Friday, 28 December 2012

December Blues

Despite umpteen projects this December is proving a real hard slog and I have found everything hard going and despite Mr S trying his best to cheer me up I have found myself sitting and crying over nothing.  The weather this year hasn't helped much either - wet, wet wet!  I hate rain it makes pushing a wheelchair a nightmare, wet push rims and the spray from the wheels and within minutes you are wet through and going no where fast.  Plus from at least the beginning of November shops have done nothing but push Christmas - why anyone wants to hear Carols in November is beyond me and certainly doesn't help with my yearly blues. 

Think that if I hear Noddy singing 'I wish it could be.............' one more time I might actually scream and news readers bemoaning the fact that people will find it difficult to get to spend the holiday with their families because of the weather just make me want to hide.  Families are greatly over rated in my opinion (you may disagree - fine) but my memories of family Christmases are not happy ones - my Grandmother and Father disliked each other with a deep deep hatred that stemmed from the 'you're not good enough for my daughter statement' made sometime after their marriage - or so I am told.  Christmas brought out the worst in both - sniping and back biting on a global scale, which left Mother in the kitchen getting quietly tipsy on sherry and then after the usual bickering over the lunch table I (as the daughter of the house) was required to wash up (well dry up actually) while my brother was allowed to play!  This as you can imagine didn't endear me to him and one year I rebelled and refused to dry the cutlery - saying it was unfair and that it was time he did some of the chores.  All hell broke loose - I was ungrateful, disrespectful and was sent back to the kitchen.................did I?  No I did not and I have never ever been allowed to forget this episode.  Can you believe that when Mr S and I decided to go away for Christmas rather than go through another family Christmas this was brought up as an example of my selfishness................

Since then we have only spent two Christmases at home - now we go away in our caravan and spend the time doing things in our way - no tinsel, no carols, no turkey and definitely no mince pies or cranberry sauce - just us and Molly and several bottles of red wine.  We have just got back home from a week in depths of rural Devon with little or no Internet and a very iffy phone signal.......  The place was cut off by floods during the week before we went and access was down a very small country lane.  But we did get to walk by the sea and throw pebbles and the sun did shine for a short period and there are now only three more days of December to be got through, I think that I might just make it.

Just to prove we were really there - see what I found on the beach


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Introducing - Hiawatha

Over the last few weeks I have tantalising all my friends with hints about a new wheel - well time has come to unveil.

Picking up this wheel was delayed by the floods at the end of November, but Wednesday dawned bright and sunny so Mr S and I drove down roads that only 2 weeks before had been rivers - it was quite surreal and the damage done by the floods were clear to see - road surfaces broken up and fields and drains still full.  But I digress,  so Fanfare..................................

This is an Indian Spinner, made for Guild member by her husband.  It is a double drive

with a single treadle

She has been stored in a garage for couple of years as a result of which there is some water damage to one leg

This is mainly cosmetic and the actual wood is sound so I have rubbed down the wood and cleaned away the mildew.  The wheel had been varnished which isn't good so I have sanded it smooth and used a wood balsam to enrich some of the very dry bits.
As a result of being stored, all the metal and leather bits were very rusty and dry, but again they have all cleaned up very nicely with brasso, saddle soap and some elbow grease.
As this photo shows the oriffice is made from copper pipe

She needs a new drive band as the present one is stretched and the cover is split in places, also the tension spring needs replacing as does the wire, but these are little things.............

I also need to pack one of the feet to level her up (I think she has always been a bit wonky) and add rubber feet to stop her running away as I spin.

So please welcome Hiawatha to family - The Murmering of Spinning Wheels now stands at nine......

And here is a little spun yarn - not a lot but the drive band keeps popping off, so until that's sorted.........

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

December a Month for Knitting

Knitting - the process of using two or more needles to loop yarn into a series of knots in order to create a finished garment or some other type of fabric.  In past times it was a skill that girls had to master along with spinning!  In all my research into the topic I can't find that it has ever been a remedy for depression - so for Woolly Wednesday - knitting the cure all.

I am not a fan of December and I definitely do not enjoy the so-called festive season!   Eating and drinking too much, forced jollity and spending time with people that you don't like just because they are family just isn't my idea of fun plus having spent a major part of my life providing 'Christmas' for the extended family just because I was the daughter and that's what girls are supposed to do, and never really ever being thanked or even appreciated, Mr S and I decided to be selfish and celebrate in our own way.....we go away in our caravan, and on 'the day' we go for a long walk preferably by the sea and throw pebbles as a way of remembering those who are no longer with us.  We go back and eat Tartiflette with a big green salad and have a bottle (or even two) of French wine from the Languedoc - which reminds us of the warm summer days we have spent in southern France..................heaven on earth!

I have been a knitter for most of my life, I was taught by my grandmother at the age of three, using dish cloth cotton and awful plastic needles, and find that I can lose myself in the intricacies of a pattern - a habit that has stood me in good stead many times. 

