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.