December 29, 2013

I LOVE, Love, love Coloured Glass

I found this pretty little hobnail hurricane lamp while I was shopping for my daughter's present.  I found her a lovely lamp, in fully useable condition and very pretty.  Hiding in a corner was this little hobnail lamp.  It's a good bit smaller than most of my other hurricane lamps but I'd never seen that hobnail pattern on the base before.  I thought it would hold just a little bit of kerosene, but the whole base is hollow, so it holds almost a full bottle.  It's fully functional as well, but not as pretty as the restored one I bought my daughter.  However, this one was a whole $14, so I couldn't leave it at the shop.  Cheap and in great condition and did I mention really cheap?  Yep, it had to come home with me.  I ended up using it for a few minutes on the morning of the ice storm, when it was early morning and still dark outside.

I found this ruby red beauty under our Christmas tree and I know it was a very good price too.  I'm pretty sure it's not an original, although it's obviously been well used.  There was another couple of similar red lamps that day, but neither with the milk glass shade and one was the same price and the other 3 times as much, so it was a no-brainer for this one to come home with us as well.  However, it had to sit in a box in my closet for well over a month.  I won't tell you how hard I had to work at forgetting it was there.  Regardless of whether it is an original or just an older reproduction, it's really well made and probably the only way I'd be able to afford a coloured glass hurricane lamp.  Most of the one's I fall in love with, the cobalt, greens, purples or reds, all cost in the $200 - $400, plus range. 

But sometimes cobalt glass shows up unexpectedly.  Two cobalt glass tumblers with a grape and vine pattern were a huge surprise.  I'd seen these, loved them but couldn't justify purchasing  the red lamp, the cobalt blue tumblers and the matching blue glass pitcher.   My sweetie snuck back to the shop at a later date and while the matching pitcher had already been sold, the two tumblers were still there.   Very pretty and since the little purple pressed glass bottle I'd been eyeing had been sold, right under my nose, these were a lovely surprise.   I'm hoping they're not horribly old because I am using them regularly every once in a while.

December 24, 2013


a few moments of glorious sunshine washing out the photo
  It was a bit of non-stop weaving yesterday.  Normally I like to take breaks every 20 -30 minutes so that I can stretch, move and get  cup of tea.  Not doing that made it feel like a bit of a marathon, but I figured that was the only way to get it done.   Joining the two halves takes a long time.  It felt like almost as long to run that centre thread along each alternating pick took the same length of time as it did to weave.  Like I said it felt like that, although I'm certain it was not nearly that long.  Urgency as well as fatigue and a desire to finally be done just made each minute feel like it was ticking by at half speed. 
Last night at 9 pm, I was wet finishing the final blanket! I spread it out to dry on my drying rack. This morning, I couldn't tell if it was cold or still slightly damp so I draped it off the back of my spinning chair, in front of the woodstove for a bit.  In no time it was toasty warm and definitely dry.

  That is a nice looking lot of blankets, if I do say so myself.  I hemmed the 3 larger ones.  I was going to fringe the final one, but in my rush, totally forgot to leave the fringe space on the warp,  between the two halves.  Oh well, it's faster to hem than fringe anyway!

Now I'm trying to catch up with my holiday baking and cooking which I let slide due to weaving those blankets. I got the cranberry sauce made this morning, the Christmas cake done last week.  Now for the gingerbread and pumpkin pies.  That will be it for this year though.

I reminded myself why I don't turn heels when I'm tired.  After finishing the heelflap at 10 pm, I decided to whip through the heel turn.. Nope, I got to frog it before I remembered my own advice.  I did get it turned this morning with my morning tea.  It's a plain vanilla sock, but the colours are soft and pretty.  Because of the simple pattern though, it's flying off the needles.  Not a bad thing in the winter and functional socks are a wardrobe staple.

December 22, 2013

We were lucky!

The storm blew through our area.  The rain saturated the snow.  The frozen ground held the water and then the ice started forming.  We've lots of branches down in the yarn and one sad pine tree which lost a good many thick branches.  Luckily it's over by the garden and not over our roof!  There are inches of water under the snow though, threatening to flood the chicken coop as there is no place for it to run off right now.  The ground is frozen and there is too much snow for the water to just run off.

We had power this morning for a few minutes and then, because it was still dark out, we were scrambling for the wind up LED lamp and the kerosine lamps.  I keep at least 2 of them ready to go at all times.  It does suck though that it's still so dark in the mornings.    It's warm enough outside  that the woodstove kept the house cozy, despite not having the fan on.   The menfolk weren't so lucky though.  With all the rain, the sump pump alarm came on.  Two of them hauled buckets of water and when it was empty, they took a break and 10 minutes later, the alarm would come on again.  They spent  6 + hours bailing for 15 minutes and getting a 10 minute break.  Then the time before the alarm started squealing got shorter and shorter.  At 4 minutes between bailing and the alarm, a mad dash was made to town, in hopes that a store was open, selling a handpump.  By the time DH got home, the sump hole was filling faster than my son could bail.  Of course by the time the pump was almost assembled, the electricity came back on and both my guys could take a well needed break.  The new pump is installed for next time!  Because we all know that living in rural Ontario, there will indeed be a next time. 