For personal reasons I really find December a difficult month and in the past have struggled to maintain a semblance of normality.  I sometimes feel that I suffer SAD but only in December.  Little did I think that knitting would help me through the dark days, but last year I found the perfect solution to those December blues - knitalongs and particularly the Advent Scarf on Ravelry.  Twenty-four clues over 24 days leave you with no time to feel too down in the dumps - so for those who like me find December a hard act to cope with I can recommend an Advent Scarf.

This is after Day two.....

and this is my scarf on day four (apologies for the photo but its gets dark so early and I didn't get the clue finished in natural light!) This is a lace yarn with gold sparkle dyed Nutmeg - the day two picture is closer to the colour - and accented with bronze beads.  I wrote most of this yesterday, as today I have been down to Dorset to collect another wheel - more news on that later - but at about 2am this morning it dawned on me that I was using sock yarn, not lace and even worse I didn't have enough yarn to finish the project - so today is Day One - I have started again in white lace yarn and black the rest of these musings may never come to fruitition..........although I have knitted in the car so am onto the second clue!

But then there are lots more hours in a day to fill, so I fill these with other knitting projects.  I had been looking for a poncho pattern - but all were too long for me and I didn't want a point at the front - so I decided to design my own. 

This, I have decided, will be a square shaped poncho worked from the top down with a large cowl collar which I am knitting in a bulky yarn which a friend dyed a semi-solid black!   And so far I am here - just starting the third 100 gram ball, bulky doesn't seem go very far when you are used to knitting with lace yarn! 


Then I have a shawl or two on the go, just in case I find that I have time on my hands -

If that not enough to get me through to January then I have just treated my self to Wollmeise Lace Garn for the Walk on the Moon Shawl in lot 11. 
So knitting, not only a series of knots, but a remedy for December blues - knit on........... 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Stitches, Patterns and Dyeing

I love stitch dictionaries and never fail to marvel at the seemingly never ending combinations that produce an infinite number of patterns.  Just by placing a yarn over before or after a knit 2 tog changes the way the pattern looks.  This makes designing a real challenge, but when is a design unique?

This question is posed in the light of a copyright statement on a scarf which is done in the sea foam stitch.  Google 'seafoam stitch' and numerous sites show how this delightful stitch creates the illusion of foam as it 'mimics the undulating movement sea foam makes as it lies on top of the water'.  This stitch makes use of the double yarn over and is worked over a multiple of 10 plus 6 stitches and the instructions can be found for free on several sites.  But if you want to make a scarf using this stitch to sell you are supposed to purchase the pattern which grants you the right to sell items made from the pattern!  Surely copyright protects your intellectual property, but these patterns have been around for centuries, and were exchanged between knitters freely, as can be seen in the surviving hand-knitted lace samplers. 

Currently I am currently knitting/designing a poncho

This one starts at the cowl neck and is worked from the top down - so no seams, just cast on, knit and then cast off and its ready to wear! This sample is knit in some bulky yarn that I dyed for another project, I could dye some more, but I'm not sure that I want a poncho in this colour!

Which brings me on to dyeing and this week's experiments.  This last week has been wet and windy and much of the countryside is flooded, including the area between me and Dorset, so my planned trip to this county has been delayed until the waters go down!  So in the meantime and to keep me from going slightly bonkers I have been experimenting with dye absorption - or to be more precise how much dye can a fibre absorb? 

To make my poncho I have decided that I need a dark colour - can't decide between dark winter green or red - or going down the safe route of dark gray or even black. But which ever colour I chose it has to be a very solid colour.  These pencil rovings, approx 250grams in weight, have each been dyed with 15grams of dye powder and are uniform in colour, but best was there was no exhaust and the resulting colour is uniform!

Now all these tests are fine, but I procrastinate - I really need to be a brave girl and make a decision and dye the yarn so that I can knit the poncho before winter gives way to spring!


Monday, 19 November 2012

When is a spinning fibre not a spinning fibre?

Answer when it is dyed by Colinette!

Here I am quoting directly from their web page 'Our rovings are made from 100% merino fibre at 23.5 microns and are just great for all types of felting and spinning projects. Each length is approx 140g in weight and hand dyed to our stunning range of shades. So time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in – no double sided sticky tape needed here though.'

The sticky tape bit, is supposed to be a joke, but it is no joke trying to spin with this fibre.  One thing I must say is that a takes a lot of skill to ruin fine merino - but they have managed it superbly.  I was drawn by the vibrant colours and bought 5 rovings from the Spinning Weal in Clevedon back in July.  Due the Olympics and Paralympics I did not get around to spinning one of the rovings until September - I could not believe that anyone would sell such rubbish.  To get anything that could be drafted I had to tear the fibres apart and you could hear the fibres breaking as you pulled.  Each and every bit had to be pulled apart until it was smaller than pencil roving and then it was still matted.  Thinking that it might be a one off I looked at the other rovings, they are just the same.  Then I did some research on Ravelry - where I found lots of similar reports and I give a sample here:

'the roving was extremely hard to work with, almost felted throughout. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but provided quite a challenge to work though'.

'badest roving I’ve ever spun, many many felted parts, no fun in spinning :('

'There were three felted areas in this roving, causing me to just discard it.'

