Thursday, 17 April 2014

Using my handspun yarn and making more

 I've spent the past few days winding a warp with the pink yarns and dressing the loom.  I'm using a soft grey Shetland for the weft.  It really softens the depth of pinks.      I realized that I could have dyed the grey and my first thoughts were that I could have dyed the grey, the same array of pinks.  It would have made the fabric much bolder in colour impact.  However, I love the soft shading of the grey and I think it will make the shawl much more wearable.

I tie up my treadles so I can use a walking motion when I weave - left, right, left, right.   I've always had my tabby tied up on the two outermost treadles.  However, I changed that up for my last project and didn't switch it back.   I hadn't realized how ingrained the muscle memory has become.  My legs really want to treadle a straight twill with the previous tie up, that I've used for years and not the new one.  It's making the process a bit slower than usual, though enjoyable none the less.

I spun up a sample of Kinred's fleece.   I combed it out, pulled sliver and spun with a short forward draw.  It's a nice yarn and spins up nicely.  However the fleece has a lot of waste with combing, as it's an old style Shetland fleece.  I'm not sure I want to waste 50% of the fleece by combing.   I'll try carding some fleece and sampling next to see what the differences are.  I was trying to match the grist of some wools I'd spun for embroidery, but I couldn't get it quite fine enough.   The fibre is quite springy and really bloomed when I wet finished it.

Friday, 11 April 2014

1830 Cooking at the Inn

The Bake Oven at Westfield won't open until May 4th.   When I'm not baking at the oven, I get to play in one of the buildings.  You'd think that I'd spend my time at the Spinning and Weaving Shop, but they've lots of people there already.  Instead, I often play at the Inn.  The Inn is dated 1830 and is an old log structure, with a feeling of the past.  Sometimes if I touch the walls, I wonder about who and how many people have walked through this building, stayed here and ate here.  It's a beautiful building, with lots of windows letting in light and giving the whitewashed interior a bright and airy feeling, at least in the tap room part of the inn.   I'm betting when it was -25 outside, it was darned cold inside because of those windows, single pane, with old, rolled glass and leaky as all get out.   

  Last Sunday I brought out some recipes from 1826.  I took my dutch oven and put a Scotch Barley Broth in it.  Really, I think it was more of a cabbage soup.  It smelled awesome, but was a bit bland, perhaps because I was a bit stingy on the meat and salt.  I also made a muffin recipe, which turned out to be what we'd call English Muffins today.  They were pretty yummy, especially when topped  with my period Currant jelly.  English muffins are cooked on a griddle or fry pan, rather than baked, though they are a yeast bread.

It's too old to have a woodstove, so it's hearth heated all the way.  It has a double fireplace, one on either side of the chimney.   We've had both fires going at times, but if it's just me, I only keep the one fireplace going.     I have often wondered if this little oven in the hearth is functional or not.   Luckily my little dutch oven works just fine for baking.

This is the back part of the building, part of the kitchen.  It's very pretty and homey in there.  There aren't as many windows so it can be a bit easier to keep that area warm.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Pink - lots of pink

I spun and spun and spun.   I had lots of 2 ply white Shetland yarn spun to weave with.   I sent a cryptic email to hubby, with 3 colour choices.  I didn't tell him what it was for, just choose one of Pink, Blue or Purple.   He chose pink.  

With the magenta acid dye, I did a Depth of Shade study including .05%, .1%,  .5%, 1%,  and 2.%, using a 1% stock solution. 

I couldn't believe how long it took to dye this.  I had two dye vats going and started at about 10 am.  I finished up at 10.15 pm    Phew, that was a long day.   While it wasn't all spent at the dye pot, much of it was, keeping the temperatures from going too high or too low.  The darker colours took much longer to exhaust.

