Friday, November 25, 2011

Innerwick 2011.

Today I am packing to go on a local spinning/knitting/dyeing weekend retreat in the evening. It’s the same one as I went on last year when the Big Snows started, at Innerwick along by Dunbar. Ten of us from the Haddington Spinners are going as residential girls for two nights and more are coming along tomorrow to join in for the day. We are going to be dyeing sock blanks and sock yarn…this is us being the guinea pigs for a class on acid dyeing running at the Guild next year, actually, but we don’t mind at all. We’ll have the chance to dye our own yarns and fibres too.

We’re also doing some Nuno felting and if the weather holds we’re going for an expedition to a local beach to gather “interesting things” to learn to make mood boards. A brave OH is coming along with drills and woodworking expertise to help us make interesting things out the interesting things…I’m not quite sure what this will entail, but it should be interesting, no? Last year we made hedgerow spindles and spun wool fibre we’d collected from sheep fences which was dyed using local plants. It was fun too and showed you don’t have to have money to make fibre.

Margie from Moondance is coming up to join us for a bit and bringing things to sell, plus we’re having a bring and buy table on Saturday. And there’s the usual cake, wine, knitting, spinning and chatting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

55 Christmas Balls.....

            Absolutely compulsive book. You have been warned!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Singer Lotus 66k

I went out on Saturday with the intention of having a good look round the charity shops (it's a hobby!) and if I saw any sewing machines, so much the better. Lad volunteers at a local very large charity shop on Saturday mornings and has strict instructions to text me if they've got any sewing machines in. No texts, no sewing machines, so I decided to go out to the local junk yard. I've bought two spinning wheels there in the past and it's always interesting there. Lots of interesting things but no sewing machines, unless you count an utterly wrecked Singer cabinet that's not even worth salvaging for spares, it's so rusty.

Then I spotted IT under a table. A Lotus!! There are so many old Singers availible round here in central Scotland that really, you've got to be selective but I've always had a hankering for a Lotus.

Anyway, no sliding bobbin cover plate, no top of case, bit worn on the base, electrics looked a bit ropey. I prepared myself to haggle a bit. I don't like haggling but I do like a bargain! However I didn't have to, the junkyard owner asked for £10 straight off. What's that...about $17? Oh yes, I'll have it, thanks.

Then he asked me if I was interested in a treadle machine that was on the lorry atm. The thought of my Hubby's face if I turned up with two sewing machines? Anyway, the car was full. I'll go back and look at it on Monday.......

So. I now have my old Lotus. it's a 66k, there is a manual with it and I did check the archive pictures to make sure. The serial no is F7629593 which gives me a date of 1917 and I'm assuming it comes from Kilbowie given we're only 30-40 miles away from it. It's 94 years old, which means it was made seven years before my late mum was born. My gran probably used a machine like this and she was born in 1890! I'm absolutely amazed that you can go out and buy a piece of living history like this for £10, honestly. You'd think it should be in a museum. But given that it came from a batch of 75,000 66ks made in 1917, it's not exactly rare. There were more 66ks made than any other sewing machine ever, though the lotus details were discontinued in the late 20's, apparently.

 The big decal on the bed is very worn and scratched which is a pity and there's some rubbing on the front edge but the rest of the decals are good. The metal end plate (no idea of name) has a matching Lotus engraving. I never knew this existed before this weekend. It's absolutely lovely.

The sliding plate to cover the bobbin race is missing but I know a UK spares shop where I can buy one from. It came with the darning plate, a old pack of Singer needles, a tube of Singer motor grease and a pile of evil plastic bobbins. No other accessories. It has a back clamp foot and I've been reading that this means it was one of the first versions of the 66k made.

It's been electrified..the motor is a BUK one,, the same as my 99k, so I'm wildly guessing at late 50's for that? I'm assuming that it was originally a hand crank because there's no slots in the wooden base for a treadle belt. The base, btw, is very, very scruffy. No top.

Oh yes. Does she work? Well, of course. Even before I excavated the half pound of lint from the base and oiled her, she worked. I plugged her at arm's length (Crocs and thick insulated gloves) and she just whirred into action like the old pro she undoubtably is, judging from all that wear. Now she's been cleand and oiled, she's smooth as silk.

  Anyway, I am thrilled. I know 66ks are extremely common and you're probably all laughing at my enthusiasm for a machine you've probably all seen hundreds of times but still, it's one I wanted and I'm happy to have it. Don't much care for peeling old electrics though so I was thinking of turning it back to hand crank or treadle. I do like treadles given that my first ever sewing machine was a treadle.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Catching up.

