Cherries and Kale

Thought I’d post a few pictures of some recipes that I’ve just tried out for the first time. I decided to try and make some cherry pie filling this year having been inspired by some of the ladies at the Ravelry Canning forum: It’s not very hard to do and there are tutorials out there but here is the link to the recipe I used from the Utah State University Cooperative Extension, scroll down to see the cherry pie filling recipe: Cherry Pie Filling.

cherry pie filling 2
Cherry pie filling.

The thing I found interesting about the pie filling is that I’d put the filling in the jars and left the one inch headspace but the filling still boiled out but the jars still sealed. This has happened to me before most notably in my pressure canner with soup, etc. The thing that gives me pause to wonder is that instructions will have you very carefully wipe down the rim of the jars so there won’t be any food that prevents the jars from sealing. I guess my question is how can the food overflow out of the jars but the lids still seal? Another of life’s mysteries I guess.

I planted some kale and swiss chard this summer. I’ve never planted it before and was worried about how well the plants would do during our hot humid summers. Well no worries there as this has been a really cool summer and the stuff is thriving. So I went to the web and looked for a recipe that involved smoked turkey legs and kale and found this one at Culinate’s website: Collard Greens and Smoked Turkey Soup

smoked turkey and kale soup in bowl
Collard greens and smoked turkey soup.

The soup is pretty tasty given that it uses smoked turkey and the recipe uses an incredible amount of kale/swiss chard. The greens wilt down so although it seems like a ton of greens the mass does reduce.

The raspberries are coming along and slowly ripening a few each day. I went down this morning to pick a handful to put aside for jam and my two grandson’s who were visiting came down to the garden to see me. I told them to go and get the bowl of raspberries as I was weeding at the time. I was thinking they could take the bowl up to the house for me. I’d forgotten how much they love berries so turned around and there they were chopping away, lol. It’s funny how in my head I think of raspberries as something to collect and preserve so I don’t tend to think of eating them fresh. It takes a couple of little kids to show me the way. Kids will immediately go to a bush and start eating, same thing if they are in a strawberry patch, they know the good stuff.

For the last couple of years we’ve been away on holiday when the strawberries have ripened so I’ve missed out on making fresh strawberry jam. This year I was determined not to miss the season and I ended up making jars and jars of the stuff. I learned of Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is a citrus based pectin and is activated by using calcium water. The great thing about using this pectin is that it is adjustable to your needs so you can make as big a batch of jam at one time and you can adjust the sugar to your taste. The old certo recipe calls for seven cups of sugar but using the Pomona’s pectin I only used one cup of sugar. At first you think the box of pectin is expensive but then you realize you can get 4-5 batches out of one box so the pectin works out cheaper in the end, it stores better as well. The jam is awesome and has that fresh fruit flavour of freezer jam but you store it on the shelf. The only drawback to using Pomona’s is that you have to put the jam into a water bath canner so that’s an extra step. The other drawback would be that since there is so little sugar once opened the jam should be stored in the refrigerator and used within three weeks but many others have said it lasts longer than that. The thing is the jam is so good it tends to be eaten right away anyhow.

pomona's strawberry jamStrawberry jam.


Puppy Quilt

It’s been a while since I’ve last written, I’ve been busy on vacation and with the garden, spinning and finally quilting. My grandson is having his second birthday this Saturday and it’s been a mad scramble to come up with a quilt and get it done on time. Finally tonight the last stitches were sewn into the binding and everything is now done, whew!

The quilt is made up of one layer cake and some additional yardage from the design team – Basic Grey from Moda fabrics. The fabric design is called Max & Whiskers. The quilt pattern is one I’ve done before and blogged here: Hunky Dory Quilt. I lost the pattern so had to refer back to my blog to figure out the pattern from looking at the picture I’d posted (I gave away the quilt). This is one of the reasons I blog – to keep track of projects I’ve done; there have been many times I’ve referred back to my own posts. It’s funny because there have been a couple times where I’ve searched on something and come up with my own blog. Stuff I’ve done and forgotten I’d written about, old age I guess.

