Monday, March 31, 2008

How am I supposed to get any work done?

Answer - I'm not!



2 sleeping

There's too much to look at.......

(I will stop taking baby photos soon, I promise! And, India - it is going really pretty well, much better than I had expected. Although Max does spend rather a lot of time on the porch roof.....)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bergen and kittens

The latter are taking up nearly all of my time at the moment....but more of them anon. If I don't put up more Bergen photos, I will have lost the moment.

We just went for the weekend, and had not realised that in Norway, everything shuts over Easter. Which was lovely! Enough restaurants open to manage, and on two of the three days, beautiful weather to simply wander around in. It was lovely. Peaceful, and healthy. Well, not the hot chocolate, the pizza one night (after spending more of a small fortune in a very nice restaurant on the first night, so wanting to economise.) No shops open much for spending too much, although I did indulge in a little silver pendant in a traditional sun design.

We arrived very late on Friday evening, effortlessly via the excellent "Flybussen" service. Slept well, spent most of the day wandering around or sitting in the sunshine. Next day, we went as planned up in the funicular to the top of the "mountain". Where lots more snow fell on snow, gorgeous. Then Monday was fine and sunny again, so more walking, drinking coffee or chocolate, having lunch and then back to the airport.

I'm sorry if it doesn't sound all that exciting - it was actually wonderful. Just the sort of trip we like, pottering and observing the locals. Lovely country!

Bergen08 077

Bergen08 026

Bergen08 144

Bergen08 113

This last is one of my favourites - and it really was snowing that much. This beautiful ship was in sight of our hotel, conveniently tucked down past the end of Bryggen.

There are more photos here and there will probably be more later.

So, kittens.....Yes, ok, we are mad. But they really are cute, and we are unrepentant. Have a few chocolate box images.





They are settling in very well, and even better, the big cats are getting a bit more used to them. They have in fact, done brilliantly - they hiss and occasionally growl but only very gently. No-one has been bashed over the nose yet. In fact, Max is scared of them. but Neelix - well, just look.

neelix and ruby!2

He fell asleep on his favourite perch (which I have to admit, is being hijacked by the babies, the little beasts) and Ruby was very clever. She just sort of snuck up and quietly infiltrated herself, and the next thing we knew they were sleeping together for the first time. Which isn't bad for five days acquaintance.

Lest anyone should think I have forgotten entirely about fibre - we taught the first of this years workshops on Saturday. We certainly enjoyed it, and I do believe the Guild did, as well. And it did seem to us that some were positively enjoying spinning cotton by the end, which can't be bad. We do like to corrupt people.......

Right, I'd better go and see what those monsters are doing and tell them to stop it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Where do I start?

Were we walking in our own woods at Easter? (Entirely possible, it did snow I gather.)

Bergen08 093

Nope. Here's a clue....

Bergen08 099

We went back to Bergen for the weekend.


We had a wonderful time, and I will do a full blog entry with more photos - I took a lot, to say the least! But I can't at the moment. I am fully occupied. Not to say, going hairless. And it is all my own fault.

Remember I promised something pretty? Well, I didn't mean photos of Bergen.

May I introduce.....(inset drumroll....)

ruby & barni

Ruby (Tuesday) and Barni (Bear) Or Bishy barney bee. And other silly names will develop. It was supposed to be just Barni, but Ruby was there, and without a new owner as yet, and we have had sibs before........

These are two of the Snowshoe kittens bred by a spinning friend of mine, in fact their posh names are prefixed "Spinning". Thee is just one snag. They are without doubt the baddest kittens I have ever had, and looking after them for the first few days is going to be a full time occupation. They are quite gorgeous, and have lovely natures, but like all young animals, have boundless energy and are very inventive as to where to try to go next. Attempting to climb the stone chimney breast in the sitting room is one adventure, swinging from standard lamps another, and of course, off-ground tag. And this is just their first full day........

So, travelogue and kitten updates as and when.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Trip-trap, trip-trap, over the rickety bridge

No, I am not going to exterminate my batty neighbour. She has actually been fairly quiet recently. I am going on a little Easter trip.

