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April Handmaiden Spinning Fibre Club

Hello friends,

Up until a few months ago, I got into a spinning rut. I didn't really have anything fun to spin, and so my yarn spinning fell by the wayside. After hearing about Handmaiden NZ's monthly fibre club, I decided to sign up for a couple of months, to see if it would help me get back into spinning. Every month Handmaiden, Amy Hughes, dyes a 100 gram braid of yarn in a new colour, and with a new fibre blend to try.

Eager to get back into spinning, I signed up for the fibre club and waited impatiently for it to arrive.

When April's fibre club showed up, and it was a soft and fluffy 100% merino braid, in pretty shades of white, green, blue, and purple, and it came with a small candle from the Bluebird Candle Company, in the scent Beautiful. The candle scent was very floral and pretty, and not too overpowering. Very excited about getting into spinning, I got to work. I unraveled the braid and split it lengthwise down the middle so I could make a two ply. In an experimental mood, I chose to spin each half braid from different ends. This would make the colours overlap in the middle.

I decided to spin the braid on my trusty Majacraft Suzie Pro, with the spinning wheel set up on the middle whorls, and aimed to spin at my default width, which would end up with approximately DK yarn once plied. It didn't take very long at all to spin up both singles and then ply them.

Once plied and rested, I set the yarn by washing it with wool wash. Unfortunately the wool wash we have at the moment has been making dye run, so the wash and rinse water was in shades of blue.


With the yarn fulled and washed, it was left to dry. I ended up with a total of 175 m of DK knit weight yarn at the end of spinning and processing. I don't know what I will do with it, but for now I'm just happy to squish it and enjoy the pretty colours. Have you been spinning anything pretty recently?

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Tonight We Ride Cross Stitch Project Finish

Hello friends,

I finally have a cross stitch project finish! I started the Tonight We Ride cross stitch project by Autumn Lane Stitchery back in September 2023, when all the new Halloween cross stitch projects by many designers were released In September. I loved the witchy aesthetic, along with the pretty orange autumnal fabric.

After ordering Fiber on a Whim Aida 16 count fabric in the shade Pumpkin for the project from 123 Stitch, I started in the middle of the fabric, and got to work.

Over September and October 2023 I worked on the main house in the middle. This project requires a lot of DMC 310 Black, and I really mean heaps and heaps of it. Thank goodness I have a huge cone of DMC 310 black that I got from Stitch NZ a year ago. If you're working on projects needing a lot of black 310 DMC, I really advise to buying a cone of it.

By the time it got to the 31st of October, and Halloween for the North Hemisphere, I was done with all the black stitching. I decided to give this project a break over the summer, as I've finally figured out that I am a mood stitcher, and specifically a seasonal mood stitcher. I like stitching seasonal projects in the season I'm currently in.

Over the summer I worked on some other projects that weren't seasonal, and on the first day of autumn in March 2024 it was time to pull out Tonight We Ride again, so I could finally get it finished. I was super motivated to get the project done, and it wasn't long before I had made significant progress.

And I got Tonight We Ride finished and off the hoop on the 9th of April. I love the witchy autumnal feel of the project, and the Pumpkin Aida just adds to the aesthetic.

All that remains now is to wash and hang the project. But that involves finding a picture frame that fits it, and it may take a while of searching at our local op shop to track one down. I've already started another autumnal project, but that's a story for another time.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Growing and Harvesting European Linen for the 2023-2024 Season

Hello friends,

As a crafter and a gardener, I like to combine my hobbies in interesting ways. In this case it was growing and harvesting European flax (Linum usitatissimum) in order to prepare some linen for spinning and weaving.

Back when we lived in Wellington I bought some Essene European flax seed (Linum usitatissimum) from Koanga Gardens. In the first year I sowed half the seed packet into a 1 m x 2 m space, and grew the linen plants mainly for producing seeds, so in years afterward I could grow even more flax for linen. My linen harvests thereafter would be self-sustaining. I now grow linen every couple of years for collecting seeds, and stockpiling flax stalks for making linen.

