Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Piratical goings on in Derbyshire

The past couple of weeks since I last wrote have been busy ones, with last weekend seeing us travelling off to Shining Cliffs again, for another closed AscendancyLRP event. I'd mostly written this one, so last week, what spare time I did have was spent preparing for the event. Kit needed to be gathered, specific plot details thrashed out so they made some sort of sense and folks needed briefing. Dave contributed a couple of scenes and AndyL did his usual excellent job of throwing in a few extra scenes so that this one off event tied into the main campaign.

We had loads of crew, which meant the speaking named parts could be divided up amongst us making it easier all round. There was the usual amount of lugging stuff around the woods though and we had a some of complete newbies to LARP, both on the crew and playing. Another Dave, who was experiencing his first ever LARP as crew seemed bemused by the whole thing, especially when I donned dreads and facepaint, to become a voodoo follower of The Baron.

Don't I look... distinctive?

More photo's here if you want to take a look.

The plot itself was aimed at beginners. I kept it as generic and easy to relate to as possible, rather than going for something that was going to require lots of gameworld background knowledge to understand. It seemed to go down well and the couple of experienced players who't tagged along to show the new players how it's done seemed to have fun too. So all good methinks.

In the evening, we went back to Richard's for supper, before driving home.

Sunday was spent mostly doing housework and unpacking from the day before. I did get the spinning wheel out for a couple of hours in the afternoon and plied up the two bobbins of Blue Faced Leicester I'd spun the previous weekend. Again, I kept going until I ran out of bobbin, leaving a small amount of singles unspun... I'm beginning to think I need to put less singles on the bobbins in the first place, so I can ply the lot in one go.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

More fluff and my first wheel spun

I've discovered Babylonglegs and I think I'm doomed. I'd glanced in her direction before of course, having been pointed there by both Claire and Mandy, but I've managed to resist her charms until today. What can I say... I blinked and some very pretty fluff had fallen into my shopping cart and the next thing I knew I'd paid for it as well.

With more fluff on order, I also spoke to the lady at work who has a small holding this morning. She promised me some fleece from their flock a few months back but I put her off as it was the middle of winter. I see washing, drying and dying fleece as very much a spring to summer activity. When I caught her this morning her reaction was to say "Just the one bag?" with a hint of disappointment in her voice. They've been having trouble getting rid of it, although I think they found a co-operative to take some of last years sheerings.

Anyway, I've said to bring me one bag of fleece to start with and I'll take a look at it and may arrange to take more off her hands later. I've no idea of the quality of the fluff at this stage (or the going rate for raw fleece for that matter), so one to wait and see on really.

In the meantime, I've plied up my first every skein of wheelspun!

This is Blue Faced Leciester in Humbug, from Wingham Woolworks and this picture is of the yarn straight from the wheel. I'd quite literally just plied it and you can see it's twisting back on itself.


Plying was a new experience for me. I've tried plying on the spindle before, but didn't see very good results possibly because I was working with my first singles and the quality was very iffy. I also didn't know how much twist you need to put into the singles to get them to twist into each other properly, which having worked at plying on my wheel (which I still need to name) I can now say is quite a lot!

Plying took me a long time for three reasons. Firstly, I have this tendancy to spin relatively skinny singles and a full bobbin of such singles is an awful lot of yarn!

Secondly was the aforementioned lack of understanding of just how much twist needs to go into plying two singles together. It turns out that if the singles are tightly spun as mine are (being relatively skinny) and have been allowed to rest for a variable amount of time, by which I mean a couple of days to several weeks in the case of one of the bobbins, there's an awful lot of countertwist needed to even out the yarn. Even so, it was a bit hit and miss as I tried to find my rhythm and eventually discovered I needed something in the order of fourteen treadles to adequately ply about eighteen inches of yarn.

