Monday, March 31, 2014

March like a lamb - mmm, lambswool... how lovely.

It's the end of March already.  That's three months of the year gone, poof, just like that.  It's amazing how fast time slips away as you get older.

This is the tail end of winter here.  There is still a chance of snow until mid May, but unlikely.  So on good weather days I've been outside, plodding away at the farm work.  There is always more farm work than a person has energy or time to complete.  It's all Tortious work, just keep working slow and steady at what needs doing, then maybe something will get done.  But, if you rush at it full speed like the Hair, things usually go wrong.

When the weather has been unpleasant, and all the outside chores are done for the day, I've been playing with yarn.   Mostly I've been spinning for sale.  I'm really excited about this yarn.  I picked up 4 pounds of fibre from the local fibre mill, these are all just extras she had leftover from the milling process - usually it goes to waste, but instead she carded them together for a random result.  I took this reclaimed fibre and made yarn.  I'm almost finished too.  Less than one pound left.  All this yarn is spun the same style and approximately the same thickness, so the skeins will make a great mix and match for weaving or maybe knitting a sweater.  I have a few of them for sale already, but the rest still need to be washed, blocked, measured, tagged and photographed - it turns out that crafting is just the easy bit of having an online store.  I'm not entirely certain if it is worth it as it gets fewer views per day than even my blog, but (shrug).  It's a fun experience.

Weaving wise, it took about two weeks to dress my loom with linen.  It's beautiful warp!  I'm not certain I want to weave it, in case I don't do the warp justice.  But if I don't weave it, then I can't weave the next things on my list.

This is my first proper experience weaving linen, and I'm not certain I choose the correct techniques.  Things are bound to go wrong, but that's how I learn.  If things go absolutely terrible, I'll cut it all off, and use it as weft for some saori weaving.

The goal of this thread is to become bread cloths.  That's cloths that I wrap homebaked bread in when it comes out of the oven... I find that bread lasts weeks longer when wrapped in cloth rather than plastic.  Linen longer than cotton.  There is also the alternative motive of learning to work with linen, as I'm very interested in working closely with the local Flax to Linen group this year.  I even have some special seeds and a bit of land put to one side to grow my own.

That leads me to other thing that's been in the forefront of my mind these last few months: what to wear.

cotton seeds, all sprouting
A lot of little things inspire me to reexamine the clothes I wear, like my sheep who make wool, the group of people are relearning old textile skills like the flax to linen group I mentioned earlier, the big collapse of the clothing factory a year ago... Anyway, still thinking what I can do about this in my own life.  Later next month is something called Fashion Revolution day, so I'm going to look more into this.  There are some amazing stores in town that focus on local textile artisans, and I'm curious to see if any of them get involved in this.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

If you love Bees...

 If you love bees... or eating food in general (without bees there would be almost nothing to eat, except maybe Soylent Green), then here's something you need to know about.

The bees are disappearing.  Even The Doctor knew it was important.  As weird as they are, bees aren't actually aliens (probably), but rather are a vital part of our ecosystem.  Not an ecosystem, but our as in the Human ecosystem that we depend on for survival.  Bees make the plants go happy (reproduce) which in turn participates to our breathing and eating abilities.  There are places in the world without bees, and they suffer.  It is unlikely that the amount of physical labour involved in living without bees could produce enough calories to sustain the population needed to produce that labour.

So basically, no bees quickly leads to no humans, or very few of us surviving, probably not you or me.  Even if we were only to loose the plants requiring direct bee intervention to stimulate their sexlife, then the other plants, the ones that don't need bees for all or any of their pollination would suffer.  Out of those plants we eat (or can eat) as humans, many of the ones that do not rely on bees, rely on human labour.  So reduction in food, leads to reduction in population, leads to a reduction of human labour... which will mean less food...  On top of that, the plants that don't require bees, do require plants that require bees for long term survival.  For example, bigger plants protect smaller ones from extreme weather and capture (and slow the release of) water, which limits the extremes the smaller plants need to endure.  Smaller plants die off quicker, creating better soil conditions, but they also have lovely root systems that are good for reducing erosion, protecting the soil from extreme temperature fluctuations... and so on ad infinitum.  No bees means a good chunk of that sustainable system is lost, which puts more stress on the rest of the system, which soon leads to less food for humans... It's more complex than many of these 'what if there weren't any bees' theories take into account.  We can extend the time humans survive through chemicals, however, it appears that this technique only works as a short term solution, and actually reduces the capacity of the land to support food growth over the long term... and, in theory, long term survival of our species should be important to us.

We need to do something about this.

Here's something:

This is a beehive.  What's really neat about it, and why it captured my interest is that it combines really old and really new technology together to create something more accessible and functional than the modern or ancient technology can do on it's own.

