The calm before the storm

Posted by Caroline in doubleweave, Family, felting, Spinning, Stashbash, Weaving on August 9th, 2018

I have been busy but I’ve nearly caught up now except for the dusting. We went on holiday where I decided I’d rather sail a dinghy than a yacht because although I like the speed I also like my holidays with a good shower, headroom and no marine toilet. We came back from holiday to an incredible amount of tile dust and a shell of a bathroom (no toilet, marine or otherwise). I ran off to a knitting retreat leaving someone else in charge of the bathroom fitters, all meals and gardening. Everything has settled down again and now we are waiting for A level results after which there will be another flurry of activity as we get everything together for the teen to move into self catered halls. So far all I have bought is towels which is better than nothing I suppose.

Over the last couple of months there has been little knitting because it has been far too hot. This summer is being compared with the summer of 1976 which I remember very well. So far we’ve not had a hosepipe ban or a plague of ladybirds but it has been consistently very hot and very dry. The British summer is usually lukewarm with frequent rain so this is not at all what we are used to. On the plus side the grass has stopped growing, I think it may have stopped living but we’ll see what happens the next time that it rains. I have managed to keep spinning. This is just shy of a kilo of yarn for the weft of a doubleweave blanket. It could be the warp but I think it’s the weft, I need to sit down with a calculator and crunch some numbers to work out just how big a blanket I can make with 2kg of yarn. I’m aiming for “big enough” and if it isn’t then I’ll be looking round for some other yarn to add in as stripes.

This is the test piece for the doubleweave blanket. You can see the vertical colour changes as the bottom layer swaps with the top layer. You can see that one stripe started with red on the top and then switched to white on the top. No-one needs to be polite about this photo, this is the header and is unpicked/cut off at the end. It looks as if I’m nearly ready to go but I’m not because the friction brake is slipping. I’m assuming that dust is a lubricant and all I need to do is to wipe down the brake with some sort of a solvent so that it grips instead of slips. This is husband territory, he would have vanished into the garage, come back with a smelly cloth and sorted it for me. This time I am on my own. I should really disassemble the brake but seeing as the beam has the warp on it I’d rather not do that if I can get away with it. First I have to locate the appropriate smelly liquid and then see if I can clean it enough to get by, possibly with the aid of a toothbrush.

One of the touristy things on sale everywhere in Greece was olive oil soap. I didn’t bring any home because I know where I can buy it locally in great big blocks as it is sold for feltmakers. It did get me thinking about soap and how little I knew about it other than having covered saponification in chemistry. I now know more about it than I did before and know what a particular oil will add to a recipe in terms of lather, hardness, cleansing or conditioning. The bars on the right I’m using now as they were cold pour oven process, a heated phase at the end speeds the reaction so you don’t have to wait six weeks for the soap to cure. The ingredients for those came off the shelf at the local supermarket, you could eat it right up until the addition of the caustic soda. The bars on the left are at week two of curing, these are intended as shampoo bars but obviously I’m a way off testing that. They are coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter and caster oil, it’s the caster oil that is the big thing in shampoo bars. It was an interesting diversion and as I still have a chunk of shea butter in the bottom of the fridge I will be making some more soap/lotion/hand cream. It has all the fun of cooking without the calories.

I used some of my new soap to make some felt, not a lot because I did the bulk of the felting in the washing machine. I needed a new cover for the wormery, the top layer that keeps it moist and dark. There is a plastic lid that goes over the whole thing but this is in effect a duvet to keep the worms happy while they get on with the important job of making compost. What I did was make a swiss roll of wool and bubble wrap, tie it up and run it through the washer. If I’d made a better job of tying the swiss roll together or had a single piece of bubble wrap rather than two I might have got away with it. One of the pieces of bubble wrap escaped, the wool folded back on itself resulting in one end that is very thick with the whole piece being a bit short. It’s fit for purpose, has cleared some wool from the floor and I quite like it even though now I wish I’d attempted to do something with the two colours rather than slap them together. I have some fleece that is not good for much so I will be doing this again but not until I’ve found a bigger sheet of bubblewrap. The worms seem to be happy on a cardboard and caffeine diet, the bulk of what they have is tea bags, coffee grounds, toilet roll middles and the odd eggshell and ripped up cardboard box. The bottom tray of the wormery is now full of black compost and the ghosts of tea bags, there is a small amount of plastic in the bag that does not compost. I am not yet annoyed enough to switch to leaf tea but I might be after I’ve picked hundreds of them out of the compost.

In June I sold 300g fibre, knitted one pair of blue/bright striped socks (90g), three pairs orange/brown socks (270g) making a total used of 660g. I did buy fibre and yarn in July, both are going into the blanket and half of the fibre is already dyed and spun. I knitted a pair of socks (90g), threw away 240g of fibre (I know, shock horror but it wouldn’t have felted and I didn’t like it) and bought 500g of yarn and 600g of fibre. It was a net gain for the month of 800g and a reduction to date of 5.8kg.