Friday, December 31, 2010

31 December: Thaw

It's been warmer (well OK, less cold) for a few days, so the snow and ice are slowly melting. The pavements are less icy today than yesterday, although the ice that remains is dirty and oily, so they still need care!

Anyway, we were able to get out for a proper walk today, rather than just round the block, and feel much better for the fresh air and exercise. Along the old railway line was a small flock of goldfinches, chaffinches and tits, the little birds darting in and out of the trees and bushes. In a crop field on one side were a whole lot of thrush look-alikes that we think were probably fieldfares, though getting the camera out unfortunately frightened them away.

All the ditches were full, and water ran along the lane. A boggy bit of wood pasture at the bottom of one field has a ditch more like a stream.

Still some scraps of snow under the trees further away.

Friday, December 24, 2010

24 December: Cactus

On the kitchen window sill is is a Christmas cactus -

Probably not really a cactus, and doesn't often flower at Christmas. But this year...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

21 December: Bored

So I thought I'd change some colours. Spring ones are good. There might be more changes. Will anyone notice?

Monday, December 20, 2010

20 December: Cold

Round here the temperature has barely crept above zero for days. This morning the thermometer in the conservatory (unheated since last winter) showed just above zero, when it has been hovering at 4 or 5 degrees. The windows were pretty, though -

Fortunately I have just finished a lap blanket which has been in progress for a couple of months.

The grey Shetland is handspun from a fleece bought at Woolfest, and the coloured squares (because there wasn't quite enough grey) are knitted from handspun Shetland yarn, home-dyed, from the stash.

Another cold-beating item is this cowl or neckwarmer knitted from some handspun merino. The drop-stitch pattern makes it stretchy and extra warm.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

15 December: Ice wave

The snow and ice are gradually melting away (except on the pavements locally).

The heap of snow in our back garden is making some strange shapes as it thaws. This one is rather interesting -

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11 December: Recent knitting and a small success

The snow has meant we haven't been getting out much. So a fair amount of knitting has been done. A couple of larger projects are still in progress, but here are some small finished items -

This is a scarflet (short scarf), knitted as a tube, in one-row helical stripes, with the ends closed to make it double thickness. Handspun BFL - super soft and silky.

And 2 sideways short-row hats knitted from the recent batches of spinning and dyeing -

Nice texture, soft yarn, and lovely mixed colours. The plainer green one was done first, but if one colour's good, then 2 are better, so a quarter of the second hat is done in a yarn with colour in common with the larger yellow section.

And, finally - last Sunday's 18M FITA archery competition gave me a winning gold medal -

Not exactly a huge victory, though; I was the only archer shooting bare-bow. And that's the bow that's bare, NOT the archer!

Monday, December 06, 2010

6 December: Silver (well, more skewbald*) surfers

My brain hurts.

My Dear Husband has got a new laptop, and we have been learning lots about transferring files and applications. And there's a lot to learn about asking the right question - tricky when you only have a vague idea of what you want to do, and not the correct words for it in computer-speak.

Although we have a big fat instruction book about the OS, it is still very difficult to find the bit that refers to the problem you are trying to solve. And of course, there's the side-tracking; like the hour or so spent trying to find out why the book refers to, and illustrates, a mailbox called "Junk", and there isn't one on our computer. And, apparently, no way of finding out why.

He's got the laptop connected to the Internet OK, but there's still the problem of how to use it to access the e-mails that are on the desktop computer.

Anyway, in the end we got the Family History programme onto the laptop, along with the file of his FamHist. And I managed to retrieve several weeks' worth of work on my own FamHist file from the Trash .....

(*one grey head, one brown.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

29 November: Snow

Another snow picture.

Our garden bench, in the sheltered corner. I knocked some snow off the shrubs and trees in the garden and topped up the bird feeders, while my Dear Husband dug the car out and cleared the front drive.

Our estate is always difficult when it's icy and snowy, so I waded up to the main road to see what conditions were like there. Just about passable, though there was an abandoned vehicle. The were buses getting along OK but cautiously.

Very few cars have even tried to go up our street, but there are plenty of people out, all cheerful in adversity. And a day off work, from the look of it.

Plenty more to come. How fortunate that we have a large supply of woolly hats, mittens and scarves.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

24 November: Another marker

Have you had your first Christmas card yet? We have.

Any minute now the neighbours will be out with their stepladders, hanging up the outdoor Christmas lights.

All together now - Bah! Humbug!

