It is done.

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On Thursday, I signed up to participate in the ‘Brave the Shave‘ fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support with a goal of raising a very modest £150. The point of the campaign is to stand with cancer patients who have to shave their heads because of treatment. When I saw the ad for ‘Brave The Shave’, it really struck a chord with me.

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When I was 20, my mother was diagnosed with leukaemia and given 2 weeks to live. She beat the odds and is still with us 17 years later. I am so very grateful to the doctors, nurses, scientists; everyone who contributes to the treatment of those who have to go through cancer but I also know that the effects of cancer reach beyond medical treatment. Cancer patients – current and past – need emotional support, legal support, specialist nurses, work related advice, an advocate. Here in the UK, Macmillan specialises in this but they receive no government funding. With 2 in 3 people being effected by cancer either with a personal diagnosis or a family member being diagnosed, Macmillan are a vital part of treatment.

I set my goal low to avoid a renewed bout of depression if the goal wasn’t reached. I know that charity isn’t about the self but I also know my triggers and I can’t put my family through the bad feelings when I can avoid it.

The goal was reached on the day and continues to grow. Thank you to all the donators! And though I set my shave date for the 8th, reaching the goal made me impatient.

Guess what I did on Saturday.

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And I love it! As much as I loved brushing my hair, colouring it etc etc, I think I love this fuzziness even more.

I still have the hair though. I divided it up and put it in elastic bands to make cutting it off easier but I haven’t decided if I will just throw it away or spin it into yarn. The Victorians made an industry out of turning hair into keepsakes – making doll hair, keeping it in lockets, making jewellry, embroidery – and human hair is actually quite similar to some types of sheeps wool (google ‘Wensleydale locks’).

If you are able to, donations would be greatly appreciated. Even if you choose another charity, if you are able to, please give something if you can.

The Great Cataloguing Adventure 2015 – spinning edition

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Fibre-East happens once a year. It is my favouritest yarn related event EVER! It’s only been going 5 years but I have been every year and been delighted to see it’s growth. What started out as a couple of large marquee’s in a field is now being held in a community college and 3 larger marquee’s. It’s fantastic. I think that the best part is the community – knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, and dyers all love to chat and we love to share our experiences and our knowledge. It’s also nice to watch the colour trends and how each dyer interprets those onto yarn and roving.

Being a regular attenders means that some sellers are starting to recognise me. Of course, being that I am very chatty certainly doesn’t hurt.

I was on a budget this year but I still brought home an excellent haul.

FibreEast 2015

Starting in the top left and going clockwise, the fibres are from – Sara’s Texture Crafts, Willo Fibres, Taylor Made Yarns, Yarns From The Plains, and Little Owl Crafts. I have bought from Sara’s, Willo and Little Owl at Fibre-East previously.

These additions led to something of an organisational crisis because I obsess over this sort of thing.

Some of you will be familiar with the brilliance that is Ravelry. For those that aren’t, it is a site dedicated to fibre crafts, specifically knitting and crocheting. It has discussion forums, groups, pattern database of printed and online patterns and ways to organise your equipment. I catalogue my yarn, needles, books, patterns and even my unspun fibres and handspun yarns. I am not particularly fussy with most of these – I have a lot of stuff to catalogue – but I was nearly finished with my current spinning project and couldn’t decide what to spin next.

After looking at my handspun and fibre stash pages on Ravelry, I realised there were places where I had entries for handspun yarn but not for the fibre I made it from and there were fibres I knew I had bought that were in neither place. There was even one that I started spinning and have no entry for and can’t find anywhere and it’s driving me mad trying to remember when I last saw it and where I might have put it.

Anyway, I started with making sure that exisiting fibre and handspun yarns had corresponding and linked entries. From there I dug out the bag of my handspun yarns and made sure they were entered as completed handspun yarns and had fibre entries too. Then I started on the bag of unspun fibre.

It’s a big bag. And I was kinda drowned by its contents…

20150730_130009This was the best photo I could get – under all of that are my legs and most of my torso. My son laughed at how little of me was visible. I carefully made sure each braid of yarn-in-potentia was in a closed ziplock bag then dumped all of it on the floor!

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The blue bag is mostly filled with handspun but you can see why I wanted to get the e-spinner working properly.

