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!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Painted Rug Warp

This is the 11 1/2 yard white rug warp which I ended up with when last month when we were clearing out the guild room.   It was stark white and while it would have made perfectly fine rugs.  With the denim and solids I have on hand for the weft, they would have been plain, serviceable rugs.  My imagination started working, so I dug out the Procion MX dyes and mixed up a set of primary colours at 2%.  I used 2% strength, only because that was what I'd previously mixed up and the storage jars were already labelled that way.   It ended up being a better idea as I needed less dye volume, and was easier to work with.

I started taking a series of photos, but conditions weren't conducive to good pictures.  It was a grey, really cool day, threatening rain.   It was also very windy.   Every time I grabbed the camera, something tried to blow away.   Since I was working on the deck due to the size of this project, in the ended up just playing.  

I used Procion MX Fibre Reactive dyes, which give lovely colours and are relatively safe to use.   The one downside is there is a bit of rinsing since the dyes bond both with the water and the fibre.  The upside is you don't need any heat to set the dyes.  

I draped plastic wrap on the patio table to both protect the table and to use to wrap the warp chain in afterwards to keep it damp and protected.   It would have been smarter to use a sheet of plastic like a cheap table cloth, vapour barrier or an old shower curtain to protect the table.  The syringes were a gift from Carol who has Alpaca ( and a brand new cria which was born yesterday)  Yay!   They are perfect for measuring out dye for painting the warp.   I like that I can dilute the dyes as well, but filling half the syringe with water and then just adding the dye.  This makes it easier to adjust shades.  The plastic wrap wasn't enough to actually seal the dyes in the chain, so there was a bit of seepage and some of my oranges and bright yellows are more burgandy and brown.   I let the warp sit and cure for 48 hours because it never really got warm.  Cooler temperatures equal longer curing times for good colours.  The warp is still damp, so it won't be quite as bright as this when it's dry.

I wasn't really going for any particular colour range. I didn't measure rug lengths and change colours for each rug, or even plan anything ahead of time.   In my mind I saw rugs with bright splashes of colour to add interest.   I'm pretty sure I've accomplished that with this warp. Now I just hope  the finished product looks as exciting as the pictures in my imagination.

The sad thing is that I will most likely not be selling these rugs or any of my handcrafted items at the guild shows this fall.   My guild is spectacularly unsupportive of hand spinners, which is mainly due to the attitude of a small number of members.  I've been told that no items will be allowed which are made with hand spun yarn as all hand spun items are only suitable for church bazaar items (meant in a derogatory manner).   Most other guilds who have spinners, don't seem to have an issue with this but apparently ours does and I'm only allowed to put in skeins of hand spun yarn.   So rather than change what I do, I'll just change the venue where I sell items.   It makes me unhappy in a way, as I do a lot to support the guild, and the commission would help the guild bring in speakers and pay for a new site when we find one.  The upside is that I'll likely have less commission to pay and may be able to put a wider variety of items for sale, especially if I go the Etsy or FB page sales route.   I just need to figure out how to set those things up.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A couple of quick projects

Half of the Polar Vortex, Blue Faced Leicester sliver has been spun.   If I'd chain plied it, the colour changes were long enough to make a pretty rotation of solid colours.  However I didn't want a 3 ply yarn, so I just plied it together and called it good.  It's a little bit brighter than the photo shows, but it's pretty enough.  I have a pattern for mittens which seems like a good match for this yarn.

The purse I whipped up last year before holidays was starting to fray at the zipper.   Since I'd wanted a small denim bag and had only a part of a single pant leg on hand, that is what I used.   Considering it took about 30 minutes in total to figure out what I was doing, sew the whole thing together, including lining with a welted, zippered pocket and a zipper to close the whole bag, I'm pretty happy it lasted this long.    But instead of repairing it as it's more of a functional bag than fun and attractive, I decided to make a new one.

