Friday, June 20, 2008

There will now be a short pause......

Because we are off to Cockermouth tomorrow morning.

And yes, I have been somewhat silent recently, mostly due to the aforementioned trip to Cockermouth which will culminate in - ta da - Woolfest. We have been cataloguing, spreadsheeting, pricing, and generally organising, which has left scant time for fibring and even less for blogging.

Still, it is nearly all done. My clothes are not yet actually in a suitcase, but are all rolled up on the bed. I have had my usual wrangle with myself over shoes, and have reduced it to Ecco walking sandals, Keens, and two pairs of Crocs. We are only likely to have one semi-semi-posh evening, ie a rather nice local restaurant, and if they ignore the glory that is above and ban me because I am wearing any of the (again) aforementioned footwear, well, phhhhtt. Or something.

My first job tomorrow morning is to take the felines to the cattery. Max and Neelix are old hands; for the kits, it is their first visit to Prison. But as laid back, happy Snowshoes, they will take it in their stride, I am sure. Will I? Ahem.

Our aim is to get to Kendal by lunchtime, and to break there to visit a Cat Show. I have promised faithfully that I will not buy any kittens. I have not promised that I will not buy any cat toys or accoutrements. There might be some really spiffy things. yes, there might. That they need. Not that I want to spend too much, in the vain hope that I will actually this time get some small chance of having a good wander around the show.

Anyway, only a short hop then, relatively speaking. And a few days of peace and quiet and gentle trippering before the Big Do. Which I am very much looking forward to. So - until later. I need to finish off the packing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Revenge of the DSM

But first, World Wide Knit In Public Day.

Eight doughty knitters gathered in town, and knitted for around four hours. With sustenance breaks, of course. We only had to move indoors once, the rest of the time, umbrellas went up. We had a lovely time, but do you know, Not One Person spoke to us about what we were doing, and very few twitched an eye in our direction. The one who really did, I made the mistake of smiling at, and she scuttled off fast. Sometimes I despair of the British.


I only took two or three photographs, and this one only shows half our number, but hey, it proves we ere there!

OK, so when we got home, I was really tired, and went to lie on the bed and have a little listen to my iPod. The DSM came in to see how I was and found me sleeping, so in revenge for the infamous mocha foam incident, he took this. Brace yourselves, pretty it ain't - well, apart from Neelix, who had decided to sleep on my head. Or maybe, he wanted to listen to Limenviolet as well?



As an antidote to that ghastly sight, here's one of Barni, looking very sweet and innocent, and terribly siamesy - normally his face looks very round, not pointy. I think he was worried about the thing I was pointing directly at him.


Phew! That's better!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Washing fleece and other stuff

First, some yarn. "Obscure Rainbow" merino/bamboo from Traci Bunkers. Very, very nice. I can't decide whether to settle for a small shoulder shawl, or a scarf, or to quietly remove some more from stock before Woolfest and go for something a bit bigger. H'mm.


Now, washing fleece. I've been, as I said, using the Wool wash programme on my washing machine to wash fleece, very successfully. Wendy has some merino to deal with, and I urged caution.

Merino is one of those fleeces that is slightly different, and not just in its fineness. It has a lot of what I believe is a form of wax in it, and is quite difficult to scour, especially given its tendency to felt. It has to be washed in very hot water, to avoid the stickiness Wendy reports. Margaret Stove advocates washing it lock by lock by hand, as does Sue McNiven for cormo which is not dissimilar.

I don't do lace weight yarns, and have never felt that I needed to go quite so far. I would wash merino by hand, sure, but I would fill a sink with really hot water, rather more than hand hot, with a good squirt of washing up liquid added after running the water to minimise foam. Then gently push in the locks so they were completely submerged, and leave until the water had cooled so that I could just manage to remove the plug, but not let it go cold. If the fleece didn't feel clean enough, I would refill the sink, not adding any more soap, and soak again. Then do this at least once more to rinse. At no time would I (really and truly!) prod, poke or agitate the fibre in any way. Honest......