When I ordered the fabric for the quilt I didn’t realize the backing fabric was directional. I had four yards that I intended to sew together in two pieces to create a 72″ x 90″ backing piece. Since the puppies needed to go lengthwise I was short material so to compensate I took some of the left over 10″ x 10″ layer cake squares, sewed them together and then sewed them to the top of the backing. It worked out really well because when the quilt is turned down you get to see more squares.

Finally the photos were taken at dusk with a flash so they look a bit off but I was to impatient to wait for morning.

puppy quilt
Twin size quilt, fabric by Basic Grey, Max & Whiskers.

closeup of puppy quilt squares
Close up of some of the puppy/kitten squares.

puppy quilt with top turned down
Quilt on double bed with top turned down.

puppy quilt backing
Additional squares added to the backing to add length.


My Garden is Blooming

I ran outside today to get some pictures of the garden while the peonies are blooming. This year I actually got the big cages around the peonies before they grew to big so they are nice and upright instead of the flowers drooping in the mud. I also took pictures of some red poppies, a little bumble bee that had expired, strawberries, lupine, columbine, nettle, red baby spinach and some kind of grass that grew from the straw I put down.

I’ve also included a couple of pictures of my new sewing machine. I have a mega quilter but it only does straight stitch and reverse. I wanted a machine that was portable so when I go on vacation or class I can carry it easily. This is a simple machine but does have some nice features and it’s made for quilters but I can use it to sew clothes as well, it’s the Husqvarna H-class 100Q.













white peony with fly








Ashford Mill Ends

In the midst of washing fleece a couple of weeks ago I ran out of Power Scour so had to order some more from the Fibre Garden. I don’t like paying money for shipping so I’m always trying to fit in a little extra to make use of the shipping costs. I also ordered a brass diz and then in a reckless mood of abandonment ordered a 1 kg bag of Ashford mill ends as well. I thought I could use it in making wool batts.

I did get a mix of fibres but not as many different coloured bits as I thought I would but still nice. I tried looking on the Internet to see if anyone had written about one of these bags but couldn’t find anything so I thought I’d post a few pictures (more than a few) to give someone else an idea of what’s in one of these bags. Each bag is different here is what I got in mine.

Ashford mill ends bag front
Bag front.

Ashford mill ends bag back
Back of the bag tells you that you might get corridale, merino, merino/silk, polwarth.

mill ends
Mill ends all in a pile.

Ashford corridale blue
Corridale, Blue (I’d call it royal blue).

Ashford corridale blueberry pie
Corridale, Blueberry Pie.

Ashford corridale honey
Corridale, Honey.

Ashford corridale indigo
Corridale, Indigo (looks black unless you hold it up to the light and then you can see the blue.)

Ashford corridale pansy
Corridale, Pansy.

Ashford corridale spearmint
Corridale, Spearmint.

Ashford corridale stripey Winter Nights
Corridale Stripey in the Winter Nights colourway.

Ashford corridale white pencil roving
Corridale pencil roving, white.

Ashford corridale white
Corridale, white.

Ashford medium natural fine merino
Extra-fine Merino, Medium Natural – this is the same colour as the other medium natural but much much softer and the other is very soft.

Ashford merino aubergine
Merino, aubergine.

Ashford merino dark natural
Merino, Dark Natural.

Ashford merino grey
Merino grey.

Ashford merino medium natural
Merino, Medium Natural.

Ashford pencil roving toffee or nutmeg
Corridale pencil roving, Nutmeg or Toffee colour.

Ashford scarlett pencil roving maybe merino
Merino pencil roving, Scarlet.

Ashford turquoise pencil roving corridale
Corridale pencil roving, Turquoise.

Ashford merino silk damson
Merino/silk, Damson.

Ashford merino silk, Cinnamon
Merino/silk, Cinnamon.

