Monday, 27 February 2012

Seven Days

I see Jacqui's posts on Seven Days and think it's a lovely way to reflect back on the last week. With the fog of illness now lifting, I'm doing more and taking more photos and on the blog more; so here are some snapshots from the last seven days here and a new header for Spring ...

 Alex spent time at Flatford Mill studying Mammals
famous mill of Constables Haywain, although altered in the painting

 we had adventures in the forest
Imogen did a bit of sewing

I've done some spinning

We planted a Medlar tree

discovered the Almond tree in blossom

found Frogspawn in the pond at the allotment

I washed and dried some fleece

Alex met some bats

and I did some knitting for charity

Was it supposed to be seven pictures, one for each day? Oops, well I couldn't decide so included some more.

Another lovely Spring week ahead, mild weather, lots to do. Wishing everyone a lovey week ahead.

Friday, 24 February 2012

I hearby declare ...

That Spring is here. Taking nature as my lead we have started sowing seeds for Spring and Summer planting and harvests.

In our little corner of England we have had a very mild winter, one scattering of snow and only a few frosts. We had a period of quite cold days, and frosty mornings but nothing like the Winter of the last 2 years, or what other areas further north have had.

We had things flowering still in December that really shouldn't have been - lavender for instance was still flowering. We've had snowdrops, daffodils and other spring flowers popping up much earlier. So early that many have been and gone and it's only February still. So much for the saying about snowdrops appearing for Imbolc or Candlemas day, they were out in all their glory here early in January. Some have gone, however there are more popping up now too. Crocusses are colouring our world and Daisies have been aplenty this week!

The greenhouses were cleared recently ready to temporarily host over 100 fruit trees, which have now almost all gone to their new homes. Amogst them is an apple tree for ourselves, this year we are adding an Egremont Russet to our fruit collection. So the permanent beds in there are ready to take some new crops and the trays and pots are ready to go.

Tender seedlings

Tomatoes and Chilies

Tomatoes and chilies  have been sown to germinate indoors in the windowsill, our greenhouses aren't heated so it's still a bit too cold at night for them out there. Not too cold for other seedlings though and as our soil is far from wet having had very little rainfall recently, the ground is ready.

So, other sowing going on this week are:
Broad Beans (didn't do an Autumn sowing last year, gone for Spring this year)
Lettuce and Salad leaves to top up and replace hardy winter varieties
Beet leaves and some early beetroots
Peas for planting on and pea shoots
Kohl rabi and early brassicas
Turnips (I think I saw some seeds in the tin)
(and probably others I've missed!)

Also perfect time for carrots, cucumbers (indoors), radish, leeks, parsnips, sprouts and many herbs. We are growing some of these, but not sowing all just yet. Obviously some of these would need frost protection still if sowing directly outdoors. Also good time for getting potatoes ready if growing them - we don't as our conditions just aren't the best for spuds. We will however be planting the Oca again but not just yet.

Other garden work this week has been some pruning of our monster Kiwi plants in preparation for being dug up and taken up to the allotment where there is more space for them. Freeing up the beds in the back garden that were somewhat lost to the shade of the kiwi last year.
Perennial bed - onions, perennial leek, sorrel and sea beet
red veined Sorrel

One of the square beds has already been planted up previously with some perennials that have overwintered well - some perennial onions I was given by a wonderful permaculture teacher and expert, a lovely red veined Sorrel and another green leaved Sorrel. I have now planted some Sea beet that we had in a pot last year, and also a recently bought Babbington Leek perennial plant. Yes, this bed is a perennial veg bed. More to be added to this as the year moves along.


Also bought recently was a Wasabi plant that Alex wanted. They apparently like wet and shade, and because of it's size we are going to put this in a larger pot somewhere shady otherwise I fear it would be lost in the garden.

And last but by no means least, we also recently bought another Fruit Tree. Alex was rather pleased with this acquisition and I have to agree. We dream one day of an orchard of them. Oh go on then I'll tell you what it is, it's a Medlar! I've often talked about medlars here since discovering their wonderful attributes a couple of years ago, they really are wonderful and I cannot wait to see fruit on this tree.

Medlar tree
 (excuse dirty hands, no I don't often wear gardening gloves!)

I love the onset of Spring, so many more lovely things to start sowing and growing. Looking forward to recording progress over the year, and to seeing what others are up to in their gardens and plots. So what are you growing or planning at the moment?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sow and Sew ...that's how it goes ...

This week we are sowing  these

 Off we go sowing

and Imogen is sewing these

 Concentrating on sewing
(and not pricking herself on the needle or pins!)

Using her lovely sewing box I put together for her for Christmas, the box was bought and then filled with goodies - needles, cottons, embroidery threads, fabric pieces ... and she loves it.

