Monday, 28 February 2011

Sunshine and Spring sights

Ooh can you feel it? The warmer days, the brighter sunshine, yes Spring is really here now.

This wee little lamb was born on 14th February and they named him Valentine. Valentine's mother is a Dorset Horn, his father a Hampshire Down hence the black patches on his legs and head.


The last of the snowdrops still nodding their heads in the sunshine.
beautiful Snowdrops

The beautiful crocuses and abundant daisies

Bright and fragrant Daffodils.

Imogen enjoying the daffodils

The community garden and transitions group Apple Day went well, including the planting of an apple tree demonstration not halted by a hailstorm!

Planting the apple tree
and playing in the garden

We made mini apple crumble pies with crumble and oats topping and they went down very well at the event, we must make more, yum yum.

Mini apple crumble pies

Sunday we planned to get some things done at the allotment and then in the garden, but didn't really check on the weather forecast. It started raining as Imogen and I joined Alex at the allotment and got heavier until we decided to abandon and go home. It continued to rain as we had lunch so instead we decided to clear the annex to the house (much needed) and it was the right choice as another hailstorm pounded the roof.

Rain stopped play at the allotment 

Green Manure thriving on the plot

Friday, 25 February 2011

Busyness ...

Well we've been up to lots of things so busy is what we have been. Good busy though, taking our time and enjoying the things we love.

I had a lovely Saturday at the Guild, the talk was very interesting and inspiring. The felting workshop was great fun too - probably about 70 of us all in a big circle, well oval, stabbing away making needle felted beads and buttons. A few cries of ouch, lots of laughter and one member saying she would stick to using her chainsaw rather than the felting needles! It was great to see everyone too having not made the January meeting and Decembers was cancelled due to the snow.

Imogen is on her half term holiday from school so I asked her if she wanted to go to the cinema on Monday morning to the £1 showing of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, she was so excited and we had a great time there, lunch at the cafe and then a visit to the library all close together. We even had time for a quick browse of the many charity shops including the Oxfam bookshop and picked up a lovely old boxset of the complete Chronicles of Narnia. Imogen was overjoyed with this.

One of many domino runs

We've built and knocked down many domino runs, and made adaptations to knocking down towers; played several games especially snakes and ladders; lunch at a cosy barn pub with open fires and a wonderful warm sunny day at the farm. We definitely picked the best day to go to the farm, so warm here on Thursday. Imogen was thrilled to hold the 4 day old piglet, and had great fun running around the farm, feeding the animals and taking photos.

 piglet love
 Middle White Pig in glorious mud

It was a glorious day at the farm and on our way home as the sun was going down I took this photo as the shadows looked lovely.

 wonderful shadows

Having fun working on posts for the Spinspiration blog, washing more wool, planning the next spinning to be done. We have a community garden event at the weekend, oh and a birthday party Friday. All good fun.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Are you a spinner? ... meet Spinspiration

You know me, passionate about wool, especially raw local British wool. There is nothing like taking a raw fleece from a farmer, skirting, scouring, picking and sorting it ready to card and spin. Through this passion I have met some lovely people in the blog world who also spin, you know who you are! Some from the last couple of years and some from the last couple of months or weeks even. Yes I mean you.

Well a while ago my blog friend Kelly who blogs at freeflowing ways made a suggestion about us starting a Woolly Wednesday regular post to inspire and share what we have been doing that's woolly. Here we are now to announce the start of this on a new blog we are both contributing to and we really hope you will join in too by linking to our Woolly Wednesdays on Spinspiration.

Spinspiration ~  
Become part of the circle sharing inspiration for spinning 
and other fibre crafting. It is a warm and reassuring place, 
sort of like a favourite chair near a cosy fireside, 
where beginners and experts come and go as they please. 
It's a place to share what we know, learn from each other 
and display what we've created -- while supporting and inspiring 
each other on the wonderful journey associated with 
handspinning and wool-related crafts.

We hope you will like what you see and join us there, grab a virtual cup of coffee or tea, a slice of virtual cake and share with us what you have been doing. It doesn't matter how much you have done, come along and be inspired or inspire others. Maybe you would like to be introduced to the craft of spinning, or know someone else who is ... well here you will find the support and encouragement.

We hope the blog will be a source of information too, we have already added details of books we can personally recommend, websites for sourcing fibres and equipment, websites for advice, tutorials & information; and events around the UK. More will follow, and if you have any suggestions please let us know.

See you at Spinspiration soon.
Dawn x

The spinning wheel that started it all for me

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Today ...

