4 December 2009

Spinning Adventures.

I've been trying to work on improving different techniques for spinning, instead of just spinning laceweight the same way I always have ended up doing if I don't consciously think about it. Enter the fun crazy world of art yarn. The amount of technique involved in spinning all sorts of different art yans is pretty amazing. The craziness of the fun yarns really hide the amount of skill and thought put into them. In spinning a few, I've already improved my drafting and understanding of drafting, how different fibres react to different techniques, I've learned alot of new plying techniques and hand positions while spinning, and most of all just experimented. The people posting in the novelty yarn, fibre friday and intertwined groups on ravelry are showing so many inspiring photos of themed yarns they made. i can't wait to explore even more.

So far I've spun up some skeins of loose coils thread plied, a skein of nub/cocoon yarn plied with a laceweight single and now I'm in the middle of corespinning (video curtosy of flickr search) a bamboo blend I bought from Laurie at the Black Lamb. I love corespinning, and may never go back! I'd like to try wrapping too. It looks like this. You just let the tread wrap itself around the fibre as you spin..and it does what it pleases. :)

Here's my corespun blend in progress. This seems like such a great technique for a beautifully varied carded/blended batt. It'll show off the blend nicely as the fibre wraps around a core thread that doesn't show in the end.

Below is the finished skein of nub/cocoon yarn. It is fibre I dyed at a couple of different dye workshops. The nubs are not the greatest, but for my first time i think it ended up being a fun skein. It's balanced at least so should be good for knitting a funky neck cowl or something.

Here are some closeups of some of the nubs/cocoons:

this one is a bit mishapen, but it's cute!

I can't wait to spin more! My ashford jumbo plying bobbin is working pretty well for the bulky yarn. :) Thanks to my dad for putting a finish on it!

26 November 2009

Spin Spin Ply Ply

I finished and fulled the 2ply blend that I handyed at Pat Leclair's workshop at last years fibre convention in Barrie. It looks pretty neat and turned out much more evenly balanced than I anticipated whilst spinning. The one thing I would like to improve on, and this is just personal taste, is to have tighter plys. However, to do this, I need to make an effort to overtwist my singles more than I do. Fairly easy, but takes a consorted effort to overcome muscle memory. It ended up being 83 yards, which is really long considering it was only a sample bag from Pat for the workshop. It's definitely laceweight, so will knit up nicely.

I've wanted to start making thead plied yarn for the longest time now... and I just spun up over 500 yards of plain ol' singles on my wheel that I debating what to do with. So.... I bought some neato variegated polyester thread, and just... went to it. I ended up pushing up the previously spun single at various intervals while plying to form some *really* loose coils that ended up having a nice effect when done. Overall, I'd say it was a nice success, however, again, I need to put WAY more twist into my singles if I want a tighter thread plied yarn that it still fairly balanced. Also, I'll have to switch to my plying jumbo flyer unit for my wheel, which is all nicely stained now thanks to my dad, when I do the next batch, because even though the final product is really not much more than your single... it is way fluffier and fills up the bobbin in no time. Next up after I spin all of these singles I have lying around, are definitely cocoons and crescents, and of course a go at corespinning. I'm so excited to be spinning lately. :)

loose coil:

thread plied single with loose waves and coils:

Skein of thread plied yarn drying after fulling:

25 November 2009


I love this blender. It doesn't go very fast, and to get it to go a certain speed you have to push the speed dial forward and back a couple times until it sets into the desired speed. It's kind of stained and cracked in places. The plug is only two pronged and a little bent. But i love it. :) I don't even think I would use a new one even if I had one.

16 November 2009

so busy!

So on saturday I went to my first guild meeting. It was awesome. I love being around other fibre-y peeps... regardless of the sea of grey hair and glasses on neckchains. I don't care that i was the youngest person there by 20 years... it was FUN. The meeting was followed by a 30 minute origami workshop by one of the guild members. I've never done origami before so that was pretty interesting. I stayed afterward and looked at the guild library for 2 hours... TWO HOURS of browsing past issues of handwoven, spinoff, weaving, spinning and dying books. I took out a couple issues of handwoven from like 1960 and a weaving draft book which was also pretty vintage looking. But herringbone twill never changes... so i guess that makes sense.

I finished another Endpaper mitt. This one is the first of a pair.. I'm not usually a purple person, but I like how they ended up. I can't express enough how much I LOVE the tubular cast on and cast off. They make such nice edges and are good and stretchy.

tubular cast off:

tubular cast on:

I love latvian braids too. So easy, and they make a great addition to a cuff or rim of a hat:

I then spun wool all night long after raking some leaves. I'm ready to ply to bobbins of superwash bfl together. I think then I'll knit a scarf with it, and immerse-dye the final product so I can get a gradation of dark to light.