41 new entries came from this bag and while most of them are single 100g braids of spinnable fibre, some are more. In my defense, I started spinning in 2009 and sometimes knitting and crocheting distract me from spinning. Sometimes spinning distracts me from knitting or crocheting.

I can work through 100g within a week so this is about a years worth if I actually get through a 100g each week. Not sure if I want to make this a goal. I do a lot of crafts because I have to go where the muse takes me and making something into a goal is a good way for my contrariness to rear its head and decide that I don’t want to do that thing any more for a while. Any thoughts?

I’m still collecting donations for Macmillan Cancer Support as part of their Brave The Shave event. I am planning to shave my head on the 8th. You can still donate after that but donations before it will be extra fabulous. Please give if you can.

It’s Alive!!!

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Well not really, but my e-spinner has been revamped and it’s AWESOME!

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This is the spinner as it was. In the housing there is a micro motor running the pulley on the front. On the top of the housing is the on-switch, a direction toggle and a speed dial. I made the uprights from doweling, the drive band from some thin elastic superglued into a loop. The flyer unit and bobbins are from my Ashford Traditional wheel. They were replaced with the jumbo version later. There was nothing wrong with this design except that this type of motor can only be used for 15 out of every 60 minutes or it burns out… Yeah, I went through 4 motors pretty quickly.

My interest in yarn spinning was recently rekindled as the Fibre East event neared. It was held last Saturday and Sunday. By Monday, after a successful Sunday at the event, I was desperate to get back to spinning.

Ashford Traditional WheelI have an Ashford Traditional (above) but find it a little awkward to use. I can’t find a sitting position that doesn’t either twist my body or leaves me with very tense muscles between waist and knee.

I also have a rare Louet hatbox wheel (above). It’s a travellers wheel and as much as I love it, it has very small bobbins and I like to spin all of a fibre onto one bobbin rather than having it split between several. Though it’s been out of production for about 20 years, they are planning to release an updated version for the company’s anniversary.

These are both excellent wheels and it is only my personal preferences that keep me from using them more.

So, yeah. I came home from Fibre East with a renewed fervour for handspinning and handspun yarn, and several additions to my fibre stash. So many beautiful yarns, fibres and spinning wheels! I was very restrained.

Commercially made e-spinners are expensive (£350+) and if you want something other than the Ashford e-spinner, your out of luck in the UK unless you fancy paying for shipping and customs on something coming from the States. I’m sure the Ashford is lovely but I don’t like how clunky it looks and I just can’t afford it. I’d buy a regular spinning wheel if I had that sort of money available. After some research into home made e-spinners (again), I came across several blog posts that showed others who had successfully made their own and directed my technical advisor (my husband) to have a look. We’d already discussed the possibility of using a sewing machine motor and had sort of discarded it but some of these blogs better described what they had done.

Garrulous story telling made shorter – we did it!

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(Yes, that is the stripped sewing machine on the right).

This is not a complicated solution. You need to be careful with the electrics of course, but it is just a motor with a drive band attached to a store-bought flyer unit. There is no direction control on this version but putting a twist in the driveband switches the direction of the flyer. We replaced the foot pedal with a light dimmer switch partly because I wanted a hand control but mostly because the foot pedal is not a good way to get consistent speed. You can keep the foot pedal if you like but I found it infuriatingly difficult to use. Also, keeping the pedal braced for any length of time caused cramping in my calf.

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And this is the first yarn completed with it!

It’s a 2-ply yarn about the same thickness as a commercial 4-ply/sock yarn. It needs to be washed to set the twist but at the moment it is about 410m long. I can make a small shawl with that!

Our next project will be making a device like this to measure yarn length.

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This is the yardage counter by Schact. Need to investigate a few parts before we make anything though. Once we work out the counter, it should be fairly straight forward.

*** I totally forgot to tell you all that I have decided to Brave The Shave and shave my head in August to raise money for Macmillan cancer support. They are an excellent organisation and in greater demand than ever. If you can donate, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Latest project – a home made electric spinning wheel

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meditativeknitter:

Inspiration for upgrades to my own homemade electric spinner.

