How can I reconcile myself…

… to having become bionic? There’s nothing recycled about my new hip; it’s all-new titanium, ceramic & plastic grafted onto my somewhat-protesting femur & pevis. I think basically I am going to have to think of it that by replacing a worn-out part with something new to keep me on the road, I myself have become recycled.

So my opportunities for recycling-in-action have been somewhat limited for the last 7 weeks, though I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in my very-comfortable leather-effect ergonomic chair with matching footstool, gleaned from the Tip for a fiver when I realised we had nothing the right height for me to sit on after the op. So I’ve spent the time learning new skills & practising old ones, unashamedly using new materials – some bought-in pre-prepared handpainted wool tops, for example, to take part in the first round of the Ravelry UK Spinners Scraps Swap. But I did dye my own for Round 3… I also invested in some garden twine; I bought a book called “Quick Crochet, Huge Hooks” secondhand from a fellow-Raveller, and it sparked a little bit of inventiveness on my part. I looked at one project & thought, “That’d be even quicker & easier in double-ended Tunisian…”   Three hours later I had this:

String bag made from garden twine

But I forgot how they stretch, and made both the bag & the handle a bit too long (doesn’t matter, I can always wear it cross-ways anyway, better for my back) so I sat down for a further 2 hours & 10 minutes & refined the idea a bit further to to this:

A smaller, more manageable version of same...

 …which is a little more manageable. I’ll get round to posting the pattern shortly, whilst you go & research “double-ended Tunisian crochet” on YouTube & work out how you’re going to make or get hold of a 15 x 50 cm hook…! I bought mine from Mike Williams realising that it was going to be a worthwhile investment, but now I think I might have a go at “bodging” one up for rough projects like this. I’ve picked up a windfallen good straight cherry-plum stick to try with , so watch this space!

Peace at last!

Shawl, "blocking" after a little light fulling...

At long last I’ve caught up with myself a bit. After keeping my head down all week learning how to use my tri-loom (which I’m afraid I did buy new; I ran out of time to make one, even if  several 7′ lengths of seasoned oak had somehow materialised) I’ve finally completed a commission I was given back in the summer, for a shawl in rich browns, gold & oranges.  It’s been a learning process… I know now that the tri-loom produces a much more substantial & even weave than the scrap loom, but as the threads are under far more tension, haloed, “sticky” or underspun yarns are not the best materials to pick. So if they are what I happen to have to work with, back to the scrap loom, which is a much quicker technique too. But for top-quality stuff, the tri-loom it shall be.

In the meantime, my car has been filling up with goodies – there’s fabric, yarn, several nice handcranked sewing machines including a “Queen Alexandra” Jones FCS in fine shape, a sturdy 50s concertina sewing box and some very interesting books in there, as far as I remember! (Not to mention a bale of barley straw for the chickens & rabbits – it’s dry in there, and not in anyone’s way.)  But there they will probably have to stay until after the weekend, as we have guests and there’s enough “clutter” already inside.  I’ve also been busy networking on the Transition front; we’re planning a “Skills Taster” day early next year and I’m having quite a lot of fun going round to various groups & asking them to come & demonstrate.

I’ve also sold off my Louet S20 spinning wheel. I’m sad it had to go, but since my diagnosis I’ve realised why it had started to hurt to spin for any length of time on it; I needed a double-treadle or wide-treadle wheel. I chased a few on Ebay and won one, an EasySpin, which is absolutely beautiful & spins very nicely too, but is made of some kind of hardwood which is very brittle where it’s cut thin, such as the bobbin ends. So it’s not up to everyday life in a hectic household; I will try to hang onto it until I have my workshop as I do love it, but don’t want to risk damaging it. So what to use? As I already had quite a few Louet accessories & spares & their wheels seem to suit my style of spinning, as well as having a relatively small footprint, the answer was obvious. So I’ve dug into my rapidly-decreasing little savings pot & acquired a very lovely brand-new Louet S75, which I hope will be my “forever after” wheel. I haven’t had time to do much on her yet, but am working on two gorgeous Gotland fleeces, in very different colours but both beautifully soft, blended with a little angelina, and will post a pic when I’ve plied the first two bobbins-full together. The wheel is a dream to spin on; light & easy to treadle and very smooth, with the classic big Louet bobbins & good-size orifice. Lighter than the S20 to move, too, but with rubber feet so she doesn’t slip gently away from me as the S20 used to.