Monday, November 22, 2010

22 November: Winter draws on

Just as the first lawn-mower indicates spring, so the first snow-plough indicates winter. There was a snow-plough going along the A167 near Croxdale this morning - be warned!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

16 November: Botanic Garden

Happy Birthday, Dear Son!

A trip to the Botanic garden in Durham, in brilliant sunshine. An early lunch in the cafe - new sofas since our last visit - then a wander round. We passed a man with a camera on a tripod, photographing a hat and coat artfully arranged on a bench. He could have been anywhere.

I took a few snaps - white birches along the stream -

Underfoot, some seeds, shoots and leaves -

Lichens on a rope by the path -

Oh look ! There are some rare breed sheep grazing in the arboretum -

Manx Loghtans and Hebrideans. This Manx Loghtan ewe let me take a closer view -

Monday, November 15, 2010

15 November: Batts now skeins

Those deeper dyed batts are now skeins of yarn. This time the colour combinations were varied, so that half the skeins are the more obvious blends, and half are different mixes.

It might take some time to get round to knitting them, though, as I've just started on a shawl, and there's little time to knit anyway when you're playing with colours.

Monday, November 08, 2010

November 8: More yarn

The batts that were dyed recently are now yarn. They were carded together in pairs, spun and then the different coloured singles plyed together to produce interesting coloured yarn -

The resulting colours were not exactly as might have been predicted from the original batt colours; a demonstration of how much colours affect each other when put together! There's a skein of undyed yarn from the same fleeces, and yes, all of them are full of slubs and nepps, or "texture".

Anyway, that was so much fun that I've done another batch, slightly deeper colours this time -

They will sit for a while to be contemplated before a decision is made about colour combinations.

Monday, November 01, 2010

1 November: Apple Ginger

After drying out clothing and equipment from yesterday's Roving Mark and Novelty Clout shoot (aiming arrows at pumpkins about 150 yards away across a deer park), I spent the morning slaving over a hot stove trying to reduce the huge quantity of apples from our 2 little trees.

There was a recipe in a 1940s booklet of my mother's which looked interesting, so 3 lbs of apples have become 5 lbs of Apple Ginger.

Having plenty of ground ginger and none of the root ginger listed in the recipe, I substituted, guessing the amount. Well, even if there's too much for other people, I like ginger.

Friday, October 29, 2010

29 October: Dyed batts, and a close encounter?

First, Happy Birthday to OGS (Older GrandSon)!

Remember those carded batts piled up in my work-room? Well, some of them have been dyed -

The orange shades are particularly yummy. Each batt is quite small, about 30 gms, so I am now wondering whether to card several together to make a bigger skein of yarn; if so, which colours should I blend together; and then should I spin different coloured singles; and then how should I ply them together. So many options.

To change the subject completely, a couple of evenings ago, this vapour trail appeared over nearby houses -

Perhaps the pilot changed his mind about where he was going, or practicing the air equivalent of a handbrake turn, or perhaps the satnav was throwing a wobbler - or was it Visitors from Outer Space?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

24 October: Carding - done?

So now there's no bits of fleece all over my workroom, but a huge pile of batts.

These batts are a blend of the 2 fleeces I started with, and the plan was to blend the batts together further with another pass through the carder (they've been through twice so far), then dye some or all of them. But the amount is rather more than expected.

And there's still another fleece to be dealt with ....

Perhaps the next step will be clearer after a cup of coffee.

Friday, October 22, 2010

22 October: TV knitting

That is, knitting which is simple and straightforward, and requires no thinking or working out the pattern while it's being done.

First are these simple mitts -

Handspun Shetland yarn, helical stripes, easy thumb shaping; they're a bit big for me, but a gorilla might like them.

Then there's that good old stand-by for simple knitting - a scarf -

Handspun merino/silk in Old Shale pattern, sometimes called Feather and Fan (I don't know if there's a difference). It worked out eventually about 6 inches wide and 57 inches long, but isn't as soft as I would have expected. Perhaps it's the garter rows.

The mitts weigh 42 gms and the scarf 100 gms - so not even a small dent in the stash.

And there wasn't much TV involved either, as few of the the programmes recently have appealed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

19 October: Carding

Had to stop for a moment - slight carding mishap, don't want to get blood on the fleece. Now there's a sticking plaster on my thumb, I can take a photo of the work in progress -

Three-legged stool at the back to sit on, drum carder on low stool, tray on table with current pieces of fleece and doffing needle, remains of fleeces on floor behind stool, and on jersey-drying trays at the front, carded batts in big paper bag, small bin for rubbish. The fleece on the floor is whiter and more Shetland, the one on the drying racks is more BFL and very light fawn/silver with brown patches. The aim is to blend them. The BFL one apparently liked rolling in sand, judging from the amount of it left after washing.

