Sunday, 26 June 2011

The only fibre book you'll ever need

Sharing this here as well as on Spinspiration blog - my review of this wonderful book on fleece and other fibre.
 My already well loved copy of the book

My short and sweet review - if you love working with natural fibres, enjoy spinning and related fibre crafts, BUY THIS BOOK!

After reading some preamble about this book on Ravelry I became very tempted to buy it. However, I'm quite frugal when it comes to books and prefer to borrow from libraries or look for second hand first, so to spend money on a new book was a bit of a luxury. But I was so tempted, and it was the sort of book that bookshops don’t keep in stock to go and have a look through so I went ahead and ordered a copy from the Book Depository. What a delightful sight it was when it arrived – a beautiful cloth bound hardback with a small embossed sheep on the front and a beautifully illustrated sleeve cover.

This book is simply awesome if you are interested in fibres and their spinning qualities, etc. I wondered if it would just be a "coffee table" type of book where you look and think “oh that's nice” and put it down again, but, while it is very artistic, it is also a comprehensive “text” book on the study of fibres from animals around the world. This book not only covers numerous breeds of sheep, many of which are British or originated here, and many rare breeds too; but also Alpaca, Llama, Goat, Yak, Angora Rabbit, camels plus others including Wolf. Yes, Wolf!

What a love of these natural fibres the authors must have, evident in this passage
“Natural fibres are part of our culture, our heritage. They have stories.
They have a living, breathing animal (or a growing plant) behind them.
They often have small-scale farmers or indigenous communities
behind them, too – people and cultures whose livelihoods and
Historic identities can be supported by their continuing work with
these fibers.”

This book is the encyclopaedia of fibres, it would grace any fibre lovers bookshelf and is a must have for would be and experienced spinners alike. Before you meet all the animals, grouped together by families, the authors talk about the value of natural fibres against synthetic fibres for crafts and commercially, and of genetic diversity of animals. You then read about the history of fibre and yarn production through the ages, the characteristics of different fibres and their uses and what garments different wools would be ideal for. This book is extensive (maybe not exhaustive) but it could lead you to want to research more by yourself.

Pages on my local breed - Hampshire Down
... and a good excuse to include a recent picture of a 
Hampshire Down Ram recently shorn at the local farm

Moving onto the sections about the animals is a delight. In researching this book the writers have done an amazing job, there are stories about the breeds, where they came from, beautiful photos of the animal and the fibre both raw and washed, details of the fleece weight, staple length, lock characteristics, strength and properties; tips on preparing the fibre, spun samples as singles, plied, and swatches too. It also details how the fibre is best used and how it dyes.
A lovely display of English Longwools

A wonderful resource, informative contents pages, and excellent glossary of terms for spinners and non-spinners to understand, plus a bibliography that is extensive too. Yes, this book is possibly all you need if you love sheep, fibre, spinning and you are not likely to be disappointed.

I took this book to the Guild on Saturday and it raised some interest, I am sure a few more sales will be made soon. I've ordered a copy on behalf of my spinning friend and teacher - a great resource for a teacher as she said.

This little fella wanted to be included too -a recently shorn Dorset Horn Ram, 
just look at those horns ... lovely aren't they?

Oh, just one more thing. How often do you see in a fibre book a quote from a rockstar? The lead singer of Led Zeppelin?  Well there is one in this book, Robert Plant owns a sheep farm and the quote in the book is

“I think I could sing and shear a few sheep at the same time.”


Today ...

... I shall be mostly knee deep in soft, squishy lanolin filled gorgeous wool freshly shorn and picked up from a farm this morning. Just don't ask how many bags! Although if you are looking for any wool, I shall have some spare here - just ask or wait awhile and I shall be offering to send it on. I definitely have more Black Welsh Mountain than I need or can use so if you'd like any, give me a shout.

Today ...
... I am also celebrating that we have finally, in the second round of applications, been successful at gaining some tickets to the Olympics next year in London - yeah! We won't know for sure which of the events we have tickets for, but will within the next couple of weeks.

Today ...
... I am loving that Imogen has asked me to put the Elbow album on as she thinks its great. I agree.

Today ...
... is a good day, the sun is shining, everyone is happy.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Some things to share

I've got a few things buzzing away in my head at the moment, blog posts to write here and at Spinspiration, articles for the Guild newsletter, all I need is the time to get down and write them. One such article is a review of a fabulous new book on sheep and other animal fibers called "The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook" by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius - see my review over on Spinspiration. What a great book!

In the meantime, a few things going on here - Imogen made Daddy a lovely hand-drawn T-shirt using some fabric crayons and pens, and a lovely card for Fathers Day.

 Daddy's t shirt

She also wanted to buy him a giant chocolate coin when we were at the shops the other day so we got him that too, obviously he would like to share that with her!