Wensleydale is another, funnily enough, and I believe Teeswater as well (it seems logical) that also have a lot of wax. I haven't tried it in the machine, but I do have some that I could have a go with. There wouldn't be the felting problem, but it might end up sticky.

If I am hand washing any fleece, I would follow the procedure above, but without the water being quite so hot, and I wouldn't worry anywhere near so much about felting. As long as you don't subject the fleece to extremes of temperature, or bash it about too much, it will be fine. And obviously, the newer front loaders are gentle enough which is a real blessing. Could revolutionise my life!

OK, so whingeing does do the trick, and our SOAR confirmations did arrive yesterday afternoon. We both got in to Workshop and Retreat, me with Abby Franquemont, the DSM with Deb Menz. What a relief!

The Coven is gathering here tonight and should be arriving very soon; and I have AH tomorrow, with at least one complete beginner. It is very exciting how many people are wanting to learn to spin at the moment.

And finally - just time for a gratuitous cat photo. See how large some of them are getting.....


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sometimes it pays to moan and whinge

Because after writing here about how so little had arrived for Woolfest, the Post Office, in whichever incarnation, had a sudden rush of blood to the head and everything that could be expected has either arrived or will do so tomorrow!

Well, yippee! (Now the work begins......)

There is one package outstanding, but that is an extra, and may or may not get here in time. That is not a problem.

The box that arrived today is the Greensleeves spindles, and at a first glance they are a cracking good batch, some really pretty woods and none too heavy. I am looking forward to road testing them.

The weather has deteriorated a bit, but is still dry and windy, so I dragged out another fleece to wash. I am quite enthused about this, and about spinning fleece for the first time in....yonks, to use the technical term. This time, a Whitefaced Woodland. Seemed, out of the bag, rather nice, and indeed, it is. But.

This is a fuzzy photograph, but shows the problem clearly enough.

canary stain

Canary stain.

Do you know, I have never had a fleece with this before, but it is instantly recognisable when you are looking at a section of washed fleece. It is hard to see in the grease, it lurks inside, and the colour, so clear when washed, is obscured in the greasy state.

Fortunately, not all of the fleece is affected, so I will have a usable amount left even if I do decide to discard the relevant bits, which I think I probably will. I haven't tested the strength of the locks yet, one factor, but I may well want to dye this, and canary stain gives a different dye take-up, or so I believe.

Anyway, it is all part of the learning curve.

OK, so let's have another whinge and see if the charm works twice. Whilst all the rest of the world seems to have had their SOAR conformation emails, we haven't. I have only one word to say.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Making the most of it

The glorious, glorious weather, I mean. Quite perfect - wonderful blue skies, wall to wall sunshine, and not too hot, because of an excellent breeze. Unfortunately - this being Britain - it is not set to last. Ah, well, c'est la vie.

So, for the first time in ages I have been fleece washing. This can be a huge problem hereabouts, I don't have a bath to put an entire fleece in and I have nowhere other than outdoors to dry it. So endless damp, wet, otherwise dire days, as we have often had the last few years (and I do mean years) and none get done.

But now, I have a washing machine I can wash fleece in! It is the usual front-loader, but has a great woollen wash programme. I gingerly tried it out yesterday with a mountain of yarn spun earlier in the year, and it worked a treat. So today, I worked my way through a rather ancient "Babe" - a super Jacob crossed with something I can't remember. And it has come up really nicely. So now I know what to spin on the Timbertops next. Only decision is, do I spin as is, or do I blend? If I can get a new drive band on to my drum carder, I'm tempted to do the latter. Though, I suppose I could borrow the Guild one......gads, thinks bubbles coming up all around, could I be getting my mojo (please note, lowercase "m", no insult to any cat intended) back?

Anyway, I have also been noodling around in our immediate environs, the weather being just too nice to ignore. I took my camera with me yesterday, so brace yourselves, some of the results.



