Sunday 31 August 2014

worsted samples

Whilst the tent was drying in the sunshine and N was off for a stroll in the meadows, I made the most of the fresh air to play with my wheel. I tried out some new carding and spinning methods I picked up over the weekend

It's the first time I've tried spinning semi-worsted, and the finished yarn looks wonderfully smooth and uniform, so different from my fuzzy woollen yarns. Soon I'll have enough to be able to cast on a couple of swatches for my shwook hat to see which effect I prefer.

Saturday 30 August 2014

wild camping at Payolle

After a month stuck in the mud, a few days beneath the Pyrenean sky. A few days spent in another valley, outside, spinning in wild spaces. 

A few cays for carding, experimenting, sampling.

A few days of breathing deeply, of feeling the morning sun on our faces, the evening breeze at our backs. Nights of building fires, gazing at stars, falling asleep to the sound of cow bells. Days of spinning beside bubbling streams, searching for blueberries amongst the wild heather.

 (After a night in Serris, we wild-camped the next day at Payolle).

Friday 29 August 2014

la cure

July and August. 

For the French, these are the holiday months. Suncream. Straw hats. Ice creams. Coffees on pavement cafés. Apéros on the balcony. Festivals and village fêtes stretching long into the night.  Market stalls groaning under the weight of plump, sweet summer fruits. Peaches, nectaries, plums, apricots, strawberries. Melons. 

For me this year, July and August have been a time to emerge from my hibernation. To slow down, take stock. And finally get looked after

Daily baths in thermal pools. Hosed down. Plastered in hot, stinky, thermal mud. Balneotherapy. Physiotherapy. Group therapy

Eating better. Sleeping better. Walking better. Living better. Feeling (a little) better. 

As hippy-dippy as it might sound, my time spent up at the thermal baths has felt like a re-birth

It hasn't cured me. Sadly nothing will do that. But it has helped me to accept the situation. Myself. My life now and my life in the future

At the end of July, I was waiting for the baths, a downtrodden and defeated English girl. At the end of August, I've emerged a more confident, more hopeful English girl, who's now a little more French around the edges. (After a month as a curiste, it would be impossible not to feel a little more gallic, after all).

July and August. The holiday healing months. Healing my body. Healing my mind. Healing my soul. Three weeks up at Barèges. Hours spent being pampered. Making wonderful new friends. Dreaming of other possibilities...

Days saturated with mud and water and golden summer light.

Thursday 28 August 2014

woollen samples

I've been working on the yarns for my Shwook hat. I made the first batch of samples, spun from rolags in the woolen way. Next I'll have a go at semi-worsted spinning of the same yarns to see if there is a difference once knit.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

where the clouds begin

Dormir le plus tard que possible, c'était l'objectif. Mais c'est la fin d'été. Et il fait beau ce matin. Après une nuit de camping sauvage, avec une telle rosée, une telle lumière, eh bien, une grasse mat', c'est impossible.

On se lève avant l'aube et sort de la tente. On se mouille les pieds en attendant l'arrivée des premiers rayons de soleil au dessus les sommets environnants.
N range la matériel tranquillement. Cette fois-ci, il n'y a pas de vaches à chasser. Je m'assoit et me laisse imprégner par tout ce qui m'entoure: l'air frais, la rosée, les biches, la calune. Je respire profondément et me ressource avec l'air frais du petit matin. Je dévore tout avec mes yeux; les textures, les sons, la température, les couleurs et l'énergie. Ainsi, je me fixe mon objectif pour la journée.

J'aime le temps changeant de l'été, sa futilité, son manque de volonté d'équilibre.

Et dimanche matin, j'ai adoré regarder les nuages ​​commencer.

We had intended to sleep as long as possible. But this being the end of summer, this being the morning after a night of wild camping on a favourite crest, this being such a morning, with such a view, it is of course impossible. 

We rise before the sun and head out of the tent. Are feet get soaked in the dewy grass as we wait for the moment we can begin to see the sun lifting from beyond the hilltops, brightening the sky. 

N quietly tidies away the tent. No cows to shoo away this time. I sit amidst my surroundings, breathing deeply as I renew my body with fresh morning air. Taking in the textures, sounds, temperatures, colors and energy, I set an intention for my day. 

I love the mercurial weather of summer, its flightiness, its lack of steady intentions.

And Sunday morning, I loved watching the clouds begin.  

Monday 25 August 2014

les chemins de la laine

De retour d'un week-end ensoléillé, riche en rencontres, en échanges et en découvertes. 

Un week-end à tisser des liens d'amitié entre tricoteuses, feutrières, teinturières, tisserandes, éléveuses de brébis, fileuses et fileurs... 