A few weeks ago I was playing with my new wool hackle.  Hubby made it for me as there were a couple of colour exercises in my homework.  I was pretty certain I'd never, ever use a hackle again in my life, so instead of putting out the $ for a commercial one, he ran to the hardware store and for $26 he got supplies.   It was -25 in the garage, but he persevered.  It took him the better part of a week, but he presented me with a hackle to play with.
 Here is where I say, NEVER say NEVER!   This was such fun to play with.   I loved the way the fibre came off in lovely sliver using the diz.  It was easy and gave a lovely blend.  I could have kept blending it to get a more even mix but I really liked this one.   It spun nicely too.

Yep, the hackle will be a fun tool for bits and pieces leftover from other projects and to just play with when miles of whatever I've been spinning just seems to need a fun break time.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Random Project updates

 The linsey woolsey is off the loom.  It's been wet finished and heavily pressed.  It's an okay fabric and will make a decent apron.  The reed marks didn't disappear which is a little disappointing.  It makes the fabric look like it has more inconsistencies than it really does.   It's a pretty fabric though and the stripes are fairly even.

I need to cut it up and sew up the apron to be able to tell if I'm really happy with it.

More proof of Kevin's loom antics.  I caught him in the act, again.  I'd meant to cover the warp before I went to bed, but forgot.  This is how I found him in the morning.   I've never seen him do this when there was a project on the loom before, so who knows why he chose this particular one, when it being well executed meant more to me than any of the others I've done since he  "enriched" our lives.  Silly cat!
 We've pulled the spiles from the Maple trees and ended our syrup season.  We might have gotten a few more boilings done, but it's a lot of work.   The melting snow has flooded the fire pit, so boiling the sap down, is a wet, muddy and not such a nice experience.   We've gotten 4 litres and a bit,  so not too bad a haul for our first try.   The syrup is pretty tasty and will likely last most of the year, depending on how much ends up in my daughter's pantry.
 Maple syrup drizzled on oatmeal makes an awesome breakfast!
Gluten free chocolate angel food cake, with chocolate drizzle was today's way to use up excess eggs.  It was pretty delicious, as well as pretty to look at.  I just took my regular angle food cake recipe and substituted 1/4 cup cocoa for an equal amount of gluten free flour.  Instead of lemon flavouring, I used vanilla, so it has a really interesting depth of flavour.   This one was a huge success.

Friday, 28 March 2014

This is how we roll

to steal the words from a currently popular song..
Despite the helper kitty, who is breaking more threads than he fixes, some weaving is getting done.  Okay, Kevin doesn't fix any threads, but he is indeed breaking them as he walks around on the warp beams, parks himself to have a gander outside or just pretends he's playing the harp with the warp threads.
  This photo is of him practicing just as I was about to start dressing the loom.  He's decided that my loom is his personal gymnastics equipment.   It has created a few minor problems with the project, but not insurmountable.  Certainly not as bad as my first few woven inches, when I realized that the tension kept releasing.   Linen thread needs to be kept under an even tension.  The brake kept slipping, releasing the tension, making weaving almost impossible.   After crawling around under the loom, changing tie ups and fiddling about, I checked the Leclerc online info about brake assembly.  

It's a really simple piece of equipment consisting of a drum with a tensioned metal band around it.   There seemed to be only 3 main problems.  The band could have stretched; it looked fine to me.  The drum could have gotten some oil on it or the band could have smoothed the drum.  Either way, my brake drum has a light layer of rust, so it's neither been lubricated in any way nor is it too smooth.   Finally I noticed the turnbuckle in the brake assembly.  It felt loose, so I twisted it around a few times until it was much tighter..  I was really careful about making sure it went the right way and I didn't unscrew it completely.   That would have been a horror story and project wreck at the same time.

