Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de Fleece 2012 - Prologue

Today is the first day of the Tour de France, which makes it the start of the Tour de Fleece.

The Tour de Fleece is a yarn-sport where we honour those heroic athletes by, um, playing with yarn.  For me, it means getting up at ungodly hours to watch the Tour live on TV while I spin yarn.  It's a fantastic motivator and comes at the time of year when I need motivating the most.

This year, I'm sticking with the Peloton.  My goal is to transform some of my fibre stash into yarn.

Today being the prologue, I basically just cleaned off my bobbins and tested my muscles.

A beautiful hand dyed Marino fibre, dyed by Ryan of Knotty by Nature.  I had spun it up durring the yurt adventures earlier this year, so today I navajo plied it and now it's 100yds of lovely, soft, sock/fingerling weight yarn.

By the way:  Special Tour de France discount at my etsy shop.  Type TDF2012 at checkout for 15% off fibre, yarn, well, actually everything.  Sorry, does not discount shipping.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Grimms' Fairy Tales

Yet another yard sale find.   I'm very tempted to use this book in a steampunk project; however, I don't want to cut it up and regret it later.

I have another copy of the Grimms tales, which is printed with paper and ink that don't cause a reaction for me.  This copy, although beautiful, smells strongly of cheap tobacco and mildew.

I spent a few hours searching the web for the value of this version.  I can't find any instances of it so it's either so rare and valuable that I've won the lottery and should auction it off quickly.  Or, it's so common, no one cares about it.  Either way, the illustrations are gorgeous.

Can any book lovers out there tell about this tome?

Update - the decision is this is too nice a book to cut up and use for an art project.  Apparently the illustrator is moderately famous and the translation was the definitive version for many years.  It was published in the late 1920s, and I was able to find one person selling a copy of it for $90 asking price.

Since space is limited around here, I'll just take this book down to the local book shop next time I'm in town - middle of July at the earliest. If anyone on the net want's this book, drop me a line.  we can negotiate a price that's fair for everyone and I can stick it on my etsy shop.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Inspiration for steampunking the bees

Because I wanted to share this photo with some people and couldn't be bothered to find my flicker account password.

It's from the book Beekeeping For All by Abbe Warre.  It's a really interesting bee smoker that I hope to use for inspiration for making my own affordable smoker.

Yes, we hope to get bees, but first we have to build the hives and equipment.


Here are some photos of potential bit of metal to make this smoker.  The 1.5" brass tube costs about $5 but the rest were salvaged from yardsales.  Total cost so far, about $8.50.

Just a little bit of creation

So, here's some more photos of the current mystery project.

I got some free things from a yardsale, brought them home, took them apart and then combined the components in new and unusual ways until I arrived at a satisfactory arrangement.

Things are coming together at a slow and steady pace.

In other news, goggles are not that easy to make, steampunk or otherwise.

The idea is good, and the fit, but I think I chose the wrong materials.  Buy the time I'm finished, the whole is too small to see through.  Might be fine for hanging around you neck as a fashion statement, but I'm hoping for something a bit more practical.

I actually got a few stages further than theses photos show, creating and installing a gasket from an old leather coat.  But what I really need to make the goggles of my dream is some 1.5 inch brass plumbing couplink.  I think this town must be crowed with steampunkishly minded people, because there isn't a shop in town that carries it.  Ah well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Little brass lamp

Yesterday's yardsale finds included a big box full of brass stuff.  At the bottom of the box was this lamp.

A bowl on a stand doesn't look like what we generally think of as a lamp these days, but it's actually quite amazing.  It is a very traditional style (although this one is more ornate and built for the tourist market) and runs off of almost any kind of fuel from old cooking oil to rum.  Vegetable or fish oil is more traditional.  This is very economical as you can save your old cooking fats and use them in this lamp.

I've read about these but I've never seen one used.  Books say that they are very dirty and smelly kind of lamp.    But when I tried it out, it turns out that this is even better than the 'standard' oil lamp that we use during power outages.

Fill the bowl with oil (in my case sunflower oil) and stick a cotton or linen wick in it (some weaving thrums).  Leave the wick in the oil for several hours (the longer the better - but at least 5 hours) to soak up the oil.  Then hang one end of the wick over the edge of the bowl slightly with the other end in the oil.  Light the end of wick that is not in the oil (this takes a few matches on the first go, but gets easier the second time).

Now we have fire!

But, um, we also have smoke!

Don't worry, there is a way to fix that.  Simply get something nonflammable like a knife or sewing pin or whatever, and use it to carefully adjust the length of the wick.  Make sure the wick stays against the side of the bowl. 

Once I get around to polishing up the inside of the lamp bowl, it will reflect more light and make the lamp an even better light source.

