Friday, 27 June 2008

A little horse, and some very bad lace

Exciting news! Krissie my arabian mare had her foal yesterday morning, a lovely chestnut filly. She took everyone by surprise by choosing the date that the vet predicted as her due date, but with very little sign that she was going to give birth until just a few hours beforehand. But all went well and both mare and foal are healthy and well. I visited them yesterday at the stud where Krissie's gone for foaling, and took many many photos! The photos in this post were taken when the little one was just 8 hours old.


I've named the foal 'Inara', as I've long been a fan of the one-series sci-fi show 'Firefly', which included a very beautiful character with the same name. Inara's also the name of an ancient Middle Eastern goddess, who was a protector of wild animals, so it seemed fitting.


She's by a stallion named Icon, who's a beautiful palamino arab x lusitano (a spanish breed). I'm hoping Inara will have inherited at least a little of his amazing talent for classical high school dressage.

It's hard to believe that just under 11 months ago, this was my first view of her, when Krissie had her first positive ultrasound scan:

Inara Ultrasound Scan

The black circle in the scan photo is the embryo sac, I think Inara might be the tiny little bundle of grey cells at the top of the circle, but at that early stage it's hard to tell!

Krissie is being a brilliant mum, she's suckling the foal very well and taking excellent care of her. This is her first foal, so I'm really pleased she's taken to motherhood so well.


They need to stay at the stud for a couple of weeks, until Inara's strong enough to travel home. But I'm planning to visit a few more times before then, so hope to have some foal playing in field photos to post soon.

Back briefly to crafty news. As if I didn't have enough to occupy my brain, I've cast on my first ever lace project. This is the start of a Swallowtail Shawl, in Posh Yarn's 'Eva' (a cashmere/silk heavy laceweight yarn).

my first lace

I'd been putting off learning lace knitting for a long time, although I've long been attracted to it. I'm left handed, and I knit left handed, so things are likely to come out the wrong way round if I knit lace without planning it beforehand. I've done a few simple motifs in lace before and got really confused about why my ssk's and k2tog's were coming out backwards. But after some research on Ravelry, I think I've figured out what to do. Basically I just have to read the charts in reverse, simple!

Well it would be simple if I could follow charts accurately. A few repeats after the photo above was taken, I got into a dreadful muddle. Fortunately I'd threaded a 'lifeline' through my stitches before the muddle, so I was able to frog back safely. But I've now knitted (and frogged) the following few repeats far more times than I'd like to admit. I keep miscounting, doing too many yarn-overs, dropping stitches, it's driving me a bit crazy! Perhaps I have too much foal on the mind. I feel inclined to put it away for a while and return to some nice simple sock knitting for a while. But knowing how my brain works, I won't be happy until the lace issue is fixed, so I could be in for a froggy weekend!

Hope to post some happy lace news soon. And also about my plan for the Tour de Fleece. Yes I have a plan, and I've even written it down. Somewhere, on my computer. It's probably hiding underneath all the photos of horses from yesterday... :)

Monday, 23 June 2008

Tour de Fleece, Spindling and FO's

After considerable mulling over, I've decided to join the Tour de Fleece. I thought with the Krissie saga and work stuff I'd be too busy. But Krissie's apparently still some way off from producing her foal, and work pressures are evening out a bit, plus, I decided I'm always going to come up with some excuse or other not to focus - this could make me sit down and do some productive spinning for once :)

If you haven't heard of it, the Tour de Fleece is a spinning event that mirrors the Tour de France cycle race. The object is to spin for every day of the cycle competition, and to set yourself some kind of spinning challenge. For example some people aim to spin enough for a garment, or to use up x amount of their stashed fibre. Then you tell the world about your progress online! My challenge is quite basic, I want to focus on improving my spinning technique in a few specific areas. I'm going to make a list before the event begins on the 3rd July, but I've come up with a few ideas already. One thing I want to do is to try to spin some some fine laceweight yarn on my wheel, I've not managed anything finer than a heavy laceweight so far. It was a lovely yarn, but I'm sure I could spin finer weights.

Another thing I want to do is to improve my spindle spinning. I recently picked up a drop spindle again, which I haven't done since I first learned to spin well over a decade ago, I think I was still at school at the time (which now makes me feel old to think about it!). Anyway, there's been quite some demand for drop spindles in the Wildcraft shop, so I challenged my mum (who's a brilliant woodturner), so make some really good spindles. She came up trumps (of course) with this cedarwood beauty, which I'm testing out:


And I've been addicted to spindling again ever since! It's a top whorl, which is new to me, but makes all the difference. You can really make those things fly! I spin the shaft of the spindle against my thigh and it just keeps spinning and spinning.

I've been testing it out using some roving I bought from Lapoli a while back, and I've already made this spindle-spun yarn from it:

Spindle spun yarn

It's not quite dry in the photo, it'll look more puffy and even more knitable when it is dry, but I couldn't wait to take photos! I still have another 30-40grams of the roving to spin, and it's proving to be great stuff to practice on, very forgiving when I put in too little twist, which happens quite a bit.