'I love a lot of the Colinette yarns, so when I saw they also had roving in their webshop for a very good price, I was over the moon! So I ordered six different colours, thinking I couldn’t be dissappointed. I was wrong. I haven’t tried spinning with any of them yet, but I don’t like the look of them at all. I can’t really explain what’s wrong with it, but I don’t think they will spin up nicely, or if they do, I will have to put quite a bit more effort in it than usual. Also they smell very acidy from the dye bath, it was like opening up a bottle of vinegar when I opened the bag.'

'so much color came out when I washed this'

When I showed my 'Jewel' roving to Sarah at the Spinning Weal she said that she was 'only selling them for felting now' - but I was sold them as a spinning fibre and so were a lot of other people - there are 56 stashed on Ravelry all for spinning - a few lucky souls have done so - but these seem to have been early dye lots (mostly 2011 and early 2012) - mine are all dated June 2012 - steer clear!

I have just left a review on 'Jewel' - but I doubt that it will get approval!!!


Friday, 16 November 2012

Just a quick update

Thought I would update yesterday dyeing with a few photos of the results..............

First Grayscale on Falkland, the top braid was dyed in the exhaust of the first bottom braid and definitely has a good gradient.

Next Brights again on Falkland, there is more gradient in the pink than the photo shows and interestingly what should have been the medium turquoise has come out darker than the dark!

Not a bad day's work!
Can't decide whether to split the braids in half and then two ply, of spin down the whole braid and n-ply - decisions, decisions.......................

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Gradient Dyeing

Its Thursday so its dyeing day!  Thursday mornings are all mine - Mr S goes to his wood turning class and I have four hours of completely me time.  Very selfishly I let nothing come between me and this very precious time.  Its not that I don't love Mr S to pieces, but some times you need space to be yourself and this is what Thursday mornings have become.................. a man free fibre time.

Today I am experimenting with gradient dyeing.  I have dyed yarn by this method before, but attempts to dye roving haven't been as good as I had hoped for.  Some of this may be due to physical and space restraints, and some I must put down to operator error.  The major problem as I see it, is too ensure that the colour seamlessly changes - no blotches or bleeding.  My usual dyeing method just doesn't allow for this.

For spaced dyed tops I either arrange the top in a spiral or in equal length strips and then apply the dye - this is not unique and there are examples of these methods in numerous blogs and on line tutorials - so I am not going to go into detail.  These methods do not work, for me at least, for gradient dyeing - so how to achieve the desired result.

It seemed obvious that there had to some physical division between the shades and that cling film wasn't up to the task - I had even tried clipping between colours, but then I had a portion of undyed yarn where the clips had been - another failure.  Whilst in a well-known supermarket the other day I notice that for the princely sum of £1.23 I could get four beer glasses - very thick glass, but fairly straight sided and with a capacity of 570ml or one pint in old money - just the job.

So four glasses with 500ml of water and decreasing amounts of dye solution are currently steaming gently. Normally I use a microwave, but was worried that the fibre that was not completely submerged would dry out and burn.

So here is how I did it:

Back Left - Black DOS 4, Back Right - Black DOS 1, Front Right - Granite DOS 0.5 and Front Left -- no dye. I put one end of the top in the back left glass and the other in the front left, and put the middle section equally in the two right glasses.  Point to remember - put the glasses in the steamer basket first, it was quite difficult to move four glasses full of fibre and dye............

Here are the four glasses in the steamer - I had to use the second basket upside down to get enough height and the lid doesn't fit that well, so there was some dripping, but nothing topping up didn't cope with.

This is the first 50grams after rinsing

There was quite a lot of exhaust so I put another 50grams of fibre in the dyes and it was all absorbed


So now I am trying anther 100grams - with turquoise and pink this time.  Although this method seems to be working fairly well, but I am only dyeing 50 grams at a time - need to find a way to increase to at least 100grams - litre glasses perhaps, but they fit in the steamer? 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

When is a craft not a craft?

I pose this question because yesterday I went to a 'Craft Fair', one of three that were being held in a six mile radius of my home.  The advertising for this event emphasised the 'craft' element of the event both in the local paper but also on all the signage and when I got there crafts there were not.

Is there any craft element in selling Cash and Carry sweets (two stalls), a selection of 'made in China' type Christmas decorations, which had obviously been bought wholesale (I found the site they were bought from on Google in about three seconds), battery operated plastic helicopters, mass produced jewellery, tarot card reading, face painting?  There is absolutely no craft in the stall advertising the Pampered Chef franchise which was trying to get you to host a party plan selling thingy and nor in the stall selling second hand clothes.  What craft is there in a children's book stall with books from The Book People?  There was the essential to every craft fair - handmade card stall but this one was also selling rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and gift tags, baubles and garlands none of which had been hand-crafted.

