Friday, 26 June 2009

Hot Weather - No More Weaving for a while...

Today is really hot. The dog has retreated under the table in the loomshed and is staring out at me like I should be able to do something about the weather. The rams drank a bucket of water between them and the lambs had an extra bottle of milk to help stave off dehydration. The only ones not complaining are the chickens, who are sunbathing in dusty holes they have excavated and the ducks who are partying on their new, improved pond.
As the air humidity is so low, the linen in the loom is protesting by getting brittle, so I've decided to cover it up till it starts raining again! A new warp beckons and we've settled on two shades of green, a bright yellow and two shades of natural - one wet and one dry retted. It will make a good vertical stripe or a country check. This one will be the same width as the one that's in at present - 960 ends - but will be a 2 x 2 twill rather than a 2x2 herringbone.
Did I mention that I'd got all my finishing back from the mill? The white has been despatched and will be appearing at the 2010 Harrogate bridal show, and I've packed away the linsey woolseys in case anyone wants to buy them! (Heaven Forbid).
Just now we are getting ready for the craft fair at the Harris Hotel, Tarbert on Tuesday - I've found the craft fair banner, the knock in notices and the notice for the door. All I need now is to sort out some stuff to sell.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Welcoming Unexpected Arrivals

Today there was a nice surprise for us when we were out feeding the chickens. Behind the henhouse was a little family of four chicks - hatched by one of the Buff Orpingtons who had hidden her nest under several layers of corrugated iron, two old doors and a pile of old feed bags!

Because we had seen ravens lurking around in large numbers early this morning, which alerted us to the situation, we had to move the chicks and mum to a safe place. So most of the morning was spent moving all the piled up junk, then chasing around the chicks and re-homing them in the premises so recently vacated by the duckettes. Here is a photo showing the chicks looking a bit bemused next to their mum who is showing us her best side! The weather is quite chilly today so the chicks are taking advantage of a 15 tog mother and have spent long periods snuggling under all those feathers.!

Of course, because we don't have a buff orp cockerel, the chicks are all cross bred, but three look like mum and the fourth bears an uncanny resemblance to our white cockerel who is descended from a light sussex line.
For the rest of the day I am going to carry on with weaving the natural linen. Tomorrow we are off the Shawbost Mill to collect the finishing (including the white) - so hopefully that will be on the blog before too long. We are also picking up the ingredients for the lunches at the flea market on Saturday, so its going to be a busy day in Stornoway!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Dyed milk fibre

Just had a quick look at Calana Craft blog where she has a piccie of my milk fibre dyed up. Looks terrific. Can't wait to get a hold of it! Assuming that Joan doesn't abscond with it.....

I haven't measured it yet, but when it comes back I will. It should be around 4 ozs as that's what I bought, though it may have lost a bit in the dyeing - this is our first time with milk fibre.
the cost of the fibre was £16.70 so its not cheapo yarn - taking into account spinning time, dyeing time etc. it will be available for £40.00 - postage included. Once I've got the length of the yarn and its exact weight, you can work out the thickness.

I'm looking to negotiate to buy milk fibre in bulk, so the price will come down in time. Meantime - its a great designer yarn for a designer knitter.

Check out to see the photo.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Milk Fibre and Carloway hand-spuns

Yesterday evening I couldn't wait to get started on the milk protein fibre I had ordered from It arrived very quickly and there was a lovely surprise in the bag - a sample of bamboo fibre too! So two new fibres at once, I feel very spoilt!

The milk protein was wonderful to spin, so very smooth and slippy. If you take your eye off it for a moment it runs away from you! However, it soon spun up and is now hanked and sitting in a basket so Joan at Calana Crafts can dye it tomorrow. I want to see how it takes a dye.
Then I finished off my royal blue Carloway hank. It twisted well with a fine Shantung silk of a similar colour and knits up in a pleasant knobbly sort of way at 4sts and 6 rows to the inch on 4.4mm needles.
Having got the camera handy, I have also taken a photo of my candyfloss Carloway yarn which has been twisted with a fine purple lurex thread. It's slightly thicker than the blue, but not substantially. They co-ordinate very well together.