This one is also made from recycled denim, but I had a whole pair of jeans to work with.   I really wish I had time to make a denim strap for it, however due to time constraints, I used a bit of nylon webbing.   I'm also refinishing a little kitchen island workbench, packing, doing stuff for my son who's moving tomorrow, just brewed a batch of beer and my sweetie is home on holidays, which seems to make less available time for projects.   I'm hoping I'll sit down and make the denim strap next week, but since we're off to a Jays game and a concert tomorrow, I opted for the quick fix.   Because I lined the bag, with the obligatory zippered welt pocket for my keys and a patch pocket for other stuff, it took a bit more effort.  There are a few miss-steps, but in all, it's cute, fun and is quite roomy compared to the bags I've been using lately.  The lining matches the belt.

 Both apple trees blossomed this year, although the new one bloomed in two stages, half just after the Northern Spy had finished blooming.   I've no idea if anything got pollinated, as we had so much wet, windy weather I don't remember seeing any bees around at all.  I guess time will tell.   But aren't they pretty, whether or not we get any apples this year.   A friend of mine has an apple press and knows of an abandoned orchard.  She's thinking we should get together for an apple pressing day.  Wouldn't that be fun!

Friday, 26 May 2017

What happend at home...

 While I was away last weekend, I received text updates, with photos on what my boys were doing at home.  They were installing the counters.  Friday night I got the photo of the installed counters, without the sink.  On Sunday morning, the sink and tap had been installed, all the caulking dried and it was complete.  I'm sure my friends were tired of me showing them the tiny, phone photos, but it all came together so much faster than I'd anticipated.

   I absolutely love the counters!  They're just formica trimmed with maple, but they look great.     There are only a few things left to do in the kitchen.  We're putting bulkheads in over the counters.  This is because there were some there before and the previous owners didn't bother to finish the whole ceiling last time, just up to the bulkheads, so it's either redo the whole ceiling or redo them like the original kitchen.   It's less work to remake them than to redo the whole ceiling.   We need the trim around the window, doorways and floor.   There are two cabinets which need to be remade which go on either side of the
sink.  Who knows when that will get done.  Because of a last minute choice to frame in the outside wall for extra insulation, the previously made cabinets are too big. We're using them elsewhere though.

I do love my kitchen now!   It's bright, cheery, easy to work in and enjoyable to just hang out in there.

We also got the first load of wood in.   In the past, we've gotten the logs already chopped up, but sometimes the lengths are too long for the stove, but not long enough to be chopped in to two pieces.   This time they just dumped the whole logs.   When the dump truck drove into the yard, my old kitty ran off to hide in a bedroom.  Keven though, ran to the window.  He watched the truck drive up, was intrigued by the whole dumping process and watched the driver and Al while they chatted and talked about taking down a large tree in the yard.  It was rather peculiar cat behaviour, as he's so curious and interested in what happens, rather than hiding or ignoring things.    I wonder how long it will take to chop up and split the logs?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Fruits of Our Labours

I was away for the Victoria Day weekend again this year.   I go to FOOL or Fruits of Our Labours, an SCA event dedicated to teaching arts and sciences.    It's always lots of fun.  I always drag along a spinning wheel, but hardly ever have time to actually spin.  This year I got about an hour of spinning in but really nothing to bother even showing.

On Saturday though, we did some natural dyeing.  We mordanted with alum, iron and copper.   We dyed with ferns, cochineal, dandelion and bedstraw.   The bedstraw was disappointing in that it didn't give us any colour at all.   It wasn't quite flowering yet and the dye vat water was literally colourless after almost an hour of cooking.    It was quite cool and windy, and we were outside, so it's possible the bedstraw just didn't get enough time in the pot.   The cochineal vat though, was awesome.   We got beautiful pinks and purples.  There was much dye left in the pot and I sent it home with one of the people in the class.
The results from the fern dye pot were also disappointing.   I think that is my fault for allowing only 4 hours from start to finish and with the weather being cool and breezy, we just didn't have time to do it all in the outdoor class.   My previous results with ferns were soft but bright gorgeous greens.