The downside for me was I've a makeshift bobbin winder, made from an electric drill.  Not even a battery operated one, but the kind you have to plug in.  Since I'd stopped weaving last night at about 9:15 pm, I decided to wait to refill the bobbins until this morning.  The drill is noisy and the guys were listening to the hockey game on the radio.  Bad decision as it meant I couldn't weave all morning unless I wanted to wind bobbins by hand.  I've tried that before and it's rather ineffective, not to mention really slow.

I'll go for it this evening though.  I have just under half the blanket left to weave and surely that shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.  I've not timed myself on this project, so I've no idea how long it's taking me.  That also is a silly idea.  I should have kept at least a cursory track of time, so I'd know how I was doing when it came down to the really last minute like this.

December 19, 2013

Blanket number 3 is off the loom, joined and hemmed.  I wet finished it in the washer like the others.  However, I was a little looser in my picks per inch, so it got a few more minutes in the washer to allow it to full up a bit more than the others.  This has made it a very soft and cuddly blanket.  The red has a bit more brown in it than the photo shoes and the pink is really more blue, fuchsia rather than just pink.  The colours work together quite nicely in real life.   The 4th blanket warp is half wound off.  I was going to shake things up and change up the pattern.  Then I realized the date.  There is no time to change the weave structure.  That warp needs to be wound off, the loom dressed and ready to go by tomorrow morning, if I want any hope at all of getting blanket number 4 under the tree in time.

Yesterday I had the joy of going to the dentist.  While I waited for the freezing to take hold, I started a new sock.  When they had to go back in to freeze it a second time, I knit some more.  By the 3rd attempt, I had a good start on my sock.  The 4th shot worked, but it was in the wrong place for the place they needed to work on.  So while my tooth didn't get any work done on it, my sock sure did. 

Sock yarn is misfit Kroy from the bargain bin. 
 It's lighter weight than normal Kroy.  It's a joy to work with and I sure wish all Kroy was this thin and nice to work with.  Usually it's much too thick for my liking.  Best yet, it was really, really on sale, for cheap!  

The freezing was finally coming out of my lower jaw, when my dh mentioned that he wondered what he could give his guys at work for Christmas.  Last year I wove scarves for him to give as presents.  Then he added that they needed to be done by tonight.  Yep, come up with handmade Christmas gifts in 24 hours.  Finally he told me that he had thought perhaps Dryer Balls would be a good gift.  Phew, I could do that.  So last night I wound off 6 core balls and felted them.  I hunted down a bunch of suitable rovings for the outer wraps.  First thing this morning, I wrapped the 6 cores and put them through as wash and dry cycle.  I did laundry as well as there is no use wasting the water or power use.  I needed to make sure they were large enough and dry enough before wrapping.   However they are about the size of tennis balls or a tad larger, so they are good to go.  Right now they are in front of the woodstove, drying thoroughly.  The bonus to all this is that absolutely all the laundry is washed!

December 11, 2013

Done, started and OMG!

The Fall socks are done.  They are beautiful and fun!  I think the pattern is just perfect, though it did take a wee bit of concentration.  By the second sock I was memorizing the pattern, so that halfway through I just had to mark my spot on the pattern when I finished so that I could pick up next time without thinking about it.   The yarn is amazingly soft and cuddly.  Belfast Mini-Mills - you guys rock!

Next pair may actually be knee socks or over the knee socks.   I've been thinking about something to wear over leggings for wearing skirts in the winter.  But I also picked up a huge amount of Kroy at an amazing discount and they work up to be heavy duty, hard wearing and quick to knit socks and those are sometimes advantages for socks, when one is suddenly finding themselves heavily into level 4 homework.  No brainer, easy to knit socks for relaxation aren't a bad thing.

Blanket number 3 is on the loom.  The 4th colour, which I managed to leave out is a dark red.  I was testing two colours here, a green and a grey.  While the green makes a lighter, more fun blanket, it rather overtakes the other colours, so I'll go with the dark grey once again.  The weaving is pretty easy, but the finishing takes the time.   I'm still hopeful that I'll get all 4 done in the next 13 days. 