We've had my parents staying for the weekend (gone home now) and Imogen spent Saturday with them whilst Alex was on a course through work and I was at the Guild meeting. We had a lovely meeting, spin and chat in the morning - am opportunity to try out different wheels! The afternoon was about some fabric dyeing for synthetic fabrics that I had never heard of and they are fantastic, definitely something to pick up some time and play with - I will probably come back to this on the blog sometime.

Netley Abbey ruins panorama

On Sunday we went to the ruins of Netley Abbey nearby for a walk and adventure! Imogen was fascinated, and thought she may be Queen for the day and this was her castle. I think we shall visit more often now, especially with it being free and on the doorstop.

 family photo
 Imogen enjoyed looking around and taking pictures on her camera

I sneaked around and surprised her here as she was hiding!

Busy this week getting the newsletter together, writing a book review (written) and magazine review; hoping to write a blog post on Spinspiration about washing fleece for spinning - have had some different experiences with this recently so should be able to pull something together. I'm sure there's more too, as well as some tidying and de-cluttering of course. Oh and then there's the garden and seed sowing too.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

How to brighten up a dreary day

A bit wet and miserable out there today, and more forecast for tomorrow, so I thought I'd brighten up the day with some colour from the garden.

One of our lovely sunflowers which greet you as you go into the back garden.

 Wild strawberries

Our lovely wild strawberries that we have been harvesting lately along with the cultivated ones, mmmm fresh strawberries warmed by the sunshine ... well maybe not today!
 Fresh homegrown tomatoes

Beautiful juicy flavoursome home grown tomatoes, the first of many to come.

What's brightening up your day today?
Actually now the sun has come out so that's brightening up the day lovely too.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fancy another sheep story?

Following on from Shrek the sheep last week, how about this one in the news this week. What a headline

"Firefighters called to rescue sheep from 
roof of terraced house"
picture from
picture from www.walesonline.c
 Apparently the sheep climbed up onto the roof via a garage at the back of the house. You can read the story here. What made me really laugh about this story was one of the comments on the website which read

"When the fire fighters were called they were told about a Potential Jumper on a roof"
Brought a smile to my face so I thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Knit in Public Week

This started in 2005 as a knit in public day but has become a whole week this year. Check out the website to see if there are any events near you. There is one near me but I'm not sure I will make it on the day. I will however knit in public somewhere this week and pop a picture up on the blog.

Look forward to seeing what anyone else does too, maybe a bit of guerrilla knitting? Decorate something - a sign, a tree, anything.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A sheep legend ... RIP

 I remember reading an article in something when I first joined the Guild about a sheep in New Zealand, a Merino sheep, who had evaded shearing for 6 years until in 2004 he was found in a cave. He went missing from his herd in 1998, the owners presumed he'd died.

He captured the worlds (of spinning anyway) imagination and was finally sheared live on tv which can be seen here (it's a bit long but you can skip through it, worth looking at just to see his size and how they rolled him over to be sheared!). His fleece at that time weighed 27kg! Can you just imagine that! It was sold in auctions and the money went to a kids charity.

Sadly Shrek, as he was named, died a few days ago at the grand old age of 17, a grand age for a sheep (over 90 in human years). RIP Shrek x

Shrek, the famous Merino sheep, Rotorua, New Zealand

This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Checking out the Wildlife

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Crochet ... oh yeah!

Well this has been a bit of a love hate relationship - crochet and me. I love some things I see that are crocheted, but could I crochet ... hell no!

Well, that's not strictly true, a friend from the Guild showed me how to do the different stitches about 18+months ago, but after that I could get no further than crocheting straight lines and circles. This was fine if all I want to crochet is scarves and blankets but it wasn't the crochet I had wanted to try and achieve. I did however manage to teach myself to crochet left handed as it was much more comfortable for me, being left-handed.

I got frustrated at not being able to progress, fed up I put the hooks away for a while. A while turned into a lot longer, I tried again about a year ago and still it didn't work, I just didn't "get" it. Then about 4 weeks ago I got the hooks back out again, found my book to help me and decided it was time to try again. I grabbed some wool and a hook and went through the basic stitches again to check I could remember how to do them. Yes, fine. Tried to do a pattern of a simple granny square and nope, couldn't follow it. Here we go again I thought.

Anyway I met up with a friend from the Guild at the last meeting 2 weeks ago and we got onto talking about crochet (she's left-handed too) and she recommended a book which is the one I have and I pulled out of my bag. So we looked at what I was having trouble with and a chat and a bit of advice later and something just clicked. It was as if I could suddenly understand the language of crochet, like learning a new language.

a couple of squares, need to practice these more 
and find more interesting patterns

Since then I have practiced, and doing easy flowers, hearts and motifs which are done quickly - many in less than 10 minutes so quick satisfaction. I can read patterns, I can even read charts (my friend can't follow charts) - and all left handed, so the patterns are reversed but I can "see" how it works. Here are a few samples, I've made quite a few more now but these are the ones I took a photo of.

enjoying the simple quick flowers
 trying a few different ones
and a sunwheel, a bit more adventurous for me
(slight mistake made but hey)
and some sweet hearts

So I think there is a lesson to learn here, never give up. If something doesn't work once, twice or however many times, keep trying and you will succeed. And I can hear you saying "but" and "I can't", etc. I was beginning to think I couldn't learn to crochet but I did and now I can. I have bookmarked and copied free patterns for a while hoping to one day be able to crochet, now I have lots of things to practice on.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Planting and pirates ...

