Sunday, 30 August 2009

Pippin - one-week-with-us celebration photo

Here is Pippin, our new collie puppy, blunting off his incredibly sharp little teeth on one of Brambles' old bones.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The Calm before the Storm...

The weather forecast for Wednesday is quite horrid - apparently we will be catching the tail-end of a hurricane that has been roaring through Miami recently. But for now we have a wonderful day - slight breeze to keep the midgies away and sunshine all the way. Looked out of the front door this morning to see the heather on the hills opposite just starting to colour up, so thought it would be a great way to start the blog today!

This morning I finished off the hand-spun wool samples for Breanish Tweed so they should be in the post office this afternoon. The original roving was Falkland wool from blueface454 on e-bay. I have bought quite a bit over the past year and its always of a consistently high standard and a pleasure to spin.
After all the messing around with dyeing, I finally got a dark charcoal colour and put in the scarlet knobbles.
The carding after the dyeing was a bit weird, but after a couple of times through the drum carder it looked ok.
The spun yarn was a single and I put it through twice to give it a double twist just to make sure it would hold up in the pirn-winder and on the Hattersley loom. It all looked great when I'd finished, but when I put it through the pirn-winder, a lot of the larger knobbles dropped off leaving the floor looking like it had a bad attack of chicken pox!

So, what have I learned from this project?

1) I definitely need to either get some lessons in dyeing or get someone else to do it for me and 2) If I get to do more of this sort of yarn I will make smaller fluffier knobbles and put in far more of them to allow for some falling out on the winder.

Other than that, its been a good experience and I hope Breanish Tweed can use the resulting yarn.

And the blog would not be complete without a mention of little pup Pippin. He went for a long walk today to the end of the croft and this is him completely out of it on his return. He's settling in really well and is very entertaining. Bramble has developed that pained expression that foster mothers' get when they have to put up with being climbed on, having their tails tweaked and their paws nipped! But she's getting attached to him all the same.

And finally for today - the electricity company are replacing rotten light poles in our area over the next few weeks and the contractors are having to take new poles up onto the summer grazings moor. So far they have demolished a fence, knocked over a gatepost and churned up the side of the access track. Yesterday a large digger looked like it had partially sunk above someones peat bank. For this sort of work they used to use a helicopter to move the poles to inaccessible places - wonder why they stopped?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Very Special New Arrival on the Croft....

Introducing - Pippin - our new puppy. Pippin is nearly ten weeks old and came to us from Shawbost in Lewis. He is a real character and already gets on very well with Bramble (our other sheepdog), and Heather (small and furry). Pippin will need some time to settle in and get used to living with us and we are looking forward to seeing him grow up and start his training in a few months time. So keep watching the blog and look out for news of Pippins' new life on Scalpay.

The postman brought a very interesting parcel the other day - a kilo of pre-spun from a business in Forres. Kathryn was very helpful to me and I chose the shades below from a large number of really exciting options. I first discovered pre-spun earlier this year (though of course its been around for a very long time - but I do lead a sheltered life don't forget!) It's so wonderful to use for teaching spinning and was an invaluable part of my short courses this year to bridge that gap between practising winding on and keeping the spindle/wheel rotating consistently, and getting to grips with drawing out a rolag. I have no doubt I'll be back to Kathryn for more before too long. Meantime its well worth dropping by to see
something different - as well as pre-spun, carded and knitting/crochet yarns, there is sterling silver jewellry and kitchen tools made from juniper. I think everything originates in Scandinavia.

And now, at last, I have made a start on the spinning for Breanish Tweed. Have re-carded the black dyed roving and thrown in the little red knobbly bits, so we have to hope for the best.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Jasmine the Alpaca - Part 2, and more pathetic dyeing....

We've had a very busy few days what with the North Harris Agricultural Show on Friday (it was a really wet day so I only took Baggy the drake and his partner in crime as they don't mind the rain) and both won prizes so that was good and it also gave the ducks at home a day off from their amorous advances!