Ashford merino silk hank - cinnamon
Merino/silk, Cinnamon – 26 grams and 85 yards.

ashford mill end peppercorns
Merino/silk, Peppercorn.

merino/silk, Peppercorn – 54 grams and 164 yards.

Our spinning group on Ravelry had a silk challenge this month so the above spun hanks were a result of my spin along (SAL). I learned to spin from the fold – I took a 4-inch piece of roving and folded it over my index finger and spun from that. I really liked how the fibre unfolded and spun off the finger. I’m going to try this method when it comes to spinning up the locks of the grey BL x Wensley I just washed.

I’m not sure which fibre is which but the little coloured bits were the coarsest and the naturals were nice and soft so I’m just guessing those were merino. There were two pieces of roving in the medium natural colour that looked identical but felt different one being much softer than the other, don’t know what that was and of course I could be totally wrong about which fibres were merino but I did look up the colours online so at least they should be right.


Combing Wool

Well I’ve been busy and have finally gotten all of my raw fleece washed. I’d finished up the Shetland in the previous blog and then started in on some Polwarth and a Border Leicester x Wensley cross. We won’t go there about the Polwarth but I did take a lot of photos of the beautiful Bl x Wensley fleece I received from Vickie at Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow. This was the second fleece I’d recieved from them and it was a beauty.

I’d bought the whole fleece, the blanketed portion and the unblanketed portion. I wanted to make an Aran sweater and had no clue how much I needed so ended up buying about 7 pounds of raw fleece. I think it’s an over-kill but better safe than sorry. For the blanketed portion of the fleece I used the same method shown in the previous post about the Shetland fleece. I arranged locks in the tulle bags and cleaned them using power scour. Here’s a couple of pictures of the locks arranged in rows on the bed where they are finishing up drying. I also have a full duffle and knapsack full of just locks. I was going to take a picture of them piled on the bed but turns out I’m too lazy to take them out of the bags and then stuff them back in.

wensley in tulle with waste
Wool wrapped in tulle. That little bit of VM on the bed was all the waste there was in the blanketed portion of the fleece.

locks in a row another view
Locks on queen size bed.

locks in rows
Another perspective. This was the last of the locks and only a tiny portion of what I ended up with.

Washing and combing the unblanketed portion of the fleece.

bl x wensley fleece unblanketed in hot wash
The unblanketed portion of the fleece soaking in hot scour wash.

This section of the fleece was much dirtier than the blanketed portion, which you’d expect. There was a lot more VM as well but not too much (unlike the unmentioned Polwarth).

loading comb with fleece
Loading a comb with fleece. Note VM that has fallen out from pulling the locks apart.

loose hay and dirt
Loose hay and dirt from pulling apart the “clean” fleece.

first pass on combs
First pass on combs.

debris in comb waste
Debris collected in the combed waste.

This mass of fibre collects at the back of the comb. You have the fibre loaded in the one comb and you hold this in the one hand while making passes with the second empty comb. You’re basically transferring the wool from one comb to the other. While this is happening you are straightening out the fibres so each pass gets easier and the gnarls and chaff will get stuck and collect at the back of the comb that the wool is being transferred to. Enough passes will collect most of the VM, I found three worked for me.

second pass on combs
Second pass on the combs.

diz with mini hook
Diz with a mini hook. Outrageously expensive but very, very nice to use.

A diz usually has many holes in it. You use the size of hole according to what size of roving you want to spin from. The largest hole on this diz is for blending fibres off a hackle. The brass is nice and smooth so the fibre doesn’t get caught up on it and the metal won’t crack from having the wool tugged through it. The motion you use for pulling the fibre through the diz is to hold the wool behind the diz and pull back about 2-3 inches (depending on the fibre length), stop pull the lengthened wool through the diz, grab hold of the new roving behind the diz and pull again. You keep repeating this until all the wool on the comb is used up.

starting wool through diz
Starting the wool through the diz.

pulling wool through diz
Pulling wool fibre through diz.

wool sliver
Wool sliver from dizing off the combs.

combed bl x wensley roving
Picture of roving up against light to show how fine it is.

