Saturday, 17 February 2018

Spinning and Knitting

Usually, when I have to wait around for appointments, I bring a sock project to fill in the endless minutes.   However, I didn't have a sock project either on the go or ready to go, so I substituted a pair of mitts.  A gal once described this sort of mindless, patternless project as a potato chip project - which does sort of fit since you just keep knitting without a lot of thought.   I had a lady say to me that she would never have the time to knit as she was sitting in the waiting room doing absolutely nothing, not even reading a magazine.   The lady with her large novel looked at me and grinned.   I told her how many socks I'd knit when I was just sitting around waiting for appointments.   She apparently reads through appointment waiting as well.  The lady doing nothing, still had nothing to show for her time, but I hope she was at least relaxed and refreshed.

One of the guild members is an Alpaca breeder.  She spoke about Alpaca fibres last meeting and commented that any lock 2 inches or less was considered trash and unprocessable.   That is by machine though.   Hand processing those shorter lengths works adequately.  

I dug up a pattern for a sontag from Peterson's magazine - 1861, spring issue I think.  It is different that most of the one's I've seen which are from a Godey's Ladies book pattern.   I'd popped out to get the yarn for the Peterson's pattern but it wasn't on sale and was $8 a skein, and I'd need about 4 or 5 of them.  I decided to spin the yarn instead, which will mean that the project won't be done when I wanted it to, but I'll use up stash fibre.   As this sontag will likely brush my neck, I decided on some Merino Top and Alpaca locks.  I have some lovely brown Alpaca in the same staple length of the Merino, but I didn't have enough brown Merino to be certain of having adequate yardage once spun.   The white Alpaca locks are short.  They are about 2 - 2 1/2 inches long.   They hand card nicely enough but I ran both through the drum carder, sandwiching the Alpaca between layers of Merino.    This worked a treat and I have been carding up lovely, fluffy batts.   I'm using a ratio of 60% Merino to 40% Alpaca.

I got Alpaca from a fundraiser held for a member of the Edmonton Guild who had lost all her fibre equipment during the massive floods a few years ago.  They had Alpaca fleeces, mostly shorter length fibres for a $20 donation.  I was happy to donate and now I'm happy that I'm actually using the fleece.    I'll have to wash the yarn after it's spun as the Alpaca is definitely not clean.

The superwash merino rolags are spun and plied.  It's a pretty yarn, soft, squishy and colourful.   I've no idea what I'll do with it but at least it's done.



Tuesday, 6 February 2018

 So I was told I had to do practically nothing for a week.  No spinning, no weaving, no banjo, nothing repetitive or requiring strength.   In between reading, and more reading, and reading some more, I made handkerchiefs from scraps of quilting cotton.   My daughter had made me one for Christmas and it is lovely to use, so I whipped up a couple more.   Of course hers was a panel square with a chicken on it.   I decided not to spend anything on these, so they are just plain fabric bits that I had on hand.

 I found these chicken tea towels at the local box store.   I purchased two of them, and cut them in half.   I put a heading at the top and hemmed the two needing hems about the same size as the bottoms of the towels.   When I added the header, I made sure they were all the same size.  I think they make a cute valance for the kitchen.   I had a curtain rod but it had decorative ends which stuck out farther than the space between the window and the cupboard, so I had to get a new curtain rod.   It cost more than the curtains did.
 I was finally able to spin a bit.   This is superwash merino, blended into rolags on a blending board.   Whenever I use the board, I recall my introduction on how to use one, when a gal was doing a demo in one of the spinning classes.   She took all sorts of fibres and slapped them on the board, packing them in until it was overly full.   She pulled off one single huge batt, which looked wonky and horrible to spin.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out why anyone would do that or want to spin something like that.   Then I found a video showing how to pull rolags from the blending board.  This makes smooth, easy to spin and very pretty rolags,which I enjoy spinning.  So many different ways of doing things in spinning for sure!

