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Thursday, 30 June 2011

New Camera

My new camera arrived with the visitors yesterday, so I charged it up last night and tried it out today.

Jak sunbathing, just like Aunty Vika
. . .

while the men get on with the important things in life :-

Note the beers!

The worms are still growing . . .

This one's just escaped from it's old skin for the third time :-

I took a video of one of the worms this afternoon and then tried to upload it to here, but it didn't work.  I'll have another try tomorrow, got to make dinner now.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Voracious Monsters!!

I've just been looking at the last photo I posted of the silkworms just a few days ago and thought how small they were.  They are eating my mulberry tree to death!  This morning when I was cleaning them out, I could actually HEAR them eating!

I'm waiting until tomorrow to post another photo because last week I ordered a new camera and had it sent to wicked stepson no. 3.  He arrives here tomorrow with his girlfriend for a week and is bringing it with him.  It's an idiot-proof (necessary!) Canon Ixus 130 which has an automatic feature that works out exactly what you need all by itself - clever.

OK, I'm off to make scones now.  I've got 3 friends coming round this afternoon for a coffee, cakes and knitting session (stitch and bitch?) so I'd better get busy making the cakes.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hot, Hot, Hot!

38 degrees in the shade, hot hot hot.  It's now 8:45 in the evening and it's still 32 degrees outside.

We were invited out to a birthday party this afternoon in our friends' garden.  It was a lovely afternoon, but we were so pleased they had lots of trees to sit under.  Otherwise it would have been unbearable.  When we got home we just jumped in the pool to try and cool down - that was sitting at more than 28 degrees.

 This is the "mystery" wool that Sarah found at the side of the road.  I removed all the coarse hairs and it was looking quite good, so I plied it with a strand of silk.  It's much better than the first attempt, but I don't think you'd want to wear it next to your skin for any length of time.  It's still a bit scratchy.

And this is the lumpy, bumpy wool I've been working on . . .

. . . and I found a use for some of the cotton bolls I bought in Ikea.  I'm actually quite pleased with this, it's turned out really soft.  Pity there are only two balls of it.

Yesterday, I was rooting around in my cupboard for something (that I didn't actually find! - must sort it out properly one of these days) and found this little lot in a carrier bag which had been put in with something else.

I must have spun these about 3 or 4 years ago, dyed them and then put them away and forgot about them.  I seem to think the one second from the right was leftover wool on a couple of bobbins that I plied together.  Haven't a clue what it is, but best guess is Black Welsh Mountain and possibly Friesland dyed with lichen.  Anyway I'm sure it will come in for something.  The other four skeins were experiments with dip-dyeing using natural dyes and they were put away for a while because I was going to use another dye (possibly woad) to cover the light coloured bits.  I'm now pleased that I didn't get round to it because I like them just as they are.

The silkworms are still growing at a rate of knots and have finished shedding their skins for a second time.  They are now becoming their proper colour (black and white stripes) and I measured one today - the bigger ones are 3cm in length.  Apparently they grow to about 3 inches, so they've a way to go yet.

Anyway, that's it for now - more soon.  Hope the sun's shining where you are.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Worms, worms, everywhere!

Just thought I'd give you a quick update on the silkworms.  They're growing at a phenomenal rate, and yesterday they started shedding their skins for the first time.  It seems to have given them a bit more freedom to grow, must have been a bit restricted with the old, tight, skin.  Photo :-

I think tomorrow they're going to have to go into a bigger box - they're crawling over each other in their present one.

Saw these weeds at a friend's house yesterday, and recognised them as horsetail or marestail.  Apparently it's possible to get a green colour from them, so I picked a carrier bag full and brought them home.

Today I chopped them into pieces and put them in a large pan of water to heat.  I boiled them for about an hour, and left them to cool.  When I checked the colour of the water this evening, it's very weak and watery.  I really can't imagine them dyeing anything pale yellow, let alone green.  Maybe it was too late in the season?  Perhaps they should be younger plants?  I will try a small sample of wool to see what happens, but don't expect much from it.  If anyone knows what I've done wrong, I'd be grateful for any tips.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sunday is . . .

. . . Father's Day!!  Wicked stepson no. 2 (Dan) is here at the moment and has just presented his Dad with a very nice bottle of Old Poulteney malt whisky - could be a good night!

He might be wicked, but he does do the washing up!!