...à papoter en trois langues...

 ...à refaire le monde, autour de la laine... à peaufiner mes compétences de cardage de la laine, en occitan.

Je reviens ressourcée, inspirée, apaisée, la tête pleine d'idées et l'esprit plein de soleil...

Just back from a magical, sunny weekend: making new friendships and exchanging ideas with a fantastic group of local hand knitters, felters, hand-dyers, weavers, sheep farmers and spinners. 

We've spent the last two days building new friendships...

 ...babbling in three languages...

 ....putting the world to rights, through the medium of wool...

...and (for me!) improving my handcarding skills, in Occitan... 

I'm back home recharged, uplifted and inspired...


The Shwook hat pattern calls for five different colourways. Inspired by the traditional use of natural colours in FairIsle patterns, I've settled on the following colourways: 
  • Natural black
  • Natural brown
  • Grey (blended during carding)
  • Beige (natural dyes - walnut)
  • Natural white
Who knows, I might even end up giving my yarns local dialect names, just like in the Shetlands. 

Friday 22 August 2014

from hillside to hat

I've been searching for my first proper "spin to knit" project for a while. I was very tempted to join in with Liesl and spin some sock yarn. Only problem is, my spinning skills and equipment are not quite yet up to the task (spinning worsted) and I think I'd be very disappointed to see all my hard work fall to pieces at a worn out heel.

Then Melody started talking about Shetland, Fairisle and hat knitting and I knew I'd found the project for me. The Shwook hat by Hazel Tindall is a low yardage hat that suits both delicate and more rugged (like mine!) yarns alike. It will also be a good opportunity to widen my knitting skills and finally try some Fair Isle.

Melody's idea for a knit-a-long during Shetland Wool Week has come-a-long at just the right moment!

I've got about six weeks to spin five 25g skeins of 2 ply jumper weight yarn in five different colour-ways ready to cast on the hat for the 4th October.

I'm incredibly excited about starting this project. There is something both incredibly rewarding and therapeutic about each stage of the process of turning a dirty bit of fleece into metre upon metre of soft knitting yarn.

I'm also excited by the prospect of documenting each stage of the journey here on my little blog. From hillside to hat, as it were.

Thursday 21 August 2014

planning a project

I've been spinning my own yarn for nearly six months now. In that time, I've accrued an array of samples, ranging from nobbly, bobbly (over plied yarns) to some fairly reasonable attempts. I'm starting to get a pretty good feel for how the wheel and spindle work and just generally what spinning is all about.

Although knowing how to card raw fleece and draft fibres is essential, I realise that they are not all I need to know to become a self-sufficient spinster. To be able to truly spin on my own, I need to be able to make all the decisions for planning a project before I even begin to weigh out my raw fleece. 

I don't want to become a spinner who guesses at my yarn needs, or bluffs my way through projects, hoping that I'll produce something usable only to be deeply disappointed with the end result.

And besides, aside from the folly of omitting it, I'm sure planning a yarn project from start to finish can be as rewarding and stimulating as any other part of the process. 

What I need is a project designed to reinforce spinning theories and my current set of spinning skills with practical experience taking me through the steps from fibre to fabric... be continued!

Wednesday 20 August 2014

"a" for eagle

Arriving at the plateau, we hear the piercing cry of a startled marmot. Our eyes immediatly look upwards and there above our heads, we see a golden eagle soaring high on the light summer winds.

Spotting a golden eagles may be a rare occurence, even here in the Pyrenees. But whilst listening to the radio this morning, I was thrilled to discover this morning that golden eagles are infact all around us.  

Our modern lower-case letter "a", an ancient relic of Egyptian hieroglyphs, is infact based upon the shape of a perched eagle. 

Saturday 16 August 2014

la fête des bergers

There's a noticable chill in the air as I set up my little spinning corner this morning. A clear sign that Autumn is not far away. But as the waves of tourists start to arrive, the temperature slowly rises. 

By the time the little herd of sheep is rounded up and brought down the ski slope hillside, the sun is shining summer bright.

Throngs of tourists have come up to the mountain for an "authentic" day out, to catch a glimpse of a pastoral heritage which some would say is fading further away with each passing year.

They gather around the sheep fold, patting and prodding the livestock waiting to be shorn. They sun themselves on the hillside, watching the sheep dog demonstrations. They crowd around me and my spindle and wheel.

Thursday 14 August 2014

in the orchard

There's something wonderfully therapeutic about picking fruit. Even on an especially slow day, when I'm not up to much more than sitting in the long grass and gently knitting a few rows whilst my love does all the hard work. 

 (I've finally succumbed...Melody's enthusiasm for Fairisle is contagious...)