Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Variation on a theme

Hi all!

I've been quite busy over the last week. Not only bunny-chasing around the house, but as usual I have been spinning. Last weekend, I was part of a spinning demonstration at the National herd dog championships in Lier, Norway. Friday was just exhausting, as we had mostly pre-school kids coming in to watch us. They were just too small to understand what was going on, and were mostly just interested in sticking their fingers into the wheel... sigh. I almost made a little boy cry, when I told him he couldn't try the wheel. My spinning wheel was taller than him, and he was wearing rubber boots and it was just not going to happen.... Can't please them all, heh?

Saturday was better, lots of nice people coming in and we all had a great time. Wool was provided for us to spin, but the quality was horrible. I was a bit frustrated by this, as the whole point of us being there was part of an ongoing project to promote Norwegian wool. The fibre was supplied by one of the leading wool mills in Norway, but I think it's bad press to give us such crummy goods. Oh well.
At least we spun something, but I would much prefer to have brought my own fibre to spin.

As I was stuck at my wheel both days, I didn't get to have a look around. But there were herding competitions with live sheep, lots of sheep breeds on display, and all kinds of sheep related stuff.

On another note I have been knitting a bit. I found a great FREE pattern on Ravelry, and it was so easy and quick, that I made three pairs!

(It is very hard to photograph ones own hands!)

The main pattern is bamboo stitch, basically just ribbing (2k,2p) and on every fourth round you make a yarn over before the 2 knit stitches, and slip it over the knit stitches as you go. Easy peasy!

They are finished with a nice ruffled edge, making them a bit feminine. If the recipient is male, just skip the ruffles, and they are just straigth tubes. 

For my first two pairs I used self spun yarns, in rather funky colours. This easy pattern is great for multicolours, as the pattern itself don't compete with the yarn too much.

Self dyed and self spun yarn, 100% white Norwegian lambs wool.
2ply yarn.

Self dyed and self spun 50% Norwegian white and 50% Norwegian
fur sheep wool. 2 ply yarn.

This last pair is knit with some left over commercial yarn, an Alpaca and Peruvian wool blend. The pattern don't require a whole lot of yarn, I knit these on 3.5mm needles, and one pair weighs just 35 grams.

Have you been knitting anything lately?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

New friends

This post is not sewing related in the slightest. Maybe remotely related to yarns and spinning, but most of all it is 100% related to pure cuteness!

Frosty ground, crispy autumn mornings.

Sunday was a glorious sunny, crisp autumn day, and I was invited to a spinning get-together at a new friends house. She lives on her small farm in the woods, with all her animals. She keeps sheep, goats, a llama called Max, dogs, chickens and lots of angora rabbits. We were a small party of 7, but we had a wonderful time in a small cozy house overlooking the big grazing paddock dotted with sheep. We spun, had lots of tea and goodies, and talked and spun for hours.

I got to know this woman at a local spinning group I have been attending once a month. At the last meeting, I got the impression she needed to find new homes for two of her angoras, and when I was at her house on Sunday I got to meet them.
The first one was unhandled, and very skittish, and would be quite the project. But the other one was a very inquisitive, calm and friendly little one, and I just fell in love. The owner had decided that if nobody wanted any of them, they would be euthanized, there was just no way she could keep them.

I love all animals, and I feel that if I can help, I will. So, long story short, I went home with a bunny!

And this is he! Isn't he cute? He is about 7 months old, and is a Satin angora, meaning he has a little less fur than his angora relatives. Angoras get massive coats, and also has tufts on the ears and long fur on their faces and feet. They need to be clipped every third months, but mine will make do with 2-3 haircuts per year. As you can see, he has just gotten one, and is looking a bit sad. His fur was matted and in quite a state, so it needed to go. But it will soon grow back, and he will be a fluffy little thing again. The fur makes super soft silky yarn, and is warmer than sheepswool.

Here he is, romping around and having a ball
his first day here! He is so spirited :)

I never planned for this, and we had a rather unenthused welcome from the Mr. when we arrived home. I couldn't care less, I love my new furry friend. And I can barely wait to spin his fur into silky yarn! But best of all, is the feeling of having saved this little creatures life.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Moving out of the comfort zone

A few weeks ago, I attended a spinning extravaganza in Lillehammer, Norway, at Scandic Victoria hotel. It was hosted by Spinnvilt, the leading store in Norway for everything spinning related. It was a three day event (I sadly had to pass on the first day, though), and it was just awesome!

