Old skills applied to old new to me toys make me feel like I’m learning all over again.
The little ancient Saxony wheel is up and running, or plodding. The effort to keep it going wears my right hip out, but it will be authentic to the period when spinning in costume. The first skein of yarn off of it is only marginally better than the first skein that I ever spun.
I have to admit, since I only had two bobbins and they were full of the singles, it was plyed on the Louet. Now there are 3 bobbins.
The quill for the Great Wheel came and it was just an ornament for a few days while videos were watched and study of why the 49″ diameter wheel seemed to tilt inward at the top, causing the drive band to walk off. It is difficult enough to learn a new technique when the equipment if functioning correctly. It appears that the axle that holds the wheel on was not at right angle to the post holding the axle. Upon close examination, it looked like a not very good repair had been made at some point and with much effort, half a dozen or so old square headed nails were removed from around it, allowing it to be removed and reset at the correct angle.
A bit more effort and the wheel was remounted, but touched the supporting table. More is being learned about antique wheel maintenance than I believed was possible. The upright that holds the wheel had to be removed and shimmed so that the wheel cleared the table. Tonight some singles have been spun on that wheel. Not really the prettiest, but a beginning.
The other new fiber toy that came home the same weekend as the Great Wheel is the supported spindle. That is another learning curve. A drop spindle was the first spinning that I did and began doing it about 7 ot 8 years ago, but the support spindle is a different technique, so three new techniques to learn in just a couple of months.
There can be no more. There is no more room to store and use the wheels and spindles, no room for other crafts in “my space,” a corner of the loft with my chair, three spinning wheels, Lazy Kate, Swift, spinning stool, bookcase of spindles and fiber books, and crates of Cabin Crafted stock.
This is my cozy corner to learn, relax, read, spin, and knit. Back to honing my skills so I don’t look like a total novice on April 1, the first day back at Smithfield Plantation.
It is March, the most changeable month of our seasons. Three days ago it was in the 70’s, then the rain came, the wind blew, trees around the region fell and with them the temperature. Today it is barely at freezing and this. . .
Yes, that is snow folks. Only a light dusting, but this is what we expect this time of year, not 70+ºf. Tonight it drops into the teens. If the sun comes out, the garlic will get another blanket of hay or a piece of row cover to keep the 9 inch shoots from burning to the ground. In town, the flowering almonds, daffodils, and forsythia are blooming. We have a young maple with flowers and tiny leaves. It is weeks too soon.
The chickens fled back into their coop as soon as the flurries began this morning. Those birds just don’t like snow. The dozen new chicks get picked up in 10 days. Their abode needs to be set up this weekend so that the warming table can get the environment right for them when they come home. So far, Tractor Supply has done a great job of keeping me from buying a few Welsummers as the two times we have gone down, the bins have been empty. It wouldn’t work out too well to have 4 chicks almost 2 weeks older than the tiny Buff’s coming home with us soon. The brooder coop sides that remained plastic last year still need to be enclosed within the next 6 weeks.
Mother Earth News alerted me that the onion sets can be put out under cover. To do that, another day of moving compost is in order. There is still a big pile and 2 empty boxes to fill.
Over the winter, steps were taken to make spinning at the Smithfield Plantation House a bit more authentic. Two antique wheels entered our home, both have had parts made or repaired by Bobbin Boy and returned. The little Saxony style wheel, the older of the two spins. The effort to spin on her is much greater than on the contemporary wheel, but yarn has been made.
It is a bit rougher than yarn generally spun by me, but it is yarn! Yesterday an attempt to spin on the great wheel was made. Something isn’t aligned quite right and the drive band walks off the back edge. The wheel does not have a groove and it was suggested that a beeswax paste be thinly smeared down the center to help hold it, but it still moves off the back. It is hard to learn properly when so much attention is given to keeping the drive band string in place. Also during the winter, additions were made to the costume that is worn while spinning at the plantation. A Dormeuse/Mob cap, Apron, and Fichu/kerchief were added to improve the look. A gown should also be worn, but that is not in the budget right now, plus it gets terribly hot in the weaver’s cottage during the summer months. Here is the new look.
