Saturday, April 30, 2011

30 April: Stitchwort

The cold winter and dry spring are producing an abundance of wild flowers. The stitchwort is plentiful by local hedges -

- along with celandines, violets, garlic mustard, dandelions, bluebells, vetch, speedwell, primroses, wild strawberries ....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

27 April: Spun skeins

Over the weekend I spun up the BFL fibre dyed last week. 150 gms of orange and 200 gms of purple -

Wish I could knit faster.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

20 April: Dyeing

This fine weather is just right for doing a bit of dyeing and hanging yarn and fibre up to dry. So that was what I did yesterday morning.

Here's the result -

It's all BFL - some tops bought fairly recently, plus 3 skeins of undyed yarn that must have been spun some time last year. Apart from trying out 2 new dye shades (Maize and Alfalfa), I chose to do shades of orange and purple, mixing different dyes for each piece. The coffee colour was a lurid pinky-purple, rather over-modified with a bit too much browny-yellow. It'll spin in with the purples OK though, just adding to the variety.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

17 April: Chaffinch

Yesterday early evening I went out to water the newly-planted seedlings in the back garden - lobelias and calendulas. The potted trees needed a drink too, and as I was watering the gingko something moved in its branches and startled me. It was a chaffinch, and he sat there while I was standing right next to it.

Birds don't normally do that, so I wondered if he had flown into the window and stunned himself (they do that). I said Hello - he just looked at me. Eventually I reached out a hand and touched his tail very gently; he still didn't move. It was only when I mentioned he should be careful of the sparrowhawk that he flew off.

Monday, April 11, 2011

11 April: Painting

Decorating used to be easy - down to the DIY shop, buy a tin of paint, and slap it on the wall.

Now there are dozens of ranges of paint, all with slightly different shades (or perhaps the same shades, but with different names). No wonder most people chicken out and buy magnolia again.

But we wanted a bit of a change from magnolia and cream in the bedroom, though as I didn't fancy painting the entire room, it was to be just one wall - very 60's. Those of us in our 60's who remember the 1960's, that is.

Having marked several possibilities on the shade cards, off we went to buy tester pots. Only to find that several of the colours we fancied were not represented in the tester range, and one or two not even in the tins on the shelves. Fortunately a larger shop stocked what we wanted, and after consideration of half a dozen patches of colour on the wall, we plumped for a dangerously strong cocoa colour.

It looks good; didn't take too long to do, and the tin did 2 coats easily, in spite of a panic half way through the first coat.  Now we're thinking of doing a wall in the sitting room. Perhaps Antique Gold.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

7 April: Two more bands

These little bands are quite addictive!  For the first of these two, I spun some dark navy and some cherry red from a parcel of lucky-dip mixed wool fibre from World of Wool. The design was adapted from a band by Laverne Waddington, which she got from a Russian band.

I thought there were no mistakes in the weaving until I turned the finished band over - and found a couple of misplaced warps which didn't show on the front.

But the second band has no weaving mistakes that I can see! It's one of the designs in Sue Foulkes' book Sami Band Weaving, and I love the asymmetric pattern. This one is done in handspun natural coloured wools (Shetland and "black" Wensleydale)  with an accent of dyed green Shetland.

There's a slight snag in that the pattern section, with its warp floats, is woven a little more tightly than the spotted border, so the band forms a gentle spiral.  Firm steam pressing will probably sort that out.

Now I really must get back to knitting the sock that was cast on a week ago.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

5 April: Blossom

Suddenly, all those scruffy bits of roadside hedge are alight with blossom!  Rather dull banks are sprinkled with flowers, and the birds are over enthusiastic at 4 a.m.  There was plenty of this where we walked this morning -

And this is what passing traffic missed -

It's blackthorn, I think.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

29 March: Two very different woven bands

Filled with enthusiasm from the weekend workshop, I have  been weaving a couple of bands on my backstrap with rigid heddle.

