Tuesday, September 30, 2008

There will now be a brief intermission

While I take my newly acquired cold on holiday.

Hopefully, I will be over the worst of it by the time we get to SOAR, but I have some concerns about going to see Lucia di Lammermoor at the Met whilst in the throes. La Boheme would have been better, we could have coffed in harmony.

The flight may be fun too.

Ah, well. It will be great in the end!

I'll report back ad nauseam as and when.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


A fine and sunny weekend, no less.

The weekend started on Friday night, with a very pleasant dinner at a nearby restaurant that we had been keen to try. My niece is a good lass, and gathers family and friends together when it is around her birthday. It was a lovely evening, a really good meal, too.

As we came out, we were struck by the proverbial "nip in the air" - it felt really wintry. Back up at the house, where there is less light pollution, we could see a completely clear sky with stars twinkling fit to bust.

Next morning was bright and sunny, and we headed off for Masham Sheep Fair. Which felt very strange, as usually when we go there, the weather is grey and dank, if not actually raining.

Presumably because of the weather, Masham was bursting at the seams with visitors. We had a great time wandering around, bumping into friends and indeed family - his, not mine this time - and in my case spending a ;little money. I suppose that as we about to go off on a major spindle-trapping expedition it was a bit daft to buy a new Spindlewood, but it was so pretty, I couldn't resist. Plus a little fibre, sufficient to spin the yarn for a pair of socks. I started it whilst sitting on a bench in the sunshine in the churchyard whilst everyone else went off to watch the sheep races. (I have some qualms about this, and was much happier doing what I was doing.)

Suffolk sheep

A not very special photo of a Suffolk ram - love the black heads!

Jacob ram

A fine Jacob ram.

And then let's see if these work - traditional English village pursuits!

The first;

And on second thoughts, the only, as the other is so very similar, and just how much British idiocy can anyone be expected to take! Not that I am knocking Morris dancing, I love it and have known many fine dancers.

OK, so, after a greyish start, today was another lovely day. We had a few chores to do, but then decamped outside with spinning wheels and kittens. The combination was not felicitous! Felinitous or felonious, maybe......

That Ruby is one big problem. She is too bold by half, and wants to Explore, with no fear of people or dogs. Cars she is reasonably wary of. anyway, we had a bit of a wander around with them, and then sat for an hour or so and spun Shetland tops for knitting samples. All nice and peaceful. I just hope I haven't collected any more midge bites, one armful is enough, thank you very much.

Two more days!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Seeing red

No, I'm not angry. Well, no more than usual at the state of the world, and its "Emperor's New Clothes" attitude; and the lies and the spin and the cheating and the chicanery....no, I'm no more angry than usual.

I'm looking at real things.

I was out taking photographs - to which we shall come - and then, uploading them from the camera, I found this one.


Seaweed, taken at Hemmick, of course. but it fits so well with today's theme, that I include it. I like it, anyway.

Then there is this.


I am not actually that huge a fan of sedum. but today, the colour is right, and besides, they are attracting hundreds and hundreds of beautiful butterflies, swathes of peacocks and tortoisehells and red admirals (there's that colour again!) So, it earns a place here.

But what I really went out to photograph was the shawl. The dyeing is finished. I still haven't blocked it, but here we be, and let me tell you, I am thrilled with it.

red shawl

The colour is slightly more subdued than it appears to my monitor. And just exactly what I had wanted, if I had known what that was. Best of all, it does appear to be dyed evenly!

Well, zipedeedoodah! I know that technically it is my second lace shawl, but it feels like my first. The first with a lace edging, anyway, and one of those fancy schmancy real and actual patterns. So, I'm crowing (and that's not something you hear very often!)

If and when anyone sees it in the flesh, you will be amazed by all the flaws and fudges and whatevers. Say nowt. I'm just sayin'.

OK, we are in to countdown time. One week today and we are gone. There's a fair bit to do. Which probably includes a trip to Masham - well, gotta get the priorities right......

