December 28, 2012

The Mud Room

or laundry room, or back room, whatever you choose to call it...  Last year we had to redo the sunporch room due to leaky, badly installed sky lights.  That leak came pouring through in a rain storm, into the mud room and this fall, the ancient peel and stick tiles started to lift in a few places.  They were going to have to be replaced because I kept tripping over them something awful.  Since they don't really come clean any more, it seemed like a good idea.  Replacing them meant removing the trim and I was told that if we were going to take off the trim, we might as well remove the wallpaper  and then paint the room.

My son, who is a whiz with the wallpaper steamer, took off the trim, which was badly painted, not sanded 1 x 3's and set to the task of removing this lovely wallpaper.  Probably in 1989 it wasn't a horrid choice and the white background did allow a lot of light to bounce around the room, however it is a bit dated so I didn't mind having to lose it.   From one peeling corner, we knew that there was drywall under the paper.  We just didn't know how many layers or if there was any primer on the wallboard.  We knew that in the livingroom, they just papered right over the drywall, leaving us a huge and miserable job.

It turned out the room was partially finished with drywall but the two closets, the closet walls and anything nearby were actually pieced together bits of paneling with badly filled in cracks and grooves.  It was an unhappy surprise to say the least.  It meant a trip to the hardware store to pick up a few unexpected supplies like drywall and drywall compound.  I know my sweetie doesn't revel in having to do drywall, but he does it and does a decent job of it. 

There is still one partial wall to drywall, but it means having to add extra trim and shims to even up the wall which is a bigger job than we were hoping for.  It will have to wait until the last to be done.  Almost all the sanding is finished on the new walls and the next job will be to patch and redo the shoddy plaster job that was done on all the old walls.

All through this my sweetie is helped by the snoopervisor, helper kitten Kevin, who stoically sits on the provided step stool, watching the sanding process.  When he's within close enough distance, he' reach out and whack my sweetie on the nose, with just velvety paws, to remind him he's there.   Once in a while he'll try to actually help with the sanding, which I've been told is no help at all!

December 26, 2012

Christmas Day Hike

I'll bet this arbor is spectacular when it's leafy and green.
My daughter is athletic, to say it mildly.  Her passion for exercise is on par with mine for fibery crafts.  She wanted to go for a jog on Christmas Day but wanted company.  I offered to go for a walk with her instead.  We headed up to the trail on the old rail lines, which is just up the road from the house.  I'd never been there and was very nicely surprised at how pretty it was.   We have no snow  yet (it's supposed to be coming this afternoon), but I was also surprised at the colour palette out there, all beige and brown.  It felt very yellowish to me.  The path was actually muddy in places, with the ground not yet fully frozen. That felt so wrong for the end of December.  Hiking on Christmas Day though, was very enjoyable.  It might be come a new tradition. 
One of the few places where the trees didn't arch over on both sides.
Odd formation on an ancient tree.

Looking out across the fields with a dark, looming sky.   No precip. though, just grey.

December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve photo ops, not...

I wanted to take a photo of the finished mitts, but they're packed up in pretty paper and under the tree.  It would have been an interesting bit , as when I went to block those mitts, like the Grinch's heart, they grew 3 sizes that day.  It took a whirl in the washer to full them up to a useable size.

 I was going to take step by step photos of making a steamed plum pudding but it's steamed, cooled and wrapped up, waiting for tomorrow's dinner and my camera stayed in it's bag the whole time!   Even the rather wonderful gluten free Christmas cake experiment, which turned out awesomely is wrapped up letting the brandy soak in.   I could do a photo montage of what is happening in my mud room right now, but necessary renovations showing the horrors beneath the previous decor doesn't seem to be a suitable post for Christmas Eve.

However, between all the baking, cleaning and dragging the kitten from the tree, I've been spinning.  I can say Happy Christmas to me as I have finally spun some cotton that I've found truly acceptable to my standards.   It's not incredibly delicate, sexy yarn, but it's consistent and I spun it without any issues, while watching The Sound of Music, no less.   I'm over the world happy about it as it's been a bit of a long haul on this one.  Now, can I reproduce the results?
Caught in the act!

Despite the lack of photos of my activities, there is still the sweet Kevin in the tree.  He's stopped climbing it, but any ornaments on the bottom 3rd of the tree are fair game for cat toys.  That mistakenly purchased box of red plastic globe ornaments has come in very handy this year!  Most of the special  and vintage ornaments stayed in their boxes, just to be safe.

Happy Christmas!

