Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spindle spun yarns, mainly

The Bank Holiday weather not being of the absolute best, and me being "under the weather" anyway, in the shape of a mild summer cold, spending time plying up some of the yarns that I have been spindling seemed like a jolly good idea.

Here we have, from left to right, the cormo (!! - it turned up!!), a rather luscious alpaca and merino? and silk? blend form Fyberspates, the three dyed tops for the Extended Coven Christmas project and the Norwegian top from Adelaide Walker. We also have the spindles they were plyed on - a super, heavier than I normally use new spindle from True Creations, my regular plying spindle from Avi Wasserman and a long time favourite from Forrester.

Here is the cormo, with the spindle I used to ply it (and then put the entire thing back in the spindle jar - why? Hence the loss.) This is destined to be a lacy scarf, or shawlette if I think there is enough.

The alpaca blend is soft enough for a warm scarf, the three EC skeins are for fingerless mitts (I am thinking something with short rowed cuffs for shape, and decorative buttons.) The Norwegian - goodness knows. I bought it as a new fibre to try out; I quite liked spinning it and indeed quite like the yarn, but it came out relatively chunky, not to mention hairy. So there is probably not enough for a pair of socks, and it is not next to the skin quality, that's for sure. Maybe a bag? Or some slippers, perhaps - yes, that might work.

I still have on the go the "crab apple" blend that I hackled, some Polwarth and silk and some cashmere, oh, and two lots of silk from Royale Hare that I have been spinning for ages. Just in case you should think that I am letting things slide......

It was Alston on Friday, a lovely quiet and friendly day, with quite a bit of braiding done. And there were fleece.

I really wasn't going to buy any - but there was this rather nice Poll Dorset - one of the very first fleece that I ever spun was one of these, and I have fond memories of it. So this was irresistable. And as it is a grand day today, and forecast to be good for the next couple, I have started washing it, which I consider exceptionally efficient. I'll sample as soon as dry.

A cat pic. At the moment, they are often either outside, or asleep on the bed. (Neelix is always the latter case.) We suddenly spotted the snowshoes rather uncomfortably sharing the high wall, Ruby wanting to be her usual fishwife self, but neither of them quite daring to misbehave as they were somewhat precariusly perched!

Completely loopy (them, or us?)

Otherwise, I'm knitting on three projects, the angora/silk stole, the Noro circular blanket (I've found a pattern for a square one, now!) and a pair of socks for bedtime knitting. I'm actually being quite productive, but there is a lot more that needs to be done - and that I want to do! We've got a workshop at the end of next week, and then a few days away; I have a couple more articles to write; and lots more spindling and the making of things from spindle spun yarns. Many, many ideas bubbling - and that is before we go off to SOAR, which always produces another crop.

Too much fun?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another dye day

I had intended to write this blog post yesterday, but life, otherwise those dear little snowshoes (at least, one of them) got in the way. Not totally accurate, of course - the day had turned out to be so gorgeous that we had been seduced into sitting outside in the sunshine spindle spinning. I came in eventually, just as the phone was ringing, spent a while chatting to my sister - for it was she - and was then thoroughly distracted by A Strange Noise.

Having failed to track down the source, I called for reinforcements in the shape of the DSM, who came to the conclusion that Something Was Behind The Washing Machine. Moving same is a nightmare in our kitchen, but he got it out, only in the process managed to tug on the cable, which meant that there was a violent green flash and we lost power in the kitchen - but I digress.

There in the gap, behind the water supply pipe in fact, was yet another ruddy mole, scrabbling furiously to get out. It did get out, but courtesy of the DSM's gloved hands. Did you know that if you catch a mole and put it in to a large plastic box to transport it to safety that it will scream? Very loudly? Most disconcerting!

Ruby, we presume.

Anyway, Saturday was Bradfors Guild's annual away day when we can dye. This year, it fell to me to lead a workshop using natural dye extracts, to fit in with our on-going theme of "innovation" in textiles and materials (I am doing a workshop on the new fibres early next year) Dye extracts are the simplest of things to use; I took along a reasonable range, and a great deal of fun was had, at least, that's how it looked to me.

I had prepared detailed instructions, gave a rapid introduction, and then let them at it - I stayed in attendance to field questions, problems, etc, but managed to get quite a bit of spindle spinning done as well!


