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.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Spring update

Well, I have been very lax in posting to my blog. We have been very busy since January. Went to Diseworth on the Derby/Leicester border to watch pedigree Jacob lambs being shorn, and born. We selected which lamb we wanted, I chose one called Evoke because she had a lot of brown on her. The fleece is beautifullhy soft, shearling fleeces are the best that particular sheep will ever have. Terrific amount of lanolin in the fleece. I haven't been very particular preparing fleeces for spinning up until now, but it is a learning curve. This time I laid the fleece on a tarpaulin on the lawn to prepare it. I took off the 'skirts', the dirty bits all round the edges of the fleece.

Then I started splitting the fleece into sections of brown and white as I had plans! I used a dog brush to brush off the second cuts on the side nearest the skin (second cuts are where the clippers have gone through the fleece twice, and cause lumps in the yarn when you spin it.), then went on to brush the outside to remove hay and straw, etc. Where the two colours joined, I took the mixed brown and white and put that in a separate bag from the brown and white. I ended up with 4 bags, brown, white, mixed and dirty. I have never fancied spinning in the grease before, but I am tempted with this fleece as I was brushing separate locks out at times. We shall see.

What I plan to do with this fleece is to spin the two colours (I have more brown than white), use the brown as the base colour of a sweater and work Fair Isle bands round the bottom above the ribbing on the back, front and sleeves. I might work the ribbing in white as well, although I'm not sure about that yet. I could work in brown up to where I want the Fair Isle, then change to white and work the Fair Isle in brown, then more white before reverting to brown for the rest of that piece.

I was planning on using a white shetlan/Texel fleece to spin some yarn and dye it, but I had already washed it last year, and when I spun with it, there were so many second cuts it was a very lumpy yarn. I persevered to no avail, so gave up and started spinning it thick. I will ply it and end up with a rug yarn thickness, then dye it red with Madder and crochet a rug for the front room. I'm getting to the stage where the fleece tells me what it is suitable for.

At the beginning of February, Jenni Stewart and I went to the Guild of Long Draw Spinners at Stoke Albany. They had commissioned a great wheel from David Bryant and wanted to mark the first use of the wheel with a small event. They sent an invitation to our Guild at Botcheston in Leicestershire. Erica who is the Treasurer of our Guild is a member of GOLDS, so she was there as well. It was very odd, the hall was similar, the food was similar, the atmosphere was the same, just different faces. We settled down, with the usual chatting. There were some differences, like no looms as it is just a Spinners Guild, and a lot of members knitting their hand spun yarn. We admired the lovely great wheel in the corner. A table was set up in the middle of the hall, and Magge Stearn was there with lots of gorgeous rovings in different colour and fibre combinations. I succumbed to tempation and bought one in midnight blue, black, white and angelina, this was Merino, silk and angelina. The other one I bought was in caramel colours and white, botany wool and Tussah silk (I have started spinning the blue). There were also knitted items on display on the table, made by the members. We spun for a while, and looked at what the other ladies were doing.

Then the great wheel was set up and we went up in groups of 3 to learn to make the perfect rolag. Once we had our rolag which was made from some quite ropey white wool, we went and spun it on the great wheel while Janet the chairlady instructed us. It wasn't easy to walk backward while spinning, and there was a problem with keeping momentum up on the wheel. Janet thought this was because the belt was slightly too tight. The belt was crocheted from fine cotton crochet type thread. We each got a badge when we'd finished our turn on the wheel. I wanted to try it out as Sarah has a great wheel on loan and we want to get it up and running. We had lunch which was very nice, but no chocolate cake. At the end of an enjoyable day, we packed up and promised to return  as we had a good time. Some of the members there go to 5 or 6 different Guilds!

We have both had bad Conjunctivitis in both eyes. I was on my way to Devon on the coach when mine started. Phil had had his a week before me. We caught this from our friends' little boy, and then his Mum. It was very nasty anyway. When I got to Sarah's we looked up natural remedies as my eyes were streaming. Unpasteurised honey came up, and Sarah had some from students who attended a business soap making course in order to use their bee honey and wax. It worked astoundingly well. Within 2 hours the weeping had virtually stopped. I had my own towels, and a towel over my pillow, lots of hand washing during the week, but it was nearly gone within 2 days, whereas Phil's lasted 10 days.

While down at Sarah's, we went to Bude to deliver soap, went to the beach at Bude with Rowan so she could run around, went to Bideford to get rosebuds from the 'Apothecary', then on to the Soap Kitchen at  Torrington as they didn't have any. We went to Saunton Sands with Rowan and Holly who both ran around like loonies. I took lots down to do while I was there, but did very little as I couldn't see very well due to the conjunctivitis. I spun a little of the midnight blue roving and did a little crocheting on a blue jacket I was making in a blue marl Aran yarn.

Since coming back from Devon, I have been catching up on everything and trying deperately to get some sewing machines on eBay and Rowan Tree Studio's website. We haven't had a lot of machines come in since Christmas, they are just starting to trickle through.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

New Year

Sitting here with thick snow outside, the first of the Winter. We did our grocery shopping yesterday so we didn't have to go out today. No snow last night so the roads are clear. Spinners Guild was cancelled, craft group yesterday was cancelled.

New Year Resolution - brush my bunnies more often, good for them as they won't get knotty and for me as not so much wool will be wasted. I have been spinning with Thistle angora (pale chinchilla grey), mixed with dark grey and black alpaca. The resulting Aran weight yarn I have used to knit 2 cable hats, one for Phil when he's fishing, the other went down to Devon. Sarah said it kept sliding off and Casie thought it was too girly as it was fluffy. Rowan likes it though and Sarah's friend Nicola who crochets, also likes it. I will be sending Nicola some of that yarn when I have spun some more. Also some odds and ends of Jacobs left over from my jacket.

New Year Resolution - Do more spinning/knitting/crochet, I have plans to spin some Leicester Longwool (Sue Bailey's Duke) to make Sarah a jacket as I have used all the Jacobs and I can't find anymore, although I should be getting a new shearling Jacob at the end of January. Rowan wants some new multicolour jumpers, just waiting for measurements to start those. Also making her a poncho in multicolour DK and blue eyelash yarn.

New Year Resolution - restore all my old sewing machines which have been sitting there for years. These are the ones which need a lot of work to either machine or case/base, mostly the woodwork, although I am running out of hand cranks now. I don't intend to buy any more electric machines as hand cranks are expensive to buy on eBay. I will be looking to import some from the US, from Cindy Peters. I did buy a machine in a table, Singer 15 electric with Sphinx decals. I actually only wanted the table to put my Singer 306 in so I can have access to it anytime. I need to sell 3 Singer 201 treadles, starting with one this week. That will make room in the big sewing room, the knitting room and the dining room. The extra room in the sewing room will be taken by the table I bought this week.

The Alpacas are in the field directly opposite which is nice. I love to watch them when I'm working up in the sewing room.