I spent sunday grocery shopping, baking, more baking, and spinning some samples of the fibre i had dyed at Pat Leclair's workshop I did last may in alliston. I don't have enough of any of the samples to spin on my wheel.. they wouldn't fill even a quarter of a bobbin, so I'll spin all of those up as singles on my cascade spindle to use later in novelty yarns or some other project.
One day i would love a golding spindle.

It was a good weekend though, and I spent most of it myself except for sunday night which involved the new super mario for the wii... which.. was *&#%-ing amazing. Plays just like super mario 3 old skool. So awesome. I always thought the wii was shitty, but this game makes it worth it's while.

3 November 2009

More weaving, new loom! Vegan Food!

I've finally joined the Niagara Handweavers and Spinners Guild which meets at the Welland Museum, and through that group, I'm enrolled in some more in depth weaving lessons with a lady from the guild. She mentioned that a woman also from the guild was getting rid of her weaving stuff and hand a big 45" Counterbalance floor loom for sale. Well... I couldn't pass up the good deal, and went for it. I had Pawlie's dad come help get it since they have a van, but it wouldn't even fit in there, so we had to take it apart and put it back together in the house, which actually worked alot easier anyway. Here it is all re-assembled in my craft room. I love it! I've conscripted my dad to build me a warping board and i just need to get a couple shuttles, and i'll be on my way weaving!!

Below is the second scarf I made on my little rigid heddle loom which is just perfect for plain weave scarves. I think I'll continue to use it as my scarf loom because of it's ease to warp and portability.

I wanted to do twisted fringe ends, and so looked up a tutorial of how to do it by hand. You can buy little appartus' in which you turn a crank and it'll twist it up for you, but, i decided to just do it myself. It took forever. Probably just as long as weaving the scarf itself. But they look nice and I'm glad.

On the food note, we made some vegan pasta out of Pawl's new cookbook. The egg in the pasta is replaced with some silken tofu and some other things vegan. It ended up cooking nicely and tasted amazing! We filled the ravioli with a cashew 'ricotta' which was also really amazing. I do love cashews!

27 October 2009


A month or so back, my mom accompanied me to The Black Lamb in Port Hope Ontario, in order for me to pick up the Ashford Rigid Heddle Knitter's Loom that I had ordered. I love the black lamb so much, and Laurie is so nice. She gave me a quick lesson on warping the loom and some basic weaving lessons and I was on my way to these two scarves:

I also got in contact with an amazing weaver from the Niagara Handweavers and Spinners Guild about some weaving lessons on bigger multiple shaft floor looms. I've been to two lessons so far, and we just got our warp set up and are ready to start learning how to read drafts and weave some simple 4 shaft patterns. I'm so excited about weaving, it really completes the fabric circle for me. Now I can spin my own yarn and either knit, crochet, felt or weave it! The floor looms are surprisingly not so complex once you break down the process of warping to the warping tool vs placing the warp on the loom. And really, all you need to know is how to tie up the shafts and when to treadle. I'm looking into getting a floor loom and am contemplating the counterbalance vs the jack loom. I think for a beginner, either one would be ok, since i'll probably just be working on 4 shafts for a while, and I probably wouldn't know what I was missing in the one i didn't choose. There's a lady selling hers for very cheap from the guild, and it's very tempting. :)

20 October 2009

<3 <3

Someone from the strawbale workshop emailed me this picture. I like it. Love you noodle.

"We'll remain after everything's been washed away by the rain
We will stand upright as we stand today" (jose gonzalez)

10 September 2009

Vegan Sausage and Pickles

Just as the title suggests... Pawl and I made some vegan Chorizo sausage from the Vegan Brunch cookbook and I also made about 8 jars of dill pickles. I hate the combination of quart jars and my smaller water bath canner. You can only do 3 jars at a time. I think next season I'll invest in a nice big pressure canner which'll also have the added benefits of being able to can tomatos and other such veggies.

The sausage (can you believe it's not meat?):

The pickles:

This recipe was nice as it had no added sugar. I might add a little bit of tumeric to the next batch of dills I pickle for a little colour. The garlic and dill heads are both also from my garden. I love making pickles! yum!

Georgian Bay!

I've only been there once before I think, maybe a couple of times, and I was too young to really remember any of the visits. So, when we decided to go kyacking up there I was excited! We did a little trip on the advice of my parents whose kyacks were graciously lent to us along with all the camping gear, starting out of Byng Inlet just north of Nobel and Parry Sound.

