Friday, 9 November 2012


About 4 weeks ago, we had Alpacas move in in the field opposite our house. we know the owner quite well after 15 years of chatting when he works on the land, so we went over to have a look. They have 20 Alpacas, male, female and 3 x 3 month old Crias (babies). Mostly white, but about 3 of varying brown shades, including a male called Cadbury. They will be breeding them, in fact several of the females are pregnant again and should produce next June. They will also be keeping pigs, chickens and opening up the lakes for fishing. Nice little enterprise.

Toft Alpacas will be taking their fleeces, I have been wanting to go over there for ages, so this gave me an extra incentive now we have the car back on the road (such a relief). We went Tuesday, it was raining when we got there so we browsed round the shop looking at all the lovely yarns, carded fleece and sample garments, They mainly deal in kits, supplying the yarn and pattern, also needles if you need those. Very expensive, but beautiful. They also supply raw fleece, although the majority is sent to Banbury to be spun. Harriet, the young lady who has just started working there, was on her own, so as she had to get some orders labelled for the courier, we went for a walk and looked at all the Alpacas, taking some photos. They have 250 animals. Harriet then took us over to the barn so I could look at the fleece. Uncarded it is £15 for 500 gms, so I had 500 of black and grey respectively. As it is so light, there is a surprising amount of fleece there. I plan to blend these and spin singles to ply with the North Ronaldsay wool which I am spinning at the moment. This should make a lovely soft, warm grey/black yarn. Not sure what I'll be doing with it, sweater maybe.

Toft also run workshops, they have one on dyeing in February which I might treat myself to.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Spinning Guild

Todau was Spinning Guild day, I didn't think I would be able to go as we are still waiting for a part for the car, but lovely Sue Bailey gave me a lift.

A great day as usual, we had a lady demonstrating silk painting which was very interesting and I would love to be able to do the fantastic work she does on silk scarves, but I have far too many other things to do.

I hadn't got much Portland carded, so I grabbed the North Ronaldsay carded batts which I hadn't for some reason been able to spin up until now. Today it worked straightaway and I was spinning a lovely two tone cream and black yarn. The North Ronaldsay fibre had black guard hairs which aren't really noticable in the batts, but spun it comes up quite a bit darker. I will take some pictures and post later.

I bought Sarah some embroidery thread from Sue. She had several bags with what looked like samples threaded onto cards, along with some embroidery fabric. They should be suitable for Sarah to make embroidered cards or embroidery on pictures,  Advent Calendars, etc.

I have decided I need to spend more time spinning so need to sort out the little bedroom and make room for spinning wheels again. I also need to sort out some of the knitting machines, repair a couple so I can use them. I sold my Brother KH260 as I haven't used it in 4 years. I tried to use it the other day and after spending several hours doing tension squares and not getting very far as I couldn't match it up to the pattern I wanted to use, I decided to sell it. I still have a Singer chunky and a Knitmaster Zippy 90 which needs the carriage repaired. My spinning is getting sufficiently thin and non lumpy that I might be able to use handspun on those machines as long as I wax the wool first.

We got a planning application letter from Harborough District Council last week, apparently we have Alpacas coming to live in the fields opposite as they want to put up a hay barn, an agricultural storage shed and a temporary agricultural workers dwelling. This is very exciting, I wonder if they will need any help in exchange for fleeces.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

New washing machine and car starting

Good day today, the new washing machine arrived. I haven't had a brand new washing machine for over 15 years, so it is a real treat to have a shiny new one which is really quiet and has a time delay on it, no more timers. I have put the first load of hot wash stuff in to see how it comes out.

