Did you know it rains alot in Scotland?

That was something that was said to me by Scots living down south when I told them about our desire to move up north.  It is now a private joke between my husband and I when the weather get interesting.

This morning I woke up to a sprinking of snow on the ground.  All day we have experienced rather patchy weather, (namely rain, snow, sleet, sunshine and a frigid wind out of the west/southwest).

I took some photos between 13:00 and 14:00 today.

First the crazy snow photos:

View taken from the left panes of the bay window.

Yes, that is the damage caused by an industrious mole. I suspect the lawn is most likely ruined. The piles of dirt remind me of groundhog burrows.  Trust me the damage has been done by a wee mole.  View taken from middle panes of the bay window.
View taken from the right panes of the bay window.
 Ten minutes later the sun came out.

View from right panes of bay window at a slightly different angle.
This has been a very cold, rainy, snowy winter here in Scotland.  Climate change?  A good possibility. 

African Marigold

I located my African Marigold kit by Beth Russell (Designers Forum).

Goodness knows when I started this and very little was done on it.  The 3 rows of dark blue was done on the top and about half of the 6 row lighter border was also done.

I decided that although it is a very big rug, if I work on it everyday for at least and hour, progress will take place.  So for the last 5 days, I have finished the 6 rows of lighter border and I am ready to move on to the top leafy border. 

I hope to use this blog to show my progress on my long term project.

The African Marigold is an adaptation of William Morris work.

And so here is my project progress

This is a super double (nearly queen-size) so you can see it is a bit rug.  Well let's start that leafy border.

Heilan Coo Fluff

Being one that always looks a little to the wild side, I have been wanting to try to spin Highland cattle fibre for quite a while.  As expected, if you have a desire of the fibre nature, Ravelry can usually find some other textile fanatics that are interested as well. Also, you are likely to find someone who can fill your need. Kate of Shankend Farm raises sheep and Highland coos.  See Gill below:
Isn't she a beauty?  Being the gentle giants that coos are, she shared a bit of her fluff by way of Kate's careful grooming:
That is 40 grams of fibre consisting of hair and the undercoat.  Here is the process I undertook to turn that into yarn.

27/9/2014 - I took the Highland cow fibre consisting of both hair and soft undercoat  and placed it in cold water with a squirt of washing up liquid to scour it.
 I gently tried to pull the fibre apart so the soap could work on it. It was left to soak with NO agitation for about 20 minutes. I carefully removed the fibre from the water and let it drain for about 30 seconds and then placed it on the draining board.  
I cleaned the pot and then added a new squirt of washing up liquid and gently placed it back in the pot. (I would estimate it is half a teaspoon) Again, I pulled a couple ‘clumps’ apart and left it to soak and scour for 30 minutes.
 Rinsed the fleece out in cold water 10 times until the water was clear. 
Added about a teaspoon of Eucalan. Although I did not agitate it, the water did suds up.

Let it set in the water for a couple hours. Then carefully removed it and placed it on an old shirt with a towel underneath.

 Let it sit on the draining board for three hours (and once we were
done cooking for the day I placed the towel and the folded shirt on the
I periodically checked on it and carefully teased open the fibre, flipped it over, etc., to allow it to dry more quickly. Before bed, I opened up the shirt and allowed the fibre to ‘breathe’.  Again, I flipped, and teased.
 In the morning, 28/9/2014, I checked on the fluff and it was completely dry.
I had initially intended to try to dehair the fleece, but I worked out because it was brushed off the coo, it was not possible to do it like you would a double-coated Shetland sheep, (i.e. hold the undercoat pinched on one hand and then gently tug the longer hair out with the other hand. Since there wasn’t any locks, I couldn’t manage it. Perhaps a mill might be able to do something, but what is the fun in that. So I accepted that the hair had to be spun along with the soft undercoat. I love to spin a semi-worsted yarn.  I got out a plastic comb to see if I could comb the fleece before spinning to try to get the fibres to line up. That too didn’t work very well. I finally landed on the idea to card it. I didn’t know where my hand carders were (and didn’t find out until I was more than half-way done that hubby had put them in the garage. I raided the cat/dog grooming tools and created a tiny set of hand carders. Isn’t necessity wonderful? That worked like a charm. It also helped me remove a small amount of dirt and vegetation. I must qualify. The fleece was quite clean and the dirt and vegetation was a lot less than I expected. I did notice though that some ‘grease’ remained in some of the fleece. In the future, I will used warm water and soap to clean that out. Again, it was minimal. By using my make-shift mini carders I created mini rolags. 


