November is here - the shops are full of decorations and Boney M is filling the sound systems in every supermarket! I'm afraid by the time Christmas arrives I feel a little Grinch-like as I am so tired of hearing the same thing and reluctantly enter shops I know have these songs blaring forth! Seeing Christmas decorations and pale looking mince pies in October is also not my favourite thing - but then I love making my own and having the gorgeous Christmas smells permeating my home - despite the sunshine and heat! I'm a traditional Christmas girl in the southern hemisphere with an equally traditional husband so we make our own mince pies, cook a turkey and ham, make a huge Christmas pudding in a cloth from my mother-in-law's recipe as well as a 12inch Christmas cake (also her recipe). Our daughter Catherine has, in recent years, taken over the icing responsibilities. This is usually means we can expect an unusually iced cake - last year it was marbled in black and white!
It's our warm season with spring flowers blooming everywhere but we seem to be having so many high winds battering them at the moment and crazy temperature fluctuations from under 20 degrees celsius to late 30's from day to day! Nothing is very predictable these days except our wool crafts that we can do no matter the temperature! I have been weaving a lot lately and just spin and knit when I meet up with my knitting and spinning friends in two different groups. In my weaving I'm trying to use some of my huge stash of handspun yarns that have accummulated over the last 10 years. My early spinning is well disguised in the weaving and some of it is even beautiful.
My niece Lesley visited last night for dinner and she raided my handspun for a crocheting project - brave girl! - it will be fun to see what the end product looks like. She is enthusiastic about learning all sorts of crafts and will soon be staying with us for a while. She and my daughter Catherine each have a list as long as their arms of things they want to do together including crocheting, sewing, learning to dye, maybe spin and possibly even weaving. Catherine also includes cooking and videoing her efforts and blogging many of the things she does during the holidays. As they have access to all my equipment there will be no holding them back. I'll try to get some work done too but it will be lovely to see the two girls (are they still girls at nearly 20 and 26?) so excited at learning and improving their crafty skills!
With weaving this week the first scarf is a mishmash of colours that was one of my first handspun efforts using roving given to me with a beige slubby cotton as the warp - not quite my usual colour combinations but interesting nevertheless. The second one used natural coloured commercially spun yarn as the warp and some handspun in blues, turquoise, teal, purple and cream blend. It is much finer than previous weaving projects and feels soft - I may not be able to part with this one!
Learning to weave is very new to me so I have much to improve on with techniques but just doing plain weave at the moment is very relaxing and I love the way I can shuffle through my bins of yarn and choose hanks that I want to transform.
A month has passed so quickly and I haven't written anything! In the meantime everyone seems to have started their Christmas countdown and I really don't want to think about that at all!
School holidays were strange this term with Catherine coming home in August and Richard on holiday in September. Both of them were sick in their respective holidays so not really a fun holiday for either of them.
Anyway, I do have a little news - I have added a new section to the website shop called Handknits. At the moment there are fingerless mittens but more items will be added as they are knitted by my friend Lynette and modelled by my daughter Catherine. The mittens (knitted up with my hand dyed double knitting yarn) are very comfortable and fit hands from young children to adults - Catherine has a medium sized hand but my larger hands also fit well and they revert to their slim shape when removed.
Our Spring weather has turned rather cold and snowy in recent days. Although we don't get snow at home it isn't very far away and the icy winds off the local mountains are making themselves felt here. August and September are always quite windy so the addition of snow makes it unpleasant. However, that means we can stay curled up at home with a good book, our knitting, spinning and weaving - that's me covered - haven't worried about anyone who doesn't do those things!
My next two efforts at weaving are moving into autumn colours and purples/greys. I've sorted out all my handspun to see what I have in various colours and then looked through yarns for warping from a collection my aunt gave me years ago together with oddments from my hand-dying. That's an awesome collection but it's funny how you can decide that the exact yarn you are looking for itsn't there!
Anyway, its fun to play and learn. While I am still using fairly bulky yarns I am planning on using some finer yarns to make some soft and drapey scarves soon.