Monday, September 22, 2008

Diving off the high board

Saturday was Guild, and a good day it was too. I didn't do the workshop - quite wished that I had, as it looked interesting, but I already have a) enough projects on the go; and b) enough projects stalled and never likely to be resumed. So I decided to sit and chat, and spindle spin.

I took my biggest Michael Williams spindle, at 60 gm, much heavier than I normally use, but I have to say a dream. (Now, there's a surprise!) I wanted to spin a relatively thick yarn for me - hence the big spindle - and apart from getting going on Friday evening, I did a spindle full on Saturday. Most satisfactory.

We left earlyish, too. Errands to run. A new mobile phone for me as my not desperately old one had unaccountably died. So I have a spiffy new purple! one, a camera phone, but with a data cable this time. And it's a radio and a MP3 player. Cor - all this technology, however shall I cope?

Also had to purchase a new dehumidifier, so that we no longer have to live in a swamp; and a new fridge - things are growing in the old one and I do not mean in a good way. Plus several more lorry-loads of food for the mogs, the downside of having doubled the population overnight.

Speaking of whom, the new adults have been venturing outside. Ruby is a monster - once off the harness, straight into the lane, rushing about, getting into the Troll's garden. Ack. They have driven me to drink.


OK, I have one photograph. A really bad and pointless one, but the best I can do for the moment.

I completely forgot to take some of the ....ta da.....completed alpaca shawl, Meadow Flowers (??) from Knitters Stash. Yes, every last stitch of body and edging, the straying stitches caught in, and the ends buried.

But that isn't the end of the matter. I didn't want an off-white shawl, so it had to be dyed. Originally, I was going to use an acid dye, but slowly came to the conclusion that natural would be much more satisfying. Pondering the matter further lead me to choose cochineal, if which I knew I had both extract and bugs. And, in a hurry as usual, I opted for extract....except that when I came to investigate, I didn't have sufficient to do both the shawl and the two skeins of spindle spun yarn. So I threw in an equal quantity of lac extract.

Its still sitting out there in the dark. If you leave a dye pot to completely cool, it will often exhaust completely as well. This should give me a good rich colour, which I am hoping will be of an even coverage - I was really careful with turning it all very gently at frequent intervals. So, please......

dyeing it red

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nothing but cats

Kittens provide you with endless entertainment. Kittens are a source of great joy - and frustration. Kittens - well, who would be without them?

Kittens grow up and become cats. And those statements above hold just as true, but even more so.

Taken a few days ago......

Shall I be bad?

Barni, no doubt plotting badness, by the look in his eye. Or giving me the hard word not to even consider carding him, thank you very much!

Me? Be bad?

Ruby, quietly getting on with actually being bad, whilst Barni distracts us.

Kittens are considered adult at nine months old. Which is, for these two snowshoes, today. So here they are - all grown up.

kittens come of age

Or, just possibly......not.

The Midnight Phantom Blogger....strikes again

I do wish I knew why this happened. Off I go to the Land of Nod, happy as a sand-boy. Thirty or so minutes later, I am wide awake, probably twitching or aching somewhere. And absolutely certain-sure that sleep will not come again for quite a while. OK, so I have learned to deal with it by getting up and doing something, so it doesn't matter if I am late up the next day. But, it's a pain, really.

Anyhow. The post I had meant to do earlier (like, yesterday) and didn't get around to.

I have finally got my act together, and have had a meeting with the Curator of Pottery and Textiles at the Bankfield Museum to see their collection of spindles and whorls. I'm about half-way through, and will have to go again. Such a hardship.

There is a downside. These artifacts where simply collected. If we are lucky, there will be a tiny label attached saying where one was originally found, but not always. Now they reside in boxes, preserved but in some ways useless. No, that is not fair, they can tell us things.

