Friday, 25 July 2008

Foal Action Shots

I can't quite believe that Inara's been home for nearly a fortnight. It's been quite a whirlwind since she arrived home, she's grown already and she's learning to take all kinds of new things in her stride.

First off, this is the young lady we're talking about, she poses beautifully :)

Inara (2)

And here she was early last week, looking a bit scrawny and bewildered by having such a big field and only her mum to share it with:

Inara (3)

She soon started testing out her galloping legs, and I can confirm that she's very fast, often too fast to catch on camera!

Inara (4)

But I did get some better shots...

Inara (5)
Inara (6)

And here she is today, on the day that she and her mum were (re)united with my other two horses, Millie and Sam. Poor Inara got left out while her mum said her hellos to the others, she couldn't quite make out what the fuss was all about. But look how she's grown in just a few days, compare this robust looking critter with the scrawny beast in the first pic taken just six days earlier. All that galloping's clearly paying off! :)

Inara (9)

We've been making hay on the farm this week, 1500 small bales of it. We make 'barn dried' hay, which is taken off the field earlier than normal hay and drying is finished in the barn by a set of huge electric fans. It makes sweet tasty horse hay (yes I've tasted it and it is sweet!), but it takes a lot of extra work as every bale has to be loaded into the barn and stacked by hand on its edge within a few hours of being baled, otherwise it degrades and starts to grow mould. Which meant several 11pm stop-outs this week while I helped my father and brother to offload the trailers into the barn. We sell most of it, but I've bagsied some of the best bales for Inara and her mum's winter fodder. She'll need the very best hay to grow properly :)


All of which has meant that my spinning and knitting activities have had to take a back seat this week. But I've still been spinning whenever I could, and I've managed to keep up with my Tour de Fleece objective to spin every day. I've even finished a fair amount of yarn, helped along by some new spindle-shaped goodness. Plus I've discovered that spindling while on a hay trailer is risky (a long way down if you drop the spindle!), but very effective - provided you don't mind picking out hay seeds from the fibre. Next time, I promise news and photos of spinning, my swallowtail shawl, and other crafty goodness...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Tour update, Week 1

Week 1 of the Tour de Fleece has passed, and I've done a lot of spindle spinning. I think I've spindled more in this past week than in my entire spinning career to date!

My main project this week was a batch of Superwash BFL roving (100g in total), in 'Apple Blossom' colours, which is now looking like this:

Spindle Spun BFL

It's become 225 metres of around dk weight yarn. It's turned out just as I hoped, tightly twisted and with a slight sheen to it. I'm still deciding how best to use the yarn. I'm down to a choice between the socks that I originally intended to make, or a Morning Surf scarf, like the ones in the Summer 2008 issue of Spin Off magazine.

As soon as that yarn was complete, I started on the 'Last of the Lavender' Shetland roving that I'd set aside for TdF. This fibre told me it wanted to be bulky (yes, I often talk with fibre), so I took its advice and have started spinning this:


2-plied it's a lovely and squooshy bulky weight yarn, I've done about 70 metres so far, and still have over 1/2 of the roving left. I think it will become a cosy hat for me, just right for pootling up the lane to visit the horses later this year when it's chilly and autumnal.

And while those two were on the go, I was also spinning this:

Spindle Spun

Which is a blend of merino, tussah silk and alpaca, which I originally drumcarded for spinning on my wheel. It's been loitering in my stash for ages as I find these plain colours boring to spin on the wheel, but it's spindling up beautifully, and not nearly as boring when done in little sessions. I have two other batts of the same fibre blend in slightly different shades of turquoise. One I've already spun up on the wheel, so as soon as I've finished the last batch I can three-ply them as I originally intended.

So here's roll call of all my spindling from the week. Pretty eh?

Tour de Fleece Week 1

I've been pleasantly surprised by how quickly these spindled yarns are working up. I think it's because I can pick up the spindle for very brief sessions of spinning, whereas I only tend to sit at the wheel when I know I have at least 1/2 free to devote to it. Which is why I've only completed a tiny bit of the laceweight I'm planning to wheel-spin for the Tour, really must get on and get some more of that done... My only regret with the spindled yarns is that they do tend to end up as smaller skeins than the wheel-spun ones, because my spindles don't hold as much fibre in one go. Which means more joining when I knit the yarns up, one of my least favourite exercises in knitting.

Speaking of knitting, after some serious trauma (involving much frogging and tinking, and some yelling and stomping) I have at last made excellent progress on my Swallowtail shawl.

Swallowtail Shawl

I've finally made it beyond the first 15 rows, hurrah! Many thanks to Queen of the Froggers for her tip on using stitch markers to mark the pattern repeats. It was after putting the markers in that the pattern finally started to make sense, I'm going to use them in every lace project from now on (yes, that means that I'm actually considering other lace projects, so it must be good!).