Must speak to Dear Husband about lack of coffee mug.

I'd like to dye some of these batts, but can't find any information about dyeing fleece before scouring and spinning. It must be possible, as I have spun some Estonian batts of varied colours that were still greasy.

The only thing to do is try it - when the carding's all done, of course.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

17 October: Yarn problem

There's so much of it. The new wheel seemed a bit strange, with a tension device that works (the Little Gem had grown a bit slack), so it has taken a few days to get used to it. And 500 grams of black Shetland tops that happened to be in the stash. Now 500 grams of yarn.

Now there's still that black Shetland fleece, all carded and ready to be spun, in a bag. And since Tuesday's Wool Event at Lanehead, there are 3 more fleeces waiting in line.

2 have been washed; they are Shetland/BFL crosses, maybe white eventually, but one has a patch of brown in it. Perhaps they will be dyed. The third is a pale moorit Shetland, which hasn't even got washed yet - waiting its turn while the bathroom is still full of damp Shetland/BFL.

Meanwhile there are 6 plastic crates packed with yarn (and the odd bit of roving), still not yet worked up into anything. I'm knitting like mad, but there's years' worth of yarn to get through. In fact, I'm in a good situation if I can't afford to buy more yarn, thanks to our dear government.

And just a note to them - instead of messing about with Child Benefit (one of its purposes, if you remember, was to put some cash into the hands of mothers whose husbands hold tight to the purse-strings, and that problem can affect all income groups), and replacing it for the rich with some tax complication, why don't they just take more tax from the better-off? Or even get the money back they gave to the bankers.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

9 October: New wheel

My new Suzie Pro arrived yesterday tea-time. I wasn't expecting quite so much assembly to be needed, but it didn't take long (and there were only a few screws left over!).

Here she is -

I spun a very small skein from Shetland tops as soon as everything was together. In comparison with my Little Gem, the new wheel is much smoother, and the draw-in is more sensitive - it'll take some getting used to.

And there just happens to be a whole Shetland fleece freshly drum-carded, waiting in a bag on the other side of my newly tidied and re-arranged work-room - or should I say play-room.

Monday, October 04, 2010

4 October: Kingfisher!

As we walked across the road bridge over the River Wear at Sunderland Bridge this morning, my Dear Husband and I watched a kingfisher repeatedly darting across the river and diving into the flow (deep, fast, and brown after all the rain at the weekend).

We were delighted - the first time he has ever seen a kingfisher alive and flying, and only the third time I've seen one. I saw one many years ago near the Uni playing fields in Durham, and one last summer at Low Barns, a Durham Wildlife Trust place.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 September: Finished jersey

The first version of this jersey was begun in June, but after knitting the top-down circular yoke all the way to the armholes, I decided I didn't like it, unravelled it and started again.

The yarn was spun from a mixed batt of fibres, labelled "90% wool 10% other natural fibres", and the wool was pretty mixed. By the time I had knitted halfway down the body, it looked as if there wouldn't be enough yarn to complete long sleeves, so the stripes were added, in sort-of matching shades of handspun BFL. After completing the cuffs, bottom ribbing, and the neckband, there were about 40 gms of the main yarn left.

I'm very pleased with it - it's lightweight (522 gms) and warm, and a completely unique pullover.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

22 September: Grey Shetland

The last skein spun from the grey Shetland fleece from Woolfest was drying when we went away for the weekend. When we were at Wicken Fen, I bought a lovely basket, woven by Nadine Anderson from rushes from the Fen. Here they are together in the garden -

The fleece was spun in the grease (and dirt!) and the skeins washed after plying, using M & S's Wools Silks and Cashmere non-bio laundry liquid. The fleece was different shades and different softness in different areas, so I mixed bits from various parts together. There is a pleasing variation in the colour.

There's 653 gms altogether, and I have no idea what it will become, or when.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

21 September: Cambridge

A weekend visit to the family. We explored Wicken Fen -

- where there is a wooden windmill that looks like a proper windmill.

