Friday, 25 September 2015

Learning to card weave

Another journey of exploration for me... card weaving. Also known as tablet weaving, this art has been used to make straps and decorative edges for centuries (there is nothing new under the sun). I first read about it while researching naelbinding (or needle binding) and other Viking textile methods. I have yet to perfect the art of making socks with a horn needle and wool (naelbinding) but I did give tablet weaving a go. I made a short lead for Shaun and a long lead for Sid and am now in the process of making a collar and lead set for my daughter's dog; Val.

The basics sound deceptively easy; just make some cards with a hole in each corner. I used old milk bottles to make mine, the plastic is thin but strong and I can write on them with a permanent marker. My cards are two and a half inches square with the holes a half inch in from the corner.

Then thread them up according to the draft pattern. I decided to start with a really simple one that gives ovals.

The warp (the long bits of yarn you weave through) is tied to two fixed points (or one to your belt and one to your toe) and away you go.

Simply turn the cards forwards or backwards (depending on the pattern) to open new sheds (the gap you put the weft [the bits of yarn that goes from side to side in weaving] through).

I have learned some lessons on this journey...

My cards, made from cut up milk bottles

First and most importantly- don't let your warp threads get twisted or you end up with a huge mess and a red face (possibly high blood pressure too). Eventually I figured out that cutting each card's worth of warp and pegging them individually to a coat hanger was quicker than cutting big numbers of each colour then sorting them out later.

My first mess of warp strings...waiting to be sorted out.

Now I just cut them and peg the until I am ready to thread.
Secondly- It is much easier to move when you aren't tied to a door, or life is easier with a loom. I made a simple frame for my card weaving warp after my first weaving session. This simple loom is made from PVC pipe and 90 degree angle joiners. It works really well and I no longer take ten minutes to get free of the warp so I can answer the phone, check on a squawk from outside or go to the loo.

A really simple card weaving loom
Thirdly- keep your cards all together with a clip when you advance the warp to weave a new bit. If you don't you could end up having to untangle a pile of warp threads all over again (I did).

This handy clip keeps the cards all aligned and neat when I'm not weaving and when I move the warp up.

Lastly- be prepared to be endlessly awed by the beautiful bands you can make with just a simple warp and some bits of plastic.

Shaun's lead on the loom

The finished lead, I love the patterns and it is so strong.

The second attempt at a lead. I made a few mistakes in the card turning, but it's strong and useful anyway.

Sid loves it, because it's longer than Shaun's and he can graze as we walk.

The third attempt. This will be part of a collar and lead set for Val; my daughter's dog.

As you can see I'm far from an expert, my selvages are still messy and I miss threaded one card on the latest warp (the pink dot in the green circles), but I am getting better at it and enjoying the process. Life is good when I can learn new things.

Oh and Book Book (my youngest daughter's hen) is sitting on a nest in an old chest of draws, no...not in the house. She will hatch some lovely champagne frizzles soon and I will have chickens to watch again.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Shaun the sheep - meet Sid, Shaun's new brother

After nine weeks of taking him to work, staying home or arranging a sheep sitter to avoid stressing him out, we have finally found a suitable brother for Shaun. We have been combing the classifieds, Gumtree and animal shelter websites since Shaun was born, looking for an orphaned lamb we could offer a home to. We haven't got a lot of money to spare so cost was an issue, as was the distance we would have to travel to pick up our new baby. Eventually I found a listing for orphaned lambs on Gumtree from a woman in Kyogle, which is quite close to us. I eagerly sent a message and found that she did indeed have some lambs left, one who was twelve weeks old and twins who were ten weeks old. Because we couldn't afford to get the twins (and siblings should stay together), we arranged to pick up the little boy. Enter Sid....

Sid...Shaun's new brother

Due to a car breakdown (requiring the car to be at the doctor's for a week) we had to delay picking Sid up, but the big day finally came and we set off at 7.30 am for work with Shaun in tow.
We have been cleaning the local Backpacker's for a month now and Shaun has been welcome to come with us and provide entertainment while we work (consequently he now has a following in Korea and Japan), it seems every time I emerge from a toilet block with buckets, sprays and brushes I find Shaun in the centre of an admiring mob with cameras (he loves every minute of it). While this has been a handy arrangement, it can't continue forever as sheep grow up.
So Shaun's last day at work proceeded as usual and we all piled into the car of a friend who gave us a lift to town to pick up our car (She also helped us clean...Thanks Meeka). We picked up the car, had a quick (and unsatisfying) lunch and sped off to collect our new baby.

A quick stop for lunch

The farm was a delight; animals of all kinds running around together, an eclectic collection of caravans as a dwelling and some very friendly dogs (felt just like home). We trooped out with Shaun on his lead to meet the herd (specifically Sid) but Shaun showed no interest in them at all. He walked along contentedly with us and didn't even get excited by a thundering herd of sheep running past him.