It's been a while, hasn't it? I think I just got tired of blogging. Nothing wrong Chez Fishwife, I just didn't feel like doing it and then I started to feel guilty about not doing it. Which is silly when you think about it. Who needs self imposed pressure like that? So I gave myself permission to worrying about it and let things drift. Lately though I've found myself thinking about blogging again and considered starting a new blog. New slate? Then I decided that this was also silly because I've a perfectly good blog already and anyway, I like the name.

So a quick run through the last ten months.

We're all in good health apart from me. My degenerating lumbar disc has been causing problems with my balance and gait so my GP sent me in for an MRI to see what was going on. Didn't much like the MRI, I must admit, but it was useful. The DD has brought on early osteoarthritis of the spine ie excessive wear and tear. This is not good and can't continue at this rate so my GP has sent me away with strict instructions to start losing some weight pronto. We can't do much about the disc (it's not so bad atm that it needs surgery) but I can help reduce some of the mechanical impact on the spine by lightening the general load. I've been overweight to a greater or lesser degree most of my life and yes, I've read the usual warnings about how this can cause excessive wear and tear on joints but somehow, the two ends haven't connected in my brain. Oh well, they have now. I still want to be able to walk in ten years so I'm motivated to lose the weight, put it that way!Five pounds down alread, one heck of a lot more to go.

Apart from that Princess is now 10 and almost as tall as me, Lad is towering over me, turning into a fantastic rugby prop and is currently sitting his SQA Standard Grade prelims. Biology today! Hubby had a brief scare with two positive FOBt (this is the bowel cancer screening program), went in for a colonoscopy and had a polyp taken out which showed signs of pre-cancerous cells. Hubby is now fine now it's out, don't worry, but he has joined the happy band of folk who have been spared from the onset of bowel cancer, just by doing the very simple screening tests. (Note from us both...DO IT WHEN YOU GET SENT ONE, okay?)


It was a good year this year, not because of the weird weather but because we didn't go away for a long holiday. The kids had too many other things on so we settled for a very nice couple of weeks camping in Yorkshire. At the moment I am putting the allotment to bed for the winter. More about that another day.

Literally hundreds of things to report, far too many in fact. Highlights were a crafting trip to York, spinning in a Back to Back at the Royal Highland Show, buying a second hand Joy spinning wheel (lightweight, folding, portable, totally necessary for people with back problems) and also spinning in a Sheep to Shawl at the Scottish National Sheepdog Trials. This last not only had great scones, it also got me back into weaving. The shawl was a woven one and I was so taken with it I bought a 24" rigid heddle loom. I've not done a lot yet but I'm learning.

What else? Oh, I also went to the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School. Given that I can see the venue from my attic window it would have been rude not to! I was a little disappointed not to have got onto my first choice, Spinning Exotic Fibres with Sue Macniven, but I took a great class in Knitting with Handspun run by Di Gilpin. Great event, highly recommended.

So, atm we're settling in for the winter. I'm off to a spinning/knitting/dyeing retreat the weekend after next. This is the same event I was atending when the big snows started last year. I'm hoping for better weather this time round. We've got the usual over-commercial run up to Christmas to endure and then come January I'm off to York again. Apart from that, no plans as such. Except I will try to blog a little more, I promise.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Allotment: January.

I went to the allotment for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. First time this year. First time since just before the snows started, actually, so that makes it seven or eight weeks since I last went. That's okay though. It's down time for allotmenting just now. The soil is too cold and wet to work without damaging it, especially if you use raised beds like me. I know that traditional allotmenteers dig over their patches in early winter and allow the wind and rain to break down the clods but that can also be viewed as damaging the soil structure (unnecessary digging and weathering) and the rain leaches out soil nutrients.

I prefer to prepare the beds as they come clear at the autumn harvest. I let then stand empty for a couple of weeks for the birds to pick out any bugs they may want, then I weed the bed, especially for perennial weeds, add a layer of mulch or compost plus fertilizer and lime as required then cover with black plastic or tough weed membrane with a layer of newspaper underneath. or even old carpet if that's all I've got. This keeps the soil structure of the bed protected and the covering means that rain won't leach out the nutrients. The soil under the beds keeps warmer too and the worms and micro-organisms work away at the mulch and drag everything down into the soil. In spring all I have to do is remove the cover and plant into the bed. No hard digging work required! The warming effect of the cover means the beds are ready to go earlier than bare soil too. All in all it's a system that works very well for me.

Anyway, the allotment looked okay for the start of January, all things considered. A bit of wind and snow weight damage to the nets and supports but most of it is tucked tight and snug under the layers of plastic and mulch. The paths and pond were frozen solid but the earth under the coverings was still soft enough to poke a finger into.
The cloches over the winter spinach etc were covered in snow so not much growth in there due to low light levels. But everything is still alive, despite the -15'C temperatures we had last December. The garlic has survived, all the Savoy cabbages and kale and sprouting broccoli plants and swedes and parsnips are fine under their nets. Any brassica that wasn't netted had been pecked to death by the pigeons of course. The only crops that survive winter without the protection of at least a net are the leeks, garlic and the Jerusalem artichokes. The Jerusalem artichokes would survive the next Ice Age though, I suspect. Tough little buggers.