A strong logwood dye pot caused much excitement.


indigo pot

I had also taken some instant indigo, which generally goes down well. I am perfectly capable of making an indigo vat (although I have yet to do it by the urine/fermentation method) but am very happy to just add water and stir most of the time. Unfortunately, I still don't know of a UK supplier for it, only pre-reduced which is not quite as simple to use.

indigo pot

Logwood, logwood exhaust, osage, quebraqcho red and indigo

Logwood, logwood exhaust, osage orange, quebracho red and indigo in this photo.

I hadn't used one or two of the colours before. "Teal" is a mixture of I know not what, but, hey - wow!


osage, teal, logwood, quebracho red, sorghum

In this group shot, we have quebracho and logwood again, but also chestnut which was supposed to and pretty much did give a teal-type blue when overdyed with indigo, the teal extract itself - note particularly the different colours because of the different wool fibres - and in the front another new one to me, sorghum. I really liked this rusty red shade, and will be using it myself very soon.

Dyeing workshops are always a bit of a lottery and not necessarily my favourite thing to do, but I did enjoy doing this one. I hope the Guild member enjoyed it too!

Given that I have been doing, not surprisingly, a fair old bit of spindle spinning, I'm hoping to get a post on what I have been up to recently done. Meanwhile, can anyone tell me a) why this house is such a black hole and b) where my plyed ball of spindle spun cormo is.......


Saturday, August 14, 2010


Probably, for a while, done in - but today is a new day, and I am recovering, so....

I was right. It was not fun. For starters, the clinic I attended on Monday had booked me in at a time when the doctor had a difficult timed procedure on the go, so I had to wait around a lot. She was really nice about it, and made the sensible decision that it was better for her to finish that job and then attend to me. No-one's fault but the computer's, apparently.

She was also very nice about my apprehension, explained things very well, got a nurse in to hold me down (only a slight exaggeration....) and then when the damn process took longer than any of us had expected, kept apologising and giving me updates. Oh, and I swear, extra anaesthetic in the eye.

A thing a bit like a mini jeweller's loupe gets popped on to the eye - hence the anaesthetic - and the laser is targetted through this. Talk about getting ducks in a row - line it up: bambambam. Resight: more bamming. On and on and on. I felt like a bizarre sort of fairground sideshow. The giant head firing range.

It didn't hurt one bit, except that I had to sit braced in the frame for ages in a most uncomfortable position, and body parts kept cramping or otherwise complaining. The only really disconcerting thing was when she had finished and I could sit back and have the lense taken out - and I temporarily couldn't see. Vision came back quite quickly, though albeit rather blurry.

But - it is all over. (Nearly - I have to go back for a pressure check as mine is high borderline, but I think she is being super-careful.) I will now stop whinging...

The doc - most interesting. Very cool and professional. But wearing the coolest (in the other sense) outfit I have ever seen a doctor wear. Bright red fitted top, with ruching detail. Black subtly "puffball" or "parachute" style skirt, bang on knee length. Black tights with a red seam (She kicked up her leg and showed me when I told her I loved the skirt!) And high but not spindly heeled shoes. Very stylish and elegant. I think quite a few statements were being made there!

And there is other news. When I got home, the postman had been and Yarnmaker had arrived. So often people have said that they yearned for a UK-based spinning magazine, it took the courage and vision of Dot Lumb to actually do it. The first edition is great, and I am sure that it will be a success.

I think on both counts I need to say "Oh, brave new world....."

(OK, I'll slink off now.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ducks in a row!

It can be done! Even if not quite in the way I had originally intended......

We had a lovely, lovely day on the canal, despite not-quite-perfect weather. There was only one heavy shower, and that early on, but the wind was strong. Which meant some difficulties steering, and also that it was quite chilly at times. But I am so not complaining.

Although the section of the Leeds/Liverpool canal that we were on runs quite close to a busy road, we were barely aware of it.

There were quite a few other boats around, despite some of the locks being closed, but a lot of them were day boats like us.

And there were more critters around, too, although perhaps not as many as we had hoped. I loved this brood - there were several large cygnets, but I couldn't photograph them all together because they kept shifting around most unhelpfully as they tried to con us out of some of our lunch.

And towards the end of the day, this little lot. Could this be any more Constable?

