Archive for May, 2010

If at first you don’t succeed – don’t panic!

May 27, 2010

It’s been a hectic few weeks, ferrying offspring around to exams, job interviews etc. And I had a Guild challenge looming, and everything that possibly could go wrong with it, did.

Last summer, I took on the challenge of a 200g bag of Polworth fleece, “do with it what you will!” The person distributing it said when I took it, “It’s  the last bag; I’m afraid it’s a bit ropey, but I’m sure you’ll do something interesting with it…” which made me want to do something exceptionally fine with it! Knowing that Polworth is a very, very fine fleece, I thought I’d be very, very gentle with it, then spin some delicate laceweight, crochet something floaty but functional and let the fleece speak for itself. But I didn’t have time to tackle it until about November, when I popped it into a rainwater bath, as recommended by some older Guild members, outside in the garden. You can imagine my horror when I checked it about a month later and found it had gone green…

“Fermented Suint” as this method of cleaning fleece is called, needs warmth, and it wasn’t warm. You also need to exclude light (I’d used a glass lid) or algae will develop. Oooops.

So I washed it in nice, gentle washing liquid, rinsed it three times, the last time in rainwater, and left it to dry before carding it, whereupon luckily the green tips mostly broke right off.  But then I discovered it was full of neps, tiny short bits of wool, that leave bumps in your yarn if you don’t get them out. I’d been given some money for my birthday & Christmas, so I decided to invest in a set of woolcombs, which are the only real way of getting debris out of your fleece. But sadly they are only available made to order, and the winter was very cold, so the maker was unable to get out into his workshop, and I didn’t get the combs until the beginning of May – too late for the challenge fleece.

In the meantime, the fleece had somehow become horribly sticky. I now know that sometimes it takes more than one wash to clear lanolin out of a fleece that’s been stored for some time, as I gather this one had been. But I didn’t then; what to do with this horrible, sticky, lumpy mess? I decided, what the heck, go with the flow, and ordered some more neps, multicoloured ones, to card into it and make a novelty yarn. With great difficulty and a lot of swearing, I eventually produced a lumpy, chunky yarn that I then “wrapped” with some thin commercial multi-coloured machine-knitting yarn to hold it all together. I only had a week left… but when I washed the yarn to felt it slightly and set the twist, some of the stickiness dissolved. So I washed it a second time, and ended up with something soft enough that I felt I could actually work with. Almost enough to make a scarf, perhaps?

After an interlude of spinning up some midnight-black Hebridean to team it with, then finding that as it was the last of last year’s it wasn’t soft enough to wear around my neck, I picked some soft brown yarn I’d spun for a weaving project that had turned out a tad too chunky. Out with my trusty giant double-ended crochet hooks, which are a wonderfully fast way of making things, and a day later I have a finished, wearable scarf, with a whole 48 hours to spare… I even quite like it, and will wear it with pride!

When it all went wrong, I just wanted to throw the fleece away and forget all about it. But I felt I couldn’t, and now I’m glad, because I have learnt several lessons on the way. Which is what challenges are all about, I suppose!

6' scarf made with Guild challenge fleece - eventually!


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

May 3, 2010

It’s been quite a long time since I was able to sit comfortably, in fact. Not going on about my operation again; but the fact that our old computer chair has actually been caput for quite some time, But somehow you get used to thing as they are, and put up with it, long past the point where you know you should do something about it, even when it’s actually causing you quite some discomfort… there’s a metaphor for our consumer/industrial society in there somewhere! And probably all kinds of other dilemmas, too. But it takes a catalyst; either the collapse of the old, or something falling at your feet that’s so obviously much better, to force you to do something about it. I did consider buying a new kneeler just before my op., but never got round to it as there were so many other things clamouring for my attention.

And that’s exactly what has happened. A couple of days ago, I smuggled a bootload of stained, holey, tatty clothing off to the Tip. I felt a little uncomfortable disposing of it the easy way, but I’ve got enough rags just now, and more than enough fabric, so it’s gone off to be professionally recycled. As you do, or I do, at any rate, I had a quick look at other people’s now-surplus-to-requirements offerings, and there, towards the back, was a decent, sturdy kneeling chair. I know they don’t suit everyone, but they do suit me; my back has been deeply grateful for the whole idea ever since I first had one at work, back when I was expecting no. 1 son. So the princely sum of £2 duly changed hands, and the chair came back with me.

Now it’s under my knees as I type, and suddenly I’m no longer slumped uncomfortably in front of the screen, but alert and upright again. Although it’s a bog-standard black office kneeler, rather than the pretty little wooden one we had last, that was too small for any of us (and I’m not exactly tall) the whole room looks bigger, lighter & tidier without the grimy, tatty, broken offering we’d been putting up with, without ever really noticing how decrepit & uncomfortable it had become. It’s still here, and I can’t help noticing that no-one has sat on it for any length of time since I moved it out from under the desk, so it will go on its way tomorrow. Hopefully it will be recycled into something longer-lived & more pleasing to the eye next time!
Now there’s still a systems analyst lurking somewhere at the back of my mind, even after all these years. I don’t know how I’d managed to forget that something as basic & fundamental as the way that I sit has a huge knock-on effect on how I feel and how much I can get done. And that it’s the chair that dictates how I sit, no matter how good my intentions of sitting upright under any conditions, just as the fit of your shoes dictates how you walk – or not.


Which kind of leads me to a dichotomy; sometimes utilising whatever turns up for any given job isn’t the best idea. Just as I wasted a lot of electricity trying to use wildly-inappropriate Freecycled cookers when our old one finally broke down beyond repair, I’ve wasted a lot of my own muscle-power, and probably a few headaches too, counteracting the effect of a chair that was a bad “fit” for me, and probably everyone else here too. So I need to use my powers of discrimination a little more, and accept that sometimes I will have to buy new, or wait until the absolutely-right thing for the job turns up. And the chair that I’m kneeling on right now is proof that sometimes, it does, but the fact that I don’t have any trainers and I seem to be putting on weight means that sometimes, it doesn’t…