Monday, 19 January 2015

shades of grey


{Edit: You can find this post and me over here from now on...}

Grey...it is once again today, winter grey. Snow flakes tumble from far above the mountains, swirling to the valley bottom to settle on rooftops, branches, the tongues of excited children.

Occasionally the sun sneaks out from behind the billowing clouds, bathing the valley in warming golden light. Occasionally the clouds part to uncover a radiant blue sky. But more often than not these days are tinged with grey. 

Some folks around these parts grumble about the grey, finding it monotonous, gloomy. Lying resting in bed looking up at the sky, I like it very much. I immerse myself in the greys and realise that it is not colourness. There is slate grey, blue grey, smoke grey, silver grey, dawn grey, sleet grey, winter grey, mist grey....The more I look, the more I notice there are not fifty, nor a hundred but a thousand shades of grey.

Of course I too love the blue sky days, when I can sit on the balcony and soak up the healing sunshine. But in between, grey is beautiful, versatile, soothing...

Monday, 5 January 2015

due south



No way of knowing exactly where the path of this coming year will take me...
But I know where I'm headed today, due south back to the mountains* and my love.

* And if I'm very lucky, perhaps a little snow?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

looking forward



2014 was a challenging year for me, for us.
My attitude tended to veer towards un-acceptance. Frustration. Sorrow.

But the earth kept on spinning round the sun. And now it is January once again.


For once, I'm not gonna try to "turn over a new leaf". 
The world doesn't change, we change.
Not who I am, but how I feel about myself.
About this

So this is 2015.

Where the past year was a collection of endless endings, then these months just about to unfurl will be surely marked by new beginnings.
Where the past year was tinged with a deep rooted despair, then we step forth into the blinding light of this new one with a renewed sense of hope.

So this is 2015. Welcome. 

*****

Inspired by the gorgeous words of Rachel Violet: 

"Despite all the heartaches this last chapter has brought me, as 365 blank pages unfold I am filled to the brim with hope that day by day we will all be reunited with our health, happiness and love."

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

looking back


As the old year passes, I take to the hills. Not literally, not physically. But in my mind's eye. 
Drifting off into that place between waking and dreaming, there is no real time to mull over 2014 before I surrender to sleep. No need really either. These past twelve months, I've done enough mulling to last a lifetime.

But it's good to take a cursory glance back across my shoulder, back down the mountain of the year. For it is only now that I can see it has all been worth it, that I did the right thing to keep going, to keep on hoping and not bail out when the going got tough.
That is what 2014 has taught me, to keep on going...no matter how slowly.

Because as is often the way out in these mountains, it's only when you've slogged for hours up that hillside, worked through the sweat and the tears to stand high on the crest with the sun on your face that you can truly measure just how far you've come. 
Here on the cusp of the mountain, it's finally easy to see where I've been...and where I'm going next...
Joining in with these gorgeous and inspiring girls: 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

already


December, already. With it's misty mornings and first sprinklings of snow. I've not been well of late, and have been spending seemingly every waking moment either curled up in bed, or nestled in an armchair by the fire.

November began full of intention and plenty of exciting projects on the go, but quickly trailed off into a mist of extreme fatigue, aches and foggy head.

Things are a little better than those first few weeks I spent camped out in our sitting room, sleeping pretty much day and night by the fire. But there's still not much energy around these parts just now, and I'm having to listen to my body and pull right back. 

So work has sadly had to come to an end for the foreseeable future. And not a lot of spinning or knitting either.

Instead, plenty of home-made tisanes to keep the fluids up, snuggling up on our woollen mattress, heaped up with woollen blankets and a podcast or two in my ears when I'm feeling up to it.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

néou aran (spun)


I've fallen in love with the Caora sweater and would love to make one with my own hand-spun yarn. The gorgeous chunky garter stitch calls for a bulky weight (7 wpi) yarn. So a few weeks back, I spent the morning sampling as I was curious to see just how thick I could go. 

In no time at all, I had spun up some fat singles and was fairly satisfied with the results. It was a real joy to try spinning a thicker yarn, even if they were a little more lumpy bumpy than I've been producing recently, but apparently it's very normal to find it harder to produce regular thicker yarns than thin. Then came plying the singles together, which was a whole different matter! 

