Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I belong to three spinning "communities" online, and there are several other people who reside virtually in all three. One of whom I admire tremendously is Abby Franquemont. She carries a prodigious heritage with that name but she is a smart as a tack and has the ability to cut thru the crap and explain her viewpoint in superbly written prose. She and I have shared a few off-list comments and I have just discovered she has added my blog as a favoured link to her site. One of the groups (I can't keep them all straight) is having an ongoing discussion on "art yarns", i.e. what do you/I think is an "art yarn" and does it have any purpose or is it just there to look pretty. Distinguishing art yarn from novelty yarn can sometimes be difficult and some folks seem to find art yarns as super cool whereas I find the end of the spectrum as self indulgent at worst as whimsy at best. The end of the spectrum for me is something along the lines of 50 yards of something in multiple colours and materials so loosely spun (to allow it to be fluffy) that it is unusable for anything except to look at and fondle because it would probably fall apart if knitted, if not immediately soon thereafter. I could name names but I won't. I have been reading a big back run of Fiberarts and have seen a lot of "conceptual" craft work and while some of it really intrigues me and inspires me, some I find silly and/or self-indulgent. I am a crafts person who is 1) somewhat traditional in viewpoint, 2) practical in that I expect my products to be useful, 3) have been involved in textiles since I was old enough to hold a needle. I've done just about every craft except tatting and bobbin lace (my eyes aren't up to it) and weaving (soon to be addressed) and I just don't see the point of the fluffy colourful art yarns especially when somebody is trying to sell them fro $US50 for 50 yards. When I buy hand-dyed anything it's mostly because I'm too lazy to do it myself, not that I couldn't. I suppose the prices for such are aimed at those who can't, rather than at people like me who could but choose to spend my time doing something else. And there's so much something else to do!

I crashed and burned on Monday as the chutney production knocked me out. The prep work was very time consuming (peeling and chopping and so on) and I got 8 jars out of it. I still have plums but not the energy to do anything with them. The pears are about ready to fall off the tree but at least they are big enough to be edible. This morning my legs were simply on fire and still are not happy. I briefly thought about tackling the berry bushes and got stung by a wasp at the first cut and retreated after spraying the wasps' nest in the berry bushes. The painters are supposed to come today and then we can get carpet. We have backtracked to the original high-and-low berber wool carpet we saw earlier when we went back for a second look, having looked at a lot of carpet in between.

The cardigan is almost finished. The body has been blocked and shoulders joined but the instructions want me to sew the sleeves in before I do the button band which is knitted onto the garment in one piece. That's better than the add-on later kind but only just. Am on the toe of the second sock for the bear and can now knit something for ME!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Long time, no post. Another hot week here but temperatures were in the low 30C's and not in the highs.
Tomorrow we are promised 27C which sounds like better weather for making chutney, definitely plum and maybe rhubarb. We went out to our normal blackberry spot with a friend but found that 99% were very green and plan to return in a fortnight (yes, Aussies really say fortnight for 2 weeks). I picked our first full sized home grown tomatoes and made another batch of zucchini pickle relish. The garden in general looks good as we have had some small bits of rain. At the right you will see this year's new baby possum with mum making short work of an over-ripe banana. The bub wasn't interested in the fruit and was not thrilled about being petted but tolerated it. They are both really soft and most of our neighbourhood gang will eat out of your hand and let you pet them. I know it is frowned upon by some to feed possums but I like them and they are cheap entertainment for The Imp. Every year we get another baby introduced to our bananas and watch them grow up and then leave mum. Sometimes there are growling matches on the front porch and frequently thundering feet across the roof at night. We really had no idea there were so many around and we can't tell them apart except "the big one" or "the skittish one". It is amusing to have a possum hang by its tail over your head reaching out little hands. We also have baby cockatoos in the trees making grinding noises and I spotted 4 new galahs sitting in (of all places) a plane tree in the middle of a local shopping centre