So all in all a real disappointment - had been advertised as a Christmas Bazaar then this would just about have fitted the bill, but a Craft Fair it was not.  Perhaps I have been spoilt by the wonderful Fibre Festivals and 'proper Craft Fairs' but it seems that despite the supposed revival of making things - Cath Kitson and Kirsty Allsopp immediately spring to mind - there is still a mass throw away cultural with little or no thought to how or where things have be made.  My immediate thought when seeing a young girl spending her pocket money on a mass produced  Christmas robin (one that most likely had been made by a Asian child little older than the purchaser) was sadness and confirmation that Christmas is little more than a commercial festival which targets those who can least afford the tat that passes for craft.

To add to this - there was a entry fee of £1..............................  as most of the things on offer could have been bought from a £1 Shop it would have been cheaper to have had a morning out there...............

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Its Woolly Wednesday in Wovember

Its Wednesday and its November so it must be Woolly Wednesday and time to talked about woolly things!

There has been a lot of discussion on Ravelry about whether it is right to celebrate all things woolly in November by using the synonym Wovember, because it is degrading the Movember movement which raising money to research prostate cancer and testicular cancer.  I don't want to into the rights and wrongs of using similar names, just to say that I support both!  I love all things woolly and Mr S used to sport a very stylish moustache until his diagnosis with Sleep Apnoea made it impossible.

Right Woolly things - and particularly spinning and spinning wheels.  I have been a very lucky/naughty/bad/good (delete as you think appropriate) girl as in the last two weeks I have acquired two spinning wheels.

Frances - A Frank Herring
Nellie - this maybe an early Williamson (Timbertops) or not! (The jury is out at the moment)
Why you may ask does anyone want/need more spinning wheels?  I would counter this with 'why not'!  Every spinning wheel is different - yes I know that a wheel is a device for putting a twist in fibre and then storing it - but different wheels have different ratios and it is ratios that make for very different finished yarns. 
Ratios - love them or hate them - are necessary if you are going understand the properties of the finished yarn.  Basically high ratios make fine yarns and low ratios make thicker yarns.  To work out the ratio of your wheel count the number of times the flyer/whorl goes round for one turn of the drive wheel, if you have more than one groove on your flyer then you will be able to spin with different ratios and therefore make different yarns.  For example Nellie only has one groove and a ratio of 3.25:1, which means that I am going to able to spin some lovely art yarns (more about art yarns later), and is lower than the old Ashford Country Spinner! 
Frances is a double drive wheel and has three ratios  7:1, 6.75:1, 6.25:1 this means that she will make finer yarns than Nellie, but not as fine as my Ashford Joy which has four ratios, 6:1, 8:1, 11:1 and 14:1. I use the 14:1 to spin my lace yarn.  There is the twist per inch brigade, and I think that it is too easy to get hung up on this - obviously tpi is important, but it is more important that the yarn you are producing has a even quality and more importantly spinning and plying should be enjoyable, so unless it is really really important to you to know exactly how many tpis there is in your yarn - my advice is relax, it can't be good to be sooooooooooooo hung up on counting the twists that you have lost all the pleasure.  But if it is important to you here is a short explanation:
For a yarn with 10 tpi, place the drive band in the groove of the flyer/whorl size closest to 10:1. This means is that one revolution of the drive wheel will put 10 twists in one inch of the yarn. Therefore, if you draft one inch of fibre, hold it for one revolution of the wheel and let the yarn wind onto the bobbin, you will be spinning a yarn with 10 tpi. You can vary this - for example you let in more fibre you will get less twists, or stick to one inch and do two revolutions you will get more twists. 
Then there is the worsted versus woollen debate, which I mostly get wrong, but here goes!  Worsted spun yarn uses combed fibres which all lie parallel to each other (usually called top or roving in the UK), and the yarn is spun from this. Which means that the lustre of the fibre in enhanced and you get a strong dense yarn without too much trapped air.  Woollen uses carded fibre where is fibres are rolled up and spun, which means that the fibres are all over the place and you get a lot of air in the yarn which makes them more bouncy and lighter, but without the sheen of worsted spun yarn.  Hope that makes sense .  Obviously different fleece is more suited to either woollen or worsted eg Longwools are better spun worsted and shorter fibres, like Downland breeds are better spun woollen
Writing this has just brought to my attention that I really don't have a wheel with a lace flyer - this will obviously have to be addressed in the very near future and I am in deep discussions with Mr S over a remedy that doesn't include the purchase of another wheel..............
PS Hope you remember to put your clocks back last week!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

There are Gremlins about the house

I have come to the conclusion that we have gremlins, not the Bagpuss type that put things right, but the nasty sort that get into drawers and create havoc.

I am not the tidiest person in the world, but I do try to keep my ever growing stash in a semblance of order. While on the subject of tidy I will let you into a secret - Mr S is even worse (he will deny this), but if he is the super tidy person his mother told me he was, who or what covers the worktops in the utility room with 'things'?  Regularly, but not weekly, I clear off the things that have accumulated on the worktops, wipe it down and leave everything fairly neat and tidy - wow!  No sooner than the worktop is clear, than somebody or something starts putting things in the clean and empty space..... 

Now there are only two people and a cat in this house, and Molly doesn't have much in the way of possessions, the odd ball with bell, and other cat type toys, but she definitely doesn't have an electric drill, or an electric screwdriver or, for that matter, any sort of tool electric or otherwise, nor does she have any paint brushes gradually drying out in jam jars, or tubs of wood glue.  I on the hand, do have an electric screwdriver, but mine's pink and lives in its special case in my work room!  So if it isn't Mr S then it must be the gremlins...............

