Friday, March 27, 2009

27 March: Dyeing

And here is Wednesday's spinning dyed.

The soy/BFL is orange, the soy/BFL/cotton is purple (except that cotton needs different dyes from wool, so hasn't taken the dye), and the BFL/BFL is green.

The green is an excellent shade; most green dyes are rather blue or greyed, and a good green is hard to obtain. This was a mix of Landscape dyes in the colours Tarragon and Mustard - a sort of "salad green".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

26 March: Spinning! Texture! Spring!

At last a whole morning when I could concentrate on some spinning.

Diane Varney's book "Spinning Designer Yarns" has sat on my shelf for quite a long time, while I was focusing on spinning straightforward even (-ish) yarns for knitting. The time was ripe for trying something new. Three-ply yarn is quite simple, and offers possibilities of fibre mixes which will take dye differently - that's another exciting area waiting for exploration.

Yesterday spiral and boucle yarn was the objective. Here comes some technical stuff, so just skip to the picture if you're not fascinated by the details.

I failed to spin soy silk alone into a suitable thread, so carded soy with some BFL (Blue Faced Leicester - it's the breed of sheep that grows that particular fleece/fibre) for the core thread.

Next a loose and thick strand of BFL; when you've spent months trying to get your thread fine and even, it's terribly difficult to make it erratic, but I did my best.

The next step is to ply the thicker wrapping thread loosely and spirally around the finer core thread. Again, normally the aim is even tension and equal plys, but it was fascinating to watch the looser-tensioned thick thread spiral around the finer one.

And lastly a fine thread is used, wound in the opposite direction, to bind the whole thing together. There was enough of the core soy/BFL to do a small skein; then I used a millspun cotton thread to bind the rest of the bobbin-ful of spiral yarn.

As a further experiment, I spun a small 2-ply skein of BFL, one single finer and even and one thick-and-thin and looser, and just plyed these 2 together, spiralling the thicker strand around the thinner one.

In the photo, the top skein is 2 strands of soy/BFL each side of looser BFL; the middle one is soy/BFL, BFL, and cotton; and the bottom one is 2 strands of BFL.

They all have slightly different feels, and the different fibres should make interesting dyeing (in the next day or two), and different textures in knitting (some time).

Aside from the spinning, we have primroses, miniature daffodils, bees, and more birds in the garden. Hedges have blossom and hawthorn leaves. The lawn needs mowing.

And a great flowering of charity collection bags - 3 dropped through the letter-box on Monday and a 4th on Tuesday.

Friday, March 20, 2009

20 March: The Green Man smiles

The Green Man smiles in the spring sunshine.

New lambs are making their appearance, and the skylark has returned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

16 March: Getting out more

When DH was asked by a colleague what he intended to do with his retirement, he replied "Get out more".

With this in mind, we have got ourselves folding bikes, so that we can put them into the car and venture further afield for some gentle cycling.

So today was our first car/bike adventure. The bikes pack neatly into DH's car without having to take out more than the parcel shelf and the lid of the well in the boot. A couple of old bath sheets stop any scraping or rattling and protect the inside of the car.

We looked at the County Council's map of cycle routes in the area, and picked out a railway path that we have walked along, but never cycled.

The car park wasn't busy, apart from a couple of men lopping branches off trees and feeding them into a shredder. We got the bikes out, re-assembled them, found I'd got my cables tangled round my handlebars, untangled them, found my front brake wasn't working, re-aligned the cable, checked all connections were secure. Good. Trip to the toilets. Good. Drinks and snacks in the bum-bags. Good. Helmets and gloves on. Good. Off we go!

Rounded the corner from the car park onto the track, only to be faced with a mini-digger, men in hard hats and fluo jackets, and a big barrier labelled "Path Closed". All the way along. A couple of walkers were speaking to the man from the council, who smugly announced that it had been in the local paper for 4 weeks. A notice at the entrance to the car park would have saved us some effort, but at least we've had plenty of practice at folding and unfolding the bikes.

We folded them up again and took them to another railway track, where we enjoyed an hour or so of exercise. This afternoon DH had a little nap - I've been sitting on a soft cushion.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

14 March: Gibside

As we'd been up to Newcastle on a re-cycling mission, we decided to go to Gibside (Gibside Chapel, a NT property) for a bite to eat and a walk.

The path we usually follow goes along by the River Derwent. Beside the stream, beneath the trees - those fuzzy yellow blobs are daffodils.

I love to find an interesting old tree to photograph.

And Gibside has its own Statue of Liberty -

A bit of a lizard-on-a-column* shot, but that was as close as we got to it this visit.

One tree had been "improved" - perhaps by a fan of Gonzo?

* we have (as you may also have) a number of poor holiday photos of the ground, apparently nothing in particular, which were almost all an attempt to photograph a small and indistinct lizard; we find "lizard shot" a very useful label.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

10 March: Reliability of cars

It's a good job DH is now retired; no loss of working time taking his car back to the garage. And back again.

Last month there was a problem with the fuel leaking - a seal was replaced, but the fuel pump was mentioned. A couple of weeks ago, after coughing intermittently for for some days, the car simply stalled in the middle of the road, and wouldn't start again; the RAC had to tow it to the dealership, where the fuel pump was replaced.

Yesterday on the motorway it started to cough again. So it has gone back to the dealership again. How fortunate that I still have my little car! It's over 6 years old now, compared with the 15 months of DH's car, and I was thinking that we had no real use for it now, but perhaps that's not right. It's awfully handy for ferrying him to and fro to drop off and pick up his car.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

5 March: The Tweedy Cardi

It seems like this project has been on the needles forever, but it's under 2 months.

Last June at the Woolfest I bought (among many other things!) a batt from Wingham Wool Works - it was simply labelled "Wool/Silk", and was rolled up in a plastic bag. Grey in colour, it felt wonderful to the touch, so I happily paid £15.50 for the nominal 800 gms - it weighed a bit more than that on the scales at home.

When unrolled, this batt was full of all sorts of colours and textures, and it was split up into sections for spinning so that the different bits in it were fairly evenly distributed. The spinning was very enjoyable, and the bag full of tweedy yarn demanded to be knitted into something quite simple to show its subtleties.

Barbara Walker's book "Knitting from the Top" provided a recipe for a plain garment in a fairly fine yarn - about 17 wpi.

Working out the pattern as I went along was a bit of a challenge; and although I made notes, I'm not sure now that I can follow exactly what I did! The sleeves were a disaster the first time, but easily remedied by unravelling them and re-knitting them. The buttons chosen were another Woolfest purchase, from an earlier year.

Here are the photos -

And modelled -

This is going to be worn a lot.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

3 March: Exit slowly

That's the fourth time recently, when driving into Durham, that I've got held up behind a funeral.

Is there any sort of etiquette about roaring past a hearse and the following cars when you get to the dual carriageway? Should you raise your hat as a mark of respect? Or simply refrain from cursing the 25 miles an hour procession when you are now definitely going to be late for that meeting?