Winter spinning adventure – Day five

My daughter had to complete an assignment for university which involved a walk around a wetland. I drove her the required hour and a half to the assigned wetland and walked around with her to see what was there.

We found some overgrown walking tracks and plenty of interesting paperbark trees. There were also some choked up water ways. All in all we were a little disappointed with the wetland, but it is hard to maintain anything without funding.

When we got back to the car park we saw three roosters waiting for someone to feed them. Apparently this is the local place to dump unwanted chooks. We raced back into town and bought a fold up cage and some grain to try tempt them into a trap. All we caught were some magpies, who had to be chased out of the cage and convinced to stay in their wild state. We eventually had to leave without the roosters, hoping that the council worker we reported them to will have better luck catching them.

While I was waiting to spring the trap on the poor roosters, I did a little bit of spinning. The people in the mini train passing by seemed to get a kick out of it, so I waved to them in a friendly fashion. When I had spun for my half hour and tried to coax the roosters into the cage for a further half hour, we packed everything away and headed home in the afternoon chill.

I wonder why people dump animals, what thought process leads them to believe that it’s OK to just leave them to fend for themselves? Chooks that have been used to being looked after can’t just become ‘bushwise’, they fall prey to the many foxes, rats and cats (and feral/roaming pet dogs) about. Not to mention the native predators of the bush (pythons, possums, phascogales, quolls, eagles, hawks, owls, and many more). They rely on humans for food, they don’t automatically know how to find food for themselves, or water for that matter. They are not car savvy, they get run over. If you hatch chicks, you are responsible for the babies, one way or another. Rant over, it just makes me mad, animals shouldn’t have to suffer because humans are not as intelligent as they could be.

Local insects and animals – Eastern bearded dragon

Recently I happened upon a life or death situation in the middle of the road. An Eastern bearded dragon (a young one of about 20cm long) had made his way into the road to soak up some precious late Winter/ early Spring sunshine and a young Butcher bird had spied him. The Butcher bird had swooped down and began the attack by trying to blind the unfortunate lizard. Luckily for the lizard, a hungry magpie had heard the Butcher birds excited squawks (he was also a young one) and decided to come and take the easy meal away. When I came on the scene I saw a frenzy of black, white and grey feathers with the occasional flash of greyish scales and a tail. I leapt out of the car (after pulling over to the side of the road) and picked up the tiny lizard, to the great confusion, disappointment and disgust of the two birds involved and continued on my way home.

The poor little dragon burrowed into my neck under my chin looking for a safe, warm place to hide all the way home and I felt very protective.

Once he was home, my daughter and I had a look at him and we both thought he had probably lost his eye on that side. So we popped him into a cage near the fire with some warm water and some hot rocks to lie on (well, my daughter did, I just went back to work).

As it turned out, he didn’t lose his eye. The lid was damaged, but the eye underneath was OK. Once he had warmed up a bit, we washed the eye out with warm water and had a really good look at it, he didn’t like it much, but it did allow him to open his eye.

Over the weeks he has recovered quite well. He has had his sore eye washed out daily with clean water and been offered all sorts of yummy food. He eventually decided to start eating live meal worms and has now moved on to spinach leaves and corn. He will be returning to the wild very soon as his eye appears to be healing well.

Weaving a tartan tea towel (sort of)

I have been interested in learning to weave tartan in a sporadic sort of way for a while now. I have friends with Scottish ancestry who I would like to make tartan for and the whole history of how tartan came to be is just really interesting. Tartans did not come from Scotland alone, they were a part of a lot of European cultures and came about as a way of using varied dye lots in a more or less deliberate looking pattern. That sort of reasoning is really what attracts me to tartans; a lot of my crafting is of the I-meant-to-do-that mistake variety and I love finding historical kindred spirits.

Natural dyes being what they are, even if you gather the dye material from the same place at the same time of year and use it in the exact same way on the exact same materials, you will probably end up with a different shade (if not colour) than you got last time. I can see why a weaving pattern that incorporates many different shades and colours in a harmonious way would be an asset to any weaver, and so the tartan was born. Then, in more modern times, we began to register and record our tartans and they became like identifying plumage to a bird. After they began to be associated with clans, they had to be made with a certain set of colours and in a specific pattern.

I found the Scottish Register of Tartans which I promptly joined, as I discovered that they will email you the weaving pattern for any tartan registered with them. The patterns are a bit hard to understand, but I got there in the end. They include the colours and shades, right down to approved dye lots for each tartan (it took ages to figure that bit out)

This is what they sent me whe I asked for the Munro tartan;

Threadcount:
G8AS8G8R64B4Y4R12B24R12Y4B4R12G64R12B4Y4R96

Pallet:
AS=CC4438ANC SCARLET;R=C80000RED;G=006818GREEN;Y=E8C000YELLOW;B=2C2C80BLUE;

Threadcount given over a half sett with full count at the pivots.