There was a walk around Cambridge, where there are punts on the river -

(bet you didn't know that....)
And we went to the village show. Dear Grand-daughter won a second place with her flapjack (and we can vouch for the excellent flavour!), and Dear Daughter won a first place for her Spiced Damson Chutney -

Sunday, September 12, 2010

12 September: Busy

It was a hectic week - 2 long journeys in search of archery equipment, then for me a day demonstrating spinning; and yesterday I went to a Guild workshop, while my Dear Husband went to an archery competition.

The spinning demonstration was fairly quiet, and I got plenty of spinning done - I had dyed 3 pieces of fibre and they were spun randomly, then plyed and wound into this ball of yarn -

It's 121 gms, with a further 3 gms in the small skein, all about 19 w.p.i.

This morning I was doing some trimming in the garden, and decided to use some of the leaves to experiment with solar dyeing. There are leaves from the rosemary bush and a Japanese acer in this jar, along with about 30 gms of wool fibre. The jar is on the sunny windowsill in the conservatory, and will remain there for some time - don't hold your breath!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

7 September: Surprise

Yesterday evening my Dear Husband was watching a programme on BBC HD, about the architecture of Durham Cathedral. The presenter, with a climber and the cameraman, all climbed up ropes on the outside of the nave, then later across the interior below the roof, and round the corner of one of the towers above the river.

When they were dangling from the wall of the nave, there was a shot back to the main doorway, and who should be standing there, taking a photo of the climbers, but bob the bolder - go see his photo here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

28 August: Wild Yarn

The Wild Fibre was plyed with the pale yellow single. There wasn't enough of the yellow, so the rest was plyed with a black Shetland single left over from the other batch of Wild Fibre. Here's the result -

There's a total of 183 gms of yarn there - what shall become of it?

There was another bag of fibre, which was plyed with black Shetland, producing this somewhat quieter yarn -

- of which there is 156 gms. Interesting to spin, and definitely a welcome change.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

26 August: Wild fibre

It was time for a bit of a change - a fawn and white fleece bought at Woolfest has been spun (in the grease, and then the skeins washed)) -

- and a black Shetland fleece, from RSPB Saltholme, has been washed (love that wet sheep smell in the bathroom!) -

- and I needed a bit of colour. So I spun a 100 gm bag of Wingham WoolWork's "Wild Fibre" -

Some basic English fibre, from P & M, has been dyed and spun to make the other ply; I have no idea how it will turn out, nor what it might be used for.

Friday, August 20, 2010

20 August: A century

My mother was born 100 years ago today. Here are some pictures of her -

In this first one she was probably about 6 or 7, and it was probably taken when she was staying with her grandfather or an aunt and uncle. Wonderful outfit! I'm not sure if the finishing touch is the lace trim round the knees of her drawers, or the ribbons tying her shoes.

The next one is perhaps a little later, but not much, as her father is wearing the uniform of the RFC, which became the RAF in 1918.

And here she is with her children, my brother and me (I'm the cute one), in 1947. Those shorts look knitted to me.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

8 August: The Saltholme bags

This project started back on 27 June, when Guild members were demonstrating spinning at the RSPB place at Saltholme - they have a small flock of Shetland sheep keeping the grass short, and it was shearing day.

I returned from there with a black Shetland fleece, a black Hebridean fleece, and half a grey Shetland fleece. (To add to the 2 Shetland fleeces bought from Woolfest.) My fibre preparation skills have had a good deal of practice since then!

The grey Shetland and the black Hebridean produced some tough yarn, so weaving seemed best.The warps were arranged in groups, black at the edges, then 4 grey alternating with 4 black, then a middle section of 2 grey alternating with 2 black. 3 separate sections were woven, the first one with black and grey wefts in varying groups; one with an inch of black weft alternating with 3 inches of weft in a multi-colour wool/linen yarn; and the 3rd section with a weft consisting of one strand of black together with one strand of grey.

The first 2 sections have now been made up into bags -

The straps are the same yarns woven on the inkle loom, in a tweedy stripe for the black and grey bag, and in an interwoven pattern for the multi-coloured one - this inkle has a narrow stripe of the multi-coloured wool/linen yarn between the border and the central pattern.

Both bags are lined with home-dyed cotton fabric from the quilting stash - purple for the black and grey bag, and green for the multi-colour one. Hand-stitched.

The button box yielded a suitable large button for a closure for the black and grey bag, but a search of the Durham shops had to be undertaken for the black horn bead that forms the closure on the multi-colour one.