Better still, today we got the car started. It wouldn't start after Phil replaced the clutch so I posted a message on the Peugeot Forum asking for ideas. We got one, saying to check the engine speed sensor on the gearbox in case it was damaged or we forgot to put it back. We found the hole and bolt where it was supposed to be, no sensor. So Phil crawled underneath and had a look for it. It's a sensor so had to have wires on it. He found it, he had bolted it to another bracket because he couldn't remember where it went. After he replaced it, he turned the car over and it fired straight away. Then it came off power save mode and the windows work. Only one problem, the battery needs recharging as it is flat from him keep trying to start it over the last few days. We should have a car next week, as it will take some time for Phil to put everything back together, plus we need money for the Car Tax which should come from the knitting machine.

The knitting machine and ribber I put on eBay yesterday have a lot of watchers already, and I have had people asking for 'Buy It Now' prices and shipping costs to Denmark and Singapore, also Russia.

Clovelly in North Devon, near where Sarah lives has been flooded with water pouring down the cobbled streets on its way to the harbour. The sea is stained with all the mud from the run off.

Off to feed us and bunnies now, then sit and do some knitting. Heating is on as it is really cold here. Also need to check the washing from the new machine.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Car problems, WI and more

We are having terrible trouble with our Peugeot 607. After getting it through it's MOT which cost £440 mainly because we had to get a brand new headlight at £200 because someone had bodged the old one and it wasn't adjustable any more, in fact fell apart when Phil took it out to look at it. $ weeks after the MOT, the clutch went. Garage quotes varied from £450 to £160, but we weren't sure of the garage in Coventry, even though it was the brother of one of our friends. Phil decided he would do it, even though it was a huge job.

He has been doing it for 5 weeks now, not every day, gaps in between. Lots of problems as everything underneath the car had to be removed to drop the gearbox. He managed eventually to get it all apart with lots of help from the service manual we bought online. Then, putting it back together he managed to push the steering rod through the pipes for the heating and when he filled the water up, it poured out into the foot well. To get to that, he had to remove the dashboard, another 4 day job with wiring looms everywhere. He has started putting it back together and it doesn't leak any more, but in the meantime, the car won't start and it is in power save mode (because the battery has been off). To get it out of power save mode you need to start it, vicious circle!

We have asked on the Peugeot Forum and they have suggested several things, but most of them seem to end up with 'get it diagnosed'. Problem! We can't take it anywhere to get it diagnosed. So, we have bitten the bullet and bought the hardware from eBay for £85 which has cleared out my Paypal account. That should arrive next week and we can plug it in and find out what is wrong with the car. Phil found several bodge jobs while he was taking it apart, so I don't think it was very well looked after. It is a very nice car, and hopefully with the software we can get it sorted out.

Once we know we can use the software, we can be put on the Peugeot Planet map on the forum and charge people to diagnose their cars. Most members who have these kits say they pay for themselves in a few weeks. We have several people waiting for us to ge this software so we can do their cars.

On to better things, went to the Peatling Parva WI last night for a talk by Sue Taylor on her Manx Loaghtan and Soay sheep. She lives on the edge of the village. Sue sends her fleeces and some of her friends to the mill in Launceston for spinning up. She then knits the wool into teddy bears, sheep, lap throws, jacket and all sort of lovely knitted articles. It was an interesting talk, I felt very tempted to buy a kit from her for a Louisa bear, but at £40 I can't justify that. I wish I had the time to develop my spinning and be able to make and sell things, but I need the money now and restoring sewing machines is a lot quicker.

I have decided to sell my Brother KH260 chunky knitting machine and ribber, it a lovely very expensive machine, but I have had it for about 4 years and never made anything on it. I cleaned it up, replaced the sponge bar and tested it. I found the punch card mechanism wasn't working, so dismantled the card reader, cleaned and oiled it, replaced it and it works fine now. When I have made chunky jumpers, I have used the Singer hobby chunky machine, which needs 3 of the flow combs repaired with plastic, but it makes good jumpers and I just have to fiddle round the flow comb thingy. I also have a Zippy 90 which needs the carriage repaired, also plastic to be replaced. I have the plastic repair kit, just haven't managed to get around to using it.

