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.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Christmas Preparations and frustrations

 I made a dozen ornaments, 6 of each kind.  They were fun and crafty, although each skein ornament has 8 little skeins in them, and they got to be a bit of a pain to wind, although they were fairly quick to do.  It was just a lot of them.    The knitted swatch ornament was pretty easy, once you got the trick to a) knitting them on those tiny toothpick knitting needles, and b) getting them into the round ornament and getting them to hang nicely.
 I also crocheted a huge hat, to felt down.  This is the second time I've tried that pattern and the second time it didn't work in a spectacular way, albeit it was a bit better this time.   I ripped that hat out 4 times and redid it trying to get the shape right, but in the end, it just didn't work for me.   No photo of that one because I'm pretty ticked at the waste of materials and the iffy instructions which I was assured work.  They do, but they don't seem to make a hat which is wearable when I follow them to a "T".

My son asked me to make stockings for him and his girlfriend.   This is the first one which is half finished.  I wanted to make sure he liked it enough before I sewed on the bells.  Next time I'd make the dagged cuff longer though as I think the proportions would be better.   I'm not sure if I'll do them both the same style or choose a different cuff for the second one.   Pattern is one I drew myself.

I'm also making myself a new stocking this year.  I have the pattern drawn out, but need to find the right materials.

I tried to take one of the feral kitties, Dion, to the vet on Friday.  He totally freaked out and in the end I had to cancel the appointment.   Monday I went to get him some happy, calming meds which will hopefully make today's trip easier.  Hubby is coming home from work early to help me catch and crate him too.

I've spent what seems like hours on the phone to Amazon trying to figure out why the parcels they send, get stuck at the courier office and don't get delivered.   The address is correct, so I can only guess that since they switched to a smaller courier with contract drivers, they don't actually want to drive out the extra 10 minutes to the rural areas.   There are several of us waiting for parcels which are well past the delivery date, with nothing happening at all.  While the customer service people in India try to help, the best they've been able to do is say to wait another week and hopefully it will get there.   It is frustrating and I can't find any other contact info for service/complaints etc.    When they delivered with UPS or Can. Post, parcels arrived quickly and on time.  Now I don't know if the ordered presents will arrive at all?   From what I've read on various forums, I'm not the only one with issues with the new courier service.     So very frustrated with this.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Playing with Overshot

The rest of the 4/8 rug warp has been sitting on the loom waiting for inspiration.   I'd started another rug, but although they are quite fast to weave, there is all that cutting into strips and then making sure the weft is beaten down really well.   I'd put a fairly high price on the Shaker Rug, but it sold.  With all the spinning required for the specifically plied yarns, as well as the fabric strips, they are a fair bit of work.   If I'd known it would sell, I would have made another couple.  However I'd already rethreaded the heddles for an overshot project since there isn't a huge market for rag rugs.   Even using recycled materials for the weft, I can't compete with imports or even some of the guilds who, we were told, charge dramatically less than we do, so that our prices were too high.   I was told they sell tea towels for $9 and Queen size coverlets for $125, with the implication that so should we.

So, I'd rethreaded for an overshot patter from Davison's Green book - snowballs I think it's called.  The warp is handpainted in a variety of colours.   The tabby weft, could either have been white or dark.  I had some purple, which made the colours pop quite nicely.   I thought with the dark tabby weft and the bright colours, that white would pull things together.  I was very wrong with that.  The first sample with white wool was too thin.   I thought then that the white was too light, but I tried a slightly thicker white wool, which was also too thin.    I was at a store which sells regular old knitting yarns and picked up a jumbo ball of black acrylic worsted weight, to see what that would look like.    It was perfect - except of course it was cheap acrylic yarn - but it looks and feels right.

There are a couple of issues that I noticed after I'd gotten a good sized sample woven.   I'd neglected to reverse the selvedge border threading, so they are both facing the same direction.  As well, I'd neglected to consider that little connecting block and should have either eliminated it at the end or added it at the beginning of the pattern threads.    However, it is pretty stunning regardless of those errors.    I'm not sure what I'll do with this.  I have tons of warp left.   There are two different treadlings suggested for this threading.    If I weave it all off,  will either have lots of yardage or need to weave specific lengths for specific projects.    I'm just not sure what those would be.  The floats are just a little long to be really durable.  It is pretty though.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Winter skies

We had a frost last night.   It's almost the middle of November and it's the first real frost this year.  When I went to let the chickens out, it was raining leaves and the ground was a sea of yellow, orange and red.   With the blue sky, it was a perfect autumn day.   Yesterday however, the skies were restless, with churning clouds in every shade of grey. 

When I went out to help my man switch out the tires on the cute little car, as it really does need snow tires, I had to run back in and grab my camera.  The light was interesting to say the least.   Since my job was to label the bags for the tires, so we knew where they were on the car when they came off, I had lots of time to wander about, up and down the road, playing with camera settings.

 The beans have been off for weeks, but the corn is still in the fields.   When a stray beam of sunlight hits the drying stalks, it lights up like gold.   Sometime in the next few weeks, if the weather is cooperative, the corn will soon be gone too.  The autumn colours will then be much more subdued and wintery.  I suppose that is appropriately seasonal, but it's been such an awesome autumn that I'm loath for it to end.

The hay growing so lush and green against the backdrop of the corn is an interesting contrast.   There is winter wheat starting to sprout around here as well, but this was a hay field this year and hasn't been plowed under since, so hay it is.   I keep thinking that it would be a good place for a few sheep to graze, but since the farmer raises beef cattle, that isn't likely to happen.