Wild flowers - lots of others, I shall have to go out again.

river 3

And the river, all dappled in the sunlight.

chicken notice

Scenes from rural life!


And the gate in question.

iron bridge

Footbridge over the river.

lichened tree

With this tree beside it (amongst many others) here, just because.

In other news - a sudden and much appreciated flurry of activity from the GPO (which dates me). One parcel to collect from the Sorting Office, another to pay charges for online and to have delivered tomorrow, and as if that wasn't enough, a Parcelforce van outside with a third offering this afternoon. So, a bit of relief, methinks. Still the most important two (or hopefully, three) yet to come, but maybe now I feel that there is a chance. Please. fingers crossing again. Which dammit, does make typing difficult.

And more - we may be about to be able to offer other and equally luscious spindles. Nothing settled yet, and not in time for Woolfest. But good news. If and when they arrive safe and sound, and that will be a while, I will post photos and generally squeak about it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

In which we discover what kittens do in the night-time

So, after the initial integration process was completed, the snowshoes were permitted to sleep on the bed with the siamese. The first night or two, they were ejected fairly swiftly for bad behaviour (one on each of our pillows batting at the wooden acorn on the light-pull, that banged so nicely on the wall behind us, that didn't go down too well, for instance.) But they learned quickly, and soon became part of the peaceful gang.

And then, we noticed that they were not joining us, first one night, then another, and another. Us human beings were somewhat puzzled.

From time to time, one of us who go down to the kitchen to see what was up - there were no sounds to be heard, a bit ominous, we thought, but they were not actually doing anything. Just sittin'. We knew they were strange, but this had us decidedly confused. Which was pretty dumb of us.

Because, a couple of mornings ago, the DSM got up as usual, fed them, turned around to put something in the bin. And there was a dead mouse on the floor. At five-and-a-half-months, one of the babies had caught its first mouse! Pride! We surmise Ruby, as the slightly smarter of the two - we have visions though of Barni body-slamming the startled rodent to the ground, that would be his style, but she is very quick, and very pawstrous. But, hey, how useful of them - we don't want the mice that we know have to be around, living as we do backed into the hillside, to have the total run of the kitchen, and we know that must have been where it met its end as the elder statesmen rarely go out at night any more.

Clever little buggers......

Otherwise, yes, I've been a bit silent. I've been gadding rather more than usual, and had a certain amount of Real Life getting in the way. Mostly, other peoples'. So, fibre activity has been fairly minimal (aargh) and involving rather a lot of frogging. My blue/green socks from handspun had to go, I definitely wasn't going to have enough of one sort, and to add the other in will work but only if done in alternate rounds. That, I think, will actually look quite good. The darker blue/green silk scarf bit the dust yet again - I can't suss out what isn't working out - the yarn is nice, just what I intended when I spun it, soft, reasonably well spun, not apparently overtwisted - but thus far, nothing has looked good. I rather fear that a proper lace pattern may have to be used.

I've finished the Chasing Rainbows merino and silk - not yet skeined, photo will follow when that has happened. And I have very nearly finished plying the Bonkers merino and bamboo, which I have very much liked spinning - it will be interesting to see what it is like of the bobbin.

I have been tempted by a new project, using some commercial yarn a friend destashed on to me, and some handspun. Based on a photo I saw in an advert, so no instructions. Just stocking stitch, but an all in one side to side construction, which I haven't attempted before. Do I hear the words disaster and recipe for in some combination here?

Mind you, I was very glad to have it with me at the cinema last night. The DSM wanted to see the latest Mike Leigh, "Happy go Lucky". I was less sure, and I was right. Irritating and superficial (please feel free to argue....) so the knitting that could be done in the dark was invaluable.

Now, we are in the final run-up to Woolfest. And I am biting my fingernails, as a good half of what should be our stock has yet to arrive. Which not only would make us look a bit silly standing at a half-empty stall, but means I can't get on with the signage, as we don't know the final prices.

Ah, well, it will or it won't. We will have a pleasant few days, come what may. C'est la vie. Or summat.