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.