They will have an outing to Gateshead next month, as part of a Guild exhibition.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

29 July: A Wednesday Walk

Another in the occasional series of walks - this one was in Weardale, starting from Wolsingham. The route took in Tunstall Reservoir, seen here to the right of the dam -

The water level had been low for long enough that plants had grown round the overflow area -

The weather was fairly kind, just a few drops of rain (the magic overtrousers needed only to be carried); we had an excellent picnic lunch, eaten as we sat on rocks and contemplated the rain clouds at the bottom end of the dale; and the route provided plenty of interest and a few challenges, as well as wonderful views.

We returned to tea and birthday cake, a good hot soak and a lie down.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

27 July: Holiday socks

Socks are a good project to take away on holiday - simple, portable, and small. Here are 2 pairs from our recent trips, finished at home-

For my Dear Husband, absolutely plain and in manly colours from the Yarn Yard, bought at the Woolfest, these socks replace some older ones which are now past it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

24 July: Catching up

Recent projects have mostly been rather uninteresting to photograph - spinning fleece mostly, but there have been a few small items now rounded up into a picture -

There are some inkle bands - two narrow ones done on the old loom, and the green/blue one done on the new moon loom. The ball of off-white yarn is spun from an Estonian batt from Wingham at Woolfest (I spun that one evening when bored with Le Tour), the dull purple sock yarn is from the Yarn Yard - a plain sock in progress for my Dear Husband - and the beaded row counters were made very quickly, after seeing something about them on Ravelry, and finding the instructions on eHow; I tried out various wooden and glass beads, and several different types of yarn.

Then yesterday I was reorganising my archery stuff, and decided to make a cloth bag for my recurve bow, so that I can carry it in one piece, rather than keep on taking it to bits and re-assembling it every time I use it. The piece of fabric in the box that was large enough also happens to be bright red, and made of microfibre. It is, therefore, very tough. It had also been in the fabric box for about 25 years, since I bought it in Peterlee when I was working over there.

Anyway, last time the sewing machine was used, there was a problem with the tension, so I decided to sew this by hand. It was hard work, but at least there's the feeling that it's done satisfactorily.The tie is a narrow inkle band, originally an experiment for shoelaces, but I failed to get the ends narrow enough to thread them through the lace-holes. Still, it's just right for this purpose!

One and a half fleeces have been spun, and some of the resulting yarn has been woven and is now waiting to be made up into the planned bags - more experiments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

14 July: Summer in the city

Our recent short trip Down South included a glorious walk in the Weald (the clegs down there bite just as hard as up here), a visit to Penshurst Place, and on the hottest day of the year, a trip into London to see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

While many of the exhibits left me thinking of the Emperor's New Clothes, there were a couple of dozen I actually liked, and even one or two I might have been able to stand on the walls at home - if the walls were big enough, that is. Many of the pictures were enormous. So were many prices.

I was intrigued to see that nearly all the artists, who evidently strive to be individual in their work, are completely uniform in the rectangular format; the few non-rectangular pieces were generally much more interesting.

As well as paintings and sculptures/assemblages, there were books (interesting) and architectural models (mostly very boring); and photographs, mostly interesting, though personally I found it slightly irritating that David Hockney didn't stand in exactly the same place every time he photographed The Twenty Five Trees etc.

Of course, with so many items to display, not all of them get a good position - two of my favourites were quite difficult to see properly - one was a huge collage of Babel Towers, which was partly obscured by a gigantic gorilla made of coat hangers, and another was a photo of a Northumberland Beach, which was high up above the end of a wall where a film was being projected.

I was able to knit on the train home yesterday, getting part way up the leg of the second of a pair of socks for my Dear Husband. Now I must get back to the fleece that was being spun before our trip; 6 skeins done already and 2 or 3 more to do.

Monday, July 05, 2010

5 July: The new inkle loom

Last night it had to be done - try out the new inkle loom, made by Michael Williams and collected from the Woolfest.

The yarn is a ball of merino/tencel sock yarn from the stash which will never be socks, and which will probably make a very nice little woven pouch. There are 71 warp threads , and plenty of width left for a wider band. Not all the pegs are used for this band.

I find it's a bit high to work at when it's on the table, but it will fit on my lap, resting against the table at the back, and that is very comfortable. The warp is moved on quite easily; the shed is not as wide (high?) as on my Ashford inkle loom, but I expect I'll get used to that.

So now there's a weaving project started, as well as 2 knitting projects, and a Hebridean fleece partly spun. And Le Tour has started. What a good thing I don't have to go out to work any more!