Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I've moved!

Finally got round to moving my blog so that I'm 'flyhoof' instead of 'skeffto'. I've been a lazy blogger of late, partly because I've been plotting some changes, but I'll be putting some nice new exciting things on here very soon to make up for it! :)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Sunshine at the Westmorland Show...

It was amazingly sunny for the Westmorland County Show today! There is always a huge amount to see and do at this show. I had a good wander around with my camera and saw all kinds of weird and wonderful things.

This cow scrubbing machine looked fun (for cows anyway, maybe too bristly for me!)
Cow scrubber 2

I had a good old grope of the fleeces in the fleece show...
Fleece show 2

Owen Jones, a swill basket maker who lives just a couple of miles up the road from me, was plying his trade over by the Traditional Crafts tent (his lovely woven rush hat was attracting admiring comments from everyone!)...
Owen making a swill basket

This amazing wallhanging was inside the Traditional Crafts tent...
Lunesdale rugmakers rug

Its a kind of free-form hooky-proddy/proggy rag-rug style hanging made by the Lunesdale Rugmakers and the details in it were stunning. Sparkly silver fabric in the wording at the top, dangly bits in the river at the bottom and stuffed tights as cobbles! It was about 6ft long and must have taken ages to make.

Over in the WI tent I encountered some knitted creatures (sheep, camel and dragon!)...
Knitted creatures in the WI tent

The vintage tractors were sparkling in the sun...
Blue tractor

Of course there were plenty of animals, hundreds of them! There were lots of lovely sheep...
Curly coated sheep

Some handsome heavy horses...
Shire on show

And some gorgeous goats...
Saanen goat

All hoping to go home with one of these...
Blue rosette

I'm looking forward to next year's show already! :)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Are you knitting another bowl?!

Errr... I might be! :)

I've had a bowl knitting obsession recently that has resulted in over 10 small knitted bowls of varying size and success. They're knitted in the round on double pointed needles to a pattern I made up as I went along...
Knitted bowls
There's not much point to them but I've enjoyed tweaking the pattern to improve the shape and it's been a good introduction to using DPNs. I'm going to felt one or two of the bowls too, just to see what happens (hopefully they'll get sturdier and fuzzier!).

I also had a go at crocheting a bowl after a quick crochet lesson from the multi-talented Carolyn when she was visiting a few weeks ago. Once I'd got the hang of the basic technique, I thought that crochet would make an even better bowl than knitting but I've run into a problem that I can't seem to solve...

I start out crocheting a round flat base and then decrease by a few stitches to create the sides. Then I keep going for a few rounds to try and get some height to the sides but the bowl just seems to get wider and floppier, curving in on itself. It turns into a low, flat beret type of shape. Maybe a cat beret... If any crocheters out there have got some bowl-making tips, let me know!

In other crochet news, I won a lovely wrist-warmer pattern in this give-away on Rebecca's fantastic blog! The wrist-warmers look great and I'm looking forward to learning some new crochet skills when I give them a whirl. You can buy Rebecca's crochet designs at her Etsy and Folksy shops :)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Roadtrip part II...

While we were staying with my Dad on stage two of last week's roadtrip, we spent a day at the National Trust's Wimpole Hall and Home Farm property in Cambridgeshire. We got in free thanks to Ade being NT staff and had a good nosey around the walled garden and farm (which took all day, looking in the hall will have to wait till next time!).

The walled garden was very impressive, with neat gravel paths and tidy hedges...
View of the walled garden 2

View of the walled garden 1

There were some big vegetable plots...
Walled garden veg plot

and a display of squash and chilli plants in the greenhouse (check out the purple upwards-pointing chillies!)...
Squashes and chillis 2

The home farm was the most exciting bit though. It's one of the Rare Breed Survival Trust's approved conservation centres and there were lots of interesting animals to see.

This White Park calf was very sweet and had amazing eyelashes!
White Park calf

There was an Exmoor pony...
Exmoor Pony

Some Leicester Longwool sheep...
Leicester Longwool face 2

and lots of cheeky Bagot goats lounging around and getting up to mischief...
Goat in a hay rack

Brown Bagot goat indoors

Black goats

There were also Dartmoor and Shetland ponies, Shire horses, Longhorn, Gloucester, Irish Moiled and Shetland cattle, Norfolk Horn, Hebridean Whitefaced Woodland, Manx Loghtan and Portland sheep and a wide variety of chickens and ducks. It was a rare breeds bonanza! There were pigs too, but we didn't get to see them because they were being kept away from the public for their own safety (swine flu precautions I suppose).