We have a second chimney in our basement.  It was slightly damaged and needed some repair but I haden't been able to find anyone to do it since we first moved here.  That is until a couple of weeks ago when I noticed an ad in a small advertising booklet which came in the mail.   The repair quote was reasonable, but it turned out that we couldn't use the old woodstove that we already had.   Nor could he hook up the cookstove that I had.   Options were a second hand stove from a big box store - cheap but would need replacing in a year or two by his estimation, or a middle of the road stove which would last for years.   Because the price was just within our budget, we went for it.   All was good until they went to install the stove and they had made a mistake and there wasn't enough clearance for those options.  The only alternative stove which fit the clearance specs, was to jump up in quality, doubling the price.  Yikes -  however, it's super low emissions, has two air flow controllers and pumps heat like you wouldn't believe.   It's the stove I wish we had upstairs!   The downside is that when all was said and done, we could have practically paid for furnace for the same price.    The cats love to sleep in front of it and I'm happy it has a pedestal base as I have a friend who had a cat which got burnt from trying to bask in the heat under the stove.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Banjo strap details and hoar frost

With the inkle strap off the loom, I've been playing around with ways to turn it into a banjo strap.  The ends need to clip or tie onto the brackets around the outside edge.  With the commercial strap I have for the resonator banjo, I'd noticed the snap clips were starting to scratch and dent the wood and finish where the two met.  I switched them out for boot laces, which are quiet, hold the banjo securely and look okay.

I'd decided on leather ends as we have some veg. tanned leather sitting around from a previous project.   I could get Chicago screws locally but only in silver/chrome and I couldn't find the slider or strap end loops in silver.  I tried them anyway, but they look wrong, one went in crooked and I put them in backward,so the screw end was on the outside.   If I didn't need the hardware for the strap, the colour would be fine but I didn't like the look of them.   I found a packet of snap rivets in the leather tool box, which looked great but were too long.   I ended up ordering some from a eather supply place, in two colours, both a little bit too long, but workable.    I installed one on a scrap and it worked perfectly.   I got the holes slightly uneven on the second try, but the third was a charm.  I have two strap ends which look pretty much the same.  Yay me!
I wish I had some brown leather dye, but these will work just fine. I still need to get or make laces and decide where the lace holes need to be punched.

I finished spinning and plying the pink and blue superwash roving which I'd found in my stash.   The colours ranged from dark blue to a fairly light pink.  I rather like the colour progression in this.   I just split the strip of roving down the centre to spin two singles and hoped they'd sort of match while plying.   I knew that with the random placement of colours, it might not happen, but it happened enough to not muddy up the colours too much.


Our weather has been so variable lately.  We've had record highs and record lows within days of each other.  Then one morning, I looked outside a little too early, and there was hoar frost.  The whole world sparkled as the sun rose.   I grabbed my camera and started taking random shots, first while the early morning was still foggy and then as the fog lifted.   It only lasted a short while before the skies became grey again, but it was lovely while we had the glorious sunshine and blue skies.  Usually our winter skies, even when it's sunny are pale, watery colours in various shades of grey.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Off and on the looms...


The overshot fabric is finally off the loom.   I'm certain that it must have some sort of cat attractant woven into the fabric as there always seems to be at least 1 cat perched on it at any time.  The piece is 5 yards long, with a width of 16 inches, with a pattern width of 14 inches.   It's very pretty fabric and I don't know whether I like the front or the back better.   It's a bit on the heavy side, like an upholstery fabric.


I actually considered putting the inkle project on the big loom, but decided against it for 2 reasons.  First, the amount of loom waste which I'd not accounted for when I was dyeing the yarns and second, I really wanted to try to figure out this inkle loom.  It's so pretty and it looks exactly like it should be fully functional, so I was wondering what I was doing wrong.   I changed up the heddles a bit, but the string, while better than the last attempt,  isn't quite as sturdy and slippery as I'd like.   They are a bit sticky.   I still think the heddles are just a bit too long.  This means they migrate down towards the front peg, making for a very small working shed and small weaving area.  Still, it's weaving a fairly nice band.   My selvedges are awful, because not only was I trying a few different ways of sitting/standing/holding the loom etc, but the cats (mainly Dion) decided that it was a "purrrfect" toy, with all those strings.  So I was also combating little paws and curious noses much of the time. 