December 18, 2012

Playing with wool

Last week, at the weaver's guild Christmas potluck, Kai brought a huge packet of fortune cookies.  We all had to take a cookie, open it and read out our fortune as it pertained to weaving.  Mine said something about starting a project with a bang, which pretty much suggested to me that for weaving, I should probably put a project on the loom.  I'd been dithering over a project for ages.  Being preoccupied with spinning, it was easy to not make a decision on what to weave.  I've been considering a fairly big project like some yardage or a blanket, but being that it was a week and a half before Christmas, I decided on a scarf project.  I dug up a bunch of handspun : small, sample balls which had been kicking around for ages and added two mill ends of wool/ silk blend which have also been kicking around for ages.   I wound off a warp for 5 scarves but ended up cutting off the last bit of warp before it was wound on as some of the handspun was getting a bit tangled and frayed in the process of dressing the loom.   I figured I had enough for 4 scarves, which was one more than I needed for gifts.

The first scarf was a sample.  I wasn't sure of my sett and doing a bit of twill, it made me a little more unsure.  I unwove the twill, and did the 1st scarf in tabby.  I didn't like the results - I just don't like most of the tabby weave that I've ever done and it didn't have a nice drape, so the next 3 were done in a 2/2 twill.  Scarves are a pretty easy weave.  Sometimes having a fast and fun project to just whip off is a way to get back to being productive.  Since that poor loom has been a cat climber for the past few months, weaving off the scarves felt really good.   The blue one is with a handspun, woad dyed weft.  the two grey ones, I'm not sure about.  The weft was an unlabelled ball of wool singles, which could have been handspun or a bit unevenly spun commercial yarn.  I lightly plied it before weaving with it.   I am going to have to get better about labeling!   All 3 of these will end up being Christmas presents.

Then I started a pair of mittens.  This is commercial yarn that I dyed with walnuts.  I think it's Patons Classic wool which is soft, thick and easy to work with.  It's a 3 ply and fairly chunky so it works up quickly.  Someone can always use a warm pair of mittens.

On the wheel? - commercially processed cotton sliver.  While I can spin the cotton fairly easily now, I'm still working on consistency.  It's awfully easy to get these micro thin spots in an otherwise decent yarn.

Lesson of the week - it's way easier to start and finish a project when you actually decide what to do!

December 14, 2012

More on the Cotton Experiment

 When I brought the cotton plants indoors at the end of the summer, they had both been in a small, south facing room.  It gets a lot of sunshine but it is hardly heated at all, so gets quite cold in the winter.  Cotton likes hot weather, so I had moved one plant to the warmer room, which gets a little less sunshine as a comparative experiment.  It was a short lived experiment as the kitten decided it was an exciting new toy.  I woke up one morning to find the poor cotton plant strewn around the living room.

  However, the two bolls had just started to open, so I let them dry out.   This is as far as they got.   Finally, I actually noticed that the outer husks were dry and hard. Last night I cracked them off and had this tiny handful of fibres.    I brought them to my spinning wheel and tried to spin them off the seed.  I've done that before and it's actually quite an easy way to spin cotton bolls.  You just set up the wheel with a really fast whorl and loosen the brake tension so it just draws in a bit.  This allows lots of twist into the cotton fibres.  The fact that they're attached to the seed slows down the whole process and it's really one of those miraculous "aha" sort of moments.

I wasn't sure how my  cotton was going to spin.  It was obviously not quite like what you see in the photos of fully developed bolls.  It was very soft, softer than the cotton I have been spinning.  However, a lot of it was shorter than short.  Despite lots of twist, there were places it would just fall apart when you looked at it.   Nothing worth saving from this bunch, just a rather huge volume of seeds for such a small amount of cotton.

There is still one plant left.  It is green cotton.  I know that as there was only one white cotton seedling when I planted them.   The one boll on it that survived is getting huge.  It should be opening soon or I hope since it's been there for almost 4 months.  The plant has a bunch of new buds about to develop.   The current quest is to find out if they can be hand pollinated or do they have to have wind or bees?  From what I've read, cotton has a rather short window of opportunity for pollination.  I can try to simulate the wind with a fan, or use a little paint brush to pollinate but can't do the bee thing in late December or January  around here!
You'd think that this might be classified as a failure and I'd figure that growing cotton in the Great White North is not going to happen.  However, I've already got some ideas to try for next summer.  It will never be a big crop, but having enough cotton bolls of my own would be rather fun.

December 09, 2012

On the loom again...