They tell us that people used their spindles - the condition is not always due to having been buried for centuries. And people valued their spindles, because sometimes they decorated them. Every kind of material you could imagine was grist to the mill of making whorls - bone, stone, clay, pottery, lead, wood. Many of the spindles had shafts worn smooth and polished by hours of work. They tell us that spinning traditions travelled and as they did so, changed subtly. And they tell us that just as today, people spun all sorts of fibres - thick, thin and gossamer.

Spindle of unknown origin

This one had no date, no provenance. It is probably not very old, it has an iron hook in the top of the whorl, and it and its fibre are in quite good condition. I had to wear gloves, of course, so couldn't feel the fibre. I could hazard a guess that it is cotton, and it is beautifully spun. From where? No clue, but as there is a famous monograph by a former curator on the spindles of Egypt and the Sudan, my guess would be one of those. I itched to try it - but of course, could not.

Eastern European spindles

These were a surprise. So like the "Orenburg" spindles, two of which I have downstairs, never mastered. They were labelled "Ukraine" and "Little Russia". (Although there was another marked "Jugoslavia.) See what I mean about traditions travelling? Although fairly crudely carved of plain wood, they had simple painted bands around them in two or three places.

Spindles whorls

The first box of (mainly) spindle whorls.

Blie-glazed pottery whorl from Ptolomaic Houses

Egyptian, 2nd century BC, the only one so far of fired, glazed pottery. A pretty blue. For fine cotton, maybe?

Lead, Roman

A geographic, cultural and textile jump. Pretty, moulded, painted, again blue (I wonder if there was any significance to that?) And heavy as....lead. Labelled "Naples", so I am going to assume Roman, as I have seen pictures of other Roman spindle whorls similar.

West Indian spindle

Now, here we have a nice example of an African bead whorl spindle. Or rather, we do not. This, seemingly, comes from the West Indies. There is a story there, then. I don't think I can cope with a story like that just now.

It is, I should add, one hell of a buzz holding these in the palm of your hand, even with nasty latex gloves on. This last is a terrible photograph, but it gave me a shiver of pleasure. It is a very rough, clay whorl, quite heavy and functional, pragmatic. Except that someone has put a decoration around the rim, simply pressing a stick or something into the clay, just as I might make thumb-marks around the edge of a pie crust. I found that very touching, somehow.

(Edited - because idiot forgot to paste it in!)

Clay whorl

And then there was the whorl from "Ancient Mexico" (I haven't identified which photo it is yet.) Which as I picked it up, sent and almost electric shock through my fingers and hand and up my arm, and made me just for an instant feel cold and shaky. Now, I am not an over-fanciful type. But that was....weird.

But, whatever, I can't wait to go back and see what is in the rest of the boxes.

Edited to add an apology for the quality of the photographs - I couldn't use flash.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday is a day of rest

After a hectic Friday and Saturday.

Friday was AH, and it was a lovely day - well, it always is. But concentrated work - I had two newcomers, both very nice and very keen. With wheels, both of which more or less functioned, so that meant we got straight on with wheel spinning rather than beginning with spindles.

Learning/teaching people to spin is a funny old business. There is no rhyme or reason as to who "gets" it or when. And as I have said before, the big problem is persuading new spinners to let go of the yarn so it can wind on to the bobbin. It did not come easily to either of my newbies on Friday, despite them both being very keen. Even the magic space dyed top didn't work its magic with one of them. Although she really did understand the concept of letting the spun yarn progress on to the bobbin, as fast as she guided it on, she somehow couldn't relinquish the death-grip, so she continued hanging on to it for dear life and pulling it back out from the orifice!

But by the end of the day, we were bloody but unbowed and both of them had made huge progress, were seemingly very happy, and were both planning to come again, which can't be bad.

Now, usually after a day like that, I would drive home, demand a cup of tea, and then hit the gin bottle, but not Friday. We had to drive down to near Birmingham for a workshop with a Guild on the Saturday.

