Monday, 19 June 2017

Visit

In July 2009, I wrote a post in which I introduced the very small group of Orchids, which we had discovered growing in our woodland. A few years later, I  wrote about a new small colony nearer the house, in great excitement. One plant on what we laughingly call The Croquet Lawn. This year, we have 48 Orchids flowering, and 4 more as basal rosettes. ( They should flower next year).
  
Another discovery was of 3 small groups of Ragged Robin, another scarce wildflower, not far from the many Orchids. With the Cuckoo Flowers ( Ladies Smock, Cardamine pratens ) the lawn is developing into a wildflower meadow. Very satisfying.
 
Last week saw Best Beloved and I make a day trip long planned, and frequently put off. The Rose Gardens of David Austen. The staff were all most welcoming, especially towards our spaniels. Dogs are welcome throughout the site, except the Tea room and Restaurant.

The gardens are set out in a number of different styles. Formal, country, linear, many of the roses repeated in the different setting, displaying their versatility. There were two roses which I had intended to buy, 'Munstead Wood'  and 'Wild Eve'. I also bought 'The Albrighton Rambler', which I had been thinking about. The superb scent swung the decision.
(Above- 'Munstead Wood')
David Austen roses are known for their delicious scents, as well as their old-fashioned form, with improved health. We spent a delightful day wandering around, smelling all the different rose scents, admiring the beautifully maintained gardens, and having a relaxed lunch. Water was provided for the spaniels.

This proud beauty was wandering around the gardens, making a tremendous racket. Apparently there are several pairs. The spaniels kept a vey close eye on this one.... could it be a pheasant in disguise?
The weather was beautiful, we could not have asked for more. A lovely day in a beautiful place.


Friday, 9 June 2017

Lace

This 'Afmaeli' Icelandic sweater was finished midway through January this year. I made it for Best Beloved at his request. Like many men, he has decided preferences in knitwear, but also like many men, does not express those preferences until something is made which does not get worn. I learned that lesson long ago, so was delighted when he made clear choices on pattern and colours. A happy result, which has been worn many times already.
The pattern is by Vedis Jonsdottir. The yarn is Istex Letlopi ( aran weight). All bought though Deramores. The main body is Light Ash, the contrasts are White, and Black Heather. The collar is knitted in John Arbon Textiles Alpaca Supreme, in Light Steel, held double. ( Bought at John's Mill Open Day).
 
 
Despite making the 'Afmaeli', my knitting mojo has been sadly lacking for a while. Last week I made a start on a new laceweight shawl, which is growing faster than I anticipated. The pattern is 'Fialka', by Susanna Ic ( surprise! ).The yarn is Knitwitches Pure Cashmere Laceweight. I am making it for my chum Sharon, who supplied me with the yarn. Which is fabulous to work with, incidentally. It is such a shame that Knitwitch/Olwen has retired.

This is the second 'Fialka' I will have made, the first being for Asti/Juno Fibre Arts. It is a lovely pattern. I think I may have to make one for myself.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Cutting Garden

Sweet Peas are a perennial favourite, and the backbone of my summer planting. The placement of their growing area has progressed around the garden, each successive year finding the last year's site full. Last year a bed in the Kitchen Garden was annexed. This year, the grandly named Cutting Garden has been developed. In fact, this is a reasonably sized bed in the Kitchen Garden, alongside the newly created fruit cage.
 
 
The bed contains several varieties of Ranunculus, a row of Brodia, some Antirhinum, and quite a lot of Dahlias. The rows of annuals are not really showing, as we are in desperate need of some rain, despite watering daily. Next year I will have to weed out some of the (many) Dahlias.


With a little judicious picking, in both the flower garden and the cutting garden, it's remarkably easy to end up with a reasonable posy.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Challenge

Each local Guild ( of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers ) has a regular members' ''Challenge'' . This year the Guild to which I belong has a very loose challenge - Those who wished to take part were issued with a bag containing 100 grams of a John Arbon blended top, Devonia,  to spin. Then weave, knit, crochet or felt the resulting yarn into a recognisable/useable item. The blend is Exmoor Blueface, Devon Bluefaced Leicester, Devon Wensleydale, and silk.
The skein on the left is my resulting yarn. The one on the right is the ( much finer ) work of a friend. I have to admit that this was the only photo taken of the yarns before we set to creating our items. My friend is a spinner of many years standing, and I think her yarn shows that. It is a much finer, more even spin. Probably about 4 ply equivalent. Mine is a much chunkier, more uneven spin, ending up more as a heavy aran weight equivalent.
 
The end result of my spinning and knitting is a cowl. It does not have a pattern, it was very much made up as I went along.