Originally posted on The Milkenunny Blog:

I enjoy spinning, but with various back problems and not enough space in the lounge room for my spinning wheel I don’t get to spin much, other than at craft group twice a month.  So recently I started looking into electric spinning wheels.  There are some really lovely ones out there but the price range of $800 or more was just too steep for me to even consider.  However, after looking in a local second hand store at what was obviously an old home made electric spinner that was still out of my price range, I started to wonder if it might be worth my while to try and make my own.

So last Saturday I made a start.  I actually already had a spare flyer (the part that spins around and puts the thread onto the bobbin) which was a major head start.  I made a wooden frame to hold the flyer and pulled…

View original 486 more words

For the betterment of my mind

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Three months is a long time to spend in hospital and it messes with your head. Since coming home in January, I have faced a deeper type of depression than ever before as I try to reestablish myself. I will likely always be susceptible to pain in my abdomen from the damage my pancreas took. I will likely always live with the fear of the return of the indescribable pain that sent me back to the hospital. But in the more immediate future I am dealing with the frustration of waiting for my gall bladder to be removed. I have heard nothing from the doctors since February, despite my efforts to the contrary and this is amping up the fear that I will end up in hospital again with the same problem. It also means that despite increasing discomfort in my back, I won’t be going to the osteopath to get it sorted (it was immediately after my last appointment that this all started and though I’m not saying the treatment was the cause, I do worry that it shifted something that acted as a catalyst).

Logically, I know that I’m giving this all too much space in my head but emotionally… well, it’s not great. I find myself staring for hours at blank walls on bad days and there are more of those than ever. I find that often, any positive event is followed by a disproportionately low period. My ability to focus and concentrate is sporadic and very short. And worst of all, I find it difficult to enjoy my crafting in the same way which takes away most of my personal productivity.

I’m working with a therapist on CBT but I’m not sure, in fact I’m fairly certain that now is not the best time for this. I am already vulnerable and unsettled, and the trigger is something that I cannot resolve on my own.

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this, or even what it all means but I’m hoping that venting here will help me some.

I have a new long-term project. A friend in my knitting group showed us a crocheted blanket she was working on and my friend G and I decided to get the kit and make our own. She’ll need some crochet lessons but it’s a simple pattern repeated several times on every row so the paper pattern is really only needed for the colour order. It’s this pattern/kit by Attic24 (I have no affiliation with Wool Warehouse but can tell you that my order with them was a smooth transaction and arrived quickly).

I’m 2 rows in but have crocheted as much as three – I missed a stitch at the beginning of the first row but didn’t notice until I’d reached the end and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I expected to. 200 stitches is a lot more than I usually work with.

Things I’m trying to do to regain some control over my scatter brain :

* daily journal/planner that allows me to record mood, craft/education, tasks, cleaning and eating/medication.

* limiting the number of projects I work on for any given craft. For example, in my work bag I have 1 knitted shawl (Solar Flare), 1 knitting design (a headband and it’s variations), 1 art therapy colouring page, 1 large crochet project (ripple blanket). This is enough to keep me entertained and give me some choices but doesn’t overwhelm me (and some days, just choosing which coloured pencil to use is too much).

* going to therapy

* going to my knitting groups

* spending time with my friends outside those groups.

It probably looks like a pretty regular sort of plan to most of you. It’s a lot of hard work for me. Trying to rein in my attention is exhausting.

Day 195

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There are 1052 rows in the pattern for the iconic Doctor Who scarf that Tom Baker wore. This is the scarf I have been knitting for my husband. It is so very late but guess what I just cast off?! Tomorrow I start the epic sewing in of ends.

I posted Meghan Trainor’s ‘All About That Bass’ a few days ago. When my husband is more familiar with a pop song than I am, I know that it’s been too long since I last listened to the radio. This is not the first pop song gone viral that I missed. Yeah, I missed Carly Rae Jepson too. If you did and still haven’t heard ‘Call Me Maybe’ let me remedy that.

Day 194

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Didn’t feel like knitting but as with praying, it’s when you least feel like doing it that you are most in need of doing it. I have been struggling since coming home from the hospital with being on my own. This shows in many ways but one of the most blatant is my withdrawal from crafting.

That being said, I can offer no visual proof of actually knitting my trapezoid tonight because the battery on my phone has finally given up and is refusing to charge. And so, I am without a camera.

Tonight is Melissa Etheridge for no other reasons than that I love this song and her voice is incredible.