Another friend at work who does exquisite handmade books gave me some guidance on how to organize my spinning record keeping, something I have been horrible at. Sometimes I didn't keep any of the unspun fibre so I have no record. The others have many little plastic bags of fibre that I will have to try and remember where I bought and hopefully find a sample in the stash of what it became. The (almost) final stage of some of the fabled English Leicester is below. The first band cut off the inkle loom, about 3 yards worth. Selvages are all over the place and even the warping isn't totally right but it's a start and by lining them up as I did in the photo, I am trying to illustrate what they will become when laid side by side and sewn together to make "fabric" for a bag. I am slowly learning that it's better to do something with your output than have it mature in the stash not becoming any thing. The wool is still quite lustrous and the colours nice, even if they aren't what I was aiming at. I have been devouring stuff about weaving in prep for the course starting in (yikes) a little over a fortnight. I hope my poor legs will be up to it. Losing weight has helped my knees but not the muscles in my legs.

I test spun on John Reeves' lightest spindle and it works quite well, altho I do prefer the shepherd's creeok type hook and not the round cup-hook that many makers seem to use since they are cheap and easily available. I am spinning some wool roving bought in Bendigo last year that I said was intended for socks and still is, but I am having an easier time spinning finely on a spindle no matter how long the staple. It is dark green. I am on the home stretch of the cardigan, almost finished the entire body, minus button bands. I am currently anamoured with Lucy Neatby's patterns after listening to Brenda's last podcast and have just ordered 3 from her. The pattern for "Cables after whiskey" is something that looks like a lot of fun.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sorry for the delay, folks, but we had a blistering week last week. Up until midday yesterday it had been 35C or over every day. Get up early to do the essentials and then lie in front of a fan and try not to wilt. The Imp went to the vet on Friday for her annual inoculations and either the heat, the whole experience being something she just didn't believe Mummy would do to her (that lady put things in places I didn't like) or the effects of the flu vaccine, made her extremely subdued. She sat on a pillow for most of Friday and Saturday and slept with me. She was more or less back to normal last night, i.e., beating up the senior cat and racing around.

No fibre news to report. I have been continuing to knit but haven't finished anything else. Yesterday I got up early (see above) and made chili plum sauce (15 bottles) and somehow managed to forget to take my morning meds so began to feel seriously unwell by mid-afternoon. I still have 2 huge bowls of plums so chutney and some other plum thing is on the agenda. I also found a couple of recipes for rhubarb chutney which sounds interesting as well. It's "only" supposed to be about 30-32C this week so I will not be so sapped of energy, or sleepy which heat always makes me. I have new glasses for computer work and I didn't even realize until I picked them up but the frames are purple! They are rimless so I didn't even take notice of the colour. I like purple so that's OK.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hope to recover with lots of photos. It has been bloody hot since last week, over 30C every day and our weather station says it is now 37C and while that is in the backyard, it is still in the shade. Yesterday I finally got the Christmas tree down while the plasterers were here and now there is room for my rug to be cleaned. This AM I went to the mall and am hence exhausted. I now have a ceiling over my bed and the plasterers insist that they should paint it but I had told the assessor that, because of previous damage and my intent to paint the room anyway, I wouldn't expect the insurance to cover it. We'll see.

Up top is my new spindles stand made of Huon pine by John Reeves (whose web page isn't up yet and he seems to have left etsy). His spindles (which I haven't tried yet) are at the 10 o'clock and the 4 o'clock positions, my Kundert is right in front with sock wool on it and the 2 Bossies that are home are in the middle. The birds eye maple featherweight is at work for spinning
with silk on breaks. John is the only spindle maker I have found in Australia and he uses great Aussie hardwoods. Huon pine is so beautiful. I have a turned bowl and a rolling pin (which I have never used because it's too pretty) made from it. Only grows in Tasmania.