A more personal challenge, and not really a difficult one, was to skirt, sort and wash a rather lovely Dorset Down cross yearling fleece. The skirting ( removing undesirable lumps and bits, usually droppings, adhering to the fleece) was done quite quickly. That is the little pile to the lower right.

Above, the four batches of fleece at different stages. On the green sheet, skirted, not yet begun the process. Yellow bucket, cold soak- note the colour of the water. It is like one of those nameless beverages from a vending machine. Red trug - just out of the final rinse. On black tray- clean and spun dry-ish.
 
I divided the fleece into four piles, and then started the washing. The first wash is really a good soak in cool or cold water. This can take anything from an hour to all night. It depends on how dirty the fleece is, and what time is available. Each pile got about an hour. The second wash needs to be very hot- uncomfortable to the hand- and contain a good squeeze of soap. In this case Ecover washing up liquid. I drained the cold water from the first batch, gently pressing the fleece against the side of the bucket, to remove as much water as possible, then gently tipped it into the hot soapy wash. Filling the first tub with cold water, I put the second batch of fleece into the cold soak while I went on washing the first batch. Leaving the first batch of fleece in the hot wash for a short while, I prepared the not-quite-as-hot water for the first batch rinse. Once ready, I drained the hot wash from the first fleece, and put it into the rinsing water, where it stayed while I prepared the cooler rinse. Again, the rinse water is drained off, gently squeezed out and the fleece put into the final rinse. At this stage, I prepared a very hot soapy wash for the second batch, drained the second batch of it's first, cold soak, and put it into the hot water. Drained the first batch of it's final rinse and put it onto a tray. Then came the cold soak for the third batch. I used a cheap salad spinner to spin the clean fleece of excess water. It is easy to divide the fleece into appropriate sized amounts.
Work continued in this soak one batch while working through the previous batch fashion, until all was clean and spun free of excess water. It was made more exciting by the arrival of a Thunderstorm when I was part way though. However, it was finally done. Drying took place on a sheet hung over my laundry airer, hanging in the utility room, as the deluge of rain precluded hanging it up outside.
Now, the cause of felting of wool, is shock. So, draining as much water as possible at each stage is important. It is also important not to agitate or rub the fleece, as the result is the same. Also, the number of times one needs to rinse the fleece will vary, according to how dirty it is. I think mine was reasonably clean.
Then, once dry, the fleece was aired well, and stored in an old cotton pillowcase.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

There and back again

Builth Wells is a delightful little town, which was taken over by  British fibre enthusiasts on the 22nd and 23rd April, as Wonderwool Wales took place at the Royal Welsh Showground. I am not going to post lots of photos of the event, as it has been done so well over on the official website. However, I will say that it was great fun, and well worth attending. Particularly as my great friend S allowed me to 'help' at her stall, 'fivemoons'. So much amazing yarn!
The Monday after the event was to be a quiet day, so I took a walk into the town, and discovered some lovely local shops. This wonderful mural of a Dragon under a tree had to be photographed....  the scale is evident, as the window frame is real, but blocked up, with the cat behind bars painted onto the blank.



Further along the road, and to the right, I discovered this one-of-a-kind shop. ( The two images should be one continuous picture, but the car blocked out too much). It contains an amazing array of vintage and collectible stock. There is also a fabulous little café tucked in there, where everything is made and served by the proprietor, ( who is a professional chef). If you go to Builth, do not miss it!
Although we had great fun, it was wonderful to return home. Enjoying oneself can be exhausting!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Creation and growth

A special young woman, of whom both Best Beloved and I are very fond, will marry in a couple of weeks time. For the menfolk, their attire is straightforward. Trying to find elegant and suitable clothing is just that- trying- for the females of the species. The dearth of lovely clothes has led me to dust off some old skills. And to play with a new toy....an overlocker.
 
A couple of days has seen an outfit on it's way to completion.
 
The Tulips have been glorious. A little early, as they had to be brought on in the Greenhouse, in order to avoid their being eaten by the local Squirrels.

This Rosa Banksia lutea is a joy. It was grown from a cutting by my lovely sister-in-law, Deb. It had languished in a ( large) pot for over ten years, and was beginning to suffer. At the end of April last year, we finally constructed the bed it was meant to inhabit. Since planting it there, the Rose has grown more than ten feet in height. Now it has produced it's first blooms. As I said, a joy!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

More socks!

Another pair of socks completed. That makes nine pairs I have knitted for myself. For someone who did not ever want to try making them, and does not enjoy the process, that is not a bad number.
BUT..... I will happily admit that there is nothing so warm, or as comfortable, as a pair of hand-knitted wool socks.
The pattern is my own adaption, or mash-up, of three patterns. The yarn is 'Fivemoons' 4-ply sock, in 'Summer Marmalade' and 'Spring Green'.
( Socks are the one thing I will not knit for Best Beloved. He goes through socks like wildfire).