The Land Scaped

A few months back I sat down with Paul to work out if we could get the kitchen garden done before Spring. We figured we could, so I called the landscapers to quote on the structural work. We’ve had these guys in four times before, so they know this place well. When they found out that the concreter kept making dates to do the crossovers for the garage then not turning up, they offered to quote for that as well.

The quote was very reasonable, so we gave up on the concreter and got both jobs done. However, there was a lot of work to do clearing out the kitchen garden. Pots and garden beds to move, the temporary cat run to dismantle and fake turf to remove.

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One of the lingering structural problems we had was that this area still got boggy in winter. I decided that the wettest area may as well become a garden bed, so I got them to bring the rock edge (which I hadn’t finished building) out further from the retaining wall.

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We were going to have toppings in the flat area, but they suggested gravel instead, as it would drain better. When they were done, Paul constructed the new cat run, recycling old tennis court poles. I’ve been helping put the cat mesh on. It’s looking great and the cat now has three of the pine garden beds to poo in.

As this work was being done, we got chatting with the landscapers about our long-term plans. We didn’t yet have a driveway. The original idea was to do a concrete one, but we’d have to wait until the water company puts in sewerage – and at the rate that’s happening, it could be years. The cost of the slab for the garage had eaten into our budget considerably, too.

So we got the landscapers to put in a topping driveway and finish the garden bed at the corner. It gives us something to drive on to access the garage, but part of it will be dug up again when we connect to the sewerage.

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I wanted to plant a tree in the garden bed, to replace one I’d had to cut down, but didn’t want anything that would shade the house. So I bought a weeping cherry.

Turns out there is a lot of water in the ground around under the driveway, so in places it’s quite spongey. The landscapers think that the stormwater pipes might be blocked further down the slope, so when we get a lot of rain they slowly fill up and the water finds it’s way out in front of the house. We’ll probably have to replace the stormwater pipes, but since having trenches dug is expensive it’ll have to wait until the sewerage connection happens.

Lastly, we wound up with this garden bed along the garage as a way to deal with water run off. The front is all gravel, but I had the rest filled with a mix of sand, gravel and potting mix and mulched with stones. It has become the Unexpected Succulent Bed.

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That’s all the major, structural landscaping done now. Hopefully from now on there’ll only be small jobs to do, that we can tackle ourselves – though there’s enough of those on my to-do list already to keep us busy for years!

Once it Was Winter…

… you’d think I’d have been wearing the Handspun, Handwoven, Handsewn Jacket I finished earlier this year. Well, I haven’t. I did put it on once, but when I took it out of the drawer I’d stored it in it was all creased in the front. As I’d predicted, I didn’t like the fringe being so long. And the little bulge where the bottom of the cowl met the zip bugged me.

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So after trimming the fringe, I decided to cut the top section down the front and make it a jacket. I could have zig zagged along each side and sewn it to the back, but I liked the idea of a fringe there, too. Easier said than done!

I unwove the weft until I had enough warp to tie knots. However, this meant I had to unweave past the point where the bottom section joined to so I also had to unpick the top and bottom sections along the front and re-sew them together.

In the meantime, I found I rather liked the way the top of the pockets flopped down, matching the angle of the front edges, so I stitched those in place.

Then I unpicked the shoulders, took out the darts and added a length of cotton tape across the top of the back to strengthen the fabric. After trying the jacket on, I decided I didn’t like the sleeves being so wide. Inspired by the folded pockets, I decided to unpick the top seam and overlap the pieces.

At last I was done:

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After all the adjustments, I have a jacket I like, though it’s a tiny bit small for me – not quite long enough in the body or sleeves. But it’s wearable, and I’ve explored lots of ideas for making woven rectangles into clothing. I’d like to make this again, with wider pieces for the sleeve-upper body so that the seam where it joins the waistband sits under the bust line rather than over it.

Spinning the Cap

So the next spinning project I’ve tackled is spinning the silk caps. I’m using the method where you separate a few caps, then make a hole in the centre…

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Then stretch…

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Draft carefully…

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Then wrap onto a toilet roll…

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And spin…

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Working this way eliminates the need to draft while spinning, which is great because it takes a good bit of strength to do it with the silk cap. I’m assuming this is because the silk threads are mostly still in long lengths, so I’m actually breaking them when I’m drafting. It certainly makes a good crackle as you stretch it. Drafting this way is, however, rather hard on the hands.

