Love Your Blog: Gratitude


I have a funny relationship with the word "gratitude". I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because I don't tend to use it? I'd more likely say; I'm "thankful" or "appreciative" or "touched" or "thrilled". Maybe it's because it feels a bit formal and I'm particularly informal? Maybe it's just because I've been spending too much of my time recently moaning, groaning and grumbling than feeling grateful. My old self would always be looking around for the good stuff but lately I'm having to remind myself to stop, see and appreciate what's right in front of my nose. I'm afraid I've been far more grumbly and grouchy this past year than grateful.

Our move from the UK back to New Zealand has been hard work. Not just physically but emotionally too. I knew it would be hard because we've moved countries before, but this time it's felt so final and I'm not sure I was entirely ready for that. I have been trying hard to look for the positives and get stuck in to my new life but I've really missed my friends and my Cambridge life and it's been a very slow process readjusting and letting go. Unfortunately, over this past year, many days and even weeks have gone by when I've not felt anything resembling gratitude, appreciation or thankfulness.

Although I'm improving, every now and then I'll still look wistfully over my shoulder at my old life and compare it to my new one. I'm trying not to say it aloud because that is super annoying to everyone else but to be honest, it's getting a little tedious even for me now and I'm ready to shake off the funk. I've been trying to cultivate more good feelings and I've actually been looking around me and listing things that I'm feeling thankful for because I'm determined to get over this natural grieving as quickly as I can. It definitely helps that there are loads of things to be happy about, and when I stop to notice them I feel good.

  • Living in the countryside is gorgeous. It's spacious and green and the air is fresh;
  • My family is close by;
  • Chickens are fun;
  • New Zealand Summer's are amazing;
  • The growing yarn scene here is exciting;
  • There are lots of fantastic people doing interesting, creative and off-beat things in New Zealand. You just have to hunt them out - luckily I've already found some of them;
  • Someone breeds alpacas on my street and soon I'm going to pluck up the courage to knock on their door;
  • I can grow veggies all year round;
  • There's a stand of beautiful autumnal golden and orange trees about to lose their leaves at the end of my street and I love seeing the change of seasons in them;
  • My kids are barefoot and happy.

It's a good list. I'm sure I'll find a few more things tomorrow.

I'm also fond of showing that I'm thankful by giving or doing something for someone, especially when they're not expecting it.

This past few days I've been receiving lots of tips and suggestions for washing fibre from Instagram and Facebook. I love that about the internet, there is so much collective experience and it's available right at your fingertips. I'm really appreciating the advice and so far I've tried three different ways to wash various pieces of the suffolk fleece from my friend's sheep. I'm amazed at how white and fluffy it's becoming! This same friend gave me an old spinning wheel a while ago too and I've been plotting a way to say thank you to her for her lovely gifts.

My plan is to prepare and spin the fibre on her wheel (assuming I can get it working!) and then knit her a hat with the wool. It might be a while before I get everything done (I still need to figure out carding ...) but I'm really looking forward to giving it to her and saying thank you.

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This post is the last in the Love Your Blog Challenge launched by Kate from A Playful Day. If you fancy seeing what other people have written for this week's theme "gratitude" you can see them here. xxx

Spinning Inspiration

Spinning Inspiration

Sometimes I don't realise how much I love something until it's gone. Sound familiar?

I thought I was well and truly into the spinning groove after spinning 200g of fibre and mastering navajo plying but it seems not. I've hardly touched my wheel lately, even though it's sitting ready to go in my living room, right next to my corner of the sofa. I can't really explain what's happened - I guess I've been busy with other things?

The clues that I was craving spinning started appearing when I began following some fabulous spinners on Instagram and drooling over their photos. Then, I bought fibre to dye. Next I planned to knit up some of my handspun and most recently, I bought a Craftsy class on drafting. 

I guessed something was up and resolved to find some time to spin. But I haven't managed it yet. Then, today I stumbled across a podcast all about spinning. How great is that? Rachel from Welford Purls started a monthly podcast in January, all about spinning. (How did I miss this? Rachel is one of the fabulous spinners I follow on Instagram). Anyway, I've watched one a half episodes so far and I'm loving it - Rachel has definitely convinced me I NEED to spin. If you need some spinning inspiration do go check her out.

So, I've been thinking of ways to get myself behind my wheel - spin at the same time every day? Spin for just 10 minutes every day? Spin some fabulous fibre? Start a quest to spin every fibre? I'm still coming up with ideas - and I'm open to suggestions. What works for you?

In the meantime, I thought I'd leave you with few fantastic links so you too can find some spinning inspiration - enjoy!

Do you have any fantastic spinning inspiration links we should know about?

