Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Autumn Walkabout

Here in mid-Missouri Summer held on tightly until her very last day, keeping the heat and humidity cranked up.  Then an overnight thunderstorm swept all that away, and Autumn arrived exactly on schedule, pulling a few first treasures out of her trunk.  These first days of the "official" fall season have been perfect, absolutely perfect.  Clear, dry, golden mornings when I can step out on the back porch, gladly breath in the cool, crisp air, and realize that the warm cup of coffee feels welcome to my fingers.  On such a day I have no choice but to grab the camera and take in some of the sights on the first days of autumn.

The rose turtleheads have thrived in all our summer rain.  From a couple of transplants two years ago, there is now a growing colony at the pond's edge.  I love to gently squeeze one of the blooms and watch the "turtle" open his mouth.

Among the turtleheads is one wild senna plant.  It also loves wet feet but does not seem to spread.  I'm going to save the seed pods (those green beany shapes) this year and try to propagate more next spring.  Both the turtleheads and senna are native wildflowers.

There are still plenty  of butterflies around.  I found this one in the woods, sunning itself on a leaf.  It has two common names - Question Mark or Violet Tip butterfly, Latin name - Polygonia interrogationis.

While in the woods, I came upon loads of mushrooms.  All the rain and warm temperatures of the last week have brought on a huge fruiting in the fungi community.  Wildflowers and butterflies are a piece of cake to identify, compared with mushrooms.  In addition to all the bizarre and colorful varieties, I love the challenge of trying to ID a mushroom.  I haven't had time to really study the photos I took on my walk, but check out all this wonderful weirdness.

They're certainly interesting, but aren't you thankful for chlorophyll-producing lifeforms?

What would early autumn be without masses of goldenrod with all those bumblebees nosing around them?

Yeah, I couldn't resist a shot of the old truck nearly buried in vegetation.  Once a couple of years ago, I walked up to it and startled a handsome red fox out of the passenger seat.  I still enjoy pulling that image up in my memory.

One final photo of these brilliant red berries.  They are the fruit of the Autumn Olive tree. Pretty to be sure, and probably a good food source for wildlife.  But it's a non-native, very invasive tree.  The animals help spread its seeds hither and yon.  There is far too much of it in the pasture and elsewhere, and it's difficult to eradicate.  So, for me, the beauty of those sprays of berries is always tempered by what I know of the plant's true nature.

As usual it's wonderful to welcome in a new season.  Like spring, autumn has a special feeling, a kind of easy comfort after the harshness of the previous months.  Step outside and see what Autumn has brought for her stay.  You know there are still more wonders to come.

Take care.  Be well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mood Indigo

My September weaving project - a trio of table runners.  I wove these runners on my rigid heddle loom using some dark blue rayon mill end yarns as the warp and main weft.  These yarns, which came from Yarn Barn of Lawrence, Kansas, had been in my weaving collection for a couple of years.  It felt good to use them up.  The accent stripes were synthetic novelty yarns from my knitting stash.

The warp is set at 12 ends per inch.  The width on the loom is 18.3" and the length varies from runner to runner.  Each one is different.  For the first piece I used pattern sticks to weave weft and warp floats to create a single horizontal pattern.   The accent yarn is the synthetic novelty yarn.

On the second runner I used the same pick up pattern but repeated it several times to make a wider border band.  This pattern of warp and weft floats requires the use of 2 pattern sticks, one to make weft floats and another to make warp floats.  It is a quick and easy pattern though.  One stick remains in the warp all along.  The second stick (which creates the warp floats) has to be reinserted each time it is needed, but it is easy to see which warp threads are picked up.

The third runner was the easiest of all to weave.  It is straight plain weave throughout.  For the borders I simply alternated wefts of accent yarn with wefts of the main color.

On all of the runners I hemstitched the edges while the pieces were still on the loom.  Once all were woven I cut them off the loom, trimmed the fringe, and wet-finished them.  Voila!  All are finished and ready to use.  Only thing is ... now I have an empty loom again ...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wool Report

A couple of weeks back I finished spinning the fifth bump of 15 in my brown wool challenge. I had six bobbins filled, and with only one spare bobbin for the Reeves wheel, I decided it was time for some plying.

Two days later I had 5 fat skeins of 2 ply wool, washed, weighed and measured. Those skeins yielded 716 yards and weighed 14 1/2 ounces total. It's a good start on the yarn for my sweater. With 10 bumps of roving to go, I should have yarn aplenty. Still thinking about what color to dye it though ...

After those 5 bumps, I did feel the need for some color again, so last weekend I took a little detour from the brown and spun some blue 95% Border Leicester/5% mohair roving that I picked up at the Bethel Festival. It was an easy quick spin - 4 ounces of 2 ply yarn, 180 yards, about 14 wraps per inch. It's lofty, not scratchy, somewhere between sport and DK in size.

I've named it Up in the Clouds because it reminds me of the cloud photos I took from an airplane window not long ago. I'd like to use it for a knitting project. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The New Kid in Town

Over the Labor Day weekend we drove up to the Bethel Sheep and Wool Festival. The weather was ideal - sunny and mild. It made for a pleasant day spent in watching the sheep dogs round up clusters of silly sheep, strolling through the sheep barn, and of course, checking out the vendor tents. I did come away with small amounts of two spinning rovings. But best of all, when we drove home, this little fellow was riding in the back seat.

He is a French Angora Chocolate Buck, born July 3 of this year. I've named him Truffle. He has joined Bailey and Tobin in the rabbit condo, so now I'm back to a trio of angoras once more. I usually give young angoras their first haircut somewhere between 3 and 4 months of age. By this time next month Truffle will be looking quite different for a time. For now he's settling in well. Here he is snacking on his favorite treat - a few tasty clover leaves.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Catching Up

'Zooks! September is one of my favorite months and it's already more than half over. I guess that's an indication that there's been lots going on. I think rather than writing a lengthy post heavy with photos, I'll try making several shorter posts.

So for starters, here's the felted wren hostel that I made at our last feltmakers meeting.

I used a flat resist - a circle of 1/4" thick foam with a 12" diameter. The wools were all medium to coarse, all easy felters - Karakul, Romney, Border Leicester. (Even though it's splendid wool for rugs and other items that will get hard use, I just cannot love Karakul. It's too darn hairy.) Before I went home, I gave the remains of my Karakul stash to a friend.

I removed the foam resist as soon as the wools began to feel as though they were meshing. If you leave the resist in too long, it will be very difficult to get the ridge at the edge of the resist smoothed out. I was careful not to cut too large a hole in the loosely felted wool so that the entrance to my birdhouse would only be accessible to smaller birds. As it is, it's still a pretty generous opening.

At home, after the finished piece had dried, I needlefelted the green vinework to decorate the exterior. It looked cozy but still seemed to be lacking something. I dug up some curly Border Leicester locks from my wool stash and needlefelted some around the base of the hanging loop.

It's not the nesting season for any of our local bird crowd so I'm going to store my hostel until next spring. Then I'll try to find a sheltered, inviting spot to hang it. The Carolina wrens are pros at using small, protected nooks to build their nests. Hopefully a chirpy couple will choose my wren hostel for their 2011 broods. I'll let you know!