The trip down was a bit (hah!) unpleasant, what with Friday night traffic, accidents and near-torrential rain. But we made it, found where we were staying the night, and were welcomed, well-fed and made comfortable.

In fact, that process was repeated the next day, with the Guild. It turned out to be a bigger group than we sometimes have, and all very keen, so it was a really good day. Again, though, one or two had things they were struggling hard with. It is so odd - sometimes, it is the simplest little thing that you would never think would be a problem, but somehow it is!

One of the participants was the daughter of a member, around twelve or thirteen, although I am not a good judge. She found it a little hard to start, but was soon managing really well, and was very composed, not getting fraught at all. Nice kid.

I continue to be pleased and amazed at the numbers of people wanting to learn to spin at the moment. I should be keeping a tally, but it must be dozens this year alone if you count the Woolfest classes. All very exciting.

And now, the count-down can begin - To SOAR, I mean. Two weeks on Wednesday, and we leave. All I can see at the moment is the ironing (not entirely serious, there....)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Gasman Cometh

Look that up on Google, and there are around 400 entries.

Then there is Youtube.
(I should insert a word of caution here; those of us brought up with Flanders and Swann can relish their wit, and know that they were extracting the Michael from us and themselves. But to others, they could I suppose just sound desperately non-politically correct. And, I searched my mind for a good alternative to that expression because it is so misused, but couldn't manage it so it will have to do.)

The words (of the song) don't even fit the case, but they do come inexorably to mind in such circumstances.

It was indeed on a Monday morning that the gasman came to call; he didn't do any damage, just didn't have the part. And left with the dire warning that he had only been able to get so far with the diagnostics, and there could well be a fault beyond that point that couldn't be detected because ....and at that point I began to feel 1) dizzy and 2) resigned.

So, on the Tuesday morning.......two gasmen came to call, which filled me with utter foreboding, because the only reason that there might be two, there not being room for them both to work on the boiler at the same time, was to restrain the little woman should she become violent.

Which she did not, it not being their fault (although she did rather long for the good old days of the elderly gasman who would draw on his fag with a great intake of breath, and tut, and then diagnose the fault from long years of experience. Not for him these new-fangled computers and their flow-charts and diagnostic procedures, to be sure.)

So, another part is ordered, and one or more gasmen will call tomorrow morning and dare one hope that all shall be well? Oh, please!

Meanwhile - sourdough. Sourdough success! I have longed to make sourdough bread for ages and ages, but have never quite dared set out my stall to attract the yeast beasts. I think I had this mental image of capturing mildew rather than yeast in this dank little trench of ours. Anyway, a Guild/Ravelry friend offered me a cup or two of sourdough starter a couple of weeks ago, and we have been lavishing attention on it and even making a loaf or two in the breadmaker. But nice as those were, they didn't have the real sourdough flavour. which comes, apparently, from a long, slow proofing and baking.

Sunday night, we mixed the dough, and then let it sit until yesterday afternoon. As this particular version doesn't require kneading, I was able to do it, just giving it a gentle manipulation and then popping the dough into a large cast iron Le Creuset pot to bake.

Fabulous. Fab-u-lous. We sampled it last night, and will have it for supper tonight with the black kale and butter bean broth that I like to make at this time of year. That's a long, slow recipe as well.

So, despite the lack of hot water, despite the incessant rain, not all bad, eh?

Plus, looking for F&S on Youtube found me this again. So, I'm indulging. (That's the right era and rail livery to feed my nostalgia, too! If just a tad too far south.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The wrong sort of busy?

No, I shouldn't say that, really. I have been busy, but I haven't been doing fibre stuff, which is what I want to do, but I have been doing things I like.

Disentangle that lot, and I'll give you a lollipop!