Navajo Plying Lessons

Getting To Grips With Navajo Plying

I absolutely love learning something new. I've tried so many new things over the last few years that I'm past the point of caring whether I'm totally rubbish at first. I'm quite used to putting in a bit of effort to get better, although sometimes I do wonder if I tried fewer things maybe I'd be better at more?! 

My tendency tends to be to go overboard in the beginning; get a bit obsessed and invest a fair bit of time in the early days. I certainly did that when I first got my spinning wheel last year. I think I spun for nearly a full day the first weekend. Maybe almost two! Fortunately I didn't get achy and sore which is apparently a common complaint. Although I'm an avid reader and also remember lots from listening, I tend to learn the very best "on the job". There's nothing like getting down and dirty with something to fully understand how it works and what can go wrong.  

Getting To Grips With Navajo Plying

And so it was with my first shot at Navajo plying. I told you I watched a couple of youtube videos to get me started. Just a couple mind, I was quite keen to get started. Impatient you might say ... 

I'm not sure that my skeins are perfectly plied. They're not. Not even perfectly spun for that matter. But I'm thrilled with them. They are more or less the same weight, give or take a few lumpy bits, they hang straight so are probably fairly well balanced but mostly, since I absolutely loved the fibre I started with, I'm really pleased that I've managed to get the yarn to turn out just as beautifully muted.

Getting To Grips With Navajo Plying

I learnt a few bits and bobs along the way.

1) I didn't stick around a video long enough to figure out what to do if the single breaks mid-ply. Mine broke quite a few times where it was a bit thin and I worked out that I could make a loop with the single and "seal" it in with the twist before carrying on as normal pulling my yarn up and through the loop. It's a bit fiddly but pretty fast and meant I didn't have to fluff about with tying a knot and making a loop that way. I bet it's what everyone learns to do when they watch the videos like you should?! What do you do?

2) As I was plying it felt like I might be adding too much twist to the yarn. Navajo plying is fast and rhythmic so there's no inclination to stop. I tended to keep keep going and pray for no interruptions. As it turns out, it's probably ok to feel like the yarn is quite twisted. After a long soak and a really vigorous "thwacking" (isn't that world great?) where I swung the loop of yarn and really whacked it down onto a towel on the table a whole bunch of times, the twist settled beautifully and it seems just fine.

3) The third thing I really learnt was about how the way you spin your singles affects the look of the final skein. I knew it in theory but it was interesting to see in practice. They are all very similar but see how the top two skeins in the photo above are slightly different in colour to the bottom two? They're creamier and include pops of teal. The other two have more green and olive shades on an apricot base. It might be clearer in the middle photo - the two on the right vs the two on the left.

Well, I started with two very similar braids in the same colourway. I spun the first braid as it came. Started at one end and worked my way to the other. I did mean to spin the second braid the same but after I'd started it I realised I'd split it down the middle. I've no idea why. I guess that's what happens when you take a ridiculously long time spinning the same fibre with big breaks in between spinning. You forget how you started. I'm not sure which skeins are from which braid but I'm guessing that the creamier ones with the vivid teal are from the first and that the long fat sections of cream and the longer stretches of teal affected the overall look.

Now I've got to decide what to knit with it. I haven't measured it but I've got 200g of more-or-less fingering weight so there might be approximately 750 - 800 metres ... Ideas?!

Keep It Simple

Demystifying Navajo Plying

It's been a hive of activity behind the scenes at Truly Myrtle lately. 

As we approach the end of the year, start to feel the change of seasons and get ready for the long summer holidays I've naturally been drawn to thinking about how I'd like next year to unfold. I feel the end of the year and the promise of a new year, a blank slate, much more strongly in the southern hemisphere than I did living on the other side of the world. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the school year ends in December? Maybe it's because warmer weather and the promise of the great holiday slow-down prompts us to throw open the doors and windows and welcome in new ideas?

Christmas is a special day for a lot of people in New Zealand but we don't tend to celebrate it in the same way as our Northern hemisphere friends. In comparison, it's a low-key affair. It's too light to see twinkly lights properly, too hot to plan a long, hot, convoluted meal. Plus, it's holiday time - summer holiday time -  and holidays and the coming new year seem to be the first things on everyone's minds. Well, my mind anyway!

So, I've been busy plotting and scheming, thinking and mulling over what 2015 holds for Truly Myrtle. My overwhelming thought is "keep it simple" and it's the phrase I've been bringing myself back to when I start getting all excitable about the things I could do once my "baby" heads off to school in March. 

This coming year will be the first year in almost 13 years that I'll have no children at home with me during the school day. Of course that's bittersweet, I'm ready for a change but it's the end of an amazing era. I invested a lot of time and energy into the last 13 years and I keep telling myself that when it's over it'll be ok to take things slowly. In fact, it's probably the best thing I could do. Breathe out, relax and enjoy the change of pace. 

