Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How does your garden grow?

With peas
And broccoli
And carpeting all in a row.

And two million weed seedlings. Could they be called weedlings?
I guess that is what happens when you plant with black gold. AKA- manure. Cows eat grass and hay, which just happen to be full of seeds. It is interesting that seeds can pass through the digestive system of an animal intact. Ready to sprout where ever they fall. That is a pretty good way to get around if you ask me. And did you know that birds are unaffected by capsicum? That is the stuff in hot peppers that makes them hot. Birds can just nibble away on things that could make a grown man weep. What other sorts of useless information can I astonish you with today? How about Creeping Charlie is a bugger to get rid of. The stuff will grow in, on, and under just about anything. Every little chopped piece of it has the potential to sprout roots and grow and spread. It is already in bloom and yet more Creeping Charlie seeds shall soon find their way into my garden. When I hauled up the carpets this spring there were some pretty big colonies of CC that were working their way around under there. Admittedly it didn't look very healthy. The leaves were small and kind of pale, but the fact that it was actually growing under there at all lets us know that it means business. And the stuff loves to dig it's thousands of tiny roots into the weave of the carpets and break off when you try to pull the suckers off. Oh what fun.
Yesterday I went out to the garden and put down all of the rest of the carpet. And pulled many many CC plants off of it. I was going to plant the tomatoes and peppers, but we have a night coming up that is suppose to be just above freezing and if I don't have to subject my little darlings to that, I won't. I don't think that either of us would like it very much.

Monday, May 28, 2007

New warp

Most of the yarns that I use in my scarves that I weave are dyed twice. Some of the yarns are dyed when I get them, and sometimes I dye the colours myself. A lot of times, once the warp is dyed, I need to dye a weft yarn to match. I like the weft colour to be a little darker than the predominant colour. I find that the weft disappears best that way and the colour changes of the warp become the main feature in the scarf. I always dye more weft than I need because I would rather have too much than too little. And I know that if there is any left over, I can always use it in my next warp. And those little bits that are too short to use in a warp? I use them in my temari balls. I am almost at the end of my silk from my favorite supplier that retired last year. They had a wonderful sale and I really stocked up. I wove and I dyed and I wove and I dyed. Most of the time, I was very careful to choose colours for the warp that were at least on the same side of the colour wheel. But like I said, I am almost at the end of this stash of silk. More is coming sometime in the future, but it will be a different weight and while I don't mind mixing weights of yarns on occasion, for the most part, my woven scarves have all been of one weight. So here is the last warp that I made up. It is a blend of so many colours. Like I said, I was getting near the end of this batch of silk, and there were many small balls that were left over wefts from other projects, some blues, some purples, a lovely beige, green, and a couple of shades of red.

Apply some dye and suddenly I have three new scarves that are very different. When I started to dye this, I realised that I was almost out of many colours. I wanted to use up my old colours before mixing new ones, so in true frugal fashion, I used up a lot of my little bits of dyes so that nothing would go to waste. And here is what I came up with. These are three separate scarves in one warp. I just piled them all up so that I could get one pictureAfter looking at my finished scarves, I realized that they were predominantly in the blue/green range with a bit of purple thrown in. And thinking " I NEED RED!" I let the first one become red. The next is mostly purple and the last is blues and greens and browns. I emptied out 6 of my jars of dye and mixed up six new jars while I was waiting for the warp to steam. Most of the time when I rinse out and dry my scarf warps, I end up liking one of them more than the other two. Not this time. I am excited to get this on the loom and see what they look like.
But first, I need to get this off the loom.
It was two scarves in a New Zealand wool that was originally a medium grey and dark grey colour. They are a little dark for my tastes and so I find that I would rather spend time at my wheel spinning. But now I have motivation to get them off, so that the new ones can go on. Hopefully by the weekend. IF I can pry myself away from the wheel long enough.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

2 pounds

is a LOT of roving!

This is 2 whole pounds of "Mermaid dreams". It will either be a shawl for an up coming show, or just become happy, slubby yarn if the piece that I submitted to a different show is not accepted.

