Saturday, 17 January 2015

Groby and other things

I've been busy helping out over at my neighbours' alpaca farm (Pine Tree Alpacas). I went over there a while ago and helped sort some of their fleeces. Sunday and Monday I went over there again and we sorted all the white fleeces, cleaned the worst of the vegetable matter off and trimmed about 6 inches all round each fleece. It was educational to see the difference between each fleece. Some had crimp from butt to tip, others not so much crimp, but a fine micron count. Some were very dense and soft, others quite thin in comparison.

Nick and Lisa had given me a whole fleece from Whiskey (a lovely white boy), a few weeks ago. I have spun some of it and Navajo plyed it just to see what it looked like. I took the spun samples, washed fibre and carded fibre the last time I went over there. Lisa took pictures for their blog to show the progression from fleece to yarn. I also came home with a white commercial fleece from one of Nick's 2 sheep, reared from cade lambs. It looks quite big, so another one to clean and wash.

This time I took home some of the skirted fibre on Sunday which is a rich dark chocolate colour, gorgeous! I have washed and dried it and now need to card it and see how it spins, being the rejects. But, I just adore the colour. Monday I came home with fawn remnants, still not washed, but due for cleaning tomorrow (Sunday).

Today was Guild Spinning Day and we were meeting at Groby to try the hall out. We have 48 members now and Botcheston where we normally meet is beginning to bulge at the seams, especially when we have workshops. The new hall was a bit bigger, but the kitchen is tiny so we couldn't have the food set out in there. The kitchen is too narrow for 2 way traffic. Because of this, we had 2 tables set up in the hall which took up quite a bit of room. I don't think overall, that it made a lot of difference and parking is worse. Next month we're back at Botcheston anyway. I spun some more of the alpaca and did a continental knitting workshop. I've got the hang of knit stitches, just struggling with purl, partly due to the arthritis in my fingers. I will persevere.

I've just finished a crochet lovey blanket for Sarah's friend Kellie's new daughter. Just have to sew it all together. Almost done one for Cammie, and a tube scarf/cowl for Rowan. They should all be finished this week. Pictures to follow.

Friday, 9 January 2015

New Year

I spent New Year's Eve and the following week with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters down in Devon. we didn't do a lot, we ended up playing Monopoly and watching Delia through the decades on TV. We barely made it to 12 before we went to bed.

Since then, we collected 3 Suffolk fleeces from a friend of my daughter's, we were offered 10 but didn't have the time or room to process them at the moment. They are rather large. One was fine, I just skirted it (took all the dirty fleece off round the edges) and packed it in a vacuum bag to bring home. The second was unfortunately badly felted along the back, it was rather damp as were the other two. I had to put that into the junk pile for lining hanging baskets and making fertiliser. The third one was very orange and smelt rather smelly, so not sure if it was a ram fleece. I washed that as well, but in addition poured fabric softener in the rinse water to make it smell better. It did do that. I spread the damp fleece on sheets in the studio which has under floor heating. Should dry very quickly.

We went to the Eden Project last Sunday. I really enjoyed it. In the rain forest biome, we went right up into the roof on a metal walkway which swayed as you walked up. Fantastic view from the top.


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas catchup

It's Christmas Day, or evening. We had a good day at our friends, ate a lovely meal and watched their little boy play with all his new toys. I have been and still am feverishly making Christmas presents for my family. A wrap for Sarah, a jacket for Rowan, dress and hat for Cammie and wrist warmers for Casie.

Hopefully they will all be finished before I go down to Devon next week.

Last week I went over to see our neighbours Pine Tree Alpacas. Nick and Lisa kindly gave me one of their white alpaca fleeces to spin a few weeks ago and thought I might like to go over and see their current fleeces. It was enjoyable and educational to see a selection of fleeces one after the other and be able to grade them for crimp and fineness (micron count). I met some of the mother alpacas with their crias who were very cute. I loved the fawn and dark brown colours. I'll be using some of the remnants (sorted fleece which is not usable from around the edges) to try wet felting and also to experiment with other techniques.

They also asked me to help them with their open day next year and help Lisa start up a craft group in the village hall. Exciting stuff.