I can't believe how pretty georgian bay is, and I can't wait to do more trips up there, longer ones maybe in Killarny or some of the other areas. We had about an hour and a half paddle out to the bay.. and the perfect weather. Not too hot, not too windy. Once we got out on the bay, we paddled a bit to a sizable island on which we set up tent and camp, made some pad thai, and played some crib. The plan was to get to Foster Island the next day and back, leaving our tent on the site so we wouldn't have to pack it up again.

Pretty Channel:

Kyacking through a channel to Foster Island:

Group of Seven
trees everywhere!:

Must have maps for navigating through the MANY islands along this part of the bay:

We didn't want to paddle on the exposed side of all the little islands as there are some fairly big waves and swells and winds to deal with, so pawlie navigated the way to a smaller channel that worked in behind the many islands to foster. It's amazing how many islands there are just scattered in that area. Some have cottages, 98% don't. The channel was really pretty and we stopped for lunch just past it a bit. We explored on our way back and made it perfectly back for dinner that night. The next day we lazed around a bit... and paddled back a couple of hours to the car.

Amazing trip! Someone even went for a swim in the cold water!

10 August 2009

eating and preserving!

I've been so crazy busy lately with all of the workshops I've been doing at Everdale, work, running, etc... but I still have lots of time for making good food, gardening, pickling and crafting.

A couple of weeks ago I made some really good strawberry rhubarb jam, and last week I pickled my first batch of pickles for the season. I chose to do a batch of bread and butter pickles first. I used my yellow cucumbers as that cucumber plant seems to be much more prolific than the other one which bears the traditional green coloured cukes. I really love the taste of homemade bread and butter pickles, much better than store bought. Next up of course is dill pickles. I'll be sure to make two batches of those, and then hopefully if my plants are still fruiting maybe some relish. This season has been so mild and somewhat chillier than usual, so the cukes have been late, and they are a tad stunted. They're also a bit waterlogged and are getting some mildew from the constant moisture in the air. However, I'm sure I'll be able to pickle enough jars for my consumption until next season. :)

Pawl bought the new Vegan Brunch cookbook from the amazing vegan chef Isa. I absolutely love all of her cookbooks. So far we've made a whole bunch of recipes. There are so many waffles I would like to make, but first I guess i'll have to buy a waffle iron.

Tofu Eggs Benedict:

Vegan Cinnamon Buns:

We also made some really good vegan sushi filled with marinated tempeh and tofu, avocado, garden lettuce, carrots, and green onions which we ate with a great peanut sauce dip. I don't think sushi know it alls would approve... but it was awesome!!

14 July 2009

I <3 sewing!

I haven't been sewing much because of all the business of day to day life and the garden, and work, and running and yoga and all the rest of it. But, I had an occasion to sew a couple zippered pouches a while back, and re-learnt that i love it! I decided to make myself a cute pleated bag, lined with properly interfaced zippered pockets and a key clip at the top so I wouldn't lose my keys at the bottom of the purse. I also put in some slip pockets for cell phones and cameras and such. It worked out pretty well. Of course I made it out of a tweed exterior with a fun print lining... as per my usual styling. :) I'm running out of tweed though! uh oh. I'll have to keep an eye out at fabric land for more sales.. that stuff is expensive!

*inner zippered pocket lined with lemon fabric (doubly interfaced for stability), and a key clip attached with a D-ring for anything you don't want to lose at the bottom of your bag:

*Zippered pocket closed up. Magnetic closure double interfaced for stability as well.

*slip pockets on both sides of lining. Lined with lemon fabric. Good size for cell phones and cameras.

*cute pleats!

*D-ring attached to the outside for items to be clipped on.

I think I'll sew some more as gifts. Maybe some matching larger tote bags too. :)

22 June 2009


I just came back from a really neat straw bale workshop at Everdale. It was pretty amazing actually. I knew it would be something I'd be very interested in, and attending the workshop totally solidified everything i was feeling about natural building. I would really love to go do a more in depth course. I know that the haliburton school of arts offers one, and the natural building institute on Manitoulin island also offers a natural building apprenticeship deal. In any case, the workshop demonstrated to me how accessible the methods of natural building are, how sturdy and how healthy for the body and earth they are. I've read tonnes of books, but to see the straw bales literally just get stacked and then knowing all that's left is to apply plaster is so neat. That's all the wall is essentially. I can't wait to go to the cob workshop and then the follow up to the straw bale Plastering workshop too. Cob really interests me. It'll be fun to sculpt the cob bricks and get all muddy. Whether it's rammed earth, cob or straw bales, I can't wait to one day build my own home with my own hands on my own land. :)