This pile actually reminds me of entrails. I don't know whether or not I should have shared that with you, but there it is. I was fortunate enough to have been able to purchase about 8 pounds of merino roving not to long ago and I have been dyeing like a crazy woman ever since. I love the whole dyeing process. Choosing the colours, consulting my notes, rinsing it all out. Waiting for it to dry is always a bit of a problem, but not impossible. And then, the spinning. I love the spinning almost as much as I love the dyeing. We have been watching quite a few movies in the evening, and that is when I get the majority of my spinning done these days. The day times are just too busy and the guilt of doing something other than one of the things on my "need to do" list is just to great for me to indulge.
I was also at the doctor the other day and mentioned the pain that I have been feeling in my hip the past few days. Her diagnosis was bursitis. I am suppose to rest (HA!) and not do anything to strenuous for the next little while. The good news is that it is in my left hip and I treadle with my right foot. So spinning is alright to do. Thank heaven for small miracles!

And thanks to all of you who gave me suggestions about my spinning for my lace shawl. I think that what I may do is just keep spinning the merino that I am working on and then ply it with itself. Hold on to the silk for a while. Spin some of my undyed merino as yarn for the shawl. There you have it! The queen of lace procrastination strikes again!

But then again, I did dye some grayish purple yesterday that may match my silk.......

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On the horns of a dilemma

You all remember this, right? It's the cochineal saddened silk that I was going to ply with something and knit a lace shawl. The problem is what do I ply it with?
I had thought maybe this merino. But never having plied a solid with a variegated, and never having knit lace, I thought that I would ask for your valued opinion. I'm not really all that keen on the candy stripe look of plying a dark singles with a light one. I tried that with the silver and some black.
I have more merino to dye. I like these colours, but would it be better to dye more like this and then blend it on a drum carder? Or dye something in the lighter range of these colours that will blend more with the colour of the silk. Or some other colour altogether and save the silk for something else.
The pattern that I am using is Kiri which calls for 400+ yards of sports weight yarn. I can manage that.

When you knit lace, what do you like? Variegated? Candy stripes? Solid? Other?Does anyone have any pictures of lace knit with hand spun that they can point me to?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

About the weaving

I received a call a couple of weeks ago from the Lieutenant Governor's staff because the Governor General was coming to New Brunswick for a visit and they wanted to give her a gift. They regularly go to the Craft College to find something for visiting dignitaries. Normally they would ask for a bunch of different pieces to be brought to the office and then chose. But because of the timing (school being done for the year and people being frantic about graduation) they came directly to me, having gotten my name from someone at the college. I paid them a visit and brought what I felt might be suitable and out if it all they chose this shawl for the Governor General, Michaƫlle Jean.

And this scarf for her husband. I realized that I didn't get a picture of it when it was off the loom, but I have to say that it was a beauty. I love this weave structure. It is an 8H structure called "brakes and recesses" if my faulty memory is to be believed. We won't talk about the state of my weaving notes right now. I know that I have them. Somewhere.
And that is the story of the pat on the back with my weaving.

And just a note for those of you south of here. In Canada, we still have loose ties with jolly old England. And the Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada and the Lieutenant Governors are the Queen's representatives in each of the provinces. You can see the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick here. You can also see my shawl draped over her arm. I would have rather seen it around her shoulders, but you take what you can get sometimes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The answer, my friends....

is blowing in the wind.

Well, actually, it's not. It wasn't windy out when I took this photo. But for some reason, that song is stuck in my head today. This is all my new roving. I am pleased with it. It makes me happy to such a big pile of beautiful fluff just waiting to be spun.

Today is also a special day in our household. 14 years ago, Bill and I had our first date. Good food, good wine, lots of talking and laughing, and a huge box of kleenex are my memories. Bill cooked me diced chicken with peanuts. Tonight's dinner is much more humble, because to be honest, I forgot all about today until I saw the date on the computer.

It has been a glorious day here. Sunny and warmish. Definitely not too hot. I'm looking forward to a few more.

By the way, did any of you notice anything interesting in the picture above? Anybody have the feeling of being watched?

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Yesterday was the Craft College graduation. It is a rather small school and there were 42 graduates. Three of them were from the Fiber Arts studio.

Loranda has always been driven by colour. Everything from her clothes to the work that she does has always been bright. She was a joy to have in the studio and I'm glad that she has decided to come back next year to do a year of advanced studies.

