Monday, 20 September 2010

The Website's Up

Jan's put the website up over the weekend, Fibre-East so we've really gone public. A couple of workshops and traders already on board, so it's starting to feel as though it's really happening now, so hope all the hard work we've been doing will pay off.

On the knitting front I had a small disaster, the spaniel destroyed my second sock that I was knitting. I'd left it on the arm of the sofa one evening while we were having dinner & he must have got caught up with it while the 2 dogs were playing. I went in & it was strung out right through the room & into the dining room (we eat in the kitchen when it's just 2 of us). To get it off him he'd chewed through the circular needle - my lovely Knitpicks Pro wood needle - & through the knitting. I got a new one on Saturday, but while I was ordering it a set of blocking wires fell into my basket, well I had to console myself somehow didn't I. I've also started a pair of socks from some handspun yarn. The fibre was from a bag that I got from World of Wool, what they call their lap waste. This can be any colour or any fibre, ends of runs etc., some of it's a bit manky, but for £8 for a big bag fibre it's not bad really you just have to work a bit harder to get decent stuff to spin. I blended some of the fibres & came out with a sort of turquoise base with bright pink flecks. I'm knitting them on 2.25 needles to make a dense fabric to make it harder wearing as it's not got any nylon blended in. I might make the effort to get some nylon to blend if I'm happy with this pair. I spun the wool on my Bee spinning wheel at 18:1 ratio, then plied at 20:1. I thought that because I'd used a higher than normal twist that the yarn might be a bit unbalanced, but was pleased when I took it off the niddy-noddy to find that it was fine, well balanced & the overtwist was fine after plying. It's knitting up really well, but it's pretty hard on my hands to knit because of the small needles, so I'm only knitting a little bit at a time.

I've also picked up my Hoswick Jacket again now that it's cooler. I wimped out of it because I'd got to the armhole shaping & still have to keep the fairisle pattern correct. Normally I wouldn't decrease on the 1st & last stitch of the armhole but one stitch in. However I have on this, hopefully as it's steeked it will be OK, only time will tell. I'm thinking about changing the cuffs & neckline as well. They're sort of frilly & fluted, that's not really my taste. I think I may just do a simple neckline & plainish cuffs.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Autumn rolls in

Well that's how it's started to feel anyway, the days are shorter, the berries are all really appearing on the hedgerows, the apples & pears on the trees in the garden are needing to be picked & I'm knitting lots of socks, getting ready to keep the tootsies warm this winter. People think I'm mad, but I really love my hand knitted socks, in fact I did a few rows this morning in the hairdressers while I was waiting for my colour to brew. The boss wanted to know if I was knitting Xmas pressies, but no their mine, all mine . This pair are plain blue & when I started to knit them I thought 'how boring' so I've put a sort of broken spiral pattern in them. I know most of the time people can't see them, but I like them & that's all that matters really.

We're still plodding on with the preparations for Fibre-East, but one big frustration is that although we're really keen, other people take so long to get back to us, it's just not the priority for them like it is for us, don't know how they can be so calm about it all! I just keep hoping that we can really get this festival off the ground albeit in a small way to start with, there are just so many more people now who are getting into fibre crafts & it would be really great to be able to bring a new festival into the area. I suppose it may have been better starting this off a few years ago, when the economy was a bit better, but there are more & more small producers of indie dyed yarns & fibre & also equipment like spindles, so the hope is that some of these newer businesses will come on board.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

It's all happening

Well I can at last let my breath out and start to talk about what I've been involved with for the past 6 weeks or so. It seems much longer than that somehow because so much has been happening.

Some months ago I offered my help to a friend who was considering organising a new fibre festival. I said that if she wanted help on the finance & planning then I'd be only too happy to help out. So she asked me about 6 weeks ago if I was still interested & of course I said 'Yes', anything to do with spinning & knitting & I'm in there. So the ideas began flying back & forth, lots of finding out possible venues, the cost of hiring marquees & portable loos, how much to charge traders, doing plans of floor space. But there was one problem, finding a venue. One of the other people interested, Emma had found a possible site in Surrey, but they wouldn't communicate with Jan, so that was no good. Then she went to an open day/craft day at a farm in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire & thought the farm would be an ideal place. She talked to them & they said they were up for it! We went to visit them & they showed us round the possible fields that we could use & we went away with a venue & lots of ideas buzzing in our heads.