One of the issues with the petticoat (skirt) was that it was one long panel with a single seam and a drawstring of ribbon. It was awkward and bulky at the waist. Some of the re-enactors and seamstresses on Ravelry, the social network for fiber artists, gave me some pointers on how to deal with that issue. Yesterday, the drawstring was removed, the single panel split into two, hidden pockets added to the front panel and the side seams resewn to the bottom of the pockets. Cotton twill tape was added to the tops of the two panels distributing the fullness and stitched in place. The back twill is tied in the front, then the front overlaps the back a few inches on each side and ties in the back. It is so much more comfortable and now I have pockets for my very nontraditional keys needed to get there and for my Hussif, a small needle book, that has needles, pins, thread, and my tiny scissors.
The Hussif, a contraction of the word housewife, was carried my many people, women of the house, pages, soldiers, and sailors. It is a small rolled sewing kit. Mine doubles as both a small sewing kit and a tiny knitting notions kit with the addition of a cable needle, a few stitch markers, needle gauge, and a tape measure.
Traditionally, each pocket was made of a different fabric and was used to contain the necessary tools of a sewing repair kit.
Participation as a historical spinner is encouraging me to learn more of the period, customs, and terms. The location is beautiful, though earlier this week, a very old, maybe 300 year old maple tree on the property fell. Not during the storm, which is probably a good thing, as with little wind, it fell away from the forge shop into the yard. During the storm, it might have taken a different path down. The lead blacksmith rallied a group and the trunk and larger branches have been salvaged and once dried, will be made into tables, benches, handles for tools and knives. Saving a bit of the area’s old history.
The garden box per month purchase idea got sidelined this winter somehow. Today some catch up was in order. Home Depot had 4 complete boxes of the 4×4′ ones and several 4×8′ ones that though they were made of the same parts minus 4 slats as two of the smaller ones, cost more than twice as much. The price was higher than the 2 purchased in the fall. We came home with the 4 and with what is in the garden already will allow me to combine sets and end up with an extra 4×4 once corner posts of some sort are found.
Tomorrow the rain will be gone and an attempt to put the new ones in place with more paths mulched will occur. It is almost onion set and pea seed planting time. Home Depot already had cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli starts.
Tractor supply got some chicks in today. We live halfway between two stores so both were called. One only had meat chicks, the other got Welsummers and Americaunas. Oh the temptation to add some Welsummers with their dark reddish brown eggs, but saner heads prevailed. New Country Organics, 2 hours from us will be getting several heritage breeds of chicks in early March but you had to reserve them. A dozen straight run Buff Orpington chicks were reserved today and a day trip in a few weeks is in order with a tub to haul them home. That store has been on my agenda for a while so this will be an opportunity to visit and get some garden supplements in time to make the seed starter mix.
The cowl out of my handspun silk is dry, soft, and beautiful. Because I don’t care for tight things around my neck, I added one pattern repeat. Lovely pattern, Pretty Thing by Stephanie Pearl McFee aka The Yarn Harlot.
This week has been an emotional wreck. The grandson that lives with us is with his Mom, Sister, and “Dad.” His biological father lived in Florida and without sharing details, passed away on Wednesday afternoon. Grandson had been told about a week before that he wasn’t doing well and couldn’t talk on the phone on the scheduled day, but it was still very hard news for him to take and for daughter to have to deliver to him. They are awaiting information on the service so they can go down and let the young man be there. It is hard, he is 10, and as my sister reminded me, children his age are still too young to fear death, though I’m sure he will have his share of tough moments over the next few weeks. I still do over my Dad’s passing and it has been 14 months.
The week has been up and down with the weather as well, and the changes are causing allergy symptoms for some in the house, weather related headaches for others, and confusion for the animals as they go out to freezing wind one day and temperatures that invite playing in the creek the next. Each day is a debate of what to wear, the uniform has become a short sleeve t shirt with a sweatshirt or fleece over it, a parka added if necessary. Gloves stay in pockets when needed. Some days, the layers stay on, some days peel down to the t shirt.
If we hadn’t had to cancel our ski trip, we would have arrived home late last night from a week in Colorado. We missed not only the skiing, but also the company of our cousins who are wonderful hosts when we visit them. Instead of sharing our anniversary dinner with them as we did 4 years ago, we just enjoyed each other’s company at one of the finer restaurants in town, a great 4 course meal that was delicious.
Last night, the cowl that was being knit from the silk that I had spun was finished. It is beautiful and is blocked and drying.