Stacy had her first gallery show this year. She works mainly with metal wire and broken glass. It was always wonderful when Stacy walked in the class and called out "JACKIE!" in her distinctive voice. I'm going to miss her next year.

erin and ashley

Erin is a wonderful painter as well as weaver. She made a tapestry of a watercolour that she painted and I was so impressed! It was great seeing her bright smile and watching her dedication to her work.
Ashley was not a graduate this year, but had graduated from fashion design last year and came back to do a year in weaving so that she could weave the cloth that she makes into clothing.
I can't tell you the number of pictures that I tried to take of these girls during the ceremony. They all turned out dark and Erin was so hard to get a picture of. I have a great many of her back as she turned away after accepting her diploma and her awards. So when I saw her in the lobby, I cornered her and took this picture of her and Ashley.

I'm so proud of these women. It's hard to believe that I have only been there for one of their three years. I know that they are all going to do great things. They just have to keep working!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I just gotta share

a couple of things.

The first is that I finally finished spinning the cochineal silk. I have come to the conclusion that I really don't care to spin silk. It took me so long to spin because I just kept ignoring my wheel and making up excuses as to why I had no time to spin. And while I was busy, I could have been doing some spinning on it. The big clue was when I took the silk bobbin off and grabbed some black merino. Just because. And it was like entering an oasis after a trek in the desert. Speaking of oasis, there were two things that helped me finally finish this stuff. One was Whitefeather. At our spinning group, I asked her for some pointers. Pre-draft was the answer. It helped. The other was Viggo Mortensen. We watched Hidalgo last night. He kept my mind occupied while my hands were busy cursing the silk.
The silk is really different from anything else that I have yet spun. The fiber staple is really long (of course it's long, duhh, it's SILK) and it has a mind of it's own. I think that I am going to have to try some blending with the silk that I have remaining. Or maybe I'll just let it sit for a while. It's not going to go bad.

Here it is in all its glory. It's about 4 ounces and heaven knows how many yards.
Now I have to decide what to ply this stuff with. I have several options and will be performing some tests in the near future. I have several different colours of roving that I have recently dyed and I also have just plain black. The plan is to spin the merino, ply it with the silk and then knit my self a lace shawl. I've wanted to do this for a while and I have a friend nearby who is willing to give me a quick lace tutorial. The shawl that I want to knit is kiri from all tangled up. The pattern is under the e-mail sign on the top right. I love it. But I fear it too.

The socks that helped to get us lost are almost finished. I'm down to the toe on both!

The last thing that I have to share is Chris Jordan. His photos are incredible and really put the consumption of our society in perspective.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Snow Report

Thankfully this is all that accumulated last night. Thanks mostly because the ground is completely thawed. Right now, it is rain and freezing rain mixed with ice pellets. Doesn't that sound like wonderful weather to be having in May? I turned the heat back on last night.

And because these are now finished, here they are!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Is this some sort of a cruel joke?

Here is the weather forecast for tonight.

Rain mixed with snow changing to snow at times mixed with freezing rain and rain early this evening. Rainfall amount 5 mm. Snowfall amount 10 to 15 cm. Wind northeast 20 km/h. Low zero.

Snow! And not just flurries! Did you see that "
Snowfall amount 10 to 15 cm!!!!!"

What????? May 16th. I am not amused. Thankfully I planted my peas and broad beans on Monday, and both of these like the cold. I am not quite sure how they feel about the snow, but I know that it wont be long lived. I feel sorry for all of the trees that are just starting to set their leaves. Onions also made it in on Monday. They are not afraid of a bit of cold either. My dill may suffer a bit though. I guess that I will find out soon enough.

Yesterday was transplanting day. I put my tomatoes into larger pots so that they will have a little more space to grow their root systems before the final move to the great outdoors. I think that the final tomato count is around 32. That may change depending on how much room there ends up being in the garden. Also being transplanted was the broccoli, eggplants, and peppers. I have to plant my cukes and squash soon. Really soon. Like maybe tonight or tomorrow. I have a few new varieties of squash and yard long beans to try this year courtesy of David. I can hardly wait to try them. Well, actually maybe I can wait because eating them would mean the end of summer, and I am NOT going to wish my summer away. I'll wish that snow away! But not the summer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Why did I think that I would have more time?

