Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Land of Gnomes

The kids saw this in an issue of Living Crafts and we thought we'd give it a try. It's quite cute, although I have decided I don't like the way that Welsh Mountain felts. It was a lot of work. I used the bubble wrap technique for the first time and that worked quite well. The trees are supported internally by pipe cleaners, which for us does not work at all. The trees are VERY floppy and I will have to figure out a better way of supporting them. The gnomes in the background are our Waldorf Math Gnomes.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Some people make New Year's resolutions, others, like me, can't be bothered. I read somewhere (can't remember where, sorry!) something about instead of making a New Year's resolution that was all-important and hard to achieve, instead try to take something small, a skill, a project, an idea, and work on that one thing only. Something small and achievable. In that vein, I am going to spin and knit a sweater from Alberta wool, by the time Fibre Week starts at the end of June.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. I realize that this is neither small nor perhaps even achievable, but I am trying! I have never spun enough of anything to knit a sweater and I have also never knit anything as large as a sweater, but I figured it was time to try.

So far I have spun about 300m and have another two bobbins ready to ply, but I need at least a 1000, so I still have a ways to go. I am spinning a 3-ply aran/almost chunky weight natural gray yarn and with it I am going to knit (so far) this pattern from Knitty. Sorry about the pink cast to the photo, the actual colour is a clear gray nice oatmeal.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Twist Collective

OK, I am quite possibly the only person who doesn't know about this online magazine, but hey, at least I finally figured it out! Twist Collective is knitting magazine with lots of articles and superb patterns, in a way similar to Knitty, but really, not at all the same. For starters, the patterns are NOT free. The site says why and they have good reasons. There is no argument from me, everyone has the right to make a living. I haven't read any of the articles yet, since our internet connection is quite slow and I can't bear it, but when I get a chance on a faster connection, I'll definitely give them a try. So far, I am not a real fan of the site navigation, but I have discovered that if all you want to look at are the patterns, you just need to click on Shop.

The artistic director is Kate Gilbert, needlesonfire at Ravelry and also a Ravelry designer under her own name. She also has a website here. I have a couple of her patterns and I really like them, although I have to admit - I haven't knit them yet - so many projects, so little time, sigh. Some of the designers on Twist Collective are new to me, but many of them are well known. So far my two favourite patterns are Mitaines et Moufles by Véronik Avery and Gytha by Jennifer Appleby. The mittens I probably have time to knit, the sweater, well... that's another story. The last post's story as a matter of fact!

Springing up Flowers

This is a pattern by KrisKnits that I heard about on BoogaJ's blog. Thanks to BoogaJ, I have a new pretty washcloth and something to do with the leftover balls of cotton yarn that I have from an old cotton sampler pack from Knit Picks. Once I got the KnitPicks kit, I didn't really want to knit the patterns that came with it . . . so I have a few odd balls of yarn hanging around (like that's unusual, lol!). Kris Knits has the perfect solution.

Her pattern was easy to knit even though it wasn't symmetrical. The rows are thoughtfully arranged in groups of 5 so that it's easy to keep your place and the pattern is created on the wrong side so that most of your work is knitting rather than purling. Both nice touches to a simple and pretty pattern. A nice, easy quick knit.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Wild Yeast

For about a month now, I have been making bread with a wild yeast starter. Finally, the starter is performing reliably and my bread not only tastes good, it now also rises - generally considered a good thing for bread. It is still a bit dense, but I love it. It is so cool to watch that mixture of plain old flour & water start to bubble and ferment. As you can see in the picture, it almost rises too much, the bread kind of explodes it's seems in the oven - too much surface tension? Is there such a thing??

I am using a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks, Baking with Julia. The recipe is Pain de Campagne. I've also done a lot of reading over at the Fresh Loaf. That is one fantastic website. I have learned more about baking bread in the last few weeks than in all my bread baking years (which is a lot considering I started at ten!). I am using a firm starter, almost like a bread dough itself. It keeps well on the counter and doesn't seem to care if I feed it regularly or not. If I am not going to be suing it for a while I pop it in the fridge until a day before I need it. The posts on the FreshLoaf by Jmonkey are really helpful on this subject.

My next adventure is from Peter Reinhart's book Whole Grain Breads using flour ground in my mother's mill. Wells actually that's adventure #2, first I am using the regular whole wheat from the store. I haven't had a chance to get over to Mom's and ruin my hearing yet. Grain mills are REALLY LOUD.

Chick a dee dee dee

I love chickadees. There are lots at our bird feeders and they are so cute. One of the cats ate one yesterday, but I will forgive it. This winter I borrowed a book from the library, which I can't remember the name of, which had little felted birds in it. I didn't really like them so much, but I LOVE my chickadee. I used the same techniques and needle felted this little sweet thing. The beak is commercial black felt, a small cheat, but okay I think.
Posted by Picasa

Bison Down

We visited some friends who farm bison the other week and they dropped a little pile of darkness on me that they'd just picked up in the corral. It's not exactly shedding time up here in the snow, but someone lost a bit of blanket I guess. Anyway, it was lovely, soft, and very clean. All I had to do was dehair it, which I did by grasping the hair in one hand and the down in the other and gently tugging until the hair came loose. I did that for the whole pile (only a few grams) and then rinsed the down in the sink to get the dust off, of which there was very little, being as all our dust is covered in snow, lol!

I wasn't sure how to deal with it though as the staple length is only about 2 cm. It is very crimpy though and so soft you almost can't even feel it! I did some internet research and decided that rolling it into punis was the best way to go and it worked very well indeed. I have never rolled a puni in my life (my husband things that sounds kind of dirty...hmmm) but since the fibre did not get all mussed up when I rinsed it, the whole process of carding (barely) and rolling was very easy. Spinning Spider Jenny has lots of good posts on carding and rolling punis and I would say that is where I got the most helpful info.

I spun the punis woolen style on my lightest spindle which I used supported. It's a bottom whorl with a fairly flat tip, so it was fairly stable on a flat surface. I used a cookie sheet on the floor or the kitchen table if I was standing. It took a LOT of twist, so much that I didn't actually get enough twist in the last bit and it kept falling apart when I plied it. I mean a LOT of twist. Lots lots lots. Like you are going nuts. Really. I navajo plied just a little bit to get enough to knit the sample above and then did the rest as 2 ply almost lace weight. It also really bloomed so the yarn was a bit bigger than I anticipated. I only have maybe 10 metres, but it is so soft and lovely. What to do with 10 metres though?

Here are some link to my favourite posts from Jenny Bakriges blog, the Spinning Spider Jenny. She has a new book due out in the spring which I can't wait to see. If it is anything like her blog, it will be a treasure. Many of my best spinning skills were gained from reading her blog.

Making Punis
More on Punis
Please Don't Kill the Baby Bird
Drafting Techniques for Handspinners
Opinions on Drafting Techniques for Handspinners

And three posts on hand carding:
Hand Carding Wool Locks For Spinning
My Dad & more on hand carding
Hand Carding: Keeping Colors Clear and Fiber Blends

Thanks Jenny.

Friday, 19 February 2010

My Hand Carders

Here is the completed pair. I've never done any wood burning before, so I am happy with the result. The pattern is taken from a Scandinavian embroidery book.