Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm busy!

But I haven't forgotten that I am a blogger again.

Just been (ugh) having my photo taken for publicity for the Christmas Open Studios event. If you know me, you know I loathe this process, even if part of a group which this was. A vain, I fear, attempt to hide behind other people and a spindle. I am, though, looking forward to the weekend, I get to spin for two whole days and talk to interesting people. We don't usually have stuff to sell, but I have even had people begging me to sell them some yarn, although I have to admit, not often!

Saturday was a Guild day. These meetings of late have been really, really good. We have a whole gang of new and enthusiastic members, and frequently have visitors as well. This all makes for happy, noisy and vibrant meetings. The last couple of ideas, we have been following an idea that one of our members pinched from another Guild, which has to be uncredited as even she can't remember which it was! You have "four corners" (although this can be variable) and something takes place at each station. It is a kind of skill sharing, taster day, which generates in our experience a grand buzz.

This one was fibre prep, and I did combing. I don't know about the people I demonstrated to, but I had a wonderful time. I love combing, especially with English combs, but rarely make the time to do it. And I used a gorgeous Shetland fleece that we had got from Jamieson and Smith last year, an additional pleasure.

We have been trying hard to do a good job for our newer members recently. It is very easy to forget that there are things that we, as veterans, take for granted but they may be less familiar with. So we have organised a few beginner/refresher spinning sessions at ordinary guild days, and these Four Corner days, all of which have been popular and useful. And us veterans can learn a thing or two as well (as is always the case in any teaching situation, or should be!) This time, one of the areas ended up being blending boards, with people who had made their own. Now, the DSM bought carding cloth back at Woolfest, which was languishing somewhere or other.........as we speak, he is manfully wielding a staple gun, and will soon be blending away with the best of them, having been shown again how to do it.

To continue the mish mash of this post.........a cautionary tale. Recently, I wanted to spin something very soft and luxurious, so rootled in the stash and found some cashmere. Well, I think it is - it could be bunny fluff, but the former is more likely, and the same point holds for both. (Plus the extra reminder to LABEL YOUR STASH.) Cashmere seemingly does not have a long storage life. Whilst most other fibres take little harm from being kept for a good while, cashmere, being so very fine, compresses. Because it is more expensive and precious than most of our stash might be, we don't want to waste it, so have to go through a truly tedious process of returning it to a spinnable state. There is no quick fix, whatever method you use - I normally open it up over and over again, but you can card it (don't particularly recommend drum carding, myself.) I have had a somewhat similar experience with mohair, but that is easier to fix, it tends to open up enough to spin reasonably by just stripping the top down into thin strips. So, be warned!




The Cancer Journal

Time passes, slowly. My sister has had her first cycle of chemo. The first few days afterwards were hellish, but the next few better, and now, in the run up to the next session she is feeling quite reasonable and able to get out and about, so is happy to keep going for the time being. She will have two more, then the oncology team review progress - or not - and decide accordingly. That is going to be another difficult time (amongst many.) Reasonable progress on the moving front, as well. Doing it is not going to be fun either, but things will be a lot better afterwards. So, not so much to say at the moment.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back again, still without photographs

The afghan is finished. I really like it, after fearing that I might not. But I still haven't managed to photograph it, sorry.

I attempted an attached i-cord edging, and it looked absolutely ghastly. So, remembering that I was supposed to have this interest in blending crochet with knit, I did a simple double crochet (single if you are from the USA) for four rounds, and finished off with a crab stitch round. Crab stitch is also double crochet, but worked in the opposite direction, which gives the stitch a nice little twisted bump and a more defined look. I had thought I might make tassels for each corner, but they looked really naff. So I managed to find my pom-pom maker and did four in each colour, putting one of each on each corner instead. It makes me think of a camel blanket, or something, but in a good way. An actual Finished Object!

The orange-tawny Landscape shawl is progressing, but I am having to ignore at the moment that I have as usual gone awry with the moss stitch section. I am waiting until I have done a bit more of the next, stocking stitch, section to have a good look at it and see if I can get away with leaving it. I know I shouldn't, but..........

Spinning - continuing with the alpaca and silk, which has given me an excellent (well, I think so) idea for a "module" in the Spin to Knit class. I have even written up a first draft. Sometimes I amaze myself. Unfortunately, I have just realised that probably we should really have a Mission Statement, and dare I say it, Outcomes. As a matter of fact, I always do have these, but they tend to be in my head rather than set out, and take on their life during and after the actual workshop. Maybe it is time I grew up.

