Monday, November 30, 2009

The beauty in my garden

Its a gorgeously-frosty-crispy morning here, the sun is falling through the trees and the frost is slowly steaming away in the heat of it.

The cat has left a trail of paw-prints in the ice.

The sun is glancing off the last few yellowed leaves in the apple nursery.

The fallen leaves have a frosty coat defining their empty veins.

And a host of skeleton-daisies are frozen, as if caught in stop motion in a stiff breeze, looking for all the world like musical notes randomly dancing in a blue sky.

A mushroom has popped up, delicate and perfect in the greenhouse.

Frosty droplets are melting in the sun on the gate.

And the sun is creating stripes across the land, long shadows on glistening grass.

Meanwhile, a seed has managed to get itself into a bag of compost, and pokes out, happily growing in its giant home.

The world never ceases to amaze me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Keeping warm...

Now that the weather's got colder, (with thankfully no major floods down here...) its time for knitting some warming devices.
After quite a lot of learning I have managed to spin enough yarn for a scarf.
Its been a bit of an epic scarf project, as the first yarn I spun was fairly chunky and the next yarn I spun was thinner, and the next one was lace-weight and so on....
(There was therefore a high ratio of quantities of yarn produced to quantities of yarn actually used...)
On meeting with some spinners living in the midlands, I was informed that it is much harder to produce thicker yarn, which made me feel better about my slubby inconsistent attempts!
But here is it anyway. A 2-ply of Blue-faced Leicester (beautiful to spin) with tufts of dyed merino for a bit of colour, spun worsted.
Its hard to photograph the colour.
Concepta jumped in to provide some perspective in the next shot of the finished scarf. You can't really see all the lovely greeny-bluey bits, but they are there. I knit it up in a k2, p2 rib.

I also produced some wraps-per-inch counters out of wooden rulers. Just cut out a section between the lines for one inch, et voila!
And managed to knit a one piece hot water bottle cover using up some nice tough wool from the stash.

Hooray for keeping warm!!

Incidentally, I saw an ad in the Longford Leader a few weeks back for a workshop called "Keeping Warm this Winter."
Only in Ireland.

I doubt it was about knitting scarves and using hot water bottles, but its possible. We imagined a fat red-faced man shouting in a Longford accent "Now, I can't stress the importance of jumpers enough!!!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Well, this is not me yet, but give me 50 years...

I am very much enjoying the spinning wheel, and love sitting down in the evenings and spinning up a small amount of wonky yarn. I am also enjoying learning more about fibres and where they come from, making me want to only buy organic and fairly traded cotton, and local animal fibres, farmed in a sustainable way. (Although if anyone is planning a visit to the zoo anytime soon, please ask for some camel hair...)
And I seem to have turned into the type of person who thinks it is perfectly reasonable to spin hair out of the contents of the dog brush - why not! Sure the possibilities for spinning seem endless!

Here are some of my lumpy efforts...
From top to bottom, a 80/20 wool/silk mix spun from top; carded merino, carded Badgerfaced Welsh Mountain Sheep (Tor Wen) (great name) spun in the grease; and Massam spun from top.

And, left to right, merino spun from top, Bluefaced Leicester (deliciously nice to spin) from top, and a thicker version of the Badgerfaced Welsh Mountain Sheep.

I've always considered knitting, crochet, spinning and such to be evening activities, best carried out by the fire in the autumn or winter. Recently reading Lilias Mitchell's Irish Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing, I came across an explanation for why this is the best time, given in the seventies from a woman in Achill Island:
It is best to work with wool while the sheep are at rest - "from six o'clock in the evening till twelve o'clock, when the fairies appear. Then...the wool is much more easy to handle and tangled threads can be undone without any trouble."

In fact, in certain houses, the drive band was taken off the wheel when work stopped, "in case the little people might be tempted to use it."
(In my home, it is usually the cat, who comes in and starts trying to play with the wheel, often removing the band in the process...)
(And one wonders when they say "any mischief might happen to the wool" whether it might have more to do with poitin consumption than the little people...) But I like the idea of using wool while the sheep are resting, so I'll go with that one!

I've been wanting to post a picture of this amazing carder for a while. A friend brought it back from Columbia for me. It is made of teasels, all sandwiched between two thin bits of wood and held in place. Its so beautiful I don't even want to use it!
I know teasels were also used in Ireland for teasing out wool, I presume that is where they got their name from.

My friend also brought me back some amazing hand spun yarn. Pictured here is one of the balls. (the other is white.) I knitted and felted a pair of slippers out of it. It was like knitting with part of Columbia - full of bits of vegetation, dirt and thorns, and with a strong smell of sheep.

I could really imagine someone making it by hand. The yarn you buy in shops is so highly processed in comparison that it was a totally different experience to work with this wool. My mind was filled with pictures of little old ladies spinning outdoors in Columbia with a drop spindle or a stone, and my nose was filled with the scent of sheep, of plants, and the smell of the outdoors. It was great to work with such evocative material, and that, especially, is what I am enjoying about spinning - how close to source you are, using wool straight off the sheep's back and going through each process yourself. It makes you appreciate it a lot more.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I've been meaning since starting this blog to get some pictures of my work up, so without further ado, here are some of my puppets...

A family photo here, with (left to right), the Sea Baby, Boris (stage name when in drag - Esmerelda), Needlehead and the MC. (All about 2 foot tall)

Close up of the Sea Baby. He's a very good flier.

This one never really got a name, but I think Surprise is a good one, because she permanently looks it... Her face is made of a doll's torso, with opening and closing eyes fixed in where the nipples should be. Her heart is missing in this photo, but normally hangs in her chest, a dangling and stained yellow withered organ...
She is about 18" tall.

This guy's head is made from salt-fired ceramic, and his body from a branch of the cherry tree from the garden of the house I did most of my growing up in. (15" tall)

The Old Man. He is a very sad little character, who frequently collapses while knitting in his armchair. Pictured here on a tor on the moors in Devon. (8")

The Man with the Wooden Heart. (2'6" or so)

It makes a nice knocking noise in his chest.

Close up of Boris (Esmerelda) and Needlehead. Needlehead's torso is made from a piece of wood my friend found that had grown over a length of barbed wire. (How amazing is nature?) The barb wire forms his arms.

The MC.

The Rabbit. He is made from wood with a roadkill rabbit skin and rusty wheels from a skip. He has a vicious squeak when he adds to the ridiculous horror-show feel. (12" tall or so)

Hammond Organ, shown here with his zip open and organs pouring out. (2'6")

Here with the Old Man.

Boris and Needlehead again.

And a close up of the Key Bird. She also has opening and closing eyes and her feet are made of keys.