Sunday, 31 August 2008

A day out at the fair

With our holiday almost over and my return to the office imminent (as in tomorrow - eeek!), Richard invited Dave and myself to join him at the Chatsworth Country Fair which is based at Chatsworth House. We'd never been before, but a quick look at the website seemed to imply it would be fun day out, so we were easily persuaded, so yesterday we set off for Derbyshire well before nine in the morning to begin our day out.

We swapped to Richard's 4x4 to head to the fair itself, which turned out to be a good thing given that we were directed to drive up some fairly steep fields to the slopes set aside as a parking area. We changed into walking boots and joined the crowds descending onto the fair proper.

The fair itself was one of those events with so much going on, that there was no way we could cover everything. There was a massive market of stalls, selling a multitude of wares that a countryside goer might need. There were hats, water proofs, boots, walking sticks and a plethora of tweed - just the sort of thing you could imagine farmers wives wearing, or being kitted out in to go hunting with guns and dogs. We saw chickens, toys, food, bed linen (that one surprised me), table linen, luxury wooden gazeebos, outside dining sets, garden furniture, petshops and even a huge wooden fort complete with telescope that Dave wanted for our garden. After a while, the shops all blurred into one but I did start my Christmas shopping while Dave bought some nuts and liquorice.

We didn't really sit to watch events in the main arena, but did look at some victorian steam driven machinery, peered at ancient cars and admired model wagons. We watched the fun fair rights in horror, particularly one which seemed to consist of a cage attached to two bungee cords. The riders were strapped into the cage and the bungee stretched, before they were flung into the air as if shot out of a giant catapult.

We watched some novice gun dogs doing retrieval work, saw the more experienced dogs being far more energetic doing the same with far less hints from their owners, watched a dog agility relay and agreed there was a bit of a dog theme going on here.

We lingered for a while watching the ferret racing...

This seemed to consist of putting your ferret into a flexible plastic tube and encouraging them to run to the other end and back again, with the first ferret home the winner. The ferrets thought this was great with several of them choosing to run back and forth inside the tube and never actually emerge at all. Great fun to watch and undoubtedly fun for the ferrets, which were very sweet.

We returned to the car at the end of the day for a cuppa while we waited for the car park to empty. This meant we got to watch the many hot air balloons take off and drift up the valley towards us.

There wasn't a huge amount of wind yesterday, with the weather remaining stubbornly muggy and mostly overcast, with the odd spot of strong sunshine to take us unawares. I'm not sure what constitutes good weather for ballooning, but the crews were having problems getting any real height, colliding with trees and desperately firing their burners to stop their balloon's crashing into the parked cars they were flying over.

It was quite a sight to see and certainly worth hanging around at the end of the fair for. I even managed to get some nice silhouetted shots of those few balloonists who made it up the hill. The sun was beginning to set by then and the crest of the hill made for some dramatic shots.

Finally we went home and it was a very exhausted me who ate some chips at Richard's before bundling Dave into the car shortly after 10pm for the long drive home. A long, exhausting day... But a good one.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Rain, rain and more rain

I'm back in the real world once more after eleven days of camping in a very wet South West Wales on the annual 'weeklong' Ascendancy LRP event. It rained every day, varying from light showers, to heavy persistent rain, to torrential downpour. We did get occasional breaks in the weather and even saw the sun every now and then, but mostly the theme of the week was rain.

This led to a reduction in biting insects, but saw our tents and cooking area become a shelter for wasps looking to get out of the rain, while we were inundated by invading slugs. It became standard practice to check for slugs before sitting down, putting anything down, picking anything up, climbing into bed, or eating anything. Slugs got into everything, included sealed storage boxes and zipped up tents!

One poor unfortunate who arrived for the last weekend hadn't learnt to keep his eyes open for invading slugs and discovered the need for caution the hard way when he made himself a nice cup of slug tea. Yuk!!!

