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A Small Infestation on the Back Patio

A Small Infestation on the Back Patio

I have been very busy with the Guild Library Survey this week. (19 fantastic questions covering 5 topics!) I hope that I will have the first draft of the data done in the next few days so I can get back to felting. (Not that I am not having excessive fun with data analysis!!) Who knew this could be such a blast!! (Bernadette, you should have told me how fun this is! you have one of the best jobs ever!!).  So while I am wrapped up in thoughts of trends and preferences and comparing sub-groups, I wanted to tell you about the Blue tarp you saw last week in the background of this shot. So now it is later and I should get to explaining about it!

1 from last week

In 2020, most people don’t get to see a blacksmith or smell that distinctive aroma of a forge starting up. It is a smell that clings to clothing, hair and especially damp wool. Like the sudden mysterious appearance of Fairy rings of mushrooms in your lawn, you too may wake up one morning go out to check your…. Well, attempting to dry fleece and find you have an infestation of a blacksmith on your patio! But take heart!! It’s not all bad. They are often photogenic, their pounding tends to remove chipmunks from the area at least for a short time and they can be persuaded to make useful things for spinners, basket makers or for my felting friends; self-nailing hooks!!

Quick note: it is important to keep your fleece-drying upwind from the forge if possible.

A few fleece piles of washing back Glenn removed one of the two blue tarps. Underneath was the smaller forge that one of the chipmunks had thought was a good overwinter nest last spring. I had been requesting a few more hooks for the fleece straining buckets and he had another project he wanted to work on too.

  2-4 The Infestation (not necessarily a bad thing)

So he dug around in the garage, pulling out tools and the ¼ inch stock for the hooks. He also pulled out a railroad tie for his other project. He actually has 2 forges on the back patio. This one is the Sears light-duty farm forge. (check out the Sears Robuck catalogues for the end of the 1800s/ beginning of the 1900s.)  if only we had bought it then, it would have been $18.00 and came with an anvil and a foot vice. let’s just refer to it as the over-enthusiastic barbeque but it would be better not to cook steaks on it since it can melt metal and that is coal, not charcoal he is using.  His other forge is bigger and maybe a homemade arrangement with wheels. It is under the black covers on the other side of the blue bins full of coal (when we could have put them to better used holding fleeces!)

Now I may have already confused you, why would we want to have this odd self-nailing hooks?  And what would a hook self-nail? This is something you may have seen at a homestead museum or an old barn.

5 hooks and guillotine

These are self-nailing hooks, beside them is a Guillotine tool. you can change the parts inside it to make different effects on the stock. The hooks are freshly out of the forge and have yet to be lacquered so they won’t rust.

The trellis along the side yard is made of 4×4 lumber which is perfect for putting hooks into.

6 These are over 2 years old and I need to use a wire brush and a bit of spray lacquer. After a couple of winters, they have picked up a bit of rust. I use them to hang and drain the strainer baskets between the washing and rinsing soaks of the fleeces.

7 blacksmiths are also handy for lifting strainer baskets out of the soaking buckets.

  8 At his point I have a backlog of fleeces sorted and waiting to be washed.

  9-10 My present 2 hooks and the sorting table.

 11 I hang the baskets on an angle so the water drains from one corner removes more of the water than when it hangs straight.

12 He has also made me a couple of hooks designed to hang over 2×4’s both horizontal and vertical orientation. I have been using this for the 3rd strainer basket but it drips right in the carrots and I don’t like to think of the soap and other material the carrots are getting from the drippings.

I was checking the unwashed side of the covered side yard and found another fleece! It is a small Romney lamb  (1lb 1oz.) that said it was washed but didn’t look like it. So into a couple of bins for washing it goes.

 13 Oops, found one more this was hiding!

Now back to that little blacksmith infestation on the patio…

 14 Once the fire is made and the coal had burnt off the green smoke (don’t breathe that part!) it’s time to start heating up the bar stock to make hooks.

   15-17 Blacksmith at work, don’t startle him.

He is putting a twist in the hook. This is similar to spinners putting twist in yarn. For spinners a successful twist is produced with even drafting, allowing the same amount of twist into the same amount of drafted fibre each time. Since twist is lazy it will leap to any thin sections and build up more twist there. For blacksmiths, if the heat is not even across the section you want to twist it will not spread the twist evenly, going instead to the hotter spots producing an uneven twist. Think of the bar stock as just very stiff spinning roving or maybe since the fibres are so well aligned we should consider it top rather than roving.