My stash is divided into four types - yarn for knitting and dyeing, fibre for dyeing and spinning, material for quilting and largest 'everything else'.  For long term storage I have large Ikea plastic tubs with clip down tops, for the more day to day, must be able to get at stuff,  I have, again Ikea, black pop boxes and large plastic bags. The theory here is if the bags and boxes aren't in use then they can be folded up and stored thus saving space. In reality I just keep buying more and to date not one has ever been folded up. But the option is there should the need arise!. 

Today I needed some black wool to work the faces on some little snowmen, so I went to the relevant black box, the one that contains my sock yarn skeins, and low and behold the gremlins had been at work!  Instead of lots of neat skeins there was a tangled mess, skeins had twisted together and there was a bit in the middle that looked as it a mouse had made a nest in the middle - this is just small part of the mess!

Now a couple of hours later order has been restored, and the snowmen have faces, but how on earth did these inanimate objects interweave themselves around each other? 

These cute snowmen, who are waiting for their hats and scarves, are really easy peasy to make.  I have used my own hand spun, but any White DK will do.  I use the two circular needle method, so start by casting on 18sts using 3.75mm needles and divide between the two needles and make sure the stitches aren't twisted.
Knit two rounds,
Round 3: Increase 10 stitches evenly
R.4-18 knit. 
R19 Decrease 10 sts evenly
R20-21 Knit
R22 Increase six sts
R23-30 Knit
R31 Decrease six sts
R32 Knit
R33 K2tog to end of row and leaving a long tail cut your yarn.

Thread the yarn back through the sts on the needles and draw up tight and finished off.  What you have made is a tube, larger at the bottom, the decrease and increase forms the neck and head - very simple. You could knit a straight tube, but I find that the decrease forms a nice neck for the scarf!

To make a larger snowman you can use more stitches, and for a smaller one use less - for example for the snowman on the left I cast on 18sts, for the middle on 16sts and for larger one on the right 20sts.

Stuff and using the tail from the cast on drawn the edges together and finish off.  With some black yarn give your snowman some eyes, mouth and buttons, for the nose make a french knot in orange.

If you want a hat - Cast on 24 sts, join as for the snowman, rib 2 rounds, then knit for 8-10 rounds and then decrease to form a point - you can really have fun making hats, or head bands, just be imaginative.  For a scarf I either plait or work an i-cord for 6-8 inches.

Just couldn't resist adding this photo of Sam and Sue Snow, he sports a stylish hat and scarf and she has a beaded head band and shawl...................

And here is a really sweet Christmas Tree from Mr S

I have commissioned two very tiny trees to make some earrings - but I fear that they may be to heavy!


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Now in an alpaca free zone...

I can annouce with some pride that Chez Sassy is now completely alpaca free!  I have delved into, and searched and sorted my ever growing stash and all my alpaca had gone to new homes where hopefully it will be loved and used.

In Chez Sassy we are very used to reading the labels all all food stuffs as Mr S is a ceoliac.  It is really unbelievable the amount of gluten in ready made meals - which is probably why we don't do the ready meal route very often, but when we do - the first thing is to read the ingredients and then decide.   But I have never had to read the the yarn labels before deciding whether I like the yarn.  But since discovering my allergy to alpaca I have become increasingly aware of the number of yarns that contain the fibre!  I have looking for some yarn to make this season's must have cowl virtually every yarn I found contained - yes Alpaca! But I have found the perfect yarn in my stash a cashmere yarn from the Posh Cashmere Club a couple of years back. 

But enough of that - besides looking for non alpaca yarns I have been busy dyeing, designing and experimentingwith pencil roving.

First up the latest from the dye pot

Double Jeopardy (Polwarth)
 Light Wings (Polwarth)
Spring Meadow (Polwarth)
It might not come as a surprise to see that I am very fond of Polwarth.  It is lovely to spin and blended with silk an absolute dream!
While I was dyeing these I also dip dye some pencil roving which  I thought I would try knitting with, rather than spinning.  I have spun pencil roving in the past but it seems a bit senseless as most of the work has already been done for you.
Any way here is the result of the experiment - using 9mm needles, and the DOS 4 in what I think is a autumnal shade.  I have about 500 grams of this so now to dip dye in larger quanties!
The other must have item this autumn is wrist warmers or the fingerless mittens, but could I find a pattern that I liked, no there was either too much or too little pattern, and I had decided that I wanted cables and no thumbs.  A quick look at patterns of Ravelry showed that you don't really need a pattern so here is my take on the fingerless mitts.  These I knit with some handspun merino and silk dyed with Gaywool Denim.
But not everyone has my handspun yarn so I am knitting and writing up the pattern for an aran weight yarn.......................details later!



Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Woolly Thoughts, but wrong Wednesday!

Like a lot of other spinners I subscribe the Hand Spinning Newsletter produced every month by Sheila aka Peahen on Ravelry.  In this month's bonanza edition there was a link to Woolly Wednesday. 

