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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Growing Up

. . . and learning to behave (at last)!

Bailey will be four months old on Thursday.  The time has gone so quickly.  He's now eating carrots (see pic above) - this photo looks as though the carrot was painted on afterwards, but it was just a particularly bright piece of carrot!  Cerise looks like a proud Mum watching over her boy - but actually, she's hoping he'll drop the carrot and she can pinch it!

He seems to be calming down a bit now too, and doesn't seem to be pestering the other alpacas as much, probably as a consequence of being spat at and having his ears chewed!  His face has also changed quite a bit in the last month or so.  He started off with quite a light coloured face but it must have been baby fluff because it's a lot darker now.

Before :-

After :-

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Autumn Leaves

I've been meaning to try dyeing with apple leaves for a while, but in the meantime autumn crept up on me.  I think the leaves are probably better in spring, but, nothing tried, nothing gained.  And they did have some lovely colours in there

which I thought might add a bit of depth to the dye.

The leaves were boiled up for an hour or so, left overnight, and then strained.  Jenny Dean's Wild Colour says that no mordant is needed for apple leaves (probably because of the tannin content) but I wasn't quite sure I'd get a good result that way.  In the end I split the fleece (merino) into two piles, mordanted one lot with alum, and left the other natural.

The natural (no mordant) was a bit disappointing.

Not even a nice beige!

The mordanted fleece was better, with a definite yellow tinge, but still a bit disappointing.

The fleece is still wet here, just out of the dye bath, so that's why it looks a bit felted.

I decided to give the two lots of fleece a quick after dip in ammonia, so poured a glug into a bowl of water, swished it round, and then added the wool.  This worked like a dream with the mordanted fleece - it turned into a rich, acidic yellow - but the beige was still beige afterwards, just a bit darker with a few highlights.

Here are the two results once they had dried :-

The ammonia did manage to turn the unmordanted fleece a nicer colour, but it's still beige.  Nothing wrong with beige if you like that colour, and I don't dislike it, but I've got lots of beige fleece from previous dye sessions that went wrong didn't quite reach expectations.  This one will probably be over-dyed with woad, which I have to pick very soon before we get any serious frosts.

Today I started to card the yellow, and it's really looking quite good :-

You can almost see the sunshine the leaves have absorbed all summer!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

New Toy

Oh dear!  It looks as though I'm becoming as bad as Eric with his guitars!  Look what arrived during the week :-

Yep, it's another spinning wheel!  I've had my eye on this wheel for quite a while, but waited until my private pension paid out a nice little lump sum (yeah, showing my age here) before I ordered it.  It was sent direct from the manufacturer in New Zealand, but unfortunately didn't survive the journey totally unscathed.

Those are scratches, some of them quite deep.  I have to admit to being a little bit disappointed, but not really worried because I knew the nice people at Majacraft would sort out the problem for me.  I sent an e-mail with photos of the damage and they immediately replied saying they would send a replacement part.  This may take a few weeks to arrive, and I decided I couldn't wait that long to try out my new wheel, so yesterday afternoon I set all the pieces out and started the rather daunting (to me, not being very technical) task of putting it together correctly.

A not-very-flattering photo of the workman!
After a few hitches and confusions (and a bit of help from The Resident Engineer!), it was finally finished:-

Ta Da!!!  My new Majacraft Aura, and what a pretty girl she is!  They've used beautiful wood for her construction - New Zealand Rimu - and every bit is fastidiously finished to a high quality.

So, now to play.  I'd read on Ravelry on the Majacraft Owners site that this probably wasn't going to be an easy wheel to get used to because of it's very different and complex tensioning systems.  Well, they were right.  After spending a frustrating couple of hours trying different tensioning possibilities, The Resident Engineer got involved again.  Another couple of hours of him tweaking, removing bits, putting them back and altering the whole set up, and I finally managed to make some progress.

Not the best yarn I've ever spun, but it's a start.  And today's Sunday so I can play some more!

I'm just a bit worried about these though . . .


Tuesday, 25 November 2014


Remember this grubby looking character?


Amazingly, he just turned into a Dragonfly!  Well, a Dragonfly Wings by Boo Knits to be exact.  The fleece was taken from his very first shearing - his cria fleece - and spun with some charcoal bamboo and a bit of sparkle to make this yarn :-

140g, 375 yds, 14 wpi

My camera won't pick up the sparkle for some reason - maybe the light was wrong.