Sewing box and treasures within

It was accompanied by a fantastic book for children that I got for her - this one

"Knit It, Stitch It" by Jane Bull - on a great offer price at the Book People still at the moment, I bought it with a discount and free postage so a great bargain. This book is fantastic - it goes through knitting, sewing, embroidery, basic weaving and other craft/fabric fun. It is clear in showing different steps, different sewing stitches, etc and has many projects and ideas.

A fantastic book for children interested in sewing and knitting, would highly recommend it. Imogen loves it and wants to make everything. So far she has made herself a little beanie bag toy inspired by this and has started sewing a little bunny now too - but it's not finished yet.

 Imogens sewing creations

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Weekending and planning

I don't often blog at the weekends but have a few minutes this morning so thought I would as I think I  am getting back into the rhythm of blogging again, feeling better after the loooong horrible cold.

So this weekend has been a Guild meeting weekend, and great fun it was too. Committee meeting first which I seem to have been cajoled drawn into more this last year, hmmm not sure how that happened - but actually it isn't much extra "work" and I enjoy it, just so long as I keep saying no to the larger roles of chair, secretary and treasury! They are not really me.

Any way committee meeting was interesting talking about all sorts including the National exhibition that is not far away from us this year, lots of our members usually steward there so lots of requests for help on that. Talking also about having an exhibition ourselves but maybe 2013 as the national one is this year.

Talk of the rings for the unclassified entries too, hoping that most members will be sending in these - still working on what mine will be but I have an idea now so will share that some other time. Lots of chatting with members about articles for the newsletter including one of our members who got her Certificate of Achievement last year in Weaving (we've had spinners in the past too), she's writing a piece for the newsletter and her work will be at the national exhibition too, how exciting. I'd love to one day do the COA but wow what a lot of work in the spinning category. Maybe one day.

Also talk and planning some makes within the Guild for a large local charity - lots of ideas and plans there, hoping we can really achive something beautiful for children who need this hospice, and their families.

We had visitors at this meeting too - Woodland Turnery came (a long way from Pontypool) with their wares and knowledge, and shared with us in a talk about how they started, and their journey to now producing and repairing spinning wheels. Lovely people.

As the morning was partly taken up by the committee meeting, the rest was designated on the programme as spin and chat and Woodland Turnery were there for sales, advice and any wheel problems anyone had, I took a spinning wheel. Now often when I take my wheel, I get so caught up in other things that I don't spin even an inch of fibre. But this week after the meeting, chatting and catching up, checking out the library, I say and did some spinning - whoopee!

I also came home and enjoyed some spinning on another wheel at home - some of the lovely Cotswold fleece Kelly kindly sent me last year to try. I love the fleece in it's raw washed state, have tried different methods of preparation as it's a long staple and spun a few rolags. Just trying to figure out the best prep method as I seem to be getting bumps occasionally where the curly ends are. I don't really want to clip them, so will have a think on that one. It's nice wool, maybe in being stored by me a while it has compacted a little  so maybe that's not helped. (actually I think flick carding has really helped this - opening up the fibres).

So a fun day yesterday, today is chilly but lovely sunshine out there already, going to enjoy some of that today.

What no pictures? Maybe another day, things to do, places to go x

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Visit to the Mill

We often drive up (and down again) the A34 past Whitchurch. Pretty much every time, since I started spinning that is, I have thought to myself  "we really should go to Whitchurch Silk Mill one day". I then forget about it until the next time we drive up, or down, the A34.

So this week is half term and on Tuesday Alex had the day off, so on Monday I was thinking of something reasonably local that we could do. Nothing too much as we are all still fending off colds - mine has almost gone after being back and forth, Imogens keeps bouncing back at her, and Alex is full of his cold right now.

So amongst my thoughts, Whitchurch popped into my head. Suggested it to Alex and he was agreeable so that's where we headed Tuesday morning after a relaxing lie in.

Whitchurch Silk Mill is a 19th century water mill that continues to weave English silk fabrics using 19th century machinery. More of it's history can be read here.

You enter through the shop and out around the mill to the river feeding the water wheel. The first place you see is the carpenters workshop, above the water wheel and all the cogs that would provide power to the mill. You move on then to the bobbin rooms, each area having a video to watch about silk and the mill.

 A beautiful sight all those bobbins in a row and the skeins being wound
An attempt at a panoramic - looks nice even though the joins aren't smooth

The room was full of machinery which wound the skeins of silk from skein winders onto the bobbins. A beautiful sight with an array of lovely bright colours of the dyed silk.

 Gorgeously soft and bright silk skeins
 Warps being made and on display

The bobbins are put on a piece of equipment that looks like an upturned boat called a Creel and the threads are drawn from their to create the warp. An astonishing sight, all those tiny thin but very strong threads.