Speaking of craft groups, Caroline and I are going to one on Thursdays at Burbage in the Acorn Cafe on the Common. Most of the ladies belong to Spinning guilds I belong to and go along for a couple of hours to knit, crochet and gossip. Very pleasant. 

There is a new group starting in Ashby Magna village hall in January, Sylvia Winn from the Braiding Society is setting up a monthly group making braids. It's not something I've ever done, but as it is right on my doorstep, I'll be going long to try my hand. I might attempt to make an inkle loom. More about that another time. 

That's all for today, Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Spinning (mostly)

This Saturday was my Spinners Guild meeting, always an enjoyable event. We all take food and it is all set out as a buffet, with savouries and desserts, including Debbie's fantastic chocolate cake, which always comes with 2 tins of cherry pie filling and 2 pots of cream.

We had a gentleman come to talk about natural dyes, he was very interesting, a scientist, not a spinner or weaver. He has been trying out different plants for 25 years and does it all very scientifically, with different mordants and acid, neutral and alkaline mediums. I asked him if he knew why my onion skin dyeing made the wool harsh and he said I needed to use 1/4 by weight of cream of tartar to the mordant to stop this. I'll have to try that out.

I spent more time helping new members who were having trouble with fleeces or their wheels. One lady (Mags) had a wheel which her friend had copied from a wheel she borrowed. It looked like a Louet to me. I have taken pictures just in case I want to make another wheel, but I think it will be quicker to make a new foot pedal and footman for the Louet S10 I have. She was having problems with the wheel going too fast. She was better when I gave her some carded Shetland to try, but the spool/flyer needed to be slowed down. After some discussion we decided she needed a strip of leather across the orifice tube.

I am spinning caramel coloured shetland at the moment, Lynn the Guild Secretary wanted some more of the Shetland I took in a couple of months ago, so I took in 2 more washed fleeces, a paler caramel which Lynn took and the darker one was raided by about 3 people. I'm hoping when I have enough Shetland spun, to knit or crochet a sweater for the winter. I have about 50 grams spun, so might do some tension squares and look for a pattern. I am continuing with the corner to corner crochet baby blanket and trying to start some socks for me in a brown/grey/cream random sock yarn, but trying at night with dark brown wool wasn't very successful, so I shall have to start again tomorrow.

Today I've been cutting plywood to make a chicken shed (from the remains of 6 rabbit hutches). I hope to be able to put that together tomorrow as we need a new one because we are infested with red mite in at least one shed and need to strip it right down and burn them out. When that shed is sterilised and rebuilt, we can transfer another lot into that shed and sterilise that one and so on until all 5 are done. What with this job and trying to redesign the garden to grow veggies, I am worn out most of the time. Two days ago, I took out 5 feet of bay tree and holly tree to let some light back into the garden for the future veg beds. Amazing what a difference it makes. I think it will be 2 months hard work to get all the garden tidy and the beds dug.

Sunday, 10 August 2014


I've been doing crochet and knitting recently but not much else in the way of crafts. Now suddenly, I want to get into all sorts of crafts I haven't touched in ages. I've been spinning some Caramel Shetland, very nice and soft and a blend of pale brown Merino and white silk I got from Maggie Stearn. I've also started foundation piecing an overnight bag, the pattern is for a laptop bag, but my crafting friend Caroline and myself wanted to make something for her Daughter. It's done in herringbone panels and I'm thoroughly enjoying it as I have never done this type of quilting before. In fact, my quilting experience is minimal, only hand quilting shortly after I left school at evening classes. I have repaired my Featherweight so I can take it to Busy Fingers, the craft group we run at Lutterworth church (St Marys). I have cut out some more fabric do make a foundation pieced panel to cover my little Singer Featherweight extension bed when it's in its box.

The shawl for Sarah's baby (due in September) is nearly finished and I will be sending that down to Devon in a parcel along with loom band bracelets for Rowan (bought a loom a couple of weeks ago). 