Oh and I have a FO to report. My lichen socks are finally finished, yay! Readers who are also in my local SnB group will have seen me knitting these for many weeks. I don't know why they took me so long, they're a very basic toe-up design, although they are quite a fine gauge, 8st/inch I think. I used Stitch Stud's toe-up sock calculator pattern booklet, which I can thoroughly recommend.

lichen socks

The yarn was my first attempt at dyeing a hand painted yarn, I didn't expect it to stripe so nicely, but I'm very pleased it did. Next up in the sock knitting plans is some more hand dyed yarn - an alpaca sock weight, which I wound into 12 metre skeins on the fence posts in the horses' paddock before dyeing (Sam was very bemused by it all). I dyed the skein with long stripes of colour, so I'm hoping it'll make some wider stripes than the lichen socks. I called the colourway 'summer meadow', and it matches some of the rovings I've put in the shop.

Hand dyed alpaca sock yarn

More Tour de Fleece news soon, I can't wait for it to begin!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

She made it!

Good news, Krissie made it to 'horsepital'! For those who've just joined us, Krissie is my arab mare who's expecting a foal very soon, and who took a serious dislike to the transportation I'd arranged for her to go to the stud to have her baby. But, after working with her for three days, getting her used to loading and unloading into the trailer, she finally trusted it enough to stay inside and eat food from a bucket while there. Which, on travelling day, was sufficient distraction to take her mind off of running out as the ramp was closed behind her.

She travelled reasonably well (it was a 2 hour trip to the stud), and she is now safely stowed at West Kington Stud. The stud seems to have a lovely relaxed atmosphere and Krissie went straight out to a big field with lots of other expectant mares who all seemed far more interested in eating than in making introductions with her. Which is probably for the best, I'd have been much less happy if they'd all started running around wildly :)

She's due to have the foal on the 24th June, but could easily go a couple of weeks longer - fingers crossed all goes well. I will of course post photos here when the foal arrives. I'm so looking forward to it, after 11 months gestation I can't wait to meet the little one!

And as a reward for managing all this, I've treated myself to some of the new Noro Sock yarn, which has finally made it to the UK (I bought mine from The Knitting Parlour).

Noro sock yarn

Bea brought a ball of this to SnB a couple of weeks ago and I was much smitten with it, plus I want to know if I can replicate such a yarn on my spinning wheel. So really it's research, not a stash aquisition :)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A mixed bag

Ah, summer is here! I wish I could say I've been lazing in the sunshine with my knitting, but I have instead spent most of today trying to encourage a reluctant horse into a horse trailer, with only limited success. The culprit is Krissie, my arab mare, who's pregnant and due to have her foal in a fortnight's time (see pic below to see how very pregnant she is at the moment!).


I'm planning to send her to a stud to have the foal, they're much more experienced at it than I am and have foaling facilities and vets on hand. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to find a horse trailer of my own in time for the journey (I've been looking to buy a secondhand Rice trailer for ages), so I've borrowed a friend's box (thanks again B!).

But now after several very frustrating sessions of trying to load her, I've learned that Krissie doesn't like trailers much. I think with time she'll get used to it, as she's ok with going up the ramp and doesn't look overly stressed. She just doesn't like the ceiling over head, which is understandable, she doesn't like stables much either. The clicker training I've done with her has worked wonders with getting her comfortable in a stable and I'm really relying on the clicker work now.

She's has actually gone inside the trailer a couple of times, but she doesn't stay in for long, she seems to have got the going backwards quickly thing very well sorted! She's supposed to be going to the 'horsepital' on Tuesday, so I'll spend tomorrow working with her again and hopefully we'll get somewhere by the end of a second day.

Maybe Sam could teach her a thing or two, he used to be just as worried about trailers, but I did some trailer work with him a few months back and now he seems to love this one. He even loads himself, look!

Sam in trailer

Anyway, enough about horses. What about wool and knitting?

Well the Wildcraft shop has opened with much success. Big thanks to all those who've bought things already. I could barely keep up with the orders the first week, fortunately it's slowed down now to a more manageable level :) I'm very excited to see Wildcraft rovings appearing on Flickr and in people's stashes on Ravelry. I've even seen a few spun yarns appearing. Coley of Sheknitigans did a beautiful navajo plied yarn from a roving in the 'fumitory' colourway.

So the Wildcraft roving that started out as this:


Has now been transformed by Coley into this:

Tainted Love
Originally uploaded by sheknitigans

Lovely work Coley!

And there are others too. Take a look at what Belaybunny has been up to. She's working on some shetland in an 'anemone' colourway that's looking very pretty on the bobbins.

I updated the shop with some new rovings and stitchmarkers last week. A few have gone already, but if you like the Scottish Seascape or Calendulas colourways, they're still available. I have plenty more undyed wool top in stock, so I'll be doing some more Shetland and BFL rovings soon.

And then of course there will also be the wool batts. I've now prepared the Water batts from Willow's wool.

Water Wool Batts

In real life they're quite a lot more blue than the pic here shows, I had trouble getting the camera to pick up the darker blues accurately. The dark is more like navy than the grey seen in the photo.

And I've washed and picked some of Cordelia's and Giles' fleece for the Air and Earth batts, so they'll be ready soon. I've tried spinning some samples of the fire and water batts and they're producing a lovely striped yarn, a little like Noro stripes, which is what I intended. The fleeces are quite strong English wool types, so they're not merino-soft, although the silk and mohair that's blended into the batts does soften them up a bit. I think they're going to make fabulous hard-wearing sock yarns, or great yarns for felting/fulling.

Now I just need to get Krissie loaded, then I can get back to the wool preparation! :)