Monday, August 31, 2009

Here we are on August Bank Holiday Monday

And is the sun shining? No, it is not. (I think that reminds me of a Flanders and Swann ditty?)*

Ah, well, a three day weekend, and lots of nice things to do. Like visiting my mother, a super lunch with friends also in York and calling in to say goodbye to "Temporary Art Space" and hello to my niece at the Piece Hall on Saturday.

Cue for:

piece hall

The Halifax device on the gates. I'd never noticed it before.

So, what else? Well, the mail on Saturday morning had a couple of things in it. One was this:

new project bag, new project

My lovely new project bag from Roseland Bags, carrying a new project, a camel and silk scarf in progress. Nice simple knit to work on whilst a-visiting.

The other thing was - finally! - I had ordered Photoshop Elements; so I spent time installing that, and starting to play with it. So far, so good, but it will take a while, and uploading to Flickr took me a bit of hunting around to sort. Not though, on the whole, as bad as I had feared.

So, here we have, free, gratis and for nothing, two gratuitous, cropped cat pics (well.....)



As is obvious, the "fix red eye" command didn't appear to work!

Then, there has been spinning. Upstairs and downstairs - quite a bit on the ongoing dyed Polwarth, and rather less on the natural. Although there will be more later this afternoon, I think.


All of which makes a good accompaniment to working on the Araucaria crossword from yesterday's Grauniad - which we have, by the way, just finished almost as I speak. Fiendish, utterly fiendish. My role in these enterprises is to recognise the word or name as actually existing and being what the clue is asking for; or something of a talent for looking at a partially-solved clue and fitting a word in to it for the DSM to in his turn fit to the given definition.

Warped, or what??

Despite the lack of sun, and an extremely damp atmosphere, I am starting on washing the Bowmont-Shetland cross fleece that I bought at Woolfest. I had forgotten to remove it from the plastic bag it had come home in, and although you can sometimes get away with that, it has been so wet of late that it had been wicking up water from the atmosphere and not letting it go! Oops......

OK, off to wash a bit more......

* Indeed it does!

A Song of the Weather

January brings the snow
Makes your feet and fingers glow
February's Ice and sleet
Freeze the toes right off your feet
Welcome March with wintry wind
Would thou wer't not so unkind
April brings the sweet spring showers
On and on for hours and hours
Farmers fear unkindly May
Frost by night and hail by day
June just rains and never stops
Thirty days and spoils the crops
In July the sun is hot
Is it shining? No, it's not
August cold, and dank, and wet
Brings more rain than any yet
Bleak September's mist and mud
Is enough to chill the blood
Then October adds a gale
Wind and slush and rain and hail
Dark November brings the fog
Should not do it to a dog
Freezing wet December then:
Bloody January again!

Michael Flanders

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Life with a ravening predator.......

....can sometimes be too exciting.

Last night, for instance. A furry rotundity would arc gracefully over our heads. Or attempt vertical take off from a bedside table straight up the wall, only to slide back down again with a screeching of claws, and a crash landing which fortunately always missed water glasses. Although the radio did get switched on couple of times. I think she (for it was indeed Ruby) must have caught the insect eventually, as things did quieten down.

Then, this morning, she constantly interrupted her breakfast to go and check in the porch as to the whereabouts of her latest vole. Which the DSM had dispatched to dustbin heaven.

She looks so small, sweet and innocent. She isn't. She is a killing machine, and furthermore, rules her poor little (ahem) brother with a paw of iron and the language of a drunken navvy.

The excitements of the summer being passed, we can look forward to other things. Masham Sheep Fair in a month's time, always an excellent day out. I may even have some entries for the spinning, dyeing &etc comps this year, if I put my mind to it.