 That green does bring about hope for a far distant spring . First though, we have to muddle through dismally short days, grey wintery skies and winds blowing snow across the landscape, into boot tops when slogging out to the barn . 

I love the colours of the weathered wood on this fence.   It blends in beautifully with the landscape, but yet has purpose as it keeps the neighbour's  horses safely in their fields.   And somehow, NEIGHbour's and horses side by side, seems like it should be a pun, but it's not.. sigh.. just one of those days I guess.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Bits and pieces of finishing up

 It has been a busy and odd few weeks.   It has been odd that we've had to get back into the routine of lugging in armloads of wood and loading up the woodstove.   I'm pretty lucky as my menfolk do most of the lugging.   I usually clean out the ashes properly during the day though.   We've had some sort of evil virus run through the family, which was not so much fun.  I managed to avoid it mainly, for which I was thankful.
I spun up the rest of the grey BFL and got it plied.  It's a nice yarn although not quite as soft as some BFL that I've spun.   There is 225 g of plied yarn in total, so at least enough to do something with.   

I've been washing up the two toned Shetland fleece.   I almost tossed it a while back, because it had been sitting around and I'm getting a bit lazy and cranky, preferring to spin commercially prepped fibre when possible.  However, I just couldn't do it.  So I'm washing it up and will probably drum card it into batts for spinning, to blend that lovely colour nicely.

 Dion is one of our feral rescues.   I took him to the vet for a check up before we let him in the house.   The vet said he had an eye infection, so we dutifully gave him eye drops - that was a wild activity.   It took 2 of us, at stupid early because it never occurred to us to move the time to later in the afternoon.   Hubby held the poor boy down, while I dripped in the drops which weren't drops nor were they ointment.  Not enough pressure on the tube and the gunk wouldn't come out.  Too much pressure though, and the gunk spurted everywhere!  They helped a little bit, but his eyes were still weepy.  The vet said it looked like he had Entropion or turned in eye lids, which apparently isn't horribly common.  So they checked when he was getting his dangly bits removed and then cut slits in his eye lids, removing a bit of tissue and stitching them back together.    Poor baby looked scary for almost 2 weeks after the surgery.   His cone is off now and his eyes look better, although the stitches in one eye were loose at the check up and that eye is still a bit drippy.   We've got 2 weeks with a true ointment for that eye, to see if it is a real issue or if it is just inflamation.  I hope he doesn't need that eye redone, as  all this kitty stuff has already blown our budget way out of whack!   He has gotten to love his cuddles and patting sessions though this whole ordeal and is such a sweet, gentle kitty.  I can't imagine him not being a part of our family.

I have the rest of a lb of white merino that I'd purchased for one of the later levels of my Master Spinner homework.   I'm spinning it up in a quest to get rid of some of the partial bags of fibre left.    It dawned on me that I might want to blend this with some alpaca or even camel that I have sitting around as well, so I stopped after 1 bobbin full.  I'd bought myself 2 oz of camel down as a treat after I sent my Master Spinner in depth study off - so maybe this is a good time to blend and spin it up.

Way too much real life stuff happening, which is getting in the way of the fun stuff though.   I'm still practicing the banjo though.   It's a daily time out for me, which I've come to rely on .

Monday, 23 October 2017

Small projects, shawl and pumpkiny stuff

This morning, there was a barn fire on the next block, up the road.   All morning and half the afternoon, fire trucks and emergency vehicles have been streaming by, sirens and lights going.    The news says it was a straw barn, and no animals or people were hurt, so that is a good thing.    My chooks were hunkered down on the back deck most of the day and I don't blame them.  The noise and lights were quite unusual for around here.   They are already a bit unsettled as I moved 3 new rescue chooks into a pen in the barn last night.    They are quite well socialized, being the Westfield demo chooks.  They don't really have the means to keep the girls over the winter, so one volunteer or another gives them a home in the fall.

 I've been making tiny knitting needles by the dozen.   They aren't difficult, but you need to get them just the right size for the intended purpose, which is ornaments.

I've been making tons of tiny skeins of yarn as well.  A bit is handspun, but mostly it is leftover bits of sock yarn.
I've also been knitting tiny swatches on size 0 or 1 needles and transferring the partially finished swatch onto the tiny home made needles.   Hopefully soon I'll have some of the ornaments assembled.  

My son bought a dremel tool this summer, and tried it out with carving this pumpkin.  He told me it was a simple design, meaning no shading or anything.    It doesn't look simple to me!   There is a huge pumpkin sitting in my hallway, waiting for his attention.  He doesn't think that this pumpkin will last with our weather being what it's been... mild or even warm.   

It was an amazing weekend and I wish I'd taken photos of all the baking I did at Westfield, in the Misener house yesterday.  It was Pumpkin Sunday, a pumpkin themed day and of course along with the pumpkin games and decor, all of us cooks, cooked pumpkin themed goodies.    It was so busy though that I didn't have time to cook everything I'd hoped to make, nor did I have drag out a camera to take photos of the goodies.  The photo montage up on the Westfield FB page shows what we were baking and what a great day it was, both for fun and weatherwise.

I finished the Godey's Ladies Book shawl a couple of weeks ago.  It took 2 days to cut and tie the fringe on.  It probably could have been done in 1 day,  but who wants to sit still cutting and tieing for that long.   It took almost a whole skein of yarn to make the fringe!  It's long and covers my back and hips, which is what I'd wanted.  I'd wanted it to be more of a wrap than a shawl.   I'm not sure how to photograph the whole thing, so here it is folded up.  It is warm and cozy.   The only thing is that the cats like it and I'm finding one or the other asleep on it, all the time.