I have just bought a very old Knitmaster Super 4500 from our local auction for £12. I found instructions online for it, and also directions for stripping it down. It was very dirty! The bed is in sections like the Bond knitting machine, but maroon bakelite, it has that burnt smell which takes me back many years. It comes with a ribber, but the tension mast and yarn holder are missing. It seems as if they are extras as the instructions show it used like the Bond, just laying the yarn across the needles. I have stripped it right down, scrubbed the plastic sections, the metal strips which go across the bed and the retaining bar. The needles have been soaked in white spirit and washed. I'll oil them before I put them back by wiping them with an oily cloth.
This is the machine, courtesy of Susy Ranner at

Hopefully I should be able to re-assemble it tomorrow after I have packed a sewing machine to go to Ireland and cleaned out some of the rabbits.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Dyeing handspun yarn

I spun some Portland (cream) fleece a few months ago, about 160gms, about Aran weight. I was intending to dye it with onion skins but didn't get around to it until last week, mainly due to the length of time it takes to do the whole process, from making the dye, mordanting the yarn and then dyeing it.

So, last week, finally having a few hours to spare (doesn't happen often) I decided to go for it. I weighed the onion skins, about 100gms, which wasn't really enough. According to my dyeing book. I should have the same weight of onion skins as yarn. So, I thought oh well, it will come out a paler yellow. I set the onion skins in a large pan with plenty of water to cover them, brought it to the boil and left it to simmer on a timer (60 minutes). Once boiled it has to cool down in the pan.
Boiling onion skins
  Then I had to mordant the yarn, I was using Alum and needed 3% with 2% cream of tartar which fixes the dye better. You have to dissolve the mordant and cream of tartar in a little warm water, then add plenty of cold so the wool woukld have room to move as it simmered. The whole pan had to be brought to the boil over one hour, then simmered for 40 minutes and left to cool in the pan. Once cool, it has to be rinsed well to remove any excess mordant.
Wool mordanting
 By the time I had done the dye and the mordanting, I decided I should leave the actual dyeing process until the following day. You can leave the mordanted wool in a plastic bag for up to three days. Apparently it is difficult to wet once it has dried.

The next day I drained the liquid from the onion skins.
Drained onion skins
Then added enough warm water to enable the yarn to move freely in the dye bath. This time it had to be brought to the boil over 30 minutes.
Wool in dye bath
Then it had to be simmered for 30-45 minutes. As I thought it would be weak, I simmered it for 45 minutes. The resulting yarn had to be rinsed well and air dried.
Dyed wool being rinsed

Rinsed wool
I was surprised at the depth of colour, it was a lovely golden brown.
Wool being air dried
It dried out to this colour -
Balls of dyed yarn
I was so pleased with it. It is such a feeling of satisfaction to make your own knitting yarn. I was going to make something for the WI competition for next month's speaker (Sue Taylor on her rare breed Soay and Manx Loagthan sheep), which was a small knitted item. I was going to knit a cat, but it would have been quite big, so I decided to knit a pair of wrist warmers to the pattern we used a lot last year. This is a cable pattern, free from Ravelry.

So far I have knitted one wrist warmer. Hopefully I should have enough yarn to make a hat as well.
Wristwarmer before sewing up

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Well, I haven't posted for 3 months, been very busy, so now for an update.

We had to have Mollie put to sleep as she was having difficulty getting in the litter tray and wasn't eating very much, losing weight again, so we took her to the vet in Lutterworth. She said her time had definitely come, so I stayed with her. The vet put a cannula in and then the drug. She was gone instantly, obviously clinging onto life by a very thin thread. A shame, but we gave her an extra 18 months after her owner died, and although in the first few months she didn't seem to be really interested in whether she lived or died, she gradually settled in. After 6 months, she was part of the family, and was a stubborn old lady, very determined. We were sorry to lose her, but she was ready to go. Down to 8 cats now, very strange.

