29 August 2012

There are no Fibre Police

This past weekend was the local fibre guild’s annual retreat, and I was invited to be the instructor for the weekend!

I ran a workshop titled “There are no Fibre Police”, an exploration into the fun side of fibre arts. We did variegated dyeing, art yarn, and nuno felting over the course of two days and we had a lot of fun experimenting and seeing what happened when we tried different things.

We dyed skeins of yarn with Wilton’s icing dye – we got bright colours and funky patterns using entirely food-safe materials. Given what this stuff does to yarn, I’m not really sure about eating it … but hey, it is awfully pretty!

We spent Saturday afternoon playing with an assortment of fibres and ‘additives’, making interesting yarns:

We had bits of yarn shrapnel, feathers, fuzzy store-bought yarn, firestar, and a whole pile of assorted things on the table and people tried blending the various bits and pieces together to see what happened.

We made thick-and-thin singles, plyed them with crochet cotton or funky yarns. Some knitted their creations into headbands, and others talked of plans to make stuffed toys for their kids, or perhaps interesting cuffs on funky mittens or hats.

On Sunday, we took fabric scarves and felted bits of fibre and assorted other bits and bobs onto them. Fortunately we were able to work outside in the sun, since this is kind of a messy job!

(Yes, that is a baby sheep by her feet … a bottle lamb that needed to be fed and taken care of was one of our weekend participants!)

All in all it was a fun and adventurous weekend – several of the participants came by to tell me that they’d really enjoyed themselves, which is exactly what I’d hoped for!

If your guild, conference, or fibre group would be interested in having me facilitate a workshop like this, please feel free to contact me (frazzlehead at flannelberrycreek dot com) … I love to share the joy of fibre arts!

24 August 2012

Spinning from the Fold

I’m in a bit of a hurry today as I’m getting ready for a fibre retreat that I’m teaching at this weekend (yes, my first official “all on my own” fibre teaching gig) but I just ran across this article and wanted to share it.

The fabulous Abby Franquemont explains spinning from the fold.

This is how I spin on the supported spindle – pretty much always. I can do a supported long draw with woolen rovings (such as these) and I love that, but the prep isn’t quite loose enough for spindle spinning, at least not for me. I like to grab a hunk of fibre, fold it over my finger, and go to town. The resulting yarn has gorgeous bounce and fluffs up beautifully once you wash and whack it. Abby’s article explains this effect in ways I had sort of grokked, but only tangentially. 

I’ve posted this before, but here’s me doing my thing with the great wheel – using the spin from the fold technique that I mastered, believe it or not, on the supported spindle. After I figured it out on the spindle, I was off to the races with my wheel.

me, spinning from the fold on the Great Wheel

If you’ve not tried this technique, thinking it is really tricky or only for certain fibres … give it a shot. I tried it for the first time just a few months ago, and I wish I’d known about it sooner. For a long draw woolen style spinner like me, it opened up a whole new realm of fibre possibilities!

22 August 2012

Whappity Things for Paint Removal

I've been working on a lovely Norwegian wheel recently, removing some truly horrid deck stain that some well-meaning but clearly clueless muggle used to cover the gorgeous wood.

Believe me, it's hideous. Worse in real life than the pictures convey.

Anyway, six hours and a litre of nasty chemicals later, most of the stain was off. However, there's always those bits of melted finish and the stuff stuck in the cracks and crevices. I really wasn't looking forward to another few hours with the nasty chemicals, nor was I liking the idea of having to floss the crevices with yarn soaked in paint thinner (though I will probably end up having to do that on a couple of spots regardless, it's not really my idea of fun).

So, I checked the Dremel accessories and I found awesome whappity things: abrasive (mild, medium, strong) wheels of rubbery stuff with abrasive built into it, and buffing wheels that look sort of like an afro hairdo. I burned through one of the medium abrasive wheels and two of the buffing wheels in two hours this afternoon, but the majority of the leftover paint bits (as well as some stain I hadn't gotten with the chemicals) came off - and no damage to the wood. No scratching or dulling of the edges of the turnings noticeable.