412 grams of combed bl x wensley
Finished combed wool in a pile, total weight after cleaning and combing was 412 grams. I started off with almost 2 pounds of raw fleece to get this amount so I lost 1/2 the fleece.

waste wool from combing
Waste wool from combing about 1/3 of a garbage bag filled. I know some might try to recomb this to get even more roving of shorter fibres but given how much wool I have (locks in duffle) I can’t be bothered. This stuff has a lot of nepps and chaff as well so not worth the effort to me.

So what I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks of washing wool is you basically get what you pay for. The unblanketed stuff is cheaper but it’s dirtier and has more vegetable matter in it. A lot of the dirt is going down the drain with the lanolin and because it’s got VM in it you have to comb it to get the stuff out so you end up losing a lot of fibre. I paid more for the blanketed portion but what I got were clean locks that I can spin from without losing any fibre to combing. I could probably drum card these as well although seeing as how long they are it’d be fiddly but I cleaned the blanketed Shetland and didn’t loose any to waste and that can definitely go on the drum carder no problem. I really think it’s worth it to spend more money per pound for a blanketed fleece because in the long run you don’t loose as much fibre and you save time, dare I even say it works out cheaper?

I have yet to spin the combed fibre but I’m hoping it’ll be as nice as I’ve heard it is otherwise why clean and comb my own because as far as I’m concerned it’s cheaper to buy roving by the pound rather than wash my own. Now having said that I guess it depends on where you get your fleece and how much it costs but labour has to figure in there as well. Anyhow it’s been interesting.


Blast from the past.

I’ve started working on cleaning out the basement after all of these years and made a pleasant discovery today of some sweaters that I’d thought that I’d given away to charity. They were tucked into a blue rubbermaid container and I’d forgotten they’d been put there.

I tend not to give my younger self credit for the knitting skills I had back then but the reality is these are probably just as good as anything I’d knit today and I was probably more fearless back then as there were knits I wouldn’t be bothered with attempting now.

assorted fair isle sweaters from early eighties
Assorted sweaters from the early 80’s.


Washing a Shetland Fleece

Last Friday I received my shipment of fleece from Bob and Vickie. They are a couple I met in a group on Ravelry – Raspberry Hollow’s Mohair and Wool appreciation society group and as the name suggests it’s a bunch of like-minded people who appreciate all things mohair and wool. Bob and Vickie raise mohair goats and different breeds of sheep to sell the fleeces to spinners. They can be found at Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow if you care to look.

Anyhow I had reserved a shetland fleece from a little ewe called Monkey and another fleece from an ewe called Sis. Today I finished washing Monkey’s fleece and thought I’d show some photos of the process. First off however are a couple of pictures of a sampler yarn that I spun in the grease. One of the ladies I know on Ravelry suggested I try spinning in the grease so I did just to say I had. Some things I found about spinning in the grease were:

1. You can spin a very fine single, this is because the lanolin in the wool helps to hold the fibres together so it’s easy to get down to a fine yarn.
2. Because I wasn’t really worried about the fibres drifting apart I found it easier to spin a bit faster.
3. It’s easy to overspin especially when plying. I found because the fibres stuck together I didn’t have a good grasp on how tightly I was plying. I’m sure it’s just a case of practise but a tip was given to me that if you ply in the grease then having a small bowl of water to dip the ply in to clean it would help the spinner to see what was happening.
4. Dirty wool is kind of gross but that’s my own personal opinion. It was kind of neat to spin in the grease but that feeling was offset by the ugh factor.

Greasy hands from lanolin on wool.

Single on the bobbin.

Plied yarn.

Comparison of washed yarn and fleece, some people have said that it’s hard to wash out all the dirt and lanolin so I thought I’d do a comparison.

Next up are a series of photos of the fleece being washed.

Rolling the locks into a piece of tulle.