Within minutes I was having trouble drawing the plied yarn onto the bobbin, which no matter of fiddling with the tension seemed to solve. I ended up having to ply in fits and starts, pretty much hand winding the entire length of the plied yarn onto the bobbin! It felt as if I had regressed back to being a complete novice spinner...although unlike my first attempts, this yarn is not over-plied thank goodness!  

Although I've ended up with a slightly slubby (uneven) yarn, weighing somewhere between Bulky and Aran (7-8 wpi), the finished yarn is really gorgeous - beautifully balanced and very soft to the touch. I can just imagine how wonderful it would be to wrap myself up in the Caora sweater on poorly days. I'd love to spin enough to cast on, but I think I've sadly discovered the limits of my 19th century spinning wheel - it just is not happy producing chunky yarn. 

Looks like I might have to start saving up for a more modern wheel, with a bigger orifice and jumbo flyer.... 

※※※
"néou aran"



Ingredients: 70g of washed and carded wool. The fibre used was white Berichon du Cher from Gèdre.


Spinning: Two singles spun from rolags in the Z direction, using the woollen technique.  



Plying: two singles plied in the S direction until balanced. 



Finishing: Wound off into a skein, washed and dried weighted to set the ply.




Quantity: 67g giving 40m of finished yarn
WPI: 7-8
Yarn Weight: Bulky/Aran

Monday, 3 November 2014

wovember



We're already two days into Wovember, an initiative set up by a group of wonderful wool enthusiasts from native UK. What better way to ease slowly into the dew drenched, misty mornings of November with a whole month dedicated to celebrating the wonder of wool in all it's shapes and forms? Who knows, it might be snowing down here in the village by the weekend!

This next month, I'll be wearing as much pure wool as possible as a way of celebrating the unique qualities of wool as a renewable, natural resource. I'll also be sharing a variety of stories, from the personal to the (possibly!) political, exploring different aspects of wool where I am. Not only from here in my little valley in the Pyrenees, but also further afield in some of the corners of France I've visited this year. Telling tales from yesteryear and today of growing, harvesting, processing and promoting wool, from farm to yarn as it were. 

And finally, I'll be endeavouring to complete two woolly challenges within the next thirty days, as part of the WAL (wool-along). I'm hoping to stretch my fledgling dressmaking skills by attempting to sew my first garment in 100% woollen cloth. And I've also set myself a spinning challenge - to spin as many metres of 2 ply sports weight yarn as possible from a recently shorn local fleece before the month is out.


If you're taking part in Wovemeber, and/or have set yourself a woolly challenge, I'd love to hear about it - please share in the comments below. I'd also love to hear your own personal stories of wool where you are, feel free to drop me a line! 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

elsewhere

I've been reading Liesl's gorgeous blog since the spring, having first stumbled upon it whilst searching for a recipe for natural dyeing with walnut husks. Since then, I've been enjoying reading her adventures as she takes her first steps in rearing chickens, watching her progress in her monthly sock knitting challenge and of course finding endless inspiration (and helpful hints) in her experimentations with natural dyes.

I was delighted (and honoured!) to be asked to participate in her 3 questions series...you can read my answers over here!

Friday, 31 October 2014

starfish


There are times when it can feel as if the rough and tumble of life has left us washed up on the rocks, forgotten in the sand by the retreating tide. Just like this little starfish I found on the foreshore last weekend. 

But just as on the foreshore the tide will always turn, so too in life things will inevitably change. It can be hard to stay calm whilst we're waiting. Sometimes it's easy to loose perspective and get swept away by such feelings, to feel as if we'll be marooned forever. 

It's at times like these we have to hold on tight to all the good things we have. To remember that we are not alone. And to acknowledge that all things must pass. Even the really hard stuff. 

And sometimes when all that is to hard, we have to surrender and let those wonderful people who are there by our sides look out for us. Let them pluck us from the sand and safely put us back in the sea, as it were. Because we are all holding each others lives. And together we can get through the strongest of tempests.

All things will pass. Just as everything will be ok. Because he is by my side. As he has been for the past five years.