Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spinning the Rain Away

I have been spinning yarn for 37 years. Or at least, I learned to spin and to weave 37 years ago. There have been gaps in the activity over the years, but my pores are steeped in fibre and all things fabric.

June as usual is a stormy, unsettled month. Sweltering hot days are chased by cold, wet windy days. Lawn and garden maintenance become a sprint event, trying to find opportunities between the squalls to get mowing and weeding done.

The Husband has been off on a motorcycle ride with Friend Marc, sending texts from Idaho and California. (I'm temporary grounded with federal census work.) Seems like they're having fun. And so as is my wont when he's away, my stuff tends to spread out over the house.

This is all a preface to this:

After a brief hiatus, and with newly-found free time, my Ashford spinning wheel is back taking up room in the kitchen/sitting room.

While wind lashes the trees and rain pours from the sky, I've been set up in front of the computer, watching British detective shows on Knowledge Network, BC's public television station which is also online. I'm particularly taken by a series called Shetland but will also happily settle for Midsomer Murders.

I have a significant stash of raw fleeces that have been waiting for me to have the time and motivation to attend to them. The blue tote box in the above photo had an entire fleece tightly packing into it. The woven basket to the left is lightly filled with locks that have been 'flicked' with a short-tine Viking heckle comb.

I work 'in the grease', which means I don't wash the wool before spinning it. I choose fleeces that are relatively clean of plant matter and dirt. The 'grease' is the lanolin that naturally occurs in wool and what makes it waterproof. It also makes it very nice to spin during hot weather, outside under a shade tree.

 I find cleaning/combing wool to be a mindless or contemplative activity, depending on my mood. It's definitely something that can be done while watching a movie. It's also very satisfying work. The three containers above are all ready for spinning.

Spun wool starts as a single ply strand. Two bobbins plied back against each other make a stable 2-ply yarn. Three bobbins make ... think about it ... 3 ply yarn. There is also a technique I use quite often, especially to deal with orphan single ply on a bobbin, called Navajo plying, whereby the single strand is chained (like crochet work) into long loops and spun back against itself to make a 3-ply.

Which is probably all more than you wanted to know.

Anyway, the finished yarn is taken off the bobbin by winding it around a noddy-noddy to make a skein.

THEN I wash the skein in cold water with a wool detergent, to remove dirty, debris and yes, urine (sheep urine, not mine).

Then the skeins are hung outside, preferably on a warm breezy day, to dry.

Then the skeins are run through steam to even the tension, work out any over-tight spots, after which they are twisting into loose rolls for storage until use. This wool will be woven on my floor loom. I have some ideas in mind for this winter.

But what of the leftover wool?, you ask. The stuff that isn't good for spinning - the short cuts, dirty wool and matts.

I use it for garden mulch.


This is the flower/herb/vegetable patch in the back yard (over the grey water field) that some of you may be familiar with.

And this is wool dross, helping to suppress weeds and retain moisture in this quickly-draining soil. It also finds its way into various nests around the neighbourhood. 

For no other reason other than I was outside taking photos, let me brag about my John Cabot climbing rose. I left the lounge chair in front to give you some size perspective. This rose is from the Agriculture Canada 'Explorer' series. I had many different Explorer rose varieties at our place up north. This is the best bloom yet for this particular plant.

And I'll end with a photo of my season nemesis - the fresh cherry. The first crop of the season is ready, and this is cherry country, so they are fresh, fresh, fresh.

I cannot leave them alone, and they do tragic things to my lower GI tract. It's like a conspiracy. "Let me tempt you with my firm, crisp texture and juicy sweetness which will send your bowels into an uproar!"

Somebody save me from myself. Please.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Garden Explosion and Other Things

Oh, my duckies, it's been a busy, busy time.

Since last I wrote, we've being through days of rain that have left the region lush and green.

Spallumcheen Valley, north of Armstrong.

We survived the wettest Falkland Stampede in 14 years, and have a few lingering bruises to show for it.

Saturday, before the deluge, taken from my perch in the Cashier's office.

Sunday, the day the rain never ended. The misty look is actually a steady downpour...

... which led to Falkland Lake a.k.a. the rodeo arena;
this photo taken right before barrel racing followed by bull riding. 
Nothing says 'fun' like steer wrestling in the mud ...

... other than a kid in the calf scramble who's managed to find his shoe.

Today I had an early start to the day, kissing The Husband goodbye at 6 a.m. before watching him ride down the driveway on the Triumph for a rendezvous with friends in Calgary. Much as I love mornings and sunrises, I'm inherently a night owl, so watching the sunrise this close to summer solstice, and not from the end of an all-nighter, is rare indeed.

I did have opportunity to wander though my yard in the cool and quiet early dawn.

I'm training my baby ginkgo biloba tree to develop lateral branches rather than the vertical style they tend towards. Hence, the 'rock fruit'. Also noticed I'll have to adjust the bracing to deal with the curvature it developed from being in a nursery too long. That just takes time and patience.

The roses have exploded into bloom with the recent heat after 10 days of rain.

Remember the barren space of dirt and rock from nine years ago?

It's a little more lush these days.

And this is one of the many, many rewards for diligence and hard work.

I'm off to go do some watercolour painting in the outdoors. Hope you're enjoying you day as well!