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Sunday, 9 September 2018

Mara's Blanket


Early August (2nd) brought the arrival of my new step-grand daughter, Mara Valentina. She was a bit impatient to get here as she was supposed to be born two weeks later. Nevertheless, I was still way behind with this project for her.

When the two step-grandsons were born I made them both a blanket, the first one had blue elephants, and the second one had a celtic knot design, so I promised I'd make one for this wee one too.

I used super wash Falkland fibre (from Wingham Wool Work) for this so it can be washed more easily without felting, and spun it into a 2-ply.  One of the skeins was divided into three, and two of them were dyed in green and lilac.


Then came the job of devising a pattern.  The good thing with being so behind with this project is that by the time I started drawing something out, she had a name - Mara Valentina.  I decided to keep it simple and chose green for the "Mara" and lilac for the inside of the heart, which is going to be edged with bobbles.  I may add a little colour at the edge when I've finished, but not sure yet.  I avoided pink as I know that Mum doesn't like it, but she does like green so hopefully this will be OK.

I'm wondering whether to add a little accent of something in the top right hand corner.  I thought about a spider on a thread, but I don't want to give the poor girl a phobia! Thinking cap is still on for this one!


I've pinned the edge of this down to take the photograph because it's curling up otherwise. I'm hoping that if I crochet an edge all round it may lie flat.  Also, not sure whether to define the edges of the letters afterwards with a running stitch in green.  Hubby thinks I should edge it in the lilac, but I think that may be a bit too much.


We're going over to Scotland next month, October, for our first visit, so I need to get my skates on with this.  I was going to post it, but think I'd prefer to hand deliver.  I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

TdF Weeks 2 and 3

Just in case you thought I'd given up part way through, here are my final contributions to this year's Tour de Fleece.  I must admit life got very busy during the second week and I didn't get as much spinning time as I'd planned.  I only managed one skein during week 2, and one and a half in week 3.

For this week's challenge, I chose "tonal yarn" where the yarn is dyed in different shades of the same colour.  As you'll see at the end, this didn't actually work that well, but never mind, I like it as it is anyway.  I went rummaging in my fleece store and came up with some of this :-


I have no clue what this fleece is - it was stuffed in an old pillowcase and I couldn't find a label in there.  I'm pretty sure this will have been gifted to me by someone in the past, so maybe it isn't labelled because I never knew what it was in the first place!  It's pretty good fleece though, quite fine.


I carded up about 100g of it and spun it as finely as I could.  The fleece helped there because it really needed to be spun finely.


After filling the bobbin I transferred it off and made a plying ball.


By this time I was pretty tired of seeing natural coloured fleece.  I really needed some colour in my life!  So I quickly got it plied and skeined off


and probably went a bit mad with the hot pink dye I chose.  I washed and rinsed it, then lay it in a bowl and applied the dye in different strengths around the skein.  When it came out though, the stronger colour seemed to have seeped into the lighter areas!  You can just see a few lighter bits on the next photo, but it really just looked badly dyed!


So at the end of week 2, this was my "Non-Tonal Yarn" :-


As I said, it may not be tonal yarn, but it is pink!!!

For week 3's challenge I picked out some more of my lovely super-kid mohair fleece and dyed it in the team colours again (grey, teal and violet).  I used the same dye batch as I had some left from week 1, but I think I maybe put more dye on this time because it definitely looks stronger in colour.


I separated it into the three different colours again and started carding.


Finished rolags :-


The challenge I chose this week was "Accidental Boucle" which is actually an opposing ply yarn, i.e. one ply is spun clockwise, one ply anti-clockwise, and then ply anti-clockwise. So one ply loses twist (the clockwise) and one ply gains twist (the anti-clockwise).  First bobbin finished and looking good :-


Second bobbin was spun anti-clockwise.  Here it is alongside the first bobbin :-


After plying and taking it off the bobbin, I was a bit disappointed.  It was supposed to have loops and kinks, but mine just looked a bit wavy.