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted an unintended hole in the knitting, on the left about halfway down. For the not so eagle-eyed, it's here:

Swallowtail booboo

I spotted it when I laid the shawl out to take the photo, at which point I rushed to find a safety pin and perform a rescue operation.

Swallowtail - the rescue

It looks as though one of my decrease stitches wasn't as secure as it should have been, and then I mistakenly lifted a stitch in the row above it so my stitch count didn't show the problem. Left without rescue, this could have sabotaged the whole project, as I think it could have ravelled a long way down. Thankfully, the safety pin held the problem in check until I could perform surgery. I've now managed to graft the hole together again and it barely shows. I'd show photos, but I'd put the camera away by that time so I could concentrate on the delicate repair operation (it was like a knitting version of ER).

I'm now forging ahead with knitting the border, surprisingly the 'nupps' (little bobbles, very cute looking) are working up really well. I'm using a tip I found on Ravelry to knit them sl3, p2tog, instead of the pattern's recommended p5tog which could have been very messy. Don't want to sound over-confident, but I'm hoping I'll have a finished shawl to show you soon!

I'm also hoping I'll have cute foal pics to show, as Krissie and Inara are coming home tomorrow, yay! In view of the stress I had when loading Krissie to travel to the stud, I've booked a horse transporter with a lorry to bring them home. He sounds fab, and the stud staff have said I don't even need to be there to help load the horses up. They seem confident that they can get even a sticky loader to box ok, and they've been so professional about everything else that I have no reason to doubt it. So all I have to do is wait for mare and foal to arrive home tomorrow lunch time. I can't wait!

Oh and before I finish, here's a sneak preview of the wools I've dyed for the Wildcraft shop this weekend.

Wildcraft Rovings Wildcraft Rovings

This batch's colour themes were: heathlands, coasts and skies. I'll be putting them up in the shop during the next couple of days, along with the long-promised drop spindles.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Tour de Fleece, Part 1

So, the Tour de Fleece starts today (as does the Tour de France), so it's time I explain my spinning plan. Well I call it a plan, it's more a list of stuff to do, along with some pretty pictures of fibre from my spinning stash.

I've divided my projects into two types, the spinning-wheel project (there's only one wheel project but it's a biggy), and the rest are on my lovely new spindles.

On my wheel (a Majacraft Rose) I plan to spin this:

Tour De Fleece - Merino Silk

It's some merino-silk top that I dyed as a trial run for Wildcraft. From it I plan spin a whole skein of 2-ply laceweight yarn (proper laceweight, say 24-30 wpi) – sufficient for a small shawl (which might end up being a woven shawl, given that I'm still engaged in a battle of wits with my swallowtail lace one). The colourway of the fibre is called 'Wild Rose', and the colours match the two cakes of shetland top that Belaybunny bought from me recently - I think she's planning to spin laceweight from hers too, so it'll be interesting to see how the colours compare when spun up. I've never managed to spin a big skein of proper laceweight, the finest I've done so far is about a thick 4-ply weight, and I usually get bored after around 100 metres. For the Tour I hope to spin finer stuff, and to stick with the project until I've finished the whole of that 100gram plait of merino/silk.

While my wheel is taken up with the laceweight project, I'll also aim to spin as much yarn as I can on my drop spindles. (which are more portable than the wheel, so I'll have no excuse not to spin every day!). I'll be working on dk and sock weight yarns, and I'm going to focus on getting getting sufficient twist in the yarn, especially in the plying stage, which is often the bit that lets me down. I want to make some lovely twisty sock yarns and cosy tightly twisted dk's that will make a cute hat or gloves. To make the yarns I'll use more of my hand-dyed fibres, I've picked a few that didn't make the grade for the shop, or were trial runs - and here they are:

Apple Blossom superwash BFL (the green came out brighter and less natural looking than I intended when I dyed it, but it's a lovely soft fibre:

Superwash BFL - 'Apple Blossom'

A small braid of Shetland in 'Last of the Lavender' colours. This was dyed with the dyes that were left over after I did my recent 'lavender' colourway for the shop:

Shetland "Last of the Lavender"

And this BFL/silk blend, which is in 'Harlequin' colours. This was an early trial at dyeing coloured top.


I've made a start on spinning the Apple Blossom fibre already (actually, I started on Thursday's SnB meetup, but I'm counting that as a warm-up :) ). It's spinning up very quickly, and I'm loving the new spindle that I'm using (another prototype made by my mum, she's getting really good at these). At around 35grams, this spindle's lighter than the one I blogged about earlier and spins at just the right speed for the dk and 4-ply yarns I want to make.


In other, non-spinning news, Inara and Krissie are both doing very well. I visited them earlier in the week, to find that Inara's looking very bright and perky, and has developed an interest in sniffing fingers. Very cute...

Inara with her mum

They'll be coming home either next weekend, or very shortly after. I can't wait!