Thursday, July 30, 2009

The rain it raineth every day.

That Feste, he knew a thing or two.

Someone has thrown the dimmer switch on the daylight and turned the overhead tap full on. It is dark as dark, and water is pouring in a continuous torrent out of the sky and on to the roof - and everything else, for that matter.

Barbecue summer. That's what they promised us. Not that I trusted that, of course. that's of the same order as a politician saying that he can see the green shoots of recovery. Now, they are going - ahem, well, hum hum, we only said.......

The worst thing is, we were teased. Earlier, the Spring was delicious and the first signs of summer were if anything, too hot. Then - poof! Gone.

Ah, well. It is all part of life's rich (soggy) pattern.

Yesterday, I taught two more people to spin. From complete scratch. They got it. Now, that is satisfying. Another mother and daughter pair. Bonding over spinning. I see this a lot at the moment, all sorts of ages.

I don't - can't - get it. It is not a thing that is in my experience and I cannot relate. Ah, well, we all had a great time, and I think there is a good chance that they will stick with it. They had been given a fleece by a neighbour, generally words to send a shudder through the soul, but this was very nice. Possibly Hebridean? I don't know, but very black, quite fine, clean and in good condition. That is going to be some inducement, methinks.

As for me, I have finished the black/purple/green yarn for the punky fingerless mitts, and started a very quick and dirty spinning up of a hand dyed roving that I got at The Woolclip, one half "S", the other "Z", for a zig-zag scarf. Nothing like leaving class samples to the last minute, eh?

And now I am starting to organise the packing. Lots of different clothes needed, for "being-on-show" and for "bird-watching-in-the-rain" (more than likely).

I am consoling myself with thoughts of crab. Can't go to North Norfolk and not indulge in the local delicacy now, can we?

Other consolations will be the usual piles of books, a beading project or two and of course, knitting and spinning, but those will be with me anyway. And a few trips - especially to the Woad Farm, near Dereham. Of which more later, I hope.

There may be, with a modicum of luck, updates and pictures. That bloody mobile broadband dongle had better work somewhere.


Or perhaps, the weather will be glorious, and I will be walking on beaches with my bare feet kissed by the delicate, twinkling waves of summer seas.

Or not.

Actually, it is my birthday whilst we are in Norfolk and I have vowed to be on a beach even if it is hailing and blowing a gale for some small part of the day. So there.

Bring it on.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Could do better

That is probably true of a lot of things, but in this instance, I mean blogging.

It isn't that I haven't been doing anything, but much of it isn't blogworthy and I haven't had too much spare time to blog anyway. Although, when I actually got down to it, I found that I had quite a few things that I could photograph and record.

Many samples.

Crepe yarn

Crepe, or cable, yarn again. this took a while to get right, even though I now know the formula, achieving it is another matter! This was done using the Lendrum jumbo flyer, which therefore also demonstrates the point that you can use your wheel to assist you. The first, soft single was spun on the largest/lowest whorl; the tight ply on the smallest (I could have emphasised the point and changed the head, but that really was too much faff!); the normal ply ditto. A nice sample.


While I had the jumbo head on, a sample of chunky yarn. So much easier to do on a low, low ratio!

Woollen & worsted

These were satisfying to do. The upper yarn is worsted, the lower woollen. Both spun on the same wheel (my Timbertops) from the same Shropshire fleece. Resulting in an obvious difference, I am pleased to say! The worsted sample could have done with a slightly higher degree of plying twist. But acceptable.

Zwartbles 3-ply

This is the Zwartbles that I bought at The Woolclip, spun into a three ply for socks. It came out beautifully (slightly darker in reality than in the photo) and I only wish that they had had more. First time I had spun this fleece, and I am quite impressed. The socks will make an appearance in due course.

Speaking of which....

Stiger tripes

Generic top down socks in Opal Rainforest "Tiger". Nothing at all exciting about them, I simply fell in love with the stripey yarn. They appear here finished in all but - the toes need gathering up and ends need darning in. No Kitchener stitch for me of the pointy feet.

And finally, photograph-wise....