I've had this bisque ware sitting around for years.  The plates were an experiment in slab work before I had any idea what it really entailed.  Okay, I still don't really know, but I know more than I did.  The bowls are from the pottery day with the girls .   I kept the bowls even though my kiln wasn't hooked up. I packed and dragged them through a move and they sat mournfully on a shelf for years.  My friend Maureen's husband  is a potter.  He does amazing stuff, not much in the way of dishware now but art, with a capital A.  It's very sleek, modern and interesting work.  However, one days Maureen dragged me out to her studio.  I got to play on the potters wheel and they then took my assorted mongrel dishware, glazed and fired it for me. Actually, Maureen mixed the colour up for me right then and there.  It was an interesting process to watch her weigh and mix the bucket of glaze.  She showed me how and I got to wax the bottoms and dip the bowls.   It's a beautiful colour, like an I'm in love type of colour.  With a drizzle of white or grey, I could definitely see this colour as dishes for the table, if I could actually learn to throw that well.    Anyway, hubby even liked  them and he's much harder to please that way.

Happy days, even if it's cold, blustery and stupidly snowing :)

December 05, 2013

Easy Peasy Dryer Balls

One of my kids asked me if I could make some wool dryer balls.   They're supposed to be environmentally friendly, shortening drying time by 30% - 50% and eliminating the need for fabric softener.   I don't use fabric softener anyway, but they didn't look very hard and it's not like I don't have the sorts of materials they might use on hand.   A quick interweb search showed tons of tutorials and yep, easy peasy to make as long as you have the right wool on hand.   Acrylic and superwash won't felt and for wool dryer balls, you definitely need felting to happen.

From searching for the workability and durability of wool dryer balls, I found out that you can use either yarn, roving or batt type preparations.  There were a few warnings out there that yarn balls don't felt completely and can start unrolling after a few months, requiring rewinding and felting.  I decided on a yarn core with a roving outer layer.  The yarn would make it easier to get a solid core while the roving should add durability. 
I dug through a box of scrap yarn and roving.  I found lots of bits from my first experiments with natural dyes which would make perfect cores.   I've all sorts of roving which is either in bits too small to make anything with, slightly compacted from sitting waiting for it's turn in the spinning queue or just stuff I don't really feel like working with right now.

It really didn't take long to wind 8 core balls.  I tried to keep them fairly round, neat and remembered to tuck in the ends to keep them from unwinding before the first felting could take place.  I realized that I'd need a nylon stocking /pantyhose leg before I could continue.  I don't wear those things normally, so I actually had to run out and find some, which were on sale for $1 a pair.  The idea is to stuff them in the pantyhose leg and tie them off, in order to keep each one separate and facilitate felting while keeping the ball from both unwinding and keeping it round.    I just tossed this in with a regular laundry load, but you could use wet, soapy water and do each ball by hand as well.
Don't use wool yarn to tie off between the dryer balls or it could felt and make it hard to remove.  I used white, cotton, butcher string.  Crochet cotton would work just fine as would knotting the pantyhose between each ball.  The latter might require cutting them out and I'm too cheap to use the pantyhose leg just once though.

I tossed the whole kit and kaboodle into the dryer after washing and the cores were adequately stuck together to start winding roving.  It took more than I'd expected but I also made fairly large balls.  The smallest is a bit larger than a tennis ball.  I'd wrapped them with enough roving to make them a good bit larger than my smallest desired circumference as I wasn't sure how much shrinkage I'd actually get in the felting process.   It shrank more than I'd hoped but not as much as I'd expected, so it was all good on that front.  I did a little bit of needle felting where the roving ended and any place where there were rough or loose spots.  It only took a few pokes here and there to needle felt the outer roving securely down.  I don't know if it really was necessary but I'd rather spend the two extra minutes to make sure than have them unravel during the washing process, or while one of my kids is doing laundry.  I stuffed them back in the stocking, tied them off and tossed them in with another load of laundry. 

Now I have another batch of cores ready to go but am now waiting on more laundry to need washing!  Since the first batch worked out so well, I figure that it will be a useful pressie for several of my kids.

December 03, 2013

Blankets - seaming and finishing

 2 down and counting!

Finally, the second blanket is finished.  Because I wasn't going to fringe this blanket, I ran a zig zag stitch along each end of both halves to secure the weaving.  It keeps the whole thing from fraying before I get to the hemming.  

Seaming the two halves is a little finicky, but not difficult.   I simply run an extra warp thread though the weft loops, alternating between both selvedges.  I find a really blunt ended wool darning needle works best for this.  It makes a fairly unobtrusive seam line.

You can see it of course, but it doesn't stick out as the first thing you notice.  There is no ridge or edges to deal with.  If you get the tension of the seaming thread right, the drape of the blanket isn't affected either. 

I hem by hand, using a wool darning needle and whatever I used for the weft.  If I used multiple weft colours, I use whatever colour that was in the area of where my hem will be.

After hemming, I fill the washer with cold water, toss the blanket in and let it soak for a few minutes.  Then I turn the machine on and let it agitate for a couple of minutes too, checking regularly to make sure it just fulls nicely to be properly wet finished and not fulled/felted completely. 

The finished blanket turned out exactly as I'd hoped.   It's a gift but really, I'd be quite happy to keep it for myself.