Saturday, 30 April 2016

Tatting bonanza!

After the sheeply vest project, I needed to do something else for a while. All the washing, carding and spinning + knitting was rather intense there for a while, but I am proud to have finished my plan!
But, it was time to swap crafts :)

I was going up north, and it is always a good idea to bring some handywork. My parents live in a quite remote area, with not much to do. I really don't mind that, but I need to keep my hands busy. I hadn't been tatting for some time, so I brought my shuttles and thread.

There are lots of great tatting blogs online, and a generous lot of them offer some free patterns. Great for us newbies to get some practise. Tatting by the Bay is one very good one, and there I found this lovely square pattern, named Priscilla. Very lovely, but filled with joins that are so easy to forget, and varying stitch count in the different rings. I have a monkey mind (very prone to wandering) and am used to knitting, which you can do while watching/listening to the telly. None of that with this one, so I quickly learned to concentrate. I probably tatted this pattern as much backwards (to pick up the faulty tatting) as I did forwards. Ooopsie!

It said on the pattern that it should take 6 hours, but lets just say I have a long way to go on my speed..... Nevermind, I got it finished, and gave it to my mum as a little gift before I left :)

The Priscilla square, in crochet cotton.

I also like Le blog de Frivole, a tatting and crochet blog. I found a really nice border that I wanted to try, based on a vintage tatting pattern from Tina Fraubergers books from 1919, and 1921. The old books are available as scans online, a great resource for us who like to dig into history. Luckily for me, Frivole has kindly reworked the  border pattern a bit. The originals are in German, and I am not very good at that....

The border is made up of small crowns, and I just used my trusty crochet yarn to test it. The thread is quite thick in comparison with tatting thread, and not as nice, but it is cheap and will do for practise. As I got going, I quite liked it, so I decided to finish it as a small tablecloth/napkin thing. I have plans for future hankerchiefs, so this was an excellent opportunity to try both the border and tiny hand rolled hems.

Tina Frauberger crowns edging.

I was quite happy with the result, but the corners on the border was not described in the pattern, so I had to make them up as I went. The border is tatted separate from the cloth, so when I sewed it on, they wouldn't lay flat. Need to work on that next time around. Happy with the hem on the cloth though! Not as fiddly as I feared.

Lastly, I've tatted my first little doily. The pattern is also from Tatting by the Bay, and is free here.
It is called the Frauberger doily, and was actually a quick tat. I finished it in two evening sessions, not bad for me, I think. I will make this again, in proper thread, I still find it nice to test tat the patterns first, as I am still learning and making mistakes. Better do that with cheap thread.

Frauberger doily, in chrochet cotton.

Speaking of thread, I feel my tatting is coming along now, so I treated myself with said proper thread. These are all Lizbeth balls (apart from the white one), and this thread is something else, I tell ya!! And the candy :)

This is real cotton candy!

Wow, the difference! I am in the middle of a new project now that is meant for gifts, but as a sneak peek I can show you these ear rings that I made from scrap thread left on my shuttle. Cute, huh?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Turning 40 (in a while) isn't all that bad!!

Wow, time has really flown by these past weeks since Easter.
I think it's the longer brighter days, my energy is up and we've had some glorious spring weather here in the south of Norway lately. Windy, but still nice :) So ideal for gardening and running.

I took a road trip up north to visit my parents some weeks ago now, to cheer myself up. It totally worked, and it is always so nice to  be "home". Even though I've had my own home for many years, home is still with my mum and dad. I'll never be too old for that :) It is a very long drive, just over 2000 km there and back, but all that is forgotten as soon as I set foot on their doorstep.

This visit also had a special agenda, as I have been so fortunate to inherit my Grandmothers spinning wheel! There was no way we would risk sending it in the mail, so I had to go get it.

I can still hardly believe it!
I didn't even know it excisted in our family, but luckily, my father hung on to it after she passed. I knew my grandmother was a very thrifty and crafty woman, but I never saw her using a spinning wheel. We lived some distance apart, and didn't see eachother as much as I wish we did. I was always very fond of going to see my grandma when I was little, and have many good memories.

As I turn 40 later this summer (sigh), I got the spinning wheel as a present in advance, complete with carders and everything! Isn't it beautiful? I just love the thought of getting to use and love something that used to belong to my gran. It really means alot to me.

As you all  may know, my spinning knowledge is limited to the drop spindle, but I did try the wheel out up north, and I actually managed to spin something yarn-like. Operating a spinning wheel is a bit like patting your head with one hand, and circling your other hand over your tummy, but once you crack the code it becomes second nature.

