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Sunday 13 December 2020

Cotton Harvest 2020

Well. from that one boll I showed you 2 months ago, the plants did pretty well.  I still have a small number of bolls that haven't yet opened, but I brought them into the warmth of the house so I'm sure they'll open up soon.

In the meantime, I've been busy finishing last year's cotton.  I had a bit of a lapse whilst spinning this bobbin because of a problem with my neck (which turned out to date back to a car accident we had 27-28 years ago - the osteopath said my neck was out of position and probably had been for all that time!) but it finally got finished.  I'm not sure how much there is here but these bobbins normally hold about 135g of spun wool.  This cotton is wrapped pretty tightly on there and I suspect there may be more than that.

I'll be using this as one ply and this year's cotton will be the 2nd ply, so far from finished yet.

I don't have a photo of all this year's bolls but they must have made quite a pile.  From 10 plants I have 135 bolls already open, with between 12 and 15 still to go.  That makes about 14 bolls per plant, not bad really!

This is the fluff that I've picked out so far :-

It doesn't look much here, but actually weighs 440g.  OK, that still contains the seeds so I expect the weight will go down considerably.

I find this photo so cute.  In each boll there are between 3 and 5 segments normally (I've never seen a 6 segment, but maybe it's possible) all full of fluff and seeds.  In each segment there are usually about 5 or 6 seeds, each seed surrounded by its own fluff.  The little cutie above is one seed with its respective fluff fanned out around it.

The next step is to gin the cotton (i.e. remove the seeds), then card the cotton ready for spinning.

The final problem is - what do I do with all the "skeletons"?  I normally keep them for months and months wondering what I could use them for, then throw them away eventually!  This year I bought some silver spray paint and some glitter and have started to make Christmas decorations.  Actually, I think they'd make pretty little angels because they do look a bit like ballerinas, but I haven't finished playing yet.  This is as far as I've got:-

Waste not, want not!!

Wednesday 30 September 2020

Just a Photo . . .

 Yes, it's that time of year again.  First boll of the year.

Many more plants are opening their bolls now.  Hoping for lots.

Monday 14 September 2020

Spinning for a Project - Really??

 I very rarely spin especially with a project in mind.  Usually I spin for the pleasure of it and then put the yarn away until I find something to do with it.

Recently though, my sister bought a pattern for a knitted shawl plus the recommended yarn, enough to complete the project.  She was slightly disappointed when she'd finished in that the shawl was not as big as she'd envisaged.  The length was OK, but the depth made it quite a small shawl.  I have to admit that when I looked at the pattern and the yarn she'd used, I was a bit shocked that the yarn had cost £68!  Now, I know I'm probably a bit out of date with the price of yarns because I rarely buy any, I usually spin what I need, but this sounded quite a lot for a shawl.

She wants to knit another one but make it deeper so it covers her shoulders a bit better.  I said I'd search my stash and see if I had something she could use (I couldn't imagine her spending that amount on a shawl again, especially as she'd have had to buy an extra ball in order to make it bigger).  The problem with my stash is that it's mostly single balls of each colour, and she needed 2 balls for the main colour, 1 ball for the 2nd colour and a mini skein for the edge.  I couldn't find enough of one colour in 4-ply that she could use for the main colour.  So I offered to spin some for the project.

After spinning and knitting a couple of baby blankets using Falkland superwash, I had what I thought would be enough for this project, so I set to and started spinning.  I soon had 3 finished skeins, but when I measured them I realised that although there was probably enough yardage, there may not be!  I couldn't risk dyeing it, sending it to her and then she doesn't have enough.

I decided the best thing would be to choose one ball from my stash for the 2nd colour and then dye the Falkland to complement it.  

This is something I spun a while ago.  There's a bit of sparkle in there, but it doesn't show up in this photo.  I Facetimed my sister with various options, but she chose this green.  Then we had a dilemma - what colours do we dye the rest of the yarn?  I don't think either of us are very good with colours, but my big sis is definitely better than me!  We ummed and ahhed for a while and didn't really come up with anything, and then I had a "lightbulb moment" . . . I'd forgotten about the merino I spun during the Tour de Fleece in July. 

I had 4 balls of 4 ply, dyed with onion skins, just waiting for a project.  Two of them would be enough for the main colour.  We thought they complemented each other nicely.  So, I just had to dye a mini skein of the Falkland for the edging colour.  She decided on dark green for that.

When I rooted out my acid dyes, I only had a pale green, so I added in a bit of dark grey and hoped for the best.  I think it turned out OK.

So, after getting all excited about finally spinning something especially for a project, I ended up only using 35g of it!!

This is the final line-up for the shawl :

Hopefully she'll send a photo when it's finished and I'll put it on here.

Now, what am I going to do with 692 yards of 4-ply superwash Falkland?  I suppose it will go into the cupboard and wait for a project!

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Tour de Fleece Finale

After leaving you at the end of the second week, I managed to spin another two bobbins of white merino, making 4 in all (4th one isn't photographed here, but you can see the beginnings of it flick carded and ready to spin).

The problem with spinning 4 bobbins of white fleece is that they all look alike, so I didn't want to bore you with endless photos of white yarn.

Towards the end of the third week I rounded up all my yellow onion skins (there were a lot!) and made up a dye pot.  In the photo above the onion skins have already started to cook down, but when I first filled the pan they came right up to the top, and this is quite a large pan :-

I just managed to get all four skeins into the dye and then cooked them for about an hour, letting them cool in the pan.  The colour is really pretty in real life - I can't really describe it, except that maybe apricot is the nearest.

I'm now spinning more of the merino to go with this, maybe in a contrasting colour, I haven't quite made up my mind.  But I plan to knit a cardigan with this.