I rarely go to events, as I sometimes have a hard time with crowds. But I'd heard so many good things about this one that I just had to go. Besides, the spinning community is very friendly and including, so having a bad time is not very likely. We were about 50 participants there. We had a big conference hall to park our spinning wheels in, and we spun and had fun from 0900 in the morning both days and until about midnight for the toughest of us :) There was an all you could drink coffee bar, and fruits and pastry served on buffet and a lunch meal both days included. We also got a goodiebag with several samples of different luxury fibres and other fun stuff!

Here's  about 1/3 of us, having a blast!
Lots of yarn was made in this room :)

There were friendly competitions too, one team event where we were to name ten different fibre samples just by look and touch. I learnt lots! And also one speed-spinning contest, where the object was to spin the longest thread out of 5 grams of superfine merino, in 20 minutes. It was really intense, and the only time the room was actually quiet :D There were great prizes, and everybody had a really good time.

Maria, closest to the lens here, won a loom in the main prize draw.
I spoke to her in the ladies rest room just after, and she was rather ecstatic!
I would be too.

We also had several great demos from two super talented ladies, one was Kate Sherratt from Ashford, NZ, and also Maria Shtrik, from Russia (her website is in Russian, but one can always look at pictures, or follow her on Instagram). It was so inspiring to see the endless possibilities you have with wool, and different tools like carders, blending boards and hand spindles. I am so sad I didn't take pictures, but I had way too much fun. The two photos above, is borrowed from Tóve, our gracious host.

I am a notorious thin-spinner, and all my yarns tend to be really fine. I was challenged to spin out of my comfort zone, and go bulky. For anyone familiar to spinning, this is a well know phenomenon. Ones hands seem to make what they like to work with, so doing the opposite is hard. I love fine knits on small needles, and I am also a perfectionist so I was having a hard time to just let go. I have thought about this a lot, and sometimes, being a perfectionist kills creativity and stop you from evolving different skills. So I felt this was an important task!

At the spinning event we also had a so called fibre-table. It is basically a big table filled with fibre that has been donated by all the participants, and the huge pile is free for everyone to play with. This means you get the chance to spin fibre unfamiliar to you, or just have a go at lots of colour and texture. On the table there were two drumcarders mounted, so everyone could try their hand at using these tools as well. Blending batts of colourful wools and even glitter :) Genious!

At first, I was a bit shy about it. But with some encouragement, I made some batts for my bulky yarn. Here is the result.

The photos don't do it justice at all. I am very pleased with it! Spinning thick was very difficult, but once I got used to it, it was fun, and I was soon back at the table for another batt.

I used a slightly different technique here, plying one thick thread with one very thin one. The result is a faux bouclè. I really want to experiment more with this, but my grandma's spinning wheel is not suited for thick yarns, as the orifice is small, and also the bobbins. Guess this means I am saving up for another wheel ;)

I was so inspired when I got back home, and I had a go on my own carder. I used a roving I dyed myself, just pulling it up into smaller chunks, feeding it through the machine once, while sprinkling some firestar (glittery bling) into the mix.

Start with one roving....

....feed into carder...

....remove batt.

Lovely carded batts, ready to spin!

It's so much fun to see how the colour blend and mute, and the effect it creates when spun. I spun one medium thick thread, and again plied it with a thin one. This is as much as my spinning wheel will take :)

For me, this was the highlight of my spinning year (apart from getting my wheel of course!). I met so many lovely, fun and inspiring people, and most importantly, I evolved. I feel like I have taken a few more steps on some journey. Who knows where all this wool is taking me :)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Some foraging, and the making of a slouchy hat

Autumn has come to my part of the woods. The first storms of the season are hitting our coasts, and people cuddle up in sofas and comfy chairs after their day is done. The days are drawing shorter and the evenings are darker. I love the long bright days of summer, but somehow I greet the fall with joy.

I've been to the forest to stock up on berries for the winter, it just feels good to prepare and also harvest the bounty. But now the freezer is packed, so forest wandering is purely for leisure.

These are 6 kiloes of  lingonberries.
 Lovely as jam accompaning savoury foods.

We have not yet had any frosty nights, but the mornings are getting quite nippy, so why not stock up on hats? They are quick to knit, and Ravelry are brimming with lovely patterns.

For my pattern, I chose the Fruju hat, which is free on Ravelry. It's a simple slouchy hat in feather and fan stitch pattern, that creates interest and life to a simple shape.

