Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A spinning exercise

Trying again since I managed to do a whole blog update and forgot to save it.  I got distracted by Maple Syrup.

First, take a photo of some sort of interesting outdoor scene.   I had to go outside at dusk to get the lighting right for this one.  It did take a few tries to get the drip just right.

 Define the colours in the photo, find suitable fibres and blend them into batts.  I used the drum carder for this.

 Spin the batts into singles on two bobbins.  

 Hunt through the bead stash to find the clear glass beads.  I really thought the dark amber beads would look nice but to look like the photo, I needed clear ones.  These are dollar store glass beads because there is no bead store within an hour drive of here.  They are not horribly uniform in shape, but they work nicely and it isn't noticeable.  I used a dental floss tool designed for braces for threading the beads onto the single.  

Ply the two singles together, dropping a bead off at fairly regular intervals.  I kept them fairly far apart as the sap was dripping rather slowly at the time.   Okay, I'd have kept them fairly far apart anyway as I prefer yarns like this to have less frequent beads.  I think it looks classier when knitted up into something, rather than heavy with frequent beads.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Guild Dye Day

painted warps for scarves
About once a year, our guild hosts a dye day at a negligible cost of $5 per 100g.  This isn't a math oriented, carefully calculated, reproducible effects dye day.  Rather, it's an experimental dye day using acid dyes for wool, silk or nylon.   Depending on who can come that day, there may be many long warps for multiple projects and weft yarns to match or coordinate.  Sometimes people wind crazy long skeins of sock yarn to do self striping yarn, bring fibre for spinning and this year we even had a gal bring multiple skeins to do a gradient coloured knitting project. 

We have an array of the basic colours and with syringes, squirt out a bit of this colour and a bit of that, getting some interesting and one of a kind results.  Invariably, the finished projects are absolutely breathtaking or at least beautiful.

 Just a few days before hand, I realised that I could actually attend the dye day.  ( I drove myself too!  Yay!)   While I have plenty of white fibre and a bit of white roving, I had no real projects in mind for it or it needs re-washing (Thanks Kevin!)   I did find this skein of Blue Faced Leicester superwash and nylon blend that I had spun up ages ago.   It weighs about 85 g, so I dug through some stash and found a huge bag of white icicle, which is a sparkly nylon additive.    I weighed out 15 g of the icicle and separated it into 3 g lots to make up the rest of the 100g.

The skein was just wound normally on my 61in niddy noddy.   I started painting it with the blue, which was a strong concentration of the turquoise blue colour.  For the green, I used a bit of the leftover blue, with a small percentage of yellow and watered it all down a fair bit.   The pink was a dilute mixture of straight fuchsia.   I'm not sure what I'll make with this skein, but I think the colours are really pretty.

Nylon takes acid dyes readily.  The nylon Icicle fibre is strong, sparkles and not a really soft fibre.  It tends to be used in small quantities to add sparkle to more modern or arty type yarns.  It is too rough for my liking to add to strengthen sock yarns.  I use fake Cashmere nylon for that purpose as it is soft as well as strong.   But the Icicle dyes beautifully.  I did a lighter concentration of the same blue left from the yarn skein.  The pink was some very diluted leftover fuchsia.   I added the last few drops of blue to the mix afterwards to get the purply pink.  I mixed a bit of yellow into the now empty blue container, for the pale green.  The orange was made from adding yellow to an empty red container that I found in the discard area.   Everything went into my dye steamer when I got home.  In all, I think I captured spring colours rather nicely.  None of the colours are easily reproduced as no measurements were taken, but even if I never find a use for it, it was a fun experiment and a great morning out!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Sneaking outside to play

We've had a couple of days of lovely, mild weather.  I am getting tired of being cooped up inside, unable to wander around even in my gardens and yard.  However, with all this mild weather, the snow in the front is starting to melt.   I love the snow this time of year, all dirty, grungy and heralding in the spring.   Since the shoulders of the road are clear of snow and ice, albeit muddy and the driveway is almost that way, I grabbed my big girl camera and slipped outside for a few minutes.   Oh it was wonderful, even if I really only walked back and forth along the driveway a couple of lengths. 

The sky is a glorious blue to the north.  Right at the centre top of this photo, is a wasps nest which survived the winds and snows of this winter.   The buds on the trees are starting to swell.  We probably won't have leaves until May, but this is a sure sign that spring is on the way.

Hubby set the spiles on the weekend and the sap is running.   This tree is huge and could easily hold 4 or 5 pails, although we have only 2 on it right now.  The sap on the south side of the tree is flowing freely.  The rest of the spiles have just started dripping while we've had to empty this bucket already and have 2 gallons of sap already for this weekend, when we will start boiling.   Or the guys will start.  I just get to watch from the window apparently, because there is too much snow for my hip in the back!   (grump, grump)   

Sometimes it pays to look down.   This pretty little round stone was sitting right by the front door.  It's smooth, round and unlike any of the gravel bits on the driveway.  I think it must have been dug up when the boys filled in the hole in the foundation or from when my son dug up the ancient, overgrown shrubs from the rest of the flower beds.  I find it amazing that it didn't get lost in the gravel, buried in garden dirt, hidden under leaves or sent forth by a lawnmower.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Peep Tradition and squishy, fat yarn!