We had results - some good and some not so good but still, we had results and those pinks and purples are really luscious.

Orla, one of the gals in our group is mundanely, a jewellery maker.  Her work is gorgeous.   Several years now, she's run an enameling class.   A couple of years ago, I made a little cloisonne pin.  This year I did an etched pin, based on an Anglo-Saxon original.  It's the one on the left which looks awful because it had just been heated to cherry red with the blow torch, to melt the glass onto the copper and it's just cooling down in this photo.   I ran out of time to get it finished, so it went home with the instructor and I'll fetch it at a later date.

There were a couple of other classes that I wanted to take, but with teaching on Saturday and the weather streaming down rain all day Sunday, I ended up not doing all I'd hoped.  Still, it was a great weekend and we've already started planning next year's event.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Fawn fleece in the garage

My sweetie was cleaning the garage yesterday and found a plastic bag full of obviously forgotten fibre.   It was likely cold so I had him put it in the upper loft area of the garage for storage and forgot about it.    It's labelled fawn, so it's probably Shetland.   It's definitely brown but isn't sold brown.  There are pale browns, creams and some tan/grey looking areas.   It has a lot of VM, but much of it seems to be larger bits, which are easier to get out.  The lanolin has hardened, so it was difficult to tell how soft it was.   I'd obviously used some of this as when I unrolled it, there seemed to be a missing bit.

The staple length is all over the spectrum.   Some areas are only a couple of inches long -  leg and belly maybe?   Except that the leg areas would have been skirted off and the belly as well, since it's usually pretty icky with bits you don't want to bother with.   Some areas have a stable length of close to 6 inches.   That is a huge variation. 

Because of how it looks to have a definitely break of colour in the locks, I'm thinking it's a double coat - with both the white and the brown fibres, except that the brown doesn't go all the way up to the cut end - weird.

So I put a bit of fibre in a laundry lingerie bag and washed it - then realized that I'd use the same amount of soap and degreaser for a laundry tub full, so filled 4 more bags up and washed those as well.    It's all hanging to dry, either in the bags on the line, or it's laid out on the rack, inside to dry.  It's so windy out there, less than yesterday when I washed it, but still, if it's not pegged down, it would definitely end up in the neighbour's field.

This morning I processed a small handful of the now clean and dry fibre.  I picked out the larger stuff, used hand cards to make rolags, but did a few passes first, to shake out a bit more of the smaller VM.   The two colours are definitely separate fibres, which blended nicely on the hand cards.    I should have taken a photo of the rolags as they were quite beautiful.  The fibre is super soft and fine but has some neps in it.   I figured it would be the brown weathered tips, but they are all white.   I'm wondering if maybe the sheepie was starting to roo and those little neps were bits of the new coat coming in. 

The neps and some of the fleece length differential caused spinning to be a little fussy at some times.   I used a tradition longdraw with the rolags and thought it would be a horribly uneven yard.  It's not though.  It's quite consistent and look at that lovely heathery look too the yarn.  So different than the original fleece.   It's soft and pretty.    It will be fun to play with. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

A Woolly Week

 I found 2 little bags of  Corriedale leftover from level 6 Master Spinner.   It's got just the right amount of grease and absolutely no VM.  It took no time at all to wash up.  I washed one bit up just loose and it took only 2 washes and rinses to get it spectacularly clean.  To wash the second bit, I separated the individual locks and put them into my little screen envelopes.   It took a third rinse to get these clean.  They are super white and absolutely gorgeous.   As there isn't very much of it, I'm thinking I should blend it with something else.   Sometimes washing fleece can bet a bit tedious, especially if there is a humongous amount of it.  With these two little baggies, it was super fast and fun.   Now to decide what to do with it.