The silk tends to catch on any rough skin. I was doing a lot of work in the garden at the time I spun this, so it was catching a lot. I did a couple of caps in each session, and worked my way through until it was all done. Then I plied it and got this little skein.

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A lot of work for a little skein, but it is so soft and lovely.

Once I work out how to turn the silk cocoons into caps, or wind it out into thread, the only thing standing between me and a 1year1outfit is a local source of enough silk cocoons to spin and weave into a garment. Oh, and finding the time to do all that. Which is still all pretty unlikely, but who knows?

In the meantime, I’ve started spinning a blend of Shetland, silk and linen by Woolz’N'yarnZ.

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It’s very relaxing, but that’s not what brings me back to it again and again. Spinning on the electronic wheel means I have something creative I can do standing up. Most craft I do competes with writing for sitting down time.

Comb or Not?

Way back when I first gave spinning a go I bought a pair of carders, only to sell them later. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on tools just yet, so I did a little searching on google and ebay and decided to see if dog combs would work. They have the same sort of fine, bent wire tines and are much cheaper.

Among the fibre I bought at bendy is a small pack of fleece dyed red. It’s also greasy, which is strange, because I’d have thought the dyeing wouldn’t work if there was still grease in the wool. I guess they might have added the grease later. Anyway, I have a few pieces a good comb.

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It turned it into red greasy fluff. I tried spinning it on a drop spindle with what I think is woollen – or woollen-ish. It makes a rather messy single. Not that I mind that.

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But I do wonder… Should I bother combing it? Should I wash out the grease?

Where There’s a T’will

Late last year I was sent some handspun by an Irish fan of my books. There were six small skeins of overdyed grey yarn, and one larger one of grey. The colours complement each other beautifully.

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My first thought was to use the grey as a warp and weave with the colours. But there’s less messing about with ends if you do it the other way around. Since I couldn’t know how many metres of yarn I had, I decided to measure a two metre warp, as that’s a good length for a shawl, and just wound until I ran out of each colour. It made enough for an 18 inch wide shawl. I’m calling it the Fanspun Shawl.

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Which made it a good width to use as my test project on the modified Ashford Table loom. All I had in mind for the weave structure was some kind of twill. When I came to threading, I decided a point twill would be nice, but not too small. So I threaded 2341234 3214321 to make deeper zigzags.

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I’m loving how this is coming out. It’s weaving up fast, too.

First Electronic Handspun

Here it is:

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Plying it was… interesting. I never had problems with plying yarn nine years ago, but this time I had trouble judging how much spin was enough. Some sections were under spun. I wound up winding it onto a stick and then adding twist by hand where it was too loose. It probably didn’t help that I decided to make it a three ply, which I’ve never done before.

Why? Well, I wound up with only a small amount on the second bobbin. I joined the ends of the yarn on both and began winding yarn onto the second bobbin in the hope of evening them up, but the yarn broke at a point that, according to my scales, put 1/3 of the yarn on one bobbin and 2/3 on the other. So I divided the one with 2/3 onto two bobbins to get three in total then began plying.

I could see I wasn’t getting much twist and tried adjusting a few things as I went. Two of the bobbins ran out at nearly exactly the same time, leaving one with enough yarn on it for me to try navaho plying – which I had more success with.

It’s all skeined up now. The question I have now is: do I wash it? There’s no lanolin in it. I have vague memories of a need to wash the skein, but I can’t remember if it applies with washed and dyed fibre.

A Bendy We Will Go

So last weekend I spent 5-6 hours on trains in order to go fibre shopping for four hours. Well, I didn’t only buy fibre, but the main bulk of my purchases was. I wanted to try some plant fibre, and silk, and also get some pretty sheep’s wool. Here’s what I got:

This is the collection of non-sheep fibres:

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This is the four different kinds of silk I picked up:

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And these are all the blended sheep-with-something fibres I bought:

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I also bought a cookie cutter in the shape of a martini glass, a little Christmas pudding for Paul, a big date and butterscotch pudding, two hair clips, one merino ‘head sock’, and some alpaca yarn from a new mill on the Great Ocean Road.