Suffice it to say that I read a lot about tartan weaving to be able to decipher that lot. The reference to ‘pivots’ gave me the most trouble. Eventually I found a reference to the fact that the ‘pivot’ is the point where the pattern starts to repeat itself in mirror image. If you don’t understand that, you are not alone, it took me ages, and I’m not sure I’ve got it right yet.

This was the warp I came up with. It turned out rather jewel like I think.

I decided to make some tea towels to give the pattern a go. Of course I didn’t have the right colours, but I wanted to make my mum some tea towels anyway, so I warped up the closest colours I had.

Warped up and ready to weave
And goes on and on and on

Until one day the end was reached

This is the Munro tartan from the Registry. I can see the pattern in the tea towels, The colours are wrong, but the thread count matches.
Then the fabric was overlocked
And washed

Hemming has always been a problem for me. I’m just a really messy hemmer. These hems are not too bad though.

It’s not a proper tartan of course; the weave is not twill (just plain weave) and the balance isn’t perfect (my squares are rectangles not … squares), but as a first try, I’m ridiculously proud of my tea towels and I think my mum will like them.

Visible mending – mending leggings

I am home, waiting for the results from a PCR test. So, to help the time pass, I’m mending some leggings my daughter put in the mending box a few weeks ago.

These old leggings are full of small holes that make them almost, but not quite, unwearable. I decided to go to YouTube for a tutorial. This clip showed me the technique I needed.

As it turns out, fixing holes in knit fabric is fairly easy. Just take tiny stitches on either side of the hole until the hole is miraculously mended. These leggings will last a while longer, and next time I will mend them with brighter thread so that they become a work of art.

This was the largest hole, near the waist band
At the beginning of the process
Half way there
All fixed
Another one of the many holes
And mended

I love making things last longer.

Winter spinning adventures – day four

Of the total 14 days of holidays, I managed to spin for four days. I guess it was a busy time.

This time I took my wheel on my travels and stopped to meet a friend at our local cafe. I love sitting in the afternoon sun and spinning in the garden I planted more than a decade ago.

I had a coffee and chatted to my friend and really enjoyed life for a few hours. Lovely.

This lumpy yarn is growing on me

I am still struggling with accepting the lumpiness of this yarn, but as I spun and chatted I found myself enjoying the process of spinning in public again. I could not disappear into silence as I usually do, so the enjoyment was different, but I found that there is a connection to others here that I value. Being able to keep my hands busy while I chat lets me really listen deeply to what the other person is saying, I seem to hear the words and intent on a much deeper level if my hands are busy. I don’t know why that is, but it is certainly so, I have noticed it in meetings and training before, even at social gatherings (that I try to avoid if at all possible). If my hands are busy knitting, kneading, digging, planting, carrying, or any other physical task, my mind is free to focus fully on what others are saying and doing. At the end of the coffee cup, I packed up my wheel and left nothing but a coffee ring on the table and nebs in the grass.

Duplicate stitch – I tried

The daughter of a friend recently had her first child, a daughter. So as I usually do, I cast on a baby jumper and knitted up a cute little four month size, red jumper. Then I decided to try my hand at duplicate stitch, which is kind of like embroidery for knitting.

The little red jumper

I traced out an apple onto the front of the little jumper and away I went on my new learning journey.

A beginning
Nearly there
Weaving in all the ends
A wash to set the wool

It’s a rather lumpy apple. Not perfect by any stretch, but neither am I. I hope my friend’s daughter will like it anyway. I think I need to practice this skill a lot more to be better at it.

Visible mending – mending a tear in a sheet

I had a break from spinning for the last two days to do some much needed mending. Among the pile of things to fix and put back into working order was a fitted sheet that Melvin (the wonder dog) had ‘dug’ a tear in. I don’t know why he feels the need to dig up the bed if it isn’t made immediately, but he does.

He managed to make an L shaped tear about 2 cm long on each leg of the L. I found a YouTube clip that showed me how to darn it and away I went to give it a go. Of course I used a contrasting colour of cotton, mostly because I only had navy cotton in my kit and the sheet is a mossy green colour. It turned out well I think, it is an obvious darn (of course) but the area feels strong and there aren’t any lumps to annoy my princess of a partner at night (I hope).

The basic method of darning for socks and for sheets (or any fabric) is the same; to anchor thread in solid fabric then build a web of thread, to weave new fabric into, over the hole. In the case of this sheet I didn’t even try to keep it neat and tidy. The darn is… chaotic and wild. I like it actually, I think I would have used a much brighter colour if I had thought about it more deeply, and I will do that next time.