To the top left is the first skein of dragon hair. I have never spun anything like this as it was a carded batt (I think there is a photo in the archives) of ll different sorts and colours of fibres with sparkly angelina in it. I generally am not a sparkly person but you have to try something different. There may be enough to knit Princess A a Christmas present.

To the right below you have what arrived yesterday from BFLB: 2 skeins of delicious Mountain colors sock wool and 2 sets of size 1 bamboo DPNs. Quarantine opened it no doubt because of those funny pointy sticks. Might be drugs.

To the left above are the 3 bags full of roving that arrived yesterday, in front is Blue Faced Leicester, to the left back is wensleydale and the other is Jacob, the latter two from Copper Moose and the BFL came from All the Pretty Fibers on etsy. The wool in the middle, still attached to a sheep is no longer attached and it is also BFL (lamb) from Beechtree Farms. The fleece has been sent to Wooly Knob for processing and I should get 5 pounds of roving out of it.

No joy yet with my iPod but there seems to be a market for fixing iPod problems that Windows corrupted.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A not very productive weekend. Saturday we went carpet shopping and now have a better idea of what it will cost and did not have sticker shock. Found a nice wool Berber in mottled light blue. If I buy for me, it's blue; if I buy for future owners it will be a more neutral colour. Te plasterer called and will come out on Tuesday!

I spent many hours both Sat & Sun trying to fix my sick iPod without success. I may have hard-drive problems but will call Apple support tomorrow and see if they can find a fix. Also used up all the plumcots we salvaged and added about the same amount of apricots and made jam. The Christmas tree is still up. Too hot to do much in the afternoon in that area of the house.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Once again the postie caught me in my nightie this morning, bringing three packages. To the right is my ebay wooden umbrella swift. It is definitely not brand new but also doesn't look very used. It has wooden screws at the base to keep it open and to clamp it to a surface. I still think $49US is a bargain.

One the left are 3 bumps of hand dyed roving. The top is Targhee hand dyed in a colourway called fruit salad. The lower left is BFL and the left is Masham. These 2 came from Etsy Shop All the Pretty Fibers. If you can't tell, I am trying to get out of my colour rut of blues and purples.

The rest of today was spent in the garden, mulching in bare spots, weeding, etc. Hot today and it was tiring work. We found a cockatoo in the plumcot tree last night so removed all remained fruit anywhere near ripe. I dread seeing them in the big plum tree as that means making plum sauce. It isn't what I'd call difficult but takes time and always seems to happen when it's hot. I refuse to surrender my crop to the birds!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

There is a new issue of Fiber Femmes out and my article about the Bendigo sheep show is in it. I am pleased with the result and the use of the photos. In retrospect I sound sort of passionate about agriculture, which is strange for a "city girl" like me but I really am interested in how we as humans produce food and fibre and live on the land. His Majesty's Spanish Flock continues to intrigue me as Sir Joseph Banks distributes the King's merino sheep to "progressive" English landowners who do things like try to cross them with Welsh mountain sheep or Rylands. Sir Joseph was trying to improve British wool but the idea of crossing breeds so diverse seems so strange to me. So far (1800) the merinos have not proven adaptable to cold and/or wet conditions and the heaviness of their fleece sometimes irritates buyers because of the extra work they have to do to clean it, even if the end result is superior.

The insurance assessor came today and we will get a new ceiling, the carpet removed from about half the bedroom (I was surprised to find the floor under the carpet was still wet) and my Moroccan rug cleaned. He didn't even want me sleeping in the room because the ceiling could fall, but we got a guy in within an hour who took it down and put up a covering over the hole. Once the floor dries out, we will get new carpet installed. I was so glad I could lay my hands on receipts for the ongoing maintenance of the roof to show we had been trying. I now think it was the hail, not tree debris that caused this because the storm the previous night with minimal hail and lots of rain didn't leak, but the hail storm essentially blocked all the down spouts. I don't mind paying for new carpet since it was on the agenda and painting once I figure out what colour to paint it.