By the way - Joan from Calana Crafts was telling me that someone in one of her groups was interested in Qiviut fibre. I bought about a pound in weight from the Large Animal Research Station at University of Alaska, Fairbanks. It was very expensive (over £100 including carriage) and is as it comes from the musk-ox needing de-hairing by hand, but all the proceeds from sales of fibre through them goes directly back into the study and conservation of the animals. Just Google Qiviut and you should get to them. It is just fabulous to spin with and is such a fine warm fibre that it is ideal for people who are a)allergic to wool and b) suffer from the cold like the elderly or the very young.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Photos, orphan lamb and the new linen

First a picture of little Heather - she looked so cute in this one that I couldn't resist it.

The postie arrived in the afternoon with an interesting package - it turned out to be the book I had ordered from Donnie at Photo Hebrides (see the blogs I follow on the left for a link). It's a fabulous book - incredibly smooth and glossy to handle - you just want to stroke it for a while, gazing at the photo of the highland cow on the cover. The photos revolve around a story structure which is just enough to theme them together, but is well-balanced enough not to intrude onto the pictures.

This book is destined to be a great friend. At last I have found someone else on my wavelength who realises that the long-abandoned vehicle in the centre of a moor is an embellishment, an enhancement, to the landscape - not something that needs clearing away, tidying up, sanitising. I particularly loved the celebration of corrugated iron structures - I have a very soft spot for corrugated myself (see photo hebrides blog for yesterday!) and would joyfully give up my stonebuilt residence for something iron and clangy. I recommend this book to anyone who lives here, has visited or is considering visiting. Well done Donnie, you have well-captured the spirit of the islands. More power to your lens!

We have a new orphan lamb - this time not a new-born - strangely it is the little black lamb whose mother came back for her after she initially abandoned her. Sadly, her mother died very suddenly yesterday morning and the lamb was quite inconsolable for a while. Once she gets the hang of feeding from the bottle she will soon settle.

A photo of our present weaving project - 16lea dew retted natural colour linen sleyed on a 10 dents to an inch reed at 3 ends per dent. 960 warp ends, about 29 inches wide, 28 shot wheel which is giving about 32 shots per inch, on a 50 yard warp drafted as 2 x 2 herringbone.

Despite the dry weather today it is weaving remarkably well - edges relatively firm and overall appearance crisp and well-defined. Considering that it is a dry-spun tow yarn that does tend to get a bit hairy with handling, it is bearing up remarkably. The only trouble is that with 32 spi it is taking forever to weave and is very, very boring. Thank goodness for BBC i-player on the cordless headphones!

Also, yesterday I received the yarn samples from the linen spinner in Belgium. Jos Vannestes has some gorgeous colours, and everything is wet spun and beautiful. Can't wait to get up to the mill at Shawbost and start rifling through their yarn store to find matching shades to get started on the co-ordinating linen and harris tweed cloths.

Two of the ducklings have gone to a new home in the village this morning. They aren't really ducklings any more - at this stage I call them "duckettes".

SassyGael WoollyWags had a record attendance at the knitters group last evening - we even had a holiday visitor who brought her knitting. It's good to get an opportunity to get together for a laugh and a cup of tea - sometimes we even manage to get a bit of knitting done. The main topic of conversation was the Square Up 2 A Blanket project which lifts off tomorrow at the Harris Inn. Everyone in the area is welcome to attend between 11am and 3pm - there will be spare yarn and needles there for anyone to borrow.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A Bit of a Hotchpotch Today.

Hows this for a beautiful candyfloss effect? At present, as well as working on a natural colour linen on the loom which is for an order, I am spending evenings spinning the bags I got from our friends at Carloway Mill (Harris Tweed Textiles). This bag had unspun cut ends, around six inches in length taken from the machines, and some carded fibre all of the same colour with fascinating little slubby bits in it. So I'm spinning the lengths into an endy sort of yarn which has interesting little tails hanging out all over, and twisting it with a single purple lurex thread to give a faint sparkle without being too OTT. Half the fibre I'm spinning really fine and the rest will be thicker. This will give a suite of yarns, all the same colour and type to do a variety of work with. The endy yarn will be excellent for scarf knitting or hand weaving - specially on a rigid heddle or peg loom, the fine will be great for baby socks (Calana Crafts please note!) and the thicker will knit up into sweaters etc.

