Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Greece here we come!

Scrabble - check!
Books - check!
Knitting - check!
Cat food - check!
Sun cream - check!
Euros - check!

This can only mean one thing - we're off to Greece! For the next 10 days, a wonderful little village on the island of Kos is going to be our home. See you in September! xxx
Greece 2012 189

Sunday, 18 August 2013

An afternoon of needle felting

Ok, ok,  I know what you're thinking! Josiekitten, what on earth are you doing taking up a new craft when you don't manage to get everything completed with the crafts that you're doing already?! Have you made another cushion? Nope! Have you sewn another needle case? Nope! Have you practised spinning more silk? Nope! And how about all those WIP's that you've put into hibernation just so that they're not staring you in the face every time you go into Ravelry?! Guilty as charged!! (I am blushing here, I can tell you!)
Well, I have always fancied having a go at needle felting, and when I discovered The MakePlace right on my doorstep, offering an amazing selection of classes, it was too good an opportunity to miss! There were eight of us in the class which lasted for 2 and a half hours. We started off with a piece of woollen felted fabric and oddments of knitting yarn, and used a felting needle to attach pieces of wool. You work on a thick block of sponge so that you don't stab yourself as the felting needles are very sharp!!

needle felting (3)

more felting 009
After that, we made our own square or rectangle of felt using some roving. You tease off a shortish length (you don't want to cut it as you want the longer fibres) and make a layer going from east to west on your foam mat. Repeat but this time make the fibres go from north to south. Do the same a third time, with the fibres going from east to west. Then it's basically using the felting needle to fix the fibres together, turning it over quite often so it doesn't stick to the foam, and folding the wispy ends in.

needle felting (4)

Before long, it starts to change in texture and you can see your piece of felt forming before your very eyes!

needle felting (5)

Once you have your felted background, you can add more roving to the surface to embellish it. I decided to make a heart and two raised circles. I can see this being a simple way to make an eye catching brooch.

needle felting (6)

needle felting (7)

Using the felting needle around the edge of the heart made it stand out a little more from the surface. Here's how it ended up, not bad for a first effort!!
more felting 005

Then, we used biscuit cutters to make a felt shape. You layer the fibres at right angles to each other as before, and then use the felting needle to start fixing the fibres inside the biscuit cutter. I kept with my heart theme and made a felted heart.........

needle felting (8)

needle felting (9)

......which I then decorated with a spiral of deeper pink fibre. I can see this having lots of possibilities at school, working with small groups of children to make Christmas decorations.
more felting 007

Lastly, we were shown how to make felted balls and more three dimensional objects. I made a couple of balls and a heart (surprise!!) The heart still needs  bit of work to get it into the right shape, but it's getting there!

more felting 008

So all in all, a fantastic and enjoyable afternoon. I think it's a fun way to quite quickly create some beautiful and individual gifts for friends. I have my felting needle at the ready!!

more felting 010

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Flying by!

The holiday is just flying by! I have a list of 'things to do' and so far, not that many of them have been crossed off! I am very much enjoying the summer break though, I'm definitely not complaining! Mr JK and I have been walking pretty much every morning. It's so peaceful in the countryside surrounding us. We can hear cattle mooing and cockerels crowing. The geese are flying about in the early mornings and evenings too. They look magnificent flying together. I wonder how they manage to avoid collisions?
I finished another WIP, a pair of socks that I was test knitting for Anne Hanson. They are a little on the snug side for me as I didn't use the recommended yarn (and of course I didn't swatch!!) so I'm offering them to someone over in the knitspot group on Ravelry. Another member of the group is knitting me a pair of socks as I won a recent giveaway, so I am happy to be paying her kindness forward.

Jazz Strings 004 (2)  
Jazz Strings 003 (2)

Jazz Strings 006 (2)

I spent a day with my friend Marianne this week. Yes, Marianne of the gorgeous fluff fame! I must just show you a photo of her washing line, it really made me smile!

Marianne's fluffy washing line (1)

We had a lovely time together. There was much drinking of tea, eating cake and chatting. These strawberry cheesecake cupcakes were really yummy. I brought two back home with me and Mr JK and I ate them for dessert. Mmmmmmm!

mmmm cake! (1)

Marianne is an expert sewer (that really doesn't look right, does it?!) and helped me to sew a little needle case. I found out that my machine could do some quite fancy stitches!

needle case 001

I decided to treat myself to a cutting mat and rotary cutter after using Marianne's. It is so much easier to be accurate. I'm going to try to make another case without Marianne holding my hand. I have my fabric all picked out. I just need to dust off the iron!! It's a rarely used 'gadget' in this household! Pop back soon to see how I got on! xxx

needle case 002

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Full of fibery goodness!

I received a wonderful squishy parcel this week, all the way from the USA. I won a prize during the Tour de Fleece from one of the groups I was posting in on Ravelry. I asked for a 'surprise' and Chris from Briar Rose sent me the most beautiful mountain of BFL! There's 10oz in all, which is getting on for 300g. My idea is to spin it as a single and then ply it with a co-ordinating single of BFL to create a beautiful 2 ply yarn. I'm meeting up with my friend Marianne this week and I hope that she will be able to do her usual magic with the dyepot!! Watch this space, I'd like to have enough to knit a cardigan. Take a look at the fibre. I'm thinking of a deep purply aubergine colour perhaps to ply it with. What do you think?