The yarn I used, is spun from my first self dyed wool roving. Wool roving is carded wool that is arranged in a long continous sliver. This format is great for making multicoloured effects on the spinning fibre, as you can lay it out and paint the dye directly onto the fibre "sausage". It is much fun, and of course I had to learn how to do it!
The wonder machine in question, the Ashford drum carder.
Image borrowed from the Ashford website

I was really really lucky this summer, because I stumbled upon a used drum carder for sale, and that NEVER happens! Spinners usually hold on the their carders like treasure, and now owning one myself I can see why. They are awesome, and provides so much possibility!

The process is simple, you card your wool onto the drumcarder, and when it is fully loaded (mine takes 50grams) you pull off the fibre through a tiny hole to form a long strip/sausage of wool. See a short demo video here. The wool can now be either spun, or dyed if you wish.

I used a washer to pull my fibre through.
Worked like a charm!

I love colour so I tried to dye the roving into a gradient, with a darker purple that would fade down the roving. As with so many trials, there was error, and it didn't come out as planned. There was more undyed wool than I wanted, but when I spun it, it turned out kind of gorgeous :)

And when I knit it, I liked it even more :) The pattern was great for selfstriping yarn, and it is so much fun to see ones own yarn turned into something useful.

I went up a needle size from what is suggested in the pattern, because it fit the thickness of my yarn better. I ended up with a loose fit, but it's ok. I love my Fruju hat :)

Monday, 26 September 2016

It's a kind of magic!

Earlier this year, when I first got into spinning wool (and fell down a SERIOUS rabbit hole of creative possibilities), I learnt a bit about dyeing fibres with plants, fungi and lichens.
As we all know, nature is the source of all that is wonderful and colourful, and seeing examples of what colours can be achieved from natural ingredients, made me want to have a go.

This is not my work, but lovely examples of plant dyed yarn.
Photo gracefully borrowed from photographer Ingvild Hasle.

As it was late in winter at the time (February), the most likely source of plant material would be lichens growing on trees and rocks. Besides being available all year, lichens (along with tree bark) also have the power to dye wool without mordanting. This is a preparatory process done to the wool , to make plant dyes more wash- and light fast, and is usually done with different metal sulphates (the most common of which is alum). Different mordants can also bring out different colour tones from the same plant, so they are very useful to produce a wider array of shades. Bear in mind, they are toxic and bad for the environment.

I am always happy to skip steps to get to the fun part, so lichens it was!
I had heard somewhat of an old wives tale of a special kind of lichen that would give a striking blue shade, a colour rare in the plant dye universe. (None of the more experienced dyers I talked to about this, had ever heard of it, and probably thought I was making it up. And to be honest, I thought maybe I was being fooled...)
The only hitch to prove my point, was that the lichen would need to be fermented in ammonia for a minimum of 16 weeks, the jar needed to be turned every day blah blah. A very lengthy process!
But as it so happened, I knew of a tree that was covered in the stuff, (or Xanthoria parietina as it is scientifically named) a bright orangy yellow crust (to my Norwegian readers, it's messinglav).


I picked some lichen (70grams to be specific) off the tree (do this step in wet weather, as it softens it), and prepared a solution of 3:1 water and household ammonia. Then I stuffed a big mason jar with the lichen and topped it up with the liquid.
In just a few minutes, it turned a murky dark reddish colour, much like red wine :)
So the experiment was live, and running. The first few weeks I was very diligent with turning the jar, but after a while it just sat there in the back of my kitchen cupboard.

Come dyeing day some six months later, I didn't have much information to work with in terms of instructions. But the saying was that to produce the blue colour, the wool had to be dyed and then exposed to full sun,while being kept wet (sounds like a recipe for making those bad gremlins).

Firstly, I prepared the dye bath by pouring the contents of the jar (+1pint of water) into a cooking pot and brought it to a boil. Then I left it to simmer for about an hour (DO THIS OUTSIDE!!).  I then strained it through a cloth, and threw away the lichen bits. I now had about 1 litre of very dark, smelly soup. I took half of it and diluted it with water (1:3). This because ammonia is though on fibres and can damage it if it's too strong.

Pretty hefty colour! Wee!

The wool I used was three small skeins of white handspun yarn, about 80 grams (this was just a test after all). The yarn needs to be soaked in water for at least 24 hours, and then added to the cooled down dye bath (the two should have the same temp). Bring it slowly up to no more than 90 degrees celsius, and keep it there for an hour. Do not stir or agitate.

It is very important to watch the temperature.
I used a cooking thermometer.

