Saturday, 22 February 2014

February Fibre of the Month PROJECT

Grey Karakul Bag 
I actually made 2 bags.  The second of which is the main one for the data comparison, but I'm placing pictures further down the post as the design may be a little surprising!  If you are reading with a little one on you knee, please scroll down and preview it away from tiny eyes first.  

Bag #1
Whale Watchers
Messenger style
Mother and baby whales on the front..
..with a watcher inside the flap
..and two more on the back.
I'm sure you can tell I made this one not long after my last fibre of the month project :)  Again inspired by petroglyphs at Lake Ozette.  This one is a 3 layer bag.. fully lined, with a zippy pocket and strong, sewn handle all from the lovely woven Navajo fabric :)  Luuurve that fabric.  I can't give shrinkage details for this one.. I lost track of which rectangular resist I used!

Bag #2 
The Rude Man of Cerne

The Rude Man of Cerne / Cerne Abbas Giant
This magnificent fellow is carved into the chalk bedrock of a hillside in Dorset, UK.  He is 180 foot tall. There is uncertainty about how old he is.. the link above will tell you more about the facts and folklore.

My lovely husband suggested the design for this bag :)  And much as I admire the glyph it was Gary's suggestion for the reverse of the bag that really made me want to make it.

I made a tote using the same resist as for the Shetland tote.. for an easier comparison.

Laying out internal, integral pockets
1st two layers of Karakul
I used 4 layers of Karakul on each side
Plus a final 5th layer of forest green Icelandic batt
The Giant was drawn in merino fibre
Only the basic shape and features were added at this early stage..
I was worried finer details may of become lost during felting

My favourite feature of this bag is the cheeky flip side.. 

The Rude Man showing his modest side :)

I did find that I needed to lightly tack the 'drawing' in place with my felting needle.. merino doesn't seem to want to incorporate into karakul without distorting and becoming slightly wavy.  I didn't mind this with the Watchers bag.. maybe because of its' watery theme, but wanted clean lines with this one.

Half way through felting I needle felted on his more salient features
Cutting the handle holes using tailors chalk
During the final stage of felting I gave the bag a darned good thumping!

When throwing seamless felt 'vessels' it always surprises me how airtight they are at this stage ... filling up like a balloon every time you throw them down on the opening.
I only used 4 layers of Karakul for this tote..  the main reason being I only had enough fibre for this.  But when I thought about it and looked at the sample I decided this was actually plenty! Karakul does make a very strong felt.  So after adding the Icelandic green this became a 5 layer bag.
Finished.. front of Rude Man bag
the modest side :)
Reinforced handle area with felted wool tweed fabric
Gary made another good suggestion just when I thought I'd finished :)  He looked inside and said it would be nice if the edges of the internal pockets were edged with the tweed fabric..  next time he looked they were! It does make it easier to spot where the pockets are.. :)  You can just see them at the top of this photo.

For comparison to sampling data

Weight of the finished bag is 400g
Finished size = 52cm x 38cm
Resist size was 71cm x 48cm
Shrinkage approx 26% x 21%

I'm not surprised that the shrinkage is a little uneven.. I used an uneven number of layers, as well as throwing another fibre into the mix.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

February Fibre of the Month - KARAKUL

I realised that I should include some information about the actual sheep.. not just the characteristics of its wool: 

Karakul sheep
Micron count 29+  /  Staple length 15cm - 30cm

One of the oldest breeds of domesticated sheep.  Native to the Plains of Central Asia. Karakul are a fat tailed sheep.. the tail acts like a camels hump, storing nourishment for the animal.  They are double coated and in many places classed as a rare breed.  Described on as an 'independent, hardy, adaptable and highly intelligent medium sized breed'.  

An unpleasant fact that I feel I must mention.
The pelts / skins of newborn and foetal Karakul lambs are traded under various names; persian lamb, astrakhan and broadtail being just a few.  To produce this lambs are slaughtered before their 3rd day of life (after which time the fleece becomes harsher and less curly).. or before they are even born.  Foetal pelts often come from ewes who have already had several lambs, a couple of weeks or so before their 4th lambs are due they go for slaughter.  In 2000 the Humane Society investigated and documented the treatment of these animals in a slaughter house outside Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Their findings were shocking (and to me utterly disgusting!) rather than go into it too much here I've included a link to the Humane Society's report.    

Amazingly it didn't cause the same outcry as mulesing does.. and disturbingly the demand for these tiny pelts has actually increased since then. They are used to make karakul hats and they have also been increasingly used in haute couture by top designers - more information can be found here.  

I know this isn't necessarily a relevant fact for felters.. but it is very relevant to this breed of sheep which is why I've included it.

SO Back to the FIBRE

First of all I laid out my sample just the same as last time 20cm x 20cm, this link will tell you more.  And felted it thoroughly for maximum shrinkage.

Very easy and fast felter!  
I used washing up liquid rather than olive oil soap.. as the fibre had a coarse and slightly greasy feel, I tend to find washing up liquid works better with slightly greasy / coarse fibres.

Weight: 13.1g
Finished size: 15cm x 17cm
Shrinkage: 25% x 15%

Karakul fibre sample
Made a strong felt with not a lot of 'give'.  A little 'hairy' in appearance but softer than it looks. Though I certainly wouldn't use it near skin.. I think it would be excellent for bags & slippers.. it is reputed to be very hard wearing.