Sid was considerably bigger than we anticipated, but he had the sort of face you just want to hug so we took him and the lovely lady who owned him did the rubber ring thing to castrate him for us (I am a terrible shot with those things). My partner made up a nest in the back seat with towels and newspaper and we put a collar and lead on him (which he took to easily) so I could control any leaping about. Shaun and I climbed into the back seat with him and the fun began....

Shaun sniffed Sid a few times then settled down to sleep away the trip (as he usually does), Sid on the other hand was politely uncomfortable (just having had a rubber band put around his testicles) and was a bit embarrassed to talk about it, so he settled for repositioning himself in various ways on the seat throughout the ride; he tried back to the front of the car with his back leg braced against the seat back, with his back leg down and with all his legs under him, he tried back to the seat back with all the afore mentioned leg arrangements and he tried standing up. At each position change he found it necessary to empty both bowels and bladder, resulting in a huge mess in the back seat and three (Shaun, Sid and I) very messy beings. We eventually made it home and I must say that Sid was very well behaved under the circumstances. As we got home a thunder storm rolled over our humpy...

The aftermath of the storm, the air is so clean and crisp.
Anyone who knows me will attest to my unreasonable fear of storms, but there was work to be done. Sid and Shaun were dumped in the playpen, an old chook dome, while we cleaned out the car. We scrubbed the back seat with a nail brush and lots of cleaning products (it is actually much cleaner now than before we went) while thunder roared around us. Shaun and Sid retreated to the little shelter in the playpen to bond/hide. By the time we had finished the car the storm had passed and we were able to bring the (now cleaner) boys into the back yard where they will be living together for a while.

Shaun and Sid explore the playpen, and food

This is by far the best photo I have of Sid so far.

Shaun is spending all his days outside now and only comes inside to sleep in his little house. When we go to work he doesn't stress as he has his bed and one of my shirts in the shelter with him and he is always very glad to see us home, as is Sid (he has picked up some of Shaun's behaviours). It looks like they may bond well and become brothers, which means that Shaun will transfer his dependence to another sheep and may even learn to eat grass.

Sid spends his nights in the outside shelter on a pile of hay. He seems to prefer being outside (as most sheep do).

Shaun still likes to come for a cuddle now and then. Look at that contented face.

Shaun and Sid's outside house. Sid likes to sleep here at night.

Shaun is still having three bottles a day, while Sid has some lucerne chaff (because he's weaned now)

Shaun's little house inside. Sid is already too tall for it and hates being inside anyway.

In the back yard...just playing around.

Sid likes to eat some chaff while I feed Shaun, he is such a sweet boy.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Update on Shaun the sheep - seven weeks old

Shaun has come a long way in seven weeks.

Shaun is growing so fast, he is seven weeks old now and is beginning to behave like a two year old child. He has discovered the container cupboard and loves to pull things out while I wash up, he is shy of strangers but really curious at the same time and he loves to run and play outside.
Having him live with us is just like having a baby again. We take him everywhere with us; to town for job network appointments, to social gatherings, on quick trips to the local shop (a half hour drive away). We have to consider bottle times and pack a 'nappy bag' with towels , bottles and wipes when we go out. Recently we started a new job and luckily the boss allowed us to take him with us, we are cleaning backpacker accommodation and he runs around outside the toilets and showers while we clean, attracting attention and becoming a Facebook star. He can't come to work every day because sometimes my long suffering partner is cleaning on his own while I work at our local primary schools, luckily my mum was available to Shaun sit for a few days.

Shaun with Bandit, Jess and Big the rooster...some of his herd.

Shuan with Spot and Bandit

Cuddles by the fire in the evening

You may ask why we don't just stick him in a cage and leave him while we go out....and I would say, because sheep are herd animals. Sheep spend all their time with their mother until the age of about twelve weeks, unlike calves whose mothers hide them and go off to graze for hours at a time. Even as adults sheep do not feel secure unless they are with their herd. Consequently we are standing in as Shaun's herd until we can pick up another orphaned lamb as a mate for him. I take the responsibility of caring for another being very seriously and that inevitably includes psychological well being as well as physical health.

Shaun in the park in town

Shaun 'helping' me spin

Shaun meeting a fibreglass lamb at my mum's place.
Our next move is to find another lamb as a friend for Shaun. Animals who are raised as 'poddies' often become aggressive as they mature, maybe because of familiarity and a lack of fear as most people say but I believe that the animal becomes used to being the centre of attention while they are young and cute and have problems adjusting to being just another member of the herd when they grow up. In effect they suffer from a form of 'only child' syndrome; where parental bonds remain stronger than other social bonds past their useful life.  To answer this problem we are going to try to raise Shaun with another baby, the idea is that they will bond like siblings. The sibling bond will become stronger than the parental bond during adolescence and hopefully they can move out into the wider world together without severing any bonds, the parental bond will be allowed to whither naturally.

Hopefully we can raise a well balanced, fully functional sheep (except the reproductive function). Watch this space. I also hope to return to sewing my own clothes soon, there has been very little time recently for extra play.