Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Projects and Kevin update

This is a 238  skein of white Egyptian Cotton, 2 ply.   It took forever to spin, mainly because sitting still for hours at this time of year just doesn't happen.   It's a nice skein and will go into my stash of handspun cotton skeins for a future project.   I only spun 1 bobbin full, then I wound about half onto another bobbin for plying.
The cotton is a commercial sliver.  When I first started spinning cotton, I had to card this sliver into punis before I could spin it.  I realized half way through this bobbin, that I had started spinning from the sliver, with no thought about it.  Really, it's all about practice, practice, practice..

I had a bit of an idea pop into my head and decided that I would weave up some inkle bands.  My inkle loom is very pretty, and is beautifully hand crafted.  Unfortunately, it has a little bit of an issue with the placement of the pegs, making for a very small shed.  It made the whole project take much longer than I'd expected and it was frustrating at times.  I used 4/8 cotton, so it should have been pretty nice to weave with, but it seemed like I was wrestling with the warp the whole length, and it wasn't horribly fun.    However, I need to weave off another 6 or so lengths, so I'm going to have to figure something out to make this work better.   I had suggested my sweetie might want to make me a new inkle loom, with some small adjustments to the pattern, but the roof needs reshingling first and apparently that comes before fibery activities.  ;)

I did make this little narrow wares width guide for my next project.  It's just a strip of plastic, folded in half.  I used the plastic from a 10 litre water jug that I found in a recycling bin.   I think a juice or milk jug,  would be easier to work with.  This was pretty tough cutting.   It may still be too long as I put on both 2 inch and 2.5 inch markings.

My sweetie woke me up this morning at 6 am, to tell me that a chair had tipped over and there was a pile of green yarn on the floor.   Sitting nearby was Kevin, just looking around as if nothing was wrong.   While he normally isn't a playful kitty, when he does play, he goes all out.   This was a freshly dyed skein of 4/8 cotton.   While I can see some of the figure 8 ties, the rest of it is so tangled up that I'm not sure I'll be able to use it.    And my husband wonders why I call Kevin the" Bad Kitty".






Monday, 10 July 2017

Rodeo Fun

Who knew there was a rodeo circuit in our province, let alone what seems to be two different sets of events?  Looking for a fairly close road trip, I did a bit of research and found a couple of localish rodeos which looked like they might be a good day out.   This event was a charity fundraiser.    We slapped on the sunscreen and our sunhats and we headed out.   It turned out to be too windy for my hat to stay on my head, so I just kept putting on sunscreen.   Except for the couple of places that I missed, it worked amazingly well -
This was a small event, so there were only a few classes.   The saddle broncos had amazing muscles and were all powerfully built and gorgeous looking horses.

 
Just love the buckskin or dun coloured horses!  So pretty.


 Barrel racing was fun to watch.  The juniors had a little boy on a tiny pony whose legs just went a mile a minute trying its best.   So cute!
 Intermission had an exhibition of moto-cross bikes doing tricks.  The too young child just riding around after mom, with neither of them doing anything much, was sort of lame, but these guys, with their crazy tricks, in a gusty wind, were totally wild.
It was a bit surprising to see that the bulls didn't get far from the chutes.  I'd expected them to have a bit more forward movement.  Mainly it was up and down, and sometimes around in circles.   They did show that 8 seconds is a very long time.

 This is the only rider who made it the full 8 seconds on a bull really didn't want him on his back.  Yay him! 
Sooooo Much Fun!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Spring berries and blues

The red currants have started ripening.  Usually they all ripen at once and I simply have to strip each little hanging bunch off the branches.  It's fast and easy.  You don't have to take the berries off the stem to make jelly.  This year however, the berries are ripening at different times.   I have to get out there and get them before the Orioles and the Red Wing Blackbirds eat them.  They can strip a bush of it's berries in a day.  So, I've gone out picking individual currants.   Two days of picking has netted a whole 340 g of currants.   I skipped today in hopes that I'll be able to get a larger amount tomorrow.   I'd love  to get a kilo of currants, but I'm not counting on it this year.  The bushes seem to have far fewer berries than other years.  A kilo will make a decent sized batch of currant jelly.

This past winter I started some Dyer's Knotweed seeds much earlier than normal, in hopes of getting seed to set this year.   Usually it blooms in September and there isn't time for the seed to set.   The seed that I started in February germinated nicely.  I transplanted it into large pots and again into planters, though the last one went into the garden.     I noticed that it's starting to flower!   Yay!    However I decided to snip off the stems that weren't flowering in hopes of a) encouraging more growth and b) to see if there was viable pigment in the leaves. 

  I harvested 14 oz or just under 400 g of leaves, which  I weighed once I'd stripped them from the stems.  Although I don't think it's a necessity to do so, it takes less space in the container to cook the leaves without the stems.  I stuffed them into a glass jar, set a trivet in the bottom of a large pot filled with warm water, and set the jar into that pot, making a double boiler.  I cooked the leaves at 160° F for about 2 hours.   As I was lifting out the jar, the bottom sheared off the jar, which was startling to say the least.  Luckily, the entire mixture dumped into the large pot, saving an enormous mess.  I would have added more water to the dye vat anyway, so it was all fine in the end.