Next time.. Karakul projects

Saturday, 15 February 2014

New Boot Style

I had a customer recently who brought this pair of boots.. one of my favourite pairs, I love this colour combo..  and while she was generally happy with them I get the feeling that she had expected them to fasten tighter around the leg. 

Purple and green Icelandic with soft slate blue leather soles
The fasteners on this style of boots are only intended to close the flap up and keep drafts off your ankles.   I have no intention of changing the way that I make these boots 'cos I'm very happy with them (and so has everyone else that has ever had a pair) but it got me thinking about adding a new design to my repertoire. Booties that fit snuggly around the legs. 

Lucky for me I had dabbled here before :)  do you remember these?
Green Icelandic with leather soles
I made these for Rachael.. must be about 4 years ago now.  They had a pretty cotton gusset sewn into the tongue area, and laces over the tongue.  I loved the look of these.. the only down side was that they took a while to put on and take off. 

I decided a couple of years ago to make a very similar pair for myself.. but never got round to finishing them.. the question of how to fasten them got in the way.  They have been sitting in my UFO (UnFinished Object) basket ever since.  

So, I got them out and gathered the other materials.  I decided to make a pair with a quick release fastening rather than laces.. Velcro was my friend for this :)
Gathering materials
Fixing velcro tabs with zig-zag machine stitch.
I placed the scratchy part on the leg of the boots and the soft on the flaps
Once the velcro was sewn on both sides the flap was stitched on.
The flap is 2 layers of felt, velcro sewn to the inner,
then the 2 pieces joined with a zig-zag stitch all round the outside.
Closes nice and snug.  The velcro means it's easily adjustable to fit different width legs
The boys think they look like SuperHero boots..
these must belong to The Green Hornet lol :)
I'm really pleased with how they turned out.. it's nice to of finished a new boot design.  

I just needed a guinea-pig to wear them now :)  and I knew the perfect person.  My mom is feeling the cold this year.. and she is probably the most 'awkward to please with footwear' person that I know, so I'm sure I will soon know how much she likes wearing them!  So far she is loving them.. shuffling round in her Green Hornet boots with warm ankles :)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Getting my hooks out :)

Crochet hooks that is!  

I finally finished a crochet project I started during Christmas week 2012.. a cute little granny square tunic for my cousins baby girl.  It was going to be a Christmas present but I couldn't finish in time.. luckily Belle's 2nd birthday was in January, and I finished just in the nick of time (like the day before!)

I was thinking back to jumper colours when I was a kid in the 70s..
this lovely soft, machine washable and tumble dry-able yarn came in really
pretty yellow, green and orange - just what I was looking for :)
I must of been bitten by the crochet bug while working on this, as soon as I'd finished I went out and brought 4 huge balls of yarn and started making a big version for me :).  I used a 3.5mm hook for the baby version.. I'm using a 9mm one for this, and chunky yarn.. so it's growing fast.

Where I've gotten to so far..
3 good stacks of granny squares; 2 balls almost finished and 2 with about half left.. not sure if I shall have enough yarn.

I can't wait to finish it.. really hope it works out and looks nice.. I could do with a big snuggly jumper.  If it doesn't I guess I can always take it apart and make a granny square throw :)

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

What a winter! And a winter warmer

I have been so grateful to be living on a hill top this winter!  There has been such a lot of rain, the wettest winter we have had for over 250 years they were saying on the radio this morning.  And so many places are flooded.. some have been flooded since before Christmas, and still the rain keeps falling..  

This morning the heavens opened so hard that the windscreen wipers on my car just couldn't go fast enough to keep up.. the rain came down so heavy that even our hill top roads just couldn't drain away fast enough and we were driving through several inches of water in most places.  While concentrating hard on my driving.. I couldn't help also thinking about all the people and animals in low land places and what this extra water means for them..  

This morning the wind sounded like a snow-wind.. maybe it's the direction or something.. but it sounded like snow was coming.. or maybe it was just because the weatherman had said it may snow I thought I heard it..  Anyway, I have just looked out of my window and we have SNOW.. the first we have had so far this winter.. great big flakes and falling fast.  I doubt that it'll stick though, there's too much water lying around.

I'm glad to be sitting in the warm & dry, with a cup of tea and one of the naughtiest, most delicious cookies ever.  I made these yesterday afternoon and they are yummy, totally over indulgent quick and easy.. so I'm going to share the recipe.. They are insanely sugary but there's a delicious savoury note from the peanut butter which is definitely addictive.   Enjoy :)


Peanut butter cookies
- photo taken in poor light..
250g/10oz smooth or crunchy peanut butter (I used crunchy)
175g/6oz dark brown sugar 
175g/6oz granulated white sugar (plus extra for rolling)
3 tablespoons milk
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 & 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to gas mark 1 / 140C / 275F

Cream together peanut butter, brown and granulated sugars in a bowl.  I used my hand whisk because the peanut butter was cold and very stiff.  Add the milk and vanilla essence, beat well.

Sift the bicarbonate of soda into the mixture, add the pinch of salt, mix well.

Take 1 tablespoon of the mixture, roll it into a ball in your hands.  Roll the ball in the extra sugar until it is coated and place on an ungreased baking tray.  Continue shaping and coating the rest of the mixture.  Leave room for the cookies to spread

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove from tray (they are quite crumbly at this stage) and place on a wire rack to cool.  My wire rack wasn't big enough for all of the cookies so some stayed on the tray to cool and they were absolutely fine, so if you don't have a rack (or want to save washing up :) they should be fine cooling on the tray.

I got 15 fair sized cookies from this mixture.