February 28, 2017

A New Rug Project

This is a short 6  yard warp which caused me no end of problems.  First, I wanted to use 4/8 cotton in black and natural.  The natural was fine, but I'd gotten to the halfway point and realized that instead of the tube of 4/8 black, I'd grabbed a 2/8 my mistake.  To late to worry about it, I trudged on.  This should have given me some indication of how much attention I was giving this project.   I had a threading error.  I knew I had a threading error but couldn't find it.  Did I stop?  Nope, I kept telling myself that it probably wasn't there and finally when I was 2/3 done the threading, I stopped threading and took a day off to do the block printing.  The next day though, I saw the error so easily.  It was like it had a blinking neon light with an arrow pointing to the mistake. Sheesh..

I unthreaded to just before the halfway mark and figured it all out, except that I hadn't noticed 2 sleying mistakes until I'd already woven way more than I wanted to take out.  I cut it off when finished so that I can resley and will hopefully get 2 more rugs out of the deal,which won't have the mistake in them.

I love blocks of colour and optical illusions; such cool results from an easy weave.

Rug is cut off the loom.  I'll retie the warp after resleying the first block.  I'm going to do one rug in 2 or 3 strands of heavy wool.  The other one I'm considering doing as a multi colour weft.   There is nothing special about this weave structure.  It's just a log cabin done with rags for the dark colour and 4/8 cotton for the light.  I'm happy with the results!

February 26, 2017

Playing with Block Printing

I should have been weaving by now.  With the last of the samples off the loom, I wound off a warp for 3 rugs, wanting a fun, fast and simple project.   I managed to make a threading error at about 1/3 of the warp and didn't find it until I had 2/3 threaded.   I took it out and have been rethreading.  Then I was tired and it was dark and in frustration, I marked the section of threads which was giving me issues and walked away for a cup of tea and an early night.   I took a day off because I'd promised a friend I'd help her with a dry run of a class she wants to teach.  

There were 5 of us who had never done block printing on fabric before.   We each got a jar of paint, a handle with 5 blades and a piece of soft, rubbery, easy to carve material, from which to make our own stamps.     I'd missed the memo on bringing a pre-chosen design in an appropriate size, but I'd sketched out a couple of pages of designs which were luckily in the right ballpark for size. We transferred our images to the block using carbon paper and then carved away, sticking a block of wood on the back using contact cement when we were done.  Well Percival actually did all the contact cement work, since he was finished first and had the tin of glue and brush in front of him. 

This class was for the SCA, so most people did something heraldic, but I chose this vine design.  If I'd thought it out a tad more carefully, I'd have made sure that the central vine matched up exactly at the top and bottom, but it's close enough to be charming, if not perfect.   The block I carved is on the left and is a reverse of what you actually get when you stamp.  I didn't have a way to properly clean the stamp until I got home, so it's a bit stained. 

The stamping on silk was really clear and clean but there was some paint bleed through to the back.  The grey linen took the ink well, but the image isn't quite as clear in places.  Most of the paint on the linen, stayed to the top of the fabric.

We did a sample on wool fabric, but it was really fuzzy and the test sample on paper, to see if the block stamp produced an image we were happy with, was lovely and clear.   As I was heading home, in the gusty wind, with big flakes of snow swirling around on the road and rushing through the air, I came to the conclusion that these simple stamps would make lovely cards and gift tags.

Westfield had a volunteer enrichment day a couple of weeks ago, where I got to make a very cute, lovely card, using scrap booking methods.  While I liked the outcome, I realized that I really didn't have the time, desire, space and $ to amass the amount of paper, cutters, stamps and inks it would take to do these cards justice.   However, I'd been wanting to make cards for ages and with making and stamping them, all the supplies could be kept in a tiny, little bin, cost would be negligible, and the only real investment would be my time.  Plus, while I enjoyed the cuteness, I think that the fake wood block print is much more my style.

February 22, 2017

Mmmm Maple Syrup

What a fiasco the first syrup boil was!   I thought that my sweetie was only cooking up 5 gallons of sap.  Instead he did 10 gallons.  He was out there boiling all day Monday and I finished it up yesterday.   I didn't have enough jars sterilized, so one pint went into the fridge for immediate use.   We ended up with about 2 litres from the effort though.  It's light amber and a bit watery, more like a high grade syrup.   It has a good flavour though.  That being said, we prefer the darker syrups which are supposed to come a bit later in the season.   Still, I'm having waffles for lunch ;)

The handspun BFL sett samples are off the loom and wet finished.   They need a good hard press.   While I wouldn't want to spin enough for sett samples every time, it was pretty interesting to see the differences in the fabric which was made for each sett.  With the twill, there was one I'd use for a blanket or shawl and another which I'd use if I wanted to make an item of clothing.   Good information to know.

I'm winding a warp now for a set of rugs, just for some fast, fun weaving.  I'm spinning more of the BFL, but a trip to Fibre Garden last weekend netted me a whole pound of cotton sliver to play with.