First was a wide plain woven band, using some very textured early spinning, to see how wide a band the heddle would make. It came out 2.5 to 3 inches wide (variable tension control!), and 69 inches long.

Then one in finer yarns, crochet threads, in one of the patterns in Sue Foulkes' book about Sami band weaving; this is a pattern that looks good on both sides. This one is 47 inches long and 0.75 inches wide.

Here they are -

And Happy Birthday brother!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

27 March: Workshop

Yesterday I went to a Guild workshop taught by Sue Foulkes, one of our SDW Guild members. She is a highly skilled weaver who has researched bands woven by the Sami peoples of Scandinavia, and produced a little book. This workshop is based on her book.

It was an excellent workshop, even for those of us who had already made bands in this style. It was remarked at the end of the day how quiet we'd been (most unusual!), but that was because we were all concentrating and/or being challenged.

Sue also showed us some slides of a trip to Sweden, and was most generous with materials, expertise, and attention.

Here's some of what I brought home -

The blue and white band had 5 pattern threads and 3 designs, the red and blue one had 9 pattern threads, and only 1 and a half pattern repeats.

Now I'm off to the garage to look for some bits of wood to make a clamp for my backstrap like Sue's.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

23 March: More spring creatures

This morning I watched a wren in the back garden, busily checking for insects in most of the usual places, plus a few more unusual (the potted pine tree for one).

And the bumble bee I saw yesterday was again floating round the hellebores and the comfrey, which has just started to flower. The comfrey is a favourite of the wren too, as there are lots of little spiders on it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

21 March: Lambs

Out for one of our favourite local walks, we saw lots of lambs. This group included a couple of darker ones.

Back at home, the bathroom smells of sheep (Eau de Ewe?), as I've been spinning some BFL tops, and the skeins have been washed and are hanging up to dry.

Friday, March 11, 2011

11 March: It'll be all right when it's pressed

That's what my mother used to say when her dress-making looked a bit rough and ready.  And it works for inkles too.

The light-bulb moment the other day was to make a bag to carry my collection of backstrap stuff in - the bag itself being made of inkles. The inkle strips sewn together looked very lumpy and uneven, but a few minutes with the steam iron resulted in a thick and even fabric.

A quick walk to the shops for a zip and a bit of ribbon  (to cover the raw edges inside), and hours of sewing, and here's the finished item with some of the kit to go in it -

And here it is with all that stuff inside. It's 22' long and 10.5" deep. I used inkles I had already made, 4 altogether, which were cut into 11 strips.  The zigzag inkle is just about long enough to go all the way round and make handles, and the zip pull is made with part of the band made the other day on my double hole rigid heddle (the other bit has been made into a bowsling for my recurve bow).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

9 March: Another rigid heddle

This rigid heddle is made from a heddle intended for an Ashford Knitter's Loom - a 40 cm heddle cut in half. This gives the facility to use up to 59 threads, and the large holes will allow thick or lumpy (sorry, textured) threads to pass through.

This time I measured the warp before weaving, then measured the finished band and the amount of waste at each end. The chosen pattern was a simple 5 pattern thread design, but this time with rather more fancy borders. 57 threads altogether, came out just over 2 inches wide.

The advantage of the rigid heddles over the inkle loom is that you can start warping in the middle, and then add borders afterwards, and it's much easier to change threads when warping than on the inkle loom.  Plus, of course, the length can be anything you want, as long as you can keep the warp tidy. On the down side, tension is more variable, and wastage is more.

There's quite a few pieces added to the backstrap kit now, and the original bag is not big enough for them all. The need for a larger bag could be tied in with the large number of woven bands hanging over the cupboard door. Perhaps another light-bulb moment?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

6 March: Tape loom

Back with the weaving again.  The semi-rigid heddle was a good experiment, but I wanted to explore more options with the rigid heddle and backstrap arrangement.

