Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Cute and cuddly little hamster

Here is a delightful little baby golden hamster called jia-ka chan who lives on the outskirts of Tokyo. Apparently he is very good company, though a little noisy at night!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Milk Protein Fibre

Over the past while, I've been trying to track down a source of milk protein fibre for hand-spinning. It is a fibre with a lot going for it and the potential for blending and using it "neat" is quite staggering. However, it seems to be difficult to get hold of in smallish quantities. I'm now involved in a dialogue with a firm in the US who could supply a bale of between 400 and 500lbs - which is a lot!

Is there anybody out there who might be interested in purchasing small quantities for hand-spinning or other craft work, if I got a bale?

Let me know through my website so I can gauge if there is any demand.

Today we were in Stornoway, getting our van MOT'd (Hurrah, it passed!), so there wasn't any time for spinning, weaving or taking photos. However, I see the Singing Weaver is really getting into her stride now..... maybe next year I shall sign up for the tour - it looks really interesting.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Out on the Croft

We've finished planting potatoes for now. Well, when I say "we" I mean it very loosely. Actually it was my other (more active) half who got out the spade turned over the ground and did the planting. Because there is so little depth of soil here the earth is banked up into long barrows which follow the contours of the land for drainage purposes. These are called "Lazybeds" - though there's nothing lazy about preparing and maintaining them. All around the lazybed is a deep ditch - in the old days when people grew corn for over-wintering the cattle, it was extra important to have good drainage, so the ditches could be waist-deep. Very few people now actively croft but the lazy beds, though overgrown with grass and heather, can still be seen. If you look at "Google Earth" for the area - zooming in a bit - you can see evidence of a lot of cultivation in Harris and Lewis.

It was pretty muddy down on the lazybeds and little Heather, only having short legs, came back sporting a set of brown ankle boots.....
As befits a working dog, Bramble's feet were just a little off-white even after galloping through the ditches at speed.......
The flea market in Tarbert on Saturday went well - there was an excellent plant stall there and I bought a tub of lilies for the front door and some echinops (globe thistles) plants to put in the loomshed garden once the sheep have departed for the common grazings the Saturday after next.
Next Saturday we have a party of weavers from the US coming for a visit. The Singing Weaver (follow their travels through the hidden textile world of Scotland by following visits us every year, and we are always delighted to see them. Nadine, the tour organiser, is a talented weaver and musician. This will be the third year we have entertained the party, and this week we are busy cleaning and dusting in the loomshed to make sure everything is spick and span. Their visit marks the official beginning of our season. So after that we must get into gear and start working really hard!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Busy with lambs and linen..

What a busy couple of days its been here on the croft. Lambing is starting to draw to a close - the black Hebrideans are being a bit tardy and we hope there are still a few more lambs to come - difficult to tell since they won't stand still long enough to have a feel and see if there is anything there, and they are all such slim-Jims you can't always tell by looking.

On Tuesday morning a little black lamb arrived in my care - its mother is a cross gimmer and had a tough time giving birth as the lamb, whilst being Hebridean in almost every other aspect, definitely had a blackface sized head. Hebrideans rarely have problems lambing, as the rams are small and compact like the ewes, but for blackfaces, the rams are often quite a bit larger than the ewes and the resulting lambs can be a struggle to birth. The same also applies to cattle. Anyway, this little lamb, along with its mum had had a tough time and she decided that motherhood wasn't for her and without ado abandoned the lamb. My husband saw if from the window, on the other side of the hill about half a mile away and we kept an eye on it. When it became clear that the lamb was going to be very vulnerable to the crows and ravens, we decided to bring it in. So it spend Tuesday afternoon and night in the garden. On Wednesday I fed it in the morning and it was very unsettled - bleating and yelling its head off. Then its mum turned up! She stalked around the fence for a while till we opened the gate, when she headed in and took charge of the lamb. We put them in our special needs field and she has been taking care of it, feeding it, talking to it and doing everything a new mum should be. No word of her previous behaviour!

This was a very unusual thing to happen - neither my husband nor myself have ever seen it before. But, alls well that ends well. I'll try to get a picture of the happy couple when I'm out with the camera next.

Yesterday I had a nice surprise order for some white linen. So I thought I would add it to the blog - here it is being warped. I'm using 10 lea 1/8 bleached white and warping in bunches of 24. This is the warping creel with the ends in place...

And here is the warping mill with about 12 bunches wound on it.
Altogether it will need 27 bunches of 24 on, so there's a bit more work to do before its finished. The linen is going to be about 32" wide when its finished and I'm warping 100 yards.
Watch this space for more photos as the project progresses.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Lamb is growing up...

Today it is sunny and warm. We decided to move the bottle-fed lamb from her pen in the garden to a proper small field. For company she has Daisy who knows all about being an orphan. So far the lamb is settling in well. Enjoying trying its new teeth out on the fresh grass.

We started planting potatoes today - lots of digging, fertiliser, chickens everywhere rushing for worms and insects that had been turned up. Hope we're not too early - still the chance of frost, or even a cold snap with some snow before summer finally arrives. Yesterday we saw a group of twenty two swans - Bewicks I imagine - heading north and flying very high. The first largish group we have seen for a couple of years, so that is reassuring. There has been so little in the news about bird 'flu just lately that we wonder if there is really nothing to report or if it has been hushed up to avoid the sort of panic it caused last time.

Changing the subject - have ordered a new row counter for my Berridge circular sock knitter. I am almost ready to start - just need a few round heavy pebbles to use as weights and then I'll be able to give it a go.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Surprise Tweed

Well, its been a good week. On Tuesday I got a phone call from someone who had a warp and needed it woven up. "Bring it on....", I said!

The warp had been chained as it was taken from the stakes so we threaded it over rollers suspended from the ceiling above the front and the back of the loom....

and then spread the warp ends evenly across the raddle.

Once the flanges either side of the beam had been adjusted to the correct width so it would wind securely....

Then with one of us hanging onto the chained warp and the other turning the handle of the beam, the warp wound itself onto the beam.

Next job was winding the pirns to go in the shuttles to make the weft shots. We have a six spindle winder, though only five are operational just now. The cone of yarn sits on a spike at the bottom of the frame, the cardboard pirns are on spindles which are rotated by drive bands attached to a cylinder which is turned by a little 0.25hp motor. We needed to wind around three hundred pirns.

I actually missed taking the photo of tying-in the new tweed - it was done while I was out of the loomshed. Anyway, the photo above was taken after about 20 pirns had been woven. You can see the revolving box on the left with the shuttle in the segment, and the reed at the front which carries the warp ends as they come through the heddles.

And finally, the finished tweed, folded, tied and ready to go to the mill.

Job Done!!

Changing the subject, when I got home from my travels last week I found lambing in full swing. The first black lamb has a white mum! Mum is half-hebridean and half-cheviot. Last year she had a white male and this year she has a black female. So the lamb is, by my calculation... 75% Hebridean and 25% Cheviot.

We also have one little lamb on the bottle - a female blackface with no horns at all! Here she is playing with Heather the dog, who has had a haircut since she last featured on the blog.

While I had the camera handy, I caught Heather gazing through the gate at one of the Buff Orpingtons, who are getting huge. They really are the size of a beachball, but its all feathers. Underneath they are pretty scrawny. They are also ne of the few hens that are not laying. If they weren't rare breed birds I'm afraid I would be considering their future very seriously. The other hens are doing sterling work for the cause, and we have the "Eggs for Sale" sign out every day now.