They aren't cheap - I think the abrasive wheel (which lasted most of the two hours and was probably the ideal tool for the job - though I probably could've gone with the heavier abrasiveness for some of this work) was just over $10, and the pair of buffing things were about $5. Still, waaaaaaaaaaaay better than the fumes and I was able to get into the cracks and crevices in ways I just can't manage with a rag and the big bulky gloves that I have to wear when using those nasty chemicals (even *with* my big heavy gloves, my hands were stinging a little by the time I was done).

So there’s another tool added to the arsenal: shellac comes off so easily, there's no need for anything like this, but when you are facing a muggled paint/stain job and need the big guns, this might be worth considering.

15 August 2012

I split all this wood today, all by myself

Really. All by myself. That pile is about 4 feet high and probably 10 feet in diameter. It’s a lot of wood.





Of course I did all that using the gas powered log splitter our neighbour loaned to us.

It still took about three hours (that’s six quad-trailer loads of wood: chainsaw work done by The Reluctant Farmer, and all hauled home in the quad trailer by The Boy). It’s probably half of what we need for winter, now that we have two stoves to keep going, but that’s a really good start. There were quite a few trees cleared this spring to make room for power lines to come through, and the guys who did the clearing (including the same neighbour who owns the splitter) told us we could have as much of the wood as we wanted. The Reluctant Farmer has been working through one of the big piles, and we wanted to get this batch split and drying so it’ll be ready come the cold weather (even at that, it won’t be good and dry, but it’ll be close, as the trees have been down for a few months already so the wood’s already partially dried out).

We do still run our furnace, but we keep the thermostat at about 15 degrees Celsius – just enough to keep everything from getting really awfully cold when the fire isn’t going, and to keep you from having to get up in the night to stoke the fire (as long as you stay under your warm covers). In the morning, we get the fire lit and warm up the house – both fires if we have people in both wings of the house, but much of the time we only run the one in the south wing. That is the Baker’s Oven stove, so I also do as much of my cooking on it as possible in the winter months – might as well use the wood heat as pay for natural gas.

As I split all that wood today I thought of the trees that soaked up sun for so many years, and how they will release that stored energy to keep us warm this winter. We are very fortunate to live near enough woodland that we can sustainably harvest enough wood to keep our stoves going – we could do that even if we heated exclusively with wood, I think, though it’d be a fair bit of work. The splitter is a marvellous tool, too – all that wood was split with maybe half a litre of gasoline, and it probably took a litre or two to run the chainsaw that cut it up. All in all, a pretty efficient use of fuel, I think.

And although the splitter saves a lot of effort, it was still a whole lot of physical work to pick up each log, set it on the splitter, pick up the chunks and split them again if necessary, then toss the finished logs onto the pile. I’ve had some Advil, and I expect to be moving fairly slowly tomorrow.

It’s worth it though. We’ll be toasty and warm this winter!

14 August 2012

Norwegian Wheel Restoration Project

I was asked by a local spinner to see what could be done with a lovely wheel she acquired awhile back … a job I’m always happy to take on!

The wheel is a Norwegian split table design – like the one I recently got in a trade, but this one’s an actual antique whereas mine’s a vintage reproduction.

The wheel itself is in really good shape – the wheel is well balanced and not warped, the flyer is intact (though a few hooks are damaged or broken), the bobbins (yes, it has three!) have chips in the whorls but at least two of the three could be used as-is, and with a quick twist of the uprights to align the wheel with the flyer, we had it up and spinning within 30 minutes of me setting eyes on the beauty.

Now, the bad news is that someone plastered this gorgeous wheel with what I can only assume is a version of deck stain – some nasty pale brown opaque stain that covers most of the wood grain and makes the whole thing look blah and wrong. What on earth would possess someone to cover up beautiful wood grain with such an ugly stain? We’re not talking about a deck or a picnic table here that needs protection from the elements … it’s a spinning wheel!

This is what was on the wheel to start with:

The picture doesn’t do it justice. It was truly horrid. The wheel, though, is beautiful, even with that washed out finish covering the wood:

Six hours and a litre of nasty chemicals later, we have this:

Look! Wood grain! And can you see the captive ring on the rear cross bar? There are more on the Mother of All (the thing that holds the flyer) too!