And finally, my wheel fought me! Or at least she did at first. I'd spun on her only a couple of days before with no problems but when I tried to ply, she refused to play ball. The yarn wouldn't take up and when I adjusted the brake band so the bobbins would wind on, the flyer wouldn't turn. Raising the whorl which tightened the drive band was good, only suddenly the yarn wouldn't wind on again. Rinse and repeat, until the tension was so tight I couldn't keep the wheel moving.

A cup of tea later and I referred to my now to be considered bible of spinning, Start Spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn by Maggie Casey, turning my attention first to her chapter on plying and then back to her introduction to the wheel. After a good hour of tweaking, I had a much better understanding of how the tension between the drive band and brake band compliment each other and I learned the benefits of tiny, tiny adjustments while spinning. Suddenly, I was plying.

I stopped about three hours later when I ran out of room on my only free bobbin and my shoulders hurt. I let the newly plied yarn sit overnight and then wound it into a skein straight from the wheel. I don't have a niddy-noddy, so used two chairs back to back, which while a bit fiddly did the trick. I tied it, photographed the skein draped across a bush in the garden and then washed it as directed by Maggie Casey. Here it is hanging up to dry in the bathroom.


After wrapping the wet skein in a towel to get rid of most of the water, I snapped it between my hands to even out the yarn after which it hung open all by itself (which it didn't do straight off the wheel) so I didn't weight it as it dried.

And the final result...


That's approximately 145m of something like a sock weight yarn. I haven't done a wraps count yet and the yarn is of variable thickness, so I'm not sure how accurate one would be anyway. In places it's underplied but mostly, it looks exactly as it should and I'm very pleased with the result. In fact, I keep picking it up, squishing it and grinning a lot.


Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter scarecrows

Happy Easter to anyone reading this!

Dave has headed off to Maelstrom this weekend and reported in this morning, so I know he is still alive. He hasn't been eating though and was duly told to take time to have meals, preferably with proper breaks, involving a kettle, sitting down and actually stopping to catch his breath. Whether he'll take any notice of course is another thing, but at least he's not in danger of keeling over from heat exhaustion or sunstroke this weekend.

With Dave out of the way, I drove up to Derbyshire yesterday to crew for a closed event being run by Ascendancy LRP. A closed event is one being run for a specific group of players, rather than an open event which anyone can book onto. We were running around Shining Cliff Woods (also fondly known as Shining Death), which involves a lot of hiking up and down hills over rough and boggy terrain. It isn't always boggy, but there has been a bit of rain lately and indeed, there were some heavy showers while we were there yesterday.

Crewing also meant lugging heavy bags all over the woods and I even threw myself into combat encounters. Suffice it to say that today I ache; however, I'm fairly happy as even though my limp had returned by yesterday afternoon, I am moving fairly well today. Or at least I am so far.

I spent Thursday sewing up a few scarecrow masks for the event, which came out something like...

Or to show them in situ and dressed with suitably scarecrow like kit...

I'm pleased with the result and think they look pretty effective.

The masks themselves are simple bags (of linen/cotton) with holes cut for the eyes. I then crudely over stitched the eyes and seams with a linen thread, making the stitches big and obvious, to give a hand sewn effect. The over sewing also stabilised the fabric around the eyes and seams, making the masks easier and more comfortable to wear - I hope, as that was certainly the idea.

Not bad for a few hours work.

Finally, a group shot of some of the crew kitted out as dwarves.

Admittedly there are some very tall dwarves there, but look at the cool steamtech gun built by Richard!

Not a bad way to spend an Easter Saturday, but today and tomorrow will hopefully be more relaxing!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Of obi and mittens

I've taken a few days well earned rest from work this week, using up days I'd otherwise lose, although it hasn't exactly been relaxing.

The first part of this week was spent making Dave an obi for his polymorphic character in Maelstrom. Polymorphic means lots of costume changes and the character doesn't distinguish between genders when it comes to attire, so I made him a woman's obi at his request.