In the next photo I put it alongside the skein I spun during the first week, so you can see that not only is there a difference in colour, there's definitely a difference in texture.


After throwing it into hot water though, my loops and kinks suddenly arrived.  Magic!


Final photo shows it off quite well I think.  So from "Accidental Non-Boucle" before washing, I think I can now call it "Accidental Boucle" after washing!


I finished this one with 2 days left to fill before the Tour de Fleece ended so I needed a quick project to use up those 2 days.  I chose some alpaca (from Cadbury, my neighbour's animal) which was in pretty good shape and I knew it wouldn't need much preparation before I could start spinning.


For alpaca, it didn't have an awful lot of vegetable matter, but it did have a lot of dust!  I just pulled handfuls out of the bag, pulled it apart, removing vm and second cuts as I went, and literally threw it through the drum carder.  Each batt went through twice and I made little nests ready to spin from.


By the time Sunday came to an end, I'd managed to spin this much :-


but I still had more to spin.  I've since finished and plied it, but it still needs to be dyed :-


At the moment it's still on the bobbin, but I plan to dye it soon.  In fact, a couple of friends are really interested in natural dyeing so I'm hoping to invite them over for the day and we'll have a woad dyeing session.  I'll be interested to see how this colour fleece will take the dye.

Final round-up of yarns achieved during this year's TdF (except for the alpaca) :-


So, that's the end of the fun for another year.  Time for a rest?  No chance, I now have to spin and knit a baby blanket for my brand-new step-granddaughter who arrived 2 weeks early on 2nd August.  I'm going to have to be pretty quick with this one!

Friday, 13 July 2018

TdF Week 1

Well that's the end of the first week as far as my spinning goes.  I've managed to complete three challenges in the DIY and Dye Group on Ravelry.  The first was the tweed I showed you last week.  Here it is finished :-


The next challenge I chose was "spin your pet" and Jak (my cat) was happy to oblige!  I'd been saving his fur for a little while and, although there wasn't a huge amount, it would make a little sample.


I used my cotton carders for this and made "punis" which are like skinny rolags, rolled around a dowel.  The fibres were very short, but probably no shorter than cotton, so I thought it would probably work OK.

It was not like spinning cotton, it was much more difficult, but I got there in the end.


This was the yarn spun, but not plied.  I made it into a centre pull ball and plied from each end.  The result :-


Not even enough to make a sock for one paw, but never mind!!

The third challenge was mohair dyed in the team colours : teal, purple and grey.  I didn't have purple but the violet that I used works quite well.  This is super-kid mohair that I bought last summer at Le Lot et La Laine festival here in France and it's absolutely gorgeous.  Really soft, easy to card and easy to spin - dream fibre!!


I dyed the whole lot in one pot, just poured on each dye separately and hoped for the best.



I was in a bit of a quandary as to how to spin these.  Either a gradient, or just mix the colours up.  In the end I worked from one colour to the next, spinning one rolag each time and then plied from each end of a centre pull ball again.  I didn't want to Navajo ply it because I wasn't sure how this would poof up as a 3-ply, so 2-ply it was.


This still needs to be washed, but you'll see the finished yarn at the end of TdF when I summarize everything I've done.  I really love the way this has turned out and think I may just have to dye some more in these colours to spin after the Tour de Fleece has finished for this year.

So, now to go find out what week 2's challenges are!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Tour de Fleece is Here Again!

Another year has flown by and brought me to one of my favourite events of the year - Tour de Fleece 2018.  We've got lots of challenges planned again in Team DIY and Dye, and I've chosen to start with a tweed yarn using some merino I dyed in the spring with woad from the garden.



The preparation for tweed yarn can be quite time-consuming.  I tried putting the unprepared fleece through the drum carder, but it came out a bit rough and "neppy" (lots of little balls of fluff mixed in with the nice straight fibres), so I hand-carded the lot into rolags first.  Then I put the rolags through the drum carder which meant an extra step, but it was much smoother that way.

