Friday, April 30, 2010

30 April: A cunning plan

There are now lots of inkles piled up in my playroom workroom.

So it seemed a good idea to make something from them. Like a bag. After fiddling about with ways of constructing a bag without having to hem too many ends, I worked out a sort of spiral, which forms a lop-sided tube; still needed to join the long sides together, and several ways of finishing the ends were considered before I chose to hem the narrow end at the bottom, and finish the top end by passing the cut threads through the weaving and braiding them on the front.

I had to cut the narrow inkle and stitch it to make the loops, though.

The bag is about 8" wide and 7" high with the top folded over. And at last I found a use for a boxwood acorn cut off a roller blind over 30 years ago - I knew it would come in handy one day!

The idea is that the sash will be simply knotted round me, and the bag is big enough for the essentials, while the clip can take keys if needed. The sash could also be knotted shorter, to make it a shoulder-bag or an across-the-body bag. Will the theory work out in practice?

Friday, April 23, 2010

23 April: Inkling on

- which sounds like something P.G.Wodehouse might have written.

The guild library last week yielded a small book called "Inkle Weaving" by Lavinia Bradley. It has a slightly different approach from my other books on the topic. One was to use up all those short bits of yarn that get thrown into a bag as too big to throw away, but too small to make anything with. They are simply knotted together and used to warp up the inkle loom - the knots get woven into the band, and an interesting texture and colour results -

The chapter titled "Bolivian Pebble Weave" looked interesting. The technique is illustrated by a typically South American Navajo design (!), which I wove in handspun BFL .

The suggestion in the book was that the technique could be adapted to produce more English designs like Christmas trees, horses and dogs.

I tried making up a meander-type design, but I don't think it's successful, either in the sugared-almond colours of BFL, or in the sludge colours of sock yarn -

Then, using the "Baltic-style" warping (one thick pattern thread followed by two thin background threads), I wove some handspun Shetland into a chevron pattern inkle which I love -

To make the pattern threads thicker, I needed 2 strands of yarn; as there was only one ball of each colour, I put a blue strand and a green strand together. It was dead easy to weave, the yarn was good to work with, and the finished band is very satisfying. There may be more.

(What do I mean, "may"?)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

21 April: Wednesday Walk in Hamsterley Forest

Bright and sunny, though still a bit chilly, today, so off we went to Hamsterley Forest for one of our regular walks.

This tree looked as if it was draped with velvet -

- and this plant growing strongly beside the path surprised us -

I think it's skunk cabbage, but it's not listed in my usual handbook of British wild flowers, so I'm not really sure.

Down by the river, many of the trees have had the ground eroded away from around their roots -

The river itself was quiet today, as was the Forest - we saw only a few people, and those mostly in the car park.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

18 April: Spring

The lawn has had its first cut of the year. Some flower seeds have been sown in pots and trays, and two or three plants that seem not to have survived the winter have been threatened - start putting out shoots, or go straight to the compost heap, do not pass Go, etc.

There's been time for some inkle weaving -

These are all in handspun wool, 3 plain weave bands and one, the green and yellow one in merino, a very time-consuming pick-up pattern which makes it the same on both sides.

That one was still in progress when I went to the Guild's monthly workshop day; out of less than a dozen people there, 3 of us were working on inkles! Must be something in the air (apart from volcanic ash, of course).

And a parcel of fibre came from Wingham Wool Works, some merino/tencel blend, some wool/linen blend, and 3 little Estonian wool batts. So far I have spun up one of the Estonian batts and a bit of the wool/linen, which is quite heavily textured - that's "lumpy" viewed from the other side. Not sure what they might be used for, perhaps an inkle or two?

But with the lighter evenings, archery has moved out of the sports halls and onto the playing fields. After shooting at 25 yards all winter, it's wonderful to have a target a hundred yards away. And this week the summer schedule starts, with shooting 3 times a week instead of twice.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

11 April: Inkle exploration

The low-tech weaving has shifted into inkle-weaving. (For those with no inkling about that, an inkle is a narrow woven band, in the shoe-lace to cummerbund width range.)

The pink and grey wool one at the top is woven to a design by Laverne at Backstrap Weaving - she took the pattern from a yurt band and wove it on her backstrap loom; my version was done on an inkle loom.

The lavender and gray interlaced pattern is another one woven in my handspun wool on the inkle loom.

The pile sample was woven on my backstrap loom, with a warp of handspun linen and pile knotted on in rug wool. Different spacings and pile lengths were explored, before I decided that life is probably too short to go any further with this. At least it shows it can be done on a backstrap loom.

The green and cream interlaced pattern one is done in cotton in 2 thicknesses. This pattern needed a lot of concentration, and even after unpicking several bits (and several times too!), there are mistakes in the weaving.

The bottom band is woven on the inkle loom in mill-spun Shetland wool (spun in Shetland), and was an attempt to finish up a bagful of leftover small skeins. The warp threads clung to each other, and opening every shed was an effort, but the finished band is worth it - lovely subtle colours and a solid feel, and at over 2 inches wide and 6 feet 3 inches long, a useful size. In fact I like it so much, I think I'll go and make another one.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

6 April: Wednesday walk on Tuesday

Today we did something we'd spoken about idly several times since getting the Bus Passes - we took the bus from the end of our street, got off at a convenient place for coffee and a bun, then walked home. It took less than 2 and a half hours.

We managed to walk down one path we've never been along before, and found that another track through the woods has been repaired and a footbridge improved since we last came that way.

We walked through fields where skylarks were flying up on both sides, singing as they hung on the breeze. The bumble bees are just emerging this week, too, so spring is really under way.

Crossing this field, we wondered if we were missing something -

- but there was no invisible fence. It might have been a magic stile, the entrance to another world. We went round it, just in case.

Friday, April 02, 2010

2 April: Gardening begins

The event that really marks the start of the gardening season is -

digging out the compost bin!

Which was done this morning, much to the delight of one robin, who actually dared to come into the garden while I was there (very unusual for our local robins), and later on a varied selection of dunnocks, blackbirds, tits and chaffinches.

It is clear that eggshells don't biodegrade as quickly as expected, though the little red worms cluster round them even more thickly than other compost components - we seem to have a very healthy and growing population of little red worms.

The first primroses are coming out, yellow as well as purple, and the hellebores are doing well -

- and the miniature daffs are at their best -