The workshop was led by Ben Polly of Harvest Homes in Guelph and started with a tour of a completely off grid straw bale home which, to the naked eye, appeared like any other home, inside and out. It was really beautiful inside. I love how the depth of the wall manifests itself in the windows. You can form the window openings to whatever curve you feel like! It can be no curve, some curve, curved on three sides and then a nice rock sill on the bottom.. or whatever you desire! I personally like the latter...curved on the top and sides with a flat bottom sill that supports some sort of slab. The house had solar hot water, grey water planters, wind power and some other fun off the grid things. The floor was a mottled slab floor.. really nice. It was a good size too, not huge, not too small. Smaller than what people would tend to think the *need* for their families, but in reality, our houses are way to large for us anyway. Ben actually lives in the home so could talk first hand about the way things work in there. He then went on to talk about the process of building a bale house. And that was the first night.

The next day began with a communal breakfast (all meals were communal in the main hall) and a brief run down of the days events. We separated into three groups, and Ben divvied up the day's agenda in three stations. Framing the curb, framing the window and door bucks, and framing/building the top plates.

curb rails:

window buck:

top plates sitting on stacked walls:

Our group started with the window buck. Once the plaster is on the bales it pretty much solidifies the whole thing and takes care of the load. The window buck is there to provide framing for the window and to hold it up and level just until the plaster is applied... then it doesn't do anything at all, therefore it's just built out of a few 2x6's. Same with the door. Second station for us was the top plates. These go on top of a load bearing wall after it's stacked. Cinching wires are then run about every 4 feet or so through the foundation up over the plates and cinched together with come alongs. The top plates are built with some 2x4's, plywood and rockwool insulation. Vapour barrier is at the top wrapping down the sides in between the plywood and insulation. These were actually pretty heavy to lift and move around... and they should match up with the curb at the bottom. The third station was the curb which is basically two rails of 2x4 with insulation in between the blocking. The window and door bucks stand on top of the curb, and the bales get stacked right on top of them. The curb we built was the exact width of the bails which were stacked on edge and not flat.

So saturday entirely was spent framing and preparing for the stacking of the bales. Corner guides went up as well to help keep the bales plumb when stacking. These come off after the compression of the bales with the wire, while the door and window bucks stay in place.

corner guides and stacked walls:

Saturday night we had a good veggie dinner and some tea, and then took off into guelph for a beer :).

Sunday started off early again with a nice breakfast and then right to raising the bales. Ben went through some choices one would have to make when building straw bale. A couple of major ones like choosing whether the walls are going to be post and beam with straw infill, or load bearing straw bale walls with minimal framing. Another choice is how to orient the bales. Flat or on the cut edge? The structure we were raising was a load bearing wall with bales stacked on the cut edge. For both choices there's an equal amount of advantages and disadvantages.

So with the load bearing walls, it's important not to squeeze the bails in, not even a little. We saw the effects of this error when we took our corner guides off after the compression and the wall corners kind of puffed out a tiny bit. Ben said that it's not detrimental in any way structurally, it's just an aesthetic thing. If you come to a space while stacking, then is too small for a bale, you have to retie a bale to that new size.

measuring for retying the bale:

retied bale in place:

If it doesn't just drop right in vertically, with absolutely no fiddling and squishing, then you can pull a bunch of straw out of either end and keep trying until it drops in. The top of the window and door bucks are filled after the top plates are on and cinched. Any holes or gaps between the bales can be filled while people are cinching the top plates.

Once the top plates are cinched and the top is leveled, it's time to put the mesh up, which will provide a surface for the plaster to grab onto. Any wood that was exposed to where the plaster will be was previously covered with vapor barrier and diamond lath. After the mesh is cut and tacked up, a *sewing* of the mesh is performed. Pairs of two pass a large needle with polymer thread attached back and forth wherever the plaster is sticking out more than an inch. This is done for all the walls. The reason this is done is that only an inch total of plaster is applied. Any electrical boxes are installed at this point too. While the mesh is going up, The curved window and door frames are formed with some loose straw, diamond lath and alot of finesse. Sills, windows and doors would be installed and prepped for plastering at this point too I think, although we didn't do this.

The whole process was just sooo incredibly neat. I really want to continue learning and building and experiencing these methods. Everdale was really fun too. The goats had just had kids the week previous, so we got to see little baby goat kids running around being goofy. There were a myriad of other animals there, solar showers, composting toilets and a bunch of other interesting sustainable things. I can't wait to go back!