Monday, 28 October 2013

We are poorly

At present the grey hairy one and I are watching the advancing weather front as the predicted storm gathers momentum across the UK. As I speak the daylight is diminishing quickly as we switched to winter hours last night when the clocks went back an hour. It adds to the melancholy the grey hairy one and I feel at the moment, as due to circumstances beyond my control we are both inactive - by that I mean there is:-
No spinning, no knitting, no dog walking, no housework (as disasters go this particular one probably doesn't count), no baking (I am told that watching the Great British Bake Off Final this week also does not count), no driving and not at work.

(The grey hairy one enjoying our lovely summer weather a couple of months ago. Note he had been stiffing the flowers and is oblivious to the evidence of a petal stuck to the end of his nose!)

The reason for the inactivity? We are both poorly, taking it in turns to yelp, whimper and gaze at each other in sympathy as we attempt movement to find a more comfortable way of sitting or lying. My dear grey hairy one has hurt his neck and despite several visits to the Vet is not really improving. He has a cocktail of painkillers to take (as have I) and if there is no change then our Vet is going to arrange for the grey hairy one to have a scan to see if we can find the cause and mend the problem.

As for me, last week I had a flu vaccination at work for the first time. No problem except the next day I woke with backache which persisted throughout the day. As it was an 'office day' I wasn't overly concerned but as the day on went the pain got worse. By Saturday I was in quite a state and by Sunday I resorted to seeing the emergency Doctor as by now the pain was shooting across my shoulder and down my arm. It also felt remarkably similar to the pain I experienced a few years ago when I developed Shingles and in the same place. Sure enough, it's Shingles and I have spent the week tucked up indoors.

As I resume my ramblings the night has been and gone and so to the storm has passed us by, with little damage here thank goodness! There was a lot of rain during the night and this morning the wind was noisy and the garden took a battering but all seems fine. I am signed off work this week, the pain in my back, shoulder and arm shows no sign of abating so I guess it's going to be another week of inactivity ahead. The grey hairy one had a peaceful night with little yelping and following a bracing walk this morning in the wind and rain (not with me I hasten to add, I was still tucked up under my duvet) he is contently curled up asleep on his bed beside me. I think the painkillers are helping him so fingers and paws crossed that his neck will ease.

As promised a while back here is a photo of the finished skein of the Cherry Blossom Yarn complete with freshwater pearls. I took this photo just after I had washed the finished skein to 'set' the twist and so it still looks a bit scrunched up and not at it's best. It was an interesting project.

To keep me going during this period of non-spinning time I am going to read some more of Stephanie Pearl-Mcphee's excellent books on knitting and follow her blog which yesterday had some gorgeous pictures of rainbow dyed yarn packs.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

'Be careful what you wish for!'

Apologies, my blog has been a bit neglected over the past six months. I blame the candles on my birthday cake. I made a wish and almost immediately my little world was turned upside down! I took a secondment at work and found myself propelled into study and exams to qualify for the new role. My entire spare time was spent learning and practising new skills. I attended tuition classes, read manuals, completed projects and most amazing of all went on a study trip to the USA, my first ever visit to the States.

The trip was short (five days inclusive of travelling) and filled with attending class at the company headquarters. My colleagues and myself had an enjoyable few days, even though it was very hard work. I travelled to Madison, Wisconsin, a lovely town, I even found the sort of shop I feel at home in - of course, it is a craft based shop selling the work of 100 local and indie artisans. A treasure trove of beautiful work. The shop was called 'Anthology, a paper and craft shop' run by a charming, helpful lady. I see from the bag that there is a website : Well worth a visit if you ever go to Madison. Wisconsin was a lovely area to visit, the countryside pretty and lots of green landscapes. Madison and the surrounding area had beautiful houses, a picturesque lake, and an amazing capitol building that resembled the White House. We visited a particularly nice restaurant down by the lake with the American team who are seeing us through the next 18months of the build of our new computer system. I found everyone friendly and helpful. For anyone reading this blog who might live in Wisconsin you will know what I mean when I say that my trip to your county was an 'Epic' experience!

