Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Changes ...

Oh my, isn't summer flying!? The garden is changing; the flower bed well past it's peak now. The energy burst of summer is waning, the light is changing subtly, almost imperceptibly. My mind is now imagining the upcoming months of slowing down--that's the reality in view. I won't go so far as to imagine frozen crystals yet, but it's clearly on the verge of the horizon. Change.

But let's not get carried away! It was quite warm and humid today and we've still to experience "Indian Summer." Change.

Next month I will be having a deck built around the front and side of the house. Very exciting. Change.

I'm still working on the watercolor quilt, but at the moment that amounts to collecting new fabrics and cutting them 2"x2". I bought some nice dark hues over the weekend. Change.

I've started a new 'scrappy' quilt. Totally random colors and shapes. I'll make a bunch of 'squares' and then sew them together. I'm sewing them on my vintage White Rotary "77". Change.

This is what I have so far:

It will be a time of change for while now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Proof of concept ...

I really like how these yarns are knitting up and I love the hand! Feels so soft and pliable--that was the plan and I'm glad it's proving so!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Smith Millennium Bridge is done ...

My local quilt shop's Row by Row piece is as done as I'm going to get. I could tinker with it for a while, adding more quilting here and there, but I rather like the sparse look and since it's a wall hanging, more quilting isn't crucial. Today I fussy-cut a cow out of a fabric in my stash and added her into the picture. I think she looks rather introspective and I toyed with the idea of putting a halo around her head! :)

I'm pretty pleased with the binding I made using an ombre fabric, allowing a dark edge on bottom, lighter on the top edge and gradients on the sides.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A new toy? And more pretties ...

Nope, it's not a toy; that is 100% certain. It is a very hefty, extremely well-built (weren't they all back then?) vintage White sewing machine!

I said (to myself) I'm not going to be a willy-nilly collector of antique and vintage sewing machines, and I'm not. It may not be so apparent now that I have an antique, a vintage, and a modern machines, but I'm quite adamant that I'll only pick up machines that are special.
This White is one I've had my eye on for well over a year, having seen it in numerous pictures, and this one came along at a very nice price. I'd say there are only 2 or 3 other machines that I would snatch up if I came across them. That's not too bad, is it?
It sews so beautifully and there are a number of very small details that make sewing on it (as well as my late godmother's Singer 66) a dream. For starters: The relationship of the spacing around the feed dogs to the presser foot, in relation to the needle. I can see, very directly and clearly where the needle will first enter the cloth, it's not couched way back where it's hard to see. No quessing required! I love these old work horses.
I've started another scrap quilt on it. I'm still working on the watercolor quilt (on my modern machine) but it's in a go-slow phase.


Pretties and beauties and awe

These Echinacea smell so lovely, as this butterfly will attest:

This "Easter" lily is from 2014. I put it in the ground last year and it came back! I put this year's lily in the ground as well. What a nice reminder is this trumpet's perfume!

Is this not the most beautiful turquoise!? Newly acquired top this afternoon. It comes from Aker, a new sheep farm in Enfield, NH:

The dandelion-dyed skein finished yesterday, also showing the beginning of the Umbilicaria-dyed spinning. Quite apparent these are natural dyes. The soft hues, swoon!:

And this is my plan for the scarf using all these skeins I'm currently spinning up. A series of varying length rectangles knit in intarsia technique:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Row by Row ...

I purchased my local quilt shop's (North Country Quilters) "Row by Row" row kit a few weeks ago and have been working on it this past week. The design is a representation of Smith Millennium Bridge in Plymouth. Applique. I will make it a wall hanging to place in my stair well.

I haven't done applique before and this piece is going to be a combination of machine stitching and hand stitching. In all honesty, I find hand stitching has a depth of beauty and quality that the machine cannot match. I love hand stitching. The big pieces were laid down with the machine. The smaller pieces: The trees, the rocks, and the moutain tops (which are not yet cut out) will be hand stitched in place. I took liberties with the directions and did not use fusible adhesive to lay the pieces in place, but simply basted them by hand instead. That's more my aesthetic at the moment.

