Sunday, July 23, 2017

There's a place so dark you can't see the end ....

Over the last couple of months, the world has lost two beautiful voices... as a result of depression taking it's toll. 
Chris Cornell, and now Chester Bennington...

Both of these artists are very close to my heart... their lyrics have always conveyed how I have felt at particular times in my life, and Linkin Parks "Hybrid Theory" is one of the best rock/rap crossover albums of the last 20 yrs, as well as being completely stunning lyrically... in my opinion.
I rely so heavily on music to lose myself and "escape"... and also to work to... am just a turn it up and tune out girl. Am always primarily drawn to lyrics, because sometimes I don't have the words to convey how I feel about something, and if a musician can say it better.... I just sing along... loudly.

I was so shocked when I woke and heard that Chris Cornell had died, and so very saddened also to learn, later on, that he had taken his own life. 
I was always very aware of his battles with substance abuse and alcohol, all of my favourite musicians have had the same issues... so many artists have, and still use these ways of escape because of the extreme noise that their talent brings them.
That's the curse of fame... across the board really, and if you have a gentle soul, you will become a casualty of the immense pressure because of the amount you feel.

You just have to listen to Chris's music to know he battled with something very serious... lyrics as profound and beautiful as "Fell on Black Days" have come from living through darkness, absolutely no doubt.

I've chosen an acoustic version of the song to share with you, because there's nothing as real as one man and his guitar.

"Whomsoever I've cured, I've sickened now
And whomsoever I've cradled, I've put you down
I'm a search light soul they say
But I can't see it in the night

I'm only faking when I get it right
When I get it right"
That is pretty much how I feel, when the Dog has it's cold grip on me, faking it...

I have been very blessed to see Soundgarden play a few times. To witness Chris Cornells beautiful voice, and to share a moment of joy with a few random people around me... to 

Hearing about the sudden death of Chester Bennington, and again later realising it was suicide (and on what would have been Chris Cornells Birthday) is what has urged me to write this blog. 
"Hybrid Theory" for me is just a complete statement of personal conflict, pain, anger and eventual disappointment... leading to loss. 
The shared vocals (Chester and Mike) have always mimicked the argument in my head... between me and my demons... they have different styles and tones. Sometimes angry, but mostly argumentative and questioning... 
Again... this album has touched so many lives... for so many different, and entirely personal reasons. 
This is a great version of the song "One Step Closer"... 

The song builds slowly, to the eventual shouting of "Shut up".... 
It is for me, the perfect example of dark thoughts breeding anger... it is an amazing song, that again has come from deep inside the soul.... 
"A Place for My Head" is another one that just gets played loud... just a perfect expression of how depression makes people feel. 
"There's a place so dark you can't see the end" 
I am very lucky to have people in my life that I can reach out to... Please don't suffer alone, if I can help you, please reach out to me... I am contactable almost everywhere. I am not a therapist, but I can listen, and I will listen, without judgment, and with all my heart.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The careful Art of fleece preparation

As if I don't have enough rabbit holes to disappear into, I seem to have found another one... the careful Art of fleece preparation. 
Prepping raw fleece never really appealed to me because a strong sheepy smell just makes me want to .:: H U R L ::. (one of the main reasons I don't work with BFL very much)

Plus, combed tops are much easier, right? 
No dirt, no grease, no sheepy odour... instant gratification ... BOOM :)
I am right with you there, people!

We live in a fast world. We've become accustomed to convenience because, as crafts people, there's so many things we want to achieve in that precious 'us' time... and plenty of other places our time has to be spent, as mothers, workers, carers etc

It's very difficult finding a balance where all the boxes are sufficiently ticked... trust me, I know.

But, find the right fleece, from a flock that's been well looked after, and masterfully sheared, and you'll be so surprised as to the ease of preparation. Yes, it's not a fast process, but there's a lot of satisfaction in taking something slow, learning & finding your feet... and it's good to slow it all down once in a while, because it's sometimes about the journey.

Not about how fast you get there.

I only wanted about 200g to try, just to see if I could actually do it, but after a lengthy conversation with Mike Churchouse, of Sheer Sheep fame... (you may have seen his shearing roadshow at events such as FibreEast...) I happily agreed to a kilo of his home grown Saxony Merino, and with his left testicle as surety against the quality, the deal was sealed :P

I won't lie to you, this did start out to be a 'tick off my bucket list' exercise ... but sofar, it's been more than that. 
There's something awesome in seeing lanolin melting into a sink full of soap filled water and going milky for just a second... that's when you know you got it right.