Here's what I managed to spin over the 3 week period.  It doesn't look a lot, but I'd been very lax about prepping the fleece beforehand, so had to do that as well.

Final amounts :-

140g Cria Alpaca (333 yds/307m)
345g Merino (987 yds/911m)
So, as usual, can't wait until next year's Tour de Fleece . . . no, wait - there's going to be another one in September when the Tour de France rides!!  

Monday 13 July 2020

Black and White Tour de Fleece

After all the uncertainty this year with the Covid 19 pandemic, no-one was sure if the Tour de France would happen this year.  As it turned out, it was cancelled until late August. However, the Tour de Fleece organisers decided that the Tour de Fleece would go ahead in July anyway!  And there's an added bonus this year because we're having a second one starting at the end of August!!  What fun!

This year I rooted through my stock of fleece sacks and found this very messy cria alpaca (baby alpaca's first shearing) which was given to me about 3 years ago by my friend who runs an animal park over here.  We were actually visiting on the day this little girl (her name is Liesje) was born, in fact we probably arrived less than half an hour afterwards, so it feels extra special to be spinning her fleece.

This fleece has quite a long staple and probably would have been difficult to card, but it was really all the straw that decided me to use my combs to prepare it.  I couldn't face sitting for hours picking all the vegetable matter out only to then have to card it.  Combs get rid of everything, so that was the way to go.

All ready for the big start up (note the extra large fan to keep me cool through all the hot weather we've been having lately) :-

The finished bobbin has a lovely sheen and quite a nice halo.  I'm hoping to be able to use this on my weaving loom, but will need to spin more alpaca to go with it.  I'll probably use Liesje's Mum's fleece as she's black too.

Next up, I unearthed an even older bag of merino fleece that had never even been opened.  I've prepared it by flick carding each end of the locks into lovely fluffy piles and then spinning from the cut end.  This is being spun "in the grease" as I don't really like to wash fleece before I start to prepare it.  I don't like the lock structure to be messed up, and however careful I am washing fleeces, the lock structure always seems to suffer.  This way, it's easy to separate the fleece into piles of individual locks and then flick.

The first full bobbin arrived 3 or 4 days later

and was plied.  Here's the next bobbin being prepped.

The second bobbin was finished and plied by the end of the second week.  Guess what's next?

Last night (afternoon in the US) our TdF team had a Zoom meeting over a 4 hour period. It was really good to be able to meet up face to face.  There was one lady there who joined the DIY and Dye group in May 2013 (same as me) and I'd never ever even seen a photograph of her.  So it was lovely to be able to meet her "in person".  We have new people joining each year too, so it was good to be able to put faces to names.  We all sat spinning, carding, combing and generally chatting and I got quite a pile of fleece flicked ready for my third bobbin.

So, next week is the final week of the first 2020 Tour de Fleece.  I'm planning to spin this third bobbin of merino and then dye it all using the copious amounts of yellow onion skins I've been saving.  I really want to knit a cardigan with this yarn and I realise I won't have enough with just three skeins, but I'll spin the rest after TdF and then dye it to, hopefully, complement these three.  Maybe I could do various colours and knit a Fairisle pattern.

I'll be back next week with the finished yarn skeined and ready to use.

Monday 13 April 2020

Only 5 Years in the Making!!

Remember this :

Spinning Feathers

I bought this art batt almost five years ago at Le Lot et La Laine Festival and spun it at the end of 2015.  There was a huge mix of different fibres in here, plus bits of ribbon and feathers.  I originally planned to use this for a weaving project, but never plucked up the courage!  I was afraid I'd make a mess of it.

In 2017 I started knitting a blanket and used this yarn for the centre.  You can see how far I got here.  I'd picked out lots of individual balls of yarn, all double knitting thickness, and continued knitting around the central piece until I ran out of appropriate yarn.  It then sat in a cupboard for the next 3 years!

Here in France we've now been locked down (because of the Coronavirus Covid19) for the last four weeks so I've potentially got lots of time to finish all my projects that are sitting waiting.  In reality, I've managed to finish this blanket!  I haven't finished anything else . . . yet, although I am working on a few other projects.  So, here are a few photos of the finished blanket, with a few close ups of some of the details.


More feathers!

Feathers and ribbon
and a close up of the edge :

The blanket itself is lovely and cosy for sitting in front of the TV at night.  Just have to try and keep the cat away from it!!

Stay safe everyone.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat . . .

. . . I love you.  Yes I do.   Well, enough of Tom Jones.

In October I received 3 boxes of kitty-cat fluff from my 2 grand-kitties, Hugo and Maks. This is Hugo's fluff.

I started off quite well and got the carding done pretty quickly, but then Christmas started to rear its head and I knew I wouldn't get much further for a while, at least until I'd finished all my presents.

It never looked this tidy on the cats!
I spun Hugo's without incident and thought the rest would be a breeze.  However, I'd forgotten I had a dodgy bobbin that needed to be glued back together, and sure enough it fell apart half way through Maks' first box.  I wasn't too upset when this happened, after all it was my own fault for not getting it glued when it happened the first time, but did it really have to knot up so badly when I was transferring it to a new bobbin?

The only other thing that stopped me spinning every evening was Jak, my big 17 year old bundle of fun (cat, to you!!) who sleeps all day and wants to cuddle all night!  Got there in the end though.

These three only took 3 months to finish!!  Not my fastest spinning by a long way, but at last they're packed up and on their way to sunny Scotland where our daughter-in-law lives. I'm not sure what she's planning to do with this - maybe she'll save it with the rest I've spun for her until there's enough for something more substantial than kitty socks!

Last but not least, here are the dynamic duo :-