"Keeping it simple" is starting to mean lots of things. I'm determined to simplify my surroundings and I'm starting by having a clear out. Old recipe books, drink bottles and gadgets that we never use were the first to go. The kids clothes have been sorted and I've finally finished washing all the winter woollens so they can be packed away. I've pared back the list of blogs I read so it feels more manageable and I've been fiddling about with my blog page a bit so it's less "busy" (that's a work in progress - I'm hoping for a total revamp next year). My yarn and fabric stashes are on the list for simplifying next ... 

"Simple" also means simplifying my ideas for Truly Myrtle. It's so tempting to chase every single idea that pops into my head but I have TONS of ideas so that's a crazy prospect. Lately I've found myself dreaming about dyeing and selling yarn, teaching classes, making small runs of things to sell, designing a million and one patterns, starting a fibre festival, owing a yarn shop, having a regular magazine column and writing a book! Sometimes I believe that everything might be possible but I doubt it is all at the same time. Well, my first challenge has been to figure out what is really important to me, do that and do it really well. 

So far, I'm thinking I'd like to focus first on designing knitting patterns, writing a blog that you love to read and starting a podcast to show you a bit more of what I'm up to. I'm trying hard to keep it simple. I'd also like to sew more regularly and I think I'm going to have to schedule it in to make sure it happens. Tash from Sewaholic sews for fun every Friday and I rather like that idea.

It's been revealing mulling everything over and cathartic starting to make changes. It feels good. A good way to start a new year.

And, I've been learning new things too. I've demystified Navajo plying and it was hugely exciting. I've been wanting to try it for ages but have been quite paralysed with the prospect of complicated hand movements and crazy twisted yarn. Instead, I plodded away with spinning my two braids of beautiful fibre from Hedgehog Fibres into singles. When it finally was finished I had no choice. I'd only one bobbin left and it was time to try this different way of plying.

I found a bunch of tutorials demonstrating Navajo plying on youtube and started. Guess what? It's not that tricky at all. It's actually really good fun and quite addictive. I started by plying the odds and ends I had lying around and that's why my picture above shows brown yarn on the niddy noddy and green on the bobbin. I just kept going until all the odd singles were gone. I've started my fancy singles now and I'll show you when they're all finished and in pretty skeins. If you want a sneaky peek in the meantime, I've posted an in-progress picture on Instagram.

I'm resolved to try hard to stick to the mantra "keep it simple". In fact, Navajo plying has been a good reminder that "Simple" is right under my nose. It's just quietly and patiently waiting for me to be ready.

Spinning Treasure

Spinning Treasure

I can't quite believe it - I've been given a new spinning wheel! It's been sitting in a garage for a while and needs a bit of love and attention to get it humming but isn't it sweet? It's quite a bit smaller than my Ashford Traditional in the back of the photo.

Spinning Treasure

A little bit of research has revealed that it was made by E. R. Cole of Glendowie, Auckland. (That's not too far from where I live now.) Mr Cole made a couple of different styles of wheel in the 1970's and this one is a double drive upright wheel. I just love the shaped, ply wheel. It's gorgeous. I'm hankering for a whole kitchen in this sort of ply. 

Apparently the long prong sticking out of the centre front of the axle is designed to hold a hand wound skeiner. Wouldn't that be cool? Skein fresh yarn straight off the bobbin? I might see if I can track one down ...

Spinning Treasure
Spinning Treasure

There are prongs on either side of the wheel for holding spare bobbins and the bobbins are all wooden with a metal rod. Some of them are in good nick, others need gluing and a good clean.

I need to get to grips with how to use it. I finally figured out that you take the bobbin on and off by unwinding the front of the flyer. Easy if you know how. Totally tricky if you don't. 

As far as I can tell, fibre is fed through the pigtail curl at the front of the flyer and then onto the bobbin via one of the wee hooks on either side. My Traditional has the same arrangement of hooks so I'm familiar with them but they're all a bit gunky so I'm going to replace them and clean up the pigtail at the front.

I haven't used a double drive wheel before. Double drive means it has two, rather than one, drive bands. Any tips? I need to replace the bands - one for around the wheel and the fly and a second for around the end of the bobbin and the wheel. There are only one gear on each - that means there is only one groove the bands can lie in. My Traditional has two grooves, one big, one little. They can be used to adjust the speed the bobbin spins around, making your yarn spin more or less tightly. 

The little "handle" which lies down the centre of the wheel groove in the above photo is a bit of a mystery to me. When the wheel is fixed, it will hang higher above the wheel and I'm guessing it might be used as a brake on the band that spins around the end of the bobbin? What do you think?

Am I right in thinking that a double band wheel is good for spinning lovely fine yarn? I'm guessing I might also be able to use it with just one band - scotch method ... So much to learn!

Spinning Treasure

And finally, a shot of the back. I can just imagine Mr E. R. Cole screwing in those screws. Can't you?