Now we really had to find out very seriously about hiring stuff, and found a few local companies who look as though they will be OK. Jan's in the process of designing a website so that we can go live at the end of September, but she's already getting people wanting trading stalls & that's before we've done any real advertising. It has been circulated to the local Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, but only just gone out on the huge internet forum of Ravelry, so hopefully people will be starting to generate interest very soon.

Although it's only in the very early stages, we want to work really hard to have a festival here in the East/South/Midlands, so many hours of slog will have to go into getting it just right so that people can have an enjoyable weekend.

Did I tell you the date? It's 23rd & 24th July 2011. The venue will be Scald End Farm, Thurleigh, Bedfordshire.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Another spinning wheel

I haven't posted anything for ages, too busy with life & work I suppose.

Since I last posted I've bought myself another spinning wheel & acquired an alpaca fleece, neither of which I really needed, but this hobby is starting to really get me drawn in. Firstly the spinning wheel is a second-hand Spinolution Bee , bought from someone who I know through that great medium called Ravelry. I met Kat last year at a spinning workshop & was totally captivated by the little Bee, which folded up into a boxlike structure for carrying, so when she advertised it for sale I was straight in there. I had been looking to buy a new one, but they are very expensive, so didn't bother, but of course buying 2nd hand it worked out cheaper. I got 7 bobbins and a bag with it, which are all very expensive, so did really well I think. It's a totally different spinning concept to my other 2 wheels, on the Bee the treadling is a rocking action rather than a treadle as it is on most wheels. It took me a while to really get into it & I got really frustrated because I couldn't get the tension to work properly, either it wouldn't wind on the bobbin & I got too much twist or if I tightened the tension then it wouldn't get enough twist. It has a very unusual tensioning system, which works on Scotch tension principle, where you tighten the tension on the bobbin separately to the tension on the drive band, but it just kept slipping & I thought that I'd made a really bad mistake with buying it. I did join the Spinolution group on Ravelry & noticed that she'd posted about the problem a few months ago, so I contacted her & she suggested that I try what they also suggest, which is rubbing the little bit of suede on the tension block, which acts as a kind of brake system, to rough it up as it smooths out in time. I did this & it was a little better. But before I went to spin on it last night I decided to have another look at the tension block to make sure it was OK. It wasn't, it had become black & oily again, so I got some paper towel & a soft cloth & gave it a really good clean out. There's a spring at the back of where the flyer is connected to the shaft and there was some oil that had become really gunky. I think this might have been transferring back onto the part where the flyer arm goes back to meet the tension block. So after I'd cleaned it I cleaned the suede again, roughed it up & then put some beeswax onto the suede to keep it clean & give it more contact on the flyer arm. It seems to have worked as I didn't have nearly as much trouble getting the yarn to wind on. This particular wheel is made using ball bearings so needs rarely or never to be oiled, so I think either the wrong oil had been used or it was just too much oil for the wheel. I hope that it will now settle down & I'll have many happy hours using it. It's also great because it's quite small I can sit on the couch & use it & not block him indoors' view of the telly, which my other wheels do!

The alpaca came from a lovely couple, near to where I live. His Mum was a member of our Guild, she joined because he had the alpacas & she wanted to learn to spin the fleece. Unfortunately she died last Christmas, so the fleeces from this year's clip were all just left. We went to the farm to have an afternoon spinning etc., drinking tea & eating yummy cakes. Some of the Guild took fleeces & I was determined not to, but there were a couple left & one was a pretty humbug, sort of oatmeal colour, so I took it in the end & gave a donation for the local charity that they support. It's still sitting here, a month on waiting for me to do something with it. I'll probably blend it with some wool rather than spin it by itself I think. I'll experiment & see what happens

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Holidays are great

But it's a shame that we have to come back from them isn't it. Still I suppose we'd have nothing to look forward to & it would get just as much a grind being in the place where you holiday all the time, there'd be no change, which as the old saying goes is as good as a rest.

We were very lucky with the weather, which is unusual for us, it's normally great weather & we go away & it turns horrible, but this time we chose the right week.

Yesterday I had a lovely surprise. I got a hand delivered letter which had been sent via a mutual contact, from someone I was friendly with as a girl, the last time I must have spoken to her must have been over 25 years ago. Apparently she reckons that she said something to me in a phone conversation that really upset me & I broke off all communication with her, but I thought that I'd upset her which is why she never rang me again, just goes to show how words can be misconstrued. But it is lovely to catch up with her. I emailed her with my address & phone number & she was straight on the phone for a chat. She's now married for the 2nd time with 2 sons of her own, one adopted daughter from her 1st marriage & 3 step children from her 2nd marriage & 6 grandchildren, they look such a happy family & I'm so pleased for her that she's found happiness with her 2nd husband. I'm also pleased that we've got together again as I've often thought about her over the years & wondered what happened after her 1st marriage broke up.