The fibre again and it weighed out at 40 grams so any waste was very minimal.I decided to spin a 3-ply instead of a 2-ply. I love the way the singles line up and are easy to balance. I will chain ply it because I need to travel down south later this afternoon.
Now the true test comes. The wheel is ready, the rolags are set to spin.
I found it a little tricky spinning it. I couldn’t spin on the fold. I intentionally spun it thick to save time. I had even more troubles plying it. I kept adjusting the tension one way and then another. And it wanted to over ply if I wasn’t careful. I found that if I let the plies snap together I got a better result. However, many times it just didn’t want to pull onto the bobbin. I suspect this will take a bit more practice. It might be better if I changed the ratio to a lower number it might help also.
3-ply skein 

 The yarn felt a little prickly. I’ll be curious to see how it feels when it is dry. I managed to do 24 yards of 3-ply.

I used really hot water and Eucalan. However, it didn’t seem to shift the ‘grease’ very much. I will have to be more aggressive scouring it in the future. There was a definite bloom when I towel dried it, which was welcomed. Fortunately by being careful, it didn’t felt.

In considering a project for this yarn these things came to mind - a
Teddy bear, mittens (lined with angora), boot tops. Of course this would
be a luxury yarn.

 30/9/2014 - I did manage a really hot scouring with washing up liquid and that shifted all the remaining 'grease'.  I will do a small swatch (2x2 inches at the largest 3x3) and tuck it against my waist to see the 'irritation' factor.  Watch this space.

Spinning for Scotland

Clearly a big fail in the regular blogging department.  I'm now out of the funk and ready to get back to business.

This month on HPKCHC (Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup on Ravelry) I have devoted much of my crafting time to spinning.  I've been mainly practicing on the 3-ply chaining technique.  This takes advantage of the distinct colours available when spinning hand painted fibre.

At the same time, I have been trying out different types of fibre.  I thought it might be useful to create reference articles of my progress and findings.

On my Ashford Traveller double-drive, double treadle spinning wheel, I am spinning 104 grams Black Welsh Hand Blending , Gradient Roving I bought at last year's Glasgow School of Yarn from Hilltop Cloud.

104 grams Black Welsh Mountain Sheep Fibre

My singles are done using a sliding hook flyer that offers 3 spinning ratios (I used a ratio of 8).  I spun the singles using a clockwise wheel direction which makes it a z-twist.  Using the sliding hook flyer allows me to fill the bobbin more evenly and the larger bobbins hold up to 100 grams of 'thread'. However, while I can easily get 100 grams of singles on the bobbin, I can rarely get the full 100 grams back on the bobbin when I ply it. I believe it has something to do with the air/loft put in the plied yarn when I spin it.

I chose to do a semi-worsted technique to create a smooth 'tight' twist.  I unbraided the roving and spun it at the fibre width, (i.e. no splitting) moving sequentially from one colour to the next in the roving with the fibres remaining in their parallel positions, (i.e. not on the fold). The result is as shown below.

Black Welsh Mountain - 2 rovings on each bobbin
I found the fibre easy to spin into singles.  I tried to spin slightly thicker and consistently, but I have to admit my mind wandered a bit and I don't think it is at my usual quality. 

New Year; New Beginning

2013 proved to be a very challenging year and ended extremely badly.  2014 didn't start off very happily either, but using a new phrase I picked up - "I will not speak of this again".
I've neglected this blog last year, but I have resolved that for 2014 I will try to post items more frequently. So, I will start that commitment today.
I felt like I didn't accomplish much last year and wanted to strive to do better this year. To stay more focused on the things that matter to me,  I set up a Top Goals spreadsheet and purchased a monarch size Franklin Planner.  I didn't start populating the planner until yesterday.  I am now in a better place this evening, which is a good feeling.  I did my weekly planning today, set up my project bags for January 2014 HCKCHC in Ravelry and made good progress on David's first socks for 2014 .
There is a Slytherin Sock Syndicate which mentioned a great way to  achieve more sock knitting by setting up your 2014 sock project bags at the beginning of the new year. A new project bag is pulled out once you have finished your pair latest sock project.  Yarn Harlot Stash Sock Club thought this up, so I give credit, where credit is due. 
First I made up 14 project bags along with determining what sock pattern I would use for each selected yarn.  Then I had a little help when I was trying to set them up to photograph.
 Then I had more help...
Quick snap the picture before they return!
Finally, all safely tucked away in the pocket of Doom.
So I can now post this on the SSS thread in Slytherin House on Ravelry.  My own personal Stash Sock Club is ready to go for 2014.
I want do a bit more reading and to tackle that goal I started a new book today by Stephen King - 11.23.63.  I haven't gotten into it much yet, but I am looking forward to some good book time this evening.
I would love to chitter a bit more, but I want finish my first pair of socks for 2014 which are to go to hubby!  More on that later.

Arctic Toilets and Icicle Clothes

The calendar says it's now Spring, and the longer daylight promises warmer weather to come.  But as you see below, it is still bitterly cold, with perishing cold gusts from the east.  We now have 3 quilts, a double layered duvet and a crocheted throw on our bed, but it takes a while for you to warm up when you first slip under the covers.  Yesterday, Buddy crawled under the covers with his head sticking out by mine for a bit in order for us to share our heat.  