 Also some dragons as she has started collecting them. I'm making a crochet baby blanket for Sarah's friend Kellie who is due 8 weeks after Sarah. Trying corner to corner crochet. It looks very pretty. White, lavender, yellow and green.
Made some loom bands to practice.More on the way when I have time.
Spent half the day fishing (yes me who hasn't fished since I was 11) at a charity fishing match on behalf of Ben Jones Leukemia. The weather couldn't have been worse. Thanks Hurricane Bertha. Torrential rain right until 30 minutes before the end. We were both soaked, even though I had waterproof jacket and trousers on. the trousers are old and now need reproofing. Water was running down the back of my chair and under my trousers. Sitting in water is not a good idea. Best thing, getting back and taking a very hot shower to stave off hypothermia. Shan't be fishing again any time soon.

On the spinning front, I have been spinning caramel coloured Shetland. It's very soft and lovely to spin. I also recently finished spinning the second of 2 blended batts I bought from Maggie Stearn a couple of years ago. This was botany wool and Tussah silk, brown (mink shade) and cream. I must soak the cocoons I have and see how much thread there is there. I have some we dyed at a workshop at the Spinners Guild. It needs spinning up. It is very colourful, so needs careful thought on what to blend it with.

That's All for now, folks.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

What a long time since I posted

It's 5 months since I last posted, I've been so busy with loads of different things. We've been through another car, the Renault Laguna had the cam belt go. It was going to cost at least £400 to fix as all the valves would need to be reground. That was if we did it ourselves. As we only paid £40 for it, we decided it just wasn't worth it, especially as we would have had to send the parts away to be reground which meant we would be without a car for at least 2 weeks.

I had recently bought a job lot of knitting machines at a local auction, 3 machines, each with a ribber, plus a cabinet and an old Knitmaster with ribber. I had sold all of these for quite a decent profit, just thought I might have some money to buy a garter carriage for my Brother electronic machine. Then this happened. Fortunately, we managed to get a small Vauxhall Corsa for £350, which was quite cheap. We had to tax it at the time, then later, replace two sections of the exhaust ((£38) and get some new tyres (£65). It now does much more to the gallon. It's going down to Devon and back on Sunday as I'm going down for 10 days while Phil will come back Sunday night on his own, and look after the menagerie.

I lost 4 Angora rabbits within 10 days, all in the same shed. The first one Topaz started snuffling and wheezing. I put Eucalyptus oil in his hutch and he seemed to get better. Then 3 days later he started again, but much worse. I took him to the vet and she said it was probably Pasteurella and there was nothing they could do except euthanase him. We had that done, then a week later Garnet went limp one morning, wouldn't eat or drink or move around. No other symptoms, then he just died. Onyx went the same way a day later. Jasper and Laurel were the only 2 left. I thought it was strange that the eldest, Father of Onyx and Topaz had survived, then another few days later he also just died with no other symptoms. I can only assume that they all had Pasteurella, which is apparently quite common with Angoras. 6 weeks later, I came home from Lutterworth, went out to check the bunnies and found Thistle laying on her side, hardly breathing. I picked her up and cuddled her and she died a few minutes later. It was almost as if she had waited for me to come home. I checked and Angoras seem to live only for 5 or 6 years, and these were exactly that, so obviously geriatric in Angora terms.

I now have only 1 Angora left, Amber. the one with the best wool, but very grumpy. I scrubbed Thistle's cage out and moved Laurel in as he was the only rabbit left in the other shed. the last remaining Quail hen died a few months ago and we got some new girls for Mario as he just kept calling and calling when he was on his own. We got 3 girls but lost one a few weeks later. The other 2 seem to be OK. We got them as sexed chicks and had to keep them separated from Mario until they were 6 weeks old and mature. They lay an egg each nearly every day, more than the chickens. We have lost 2 more hens, Lobelia the penultimate ex-batt and one of the hybrids we got from the chap in the village. We had 8 of those 2 years ago and now down to one who is the scrawniest, scraggiest bird you can imagine. This left Rodney one of the Araucana cockerels on his own, so we put him in with the oldest Araucana hen and the silky crosses. They seem quite happy together now.