So now I have to behave myself for at least a year – NO more new equipment! I have enough supplies to keep me busy until next summer, by which time I should have acquired my bionic hip & be able to run my stall again, well stocked up!  Anything I really think I need will have to come to me secondhand or rescued, be made by me, or wait until my birthday and/or Christmas 2010. It shouldn’t be a hardship; I’m very lucky to have as much equipment as I do, and I really don’t have room for any more. So that’s my challenge to myself for the next year; to do what I need or want to do with what I already have, or can make for myself, am given or rescue.

Another wombled goody…

I’ve had a busy few days, with no time to spare at all.  But today I simply had to take something to the Tip – a mattress pad which had spilt right open in the wash; even I couldn’t come up with another use for that, and it was damp & had started to become rather smelly – and I’m really pleased that I did. Lee called me over and showed me something that had come in shortly after my last visit, last week. “But it’s not complete,” he said sadly…

But what it is, is an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel, in pretty good nick. Not 100% useful without a flyer or bobbins, but the beauty of the Trads is that there are a variety of flyers & bobbins available to fit them, in either single or double drive. They’re still very much in production, so there will be no problem finding them, and as it happens I’m due to go down to Herrings in Dorchester tomorrow anyway, which is the nearest source. The treadle connector was broken, but that’s just a strip of tough leather & was easily replaced, as the drive band will be too. The wheel spins smoothly & looks to be running true, so all in all that’ll be another fine tool rescued from an early grave.

As is the little upright flax wheel that I found sitting in a dark corner of our local market. It’s a pretty little thing, but didn’t look to be in the best shape; the drive band was wrapped around the axle quite inextricably so the wheel couldn’t move smoothly, the treadle pedal was hanging off, and the arm that probably once held a distaff just had two snapped-off dowels poking up. Altogther it looked like adorning a weekender’s inglenook fireplace was the only thing it was fit for, but yet… the flyer is complete and sturdily made, there was an intact bobbin, the orifice looked clean & clear – worth a try, I thought. The price was towards the higher end of what’s acceptable for a non-working wheel, but bang on for a weekender’s ornament. So home it came with me. I had it up & running within an hour; the pedal re-attached perfectly easily and I was able to unscrew the pegs that hold the axle in to remove the mangled drive band. I had some suitable cord to make another, and once I’d reassembled the flyer the right way round and oiled it here & there, it was ready to spin, and very well it does it too! It’s fast & smooth, if a little noisy; well worth trying to find some more bobbins for. I’d spun a small skein within half an hour and took it to show the stallholder the next morning. So cross your fingers for me that Herrings have something in their odd bobbins box; if not I’ll get some made up but that will take some time & cost more.

So that’s what I’ve been up to…

flax wheel
Upright flax wheel by (or from) Leonard Williams of Whitchurch

Famous last words…

I didn’t really mean it. I really, really didn’t want to be ill more often (see last post) but I was daft enough to say it… so, naturally, here I am, suffering from a second heavy cold, and without the strength to sort anything at all out this time. And in between, my doc has broken the news that actually I have severe osteoarthritis of the right hip & will need a “resurfacing” operation ASAP…

After our romantic trip to London was somewhat limited by the fact that I was hobbling and biting my lip most of the time, I went to my GP and asked her to sort it out, not for the first time. When I think back, I’ve been hobbling on & off for at least 17 years now; about 10 years ago she did send me to the physios & request X-rays, but they countermanded that request, saying that as I had a full range of movement, the pain was really located in my back so ab exercises would sort it all out… and in the intervening time, I have only ever mentioned it in passing, as a constant niggle rather than something that was beginning to become life-limiting. So I’m not blaming my doc in any way, shape or form. But knowing that something really is up does explain a lot.

I had to cancel what should have been my last “show” of the season, as I was in too much pain & too tired to complete my preparations for it, having done another trip to London to take the girls to an exhibition at the BM. And I can see that I am going to have to dispose of a lot of the stuff I’ve accumulated for my shop & stall as I really cannot “just sort it all out” when it’s spread all over the floor etc. Luckily someone else is setting up doing what I was hoping to do, so I can pass a lot of it on to her, and I will concentrate on the things I do best; the books, the vintage linens & lace, the sewing machines, parts & other tools and the things that I make myself and have commissions for. The rest must go… so my next challenge is to see that none of it goes to waste.