And now for the magic! I took one of the skeins up from the pot after 45 minutes, and it was a bright pink. Ok, at least there was colour. The other two was left in the bath to cool. The sun was out, and I placed the skein in front of a mirror so the sun would be reflected upon it. I had a spray bottle with water handy, and made sure it didn't dry. It instantly started to turn, from pink into purple, and in a few minutes the yarn was blue! During this transformation, the yarn needs to be turned, and spread to even the shade. But it was just stunning to watch. The process gradually slowed, but after 90 minutes my first sample was light blue with maybe a hint of green. I took up sample #2 and did the same. The colour shift was not as quick as with the hot yarn, but this did also turn.

Hot skein straight out of the pot!

Skein #1 mid way in the process. You can see
how the mddle bits are still pink, and the colour more purple.

The weather turned to overcast, and the sample didn't get any more sun, but the blue was lovely and a bit deeper than the first one. The third skein was taken inside, and dried without any
sunlight exposure. And here are the results!

The finished hue. 

Just to compare the difference sunlight makes.
The pink is dried away from the sun, and will not turn blue.

Who would have thought that a humble yellow crust could produce such stunning colours?
I am very happy with the experiment, and I have more planned. When it comes to light fastness, I have discovered that the pink will fade quite a bit in sunlight. The blue however, seems to be holding up really well, which is good news. Lichens are a wonderful source of colour, and there are many different species to choose from. Luckily, most of them does not require 16 weeks of fermenting (only about 4), but it was worth it :)

Have you ever tried dyeing with plants, lichens or fungi?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Getting ready for fall

Wow. It's been so long now, I don't even know where to start.
On a positive note, I have loads to blog about. It is getting back into the habit that is hard, but here it goes!

Just to warm myself up (no pun intended) I am sharing this scarf I knit recently. Knitting hasn't really been my strong suit in summer, but I have actually knit loads the past months. Making my own yarns might have something to do with it :)

First off, the pattern I used is this lovely infinity/eternity scarf called Matanuska, free on Ravelry here. It is simple, and quick to memorize, perfect if you like to zone out in front of the tv. It is also great if you have a limited amount of yarn, or you don't know the exact yardage. It is consists of few repeats, and you just knit until you run out.

The yarn for this project is my first fractal spun yarn from 100 grams of Corriedale fibre. To read about that particular process, click here.

I was very anxious to knit with this yarn, just to see the colour effect, and it didn't disappoint. The pattern is perfect for hand spun multicoloured. Because of its simple geometric shapes (a bit like honeycombs), it does not compete with the features of the yarn, and show it off wonderfully.

The fractal spinning gives the yarn a subtle self striping effect, and the colours merge together harmoniously. I never tire of looking at this scarf, getting lost in all the pinks, purples, oranges and yellows!

(If you'd like to view this project on Ravely, here's the link.)

I am ready for the cold now, but I CAN still wait a month or two for it to arrive..
How 'bout you?

Friday, 29 July 2016

Rockabilly circle skirt dress - pt2

I've been hard at work on my new dress today. I really wanted to get a move on and get it finished for our holiday trip which is coming up in a few days.

As discussed in the previous post, I felt the bodice cups needed padding and some support, so I looked through my stash to see if I had anything that could be used. I found a pair of foam shoulder pads I bougth ages ago. They were not very thick, so could easily be remodelled into bra cups.

I made a small dart in each pad, and stitched them shut. To reduce bulk, I trimmed out some of the fold on the inside, and whip stitched everything flat.

 The pads now mirrored the bust shape in the bodice and was ready to be attached.

First, I tacked the point of the bust dart, to the point of the pad, so the pad would not shift around inside the bra cup. I shaped the bodice smoothly over the pads, pinned them loosely in place and carefully catch stitched the pads to the inside of the cups, making sure not to catch the outside fabric.

I love catch stitching, it looks so couture!

I am really happy with how the bust improved by doing this. I also realized that I will not be able to wear a bra with this dress, because of the low cut back. So integrated cups are gold! The dress looks, and feel, so much better.

I also put in some boning in the side seams. I used plain plastic boning, 1 cm wide. I just stitched it to the seam allowance using a three-step zig-zig, and handtacked it down to the underlining. This simple step will hopefully stop the bodice from sagging and folding at the sides, keeping a smooth shape.

Lastly, I got the skirt back sorted to take up the excess at the waist. I basically just opened up the back seam, trimmed off about an inch on both edges, and sewed the back seam together again. I decided to continue my "couture detailing" with a hand picked zipper. I haven't done those before, but it looks wonderful! Almost impossible to spot :)

The much improved bust,
properly period, bullet silhouette!

All remaining now, is stitching the bodice lining to the waist, and hemming!