As I have felt that I needed to focus on more spinning matters I duly I signed up to blog on the first Wednesday of every month.   Having missed the first Wednesday in October I thought I would write on the wrong Wednesday on the matter of 'wrong' fibres............

Particularly on some of the misconceptions about 'natural fibres'.  What is a natural fibre - well sheep fleece is about as natural as you can get and green, because the sheep obligingly grows a new one every year. The same can said for any animal coat/fleece all as nature intended. 

But what about other so called natural fibres?  In the latest Yarnwise magazine there is an article on vegetarian fibres , but how many people know how these fibres are produced?  The most common are Bamboo, Soya, Ingeo (Corn), Linen, Ramie, Banana and Milk Protein and a lot of spinners have probably spun them. All these go through innumerable processes, far more than in wool production.  Importantly all of these fibres require rutting, that is breaking down the cellulose in the stems.  Not many people realise that the rutting of Flax in local streams causing incredible pollution in the past and was a major killer of fish!  Some processes use chemicals to speed things up and reminds me of the way decaffeinated coffee is created!  To take the caffeine out of coffee chlorine gas is used!  This was the gas used in the trenches during WWI, just thought I would throw this in as I really can't understand why anyone would want to drink such a beverage - decaf tea goes through the same by the way! Drink less, but drink the best that's my motto...........

I don't know why I am surprised, but there is a growing interest in Vegan Knitting, and all these natural fibres are high on their list of suitable yarns, which includes acrylic - why?  Acrylic is a by product of oil, oil prices have shot up, so no surprise that Acrylic Yarns are getting more expensive!!! But apparently shearing sheep is cruel and believe it or not there is a commonly held thought that shearing actually kills the sheep!! Another argument against wool is cruel treatment of sheep during shearing, but I have witness many sheep being sheared and quite honestly they seemed very pleased to get rid of the heavy fleece. But hey hoy, everyone is entitled to their own opinion..............

Another argument is that wool causes allergies................. does it? As someone who as numerous allergies I have never had a problem with wool - alpaca yes, but wool never, thank goodness! A real problem as so many yarns nowadays seem to include alpaca - even more reason to always read the label!

What was a mere inconvenience has developed into a real problem - just touching alpaca fibre starts the itching and more sees a rash develope on my palms - so time to detash and Chez Sassy is now a completely Alpaca (and Acrylic) free zone!

In conclusion - this week's dyeing on Polwarth

English Spring Meadow

Monday, 15 October 2012

Back in the old routine

After all the excitement of the summer it has been rather pleasant to slip back into a normal routine.  Even though there was a lot of catching up to do - all those little things like dental appointments, eye tests and invites to have a flu jab.  But the biggest job was checking the post, of which there seemed to have been a mountain. 

But when one gets down to looking through the pile of envelopes it appears that most go straight into the re-cycling bin.  There were 19 letters addressed to 'The Householder' tempting me to change telephone, power, insurance, ISA and broadband provider, another dozen actually address to me personally telling me that by swapping it will save me several £100s!  In fact if the literature is to be believed I would have saved somewhere in the region on £800 pa just by switching my gas, electric and house insurance - nearly what it actually costs.................. Perhaps if I hang on they will pay me to use their products.

A well-known pizza delivery company had put 22 leaflets through the letterbox begging me and Mr S to eat their pizzas at remarkably low prices, whilst assuming that Mr S and and I could comfortably eat a large cheese stuffed crust pizza and garlic bread each whilst drinking two litres of Diet Coke nightly.  And if I took advantage of their marvellous offers I could use the enclosed voucher to enjoy a free litre mushy ice cream.

Five local Estate Agents were confident that they could sell my property in a matter of days, while another had written to me to advise that they had a purchaser looking for my bungalow and Mr and Mrs T had the cash waiting.  Nice to know that I own such a saleable property.........

There were six local free newspapers, and Lidl had delivered eight brochures listing their weekly bargains - I do so wish I had been at home to take advantage of the bargain BBQ and the bright pink kebabs - not! 

The pile also included, two Railway World, and two Wood Turning magazines, my subscription copy of the latest Yarnmaker, a National Trust, two Caravan Club and two Camping and Caravan Magazines, Eight Bank Statements and several Credit Cards Bills (which had already been paid by Direct Debit)  A reminder from the RHS that I hadn't paid my sub this year, this is despite writing to them in February to cancel.  A letter from the National Trust thanking me for contacting them and advising me that they had amended my details - well I had contacted them, but that was back in May and the issue had been sorted out long before. There were a couple of invitations, one to a Gallery viewing which we had missed and the other to a birthday party, The Post Office had left a card advising that a parcel wouldn't go through the letterbox and was waiting for me collect! (fortunately it was still there)

There was letter each to each of us from David Cameron on headed note paper, in which he personally thanked us for unselfishly giving up our time to be Games Makers and another two  enclosing a certificate type letter for our CV's and encouraging us to continue volunteering and telling how the experience would impress prospective employers!!!!! 