We did consider warding food boxes with salt, but another camper tried it before us and discovered the salt doesn't keep the slugs out. They crawl over the salt and then explode in the least convenient of places.

Enough said methinks!

As usual we were well equipped and prepared for rain, with a shelter for cooking in and decent sized tents, so coped well enough. Lots of hot drinks and good food saw us through, and I'm happy to report that the newly installed dutch lacing on my bell tent worked well. While there was a reluctance to go outside, play continued, plot got out there and there was even stuff I'd written along with Richard out there for players to get involved with. It was fun, but tiring with the gloomy weather seeming to draw all of the oomph out of us.

I'm back home now, still in a sort of brain fog and trying to cope with a mountain of laundry. Everything I took with me is damp, although fortunately the rain held off (except for a few spots) while we took down the camp. The showers did arrive as we left site though, so we timed it just right I guess.

I collected the cats yesterday and was relieved to see that Charlie was OK. We started the 'weeklong' with an unexpected trip to the vets as the great lump got into a fight the night before. Dave witnessed it and said it was a serious set to which started when the other cat surprised Missy, forcing her to take refuge in a tree.

Charlie waded in in her defence and took a serious beating. He appeared to have been either kicked or bitten in the jaw, and had a bite on his right front leg as well as numerous scratches/bruises to the rest of his body. All of which meant he was feeling very sorry for himself by the next morning and needed antibiotics, pain relief and anti-inflamatories for the duration of his stay in the cattery.

Now the swelling has gone down, I can see definite puncture wounds along his jaw and he's still limping slightly on that front leg even after eleven days of rest, but other than that is in good spirits. In fact both cats are happy to be home and are being very attentive. It was very comforting to sit on the sofa last night, knitting a sock with a snoring cat draped over my lap.

Monday, 11 August 2008

My first dyed yarns

I'm back in the land of computers and real life after a brief sojourn to Wales where it rained a lot. Although we were camping, we were fine as we prepared as always... But the non-stop rain on Saturday plus the lack of light, made it a tiring day.

Yesterday the weather did break, thank goodness! So packing up wasn't too arduous, but I didn't get home until gone 10pm as Richard and I sat at services plotting for a long time. This means that today I am rather brain dead and not capable of saying much more than 'urgh'.

This is a brief post really, to show off the yarns I dyed up last weekend.

Firstly I have four 100 gram skeins of Blue Faced Leicester which were dip dyed using acid dyes. I had two dye baths, one containing blue dye and the other containing plum with a touch of pink which gave something which looks like this...
I very deliberately placed just the ends of the skeins in the dye bath's and then encouraged the dye to travel up the yarn until there was no white left. Because blue and red dyes take up at different rates this created some very interesting effects where the two dyes met and mean that only part of the yarn is truly pinky plum (which I'm calling berry) or blue. I like it.

Next up, the single skein of alpaca 4 ply, with a touch of nylon (10%) which I dyed using Kool-Aid type soft drinks.
As shown in a previous post, I used two dye baths one containing two packets of Kool-Aid in dark cherry and the other a Kool-Aid clone in grape. The colour here was far more subtle and the alpaca was much slower to take up the dye so I left it soaking while I had lunch. When I came back, the yarn still had some undyed bits which I left as they were. Very pretty and again, I like it.

And finally... Remember this?

Once dried and reskeined, it transformed into this...

This is a single skein of alpaca 4 ply (again with a touch of nylon) which I hand painted using the semi-exhausted dyes from the BFL above (it seemed a shame to just throw the excess away) and a fresh batch of turquoise. It took a long time to do and even after it had dried I wasn't sure I liked the result... until I reskeined it this morning, that is. Now, all I can say is wow!

I'm not sure what I'll do with it (or any of the others for that matter), but it sure came out purty.

(As always, click on images to see bigger versions...)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Frustrated crafter at large

Headed off to my regular knitting meeting last night where we had a sewing up workshop... After much frowning at some stocking stitch squares, knitted up in sock wool I've come to the conclusion sewing up knitted things really is not my forte.