I also took picture of the alpaca blanket which I separated into 3 colours. The finest is the caramel colour, then there is a mid-toffee and finally a shade that looks very like the toffee popcorn we used to get as kids (maybe you can still get it now) - white and creamy with very light tan streaks. Yummy....
I have been spinning the darkest shade in the evenings, and took a rolag of it to our Crafts Fair at Tarbert yesterday where I had a relaxing day spinning, chatting and even selling things!!
The spinning wheel I'm using for this project is the Ashford with a jumbo flier. You may notice that I'm spinning with the large pulley which is more usually employed for twisting. This is because the tensioner broke off the wheel the second time I used it about 6 years ago, and there is a door-stop wedge jammed into the gap to keep the double-drive band at the right tension. It doesn't work on any other of the pulleys on the flier, so we just have to make the best of it. It does mean a few more treadles for the same number of tpi but that's a small price to pay for being able to spin such a large quantity at a time.
This is where I am up to now - I've two more rolags to go and think I might start another bobbin and make a three strand yarn. Ann said she was happy with a dk weight and since the quality of the raw fibre just screamed out for fine spinning I think a three ply might be just the ticket. It's very rare for me to do any more than a 2 strand yarn so I'll take some photos when its done. Of course, after this I've still got the medium and light fibre to do.. Then I'm just waiting for the post to bring a kilo of fabby pre-spun.... and then there's that kilo of gorgeous Falkland roving that arrived the day before yesterday..... oh yes, and the weaving - mustn't forget the weaving!
One thing I would rather forget is the dyeing. I am trying very hard to dye up some falkland roving to spin for samples for Breanish Tweed who are patiently waiting whilst I faff about in a most unprofessional way! I bought some slate black dye and followed the instructions to the letter and its come out a sort of very dark navy blue. Aaaaarrrggghhhh!!!! Joan, Help, help.
What am I doing wrong? Of course the photo is pathetic too, but you can take my word that it definitely isn't black.
Other, more cheerful, news on the poultry front. Our four little chicks who were hatched by the big Buff Orpington left home on Monday and are now at their new residence down in Luskentyre, South Harris. We wish them all the best. Then a Voorwerk sprang from the nettles the other day with two chicks in tow. They have moved into our final vacant run. The chicks are just cute - will get photos soon. One is grey with black wings and a tan spot above the beak.
Everybody else is thriving. Two of the chicks that went down to stay in the village earlier this year came back at the weekend - turned out they were cockerels! So they have joined the merry crowing throng at the Outend and are fitting in just dandy, especially around 5 am! We have promised two replacements from the current chicks - surely there will be a couple of hens?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Buff Orpington Chicks, Daisy and the Dyeing that didn't quite!

Last night was a bit chilly for us and after I'd fed the hens I found the Buff Orpington mum keeping her chicks warm under her wings. The chicks are now quite big and I think they can probably fend for themselves, but it seems that mum still enjoys babying them sometimes!

Here is Daisys wool, all washed and hanked up nicely. It now weighs 550g so it lost 100g in the washing. Is that about 18%? If so, that's about right. Now it just needs labelling, a few moth balls put in the bag and its ready for Leda to pick up in a week or two.

And here's a picture of my black dyeing that went wrong. Its turned into a lovely shimmery grey - we used to have a cat a very similar colour. When I've carded up the alpaca I'll put it through with some nepps and see how it goes as a practice. Meantime, Joan has some black acid dye for me to try again with. Second time lucky we hope!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Clematis and Daisy

Yesterday our clematis looked absolutely glorious, so I took a photo. My late mother chose it but sadly didn't live to see it bloom - everytime it tried to grow a little lamb would come and nibble the top off! This year there were no bottle fed lambs in this part of the garden, so it made up for lost time. My mum would have loved it! I hope she is enjoying it, wherever she is now.