All the Blue Faced Leicester has been spun and plied.  There are a few grams left that I will put towards another project, but for the most part, the whole bag is spun into 3 large skeins.  One skein has 432 yards but I haven't counted the other 2 skeins, which look to be slightly smaller.  I think I will wind a bunch of 10 yard skeins to use for a nature dyeing class that I'm giving next weekend.  

 I look for something pretty to spin, which wasn't white and wasn't Ramie or silk.   I found this bit of Blue Faced Leicester that I'd dyed a while ago, during that horribly cold winter, when it never warmed up for months.   I named the colourway Polar Vortex when I'd dyed it.   Now I'm spinning it up.   I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for though, so I'm spinning it fairly fine and then can use it for socks or for weaving.

There is nothing on the loom right now.   I wish there were, but soon I hope.   The sheet of formica that was in front of my warping board has now been applied to countertops - yay!   Said counters should be ready to install this weekend - Happy Mother's Day to me or by next at the latest.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Just a few little projects

I finished the bobbin of Blue Faced Leicester  singles.  I wound them into a centre pull ball and plied the two ends together.   There is lots of controversy over plying from a centre pull ball.  Some people say the grain or twist is different.  Others say that you get these little twisty tails from this method.    I've even had someone tell me it was just plain wrong and didn't work. 
This is the way I was taught, so plying from 2 bobbins took some effort.  Until I learned to control the tension of the two bobbins, I'd get those tails from that method.    One risk with a centre pull ball, is that with fine singles, the centre core can become tangled as it collapses in on itself.   To counter act that, you can put something in the centre of the ball to hold it secure.  Sometimes I'll wind the ball on a core like a toilet paper roll.  Other times, I'll slip my thumb in there, or more often these days, I use a piece of well sanded dowel.  As long as you keep your tension even for both threads or ends, no matter what method you use, you should get an even ply, with no little tails sticking out from it.  My conclusion is that use whatever method works for you. 

This afternoon I bottled the light amber ale which was in the fermenting bucket.  I have decided that I don't like using the bucket, because I need help getting the stupid lid off it.   I purchased a spigot and at some point I will turn it into a bottling bucket.   I'm not certain that I like the bottling wand and siphon method.  My bottling wand valve sometimes gets stuck, so that I have overflow and a bit of a mess.  Putting a hose clamp on the top of the bottling wand, where the siphon hose attaches, stopped the excess air getting in while siphoning and the siphon actually worked a treat this time.  Yay!    It should be carbonated by the long weekend in May. The recipe called for chocolate malt, but the recipe description suggested it was an amber ale.   I'm pretty sure I'll be more careful with using chocolate malts as this batch is pretty dark.

I made gluten free gingersnaps, which turned out quite well and are really delicious.  I put chocolate chips in 1/3 of the batch, but really, they were just as good without.   I'll put the recipe up later, because it finally stopped raining and there is so much to do.

More BFL on the wheel.  Nothing on the loom, but lots of ideas.   The formica is now on the counter top and not in front of my warping board, so that at least gives me options.   Finished and installed kitchen counters are so close that I've been told to research back splash materials..... squee!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Lots of cotton, a little wool

I've finished spinning the 100 g of natural green cotton.   I'd forgotten to divide it up in half before I started spinning, so part way through, I took 50 g off the end of the sliver and hoped it was good enough.  Sometimes the labelled weight is a few grams off, or more than a few, which can make a difference in the spun yardage.   In this case though, I had only a 3 yard or so difference in bobbin yardage, so all was good.  

The light skein is 227 yards of 2 ply cotton before it was wet finished.  The darker green is 345 yards of the same cotton after wet finishing.   I simply tossed the skein in a pot of water and simmered it for about 40 minutes.    I so love the colour changes with coloured cotton after wet finishing.   Be aware though that white cotton can turn off white or tan after simmering.