Don't usually do this, except to family, and not even that recently. Hope we don't regret hurling ourselves into the throngs of people travelling by train and boat and plane (pick one) not to mention car, over the holiday. Hope it doesn't pour with rain, or be too cold, either of which is possible. But, hey, what the hell, we shall be off somewhere together, not having to cook or make beds, and there might even be yarn shops involved. What is not to enjoy?

Pictures when I get back.

First I have to find the roll of double pointed needles that I put somewhere safe when we moved everything out of the living room prior to having it decorated. Sigh. I do have some dpns around, but they are the Knitpicks and the Pony pearls, which I don't want to risk losing should airport security get sniffy. I don't anticipate that, but there is always a first time. Oh, they are there somewhere, can't be far away. And just in case we are forced to spend the entire weekend in warm coffee shops with roaring log fires knitting, I do have to have a couple of decent projects with me, don't I?

With a bit of luck, I will finish the orange cotton this evening. I have spent a bit of time on it today, recovering from the three monthly trip to the dentist - oh, nothing wrong, merely a regular appointment, I just don't like it. I always brace myself really hard against the onslaughts of the hygienist - who is perfectly brilliant, gentle and efficient, but none the less is still assaulting me gnashers with a sharp steel hook. And that leaves me feeling knackered and sore and in need of a nice nourishing gin. Anyway, spinning the cotton has been a dream, so much so that I have decided to shift the purple that I was slowly spinning on the charka to the wheel, to then ply to knit with, starting some plain white on the charka as an on-going weaving project. Ha. One day - but, you see, then speed doesn't matter.

So, off tomorrow, with a splendid lunch booked at a favourite but rarely visited restaurant, and then after a couple of days of relaxation, home late on Monday.

Do drop by on Tuesday or Wednesday - you might see something pretty:-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lovely cotton!

I have had a most productive and enjoyable day, rediscovering cotton. I knew I liked it - I had forgotten how satisfying it could be to wheel spin as well as spindle or charka spin. When I say productive, I don't mean quantity-wise, but in preparation for the next workshop.

I shall be using the Lendrum, which would be my wheel of choice for cotton spinning anyway. So I dragged it out and set it up with its higher speed "ordinary" flyer. Oiled the spindle shaft, as I hadn't used it in a while. Checked the rubber band that I use instead of a spring on the scotch tensioner. The one I have on at the moment is a tad too long, I seem to remember that it was a bit of a belt and braces job when out and about one day. But it is good enough. So, I played around with that set as lightly as possible until I had just the right gentle but positive draw-on. Then I prepared my cotton.

I spun sliver first. It has been in my stash awhile, so I paid extra attention to "conditioning" it (with grateful thanks to Stephenie Gaustad, who taught that at a SOAR Retreat session years ago!) By which I mean: take of a length of sliver, then hold it lightly between your two thumbs and forefingers, a very little way apart. Gently more or less rotate it, working along the sliver as you do so, then back again, for as long as it takes. You will be amazed how much your compacted fibre opens up and becomes ready for easy drafting!

OK, so join your fibre supply to your leader any way that works. I generally short draw it until the join is safely stored on the bobbin - the only circumstance in which I would dream of using short draw for cotton. Then you are quite ready for easy, effortless, relaxing cotton spinning.

No-one ever believes me, it is so sad. (Learned from another SOAR Retreat, Patricia Emerick* this time, who taught me various things but mostly that the big secret to cotton spinning is to relax!)

Treadle slowly to begin with. Once under way, hold the forming yarn in a straight line with the orifice by hooking index and middle finger so as to form a right angle with the yarn around them. Or whichever finger combination feels comfortable. I lean to the left - the right is totally acceptable! Then just use a point of contact technique to allow the yarn that you will feel forming in the sliver (no-one ever believes that, either) to draft out. You need to build up a lot of twist for cotton, so lounge spinning technique, being very laid back and comfortable in how you are sitting, will work well. It is a good thing to have quite a distance between your hand and the orifice for the twist to build up. Depending on the ratio of your wheel, you will need to hold back the yarn to a greater or lesser extent. But once you are in a comfortable rhythm, you can speed up the treadling.

orange cotton

Having done that, I went on to make some punis.