The Creel - we counted 180 bobbins in here and this is only part of a warp!
See the fine threads off to the left becoming the warp?
Boxes and baskets of bobbins around the room

You then proceed downstairs through the cafe and interactive area where you can have a go at weaving, look at fibres of all kinds - wools, plant fibres, silks, other animal fibres under a microscope; and of course the Victorian dressing up box - something Imogen always enjoys pausing at to dress up.


You then see the working looms downstairs weaving fabrics now, and all around are samples of their wares throughout the ages. In the cafe there are lots of pictures of fabrics they have woven and where they can or could be seen, including beautiful blue silks that adorned Queen Victoria's train carriage. In more recent years they have produced cloth for many shows and reproduction television shows, including the recent Downton Abbey series.

The working weaving looms
A sample of the rainbow to look at and feel

A lovely place to visit, our gift aided entry today also gave us a card for free return entry for a year. The outdoor area was lovely too, beautiful snowdrops on the banks of the river, crocuses amongst the lawn and Herons along the river too. You can see one in the pictures below but the closer you got, they flew away, can you see it in the second photo? There was a white one too - is that an Egret? You can see how they thrive here with the trout we spotted in the river.
Heron on the river and in flight

A lovely visit, one we shall return to no doubt. A recommended place to visit especially for anyone interested in textiles and weaving.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Cast on, knit ... hmmm ... rip back ... cast on, knit ...

That's how my knitting has been going recently!

But now things are improving so a few started projects to share today, and I'm linking up with the Yarn Along over on Ginny's blog. Finally got around to adding the link to my sidebar too!

Last year I spun a whole fleece from raw fleece from a farm nearby. A Zwartble/Suffolk cross, a lovely long bouncy soft wool in light grey. I love this wool! I love these fleeces and happily have more, even with sending out a couple of fleeces of it recently and hopefully will pick up more again this year.

I have ended up with more than 1kg of this fibre spun and plied, not sure of the yardage - may try and work that out though. Some I sent to other spinners to try, some has been used in other projects. With the remaining skeins I have wanted to knit myself something to wear with this wool. Queue lots of ravelry searches for something, deciding on a pattern and then changing my mind ... several times.

One of many cast-on projects

I finally settled on something in the New Year and cast on, only to do about 10 rows and decide I didn't like it. Ripped back to ball of yarn. I won't bore you with details but suffice to say this happened at least another couple of times!
Project in progress now

But now I have decided what to do with it, although I have ripped it back twice as I hadn't got the right gauge or look and have been changing needle sizes. Oh and one time it was ripped back after doing about 8 inches because I had dropped a stitch very early on and couldn't fix it! But it is on it's way now. This will be a long term project - it's a sleeveless cardigan with hood so a lot of knitting to be done, and I get a little bored doing the same thing all the time so this will be ongoing and picked up, put down regularly. But here it is started, so I can share more on this one day.

a tunic for Imogen

I have also had an idea to knit Imogen a tunic style top/dress in some lovely King Cole Riot DK I have. Again I have gone through several pattern changes in my head on this one too (see a pattern with me!) but decided on a pattern, have cast on and knitted some of this one.Again a long term one, but hopefully between the two I shall make steady progress and when bored of one I can pick up the other.

Or there is always the option of casting on something else ...

isn't there always something else?
(actually there are a couple of other works in progress too!)

Oh and I nearly forgot about the reading part of the Yarn Along. Well, still slowly reading the same fiction book (so tired at bedtime though). However at other times I am devouring several spinning, yarn design and dyeing books for inspiration, developing my spinning, etc, etc. Lots of wonderful books, some bought 2nd hand, some borrowed that I would love to buy but at £80plus for 2nd hand copies, that ain't going to happen. Lots of ideas running around in my head, forming on paper and on the to do list.
Other reading - some spinning magazines and articles, and the latest copy of Living Crafts just dropped through the letterbox too.

Looking forward to catching up with other blog projects.

Friday, 10 February 2012

It kinda happened ...

Although not a lot!

But enough to put a smile on her face.

And she had to leave a footprint on every bit we saw on the walk to school this morning.

Will we get any more?

Looking forward to the weekend and the half term week ahead. It's the Seed Swap weekend here, Alex will be busy at the Art House cafe with the Transitions Treemendous Tree collections; Imogen and I will pop in sometime to say hello and have a browse, and maybe a wander to the city library nearby.

Next week we have a trip to the cinema planned, a trip to the Art gallery for a printmaking art session with a great art teacher. Time at home, time with friends, reading, crafting, baking and welcoming visitors at the end of the week too.

So for the week ahead, fun and laughter definitely. Snow - optional ;-).