May 31, 2017

A couple of quick projects

Half of the Polar Vortex, Blue Faced Leicester sliver has been spun.   If I'd chain plied it, the colour changes were long enough to make a pretty rotation of solid colours.  However I didn't want a 3 ply yarn, so I just plied it together and called it good.  It's a little bit brighter than the photo shows, but it's pretty enough.  I have a pattern for mittens which seems like a good match for this yarn.

The purse I whipped up last year before holidays was starting to fray at the zipper.   Since I'd wanted a small denim bag and had only a part of a single pant leg on hand, that is what I used.   Considering it took about 30 minutes in total to figure out what I was doing, sew the whole thing together, including lining with a welted, zippered pocket and a zipper to close the whole bag, I'm pretty happy it lasted this long.    But instead of repairing it as it's more of a functional bag than fun and attractive, I decided to make a new one.

This one is also made from recycled denim, but I had a whole pair of jeans to work with.   I really wish I had time to make a denim strap for it, however due to time constraints, I used a bit of nylon webbing.   I'm also refinishing a little kitchen island workbench, packing, doing stuff for my son who's moving tomorrow, just brewed a batch of beer and my sweetie is home on holidays, which seems to make less available time for projects.   I'm hoping I'll sit down and make the denim strap next week, but since we're off to a Jays game and a concert tomorrow, I opted for the quick fix.   Because I lined the bag, with the obligatory zippered welt pocket for my keys and a patch pocket for other stuff, it took a bit more effort.  There are a few miss-steps, but in all, it's cute, fun and is quite roomy compared to the bags I've been using lately.  The lining matches the belt.

 Both apple trees blossomed this year, although the new one bloomed in two stages, half just after the Northern Spy had finished blooming.   I've no idea if anything got pollinated, as we had so much wet, windy weather I don't remember seeing any bees around at all.  I guess time will tell.   But aren't they pretty, whether or not we get any apples this year.   A friend of mine has an apple press and knows of an abandoned orchard.  She's thinking we should get together for an apple pressing day.  Wouldn't that be fun!

May 26, 2017

What happend at home...

 While I was away last weekend, I received text updates, with photos on what my boys were doing at home.  They were installing the counters.  Friday night I got the photo of the installed counters, without the sink.  On Sunday morning, the sink and tap had been installed, all the caulking dried and it was complete.  I'm sure my friends were tired of me showing them the tiny, phone photos, but it all came together so much faster than I'd anticipated.

   I absolutely love the counters!  They're just formica trimmed with maple, but they look great.     There are only a few things left to do in the kitchen.  We're putting bulkheads in over the counters.  This is because there were some there before and the previous owners didn't bother to finish the whole ceiling last time, just up to the bulkheads, so it's either redo the whole ceiling or redo them like the original kitchen.   It's less work to remake them than to redo the whole ceiling.   We need the trim around the window, doorways and floor.   There are two cabinets which need to be remade which go on either side of the
sink.  Who knows when that will get done.  Because of a last minute choice to frame in the outside wall for extra insulation, the previously made cabinets are too big. We're using them elsewhere though.

I do love my kitchen now!   It's bright, cheery, easy to work in and enjoyable to just hang out in there.

We also got the first load of wood in.   In the past, we've gotten the logs already chopped up, but sometimes the lengths are too long for the stove, but not long enough to be chopped in to two pieces.   This time they just dumped the whole logs.   When the dump truck drove into the yard, my old kitty ran off to hide in a bedroom.  Keven though, ran to the window.  He watched the truck drive up, was intrigued by the whole dumping process and watched the driver and Al while they chatted and talked about taking down a large tree in the yard.  It was rather peculiar cat behaviour, as he's so curious and interested in what happens, rather than hiding or ignoring things.    I wonder how long it will take to chop up and split the logs?

May 23, 2017

Fruits of Our Labours

I was away for the Victoria Day weekend again this year.   I go to FOOL or Fruits of Our Labours, an SCA event dedicated to teaching arts and sciences.    It's always lots of fun.  I always drag along a spinning wheel, but hardly ever have time to actually spin.  This year I got about an hour of spinning in but really nothing to bother even showing.

On Saturday though, we did some natural dyeing.  We mordanted with alum, iron and copper.   We dyed with ferns, cochineal, dandelion and bedstraw.   The bedstraw was disappointing in that it didn't give us any colour at all.   It wasn't quite flowering yet and the dye vat water was literally colourless after almost an hour of cooking.    It was quite cool and windy, and we were outside, so it's possible the bedstraw just didn't get enough time in the pot.   The cochineal vat though, was awesome.   We got beautiful pinks and purples.  There was much dye left in the pot and I sent it home with one of the people in the class.
The results from the fern dye pot were also disappointing.   I think that is my fault for allowing only 4 hours from start to finish and with the weather being cool and breezy, we just didn't have time to do it all in the outdoor class.   My previous results with ferns were soft but bright gorgeous greens.