I used the same flyer, but modified my technique somewhat. I found that using something rather closer to a longdraw, it worked better not to hook and bend, but just to draft back at an angle. I used too large a knitting needle to roll my punis, but they were still good to spin from - pity I don't really like making them!

So, next step was to be brave, and put on the extra-fast flyer. I haven't used this all that often, and I was a bit apprehensive, but I needn't have worried. Went like a dream. I'm going to finish the orange cotton - might make a scarf, or neck shoawl with a bit of luck. But the only thing I need to do now before the workshop (other than writing up some notes) is to find the cotton bolls and spin from a seed - that is such fun!

*What ever happened to her?

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Two different days of gathering together - the AH class, and Guild. Both good, probably in not such different ways! No pictures of my stuff, but pictures none the less.

A big group at AH - seventeen, and a newcomer, male to boot. He was pretty dam' good at grasping the essentials of spinning, too. He was very good at listening - that always helps! I showed him, explained a bit, and he sat there and spun yarn. He was losing it a bit by the end of the day, and wasn't amazingly chuffed when I told him that was a common reaction - you get tired when you spend a few hours doing something new. Why did he want to learn to spin? He's a llamapapa! The day before he had two of them - that morning, he had found that he had three. Here was a man madly in love - it was nice to see.

The rest of them - well, some of them - needle felted like good'uns.


Producing things like this.


I was asked if I had some chip-coloured fibre, but sadly, no.

One of the newer attendees, still rather unsure of herself on the wheel, had done some spindle spinning earlier in her career, and produced this. As they say, wow.


Today was Guild, no speaker or workshop but a bring and buy sale. These are always enjoyed, not least by me, but on this occasion I was very restrained. The only thing that followed me home was some of Freyalynn's fibre that I needed to go with some that I have just spun up for socks. I did it very slightly thicker than I normally use for socks and am not entirely sure that I will have sufficient for the pair. Hence, some that tones.

An here I found another candidate for the spindle spun gallery. A beautiful sweater.

jean's sweater

These days when we woolgather in company are surely good.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I remember being at a SOAR several years ago, and seeing someone meticulously and carefully needle felting a strawberry. No, don't be silly - I mean making a 3D facsimile of a berry in fibre using a felting needle! Anything else would be messy.

In fact, I think that was the year that someone - maybe the same person - did an entire bowl of fruit for the Gallery. They looked mouth-watering.

Moving on a year or two, I did a class with someone here in the UK, when needle felting was still pretty new. And then did a three day workshop at SOAR with Sharon Costello. Now, that was fun, and the figure I made in class way better than I would ever have expected (and same is buried in the dining room following on our recent redecoration, so I can't take a photo of it, sorry.)

But I came home and made this little lot.

The DSM takes them in to his office every Christmas as part of his decorations.

So, in brushing up for Friday, I started with a basic egg shape from plain white, and then applied purple over the surface.


This saves money, and if you can actually lay your hands on the coarser stuff that felts quicker to use as your core, time as well. Never mind. I will also say at this point that in the US, seemingly it is much easier to get dyed wool carded batts, which work much, much better for this (and for regular wet-felting, too) than top. But we get by.

Then I started adding spots in a contrasting colour.


No, this isn't an alien. It is an Easter egg, going to be, when spottier, part of a colourful set for my Easter Day table. Or it would be, if we were not going to be gadding off somewhere........

So, having regained my confidence at needle felting, I set to making a head. As yet it looks like nothing on earth.


But I have started assembling the features, and what is more remembering how to do them - adding the little layers for chin, nose and cheeks, rolling wisps for eye brows and lips. Starting out with the coarser needle, moving on to the finer ones.

The trouble is, having decided that this was one fibre craft that I could excise from my life, I am finding myself really enjoying doing it. Maybe I should rethink?

After all, just how much room do a few felting needles take?

Monday, March 10, 2008


I am not the greatest silk spinner in the world, although thanks to a few ace tutors, I am better than I was.

Most everywhere, these days, it seems that the way to go (and I am in no way arguing with this) is to spin fine and high twist. Because? Accentuates the lustre, and makes it more durable.