I have my appointment to see the consultant next month; I don’t know what the waiting lists are like but I can see that it’s going to be an interesting year!

I’m shattered…

… and I’ve got a horrible cold. But I’ll live, I expect. In the last few days I’ve made two gallons of homegrown plum wine & poured it off its pulp and into demijohns, which are actually rocking, so wildly enthusiastic is the fermentation. I’ve made crab apple jelly with apples from the riverbank, and turned the fruit pulp from both projects into a spicy chutney. I’ve finished two shawls, sent another load of sewing machines off, and had a massive chuckout.

We did a car boot sale at the weekend, and did rather well; I donated the leftovers to another ‘booter through Freecycle as we have quite enough stuff cluttering up our lives, but it was too good to ditch. But one of the other emails I received touched my heart, so I sorted out some more halfway decent stuff to give to him too. Then, because I was going down with this cold and therefore stuck at home, I started to sort the porch out so that I can store my e-shop stuff out there. This produced another load of halfway decent stuff as well as a car load of absolute rubbish, so the second ‘booter came back for another helping. Today I got stuck into the airing cupboard, which is a) very small and b) located in the smallest bedroom, which means that whichever of the offspring is in there also has to have everyone else traipsing in & out for sheets, pillowcases etc. So I invested in a massive linen press from IKEA , having waited several years for something suitable to turn up secondhand. Nothing else was big enough, in the end, so I capitulated and bought new. I’ve transferred all the day-to-day bedlinen into that, which is out on the landing, and put the longterm bedding – mattress protectors, spare pillows, spare duvets & guest bedding – into the airing cupboard instead. Most of that had just been cluttering up our bedroom previously.

The back of the airing cupboard produced another carload of stuff that was quite simply well past it. A few items worth Freecycling, but most just ragging, to be honest, so that’s gone off now too. And when I did the crab apple jelly, I realised that I had way too many Kilner jars too. So I Freecycled a dozen; again, I had hordes of emails. The first came from someone I know, so I said they could have them. But then came a reply from a friend, too… I thought I still had more than enough, so I said she could have some too, but when I counted them, that would have left me with just two. However, when I took some of the rubbish produced from my clear-out down to the Tip, sitting there on top of an old filing cabinet was another box of Kilner jars… so there are enough for all of us after all. But not for everyone that asked – which just goes to show that one person’s landfill is another person’s treasure.

Now I just need to keep up the momentum. Perhaps I should be ill more often!

Busy busy busy!

Just in case you were wondering where I’d got to, I’ve been a little busy, preparing firsrtly for tonight’s Transition Wimborne meeting (7.00 pm at the CLaRC) secondly for Saturday’s Bournemouth Vintage Fayre and thirdly for the Dorset County Show on Sunday where I’ll be demonstrating something (not 100% sure what yet) with my Guild, the Dorset Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. So I’ve been polishing up some of my little old beauties in the hope that they’ll find themselves loving new homes, and using up some of my bountiful supplies of reclaimed fabric & yarns. I now have 3 “Extreme Crochet” shawls to offer, including one that I’m tempted to keep, but musn’t as I already have too many shawls!

Extreme Crochet strikes again!
Extreme Crochet strikes again!

And then there’s the quilt/bedspread/throw… I was given a 1970’s duvet cover by its original maker, who told me to “make something with it!” She’d got some way through making a Grandmother’s Flower Garden hexagonal quilt & got bored, so she appliquéd it to a candy-pink polycotton duvet cover, which had become bobbly & worn over the years. But the patchwork was still in pretty good condition, so I cut it off the polycotton and appliquéd it onto some red velvet which came from a pair of gigantic curtains that smelt somehow of hotel – well-washed, of course! – and “tied” it with snippets of old lace. It wouldn’t have looked right just plonked onto the velvet, so I framed it with some deep modern lace I was given on Freecycle.

Stitching the patchwork & lace onto the velvet...
Stitching the patchwork & lace onto the velvet...