Set up on the bed.

Spreading apart the tips. This fleece was a coated fleece so very clean and I found that by spreading the tips the Power Scour did a better job of cleaning the lanolin off of them. Time consuming but worth it because the tips got clean the first time around.

Three puffy tubes of wool pinned shut with stainless safety pins.

Wool settling in to soak in a container of very hot water with a squirt of Unicorn Power Scour.

Foaming action of the Power Scour, this stuff does a really good job of cleaning with no suds.

Rinsing the wool.

Fibres with lots of crimp.

Different part of fleece and different crimp.

Locks drying on a rack.

What two and a half pounds of wool looks like on the bed, notice the kleenex at the foot of the bed. In the middle of that is the waste I had, two turfs of wool that had some seeds and then other bits of seeds and alfalfa.

The fleece was a coated fleece and you pay more for that but when I washed it I kept marvelling over how clean the wool was and how easy it was to get the lanolin out of it. I dont’ think there was any dirt in the tub just residue from the grease. I’ll have to see how Sis’s fleece washes up as I have the blanketed portion plus the uncovered bits as well but I’ll save that for another day.

The one thing I found interesting about this fleece is that it isn’t strictly white there are some grey parts of fleece in there. Some of it looks grey and some of it is white with black hairs so it looks grey. I’ll have to see how it spins up. Other parts of the fleece are white. I found teasing apart the tips of the locks time consuming but it let me see the different parts of the fleece close up. I’d read that a fleece isn’t the same all over and spinners will sort through a fleece to get similar locks of wool to spin for a project. That was certainly true for this fleece, parts of it were more coarse and other parts finer. Then there were the different shades of of the fleece as well. I’m going to have to go through and sort out all the like bits and then decide what to spin.

Post Edit: Something I was reading tonight in the forums is the fact that sheep live in the barn and as such can be exposed to parasites, bacteria, poop etc you get the idea so it’s a good idea not to wash your fleece in the same area that you prepare your food and eat, just a thought. Gloves might be a good idea as well, definitely not spinning in the grease any more. Also got told tonight that pouring disolved lanolin down the drain is bad for the pipes because it’s a grease and could clog them so I guess it’s washing the fleece outside now for me.

I’m just blogging about my experience not saying it’s the correct way to do things so anyone reading this do your research. Hmm, did I just print a disclaimer, yeah I think I did.


Spinning Fun.

Well I finished spinning up the last of the Shetland fleece I got from Jamieson & Smith. I had Jonathan take a picture of me wearing it just for some fun. I have no clue what to make with it. I thought it was a lot of yarn but at 767 yards it’s not enough for a large sweater so it might get turned into a toddler sweater but I’m not sure. I’m not sure I want to waste it on a small person who may or may not wear it.
Myself wearing my Shetland homespun yarn, around 767 yards of it at 354 grams, it was warm.

I have also been working on my Hillswick Lumber. This is a wonderful cardigan by Ann Feitelson from her book The Art of Fair Isle Knitting. Progress is slow at one row every 20-25 minutes so it’s going to take a few months to finish. The progress so far:
Hillswick lumber section 1
Hillswick Lumber, body section.

Aside from the spinning and knitting I haven’t really gotten anything else done around here. Spring is coming though so once it gets a bit warmer I can envision doing some spring cleaning. I have a couple of wool fleeces reserved so hope to place the order this weekend for them. Once they arrive I’ll be washing them up; apparently raw fleece attracts moths more readily so I’m paranoid about that so you might see some more fleece cleaning photos in the near future.


More Navaho-ply.

Well I finally had a go at dyeing up some wool using one of the Easter egg kits I got on sale last year. I think I ended up paying 25 cents or something like that. LOL, it’s taken me that long to get up the nerve to use the dye.

