A belated welcome to 2019 and Happy New Year! Wishing you all a wonderful year with many blessings and lots of wool in your life whether is is hand spun, hand dyed, hand knitted or crocheted, or even woven.
Since receiving my little Ashford SampleIt I have been weaving away and loving it. I have a huge stash of handspun and handdyed yarns in a couple of large bins that I have decided must be used. I keep spinning either by myself or with my spinning friends a couple of times a month but I don't often use it for a project. I have always been a "spin for the fun of it" kind of spinner so I never have enough for a large project so weaving is a wonderful answer to destashing. I also have a much larger rigid heddle loom, also an Ashford, that I have warped up recently. My SampleIt has an almost finished scarf on it in a soft blue grey 60% merino 40% nylon sock yarn. It is a birthday gift and should be a lovely soft drapey scarf when it is worn.
Before weaving the grey scarf I finished a multicoloured scarf in shades of rust, orange, greens with a pop of lavender and purple which I really love. They aren't my colours but it's a good exercise to work with colours of our one's comfort zone. I always head towards the blues and am trying very hard to get a colou balance in my fibre life!
The large loom has a mixture of pinks and purples mainly and it will be a shawl rather than a scarf. I am only working on it slowly as I wanted to finish the grey scarf. My husband set it up on an older printer stand which was the exact size needed and is mobile so I can move into position to watch old TV series and it's Matlock tonight!
I have found my year starting off slowly with dyeing as our extreme temperatures and humidity have made life around ovens or hot plates quite unbearable. So I resorted to some solar dyeing which means I can set everything up on my back verandah and stay away from the heat until late afternoon when I check on my 3 litre Consol jars.
In between visitors, my daughter being at home from varsity, and school beginning again for my son, I try to catch a few moments knitting as well even if it's just a simple cowl. I always like to have something simple on my needles for knitting in evenings and when I go to a knitting group.
I'm hoping to get more organized in February and look forward to sharing glimpses into my fibre life with you.
Christmas is almost upon us and I confess to being very disorganised this year. Perhaps brought on with the arrival of Catherine from varsity toward the end of November and the late school holidays for Richard. Then there is our unbearable weather that doesn't encourage me into the kitchen just to create more heat. My husband has a permanently worried look on his face wondering if the mince pies will be made, a very late Christmas cake is awaiting the icing courtesy of Catherine. She has been coming up with lots of different ideas so that is organised.
With temperatures in the mid to late 30 degrees celsius and the humidity high, I am just not inclined to bake especially pastry. Plan A is to get up at the crack of dawn to make pastry and then bake mince pies in the evenings. Plan B is to make pastry in the evening, leave in the fridge overnight and get up at the crack of dawn to bake pies. So far neither has happened as I feel too tired at night from the heat to bake and the early morning is still hot as our night time temperatures are just not dropping enough to feel refreshed! Weather Africa says we can expect cooler temperatures later this week so it will be a marathon mince pie baking time for Catherine and I and, as my husband likes to eat mince pies for the 12 days of Christmas, he will be happy!
Friday will be time to cook the Christmas pudding - the traditional way - in a large cloth for a few hours and then hung to dry. It's always the highlight of my family's day to douse it with brandy, light it and watch the flames until they disappear.
Taking advantage of the heat Catherine and I have been doing some solar dyeing and some photos are posted below.
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.