I broke a shuttle.   I actually liked using this one as the thread didn't slide off quite as automatically as the one I am using now.   But the depression in the centre is just too thin and the wood feels light, like cedar, so while pretty, also not very strong.  It broke when it was about 1/2 loaded with thread and what a mess that was.   I'm not certain if gluing it together would make it useful again, or just lead to another tangle of threads when it broke again.

Well, listening to a little Trampled by Turtles should cheer things up!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Small projects

 For the Master Spinner level 6 dye day we needed to dye a multi step gradient colour scheme using fibre reactive dyes on wool  yarn.   I spun a 3 ply yarn, and dyed it two different sets of colours.   I started these shortly after the class but just finished them today, because with this stupid, freezing weather, my hands are cold and there is only so long I can bury my fingers in a cats fur to warm them up.  All I had left to do was sew in the ends and cast off one thumb.
I've spent days untangling dyed cotton yarn.  The cats had decided that the skeins were fabulous cat toys. There were enough ties to keep most of the order in, but lots of weird pig tailing, twists and crossed fibres, made it much harder to wind into balls.   I ended up winding the turquoise one by hand and then running it through the ball winder.   Amazingly, the skein that Kevin had gone crazy with, that looked like a pile of green spaghetti noodles, wound off with the least trouble.  Eventually, this should become instrument straps.

This however has taken up a lot of my time.   My 1st banjo is a resonator banjo, loud and proud.   I kind of mentioned that it would be nice to have an open back banjo, for several reasons, including less weight and the ability to stuff a bit of cloth in the back and just pick quietly, with virtually no noise, so people could do other things while I practiced.

Mainly I was having a mental issue with clawhammer style and the resonator banjo, which was all in my head because either style can be played on any type of banjo.  Turns out I'm still having issues with clawhammer style, but because of a previous injury, not the style.  However, I've found thumb/index lead style, which fits in with my 3 finger picking, so it's all good.   The tone on this instrument is different than the resonator and with the dark fret board it's sometimes easier to play.   At any rate, I sort of fell into the trap of 2 instruments, means 2 times the practice.   It's been eating my time - not sure it's productive, but it's fun.  And maybe by the SCA event, FOOL, I'll be able to play Horses Bransle on it.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Quick project update

 The nice thing about having a few extra bobbins for your spinning wheel is that you can switch up a project with ease.   I decided that I didn't want to spin up the cotton that was the current project.  I'd been rooting through some stored bags of fibre and found this unlabeled braid of fibre I'd previously dyed.  I'm presuming it's some sort of superwash BFL, as I remember dyeing a bunch of sliver in different colour combinations and in slightly larger than 100 g increments.  This braid fits that criteria, so I'm spinning it fairly fine, possibly for socks.  It's fun to spin a bit of colour sometimes.  This is definitely colourful.

One of the cats was eyeing the red needle felted gnome.  Since it is a gift, I decided to make a second one, just in case a cat had it's way with the first one.    I'd hate to have to make one in a rush just before I needed it, because a cat had turned it into a cat toy.  I'm not sure I like this little guys puffy cheeks.    They were supposed to be part of a big nose, but obviously, I didn't get them quite properly positioned.  They would have been too big for a nose anyway, so it's probably for the best.