However, it worked.  I ratcheted down the brake band and it tightened up perfectly.  No more slipping and my warp is lovely and tight.   I can weave properly and my fabric is nicer.     It's a much nicer experience than the frustration of the loose warp.   Now if I can only convince Kevin that he doesn't want to hang out on my loom while I'm weaving this.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Flax and Wool

 With spinning up what I'd hoped was enough linen thread for the warp, I decided that I'd better get around to scouring it.  It was dark, harsh and a rough feeling thread.  I used the recipe from Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth by Linda Heinrich, which uses Soda Ash and dish washing up soap.  It worked well the last time I tried it.   I weighed up what I needed, using about 3/4 the amount of soap and soda ash because I was going to do at least two scouring baths anyway.  My pot was only so big and I had my imagination run wild with visions of all that dish soap, bubbling up, over the pot and onto the floor.    I figured that was reason enough to do a 3/4 recipe the first time and do it a second time if needed.

I did indeed do a second scouring bath.  After cooking it for a couple of hours, it was lighter, but I wondered how much lighter it would get with a second bath.  Really, the scouring time is minimal, since I really can't justify adding the time I spent doing other things while the pot simmered.  It is just the time to measure the chemicals, set up the bath and check on it periodically.    The second bath made a huge difference.  Not only was the linen lighter, but it was much softer.  If I'd taken the time to whack it while drying, it would have been softer still. 
The threads were all curly and kinky though, since they are singles.  Heinrich says in her book, to give the skeins a good snap after scouring.  It was an amazing transformation.  The skeins went from curly and impossibly messing looking, to smooth, flat and lovely.  It was the a wonderful moment when this happened.  I'm sure that was when I went from enjoying spinning flax to loving spinning flax.  It was pure magic!  I love fibre moments like that.  It makes all the effort so very worthwhile.

After drying, I wound some of the skeins into cakes so that I could wind the warp.  Today I did a bit more research and changed my mind about sizing the warp.  I wasn't going to bother with it as the warp threads are plenty strong.  However, a perusal over some old documents suggested that sizing would keep the singles from getting hairy, keeping them smoother.  It's another short time project so I decided to mix up some double strength gelatin and bite the bullet on drying time.  I'd wanted to start dressing the loom today because tomorrow is planned to be another Maple sap boiling day.  None the less, the warp has been soaked in sizing and is now drying.

I also finished up spinning a skein of the brown wool for the weft.   There are 530 yards of yarn in this skein.  Combined with the tan wool singles, there should theoretically be enough.  I know there won't be though as a) wool stretches on the niddy noddy, making counts overly generous sometimes and b) I'll weave as much as the loom waste as I can, so as waste as little of the handspun weft as possible, since I didn't put a dummy warp on the loom for this project.

For fun, I tossed off a dye vat of a sunny yellow-orange colour and dyed up a skein of 2 ply sock yarn.  I'm pretty sure this is Blue Faced Leicester and nylon, that I spun up a couple of years ago.  It's been sitting here, waiting, because, well, I'm a much better spinner now and my 3 ply sock yarns are nicer.  But I didn't want to waste it, so it's now dyed and into the sock yarn stash.   

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sappy Story

It was cold outside last Saturday,  with what felt like gale force winds.  Really, the temperatures were hovering just above the freezing mark, with winds at about 45 km/hr, gusting higher.  However, the few trees we tapped had been running and we had 5 or 6 gallons of Maple sap collected.   It was forecast to be a high of -8 on Sunday, so out we trudged to see if we could find the fire pit under all the snow.  We spent 5 hours outside and a day's worth of wood.  Luckily we had a few cedars downed a couple of years ago, so it was softwood that we wouldn't burn to heat the house, that fueled the fire pit for this venture.  It would have been less wood if it hadn't been so windy.
The sap is finally running!

One of two buckets with sap.  It's just barely sweetish tasting.

Just starting to boil.  It took forever because it was so windy.

Makeshift wind break to try to keep the fire burning.

Finally, after over 4 hours, the sap has started to colour.

5 gallons of sap yielded 2 cups of syrup.
I heated up the final syrup in the house, filtered it though paper coffee filters and bottled it up.  The next batch will be filtered, heated up and then put into sterilized jars for storage.