It's called an Open Source Beehive and it's plan is to provide a make your own, printable top bar beehive.  You use this mighty router table printing thing and special, bee friendly plywood to make a flat-pack hive that fits together like a piece of Ikea furniture.

Now I've been wanting a beehive like this for years.  I've even started building (not one, but) two.  Only things came up and the wood I had ready got used for other things.  It takes many tens of hours to make one of these things if you don't have the skills or tools (or in my case, neither).  So being able to 'print' a beehive in about half an hour or so, is fantastic.  I just need to find a router printer thing big enough.

The other half of this project is to monitor the health of the hive using a sensor.  This part doesn't interest me as much, I don't have wifi and cell coverage is poor here.  But for those of you who are interested in this, it attaches to the beehive and tells your smart phone (something else I don't have) if there are any changes in air quality or hive temperature.  It's really useful if you aren't talking to your bees daily.

This open source beehive project is currently in the crowd funding stage.  Basically they ask people to donate money if you believe in this project and want to support it.  You can donate one dollar or one million... they probably accept euros and yen as well.  If you go to the link and look at the right, at different donation marks, you get a reward.  The theory behind crowd funding is a lot like knitting.  Every stitch counts towards a sweater, every dollar donated adds up and make the project happen.

My motive for sharing this isn't just to rant about the importance of bees.  There is a method to my madness:

First, the crowdfunding only has a few days left and they aren't quite at their goal yet.  Even if you don't donate, maybe you could mention it to your bee loving friends.

Second, I'm searching for people in the local area interested in working together to make some of these hives, with the theory that if we buy in bulk, it gets the price down and when the bees arrive, we can support each other with advice and stuff.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What do I think about my new loom?

I've had a chance to really play with my Ashford Table Loom now, and I have to say it's great.  This loom is a perfect match for my brain, body and ability.

I drew a sketch on a scrap of paper, and challenged myself to translate it into weaving.  After a few false starts (it helps to have one heddle per warp thread if you know what I mean), I figured it out.  

This is the easiest loom to warp that I've tried so far.  I warped front to back, using the SAORI cross holder I showed you earlier.  It worked fantastically well.  Such a simple idea, and yet I've never seen anyone use it outside of a SAORI studio.  
So I took my warp threads, one at a time and put them through the reed, then I threaded them through the heddles in the order I guessed the pattern would be like.  Easy peasy.  Especially easy because there are only a choice of 4 heddles to choose from, and I can count to four pretty well most days.  

As for threading, this loom is pretty ergonomic.  Unlike a large floor loom, I didn't have any trouble with certain body parts (aka, my ahem, rather large endowment at the front) getting in the way.  I sat myself and the loom on the floor, and just went at it.  After a few hours, when my back was tired, I put my loom on my bed, which is one of those low Ikea ones, and sat on the floor in front of it.  It's the perfect hight.  

Here's the fabric I made for my sample.  As you can see, it's eclectic.  I tried different kinds of yarn from spindle spun woolen thread to cotton, to commercial purple.  The best fun was playing around with different treadling patterns including 2/2 twill, 1/3 twill, 3/1 twill, plain weave, SAORI weaving... anything I could think of.   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ohhh, Sale!

My brain is so overworked today.  Spent much of the day working on my etsy shop, improving photos (which still need work I think), writing descriptions, trying to discover this new shipping service thing they have... so on and so forth.

I did manage to successfully was create a coupon code for 30% off my items in my shop.  Pretty nifty eh?

Basically I'm feeling bad that it's taking so long  to get things up and the shop all tidy.  So I figure, for the rest of the month of March, 2014, if you enter the code WELCOMEBACK30 when you buy something from my Trampled by Geese Etsy Shop  you get 30% off your purchase. Must be entered at checkout, there's a little place you click before you pay that says 'enter coupon code here' or something like that.

Loads more stuff to list, but right now my brain is frizzled and needs a rest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Black Welsh Mountain wool

Yesterday I visited a farm, just down the road from here.  The farmer introduced me to her beautiful Black Welsh Mountain ram.  He's a gentle fella.

More to the point, I brought home some wool in exchange for some spinning.  It's a lovely fleece, low grease, hardly and dirt or hay.  Interesting is how much variation there is in the wool.  The legs are coarse like a horse, barely soft enough for rug weaving.  The neck and yolk area are soft but a bit matted and the highest concentration of vegi matter.  However, the sides are the softest.  Even the back of the sheep, the part usually most damaged by sun and weather, is lovely to work with.

