Monday, 9 October 2017

Spinzilla - a learning curve

I first join the Spinzilla challenge in 2015, I was a real rooky, never thought that I should do anything in advance other than to make sure my wheels were in working order.  We had been away in the weeks previous arriving home the day before the start.  Monday morning saw me going through stash trying to decide what to spin...  How crazy was that?  That year I managed a respectable yardage, and exceeded my hoped for mile, but nothing like the more experience spinners who spin an amazing total - something like 45,000 yards.  I also got a pressure sore from sitting in one place for seven days...

2016 I was more prepared - bought a load of John Arbon's lovely fibre at Fibre East, and arranged that we returned from our autumn break with a few days grace before the grand depart! But for preparation of fibre - nothing.  Indeed I spent a whole evening making punis as I had spun tall my fibre - prepping fibre is not a good idea when the idea is to spin as much as possible..  But I had improved and my total that year was a respectable 15,500 Spinzilla yards.  Here I should explain the concept of Spinzilla yards, you count one for every yard you spin, and then you get another for plying, so for a two ply yarn you multiply your skein's yardage by three, one each for the singles and one for plying - so if your skein comes in at 100 yards you get credited with 300 Spinzilla yards.

Once again the winner spun over 45,000 Spinzilla yards - how on earth could you spin that amount, skein, count etc?  Well it seems that you don't actually have to do anything else except spin and ply - the winner has a team of helpers skeining off, so freeing up bobbins for further spinning.  I had done all these myself, so using spinning time with non counting tasks.

2017 - I was really clued up.  We were home for nearly a week before, much of which was taken up with prepping fibre.  By this I mean really prepping, all the lovely fibre I had bought from John
Arbon was pre-drafted ready to spin.  Also every evening I sat making punis for long draw spinning.  I forgot to mention that in previous years I had spun worsted, not woollen.  Earlier this year I did a long draw class and have been practising ever since to get faster.  So this year I switched between the two and also instead of sitting in one place I had three wheels set up, so I could alter my position, and have more bobbins that I could fill before plying.  I had also practiced double plying!  What is double plying!  Well I have a Hansen Mspinner which I set up on the footstool to my right and my Matchless to my left - both have WooLee Winders, so no moving the yarn along, and I ply on both at the same time - great time saver.

This year's total - 20696 Spinzilla yards

Monday, 21 March 2016

There are lots of lifts in Edinburgh.....

I've just got back from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with friend Ann (coffeecake on Rav) - fabulous time, but isn't Edinburgh hilly, I don't think I have ever been in so many lifts in such a short time.  The most nifty one was in the Hotel, it came out of the floor when called and disappeared when not in use - a sort of now you see it, now you don't sort of thing.
No lift and magically it arrives

So much nicer than the bog standard hotel lift for wheelchairs...

But back to my trip to the EYF - we flew up on Wednesday afternoon with Easyjet, here I have to say that the service for me was extremely efficient.  my chair was the last item into the hold and the first item out - very reassuring.

Wednesday night we ate in a lovely veggie restaurant called David Bann - nice food, portions were large and tasty, but every time one of the waitresses passed my chair they knock it - this is painful and unnecessary and for me completely spoilt what should have been an enjoyable evening.

Thursday morning we did the tourist thingy and browsed the shops on the Royal Mile (going down hill) before catching the bus to our class on Two-Handed Colour Work with Carol Feller.  Finally I discovered what I had being doing wrong - you scoop the stitch, when you see it demonstrated it seems so simple, that I can't understand why I didn't see it before.  Anyway I managed several rounds of what will be a head band - don't do hats...

Friday was the first day of shopping - as we had taken a class we were allowed in an hour early ahead of the general public.  It was really great to be able to shop without having to fight for space and of course, there was no one to step back without looking and then blaming me for having the nerve to be there.

Here we are waiting for the doors to open

And here is some of my purchases - well you can't go that far and fail to buy..

Not bad?

Saturday was a day for browsing and just a very little shop.  Mainly we wanted to see our friend Emily to do her podcast - for nearly three hours we waited around and then at the last minute the event was cancelled - it was too noisy - well they knew that when they set up the venue.  We felt so sorry for Emily, and the other two who had been asked to do this, she had put a lot of effort into preparing for this, brought samples and set up, just to be told sorry.  I feel quite miffed about this, for had we known we could have spent time exploring Edinburgh in the sun rather than sitting around in a stuffy, noisy room.