Here is a little taste of blacksmithing but without that distinctive aroma.

18 (the loud sounds that are not blacksmithing is the medivac orange helicopter heading north up the Ottawa Valley) please note his forge squeaks worse than any of my wheels, even the Hatbox on her grumpiest day before she got her new tension band.

 19 This is his bigger anvil hidden partly amongst this year’s very good growth of catnip. The tool in the hardy is for cutting metal.

 20 These are the hooks he made while I was wrangling dirty fleeces.

If you awake one morning with an odd smell coming from your yard and find your back patio has had a sudden infestation of blacksmith do not fret. Find some bar stock and whatever you think will appease the blacksmith (chocolate, coke zero and raspberries works for mine). Luckily some will work for treats, so they are sort of like brownies which you appease with milk (but not as clean).  If you are very lucky and don’t scare them away, you too may get self-nailing hooks, drop spindles, manual double-ended ball winders, and other fibres related delights!

 

 

A cheap alternative to wool combs

A cheap alternative to wool combs

A cheap alternative to wool combs

Have you looked with horror at the price of wool combs?  Have you longed for a fine worsted preparation to inspire your felting creativity? If a fine pair of English 5 pitch are not in your budget or the husband-frightening tines of a Viking comb are out of reach and you’re longing for a small pair of Louet combs but they are priced just a bit too high for easy acquisition, may I make an odd suggestion?

1 1 Mini-Wool Combs for sale at local fiberfest summer 2019

Have you seen an implement called a Bee Uncapping Comb? I had a spectacular AH HA! moment in one of the aisles in Princess Auto (a local automotive and stuff store carrying a lot of stuff from China). The AH HA! was so loud and spectacular I am sure the entire aisle I was in lit up and glowed! I was standing in front of white Beekeeping outfits, gloves and these spectacular red plastic handled metal combs!! OOOOOOH!! Coool!!! The angle of the handle inclines inferiorly so using them as a pair like normal combs is not quite as comfortable as I would like. But they work very well used individually like a flick carder (another piece of handy equipment that is a bit pricey for its size.  I got mine second hand and put it away in a very safe place…..somewhere in the living room I think… possibly towards the window? No I cant find it.  It is obviously too safe a place.)

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3-1.jpg(Note the difference in price from picture #1 and picture #3)45

3-5  Bee keeping supplys at Princess Auto

Being that the handle is plastic I may be able to persuade it to be in a more horizontal aspect. I deviate and will explain. During my secondary education (at Sheriden College and U of Toronto – that surprised you!) I was involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It’s a historical reenactment group that does among a lot of other arts-related endeavours, medieval combat. Many of my friends aspired to metal armour but being on a student budget many had various forms of PVC plastic. One friend carefully cooked his plastic armour pieces in his mothers’ oven to soften them. Then using oven mits and towels self-moulded them to the right shapes to make Visby plate armor. It was a bit smelly but the plastic bent. I am suspecting if I find a particularly sunny day I may be able to leave the combs on the car’s dash and gently persuade them to be straighter. I suspect that will have to wait til next summer since the sun is abandoning us now (was it something we said?).

Those few of you who have not had such strong longings for a set of combs may wonder why you, as a felter, may want such a tool? Its all about Fibre prep.

Fibre prep;

This can be an important component of felting. Although you can now reasonably easily buy prepared fibre in Roving, top or batts of various sizes, sometimes you want to use a less processed fibre source.

  • This could be because of cost (free fleece given to you is a lot cheaper than buying prepared fibre but it will cost you in time.)

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7-8  the Icelandic fleece that was actually a very long Shetland from the Wool growers Co-Op

  • This could be because you want to make just the right colour or fibre blend or combination. (remember nature is never a flat colour)

And you know that different fibre prep tools will give you different preparations or effects.

Carding = Woolen. Carders will give you a loftier yarn if you spin and a less aligned roving to work from if you felt. This may be helpful when you want to work on a sculptural project but may not be quite as smooth to lay out for a wet felted vessel. But the disorganization of the fibres does promote felting.