The fibre is a bit tippy.  This means that if you take a small amount of fibre in your fingers and pull on both ends, that it breaks.  So basically it means that the more I work with the wool before spinning, the higher the risk of breaking the individual fibres and creating noils (lumps) or scratchy wool.  So I decided to keep the processing to a minimum, work with the locks as they come off the sheep and spin it in the grease.

Spinning in the grease, not something I do often, but since this is so clean and soft, I thought why not.  I did it once before, and the final result was really nice.  Very different texture and drape than the same fibre prepared the standard wash then spin approach.

I flick carded the locks, that is I hold firmly with one end, while lightly tapping the other end with the flick carder (pet brush).  Then hold the other end and do the same.  That's all I'm doing before spinning.  I lay out each lock carefully so they don't get into a tangled mess, then when I spin, I pick up one handful and draft the fibre off the end.

At first I thought it was going so slowly, then I realized, no it's actually not slow at all.  About 20 seconds per lock, maybe less when I get in the rhythm.  Instead of spending all that time washing, sorting, picking, carding... yep, this is considerably faster.

When the yarn is spun and plied, I will scour it - wash it in very hot water and soap to get the grease out.  So far it's turning into a very nice yarn, well please.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Handspun Silk and Bamboo

This lovely yarn has been hanging on my wall for a few weeks now.  I'm trying to convince myself into selling it, but it's so pretty.  I spun it with the intention of using it for warp.  I simply fell in love with the fibre when I saw it in the shop, hand dyed by Ryan of Knotty by Nature.  At roughly 40 wpi, it's very fine 2 ply yarn, strong and even, and I know it will be beautiful cloth...however, what would I use it for?

I'm trying very hard to limit my creativity to things that I can actually use or sell to fund my future sheep flock.  So as much as I adore this subtle variation of purple,  What can I make with roughly 800 yds that I would actually wear?  I'm less than half way through spinning the fibre, so will probably have close to 2000 yds when I'm through.  I'm not a shall person, so I don't have much interest in knitting with this.  Weaving, like I said before, appeals.  Use the bamboo silk for warp, and handspun cotton thread for weft... but then what?  I'll have some ultra-gorgeous luxury fabric and nothing to do with it.

I could spin up a bunch of white silk and use this purple yarn as warp highlights, make enough fabric for a dress... but I'm not a white and purple dress kind of person.

When I look at all the angles, no matter how much I love this yarn, I just don't know what to do with it.  Then I think how much I really want my new flock of sheep and how much more I want the sheep than the yarn, so I think, okay, tomorrow I'll list it for sale... but then I look at it again and think, oh that's pretty, I wonder what I could make with it.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Spinning for sale

Been spinning lately and added some new yarns to my etsy shop.

Mostly locally sourced fibres, the orange was dyed by the people at Humming Bee Farm.  They do beautiful work and it's a dream to spin with their fibre.

I figure I might as well list the yarn for sale as I spin it.  Don't know if it will sell, but what's leftover in Novembre will go to the local yarn store.

Some more photos:

Getting ready for weaving

In effort to reduce the amount of weaving stuff I have, I bought a new loom.

Crazy?  Probably.  But it means that I can get rid of three other looms, including a very nice but large floor loom.  I've been saving up for ages  years to get this loom, and I'm pleased as punch with it.

I figure that most of the things I weave or want to weave are about 2 feet wide.  So I got an Ashford 32" four shaft table loom.  Many people seemed confused that I didn't get the eight shaft loom, as the price difference is minimal.  But I've had 8 shaft looms before, and to tell you the truth, when it really comes down to it, I can only count up to about 6 when I'm weaving.  If it's a repeat of more than 6 (threading, treadling, whatever), then I get muddled, have to stop, check, recheck, forget where I was, recheck again, then go back to weaving... every 6th repeat!  4 is my comfortable number for weaving.  There are a lot of things you can do with a 4 shaft loom, enough to keep me busy for decades.

To celebrate weaving, I received some yarn from YarnStories.  Beautiful linen yarn, though I'm nervious to start weaving with it. I have a plan of what I want to make, but a few things stand in my way.  First, I don't know my loom yet, and second, 35epi + (that's more than 35 warp threads per inch of width), in linen (one of the more difficult yarns to weave with).  So I decided to wind a more forgiveable warp to test my loom and pattern idea.

The wooden device is a SAORI tool used for holding the cross down while warping.  The cross is that X shape in the pile of yarn that helps prevent the threads from tangling while you dress the loom.  This is particularly helpful when warping front to back, as you don't need lease sticks (my arch nemesis) and acts as a third hand so you aren't (literally) tied to the loom.

I don't know what kind of yarn this is, just purple wool yarn on a tube that came from a shop.

I'm almost done setting up my loom, then I get to start warping.  Very excited about this.