The weekend approaches, our usual breakfast and Farmers Market Saturday, tomorrow and more vendors are beginning to return with early greens, so good food will be had next week.
My spinning is improving on my little antique spinning wheel.
Generally it doesn’t throw the drive band, but the upright nearest the spinner still moves some and causes the wheel to skew and throw the band. The next time it jumps off, the upright is going to be wrapped in a few rounds of waxed hemp thread to see if that will tighten it enough to hold its position. The peg under the table also needs to be forced in tighter to help. The missing part for the new antique walking wheel is being made and when it returns, another learning curve for me as a spinner. Also improvement is noted with the support spindle that we got last weekend.
It has snowed all day. Nothing is sticking, it is mountain snow showers, but the high was at 7 a.m. and it was below freezing then. The wind has howled all day long. This weather system according to NOAA is the system that spawned the major snowstorm up the east coast of the US. And yesterday it was in the upper 60’s.
My new parka has been most welcome today, as this was school and preschool days, a book reserved at the library arrived and needed to be collected, parts to fix the kitchen faucet came in, a special order from the grocer also arrived, plus it was Spinning Group day and one of my fellow en-actors at Smithfield House Plantation was coming to give me a lesson on how to warp the backstrap loom that was acquired a few months ago. The spinning group was large and boisterous, having a lot of fun while D and I sat on the floor and got the loom set up and got me started with weaving on it.
Because of the arthritis from old shoulder and wrist injuries, drop spindle spinning, my portable spinning has had to be curtailed. There is another type of portable spinning that involved a spindle that is supported in a bowl or dish in your lap or on a low table and my interest in learning this has been piqued. One style was purchased online, then a different style was found on the fiber social network, and in inquiring about purchasing it, found out the gal selling lives just a few minutes from eldest son. We already have a weekend trip to see them scheduled for this weekend, so I will get to meet this other spinner who is also homesteading a small acreage and pick up the spindle directly from her. What a fun coincidence.
The bottom one is the one we will pick up Saturday.
If Phil had come out today instead of yesterday, he would not have seen his shadow. It is thick and gray. It looks like it could snow, but there is none in the forecast. Even the weekend storm threat has dissipated, so there should be no missed school next week. It is cold, each day this week has been colder by 10 or more degrees than the day before. It was near the upper 60’s on Tuesday and it won’t reach freezing today with a low in the shivering teens. We have had wind this week too, though today is calm. One day, the wind took out our power for nearly 7 hours before they found the tree on the line and did some major pruning about a mile down the road.
With the lengthening daylight hours, the hens are picking up egg production. Yesterday there were 5 eggs out of the 7 hens.
It amuses me to see the variation on the size and color of the eggs from the Buffys. The top two right and the bottom left are all Buff Orpington eggs. The top left is the Americauna and the bottom right is the Americauna/Buff Orpington cross. The seller of the Buff Orpington pullets that were to increase the flock must not really be interested in selling as they have not gotten back with me though they have email and phone number to arrange the sale and pick up. Hopefully the girls will be prolific this year and provide us with enough chicks to replenish the predator loss and still give us enough for the freezer.
The Fibonacci Infinity scarf is still growing.
There is a 13 row white repeat to go, then pick up the blue with the white and finally the blue with the merlot. It is already as long as my legs and very heavy due to it being a tube. It will definitely be a warm scarf. The silk cowl at the top is growing, it is about 70% done, only getting attention when I am the car passenger instead of the driver.
The Leicester Longwood, a bit finer than the yarn for the scarf is on the wheel. Hopefully, it will make a knitted fabric that is more sweater friendly after a swatch or two trying different needles. This week, my Spanish Peacock drop spindle went to a new home as it caused too much strain and pain in my shoulders. The proceeds from that sale bought a new supported spindle and bowl. That is a learning process and some of the soft California Red roving is being used to learn. This still allows for portable spinning with less strain on the shoulders and elbows.
This is definitely a learning curve. The spindle spins nicely, but my drafting of the fiber is still very inconsistent and trying to avoid the park and draft technique makes it more of a challenge.
The best made plans sometimes go astray. We had planned a week long trip to Colorado in early February to stay with cousins and ski. Bought the airfare in October, reserved ski rentals, then a medical issue arose and the trip had to be cancelled. The cancellation of the ski rentals was easy. The airfare, not so much. We had paid extra for the insurance that assured us that in case of a medical issue, the airfare would be refunded, after all, we are senior citizens. NOT! It can be refunded if the medical issue precludes travel at all, certified by the doctor, not just if the reason for the trip has been forbidden by the doctor. We now have airfare for 2 that must be used before a year from the date of the original ticket purchase.
Okay, so we start looking for other options. One option requires us to have current passports. Ours are expired. We were going off to get our photos retaken in a few days, the paperwork was all filled out, and the entire senior staff of the State Department walked out. Guess that will delay things there for a while.
My spinning group meets on Thursdays. Getting there was already a bit of a challenge for me because we pick up granddaughter at preschool at 12:15-12:30 window, she must be fed, and there is no way to get home and back to town again in time which means taking two cars to town, but one of the cars has been acting up of late. Sometimes it just won’t start, not a grind, click, anything. The dash lights come on, the radio works, the battery indicator is strong, it just won’t start, but not consistently and the dealer can’t duplicate it to repair so we have been hesitant to drive it much. We were going to today anyway so I could go spin and socialize, but then we got a call that grandson had to be picked up at school and granddaughter is supposed to be napping. Another plan foiled.
Instead, of socializing with the other spinners, I am sitting home spinning my Leicester Longwood and knitting a cowl from the silk that I spun a couple of weeks ago. I just couldn’t put it in my shop, it called to me to make something luxurious just for me.
In addition to keeping the household of 4 adults, 2 children, 3 big dogs, 3 cats running, raising chickens for our eggs and some meat, making soap, balms, salves, and beard products for my online shop and craft shows, I love fiber arts. I sew, knit, crochet, and spin fiber into yarn for my own use and for sale in the shop and shows.
A couple of years ago, we were flying on a vacation, I took knitting with me to help occupy the time and keep me settled on the plane (I’m not a huge fan of flying). The project that I took was socks for one of the grandson’s for Christmas, Batman socks. I had black and gold yarns and I wanted to put the Batman emblem on the cuff of each sock. I rummaged through my bag and could not find a piece of graph paper though I usually carried a small graph paper notebook and ended up drawing a grid on the back of a receipt and graphing out the emblem. Several days into the vacation, we were shopping in one of the native markets and I spotted a small woven fabric covered notebook cover with a graph paper pad in it. It was inexpensive and I purchased one. The pad got used up over time and I discovered that it was a non standard size and unavailable in the USA or on any online store I could scare up. It was larger than the pocket Moleskine or Fieldnotes books, smaller than the medium Moleskine variety and it had to be side bound with staples, not a spiral. The cover sat idle and empty, but I liked it. Recently, it occurred to me that I could use the woven part of the cover and repurpose it with some added fabric to make it fit a standard size. My very talented and crafty sister in law was called on with several questions, many ideas, and finally, bravely, I cut the notebook cover in half, removed the binding, made a new liner, spine, and binding that enlarged it enough to handle a standard notebook.
This required setting up the sewing machine and pulling out the sewing box. They are in the dormer in our bedroom where I have a handmade walnut table, pottery lamp, and shelving to store my yarn and fabric.
Compared to many of my friends in the fiber arts, I am a lightweight. Most of them have multiple wheels, looms, sewing machines. I do have two wheels or I will once the antique one has all of its parts back. But the rest of my equipment will fit into a tote bag.
The Louët has a built in Lazy Kate for plying, but I don’t like it, so I use the one my son made me for Christmas.
A swift and two different sized Niddy Noddys for winding yarn into skeins from a bobbin.
And two different sized Lucets for making cord.
An assortment of various drop spindles for portable spinning.
Hand carders for combing unprocessed clean wool.
A backstrap loom, that I need an instructor to teach me to set it up for weaving.
With one set of interchangeable knitting needles, one set of double pointed knitting needles in various sizes, a few fixed circular knitting needles, and several crochet hooks, I have all I need for spinning, sewing, knitting or crocheting.
It will all fit nicely in a beautiful hand made tote from a friend.
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Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.
Now that the silk is spun, plyed, and ready to knit, I have returned to spinning Priscilla. She is a Leicester Longwool sheep that belongs to a friend, owner of Sunrise Valley Farm, raised locally. I stumbled upon her delightful wool at our Farmers Market one Saturday morning. I purchased a small bag of 8 ounces of the roving and fell in love. At the time I didn’t know it came from Priscilla, but after I bought the second 8 ounces, I was told and I asked for more. I have spun many ounces, dyed some with Annatto seed and with Country Classics wool dye.