My annual tradition of hot chocolate with Peeps!  However there are no pink bunny peeps to be found anywhere in town this year, so I must make do with yellow chicks.  For some reason, pink bunnies are just so much tastier.  I think it is the pink part. 

The hot chocolate is actually dark chocolate almond milk, which is a gazillion times superior to just regular hot chocolate.  Smooth, thick, chocolatey, almondy and creamy, with no dairy.  What is not to like? 

Most of my homework skeins are finished up.  There are a few I'm redoing because  it was too early in the healing process and they show a bit too much distraction.  However, I am really happy with this skein.  It is 1 tpi, or 1 twist per inch.  For scale, every two twists in the yarn equals about 1 inch in real life.   It is fat, fluffy, squishy and such a huge departure from my spinning norm of worsted or semi-worsted fine yarns for weaving.  Now to do the last couple of skeins, mount everything and figure out what my final project will be.

The weather has shifted and the temperatures are supposed to rise above freezing this week.  They will be perfect temperatures for the Maple sap to start running.  We will be setting the spiles this weekend.  Last year I did the job by myself.  It was really quite enjoyable, drilling and tapping the spiles into the trees and then hanging the buckets.  However this year I get to watch from the window as I'm not allowed outside to play until the snow melts.  At least I should be allowed to play in the dirt once it's time to turn the soil and plant some seeds.  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Random Bits and Pieces

My attempt at something called Flake yarn.  Actually, it is my second attempt.  The first was so ugly that I couldn't in all honestly use it for homework.   I'm limited as to the size of the flakes or tufty bits because of the size of my spinning wheel orifice.   It's pretty yarn though I'm going to have to get creative to figure out some sort of valid use for yarn like this.

I finally finished the toe on this sock and grafted it together yesterday afternoon.  Now to cast on the second sock.  Last hip check up I had, I'd forgotten to bring my knitting bag and had to sit around twiddling my thumbs for a bit until I remembered I had put a game on my phone.  It was my least desired waiting room activity.  I don't think I will forget to bring a project or a book along next time.   My sweetie suggested I just leave a project bag with a pair of socks in the truck, so it is there when I need it, which isn't a bad idea actually.

I spent 45 minutes this morning sanding this simple boot jack.   It was a quickie project that my sweetie made for me last night, out of a scrap of wood.  It isn't horribly pretty, but it works just fine.  With something like a boot jack, function is really what is important.   Many years ago I had a pretty little blue one that my uncle made me when I was a kid, to help me haul off my riding boots.   This one is needed so I can get my new boots off without mucking up the heels too much.

The deal was if I got my hip done, my sweetie would get me new boots.  Love the boots.  They are super comfortable.  A bit ticked off that they cost $100 more in Canada than in the US, but we're used to that.  On the other hand, the service and selection from Keleher's Western Wear was pretty awesome.  Awesome service is hard to come by at a lot of stores these days.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Pin Weaving

One of the Master Spinner 5 homework assignments is to spin a warp yarn and a weft yarn, and then weave a 5 in sample, showing how they work.    For the warp, I spun a worsted yarn, though not a true worsted, using sliver and a short forward draw.    I wasn't sure what piece of equipment I'd use to weave with, so I spun 2 different wefts.  One was a slighter larger grist yarn using a point of contact long draw.  The other was pretty similar to the warp yarn, short forward draw from sliver.  

I can't use my floor loom yet and besides, the amount of loom waste for a sample of this size would be  huge.  I'd have to use a dummy warp and until I have clearance to bend, twist and fold myself into the loom, that just isn't going to happen.   I did think of borrowing one of the guild table looms, but then the message came out from the President, that the table looms were dressed for the next scarf workshop.  My friend Maureen had offered to loan me her granddaughter's rigid heddle loom, but it has a project on it, albeit a stalled project and there was no way I was going to take a child's work off the loom for this.   I was going to borrow my girlfriend's table loom for a few months.  Arrangements had been made back in the autumn, but I forgot to remind her to bring it to an SCA event in November and she forgot to bring it.  That would have been the best solution.

The last time I had to weave a small sample, I'd used a cardboard, makeshift pin loom, which really didn't make the grade.  It bent and I couldn't get a decent sett for the silk yarn I was supposed to use.  So, what to do?  I asked my sweetie to make me a wooden pin loom.  It didn't have to stand the test of time, just survive through one project.  I figured some scrap wood and finishing nails.

This is what he made me.  It is assembled with 2 wood screws at each corner and nicely squared.   The frame will not fall apart.   I lost one of the finishing nails when I was trying to figure out how to remove the woven piece from it.   It was easy once I realized I needed to use my little bodkin needle to flip each yarn loop over the nail head. Someplace hidden in the folds of a pile of fibre, is a lone finishing nail, either happy to have escaped, or mourning,  missing his spot in the upper left corner of the loom.

