Monday, 25 February 2013

Plying Cotton

Some handspinners recommend that, when plying yarn, you set your lazy kate holding the bobbins filled with singles as far from your spinning wheel as possible. The resulting long run allows the twist in each single to become more evenly distributed.

Plying set-up for three bobbins:
from bobbins on lazy kate; through eyelet-guide; to wheel in foreground;
sorry about the unmade bed; housework has low priority.
I've been wanting to try this with my handspun cotton, but the long run from lazy kate to wheel worried me as I could imagine the two singles bumping into one another and getting tangled whenever I paused during the plying process. I also worried that the dog, Jerry or me would forget and walk into the path of those almost invisible threads strung across the room for a day or more as I can never seem to finish plying a batch of cotton in one day. Perhaps one day I'll develop calluses necessary for running all that yarn through my fingers in one session.

I decided the best solution to the dog and thoughtless walker worry was to move my spinning wheel and accessories upstairs where there is less traffic. The hot temperatures have eased during recent overcast days and that makes working upstairs possible.

Jerry solved my tangled yarns worry by handing me a strip of smooth wood that held a set of evenly spaced eyelet-screws. I clamped the wood strip to a chair placed midway between the lazy kate and the spinning wheel. I tested this plying set-up with two bobbins of cotton singles, threading each single yarn through an eyelet. The long run to the wheel made it easier for me to coax any remaining twisty areas into plying with surprisingly little effort. The singles did not tangle whenever I released my hold while sitting at the wheel. I feel so delighted with the resulting 2 ply cotton.

Having gained courage by this success, I set up next to ply from three bobbins. I am thrilled that things are going so well with this 3 ply cotton and hope to finish that plying work today.

Toy Creek, February 2013
Meanwhile, the water in the creek looks good though it is not exactly abundant. We usually get 200mm (8 inches) rain in February. We've had ~92mm (~3.7inches) this month which has only three more days until the end of the month. Today the sky is crystal clear. It may get too hot to work upstairs....

Cyclones and flooding are not unusual during the Wet Season in our region, but this year we've had neither... so far. Instead the floods and winds are showing up in southeastern Queensland and into New South Wales, with houses in Sydney losing roofs. Yes, we live in Interesting Times. I find comfort in focusing on areas I can control to some degree, like making things with my hands.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wool and Cotton

Handspun 2ply wool; light fingering weight;
one single is handpainted "Strelitzia" from Kathy's Fibres
one single is Dreamee Wool in Grey from Bilby's Yarns. 

As a spinner, knitter and weaver, I love feeling that initial surge of creativity... then get oh so cranky when I find myself frustrated because all my spinning wheel bobbins are partway full of various unfinished spinning projects, all the knitting needles of a particular size that I need are holding unfinished knitting projects, or that all the weaving bobbins are partially filled with perfectly good (for something) yarn remnants from my last weaving project.

So it was that I got excited about the arrival of new coloured cotton to spin (a Christmas prezzie). I searched high and low, upstairs, downstairs and in the Shed for empty bobbins for my spinning wheel. I tracked them all down, only to acknowledge, that yes, all bobbins were in use – holding hibernating spinning projects. And I wasn't willing to wind off the yarn. After much fretting, I zeroed in on two bobbins, each containing a single of Strelitzia, a handpainted wool from Kathy's Fibres that I spun during Ravelry's Tour de Fleece 2012. I wanted to ply this yarn, but decided I'd make the handpainted singles go further by plying with a completely different yarn, which I would now have to spin.

I picked Grey Dreamee Wool (from BilbyYarns), a Melanian wool (natural colours) from West Australia. The beautifully prepared wool top is a pleasure to spin. The time slipped by effortlessly as the fibres flowed through my fingers. I let the finished singles rest on the bobbin for a couple of nights, then plyed with ease. As soon as I wash the skeins, I can count this spinning project complete... and a success!

Two kinds of naturally coloured cotton
The empty bobbins began calling for the cotton. Above, on the right, you can see "CafĂ©," a certified organic cotton from South America (available at Virginia Farm Woolworks) that I'm spinning on a support spindle. To the left, on a spinning wheel bobbin, you can see Easy To Spin Pima Brown cotton from Cotton Clouds. I so enjoy spinning these coloured cottons. 

The excitement of each beginning evolves into a soothing practice that includes transforming frustration into perseverance. I continue to learn about the satisfaction of finishing.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Picnic at Lake Eachem

Standing in the rain feels good after a very long Dry Season.
We planned a BBQ get-together at LakeEachem last month. As the day got closer, it began to look like much needed rain might arrive on that weekend, in fact, on that day. Feeling a little foolish, we headed out early and drove through rain for almost forty minutes until the sky cleared just before we reached the Lake where conditions were perfect. We secured a covered table near a BBQ. (Power to the BBQ is provided free of charge; press a button to start and it runs on a timer). We had a lovely day. The twins took their first swim in the Lake before the rain finally began to fall on us in mid-afternoon. The rain felt great. We packed up and returned home, relaxed and happy.

The rain continued for 3-4 more days. We got the average total rainfall for the month of January in those few days. We're so glad to see the end of the Fire Season. We're especially glad to see our creek running again. Lucky for us, we've experienced no local flooding and nor much erosion.

The same storm system, ex-cyclone Oswald, tracked slowly south, following Australia's eastern coastline but over land, for days. It brought devastation to some – homes destroyed by tornadoes or flood waters, helicopters rescued people from rooftops, several deaths occurred, 400 dairy cattle swept away, crops destroyed. A once in 100 year storm? Similar to the once in 100 year storm that hit some of the same communities two years ago?

Then hot and dry days returned.

I've felt depressed by my recent lack of blog posts. I reckon our delayed and sporadic Wet Season has something to do with my total lack of motivation... not caring about anything... other than morning chores that have to be done, then wait for each day to cool down and for melted brains to congeal before bedtime.

It's overcast today and cooler and writing begins to feel appealing....

Blue sky over road to town
Post by M in JaM
Pix by J in JaM