I shall be at the Guild, it's been a while as Decembers meeting was cancelled and I couldn't make it to January's. Getting ready and just off to pick out a few fleeces to take with me to see if anyone wants one. Looking forward to a guest talk in the morning on the Apocalypse Tapestry which I hadn't heard about until the member doing the talk showed me the book from his visit, he's writing an article for the newsletter too. Everyone knows about the Bayeux tapestry, but I wonder how many people in the Guild or anywhere know about the Apocalypse one.

The afternoon session is a dry felting workshop entitled Buttons and Beads, so looking forward to what our expert felter has planned for us there.

Have a lovely day everyone, I know I will.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Seed Swap weekend

It's that time of the year when seed swap events appear. Alex will be running a stall on behalf of the allotment association at our local one this weekend at the Art House Cafe in Southampton - a fabulous vegetarian and vegan cafe run by volunteers, not for profit with gorgeous food and drink - you have to try their cakes if you ever go there, yum! It's the same place we were at recently meeting the Masai.

Seed Swap poster

Organised by The Art House and October Books the Seed Swap will be open to the public from 12 - 5pm on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th February here. Bring along unwanted seeds to swap or you can pick up others for a donation, and there are other stalls their to look around too.

October Books - a lovely indepenent bookshop local to us,a not-for-profit co-operative, will be there too with a lovely choice of books, magazines, etc.  Beans and Herbs (from not fat away in Wiltshire) will be there too selling their seeds - great range of organic vegetables and herbs, including a large variety of beans.

Spinning Inspiration from the blog world

Thank you all for your wonderful comments in my last blog post - I'm glad that it was useful to those new to spinning. It's a beautiful craft and I love it, so to share that with you all is just wonderful.

Following on from that and the websites I recommended, it occurred to me that I should share a blog that some of you may already know but to those who don't - this is a lovely blog I have followed for a long time.

Farmana - a blog written by Sara "farmer, farmers wife, crafter, and mama to four little ones that unschool. Here I share with folks our life adventures on our ever evolving small sustainable farmstead. We raise organic vegetables, CVM sheep, Nigerian Dwarf goats, laying hens, honey bees and some fruits, flowers and herbs." (from her blog).

Sara spins wool, the lovely wool from her animals on her farm, previous years I have read how they have sent the wool for processing after shearing time, but this year she has done more of the processing herself. She has written a few blog posts over the last week or so about the scouring, processing and spinning of the wool into yarn.

A tale of wool scouring
Picking and carding
Batt to yarn

Well written and great information, please go over and have a look. Have a look around her blog too for other inspiration. A truly lovely blog, one I look forward to reading when I see a new post.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Woolly Wednesday and Spinning tips

It has been suggested recently through a comments conversation with the lovely Kelly that a Woolly Wednesday might be a lovely way to bring spinners new and old together to share what we're up to. So in anticipation of that starting up sometime soon, I'll use today to share what I've been up to and to also share some tips and links to videos for those new to the craft, things that have helped me.

So remember the bobbins from the other day? Beautiful Zwartble spun mostly by myself with a little help from Imogen.

I meant to take a close up of the singles on the bobbin but forgot. With both of these bobbins I decided to Navajo ply the wool, this makes it a lovely 3 ply yarn just from one single and is a lovely way to ply, often used when doing colour work as this method of plying keeps the colours looking good rather than plying with another bobbin and creating more variety. I've done it with this as I want this to be a quite chunky yarn and I spin quite thin singles generally.

There is a great video tutorial for Navajo plying here, it takes a little getting used to but once you have mastered it, it is easy to do. There are other videos but I think this one explains and demonstrates it well. It basically uses a loop and you draw the single through the loop - a bit like a crochet chain stitch, and continue to do that - drawing the single through the loop and pinching and releasing the yarn in front as it is plying (with the spinning wheel spinning in the anti-clockwise direction).

Here it is, plied and wound off the bobbin onto the niddy noddy, and tied at four points with a figure of 8 tie of contrasting wool (I use acrylic so it doesn't blend or felt onto it) - this helps stop the strands tangling when you come to wash it and then wind it up into a ball.

Navajo plied zwartble yarn

The next picture is some previous spinning, washed and waiting to be made into lovely balls of yarn. Not sure what to use these for yet as they are odd balls now as the fleece is all used up. The zwartble is going to last a while though so a bigger project for that one I think, just got to decide what.

Zwarble (grey) Jacobs (humbug) Dorset horn (cream) Portland (white)

So tips and all that, for all those new spinners out there (you know who you are) - there are some great video tutorials on the internet if you get a little stuck and it's a while before your next spinning meeting.
This is a great site for advice (and pictures) and some videos - Joy of Handspinning . This is a good basic how to spin, how to control the wheel video here. I also think the Ruth MacGregor videos are good (carding, short draw and long draw) - no words though but set to lovely music, and you can pick up what she is doing and there are written words every so often. Hope some of these help. Alex has pointed out that a glossary of terms would be useful too - here's one on our Guild website, and another comprehensive one here - actually that's another good website of how-to.