A slightly odd little scarf, knitted in stocking stitch from end to end to show off the yarn that I was really pleased with from a Bonkers bamboo/merino in "Obscure Rainbow." Plus a few added beads. It was a relaxing, mindless knit, as were the socks. Just what I needed.

We are having a fairly relaxing Sunday, knocking off the odd chore, but nothing too strenuous. We were in York yesterday, going via Headingly and the small but perfectly formed new yarn shop Baa Ram Ewe. In no way is that meant to be anything other than highly complementary. Yes, the shop is small, but beautifully laid out, well stocked with interesting yarns and extremely welcoming. I indulged in a little sock yarn and a couple of sets of Knit Pro tiny sock needles, intending to cast on a new pair of generic socks whilst visiting the mater. Unfortunately....that didn't happen. Definitely better to visit in the mornings. Sigh.

OK, a few more odds and ends, and then a little gentle spinning. I want to finish the witchy black and green to take with me next weekend. Should be doable, especially as I don't actually have to wash it before I leave, I can do that later.

Onward and upward!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekend at home

I suppose not strictly accurate, as we were at Guild yesterday. Just an ordinary Guild day, no workshop, but secretly I (almost) prefer those. It is nice to be able to sit and spin and gently chat with friends. I started spinning the yellow toned alpaca top that I bought at The Woolclip last month.

Now, yellow is not a colour I wear, so I am not too sure why I bought it, other than wanting to buy something as I was so impressed with what they have achieved. But it occurred to me that if I have enough, it would make a fine tote bag, and I could drag out my rigid heddle loom when I get back from Lincoln/Norfolk and life calms down a little.

If I write it here, maybe I really will do it!

We called in at Staples on the way home (shivers pleasurably) as we needed to get the folders for our handouts. Easily accomplished, plus some nice divided plastic wallets for putting knitted samples in. The DSM will cut some cards for wrapping yarn samples on, as he did before.

So today, we were inspired to go through the stash to find fibres that will be useful, and to sort out the specially purchased ones. Lots of nice stuff, I wish I was doing this course! The stash is both worse and better than I had feared. Better in that there is not overmuch really good fibre in the queue waiting to be spun, worse in that there are way too many bags of unidentified stuff left over from previous workshops that needs me to be firm with it. It Is Going Out. Binned. My life needs less clutter, economy be damned. Mind you, I do also need to get down to spinning the largeish amount of ok white top that has mysteriously multiplied in there whilst my back has been turned. And then weave blankets.

Whilst all this has been going on, I have had this up on the pc. I have been spending rather too much time glued to this. I have been enraptured by the project from the first moment it was suggested by Antony Gormley, and amazed that London had the vision to allow it to go forward. I haven't seen anything untoward, or even heard of anything. I have seen people knitting - and spinning! And representing things that they are passionate about. And being totally off the wall. Fantastic.

And yes, I have signed up. Even though the odds of being chosen are not at all bad, I have no expectation of it happening. If it does....I shall go, spindle in hand. Despite not liking making an exhibition of myself, or having much head for heights. If it will be at 3am in October, in the teeth of a blizzard. I shall still be there.

Pity it won't happen......

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Three Alston days on the trot. First, my regular one, with the attempt at fibre reactive dyeing.


blue string bag

Well, hey, look at that! It worked. It was a lot of fun, actually, and has gone a long way to curing my phobia. I felt perfectly comfortable explaining all my confusion and lack of experience, and the group and I worked together on it, with great pleasure and success.

At the same time, I had three returners who had been to the class previously but some time ago, and now were back. Remembering some things, but not everything. Two of them did pretty well, but the third (mother of one of the others) and I struggled a lot. I am always upset when I can't manage to get someone to at least spin a yard or two of knicker elastic, but this time we barely achieved that. My pupil was very deaf, which I didn't cope too well with - if I am demonstrating how to do something, I find it hard to remember to keep facing the student. But she was a sweet soul and I think, despite everything did enjoy her day.

And there I stayed for two more days on our regular annual retreat, with the DSM and I nominally teaching spindle spinning. And indeed so doing, slightly to my surprise. I had thought that we might get a group of people who were happy to spindle away for a while and then drift away, but not a bit of it. We had one or two near beginners, several who wanted to learn to ply, and many who wanted to get to grips with akhas and taklis. It was fabulous, we all had fun.