I made awesome gluten-free ginger cookies.  They were all eaten, so no photo but thankfully I have the recipe stuck to the fridge, so all is good for future cookie making.
I'd planned to make guitar straps for all my musician kids, their spouses, a friend and us as Christmas gifts.  Between all of us it would be a total of 8 guitar straps, 2 mandolin straps and 1 banjo strap.   I'd envisioned a big basket with the various straps, labelled with sizes and instrument for the kids to choose from.  I thought it was a smart move to buy natural cotton and dye it all the colours I wanted, in the amounts needed and whip them up on my inkle loom... Wrong!   Dyeing cotton isn't difficult, but it is time consuming.  The dark colours take lots of dye and it takes forever to rinse the colours out.  The dyes bind with the water as well as the fibre so it takes twice as much dye and I ended up rinsing for 2 days.  That was after the process of setting the dyes which is either hours in the pot with the dye, or simmering for 2 hours.   Next time I will buy the yarns predyed.  As far as I'm concerned, it is only worth the process to do spectacular multi coloured effects or if you can't get the colour you want. 

  Even then it isn't for sure.   The pretty blue was supposed to be purple.  I followed all the steps for a 50-50 red/blue blend purple, but most of the red just didn't take.  It was fine when I used it for the pink, which looked like it was going to come out hot pink, but rinsed to the colour I'd been looking for.
So how many of those straps are done for?   Part of only one!   My inkle loom is pretty but the sizing is slightly off, making the heddles, when made the way is suggested by tying over two specific pegs, too big.  This means the shed is really tiny and awkward to use.  I should have measured everything and made a little heddle frame to size once I realized this but it was in the middle of a project.   Then the fussing keeps causing the weaving to slide to the end of the pegs, so you have to keep pushing it back.  I don't know if it is a function of the loom or the width that I need to weave.  So I have 1 ugly strap made, but haven't found enough hardware locally and the piece of leather I thought I had for the end taps isn't actually there anymore.  Needless to say, I think the guitar straps, while a good idea, are for next year.   I'm thinking of trying to weave some of them up as a rep weave on the big loom.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The horses and needle felting

 It was dusk and I was collecting eggs and feeding the chooks when I realized the neighbour's horses were close to our fence.   They are a little skittish, but pretty good about me being outside, as long as I don't make any sudden moves.   There are a lot of trees along the fence line, so I imagine that if I move to quickly, it could startle them.   This time of year though, without all the leaves, they can see me coming, so they were curious and not running away.

The young ones are in their own pen.   I think these were the babies born this spring. There are three foals and this one has such a pretty face and is inquisitive.
The mares are in the field behind us.  Two came right up to see what I was doing.   Their field is full of burrs and goldenrod, so keeping our gardens free of those two plants is nigh impossible.   I was sad to see all the burrs on their forelocks.   It couldn't be comfortable for them.   This gal also had burrs on her mane and her tail.   It would take a while to comb those out, for sure!


 There was an interesting moon out that evening.  It was huge in the sky.   I figured if I ran inside for the tripod, that it would be gone before I got a photo taken, so this is it - unsteady hands and all.  It was a bit creepy, with the sky darkening to a blue grey colour, and that big moon, which was a yellowy pink colour in the sky.

I've got some cotton on the wheel.  It was unlabled and dyed with indigo.  When I grabbed it, I thought it was a cashmere blend, until I started spinning and it was definitely cotton..  I don't mind because I like spinning cotton but I had actually planned for a different project.

I spent ages looking for my felting needles.  Sadly, they were exactly where I'd put them, only the packet they were in disappeared and they were scatted about the box.  I ended up having to empty out the box to find them.

Using some bits of dyed sliver and raw locks, I made this little guy as a Christmas ornament.  He's not quite done, but I like him a lot. 

I was going to spend a couple of weeks learning some Christmas carols on my banjo, but instead I started learning another Bluegrass song.... oh well,  this song will have a longer useful playing time than the carols.  I've definitely advanced past the rank beginner level, although I'm still a beginner.   

ARgh, the washer died, hubby fixed it for the moment because we surely don't need an appliance we use regularly, crapping out right now.   Because it filled up, when I'd turned it off, I have to unplug it after every use, just as a precaution.   At least I can fill it to a large load now, so clothes are getting clean again.  When all we could do was a small load, nothing got clean.   We'd looked at replacing it and the ancient dryer, but nope, not in the budget at the moment.  It was fun looking though, at the amazingly efficient top loaders out there these days.