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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Waiting . . .

This little mite emerged from it's cocoon today.

I'm not going to try and sex this one - last year I got it wrong every time!  But it is rather fat.  It's wings are very stumpy and mis-shapen, but that's OK because it doesn't need them.  One thing's for sure, it'll never win any beauty contests!

The other cocoons are still intact, so this little one will just have to wait for a mate.

New Dress

Last week I did something quite radical, some might say stupid, with my wedding dress. I unpicked it!

It had been sitting in a box wrapped in tissue paper for over 22 years, I needed a new dress for Ben and Sam's wedding, and I just thought it was time to do something with it. There was really no chance anyone else would want to wear it - it's quite dated now. Maybe it would have been in fashion again one day, but I don't know if I'll be around to see it.

Once I'd got enough fabric separated and unstitched, I dyed it a teal blue.  It came out a little bit patchy here and there, but I'm hoping it looks as though it was meant to be that way!

Here's how it turned out anyway, and I added a scrunchy for my hair.

So now all I have to do is dye this to match :-

and knit it into one of these :-

before the wedding on 9th June.  We actually leave in the camper van on Sunday, so it looks like I'll be busy knitting all the way to Devon!  I have just over a week, so fingers crossed I'll get it finished.

Friday, 25 May 2012


A very topical post this one.  UK TV is at present full of the 30 year anniversary of the Falklands war with Argentina which started on 2nd April 1982 and lasted 74 days, ending in June.

Yesterday we visited friends in the Lot department of France, two and a half hours north of us.  Ian and May used to live in the Falklands, and May is a spinner.  Last year she said she would order us both a Falkland fleece, which duly arrived in September.  She's been hanging onto it ever since until we finally got up there to collect it.

Unfortunately, two weeks ago May slipped on a wet tiled floor and broke her arm.  She's plastered (literally!) from her thumb to above her elbow and doesn't think she'll be able to spin again for quite a long time.  Guess what?  I came home with both fleeces!  Her son is visiting the Falklands later this year, so she's going to get him to bring her another one which, hopefully, she'll then be fit and able to spin.

Today I opened them up and spread one of them out on our outside table, which it totally filled.

It looks pretty manky and dirty doesn't it?  But look at this :-

It's absolutely gorgeous.  This is unwashed too.  You can see how soft it is.

I separated some of the cleaner bits and washed them this afternoon.  It'll probably be dry tomorrow.  I'm dying to spin some of this, but I have to wait probably until June when we get back from our UK visit.

I think the first batch has to be for May - I'll spin some of it and make something for her. I'm not sure what yet, but I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in!  I've got a pretty good idea of what I might make, but just haven't decided properly.  Think I'll have to spin some so it can tell me what it wants to be!

So, who's a lucky girl then??  Especially as there's a second untouched fleece still in the bag!  When am I going to get time to spin all of this?

Monday, 21 May 2012

When Things Go Wrong

What do you do when things don't turn out quite as you'd planned?  Do you hide them away in a cupboard, right at the very back?  Do you put them in a box under the bed hoping things will improve in a few weeks time?  Do you just have done with it and put them in the bin?  Or do you show your mistakes to the world saying "Oh well, I tried. Next time I'll just have to try harder"?

Remember these?

which dyed this merino fleece:

which was then spun and plied with a strand of thread loaded with little beads.

Not looking too bad so far?

OK, so why didn't I realise that when the skein was washed the wool would shrink and the thread wouldn't?  Hhmmm?

It didn't look any better wound into a ball :

So next I tried knitting with it.

Well that tidied things up a bit, but the thread is still visible.

So, what to do with it?  I suppose it could go into the back of the cupboard so I can forget about it for a while.  There's no point in putting it under the bed to "improve" because I don't think there's any chance of that.  I can't bring myself to throw it in the bin, so that just leaves one option . . . live with it!  Maybe I'll use it as an add-in for a cardigan or sweater.  If it's not the whole garment maybe it won't be quite so noticeable.

The one point that is obvious in this case is "Next time try harder!!!"  Oh, and do your homework first!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Wildberry Surprise

I know, it sounds like a recipe doesn't it?  Well I suppose in a way it was.