In this picture, I've arranged about roughly of 100g locks into longer and shorter cuts... with the little pile to the side being the second cuts and really dirty stuff... 
Have done a lot of research on the interwebs over the years, so I had an idea of where to start...

I definitely made the right decision to go with Mike's fleece... it's really lovely to handle, even in the grease... and it isn't that dirty either... I rather think that Mungo the Ram is a pampered fella :)

Someone I have regularly been referred back to in my research is Beth Smith. You'll probably all know her on Ravelry/Twitter/Instagram as Threesheeps... she is a spinning and fleece prep teacher, and her writing style really appeals to me.
She also has an extensive collection of tiaras, which is also quite appealing :P

Her advice on handling fine fleece, as well as this tutorial got me started...

I soaked one of these bundles overnight in cold water, then today I filled my kitchen sink with extremely hot, Ecover washing up liquid filled water, and let it soak for 5 minutes. I think I squooshed it down 2 or 3 times... and delighted at the lanolin whooshing out :)
I did the same thing again, in just the hot water, to rinse out the detergent... then undid the bundle of locks and laid them all out onto a towel to dry.

It was a lot easier than I ever envisioned! 
And I didn't felt it... not even close :)

The next steps are where the hard works begins... the combing & remembering which end I combed from when it comes to spinning it all hahaha
My lovely woolly friend Freyalyn has lent me her double pitch Majacraft mini-combs to try, the perfect weapon for the Zombie apocalypse (as well as for combing out fine wool locks...) and I am going to get myself a fine dog grooming comb, as I found an ace youtube tutorial for combing locks too...

What an adventure, eh?
Bring the horizon!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Procrastination, Productivity and the curse of The Perfectionist

Am still procrastinating about warping up my 32" RH (The Monster) to make a start on the 'Poncho Project' & I needed something quick to occupy my mind whilst the world around me seems to be going bonkers ! !
On my travels through Ravelry, I stumbled across a wonderful picture tutorial by a Saori weaver, on how to make a woven cowl, and I had some yarn left over from my two big wrap projects... yes... you can guess what happened next :P

I accidentally warped up my loom... 

It was a pretty quick project, as it was just plain weaving... instant gratification if you will...but with quite a daunting ending!

Once I'd reached the point where I could see the threads tied onto the back beam, it was time to unravel the woven fabric on the front/fabric beam and untie it...

Then you have to bring the fabric beam end of your weaving up in front of the loom, fold it, and then wind it back around the beam and re-tension it. It's also really important to leave yourself enough warp beam end fabric to complete the next step comfortably.
Take your time to get it right... and don't tension too tightly... enough so your shed isn't sticky, but not too much so that the fabric is really deformed under the tension.

Now you have to thread the warp threads from the fabric beam end of your fabric through the warp threads still tied onto your back beam... lifting the heddle up and down as if you were going back and forth with a shuttle... again, take your time, and try not to pull too hard on the loose warp threads, or you'll end up with your fabric 'ruching' a little... at this point slow and steady will win the race (make sure to take regular breaks also, so you don't end up with neck ache)
Also important to remember you don't beat back with the heddle at this stage, I used a hand held beater (or you can use a fork/afro comb if you don't own a beater) to ease the threads down...

As you can see from this photo, I'd tensioned a bit too much, and when I took it off the loom it had to sit in the naughty corner until this morning, when I'd had a little sulk, then a sleep, so I woke up & wasn't so cross with myself... *shakes head chuckling*

I was cross with myself because:

a) It wasn't instantly perfect (yup... The Perfectionist reared her ugly head)
b) I let The perfectionist in, listened to her lies and let her steal my confidence.
c) I did cut it off too soon... if I'd loosened out the tension a bit, evened out the weave & knotted the fringe on the left before cutting it off, it would have looked a whole lot better. 