Last night I finished spinning up Daisy. 650g greasy weight in total. 1 hank of Peruvian plied, 3 hanks of 2-ply - one slightly thicker than the other two, and 1 hank of single seconds which should appeal to the hair-shirt market! I washed it all today - 1 hour steeping in a bucket of hand-hot water with 100ml Hebridean Soap Company liquid soap (lemon & eucalyptus), a quick spin in the cylinder spin-drier, then 15 minutes soak in hand-hot water with 1 capful of Merino wool Wash (available from Skyeskins, Isle of Skye). Then another spin and a whirl round in the garden to loosen up the hanks before hanging them in the bathroom to dry. It has come out very creamy and lovely. Though it does have a bit of kempiness associated with the blackface part of Daisy's genetic inheritance, it still has a whole lot of cheviotness in the yarn which is a delight.
Leda will be here at the end of the month to collect it, so I hope she will be pleased with it.

This afternoon, after a quick dash across the bridge to Calana Crafts to collect some black dye powder, I dyed up some falkland roving. Sadly, though I followed the instructions it was not a huge success, though it is a gorgeous dark grey colour. Will have to consult with Joan as to where I went wrong. Never mind though, nothing is wasted here......

Monday, 10 August 2009

Alpacas on Lewis

Saturday was a red letter day for me when we went to visit with the Lewis Alpacas, and what a fine bunch they are - every bit as cute in the flesh as they are in photos.
They come to the bucket very readily and it was great to see them so close up....
The angle on this picture is a bit strange - this ones legs aren't really this thin and her feet are quite sizeable. I didn't realise that they don't have hooves, they have pads on the soles of their feet a bit like dogs.
Here's Jasmine looking pensively out onto the croft. The location is just fabulous, right on the coastline at North Galson with beautiful flat pasture - most unlike our moonscape on Scalpay!
I bet it gets cold and windy in the winter though!
On the way home, Bramble had had enough of the day and found Jasmines blanket - which I've taken to hand-spin in exchange for three sacks of top notch Hebridean fleeces to add to this years pool for machine spinning - a welcome pillow!
We have also located a new collie pup! Very exciting. Hope to be picking him up in a couple of weeks when he's old enough to leave his mum. More about this later.......

Today we have a bird of prey - small, a bit grey and very quick - swooping around the croft. I'm a bit worried about Meryl and the black chick, but the hen seems to be keeping them inside their enclosure today, which is very sensible of her.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Where to start?

Today is dull and windy - rain in the air, occasionally falling to the ground. Otherwise, not very Augusty. The wind is blowing directly in the door of the loomshed which means I have to keep it closed or else everything takes flight. However, enough of the griping, on with the show....

Remember the little blonde naked neck from the last but one hatch? Well, its a grey marbled effect now and very elegant in all respects. It has been re-christened Meryl so if it turns out to be a cockerel the name will still fit. Though still very small it is getting on nicely and is out and about during the day with its hatch mate and its mum.

Humbug was out briefly in the run yesterday when the sun was shining but today is firmly tucked beneath its mums wing in the warm.

The alpaca samples arrived yesterday and I couldn't resist spinning them up. Excellent - am really going to enjoy this project. Trying to borrow a little niddy-noddy so I can hank them up and wash them. Guess I really ought to buy one for myself.

Finished a hank of Daisy yesterday. Nice and chunky but really needs carding to get a more regular effect, so this morning I have the drum carder out and am busy carding up Daisy. Separating the not-so-good from the good sections so the not-so-goods can also be spun and dyed and the white left white if that's what is required.

Here's a batt that's gone through the carder once. Will probably put it through 2 or 3 times to get a good blend going.