I can see that my weekend is going to be busy, our post lady asked me yesterday if I knew of someone who could help her process a fleece that she'd been given while on holiday in Yorkshire. Apparently it's a Cheviot fleece that's from last year's shearing with which the farmer won a prize. I of course said that I could help her, so it looks like Sunday will be spent sorting this fleece & teaching her how to wash it etc. She has a spindle which she's tried to use but can't, so I'll have a go at teaching her as well. I'm certainly not going to offer to spin it up for her, got far too much stuff of my own to spin.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Coffin Fleece anyone?

I've just been to collect a fleece, a Norfolk, and the shepherd said that it was his coffin fleece. He explained that it's a traditional thing for a shepherd to have a fleece in his coffin if he/she dies as a mark of their occupation & he keeps one from the current year's wool clip just in case he dies. I felt a bit guilty about it, but he assured me that there was plenty of stuff around that could be put in his coffin by his family if need be, and I did say that he looked pretty healthy to me. I said to contact me if he ever needed some of the fleece back, but then he'd be dead wouldn't he doh. Anyway, I haven't had a chance to really look at it yet, but it doesn't seem too bad, not too many second cuts etc. & seems at first glance not to be too full of VM, but I will see when I open it out properly. What is a bit upsetting is that he's let all the other fleeces, some 200 of them, go to the BWMB for pennies. I told him that hand spinners would happily pay good money for decent fleeces & he said that they do have some good ones, he's even got a 2nd prize for a fleece recently at one of the shows. So next year I've promised to contact him around April/May & see if I can find people interested in buying some of the fleeces. He actually works for a Trust which needs to obviously make as much money as it can, so it would be good if he could make a bit more for them.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Weddings, aren't they wonderful?

Yes it's said rather tongue in cheek really. We had to go last weekend to a family wedding near Manchester. Now I'm not a great one for do's like this especially as it wasn't close family. I find them rather boring really, especially because these days such a huge emphasis is put on getting everything just right for the bridal party & they forget that they've invited all these guests who may have to hang around for hours with nothing to do. Yes you may say I'm being miserable, but this particular wedding got off to a very bad start. The bride was 45 minutes late, yes 45 minutes. There were 280 guests all sitting very uncomfortably on the hottest day of the year, when many of the people there could have been watching the agonising World Cup England/Germany match. There was only water to drink if you wanted to climb over the other guests to get out to get some. Apparently one of the make-up artists didn't show & the one that did was very slow. I honestly couldn't even tell that they'd had the make-up done professionally when I looked closely. The bride's mother walked down the aisle looking as though she'd sucked a lemon, what a way to celebrate your daughter's wedding, I'm glad I wasn't on the receiving end of her tongue on Monday morning! Apparently she's not known for her diplomacy & tact.

Then of course everything else was running late & we didn't finish dinner until 9.30. Luckily the hotel was only a couple of miles away so we didn't have a long drive back afterwards, but it wasn't the best time, you couldn't even get on the tiny dance floor to have a boogie & the band they had was so loud that you could hear it well outside the hall, but the youngsters enjoyed themselves while anyone over 40 sat outside in the marquee.

Luckily we don't have any more weddings or big do's on the horizon. Don't get me wrong I love a good party, but this was just so uncomfortable & I had to sit for so long without anything to do that I was bored rigid. Shame I didn't have my knitting with me or at least a bit of crochet to keep me occupied, but then people would have known I was a bit odd instead of just suspecting it haha.

Anyway my moaning will now stop as I received a few samples of fleece today in the post. One was some Polwarth, one Polwarth ram & the last was Llanwenog. Unfortunately as I was a bit late asking about the Polwarth the only one left is a bit felted, but might come up OK in the wash. She sent me a bit that's been washed & it seems to be good, but will just need careful washing & the locks will have to be pulled apart as I go. It's certainly very soft & silky & will spin up I'm sure as next to the skin soft. I'll have to see if the ram fleece is any good, but I suspect that it will be a bit stinky & probably not as soft. The Llanwenog is quite a bit coarser so I might not bother with that as I don't think it's a lot different to the Texel that I've already got plenty of. I'm also getting a Norfolk fleece later this week, so hope that will be OK, as I haven't yet seen it & don't know anything about the people selling it, so only hope that it's useable after I've made the trek to get it. HD thinks I'm barmy & that I've got enough fleece, but a spinner can never have enough. He doesn't know about the 500 grammes of Merino that I got a few weeks ago either or for that matter the mohair that came at around the same time mwwahaha. But then when I read about how much other people have I've have very little but HD doesn't realise that.