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I regret that I didn’t buy one of the nifty little spindle and spindle companion sets from Luxury Overdose (look under sold items if there’s none in the shop) and some carders from the Ashford stall. I’m not sure yet if I need a carder or a blending board, and I really want to be sure the spinning thing isn’t temporary before I splash out on expensive items, so both were in the ‘walk away and think about it’ category. I hadn’t managed to come to a decision when 4pm came around and I had a shuttle bus to catch.

But I might be able to pick up second hand carders at the Guild, and hopefully I can order the spindle set on Etsy in future, so really, holding back was sensible.

Bargello Nostalgia

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Back when I was a kid and I tried countless different crafts, I preferred the kind of embroidery that used a canvas or grid, like cross-stitch and tapestry. I’m not sure if I tried Bargello, or even if I liked the way it looks, but I was aware of it and remember vividly how it looks.

When I bought some wool embroidery yarn recently I thought I might try Bargello, but I couldn’t find the right kind of canvas. Then a friend generously gave me a roll (thanks Elaine!). It’s double thread canvas, not single as the few instructions I’ve dug up on Bargello say to use, but I figured it might do anyway. However, the spacing was too wide for the thread I had.

When I went in person to Morris & Sons to buy thicker thread I discovered they had single thread canvas, which doesn’t show up on their online store. (Annoying that, as it meant I didn’t know they sold it.) That canvas was much finer, but the retors a broder thread I’ve bought on eBay works like a charm.

So I’ve been Bargello-ing of an evening, in front of the tv, after using Google images to find patterns I like. A few days ago I finished:

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It’s funny, though. When I search on Google Images for Bargello or Florentine Work (which is the same, or similar) I get as many, if not more, pics of quilts as of embroidery. There’s plenty of Bargello-insired quilting out there, but not so much embroidery.

I like that it looks a bit like marbling, or woven undulating twill. And the illusion of three dimensions. And the potential to have fun with colour. I don’t know yet what I’ll make from the samples. Maybe little zipper pouches. I’m just enjoying the process.

Braided Spectrum Rag Rug

It’s done and I love it:

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When I got 3/4 of the way through I started putting it out of sight, not wanting to finish it too quickly, but it’s such good de-stressing activity that I’d soon pull it out for some more therapeutic braiding. Finally, when I wanted the satisfaction of finishing something, I wove on to the end.

The Jean Jeany Rag Rug is still going, so I have braiding to turn to when I need a non-thinky project.

Electrified

The 1year1outfit challenge must still be lurking in my subconscious, because I keep finding myself thinking about how it could be done with non-mammal fibres. Since there’s no yarn made of silk or plant-based fibre grown within 500km of Melbourne, it’d have to be spun. Since I didn’t really take to spinning, if I found some silk or plant-based fibre grown within 500km of Melbourne, I’d have to get someone else to spin it for me.

Or maybe not…

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This electronic spinner came up for sale on Ravelry for a price I thought I could recoup if I didn’t like it. The seller was in Canberra, but I had a friend from there coming down to visit two weeks later. Another possible buyer was already considering purchasing it, but they changed their mind. Everything seemed to line up to make it convenient to buy.

Last Friday it arrived, and since it came with a half-filled bobbin and the rest of the sliver, I gave it a whirl. It took a while to remember how to join new yarn, but once I got past that everything went smoothly. On the same night, I taught my Canberran friend how to spin on a drop spindle, as she’d brought one with her. It didn’t spin well and had no hook, so eventually I found my old turkish spindle and got her spinning on it. That certainly helped wake up my nine year old memories of spinning lessons!

Two days later I found time for some more electronic spinning. So far I’m enjoying myself. It isn’t just that I don’t have to pedal, but I can take it nice and slow, and the wheel never decides to go into reverse on me. Last time I kept at spinning until I had proven to myself that I could do it, despite not enjoying it much. The trouble was, I’d get bored. This time I plan to listen to podcasts and audiobooks if it starts to get monotonous, but I suspect I need more zen-like craft activities now than a decade ago. Stress gets to me more now I’m older.

The fact that this all happened just before the Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show is another fortuitous coincidence. I’m planning to buy some silk and plant fibres to see if I can spin them. If I can, then I’ll be keeping a look out for local sources of these fibres. Just for curiosity’s sake. Really.