It seems weird since I definitely can sew and give me woven fabric then I'm in my element, but ask me to sew up two tiny little knitted squares and I'm all fingers and thumbs. :(

I managed it for my one and only seamed knitted project (so far at least), so obviously I can apply needle and thread in the context of knitting but last night my mojo had definitely deserted me.

The wool I dyed up at the weekend has finally dried and I had planned to reskein the hand painted alpaca, but was defeated because my house is not big enough! I set two chairs up, one in the living room and one by the back door (in the kitchen) and discovered that I needed at least three more meters of house to stretch the yarn out properly. So... I have to wait until I am home during daylight hours and have nice weather before I can get the yarn back into a skein as this is going to have to be done in the garden.

I did have a quick poke around Ravelry and there seem to be several groups dedicated to dyeing which may be worth a looksee. I've not joined any of them as of yet, because if I do, I may want to do more dyeing which would be a problem since I haven't really got the time to do it at the moment. I'm not making much progress on knitting currently (despite my best efforts) and I haven't picked up my spindle in at least two weeks! :(

I did however come across this company (Pure Tinctoria) who sell natural dyes and may be worth a future look. I'm also wondering about using normal food dyes for dyeing purposes and wondering about making up dyes from raw ingredients. Now if only I had the hours to spare to do more than wonder...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Dyeing Day

Jury service turned out to be rather boring. I sat and waited, knitted a bit, read some, knitted a bit more, waited... And so on. The knitting endeared me to the catering staff who made me a mug of tea made with a real teabag rather than making me suffer machine tea, while everyone else pretty much gave me wide berth - after all, who knows what a woman wielding 4mm circulars might be capable of?

I've been dismissed now, so normality will resume for the next couple of days at least.

Looking back over the weekend, Sunday saw me heading to Birmingham to meet up with Heather, Helen and Iszy for a go at dyeing. I'd ordered some Blue Faced Leicester DK and some alpaca 4-ply from Fyberspates to play with, Helen was supplying Kool-Aid and similar beverages and Heather had the acid dyes plus all the expertise.

After some discussion, both Helen and I decided to have a go at hand painting one skein and dip dyeing the rest. That meant untying and re-skeining into a really big skein ready for painting, which led to us taking over Heather's garden and turning it into one huge cats cradle as we strung hundreds of meters of yarn up and down its length. This took some time, but that was OK as my remaining yarn was soaking in water to get it ready for dip dyeing.

The re-skeined and tied yarn was eventually transferred to a bucket of water as we moved onto having a go at dyeing using Kool-Aid. Here is my attempt in progress.

There are actually two packets of each soft drink in the bowls, but I only photographed one packet for illustration purposes. As you can see, this is Kool-Aid Black Cherry and a Kool-Aid-esq soft drink in 'Grape'. No idea what they taste like, but they dyed wool, wood and fingers alike.

After this, we picked up the pace a little and were alternating between mixing dyes, dipping wool, squidging wool, wrapping it in clingfilm, cooking it (poor Heather sat in the loft with her dyeing microwave for most of the afternoon) and then rinsing it as we peeled the clingfilm off.

We were so busy that I didn't get around to picking up the camera again until we were done.

Hand painting yarn was an interesting experience. After watching Helen wrestling her much bulkier skein I arranged my lighter 4-ply onto the table in a sort of giant wiggling zig-zag for painting. I used the dyes I had left over from dip dyeing plus a batch of turquoise and quite litterally painted the yarn. It was back breaking, time consuming work and I enlisted Iszy's help to get mine done as we were running out of time (and the weather was threatening to turn).

Here it is in the sink after cooking as I peeled off the cling film to give it a rinse.

Upon reflection, I think I prefer dip dyeing. It was far less precise, but the effects were quickly achieved and very dramatic.

Here are our collective efforts hanging up to dry in Heather's bathroom just before we bagged them up to take home. I'll post photo's of my finished skeins once they've dried.