Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saori for 3 years old

I have been teaching this little girl how to spin.

Her parents are members of a regular group who come for dinner every couple of months. Now their little girl is old enough to take an interest in crafts - she's three and a little bit - I've got her spinning.

She loves playing with fleece - making hats, beards, and other decorations for members of the dinner party. Now I have it where she will sit at the wheel and draft while I treadle. She likes to make high twist yarns. I don't know how much she understands of what we are doing (English is her other language), but we both have a huge amount of fun whenever she comes over.

I was inspired by the Saori workshop I took recently and I thought that it would be wonderful to see what a 3 year old can come up with given the total freedom that Saori allows.

The little table loom that I use for making samples now has 3 yards of warp on it (1 yard for each year). It's a 2 shaft loom, like the Saori looms. It's not as pretty as the Saori looms or as easy to use, but I don't think that she could reach the treadles on the Saori loom anyway. This should work well enough for a first weaving experience.

I don't see her for another week but I am super-excited to weave with her. I think that she will find this even more fun than spinning.

Now to find a selection of colourful yarn.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pocket Monsters are hot

I don't know why, but I'm totally enamoured with these little pocket monsters.

They are not very big and you sew a little sack of rice to put inside them. First you microwave the rice sack and then you put it in the pocket monster. This warms up the monster then you put the monster in your pocket to help keep your hands warm. Cool eh?

Here's what it looks like before it's assembled.

And here is a gang of the little guys planing their next prank.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My house stinks of duck poo

My house stinks of duck poo...but it's just temporary.

Late this summer, very late in fact, two of my ducks each hatched out a clutch of cute little ducklings. It was their first time being mummy duck and one of them took to it right away. She has nine little ones that play under her wings.

The other mummy duck just wasn't into it. Sure, she made an effort but her heart just wasn't in it. She would rather be wondering around the yard munching on grass and hunting for slugs. She didn't shelter her little ones from the cold and whereas their cousins ran around playing, these five little ducklings just huddled in the corner frightened of everything, especially their mummy.

So we took her little ones away from her yesterday. She appeared very relieved about the situation.

I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but they are very malnourished. I should have noticed their condition earlier but I just assumed that since they had a mummy that they would be fine. They are small for their age and are nothing more than a light dusting of down covering bones. They startle at every little thing and haven't made a peep since their 'rescue'. They do however, seem to appreciate physical contact and move towards you if you start to pet them.

As they are chilled through and through, I brought them inside our house for the night. Just one night to warm them up enough to get back on track. I didn't want to put them under the heat lamp as that would have been too warm and they are actually a lot older than they look. But boy, just one night inside and the house stinks of duck poo. I'll open some windows and air out the place.

Later today I'll put the little orphans in a nice, secure duck house where they will be safe from raccoons and hopefully feel sheltered enough to start acting like ducklings.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Over a pound of wild yarn

I have several large spinning projects planed for the winter.

My goal to reduce my fleece collection to yarn has me combing and spinning up a delightful grey Romney into lace weight singles for weaving. I'll spin it up on my Quebec wheel as the double drive gives such a consistent yarn.

I also have miles and miles of hand dyed silk/bamboo blend to spin lace weight, 2ply on my Ashford. The silk/bamboo will be warp with the handspun cotton singles that I'm spinning on my Charkha for weft.

I don't know yet what I'll do with these fabrics, but I just feel like making them.

Then, it's time to borrow someone's carder (mine is too coarse and out on loan) to card up some baby alpaca which I think will make a splendid 2ply lace. I like spinning lace, it's just a pity that I don't like knitting it.

These projects are quite large and should take me well into the Christmas season to accomplish.

Unless I'm spinning for socks, I like spinning large amounts of fibre into yarn. I'm tired of making a small amount of beautiful yarn and never using it because I don't know if I have enough to finish a project.

So perhaps you won't think me weird to say that before I embark on these larger projects, I felt a need to spin up a small amount of fun fibre - small amount being equal to just over a pound.

I carded up the batts on an Ashford Wild Carder (which works like a dream) and used a Corriedale base of blue with a touch of red. I added white angora and purple silk noils. I put it all randomly through the carder just once, spun it into slubby yarn and plied it on itself. It actually didn't turn out as slubby as I had planed.

There you have it. Over 500g of yarn.

I have no idea what to make with this, so for now it's just going in my stash. I had originally planed to sell it, and I still might. The thing is, it is growing on me and I wonder if I could manage a vest from it. There might even be enough there for a sweater...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

First time for hand towels

Is there anything I should know about weaving hand towels?

There is some 4/8 cot for warp and some boucle for weft. I plan to make a 2/2 twill with a 15 epi. What do you think? Does that sound right?

2 socks in 1

I really am a sucker for new knitting techniques. And to be honest, there is nothing quite so much fun for me than to try them with my very own handspun yarn. I love a challenge.

During the Tour de Fleece 2010, I won a prize of hand dyed Shetland fibre from Waterloo Wools. Right away I spun it up into sock yarn.

I got out my double point needles and cast on a pair of socks. That's two socks at the same time on the same set of double point needles. How you ask? Well, have a read of this article in

Here they are, finished at long last. They are so comfy that I'm tempted to keep them just for bed socks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I went to a workshop this weekend. It is the first time in about two years that I've been well enough to spend a whole day out and about with people.

I'm so glad I went. I've been wanting to learn more about Saori weaving since I first saw Terri demonstrate it at the Salt Spring Island Fibre Fest. This workshop I took at Knotty By Nature and they host it on a regular basis.

Saori Weaving is from Japan. It is a way of weaving the moment into the cloth.

