Aug 31, 2010

Busy People and a bout of Bronchitis.

Last week I just commented to a friend at work how I had still managed not to get a cold, and we both touched wood. By 4pm I had a sore throat and was getting a sniffle. The next morning my nose was like a tap, my throat was sandpaper, and my belly was complaining. But I went to a morning course in maths for primary school teacher-aides. By the evening I was coughing and had a nasty headache. I started my inhaler. Please don't let it turn into bronchitis...
2 days of lots of sleeping and slight temperatures followed, the coughing seemed under control. It got worse over the weekend (always on the weekend), and my doctor declared me still unfit for work on Monday; bronchitis, yet again. So tiring those coughing fits... sick of it!

But some of my family-members have been busy people lately. Here's my bloke giving the flowering cherry a bit of a trim. Some big branches are causing too much shadow on the vege-patch in the summer, so out came the chainsaw and chaps. It filled up the whole trailer!

And he put up some scaffolding loaned from a friend. Some of the planks underneath the roof need replacing, before the birds start nesting again.

Our youngest has started a course in floral art, and she is loving it. She likes to work with her hands. Her paternal grandfather, Opa L. is good at this too , and also her maternal grandmother, Oma M. She was a member of her local floral art club and won many prizes.

A big table piece, the only spot we could have it for a week.
I like this too with all the pink lillies and purple orchids. I am very impressed with my 16 year old finding different options in life !
I don't have the energy at the moment to do anything big. I am just pleased to re-read some of my favourite magazines. And dream about a clutter free home (yeah right!) and new projects to make.
When I buy home magazines, I usually go for the spring and summer editions. The winter decors always look too dark here in Hawkes' Bay.

In the last holidays I made myself a necklace. The idea for it had already been spooking around in the back of my head for more than a year. I have been influenced and inspired by reading Nina Bagley's blog Ornamental. But I can't just copy someone else's work ofcourse. And I don't really have all her skills in metal working either, so I had to find my own way of including words. Words that I like.
I taught myself to play with silver wire and pliers, and putting on hooks and closures etc.
I included jade and handmade porcelain and shell beads, silk ribbon and fancy yarn, and an acorn cup to make it look like a nest. I cut the word "forest" from an old book.
I like wearing it and it hangs well. Now I have more ideas (ofcourse) for different colour schemes or seasons or natural scenery.
It just never stops. Which makes me very happy!

Aug 28, 2010

It's a Wrap! and another Old Lady.

This is my other Old Lady in the hallway. She's in better condition and works very smoothly and silently. It has a hand crank on the side, so cute. According to her serial number, she has also been made in Scotland and is from 1945.

Beautifully decorated with golden swirls, very stylish. Again the machine comes away from the wooden base to store things underneath, but it also has a little compartment under the wheel with a lid. I have never sewn with it, so I don't know if it does other stitches than straight stitch. I doubt it. I think it used to have a little motor attached(in a very ugly way) but that has been taken off.

Another shank-plate from a third singer , in extremely bad shape. I don't have that one anymore, it was dumped years and years ago. This was the only bit that was still nice. I have used it as a pendant around my neck a few times in the past. It has a handy hole in it.

I am part of a group of felters that come together so now and then. So far we are an informal group ( I hate committee meetings etc.) that just pay a few dollars for the use of the hall, the coffee and tea, have a great productive day together, share gossip and ideas, and go home again. Lately we have been meeting in a new place, and they want to meet twice a month. 2 Weeks ago I 've managed to be productive and made this lovely wrap.
The wool has been "nuno"-felted onto a forest-green organza fabric. Because the fabric is sheer and has an open weave , the wool fibres have travelled through the organza, shrunk and "grabbed" the fabric. The fabric doesn't shrink along with the wool, so it starts to wrinkle up, giving it a very tactile texture. It feels quite elastic.
It is still featherlight, but warmer with the folds and bubbles and merino wool.
I made it in 1 day, and though I explained it in a few sentences, it was serious hard work.
It took much rolling in blinds with hot soapy water, and rubbing, and bending over and in the end picking up and slapping down again.
For a while I didn't think it was going to "take"; the wool was lifting off the organza and felting to itself. A bit of a panicky moment, since I had already worked on it for a good number of hours. But with patience and gentle coaching it came right.
Yes I was sore the next day, especially my arms. But I was very pleased. This is how a well felted nuno piece should look. In my eyes....

You can see how thin the fabric is. The wool was laid on in one continuous long winding squiggle . The colours change from greens to rusty orange and a little silk is included.

Our eldest, home for mid-term break , is modeling the wrap. Thanks honey!
Check out the daffodils in the background. And the apricot blossoms came out yesterday. The doors could be left open today. Spring is getting very near!!!

Aug 24, 2010

My old machine and my new wool.

So I have had a go at making fancy yarns. I made one little skein with blues and silver, and the other with blues, silver and sea-greens. The blue skein has little nubs or cocoons added to it with white silk and silver fibres and is plied with a thin handspun blue merino.

The sea-green one has mint coloured silk nubs added, and was plied with a commercially spun blue-green wool thread.

Making the little nubs was tricky at first, I had to stop and break off the unspun wool, then wind on the silk from a different angle, then put on the blue sliver again, and half a metre or so later do it all over again. But fun!! And I love the results. Each ball of wool is only about 50 grams or so, you could use it for a decorative touch.
Last weekend I had my first Napier Craft Market stall, hopefully the first of many. I offered them for sale, however I sold 2 balls of 100gr plain yarn in maroon and purply-blue.

