Thursday, 19 April 2018

Before and During the Ice Storm

 We've had cold, snowy and generally icky weather this spring.   Until yesterday, it had snowed every day in April here.    Slowly the spring bulbs started to push forth into the inhospitable environment.   You can see the red tips of the frost bitten tulip leaves.   Finally we had a day where while it dropped a few snow flakes in the morning, by mid afternoon, it was mild and sunny.   After stacking a bit of the split wood, I grabbed my camera to document this momentous occasion.  The crocus flowers were perfect and such a welcome burst of colour outside, giving hope that maybe spring would actually come and that I could put away my parka.

I'm thankful for my digital camera so I no longer have to worry about how many pictures I've snapped, whether or not I have spare film and just generally being able to snap photos whenever I feel like it, without planning absolutely everything.   It allows me to capture all these glorious memories and floral delights, even if the ground was so soggy and wet that I couldn't get down to the ground without being covered in mud.

After I took all the photos that I could, I grabbed my banjo and practiced outside on the deck.  Yes, it was warm enough and nice enough outside to do that!
The next morning it started to rain.  That rain quickly turned to ice pellets, which was the only saving grace of this storm.   Instead of inches of freezing rain, we got inches of ice  pellets.   The poor crocuses were buried under the ice pellets when the freezing rain actually came.   There is nothing left of them now, making me more thankful that I got to enjoy them and photograph them for the few hours that we had them in bloom.

I'd wound off a warp and had mainly dressed the loom before the ice storm caused our power to go out.  I used the hours without hydro to play, both on the banjo and the loom.  

I wasn't sure I'd like this pattern, so I only set up for 2 scarves, both only about 5 inches wide but one at 75 inches long and the other is just about finished at about 82 inches long.   I've enough warp to tie on a second project, but I've been dithering about it.  DH says then I probably don't like it enough to bother with.   This is the silk/wool blend from the now closed carpet factory.  I do wonder how it would look in 100% wool.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Portland Sheep Fleece

A friend gave me a bag of Portland fleece.  This is a less improved breed of sheep, considered to be closer to it's early counterpart, than many modern breeds.   It is a pretty sheep, small,with a handsome face and horns.   It is known to be easy to keep,  has only a single offspring but can do so out of season.    Interestingly, it is born red, but turns white within a few months    The bit of fleece I got came from a very well kept sheep.  It had virtually no VM.  It wasn't greasy or dripping with lanolin. 
It had a nice staple length of about 4 1/2 inches and a nice, regular crimp, though it's difficult to see in the photo. 
The fleece was in lovely, well defined locks as well, and I debated whether to wash it all together or separate out the locks out into screen envelopes.   I decided that since I'd intended to hand card it into rolags and spin it with the long draw, I could just wash the fleece without separating the locks.

It took only 2 washes and 2 rinses to get the fleece sparkling white!  I let it dry for a few days on my drying rack, with screening on both the bottom and top of the fibres.   Once dry, I carded the fleece into rolags and had such a fun time spinning it.   It spun so beautifully and made a bouncy, airy yarn with little effort.

Being a primitive down breed, the fibre is a bit on the coarse side, so it is definitely not for close to the skin.   But that breeder should get kudos for producing excellent fleeces.   This would make awesome mittens or outer wear.   I probably should have saved some fibre out for a sample of worsted yarn, but the long draw was effortless with this fibre, so I went with it.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Just a little update...

 The kitchen back splash has been taking up a lot of time.  It's just plain white subway tile with white grout but it works with the already colourful kitchen.   The white lightens up the under the cupboard area.     Because the only time there's been to work on this, has been a couple of hours in the evenings, it seems to be taking a while to get done.  I think that when you just count the hours though, it's been pretty quick.

A friend just bought a new place and it is surrounded by Ash trees, which have been decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer.   He's had to take down about 40 of them, which he offered to us.   So the tile project and every other project, has been in between loads of wood.   I'm pretty sure my sweetie is happy to get to play with his chain saw.    There is still lots to get but the ground around  the area is just thawing and the truck almost got stuck - hmmmm there's a country song in that line somewhere - so we're waiting for the ground to dry out a bit. 