I pre-soaked the wool top in some water that had a bit of vinegar added to it, I’d tell you the amount but it was more like a glug. I let that soak for about 30 minutes then added the wool to a pot and put it on the stove to simmer. When the wool was steaming I and the two grandsons added the dye tablets to the wool along with a couple more tablespoons of vinegar. I let the wool steam away until all the dye was taken up, then let it cool and rinsed it out.

Shetland roving dyed with Paas Easter egg dyes.

Here are a few pictures of the wool being spun and a picture of a Berkley’s fish line counter that I jury rigged to the base of a candle stand. I ran the yarn through this as I was winding it into a yarn cake. The cake was a bit too firm so I rewound the yarn but the counter did the trick and it only cost $13.99 at the outdoor store.

Easter egg skein
Single on spinning wheel bobbin.

Berkley line counter
Berkley fishing line counter clamped to candle base.

Easter skein on black
Skein on black background.

Easter egg cake
Wool wound into a yarn cake.

Here’s another little item I picked up from the thrift shop, it’s a sock loom with dvd and book. I don’t need a loom to make socks in fact I can knit faster than using this loom but it struck my fancy to give it a go. I guess I was reminiscing about the little wooden cork tool that I used as a kid to make those circular tubes of wool that then got sewn into placemats.

Sock loom
KB Sock loom.

As I expected it’s easier for me to knit socks but it’s been interesting to try this out and if you can’t knit then it’s an alternative.


Rainbow Dyed Wool Roving and Navaho-plying

Thought I would post what I’ve been up to lately. In my Ravelry groups there are always some type of monthly projects going on and this month’s project for my spinning group was to spin up some Easter coloured wool and then learn how to Navaho-ply the single. The reason spinners will Navaho-ply is to preserve the colour runs that they have spun into their single (one ply yarn). So you take your roving, spin it all up into one ball and then ply it back on itself. The single thread ends up being a 3-ply yarn.

Navaho-plying is very similar to crocheting in that you pull your single through a loop but at the same time the wheel is turning adding twist. So the trick is to pull a loop, twist, pull a loop, twist. The hard part is not letting to much twist into your working threads otherwise you won’t have a loop big enough to pull more single through. The other trick is to do this in a manner that you’re not over-plying the yarn. It took me almost the entire 100 grams of single before I caught on and made an even ply. What worked for me was learning to keep the hand that grabs the single through the loop still and close to my body at the top of the plying motion. The other hand controls the plying motion of bringing the thread to and from the wheel. Kind of hard to explain but once I learned this trick my plying became smoother, looser and it was like I was doing a 2-ply motion.

Anyhow here are a few photos of the dyed roving and finished yarn. One of these days I’ll remember to take pictures while I’m dyeing the wool.

roving rainbow
Shetland top dyed with Jaquard Sky Blue, Fire red and Yellow.

rainbow single
Single ply on the bobbin.

Easter rainbow skein
Navahoe-plied in a skein.

Easter rainbow cake
Final layer cake.

It was a good learning experience this March SAL (spin along). Not only did I learn to Navaho-ply but I also learned more about dyeing wool and what happens when I spin up coloured roving. Next time I dye some roving I’ll make sure I have more of a separation between the areas of colour. I wanted to blend the colours to get some green, purple and orange but what I found was except for the blue area in the roving I lost a lot of the original colour.

I thought having a couple of inches of colour would be enough to show up in the spinning but what I found was the twist moves into the wool about four inches at a time so it’s grabbing not only the first colour but it’s pulling in some adjacent colour as well so there was a lot of blending going on. This is great if you want that effect and it was quite pretty. The thing is Navaho plying combines thread so you get a 3-ply yarn and this really blends the colours so it does muddy the colour.

My final colours in the yarn were surprising to me because I didn’t expect to get them. I thought I was going for Easter rainbow and I ended up more or less with autumn leaves and blue sky. It’s nice just not what I wanted. I think the way to spin the purest colour is most likely just grabbing coloured top and spinning up a handful of this and then switching out to a handful of that. It’s fascinating really the countless combinations of colour that can be achieved through different dyeing techniques, carding and spinning.