I'm so grateful we only have a sprinkling of snow.
The austerity measures remain in place until at least the end of May.  Thank goodness we have the open fire in the lounge.  It is being used daily to enable a warm place to reside. We only leave the central heating on for a few hours in the morning and at night. This has no affect on the bathrooms.  Ally described it best by phrasing it as 'It is like sitting on a block of ice.  I gave the downstairs bathroom the moniker "Arctic toilet"  That tickled hubby to no end.

The old fashioned bed warmers sound heavenly now.  Hubby takes his hot bottle

Buddy is playing his 'pathetic cat' routine.  But the saddest routine is when he hangs from the window like a man overboard.  

Testing the Defenses
I worry about Moriarty.  He seems to only come in at night to eat.  He has lost a lot of the weight he originally put on prior to the bitter winter weather arrived.  You can feel his spine so easily.  Fortunately the last two nights he has come into the lounge for about 30 minutes and sits next to me on the couch.

The best news is that I start my new contract on Monday.  I'm hoping the role lives up to my expectations.  I think it will.  The commute will be challenging - 71 miles one-way.  But hopefully I will be able to work 2-3 days in Glasgow when I've settled into the role.

Discovering Nemo

Today while I was trawling through BoA, I began a time stealing path through some esoteric and 'normal' world things.  The bit that I spent quite a long time on had to do with the winter storm named affectionately 'Nemo' by weather authorities in the US.  This new way to track bad storms on the other side of the pond.

Taken from Climate Central
Now that looks bad...really bad.  The weather this winter seems a bit more intense than in previously in the last decade - especially in the UK.  I was trying to find out when/or if this storm might follow the gulfstream over to Europe.  In spite of a keyword search via two search engines, I couldn't find anything conclusive.  I did find a tracker so I may try to see how it's affecting the east coast of North America.  It should be finishing up in Ohio this evening.  I did find a lovely sticker that I've added to this blog and also Disaelfr.

Speaking of Ravelry, I did a lot of crafting last month.  See my collage below:

The muggle studies assignment was designed and knitted my me.  It took a lot of fiddling, but I was happy with the final results.

My Own Design

I need to write up the pattern in order to distribute it on Ravelry.  What a difference a cover makes.  The bottle is still warm by mid-morning.  Amazing!

There was some fluffy tail action this afternoon when we brought the ferrets in for some ferret fun.  We first allowed them to run about the driveway.  They loved it!  So many shiny new toys. Running under the cars, behind the bins and plants.  The fun did not stopped there. They had a bit of a wrestle in the tubes, searched out some new ferret treats, and kept climate up to fuss me up on the couch.  But when they dislodged the dvds from the bottom shelves with great fervour it was time to go back to the box.

Winter Wonderland

The dream is coming closer to reality.  Everything is now moved up to Scotland.  We have such a lovely home that we're renting.  I just hope the home down south sells quickly.

The animals have settled in nicely now.  While the situation is tight we're doing well.  It's amazing how you can manage and still have little treats.

The weather is not helping the job situation.  Hopefully things will get better in the next week or so.

I continue to knit and really need to sort out the workshop.  But the cold makes it less inviting.

This is Britain right?

It's extremely rare to witness thunder and lightning here; and even more rare to experience nearly hurricane force winds and hail.  But here you have it:

That's the neighbour's doorway adjacent to ours.  This picture doesn't do it justice.  I had to wipe down the ferret hutch as it was soaked and had a lot of halestones in it.  This happened yesterday in the afternoon.  I heard a neighbour literally shovelling the hail away from his doorway while his children were watching in awe.

Whoa! I've never been so tired in all my life!

Mental note for future reference:

Do NOT try to drive to Ayrshire, collect keys, unpack car, and drive back on the same day!
 Driving 6 1/2 hours to Ayr leaving at 9 am. - 45 minutes late, not a surprise there!  It didn't help that the AA travel planner took us through Dumfries town centre during rush hour. :)

Had a great Chinese in Mauchline and we didn't get back home until 2am.  I can't remember ever being so tired in all my life.  By 1 am I hit the

I don't think I'm still in my body because I feel so weird!
Even after having babies (especially twins), and major ops I have never felt so tired.  I must have taken 3 or 4 naps yesterday and still felt out of it last night.

Feeling a bit better now.   Started clearing out my work room.  What a chore that will be.  I'll employ the little and often approach and hope to break the back of it by Friday.

Absolutely love the house and the landlords.  We discovered Scottish Tablet that kept the hypoglycemia at bay for the trip back.  Thank you Mr and Mrs Wilson. 

We met and adore Malcolm the Bengal rescue cat.  He is a real curious cat!  We've landed back in a neighbourhood that is full of cats.  The funny thing is that the nearest neighbour is about 1/4 of a mile away.  Yeah!  It's not flat, lovely rolling hills and the house is huge!  Must remember not to consider the axiom that

Nature abhors a vacuum.
More on that later!

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