(The sharp eyed will realise that we were even in the same room.)

Alston workshop July 09

I finally felt that I had spun enough to try out something. I had come across a reference to plying on a top whorl spindle by leaving the first yarn spun attached to the hook, winding the cop on top of it, so to speak. then when done, removing the cop and using both ends of the singles as in a centre pull ball. I didn't think it was going to work at first, as a tangle of yarn created itself immediately I got started. but having discarded that, I had no further problems and managed to ply quite satisfactorily. I am not sure that I see a huge advantage - you save yourself the trouble of winding a centre pull ball, but in so doing run the risk of tangling. I might well try it again though, just for the exercise.

different plying method

(In the photo above, the yarn is only caught around the hook to show where the two ends are. If you see what I mean.)

Ah, well, back home to reality, an awful lot of catch up on housework, and the final push towards Summer School.

So much excitement - can I cope?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

An interlude

Which should properly be called "displacement activity". There is much to do, including some ironing as I have no uncrumpled clobber for this weekend. Feh.

Moreover, "interlude" carries at least for me the sense of a calm oasis in the midst of turbulence. My two tales are neither of them that.

Let's try "chaotic displacement". Yeah.

First - Ruby and the mole. Sounds very cute and Kenneth Grahamesque. Herself bounded in to the porch to greet the DSM, but was then distracted and went to sit next to the litter box, peering intently into the dark alongside it.

Bravely, the DSM investigated. "There is" he said "a creature in there, along with some sort of vegetation."

Said creature, the eponymous mole, went to ground, or at least tried to. Had been trying for some time, and the vegetation was actually large quantities of skirting board that had been scrabbled away with those big, strong moley front paws that even a baby such as this was could wield pretty effectively.

A prolonged interval involving the DSM on his front on the porch floor and a long palette knife ensued. But eventually, the baby was retrieved and put carefully into a plastic box, and transported up the lane and over the bridge to pastures new. Leaving a puzzled cat and a bloody great hole in the skirting.

We blame Rubes, rather than Barni as she is the feisty, stroppy little madam, and besides, she knew it was there!

And now - a rant. I have always considered the charges levied on packages coming in from overseas to be outrageous, but the latest lot was even more so. We tried to work it out, and the numbers did not compute. So we rang Customs and Excise. Despite my experiences over the years, I had not realised...

I had not realised that VAT is charged on the value, the duty levied (wait for it) and the postage paid in the country of origin.

That, my dears, is theft.

If I drove to wherever and brought the stuff back and declared it at my port of entry and paid the duty, would they also levy a charge on the fuel I had used?

I would like to think not, but at this point could believe anything.

Steam still issuing from ears.

OK, off to AH for three days (all that cake!) always assuming that I don't poison myself n the first day with fibre reactive dyes (don't ask.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The sea is calmer now!

And very strange it feels.

A little time to recover, and then dive back in to that which needs doing over the next few weeks.

Yesterday, we took Nancy to Manchester Airport, necessitating a v. early start, but there you go. Couldn't push her off on a shuttle, now. It was sad to see her go, we have had a such a good time, but - it looks as if she may be back next year, so that will be great.

The workshops went well. I thoroughly enjoyed working on sock heel treatments and learning all sorts of other tips on Friday.

Nancy Bush teaching

Nancy Bush workshop

Unfortunately, I have no photos of the Saturday class on Estonian lace - I did call in, but hated to disturb them all when they were all working so hard. But I hear enthusiastic reports all round.

I was on kitchen duty, which meant shopping first, and a modicum of tidying up before visitors that evening - which was lovely, rounded off the experience very nicely, as had supper at the Ridge the night before.

I am now feeling, apart from having plenty to do, just a little bit - well, not quite bereft, but there is no doubt that having had a solid two weeks of companionship with very like-minded people, being back to me and my computer feels ..... quiet!