I had a great thrill this morning. One of the things that has happened whilst I had my blogging absence was that Sam, one of the two younger Snowshoes when missing and never returned. Today, their breeder emailed me to say that she has not one but two new litters of kittens, too young to give colours yet, but they look very well-sized, healthy little pink things......and are we still interested.

What a silly question. We shall go and see them in December and hopefully fall in love with two to come live with us and Barni and Ferdi. The former is not going to be too impressed, but I think that Ferdi will enjoy having galloping kits to play with, which will take the pressure off B. Those two are still hunting like crazy as winter refuses to descend. I am so glad that the DSM gets up first!




Ok, update on my sister.

Yesterday, she had her first appointment at Christies. We didn't really learn anything new, except that they are going to try palliative chemo. The long, long list of side effects and terrible things that can happen was daunting, but she fully appreciates that it is worth trying. The doctor was quite clear that if at any time she feels that it is not worth continuing, then that is her decision alone to stop. We were both very impressed by that - it puts a little control back in to her hands in a situation where there is practically none. All the medical people we have met have been very straightforward, although the word "death" has not been mentioned once. It is left hanging in the air. No false pretence, but nothing explicit.

I did sort of ask the question (another thing that is greatly appreciated, that it is taken for granted that I should be there, and am included in the consultation and can ask questions too), not "how long" but "presumably you can't give any sort of timescale. Seemingly, they really don't like doing that. Pennie didn't want to, but he did offer to speak to me alone. I refused, not fair to her, but I might later on if an opportunity presents itself. However, he did tell her that he was certain that she would still be around for a particular event a few months down the line, a relief in many ways, for me because I had uncharacteristically stuck my neck out and told her that yes, she would be there, I promised. So not like me, that......

So, chemo starts for her next Wednesday, and I don't think I shall be there as we are going to Cornwall for a few days - you can't ignore a 99 year old MIL totally, after all. But Pennie has very good friends who are more than willing to help too, so \I shall try not to feel too guilty.

I know really that I am not going to wake up and find it has all been a dream........

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse

Bit dusty in here, eh?

Well, that was a long pause. I have been thinking for some time that I didn't actually want to give up blogging, but not getting round to actually doing anything about it. So many reasons for the hiatus, so many for starting again. So I shall kick off with explaining both as best I can. (Minus photos for now.)

Last time I wrote, we were about to set of for Mexico. Which was a highly enjoyable and mind-blowing experience, which maybe I will document one of these days. When we got back, I was totally knackered, then overwhelmed by the wealth of bloggable material that I had. I procrastinated.

One of my problems (yes, I have many and many excuses.....) was that our desk top pc was dying. I had been using mu iPad, and wasn't finding that completely satisfactory for writing stuff. OK, so we finally get acts together and buy ourselves lovely new laptops, yeay!! Except that nobody warned us about Windows 8. Do I really need to say more? It took me weeks and weeks to feel anything like able to use the thing and actually be creative, and by then I had two or three articles to write so blogging fell lower and lower down the list of priorities. And we were teaching, vending, travelling - all seriously good fun, but....distracting.

Anyway, the articles are done - in fact the first of them has just landed in glorious technicolour on my doormat, about the silk spinners in Oaxaca, in the brand new Yarnmaker. There are more to be published and more to write, which I am very happy about as contrary to what you might think given the non-appearance of this blog, I do really like writing!

We still have our studio, and long may that continue so. In fact, I am there now, as it is much easier to find a little peace and quiet there than at home. You wouldn't think that one husband could be quite so - well, not disruptive, maybe the right word will come to me! Let us just say that he and I have different modus operandi.

We have taught some at the studio, both in our own space and a weekend workshop for the education programme. There should be another such coming up next year, which is great, and we have a few Guild workshops booked. The two big ones should be Fibre East, if we can persuade people to sign up for the homegrown tutors (we visited as vendors this year, to give us the excuse to catch up with SOAR friends, which was just lovely). And then there is Summer School, that I am greatly looking forward to. When we first taught a Summer School I was hugely apprehensive about keeping interest up for an entire week. I have come to relish the in-depth experience, and am really glad to be given the opportunity to teach our Spin to Knit class once more. I am working on a revised version, and that is going to take up quite a bit of my time, not only the course design, notes, etc bu also the samples, and the examples of work both for that and for the tutors display. My work is so very utilitarian. Still, there are ideas, and stuff on the go, and the studio is going to really come in to its own.

At the moment I am finishing off an afghan, natural brown Polwarth and silk, edged with what was white similar, dyed bright scarlet by me. I have a pygora lace scarf just about on the needles, but it has been frogged a few times and I am a bit scared of it now, to be honest. It will be something, though, the yarn is lovely, and also dyed by me to a rather nice royal blue.