Tour de Fleece 2013 prize from Briar Rose 001

I also finished spinning the first braid of merino/angora (50/50) - it's definitely not my best spinning, as some parts have a little too much twist, but I love the colours. It's very soft and you can see its fluffy 'bunny' halo developing already.

angora handspun 010

I'm trying hard to finish up various WIPs before we go to Greece in just over a fortnight. I have decided that I really don't like having lots of different projects on the needles at any one time, so I hope to whittle them down over the coming days. First to get done was a crocheted ripple blanket that I have made for the cat sanctuary where we got Flo from. Of course, Flo thinks it's perfect for her, and did a lot of cute poses on it to try and persuade me! But I am holding strong and have put it away until I have a couple more to donate.

cat blankie no (5)

Mr JK and I are both trying to get more exercise and lose a bit of weight. To assist us, we have bought Fitbits which are really posh pedometers. Obviously there's a lot more to them than that, and we are finding it quite motivating to see how many steps we can achieve in a day. We are trying to build in more early morning walks. It's very rural and peaceful where we live, so it's a pleasant start to the day once you make the effort to get out of bed!! This was the view a couple of days ago. Lovely isn't it? Hard to believe, but only a couple of hours later everything turned dark and we had a massive thunderstorm.

early morning walk Aug 2013 (3)

This afternoon we went for a walk around one of our favourite gardens, the Old Vicarage at East Ruston. The whole garden was a paradise for insects. I never tire of these gardens, there is always something new to see.

East Ruston Old Vicarage Aug 2013 008

East Ruston Old Vicarage Aug 2013 018

East Ruston Old Vicarage Aug 2013 017
Plus the thought of a cup of tea and a delicious slice of cake at the end! Now that's a lot of steps to walk to work this off! xxx


East Ruston Old Vicarage Aug 2013 038

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Simply silk

Yesterday I went on a silk spinning workshop run by my local spinning guild. I have tried spinning silk in the past, but found it very hard to control, so was looking forward to finding out more from experts. It was a fabulous day. Jenny gave us lots of sample of different silk fibres to experiment with. I found it much easier this time round. Partly I think because I have been spinning so much recently.
We started off by washing our hands with a hand scrub and then using hand cream to moisturise. Silk fibres catch on anything rough. Then it was on with the spinning!
The first silk I tried was Tussah silk tops. This has a light brownish colour which comes from the oak leaves that the moths feed on. I loosened my tension so that the yarn wasn't being pulled into the wheel too fast, giving me more control. I spun two singles and then plied them together. With the little bit that was left over, I did some N-plying. You can see the silk fibre below, followed by the 2 ply skein and the little bit of N-plied yarn.

silk spinning day (4)

After that, I tried bombyx silk. This is, I believe, the top notch of all silks. The fibres are incredibly soft and................... er, silky!! The moths that produce this feed on the leaves of the white mulberry tree. Again, I spun two singles and plied them together, N-plying the remainder. You can see the results below.
silk spinning day (5)

After that, I moved on to some dyed silk cap. I think that silk cap is made from misformed cocoons, which having been degummed, are stretched over a bell shaped frame. Each cap consists of several layers - each one is a separate cocoon. You have to open out the cap and pull off one thin layer. Make a hole in the middle and then draft it out until it's thin enough to spin. This produced a slubby yarn, I liked the texture on it. I made a 2ply yarn and left the remainder as a single as I wanted to try other silk samples.

silk spinning day (6)

Waste silk was next on the agenda. This is a mix of fibres that are discarded when the silk is being spun. The fibres are a mixed length, so sometimes you can draft them out for spinning. Also you can cut them up and card them with wool tops. I tried both. You can see in the photo below the waste silk fibres at the top. Then comes a skein made by carding some cut up silk with some merino tops. (My carding technique left a lot to be desired! I need to work on that!) Then there's a N-plied skein of the silk waste - you can see how 'textured' it is, and a little bit of single at the bottom.

silk spinning day (7)

The last silk fibre I tried was silk noil. This has really short fibres which I found impossible to spin as they were! They can be carded and spun, or mixed with another fibre. I chose to do the latter and made some rolags using some BFL. I really like the rolags, the flecks of silk reminded me of cherry blossom. I actually took a photo of one of the rolags before spinning, it was the only one I took during the day!!

silk spinning day (1)

I really liked the effect on the spun yarn, it reminded me of tweedy yarn with nepps. The silk noil reminds me of 'upmarket' cotton wool!!

silk spinning day (8)

I certainly feel a lot more confident about spinning silk now. I have a couple of little sample packs to play around with before I let myself loose on the gorgeous purple silk brick that I bought at Fibre East. I decided to join the guild too, and hope to become actively involved with them. They meet weekly, so I shall go along next week. I'll keep you posted with the progress on my silk spinning! xxx

Fibre East purchases 007