This means I spent a day and a half, ironing, cutting, pinning, sewing, ironing again, more pinning, sewing, ironing... Repeat until I have a sash consisting of two layers of fabric, sandwiching a length of cotton inside to give it the appropriate body or stiffness. Said stash being five meters long by thirty centimeters wide! The chosen fabric for the obi, while very nice to look at was not well behaved, it frayed at every touch, slid about like it had a mind of its own, would not hold a decent crease and scattered little bits of blue thread throughout the house.

Including edging (absolutely necessary or there wouldn't have been any fabric left by the time I was done) I reckon I must have sewed some fifty five meters of seam on that one sash. Fifty five meters of very boring, tedious sewing with far too many pins for my poor fingers to cope with. So if you see Dave wearing his new blue obi this coming weekend, admire it lots and tell him he owes me cake!

Last night I headed out to the Wednesday night Knit-Wits meeting and a new venue, the Britannia Hotel in Fairfax Street. All was good, with the bar manager having reserved three tables in a secluded corner for us.

We had table cloths rather than sticky tables, flowers, comfortable seats and good lighting. Prices at the bar were comparable to those in the Town Crier and food and drinks arrived on a tray! No loud music to compete with meant we could actually hear each other speak as well. There was even decent food, served all night, for those who wanted it. We're certainly intending to return there next week and hopefully we've found ourselves a new home.

I showed off my new mittens, which I've finally got around to putting thumbs in and sewing on the buttons.


These are 'Easy Mittens' (Ravelry Link) from 101 One Skein Wonders. I've knit them as per the pattern in size 'large' which as previously mentioned isn't really large enough for me. These are not intended for me, so no worries there, but if I used this pattern for myself, I'd need to scale up a bit.

The yarn is a discontinued Patons With Wool DK. It's definitely a girly yarn and I still have quite a bit of it, so it may be cropping up again in future projects. The buttons cost 6p each from the local yarn store (Busy Fingers) and I think they really make these mittens into something special.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Or maybe I have no self control at all...

I think I may have fallen off the wagon...

On Saturday, I headed up to Lee Mills for a Knitting and Crochet Guild open day, with fellow Knit Wits - Jane, Claire and Jeanette. We set off at a ridiculously early hour, lured by the promise of a Yarn Mountain and were greeted at the door by the sound of a kettle boiling and very delicious home made cake.

I think my self control may have evaporated right there.

I'm blaming the yarn fumes, I was after surrounded by the yarn mountain which made it impossible not to see the stuff. Or stroke it. And the next thing I knew I'd picked up quite a bit of yarn and just could not put it down. I was not alone - all of us succumbed, which makes me feel a little better. It was definitely the yarn fumes that got to us.

In addition to yarn, the warehouse was home to KCG Trading's stock and I got to see Addi needles in the flesh (I talked myself out of buying some - see I did have some self restraint) and all manner of knitting accessories. I also found probably the best selection of knitting and crochet books I've seen in one place ever. I was very tempted by several titles, but in the end made myself pick out just one book and refused to look closely at any of the others.

Doris Chan's Everyday Crochet called to me, mostly because as I flicked through it the designs were ones I could imagine myself wearing, which is actually unusual for me. I tend to pick up books for things I like the look of and want to make, but don't necessarily want to own as a finished item. I guess this is why I tend to give most of the things I make away. Richard gave me Amazing Crochet Lace by the same author for Christmas and I was impressed by her work then. Now I just need to find some time to make something.

There was a white gloves, show and tell type thing where we were allowed to view part of the Guild's collection. The theme chosen for the day was undergarments, which meant we got to admire lots of very delicate lace.

Jeanette and Jane tried out square knitting needles and reported they were actually quite good. I think they were tired and hungry by that stage, so managed to resist buying them. I tried to take a photo of Jeanette knitting but she was too fast for the camera.

By this time, it was nearly 2pm and we arrived at a nearby pub looking for lunch just after he stopped serving. Some sweet talking later, four hungry knitters tucked into some very tasty baguettes before heading home.

A good day out... I just need to find time to knit more now as I'm busy cultivating my own personal yarn mountain behind the sofa!