There is nothing better than such companionship. Sunday morning, Nancy and I sat over the coffee cups and croissant crumbs and talked about knitting and spinning, teaching and being taught, students and friends. It was wonderful. And before that, there had been the whole panoply of friends and acquaintances from Woolfest and workshops and trips around and in between. It has brought it home to me how very, very fortunate I am to have such richness in my life, on top of the delight of the actual working with fibre. Who would have thought it, all those years ago before I learned to spin, and just look where that thread has travelled and the ongoing web that it creates!

(Should I apologise for hyperbole? I don't think so!)

So, where now? Not exactly a quiet life of retirement and ease. Friday, I am at Alston, and so very foolishly, I have said that I will introduce them to fibre reactive dyeing - when I scarcely know what I am doing myself, but I have told them that! Then, we stay for the annual weekend, where we are responsible for entertaining people that wish it with spindling. So work and fun mixed - n0thing new there, then.

Other than that, final prep for Summer School and maybe, just maybe, I can get to spin and knit a bit. I am spinning the Zwartbles I got at the Woolclip for a three ply sock yarn, and then I am going to spin the glorious batts I got from Daniela, also at Woolfest.

Daniela's batt

I can see in my mind's eye exactly what I want to do with them - can I manage it?

I have a new sheep in my life, one of Freyalyn's stupendous new hats.

Ruby and the sheep

Someone else likes it, too!

OK, off to soak ramie........

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Now, where was I?

Never mind where - it's HOT. That's all that I care about at the moment. Well, that's not true, but you know what I mean.

My camera seems to have gone walkabout, so any photos that I have of Cumbria and Woolfest will all have to wait and maybe go in to an image-only post at some point.

Where I am is back home in front of the computer, with the fan going full blast, trying to catch up on stuff that has piled up whilst I was away. (We have had enquiries through the website already, which astounded me!)

My week in Cockermouth was great. The DSM went back to Yorkshire bright and early on Monday morning, after a very pleasant weekend, leaving me with Magrat to wreak havoc on the neighbourhood. Actually we were quite good. Monday we went up to the Woolclip in Caldbeck, the wonderful people behind Woolfest. We had a good look around and bought some yarn and fibre. Of course. My first taste of Zwartbles, which is rapidly becoming a three ply sock yarn. Showed her some of the country backa Skidda, and Bass lake.

Tuesday I took her on a trek to Crummock, the Kirkstile for lunch, through Buttermere wih a stop for some of the ice cream they make at the farm (definitely recommended), over Honister and down into Borrowdale, a quick sprint (not) up to the Bowder Stone in the afternoon heat, and then back via the Cat Bells side of Derwentwater. Lovely.

Wednesday, we mooched around Cockermouth and bought shoes.

Thursday, we got our stall set up before the DSM arrived back, which was pleasing.....

Woolfest itself passed in a bit of a blur. The temperatures and humidity were, frankly, brutal. We had a workshop each day, only an hour, but still - and I had a talk to give on Friday not long after the first workshop. All these passed off just fine, to my great relief. We weren't overwhelmingly busy on the stall, but reasonably content with how we did. And, lots and lots of friendly people both expected and unexpected dropped by, including a different former friend from previous occasions, which was a great surprise.

And even more of one was someone coming up to me from out of the audience after my talk, and me recognising her suddenly as another old and dear friend who had crept in at the back to surprise me. I think my shriek must have been heard down at the market! It was such a thrill to see her and to be able to catch up a bit - we plan to do far more than that next year!

It was a super show again, I love it so much. My personal feeling would be that it was a tad quieter than previously, but hopefully that perception is wrong and someone will report increased numbers. We all want Woolfest to go on for years, going from strength to strength.

So, home on Saturday night, a relatively quiet day on Sunday, and then on Monday I drove the two hours back up to Hawes to pick up Nancy Bush. We have been having a blast ever since, with trips to Bettys, Adelaide Walker and the delights of Hebden Bridge, and then tomorrow and Saturday she is teaching two workshops in town. As the weather is due to break, at lest somewhat, that will be better for knitting workshops, and I am looking forward to seeing folks various.

With any luck, my camera will turn up, and I can take lots of shots of happy knitters.

'Tis all go, eh? There's all sorts of work to be done, but I'm caught up with email and bills, so that is something. It's too hot to do much knitting and spinning, but I may just have to go off and make a brew, and have a nice peaceful go.