What have planting and pirates got to do with each other I hear you ask? Well nothing really, other than the fact that they will both appear in this blog post. This is a bit of a catch up post from a a couple of weeks ago, the plants have come on a bit since then.

Pirates has been the theme of this half-term at school for Imogen, a good choice for her - she likes all things pirates. It reminds me of Christmas 2009 when she had a pirate costume from her grandparents and as soon as it was unwrapped she was wearing it and it was worn all day, and has been worn many times since.

We built a pirate ship at home the other week, and she took this into school for showing and to go on their display. She loved doing this. We borrowed a pirate activity/craft book from the library and made pretty much everything out of it.
 Imogen's pirate ship

On Friday, last day of the half term, they had a pirate day where they could all come to school dressed as pirates - either in costumes if they had them or tatty clothing (pirate style) or whatever they wanted to wear if they preferred not to dress up. But they all did - an array of different costumes, torn old clothes. It was a wonderful sight. Here is Imogen ready to go in. Her Captains hat, telescope and hook were in her bag!

 Pirate Imogen
 Dressed ready for school but the hat went in the bag
so it didn't get blown away in the wind

Planting has been something of a continuous job around here, keeping on top of the sowing, and planting on. We've picked the last of the Broad Beans now so chopped them down to allow the roots to rot down and we will lightly dig in the chopped plants - like a green manure, this will feed the soil well.

Tomatoes inter-planted with Oca

Planting out tomatoes, some in collars inter-planted in the bed of Oca, just look at the lovely Oca - I love their leaves. Planting on courgettes and pumpkins and thinking about their eventual placing.

 Close up of the Oca leaves
Kohl Rabi with their gorgeous colour

Harvesting a great range of salad leaves, lettuce leaves, mizuna, rocket, pea shoots, perilla, sorrel (various sorrels), welsh onions, herbs and more for delicious salads. Our supply should keep us going for many many meals, months probably if we keep up the successional sowing.

Fresh salads daily

Oh and we have grapes forming too, lovely.

Lots to do to keep us busy growing. Half term this week, so a few days out here and there. Happy days.

The allotment plot is looking a bit like this at the moment, well it did when I took the photos about a week ago! ...

Plot side panoramic view
(the unusual shed is on the next plot!)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Good things come to she who waits ...

I am a great believer in things happening at the right time, sometimes we just have to wait a while, hold on and good will happen.

Want to see my new toy?

Something to help my fibre preparation?

Something I've kind of thought I'd like to get but oh the cost! Guessed yet?

Well I have had one on (long-term) loan from the Guild for about 11 months, but now it can go back, I was needing to take it back next month anyway as another member (actually 2 now) want to borrow it from the Guild.

So how utterly wonderful it was that this week I just happened across an advert for ...

"Handmade Drum Carder, built be Master Carpenter, works as good as any of the expensive models", but at a snip of the price of the more expensive models. An email, a couple of phone calls and a trip in the car and the drum carder is mine.

Carder in need of a good clean

Pictures above are before a good clean up as it has been stored for a while on a farm and now has been re-homed as the lady who owned it needed to downsize. She was so pleased it was going to a new home of someone who loves to spin and would appreciate it, of which I certainly will. It's a lovely piece - solid and yes it works just as well as others I have used so this spinner here is very chuffed!

After a clean up she looks like this ...

 Cleaned up lovely, see how clean the carding cloth is now?
excuse over exposure, my flash isn't working properly these days!
Look at that lovely handle too
(ignore the messy table though!)

I know many spinners have named their spinning wheels, I haven't yet. However my drum carder is named Delia, the name of the previous owner whose husband had carved her name on the drum carder he made for her. So her name will remain, I feel like I have a lovely piece of history in my hands. I shall take care of her.

 Introducing Delia

Here she is clean as new and carding some lovely Portland white wool. It cards beautifully.

Portland on the carder
Portland teased ready to card on the right
Carded batt on the left

It's a case of good things coming to those who wait. I have increasingly over the last few weeks been trying to work out if I could purchase a Drum Carder, but at £200 plus, really couldn't justify the expense, especially as I'd want a good one. I have watched a few on ebay but even 2nd hand they really hold their price, a much wanted 2nd-hand item.

So I waited, and look what came along and just the right time, and at just the right price.