 The local guild has an amazing resource of a studio room, packed with looms of various sizes.  Most of these are available for the use of the guild members.  I've not taken advantage of this before because most of the projects in the past were individually organized and they weren't my cup of tea.  However, this year, the project structure has changed and it is member groups putting together projects which are exciting and fun.  They've been playing with shadow weave, plans for huck projects and this rather big experiment - blankets.

  A group of us got together to make blankets on the 60 inch loom.  It was decided to put a neutral warp on and we could use whatever weft we wanted.  I wasn't able to come help with the dressing of the loom, so it was a bit of a guess as to what I should use as warp.  I held up two cones of yarn and hubby said "that one", which is how the green was chosen.  As well, the warp leftovers were in a basket under the loom and I was able to use a bit of the ends to make nice stripes on the blanket.  I think it made it look much more interesting than just the plain green.    I was worried that the blanket right off the loom was a bit too sleazy, but after wet finishing, it is absolutely perfect. 

It must have been interesting watching me throw the shuttle. My arm reach is just barely 60 inches.  There was no fly shuttle, just lots of stretching and leaning.  If you threw the shuttle too quickly it either caught threads, skipped threads or fell through threads.   It took a bit longer to weave off than I'd hoped because of that. 

Kevin's first introduction to a Christmas Tree.
I am thankful for the fringe twister.  I think I spent about 3 hours twisting fringes.  Kevin decided they were toys and it was became an interesting and some what slow process.  All in all though, I'm really happy with this project.  As well, it sure was nice to sit down at a loom again and weave.


December 02, 2012

A Foggy Start to December

 First thing in the morning I take the dog out and release the chooks from their pen.    As I opened the door, I saw fog and more fog.   The pine needles were starting to droop from the weight of the frost crystals which were forming.  The world around was devoid of colour: black, white, grey and seemingly slightly out of focus.

 It was beautiful though, like someone had taken time to frost each and every bit of plant life in the gardens.

The sun was valiantly trying to shine, but this time of year the sun is very low.  The fog was getting thicker faster than the sun could burn it off.    It was rather lovely out there, despite that fact that it was dull, dark and dreary.

November 27, 2012

A few small projects

 The frock coat is finally done.  There are a few issues with it, due to my just learning some of the basics of tailoring.  There will be a next one though and it will be even better.  The yellow bit underneath is a quickie vest I whipped up.  It will be remade one day as well.  This outfit will be useful when we visit certain friends.

As I'll be baking at the bake oven for a few days in December and the oven is outside, I thought I should make myself a nice warm hood to wear.   It is two layers of wool fabric, quilted with bamboo batting between them.  If I had thought about it properly, I would have carded up some wool and used it as the batting.  However the hood was a mock up experiment which worked quite well and I didn't think about the wool batting until the hood was completely finished.  I will say that leaving it on the styrofoam head where it got just a bit of light at night, was pretty eerie looking.  I had to move it and put the head back away.

The socks are done.  The pattern is much more clear when not having a flash reflect off the socks.  They fit nicely but they still need to be blocked.   I was thinking about making another pair of socks for December as it's always nice to have a small, portable project.  However, that quilt is calling to me.  It really needs my attention first.

November 20, 2012

Black on Black, with black thread....

Update on the coat I'm making.  I found the fabric in storage, having bought it ages ago.  It's a 2/2 twill which I'm pretty sure came from an unlabelled sale rack.  I did a flame test and it self extinguished and turned to a fine ash, so I think it's probably a wool blend of some kind.  It sews up quite nicely.

Here is my effort at a welted pocket with a flap.  I've done one welted pocket before and this one turned out quite nicely.  They aren't actually difficult, just fussy.  I'm happy that the underside looks as nice as the outside.  The pattern didn't call for an upper welt, but I think if I had to do it over, I'd probably put one in, just because it isn't too much more work.    These pockets are large enough to be more than decorative.

 I sort of wish I'd been able to find a nice polished cotton or some other interesting fabric for the lining, at least all but the sleeves, but in the time I had, this regular old lining fabric was the best solution I could find.

 The peplum lining is mainly sewn in by hand.   It's slip stitched along the hemline and on the back opening.  On the back, the two sides are slip stitched together.  This is when I really love my old thimble that actually fits.  Black on black, with black thread is something I'd not put into the equation.  Good thing my sewing room has pretty decent lighting.
The jacket top only really needs a few things left to do.  I should go back inside and do a bit of support stitching.  The buttons and button holes need to be made and if I have time, I'll do a prick stitch from the underside of the lapels to give them a bit of stability.  The pattern doesn't call for it, nor does it call for top stitching but it looks a little unfinished without something .  Perhaps the weight of the peplum will give it a more polished look.