Eddie has been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease due to chronic diarrhoea. He has been with the PDSA for the last 3 months and they gave him 3 different antibiotics, steroids, worm tablets and said put him on chicken and fish. Nothing made any difference, so they eventually put him on a stronger dose of steroids. After a week on these, he was much better so they are keeping him on the steroids, just trying to get him onto as low a dose as possible.

We have been selling quite a few sewing machines through Sarah's website which is very good. Lots of hits from Google so we have to keep up the number of machines on the site. I did a Google search on vintage sewing machines for sale and Rowan Tree Studio came up third, which was very pleasing.

We put the Peugeot through it's MOT and it failed on a few monor things and we thought we got away with £220 including the cost of the MOT, but then we had to buy a headlight which was £190. Now last Saturday the clutch release bearing went. For a garage to do it would be about £450 which we don't have, so we got a brand new clutch kit from eBay for £60 and Phil is trying to fit it. It's a big job as the sub frame has to be dropped, the drive shafts come out and the gearbox dropped. I'm sure he can do it, but it is a worry as he has never done such a complicated job before. We have been calling in a few favours from friends for transport to Claybrooke Animal Feeds. We don'r need anything now for a couple of weeks, we can order from Tesco on Saturday or go in to Lutterworth on the Post Bus to get urgent food.

On a lighter note, we have both been going to the craft group at St. Mary's Church in Lutterworth. Phil has learnt to use a knitting loom and made Rowan a scarf, He has also learnt to crochet, which I would never have thought possible. I have just started using one of the knitting looms to make myself a scarf in a nice red pure wool which I bought to do some felted slippes and never made them.

We went down to Devon in August as Rowan was Carnival Princess in Hartland Carnival. I ended up having to dress her as Sarah was stewarding and Casie got caught up in the Carnival traffic and couldn't reach the house where we were waiting. She looked gorgeous in her long white dress and tiara.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Haven't posted lately, been too busy with all the glitches life has thrown at us. I have had yet another chest infection, which makes 3 since December. So I have had a chest X-ray and need to have blood tests. I am taking pro-biotics to counteract the anti-biotics the Doctor prescribed, and Echinacea to try and boost my immune system. It seems to be down to the atrocious weather we have had this year, so changeable the body doesn't know what is going on. Sarah has had several bouts of tonsilitis along with Rowan who brings back delightful germs from pre-school and playgroup.

Minnie our 3 legged cat deteriorated and we took her back to the vet where we saw a different vet. She said she thought the problem was a tumour in the leg which was pressing on the main nerve to the foot causing the weakness and loss of feeling. She was of the opinion that she would only get worse and that she was suffering now and should be euthanased. I was on my own as Phil stayed at home because we were waiting for couriers to collect parcels, so I had to decide myself. There was really no decision, it had to be done. The vet couldn't get a vein in Minnie's front leg due to the problem, so she had to inject the drug into the abdomen. She said it would take longer, so I sat with Minnie in one of the treatment rooms. It took forever, she gradually slipped into a coma, but was still breathing. After about 30 minutes the vet came back in and was surprised she was still alive. She gave her another injection straight into her kidney as she said she was so far gone she wouldn't feel it now. She went quickly after that. I cried all the way home and Phil did too when I got home. We both knew she wasn't going to come home alive. I buried her in the front garden under the willow tree as the back garden is getting a bit full up, what with  poisoned cats, rabbits and chickens. Minnie is the first of our older cats we have lost in a long time. The last ones were the poisoned ones, Dermie, Hamish and Tio. I suppose we can expect it now as most of them are over 10. Connor is much better now his teeth have been sorted out. He is eating like a horse and his fur looks much better as he is grooming himself again. He is 16 and Mollie is 17. Small is only 6 months younger.