The blue was carded three times, then I added lots of colours (naturally-dyed leftovers from 5 (I think) years ago.



The whole lot was then carded another 3 times to integrate the colours with the blue.


I think this was the second pass through the drum carder, but it's looking pretty good.

After the final pass, the resulting batts didn't look too promising and I began to think I'd mixed it too much,


but once I started spinning the colours just started to pop out.  This is as far as I got today, but I have carded more for tomorrow and will hopefully finish this bobbin then.


Jacey Boggs from PLY Magazine is running a series of challenges this year - one a week - the prize for some lucky spinner is a year's subscription to PLY Magazine.  Very nice and very worth having!  This week's challenge is tweed yarn, so I'll be submitting my final photo for a chance to win (not that that matters, because the whole idea is to challenge yourself to spin something you might not otherwise try).

Roll on tomorrow!!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Wee Dye Test Update

A month ago, I showed you the results I achieved dyeing a little knitted sample of handspun Cotswold with the leftover water after cooking globe artichokes.  I was really pleased with the grey it gave.  I realised however, that I had no clue whether it would fade away to nothing within a few days or weeks.  Well, since then, it's been sitting on a table in the window with half of it covered up to keep part of it in the dark.


After a month of, not exactly sunshine, but light it doesn't seem to have changed at all. The top half of this sample was kept in the dark and, although it looks a little different on this photo, the bottom half in real life hasn't altered at all from the top half.

I'm going to put it back in the window for another month because, as I hinted, we haven't had a great deal of strong sunshine in the last month.  We now seem to have hit a really hot spell with wall-to-wall sunshine, so I think the true test will be still to come.

2018 Flax Project 2

All my good intentions of updating this little project regularly, i.e. at least once a month, seem to have fallen by the wayside.  However, today I found the plants were covered in little blue flowers.




It's now 2 months since they germinated and they're just over two and a half feet high.  I think another month and they'll be ready to harvest.

It was a bit breezy this morning, so difficult to get clear pictures, but these might give you some idea of what the flowers look like.






















Next stage : seed.

Apparently, the seeds will not be fully matured when the time comes to harvest, so I'm planning on leaving some of the plants in the ground so the seeds can ripen.  That way I'll have seed for planting next year.

I need to find a good, safe place to keep my seed this time around.  It's a number of years since I last tried saving seed from flax and I put them on a shelf in my craft cupboard, only to find a mouse had got in and eaten the lot!  We learn from our mistakes eh?

Friday, 25 May 2018

Wee Dye Test

That's "wee" as in little, not "wee" as in . . . well, you know what I mean!

The other day I cooked some globe artichokes from the garden for our lunch and was amazed at the colour of the water after I removed them.  Normally I just drain the pan and then take out the artichokes, but this time I took them out and left the water in the pan.  I really couldn't capture the colour with my camera, but it was a vivid, translucent, deep green, almost iridescent.

Not having any yarn pre-mordanted, I poured some of the liquid into a large jam jar, sprinkled in about a teaspoon of alum, mixed well, and then added a little knitted sample of my latest Pickwick Cotswold fleece.  Over the next couple of days it was heated occasionally (when I remembered!)  in the microwave and the sample came out a really pretty pale grey.  I still had another jam jar full of liquid, so I repeated the test (no extra mordant added as I thought the sample would be nicely mordanted by now) with the new liquid.  Here's what came out :-


I've been looking for something natural to give a grey dye for a while, so this looks like it might just do.  I think I'd need quite a number of artichokes to do any significant amount though.  I wonder if the leaves would give the same colour?  I have lots of leaves, so maybe that'll be my next dye project.

In the meantime, I have no idea how light-fast this is going to be, so I think I need to expose part of this to the sunlight and see what happens.