Life has been busy for the last few days. For some strange reason, I was under the assumption that when I was finished work and class, that I would have a bit more time at my disposal. I forgot all about planting season. See above the state of the garden as of Sunday morning. Last fall, I found myself very busy with children, work, weaving for the market, and life in general. I did not get around to doing the final cleaning of the garden before the ground froze. In fact it was somewhat of a relief when the ground froze because then I could just erase that pesky line from my "to-do" list. Can't very well haul up carpets and tear down fences when everything is frozen, can I?
Here is Dad's magic elixir. Or black gold. Know as manure in some circles. Two buckets were dumped on the garden after all of the carpets were rolled back and the two million weeds were dug out.
Mom and Dad both helped, as did Nicole. The older kids helped sporadically and not without protest.
Here is Dad tilling. Beats the heck out of one of those bone shakers that you walk behind. Dad has tilled so many fields and gardens that he can put the tiller exactly where he wants it. I am always very impressed by his accuracy.
Speaking of impressed, doesn't Bill look impressed with our first crop? That would be one of about 6 or 8 wheel barrows full of weeds. Grass, creeping charlie, maple seedlings, dandelions, and countless other unknown plants. As my Dad says, a weed is an unwanted plant. Strange as it may sound, I have had, on occasion, tomatoes as weeds. Bill will disagree.
And when I spoke earlier of rolling back the carpets, that is exactly what I meant. In between the rows of plants, we have strips of old carpets down. These keep the weeds out from between the rows, helps to keep the moisture in, and keeps your feet relatively mud free.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

To all of the mothers out there!

Especially my own. Mamoo is the best mother anyone could have. I don't know what I would do without you mom! I love you!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Or Critters!
Just out side of the mini mill was a couple of critters. First up was the chicken, who, I was told, produces 2 eggs a day. She will soon have some company as a few more hens and chicks are expected to arrive any day. Who knew that it was so hard to photograph a chicken. Or more accurately, a chickens head. We won't talk about the photos that I have of the less photogenic end of the chick.

Then there are the goats. All boy goats. I missed the part of the discussion of the type they are, but Amy fed them some chow and I loved the way their little lips worked to pick up the grains! Sooooo cute! They were only originally going to stay for a few weeks , but Amy's husband took a shine to them and decided that they could live there a while longer.
Then it was on to the Alpacas! First up are the lovely ladies. There are a lot of white ones in the heard. Amy was very excited about this. So am I, truth be told! They just got the herd in January. They are boarding the herd for an oil fellow in Alberta. He pays the bills, they look after the herd, can keep the fleece, and they also take ownership of the cria, which are the babies. The herd will soon have their first shearing in New Brunswick. Maybe I can get my hands on some local alpaca roving. I was amazed by these critters. I noticed that there was an area where they all went to do their... ahem... business. It was right in the middle of the field, but at least they weren't spreading the joy all over the place.
Next came the boys. Apparently, the females don't have a heat cycle, but ovulate when they get inseminated. So the boys are kept separate from the ladies. The gestation period of an alpaca is about 11.5 months. A lot of the ladies are almost ready to give birth. Summer is a nice time to do that. January... not so much. Oh. And I was looking at the name list. One of these dudes is named Viagra. Yup. Viagra. I HAD to comment on it when I saw it, and Amy said that he was their stud male. Or head dude. Or the big guy. Maybe even the alpha alpaca. He might be the one who is posing so prettily out front, but to be honest with you, I had a hard time telling.
On the way into the farm, we noticed that the alpaca were very curious. So I asked Amy if any were named "George". "Well, yes," she replied "George is in the barn" He is a yearling that is being weaned from his mother. He and the other yearlings are kept separate from their moms for obvious reasons, but they are also kept from the big males because the big dudes will castrate them. Territory issues. Makes me glad that I am not a boy alpaca. But look at those eyes! So sweet.
Remember the slight problem with the navigation due to knitting? Here is the culprit. First sock foot finished (some where after the turnoff was missed) and second sock instep decrease finished and about two inches along the foot. I'm in the home stretch now! It should be done before the snow flies again.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Monday was the last day of classes at the Craft College. So, Tuesday we all went on a field trip (cue "Magic School Bus" music). Our trip took us to Legacy Lane Fiber Mill, operated by one of our recent graduated, Alyson and her sister, Amy. Amy (in the black) is due with baby #1 next month! Good luck Amy!
Click on any picture to see it bigger.