The Japanese Indigo is growing nicely.  I have 2 pots and some soil to transplant these into at some point.   I should probably do it sooner rather than later, but I'm concerned that Kevin will try to eat the seedlings.  He's taken to chewing up a pot of cat grass, which is fine because that is for him.  However, there are teeth marks on both Christmas cacti, the snake plant and an aloe vera plant.   I'm not sure that these little seedlings could stand the wrath or curiosity of Kevin yet.

February 20, 2017

Kitchen Sink and Syrup

I've started with the sett samples.   I've been able to overlap the setts - this one is 10 epi for both the tabby and the twill, and eliminate some of the yarn wasted in retying the ends to the front apron rod, for at least one of the samples.  These are the first two of the six required.  

The yarn really bloomed when it was wet finished.  Not only is it really soft but it has a lot of elasticity.  I spun it with a short forward draw from sliver, so it should be pretty much a worsted yarn.   However, with the amount it bloomed and the elasticity, I'm wondering if my Blue Faced Leicester sliver was mislabeled and might actually be Merino.

My sweetie installed the sink cabinet and the new sink yesterday.   He says that it took much longer than it should have due to a compression fitting that didn't want to work.   It was new and he spent so much time trying to get it to work that I almost laughed when he finally went into town, purchased a new one and just a few minutes after he got back home, he declared the project finished.  

It won't actually be permanently installed until we get counter tops though.  I'm hoping that at least there will be a piece of plywood or old counter top over the dishwasher and the cupboard on the other side, because it's pretty inconvenient as it is right now.  While I'd love quartz counters, they aren't in the budget.   So instead we're trying to decide between laminate, butcher block or wide plank counters.  

There was enough sap in the buckets to start boiling this morning.   Once again my sweetie set up this old Scandia stove as a windbreak.   We found the stove in the basement when we moved in.   It was held together with small pins in the corners, so to move it out, he just had to unhook the pieces.   It has side and front doors which latch and he's using the top, with the chimney connection as the back.  He can feed wood from three sides!    This stove is from Australia of all places, where they still make rather interesting stoves. Even though this stove is ancient, it still boggles my mind to think that someone would import a cast iron stove from the other side of the planet!

February 18, 2017

Middle of Feb. Anomalies

This is 545 yards of 2 ply Blue Faced Leicester, spun with a short forward draw.   I didn't post any update photos because one bobbin of white yarn looks like any other bobbin of white yarn.   I'm still spinning to get a bit more done, but I think that if I go with small sizes, I have enough spun to use for sett samples.   I left the loom waste on the loom from the last samples.   There are 110 epi, so if I tie on the new warp and don't worry about the width, I can make it work.   Samples will be about 6 inches, so I'm hoping that will be large enough.  

It took me a good number of hours to spin this boring white yarn.  It is a nice white, but I've been tempted to do some sort of wild dyeing experiment on it, just to liven it up.  It's take so long to spin though, that I'm ready to put it on the loom and weave it off.

The weather has been crazy weird this winter.   We had a ton of snow and frigid weather early on, but January and February have vascillated dramatically between snowy and cold or mild and rain.   However, the past few days have been both sunny and mild.   Any sunshine this time of year is glorious, but usually our sunshine comes with really, really cold weather.   We're having a weird mild spell though, which is also coming with lots of sunshine.  It is wonderful.  Today was so nice that I was able to hang my laundry out.   I don't think I've ever hung it out in the middle of February before.   My sheets smell like the outside...crisp and clean ;)

It's a little early for the spiles and sap buckets to be on the Maple trees, but the forecast shows a week of this mild weather.   The sap is definitely running already.   We put out a few buckets to to start on this years syrup.   Even when the weather turns cold, we'll just leave the buckets up and we can start collecting sap again when the real spring starts the sap running again.   We didn't put as many buckets out as we normally do, so we could add a few more later in the season.

Well back to the boring white fibre, and the short forward draw, which takes me forever, but does make a nice weaving yarn.

February 09, 2017

Samples and spinning

The purple superwash Merino is plied and skeined.   I didn't do a yardage count, but there is definitely not enough to weave a sett sample with.    It's a nice yarn though.  I've no idea what to do with this yarn.  Maybe I can spin up a bunch of leftover roving and make something stripey ;)
I've started weaving the sett samples for the design class homework.  I did the sampler gamp first, because I thought that it would be the more monotonous exercise of all the homework.   It was.  These weave off fairly quickly, despite having to cut them off and rethread for each sample.   It dawned on me after I'd cut the second sample off the loom, that for a couple of the twill samples, I could have run the tabby sample off right afterwards and cut some of the rethreading time.   I put enough warp on to do all the samples (fingers crossed).  These twills were at a sett of 8 epi, 9 epi, and 11 epi, using the 2 ply wool from the no longer in business, custom rug factory.    The 11 epi is pretty firm.   I have woven blankets at 9 epi and they work out nicely.  At 8 epi, the weave structure is a little loose.  It is amazing what a difference 1 thread per inch made.  They still need to be wet finished and mounted in some way.