Tips are probably hard to explain in writing, much easier to pick up when you are with someone guiding you but I'll have a go at a few:
  • Practice treadling with no wool on the bobbin, get your rhythm consistent - not having to battle with the wheel going backwards when you introduce wool will be easier once you have the rhythm of your wheel. Slow and steady - learn to recognise how slow you can go without it reversing.
  • The single biggest tip that helped me when I was learning was to pinch the wool going through the orifice to stop the spin going up into the rolag or batt of wool (whatever you're spinning from). I knew nothing when I bought my wheel but found the lovely people at the Guild and found one of the members taught and got myself on her lessons. Very thorough and very experienced - learnt all about the wheel and sheep and different qualities of wool from different parts of the sheep. But the pinching of the wool was either not mentioned or I didn't hear it. But the very next day I had booked onto a one day course with an experienced spinner and learnt loads more, and this "pinching" was the best advice - I was away ... "a natural" in her words and came home from that buzzing and with two skeins of plied washed wool. So long story - short conclusion - pinch the wool in front of the rolag and don't release until you have drafted (pulled) back the rolag - then I gently follow the spin in the wool back to where I want to and pinch again. Pinch and release.
  • If it starts going out of your control - stop! Stop the wheel and recover. If the spin has gone into the roving, stop and untwist the rolag if you can or break off and rejoin.
  • Bet confident at short draw spinning - push and pull a little at a time (also called inchworm) before trying long draw. Although long draw has it's benefits (more consistent even yarn), it can be frustrating when learning.
  • When you lose your end - fibre breaks and the end winds onto the bobbin - it can sometimes be hard to find it. A small piece of masking tape can help you find it. Edited to add: wrap a little masking tape around your finger and run it gently along your spun wool on the bobbin and the loose end will stick to it so you can re-thread it through the orifice with your threading hook.
  • Remember to stop from time to time to check where the wool is winding on and change the yarn to another hook as necessary (unless you have a lovely fancy wheel with a sliding hook flyer!)

I will think about any more tips I can share, hope these help - not sure if I can explain them well enough in writing, but hopefully it makes some sense.

So what are you spinning? Share your pictures, don't be shy, would love to see your work whether you're new to spinning or experienced. I'll share with you this which was my first effort in spinning from the archives!

first spinning an plying

And this after my Spinning Day tuition where everything just clicked.

See it does get easier and better with time and practice.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

It's more than beginning to feel like Spring

It's almost here - It's safe to say,
I saw a Crocus yesterday
Its' colors bright - A lovely thing
My heart Rejoiced! 'Twil soon be Spring!

Sunshine, snowdrops, crocuses are out and the daffodils are just about exploding with colour. The air is filled with wonderful birdsong, and we are spotting more and more each week.

This last week there has been an eruption of daisies everywhere we look, loads of them. It reminded me of one of the proverb "Spring has come when you can put your foot on three daisies" and another that says "When you can place your foot on 7 Daisies at once, then summer has come". Well it's definitely not Summer (although I could put my foot on 7 today), but Spring is here. Just hoping there isn't a sudden return to Winter weather that February can often bring, like it did last year.

So here's a little Spring song to go with the lovely bright sunshine we have today

Buttercups and daisies,
Oh, the pretty flowers;
Coming ‘ere the springtime,
To tell of sunny hours.
While the trees are leafless,
While the fields are bare
Buttercups and daisies
Spring up here and there. 
~ Mary Howitt

Monday, 7 February 2011

Chinese New Year festivities

 Dragon Dance

We had a lovely day yesterday at the Chinese New Year festival in the City, once the dignitaries stopped talking that is! Wouldn't mind so much if it was about Chinese New Year, some was, but then there was a speech about how great China is and it's economy, etc.

Lions with dragon in the background

We saw the lions have their eyes painted on by the mayor before the dancing of the lions and the dragon started. Lots of lovely colour, the winds around made the costumes flow wonderfully and the firecrackers were great too - Imogen loved them going off.

There was also some dancing of different groups - young girls, ladies, some music (although not so good) and martial arts displays.
Girls dance, being blown away by some of the winds

 they did well hanging onto these umbrellas with much laughter
 Ladies dancing, costumes were lovely with the wind blowing

On arrival we immediately bumped into one of Imogen's friends, and within a minute some others were walking towards us so we stood together which was lovely for them to share together. We saw many other friends then either around the square or on the dragon parade through the town.

 Parade through the city
Watching the parade

Lovely time, look forward to this again next year.
Here's a little video we did too (we took some more video on the digicam but the file is too big to upload I think).