The start
The basic structure is done
Just a little more to do
The final messy darn
The underside of the sheet in close up
Mended some socks while I was at it

The darned area survived its first two nights on the bed. My princess partner didn’t complain about any peas in his bed. I think this is a win all round. I will continue to darn our sheets to get the longest life possible out of them before they become clothes, animal bedding and cleaning cloths (then eventually, floor mats). I love making things stretch, it makes me feel so accomplished.

Winter spinning adventures – Day three

Today’s spot by the river

I skipped a day, it rained so I stayed home and did boring housework type stuff. Today however, I went adventuring in the car again. I had things to do for family and friends in a not-so-nearby town so off I went to do some shopping and delivering of things. I met friends for coffee and took my knitting of course, then I found a lovely place by the river to stop and spin on the way home.

My current knitting, a baby jumper for a friend’s daughter

I do love this new habit. The silence in my mind once the wheel starts to turn is so soothing. The calm of Nature, just doing Her thing all around me is so balancing after a day full of rushing around and trying to get things done. I wonder if I can find a way to keep it once I am back at work?

Once again, leaving nothing but a little pile of neps in the grass.

Neps in the grass

Winter spinning adventures – day two

Today was a day full of running around and doing things for others. I took some RAT tests to a friend (dropped in her mail box) on my way to post letters for our local Co Op (which is ,sadly, closing), then delivered some roosters (dropped off at our place by one friend) to my good friend and stopped for a coffee there. After all that, I had to go pick up my partner from work as his car is out of action due to the rough roads at the moment. So I took the opportunity to leave him there for half an hour and visit one of my favourite trees.

This tree is a European oak, planted well before I was born. It has stood beside the road and seen us progress from carts and bullock drays to cars and will hopefully see us move to electric cars (or maybe back to carts). I stopped the car, set up my wheel and with a box to sit on, spun for a tranquil half hour beside the road.

I am amazed that there are still leaves on the tree, it is after Solstice and the coldest part of Winter is on us. It was a grey, chilly day today, with a sneaky breeze to steal the loose leaves from the branches, but when I went to look I saw there are new leaf buds waiting.

The spinning is coming along. My attempt to ’embrace the nebs’ is in the early stages though. I like my yarn to be smooth and even, this yarn is not. I am trying to spin it with an acceptance of what the fleece has to offer and hope that I will love the resulting yarn. I guess there is a lesson in life in this for me (isn’t there always) I need to stop striving for perfection in everything and sometimes be content with what comes. I do know that my hands are finding the rhythm of this fleece now and I will begin to spin faster from now on.

After my half hour of spinning, I packed up my wheel, thanked the tree for her company, and went to pick up my poor, abandoned partner. Leaving nothing but some nebs on the ground to mark my passing.

Winter spinning adventures – day one

My box of loveliness from Bespoke Fibre
Eli fleece ready to spin… can’t wait.

It is school holidays again and I have decided to add a half hour of spinning to my daily practice for the next two weeks. That way I can get some more yarn spun ready to dye in the Spring. I have a lovely fleece ready to go from Bespoke fibre. This fleece is from Eli’s first shearing, I sent it away to be processed as it was taking forever for me to wash and card all the fleece in my stash and I wanted to have a large batch of white roving to spin ready to go. Because…

I found a really exciting blog called (weirdly) Local & Bespoke, it is Australian and full of posts about spinning, mending, sewing, and most importantly for this post, dying wool. There is one particular post about cochineal bugs and how they can be found in prickly pear plants in Australia. Of course the best time to harvest the bugs is in early Autumn, but that’s a story for another post. For now it has started me planning and working towards dying some of my hand spun yarn (from Eli’s fleece) with hand collected cochineal and hopefully getting a non-beige colour. First I need to know where I can find some prickly pear plants growing wild, either on my property or close by, so I will start taking my daily walks while I have the time and inclination. Secondly, I will need a stash of spun and plied yarn to dye once I find the cochineal (I also have a backlog of other dyestuffs I want to try out as well) so I need to get spinning. So I decided to combine the two and take my spinning wheel for a walk each day and spin for a half hour in blessed silence somewhere in the bush.

My fold up wheel, all set up in the bush and ready to spin.

I am lucky enough to own a folding wheel with a carry bag that fits on my back. I can pack up some fibre, a bottle of water and my wheel and trek off into the bush… lovely. I will share my little jaunts with you each day, to keep myself accountable.

This particular fleece is very bumpy and has a lot of nebs, so I have decided to just ’embrace the nebs’ as suggested by this post. It is so soft and fine and squishy that the nebs will just add to the interest of the final yarn (I hope).

My view while I spun

I also found some interesting Turkey tail fungus on the way home.