However, a few years ago, I heard a talk by Priscilla Lowry on her knitwaer, and how to spin a lofty silk for it. The garments were delightful, and very durable, some had quite a bit of mileage on them. There was food for thought there, but I didn't nibble for a while.

Then, coincidentally and serendipitously, I unearthed a silk scarf that I had made previously, and mislaid. The spinning had been done before having had any tuition, and I appeared to have created a rather thicker and smooshier yarn than I might do now.

bronze silk scarf

So, I started wearing and enjoying it, and likewise thought no more about it for a while. (The stitch, by the way, couldn't be easier - faggotting, K1YO on one row, YOK1 on the way back. Which also coincidentally, shows off the yarn very well.)

So, there I am, considering the plannng of Spin to Knit, and I remember silk, and the scarf. This lightbulb moment sent me to the stash, and I found some glorious silks - oh, and guess what some of my favourite colours are! - which I managed to spend an hour last night working with.


spinning silk

It is quite tricky to spin silk in the way I want, to to try to replicate the scarf. To make it thicker, you need to keep the fibre supply fanned out into a wider drafting triangle with your back hand; to discipline yourself not to draft out the forming yarn as finely as usual; and to take extra care with the drafting as spinning slightly thicker increases the risk of uneveness or slubs; and all the while, treadling fairly slowly, as this isn't meant to be ultra-high twist yarn.

The proof of this particular pudding is going to be in the plying - any major unevenly drafted areas will show up as if in high magnification. Shall I be brave enough to come clean?

What I am meant to be doing of course, is organising the needlefelting workshop for Friday, and I am actually getting down to it, believe it or not. In the process, I have found some more luscious silks! Now, there's a reward.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


We've ground to a halt. The DSM is sitting in front of the rugby, I'm in front of the computer. A biggish chunk of yesterday and now today has been spent bringing stuff back into the newly decorated sitting room. Which means a lot of dusting, wiping over, washing of ornaments, etc.

Why do I have so much junk? Why do I have so much stuff that isn't junk?

So, I have taken the opportunity to rid ourselves of some of it. Elderly reference books that we don't need any more because we have Google. Bits of pottery, etc, that I no longer like, or that don't fit. And books. Elderly guides to. Even craft books. Even spinning books. Some of them I haven't opened in years, decades, even. Sooner or later this stuff will have to go as the years advance, so I might as well get in to practice. And do you know, it actually doesn't hurt a bit.

One bummer, we seem to have mislaid the Deborah Chandler book on weaving, which both of us like (whenever those rare moments have come when we have been near a fully completed loom, and one of those is coming, I swear!) I have a dim memory of having lent it to someone, but the person I thought it was definitely isn't, so....Oh, well, we'll just have to buy a new one (oops).

By way of cramming in some craft activity of my own, instead of reading in bed last night I knitted and listened to Weavecast. I don't listen to every episode of this, but very much like it when I do, it is one of the more professional ones (some craft podcasts are absolutely appalling, you know. I tried one a while back where the woman didn't have a script and did have a voice just like - oh, whatsername from Friends, which the, possibly, what do I know, Bronx-y type accent. Yikes. There are others....

But, I digress. I was listening to Weavecast, to an episode focussing on Sarah Swett specifically. I love Sarah's work. I once spent three ecstatic days sitting adjacent to "Three of Spinsters", listening to Sarah's tales and being guided by her in the gentle art of tapestry, using her own luscious handspun, hand dyed yarns. I also once sat opposite her at a dinner table when she got something caught in her teeth, so she pulled out her spindle and blagged some silk, and spun herself some "dental floss". I guess that sort of self-sufficiency comes from spending time living in the wilderness?

I have also been to classes with Sue Lawty
which I jolly well should have done as she lives just down the valley from me. Another tapestry weaver whose work I really admire, and another fine teacher. So, what I am trying to get around to saying is that I have done a bit of it myself in my time - not well, necessarily, but I have very much enjoyed doing it. And listening to Sarah last night, I was struck with lust to do it again. So to add to all the various things on my to-do list, I hope I am going to be able to fit in the spinning and dyeing of some Wensleydale for weft - to a plan, forsooth (which obviously means devising the plan first, right? - and slowly ....getting weaving.

