The start of this story seems oh so long ago. Wonderwool, 2 years ago, I was having a conversation with Amanda Hannaford, and the Chairman of my spinning guild; Dawn.
They'd both just received their entries back to that years longest thread competition. It was a competition that I was aware of, but never really thought I'd enter. After all, I have more than enough things to be getting on with, why would I want to spin 10g of fibre as fine as I could just to see how thin I could go...
The months rolled on, and the idea niggled at me. At heart I am a competitive soul, and do enjoy a challenge. Before I know it it's September, and I've arranged to buy a Bowmont fleece from a local flock. When I picked it up I examined the fine fibre and thought "this would be a great fibre to use for a longest thread entry". At that point, all was lost, I was committed, and before I knew it I was ringing up Dawn and promising her a chunk of fleece in exchange for all her knowledge!
I went round to Dawn's house, dragging my Matchless through the door, and was made to concentrate harder on my spinning than I had in a long time. When you're spinning this thinly you can't not concentrate, and you have to be super aware of what's going on between your fingers, and how the wheel is effecting the yarn.
I then spent my Christmas holidays spinning. I washed my precious chunk of fleece, weighed it carefully, combed it, padded my bobbins, and spun, and spun some more! Then came the plying, had I added enough twist, or was it all going to drift apart in front of my eyes. I wound it off on to a core, and then promptly forgot all about it! Luckily a post popped up in the Longest Thread Ravelry group reminding everyone about the deadline for entries.
Then the wait for the results, and even more amazingly that my entry had come 5th. In fact, this year, us Brits had done rather well, 3 of us in the top 5 on a wheel, and Dawn had yet again won the E-Spinner category. A couple of weeks later, my entry arrived back with me.
I already knew when I plyed it that my second bobbin was better than my first... so here's to next time. I think I may have caught the longest thread bug, it's undoubtedly made me a better spinner.
I recently heard Julie Andrews being interviewed about The Sound of Music, and of course Mary Poppins. Hence the title, however the outfit you wear for beekeeping makes even a nanny's uniform look glamorous.
The bees have not done well this winter. It's been mild, and the bees have been out flying too much. Cold temperatures are much better for bees, it encourages them to stay in a more dormant state, and they use less of their food stores. When the weather is too warm they go out making foraging flights, but of course there's nothing for them to find in February. Round here the trees are yet to start flowering, and the spring bulbs are only just starting to come out.
We harvest honey from our hives, but try to make sure to leave them enough stores for winter. How much to leave is something of a guessing game, and partly down to experience. We thought we'd left them plenty of stores, but apparently not. By early February 2 of the 3 hives had eaten all their stored honey. We gave them fondant icing to eat, but for some reason the bees never went up in the super to eat it and unfortunately 2 colonies starved before we realised they weren't eating their supplemental feed.
The 3rd colony however was still alive, so to try and make sure they stayed that way we're now feeding them sugar syrup. This mimics the nectar they get from flowers, and will keep them alive until the spring flowers start providing them with enough food.
The next few weeks will be sticky ones involving pans of sugar syrup....
Bee Proboscis drinking up the syrup. Look closely at the bottom of the ridged clear plastic.
The syrup goes in to a tray that sits on top of the hive, the bees can come up in the syrup feeder via wooden cone with a hole in the middle. The clear plastic lid stops them drowning in their own food because they can only get down to the base of the cone to drink in a small gap.
The hive lid goes on top of the whole thing, and the bees get breakfast in bed!
Put 21 spinners, dyers, weavers in one Youth Hostel and I think you'd be hard pressed not to have a good time.
This was a standard scene. The activities varied, but at any given time there would be a group of people trying new things, offering advice, creating beautiful stuff.
It was the sort of occasion where a flyer in the cereal mountain, and a ball winder in the fruit bowl was perfectly acceptable.
I learned to do new stuff. This is some 2cm long staple Angora fluff, which we decided to start spinning at around 10pm... as you do. I suspect the Sloe Gin has a lot to answer for. It would have been ideal fodder for my neglected Charkha (at home), however I did have the quill for my Hansen mini spinner with me. So (remember, this was gin fuelled), I decided it was the ideal time to learn how to use it. The end result is soft and fluffy, needed lots of twist to hold it together, but will make a beautiful garter for the Bride in question. Three of us made this skein as a collaborative effort, the language, like the gin, was fruity!
I learned how to do new stuff, and taught someone else at the same time. Jacob yarn, spun that weekend, and dyed with Kool Aid. Knew the theory, never done it in reality, but it came out alright, and made the entire hostel smell of cherry sweets.
The weekend was bought to a spectacular close by this. Crab soufflé, in the worst oven I've ever cooked on. Even the 30 year old oven in my caravan that I use for dyeing performs better... But it did rise, and tasted delicious. Jill is a queen amongst cooks to have puled this off!
One of the pleasing by-products; managing to snap a picture of the ruined Marcher castle and flying crows.
and spotting this... a wriggly tin barn with interesting colours. Back to work with a bump today, creating March's Gradient Pack colourways. I think I might have found my first inspiration!