Then I have been doing some thinking, always dangerous, and am attempting to organise my work a little better. Some stuff already spun up - like, for instance, 250 grammes of dyed Polwarth spun S and left as singles needs to be crocheted up soon; the camel and silk might just be enough for a skinny lace scarf; the utterly yummy natural beige Polwarth I am spinning on the Timbertops at the moment is destined for a relatively simple shawl - I am thinking the top-down Birch I found the pattern for the other day; and will be followed on the wheel by some more Whitefaced Woodland as I don't yet have enough for a decent sized afghan from the naturally dyed collection; the dyed Polwarth being spun upstairs can be experimentally navajo plyed on the Lendrum jumbo flyer; and some previously spun, I have finally decided can be a circular shrug.

And if that isn't enough to keep me occupied for the next few weeks, then something is seriously awry!

Oh, and I have nearly finished the first of the green/black/purple fingerless gloves; the second will go much faster, as I have written down what I have done and don't have to reinvent myself!! (Now, there's a surprise. Another result of all the thinking......)

Photos will follow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dancing around the cauldron

Picture-heavy and unspellchecked!!

The coven has an annual tradition of a summer dye day. The idea being that as it is summer, the work can be done outside.

Unfortunately, no-one can ever be certain that the weather will co-operate, and this year we had rain and hail. With some sunny intervals, so all was not lost.

Latterly, the original coven has augmented itself for some particularly festive occasions, and let us be honest, probably to widen the range of food on offer as well. It is unusual for much alcohol to be consumed, as several attendees will be driving, although it has not been completely unknown for Arrangements To Be Made when birthdays are being celebrated. But yesterday was a regular event, so - eventually, as there was a fair amount of natter to get through first - totally sober dyeing took place.

weld dyepot

The weld dyepot. It didn't look very inspiring, but none of it was destined to remain as yellow.

cochineal dyepot

The cochineal dyepot.

indigo vat

And the indigo vat.


Cochineal coming out of the pot. The colour was better than this in real life - see later photograph.

indigo magic

Indigo coming out.

the magic happening

And airing.

overdyed weld and indigo

cochineals and indigo

Nice reds, blues and greens appearing.

t-shirt - will it work?

Experimenting on a t-shirt.


And the experiment being judged a success.

I hadn't taken much to dye this time - I'm working on a collection of naturally dyed skeins of whitefaced woodland to make a throw, and I only had two. Which are now a rich indigo and a fair approximation of a Lincoln green (well, I like to think so, anyway.) So I had fun taking photographs (as well as lunching, laughing and chatting a lot...) whilst Freyalyn did most of the hard graft.

That meant that I managed to take a few video clips as well (sadly, none of them showing anything raucous or incriminating....)

Too much fun. We should make it more frequent than once a year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Yesterday vanished in a bit of a blur of no internet access for a large part of the day (at least, so slow that it wouldn't load anything) and a back gone completely silly. A week of bending over spinning wheels, and two weeks of less than perfect beds finally caught up with me. So now I am all dopey with the Ibuprofen, but sometimes it just has to be done......

Norfolk. MY country. Nothing but Norfolk blood on my mother's side, and I lived there for my formative years, returning regularly until six years ago when my parents left. The place I couldn't wait to leave, and that I still regard somewhere, deep down, as home.

This was only the second visit in those six years, and I still didn't feel like going to Cromer, though. I'm not quite sure why - my excuse was that it would have been far too busy with holidaymakers, but that is not all of it by a long chalk (hah!)

Things I had forgotten about Norfolk:
the incessant calling of the wood pigeons (fortunately, I love the sound)
the incessant roaring of the military aircraft doing wheelies over the sea (no, I could do without that)
the hard water that means your hair never feels clean even when freshly washed
the gently rolling countryside (no, Norfolk is not very flat, at least everywhere)
the fields of wheat and barley and beet
the lorries filled with some of same thundering through the byroads

(A brief pause from all this reminiscence whilst I discover that the "delete" key on this new keyboard does not appear to be working and that "Control+D" does not delete but saves to draft in Blogger.)

(And, coffee.)