I found a pound of Blue Faced Leicester mill ends.  It was sitting on one of my weaving tool totes, which was hiding in a corner, behind the stash of firewood.   I think it is superwash with a bit of nylon in it.  It spins like a dream.   I plan on spinning the whole pound to the same grist and hopefully I'll have enough to weave something more than a scarf.

February 05, 2017


It was a busy week.  I'm glad that the weather held for most of it, because we had places to go.   It started on Sunday when we went to the Dierks Bentley concert.  We saw him a couple of years ago and it was  a good concert, although the openers, Tim Hicks and Randy Houser stole the show.  This time Jon Pardi opened and his set was simple, but it worked really well.  His music was pretty awesome though.  Cole Swindell sounded a bit like he had a sore throat and a lot of his songs are a bit whiney, but he was good.   Dierks was great though and has obviously had a good connection to the audience.  I really enjoyed this show.   I'd sure like a better camera though, for concert shots.  My phone camera is starting to wear out.

 The Japanese Indigo started sprouting.  It was a happy moment when I checked the planter and found these tiny, little sprouts starting to pop up.   The planter has a clear dome, which I'm opening for part of the day.  Not only can I watch the seedlings grow but I think it keeps them healthier and fungus free.

One of Al's friends gave him tickets to the Rangers game on Friday.  While the wind was blustery during the day, causing a lot of road drifting, the roads were fine in the evening.  It was my first live hockey game and it was fun.   We only stayed for 2 periods though.  Not only was it a blow out in score but the gal seated beside Al was hacking, sneezing and coughing all over him while chatting him up and the one beside me kept plying her hands with heavily fruity scented hand creme and sucking back the menthol cough drops.   Ugh...   So we decided to leave early.  We listened to the rest of the game on the way home.

The bobbin of the purple superwash Merino is almost full and I'm almost out of roving.   I'm trying to decide whether to ply it back on itself or spin up a bobbin of a second colour and ply them together.

February 02, 2017

Putting the Novel Down, finally -

Purple superwash Merino
All that dark, grey, miserable, wet, foggy weather was making me lethargic.  Instead of doing all sorts of cool things, I ended curling up with my favourite blankie, reading and drinking gallons of herbal tea (mainly peppermint yum!).    I'd put some commercially dyed merino on the Minstrel wheel but it just wouldn't spin itself.  Finally I got off my duff and began spinning.    I started off doing a very careful short forward draw, keeping it all consistent and lovely.  Then I realized that I'd be spinning this into July, to have enough for my samples, so I switched to the long draw.   It's going much faster, although not quite so consistent.  At least it feels like I'm getting somewhere when I spin for an hour or more.   I'm hoping that I'll have enough of this yarn to weave sett samples with.

white flowered Japanese Indigo seeds
I ordered some Persicaria tintoria or Japanese Indigo seed.   This is the white flowered variety.  (The pink flowered type is really pretty).  I've started a small batch early, in hopes of planting it a) in a planter and b) planting it early enough for it to go to seed, even if I have to drag it inside for a while in the autumn.  I looked for a heating pad, to help germination, but it seems a little early as I was lucky to find the little peat moss cells for planting, let alone any other garden supplies.  I'll start more seed in March, to plant in the garden.

bottles sitting on the hearth for carbonation
This morning I bottled up 2.5 gallons of amber ale.   I coudn't get into the kitchen yesterday because hubby was painting an area which needed to be finished before he installs the sink (fingers crossed for this weekend).   I filled 10, 500 ml bottles - the plastic ones.  I have to admit that I totally forgot about  underestimated the effect of the overwhelming scent of the beer, before 8 am. Yuk!

Mid afternoon, I mixed up more sanitizing solution and bottled up the cider.  There was only about 3.5 L in the carboy, so it seemed like a huge mess and effort for such a small amount.   I had 5 small bottles and 2.5 , 500 ml bottles.   The half bottle became a tester and it was pretty good.  It's cloudy though, despite letting it crash on the rather cold sun porch for a while.   I used a siphon and bottling wand to fill these bottles and that sure was an exercise in futility.   I wasn't tall enough to prime the siphon and make sure the bottling wand was securely in a bottle.  The siphon kept losing it's prime, so I needed help to do the job, which kept the mess on the floor to a minimum but the frustration level quite high.   I'm considering a bottling bucket for next time.  Using the capper was fun though ;)
Apple Cherry Cider, Day 1

Speaking of next time, because I had the sanitizing solution made and all the equipment out, plus the ingredients, I made up a batch of Unicorn Blood (apple cherry cider) based on a recipe found on the Home Brew Forums.  The batch is just over 12.5 L, because I'm not sure if the carboy I want to use for a secondary fermenter, is in Imperial or U.S. gallons.    It's sitting the the back room, which is quite cool.  I've read in a few places, that low temperature, slow ferments, help in keeping the flavours of the fruit.    Right now the room is just under 14 C, since 55 F is the temperature called for, I'm hoping I'm in the ballpark.

I have the ingredients for a 3.25 gallon batch of amber ale, but I only have a 2 gallon fermenter, so until I get another, or the cider is done, I'll have to wait.   I suppose I could use this time for weaving .....