Latest addition to the pile of fleeces waiting to be spun (alright, it's not a pile. There's only three now in total!)
These are Herdwick fleeces - an adult on the left and a lamb on the right, donated by a friend of mine who raises them for meat. I'm interested in how they are going to spin up; I know they won't be much use for clothing, although the lamb's fleece is surprisingly soft, but might be good for felting or weaving. The colours are lovely, so varied from cream through grey and brown to almost black.
And we enjoyed a rather nice lamb tikka masala last night, from the same source!
I have always been interested in traditional crafts, not just knitting and sewing. And I believe it's something that most knitters eventually develop a fascination for and an appreciation of, even if they never try out these other crafts for themselves.
It's common to see new knitters progress from straight needles to knitting in the round, to crochet (or vice versa), perhaps branching out into sewing and quilting or maybe learning to spin and then weave. The relaxation that comes with making things by hand, the delight of giving a unique gift, a feeling that you are preserving knowledge and skills to pass on to others, and the understanding of the time, love and care that goes into developing and improving these skills are all factors that drive this interest and curiosity.
My interest extends far outside the textile crafts; a couple of years ago I went on a green woodworking course at this wonderful place and learned how to use traditional tools to make my own three-legged stool. It was a brilliant experience and I'm still intending to find the time to go back and do another course, maybe make a chair this time.
So it should be no surprise that on the final day of my holiday last week I made a trip to the Welsh National History Museum at St Fagans near Cardiff for a couple of hours. This is a wonderful place which is made up of a collection of buildings brought from all around Wales and rebuilt in the grounds of an old castle. As well as traditional houses, shops, pigsties and schools, you can see a water-powered woollen mill (complete with a rather sullen weaver on my trip - apparently he was having trouble with the weed in the pond blocking up his water supply), a leatherworker, baker (you can buy your homemade bread there) and even a clog maker.
What else to do but order some clogs from Geraint? I started talking to him about how he made his clogs - he starts with logs and leather - and then we started talking about how leather was tanned, and then it turned out that he gets his leather from a tannery in my home town of Chesterfield, and then it just all seemed to fit into place!
So he drew around my feet on a piece of card, then I chose a style (Mary-jane) and a colour (why, purple of course!) and he will give me a ring in a few months, realistically next year, when I will have to go back for a fitting. He then hones the final clogs to fit the buyers feet, taking into account any little weirdnesses such as my crossed toes, and scooping out a bit more wood from the sole, or adjusting the leather to fit. Rubber soles are added, and the final adjustments are made and then voila!
So while we are on the subject of other crafts, here's a selection of wonderful photos for you to browse. I only wish there were more in the way of explanations of the crafts and why and how they are done. As well as green woodworking, I am experienced in hedging, coppicing, dry-stone walling and footpath repair and planning to try out quite a few more!
During which time I stayed in a medieval castle (now a youth hostel)..
Saw (and cycled over) lots of amazing bridges, including this famous one at Monmouth and many unknown ones..
Enjoyed a few of my guiltiest pleasures...
And some more besides...
Met many of these (and sang to quite a few of them. It's a cycling/independent travel thing...)
Picked and ate a lot of these (poor to middling taste at this time of year, but you always pick another in case it's The One!)
And saw some fantastic views, many of them of water. The Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons have many fabulous rivers, canals and reservoirs, as well as lot of hills. A few hundred miles were covered on the bike, and a lot of distance was covered in mental relaxation.
The very talented Howard Hardiman - sometime knitter, local garden-sharer and Brockley blogger - has published his first book!
Badger has been present on Howard's blog for some time, shuffling around in his rather melancholic way, but now he's made it into print, with the publication of this book. It's the story of a lonely badger living in a flat in South London - apparently inspired by Howard's former residence. I am happy to report that he (Howard that is) now lives in a much nicer-looking abode, with a soon-to-be-well-kept garden. I'm not sure about Badger. His demeanour reminds me of the old man I used to see in the building across the road from my old flat. He was in a pokey little kitchen below ground, and it had a strip of window at pavement level. Sometimes when it was hot, he would do his cooking in the nude. It was a weird, puzzling and rather sad sight and I used to worry he might splash himself with hot oil.
But I digress.
As befits the occasion, Howard will be having an official launch of Badger on 30 September upstairs at the Retro Bar, which is just off the Strand. He'll be there from 6pm onwards with books for sale, signed by the author if so desired.
Even if you can't make it, do browse Howard's new site at Cutebutsad where you can see more examples of his sad little creatures.
I only popped in for an hour or so, I only spent a few pounds, but I'm glad I went. A great venue, fabulous range of stalls, friendly vibe and lots of places to sit and knit! Well done to Gerard, Craig and the Iknit team, you did us proud!
This is the best picture I could do. I think I like it, lots of the unevenness of the yarn disappeared when I blocked it, but I don't think I did the best job on the cowl. Plus the sleeves are rather wide, but I don't think I can be bothered to pull them back because I wouldn't know how to solve it. I'm suffering a bad dose of CBA at the moment (Can't Be Arsed).
BTW the loom is in the house safely, with the minimum of fuss. The Curse raised his eyebrows but that was all...
Train to Portsmouth - catamaran to Ryde - train to Shanklin - bus to Ventnor - by foot to Steephill Cove. If you fancy a trip there, I suggest trying this super little pied a terre.
A lovely day out incorporating fresh crab salad, eating freshly-made cake with a local fibre artist, enjoying the views, and buying hugely-reduced-price clothes at the Hobbs outlet in Portsmouth, all sandwiched between a couple of hours' knitting on the train.
The only thing missing was a dip in the sea; unfortunately the danger flags were up.