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.

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.

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.

Making a tissue system – single use handkerchief

We use a combination of handkerchiefs and tissues (well toilet rolls really) here at the humpy. When we have an outbreak of colds we tend to use disposable paper to blow our noses and burn the bacteria straight away. Handkerchiefs are used to wipe sweat and clean grease or other yucky stuff off your hands while out and about. In my quest to reduce single use everything, I was thinking about how we can replace paper tissues with cloth alternatives.

I remember my mother and my grandmother washing handkies in a big pot on the stove when I was a kid. They were washed outside first in cold water (I think, I didn’t pay much attention, I was a kid), then boiled on the stove to kill the bacteria. So now I’m wondering if I could make up a system where we could use cloth ’tissues’ and instead of throwing them into the fire or the bin, we throw them into a container until wash day. Vinegar would kill any virus or bacteria load they carry and begin the cleaning process, so I could pre soak them in diluted vinegar before washing them. The hankies would need to be washed in their own water and probably rinsed well too, which would be an investment of water and time, but we really only use them when we have colds or flu (not a common occurrence at all). I could possibly make a portable carrier to hold clean and dirty hankies separately while we are out and about (like these ones I found).

Time to give it a go…

I found a couple of beautiful old cot sheets in a second hand shop while I was out last week. They were made from 100% cotton and felt beautifully strong and smooth to the touch. I paid a grand total of $2 for the set and bought them home to make reusable tissues (“Hankies”, my Nanna mutters in the back of my mind). I cut one of the sheets into 32 equally sized squares, overlocked around them and called it finished.

I now have a pile of neat and beautiful hankies in two little boxes, and a sweet glass jar to collect the used ones in until washing day.

The hankies are washed in cold water with one cup of vinegar, two tablespoons of washing soda and a little bag of soap nuts added to the water. They are then rinsed in cold water and hung out to dry in the sunlight. That is probably enough to kill any bacteria and virus’ clinging to them (I hope).

So we are one step closer to being sustainable, a tiny step, but progress is progress.

Making do – Darning socks

This is a story about a pair of socks, hand knitted by me (of course), from hand spun alpaca and sheep wool (of course), but beyond that they have a story. When I was working at the first school I ever worked at, we had a tradition of taking the students to the local agricultural show as an excursion every year. Involving an hour on a bus and a windy trip up the mountains to the local population centre (and back at the end of the day). Every year I indulged myself with a little bag of alpaca fleece to spin from the stall at the show while the kids toured the petting zoo. One year they were watching a demonstration of merino shearing while I snuck off to get my little bag of softness for the year and when I got back, they had somehow talked the shearer into giving them a bag of the finest merino shoulder fleece I have ever seen. They presented this bag to me as a present and I was so touched at the thoughtfulness of children in general (and those ones in particular). So I went home with a bag of chocolate brown alpaca and a bag of pure white merino to spin that year as well as a warm glow of thankfulness.

That yarn became my spotted quoll socks in very short order and I have enjoyed wearing them ever since (for about 8 years so far). They have recently developed a very large hole, due to being chewed by a puppy I suspect (not mentioning any names here… Melvin). So I briefly considered retiring them to the compost, then decided to try my hand at darning…

I found this great tutorial and my visible mending adventure begins.

I need something to stretch the sock over to hold everything taunt and flat for darning. Usually people use a darning mushroom or egg, but I found a little plastic container that should fit inside the sock.

The container fit inside the sock and I put an elastic band around it to hold the sock tight. Then I found a darning needle (they have a flat bit at the pointy end and are usually fairly large) and some silk yarn. I decided against trying to match the wool as that wool is long gone and I want to be able to see what I have done when I have finished.

To begin with I made running stitches around the hole, which was very large, in a spiral pattern to stabilise the fabric before I began to actually darn.

Then I began to go backwards and forwards over the hole making a little stitch at each side of the hole to form a kind of warp I could weave a weft through.

Finally I wove backwards and forwards through the warp I created, anchored the weft with a stitch at each side each time I wove over and under the warp.

I kept doing this until there was a dense piece of fabric over the hole and anchored to the fabric of the sock. I finished off by turning the sock inside out and weaving the ends in around the inside of the hole.

It looks obvious, but it forms part of the story of these socks. These socks that remind me that kindness and generosity are part of us, part of what makes us human. Doing things to make others happy comes naturally to us all, and is something that should be encouraged and guided, these socks remind me of that (and they remind me not to leave my socks where puppies can reach them).

I wonder what other things I can mend?

Time to spin

It is now officially school holidays, when I typically take a week off from teacherly stuff and just be… well, just be really. It is time to binge watch a series of some sort (with aliens of course) and spin a lot of wool.

After the chores of the day are done and I can settle for an extended period without interruptions (thanks, in part, to a global pandemic), I start to make magic.

This holidays, I cleaned out my fleece stash and discovered that I have a lot of spun singles that need to be plied into yarn. I also have some very nice fleeces to be washed and spun into singles. My first step is to clear out my singles container and wash the new yarns. This yarn is going to our local Co Op to be sold.

Sorting through my fleeces. There were a lot of old fleeces in my craft room.
My pile of plied yarns ready for the Co Op
I found this lovely fleece in my stash. I see a spinning jag coming on.

Then I can wash some fleece and start spinning more singles. I have an ambitious plan in mind; I want to spin enough to knit a cardigan for myself. I will spin heaps of skeins of the same fleece (a white one), then I will dye the skeins in different colours and finally knit myself a cardigan. This little project could take until next Winter.

The fleece cards up really well, I think this is an easy spin fleece

This entire fleece will be used as test yarn for my natural dye experiments (otherwise known as ’50 shades of beige’).

The first lot of yarn. Plied and dyed (and a little felted because of too hot water).

I also found a bag of silver/grey suri alpaca fleece. I think it will be my next fleece to spin.

I am so happy and relieved to be back at my spinning wheel. For a while now, I haven’t had the energy or inclination to do anything crafty at all. I have just been living in a holding pattern, waiting for the next crisis, but I feel I am coming out of that long, dark tunnel into the sunlight.