Weaving has now become quite my favourite thing to do. Why did I feel oddly intimidated by a little Ashford SampleIt loom? I don't know but definitely not now. I have to work on fine tuning things but it is suddenly lots of fun and I am digging out all sorts of yarns from their plastic bin homes. I had forgotten what I had in the stash that has been collecting for the last 10 years so it's been a little like Christmas. I love spinning and have never really knitted up much of the yarn I created as I favoured more dk to bulky yarns with texture. I have recently found that my spinning is getting a bit thinner and less textured - maybe that is the influence of a couple of my spinning friends but I have no intention of ever spinning cobweb lace!
My first two efforts are pictured below. The first one is much tighter and longer than the second one. There are lots of little bumps and coils as well as just highlighting the yarns - so don't judge too harshly - I'm not aiming for perfection - just having fun.
Well the Tour de France, or should I say Tour de Fleece, for those of us who love to spin (with one wheel or even a spindle) finished ages ago but it meant I spent extra time at my wheel although a group of spinning friends and I get together every couple of weeks to spin. During Tour de Fleece, we kept up a lively WhatsApp chat with photos and opinions on how our spinning was progressing and advice flowed freely too. I just love our small community of natural fibre lovers - spinners, weavers, knitters and crocheters. Some of us also dye our own fleece and yarn to include in our fibre crafts or to share with others.
I am a very casual spinner who isn't particularly technically minded unlike some friends so the differences between us make any discussion or "show and tell" an interesting time. I spin as a form of relaxation and very rarely spin for a project which sometimes confuses people who always like a goal or project before commencing. I have a huge collection of hanks in all colours and they are waiting for their time. So far spinning and knitting are my main things to do but weaving on my little Ashford SampleIt Loom is happening now!
Dyeing, of course, is a big part of my life and I love sharing it with my arty daughter. Although her varsity is full of English, History, Classics and Journalism, she is very arty and it fills a large part of her life. She loves blogging, journalling, photography and drawing - I think I spend almost as much on pens, paper and other equipment for her drawing and related things as I do on clothes for her!
So, when Catherine is at home, I love to get her into the dye pots with me to have some fun. She is bold and fearless when combining colours and her efforts are usually well received by my customers - some who ask when she will be dyeing again so they can buy her contribution to my online shop contents. It is so much fun seeing the reaction to her work and I encourage her to go with her passion for this side of her life.
I've looked forward to the varsity and school holidays more this year I think as my daughter Catherine is now at varsity in the Eastern Cape and only comes home during the holidays. The second term has been 11 weeks and is officially the longest period that she has been away from home in her 19 years. The first term was about 6 weeks which flew by until the Easter holiday.
It's been a lot of catching up between us as, being a typical student, there are lots of things happening that don't necessarily get told to parents as there is too much to remember to text or WhatsApp! Her to do list highlighted getting back into the kitchen straight away. Living in a student residence on campus means no cooking or baking for her and she was very keen to try new recipes and experiment on her long suffering father and brother! They are always game to test out and quality control her efforts and, so far, she has scored 100% with them. She is also blogging and her baking/cooking/experimenting forms a part of that.
Also on her to do list is sewing and we have been hitting the fabric shops and choosing patterns or getting ideas of things she fancies making.
Hopefully she will also do some dyeing as she has her own take on colour combinations so will update you on that if she gets to it. She is a fairly new crocheter and is just finishing a beanie in some of my hand-dyed yarn. Maybe the next thing she crochets will be with some of her own hand-dyed yarn.
The next step after buying the mohair curls was to wash it - not very dirty but full of sawdust from the Sheep Goat & Wool Shed floor. Until I placed some into a bucket of hot water - yes, it is very dirty/dusty/whatever!
Drying in winter is the next thing. Though we haven't had a very cold winter so far the air remains chilly and the drying time is extended considerably.
In late May and early June I had a stand at the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg - a 10 day Show usually working 9-10 hours each day. My friend Clare joins me and we do spinning demos as we are in the Sheep Goat & Wool Shed and have regular shearing as well so we help with teaching everyone the entire process from sheep to finished item. We have lots of school children coming to the Show so it is a good way to introduce them to natural fibres as well as showing them skills they can learn. We had some lovely angora goats visit for part of the Show and Clare and I bought some freshly shorn curls from them.