I put some roving mill ends, which I'm pretty sure are superwash BFL with a bit of nylon on the Minstrel.   I am doing some natural dyeing on the long weekend in May and thought maybe I could get enough spun for the dye pots.   Just in case, I'm going to hunt down some commercial white wool yarn as well.    I'm planning on having 4-6 dyes going, using several different mordants and maybe some after dips for colour changes.   We'll need a bunch of yarn for all that.

Our weaving/spinning guild has to move.   We've got almost everything packed up but decided to thin out a bunch of our stash.  We had 8 stacking bins of stuff that no-one had touched in years, as well as a huge tote of donated bits.   I was looking at a bag with a warp in in, wondering what I could do with it, when Judy gave me another bag and said here, this one says 2 warps.   They came home with me, since I'd been complaining that there is a 4 x 8 sheet of formica on the floor in front of my warping board, so I can't wind any warps.

Only one warp was labelled and it was with an approximate end count.  The other 2 had no labels at all.   No wonder they sat in that bin for ever.  How could anyone figure out what to do with them, with no info!  This morning  I counted ends and measured yardage.   They are all different.   One is probably 2/8 stark white cotton, is 11 yards long and would only be wide enough for mug rugs.   11 yards of mug rugs - eek.     The next one is only 3 yards long but has 298 ends and finally a 6 yard warp with 208 ends, in what looks like mercerized cotton.  It's not like I can even mix them together to make something wider because of the length differences.  The 11 yard warp has a cross only at one end, or I could have easily cut it in half and doubled it up.   Right now it's really only wide enough for mug rugs and really, who would want to do 11 yards of mug rugs.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Signs of spring

 There are signs that spring is really here!  There are leaves on many of the trees.  In town, where it seems to leaf up a little earlier than out in the country, there is already a canopy of green.  The magnolia trees were flowering and so beautiful.  Magnolias are a bit of an iffy proposition as we can get late frosts which stop the flowering abruptly some years.

The leaves are bursting forth out in the country too.  This photo was taken a few days ago.  Yesterday there was the slightest green haze on the trees, but today, they are that bright spring green.  So pretty!
The currant bushes are getting ready to flower.  The one on the left is a native currant bush while the one on the right is a European currant variety.   Both are supposed to be hardy in this area.

The tulips are in full bloom today, but yesterday they were just starting to open.  The sunny daffodils have been happily blooming for a few days now.

These are some of the Japanese Indigo seeds that I started early this year, in hopes of getting them to seed.  I transplanted the seedlings into several larger pots.  This one is doing the best.  You can see that the leaves already have a bluish cast to them, so they are developing pigment.  I need to transplant them again, into a larger pot which will go outside, but there is still too much of a frost risk to do so yet.  They are doing much better than I'd expected, so this is making me very happy. 

The Hyacinths are out in full force.  They are beautiful and I love the scent.  However it's been grey, dull and too cool for the scent to throw far, or it's been warm and too windy.  Either way, I get to see them, but having a cup of tea on the deck, surrounded by the scent of the Hyacinths has not happened yet this year.

Friday, 21 April 2017

This week's wrap up

This was another week where it felt like I didn't accomplish very much, but I know that I did.  The grey skies and torrential downpours certainly didn't help, not did the intermittent wifi connections which seem to mess everything up, especially watching the hockey play offs.   On Easter Sunday I was at Westfield, where I demonstrated Pysanky making.   I love talking with the visitors as there are some really interesting people.  I did keep one egg from slithering off in the hands of a very sneaky child, but lost one to a lollipop laden child who drooled on one egg, causing the dyes to run.    I moved the tablecloth back before I started working with the wax and lit candle, so that I didn't drip on it.

The second skein of S twist singles from the Falkland top is off the wheel and wet finished.   It is ready to go but I'm trying  to decide whether to dye it with natural dyes or if I should just use acid dyes.   It shouldn't be such a big deal I guess, but right now the husband is making the new counters, making thorough planning a necessity.  There is no way I want to be caught finishing up a dyeing project when he wants to be fussing with the new countertops.   The small one done for an learning experience is gorgeous, so counters get the go ahead and dyeing takes the back seat for the moment. I'm waiting to put the spin patterned project on the loom until the yarn is dyed.  It really is easier to dye the yarn than the yardage.  There are probably close to 1200 yards in total of the singles, spun 38-40 wpi.  I'll definitely be putting on a dummy warp for this project.