I have not been spinning since I got home, there has instead been some great progress on my new sewing space (yay!!) and some tatting, but I plan to sit myself down soon with my lovely wheel :) My big box of wool is just waiting for me to get spinning!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Therapeutic crafting pt.2 - result!

After spinning an amount of wool of both colors, it was time to put it to good use.
I had 138 grams of grey yarn, and 110 grams of white. Total yardage was somewhat of a mystery, but I figured it would be enough for a decent project (not a headband....heh).

I have always loved the look of those fair isle knitted vests or pullovers from the 1940s, and decided that it would be a good project to test my yarn. It should be fairly quick to knit, and easy too, since there is minimal making up/ piecing together.

I wanted the design to be all my own, and pulled out my grid sketch book and dabbled away.
I ended up with this stylized sheep pattern, and then knit a test square for gauge and needle size.
Based on this test square, I could then calculate the amount of stitches for my size, and also how the armhole and neck opening would be. I opted for a V-neck, as I think it looks smart paired with a collared shirt.

I used a 3mm round needle for the whole vest, I could probably have used a 2.5mm for the ribbing, but I had no suitable round needle in that size. I knit in the round up to the armholes, and then the rest back and forth. It was very quick, and in about a week of evening knitting I was weaving in the last ends.

I am delighted with the end result! The vest is light and soft, but surprisingly snuggly and warm. It is the perfect Land girl-look that I wanted, and the sheep pattern works well as a whole. If I were to change anything, I would have made the pattern smaller. But I can always make another version later:)

It has been a fun process, and it really makes you appreciate the work that women put into knitted garments in the olden days. Spinning yarn by hand on a spindle is slow work, and any sane person uses a spinning wheel for bigger projects. But sometimes it is not about getting the object finished, it is about the process.
My spinning is still just in its infancy, and I suspect there will be lots more spinning and other woolly shenanigans in the future.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Therapeutic crafting - yet more new skills!

One rainy day in February, the decision was made to get out of the house after weeks and weeks of not doing anything or seeing anyone. The sportscar club in which the entire Pinhouse household is member, was having the annual Icetrack Day on the fields of a farm belonging to the very woman that gifted me that humongous haul of vintage patterns last year.

I left the driving to the Mr, and all the other car enthusiasts, and slipped away for tea inside with Hilde. She is a wonderfully soothing person to be with, she is also a multi-talent doing most crafts imaginable to man. And best of all, she loves to share. We talked for hours, drank gallons of tea and best of all, she taught me how to spin wool!

Looking back, I definitely have a tendency to do a whole array of different things. It would seem I have not one hobby, but rather my hobby is to learn new skills. This is both a blessing and a curse. Learning new things is very rewarding, useful, and good for the brain. On the other hand, it can be a little restless, and I never loose myself in one thing, to master it. Maybe if I specialized in something, that something would end up being my profession. But in a world of wonderful and diverse crafts, how do you choose only one? No, I don't see that happening at all :) I don't have that kind of self control.

But back to the spinning! I have always loved wool. It is a wonderful material, and has so many uses. It is also in it self natural, and poses little environmental threat. Which for me, is a big deal. (I don't use acrylic yarns. It is basically plastic, that ends up as micro plastic particles in the food chain and poses enormous threats to the worlds oceans. So, avoid if possible.)

Spinning wool into yarn really is a simple process. Twisting fibres together to form a long strand, and that is it. The fun starts when you start spinning different fibres, plying the threads together, and seeing the uniqueness unfold. There are no set rules (well, very few), you can spin the yarn however you like. And then there is dying fibres, and your yarn turns into an explosion of color! The possibilities are endless.

All you need to get started, really.

I went home from my day with Hilde, totally energized. She sent me home with a drop spindle and a small bag of wool fibre, and I was sold! I spun that bag of wool in a matter of days, and just HAD to have more.

Fibres for spinning comes in a wide variety of options, everything from raw unwashed felts straight off the sheep (or other hairy animals like rabbits, goats, camels etc) to ready-to-spin, pre-carded and pre-dyed rolls of clean fluffy stuff. Being a person who like to learn as much as possible and also save a penny, I opted for the raw stuff straight from the barn, and in the mail came a huge box of grey and white sheep-smelling stuff! Oh the bliss!

Raw wool from two different breeds of sheep.