As well as visits to Gib and Wimpole, we went to Lincoln, Cambridge and Leamington Spa and played a round of disc golf (which my shoulder is still aching from, I'm such a lightweight!). And I caught up on some knitting, more of which next time... :)

Monday, 31 August 2009

Roadtrip part I...

I suppose it's a bit over the top to call it a roadtrip but we've just got back from a week away visiting friends and family in a variety of locations. We trekked across to Lincolnshire, then down to Cambridgeshire and back home via the West Midlands. It was a few hundred miles but worth it to catch up with lovely people, visit some nice places (old and new), eat lots of tasty food and enjoy the tropical southern sunshine while it was cold, wet and windy back home in Cumbria.

On the way from Lincolnshire to Cambridgeshire we dropped in on one of my favourite places, Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve...
Gib beach and sky
I love that big sky and huge sandy beach!

Gib is a really special place that I've loved since the first time I went there on a field trip during my A-Levels. Its a fantastic haven for wildlife, with all kinds of habitats from salt marshes and sand dunes to freshwater marsh and woodland. Gib is home to all kinds of wildlife (including rare Natterjack Toads) and is an important stopping off point for migrating birds.

There is also a lot of this stuff...
Sea Buckthorn

Hippophae rhamnoides
(or Sea Buckthorn to its friends!). This thorny shrub is native to the Lincolnshire coast and provides a crop of berries rich in vitamin C for birds and adventurous humans to scoff (don't pick the berries on a nature reserve though!).

I did my university dissertation on Sea Buckthorn and found out all kinds of interesting stuff about it. All the 'scientific' facts about the plant's ecological importance went into the essay but I enjoyed all the random facts and legends so much that I made a little leaflet to accompany my dissertation called 'not just a prickly bush'.

I know, I'm a bit sad but when you read that Hippophae rhamnoides means 'shiny horse' and that it was apparently the snack of choice for Pegasus, you can't ignore it can you?! Even my Dad felt inspired to get involved with my Sea Buckthorn project and collected all sorts of weird and wonderful Sea Buckthorn products from his travels in Germany. I've had alcoholic beverages, biscuits, face creams, soap and sweets made with Sea Buckthorn berries and I still get a regular supply of the Ricola Sea Buckthorn sweets today. Thanks Dad! :)

Sea Buckthorn profusion

I spent a bit of time volunteering at Gib while I was at uni and then went to live there as a residential volunteer after I graduated. After only a few weeks I was lucky enough to land a paid job at Gib, working in the environmental education team. And I met Ade, who was the Shorebird Warden at the time, keeping an eye on the colony of Little Terns that nest at Gib, (he was living in a shed on the beach and getting sunburnt eyelids from falling asleep in the dunes!). I had a great time while I was there. I miss Gib!

So it was good to go back, even just for a few hours. It looked like it was going to rain but it didn't, it was windy though!
Hat troubles 1

We were soon on our way again, heading to my Dad's via the Batemans Brewery (it seemed rude not to call in since we were passing!). More tales of roadtrip adventures tomorrow... :)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sheep eyelids, holding owls and 'name that cow' at Cartmel Show

I was at Cartmel Show yesterday, working on a stand for the day job. I managed to escape from the stand a few times to take some photos and eat a chocolate and banana crepe.

There was a good turn out of sheep and it was funny overhearing people who never usually get a good look at sheep discussing the different breeds...

'Ooh, that one's got a strange looking lumpy face'
A Bluefaced Leicester, hopefully oblivious to the insults.

'Look, these sheep are wearing masks!'
Kerry Hills
Kerry Hills, which are always going to remind me of comic-book bad guys from now on.

There were plenty of Herdwicks on show and I realised for the first time today what incredibly thick eyelids they seem to have. I can't fault them for it, since they live on the Cumbrian fells and it gets pretty bleak up there (I'd want all the natural adaptations I could get if I lived where they do!).