I have recently read 2 other blogs in which the lovely writers wrote about their sewing machines. So I thought I'd introduce one of mine. This old lady sits in my hallway, and is just for looking at. I don't know the model name, but I do know the serial number. And I have found out that she was made in 1933, and came all the way from Scotland.
All her decorations are quite Egyptian looking, in a stylized art deco way, which was very popular in the thirties. There are even winged scarab beetles in the middle , with a dung ball!

This highly decorative (and slightly rusty) metal plate unscrews to reveal a hole in the shank, so you can get to the inner workings of the machine.

Not a single bit of this machine has been left un-decorated! I'm sorry, but todays machines just look cheap and nasty compared to this. Although somewhat easier to carry....
Yes you can open the box by lifting the machine sideways like a lid. You can store attachments underneath. It moves quite smoothly still, and apparantly today's needles fit on.
Considering my daughter's laptop is now so ancient ( 5 years...!) that they have stopped making power supplies for it( it blew up, so no more power for the machine), there is something to be said for machines that can still be made to work after 80 years of service.
I can attach this machine to my singer treadle table and use footpower to make it go.

Aug 1, 2010

Where I Spin You A Yarn.

It is definitely still winter, and although we don't get snow here in Hawke's Bay, and even though sometimes we can actually sit outside with our lunch, to catch some sunrays for making vitamin d, that southerly wind is so icy cold! There is no landmass between Antarctica and us to warm up the air.
Combined with the bucket loads of rain we are having this winter, at times it is perfectly miserable... I am missing our eldest girl, and I miss my 2 mums terribly at the moment. So for me the best way of getting past that feeling is to make new things, try new techniques.
I have been getting back into spinning lately. Always a good winter past-time.
Here is a little "yarn"(story) with pictures about some rainbow dyed wool, which I had bought in the past at the Christchurch art centre.

They sold it like this all tied into a wonderful knot. It was about 120 gram of merino wool. Now how to keep the colours flowing from one to another without them becoming muddy and how to get the colours to repeat in the yarn.....
Half the length of the sliver (or roving) of wool had quite different colours, so I split the sliver in half . Then I split each sliver lengthways in 4 thinner slivers.
I made sure that I could start each bit of sliver at the same end (at the blue end in the top 4 and at the yellowy-brown end in the bottom 4).
In this way I would spin 1 from the top row, 1 from the bottom row, 1 from the top row ,etc. so that the colours would keep repeating in the continuous yarn.
Here an action photo (excuse the blurriness ) of my hands and feet at work. I bought myself a lovely hook (to pull the yarn through the hole) many years ago. It is made of the tip of a deer antler and it fits very comfortably in my hand with it's natural curve. From the same wool supply shop in Christchurch.
Here you can see the bobbin filling up with the coloured "single" yarn. Just imagine you can hear soft whirring and purring sounds.
This is my first spinning-wheel, I bought her secondhand when I first learned to spin about 13 years ago.
Ma-L came with me to check that nothing was missing on the machine and the wheel wasn't warped. She then taught me (and 2 girlfriends as well) how to spin, with a great deal of laughter and giggling. This wheel is an Ashford "Traditional"and (after checking their website) was probably made between 1965 and 1967. (So was I!)
I named her Gertrude and she needs lots of love and oil. She can be a little stubborn sometimes, and I need to growl her, when she won't take up the yarn properly.
I have 4 spinning-wheels, all from the Ashford company.
So back to my yarn; here is some of it , now plied together with a commercial thin wool yarn. When you ply the single with another yarn, the yarn has to go back through the wheel for a second time at the same time as another thread. They wrap around each other making a stronger yarn. This time the wheel goes in the opposite direction then when you spun the single yarn.
In spinning terms a 2-ply yarn simply means 2 threads together. You can actually ply lots of yarns together getting different effects.
I used a commercial wool this time to make the 120 grams go further. By combining the colours with white wool the overall colour is lighter and more pastel.

After having plied 2 normal bobbins full unto a "jumbo"bobbin, I leave it to sit overnight. This helps to settle the wool into it's new shape.
The next day I wind it off the bobbin, which is slotted on a "Lazy Kate"(don't you just love all the technical terms...?) onto a "Niddy-Noddy" (hahaha!) to form a hank of wool.

I tie the yarn loosely together in about 4 places and now comes the test when I take the hank off the niddy-noddy. Will it hang still and loose, or will it twist onto itself, due to overspinning or over-plying.
Not bad, you can see there is a slight twist towards the bottom of the hank . When the wool is in a hank it is easier to wash. This wool was already dyed , so it wasn't dirty, but washing sets the twist.
After washing gently by hand I whip the hank through the air a couple of times to stretch the fibres and then hang to dry over a stick, partly in the shade. Pegs leave squeeze marks in the yarn. After this is dry I wind it into a ball with my ball-winder.
So how many times did the fibres go through my hands during this process...? Spinning, plying, niddy-noddy-ing, washing, and ball-winding. That's why handspun yarn ought to be more expensive than commercial yarn. It is totally labour-intensive.
I wonder if New-Zealand is one of the only countries where you can find all these wooly gadgets in 2nd-hand-shops...