I'm still working on Pysanky.  That quartered oak leaf design took hours to make, though I rather impressed myself with it.   The green one with waves is an attempt at a reproduction of one of the earliest pysanky found still mainly intact.  The description says it might have had two colours as well as the white but I used only the one.   It's apparently a wave pattern.   It's a quartered pattern as well, and all those little lines took forever as well.  The original was done on a goose egg.  Mine is just a chicken egg.

The brown egg design is wobbly.   It shows what happens when you put on a video while trying to write pysanky.   It just doesn't work very well.

Other than that -  Banjo!   I had to fiddle around a bit figureing out why I was in a bit of a playing funk.   It turns out I wasn't happy with the very blue grass music my books and music had, and with a bit of effort, I found a new direction in a more melodic format, which is keeping me busy.... and happy... and waiting now for a set of new strings to come in at the local music shop as they think everyone should play with medium strings and not the princess light weight ones.  I have to order them every time I need them.... sigh...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

1860's Bonnet Making

Despite having 6 young chooks, only 1 or 2 were laying over the winter.   Of those eggs, I was leaving 1 in the nesting boxes overnight to feed whatever predator was wintering over in the barn.  It worked and we lost no more hens over the winter.   Finally the past few weeks I had to actually purchase eggs as there were so few of them.   Then when the unseasonable thaw happened and the barn flooded, I found a 'possum hunkering down in the nesting box.  He or she seems to have moved on now and with the longer days, we have gone from virtually no eggs to 5 a day!    I happily made this lovely angel food cake with my girls daily contributions.  It was delicious and such a nice treat.
double buckram cut, wired and bound

Westfield is open again for the year and I'm happy to be back as a volunteer interpreter.  Hats are a costume piece that I've often needed to borrow from the costume department.   But I had double buckram, the proper millinery wire and a pattern, so I attempted to make my own.

It wasn't one of my neatest projects, at least on the buckram frame.  Luckily it's completely covered, so none of the stitching mess will show.   I had to play around with threads as some of them just wouldn't hold tight enough.  In the end, I raided my husbands leather working tool kit and got some of the heavy waxed leather working thread and a ginormous needle, which seemed to help a great deal.

The lining was some yellow and red shot taffeta which shows as orange mainly, but when it hits the light in the correct way, the red flashes.   The effect will mainly be lost on this hat lining but it was in my stash, so one less thing to purchase.   I had to baste the lining by hand in order to get it to fit the inside of the hat.  This is the 3rd time I redid the basting and finally got it right.

What a pain to put in the hat though.  The instructions said to glue it but not what kind of glues work best.  I had a spray adhesive but it was a different brand from my usual basting adhesive.   Ick - the tin leaked, leaving a mess when sprayed and it didn't stick at all.  So much for the "permanent" part of the glue name.

I used some brown wool for the fashion fabric.  Here I was a bit torn about what to use.  I had some black velvet, which would have made a lovely hat, with the taffeta, but I only saw a few black bonnets and most of them were mourning bonnets, which I didn't want to have.   I had a darker brown, which would have also been nice, but there was just enough to use for something like a coat or a skirt, but not enough for both that and the hat.  In the end, this lighter brown wool was lurking in with some t-shirt knits, and had already been cut, so useful for a project like this.  I do like the less dramatic effect though, so that is a happy outcome.

The hat isn't finished yet.  I'm not sure about the ties but they are tacked in on the inside in an odd place, but the only place that kept the hat on my head.   I haven't finished decorating it.   There will eventually be some bows or a flower spray on the outside and some shirred lace or something on the inside.   My fingers and hands are sore from all the hand sewing though, so the prettying up of the hat will have to wait.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Yarn disaster, lovely days and Pysanky

While it snowed again and was blustery last night, earlier in the week it was warm enough to hang laundry outside, two days in a row no less!   It was gloriously warm and sunny, with a bit of a breeze so all the laundry actually dried completely as well.  I like hanging the laundry out, so when we get a couple of bonus days like we just had, I always try to take advantage of them.