The other tough bugger on the allotment is the willow. Despite me trying to kill my willow stand a couple of seasons ago three stumps have survived and thrown up a really quite promising crop of basket weight willow shoots. I may take an afternoon and try to revive my rusty basket weaving skills. I love the few baskets I've woven myself. They are special, and much cherished. I've also found a couple of old battered picnic hampers in charity shops last year that need some repairs done. So the unexpected willow is not unwelcome.

There's wildlife too. The fabric gardening gloves I left in the shed have been daintily nibbled round the cuffs so I expect there's a family of babies somewhere in the shed with a cosy nest made of gardening fleece and red floral glove fabric. There are fox tracks everywhere, up and down the paths and over the beds. We used to have a vixen that lived on the allotment and every year she had a family of cubs in a den under the old railway guard van that served as the communal shed back then. It was a treat to see the baby foxes and as they kept the vermin down most effectively it was worth suffering the odd squashed lettuce. The vixen vanished a couple of years ago..dead or moved on, not it would be nice to see another fox family this year. It's a good safe place for cubs. There are certainly enough tracks at the moment.

The pond is frozen solid, despite the old ball in it to keep a hole free. And the tanks. I must take some water up for the birds on my next trip. There were lots of bird tracks in the snow but I don't know enough about them to identify tracks. Pigeons for definite, given the condition of some of the neighbours' brassicas! And I saw a robin fly into a space between the wooden pallets that surround the compost heap. Nesting? There are always lots of robins on the allotment.

Did I do any work? Yes of course. There's always something to do on the allotment, in any season. I pruned the gooseberry and other soft fruit bushes. It's a good time to do it as you can easily see the branches and what to take out. My gooseberries are feral and get out of control very easily so need a good hard prune every year. I still get more goosegogs and berries than I know what to do with. The other thing I did was to put an old dustbin over one of the rhubarb crowns. I was shocked to see forced rhubarb in the shops at £5 per kilo at the moment. £5!!! For rhubarb!

So a pleasant start to the gardening year. I hope it's the sign of a good season for us all. :)

Friday, January 07, 2011

New Year.

Wow, one week into the New Year already? How time flies. I really must apologise for having fallen off the blogging wagon so precipitously in November. It's not that I had nothing to blog about, quite the contrary. Far too much happening, including battling The Snows. We really did have some astonishingly bad weather here in the east of Scotland from the end of November, right up till Christmas and beyond. The Fishwife family live in a decent sized town with almost everything within walking distance so we were fine for food and general supplies but I did nearly get stuck at the spinning retreat I was attending, an hours drive away up in a tiny village in the hills, when the snow first started. And the schools were closed quite a lot and Hubby was working from home mostly and really, the entire routine of life went to hell in a handcart.

It was quite fun in some ways though and certainly made for a less stressful Christmas, given that shopping was not regarded as a good enough reason to dig the car out yet again! Presents and visiting and general obligations to run around attending things got cut back quite a lot but we didn't find this made Christmas less enjoyable. Quite the opposite, actually. We did the important things and they were quite enough.

I also got an amazing amount of crafting done. I've been concentrating on smaller projects recently which means actually getting some FOs for a change. And once I'd actually got the bobbins cleared on the wheels I felt much more inspired to tackle some more unusual projects. I've done a bit of test spinning for a indie dyer called Dyeing for Yarn, who is about to start selling hand painted fibres in her Etsy shop. At the spinning retreat we did a big natural dyeing project, which deserves an entire post to itself soon, and I've started a Spinning Challenge 2011 thread on The Yarn Yard forum on Ravelry, where the idea is to challenge yourself to spin regularly every month for the next twelve months. I don't need much encouragement to be honest, but it's nice to be able to encourage other folk to do the same.

My spinning groups start back next week, actually, on Tuesday and Saturday, then I've got The Sheddite Gathering at the end of the month in York (three days of knitting, spinning and socialising in a convent in York, yeah!) and two spinning workshops in Feburary. A busy couple of months and I'm really looking forwards to them. :)

Finally, a couple of Cat Pictures. I made two felted Kitty Pi-s as Christmas presents for The Boyz. First one was for Ollie...

Then, after due reflection on sizing.......

A somewhat larger Pi for Paws...

Which was still a bit snug, but he likes it anyway.

Happy belated New Year to you all!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paws for Thought.

A cute cat shaped blog post tonight because I'm too tired to think of anything to say.

Ever wondered why Paws is called Paws?

And by way of comparison, Ollie's dainty little ballerina mitts...

Normal spinning services will resume here tomorrow, because it's Guild day.