It does explain why they always look a bit sleepy and have a dreamy kind of expression, like this little lamb...
Herdwick lamb

Gratuitous eyelid closeup...
Epic Herdie eyelid

That must be the thickest, furriest eyelid you've seen! Its a wonder they can even open their eyes at all!

Anyway, enough about eyelids. I held an owl!
Small owl on my hand

I can't remember what kind it was. The owl looked a bit bored but I like to think that it was pleased to be out on a sunny day, standing on people's hands.

We had a good view from our stand of a lovely banner advertising the local newspaper's 'name that cow' competition...
Name that cow

The man on the stand wasn't sure if the animal on the poster was actually a cow and I couldn't see any udders on it but as long its friends don't see the poster and ridicule it for posing as a girl, it probably doesn't matter :)

Monday, 3 August 2009

Ceramic buttons!

Two blog posts in one day?! I've been a very lazy blogger recently and although lots of things have been going on, I haven't got round to updating. Aim for August: more blogging! :)

I was very excited to finally get my hands on the ceramic buttons I made at a class a few weeks ago. I went to pick them up from the Brewery Arts Centre where the class was held and then they distracted me all the way home in the car! It was probably quite dangerous but I did manage to get back in one piece (me and the buttons!).

My favourites are the ones with a fibre-related theme (no surprises there!). I knitted some little pieces of fabric and also used some locks of fleece to create textures on the buttons. The full set of my button photos is on Flickr.

Here's a selection of the paler buttons...
handmade ceramic buttonsThese dark teal coloured buttons are the result of a happy oxide-related accident (I didn't really know what I was doing!)...
handmade ceramic buttonsI'm not sure if I'd ever be able to re-create the dark teal buttons if I tried, which is a shame because they're my favourites. I'll be able to give it a go though because the course tutor (James Hake, who makes fantastic ceramic art) let me have the leftover porcelain after the class! I must get it out and have a play :)

Shetland fleeces in the sun...

I finally got round to checking out my Shetland fleeces the other day. I've got three lovely naturally coloured ones from the same man that I got two Wensleydale fleeces from.

Here are the Shetlands, fresh out of the sack...
Rolled up Shetland fleeces
...and then rolled out in the sunshine, as though the owners have gone off for a swim...
Rolled out Shetland fleeces

I found these unexpected tiny little locks in the grey fleece...
Close up grey Shetland curls
They're small but perfectly formed and I'm hoping I can keep a few separate from the rest of the fleece to do something special with.

I thought there would be lots of nasty daggy bits to pull off the fleeces but they're not too bad, just greasy. When I'm feeling energetic I'll be having a monster fleece-washing session! :)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Flapjack recipe and changes afoot...

I made a batch of date and molasses flapjack last night and thought I'd share my recipe. I know flapjack isn't one of the most complicated things to make but it took me a long time to get a result that wasn't rock hard or completely crumbly! The combination of Mum's recipe, good tins (Mermaid ones in our case, expensive but brilliant and made to last forever) and non-stick baking paper means great flapjack every time!

This is the flapjack (or 'flappy' as its known in our house) fresh out of the oven...
Date and molasses flapjack

Date and molasses flapjack recipe

- 4oz butter
- 3oz muscovado sugar
- 1oz chopped dates
- 1 tsp molasses
- 1 large tsp golden syrup
- 8.5oz porridge oats

I tend to use organic ingredients, except for the golden syrup as I can't find an organic one that's as nice as Tate & Lyle!

Melt the butter, sugar, molasses and golden syrup in a pan over a medium heat. Chop up the dates into the mixture. Scissors is the easiest way to do it, chop them as fine or as chunky as you like.

Once the mixture has melted, turn off the heat, chuck in the oats and carefully stir them in. It'll look like too many oats but keep going and make sure the melted mixture is completely mixed in.

Line a baking tin with greaseproof/non-stick baking paper (or use that special reusable stuff if you've got it, I keep meaning to buy some!). My tin is about 6" x 10" and 1" deep but anything vaguely that size should work.

Tip the mixture into the lined tin and smooth it flat with the back of a metal spoon or something. Then put it in a medium oven for about 15-20mins. I put my electric fan-assisted oven to around 160 degrees C. Once you can smell the flapjack and see the surface bubbling slightly it's usually done.