I did have photos of the entire process, but some how I managed to lose them when I transferred them to the computer and deleted them from my camera.  Normally I check to make sure they are where I want them before I hit the delete button, but for whatever reason, I convinced myself it was all good today.


At any rate, there was a reasonable amount of pigment.   I don't know if I aerated the mixture long enough though, so it might have been a little more.  I didn't weigh my fibres before I tossed them into the pot, as I was just playing around.   There is Blue Faced Leicester, a Cashmere/Merino/Silk blend and both cotton sliver and spun cotton in there.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Plying, and weaving and raccoons, oh my!

I've finished spinning the Blue Faced Leicester.  I plied it, wet finished it and it's ready to go into the stash for a future project.   I like BFL because it's both sturdy and soft.  The staple length makes it easy to spin.  It dyes nicely and is just an all around good general purpose sort of yarn.  I use it for things like mittens, socks and hats when knitting and for scarves, shawls etc when weaving.   This commercially prepared roving  was easiest to spin with a short forward draw, although I'm pretty sure I did a bit of point of contact long draw when I was just spinning but not really paying a lot of attention... oops...



 I also plied together several different yarns to put into this rug, as in shaker rug techniques.   I realized after I'd started that I don't have enough of the blue wool yardage to make enough rags to weave a rug, as long as I'd thought.   So, I've been staring at it, trying to decide what to do.  I could rip it out and start again, keep going to make a small mat, or add larger areas of the plied yarns.  Hmmmm, what to do, what to do?



The first mitt is finished.  It still needs to be blocked and it looks much nicer when being worn than in the photo.   I had it nearly finished and ripped it back to redo the thumb as I didn't like the way is sort of sticks out nor how really small it was.   I ended up not being able to figure out a better way to do it, so I just added a few rows of ribbing on top to both keep it from splaying out and to make it longer.  I also added a few rows after the pattern and more ribbing rows to make the mitt longer.   This is the 4th try at the 2nd cuff.   First couple of tries were my mistakes and then I was half way done when I realized that there were some errors that I'd not caught when reading it over.  I think I've got it figured out this time.  The cuffs are opposite though so if it gives me any more issues, I'll just redo the right cuff and forgo the difference in patterns since I already know that there is only 1 mistake in the right cuff and I've already fixed it.

My son was grilling dinner on the deck when he called us out.    It seems that the rather yummy smells emanating from the BBQ, woke this guy up.   Until the last year or so, that knot in the big Maple tree was sealed.   Obviously though, when it broke open, this little guy moved in.   It's too bad that their cuteness doesn't make raccoons such cute little animals.   We're making sure the barn is locked up tight by dusk and being careful to put the compost out early, while the chooks will still go through it and pick out the goodies.  I really don't want him to feel too welcome around here.  I don't want him eating my chooks or causing any other issues.

  We've had a pretty orange kitty hanging around.   It's not terribly afraid of people, so I'm thinking it might be a dropped off kitty, rather than a feral barn cat.   Sadly, it's getting skinny, which means it's hunting skills aren't up to par, also why I think it might have been toss out of a vehicle, and isn't a barn cat.  Barn cats are usually pretty well fed.  It's  now got a hurt leg.   I'm hoping it stays out of the way of the raccoon and maybe I can figure out some way to slip it some food.  So far the chooks have eaten everything I've tried to set out for it.






Sunday, 25 June 2017

Peppermint Patties

Oh these are so very good.    They are creamy and pepperminty and covered in chocolate goodness.  As a bonus, they are simple to make. They do have dairy in them, so too many will definitely disagree with me. But sometimes, something yummy is worth it.

This recipe made close to 50 little candies.  More or less chocolate might be needed.  I used 2 cups, but still have a dozen patties which need coating.


Easy Peppermint Patties

3/4 cup low fat sweetened condensed milk
4 cups icing sugar (powdered/confectioners - whatever you call it where you are)
1 1/2 tsp  pure peppermint extract

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (dark chocolate would be yummy too)
1 tsp shortening



Measure the condensed milk into the mixing bowl.  Add sugar 1 cup at a time, beating well.  Add the peppermint extract and mix in thoroughly.   I actually added the extract 1/2 tsp at a time, to make sure it wasn't too strong.    Once it is all blended together,  scrape the dough together and knead it a few times just to make sure it is smooth and comes together in a ball.

Line a pan with waxed paper or parchment.   Roll little balls about 1 in in diameter.   Flatten them with a fork.   Let the little peppermint rounds dry for a couple of hours, flipping once or twice to make sure they are dry on both sides. 

Melt the chocolate chips and the shortening together.  I put them in a glass bowl and used the microwave, but a metal bowl over a pot of water (bain marie or double boiler) works too.   Dip the patties in the chocolate mixture, covering both sides and letting the excess drip off.   Set on the waxed paper/parchment til the chocolate is set.