I thought I was out of the naturally coloured cotton, with only a small sample packet of the varieties of "easy spin" cotton sliver.   However I found 100 g of naturally green cotton hiding on a shelf.  I started spinning it up just to keep the cotton technique going.  Cotton sliver is often easier to spin from one end than the other.  This seems to have an oddness about it and I find myself switching from end to end sometimes, just because it seems to want to clump in places.  Other areas seem to spin normally.  I'm finding those awkward areas are prone to a bit of uneven spinning, which makes me a bit unhappy.  That being said, it's still pretty nice yarn.  It will be plied together and get tossed in my bag of plied cotton waiting for a bigger project.

This is the main reason  for feeling like I've been a bit unproductive.  I've wanted to play the banjo for about 20 years but they aren't cheap instruments and there was always something more important.   However, one of these fell into my hands last week.   It is awesome and I've been practicing and practicing.   It's a bit slow going because I have little experience with stringed instruments.  However it is indeed going forward and I'm making some progress.   Without any instructors locally, I'm currently relying on a series of online lessons available through the library, several other online lessons, a couple of books and a husband who doesn't play the banjo, but plays other stringed instruments and is helping me out.   There are two main styles, of which I am currently playing neither, but I'm playing, so I figure all is good.   
Now if only the sun would shine, because I'm tired of all this grey weather.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Waffle Weave update, spring cards and woad seed planting

I hemmed all the waffle weave cloths by machine, which meant that they actually got hemmed in record time.    I had tried several different treadlings for the hems, but after trying them all, I preferred to just weave the hems in waffle weave.   They seem to look and act the nicest in the finished towels and are pretty easy to hem.
The two cloths I did with purple cottolin weft, were folded into bunny shapes.  I used them to hold hand poured vanilla scented candles. They are votives and now I'm thinking that I should have put them in votive holders, to make sure the kids burn them safely.  This one isn't waffle weave, but an inadvertent birdseye twill, because I set the treadles in correctly for the pattern I was using.   I even tested and checked it, so I really wasn't paying attention that day as I was halfway through the towel when I noticed it.
I carved this block of spring flowers.  I was thinking about a friend who loves snails, so I added a little snail to the picture.   My son's girlfriend thought they were pretty neat and suggest I sell these on Etsy.   I thought that was a rather nice compliment.
I planted some more Japanese Indigo seed, these ones are destined for the garden, whereas the first batch was grown early, in order to try to produce my own seed.   I also planted some woad seed.   I used old seed and only a few germinated.  I took some of that seed and soaked it overnight, and a few more germinated.  I soaked some seed overnight, layered it in paper towels and set it in a plastic bag, like that grade school science experiment with beans.   A few more seeds germinated.    Then I found the last remaining seeds that a friend gave me more recently.   I soaked those over night and planted them.  So far, none of these last batch have germinated.   But... (happy smile here ) so far enough of the old seed has germinated, using all those extreme methods, that I should have enough to play around with woad pigment later this summer, if I can keep them alive.  I think I have 20 seedlings so far.  If the fresher woad germinates, then I'll have a safety net as well.

