Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A wash a day keeps the fleeces in check..

Over the past two weeks I have tried to make sure that I wash two parcels of fleece every morning - and here are today's on the line drying in the sun. 

Today's fleece is part of the Border Leicester bought at the Masham Sheep Fair.  Yesterday's was some of the Cotswold and hopefully by Friday I shall have some Devon and Cornwall Longwool drying from this beauty.

This gorgeous sheep belongs to Lesley and Darren at  Brexworthy Farm and they have been kind enough to donate a sample for the SpinDyeWeavers display board.

Finally yesterday I finished combing the chocolate Bond, and as I haven't really enjoyed the combing of this one, and any excuse was enough to put it to one side.  The amount of waste from this has come out at a staggering 62% from my 550 grams share I have 207 grams of spinnable fibre!  But only 40 grams is the really fine..............

One excuse was some super black Corriedale given to me by littlemarchhare - it was described as having some hay!  Well perhaps a Corriedale X Hay would have been a closer description, as clearly the sheep had rolled in not only hay but brambles as well, but the fleece was well worth the effort.

I wasn't sure whether to separate the very soft lighter gray, but in the end I decided that it would look good spun as it is, and I am getting a lovely flecked yarn - singles here

and plying on Miss Bliss

Obviously all this washed fleece has to be combed or carded, and I try (very hard) to comb every afternoon, while watching Countdown.  Yes I know day time TV, but you do have to use your brain, plus at the end of the program I also have some spinning fibre - so good use of time I would suggest and a decreasing amount of fleece and a corresponding increasing store of fibre nests.............

I am hoping that having this sort of structure to my life will help during the dark winter months - for as Mr S so kindly pointed out the clocks go back this Sunday!  Which means dark days ahead.....

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Yorkshire Thrift

I have recently come to see Charity shops as a treasure trove for the crafter!  Previously for me Charity Shops meant smelly clothes and books.  I have in the past found some real gems in the History section of these shops - once I paid £3 for a book that I later sold on for £30, but that really was the best I ever did.  But I still hope to find a nice piece of Carlton Ware (bowls and dishes in shape of vegetables) especially the spoon to fit my apple jam pot - I live in hope, but as the spoon was often the first thing that got broken, most pots come without the spoon!

When Mr S and I are away from home we often visit the local charity shops - Mr S looks for books - on railways, wood turning and fiction by his favourite authors, although the last one is getting harder as his collection grows!  The best shops have the books stacked in alphabetical order which gets his approval and means that we spend less time browsing which is good for me.  Up to now I have really only looked for sheepy things, but latterly I have started looking for hand-knitted garments.

This new search began after reading about the yarn bargains that can be found in these shops, particularly things made with expensive yarns being sold for what can only be called a pittance.  From our recent stroll around the Charity shops in Halifax I have come to the conclusion that the sorters have got wise to this and think you are now less likely to find a yarn bargain than in the past.

I did, however, find a 100% wool tunic, hand-knitted in a rather nice heather green which I felt was worth the £3 price tag!  But now I come to the bit that I find really quite extraordinary - the way this garment had been constructed!

Had I realised the quirky construction I would have taken photos, but it wasn't until I came to unravel the front that it came to light! The bottom half of the tunic was knitted in a knit2, purl2 rib, with a stocking stitch top.  Obviously the knitter had realised after about 7 inches of ribbing that it was coming out too small.  Now if I had been knitting this, I would have frogged and started again with more stitches - not the knitter of this particular garment.

As I unraveled the top of the ribbing I came upon what I thought at first to be some short row shaping.  Closer inspection revealed that the first and last four stitches were knitted from the top down!  As I continued with the deconstruction I found that the knitter had added the extra stitches around a section of ribbing. 

The extra edge stitches had been knitted down until they came to the cast-on, on this row they had grafted the new knitting to the bottom of the tunic and knitted downwards!  In this diagram the arrows show the direction of the stitches.

Effectively encasing the original ribbing - and it had been beautifully done, not really noticeable unless you looked really hard. I just can't believe that all that work was quicker than re-knitting a section of ribbing!  

Also every join was knotted it didn't matter whether it was in the middle of a row, just a tiny knot with the ends cut off close - Mr S says that it is Yorkshire thrift!

So for the princely sum of £3 I got 650grams of Yorkshire wool and a lesson in garment construction - what a bargain!

Friday, 11 October 2013

On the road again................Part Two Yorkshire

For me Yorkshire means wool, sheep and spinning, for Mr S it is where his maternal ancestors come from.  But we both agree that it is a beautiful county despite/because of its industrial past and as historians we both find that this makes visiting well worth while.