That sounds straightforward, but until you’ve painstakingly stitched around the outside of several hundred little hexagons, you don’t realise quite how fiddly it is! But the end result is quite stunning, IMHO, as a bedspread or as a throw; I just wonder whether anyone will want to buy it…

Makes a good bedspread?
Makes a good bedspread?

Fibrefest report…

All fibrefested out...
All fibrefested out...

Right – so many impressions, it’s hard to know where to start. It was an overwhelming feast of colours and textures, the sound of happy voices and the beam of excited & contented smiles. The weather was a bit grey and a bit drizzly, and a cool wind blew up at the car park (quite a hike from the Mill, for anyone who’s not overly mobile) but I’m glad it wasn’t sunnier as it could have become very stuffy inside the marquees.

When we arrived, at about 12.30 on the Saturday, the marquees were heaving and it was a bit of a mad crush. Next time (do we really have to wait two years?!) we’ll come down on Friday night so that we can be earlybirds and wander freely amongst the glorious colours & textures & intriguing devices, deciding at our leisure who’s got what we really, really want. Then when the stampede arrives, we’ll trot off to the workshops, which I didn’t get around to booking this year. I loved it all, especially meeting the animals & farmers, & I got everything I’d gone for, and more. I picked up a fabulous Gotland lambs fleece by arrangement, and couldn’t resist a small bag of white Wensleydale locks for dyeing, felting & spinning experiments. A big thank-you the lovely ladies of the Crochet Design & Threads of Life stall, who were so encouraging to me with my whacky double-ended ideas and my two friends, who are new to crochet. From them I got two double-ended Tunisian hooks, one rigid, the other with a cable, to add to my collection. From The Mulberry Dyer, an honest-it’s-not-Kumihimo wooden disk, with stand and bobbins. From the Threshing Barn, a new modern bobbin for my elderly Louet (so I can ply at the same ratio I’m spinning at – I already had two) and a circular weaving kit. I didn’t mean to buy that, it just refused to leave my hand. I enjoyed the swapshop, picked up lots of inexpensive yarns from a variety of inspiring stalls and the Mill’s own bargain bin, some rather more expensive (but scrumptious!) ones too, and a little gold Angelina, learnt to knit without needles at the WoolFish, bought some chicken buttons from Injabulo & a packet of Madder from Jane Deane. Best of all, a little upright rigid-heddle LeClerc loom from the Swapshop… happy bunny here! But we had a go with the sock-knitter and oh dear, I think I need one of those too…

Over it all, the mill is an insistent presence; a tall & slender but sturdy redbrick chimney soars into the sky like a fairytale tower, roofs jumble at odd angles and little pathways beg to be followed under mismatched windows and zigzagged cast-iron stairways. The river murmurs along the back of the mill, with abundantly productive kitchen gardens running from the mill buildings down to the water’s edge; the millstream is channelled to the front and streams down into the massive waterwheel. Inside, mellow light filters through dusty windows, racks and shelving down into serried ranks of wooden bobbins and iron spikes. Machines whirr into life, seemingly randomly, as you walk through. The repetitive clatter & thump of the working loom sounded oddly like some mad rock drummer working out a new rhythm and the operator, young, bearded and earphoned, could have been the recording engineer. In the boiler house, two great iron faces peered reflectively out of the walls; next door a massive drive wheel was looped around with gigantic cotton ropes which vanished upwards into the light through a long slit in the wall. Odd-looking valves and coils stand on metal spires like surreal samovars and there are dial faces whichever way you turn. If Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria had designed a mill, this would be it. My camera was working overtime…

Can’t wait for the next one…

DSCF1503

Is it or isn’t it…

An old drop spindle? Or a giant darning mushroom?
An old drop spindle? Or a giant darning mushroom?

An old drop spindle?

I picked this up at our local market for 50p last weekend, under the impression that it was a giant darning mushroom. But I couldn’t help wondering what the hook was for, not to mention the groove below the hook. Something about it suggested spinning, probably the resemblance to a child’s spinning top, so I tried it out with a little mauve roving. Lo & behold, it worked, really rather well. But I haven’t a clue whether that’s what it’s intended use really was! Or how old it is, or, if it is a spindle, which tradition it came from. Ideas, please…

The entries for the Dorset Arts & Crafts Association show are now in, and I’m really looking forward to going down there with a friend tomorrow & seeing what the judges thought of my strictly non-traditional stuff. In the end I enetered my felted slippers, a denim apron, one of my crazy-patchwork bags and a broomstick crochet hat & “neckwarmer” (not long enough for a scarf – not enough yarn!) I did a little while ago. It’s my first year of entering so I’m not expecting any great plaudits but it’ll be interesting to see wht it is they’re looking for, and how (or in fact IF) I could ever achieve it.