I'd been wanting to make one of these since seeing a Ravelry friend's version, Fran's Chamomile Wings, and thought this yarn would be quite stunning.  You can check out Fran's whole experience on her blog here.

The pattern was very easy - very easy - so why did I make so many mistakes?  It was laid out row by row and at the end of each row the designer had noted the number of stitches you should have.  So why didn't I?  I was usually just one stitch out, but that one stitch would have ruined the whole thing, especially when I got to the lace section.  It ended up taking me five evenings to complete and I think I must have wasted about half of that time unpicking rows and re-knitting them.  Carelessness and not enough attention to detail were probably the reason, and tiredness (it did get quite late some nights) my excuse.

Anyway, here it is, and I'm really pleased with it.

Again, the peacock green flash angelina that I used, doesn't show up at all, so I took a few close up shots and think you may just be able to see it.

I didn't use a lot, but I think it just makes this shawlette a bit more special.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Green Cotton

At last!!!  My first green cotton boll has opened.  I've been checking them every day in the greenhouse, sometimes twice, to see if any were showing signs of opening, but until today there was never any indication that they might start to ripen.  This is from one of the first two flowers, so it makes sense that it should be the first, but actually there are much fatter bolls than this so I was never sure which one would win.

I suspect the one on the right may be next as that is from the other of the first flowers. The cotton is still a bit damp and hard-looking, but I think it will fluff up with a bit of warm sun.

You can see that it's definitely green inside.  Apparently, once it's spun and boiled, the colour deepens.  Hope I get enough cotton to try that!

The sun is much lower in the sky now, and early morning/late afternoon the greenhouse isn't getting much in the way of sunshine.  Also, for part of the day, the greenhouse is shaded by a large oak tree at the edge of the garden.  So, today I moved this pot outside (it's a gorgeous sunny day today) and put it in a place where it will be in full sun all day. Hopefully it will help the cotton dry out and fluff up, and may encourage others to open. I'll put it back inside for the night time.

A few sunny shots, but I think the colour shows up better in the top two photos.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Blogoversary the 4th!

Today is Dyeing to Spin's 4th birthday and I thought I'd show you something from the very beginning of my spinning days.

This cardigan is 25 years old.

I bought the raw sheep fleece the same afternoon that I bought my first spinning wheel and that was it - I was hooked!

So, how did all this come about?  Had I had a burning desire for years to learn to spin? No, my friend who went to the same pottery class, had been to a market the day before and there were spinners there.  She got talking to them and they invited her to go to their monthly meeting the next day in Ulverston, Cumbria.  We both went along the next morning and were shown how to spin and allowed to have a try.  I knew immediately it was something I'd do forever!

That afternoon we drove into the Lake District to a little spinning shop in Elterwater (don't know if it's still there - probably not) and I bought my first wheel, an Ashford Traditional.  I needed something to spin, so I bought some grey and some white fleece.  I have no idea which sheep breeds these were, I probably knew at the time but it's so long ago I've forgotten.

Anyway, back to the cardigan.  I carded and spun and carded and spun until I eventually had enough to make this.  The pattern is Slant Special from Nancy Vale's Knitwear book, although hers was a single colour.  The buttons I made myself at my pottery class - ceramic with a metallic glaze - and I'm amazed they've lasted this long.

The cardigan has a few moth holes now, it's a bit dated (specially the sleeves!) and it doesn't fit around my middle quite the same as it used to(!), but I think I'll probably keep it forever.  My very first spinning attempt :-

25 years on - both showing signs of wear!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Colour Break

Last month I treated myself invested in a nice package from World of Wool : some cones of lambswool for weaving (no, I still haven't Christened the loom), some Polworth top, 500g coloured Botany lap waste, 500g white Botany lap waste and a free woolly goody bag.  What treasure!

I've started spinning the white Botany lap waste.  It's very soft, not sure what it is but I can smell sheep in there, and there's definitely a bit of something silky; possibly not silk, but maybe banana fibre or bamboo.

This is the first skein - 120g, 14 wpi, 412 yards.

I'm planning to dye the skeins when they're finished, and hope to have enough yardage to make a cardigan - maybe Dark Pearl which is one of the patterns I won in this year's Tour de Fleece.