What's left to do?  First, slip stitching the other half of the peplum lining.  Then assemble the two halves.   Attach the peplum to the top.  Then it's make the button holes and sew on the buttons!    Before the coat can be worn though, it will need a very thorough dehairing from the shedding cats.

November 14, 2012

Quilt Update

The quilt is not going to be made by October, but it is coming together, albeit slowly.  I did find my missing quilt squares.  I was obviously using my awesome observation skills, which unfortunately must fall someplace between non-existant and 11 year old boy who doesn't want to go find his missing mittens.  There were, exactly where I had left them.  No less, they were in the same place, the exact same place as the rest of them, just waiting for me.    They were all ready cut into four and ready to go.   I'd looked everyplace but where I'd put them in the first place!  sigh..

I've been using the treadle machine for this project and was happy about being able to leave the machine set up and just sew a few blocks when I had a few extra minutes.  However, it's been slow going, for only one reason.

Every single time I have a few minutes to sew the quilt, the kitten is sleeping on it.    He's a fairly active kitten, getting into mischief at every waking moment.  He's awake running, playing and finding new places to explore, conundrums to solve and figuring out new and exciting ways to get into what he was barred from yesterday.  I tend to let sleeping kittens sleep. 

While it does look like he's sleeping here, he's actually tussling with the quilt blocks.  It took a few tries to get him to explore elsewhere, while I started to lay them out.  It was short lived peace though as he decided to play with the potted plants, tumbling them to the ground from the bench in front of the window.    Emergency clean up and vacuum at the south window in aisle 1! 

Right now, my plans of getting 2 quilts done by Christmas are on the back burner.  Getting this single quilt done will be quite fine, thank you.

November 10, 2012

All in a Kitten's Day

I made a mock up of  the coat for my husband and it was way too big, although I'd used the smallest size.  I'm using a commercial pattern and I have 2 different brands which have a similar pattern.  I decided to trace off the second pattern as they have several smaller sizes.  Not wanting to cut the pattern before I knew what size would fit, I traced it off onto tissue paper.   Before I could cut the pattern and fabric, I had some chores to do.  From the kitchen, I could hear some rustling.  My son had made the kitten a paper ball, which he has been enjoying chasing about the house.  It makes just that type of rustling sound.  However, when I checked up on things, I found that the kitten was not chasing his ball but rather my pattern!  It is so shredded and crumpled that I'll have to trace out a new one. 

Please note the multiple ends - all kitten chewed up!
I was finally able to spin again.  I blended up some Polwarth and some Alpaca to make some mitten yarn.   I spun and spun and spun.  I plied it up and it was a lovely, soft, yummy 2 ply yarn.  I wet finished it and let it dry.  That was a couple of days ago.  Today I went to skein it up and what did I find?  Broken ends..... Lots of broken ends.  I'm guessing they were kitten chewed.  The longest piece of yarn left is almost 8 yards long.  Everything else is shorter.  Much of the skein is in piece which are a yard or less long.  No mittens will be made from this yarn!  

To chase away any horrible feelings from the chewed yarn and shredded patterns, here is a photo of a pretty sunset which we had the other night.  Actually was the first sunset we'd had in ages, due to rain and grey, dull weather.

November 05, 2012

Spinning days off..

A few days ago, I was forced to take a few days off from spinning.   Not wanting to sit around doing nothing,  I managed to finish up the socks I'd been knitting.  They still need to be blocked, but they're done!  I did a grafted toe on these.  Lately I've been doing a cinched toe on my socks, as described in an article in Knitty.  While I really like the toe closure in the article as it actually fits my feet nicely, I feel that once in a while I should at least pay lip service to grafting practice.  These socks closed up really nicely with grafting.   Yes, they are a little long.  Sometimes I make the cuffs/leg an extra inch longer just to make a more effective winter sock.

Still needing something to do, I checked out Ravelry's Sock Knitters Anonymous group to see what their monthly challenges were.  This month is textured socks and there is a Mock, or Mystery Sock project.  This is a pattern which usually comes in 4 parts over the whole month.  I downloaded part 1 and started in.  This is clue one.  I've started the second sock as well, so hopefully in a couple of days, when clue 2 comes out, I'll have both socks ready to start on the next set of instructions.  I'm knitting from both ends of the yarn cake, so that is proving to be an interesting effort.  It didn't help today when I found my working yarn in broken, still wet with kitten drool, I'm guessing.