There are so many new gorgeous sock yarns up on Etsy that I am looking at them with my tongue hanging out. I must stop this and finish what I started. Almost finished with the weaving: another foot and the first band will be done. The Bear dropped the top plastic box of the stash when we moved it out of the bedroom. The top box is all scarf/shawl yarn and there are such yummy things in there like Brooks Farm Yarn kid mohair in blues and greens and creamy spring yellow that the Forest Canopy Shawl would look so nice in. And I have to go back to work on Monday!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Firstly, I need to rant. I have spent all week wrestling with the ACT RTA about my motor vehicle registration. It was due Dec. 28 and they said to allow 5 working days so I electronically paid it Dec 21. All right I screwed up here. I made a typo in the first payment so I sent a second payment right away with the total amount. All the correct account numbers, etc. So on Jan. 2 when I had no valid car rego I called the RTA to find out what was going on. They told me they didn't work between Christmas and New Years (I was supposed to know this?). Then they had "lost" one of my payments. I printed out my bank statement and had the Bear deliver it because both payments were there. I was promised a call back. Yesterday I called again, went through the whole dance again and was promised a call back. This morning I called and was angry at the person who answered the phone (I didn't yell or anything but said I was really tired of this and they better get their act together). I was promised a call back "right away" at 11 AM. I dithered, was afraid to get into the shower than begin the long process of washing my long hair, finally gave up and did it anyway, read my email, read blogs, updated podcasts on my iPod, etc. Finally I called again at 3PM and was told they found my money and I would be getting a new sticker for my car. So much for "we'll call you right back." On Monday when I go back to work I will be driving with an expired rego and the traffic devils are known to cruise public carparks looking for violations but I hope I will safe in my hidden handicapped spot. The ACT government is not known for its intelligence but up to this point I haven't had a problem. Oh, and for you folks in the US, it costs $625 to register my car for a year which includes 3rd party insurance cover but I get no choice in the fee or provider.

On to fibery things. I have been weaving away and am within eyeshot of the end of my first band. I find this tremendously exciting and want to do this all the time when I should be doing other things. I really don't want to go back to work because I feel so much better healthwise, I do get a lot of things done (even of it is spent on hold with the RTA), and while I do love my job, not working is a lot more relaxing. I've also almost finished replacing the toe on the Bear's green socks which had a hole too big to darn. One toe has been replaced with blue with nylon reinforcement and this one is a heathery grey/brown Trekker with nylon. Nobody sees the toes of his socks and his feet are so big that they often have toes of something different.

A comment about the Internet world. It seems to me that the number of fibre-related blogs has exploded in the past year. I can't keep up with all the ones I find interesting so I sort of graze. Some aren't very interesting and some are simply amazing. I love "I'm Knitting as fast as I can" and others too numerous to list. With the volume of posts on the 2 spinning lists I read and all these blogs and podcasts, one could be inundated. But the high points are messages from long lost relatives who read my blog and found it interesting, pictures of my English penpal's grandchild with a promise to knit her something for next winter, and the other things that keep us all connected. We are definitely not alone in this world.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This is what the postie brought me this morning and I think I'm in love (remember sock yarn doesn't count when we talk about the stash). It's hand-dyed merino from Yarnahoy and it is so soft. The colours are not what this picture nor the photo on the website show, both showing a blue tinge to the yarn where in reality it is a strong green. I don't care; I just love it and I can't wait to knit it. However I first have to replace the toe on one of the Bear's socks (ripped it out and cast on new yarn plus added nylon reinforcement), finish his second grey sock (I have only knit about 3 inches) and knit a pair of cotton socks for me. The cardigan is steaming along and I am making good progress on one side of the front and have inserted the pocket. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. Oh, and the button bands. Ick.

I have been weaving and the inkle band has made significant progress. Listening to podcasts while weaving makes it go much quicker.