I must, it seems, have been on a bit of a dyeing jag, as number three project is a shawl - the Landscape shawl, one I have long wanted to do - in a tawny orange overdyed BFL/silk blend. Simple, but is, I think, going to be nice.


In sitting down and writing this, I can see that the feeling that I sometimes have of not really doing/achieving anything is baseless! I am not putting the half of it down here. This gives me hope that I can actually manage to get back to maintaining a blog again, although I think that I shall try to be realistic and not aim for more than perhaps every other week, every week at most.

And it is, I think, going to be good to be back. If there is anyone out there to read this, not all driven away in disgust by my shabby treatment, please do let me know!





OK, so that is all pretty much in my usual vein. When I started blogging, I did not want to do a baring my soul, all my innermost thoughts type of thing. Mostly fibre, spinning, dyeing, knitting, my cultural interests, travel and so on. Only occasional personal stuff. So I give warning now that I am about to write about something very personal and emotional that is going to be dominating my life for a while and so cannot be ignored. If you don't like that sort of thing, stop reading right now. (I will always put the updates at the end of posts, so they can be easily avoided.)

I have a sister, eight years younger than me, and originally a huge nuisance in my life, as I am sure that those of you with younger siblings can imagine. As we grew up, we became good friends, and for the last umpty years living only an hours drive away from one another, we have met frequently, gone out together, gone on holiday together, moaned about the state of the world together. Been sisters.

Two weeks ago, she was told that she had inoperable, terminal stomach cancer.

Even writing that here, I still do not, at some level, believe it. Although at another, it is the only thought in my head, a constant background chatter in my life, it is the bell deep in the Tardis tolling away, minute after minute, second after second.

There is not much else to say at the moment. She is being taken to Italy for a holiday, to celebrate a special birthday, by her daughter and family. When she gets back, she has an appointment at Christies, which I will also attend, to set out......all that has to be set out. Which will include some chemo, for various practical reasons.

There are one or two other things thrown into this chalice, but I will get to those as and when. I can't actually write any more just now.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Solstice Post

I love the Susan Cooper books, 'The Dark is Rising' sequence.  So why have I never come across this poem of hers before?  Well, at least I have now!

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!



Happy Solstice, happy Yule!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A grab-bag

I don't know where time goes, these days, I really don't.  And I don't even seem to get that much done!  To be fair, we are in to what passes for the Christmas gadding season at the moment, and, confirmed introvert that I am, one social event tends to equal one day recovery time.  That's one excuse, anyway.........

I do gently chug along with all the usual fibre pursuits.  It is just that at the moment, there is nothing particularly noteworthy in the pipeline.  I did manage to finish the Guild Challenge project (although not to actually photograph it, and as I am writing this with Barni on my lap, I don't want to disturb him to go and do it now.  It is unremarkable, but somewhat to my surprise not only functional but I actually quite like it.  

The project was "something for the head";  the fibre was some less than remarkable White-faced Woodland, made even less appealing by being drum carded.  I dyed his deep burgundy, mine a bright mid-blue.  I looked at the yarn, and thought, well, what the blazes am I going to do with this.....

But I also had two lots of very nice yarn spun from blends I had been given at SOAR, one a beige plus a little glitter, the other cream.  Those two managed to salvage the project.  I decided to make a long cowl that would pull over my head when needed, and just did stripes, mostly of one row of colour with a few blocks for variety.  It worked!

I can't remember if I ever recorded the fact that the AH class has been ailing.  Lots of reasons for this, I think, and difficult for me to address.  Over the recent months, quite a few classes had been cancelled, and it was getting to be quite a problem planning the class, gathering supplies and then not being able to go ahead.  Did I skip that topic, or just move it over to the next month?  Keeping the programme, and our diary straight was becoming a bit of a logistical nightmare.  So, rightly or wrongly, in conjunction with TPTB, we decided to reduce the frequency of the class and go to one every three months.

Looks like that was the wrong decision.  December has always been a favourite one on the calendar, but numbers were way, way down, with a distinct dearth of the usual suspects.  (Although it is fair to say that the Hall was empty apart from us and in the afternoon a group of ladies in for some event and afternoon tea....such a sad and worrying state of affairs.)

Don't get me wrong, we had a good day!  Lots of productive sampling, enjoyable chat, and a good Festive lunch of the usual, with a goats cheese and cranberry tart for the veggies.  We even had a mince pie at tea time instead of the biscuits we have been reduced to!