This badge was on the Father's Day card so we decided Eric has to wear it all day :-

. . . harvest day.  Garlic is out of the ground and strung up to dry, onions are out and maturing in trays in the sun, rocket seed was ripe so that's been collected, parsnip seed almost ready to collect, and I picked lots of these :-

Dyer's chamomile which now grows like a weed since I introduced it about 5 or 6 years ago.  I normally dry them so they're available for using all year round.

It's been a beautiful day here - gardening in the morning when it was cool, spinning in the afternoon while it was hot.  I was tidying my cupboard yesterday, and came across two lots of sheep's fleece which I dyed last year, one lot was merino and the other (I think) is British Friesland.  I really must remember to label everything once it's done.  I always think I'm going to remember what it is and what it was dyed with but, of course, I don't!  However, I do know that some of it was definitely dyed in a madder exhaust bath (i.e. the leftover dye after the main dyeing was completed), and I think the other is woad pink.  For those who don't understand "woad pink", woad is grown to produce blues, and it's a bit of a complicated process to extract the blue from the leaves, but once the blue has been extracted, the leaves can then be boiled up as a secondary dyebath and produce pink.

Anyway, this is the first bobbin filled.  The fleece (this, I think, is the Friesland) had taken the dye quite irregularly, and I really wanted to keep that quality in the finished wool.  Carding would have lost those irregularities, so I decided to just spin it straight from the fleece.  It's lumpy and bumpy, thick and thin, but that was really what I wanted.  Most of my spinning is very smooth, and this time I just wanted to be a bit "freer" (if that's a word) and see what happens.

This is the other fleece - merino - which will be plied with the Friesland when I've finished it.

Unfortunately this photo doesn't really show the true colour as it was taken at night with a flash.  The picture below is more like the real thing :-

Hope you all had a good Sunday, wherever you are.

Friday, 17 June 2011


Well, here they are, 3 days old and now visible.  They were black when they hatched out but they seem to be changing quite quickly.  They're supposed to be black with white stripes, but maybe that comes later - they shed their skins 4 times before they pupate, so that might be their final colour.

The first photo is how they looked when they arrived in their little plastic box.  The white eggs are the shells that remain after they've hatched.  The grey-black ones haven't hatched yet, but there's still time.

This one shows the size of the box the eggs arrived in :-

and these are the worms :-

They are growing so fast!  I'll post another photo in a few days time when they'll probably be twice this size.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Long time no speak

So, what have I been doing all this time?  Well, we were given some cherries (black and red ones), so last Monday I bottled them in a sugar syrup :-

I finished spinning some Ouessant sheep's wool and silk (a strand of each)

Then on Wednesday, we had a trip out to Ikea in Toulouse, and I found these cotton bolls and just had to buy some.

I couldn't resist taking one of them apart and was amazed at the number of seeds there were.  I grew some cotton a few years ago, but when the weather started to get a bit colder, they all died.  My greenhouse had just blown away in a storm so I really didn't have anywhere warm enough for them.  Maybe I'll have another go with these seeds.

I may just take them all to bits and use the cotton in some yarn - it's lovely and white.  But first, I'm spinning some more camel :-

and my cat :-

This is a ball of recycled silk yarn that I was given a few days ago by a friend (thanks Sue!).  I'm planning to use it as a detail in something, but I'm not sure yet quite what.

And, last but definitely not least - my silkworm eggs finally arrived today.  They were only posted in the Tarn and Garonne, which is the next department to where we live, but they've taken 11 days to get here.  They could have walked quicker.  Anyway, it was quite a hot day today (32 deg C in the shade) and by the time I got them, most of them had already hatched.  Luckily they were still alive, so I put them in a box and fed them.  Within seconds they had climbed onto the mulberry leaves and were chomping away happily.  I'll post some photos when they're a bit bigger - there's no point at the moment because they're extremely small and I don't think they'd show up on a photograph.  They're also black and don't stand out very well against the leaves.  So keep your fingers crossed that I don't manage to kill them off!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Mystery Wool

This is some of the wool that Sarah found by the side of the road in a very large sack.  Must have fallen off the back of a lorry (yes, really!!) :-


I carded a small amount and tried spinning it, and it looks lovely.  But it's really scratchy.

I think it's maybe some sort of goat (although there is definitely some sheeps wool in the bag too), but never having spun that before, I'm not sure.

I have since had the bright idea of pulling out the long rough hairs, as you would guard hairs with camel, and it worked.  So now just have to try another sample.

I hate to be beaten by this, so I'll have another go next week.