Monday, 14 June 2010

A good weekend

My other passion than all things woolly related is probably a rather unusual one, it's Morris Dancing. I've been involved with my Morris side since it started in 1981, so very nearly 30 years now. I unfortunately no longer dance due to dodgy joints, but I can still play music, so I can be involved.

I had a great fun weekend in the Forest of Dean dancing with FOD Morris Men & other sides. This is the 2nd year we've been invited along & although we didn't have the scenic tour this year which we did last year, when we had Tintern Abbey & Symonds Yat to dance, it was still enjoyable, with good company. Being organised by a men's side we found the food rather stodgy, unfortunately we women don't in general enjoy eating pie all weekend, but that's all we seemed to do! I left HD at home to look after the dogs & shared the B&B with a very long standing friend, I mustn't call her 'old' of course, but we've been friends well over 30 years. We had a wonderful B&B called The Rock, at Hillersland just half a mile down the road from Symonds Yat & the views were absolutely spectacular. It was very comfortable & the owners & their dogs were very welcoming, certainly somewhere I would love to stay again. I was absolutely exhausted though when I got home on Sunday, from not only the weekend but also from the long drive home, over 3 hours straight driving on A roads is pretty tiring, especially as my car's still not behaving itself . Anyway I hope we can go along next year & perhaps have a bit more of a holiday rather than just the weekend.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Cars don't you love 'em

My cars been a right pain, I know it's nearly 8 years old, and up until now it's been a really good workhorse, not let us down at all, but a couple of weeks ago it just conked out on HD. Stopped dead, nadda nothing nil. He of course didn't have either his phone (he has 2) or his AA card on him. Luckily he was outside the shops & the people at the dry cleaners who he uses regularly, let him phone me. Well the AA came out very quickly & towed him to a garage round the corner which lots of people we know use. Turned out we knew the owner from HD's youth club leader days. Anyway it seemed the clutch & flywheel had gone & they'd broken some sensor on the crankshaft, so that had to be replaced as well as the clutch. The car had to be taken to a specialist clutch place in town, but I have to say they were excellent, however we noticed that oil was leaking, so they had the car back to have a look at it. Apparently someone had jacked it up without a board & done damage to a stopper or something (you can tell I know all about cars) so they replaced it free of charge & let us have a courtesy car while they were doing the repair & checking it out. When we got it back HD noticed that there was another leak, but when I checked I said that it was only water from the air-con, but by then he'd rung the clutch place & they were on their way to collect it. Again they left us the courtesy car & took it away to check. Turns out I was right, it was just condensation from the air-con ( see I told you I know all about cars ;-) but they were great in the way that they dealt with it. It's so rare that you get anyone admitting that something was their fault & putting it right without charge or checking something out that isn't even their fault at all. It's restored my faith in the motor industry & of course we wouldn't hesitate to recommend them, which has to be the best way of getting business.

I'm still plodding on with spinning the Texel fleece. HD was out most of Saturday, so after cleaning the kitchen which was a right tip, getting the car from the clutch place & doing a few other chores I spent a bit of time with my drum carder prepping a load, then did a bit of spinning & plying. Then I saw my neighbour who keeps a few sheep & popped round to have a look at the fleeces he'd shorn. I ended up with 2 of them, one's a Leicester Border cross, which seems quite fine & soft & a good length staple, the other one's I think a Suffolk cross, bit shorter staple & not quite as fine or soft, but will probably spin up OK. I've not pulled them out of the bags we put them into yet, but I think looking at the bits I pulled off there's going to be quite a lot of 2nd cuts as he sheared them himself, but will have to see what they're like when I've washed them. Trouble is it takes so long to get them washed & dried. I don't want to put them in the bath as DH would go barmy, so do bits in a washing up bowl that I keep for the wool only. Also the weather's up & down, so the rest of the Texel that I washed is still not quite dry & I don't want to do any more until the weather is settled, it looks like it's going to be showery for this week. Sunday was more plying & spinning & HD is now completely sure that I love sheep more than any other creature. Not true of course, they're just very useful animals.