I shall report back tomorrow evening, with pics…

And now I’m working really hard…

… to get my shop stocked up & the shopping cart “live” though I’m still awaiting one vital piece of info from my bank. So far I’ve photographed, weighed (for postage) priced & uploaded 30+ items; just another 170 or so to go! So I haven’t had a lot of time to spare for recreational recycling in the last week or two. Though I have picked up some classic books at the Minster Fair and at the charity market during the Folk Festival, most of which will be offered in the shop, but some are just too interesting to part with! I look forward to the opportunity to investigate further…

I’ve also picked up several pairs of jeans to make some more “Jeans Pockets” aprons. Every time I go out Morsbagging or car booting in the one I made for myself, I’m asked, “Where can I get one of those? I need one…!” so I shall make a few up to test-market. There’s a craft fair coming up in the middle of August that’s very generously offering FREE stalls to local crafters, so I’m putting my name down for that, and I’ll see how they go there. It will be a fine line whether I can charge enough to make the time spent on them worthwhile, but how will I know unless I try?

I’ve been enjoying my Spinolution Bee hugely, when I’m just too exhausted to do anything else. I know it’s cheating to buy a new wheel, but I’m still enjoying my secondhand Louet S20 too, especially when Jo steals the Bee to learn on! I’ve found some nice bright cotton items – jumpers, a bag – to unravel so that I can re-spin or weave the yarn into something else, which is rather fun.

And we’ve had guests, so the little pot-bellied BBQ stove has been working overtime on fine evenings. That thing is worth its weight in gold as far as I’m concerned; it goes all evening on a few lumps of dry palletwood, and quite apart from its role as a social focal point, you can actually cook on & in it, not just barbecue. Are they still being made, I wonder? Is it possible to buy one new? Or has it been superseded by the ultra-wasteful patio heater… 😦

There seems to be some movement towards getting a “Transition Town Wimborne” group off the ground – I will post more on this as soon as I know what’s happening & where. Watch this space!

If I’ve been a bit quiet this week…

…it’s because I’ve been going flat out trying to get my Web Shop open. I’m not 100% there yet, but I’m very pleased to say that it is now online, at VintageCraftStuff, although there are only about 11 “products” up there so far & you can’t buy anything yet! There’s quite a lot of work left to do; everything has to be weighed & measured for the postage calculator, for example, and I have the best part of 100 books to list, not to mention everything else! But at last I feel I’m getting somewhere. I’d love to open a real shop, but rent & rates round here are too high for the sort of turnover I’d anticipate, and I don’t want to get bogged down with commuting.

Otherwise, there’s been another attack of freegan raspberries, but this time I nearly left them too long (about 10 hours) before picking them over and sadly lost over half to mould, so only ended up with 4 smallish jars of raspberry jam. Last week, I was given a big box of celery, which has kept my dehydrator busy all week and will flavour our soups throughout the winter.  We enjoyed our day at the Pavilion hugely and gave away over 50 Morsbags; I came away with lots of ideas and hoping against hope that I might finally be able to do a Permaculture Design Course in the not-too-distant future; there’ll be one running locally before too long. Twice I’ve signed up for them elsewhere, only to have them cancelled when there weren’t enough students.

And I’m over the moon with my latest lovely acquisition from the Tip; I had to part with my lovely Willcox & Gibbs “Silent Automatic” treadle as I didn’t use it enough to justify the floor space it took up. But now I have a handcranked version, even earlier (mid 1880s?) which is tiny so I can keep it! They are really good with “difficult” threads; something to do with the tension mechanism, I suspect, so it is genuinely useful as well as “cute” in Jo’s opinion. I’ll post a pic tomorrow.

And the skein of scrap yarn has become a cosy fingercrochet hat, which I love & will wear. There’ll be more in the pipeline; it’s great fun to spin so I’m on the hunt for genuine scraps now!