But no letter telling me that I had won the Lottery (which I don't do!) or had inherited loads of cash from a long lost previously unknown relative, nor had the Bank discovered that I was owed thousands in mis-sold PPI.... although apparantly I could get several thousand in compensation for my accident - which accident and from whom I could claim compensation from they failed to mention.... 

As all this comes through our door in the normal course of daily life it is only when you are confronted with it enmass that it hits home how much of what the postie brings is complete and utter rubbish! 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Update on odd spinning wheel

I have just received an interesting email from the Worshipful Company of Turners which confirms that this odd machine displayed as a spinning wheel in the woollen display at Helmshore Textile Museum is in fact a cotton bobbin winder and it is indeed set upon a new wooden base to make it look like a spinning wheel.  Originally it would have been operated by a child - result!

This photo I took at the Macclesfield Silk Musuem last year - it is also a bobbin winder and was displayed as such.

As an aside there is a very similar item being offered on EBay as a spinning wheel by someone the US - rumoured to have been used by Rumpelstiltskin to spin straw into gold!!!!  At least this one is probably still on its original base! 

Interestingly they are also offering as a separate item the bobbins spools, but have described them spindles for spinng wheel.


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Why, Oh Why..........

Can't museums, mills and local attractions get things right?

There was a discussion recently in the UK Spinners Forum on Ravelry about the way displays show spinning wheels set up wrongly!  Well on our travels we visited the Helmshore Textile Mill this is run by a trust and received funding from Lancashire County Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the North West Development Agency, and the Friends of Helmshore Museum.  So not some amateurish set up.

The museum is divided into two sections - one for cotton and one for wool (as the mill seems to have been used in the past for both fibres!).  We went for the wool section first, as there was a demonstration due later on in the cotton part.  Imagine my surprise to find an Ashford Traditional on display as an example of a typical English wheel of the 18th and 19th centuries.................

A conversation with the person overseeing the room was interesting to say the least.  She couldn't believe that this wheel wasn't what the description card stated - I explained that these wheels were made in New Zealand in the 20th century so couldn't possibly be from the 19th century let alone the 18th and that I had a similar one at home.................. 

They had some fine examples of Looms, Spinning Jennys a lovely Walking Wheel and right at the back this interesting contraption

Why they have set it up with a cone of yarn is beyond comprehension and to be completely honest I am not entirely sure that it is a spinning wheel.  The wood under neath was a different colour (and I suspect age) from the top (the top has had wood worm and the base has not) and as I couldn't get any closer I didn't get a good look at the spindle, but if this was set up level it is very similar to some old wood turning wheels in Mr S's Wood Turning Magazine -  I wonder!

Having duly inspected the mill pond under a large umbrella in a monsoon, we turned our attention to the cotton displays. 

The first display showed a family working in a cottage - the wife with Great Wheel, the husband working a loom and two children carding cotton on (modern) hand carders!  I am sorry that I don't have a photo of this as I was inform that they didn't encourage the taking of photos, I wonder why!  So dear reader you will have to take my word for the following description:

The room was approximately 3 by 4 metres, with a small window high up in the back wall, at one end was a fireplace with the obligatory pot over the fire.  At the back of the room, to the side of the fireplace and next to the wall was the Great Wheel the woman stood behind it and there was no way that she could have spun from that position, plus she was supposed to be spinning cotton......  The two children sat on stools in front of the fire and the rest of the room was taken up by the man who was working on the loom.  Just how wrong can you get it and to make matters worse they a a short video showing the scene with the people working, talking and laughing - as if!.

When we got the to cotton demo things look up - well the guide had worked there!  We were taken through the machinery and the processes needed to produce cotton for weaving - all very impressive as the machinery had been saved from export to India in the 1980s and was still making the tea towels which were sold in the shop.

Unfortunately we were out of time so I was unable to complete the visitor's satisfaction survey - perhaps next time we are up that way I can add some comments to the visitor's book...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Tropical Sun and Monsoon Rain

While the Paralymics were blessed with the most fantastic weather the last few days of our holiday (well we were away from home) resembled a monsoon - it began raining on Saturday evening and continued without a break until Tuesday afternoon, then it drizzled on and off for the next 24 hours - taking down the awning in the rain was not pleasant and after the warnings about not travelling unless absolutely necessary we were more than a little wary - but we needed have worried as we drove down the M6 and M5 the weather cleared and we arrived home in sunshine!. 