I've also started on a cardigan, it's a Drops pattern with some teal coloured yarn that I bought from Moonstone Yarns. The yarns' merino & acrylic, lovely & soft & lightweight, but the bottom will curl up. It starts with 6 rows of garter stitch & then changes to stocking stitch. I frogged it back & started the stocking stitch on the purl row rather than the knit row, and I thought that would solve the problem, but it's still curling, probably because the wool's very lightweight, but hopefully it will lay down after blocking. If not then I might try a crab stitch border or maybe even sew a few beads on to give it a bit of weight.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


At last the sun has come out again, it's been such a miserable Bank Holiday weekend, typical of the British spring & yesterday felt like a good day for November & certainly not the 1st of June! We were going to go boating at the weekend, but the car broke down last week & we've had to spend a fortune getting the clutch, flywheel & some sensor that broke replaced. Still it's a good job that we kept our AA cover going as they were really quick to respond & we got a free hire car for 3 days. However I'm not too happy as last night coming home it made a bit of a clonking noise & lost a bit of power, then today we noticed some sort of fluid on the drive, so it's going back tomorrow, they said 'something might be a bit loose' a screw perhaps, says she tongue in cheek!

Anyway I'm getting on with planning the Ravelry meeting in September with both Chris & Dianne agreeing to do proper workshops. I will write a bit more about both of them in future, suffice it to say that both are very experienced in their fields and present very enjoyable and informative workshops. Hopefully lots of people will take up the opportunity to gain the knowledge that they can impart.

So now to my spinning.I've started on the Texel with a vengeance, I've done a sampler and one bobbin spun & another one on the way, but if I'm to get as far as making an Aran sweater for HD then I'd better get a move on. Why an Aran sweater? Well I showed him a sample of the yarn that I'd spun & knitted & his reaction was 'that would make a lovely Aran jumper' when I said that I'd probably dye it. It's true, I'd spun to about 8-9 WPI so it's Aran weight yarn & it's not really soft enough for next to the skin, it's a bit scratchy, not too much, but would make a good hard wearing jumper, so I frogged back & did this cable sample & it certainly does look good. I'm pleased that I didn't hot wash the fleece with detergent & just soaked overnight in warm water & scouring solution as I prefer the way that it's spun with some of the lanolin left in, it's meant that I could get a thicker spin into the yarn. Since I've learnt to spin lace weight I've found it very hard to go back to spinning heavier yarn, but have managed with this possibly because of the fact that the lanolin in the wool gives a lot more 'drag' to it as I spin. I then washed the sample in very hot water with dishwashing liquid in & the lanolin has come out. Now lots of people say that you can't get the lanolin out once fleece is spun, but when I started spinning some 30 years ago most people spun in the grease i.e. straight from the fleece, then washed later. I know that this is impossible with some high grease fleeces like merino, but with lower grease fleece it works perfectly well. I'd say experiment with what you've got as this is the only way to go, there's no rule book, no law on how to do it, just go with what you feel comfortable doing & see if it works. Lots of people wouldn't dream of putting fleece into boiling water thinking that it would just felt & shrink, but so long as it's not very fine & you don't agitate it or shock it by then putting into cold water it should be quite OK. After all have you ever tried to actually make felt? It takes lots of hot soapy water & lots of effort, that's what I've found anyway.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Bloomin cold!

No it's not cold here, in fact it's really hot, well by British standards it is anyway, around 26 degrees C, so really lovely, but I've been unwell all week with a cold & cough. Bad enough to get one in the winter, but I've gone right through until this week without one.

It's HD's Birthday today as well & we were supposed to have been out on our narrow boat this weekend, but with me feeling so rotten we decided not to go, hopefully next weekend which is a Bank Holiday will be good weather & we'll go then instead. It's actually a bit uncomfortable if the weather's really hot & sunny when we're boating, as you've got no shade when steering & it's difficult to keep the dogs cool, they hate being confined inside & although they're in & out of the garden here, at least they can go into the house or find shade if they want it. But I do feel a little bit guilty H is having a bit of a boring Birthday. I did offer to take him somewhere 'exciting' but he couldn't come up with any suggestions, so we're going out to the pub for a meal tonight & as it's so nice we'll hopefully be able to sit in the garden & have a Pimm's numnum.