When comparing this to the 'standard' oil lamp, it has some considerable advantages.

First off a 'standard' oil lam only works well with lamp oil, an increasingly expensive petrol product.  This traditional oil lamp works with any fuel but best with vegetable oil.  I'm going to give a try of using it with old cooking oils next, as that's what many cultures use to use.

It produces quite a lot of light, maybe four to eight times a single tealight candle does.  This depends on the fuel and the length of the wick.

This brass lamp doesn't produce much heat.  It would be enough heat to say, run a Stirling engine, but not as much heat as a 'standard' oil lamp.  About the same amount of heat as a tealight candle.  After burning it for quite a while, the brass remained cool enough to touch.

Vegetable oil as fuel seems to last long than lamp oil for the volume of the fuel.  

I can see all sorts of uses for this from emergency light to, um, I don't know, a way of fuelling a Steampunk device using reclaimed oils as an environmentally friendly fuel source.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

7 year fleece! or Llama gets a hair cut

Last summer, a rather harry llama adopted our heard.  He's big and strong and we call him Tom.  Tom belongs to our neighbour who lets our fibre boys graze on the pasture on the hill.  Neigbour said it would be okay to have llama Tom shorn when Rose the Llama Lady was next in town.

Hug the head close to your chest so they can hear your heartbeat and they calm right down.

That's at least seven years of fibre growth on this llama.  As you can see he's a mess.  However, it is unbelievably soft for a llama.  If I can get the veg. matter out of the fibre, this is going to make BEAUTIFUL yarn.

It was so long that he needed to be shorn by hand.

I actually really like hand sheering - perhaps because I'm not the one doing the sheering.  It leaves a raggy looking coat for a few days, but after a week, he looked far better than he would have with the electric sheers.  The animals seem to feel comforted by the hand sheering whereas the machine scares the spit right out of them.

Isn't he a handsome boy?  Not sure who's happier in this photo.  Well, it's not the jealous alpacas in the background, that's for sure.

Feeling mighty handsome, but ready to go eat some grass now thank you.

I have to sort through the fibre and pick out the guard hairs.  The guard hairs are just like human hair, and as long as my arm.

We didn't have our alpacas or llama shorn this year.  They just had a trim.  They were so cold last winter, especially our oldest one Max, who is very old in llama years apparently, that I didn't have the heart to shear them this year.  Llama Lady said it was actually good for the llamas and alpacas to go a year between full sheering so long as they get their under arm hairs trimmed in the spring and we keep an eye on them in hot weather for overheating.  Personally, I'm glad for the longer fibre staple that two year growth provides.  Longer fibre = more fun to spin... at least for me it does.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

"IT WORKS!" Dances about the farm, in an over enthusiastic manner humming a little song about, "IT WORKS"

I've been tinkering away at my latest slightly steampunk mystery project where I convert an old (non-restoreable) vintage sewing machine into an Other-machine.  Well, last night - rather late last night - finally finished modifying a piece of perspex and put it into place.  I now have a fully functioning other-machine.  Photos to come later, once I've finished decorating it.

Now, how to decorate it?  I still have to install the cooling system.  I'm also thinking of installing a clock (clocks are pretty standard for steampunk) - but I'm tempted to install a radio instead.  I have this gaping hole to fill you see, and adding leavers, nobs, or other decorations that don't do anything doesn't really strike my fancy.

Yes, I know I've been remiss with my blog, my zine, my etsy shop, my online presence in general.  But I figured you didn't want to hear me moping about deaths of Cockylocky and Chicken little, the epic battle of the rose that went on in the household - and still isn't over I think - Talk about projection and deflected anger (some of it mine I'm sure, but from my point of view I care for the roses daily, it wasn't the first bloom or the only blossom on the bush, I just wanted on little flower for my room, there was no need to yell at me... never mind).  And then there is today's battle: trying to teach a professional cleaner how to clean efficiently without chemicals.  A box of borax lasts 8 to 14 months, not 2 hours!  This week, since reading instructions is obviously not working, I've tried repackaging the materials to look more like store bought chemicals and hidden the ingredients for making more.  See how that goes.

For those of you waiting for the next Crowing Hen Guide.  Inspire me!  What do you want to hear about?  Over view of natural cleaning materials and a few recipes for your house?  A treatise on composting?  How to rid your roses of aphids and black spot in under a week WITHOUT using those nasty chemicals?  How to clean and oil a vintage sewing machine?  An in-depth discussion (okay, monologue) on how to clean floors using natural products - many of which are already in your pantry?  

I'm overwhelmed with things I want to write about that I'm having trouble just sitting down and getting started.  I really don't know if anyone's interested in these things.  Am I just writing them to stop bending the ear of every poor chap that chooses our driveway to turn their car around in?