I finished plying the first skein of the Merino/Alpaca blend I've been spinning.   Last night I washed it and hung it to dry.  I even paid attention to where I was hanging the skein, to try to keep it out of reach from kitty paws and jaws.   However this morning, despite my efforts, the skein was messed up and chewed to pieces.  Nobody knows which kitty it was though and not a single kitty it looking at it as if it were prey today.    So is yarn only a toy at night?   It seems that all the cats will ignore it during the day but it is fair game in the dark.   Now I need to find a safer place to dry skeins! 

I'm calling these my warm up Pysanky.   I'm doing a demo at the end of the month and need some samples.  Knowing how long it takes to write each egg, I thought that I'd start early.  I'm pretty happy with these two eggs, though the contast on the blue and turquoise one could be a bit better.

  I'm hoping to have not only a selection of different designs to show, but eggs in different stages of decoration to work on during the demo.  I think it would be easier to show to process that way, rather than just explain it while working on eggs as it takes even longer to decorate an egg while talking.     I will definitely try to keep them a bit safer from little hands this year.  I'm getting my daughter to do a supply run to the Ukrainian store in the city for me.   I'm trading her maple syrup and maybe some pie ;)

Saturday, 24 February 2018

A busy week

 I've started spinning the 60% Merino/40% Alpaca batts.   I am spinning to get somewhere around the knitting worsted or a bit finer.   We'll see how much bloom this yarn has.  It is very white, so if I'm going to make something for me to wear, I'll have to dye it.  

The guild has a green challenge for the March meeting; to make something green or with green in it.   I'm weaving what I hope will be a guitar strap, however I put it on the floor loom instead of the inkle loom which has both good and bad points.   First, it's easier to treadle than to keep lifting and pushing down the threads,  especially since this thread is fairly sticky and because I still haven't made heddles for the inkle loom which are the correct size.   It's hard to keep it from pulling in too much.   I have it set at 40 threads per inch, but it should likely be a bit wider sett.    The contrast isn't quite enough, but since I was working with a green theme, the only other colour I had which would have worked was pink.  I was fairly certain that the recipient wouldn't have wanted a pink and green guitar strap.   There is a threading error, but the backside is correct, so I left it.  
I found sausage casings in the grocery store of all places.   They are salted and in a little plastic salad takeout type container.  I wanted to only soak half of them, but they were actually knotted up in the container.  I was worried both about ripping them, and how to store the ones I had separated but was not using.  I ended up soaking all of them.   I know now that since the sausage casings are heavily salted, I can just pack them and the salt back into the container and store in the fridge for several months more.  Luckily, they still had some this week, so I purchased another packet of them for future use.  These things are fairly difficult to source in this area.

I was soaking them because I'd found pork loin on sale and turned one of those huge slabs of meat into sausages.   Next time I'd use more fat, but although a bit dry they are tasty.   I was playing around with fat content because I really am not fond of those really fatty, drippy 50% fat sausages.  I'd read you could go as low as 20% fat, but I don't think I had quite that much in this batch.  They were awfully good with gravy though.    I'd purchased a sausage stuffer attachment for the stand mixer at a ridiculous price, but there were only 2 of them in the store and I'd never seen them before.   It was worth every penny of that ridiculous price as I was able to grind, mix and stuff the sausage casings by myself.   It was a bit fussy and for sure, would have been easier to do with 2 people, but wasn't necessary. 

The weather has been warm enough that the maple tree sap is running.   We've only got 6 buckets up right now as it is still early in the season.   We've already got about 80 litres of sap collected so we're doing the first boil today.  We would have done it last night, but it was raining.   The only good thing about rain this time of year is that it has been warm enough that it isn't snow.  I shudder to think of how much snow would have fallen if it had been just a few degrees colder.   Then we wouldn't have that flooding which has been causing horrendous damage  in the area, but no more snow right now-  yay!

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.