I have fresh Madder seed if anyone needs any.  It's from last fall.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Pysanky Process

Apparently, like icons, pysanky are written, not drawn.   There is lots of symbolism in the designs.  The first found wax resist dyed egg dates from about the 15th century.  There are decorated eggs found from the neolithic era, although they are made of ceramic.   There is an ancient history for decorated eggs, that is for sure.
 2 kistka and a beeswax disk used to draw the wax lines on the eggs.   The small, pointed tip of the kistka is heated in a candle flame, then dipped in the wax, which melts and fills the reservoir, allowing lines to be drawn on the egg shell, like a pen.   Lightly drawn pencil lines can be used as guidelines, especially useful for long, straight lines.  The beeswax turns black when the candle soot mixes in.   This makes the wax easier to see on the egg, but doesn't affect the outcome.
 All the areas which you want to be white are covered with wax first.  The the egg is dipped into the first colour.   Once the egg is dyed to the desired depth of colour, it is removed from the dye and allowed to dry.  Then the areas which you want to be the next colour are covered with wax.   Here the orange egg has been dyed twice, with the white, yellow and orange areas covered with wax.  The dyes need to be applied in a particular order.  Green can contaminate other colours so is often painted in areas specifically and then covered, rather than dipping the whole egg in the dye.  Blue and green are usually dyed before red, but the blue will make the red turn a bit purple, so it is useful to plan out the colours ahead of time.  Brown eggs may not show all the colours clearly and the colours won't be as bright s on white eggs.

 The orange egg has been dyed red, but of course I took the photo before the red areas were covered.  The yellow egg took quite a while to cover all those triangles.   It took several hours in 2 different sessions.   You would think that the black sooty wax would show the areas missed when trying to completely cover an area, but it doesn't really.  
To remove the wax after all the dyeing is complete, the egg is held near the flame and the wax is wiped off as it melts.  You can only do a small area at a time as the wax cools down fairly quickly.  I'm a little disappointed in the yellow dye.  It has weakened fairly quickly and it doesn't dye the eggs evenly.  I don't know if that is an issue with the eggs or the dye.  Because of the weakness of the yellow dye, the contrast on the yellow and white triangles isn't quite enough to be really effective.  On the other hand, the purple egg, which is a replacement for the one I found cracked, is much nicer than the one that I originally made. 
I've 6 finished, although I really made 8, but 2 had cracks in them.   I might have time to make 1 or 2 more before I need them to fill the Easter Basket.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The week before Easter

I cut the purple waffle weave off the loom on Sunday and wet finished it.   I started sewing between each piece, to secure the threads when I ran out of thread of an appropriate colour.  I had no white thread left and only purple of an odd shade which looked horrid with the towels.  I had to go to town anyway yesterday, to get to the guild room, run some errands and get my cute little car in for an oil change, so I just added one more stop to pick up some thread.  Hopefully I'll get started on hemming the face cloths tonight.  This run of face clothes was done at a sett of 24, which makes for a very nice looking fabric.  I'm going to do a comparison of the waffle weave I did at sett 20 and these at sett 24.   The slightly looser ones have a lovely drape are are soft and absorbent when in use.  It will be interesting to see if these work the same way.

I started on the candy for the Easter Basket.  Milk chocolate rooster lollipops and peanut butter filled, dark chocolate frogs.  This is pretty easy stuff, melt the chocolate, pour in a mould, chill till hardened, pop the candy out and bag.  The gold twist ties make them look special though.  I wonder if I should get some jelly beans to add a bit of candy colour?

Every Easter basket needs Easter eggs.   It is hard to believe that it takes about 3 hours per egg to make these, and these are simple pysanky, done mainly freehand.  There are fancy electric kistka, the stylus used to spread the wax, lathes to make lines perfectly straight and even etc.  I just use a candle, a little tub of beeswax and very basic kistka, although I have 3 different sizes for thick, medium and thin lines. The one on the bottom right egg was cracked, so I need to make a replacement.   The blue egg, has turquoise details, but the colours are too similar to show well.  I'll redo that egg as well. I was supposed to demonstrate these on Friday, and then could give them to my kids on Sunday.  I was going to use these as samples for the demo.  However, because of a work schedule, we're gathering on Friday, so the original plan won't work, if I'm able to switch the demo to Sunday.   Not sure how I'm dealing with that yet.

I just realized that this stuff should all have been done last week, to keep this shorter week less rushed.   I guess that didn't work out in my planning.