And then, we had a little adventure. This particular section of the canal has a lot of swing bridges. And despite there being a party not all that far ahead of us who had just gone through, when we arrived at one particular one, we could not shift it. We enlisted the aid of some passing cyclists, but still couldn't do it. And then fortunately, a larger boat came along, and the combination of pushing on the bridge in the normal way, and ramming it with the boat succeeded in getting us through. We left the bridge open! (It was, thankfully, a field bridge, not a road one.)

What is more - look carefully at the image, and you will see a balloon floating. Which read "Happy Birthday, Grandma". We did of course exchange suitable birthday greetings.

I used to think that I came from a long line of Norfolk poachers (actually, partially true). But after yesterday, when not having steered a narrowboat in many a year, and having the skill return quick smart and most satisfactorily, I have decided that I must have bargewoman bloodlines. And natuarally, my desire to go and live on a narrowboat has returned in full force. Although I do take the DSM's point that we would have trouble fitting in the stash........

I had intended to spin and knit, and went fully equipped, but in the event merely did a token amount of each. If I wasn't steering, I was very content sitting quietly watching the watery world go by.

OK, more fun, fun, fun tomorrow - not. Report later.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Something of a relief

I had my appointment with the consultant about my eye yesterday morning. I had not been looking forward to it - imagination working overtime and all that.

I got myself all psyched up, insisted on an early start because the traffic was likely to be bad, all the usual.

No traffic - there way too early, but at least I had the first slot of the day, so the wait wasn't too bad. Nice nurse does a quick eye check "What can you read off the chart if I cover up the good eye? Er - chart??" (Not quite, but near enough.)

In to see the great man, who slides me quick smart into the torture machine, ie the gizmo you rest your chin and forehead on so that they can stare intently into your eye with an insanely bright light.

Va va voom. Gabble gabble. Scribble scribble. Yes, it is what we all thought (phew!) And it was at this point I was expecting the "but....."

And none came. First available appointment for da lady with da laser. I asked my questions - and to my great relief, my biggest concern turned out to be a nothing at all. Apparently, a vitreous detachment is a one time only deal, once it has happened, it has happened, and cannot happen again. Well, hot damn.

But yes, there will be floaters. He has put me down for a "gentle" lasering. I am - I think - somewhat reassured. The best news of all was that I could have it done on Friday morning!! Yes, the next one. So, not long to wait before all will be revealed all over again. Just going to keep my fingers slightly crossed just in case there are any nasty surprises like last time......

So, I came home and duly rewarded myself by playing with fibre. I had done a demo of creating a multi-coloured roving a la Deb Menz at AH last time, which I had started spindle spinning and very much liked the look of. So, having more of the same fibres - red, mid and pale pink, apple green and tussah silk - I made some more.

A loaded hackle.

Dizzing off.

Resulting fluff. (I will eventually post photos of the yarn.)

These pics are to my eyes showing rather redder than actual. The darkest colour is more like a strong raspberry, but is pretty dominant in the yarn. Quite nice, anyway.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and we have a Grand Day Out planned, a boat on the canal from Skipton for the entire day. We have to leave early, so we shall have picnics for both breakfast and lunch and then find a pub - or possibly fish and chips - for supper. We both of us love narrow boating, and haven't been able to fit in a holiday on one for ages, so this is going to be a real treat. The weather forecast isn't too bad, the food is planned, the books, binoculars, spindles and knitting organised.

How long did I say we were going for?

Thursday, August 05, 2010


I noticed as I published the post yesterday that it was 4th August - and that 5th August 2004 was the date that I started this blog. Six whole years.

When I did, I had no real idea where I was going with it - and I guess I still don't - but going it is, and reasonably well. There is the occasional hiatus, but nothing too shameful. And, probably most importantly, it does what I wanted, which is to keep me focused on spinning, dyeing, knitting &etc.

Even through this year thus far, which has been for us personally a difficult one, I have been able to sometimes ignore trials and tribulations, and concentrate on what is most important. Sometimes, that happens subliminally.

I wrote yesterday that I had ideas buzzing around in my head that I need to work on, and come to some conclusions. I woke up this morning, and those scattered ducks (or more properly, ducklings) had skittered themselves in to a provisional order, and I could suddenly see where I wanted to head. It is going to take a while to really come clear, and I am still intending to take my much needed August+ "holiday". But I am feeling quietly (and annoyingly, because I am not going to expound upon it as yet!) excited.