Take it out of the oven and mark out the slices on the surface of the flapjack (I usually divide it into 10). Let it cool in the tin and then remove it and cut it up properly once it's gone a bit more solid. When it's totally cool, put it in an airtight container and it's usually good for a week but tends to be eaten before then!

Mmm... lovely date-y bits!
Close up date and molasses flapjack

If you don't like the idea of date and molasses, leave them out, but put in an extra half oz of sugar and a bit of extra golden syrup instead of the molasses for a plain flapjack.

Other winning flappy combos... cherry and coconut, dried apricot and almond, chocolate pieces with chopped brazil or hazelnuts, three seed (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame), dried apple and cinnamon.

In non-flapjack news, I'm making progress with getting my head around the idea of selling some fibre-related things on Etsy (and maybe other places). I'm thinking batts, yarn, handmade buttons (more news on that once I get some photos!), finished knitted/woven/felted objects etc etc.

I've started to realise that 'skeffto' might not be the best name for a crafty venture. Although it means something to me and a few people who know me, the rest of the world seems to struggle with it. People always look a bit blank when I tell them it and often can't get the hang of spelling it (skefto? skeffko?)!

It doesn't seem like a good plan to have a business name that people can't get their head around! I've decided that I should have the same name for as many things as possible (blog, Etsy, Ravelry, email, Twitter, Craftster etc) so that people can find me easily. This means a bit of work to change my name and a move of blog so I need to get it right!

I've been thinking of 'skeffto' alternatives and have come up with 'flyhoof' and 'giddyhorse', which both relate to the logo that I'm thinking of using - a flying stickhorse. I know, that sounds weird but it doesn't look so bad, honest! I like the idea of flyhoof but don't feel as attached to it as I do giddyhorse. But then giddyhorse sounds a bit 'cute' and childlike to me, which is maybe not so good?

Any input on this would be much appreciated! :)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Local fleeces and... dog fibre?!

The fleece man rang! I'd started to think that the man I met outside my Mum's house during the Ulverston carnival (with two of his sheep on leads) wasn't going to call me but he did and I went round to rummage around in his garage a couple of days ago.

He had all sorts in there, Greyface Dartmoor (which has a HUGE fleece!), Jacob, North Ronaldsay, Herdwick, Shetland and Wensleydale, plus a couple of random mixtures. I had intended just to get the two Wensleydale fleeces but when he shook three lovely Shetland fleeces out of a sack (one brown, one black and one grey), I had to have them too!

It was nice and sunny when I got home so I spread the Wensleydales out on the grass and had a go at skirting them. Here are the mounds of skirted fleece in the sun...
Two Wensleydale fleeces

They're an interesting orangey-pink colour but unfortunately that's down to the fact that the sheep lived in a field where the soil is really rich in iron and the fleece is stained from the iron oxide.

This is the result of my first efforts washing some of the fleece...
Close up washed Wensleydale

I think it needs another dunking and a good old shake to get the bits of dirt out. Lovely curls though!

Before I got stuck into the fleece washing, I read up on cleaning raw fleece in the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning. This book was one of the first I ever bought on spinning and it blew my mind a bit at first because there's just far too much information for a newbie spinner to take in! Its more useful now that I've got a bit more of an idea about what I'm doing though and it had more information on cleaning raw fleece than any of my other books.

I particularly enjoyed 'wuzzing' the fleece to get out as much water as possible. Alden Amos suggests using a pair of old tights to 'wuzz' but I just bagged up some wet fleece in an old net curtain and then whirled it around my head in my Mum's back yard to spin out the water. Its good exercise!

No photos of the Shetland fleeces yet because I thought I should pace myself a bit with all the washing. I'm going to try and get everything cleaned this week though because I keep reading that raw fleece doesn't store well and should be washed asap!