Now next up - one week tomorrow, we are off on our travels again.  To Mexico.  Coincidently for Christmas, which will be very unusual and interesting, but mostly to meet up with dear friends from California and to explore the weaving dyeing and other traditional crafts of the Oaxaca area.  We should have internet access while we are there, so I hope I can do on the spot as well as retrospective reporting.  I have to admit to being a bit nervous about it as it is rather outside our comfort zone.  We don't speak Spanish - fortunately, our friends do!

And finally.  One other small FO.  I had designed a cowl/neck warmer/whatever on the needles, found it rather too big, and thrown it in to the washing machine to see if I could reduce the size a bit.  It also worked!  I like the basic idea, but both the design and the execution need a bit of work.  This would have had a phot on Flickr, but Flickr refused to co-operate, so .......

Next post, the Festival of the Radish, maybe......

Monday, December 02, 2013

Open Studios Weekend

This time last year, we had just applied for a studio space, and thought it would be a good idea to go down and have a look around when everyone opened up for the Christmas event.  In the summer, we were happily ensconced in our own space, but could only do one day as we were coming back from Cumbria on the Saturday.  (There are two open weekends per year.)

So this Christmas event was the first we could participate in fully.  I have to say, it was fun.  It was actually fairly quiet, but that meant that we could spend time with family and friends who dropped in, and also enjoy meeting the visitors.   We even managed to collect half a dozen names of people expressing an interest in a fibre crafts weekend that it has been suggested the four of us who are spinners and weavers (and dyers and felt makers) could organise some time next year, which was an encouraging thing!

We got the studio space looking very colourful and cosy on a rather chilly weekend, and settled in to do a lot of spinning (plus a few other bits and bobs.). Our aim in having a studio is not to make lots of stuff to sell, although I had intended to have rather more yarn available for purchase than I actually managed.  Best intentions and all that.  Will try to do better another time.

I have to be honest and say that I have not yet got to where I want to be with my use of the studio.  I recognise various reasons for this (I do not intend to go in to them all here, could make things go a bit whingey!)  I can address most of them, and will do so.  One of the beneficial side effects of this weekend was getting myself considerably refocused, so that is good.

Part of the trouble is having too much going on in other areas of my life, which us of course basically A Good Thing.  So I need either to get a bit more efficient, or not to worry about any of it!  (I think I might go in the latter direction......)

Oh, I am wittering.  Probably because it is nearly 11.30, and I should be thinking about bed.  Though that us something I do try to avoid doing - one of the impediments to efficient studio yes gas been the insomnia, which had been better recently but made an unwelcome reappearance last night.  So I tend to do something that needs doing, or I like doing or similar so at least if I am lying there all wakeful I can console myself with some small achievement!




Sunday, November 17, 2013

Time to cut my losses

I do believe that I have blathered at some length about some silk I have been spinning. I found it in the stash, so I only have an inkling of where I might have bought it. A near-perfect match to a lovely merino and silk blend.

I struggled. With a silk top or brick - this was the latter - I would normally pull off a chunk, fold it over my finger and spin with an extended draw. With this prep, I very quickly learned that this technique simply would not work. It was full of, well, for a better word, clumps. If I did an extended draw, these would obstinately refuse to draft out, leaving a huge and unwanted slub. I found that if I did short draw, sometimes I could catch this as they came through and manage to draft them, or if they still refused to co-operate, remove them entirely.

I still don't understand what was going on - sometimes the dye job was implicated, sometimes it was the silk prep, presumably badly prepped, all on its own. One of the most frustrating spinning jobs I have done in a while, and quite painful, too, hard on the hands.

We come to plying. I had spun all the fibre on to one bobbin, and deliberately chose, knowing all the risks, to ply from a centre pull ball. I REMEMBERED TO PUT A PAPER QUILL IN THE CORE. I start to ply.

The singles is much more variable than I had thought. Even though I had tried hard to mitigate the thicker, clumpy sections, I still had far more slubs than I liked. Ah well, soldier on. Maybe it would not look so bad, be a useable yarn.......the paper fell out of the core.

Quick as a flash, I stuffed my thumb approximately into the middle of the centre pull ball, and continued. All was going quite well until the phone rang, and the DSM seemed to be having problems with something. I stopped plying, and TOOK MY FINGER OUT. (Sometimes, extracting ones digit is a Good Thing. Not this.)

Almost immediately I started plying again, disaster struck. Trying to sort that out, disaster was piling upon disaster. I got the scissors, and cut myself free, took the time to look closely at the plied yarn.

It was horrible.

I not only cut the yarn, I cut my losses. I should have done it sooner. Just means a slightly different project is all. With no silk yarn.

No doubt I have learned something from this, right?