Because I had requested the nails be set at 5 per inch, which gave me a sett of 10, each nail holding 2 theads, I used the weft yarn which was similar or pretty much the same as the warp.  It is my preferred weaving materials anyway.    I decided to do a straight twill instead of a tabby weave.  That was interesting.  I highly recommend manual weaving like this to truly understand a weave structure.   It is one thing to set the loom up according to a diagram and another to have to pick each row up with a needle.

What I notice the most was how long it took.  It thought easy, peasy, it would be done in no time.  It took a couple of minutes to wind the warp on the loom and 4 hours or so to weave it off.    I only had to unweave a couple of rows and I caught them right away, so that was good.  The bad part was that it was a Ground Hog Day mistake.  Like the movie, I made the mistake 3 or 5 times in a row, after picking out the error each time, before I realized that it was time to take a break.

A couple of hours later I was back weaving. The last few rows were easier than I'd thought.   I knew not to let the warp get too tight while winding it on, so I had enough play in the threads at the end.  I'd used a bodkin, for threading cords, rather than a sharp needle.  This turned out to work really well, as I didn't ever catch the warp on the needle.  When it was off the loom, I wet finished it with a bit of agitation in some warm soapy water.  After rinsing, I was going to give it a hard press, but not only can I not bend enough to  access the outlet to plug in the iron, but Kevin kept trying to sleep on the wet sample.  I decided to let it dry au natural, up high, where Kevin can't reach it.

 I really dislike the selvedges.  They are a little loopy and look sloppy.  I don't know if it is my technique or just a result of the pin loom itself.    However the weaving is fine.  I caught all my mistakes and it is nice enough for my homework sample.   It would have been better if it were hard pressed, but maybe I'll remember it before my homework is ready to ship and can re-finish it then, if I really think it needs it.

I can't imagine doing a large project with this method of weaving though. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Healing Update

Holy Cow! I cannot believe it's been almost a month.  It's been a month of mainly healing time, with a bit of activity, mainly physiotherapy.  In the last week though, especially the past couple of days, the mobility has been growing noticeably.   I find out next week if I can start slowly transitioning to normal activities, rather than being bound by the fairly rigid limitations that I have right now.  Fingers Crossed!

Just finished piecing and started the embroidery.
I did start a handwork project, not knowing how long it would be before I could get back to my spinning wheel.  I started this to use as a possible class sample.  I could do it sitting at a table, by hand, using 19th century period techniques, since I couldn't get to or use my electric or treadle sewing machines.  However, when I offered to teach the 2 classes to a local historic teaching event, it came with a caveat that I wouldn't be cleared to drive for a couple more weeks at least.  I'm guessing that the event coordinator didn't want to risk my having to back out, since they didn't ever get back to me.  Their loss, but now I have to figure out a way to entice me to finish the samples and put them to use.

I have done a bit of this too.  Actually, I've knitted 2 socks, just different yarns.  Both were started before the surgery and I am ready to finish off the toes of each sock.  However until I can actually check the fit, I'm having a bit of a personal issue finishing them up.  I shouldn't really.  I can do this all with math but there is something quite satisfying about trying on the sock and knowing that it fits.

I had great expectations about how much I'd get to knit during this time.  I had not 1 but 3 sock projects with me at the hospital and knit exactly 2 rows, since I really kept just falling asleep.  It felt like I slept for 3 days solid, which I pretty much did.  At home, it hasn't materialized as the fun, gotta finish up activity that I'd hoped for.

Mainly because of my spinning wheel.  At the 3 week check up with the surgeon, I asked about spinning.  He delighted me in the fact that he actually knew what a spinning wheel was and what the physical movements/motions were needed to use one.  I got the all clear to start spinning.  It took me a few more days to actually get the right chair and wheel in place.  I had to switch from the Sonata, which has the flyer at the rear, which would have required me to bend in one of those prohibited ways, back to the Minstrel.  It has the flyer at the front, ergo no bending to reach it and the treadle angle also allowed me to maintain that necessary less than 90° angle. 

 What amazed me is that while I hadn't been able to sit and spin for more than a few minutes at a time since last summer, I was suddenly having to remind myself to take breaks.  I could really spin again, which has been so wonderful!  I've been pounding out the homework samples for level 5.  I still need to mount them, but once I am allowed to bend and stretch a bit more, (fingers crossed for next week's appointment),  I'll be able to access the printer and other needed materials, to get that done.   Right now, spinning is feeling wonderful.

Of course after having someone around home with me for several weeks, I've needed voices on during the day, so have been having a Buffy film fest while spinning.  I can spin all morning and into the afternoon, until my cat decides I've had enough.  He tugs on my arm, gets cranky and whiney, until I lie down with him for a bit, while he stretches out on my healing leg and sleeps, forcing me to slow down.  I chock it up to necessary healing time.