked along the street filled with cafes and boutiques, around the corner to the bridge.   Our goal was the walking trail on the other side of the river.  We mused that if one had to live in an apartment, being above the shops, with a balcony backing onto the river, would be rather nice. 

The back part of the old mill.  Those black spots are actually rods which run through to the front, holding the building together!   You can see that the weather we had there was certainly  not grey and drizzly.  It made us happy that we'd headed out despite our weather at home.

Along the walking path were several other ruins.   Some were the remaining foundations of a building or a pile of stones.  This one was pretty big and you could tell something about it.  Trees were growing inside of it and the path up to it was quite steep.  I wonder what that building was, all that many years ago?  Was it someone's home, or a factory, or something else?  It was quite secluded, although it could all be recent growth.   It was pretty and must have been an impressive building in it's prime.  

On the way back, one last view of the Elora Mill Inn.  It looks so majestic and beautiful from the walking trail.  Considering the number of cracks in the stonework, the condition of the roof , and thinking there must be a few other repairs needed, I hope the cost of renovating this old majestic dame, is affordable.   It is certainly a site worth preserving.

We headed home using a winding, unknown road for a most scenic drive.  Of course, we got here and it was still grey and dreary, but such is life.  It was still a lovely day out.

September 10, 2011

Jessie's Fleece

Jessie is an older Shetland ewe owned by a friend.   She got preggers by mistake and was darned near greeted by the reaper when giving birth.   She survived but unfortunately her lamb did not.   Shortly after giving birth, she blew half her fleece.  My friend hand gathered it and when she was sheared a few weeks later, bundled it all together.  She couldn't sell it so she donated it to our Regia group to use for dyeing in a demo we're doing this month.

I've washed it, twice as the lanolin and icky bits didn't totally wash out the first time.  It's soft enough, but because of the stress, there is a definite break in some of it.   It's also tippy and most of them are breaking off either by hand before I process or later when it's being carded.  It's a shorter fleece to begin with, so far the longest fleece I've found is about 4 inches long but most of it is much less than that.  Flicking only worked with the longer bits and still, it was hard enough with the breaks and tips.   I've had to resort to hand carding, slowly and carefully, to get it to be useable.  There are still some neps, a bit of staw and chaff that I just haven't been able to remove and a growing pile of bits I can't use. I'm thinking it's almost 50% loss so far :(

If I'd purchased this fleece, I'd be unhappy.  However, as a donated fleece for a specific purpose, it's not bad. At least it's a soft fibre and a nice shade of white.   It will dye up nicely and the two skeins I've gotten done so far, although having taken way longer than I'd like, will work up into something nice, at a later date.  I thought I'd left plenty of time to get a number of skeins spun up, but nope, so far only two and it will be all I can do to get a 3rd spun up this week.  I'd expected to have several more skeins to take with me to the demo, as I much prefer dyeing yarn to loose fibre.

September 05, 2011


After many years of admiring both reproduction and modern cookie moulds, I finally broke down and bought 2.  They are generally used for Springerle and Gingerbread cookies.  I purchased a reproduction 16th century mould of a spinner, spinning flax on a drop spindle and one which might be dated a bit earlier of two musicians, one with a lute and the other with a harp.  They are beautiful carvings, with many details.

I'd ordered the moulds about two weeks ago and they finally arrived on Friday.  I'd hoped there would be time to bake off a batch in time to use at a small dinner party I hosted on Sunday evening.  Unfortunately our coolish, dry weather turned unseasonably hot and very muggy, with rain.  Since the cookies need to partially dry before baking, it meant that it was a 48 hour drying time.    I had the hartshorn which is ammonium carbonate, for the rising agent but didn't have an anise oil, which is the traditional flavouring.  I used lemon extract as I had some on hand.  I don't think I added enough as there is little to no lemon flavour.     The recipe says the cookies need to age several weeks before using, and it will make a dense, cake-like cookie.  They weren't bad fresh from the oven, although they do seem to be made to drink with a cup of tea or cocoa!  I shall be experimenting more in the following weeks.   The one thing I know for sure is that I'd love to have a few more cookie moulds! 

No photo of the baked cookie as the pure white cookie cookie just didn't photography well in the dismal grey light of today, and I've just not got time to rig up some sort of light box/diffuser thingy and play around with it.   They are pretty though!  I'm also on the lookout for large size cookie/biscuit cutters to keep the edges from looking so ragged.   My knife skills are obviously not quite so adept when put to cutting out large circles.

Spinner cookie before baking

September 02, 2011

Sunporch Roof

The sun porch was another of those not yet projects.  It was down the to do list  a fair ways, with several what we thought were more important projects ahead of it.    Eventually, the idea is to insulate the sunporch and turn it into my studio.  For the moment, it was mainly storage.   It has a northern exposure, a full wall of windows and 3 skylights.  Unfortunately, the skylights looked to be another handmade, makeshift project.  They had these odd frames of 2x4's, which seemed to funnel water inside!  As well, last spring, when we had the first real thaw, water streamed into the laundry room/sunporch wall, where two differently sloped roofs met.

 This spring, I had to keep buckets, well my dye pots actually, in various places to catch the dripping, every time it rained.  We planned and when we finally had all the materials together, plus a weather forecast of 5 days in a row of sunshine, the work commenced.   Now my boys have done all of our own roofing in the past.  After hours of hacking away at a few shingles, I was asked to go pull nails.  It turns out that they'd cleared the shingles off of whole roofs in less time than it took to remove 3 rows of shingles on the sunporch roof!  They were stuck on, breaking into soggy little pieces and none of the nails were coming out.  So yes, I climbed the ladder and started pulling out nails.  
The shingles were all a sodden mess.  They'd been layered in places above and below with some sort of flat roofing materials and then tar had been dripped on edges, I'm guessing in hopes of sealing out the water which was coming in around the "skylights".    This was instead of just putting proper flashing around the skylights and the several different roof angles. 

Instead we've had to take it right back.   The skylights came out, the roof decking has been replaced, wood replaced and all new drip edge, all new facia, loads of flashing.  They are laying down the membrane right now and then the shingling will commence. 

Of course the 5 days of sunshine in the forecast was changed the moment they got the first row of shingles off.  We've had two major rains since then.  One of which was kept at bay by judicious tarping.  The other rain storm was accompanied by wind and tornado warnings.   The rain came sheeting in the one wall, requiring lots of towels, a large plastic bin and a handy dye pot.  Luckily the plastic bin was in the laundry room, full of clean medieval camping clothes, which hadn't yet been put away.   I upturned the clean, folded clothing and used the bucket, which worked beautifully.   

Hopefully this sunporch roof will last a while.   The removal of the skylights has definitely changed the light levels in there.  I've been told though, that when it gets turned into a studio, if I need the light, we will put in new skylights, properly installed :)