The last problem has only just been sorted. The accelerator on the Peugeot 607 jammed on when we were coming back from the vet on Saturday with one of the chickens which had a twisted neck. Phil took it apart and found the reason why the accelerator was so stiff, which it had been from new (to us). the cable was frayed into a bird's nest where it went through the bulkhead to the pedal. When he tried to pull the cable through it snapped. He found it was only held by abut 6 strands of wire. We were so lucky it didn't go on the motorway down to Devon. We hadn't even done our shopping as we had to go to the vet first. Luckily out new neighbour Ray was going to the tip on sunday and dropped us at Morrisons to get the basics. We had to get the part which was £49. We asked Boots, our mechanic neighbour to get a price for us, but he said £54, so we got it from Lutterworth Ford. We had to go in on the Post Bus to get the part and it was a kit, you had to put it all together yourself. Trouble was, it was different to what was on there originally. Fortunately, after some time and probably lots of swearing, Phil managed to fix it. He says it doesn't feel the same and there isn't much acceleration, but I imagine it will feel different after a new accelerator being fitted.

Back to brighter things. I have started going to a drop in knit and crochet group at the church in Lutterworth. It is run by one of our friends. This Friday I am taking in a hand crank sewing machine and my spinning wheel to give a demonstration. Saturday is the Spinner's Guild meeting. I missed the last one because I had the chest infection then. I want to spin some white wool so I can start dyeing wth natural dyes. I need this for Sarah's course in September.

Talking of Sarah, I went down to Devon on the Jubilee weekend to the Garden Festival at Coombe Trenchard Gardens. It is a lovely place, beautiful old Arts and Crafts house. There were so many lovely plants and beautiful furniture, wrough iron slatted furniture with Gothic arched back chairs. We were doing bunting making workshops in the Gardens Illustrated marquee. We took about 4 hand cranks along to demonstrate. We didn't make much money, only sold some bunting and a few rosettes, but the object was advertising the Studio and craft workshops. We got friendly with the editors of Gardens Illustrated and Homes and Antiques, the magazine Sarah was in. There were so many nice people there and we had a lovely time. Even the weath stayed good until Saturday afternoon when we were packing up.

The only down side was the clutch went on Sarah's Audi and we were stuck about 6 miles from the venue. Fortunately Casie, David and Rowan were on their way over to go to the Garden Festival, so we had to wait for them to turn up. We sat on the grass verge on a picnic blanket and made rosettes until they arrived. They took us to the Gardens, had a look round ant then they went and towed the car home. David took Casie to work and then came to collect us. We stopped at the Pizza Ape on the way home for food. It's always good there. Very eventful day

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Spinning and birthdays

I haven't had much chance to do any spinning in the last 2 weeks, been very busy cleaning and servicing sewing and knitting machines. Rowan was 4 yesterday, doesn't seem possible, time has really flown.

Our 3 legged cat Minnie has managed to damage her remaining front leg. We have no idea how, but she suddenly started shuffling along the floor on her forearm, and was unable to bear any weight on her wrist. We took her to a vet we don't actually like because we couldn't get her in to see our normal vet. The vet thinks she has wrenched her shoulder and there may be some nerve damage in her wrist. She said to give her 2 weeks and if there was no improvement she would need to be euthanased as she wouldn't be able to cope with no usable front leg.

We have taken her to our normal vet and she agrees there is nerve damage and no sensation in Minnies foot. She has given her a reprieve and anti-inflammatories for another week as she had a dog who recovered some movement after 4 weeks. Unfortunately she is constipated and we are trying to sort that out now. That seems to be causing her a lot of pain.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Looms, wheels and spinning

We managed to get to Ely to collect the rug loom from Jenny. I was also given 4 bags of rug wool to practice with and a Singer 28 sewing machine in good condition. The case had been restored at some time and it was very well done.

I now have a small childs' loom, a Spears loom which is slightly larger, a frame loom, also with a quantity of wool, a Weavemaster from the Big Sheep and the rug loom from Jenny which is also a Weavemaster. In fact it is a larger version of the one from the Big Sheep, so I can see what parts I need to make to get it going. I am going to start weaving with the childs loom as I can start off very small and simple. At the moment it's all a bit of a mystery to me.