I did start a new coat for my husband.   I found  a length of black misc. fabric in a bin.  I've the muslin made and should have it fitted later this evening.  Then I can start cutting and sewing in earnest.   As well, tomorrow, I should be able to spin again... yay! 

November 02, 2012

November Colours

We've had day after day of gloomy grey skies and dreary rain.  For about 5 minutes today, the sun peeked through the dark, heavy skies, creating a cheerful glow.  I grabbed my camera as an excuse to be outside.  As always, I was greeted by my little flock.  They are truly a little flock now as we lost 4 over the summer to raccoons and hawks.  They are very, very careful now, except when they see me.  They race to see if I have a treat for them, be it a snack from the kitchen or worms from digging in the garden.  If I don't, they'll visit for a few minutes before wandering off back to their daily chores.

This is what is left of our Golden Rod.  No longer the bright, warm bits of gold in the garden and on the roadsides, the soft fuzziness of the spent flowers have their own beauty. 

One of the Rudbekia plants refuses to give in to the weather.  It's still struggling to flower.  I don't know what variety it is, but it flowers earlier than my Rudbekia Goldsturm and straggles on until the heavy frosts.

The sun was disappearing quickly and in the field behind the house, the colours shifted in the changing sunlight.

Other than the Willows which seem to be the first to leaf out and the last to drop their leaves, and the Oaks, which hold on to their leaves until the winter winds force them to the ground, this little shrub is the last plant holding on to it's leaves.  It is a splash of gold in what has been a very dull two weeks.

October 29, 2012

Rainy Day Activities..

It was a weirdly busy week.  It feels like we're having the second solid week of rain.  In the short time it wasn't raining, I got most of the garlic planted.  I say most as last minute, I decided to plant a 5th row.  I realized that I didn't have enough large heads of garlic to plant - larger cloves of garlic grow to be larger heads of garlic.  So I popped out to the market on Saturday but haven't planted it yet because it's too wet.  It looks like it will sitting on my counter as it's still raining, and then the remnants of Hurricane Sandy are supposed to hit us tonight, giving us more rain, which will apparently be followed by even more rain.  Already our ground is squidgy and mushy.   I've no idea where all this rain will go.

While the garlic and some flower bulbs languish in my home, I did manage to do a few other things.  I spun the most unworthy cabled yarn  ever.  I followed the exact instructions and got this over spun, twisted mess.  It's a pretty mess though, since I used some of the Indigo dyed yarn from my stash.  Not worthy of a photo though.

 Frustrated, I finally got around to processing the  cotton sample I'd spun from some of the naturally coloured cotton I'd purchased.  The colour is supposed to darken when the yarn is boiled.  There is a noticeable difference in the colours.  I took a piece of pipe - supposed to be PVC but I only had ABS around, so I tried it.  I had my sweetie cut it to size and then drill holes in it.  I wrapped the cotton around it and tossed it into a pot of boiling water.   It didn't melt or distort, so I called it good. 

I had a meeting to go to and remembered that I'd cast on a pair of socks at the beginning of the month and promptly forgot about them.  I'd only an inch done on the cuffs, and these were plain Jane, 3/1 ribbing so I could use them as a mindless knitting project.  I got over 3 inches knit at that meeting and then have made time to finish the one and get a start on the other.  I really think I should have chosen a more interesting pattern, although I do prefer wearing ribbed socks to any other - I'm just finding it hard to keep my momentum up for these particular ones - despite the lovely pink in the colourway.

I also dragged out the quilt blocks to work on.  This quilt was supposed to be done by October, so I'd have time to make a second one.   I counted each set of blocks, both dark and light, numerous times and always had 15 of each.  I cut them up into 4 as required by the pattern and as I was reassembling the blocks, I noticed that I have more of the dark blocks than of the light.  Did I just misplace them or did I really miscount each time I checked my block count number?  I've no idea, but it means either blindly making up a few more blocks, or sorting through the fabric shelf where I'd parked them.. neither of those options sounds like much fun.   It's a pretty block though, despite my manage to not match anything but the centre points.   I wonder if that could be because I've actually ended up using 3 machines to piece it together and perhaps they all have slightly different 1/ 4 inch measurements?

I also spun up some silk.  I'd been playing around with silk and I've finally gotten some that I'm quite happy with.  I'd been spinning some dyed Tussah and was getting horribly inconsistent results.  When I tried for more twist, it was harsh and unyielding, with little lustre that silk should have.  With too little twist it was soft, but obviously fuzzy and dull.   So I dug up a small sample of unbleached Tussah and tried it as a comparison!  Yay for that, because I think it's just the silk I'd been using and not me.  Phew!!!