That night we ate at Ecco Vino in Cockburn Street, just a few yards from our hotel, well what a difference to the previous restaurant.  The actual space was tiny, open kitchen and just two front of house staff who ran the place with utmost efficiency - not once did anyone kick my chair - bliss and the food was yummy, I had goat's cheese and sun-dried blush tomato risotto - divine, Julie had the Spagbol and Ann the Tuscan Beef Stew and we shared a starter of olives, pesto, hummus and gorgeous bread - a super little gem found purely by accident!

Sunday we viewed the Celts exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland - fabulous as was the actual museum

Then just as we leaving, rather peeved that the Lewis Chessmen were less impressive than we had imagined we saw this amazing tapestry

Woven using yarn from every breed of sheep in the United Kingdom by Victoria Crowe of the Dovecot Tapestry Studio
Then we headed for the airport and home, very tired but happy.... Late nights knitting, chatting and drinking coffee and early mornings make for tired girls.......

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

New Loom!

I have been considering upgrading my loom for several months now. I spent far too long on the internet, searching and reading reviews on various looms.  I do not have the room for a floor loom even if I was able to use the treadles, which I can't!  I wanted more shafts at least 16 so this meant a dobby loom.  This brought the number to consider down to two possible looms.  The AVL Little Weaver and the Louet Magic Dobby.  The AVL is operated by computer only and is 16 inches wide, so not perfect, but the cost was exorbitant - over £6000 including shipping and customs etc.. 

So I was left with the Magic, I got all sorts of reports regarding this loom, all bad - the shed is too small, it is impossible to advance the weaving, the treadle is useless, the shafts are heavy and hard to lift and so on.  I really only got a good review from Clare (Mintyweaver) and from a couple of weavers in America on Ravelry.  One owner, who had offered me her electronic at an inflated price, later admitted she hated it and blamed all her bad weaving on the inadequacies of this loom.  Could it really be that bad?  It was obviously a Marmite loom - love it or hate it   

At the beginning of February I met up with Louet Magic Dobby owner, Clare, in Shrewsbury where the local guild had generously agreed that we could set up the loom during their Friendship Day.  We arrived at 11am and for nearly three hours I explored the 'failings' of the loom...

Small shed, well only if you are used to a floor loom, it was almost identical to the shed on my Ashford - my Glimakra shuttles slid through with ease, so no problems with that.  The loom can be operated by either pulling down a lever or depressing the treadle - one or the other - not both!  We did not bother to attach the treadle and the lever work like a dream - with no problems I could lift all 24 shafts, which in the ordinary way of weaving would never happen.  In those three hours I had dispelled all my fears....

I had found my loom - the only problem was that for me sat in my wheelchair the loom was too high by about 10cms or 4 inches. Possibly a diy job, but before I committed an email to Louet was called for.

Please can you lower a loom for me - yes, said Jan Louet!

Order placed...

Friday, 15 January 2016

Another bag and a new weaving project

I must be a glutton - how many colour Gamp bags does a girl need?  Well I now have two and a wallet!

It seemed a shame to waste all that fabric, plus I wanted to see if I could make a necessary clutch wallet without buying the actual pattern. Very pleased with the results! Got lots of comments in John Lewis yesterday too!

Onwards to the next weaving project..  On the Warped Weavers Forum there is a WAL (weave along) involving the book 'Next Steps in Weaving' and rather than starting with Chapter One, I jumped to the Chapter on Summer and Winter - something I have wanted to try for a while, but couldn't get my head around the process.

I didn't have the right weight of cotton so I am using a 5/2 cotton for the warp and tabby weft and it used double for the pattern weft - perhaps not the best, but I have finally worked out what I should be doing.  The tabby pick is woven between every pattern pick and hey presto you have a double sided fabric which is light on one side and darken the other - summer and winter!

Here is my progress so far..

Monday, 4 January 2016

No New Years Resolutions

I have really neglected this blog over the last few months, but this is a sign that I have been incredibly busy spinning, weaving, dyeing and generally making things.  I will try to keep up, but make no promises....

Since the weaving workshop last May I have finally got to grips with my loom, that had languished unloved for several years.  The workshop was intended to be a final fling - a point of decision, to keep or sell...  However, the real change was the purchase of a DVD 'Warping Your Loom' with Madelyn van der Hoogt.  This was a light bulb moment and since then my weaving has gone from strength to strength... What you cannot do is weave well if you can't get a warp on your loom - twisted threads and uneven tension is a real no-no and quite honestly makes the whole process not fun..

My intention with weaving always had been to make fabric that I could make things from and I have done it!