Here's the first band in progress on my hew double hole rigid heddle -

Rather rough to begin with, but I'm getting the hang of the tension and rhythm. I can tell myself the unevenness is partly down to the handspun wool yarn, and the varied colours of the yarn that makes up the pattern threads. 

(And of course, there are also some mistakes in the weaving.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

25 February: Spring in the air

A bit of sunshine works wonders!  Shoots are shooting and buds are budding, and the crocuses under the apple tree are flowering -

There are a couple of primulas. the first lungworts, and the viburnum bodnantense dawn all in flower too, and the miniature daffodils are nearly ready to open.  Each year spring seems more exciting. Probably my age.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

23 February: Experimental weaving

A half-term visit from my primary school age great-nieces, who are interested in crafts.  Katy tried my spinning wheel, and produced some very creditable first-attempt art yarn.

Then an improvised warp was arranged on an embroidery frame, and she set about weaving -

Julia selected colours from some of my handspun, and another warp was quickly improvised on a soft-back book -

Their concentration and patience was amazing, and both finished small pieces.  This is Katy's finished hairband, made with her own first handspun -

She may have a spinning wheel on her Christmas wish list!

Friday, February 18, 2011

18 February: New toy

As well as the "string" connected with spinning, knitting, weaving, and so on, I have another string to my bow, literally, as I do archery as well as all the fibre stuff.

I really only started to encourage my Dear Husband to take up a new interest in retirement, but of course the bug has bitten me as much as him, and we are both trying hard to improve. He replaced his first recurve bow a little while ago, but it was only recently that I felt the need to have a better bow.

My new riser arrived this afternoon, from Italy via a company in the Midlands - it's beautiful. I'll try it out this evening, and make any adjustments needed. I'm very much hoping I'll shoot more accurately with it, as well as more stylishly.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

12 February: Twining

Happy birthdays to DD today and DDiL yesterday!

Meanwhile, the weaving theme continues. I was browsing through 'Byways in Hand-weaving' by Mary Meigs Atwater again, trying to make some sense of her instructions for weaving narrow bands; but it's all written with the assumption that you are a proper weaver, and have a loom with shafts and treadles (whatever they are), so it's mostly just incomprehensible to me. But the illustrations are excellent.

Anyway, there's a section on 'Twined Weaving', and this is done with a free-hanging warp. This intrigued me, so a sample was started. The actual weaving is very easy, but keeping the piece an even width is tricky; and after a short while it became difficult to hold. While wondering how to fasten it differently, I spotted my peg loom.

A second sample was started on the peg loom - again it's very easy to twine 2 strands round the pegs, but the effect is much coarser. And what a lot of yarn goes into anything on a peg loom!

Here are the results -


The smaller piece is done on a linen warp with rug yarn and a bit of handspun, the larger peg loom piece has rug yarn for warp, and again rug yarn and a bit of handspun for weft.

Monday, February 07, 2011

7 February: Semi-rigid heddle

An e-mail brought some details of a forthcoming Guild workshop that I hope to attend, weaving narrow bands on a backstrap loom with rigid heddle.

I made a backstrap loom from some sticks, bits of string and rubber bands a while ago, but got in a tangle trying to put an organised striped warp onto it, and put it aside in favour of my inkle loom, which is so easy to warp.

The information for the workshop suggests that you can bring your own rigid heddle, or borrow one for the day from the tutor. No specification for the heddle, how many slot and holes, nor the size of those slots and holes, though a band with 5 pattern threads was mentioned.

Now I have rigid heddles for my Kromski Harp loom, but they are 32" long - a bit unwieldy for use with a backstrap set-up. I began to wonder if I could improvise something with card, and went looking for stout card. There was some with my old patchwork stuff, to make templates, but with it were some pieces of plastic template material. One of those lightbulb moments!

I traced slots and holes from one of my large rigid heddles onto a piece of plastic, and a couple of hours with a craft knife and a cutting board, and I had a small heddle; 8" by 5", with 15 slots and 14 holes.