The yellow gold and the lavender are some of what I dyed and the white is the natural roving. Initially, my plan was to knit a Fair Isle pull over sweater to wear on a ski trip to Colorado this winter. Those plans have had to be aborted and the yoke of the sweater was so heavy that the yarn was pulled out, rewound, and is now being worked into a Fibonacci Infinity Scarf instead. You see the beginning of it in the photo above and more of it below.
I am working the third sequence at this point and will switch to lavender and natural at the end of this sequence. I am much more likely to wear the scarf than a very heavy sweater.
That said, I have enough of Priscilla to still knit a sweater for me, but I will use a different pattern and larger needles to make the fabric lighter and more drapey.
I have hopes that this spring, once the lambs are born, that I may have the opportunity to drive to the farm and see the lambs and perhaps finally meet Priscilla. I was invited last year and never made it over.
Night before last, another friend, a country neighbor that is the lead blacksmith at the Smithfield Plantation House where I sometime get to spin, came over with his wife and he was able to straighten the metal crank part of my antique spinning wheel so that the vertical part of the footman no longer walks off when I treadle it.
It still requires a leather washer, but each repair gets the wheel closer to being a working wheel. The parts that I had to ship to Bobbin Boy have been repaired and are in the mail back to me. I had hoped that they would have arrived today, but not yet. The split in the upright that hold the wheel has been glued and if that doesn’t hold, I will try some lashing near the point where the shaft of the wheel hub rests. The last resort will be to ship that off to Bobbin Boy to have a new piece manufactured by them.
Today is another day of mud and gloom. The prognosticators indicate that it may partially clear off this afternoon, but expect heavy rain on Sunday and Monday. The chicken pen is a muddy mess, the coop not much better. I think a bale of straw is needed in the coop instead of the pine chips I had to use last time I cleaned it, and a heavy layer of spoiled hay around the outside of the coop to try to tame the mud and muck. To walk into the pen is taking your life in your hands right now as it is sloped, slick, and soft enough to suck your boots clean off. Most of the spoiled hay that was put down after the snow has been scratched into the mud.
No more mice have been caught in the car fortunately, but with the wet warm weather, they are trying to get into the house now. The utility room trap has been busy of late. This morning, after dropping granddaughter off at preschool, I stopped to get the oil changed in my old lady. I’m really trying to keep her going over 200,000 miles and we are getting close to that. She will be a dozen years old in a couple of months. The mini lube place that I took her always try to sell you more services and when the guy brought the cabin filter in for me to see, it was truly fowled between the dusty road and driveway (when we aren’t in monsoon season) and the contributions from the mouse that I caught earlier in the week in the car. They did vacuum the cab and remove the last remnants of the little mouse’s nest that I had removed prior to setting the trap.
The young Buffy roo is testing his voice. I don’t name the hens, but I do name the king of the coop. He is replaced each year or so as his spurs get long and dangerous and he gets more aggressive. There is always a new cockerel out of the hatchlings that can be put in with the girls after breeding season, and the old tough guy goes to the stew pot at son’s house. We have had B’rooster, Cogburn, and a couple others. This guy is Mr. Croak. Maybe his voice will mature, but now he sounds like an adolescent male whose voice cracks. He is about 7 months old, beginning to show spurs, has a nice plume of a tail and a funny voice.
Over the weekend, I began spinning a part of my Tailfeathers subscription from last year from Unplanned Peacock. It was a generous 100 grams (actually more like 125 grams) of pure silk top. The gorgeous colorway was called Sequoia, greens, a little yellow, some white. I took my time spinning it, I wanted a thin, even, well balanced yarn.
I started by dividing the top in half, hoping to get fairly equal bobbins of singles to ply.
Once it was all spun, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to ply onto only one bobbin, but I spent the afternoon plying. It was a soft as butter as it spun, a delight to handle.
It was a full bobbin, very full and this is a truer representation of the color. It is very even, fingering to baby weight and so soft.
I ended up with 335 yards of delightful yarn. It doesn’t have a plan, maybe it will go in the shop, maybe knit into a small shawl or cowl. This was the second time I have spun silk, the first time was totally on one of my drop spindles. Another lovely skein of yarn.
Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family