I love the design. I'm currently stitching the 3 central trees in place. The darkest one on top is done, the middle one is pinned in place (see the big green dot of the pin head!), and the lower one is simply placed in situ "to see" what it will look like. There are a few more trees for the far right, the mountain tops, one of the bridge's posts to finish.

The ducks are my own touch--my signature birds! :)

In other news, the cochineal dyed wool makes a pretty yarn:

I will be making a scarf with these skeins.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Umbilicaria and Cochineal ...

I was given a nice quantity and variety of natural dyestuffs recently (thank you!) and decided not to sit around waiting to use them! I found a few ounces of Falkland wool in my stash that goes back to my Brooklyn days: I'd purchased it at The Yarn Tree when it was on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. (That's where I first did natural dyeing and where I learned to spin. It was a beautiful place, full of natural fibers of every kind.) So with wool in hand and dried Cochineal bugs heated to just below boiling and then simmered for an hour--twice, to make 2 extractions of color, I set about imparting the beautiful bug red to the wool.

I used alum to mordant the wool, a process that helps the wool absorb the dyestuff. Simmered in an alum bath for an hour and left overnight, I then squeezed out the excess water and carefully lowered the wool into the dilution of dye with water and let it simmer for an hour. I left it in the dye pot overnight.

My water is hard and I knew that would have some sort of effect on the results. Maybe at some point I'll try the exact same proportions of mordant, water, and dye using distilled water to explore the differences.

I'm very happy with the resulting color, a clear, light magenta. I think I used a tad too much alum as the wool has a very slightly sticky feel. I used 10% of the weight of the wool in alum. I'll try 7% next time; I've read it's best to err with too little rather than too much. I'll wash the yarn when I've done spinning it in hot soapy water, it'll be overplyed anyway so the wet finish will be good. (I've been overplying and subsequently steaming balance into the yarn, which is not my usual process. Usually, I ply a balanced yarn. But I'm currently quite fond of these slightly undertwisted singles, overplyed. Barber pole and all that!)

The cochineal dyed wool is on the right. The wool on the left was dyed with umbilicaria--I'll get to that shortly.

It's spinning up all nice and pretty!

Notice my 'lazy kate'? I discovered recently that these glass flower frogs make the best lazy kates for my spindles! I use it when winding off and it works a charm! The deeper ones are best for this purpose. And they're cheap in junk shops.

Umbilicaria is the second dyestuff I worked with last week. It is commonly known as "rock tripe", a type of lichen I believe. It needs to be harvested carefully so as not to deplete the source. I worked with an extraction that had already been done (although there is a bag of dried umblilicaria amongst the goods I recently received, so I will have the experience of doing the extraction myself at some point): The raw material is fermented in ammonia for a goodly amount of time to extract it's dyes. I diluted the extraction with water and followed the same procedure as for the cochineal. I'm a little nonplused by the color since I was expecting something brighter. Again, the results could be due to my water, the mordant I used (alum) and the fact that I did not use any assists or modifiers (cream of tartar, vinegar, salt, soda, etc.). Experimentation is the ticket when natural dyeing. I think there is much experimentation in my future.

While the Falkland wool was undergoing color changes, I spun up this small skein; it's Wellington Fibers (thank you!).

Saturday, July 18, 2015

More yarn, more birds, more flowers ...

Enjoying the creation of these small skeins during Tour de Fleece. Even though I did not officially sign up, I've been spinning every day. Bright orange skein was finished yesterday.

I spied a goldfinch this afternoon, visiting the bird feeder out front. I love these dear pretty little birds.

The ever changing colors of summer ...

Clematis is starting to blossom:

The blue of these delphiniums is one of my favorites:

These mullein (sentinels to the forest beyond!) are 7' tall some of them!:

Ciello enjoys bathing in the fountain:

This nasturtium caught my eye for it's lovely soft coloring:

Christmas in July!: