May 2022 Miscellany

Hello!

The other day, a friend wrote that it is like Mayvember in her part of the world, the Pacific Northwest of the US (waving at you P!). In the Netherlands it is more like Maygust – warm and very dry. Here are a few unconnected things I’ve seen and done this month so far. No, wait, not entirely unconnected. The common denominator seems to be wool – what else?

Lambing Season
The Sunday before last we were lucky. On our walk we happened to pass the sheep fold at the very moment the shepherd was gathering the flock for a walk. The ewes with the youngest lambs were staying at home, with several daring lambs high up on a bale of hay.

The rest of the flock was peacefully grazing in the field where they spend the night.

But in a matter of minutes the shepherd and his dogs had gathered them all together and were driving them towards the corner where the gate is.

Here they are all ready to go out for their day job:

Well done, boy!

The flock’s job is eating grass and young trees. Without them, the heathland would soon become a forest. Thanks to the sheep, we can keep enjoying this beautiful open landscape.

It is not just about the landscape, but also about the reptiles, birds and plant species depending on this habitat. I love gazing around at the open space, and also getting on my knees looking for special plants. This is one of them:

We call it Heidekartelblad. I looked it up and found out that it is called common lousewort in English – rather a lousy name for this far from common plant, don’t you think?

Blackbird Tragedy
The blackbirds have been flying off and on with worms and trying very hard to chase the magpies away, but alas… On Sunday morning we found the nest empty, bar one unhatched egg.

Magpies and their chicks need to eat, too, but still rather sad. It’s early enough in the season for the blackbirds to build another nest. Let’s hope they’ll hide it better the second time around.

Spinning Wheel Extension
My husband has made an extension for my spinning wheel to accommodate a second bobbin rack. Unfortunately the block I bought at the manufacturer’s a while ago didn’t fit onto my particular model. Fortunately my DH has two right hands and this is what he came up with.

The aluminium strips of the new extension slide around the lower bar of the spinning wheel. So there was no need to drill into my precious wheel and the extension can easily be removed when not in use. Now I can make 3-ply and even 4-ply yarns.

Knit leaves
I have been knitting leaf prototypes for a small project I have in mind.

They’re all different: Stocking stitch, garter stitch, different increases and decreases, long or short vein, different sizes and shapes. There is one among them that is exactly what I was looking for. (To be continued…)

Farmers Market
After a 6-month winter break the Farmers Market was back last weekend. It’s was so nice, chatting with the stall holders again, looking at the fresh produce and young plants for vegetable gardens…

… and trying (and buying) some homemade chutneys and dressings.

There is also a spinner and knitter selling her hand spun yarns and her colourful hand knit socks in children’s and adult’s sizes, each pair unique.

I wonder if other people realize how many hours of knitting and spinning the wares displayed on her racks and in her baskets represent. I do, and I’m in awe.

Well, that’s all for today. Back to my own knitting and spinning now. Bye!

Lazy Kate

Hello!

Before I embark on the story of Lazy Kate, I’d like to share some news with you. As some of you have already guessed from a few subtle clues in my previous post, I’m going to be a grandmother! It takes some getting used to the idea (how did I suddenly get so old?), but I’m thrilled to bits! And very, very happy for the mum-and-dad-to-be.

I’ve hesitated about talking about it here, as I don’t believe in sharing everything online. But I’d have to lead a strange kind of double life to not talk about it here. (Don’t worry, I won’t talk about it all the time.) It just feels good to know that you know, and not to have to be secretive about it anymore.

I also don’t feel very comfortable sharing pictures of loved ones online, but I think it’s okay to show our daughter’s feet here, together with those of the other great love of her life beside her husband.

And I think the girl with the big, hairy white feet doesn’t mind if I share a picture here. She loves going for a walk in the woods, rustling through the autumn leaves just as much as we do.

Neither this sweet-tempered pony nor our daugher is called Kate, and neither of them is lazy. So, who is Lazy Kate?

Well, actually this isn’t about who but about what – it is about a lazy kate (with indefinite article and without capitals). For the non-spinners among you: A lazy kate is a thing that holds yarn bobbins and comes in useful when plying several threads together after having spun them. It comes in different shapes and can be a separate box or rack that is placed beside the spinning wheel or it can be integrated.

This is my spinning wheel – a 21-year-old Louët S10.

I looked up the receipt and saw that I bought it in March 2000 for 515,00 guilders. Guilders, not euros! Goodness, a different era. It is still functioning just as smoothly as when it was new.

It has an integrated lazy kate – the rack with the two filled bobbins beside the treadle in the picture above. This is what it looks like without the bobbins.

With two bobbins I can make a 2-ply yarn, but the problem is that I now want to make a 3-ply yarn. I could hold the third bobbin on my lap, or place it in a basket or box beside the spinning wheel, but it would be much better to have an additional lazy kate.

So I decided to order one, and as the Louët spinning wheel factory is just around the corner from the stables where our daughter’s pony lives, I thought I might as well collect it instead of having it delivered. Do come along!

At the entrance there is a spinning wheel very much like mine, only more colourful.

Louët doesn’t have a factory shop, and it isn’t possible to visit the factory itself right now, but we are allowed to take a look around in their upstairs showroom. My spinning wheel is their very first model.

Since then it has evolved and several other models have been added. From what I understand, it is now even possible to have a spinning wheel put together to your own specifications, with single or double treadle, Scotch or Irish tension, etcetera.

The factory also produces all kinds of tools for fibre preparation, like combs, small and large hand carders, and drum carders.

On a shelf there is a niddy noddy, used for making skeins, and some fun hand spun yarns.

What I didn’t know, is that they also make weaving looms. Here is the very smallest and simplest one.

And here is one of the larger and more elaborate looms.

I don’t know anything about weaving, but just looking at the fabrics in progress on the looms is enjoyable, too.

Well, it’s time to collect my lazy kate and the block needed to attach it to my spinning wheel. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little virtual outing. I’ll tell you more about the yarn I’m spinning when there is more to show.

If you’d like more in-depth information about these spinning wheels or looms, please visit the Louët website. And if you’d like some chat about I-don’t-know-what-exactly-yet, please visit me again next week 😉. Bye!

An Inspiring Friend

Hello!

It’s been an unsettling and busy week. Certain things have taken up so much of my attention that other things have piled up. Now what am I going to do? Rush around the house cleaning and tidying? Tackle a pile of ironing? Do some admin? Or write a blog post? Reading this, you know the answer.

Ah, it’s good to sit here, look through my photos and chat with you. Today I’m going to chat about a belated birthday visit to one of my dearest friends, who is a wonderful knitter, spinner and yarn dyer.

Shortly before leaving home, I hopped onto my bicycle for a quick visit to the flower garden just outside our village. (In case you have found my blog recently, you can read more about it here.)

Armed with a bunch of flowers and a bag filled with small birthday gifts, I set off for my friend’s place. I won’t give you a full account of my visit – you can imagine that: sitting in her garden with mugs of tea, cake, and endless talk and laughter. What I’d like to show you, is how my friend inspires me.

Last year she gave me some spinning fibres in a gradient of blues.

I spun the yarn a long time ago – looking back through my blog posts I saw that I mentioned it in August 2020. And then it stayed on the bobbin for almost a year!

I wasn’t sure what to do with it. In order to keep the gradient intact, I could do various things:

  • I could have split the fibres up in two portions and made it into a 2-ply yarn, but I didn’t. I spun it into a fairly thin single ply.
  • I could ply this single thread in on itself (aka chain plying or Navajo plying).
  • I could ply it with another thread.

Chain plying would have given me a fairly short yardage, and the possibilities for things to knit with it would be limited. So, after thinking it over for a loooooong time, I decided on the last option. I could have spun a thread to ply the gradient with myself, but I chose a commercial thread instead.

This is a lace-weight silk yarn sold as ‘Shantung Yaspee’ by two weird and wonderful Belgian guys who stock some very special yarns and fibres. (Ever heard of the fibre categories Bizaroides, Experimental Recycle Upcycling, or Brazilian Chicken?!)

My inspiring friend had used this technique before, and I was curious to see how it would work out. It was very handy that the silk yarn fitted onto the bobbin holder of my spinning wheel.

Plying these two different fibres together went very well. It gave a lovely barber pole effect at the dark end of the gradient.

At the light end, the effect was more subtle. All in all the shantung silk, with its nubs of white and royal blue, and my hand-spun merino-and-Tencel, made a lovely tweedy kind of yarn, from deep navy to start with…

… to a pale baby blue.

Here it is – 138 grams/572 m/625 yds of a merino/Tencel/silk blend…

… ready to be knit up into… something. I have a vague idea, but it’ll take a while to take shape.

I arrived at my friend’s place bearing gifts, and also left with gifts. Tidying her crafts room she came across some fibres she wasn’t going to use and thought I might be happy with. And I am!

This is what she gave me – some turquoise-and-lime wool blended with undyed silk:

And a box filled with small quantities of wool from various sheep breeds.

I think I’ll start spinning the turquoise-and-lime blend straightaway – such cheerful colours!

What with the current explosion of Covid-numbers in this country, the extreme downpours and flooding in the south and our surrounding countries, and news of unprecedented heatwaves and conflicts in other parts of the world I sometimes have the feeling that the end of the world is near.

Will spinning yarn save the world? No, of course not. What spinning (and an inspiring friend) can do, is lift my mood of gloom and doom, so that I can keep functioning and making a positive contribution, albeit in a very small way. Spinning is such a gentle, soothing thing to do. Do consider giving it a try, if you are not a spinner already.

Again, I hope you’re all safe and well. Take care!