I warped it with some handspun in the same way I do tablets for weaving - involves long threads trailing all over the floor - and knotted the ends of the threads together as for tablet weaving. Here it is, not actually in action, but in a lull in the action -

(Photographed with flash.) The slots and holes are really too widely spaced, and the plastic is too bendy, but as an experiment it seems a success. Now I need a better way to deal with the length of warp behind the heddle, and perhaps somewhere better to hitch it than the door-handle. Oh, and a more rigid heddle.

Friday, February 04, 2011

4 February: Hemp

A recent fibre order included some hemp; I like to try something different now and then.

It had been in my workroom for a while before I opened the plastic bag it was sealed in.  And reeled back from the smell!  Pig manure?  Cow slurry?  It was definitely something farmyard-y.  (My apologies to readers of a delicate nature.)

So the bag was returned to the corner for another while, in the hope that the smell would dissipate.  It did a little, so today it was examined more closely.  First impression was "straw", but I took a handful and started up the wheel.  It spun like straw.  Threw that bit away and browsed the interweb.

The stuff people were spinning in videos doesn't look much like what I have, and there was a definite mention of a short staple - mine is about as long as the whole bunch.  But never say die. I put some through the drum carder. And again.

It certainly looked more spinnable, so I divided it in two and spun it. Much better, it actually drafted and I can see how it could be spun quite finely with a bit more practice. Here it is after washing - the water was a dreadful colour.

Hey look - I spun string!!

But why does it smell so bad? Perhaps to stop anyone thinking of smoking it?  It needs to be cleaner and sweeter smelling.  Should it be soaked in boiling water for a while?  Or just boiled?  Or will my garden be the only one with hand-spun string?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

27 January: Sewing machine

My sewing machine was bought in 1992, after I had cancer; if I was going to die, at least I would have had a decent sewing machine.

I survived, and the sewing machine saw a lot of action over the years. Not so much since spinning and related activities took over from quilting and embroidery. And the last time it came out, the tension would not adjust properly. So I sewed that item by hand, and kept an eye open for sewing machine service. And last week it went to be serviced for the first time in over 18 years.

It came home on Tuesday, and it just so happened that I have a new bowstringer which needs a little bag to keep it tidy in the kit case, so it was the ideal opportunity to try out the machine.

Photo taken after the power lead had been put away. The bowstringer is the black strap by the machine, and here is the finished drawstring bag -

Cotton fabrics from the old quilting stash (it's lined with a dark green patterned fabric), and the drawstring is 2 lucet cords made from handspun ramie, home-dyed. Result!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

18 January: A Tuesday walk

A bright sunny afternoon, clear and cold. We thought that one of the muddy paths in the woods might still be frozen after last night's hard frost, so we set out.

It was muddy in places, but lovely to be out. From the path across a field we could see Brancepeth Castle in the distance -

Not as sharp as it could be, but it's only a small and old camera (about 3 or 4 megapixels, I can't remember), and it was on maximum zoom.  It's much better for the close-up shot, like this interesting bark we saw further on -

To follow up the previous post, my sciatica cleared up quickly, as quickly as I regained a pound in weight.  Hmmm.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

12 January: You can't have your joys ...

...without your sorrows, as my mother used to say.

So yesterday I lost a pound and a half of that extra Christmas weight, set a new personal best in archery practice, and had a violent attack of sciatica.

Oh well, it makes life more interesting, I suppose.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

8 January: A whole sheep-ful

of fleece has been combed, carded and spun into 741 gms of moorit shetland yarn:

And since this photo was taken, this morning, it's all been wound into balls, ready for heaven knows what. This was the last of the fleeces waiting to be processed, the 6th or 7th I've done this summer (short term memory loss), and probably the best processed.

Now I'm slightly bored with combing and carding, and fancy doing something else.