As my blog and life in general has been on hold, so has spinning. I have managed to do small amounts but hopefully as the training of my new secondment role diminishes I will be able to spend far more time spinning and walking out with the grey hairy one, who at present is under the weather. He is suffering from neck pain and after a visit to the vets earlier this week is resting and taking medication to ease things (we hope), though the vet is not sure what has caused this to occur. Walks have been shorter than usual, and the grey hairy one seems to tire easily, no way his normal bouncy, curious self.

After the amazingly warm summer in the UK we have entered a warm golden Autumn. Leaves are beginning to turn colour and drop, there has been a bumper crop of apples, blackberries and horse chestnuts (or as we know them in the UK, conkers) falling in large quantities. Beautiful shiny rust coloured jewels hidden beneath their hard spiky green shells. As I write this the sky is blue and the sun is shining and I still have geraniums in bloom in the garden. After lunch I will see if the grey hairy one would like a gentle stroll down to the lode and across the fields, which are all ploughed and ready for the winter crops.

I did finish spinning my Cherry Blossom yarn and there will be a photo soon of that. Unusually, I am going to spin some merino tops for a project. I have had a request to make someone a pair of mittens, not just any mittens, but a pair that are knitted with the Union (Jack) Flag. I found a suitable pattern on the Ravelry website which fits the bill! I have just ordered merino tops in red, white and blue. I am not a knitter, spinning, yes, knitting - well at the last spinning guild meeting I told my friend about this project. My friend looked at me in stunned silence and then began to laugh. My friend is a knitter, I am not. I love knitting. I read books about knitting. I buy patterns and books of knitting patterns. I avidly read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's books and her brilliant blog: and I know how to knit but the practical reality is that my knitting is slow (actually slow is fast compared to my attempts at knitting). It gives me a headache, although I'm not sure why. I look at fellow spinners who knit and am filled with envy that their projects, with seemingly little effort grows at an alarming rate of inches compared to my painfully slow one row.

I was for many years, whilst my children were growing up, a member of a group of friends collectively know as 'The Knits'. Meeting at each others houses one afternoon a month, the hostess providing soup and lunch. Since returning to work full time I am unable to attend but the group still meet. The Knits, eats, chats and knits, except in my case I would often bring my wheel and spin as the knitting thing did not progress from one month till the next. So dear blog reader, I hear you cry "Why is mad woman going to attempt to knit mittens?" Mittens that will require; skills in the art of knitting, chart reading, knitting in the round. working with three colours, stranded knitting (I'm not sure what that is yet) and a deadline of this Christmas.

And so dear reader, we come full circle in this blog entry. The reason is my secondment. The young gentleman in question is one of the American team helping with my secondment team at work. His eyes lit up when he found out I was a spinner. Despite mentioning that I only spin silk, he excitedly requested could I knit him a pair of mittens. I weakly said yes, having a crazy thought that mittens aren't that big, how difficult could it be? Therein lies my mistake, because in the next breath he said "Can they please have a Union Jack pattern?" So there you have it, wish me luck and watch this space, updates soon on progress or lack of it.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Today is my Birthday.
It was an exciting start to the day as for the first time ever I watched a pair of Goldfinches visit my garden. They didn't come to eat the tasty niger seed in the feeders (set out just for the purpose of attracting goldfinches to my garden), but to hunt for nesting material. They ignored the bird table and the feeders completely, but it was wonderful to see them and I felt very honoured to have them come today. A birthday cake arrived - the candles don't give much away with regard to age but suffice to say I have reached an age where there isn't enough room for the candles needed, but I did manage to blow the candles out in one go and make a wish!


The Goldfinches didn't stay more than a few minutes, no time to fetch a camera and sadly didn't return again.

The weather here today was very dull and there was a bitter wind but we did go for a nice walk around Wandlebury Ring which the grey hairy one enjoyed and our walk took us past the small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattles' enclosure. The grey hairy one refused to get too close which I am not sure is a wariness of the cattle or the fence around the enclosure, which has an electric wire along the top. The cattle are always curious about the grey hairy one and will often follow us along the length of their enclosure until we leave them behind. I always think their hair looks as though it could be spun and it reminds me of Tussah silk in looks. The cattle seem to range in colour from cream to a gorgeous ginger. During the walk we spooked a large male hare who leapt out from the undergrowth darting this way and that, very close to us and quickly sped away bounding through the trees.