We had results - some good and some not so good but still, we had results and those pinks and purples are really luscious.

Orla, one of the gals in our group is mundanely, a jewellery maker.  Her work is gorgeous.   Several years now, she's run an enameling class.   A couple of years ago, I made a little cloisonne pin.  This year I did an etched pin, based on an Anglo-Saxon original.  It's the one on the left which looks awful because it had just been heated to cherry red with the blow torch, to melt the glass onto the copper and it's just cooling down in this photo.   I ran out of time to get it finished, so it went home with the instructor and I'll fetch it at a later date.

There were a couple of other classes that I wanted to take, but with teaching on Saturday and the weather streaming down rain all day Sunday, I ended up not doing all I'd hoped.  Still, it was a great weekend and we've already started planning next year's event.

May 15, 2017

Fawn fleece in the garage

My sweetie was cleaning the garage yesterday and found a plastic bag full of obviously forgotten fibre.   It was likely cold so I had him put it in the upper loft area of the garage for storage and forgot about it.    It's labelled fawn, so it's probably Shetland.   It's definitely brown but isn't sold brown.  There are pale browns, creams and some tan/grey looking areas.   It has a lot of VM, but much of it seems to be larger bits, which are easier to get out.  The lanolin has hardened, so it was difficult to tell how soft it was.   I'd obviously used some of this as when I unrolled it, there seemed to be a missing bit.

The staple length is all over the spectrum.   Some areas are only a couple of inches long -  leg and belly maybe?   Except that the leg areas would have been skirted off and the belly as well, since it's usually pretty icky with bits you don't want to bother with.   Some areas have a stable length of close to 6 inches.   That is a huge variation. 

Because of how it looks to have a definitely break of colour in the locks, I'm thinking it's a double coat - with both the white and the brown fibres, except that the brown doesn't go all the way up to the cut end - weird.

So I put a bit of fibre in a laundry lingerie bag and washed it - then realized that I'd use the same amount of soap and degreaser for a laundry tub full, so filled 4 more bags up and washed those as well.    It's all hanging to dry, either in the bags on the line, or it's laid out on the rack, inside to dry.  It's so windy out there, less than yesterday when I washed it, but still, if it's not pegged down, it would definitely end up in the neighbour's field.

This morning I processed a small handful of the now clean and dry fibre.  I picked out the larger stuff, used hand cards to make rolags, but did a few passes first, to shake out a bit more of the smaller VM.   The two colours are definitely separate fibres, which blended nicely on the hand cards.    I should have taken a photo of the rolags as they were quite beautiful.  The fibre is super soft and fine but has some neps in it.   I figured it would be the brown weathered tips, but they are all white.   I'm wondering if maybe the sheepie was starting to roo and those little neps were bits of the new coat coming in. 

The neps and some of the fleece length differential caused spinning to be a little fussy at some times.   I used a tradition longdraw with the rolags and thought it would be a horribly uneven yard.  It's not though.  It's quite consistent and look at that lovely heathery look too the yarn.  So different than the original fleece.   It's soft and pretty.    It will be fun to play with. 

May 12, 2017

A Woolly Week

 I found 2 little bags of  Corriedale leftover from level 6 Master Spinner.   It's got just the right amount of grease and absolutely no VM.  It took no time at all to wash up.  I washed one bit up just loose and it took only 2 washes and rinses to get it spectacularly clean.  To wash the second bit, I separated the individual locks and put them into my little screen envelopes.   It took a third rinse to get these clean.  They are super white and absolutely gorgeous.   As there isn't very much of it, I'm thinking I should blend it with something else.   Sometimes washing fleece can bet a bit tedious, especially if there is a humongous amount of it.  With these two little baggies, it was super fast and fun.   Now to decide what to do with it.

All the Blue Faced Leicester has been spun and plied.  There are a few grams left that I will put towards another project, but for the most part, the whole bag is spun into 3 large skeins.  One skein has 432 yards but I haven't counted the other 2 skeins, which look to be slightly smaller.  I think I will wind a bunch of 10 yard skeins to use for a nature dyeing class that I'm giving next weekend.  

 I look for something pretty to spin, which wasn't white and wasn't Ramie or silk.   I found this bit of Blue Faced Leicester that I'd dyed a while ago, during that horribly cold winter, when it never warmed up for months.   I named the colourway Polar Vortex when I'd dyed it.   Now I'm spinning it up.   I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for though, so I'm spinning it fairly fine and then can use it for socks or for weaving.