Saturday, before the deluge began, we went to Bakewell (a drive through the most beautiful countryside on narrow lanes and up a 20% hill with cyclists) and to BOB the Underground Craft Festival (hopefully an annual event) where we had a fab time talking to various people about spinning - what else?  Like a right idiot I forgot my camera  but manage to get one decent shot on my phone of a wheel made by the Spinning Hobbit (the legs in the photo belong to Mr S and the Spinning Hobbit who were in a deep conversation about making wheels)

This wheel is based on the Babe using plastic piping.  The only bit he didn't make was the bobbin which was a Ashford.  It looked good but I had difficulty getting it to treadle smoothly......... maybe me, but it wasn't as easy as my Calendar Wheel. 
The Murmering Wheel group were there with a surprising number of wheels, including (and I do so wish I had photos) two Frank Herrings (one the lovely bent wood which I lust after and the other made from metal tubing not unlike a Ashford Joy), a Louet in a case in which the bobbin was turned by the wheel, a couple of Great Wheels and a selection of other wheels including a natural Kromski Sonata which completely threw me as I have only ever seen the dark wood wheels before (the Group have 46 wheels in total - which makes my tally of six look pitifully small!) One thing I noticed was that they all treadle very fast, indeed I have never seen any spinners before that treadled a such speeds maybe this is a northern thing - we southerners take it much slower....
I love going to these shows, although I don't buy much - it is more for ideas and keeping in touch with people.  One such was Janet at The Threshing Barn who is a constant source of inspiration and a visit to the Barn is a must if you are in the area (she is always at the Farmer's Market in Bakewell on the last Saturday of the month too) as it is stuff to the rafters with lovely crafty things - and I am pleased to say that I didn't miss out. 
The other highlight of our tour of Yorkshire was a visit to the World of Wool - an Aladdin's Cave of fibre, although the coffee shop is on the second floor!  I have a large box stuffed with fibre which I have just unpacked...................

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

I'm in love......

and who could resist?

These two adorable lambs are Valais Sheep from Switzerland and and unbelievably the adults are just as gorgeous - it was love at first sight.

I want a fleece even though it is very coarse and only suitable for carpets! I want one of those even though I have just been given a Blue-faced Leicester fleece.........

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

We made a difference....

Life is gradually getting back to normal after the excitement of the Paralympics – early mornings and long shifts certainly took a lot of effort especially as both Mr S and I aren't used to a regular routine. But the experience was as I expected = a once in a life time affair. Complete strangers stopped to speak and thank us for the marvellous job that Games Makers were doing.

The number of people that came to the Paralympics was mind blowing – fourteen thousand people came to Eton Manor on the Sunday........ People actually paid to watch, unlike Beijing where people were forced to attend! The weather was amazing, which certainly made the week outstanding, brilliant sunshine day after day - a true Indian Summer! It was so hot that I had to use sun screen, a very unusual occurrence.... and hopefully I have inspired a few people to try Wheelchair Tennis.

I had managed to switch from Technology to Team Events at the last minute which was great and it meant that I was the only wheelchair user at Eton Manor (other than the players and the doctor) that was in full public view..... I got to watch some of the best matches while on duty at the entrance to the courts. Peter Norfolk failed to defend his title, but did get a silver medal in the Quad doubles, and Lucy and Jordanne won the Bronze in the Ladies doubles.

The week seems surreal now, it was as if we were in a bubble divorced from reality – so much that we managed to lose track of the days and arrived a day early at the stopover site on our way to have the caravan serviced!!

Monday, 20 August 2012

I must stop.......

.....buying fleece, hand-dyed roving and yarn - yes I really must!  Instead of getting out my purse I should really get out my dyes.

I have far tooooooo many fleeces, but I am in the process of buying a Bowmont shearling - well that's OK because Bowmont fleece is is softest and makes beautiful yarn suitable for the most delicate skin.  I promised faithfully to Mr S that I would only buy one fleece this year - the Polwarth Cross.  I then bought two Shetland fleeces, one a silver grey and the other deep deep brown - they were an absolute bargain who could resist, and the Bowmont well I have been after one for ages................ he is very understanding and has a stash of wood...........................

When it comes to roving and yarn I see something that I fancy and ooophs there another addition to the stash which I could have reproduced myself at a quarter of the price.  So rather than going shopping today I have been dyeing/copying some colour combinations that had caught my eye whilst browsing the web.

A couple of months back I bought from a fellow raveler some Southern Cross Fibre because I do so want some of this fibre.  It's the exclusiveness that is intriguing, not that I really need anymore of the squishy stuff!  The colours are quite spectacular, but there is a three year waiting list and I really can't be waiting for years just to join a club which would commit me to buying every month.  So I have been trying to match the colours....

This is Tequila Sunrise in a Texel fibre - wouldn't have chosen Texel myself, very hairy and the resulting yarn is not the next to your skin sort of yarn. 

If you break it down there are three colours in this - Red, Orange,Yellow and some left undyed.  The red goes from very dark to pinkish and the yellow and orange blend to give an apricot colour and yellow runs into the white and becomes very very pale.  This was one of the first yarns that I spun on Patience.

Another colourway, another SCF, that I also got from a detash was Burke

In this one there are four colours in addition to the bits left white, dark brown, dark blue, pale blue and tan - the top one is the original and underneath My Burke! Needs more white but otherwise not too far away from the original..

This is my take on Jelly Beans -  I fractal spun mine so the colours aren't so defined but not as wishy washy as the photo shows, but the actual dyeing was easy so I may do another and spin it in blocks of colour.

So next time I reach for my purse I must make myself stop and think could I do that, and if the answer is yes then take a good look and wait until I get home!   Undyed fibre is between £2.40 and £3.00, more for a luxury blend, and dyed tops anything from £9 to £15 and above........ no contest
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