I have started carding some Shetland from Sue Bailey's Beatrice. It is very dark, but I have found there are a lot of very small second cuts which is making the spun wool a bit lumpy. I will carry on spinning a couple of bobbins and see how it plys and knits.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

North Devon and Rug loom

I am writing this from Sarah's 'Green Valley' in Higher Clovelly. I am down here for a week, part holiday, part working to restore the 9 sewing machines Sarah bought last week at her local auction. Yesterday shortly after we got here, I did a 2 1/2  hour one2one class for a lady also called Sarah, teaching her to care for her vintage sewing machine and also to sew on it. My Sarah couldn't do the class as Rowan is very poorly, with a high temperature. Sarah enjoyed her lesson very much. The sewing machine was a Singer 128 which was her Grandmother's, so she was very pleased to be able to use it. She made a shopping bag and went home very happy with a clean serviced machine. Tomorrow I will start servicing the machines to go on Sarah's website.

I hope to be able to go to the Big Sheep while I'm down here so we can see if there are any bits Casie missed when he collected the spinning wheels and loom. The loom is missing one of the metal shafts and some wooden bits and pieces. We can make the wooden parts, but a metal frame might be more difficult.

Jenny on our online Spinners and Weavers group offered a rug loom for free and I was lucky enough to be the first to reply to her. After some hassle due to emails not getting through, I will be collecting the rug loom after I get back from Devon. It comes with a lot of rug thrums, so I should be able to get into making a sample straight away.

I brought some carded fleece down with me, North Ronaldsay for me and some Jacobs for Sarah to try out. I forgot the Ashford traditional had a spring missing from the bobbin tensioner, also the nylon line is too short, so I might not be able to do much spinning unless we can get some more fishing line.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Update on fleeces

I have washed 1 Castlemilk Moorit, 1 Portland, the caramel Shetland and the Boreray. I still have 1 Castlemilk to wash, the others are being sold to Spinner's Guild members. I will take them along to the next meeting.

The weather has been very warm for late February, early March, I have been out in the front garden tidying up and pruning. This year I mean to make an effort out the front as the back garden is now a chicken yard. I will grow some herbs and dye plants out there, also all the little shrubs down the side of the greenhouse will go along the fence between us and Henry's old house. Which is now wrong as we have new neighbours, Ray and Jill who are moving in today, well, they have been moving stuff in since last week. They are pretty much between me and Phil in age, with grown up children and grandchildren. It's very strange hearing people next door after nearly 9 months. Henry and Carl never made much noise anyway.

I have carded some more Jacob's fleece to finish my jacket, I hae only the sleeves left to do now, in fact I am 1/4 of the way up the first sleeve. It's quite exciting to have an actual garment nearly finished, my first with my own handspun wool. I can't wait to get to the caramel Shetland as it is gorgeous, different shades of brown and cream on the tips.

I have been clearing out various cupboards in an attempt to clear the house. I have cleared out my fabric cupboard and have a lot of fabric to go on eBay. The wardrobe in the corner is now half empty so I will fill that up with fleeces. This will make the whole room a lot tidier.

Washed the other Portland fleece today and it was part felted before I washed it. It was very difficult to pull the locks apart. I may have to dump some of it which is a shame, but I have a lot more, far too many in fact.

We dropped in to see Sue and Jeff Bailey on our way home from Hoar Park Farm the other afternoon. They have had a tragedy, Maddie, their very expensive white Leicester Longwool ewe (1 year old) had to be destroyed after giving birth to a ewe lamb. She had a really bad prolapse. Jeff said she'd never been right and was much smaller than she should have been. There wsas no membrane round the lamb either. Jeff said it was as if everything inside the ewe had disintegrated. They think it may be down to inbreeding.

They are both understandably very cut up about it, especially as Jeff had to shoot her. What a terrble thing to happen. Apparently rare breed sheep have much more difficulty lambing than commercial sheep. At least the ewe  lamb has survived, Sue is bottle feeding her. she is really sweet. They have 9 lambs so far, including 2 sets of twins.

I had Maddie's shearling fleece last year, so I will spin some finer wool and crochet Sue a scarf in Maddie's memory.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Feeling poorly and a trip to Derbyshire

Been very poorly the last couple of days. It came on very suddenly, hacking cough and difficult to breathe. Also no energy so poor Phil has been feeding my bunnies at night. I can manage it in the morning, but by night time I'm exhausted. I have been taking lemon juice, glycerine, honey, garlic and cayenne pepper in hot water which helps a lot. I usually use fresh chopped ginger as well, but have run out. I fnd it frustrating to be unable to do anything as I have so much to do, sewing machines to finish restoring. other stuff to put on eBay and a lot of new fleeces to clean.

We went up to Derbyshire on Tuesday to try out our Peugeot 607. You need to go for some time at over 40 miles per hour to clean out the Diesel Particulate Filter. We went to Carsington Water briefly, but as it was 4pm by the time we got there, we decided not to stop as they charge £2.50 for parking whatever time of day it is.

On the way to Carsington, we found a rare breed centre (Riddings Park Farm) and went to have a look. It was closed for the Winter, but they kindly showed us round. They have lots of pigs, Gloucester Old Spots, Large Blacks and Tamworths. They had several litters of piglets, from 3 weeks old. The sheep they had were Castlemilk Moorits, Hebridean, Shetland, Portland, Soay and Boreray. They had fleeces going spare so I got some for a donation to Charity. I didn't have much cash left as we stopped for lunch in a cafe in Wirksworth, called the Country Kitchen, The food was lovely, and the vegetables not over cooked. We will be going back there again. Anyway, I digress, I had only £10 left, so gave them that, and when we go back, I will give them some more. I have Castlemilk Moorit, Boreray, Portland, Caramel Shetland a lovely dark Hebridean.

Phil was disappointed as we didn't have enough cash to buy him some sausages. They make their own, lots of different flavours, their own bacon as well, and they have a butcher come in to do the meat. They do lots of different markets locally. They also have cows (Dexters) and goats, both Angora and Bagot which are very rare(these roam free during th day as they are impossible to contain). The chickens scratching around were nearly all crosses, they keep the pure breeds in their pens during the Winter. They also have accomodation, B & B, a cottage and yurts with woodburning stoves.

All in all, it was a lovely day out, and we particularly enjoyed it because it has been a long time since we went out just for a day. The new car is very comfortable for long journeys and the fuel consumption is good. It should be ideal for trips to Devon.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sewing machines

I bought a small treadle cabinet last week. As we have a very small courtesy car while ours is in for repair, Mark and Cheryl brough the cabinet over to us in their much bigger car. The cabinet is walnut veneered and plain but very pretty. We brought the machine head and accessories home with us. The machine is a 201, always desirable. It is missing it's Singer badge, but as I intend keeping it that doesn't matter too much. I Fenmanned the cabinet anbd serviced the machine the day I got it so it is ready to use. The treadle belt is a piece of curtain wire with the hooked ends bent right in, not a bad idea as I usually have lengths of that about.

I am about to buy yet another treadle, offered to me by Jill who we know from the auction. Her friend wants to sell it and Jill knows I collect old machines. We went to look at it several days ago. It is a Wheeler & Wilson no 1, which you sew on sideways. The cabinet has a fold over box top similar to this one, except

there is an extra drawer on the left of the machine in mine. The condition is not good, there is no finish left on the woodwork, the treadle irons are rusty and there is light rust on the metalwork of the machine. On the good side, there is decoration left on the machine, no damage to the woodwork, a few accessories and a mouse chewed manual, plus, a bonus, 4 curved needles which are now unobtainable. So if I get it sorted out I can sew on it. There is also a sharpening stone for the needles. These machines were never French Polished, just waxed, so I need to clean and sand all the woodwork and rewax with a hard wax polish. The belt is not like other treadles with a narrow round strip of leather, this is a wide leather belt and a new one needs to be made from a man's belt cut to length and stitched together. I need also to remove the rust from the treadle irons and refinish either by painting or using black stove enamel.


The New Year is bringing increased activity among our young cockerels. They are starting to fight with the older ones, guess Spring is on it's way. Zinny and Del Boy had a pecking match through the chicken wire which Phil didn't see until he went to put the chickens to bed and found blood on Zinny's comb. We had to bring them indoors and clean them up with Tea Tree and salt water, separately of course. Zinny hated it, but Del has been through it before when he had a fight with Windsor, and bore it stoically. They are both OK today.

Yesterday when I went to say Good Morning to the chickens I noticed Countess the black Cochin was huddled up by the door of their run so I asked Phil to get her out to check up on her as Windsor won't let me into the run. She is painfully thin, I think because Windsor and Duchess tend to drive her away from food. Whenever they are let out she comes running to the greenhouse door and wolfs down any food I give her. I think it has been going on for a while, so we decided to keep her indoors for a week and feed her up. She has been eating steadily, corn, layers' pellets, soaked wholemeal bread, sweetcorn, cat food, greens, soaked oat cakes and maggots. Her crop has been stuffed at bedtime so hopefully she will regain the weight she has lost quite quickly.

I don't think she will be going back with the Cochins as they don't seem to want her in with them. We have to split up the young cockerels soon before they damage each other so it may be a blessing in disguise. We have a spare hutch we bought at the auction which was intended for the Cochins, but will do for Countess and one of the Araucana cockerels. It just needs the front to be altered so there is a side opening door rather than the pull up door it has at the moment. Stan or Ollie can go in with Countess, she is used to a much heavier cockerel so it will be better for her. That leaves the other cockerel on his own so one of the Araucana girls will go in with him. The baby run will be split into 2 again as it was with the Mums and babies with a dividing fence down the middle, Zinny and Charlotte can go one side and Trigger and his hen on the other.

Friday, 6 January 2012

New Year, new sewing machines

Well, the New Year is still very new, but I bought several new sewing machines before Christmas. The parlour cabinet I have already posted about -

The auction before Christmas, there were 2 sewing machines I was interested in. One was an Anker German hand crank which would go on eBay, the other was stunning, even covered in dust. The box it was in can only be described as a rough crate. It was painted a dull green, I was sure this wasn't original, and the words 'machine box were visible on the top under the paint. The machine itself was unusual. The decals which remained were stunning. It was obviously quite old, but it had a rising table which fitted around the free arm of the machine -

I couldn't read the name on the top arm as some of the lettering was missing. I took some photos with my camera and went home to Google it. I found it was a Ward Arm & Platform machine, the first freearm machine ever made. It was made in London by Edward Ward around 1875, a true antique. when we went back to the auction, I bid on it, deciding to stop at £30 and bid up to £13 for the Anker. I got the Anker for £9, so Phil suggested I add on the extra £4 onto the price for the Ward. There were several commission bids on the machine, but I finally got it for £33. I took it home and cleaned it -

I posted about it on the ISMACS Digest and found out with additional research that it was a very sought after machine, a good addition to any collection. Two examples (presumably very good) sold at Christie's auction for over £1200.
The box  is original, although the paint isn't. I haven't found a manual for it yet, but there are pictures of the threaded tension mechanism on Alex Askaroff's website Sewalot. I should be able to thread it up using that and common sense. The shuttle is the dinkiest thing you have ever seen, and it has calibrations on it, as does the tension which is brass. At the moment, I have stripped off all the steel parts and I'm cleaning them up before polishing and putting them back. I have no idea what needles it takes, I will look when I remove that. All in all, it's in amazing condition. The decals are not very well protected, and most of them on the platform have worn off. But I have seen others in collections in far worse condition, with most of the decals worn off.

It now has pride of place in my collection. I also have to strip the yukky green paint off the box. I have started on the drop in front, and you can see very faint stencils under the paint.