Will post some pictures of the finished yarn when I have the camera handy.
Now, I know I said I wouldn't mention turkey eggs again for a month, but I found this photo lurking on the camera card of the eggs before we put them under the hens. So here they are.....
Today was ducklings first day outside. Here they have just emerged from their enclosure and are considering their next move. In point of fact, their next move was to go back inside again - so it looks like they are at least blessed with a modicum of common sense! Hopefully two ducklings will leave home later this week and take up residence in the village and we can clean out the enclosure ready for the t........ oops, sorry, said I wouldn't mention them again!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Decision Made - Eggs Set

Thanks for the comments as to which course of action I should take re. my turkey eggs. Especially thanks to Donnie for suggesting I get some call ducks! For a few years we had Indian runners - and they used to (run, that is!), and now we have Aylesburys which are slower but noisier.
Back to the subject in hand - when I was out feeding the hens this morning there was a light sussex in the guinea fowl nestbox and it occurred to me that she had not been in the main henhouse for quite a number of mornings. She raised three chicks last year very successfully and at the time we wished we had had some turkey eggs to put under her as she is quite wide and feathery. Also she is relatively even tempered even when broody. So she is now sitting on three bourbon reds and three norfolk blacks. The buff orp is too much of a ladette to be brooding anything except maybe a bacardi breezer, so we discounted her. So it is the bantam who has the other six. We will keep an eye on them to check that they are sitting ok as we seem to have so many cluckies at the moment that we can afford to shuffle them round till we find the right match.
So, taking tomorrow as day 1, hatch date should be 4th July. (Could this be a film title - "Hatched on the 4th July???)
Am now going to shut up about it for the next 28 days - a watched pot never boils, and a watched egg never hatches. If we get a 30% hatch from the eggs, I will not be disatisfied since they do deteriorate as they come through the post. But hopefully we will get something....

Friday, 5 June 2009

In a Quandary!

OK - so today the turkey eggs arrived from e-bay. All looking fresh and in good condition. Six bourbon reds and six black norfolk. But now I have to decide.....

a) do I put half the eggs under the growly buff orpington in the byre who has been sitting for a number of days on nothing and is certainly big enough to brood six turkey eggs but has an alarming habit of suddenly forgetting what she's supposed to be doing and abandoning her nest in favour of a riotous party with friends; or

b) do I put half the eggs under the dour little bantam who is sitting with her back to the world resolutely sitting, again on nothing, but who is loathe to leave her post even for a call of nature. She might be a bit small for six big eggs, and she also is lacking in a sense of humour - I remember how hatching those guinea fowl eggs last year went down - she couldn't see the funny side of that, so how will she be with turkeys? or

c) do I put six under each broody and let them get on with it, risking all the eggs if the party spirit gets too much for the buff orp to handle, and the little bantam looses her footing and plummets off her clutch; or

d) do I put them all in the incubator and risk a power cut - which is what happened in 2006 and it gave us many sleepless nights- both waiting for the eggs to hatch (which fortunately most of them did) and also with ten turkeys in a cage in the sitting room screaming their heads off and needing attention all the time; or

e) do I put three under each broody, six in the incubator and hope for the best - working on the basis that if the incubator ones hatch out I can add them to any family that the others might have hatched themselves.

Oh dear, its not an easy decision, but one which will have to be made tomorrow....

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Hen of The Day - Transylvanian Naked Neck

Yesterday was a beautiful day - hot (yes, actually hot!), sunny and wonderful. In the afternoon Gordon Ross, son of one of our SassyGael WoollyWags came to visit. Gordon is a talented photographer with a real eye for a picture. He was experimenting with some software which balances pictures that contain both inside and outside views. Usually the inside part comes out dark and the outside very light, but he just sent me a great photo of one of the cockerels at the shed door, taken from inside the shed. Yes, I know its not very tidy, but it is very clear!

Gordon has been attending our SassyGael Flea Markets where his photos are available to buy.
I recommend a visit to our next one which will be held on 20th June in Scalpay Community Centre.
There will also be refreshments available - home-made soup and filled rolls. I shall be making the mutton soup out of some Hebridean flank which is delicious. But there will also be vegetarian options for those who wish.
Proceeds from the refreshments will be going to our "Square Up 2 A Blanket" project which is starting on Worldwide Knit-In-Public Day on 13th June, and involves us all knitting squares to make blankets that will be donated to Blythswood Care for their disaster aid. Money raised will be split between Crossroads Harris - an organisation dedicated to carers and the cared-for, and Bethesda Hospice in Stornoway - which is an incredibly valuable asset to the community and reliant on fund-raising to keep going.

There will be more on the SU2AB later on........