1-  I used my Kitchen Aid, but any hand mixer would work as well -  or someone with a strong mixing arm could do it with a spoon.  The dough gets pretty stiff though.

2-  It's been rainy and damp here.  Drying time took more than 2 hours, with several flips to ensure even drying

3- Some of the little patties seemed to soften and spread a bit in the warm chocolate mixture.   It just took a little extra care to get them dipped and onto the tray.

4-  2 forks made easy work of the chocolate dipping process.

5-  as the chocolate started cooling, it was making thicker coats.  I just scraped off  the excess, to try to keep a good peppermint to chocolate ratio.

6-  I used regular grocery store chocolate chips and they are really good.  I can imagine how much better they'd be using a really good brand of chocolate

Friday, 23 June 2017

Starting holiday projects

 The steam tractor was out giving wagon rides at Westfield on Father's Day.   What a cool piece of equipment but noisy!   Not the chugging as it drove around the site, but when it blew the whistle, it was really loud.   I was in a building close to the bandstand, which was cool because there was an old time band , which played fun music for the better part of the afternoon.   It threatened to rain, which probably stopped some people from visiting, but the rain held off until closing time, so the day was pretty awesome.
I've started my holiday projects.   This is a cuff for a pair of mittens.   I had to restart this after I'd made the second bobble, because the way I was reading the pattern directions, the 2 yarn overs made an extra stitch, which didn't get eliminated in the pattern.   I based the size on the hand circumference but now am wondering, as the wrist fits quite small.  It's taken more time than I expected to get this far, with still 1/4 of the pattern to go for the cuff.   Once I got all the cable details and the bobble down, it's gotten faster.

I've been weeding and mulching the garden.   I use cardboard and newspaper for mulch.   I've been told it's ugly and why do that, but it's very effective.  By the end of the season, it's starting to break down and it easily works into the garden in the springtime when we till.   I really like how it blocks the weeds so effectively and it's really inexpensive.    I tried using old straw one year, which really worked well, except a) it costs a lot more than the paper/cardboard which is usually free and b) there were so many seeds in it, that my mulch looked like a wheat field.  It kept the other weeds at bay, but I had to weed out the wheat!

The rug warp is wound on and ready to weave.   I'm spinning some of the weft for one rug, so decided to play around with some different colours.   This one is definitely being unwoven as it's really ugly.  I was looking for dark coloured sheets at thrift stores, but I didn't find any.   Old jeans would likely work as well but I'll need to take another trip to town for those.  Meanwhile I have a few yards of blue wool fabric which I might strip down for weft.  There  doesn't seem to be quite enough yardage for a skirt, so better to use it than leave it sitting there for the moths.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Painted warp and hand card catastrophe

 The past few days have been busy.  I've played in the garden.  I was so excited that the pumpkins had germinated that apparently when I was on the phone with my daughter, I yelled.   Since nothing grew in that area last summer, mainly weather issues, it was great to see the pumpkins growing this year.  I had to put a lot of sticks in the area to keep the chickens from sunbathing in the pumpkin patch.

I have finally started putting the multi coloured dyed rug warp on the loom.  I know it was a rescued warp -  a whole lot of threads removed from a guild project that wasn't working out as planned.   The threads were removed, a cross put in them and it was chained.  The cross wasn't actually a true cross.   The cross keeps the threads in order.  Without it, there are a lot of randomly bunched and messed up areas.   I did finally undo the chain and add choke ties.  What is messing me up right now is that not all of the threads were caught up in the cross, so there are loose threads periodically.   Those just get tangled up.  There was a large handful of really short bits that I found by accident and luckily didn't try to thread those, plus I caught them before I started winding on the warp.    I'm having to comb out parts of the rest as I wind it on to ease out the tangles.  It's not my favourite way to put on a warp, but it's a rescue warp, so I'm happy to get it used.  Plus, look at those awesome colours!   Pain in the patootie to dress the loom aside, the colours are fun to work with.

I did a lot of hours volunteering this week.   I went into a grade 4 classroom and answered a lot of questions about the Middle Ages.   The teacher sent me a list of questions.   I dug around and found Illuminations which illustrated the answers and did the research for the rest.  In all, the questions were really interesting and thought out.   The follow up questions from the kids in class, were also thoughtful and good.  The kids were amazingly well behaved and I enjoyed it very much.


In the grade 3 class, I did some fibre activities for the pioneer theme.  Sadly, my hand cards were damaged by the rougher kids.    I really like my handcards.  These ones have a gentle curve and the carding cloth works with a lot of different fibres.   I'm hoping they can be glued and clamped back together.  It isn't in the budget right now to replace them.  

Garden update:   The birds ate all my bean plant seedlings.... talk about unhappy!  Well the birds are happy.   I have little leafless stems sticking up from the ground, which doesn't make me happy.   They ate every single one of them!