The cottage turned out to be delightful - nicely situated next door to a country gastro-pub, where we ate twice, well furnished and comfortable (apart from the bed, although I think that was mostly me and not it.) A good village shop in the next village (which went up for sale the day that we were leaving, but the DSM did not respond well to my suggestion that we investigate the possibility.....)

The weather turned out nice again, as well. Some rain, but mainly sunshine tempered by hearty breezes. Good for trippering. Not that we did that more than gently:

the sea, several times


sailing away

our two favourite potteries, Youngs and Made in Cley
the woad farm near Dereham

Baconsthorpe, which I thought I had been to before, but didn't recognize at all. A lovely place. It was grand to stand where the range of buildings had been that housed the spinning and weaving enterprise so many hundreds of years before.


(I'm trying to put a link in here, and failing - Blogger appears to have changed it's linking method, which has worked fine - I think! - for the first two links, but not this. Try Google!)

ETA: None of the links worked, so I removed them and will attempt to find out what went wrong and fix it. Or not! Sorry!

Other images:

cley windmill

Cley windmill


Chimneys near Holkham.

roadside shells

A detail from a national cycle path road sign.


Norfolk hollyhocks and brick and flint wall.


Whut?? Dead windscreens?? I couldn't resist them, they looked so ....quirky.

As usual, there wasn't time to do all that we wanted to do and have a good rest, but I think we arrived at a compromise. We are just going to have to go back sooner rather than later, eh? It was a grand few days, whatever.

And now? Well, a head bursting with ideas and projects and all sorts of plans; workshop booking for this year, next year and indeed the year after. Places to go and people to see. Feels good to me.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's play catch-up, shall we?

I had high hopes of managing to blog a bit from Summer School, but kind of obviously, failed.

Broadband issues - took me a while to get to grips with the college wi-fi. And then, well, lots going on and shortage of time and all that. Not to mention needing to switch the brain off after a hard day at the wool-face.

We drove down to Lincoln in torrential rain, which didn't improve on arrival. In fact, got worse, with a thunder storm as we were unpacking our personal stuff from the car and borrowed trailer, culminating with a massive flash and crack directly overhead as we settled in to our room.

Tutor accommodation was great, a nice little en suite room with a tv and own tea-making facilities. The students didn't fare quite so well, but I think were reasonably happy. Nice campus, compact, lovely gardens and lots of places to sit outside when the rain had gone. And the food was more than adequate all things considered.

Sunday, we unpacked all the teaching stuff and settled in to our room. We had some concerns about the shortage of tables and indeed, space, but rather foolishly were terribly British and didn't do other than assume that if there had been a bigger room we would have been given it. So our start on Monday morning was very slightly alarming when one of our students quietly mentioned that she was somewhat claustrophobic........We did ok, but it became apparent that we still didn't have enough tables and space to work at them, so I went off to see if we could commandeer part of the corridor. At that point, the college admin person was around, and when she realised that we were attempting to cram twenty four people into the space that she had been told was for twelve, we were offered a slightly larger room - which we took!

So, Monday evening was spent packing, moving and setting up all over again, but fortunately with the assistance of class members, who were a huge support and help. And Tuesday, we began again!

They were a wonderful group, every last one of them. Worked their socks off, and had a great laugh doing it. Two of them had only been spinning for less than six months, but you wouldn't have known it; several others for not so very much longer. Others had been at it for several years, but were still able to find new stuff to learn,

A selection of photos:


what you can get off a hackle!

The Beverleys


samples displayed


I think we all had fun.

There was some good sharing going on, too. Two of the participants had done the wool combing class previously, and were kind enough to give us an excellent demonstration of how it really should be done, rather than my approximation. And Meg Crowther showed us a neat way of spinning a silk cap that none of us had ever seen before. I include the video I took with permission.

The DSM and I certainly had a blast. Just hope that everyone else did as well.

Edinburgh in 2011 - sounds good to me!