Here's one of the first photographs I ever managed to post on this blog, and something of a clue.

Lap rug!

And because they are after all the most important things around here, is an old one of the cats:

armchair hijackers

Max the seal point was still with us then, of course, but although they leave us they are never forgotten. And I love this photo - I titled it "Armchair hijackers". These days, they mostly take over laps, or occasionally, the Ryeland sheepskin in front of the fireplace.

I should really include one of the DSM, but perhaps I will leave that until next week, when it is my birthday, and we have a Grand Day Out planned. Of that, more anon.

As some sort of a celebration, we are being told that there is a chance of seeing the aurora tonight, courtesy of the recent massive solar activity. I'm not convinced - there has been a lot of cloud of late, and it is only a long shot. But I am off to Coven, and I will keep my eyes peeled. That would be a treat indeed. Otherwise, I shall have to make do with cake from Bettys!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Knit Nation

I'm certainly glad to be home!

But having said that, I am extremely glad that I went. It was a great event, very well organised, tutors all where they were supposed to be, helpful volunteers to point you in the right direction if lost, super market, lots of lovely people.

Slightly to my surprise, I ran in to many, many people that I knew, most of them entirely serendipitously - including those that I knew were going and that I had arrangements to meet at various times. I would come out of a door or go round a corner and there someone would be, just in time for a meal or ready for a chat. It was fabulous! I had been emailing back and forth with the friend who was coming home with me, and we had come to the conclusion that I would probably have to track her down to her teaching room. But I headed out in search of dinner on the first evening, and there she was, together with another person that I had wanted to find. So we went off in a gang and had a lovely Indian meal and a good catch-up.

The next morning I had no class booked, so I had a leisurely start and got in to the market early. I was not intending - and succeeded, more or less - in buying all that much. But I had Wollmeise in my sights.....

(Erk! Flickr has gone and modernified itself whilst I have been away, and I am not sure what this is going to end up like. Fingers crossed.......)

It was pretty impossible to take sensible photographs of the Wollmeise stand, because of the crush of people around it most of the time, and the enormous choice of yarns. So, hence just a tiny flavour. I bought three sock yarns ofr me, one as a gift for the poor, abandoned DSM, and a big skein of lace weight, also for me (oops.) Apart from that, one plait of pretty dyed fibre (not all that much fibre around as one should expect at a knitting event, I suppose) another set of Knit Pro dpns, a shawl pattern and a beautiful large button destined to be a shawl fastening one day. Oh, and a Knit Nation tote to put everything in!

I went to the Ravelry talk given by Jess and Casey that night, and was very glad I had done so. Most interesting and they seem an engaging as well as talented pair. Next day in the market, I was a shameless groupie.....

This was after my second class, which had meant an early start, as not only did I have to get breakfast, but as I had screwed up my lodging booking, I also had to pack and check out, ready to move to another student residence for Saturday night.

I treated myself to a taxi ride. Ulp. Expensive, but actually, well worth it, as not only did I have a lovely old-fashioned London cabbie from Essex, but the ride across the city was both interesting and terrifying. By this time, I was becoming somewhat overwhelmed with the constant noise, and seeing the huge crush of people everywhere made me realise just how much of a country mouse I have become - and glad to be so!

I did also manage to get a glimpse of the ship in a bottle on the fourth plinth, so that was cool.

Anyway, I had a peaceful night, and then hiked over to Kings Cross to meet N and get the train home - a lovely, uneventful ride with plenty of time to chat, admire the green or gold fields and KNIT!!

Monday we spent more or less just mooching around, with more knitting and chatting - oh, and a very little spindle spinning. Then yesterday, we took N up to her next port of call in Reeth, going via Bettys in Ilkley and the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop. Where we all spent money, not just me! Even the DSM - some dark Wensleydale fleece and a pattern. It was a lovely day out, but a long drive, and after all the recent excitements, I am somewhat.....knackered.

I need some time to process a lot of stuff. In the last few weeks, I've had a lot of good conversations with various people, have discussed many possibilities and potential projects, and I need to get my ducks in a row. Actually, we both do. So, we are going to kind of take the rest of the month, and maybe rather more, as holiday. Well, apart from a couple of workshops........

Watch this space.