I've spent the morning spinning some more the Black Hebridean fleece that I bought last year. It looks really quite brown in this picture that I took when I first got it, but in fact it's only the tips that are brown from the sun. I think it must have been a late clipping as not only are the tips bleached but there's a bit of scurf in some places. Most of this comes out when I comb it, some when I spin & hopefully the final bit will come out when I give it a final washing. I hope to get enough yarn out to be able to knit something like a waistcoat for me, will just have to see how it goes. I'm using my handmade woolcombs that I bought from P&M Woolcraft. Martin makes them himself & because the staple on this wool is nice & long, around 4 inches, it's combing really well, even better now it's sat out in the sun as I didn't take all the lanolin out. I prefer if I can to leave a bit in when I spin as I find that I get a better 'slide' with a bit of lanolin, so long as the wool is reasonably warm it's not a problem. If the wool is very sticky with lanolin though it's best to take more out otherwise the fleece will just stick & won't spin at all well. Something like Merino or Cormo tends to be much higher in lanolin & in fact some that I've seen is more like wax & literally has to be melted off with very hot water & lots of detergent. I intend to try some of the Texel fleece with some of the Synthrapol that I got from Jenny last Saturday, rather than detergent. She suggested that it's best used in warm water & soaked overnight so I might do that before we go out this evening.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A dyeing day

I had a very tiring but far more inspiring day than I ever thought possible yesterday. It was a day of learning to dye with natural materials. Our tutor was Jenny Dean, who we are lucky enough to have as President of our Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Guild here in Bedfordshire. Unfortunately for our Guild, Jenny is in the process of moving house and will be going out of our area, so we won't have her to hand in future to draw on her expertise.

I've had a very basic go at dyeing wool with some Koolaid in the microwave & although I didn't get exactly the results I wanted, it was OK. But the process of using natural plants etc. for dyeing filled me with a lot more pleasure even if it is much harder work. I would love to be able to do this sort of thing on a regular basis, but I feel that with time constraint it will be one of the things that I will keep for my retirement, just another thing to add to my increasingly long list, I'm going to be busier than I am now! I can see why people are drawn into dyeing, especially with the lovely soft colours that you get from using natural dyes. It somehow feels a bit like Alchemy, especially when you see how different modifiers change the yarn to different shades. I will try to have a go with some of this Texel fleece that I've got & see how it dyes up, but I need to get myself some equipment & quite a few hours to myself first.

So these are the 2 skeins I dyed, they are from some rather badly spun Wensleydale that I spun last year, I don't particularly want to knit with them but they will probably be OK to add texture to weaving.

This first one was dyed with rhubarb root and then modified with alkaline in the form of washing soda. The piece that we did for our sample cards was much more of a taupe, sort of pinkish colour which was what I wanted, but this has come out much more of a mustard colour. It could be something to do with the fact that the power blew out in the room we were using, although Jenny was careful not to plug all the hotplates & the boiler into the same plugs so the circuits weren't overloaded, & no-one could find the trip switch. It took a good half hour before the hall Chairman arrived to fix it, so the pans were standing for quite a long time before we had decided to transfer them into the hallway & kitchen where the points were still working.

This second one was dyed in madder. It's a lovely warm, rich colour & I look forward to using madder more for dyeing in the future

So how did we go about the dyeing process? Well first our skeins were given a good soaking in water, one person's wool was still too greasy so she had to wash it in some dishwashing liquid to get the lanolin out. The dye won't take well if there's grease in the fleece as it were, & will be patchy when it's dyed. Once the wool had soaked well it was put into the boiler with an alum mixture. Without my notes I can't remember the exact amount, but I think it was 100gm of alum to 1 kilo of yarn, but don't take that as gospel. The wool was brought up to simmering & left to simmer in the boiler until we were ready for it. If you boil wool it won't harm it as it's already been hot washed to remove the lanolin & I wash my skeins again once they've been spun so they're pretty well shrunk by then. The dye pots were prepared by putting the dyestuff into them & giving them a good simmering to release the dye, then strained & they were ready, so we chose which ones we wanted to use. The madder was popular & we had 2 pots of that going, one was partly exhausted from the morning's dyeing when we'd been doing our sample pieces, so the results from that were more pink than red/orange. I chose the new pot to get the more vibrant colour & the pot of rhubarb root to which Jenny added extra dye extracts rather than boiling up more of the actual root which would have been too time consuming. Then skeins into pots & the fuses blew out, but we managed to get our skeins dyed & I was more than happy with my efforts. We also had some superb cup cakes which were brought in by Julie, a new member of the Guild. She was signed up very quickly I noticed!