100g merino top
  50g baby alpaca fleece
A handful of white banana fibre
Blue, pink and violet dyes


First you take the 100g of merino and dye it blue.

(This dye was labelled "navy blue", but I think I prefer this colour)

Then you dump the washed and wetted-out baby alpaca in a dyepot and randomly pour on various shades of blue, pink and violet dyes.

When dry, split the fleece more or less into the different shades

Then blend with half of the blue on a drum carder, adding a sprinkling of banana fibre here and there.

You will then have five or six luscious, pettable batts of mixed fibres and colour.

Time to get spinning.  I spun one bobbin of plain blue, and one bobbin of the mixed batts.

And plied them together to make this :-

Wildberry Surprise (because the way the colours blended in the final skein were not what I'd planned!) : 150g, 423 yards.  This was finally sent to my sister a week ago, and received yesterday.  Only a month late for her birthday!

Destined to become a shawl/shawlette.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

First Silkworm Spinning

One of my silkworms started to spin a cocoon this afternoon - in the wrong place, as usual.  So I moved it into one of the toilet roll inners where it sat for a while, looking round, spinning a few strands.  Then it went walkabout, and started spinning between the cardboard rolls and the lid - wrong place again!  In the end I moved it into the toilet roll tube three times.  Finally, it got the message and is now spinning seriously.

I tried to get a photograph, it's not brilliant but you can see the silk strands it's spinning as the support framework for the cocoon itself.

The head is on the right, and it's underside is towards the camera.

Hopefully they'll all follow suit within the next couple of days - I'm getting sick of picking leaves six times a day for them!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Tour de Fleece

Firstly, today is Saturday 5th May (well, I'm sure you're all aware of that).  At this time of day, 22 years ago, Eric and I stood at the altar and said I Do.  Where did all that time go? Eric came up with an interesting observation this morning, he said "Do you realise I've been retired for half of our married life?" (he retired at 51).  Since we came here though, he's never worked so hard in his life!

So, happy anniversary, and I'm looking forward to our meal out this evening.

Secondly, this morning I signed up for this year's Tour de Fleece.  I'm sure most of you have heard of the Tour de France which happens every year in June/July, but most of you have probably never heard of the Tour de Fleece.  This is an event run by Ravelry, which is a huge website (well, more of a community really) of like-minded people all to do with fibre and fibery things - knitting, crochet, spinning, dyeing, weaving etc. etc.  People visit daily from all over the world.

Anyway, they decided to create an event which runs alongside the Tour de France.  We pledge to spin (or knit or whatever) every day the cycle tour runs, and post photos on Ravelry of our results.  I'm probably aiming for at least an hour a day.  We do get rest days though, same as the Tour de France.  Think they're on Tuesday 10th and Tuesday 17th July. This will be the first year I've joined in and I'm really looking forward to it.

My goals in the TdF are to spin for an hour every day, spin some of my home produced silk, spin my new fleeces : the baby alpaca Eric bought for my birthday, and a Falkland fleece which my friend got for me (thanks May) which we haven't collected yet.  Oh, and the merino fleece I bought at Le Lot et La Laine festival last summer.  I also want to spin a beaded yarn, i.e. spin some beads into a skein of wool.

The Tour (both Tours!) begin on Saturday 30th June and run until Sunday 22nd July, so wish us all luck!

Oh No! Not MORE Silkworms!

Sorry - probably last photo before they start to spin their cocoons.  They must be getting pretty close now.  They're eating like crazy at the moment - every time I look at them they're sitting on top of totally shredded leaves looking for more.  My poor mulberry tree has taken a real battering and is only just keeping up with them.

This is the poor tree which started sprouting over a month ago, and still doesn't have a decent sized leaf on it, because as soon as they grow I pick them off!  It's not exactly a huge tree yet, only 8 years, planted from a seed.

I think it'll breathe a huge sigh of relief when they start to pupate!  Speaking of which - I'm ready for them!  Yesterday I created their cocooning box and tried it out for size.

(oops - I lied about the first pic being the last one of silkworms!)

There are more than enough half toilet roll inners for each silkworm to cocoon in, but what do you bet they all want the same one?