But this year my focus was wool, having discovered that the last weekend in September was Yarndale and The Masham Sheep Fair - well that was too good to miss. I have talked about both in my Woolly Wednesday post, so I won't go over old ground other than to say that I would recommend the Sheep Fair which was a wonderful day!  Yarndale has had mixed reviews mainly because lots of people couldn't get there - apparently they were turning people away because the car park was full!!!!!!  Well anyone who knows Skipton at all knows that there isn't a lot of parking in the town itself and it was a market day - not good!!  Lots of people just turned around and went home.  This makes me feel sad and a tiny bit angry to think that some people just sat in a traffic queue - what an anti-climax to what should have been a fun day out.  Let's hope that the organizers learn from this year's mistakes.

I was one of the lucky ones - no problem parking at either venue.  In fact at Masham the parking for the disabled was right in the middle of the town.  Not that you have thought that when following the signs - go down the hill the man said and I did, then I went up hill and round a hairpin bend, then through a very narrow gate and up a gravel driveway, round the back of a large house and into a field - only to discover that I was next to the church and a stone's throw from the market place where all the action was - perfect!

Actually Yorkshire is full of woolly places to visit so a spinner's heaven but this year I had to content myself with a visit to World of Wool and The Piece Hall in Halifax where there was a cute little wool shop called Three Bags Full crammed full of wool and things, but for knitters really.  Halifax is a nightmare in a wheelchair - steep hills, cobbles and high kerbstones all come together to make it real hard work and lots of the old shops had steps, but it is the cobbles that make if really difficult - nice to look at though!

As you know, I'm always on the look out for natural dye stuff and I wasn't disappointed on this trip - 'coz in the hedge at the back of our pitch there was a small elder bush, full of ripe berries but not for wine!

Elderberry is, according to my book, supposed to give purples, but I had a limited amount of dye stuff, so couldn't go for the full range!  For this one I tried the method using vinegar and got a more muted mauve - this is on Bombyx Mori silk.

This is definitely a dye stuff that needs further experiments - as alum will give purple and an iron modifier will deepen that to an almost black purple.  The only downside is that stuff dyed with elderberries fades in daylight - shame.

I have also read that the Himalayan Balsam (the whole plant not just the flowers) gives a yellowy brown and there was a whole bank of the stuff right next to the elderberries - so next year.....

Thursday, 3 October 2013

On the road again..... Part One - Staffordshire

Our friends in the north when they heard we were heading their way immediately booked a holiday in Turkey - no not really, but I had jokingly said when we decided to go to Yorkshire for the last two weeks in September, I bet they will be away - and they were!  This didn't prevent us from having a fabulous woolly time - firstly in Staffordshire and then in Yorkshire, think Yorkshire, think, World of Wool, Yarndale and The Masham Sheep Fair for starters.............

Before we could even leave there were problems - the mover on our caravan wouldn't come off one of the wheels - here I have to say that the suppliers of the mover were fantastic - talked Mr S through taking the offending bit off, then waited for us to drive up the M5 to the Tewkesbury junction where they fitted a new bit and all under warranty!  This did make us a little late arriving at our first stop - Blackshaw Moor just outside Leek, but we did make well before the gates were locked for the night.  The delay did mean that I had plenty of knitting time

This is my Clarice Shawl Again which I knitted in the car while Mr S drove up the M5 etc, so called because I started it way back and it had languished unloved because I had been dyeing and spinning silk, even coming off the needles - so I started again...  Here it isn't blocked so the lace doesn't show that well.

The next day (Thursday) it rained (this was the only time it rained in the whole two weeks) but as we were having the car serviced it didn't really matter especially as The Threshing Barn is just outside Leek - had a lovely afternoon talking about all things woolly with Janet, plus I acquired a few woolly fibre items for the SDW raffle. 

Most memorable was the afternoon we decided to 'walk' around Tittesworth Reservoir. Not for us a gentle stroll around the 1.5mile suggested route - no we decided to do the full 5 mile circular route right around the reservoir, despite the warnings of steep gradients and a sign saying no mobility scooters pass this point!  What it didn't say was that there were steps - by this time we were over half way round, long past the point of no return - so I went up on my bum, one step at a time and quite slowly - but I did it and from there on it was a breeze..........

This is the view from the top of the dam - just to prove that we really did get there - daft, stupid, crazy or what?

Saturday was the beginning of Spin in Public week and I did, spin in public that is, several times and in different locations.  I did attracted quite a lot of attention, especially from a German lady who had no English (my German is equally lacking) but we managed to communicate with hand signals and chatted away so quite a while.  It still amazes me that it is the men that are more interested than their wives! 