Captive rings show off the work of the woodworker who turned the piece – a circle of wood is shaved off from the base, but kept intact around the shaft, like a bracelet. There are four rings on the horizontal piece under the flyer – I’ll have to get better pictures.

The wood looks terrible after the chemical bath, but it is still so much prettier than with that horrid beige stuff on it, I cannot even begin to imagine why anyone would’ve thought the wheel would look *better* slathered in that gunk. I need to get a new attachment for my Dremel (a ‘whappity thing’) to help get rid of the remaining residue from the stripping job, then I will be able to refinish with Watco Natural and show off all that gorgeous wood.

I think this wheel is really very old – it’s all pegged together, the only metal is the flyer rod and the hooks, and the bar that the treadle rotates on. I’ve put out some queries on Ravelry so we’ll see if anyone knows more – but it is an absolutely lovely wheel, and I am honoured to have a chance to work on her!

11 August 2012

It might be invisible ...

... but PTSD still lives here.

Oh, things are vastly improved over the early days of this adventure, to be sure. Most days, I do what even I think of as a good day's work. I get up at 9, milk the cow, wash up the buckets, filter the milk, pasteurize a batch every few days, make cheese once a week, make the bread and the meals, do the laundry, tidy the house, do a bit outside - mow the grass, or cut down some weeds, or dig in the garden. I might can up a batch of salsa or pickles. I run errands. I spin, I knit, I do paperwork for the store, I do some writing.

And every few days, there is that hint of chest pain, reminding me to pace myself. So I slow down a little, and it eases up.

Yesterday though, it started up around midday and didn't let go. Wide awake at 2:30 in the morning, even after listening to sleep inducing audio tracks for hours, the grip of pain in my chest was still there. Valerian and sleep tincture weren't enough to counteract the noise of the thunderstorm that started up around three, either ... especially when my stepdaughter decided to be terrified of storms and had to be coached through breathing and self-calming exercises for half an hour before she could stop shaking.

"The scared is all in here," I told her, tapping her forehead. "The only one who can make it go away is you. Breathe, slowly in for four, out for four. Now make the palms of your hands feel warm, then do the same on the soles of your feet. Then your hands again."

"How does that work?" she wanted to know. "Well," I said, "when you concentrate on your body you relax. This is the kind if stuff I have to do all the time to cope with being scared for no reason. Nobody else can fix it for me, I gotta do it myself. You can do this, you're doing great."

By then her eyes were heavy and she told me to shut the door on my way out because she was very tired. I think she was asleep before I got back into my own bed.

Of course, I then tried to take my own advice, but it was another hour before sleep finally found me. I considered stronger sedation, but I knew I needed to be functional come daylight, so I just breathed until I could finally drift off.

This morning, my responsibilities called and I had to get up, though my eyes were foggy with exhaustion and I felt so tired I was queasy. Milk the cow, quickly, let her and George out to the pasture, then deal with Mackenzie, who looked like he'd been through a war and was lying in the barn refusing to move. He got in some sort of battle a couple of nights ago, with a banged up eye, scrapes to his legs and a puncture on his nose. He had, in the night, worked out of his bandages and his collar, so I got him restrained again, redid the bandages on his leg and salved all his wounds. A few drops of Polysporin in the eye helped with the swelling there, but he is still refusing to eat and keeps crying about being tied up. The vet called and said we need to go pick up antibiotics for him, so that's this afternoon's job.

I'm still exhausted, but there is no hope of sleep. The best I can do right now is to just keep things on an even keel with minimal efforts - feed the animals, feed myself, do the bare minimum and otherwise keep my butt in a chair and my knitting in my lap. Eventually the adrenalin will wear off, and until then I just have to hang on and keep knitting.

09 August 2012

Busy on the farm

Been busy here at Apple Jack Creek.

Sasha is learning to walk on a lead, and doing fairly well, though she still crowds me sometimes, she has figured out that if you walk forward when the halter tightens, it lets go, so she will follow along nicely for the most part. She had a bit of mastitis - our first time dealing with that - but it has been clear for the last two days, so whew.

Tonight she got to go out to the ditch on a tie out cable and mow the long grass out there. That worked pretty well, which is good. Might as well have her mow it down as me do it with the scythe then carry it to her!