My Mum received a sinister package from her friend this week and it turned out that it's actually for me...
The dog is bald

I'm hoping the dog isn't completely bald, although there can't be much left when I've got all this...
Bag of Spencer fur

I'm not sure what I'll make with it yet, or whether to spin or felt it. Its from a Schnauzer called Spencer and there have already been suggestions of a dog cape, or maybe a little dog tank top for him to wear in the winter. I'm thinking of weaving a little wallhanging of handspun Spencer yarn or knitting a glasses case, or a hat if there's enough (human hat or dog hat?). If I was feeling really adventurous I might have a go at needle-felting a tiny Schnauzer from one of the patterns in the Japanese Fleece Dog book that I'm sure I've seen in a local bookshop.

I'll keep you posted! :)

ETA: I've just discovered there's a Fleece Dog website!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

New yarnz and some batt action...

I've been spinning up my Solstice and Dirty Pretty Thing batts, with quite exciting results!

Solstice - Merino, silk and angelina sparkle. 120g and 110m long
Solstice yarn collage

Solstice is corespun and I worked across the batt from one side to the other, meaning that it starts out with lots of orange and gradually goes to purple. I like it! I'm pleased to get 110m from one batt too.

Dirty Pretty Thing - organic Wensleydale, hand dyed mystery wool and Merino. 174g and 39 metres in total
Dirty Pretty Thing yarn collage

This yarn is also corespun and I added in some extra locks and curls, which I left sticking out all over the yarn. Its really chunky and full of texture. I left it hanging on a door in the house for ages to admire it :)

I've also been carding batts...

Neptune Grass - dyed merino wool in greeny turquoises and greys, hand dyed grey merino, black diamond (carbonized bamboo fibre), dyed silk and angelina sparkle. 134g in total
Neptune Grass batt collage

Modern Guilt - hand dyed merino wool, cashmere and silk blend called 'turquoise boy' from Limegreenjelly at Etsy, dyed merino in grey, two shades of turquoise and hot pink, mystery grey wool, carbonised bamboo fibre (Black Diamond) and angelina sparkle. 158g in total
Modern Guilt batt collage

I've already spun Modern Guilt (still got to set the twist) and I've got some new ideas for things to make with my handspun... pictures to follow (if it works!).

In other fibre-related news, I randomly met a man with some sheep whilst watching the Ulverston carnival outside my Mum's house at the weekend. Mum suddenly said 'there's some sheep coming up the road!' and sure enough, there was a man with a lovely Wensleydale ewe and a North Ronaldsay ram on leads. I intercepted him and had a chat about spinning. He's got a garage full of freshly shorn fleeces from his collection of sheep, including Shetlands and various other breeds! I gave him my number and hopefully he's going to get in touch so I can have a rummage in his garage! Whoo! :)

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Woolfest goodies...

I'm a bit embarrassed by the extent of my stash from Woolfest...
Entire Woolfest stash
It took up most of the living room floor once I'd unloaded the car! Still, most of it was on my shopping list and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into it!

The huge bag at the top is dyed Merino from Wingham Wool Work (where I also got the fetching jute bag for free with a voucher - join their subscribers list for regular offers like that), the batts and dyed soysilk are from Daniela at FeltstudioUK, the DPNs are from Linda at Tall Yarns 'n Tales, there's a Rare Breeds Survival Trust tea towel, some lovely sheep coasters from the British Wool Marketing Board stand, a big lump of naturally coloured brown Wensleydale combed top, a random selection of fibre, angelina sparkle, dyed silk and laceweight yarn on cones for corespinning. Phew!

Most of the bottom section of stash in the photo is dyed and undyed locks and curls from various places. This grey Gotland, white Bluefaced Leicester and brown-black Bluefaced Leicester was from the Highside Farm stand...
Gotland and Blue Faced Leicester curls
The coloured BFL locks remind me of Kellogs All-Bran cereal!
Funny BFL curls

These lovely hand dyed Teeswater and Gotland locks were from the Eden Valley Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers stand...
Bags of hand dyed locks

Three bags full of coloured Wensleydale from the Manor House Studio stand...
Wensleydale curls

This is some fibre from Dusty the Angora rabbit...
Dusty bunny fibre
I've never spun Angora before. Its so soft you can hardly feel it!

Here's a close up of the sheepy coasters, just because I really like them...
Sheep coasters
My favourite is the Lincoln Longwool posing in front of the Humber Bridge :)

I'm very excited about some new yarns I've been working on recently, I'll share pictures soon!