First I dyed a selection of sock yarn in six bright colours, this was inspired by the Lunatic Fringe Colour Spectrum, and warped up a colour gamp - which is a sort of sampler of twills..

I made a three yard warp and got a finished length of 84"  from this I made this

Success - i have achieved my goal!  Although it is still awaiting handles as I ran out of black thread and Royal Mail seems to have gone on a go slow - although I ordered last Monday and received a notification of dispatch on Tuesday I am still black thread less a week later...

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

No apologies....

I have been very lax in the last few months about recording the happenings in Chez Sassy.  This is not because nothing has happened, but more to do about the huge amount of crazy things we have been up to!

Since the Tour de France (Fleece) Mr S and I have been fully engaged in our various hobbies.  Knitting, spinning, bag making and quilting - just to name a few..

After the workshop in May I have rediscovered my weaving mojo.  The loom has been in use almost daily and Mr S made me the most amazing winding station..

Since then he has a commission for four more and that has kept him busy! 

September saw us on our usual month long break, and this year we began in London, then spent 10 days in the Peak District before a 12 day stay in the fantastically spectacular Yorkshire Dales (there are loads and loads of photos on my Instagram feed thesassyspinner - will put a link in if I can work out how to on the iPad) finishing off with a few days on our favourite CL in Ruskington.  

During this sojourn we painted crockery at Emma Bridgewater's factory, 

visited Yarndale 

and The Masham Sheep Fair - where Mr S got roped into showing (and winning) with a Border Leicester ewe!

We returned home just in time to take part in Spinzilla 2015 -  this was a week long spinning challenge and I was a member Team Handspinning News UK - my total was a tad under six miles - that is in Spinzilla yards - you get credit for each single spun and for plying.

So if you, as I did, make a 3 plied yarn and it comes in at 1000 yards you get credited with 4000 yards (the three singles and the ply) - easy yes?

From the top two skeins of 3 plied fawn Bond, 2 skeins of Shetland, Troubled Water from SCF, Deep Orchid again a SCF fibre, the greens from After the Rains (BFL) and a couple of smaller skeins, a sample from Into The Whirle and one of  black Cormo, which I spun while doing the weekly shop!

We are still waiting for the total yardage from the team but hopefully we will have beaten last years winning total of 17,000 yards - will keep you posted...

Monday, 20 July 2015

July is the Tour de France (Fleece)

July - tennis, cycling, tennis and more cycling - yeah I love the beginning of July - why - well I get loads of time to spin with no chance of being moaned at....

Mr S is an avid cycling fan which means we get to watch a lot of the TV coverage and believe me that is a lot.  Most stages take at least four hours and more likely nearer to five.  That is a fair bit of spinning time.  Also this year Wimbledon started a week later so there are has been a bit of a conflict in Chez Sassy.  The one thing you can do with the Tour is fast forward through some of the more boring bits - well once you've watch a load of cyclist ride along one road you've seen a lot of the race - mountain stages and sprinter's finishes are great fun, but the bits between can be a tad tedious...

Wimbledon on the other hand must be watched live, point by point.  Both provide ample opportunity to get out the fibre and wheel and get productive.

This year as been particularly productive - so far (and there is still five more stages)

First on the wheel was 'Death' from Into the Whirled - a superwash merino and a really fast spin - so fast that I forgot to take in progress piccies.

Then Dragon Fruit and Rosebud from Southern Cross Fibre - Bond and Mulberry Silk - a scrumptious blend.

The sharp eyed will notice some new bobbins have appeared - these are from Akerworks in the USA, 3D printed and in magenta - how could I not get some.  They arrived last Monday and a week of testing has proven them to be excellent.  They are lighter than the ordinary Schacht bobbins.  These are compatible with my WooLee Winder and I looooooove them.

Next to face the wheel was Octarine, the last of my MegaSal fibre - for this I spun two bobbins end to end and plied to keep the gradient.

Then over this weekend, when again there was a conflict between cycling and tennis - this time the Davis Cup - and we won, for the first time in 30 years GB are into the semis - which will be played in September here in the UK against Australia - that is going to be fantastic....

This is Deju Vu, another Southern Cross Fibre colourway, - hot of the wheel

Next - well I must go stash diving...... but.....

This weekend is Fibre East - currently just over 4 days to go, and as usual Mr S and I are volunteering, so bright and early Thursday morning will see us on the road to Ampthill and then over to Shillington for a bit of r and r!  With hopefully a trip to the Handweaver's Studio next Tuesday.....  Mr S is a sucker for a train ride, so Hitchin to Finsbury Park and a short walk or bus is a real treat for us both....
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