10 kg of wool is A LOT. It all had to be sorted roughly by color, the shorter bits had to be discarded, and any plant material removed. Then the wool needs to be soaked to remove dirt (poo and pee) and excess oils, then dried and carded by hand.

Clean wool ready for carding,
using hand carders (generously lent to me by Cille!)

Once cleaned and carded into fluffy fibres, the spinning can begin. When first starting out, the only objection is to make something that holds together. It gets uneven in thickness and somewhat wonky, (aka novelty yarn) but all normal. After a bit of practice, the thread gets thin and even, and the thought of beautiful garments made from your own fine yarn emerges in ones brain. To make this yarn, one have to spin two (or more) individual threads that are plied together. The only rule in spinning is that each thread must be twisted in the same direction (say, clockwise) and then plied the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction the get the strands of the yarn to lay together. All else is up to you.

My first balls of 2-ply (novelty) yarn.
First attempt at knitting my own yarn.

My first balls of yarn filled me with pride, but putting it to use (knitting) made me aware of how differences in thickness affected the finished product. I tried to make the small balls into a headband thingy, but when I came to ball #3 it was just too bulky.  Changing needles midway was no option, but all this was part of the learning. In the end, there was no headband, but I got some practice cabling before frogging it.

I concentrated on spinning thin, and soon I was making skeins of uniform yarn for my project.

Next time, I'll show you what this wool eventually got turned into. I'll tell you, getting back to creating things again was good for my soul. I am glad I allowed myself to let go of the pressure of doing the right things, and just doing something that makes me happy.

There is a lot of therapy in creativity.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Time to move forward.

So... this post has been in the works for quite some time.
When you leave writing and blogging for a long time, it is hard to pick it up again. So much time has passed, and so many little things have happened. Many feelings felt, and many thoughts gone through the mind.

Truth is, the new year and my new workless life has been very challenging to get to grips with. After a lovely family Christmas up north, I just dug myself a big mental dark hole, and sat in it most of January and February. All sewing and creativity ground to a halt, it just gave me a guilty consciense. I couldn't possibly spend my time sewing, tatting or knitting, when I knew I should be out there getting myself a new job.

But what really happened, was me getting absolutely paralyzed. I scoured employement ads, just to find I wasn't qualified for anything. I got so depressed, that just the thought of my situation and what I should do with myself brought on the tears. Applying for jobs, getting "out there", and selling myself as this positive energetic working individual just felt like a herculean task. Sobbing red-eyed middle aged women are NOT what people are looking for, but I just couldn't help myself. I just got more isolated and down by the day. I just didn't believe in being able to do it.

I am not a particularly sociable person on the best of days, but when I am down in the dumps I shy away from people like the plague. I know this isn't good for me, but I just feel the need to spare my surroundings the gloom. It's funny, but sometimes when I am with others it just makes me feel more alone. Sometimes, I find it hard to keep my emotions under control, and that also contributes to the urge to keep away from people. I just don't want to cry for no reason in front of anyone. You sort of need to at least SEEM on top and in control.

I am old enough now to know this is not healthy. And while I might need to have some space and time away from everything, it just can't go on. I feel more comfortable in the "shell" as time passes, more happy with not seeing or talking to anyone, and that is the sign that it is wrong. It is dangerous.

There has been some internal debate on whether or not I should put this up on the blog. This is supposed to be a place of positivity and creativity, and frankly; who would be interested in reading about other peoples problems? But blogging is also about sharing experiences. Some time ago, there were various posts being put up about not being perfect, but still keep on living, and I found those good and very helpful. Lauren, from Wearing History wrote perfectly in this post.

There is also another reason to write about this, and that for me is closure, or a way to get things out of the system. I know that once this is up on the blog, the post will have its publishing date, and will move down the timeline as new posts follow. It will, in effect, be a thing of the past, and I will move forward. And I really need to start moving forward now.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Tutorial on how to make (feathered) friends!

A post a bit out of the ordinary this, but as 'tis the season to be kind and compassonate, I want to share with you a great way to score some last minute brownie points with Santa!

It is no big  shock for anyone who knows me, that I am very fond of animals. Always have been, and always will be. I don't disciminate, either. I think all animals deserve to live a full life, and if I can help when things are tough, I will.

Not my photo, but I've had lots of these pretty birds coming to feed :)

Winters here in Norway can be hard for our small wild birds. And I guess this applies to many other areas of the Northern hemisphere, too. The daylight hours are few, and the little critters spend most of their day trying to find food just to stay warm. There are no insects this time of year, and seeds can be covered by several feet of snow. It surely is a scramble for survival.