Last evening when I took the dogs out for their final walk before bed there were a bunch of our Hebridean sheep on the side of the road sniggering at me - they know I'm on my own this week and are determined to show me up by breaking out of their field at every opportunity! I sent Bramble after them to put them down the croft away from the houses, and this morning I couldn't see them. It would be far too much to hope that they have gone back in the field by themselves - they are probably down at our neighbours pig enclosure doing leg-knitting with her electric fencing again!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

New warp, new chick and spinning up Daisy

Here are two pictures of my new warp, which I finally sorted out - this one shows the spacing reed which is between the heck and the tensioning rollers and I've turned it 180 degrees so the blue is on the right and the brown is on the left. This section will then match up with the previous one where the blue was on the left and the brown was on the right. I'm hoping that it is going to work when I come to tie in..... watch this space!

And here is a shot of two sections side by side showing the effect of turning the reed.

Here is the first official picture of our new naked neck chick - the one that had the near-death experience on Sunday. It hasn't actually ventured outside yet, but this morning I caught it having breakfast in bed! What could be better than snuggling up inside a lovely soft warm bed being fed cornflakes by a very attentive mother? When Humbug emerges into the open I will get a better picture. Mum is very protective just now - I can hear her growling at the other hens and the dogs as they go past.

And finally, I've just started spinning up Daisy - the abandoned lamb from Bunavoneader who we acquired in early spring when her foster mum and dad moved to the mainland. We sheared Daisy a few weeks ago and now I hear that the fleece needs to be spun up ready by the end of the month when foster mum and dad will be coming for an inspection visit!

So I've decided to spin a slim single straight from the raw fleece without any preparation and Peruvian ply it up to a chunkier three ply which I hope will be a good aran weight with a bit of texture in it. Not sure whether it is needing to be dyed - hope so because my landscape dyes from the Netherlands will be arriving soon, and I can't wait to get dipping!

Overcast and dull today. Moderately midgie but by no means unbearable. Quiet roads so hope to get plenty warping and weaving done before the day is over.

Monday, 3 August 2009

An interesting weekend..

Well, its been quite a busy time over the past day or two. On Friday I got a call out of the blue from an alpaca owner in Lewis - only forty miles from where we live - who was looking for someone to spin up the fibre from her best alpaca. Well, I'm just a sucker for alpaca spinning, as anyone who reads this blog will know by now, and it turns out she also has a bunch of Hebridean sheep. So, in return for the fleeces, which will go into the bag with the others I collect up from crofts on Lewis and our own on Scalpay, I am spinning up her fibre. All her alpacas are expecting in September, so you can bet I will be up there ooohing and ahhhing and taking photos when they arrive! Catch up on the goings on at the Little Croft on the Prairie -

She also has a pair of peacocks - wow! - so, knowing that Harvey from the Campsite in Lickisto, Bays of Harris (see links for web address) had been on the lookout for some, I felt I had been a useful soul that evening!

I've started a new warp - sort of.... here are the colours and I know roughly what I want, but its taking a bit of sorting out. I'm going to warp with 32 ends, but turn the reed between the heck and the mill 180 degrees on alternate sections to it gives a 64 end pattern. Should be straightforward but, is proving to be a bit of a brainteaser just now.

Yesterday I was at the airport waving of my O/H on his week long firefighting course at Invergordon, and when I got back to feed the chickens I found that two of the eggs under the black naked neck who was brooding in the byre had hatched earlier on in the day. She was jumping up and down at the byre door looking very distressed so I knew something was wrong. One chick had sadly fallen from the basket and died on the ground and the other was just alive on the edge of the basket but very cold.

I picked it up and put it in a basin with one of those gel hand-warmers and after half an hour in front of the stove it had picked up a bit and was cheeping. It is now re-united with its mum in a nest box with a run at the front to keep it safe. This morning mum was sitting tight but I could hear a fair amount of noise coming from beneath her feathers, so it looks like the chick is still with us. It's a cute little naked neck (yes, another!) with brown stripes on a fawn body - we're calling it "Humbug" because that's exactly what it looks like.
Photos will follow when it comes out to play......