A book group, loads of domestic stuff and a day trip to Warwick. Not to the castle, nor even a yarn shop, but on Cat Business. I was asked by a friend if I would help out with an admin problem, and fancying a brief change of focus, I agreed. It made for an interesting day, plus time spent with three utterly charming eleven week old snowshoe kittens, not to mention a guided tour of the rest of the family. Pretty yummy, especially the oriental bi-colour. I've tried to find a photograph of one that I liked, but all the ones on the internet have been chosen for "type" and are therefore all needle-nosed and spindle-legged. The one I saw was not as extreme and very beautiful.

Not one kitten came home in any of my pockets, much to the DSM's relief.

And that day was my best knitting day, six hours of sock knitting in the car, as the friend I went with did all the driving.

Yesterday was a filthy day weather wise, and I had to do two round trips to Halifax courtesy of the DSM's car needing some work done on it. Considering I was also jet-lagged so to speak for the previous day, I did pretty well. Also had to do a bit of prep for a student this morning.

I am sure that I have said before that I find teaching one-to-one to be no sinecure. This young woman was very good, already had the basics, and fortunately from someone who knew what she was about (a former Guild colleague). But of course, if your student already has the basics, how to structure the session? I always ask them what they want, of course, but they don't always know. This person did, and she wanted sensible things, so we did well. I took her through all the drafting methods (she had short draw, but didn't know any of the whys and wherefores, neither did she know about ratios, wheel maintenance, twists or wraps per inch, so there was plenty to keep us occupied. I had some very short Castlemilk Moorit, so got her carding that and then attempting long draw, which she did very creditably. All that plus a bit of a look at recent books, and a discussion about fibre suppliers was more than enough to render us both a bit bog-eyed.

Next week, I have AH, and then we are doing a spindle spinning workshops down in the Midlands, further away from home than usual. The penultimate Guild date of the year - just where has all the time gone?

The other fun of the weekend is that the heating and hot water combi boiler proceeded to die this morning. I got my shower, fortunately, the poor old DSM didn't. And to our complete annoyance, the very expensive 24 hour service contract we pay for proves to be no such thing, and we don't get an engineer until Monday morning. praise be it is slightly warmer today than yesterday - we had the heating on it was so dank and chilly, but there is a bit of sun today (shhh.....)

OK, off to spin for a bit. Which project to choose? The woollen samples, I think, with Babe. Nice change from bamboo. I've got some lovely coloured stuff I am itching to get to, but plain vanilla first.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


The weekend in Cornwall passed off very happily. A slight delay in leaving, nothing untoward considering the time of year; an uneventful flight. The entire trip took us only just over five hours.

The DSM's ma was in very fine form, looking amazingly well and more than up to wrestling me over who should do the washing up after breakfast each morning. We took her out to lunch on both days and had a lovely time.

But what was so astounding about the whole thing was that The Sun Shone.

Should I repeat that? I almost feel that I have to as the rain lashes down here this afternoon, yet again, and the weekend seems nought but a distant memory.

It was fine on the Friday afternoon after our arrival, and we went for a walk on the beach - and I paddled. Saturday, the sun shone for most of the day; we went up to Respryn, just at one edge of the Lanhydrock estate, walked along the river bank, and I paddled, then sat in the sun eating a delicious local ice-cream. Sunday afternoon, yet again the sun came out, and we went to Caerhays, walked on the beach for a while and I paddled! Then we sat knitting, watching all the family parties doing the timeless things that people actually still seem to do on English beaches.

By the time we came to leave on Monday, it was threatening rain, but we managed to hand over he car and get into the airport (which seems an everso slightly fanciful name for the set-up at Newquay, I have to say!) without getting wet. And enjoyed an even less eventful return flight with no hold-ups at all worth mentioning. Definitely an extremely civilized way to visit DMIL.

I took a very few photographs which I have yet to upload. Later, later.

I cast on a new Jaywalker on an Araucania yarn, and got as far as the heel (all that sitting around in the sun - that's fast for me!) Also did a fair bit of spindle spinning, testing a new one. More later, maybe.

Nice interlude, anyway. But the mogs were glad to have us back.