The trip was a little longer than necessary due to the unfortunate circumstance of the navigator knitting. We finally made it to Sussex after enjoying the spectacular views of the back roads of New Brunswick. There, we met with Pippi and her Mom (who blessedly knew the way to the mill) and the caravan continued.
It was great to see Alyson again and see what kind of an operation she has.
The first machine was the picker. This loosens and separates the fibers.
Next came the de-hairer. This will separate any guard hairs and vegetable matter that was left after the washing process. Then it goes through a carder and roving or batts come out the other end.

The roving is stored in tall slender drums until enough is ready to prepare for spinning. The roving is then put through a machine which makes all of the roving the same size. The size of the yarn that the customer wants dictates the size of the roving.

Then the spinning happens. They have great control over the size of the yarn that they spin. Everything from fat bulky to gossamer weight.

After the spinning, comes the plying. They can also ply as many singles together as the customer wants.

And the last picture is the cone winder. They also have the option of making skeins. It all depends on what the customer wants. Right now they are specializing in processing other farmers fibers. But soon they will start processing their very own alpaca. They acquired a herd of alpaca in January and will soon begin their first shearing. But more about that tomorrow.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

In The Pink

I just finished spinning my "riding the pony" roving. Sorry about the blurry photo. Someday I shall read the camera manual. I swear! As for the yarn, I am actually working hard on creating slubs so that I can weave slubby scarves like this one.
I'm loving weaving with the slubby hand spun! Dressing the loom and weaving the scarf yesterday took about three hours. I expect fringing to take about 20 minutes. I have learned that I can not mix anything with the hand spun yarn. The amount of stretch differs so greatly that even though I think that I have good tension, when I take it off the loom, ripples bulges appear. Very disheartening. In fact, the two mixed warp scarves that I posted a while back may be destined to be taken apart and re-woven. I'm not loving the seer-sucker look.

But that is a task for another day. Right now I am working on a couple of scarves that are a bit darker and commercially spun. The pink needs to have its twist set (which I shall do tomorrow) and the warp made up before I can put another hand spun scarf on.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

When I am an old woman....

I shall wear hats!

Hats with feathers and fringes!

Hats with flowers and tassels!

Hats with fish and tentacles!

Tall hats that match hand spun, hand woven scarves!

When I am an old lady, I shall wear hats!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Happy Jackie Day?

I have to say that today at work ended up being very special. I arrived before everyone else, as usual. And I was tidying up the kitchen when Bronwyn (a second year student) came in and gave me a hug and said that she hoped that I had a great day. "So far so good" was my reply. Then she told me that she had won a scholarship for next years tuition! A little while later, I was reminded that it was our last day of class for the second years and they were wondering if I could have lunch with them. "Of course!"

At lunch time I went and picked up my lunch from the staff room fridge and went to the textile's studio class room to have our last day of class lunch. The little sneaks had planned a party for me and were calling it "Jackie Day"!!! I was sideswiped! They had cookies (deadly chocolate ones with mini peanut butter cups and caramilk squares inside!!) Chocolate cake. Cheese and crackers. Chips and salsa. I ate so much.

And then they gave me flowers and presents. Sandi had asked me yesterday what my favorite flowers were. We had been talking about gardens a few days before and though nothing of it when I replied "Irises" And then went on to describe the irises that I have that will bloom in about 5 or 6 weeks. Well, the florist had no irises (except the open ones on the counter) and so she picked me up tulips. They would be # 3, after peonies.
Aren't they pretty! They also had some other things like the BEST FRESH DATES ON THE PLANET! An assortment of bath relaxation products (including a compressed "instant" face cloth), Lotto tickets (no winners), A "queen for a day" bag, Chocolates that I am NOT sharing, And a new car. They had all heard of my car troubles and thought that a Jag convertible would be just the thing. I can only agree. There was also a card made by Pip, in which she sweetly thanked me and promised to be more tidy next year. I'm going to hold you to it!

So thanks to all of the Fiber Arts students ( and faculty) for making this a great year and a very special day. I'll be happy to see you all throughout the summer and next fall. Except for Sandi, who lives about an hour away and will not be returning. She was on sabbatical this year and is going to go back to her regularly scheduled life next year. I'm gonna miss you!