Here is a picture of the small rolags of the Throwsters Waste ready for spinning and my little bunny dish to store the freshwater pearls which I have threaded onto a linen thread to make ready to ply with the Mawatta and Throwsters Waste silks.

I spent the rest of the day quietly and now the Throwsters Waste Silk has been spun and the pearls threaded I have begun to ply the three strands together. It's going to be the first time I have added 'foreign objects' to my yarns so it will be an interesting exercise.

A Happy Easter from me and the grey hairy one.
As a disguise I don't think this is going work!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Japanese Cherry Tree Blossom inspired yarn and Snow Dog.
This weekend has brought snow again to the UK. We woke to light snow on Saturday morning and kept the curtains closed until after breakfast. The reason? The grey hairy one LOVES snow! For a dog who detests rain (he won't put a paw outside the door, just retreats backwards), and dislikes the wind and summer heat it came as a big surprise to find he adores snow. He stands at the back door whining until we go outside and races around in circles trying to eat snow, but ends up inhaling it and sneezing. He also loves to walk across ice and every puddle has to be stood on. Below are a couple of photos I took this morning while we were out after more snow overnight.
"Honestly, I wasn't eating the snow, it just sort of stuck to my nose"

Of course, multiple walks to explore the Narnia landscape mean less time for spinning indoors so here are a couple of photos I have been taking of the 'Japanese Cherry Blossom' Silk Yarn I talked about in my last blog entry. Why Japanese Cherry Blossom? Well I was lucky enough to visit Japan a few years ago just as the first Cherry Blossom was blooming and this week the news has shown pictures of the Cherry trees, in Japanese parks, in bloom.

I have spun the dyed Mawatta Silk Hankies first after stretching the fibres into rovings and will then spin the Throwsters Waste after having carded the fibres into small rolags. I love this textured silk, it has so much character.

The finished bobbin of Mawatta.  Now to start on the Throwsters Waste.
Before I go here is one more photo of the grey hairy one enjoying himself in the snow today, unlike me who was freezing and longing to go back inside.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Hello again,
Sorry about the hiatus during the winter months but Christmas crept up on me and my New Year resoultions fell by the wayside (less TV, more spinning and listening to radio whilst peddling and regular blog entries). I have however managed to set up my Etsy shop and go for some lovely dog walks with the grey hairy one. I have even remembered to take along my camera to take snapshots of colours and things that inspire me. Here on the right is such a photo taken looking up through the beautiful vivid red berries on the hedgerow to the wispy blue sky beyond. A shock of colour in an otherwise grey winters walk.

This picture on the left was taken on a trip to the Lake District last autumn, whilst walking along the shore of Lake Windermere. A lovely dry stone wall covered in Lichens and Ivy. I love how the pattern of the stones is softened by the greenery inhabiting the wall. Its not only on dog walks that I find inspiration but from all sorts of other things. For instance I love the world as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Since first seeing his work as a teenager, I have been enthralled with his use of colour. I have visited his garden at Giverney in France and each time I go there I have never wanted to leave. Walking round the gardens it feels as if I have wondered into one of his paintings and if I turn quickly there he will be with his paintbrushes and easel. I have some lovely photos of Giverney and will put my favourite up on here at a later date. I like to listen to music when spinning, generally something soothing, peaceful and uplifting.

I find other Spinners very inspirational. A couple of years ago I purchased a book by Alison Daykin and Jane Deane called 'Creative Spinning' published by gaia traditional crafts. This is a lovely book which I often leaf through to admire Alison and Janes'  yarn creations. Alison has written several articles on creative spinning of yarns in 'Yarnmaker' magazine (which by the way if you haven't come across is a superb read and well worth supporting). In 'Creative Spinning' is a yarn called blossom in the silk mix section of the book. At the moment I am spinning some hand dyed Pink Mawatta silk hankies (instead of the Tussah recommended) and some undyed cream Throwsters waste. To give my yarn my own twist I am adding fresh water pearls threaded onto linen thread and will ply them all together to make a yarn. I have been taking photos of this work in progress and will post its story as we go along.
To leave you here is the grey, hairy one looking out over a very cold, choppy Lake Windermere. (Just after this was taken he turned around and promptly stepped backwards resulting in a cold wet back leg! As is usual with Deerhounds he unceremoniously belched and looked round at me as if it was my fault his leg got wet.)