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Spinning together

Saturday at home, just me and Imogen as Alex has gone to the allotment and then to an event locally. I have done a fair bit of carding of the Zwartble fleece (it's going a long way!) and some spinning over the last few evenings and some on Friday. So when I said to Imogen that we would be at home together today I asked her if she would like to do a little spinning with me. This was met with a joyous yes.

Zwartble ready for spinning

She has had a little go with me a few times now, mainly with just holding the wool to spin and drawing it back ready for spinning, and a little treadling. So today she wanted to try the treadling so I got her to do some without any wool on the bobbin just to get the rhythm you need to keep up to keep the wheel spinning in the right direction - harder that it sounds for many people I've seen try it. She did pretty well, used two feet to help as it can be hard work for 5 year old legs!

getting used to the wheel spinning

We then introduced the wool and sat together spinning for a while, both of us treadling and drawing back the wool and she was mesmerised with the spin going up the wool and asking lots of questions about how it was all working - some she knew already and recalled well and some new to her.

 having a go at treadling and drawing the fibre

She then had a go with the whole process, treadling, drawing the wool back, releasing the wool to wind onto the bobbin. Easy? Well, maybe easy for me after having been spinning for coming up 2 years, but not so easy for Imogen, but hey she had a really good try. It is something hard to conquer when you first learn - trying to keep the treadling rhythm going whilst watching what is happening to the wool. I think she did really well and was very focused.
Imogen spinning solo
Keeping the rhythm proving a little troublesome!
What do you think? Not bad eh!

I then sat with her again and we did it together - she said it was easier with my help and was concentrating really hard on what we were doing. Here's the bobbin we filled together (plus another already done by me).

Bobbins ready to use

She was very pleased with herself and wants to show Alex later what we've done and show her how she helps me spinning. Not bad for 5, it takes some co-ordination. Progress anyway and she can't wait to do some more soon - a spinner in the making.

I'm going to Navajo ply this later along with the bobbins already done this week to free up the bobbins for more spinning of this gorgeous wool. Need to get some more batts carded first though.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Lovely book for Chinese New Year

Imogen has been learning more about Chinese New Year at school recently and as the celebrations have now started I thought I would share a book that we got from the library. We picked up a few about festivals and the Chinese New Year and they have been fun to read.

This one is really lovely, so lovely that Imogen wanted to take it to school to show her teacher which we did yesterday - her teacher hadn't seen it and thought it was lovely and used it at story time with the children.

The book is Dragon Dance A Chinese New Year lift-the-flap book by Joan Holub. A very colourful book that tells you all about the new year festivals, the food, the dances, and at the back is a craft activity for making dragon puppets.

It's a lovely book, easy to read in a rhyming style. Imogen has sat and read this to me and to herself several times. They've also been doing a dragon dance at school which we go and see when they finish for half term. Hopefully this weekend (weather permitting) we shall be going to a Chinese New Year festival in the city where there is a Chinese market, food, activities, martial arts displays and a dragon dance and parade.

Imogen has enjoyed saying Gung Hay Fat Choy too!

They are then moving on to look at India and the festival of Holi, a festival of colour which should be great fun, her hands and arms were certainly colourful today when I picked her up from school!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A bit of all sorts

Back from a visit to my parents celebrating my Dad's 70th birthday, a lovely relaxing time really, meal out with family. Unfortunately I don't sleep well there (uncomfortable bed, etc) so my back and hip were sore yesterday but after rest and wheat bags all is well today.

So I have finally got around to that carding I keep starting and never get very far, working on the photo album for Dad took a lot of my time up - fun though going through old family photos. Great fun.

Zwartble on the drum carder

Here is the Zwartble that was washed the other week, lovely wool - great colour and staple length for spinning. Zwartble is usually quite a bit darker wool but this is very sun bleached from a local farm here in Hampshire. The farmers say when they are shorn the new wool coming through is a lot darker - will see that for ourselves soon as they are going to phone us when they are lambing so Imogen can see the little lambs springing and bouncing in the fields.

Zwartble batt

Some carded up on the drum carder (oh this is going to save me loads of time with all this wool!) and some parcelled ready to send to new spinners who blog here and here. Hope you enjoy the wool, I've popped in some carded and some uncarded for you both to have a go yourselves - it cards and spins lovely.

Imogen continues in her passions of drawing and writing and this morning whilst eating breakfast before going to school drew this lovely picture and wrote about this being her purple bicycle (she is colouring it in later) just like her bike. I thought this was a lovely picture so thought I'd share it.

Imogen's purple bicycle "ting a ling"

She's done some more short stories too including one at the weekend for her Grandad for his birthday.

And just for fun, this is what my back door looks like ...

... more sorting to do. But I promise no more wool, well not until shearing time anyway!