These two fell for my bribery!

So far this winter, it has been very mild and it has hardly fallen any snow. This is good news for the birds, but things rapidly change, and today it is frosty. 

Since having more time on my hands, I have enjoyed setting up a birdy restaurant in our garden. It is right outside of my sewing room (aka the dining room), and I can sit and watch them come in. Mr P even made a copy of our house, with a detachable roof, to put seeds and breadcrumbs in! 

You can buy fat ball for wild birds in various stores, but I have found they are old and rancid and contain quite a lot of sand. Poor value for money, and poor nutrition for the birds. So I decided to make them myself :) And my rep as a birdfeeding establishment has gone through the roof. I now have three times as many different spieces as before, and it is really fun to watch. And I am hoping for squirrels, too :)

Here's how to get new friends. You will need:
  • 500g coconut fat, or (unsalted) lard if you don't mind using animal products.
  • Leftover wholegrain bread (about half a loaf/ 300-400g)
  • 1 cup of rolled oats (use the small, steamed ones)
  • Sunflower seeds without husks
  • 250g peanuts (dried, unsalted, non-roasted) for birds
  • 2 cups of wild bird seed mix
  • Whatever else you have in your cupboard (I found some outdated sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and hazel nuts)
  • Small containers
  • Twine or cord of some sort
Melt the fat slowly, do not let it boil. Put aside.
Take your dry bread and tear into small pieces and put in a blender. Blend to crumbs. Lightly blend your peanuts and various seeds, just to get a bit smaller pieces. You dont need to blend the sunflower seeds, or wild bird mix.
Put all your dry ingredients in a big bowl. Pour over the melted fat, and mix it with a spoon. Get out your twine and cut into foot long pieces, and tie the ends together, forming a long loop. Leave the ends a couple of inches long, as they will secure better in the finished ball. Get out your containers. These can be anything from little yoghurt cups, to coffee mugs or tea cups. Milk cartons or any other cartons, halves of coconut shell, you name it. I used candle holders and coffee cups. Put them on a tray with baking paper (you will spill some.....). Fill your containers, and be sure to put a twine loop in every one. Use a spoon to tuck it down to the bottom. Set to cool.

The recipe is just an idea of what you can put into them. You could also put berries in along the seeds. I have budgies, and they don't always finish all of their seeds, so I blow off the empty husks and save them for when I make wild bird food.

When the balls are completely set, dip the containers it hot water, to get them off. Hang the balls into trees, if you have left overs, put them in the freezer for later.
All that's left is to enjoy all your new birdy company!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Little works of art!

Hello again!

A few weeks back, I decided to teach myself how to tat.
Now, in 2015 it rather rare to find women happily tatting away on their doilies and chemise-edgings, so I struggled a bit with finding the right tools for the job.

I ended up needle tatting on some tapestry needles, and although it worked alright, I knew I was going to need shuttles for proper tatting. The only ones I could find in Norway was online, and made of plastic. I was not feeling the enthusiasm, and had a look on our beloved Etsy, to see if I could find some that I liked better. What can I say, I like pretty things :)

I came across a Hungarian Etsy-shop called Banyek, that had many different lovely tatting shuttles, hand made in wood. I think I spent and entire evening, looking at all the pretty shuttles, but ended up ordering two. I didn't know which size to go for, so the two are slightly different in size. The smaller on is 2.5" and the larger is 3".

I was very happy with my purchase when they arrived. They were properly packed and shipped by registered mail, and arrived quickly. So if your in the market for a shuttle, Laszlo is your man! I think it feels very good to support small businesses, and talented crafty people.

I tried the smaller one yesterday evening. I have to say, having learnt how to do something one way, and then doing the same thing entirely the opposite way, is quite the challenge for ones brain. I could just feel the new neural pathways forming!!

I struggled a bit figuring out how to handle the thing and hold the thread with the left hand, but after 30 mins (and a few youtube videos later) I got it. The tatting gets much firmer and more even, because I no longer have to keep the stitches loose enough the slide over a needle eye. But there is still a long way to go. The technique is quite different with a shuttle, so I have lots of practicing to do before I have anything remotely worth showing :)

Here you can see the difference in quality. The shuttle tatting is on the left, and is much more even and with smaller stitches. The ring on the right is needle tatted, and has about one third fewer stitches than the other ring. It is floppier and fatter because the stitches are so loose.

I am really excited to get tatting now! I love my Hungarian shuttles :)

Have you learnt any new skills lately?