The clouds are gone and the sun is out and we are predicted to reach 29C today. I hope this dries out my bedroom further as the claims adjuster isn't due till Saturday. The insurance company thinks they can clean the oriental here but I don't think there is any place where it could be spread out flat to dry not under furniture. The damp is still playing with my joints; today it's my right hip that hurts. But it's a sign that the rest is working that I was so full of energy that I did 3 loads of wash (it was threatening to topple the laundry basket).

The poor garden got really shredded by the hail storm, The pumpkins are in tatters and I'm glad that some of the beans and tomatoes were sort of under cover of the fence and or neighbours shrubs. The weather summary for 2006 showed how severe the weather had been, although I can't find the maps that were shown on the TV news. According to the
Sydney Morning Herald "south-eastern Australia experienced its second driest year on record" and overall the temperature was about .50C above normal. However this may be a severe el Nino event and we may see a change in a few months. Hope this isn't a false hope.

While we are on the subject of weather, you may have noticed I changed the persona of my weather pixie. She was wearing far too revealing outfits and nothing like I wear (jeans and T shirts rule). And she had short hair. So the new one looks more like me but it looks like the cat is gone for good because I haven't seen it on this version but I may be wrong.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Sydney's fireworks were great as usual. Someday I'd like to see them in person as the TV coverage is always looking the wrong way or is doing a close up when a wide angle is needed and vice versa and I do not want to see pictures of people watching the fireworks. I love fireworks in general but have missed Canberra's big show in March for the past several years because of the difficulty getting in and out of the location. Maybe this year we'll try and go to the Library to take advantage of the best view in Canberra. It will only take an hour or so to get home.

Well, 2006 left with a bang, actually many bangs, and lots of rain and hail in some places a meter thick. For details of the whole story click here. Our bit of Canberra is north and west of the area described in the story and the worst hit us a bit later. I shouldn't be surprised, but the Bear actually slept through most of it and it wasn't until the hail storm that he came out to see what happened. Unfortunately he didn't notice that the roof problem in my bedroom had returned and a minor waterfall was in progress. While this has happened before to a lesser extent, this time the water almost made it to the doorway and the Moroccan carpet was soaked all along the edge of the bed. Buckets, mops, sponges, fans and this morning we removed the carpet from under the bed (assuming our insurance will pay for its cleaning and drying) and I am hoping the insurance company can produce a plasterer where I couldn't. I wasn't planning on this but I think I will use this opportunity to replace the rug in the bedroom. It's a good thing I am taking this week off work

One of the things I did yesterday in cleaning up was to go through my issues of Handwoven and mark the items I am interested in to give some guidance when I take my weaving course. I already knew that twill was on my list as is colour and weave and I found some examples to try out. Of course, since all the issues were out, they all got wet. As usual, I am interested in bold colour and geometric designs, nothing fluffy. I would be happy to weave dish towels, place mats & napkins and work my way up to small rugs and a throw. I lust after rug looms but have no room.

We did some more cleaning up in the shed and I have found a few things to flog on ebay that were I think part of my MIL's cleanout. And 2 large Corningware casseroles which will become dyepots. I also pruned back the junior plum tree and discovered we had some plums! I had thought they had all fallen off but there are some and I had better pick them before the birds do them in. They are President variety and are small purple-skinned with green flesh. I was looking for something like what are sold in the US as prune plums in September. These are close but much earlier. I got the very first of our thornless blackberries as well. It appears that one doesn't prune blackberries, as nobody prunes them in the wild and they grow vigorously. I am going to try and get the old berry growth cut back early this year and not wait till I can't get to the compost bin. Our apricots were decimated by wattlebirds who take one bite out of a fruit and drop it on the ground. The other bad news is that there are no blueberries at our favorite pick-your-own place due to the late frost. The floods must have done something to add to our water catchment but the airport, where the official weather station is, got nothing.

Another successful ebay auction where I managed to snag a Swedish wooden swift for $49US including shipping from Sweden. I seems to pay to keep trawling for the odd bargain that pops up.