Next time I'll post about preparing fleece for spinning

Friday, 14 May 2010

Gloom or green?

It's funny how clicking on a link on the Internet often brings you into a thought process or place that you wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

I've often been thought of as a rather left-wing hippy, a bit odd, with ideas that people just laugh at. In my youth I used to dream of being part of an eco-friendly community where we grew our own food, made our own clothes & needed little of the economies of the outside world to survive. A pipe dream that a few people followed, but many couldn't sustain ending up with infighting & disillusion. Many years ago when I said that the green movement was right, that we should all consider what we were doing to this planet we live on & think carefully about how we live our lives, some people thought I was more than a bit odd. Well now it seems that many other people also think much like me, that rampant consumerism & greed is just destroying the world around us & not putting anything like enough back to sustain the future. A ridiculous thought many of you might say, but when I look around at the way we simply discard so much in our lives, is it?

How many people, especially women, think that a good day out is one spent shopping at the big retail outlets, then throwing away very quickly the goods they've bought? They look at me as if I've got 2 heads when I say that this has to be one of the most mind numbing & boring things that I could do with my time, & can't understand that I'd rather be close to home or at home creating something, whether that's by my own hands or being taught a skill by someone with more knowledge than I have. The ancient ways of passing on knowledge in a local arena of some sort, is something that brings far more joy to my heart than sitting drinking coffee in a soulless coffee shop that belongs to a chain of such around the world, even if they do expound their 'Faitrade' products. OK some of the clothes end up in the local charity shop & they do their bit for the recycling of goods, but the amount of it that gets thrown away is criminal.

All the recycling that I used to do & got laughed at for doing is, I'm pleased to say, now taken as far nearer the norm than it was even 5 years ago & family & friends who just didn't bother at all, are now doing it mostly without a second thought, sorting household waste into it's correct disposal bins & boxes.

So I was delighted to read about The Dark Mountain Project. Many people will say it's a load of nonsense & much too far fetched & of course mankind will find ways of getting round losing natural resources, but how long will that take? Yes I enjoy living in the modern world, having heat & light that are relatively easy to come by, modern drugs which will certainly give me as an individual a healthier and probably longer life, the Internet, a car & all the other things that we modern humans living in a Westernised society regard as the norm, but I do wonder at the cost of these things. Will ancient skills be totally lost, will there be enough people interested in keeping them alive so that when we no longer have the oil, coal or any other form of power to drive the mighty engines of consumerism around the world. Will there be people who are interested enough to try the old skills that were used for centuries up until the Industrial Revolution, when we moved from relying on our own skills and the power of humans & animals, to the slow destruction of our world around us?

So I'll carry on learning old skills & hopefully will at some point be able to pass them on to others to sustain the circle. So that when the huge economies of the manufacturing world break down, there'll still be people who have the skill & knowledge to produce the yarn to make their own clothing, grown their own food & herbs and be able to live in some sort of comfort and aren't driven by a continuous need for ever higher profit.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Wooly washing

Well I said that I spin & knit, so here's a couple of pictures.

First of all the socks that I'm knitting in Regia bamboo mix

And this is just a very small bit of one of the Texel fleeces that I've just bought

and a few of the locks.

I've got so much of this I think I might just get a bit fed up with spinning it!

My intention was to have enough to spin a jumper's worth, so when Jan said that they were lamb fleeces I though I'd need a couple of them. What I didn't know was that they were yearlings & were ginormous as they are raised for meat of course, unlike a lot of the rare breeds that are raised for their grazing & fleece. I did intend to get a few other fleeces, but think I'd better get some of this used up first & finish the black Hebridean & also some of the Shetland fleece that I got last year for free. The Shetland is spinning up nicely for lace weight on my old Haldane spinning wheel

I'm spinning the Hebridean on my Lendrum wheel, that's coming out around double knitting weight. Will have to see how much I can get out of this as I'm combing to get a smoother yarn & so I'm wasting quite a lot. Even if I get enough for a waistcoat that would be great.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

This is getting addictive

I didn't think when I started this that I would get into the habit of blogging every day, perhaps it's the novelty which will stop very soon who knows?

Well Dave & Sam Cam are now in Downing Street & much as I disliked Gordon Brown as PM I really felt for him when he gave his resignation speech. I do wish him well whatever he does do in the future, whether it's charity work if he resigns his seat or if he stays in Parliament, which must be a very bitter pill to swallow, sitting on the Backbenches when you've commanded so much power.