Which really should be my mantra. Ha.

Next week, needle felting, the final days. In other words, the first of my destash classes at AH. It is fun to do, but not a passion, it can go. I shall sort out the mini-workshop, find fibre and samples, see if I can still do it myself (!).

Plus the usual. It's a hard life.....

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Expletive deleted

Which at least should make a change.

I just went off and attempted to take a couple of meaningful photographs in the sitting room. With the intention of blogging the zingy new colours on the walls.

This is in itself not an easy thing to do, as the yellow is edging close to green and appears more so the nearer to the blue you are, and that effect is intensified by the blue (pauses for breath.)

Anyway, I get a couple that give the general effect. Upload them to my temp file, remember to set the software to delete from my camera, and then go to save them to the blog file. At least, that is what I intend and what I think I do.

Hum amongst yourselves for a moment.

Lorst and gorn forever, seemingly. Wherever the software moved them to, I can't find them. Search can't find them (this isn't helped by the fact that I have a bout 30 zillion photos named temp blahdeblah.)

I give up. they weren't all that good, anyway.

Figure-toi.....cobalt blue on two walls, an acidy yellow (and it is really yellow, not green) on the other two. Dark blue with a gold figure curtains (against yellow). Carpet, and indeterminate blue-grey - it has been down for nearly twenty years and needs replacing, but we can't do everything at once. Roll on the new (natural) sofa!

It is a relief that the two painters have gone. They are nice guys and incredibly well house-trained, I'm just not good at having people in the house. I am supposed to be spending the afternoon starting to put stuff back, but I am having a few back pain problems at the moment and having cleaned off all the surfaces on the furniture, and vacced up most of the bits on the carpet, I have had enough. It won't take the two of us long to finish at the weekend (I'm out tomorrow, how convenient!)

I have made a couple of inches progress on the shruggy thing, and an inch on the current sock, as well as spinning, so the fibrous side of life has not been neglected. It is all just jogging along.

Now to hope for a sunny, breezy day so I can have all the doors and windows open to blow away the paint fumes!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Oh, no, not you again

Back from a Mothers Day visit to the mater in York.


And as we have been scrabbling about this weekend with one thing and another, not all that much fibre activity and no photographs as yet of what there is.

I was awake again at 2pm spinning, or rather, plying, more of the corrie/silk. Which although a little inconsistent, I think is going to be quite nice. I'm hoping that doing it this way, 500gm will be enough for me to make something wearable, even if it is only a "shawl". I've seen a really pretty pattern in the latest Interweave Knits. Not, I should say, as one of the ones actually in the mag, but in an advert. This issue of Not, I know, one of my usual expressions, but it probably reflects fairly accurately how I feel. The previous one was great, I thought, so I guess one can't win 'em all. I suppose, in their defence, the patterns are nearly all in the new vogue of figure hugging and fitting, and to be totally honest :-), that is exactly what I don't - ever - do. Frightening the horses is terribly bad form, dontcha know.

Speaking of which, I finally finished the Mitford Letters. For me, seriously enjoyable, on a lot of levels. Some of it was like watching a train wreck, some of it almost unbearably poignant. To my amazement, I found myself feeling extreme sympathy for Diana - not what I had expected at all - at the end of her life, with her eyesight going and her hearing gone, and her raison d'etre dead. I am sure many must think I am barmy being so fascinated by a bunch of spoiled, rich, reprehensible gels, but there is rather more to them than that. Not to mention the sharp eye of Deborah noticing an commenting on some of the major figures of their long age; plus the Mitford habit of giving people nicknames, with "Cake" being the Queen Mother (for reasons I have forgotten, but I love the image.)

In more mundane matters, the sitting room is practically cleared after sterling work by both yesterday, ready for the decorators tomorrow. And as I shall be fairly well holed up in here, I hope to get some significant work done on various things, viz:

Needle felting for AH
Finishing the corrie/silk
Sending of the paperwork for Lincoln
Working on other workshop notes
Ditto loads of samples, especially cotton

That little lot should keep me out of mischief. Oh, and I have an order from Amazon to look forward to. Ahem.