Tuesday we left Staffordshire and drove up the M6, M60 and M62 to Yorkshire and the Caravan Club Site at Mitholmroyd.  This site is an absolute gem, completely hidden from the world, and surrounded by the most glorious countryside despite being only a few miles from Bradford, Leeds, Halifax and Huddersfield.  It is also near the bottom of the longest gradient rise in the UK and one of the climbs in next year's Tour de France...............hopefully we will be there!!

With the weather warm and sunny I managed quite a lot of spinning, first up Toasted Teacakes

This is Perendale fibre, a New Zealand Sheep created by crossing a Romney with a Cheviot - interesting spin, but not the softest of yarn from Southern Cross Fibres

I also spun up some some more natural dye samples - this one is from Rowan Berries - not what you would expect from such a vibrant red berry - light tan.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Woolly Wednesday October....

September was a month of two halves - at home, dyeing and spinning silk and away, knitting and a bit of spinning, but a lot of woolly things...

First home and silk dyeing - I have been experimenting with different dyes on silk - acid dyes I have found do not penetrate the silk well, even after extended soaking, Procion Dyes on the other hand do and you need a lot less dye powder.  The natural dyes (cochineal, lac, Coreopsis petals and madder) I have tried so far also work really well on silk

Bottom row: from right to left - madder on mulberry silk. madder on Tussah silk, lac on soy fibre,
Middle row: -Coreopsis on Mulberry Silk, Procion Raspberry on Tussah, Cochineal on Mulberry Silk, Lac on Mulberry, and Lac on Tussah
Top: - Violet Navy (Procion) on Tussah Silk, some natural samples and top left Merino/Silk - dyed with black and claret.

Then we went to Yorkshire for Yarndale and the Masham Sheep Fair!  Yarndale was OK, nothing really new and very focused on knitting, so lots of indie dyers and commercial yarns.  Very little for the spinner and very crowded.  There was no where to sit down if you couldn't get up steps, and the food outlet was slap bang in the middle with no extractor fans - so the awful smell of bacon was everywhere and the queue went down the aisles so that it was impossible to get to see some of the stalls.  Oliver Twist packed up and went home as they were next to the cafe area - really an impossible situation - would you want to buy silk that smelt strongly of frying bacon?

There was a stall selling pre-loved reconditioned spinning wheels at ridiculous prizes - e.g. a 1970s Ashford Traditional (not very well reconditioned) for £225.00 and a Haldane Orkney for £325!  Really hope that no one was daft enough to pay that sort of money.

Masham was completely the opposite - all sheep and fleeces and a terrific day out!

Some photos of sheep

A beautiful Border Leicester ram, slightly unhappy as his wives were in the show ring!

Lincoln Longwool - champions in the long wool classes

Three Borerays - these won the Primitive Breed class

Kerry Hills, these were supreme champions in each of their classes and were really outstanding - sadly I was unable to nab one of the fleeces, beaten by another spinner who knew her fleeces!

I did however get a shearling Border Leicester £10 and prize wining White-faced Woodland £7 and a superb Llanwenog £4 - not a bad haul! I did turn down what look like a very nice cross Texel/Beltex for £3 because there was a break in the locks!  Was tempted by Badger-faced Welsh Mountain £4, but again although cheap there was a break in the locks - clearly this last year hasn't been kind to sheep.  There were some beautiful Corriedale/Manx Loaghtan cross fleeces, but they were huge. although a bargain at £10, I really didn't think that I could fit another fleece in the car/caravan for the trip back home.  Still there is always next year..............

Sadly there were no Masham fleeces, but I did managed to get a small sample from a lovely lady at  Yarndale, thus adding to the breed samples for SpinDyeWeavers.

This is my fleece haul from Masham with a small amount of North Country Mule from a ewe called Postie, because she had been found in a ditch next to a post box!

With the weather warm and sunny while we were away I did managed some outdoor spinning and have a sun burnt nose to prove that I did!

First up Toasted Teacakes

This is Perendale fibre, a New Zealand Sheep created by crossing a Romney with a Cheviot - interesting spin, but not the softest of yarn, from Southern Cross Fibres

I also spun up some some more natural dye samples - this one is from Rowan Berries - not what you would expect from such a vibrant red berry - light tan.

On the knitting front I finished my Clarice Again Shawl - not blocked as yet and began another...............

This one is Pizzicato by Linda Choo that I am knitting using some handspun/dyed silk and merino.

Oh, and I did get to visit World of Wool - fibre heaven and while there made a modest purchase of carefully selected fibre.................... 
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