There is nothing on the loom right now.   I wish there were, but soon I hope.   The sheet of formica that was in front of my warping board has now been applied to countertops - yay!   Said counters should be ready to install this weekend - Happy Mother's Day to me or by next at the latest.  

May 07, 2017

Just a few little projects

I finished the bobbin of Blue Faced Leicester  singles.  I wound them into a centre pull ball and plied the two ends together.   There is lots of controversy over plying from a centre pull ball.  Some people say the grain or twist is different.  Others say that you get these little twisty tails from this method.    I've even had someone tell me it was just plain wrong and didn't work. 
This is the way I was taught, so plying from 2 bobbins took some effort.  Until I learned to control the tension of the two bobbins, I'd get those tails from that method.    One risk with a centre pull ball, is that with fine singles, the centre core can become tangled as it collapses in on itself.   To counter act that, you can put something in the centre of the ball to hold it secure.  Sometimes I'll wind the ball on a core like a toilet paper roll.  Other times, I'll slip my thumb in there, or more often these days, I use a piece of well sanded dowel.  As long as you keep your tension even for both threads or ends, no matter what method you use, you should get an even ply, with no little tails sticking out from it.  My conclusion is that use whatever method works for you. 

This afternoon I bottled the light amber ale which was in the fermenting bucket.  I have decided that I don't like using the bucket, because I need help getting the stupid lid off it.   I purchased a spigot and at some point I will turn it into a bottling bucket.   I'm not certain that I like the bottling wand and siphon method.  My bottling wand valve sometimes gets stuck, so that I have overflow and a bit of a mess.  Putting a hose clamp on the top of the bottling wand, where the siphon hose attaches, stopped the excess air getting in while siphoning and the siphon actually worked a treat this time.  Yay!    It should be carbonated by the long weekend in May. The recipe called for chocolate malt, but the recipe description suggested it was an amber ale.   I'm pretty sure I'll be more careful with using chocolate malts as this batch is pretty dark.

I made gluten free gingersnaps, which turned out quite well and are really delicious.  I put chocolate chips in 1/3 of the batch, but really, they were just as good without.   I'll put the recipe up later, because it finally stopped raining and there is so much to do.

More BFL on the wheel.  Nothing on the loom, but lots of ideas.   The formica is now on the counter top and not in front of my warping board, so that at least gives me options.   Finished and installed kitchen counters are so close that I've been told to research back splash materials..... squee!

May 03, 2017

Lots of cotton, a little wool

I've finished spinning the 100 g of natural green cotton.   I'd forgotten to divide it up in half before I started spinning, so part way through, I took 50 g off the end of the sliver and hoped it was good enough.  Sometimes the labelled weight is a few grams off, or more than a few, which can make a difference in the spun yardage.   In this case though, I had only a 3 yard or so difference in bobbin yardage, so all was good.  

The light skein is 227 yards of 2 ply cotton before it was wet finished.  The darker green is 345 yards of the same cotton after wet finishing.   I simply tossed the skein in a pot of water and simmered it for about 40 minutes.    I so love the colour changes with coloured cotton after wet finishing.   Be aware though that white cotton can turn off white or tan after simmering.

I put some roving mill ends, which I'm pretty sure are superwash BFL with a bit of nylon on the Minstrel.   I am doing some natural dyeing on the long weekend in May and thought maybe I could get enough spun for the dye pots.   Just in case, I'm going to hunt down some commercial white wool yarn as well.    I'm planning on having 4-6 dyes going, using several different mordants and maybe some after dips for colour changes.   We'll need a bunch of yarn for all that.

Our weaving/spinning guild has to move.   We've got almost everything packed up but decided to thin out a bunch of our stash.  We had 8 stacking bins of stuff that no-one had touched in years, as well as a huge tote of donated bits.   I was looking at a bag with a warp in in, wondering what I could do with it, when Judy gave me another bag and said here, this one says 2 warps.   They came home with me, since I'd been complaining that there is a 4 x 8 sheet of formica on the floor in front of my warping board, so I can't wind any warps.

Only one warp was labelled and it was with an approximate end count.  The other 2 had no labels at all.   No wonder they sat in that bin for ever.  How could anyone figure out what to do with them, with no info!  This morning  I counted ends and measured yardage.   They are all different.   One is probably 2/8 stark white cotton, is 11 yards long and would only be wide enough for mug rugs.   11 yards of mug rugs - eek.     The next one is only 3 yards long but has 298 ends and finally a 6 yard warp with 208 ends, in what looks like mercerized cotton.  It's not like I can even mix them together to make something wider because of the length differences.  The 11 yard warp has a cross only at one end, or I could have easily cut it in half and doubled it up.   Right now it's really only wide enough for mug rugs and really, who would want to do 11 yards of mug rugs.