But, I took a long tined fork to it today & after knotting it, it evened out okay. I initially thought it was too long, but after wearing it out in the cold and drizzle today... it's actually just right :)

It's roughly 65 inches long to the join, and 7 inches wide & it loops around my head once :)

*Blows a big raspberry at The Perfectionist*

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Poncho Project

Quite while ago now, I bought a stunning Targhee roving from Juliespins on etsy... I was determined to use it for a garment of some kind, but the thought of spinning to knit didn't appeal to me at all.
Then I got my looms, and so out came the Targhee, and the planning of a woven garment began.
It's been a longterm spinning project, as I've had to work with over 400g of rovings... and so I fit it in around other things, so boredom didn't set in :)
I used various fibres for the other plies... all co-ordinating nicely with the Targhee :)

I have some lovely millspun colours for the warp, and am still trying to decide what pattern I should use... (there's a multitude of combinations, and I am prone to

Am pretty sure it'll be a balanced weave... the warp yarns and my handspun are fairly evenly matched, but that is something I won't for know for definite until I begin, and no, I am not going to weave a sample... haha, I always fly by the seat of my pants.
Therein lies the excitement element of it all!

One thing I do know, it's going to be based on my ideas of optical mixing, with the black as an 'outline' of sorts... think Briget Riley :)

But before I begin, I am going to push my 32" Ashford Rigid heddle to it's limits, to see how much, and how wide I can possibly go...
I am going to do another space-dyed warp, and then just plain weave over it.
This will also help to get my 'head' back into weaving :)

Saturday, January 14, 2017


 As you all know, I love to work with merino & merino x-breeds in my spinning and dyeing, French merino being my absolute favourite. 
I have a lot in my inventory, both yarn and spinning fibres, because they dye extremely well, and spin beautifully. 
The development of the breed itself originated in France, dating back to the 18th Century, crossing Spanish merino and English longwool breeds. 
Wool, historically, has always been a great trading commodity, and the Rambo is both great for that, and also it's meat... they are a biiiig sheep, ewes typically weighing in at up to 200lbs, and rams up to 300lbs :) 
Thankyou for the stats
In the 19th Century, the the Rambouillet Association was formed in the USA, and from that migration, in the 1920s, the Targhee breed was established, crossing the Rambo with the Corriedale. 

Those earsies tho & another of my favourites to spin :)

Rambouillet is also in the bloodline of the Aussie Merino...

I know there's a lot of varying opinions on the qualities of the fibre itself with regards to yarn, and in particular the well being of the sheep with regards to *mulesing*... and I am careful to source my base yarns and fibres from trusted sources, favouring UK small businesses (who themselves support small flocks) so please, be rest assured, my people!
(If you do want my personal opinion on the practice though, you'll have to get me drunk :P)

Anyway... enough of that adult informative nonsense :P

I have an etsy window open constantly on my laptop, because taking a leisurely stroll through my favourite searches and shops is something that brings me joy... (and a huge rabbit hole that sometimes makes me spend far too much money... hahaha)

On one of these meandering journeys recently, I stumbled across a UK supplier of Rambouillet tops, and I was like 'Why have I not discovered this earlier???'

Safe to say, I was all over it, immediately, and had the sellers last kilo within a few days, and it was dyed, dry and test spun within 2 days after that... because... Priorities!!!

I am dedicated to bringing woolly awesomeness to my friends and fellow spinners :)

The things I do for you guys!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Sanity Knitting

Every Christmas and New Year, I try to set myself up with a project that doesn't take a lot of concentration.
This is my 'Sanity Knitting'... easy enough to follow, so I can lose myself in in the process without making an endless array of mistakes, but that is also interesting enough not to bore me.
This year it was a handspun cowl, from a pattern called 'Octopus' by Katya Gorbacheva 
I stumbled across it on a meandering Ravelry stroll through marine inspired patterns, and I fell in love with it immediately.

I was already spinning a 3ply gradient, consisting of some yummy Oatmeal BFL bought from fellow dyer and total greenius, Freyalyn.
The third ply was some 50/50 merino silk I got online somewhere.
I split the gradient *very* carefully down the middle, lengthways, and then split it into manageable sections... and started spinning. The quality of the fibre and the beautiful colours just jumped onto the wheel... it was a complete joy from beginning to end :) 
The pattern is mainly garter stitch, with a row of yarn overs thrown in, and it made for a very tactile fabric... just really perfect for a gradient :)

I knew I wouldn't have enough yarn to make a long scarf, as the pattern suggests, so I used a provisional cast on and then when I reached an appropriate point in the pattern, along with enough yarn... I just grafted the two ends together, making a cowl.
The 'tentacles' were fun to do, and I added a couple of modifications of my own to them... 
On every other tentacle I used a picot cast on, and when the section was finished, I did a picot cast off... also added an octopus charm too (only on one edge).
It gives the impression of a little Octopus nestling in seaweed :)

It knitted up very quickly, and it definitely got me through the holiday *noise* successfully :)

Friday, December 09, 2016

Planet Rockstock

It's been 7 years since Beast and I went to a proper music festival together, so it was a real treat for us to have the opportunity to go to Planet Rockstock last weekend. 