We went to the Steam rally at Ashby Magna this year. We have lived here 15 years and it is the first time we have gone. We got in free as I was demonstrating spinning for the Guild with one of the other ladies, Alison. Phil enjoyed looking round while I was spinning and I walked round a couple of times to stretch my legs. It was enjoyable, lots of tractors, classic cars, dogs, craft stalls, lots of stalls selling tractor type parts, nuts, bolts etc. There were even some Alpacas there.

Our local auction where i buy most of my sewing machines to sell on, was closing down, so I bought everything I could to keep me going until I can find another source. I think I have enough now to keep me going for about 6 months, after which time I might be able to have at least one bedroom back.

I think that's about enough for one night's catch up.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Such a lot has happened

Well, what a lot has happened since I last blogged. Our Peugeot which we've had for a year had yet more problems (it's had nothing but problems), the turbo went. Phil could have fixed it quite cheaply, but apparently with turbo diesels you have to flush out all the oil pipes other wise you're throwing your money away. As we couldn't do that with the engine running, it meant taking out every oil pipe and cleaning them out manually, virtually taking the whole engine apart. It also needed at least 2 new tyres at £80 each. Phil had had enough and I agreed. We had looked for used turbos online, and one of the scrap yards rung us to say they had one for £150. We said we were scrapping it. He said why as it was a good car, we said we'd had enough. He said they would buy it from us for £500 and come down from Rochdale to collect it, we said we'de think about it and checked the local scrapyards who only offered us £130. We agreed to sell it to the yard in Rochdale and they came to collect it 2 days later. We had to wait for the cheque to clear, but it gave us time to look for another car. We went at looked at several and found one in our local free magazine for £450. It was older than the Peugeot, but was a Renault Lagune which Phil likes. Slightly smaller engine, but a smaller car and a hatchback. It had only a mont's tax and MOT, but it was a clean car and had hardly been used since it's last MOT. We offered them £450 and they accepted it. We duly paid the car tax and put it in for it's MOT on Wednesday just gone, wondering what it would fail on as it is 14 years old. Miracle!! it passed. Several advisories, mostly to do with corrosion underneath which needed wire brushing and repainting. So this time, we got a bargain. No more stupid computer error messages, what a relief.

I fell up the steps at the local tip, landing on both knees and one elbow on a metal grid. on examination, one bruised knee, one cut knee and an arm with the lines of the grid just below the elbow. It was so sore the next day I went to the Doctors and she sent me down to have it x-rayed. Fortunaely, after a 3 hour wait, it wasn't broken. Two days later all the bruises came out and my elbow was black and purple. That was 3 weeks ago, the bruises have faded but the elbow is still tender and the scab is still on my knee as it was quite deep. Phil has been knocking himself about, he walked into the apple tree outside his workshop and got a cut and a big bump. The next week while fishing a match, he speared his finger with a fine float, in one knuckle and out the next. then 3 days ago he walked into a kitchen wall cupboard door and knocked it right off its hinges and another bump. I also had terrible hay fever last week which I don't normally suffer from. One of my friends said all the grass and flowers had dropped their pollen at the same time because the weather had been so cold the Spring was delayed and absolutely rushed in with a vengeance. I was incapacitated for 4 days as I had to take extra strong anti-histamines which knocked me right out.

I am recovered now but have had a very busy week. 4 sewing machines to pack up and send off. One to Scotland, one to Wales, one to Surrey and one to Italy. After packing a machine every day, which takes about 2 hours of cutting bubble wrap, polystyrene and heavy duty cardboard, I'm worn out. Two have been delivered, one should be delivered on Monday and the last went off to Italy at lunchtime.

Aside from all this, I have been crocheting an Aran jacket in mid blue, with lattice work on the yoke. I am getting to the boring bit, the bands but I must get it done this week as I need new jumpers. All mine are wearing out. I am going to make an Aran sweater on the chunky Singer knitting machine, that is pale blue, I seem to have a lot of blue yarn at the moment.

I haven't done any spinning since the last Guild meeting, I have had so much to do on eBay and getting machines on Sarah's website that I just haven't had the time. Maybe next week. I also need to do some sewing, I need some new trousers for the Summer.