I got some tomatoes and peppers at the store (good prices now while it's all in season) and made salsa, and canned some potatoes and froze up some perogies. We had some of those for supper tonight and they turned our well, which is good. They are slow to make, though not difficult, especially with the bread maker to mix the dough and the pasta machine to roll it out.

We hadn't seen Mackenzie today, and just as I was starting to worry, he sauntered in and lay down in the shade under the hallway that connects the north and south wings of our house. As we ate supper, he moved out front, where we could see him ... and I noticed he had some abrasions on his front leg. It took three of us to get a better look - The Reluctant Farmer and The Boy holding him down while I clipped off fur and tried to get a better view of the wound. There is some sort of hash on his foreleg, but it has scabbed over and is clearly very, very tender. We slathered calendula ointment on it (he will lick it, and at least this is safe if he ingests it, I made it myself so I know what's in it), and have him tied in the barn (with metal cable, as he will chew through anything else, and honestly I wouldn't be shocked if he figured out how to escape from this, either). He did go directly into Sasha's milking stall and lie down, refused ordinary food (though he gladly ate the treats we bribed hiim with) and wasn't interested in water, either. Hmmm. He's also got a small puncture on his nose, a bloodshot eye, and an abrasion on the rear leg on the same side as the injured foreleg. Battle wounds, exacerbated by licking? Maybe. We'll keep him in the barnyard for the next while and see how he does. He is nearly impossible to transport, so taking him to the vet is only for something really, really dire ... It's just so hard on him. Fortunately, my vet understands this and will happily advise over the phone, so I'll give her a call tomorrow and get her advice before the weekend.

The adventure never ends, but I still wouldn't trade it for city life no matter what. :)

07 August 2012

To life.

Today I went to a funeral. The mother of a friend of mine passed away last week - this man went to high school with me and is actually one of very few people from my high school class that I am still in regular contact with. He and his wife both knew my first husband in university as well, and they’ve been an incredible support to me through all the interesting adventures I’ve been through. I felt that the least I could do was be there for them today, though I’d only met his mom a couple of times.

I am very glad I went. This woman had a full life - lots of travel, and time spent with her family and people she loved. I know she battled depression and other problems later on, but even with that, it didn’t stop her from REALLY LIVING.

I came away from the service with an even firmer determination to live the life I’ve been given, as fully as I possibly can. To spend time with the people I care about when I have the chance - the housework can wait, my friends and family should not come after “sweep floors” and “tidy up”. And I will take good care of myself because even though sometimes I feel like I have nothing to offer and I am just a burden to everyone, I know, deep down, that I do contribute, probably in ways I am entirely unaware of, and instead of disappearing, what I need to do is regroup, regain my strength, and then do whatever I am called to do to the best of my ability, trusting that somehow, somewhere, what I say or do will be a blessing to someone else as long as I did my best and acted in love and kindness.

Time is the most precious currency we have. Spend it well.

To life! SOCIABLE!*

*This is a Newfie custom: someone hollers SOCIABLE! (the emphasis is invariably on the last syllable, which gets sort of drawn out into “sociabuuuuulllll!”). Everyone in the room then raises their glass, regardless of what’s in it, or simply waves if they haven’t got a drink in hand, and hollers SOCIABLE! right back. It’s like saying “cheers”, only a little more interactive, since everyone within earshot joins in, even if they weren’t involved in the original conversation. You hear it hollered, you raise your glass and holler back, and return to your conversation. And there doesn’t have to be any particular reason to shout it out in the first place. It’s just the sociable thing to do.  

I believe that the world would be a better place if this custom were universally adopted.

All together now … Socaibuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuulll!

01 August 2012

Made the paper

I tweaked the blog post I wrote about ‘A Girl Firefighter’ and submitted it to our local newspaper.

Admittedly, they will print pretty much anything one submits, I think, but still, it’s cool to see my name on the byline.

Hopefully a few more people will read it in print, and maybe the local fire services will see a few new faces as folks learn a bit more about what it takes to volunteer. Maybe a few more people will find that they’ve got something to offer and decide to give it a shot.

And, most of all, maybe “the girls” will get some more respect from the community … they have earned it!