9    9 One of a number of similar Dog brushes that work similar to a Carder

Combing = Worsted.  Whereas combing gives you a more aligned fibre preperation. The yarn made from Combed top would be yarn for men’s suiting material, smooth and with less pilling. Combed top is easy to pull out fine whisps for layout of wet felting or for picture felting but when laid in thicker layers may be harder to persuade to felt together with other thick layers. (this could be an affect you want but usually isn’t)

10

Fleece,  teased locks,  combed fiber

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10-12 fiber prep with Commercial  Combs

 

The Tools

Carders come in a couple grades of carding cloth. The fine cloth is for cotton and other very short stapled fibre. These tend to be longer in size than the carders for wool which have a medium or coarse cloth for use with fine and medium wool. Carders are used as a set of two. They transfer the fibre from one card to the next bringing the fibres into a sort of alignment. Carders can create small batts, rolags or a semiworsted preparation. They are good for colour blending a reasonable amount of a colour. It you need more of a colour a drum carder may be more effective. If you want a smaller amount then the small pet combs/brushes that look like carders may be for you.

You can find Carders at auctions (often very beat up and only one is for sale) or you can by them second hand from spinners (usually the complete pair and in better shape) or you can by them from a modern manufacturer. Unfortunately this can be pricey.  There are also the pet combs/brushes which used to be available at Dollerama but have not been available for months. I have spotted them at Walmart but for more money.

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13-17 Colour blending with Carders

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18-19 Semi-Worsted

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20-26 A punnie from a cotton carder using chopsticks

Combs are used with longer wools and other longstaple fibres. There are many types of combs, having one or more rows of teeth (Pitch); some are very long and sharp like my single pitch Viking combs. Some have two rows like my Alvan Ramer Combs which are bigger than the Vikings and heavier. English combs are large weapon-looking implements of fibre subjugation. They can have more rows or pitches of teeth.

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27-29  Colour blending locks with combs

30.jpg  30 trying the Bee Comb – not as ergonomic when used with 2 combs. Wrist is straight when used individually.

When you have aligned the fibres, you can then draft from the combs or use a diz to make top. This will be easy to pull wisps from to lay out your wet or dry felting.

Flax has a similar multi-rowed teethed implement called a Hackle. (Fibre people have the coolest vocabulary) it is even more viscous looking but we will not get into that today.

I have been using them with the very long Shetland fleece I was gifted this summer at a demo then subjected you to the trials of skirting and washing it. I am getting fluffy clouds of combed fiber carefully stored in zip lock bags. Most will go to spinning a warp for my Medieval Icelandic blanket project but I am going to save as bit with witch to felt. I have been using the comb-waste for core wool for a little sheep.

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31-32 Long Shetland fleece being combed

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33-35 Using the comb wast as core wool for sculpture of sheep (grate not to have wast)

I have also been combing some died locks I purchased this summer to create the beginnings of a Van Gogh-ish night sky. At least I think it is a night sky. It may become something else by the time I finish it!

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36-40 Opening locks with Bee Comb made a very animated sky

If I have piqued your curiosity, you may be able to find a couple Bee Uncapping Combs at Princess Auto or on line at a real Beekeepers supply store.   I hope this will give you another possible tool to expand your fiber prep and thus your felting fun!

This and That

This and That

My plan was to show you the needle felted sheep class I taught a few weeks ago but it seems I took a lot of pictures of my hand and only ended up with two group pictures at the end. So here they are:

That doesn’t seem like much so I though I would show you what my house looked like on Sunday morning. It was so pretty and I may do a felt picture of using one of the pictures for inspiration. It was only -2c and all the snow is gone now.

I have a couple of new felting tools. The first I am told is for sitting on to help with some hip problem but I found 2 of them (cheap) at the second hand store. Value Village for those who live in the USA or Canada. I will attach a strap of some sort and give it a try.

Jan Found this great foot massager for me. It should be interesting to try out.

Lastly If you signed up for the Holiday card exchange the partner names are now up on the forum holiday-exchange-2018

As you Read this I will be at my Guild Exhibitions and Sale. It’s in Ottawa Ontario Canada if you are in the area drop by and say hello. facebook.com/events/

Also, I would like to encourage anyone who would like to learn how to make felt bags to sign up for Teri Berry’s online class. Registration is now open and class begins November 22. For more information and to register, please click on the link to the Felted Bags online class.

Who could resist learning to make a cute bag like this?

 

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