Last night was a disaster one way or another, cold food & nothing like I ordered, soup that was like salty dishwater & the waitress said that it was hot & promptly spilt it down me! Luckily it wasn't that hot & my jacket is washable but the final straw was the most tasteless dessert I've ever had in my life. They brought me fruit salad instead which was OK. The only redeeming feature was that the company was good. Unfortunately we heard that a friend had just died that afternoon, so it really was the final upset of the evening.

Still on to happier things. Today, it was school knitting club. Still quite a few interested kids & some of the year 2's are getting along really well. I had my niece & another young girl, but if I cast on once for the other girl I must have cast on ten times, she just couldn't get it & kept pulling the stitches off the needles. Then she told me that she could knit better with one needle, when I asked her what she meant she tried to show me a looped cast on which the family worker had shown her last week, which she still didn't know how to do. It's a quick way of casting on but isn't really that good for a beginner as it stretches too much & doesn't form a good base, but I suppose that she might get it eventually. My niece, or great niece really, managed to get a few stitches knitted, so hopefully she'll make some progress next week.

I'm going to try getting some of the Texel fleece washed so that I can get it ready for the natural dyeing workshop with Jenny Dean on Saturday, also I'd better get 50gms of yarn ready to dye

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Another grey day

Where is the Spring, will someone please tell me? Is this part of the famous Global Warming? I thought the scientists said that we would get warmer summers. Having had to light the fire last night in desperation, I don't think that the weather's going to plan, or is this just a glitch & we'll all be baking in 80 degrees later on?

Anyway enough of the ranting and lets talk about socks. Now I started knitting socks about 3 years ago when I joined a knitting forum & they were all talking about it. So I ordered some double pointed needles & sock wool & I was off. All the training that my late Mum had given me paid off, the old brain clicked into gear, well more like kerchunked and ground slowly, & off I went, then I learnt Magic Loop & there was no stopping me. I now rarely wear anything but my own hand knitted socks, but some of the ones I made when I first started knitting then are now starting to fall apart, so I need to keep going. At the moment I've got some OTN (on the needles) which are a bamboo mix so ideal for summer if we ever get any. I really must also knit some of the half dozen or so other balls of yarn that I have in stash so I'm not walking around in socks that are starting to go holey.

Off for a wander round Covent Garden this afternoon with my Sister in Law then dinner with Hubs & Brother & friends this evening.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Be gentle with me

Well it had to come at some point in time I decided that I would blog.

I'm a knitter, crocheter, spinner (in the wooly sense) & quilter, although looking at the unfinished quilt, started some 3 years ago sitting neatly folded up on the arm of the small sofa, that glares at me every time I pass it by, I should say occasional quilter. I can also do most types of embroidery & sew, however it's the same modern disease that most of us now suffer from that stops me doing a lot of this stuff, that's lack of time. My DH thinks that I should still work, & so does the Government. I'm one of those women born in the 50's who the Government has seen fit to deprive of a State pension at 60 & give us equality with men, so I'll be 64 years & 3 months old before the Government deems it right for me to retire & get a bit of money back that I've paid for all my working life. Yes I know I was one of those women who wanted equality, but I wanted men to have the choice of retiring a at 60 not for us women to have to work longer. By the time I get to nearly 65 they'll probably have put up the retirement age again & I'll be pushing 70 before I get a flipping pension.

Anyway that's just a little rant, I'm good at those as you'll find out if you follow me at all.

Now to the crafts that I like to do. As I've said I love to knit, spin etc. and always have far too much on the go, I'm a bit of a flitter between projects, always have been. Probably when they carry me off in my box whoever is left with the daunting task of clearing out my humble abode will shake their head in wonder at the amount of UFO's (that's unfinished objects, not the things that some people believe wander around our skies) that I have. I really do intend to finish them one day, but that's somewhere in the future. Trouble is I see a new yarn or pattern & I just want to start something new now, right this minute. Most of these things are for me, so I'm the one who goes without. I'm pretty good at finishing stuff for others, in fact if it's something for DH it's all I can do to get stuff cast off & sewn up before he's wearing it, I suppose I should be flattered really that he likes my work enough to wear it, I know lots of partners don't even give a thank you for hand made stuff that has been lovingly made for them, but that's likely to get me into another rant so I'll leave that for another day.