There are no rules governing what needs to be done. No structure set up ahead of time where you have to treadle 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, - repeat, and if you make a mistake and treadle 1, 2, 4, 3, 2 then you've ruined the whole thing. Saori is not like that.

We begin with a very simple, two frame loom. I say simple because it has only two treadles, two frames, which make two sheds. The device itself is a marvel of engineering. It's relatively light weight, folds up and it has a qualia of stability and warmth.

I immensely enjoyed trying out the different techniques we were shown. I'm full of all sorts of ideas of what I want to add to my future weaving projects (both structured and free form).

I wish I could say that this heart was my idea. It is the work of one of my class mates. What do you think? Can we assess a personality based on their free form weaving? I think this says, creative, free spirit.

And here's mine:
I'm not going to even attempt to read my personality in my weaving.

But I must say I do like this last technique. I can't remember what it is called, but it creates a wonderfully organic structure to the cloth.

I don't know if I could have managed the day out doing any other kind of workshop. The fact is, I found the process of Saori weaving to be ... What's the word I'm looking for? I want to say that not having to worry about structure and design, that by weaving the moment and putting myself into the cloth - this is an activity that gave me energy and calmness. It was this revitalization that sustained me through the day.

For me, the activity of weaving, absorbed my focus (sorry, words are failing me). My concentration drifted to the activity without any effort from me.

I deeply enjoyed myself.

I think that this is the kind of activity that can really help with the mental and emotional aspects of having a chronic illness.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Better news this morning.

I have the same number of ducks as I did when I went to bed. Maybe the raccoons have finally found somewhere else to get their dinner.

We've been doing several things to help deter these pests, including cleaning up the brush in the yard. But was really two acts yesterday that I think made the difference.

First we captured the ducks.

Have you ever tried capturing a Muscovy duck? I can't say I recommend it.

If a person does manage to contain one or two of these aloof Quackers, then said person will be covered in mud, duck poo and scratches (right through the gloves and any other protective clothing). These guys don't have claws, they have talons and serrated beaks. They also cannot stand to be closed in. Not to mention the drakes are as big as a goose and bloody strong.

I don't know how a raccoon manages it.

The other thing we did was to visit Evil Box Shop and bought some holiday decorations.

We wanted to get things that simulated predator eyes. We securely hung pairs of small, red Christmas balls near the main raccoon pathways. The balls reflect the light and once the solar powered motion sensor light is installed then it will work even better.

Also, being that time of year again, we were able to get some Halloween decorations. The best thing about this: blinking red LED eyes.

We bought two types. One motion and sound triggered, blinking red eye, moving jaw, talking skull (shown here) that went right next to their favourite kill zone and a couple of skulls with red eyes that flash all night.

I tell you they startled me more than once when I was out on monster patrol last night.

Today is a day for cleaning up the house and catching up on some chores. And also...

I had a craving to spin up some crazy yarn. There are silk noils and angora fibre carded in a base of blue and red Ashford Corriedale. I was going to sell the yarn, but the more I work with it, the more I want to knit with it myself.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Noses

Aside from the fact that they are killing my friends, what I hate most about raccoons is just how human they are.

Dexterous hands, intelligent hunting strategics that involve ambushing a smaller duck to kill it so they can kill and eat the larger drake who comes to defend it. Sure, they nibbled on the little ducky, but just enough to kill it.

And it's such a nasty death too.

It usually starts with pulling off a leg, then partially ripping off a wing... it's gets worse... finally, if the poor animal is not dead after being partially dismembered, they rip open the throat and begin eating the innards. And that, my friends is the mild, child friendly, description of what those monsters are doing to my ducks.

There is a pack of 6+ raccoons that live near by.

We've been working tirelessly to remove all hiding places and brush from our property that a masked bandit might hide in. Still, there is just not enough of us to clear it all fast enough. Not that it's working. Maybe I need to have a brush clearing party.

What else can I do?

I've tried live trapping them more than once - nothing. They are just too smart and I suspect they might be transplants from some soft hearted city dweller who thinks it would be 'kinder' for these monsters to come and kill my ducks. (okay, yep, that's not cricket. But why are they suddenly coming to my property when we have been raccoon free for a year and a half?) If they are transplants, then it is impossible to catch them a second time.

We've tried not sleeping - walking the yard every few hours to scare off any beasts...

...And they still managed to kill Keats (the most affectionate duck ever) tonight.

We don't have a gun (besides it's not legal to shoot one where we live). I'm not a big fan of firearms at the best of times, but 4 nights of no sleep and 9 dead ducks, 2 injured ducks, and an injured chicken later... it's no longer 'the best of times'.

Poison is not an option. I don't want a non-raccoon to get into it.

Even if dogs worked against raccoons (a pack of raccoons can easily take down a large dog), it's not an option for us.

It's a month away before I get my guard llama (yah!), but by then, I won't have any poultry left.

So, what else can I do?

There is nite eyes. (image 'borrowed' from their site)
This looks TOTALLY awesome. It is a solar powered, motion sensing device that scares away monsters! These blinking eyes look like predator eyes reflecting in the darkness and this product gets rave reviews in the farm magazines.

Drawback: they don't ship to Canada. Comparable products either don't ship, are too expensive, or have a warning against the site.

So I was thinking, why not make my own. This owl is cool:

Link here, image 'borrowed' from the Home Depot site.

The head swivels and if I added some LED lights and a solar panel so that I could put some in the fields.... only they they don't carry it any more so that idea is out.

As you can tell, I'm frustrated. I feel so useless. These ducks are such lovely, gentle giants. I've failed them.

Here is Keats as a duckling helping me sort fleece. I really loved that guy.