(When I say 'proper' I mean one that involves sleeping/eating etc onsite)

Rockstock is hosted by the digital radio station Planet Rock the soundtrack to my day, every day. 
On days when the Dog has the upper hand,  Planet Rock plays me through, supports me... lets me exist in the music. 

The Festival is held on a holiday park called Trecco Bay,in Porthcawl, South Wales, and this year was it's 4th year. It runs for 3 days, there's 2 stages, and over 30 rock bands... it's safe to say that both Beast and I were in music *heaven*

We met some truly awesome people, mainly through what Beast and I call 'the tribal power of the band t-shirt' ... (it's a very similar feeling to the power of the Woolly community actually...) you make an *instant* connection with someone based on what is written on their t-shirt. At rock events like this, (especially indoor ones where you don't have to wear a coat ...teehee) your t-shirt is worn like a badge of honour, it tells people who you are, & who you are proud to affiliate yourself with. When you see someone wearing a t-shirt of a band you love it's a conversation starter & you have a brother/sister in music right there.
It's a truly amazing feeling.

Davy and Ewan, pictured above, are Scottish... yeah, trust us to hook up with a Scots crew... I have not drunk as much in one night on the Saturday, in very long time... these guys made the weekend for us though, along with so many other people. 

I met this beautiful lady and her husbeast in London earlier this year before my Beast and I went to see Heart... she remembered me because of my red boots :)


The absolute highlight though, was the DiY Band. You turn up, put your name on a really official looking clipboard, audition, and get put into the band. There's about maybe an hour to two hours to rehearse, then you play in front of the Rockstock crowd a few hours later. 
Darren Redick  (who is the very sexy voice of my afternoons) organises it, and he chooses four songs in the run up to the event... so you could be really geeky and practice loads beforehand if you wanted to *chuckles
I didn't audition, but Beast, who is a drummer, got to perform 3 songs with the band... including this one, Van Halens 'Jump'... which incidentally they only practiced once...
It never ceases to amaze me how people can get up and perform, and bring people together in their absolute love of music. 

It's a really powerful gift to have.


Whilst he was backstage, Beast also met The Hairy Bikers, fellow Barrovian Dave Myers, and Si King, who have their own show on on PR on a Sunday morning... two very funny fellas, who love music, and some good craic :)

(Top) Beast and Si King, (bottom) Beast and Dave Myers

A very special mention has to go to Wyatt though, who is my morning radio voice, that's not quite as sexy as Darren's, but in all fairness he has long hair, so that kinda makes up for it ... *chuckles

But, in all seriousness, he has a very good personal reason to have made this journey, and he's a living, breathing push bike riding legend... and you can read his about his motivations here

In the week before Rockstock kicked off, Wyatt cycled all the way from London, to Glasgow, and then all the way back down the country to Porthcawl to raise money for a charity called The Campaign Against Living Miserably Last year he rode the 180~ish miles from London to Rockstock in 18 hrs.

CALM, is a registered charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, and they state that last year 4,623 men in the UK took their own life.

That's 12 fellas per day losing their lives

As you all know, the Black Dog is my daily companion, so I have all the feels for what Wyatt and his epic bike-ride has achieved... so far over £70,000 has been raised for this tremendous cause... that is going to help so many men and their families repair what's broken.

So, you can see now why I listen to this fantastic radio station. 
Why it's part of my self-care routine... 
It's like a huge musical family. 
They help upcoming bands get an audience, they support the needs of their listeners and facilitate such great get togethers like Rockstock.

I can safely say, both Beast & I are already talking about next year, and what t-shirts we need to find to wear, so we can make a few more friends :)

.::Edited To Add::.

Well, it's official. Wyatts epic bikeride to Rockstock has raised nearly £75k for the Campaign for Living Miserably... that is legendary. 
I followed his progress, and he really put himself through a fair amount of pain to make this difference. His physical/mental struggles during the week really helped to illustrate just how damn hard it is to live with a mental illness, and what he was willing to do to help. If any of you reading this feel the need to reach out, to me or to a helpline, because you are struggling, please do. 
Reach out and get help, please.
It is totally okay to talk about how you feel, it's not a weakness.... in fact allowing yourself to verbalise your feelings makes you strong.

Don't *ever* forget how awesome you are.