After spinning this I've also been spinning some of Ambrose's fleece for Tammy.  I didn't take a photo of this before giving it to her, but it's fawn.  Nothing wrong with fawn, but it gets a bit monotonous, so after doing a couple of these and working on the white above, I was yearning for a colour break.

In July I ordered another treat - something easy to spin, and gorgeous colours :-

This is the July Build a Batt Box (Mermaids Singing) by BarberBlackSheep.  It was beautifully presented and packed and included a couple of goodies too!

There was alpaca, blue faced leicester, merino, Gotland curls, soy silk, silk noil, throwsters silk and silk brick, some bamboo, sparkly firestar and a sweet, extremely soft batt of tencel, silk and merino.  A feast of fibres!

This arrived on the doorstep right in the middle of the Tour de Fleece so I didn't have time to do anything with it.  It's been sitting in the bedroom since then beckoning to me! Finally, I decided the time was right and made some of the contents into batts on my drum carder :-

I included a bit of angora fibre I'd been given as a sample just to add a bit of fluffiness.

Angora Bunny

These were spun onto one bobbin, and then the rest (pictured below - mainly merino, plus some silk and the tencel/silk/merino batt) were spun onto a second bobbin.

These were plyed together which gave me 200g of beautifully soft yarn :-

I'm not sure if I've done this justice, and I'm not sure what it wants to be, but I did enjoy spinning it and, for me, the spinning is the thing.  There's enough here to make a nice sized shawl for the winter, and I still have some of the merino mix and a few other ingredients left to make something else.  Bargain!

Now, off to spin some more of the white Botany lap waste, and there's another bag of alpaca fibre coming up the hill from Tammy very shortly.  There is some light on the horizon though . . . look what turned up in the postbox yesterday :-

Now how on earth did that happen?  ;-)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Bailey, Brody, Cotton and Laziness

It's so long since I blogged, you probably thought I'd disappeared off the planet!  I've either been ultra-busy, lazy, or just had nothing to say for myself.  Well, probably a little bit of those with quite a lot of laziness thrown in.

We went for a short holiday to the Costa Brava in northern Spain earlier in the month and managed to not take any interesting photos.  I can show you a little update on my cotton plants though which have been growing like weeds since I put them in the greenhouse.  I have bolls - yes, that is spelled right!

I have three green cotton plants and they're all about this size :-

which probably doesn't mean much, but that's actually quite a large pot.  I've had loads of flowers on these and new ones are opening every day.  I don't expect all the bolls to burst open and provide cotton, but some of the larger ones should have a chance.  It's still around 30 deg C in the greenhouse each day, so I think there just may be enough time for these to mature.

On another note, look who came to stay :-

Brody wearing his kilt in Switzerland last month

Wee Brody came to see his Grandpops and Nanny Chris!

He's been swimming in the pool,

eats all his meals outside,

visited Bailey,

and loves al fresco bathing in his posh new bathtub!!

Jak's really impressed with his new sleeping quarters too!

And, how could I end this post without a few photos of Bailey (who says I'm totally besotted?)

This is one of my favourites, taken with the sun behind him in the early evening.

Ooh, what's that?
Are you quite SURE there are no more carrots?
Hope and Bailey inspecting a strange object in their field.

And finally, I can never get away without Cerise (Bailey's Mum) poking her nose in :-


Monday, 8 September 2014


Getting back to a more fibery subject (although alpacas are fibery too, right?), earlier this year I sowed some natural green cotton seeds of which only three survived the slugs (the white cotton all got eaten).  The seeds had been sent from the U.S. by a Ravelry friend (thanks Vicki!) as I so wanted to grow some green cotton.

This summer, for the first time since 2003 when we arrived here, has been a bit of a non-event.  It's now, finally, hot summer weather, but July and August were untypically cool for this part of France.  The plants were outside in pots most of the summer, and really didn't grow awfully well.  Mid-August I moved them into the greenhouse and they've grown like wildfire ever since.

A few days ago the first flower arrived (and there are lots more to come).  It's larger than the white cotton flowers and quite different, I think.  What a pity they only last a day.  I put the plant outside hoping to attract passing bees and insects and took it back inside in the evening.  All three plants are in large pots with a water reservoir underneath, which helps when the temperature inside the greenhouse is getting up to 47 degrees C.

Fingers and toes crossed that there'll be enough time for some cotton bolls to mature.