This blog post is showing the process of growing linen from seed sowing to harvesting. In later blog posts I'll share as I go through the flax processing and then spinning and weaving it.

The first thing I did was buy the book "Homegrown Linen: Transforming flax seed into Fiber." by Raven Ranson. This book is very detailed, and shows all the necessary steps in growing homegrown flax for linen. I then used it to calculate how to grow it in New Zealand seasons.

The first step in growing flax seed is deciding when to sow the seed. Flax seed is sown in spring when oats and barley are sown, and in our case it was in mid-October. If flax is grown for linen then the seeds are grown very close together so that long tall stalks are produced, but if flax are grown for seeds, they are planted further apart to allow for branching and more flower production.

After weeding the patch of ground it was to go into in spring last year, I fertilized it with a high nitrogen fertilizer in the form of sheep pellets, and then prepared the soil to a fine tilth. I then sowed the flax seed in a broadcast fashion very close together, so that the linen plants would grow very tall, with little to no branching. After covering the seeds over with a fine layer of soil using a rake, I watered the seeds in, and then covered the crop with bird netting to protect the seeds from the local very hungry avians. It takes approximately 100 days from seed sowing until plant harvest, so this was classed as day 0.

Within a few days of watering each day, the flax seedlings began to appear. It is always very exciting to see them come up.

And within a week, the seedlings were actively reaching for the sky. In the photo below I was growing the linen plants for seed, but as you can see, I spread them a little too far apart.

Once the flax starts growing, it basically fends for itself. If sown very close together no weeds will grow, making it an easy crop to take care of, as long as it gets enough water. And once the flax reaches about 50 cm tall, it begins flowering at around day 60. The beautiful blue flowers open during the day, and close again at night. And now that the plants are tall, they sway very prettily in the breeze.

Flowering and setting seed boils takes around a month. One of our neighbourhood cats, who we call Patches, decided to make their snoozing spot inside the linen crop. No matter how many times I tried to shoo them away, they kept coming back, so I let them be. It's a good thing they're cute because they ended up squishing a bunch of linen...

Once the seed heads (boils) have set, now is the time to think about when to harvest. It's a good idea to set aside a section of your crop to let the boils (seed heads) mature and turn brown, which means they are then ready to harvest for next years seeds. Their plant parts will be dry and thick and yellow, and they won't make good linen.

The rest of your crop will be used for producing linen. When the bottom half the plant has turned golden, it is time to harvest the plants. The seed heads will not usually be viable for collecting seed, but I've found in the past that some of them can be.

The best way to harvest linen is to pull them out by hand in clumps. Lay the harvested linen plants out on the grass, all facing the same way, with the roots at one end, and the boils at the other. Once you've harvested all the linen plants, it's time to stook the plants, which means creating bunches of sheafs, and then tying them in the middle like the poles of a teepee. You want air to get up into the middle of the sheaf to dry it out. Place the sheafs upright with the roots at the bottom and let them dry in the sun on sunny days.


Once the linen plant sheafs are dry you can store them until you want to begin processing your linen. The next step is processing my current linen crop, and this will occur in a couple of weeks after autumn starts...

Have you ever tried experimental gardening? I've done this in the past with growing wheat, and it's very interesting to see how food and fibers are processed. It makes you appreciate how complicated food and textile production is.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky

A Home For My Stickers using My Cottagecore Apothecary Jars

Hello friends,

You know how sometimes you fall in love with something you've seen, and you need to buy them all, and in all the sizes available, but then when you get home you're not entirely sure what to do with them, yeah well that's me with the many apothecary jars I bought about ten years ago.

Back when we were living in Wellington, I saw the apothecary jars during one of my many visits to Pete's Emporium in Porirua, and I knew straight away I needed them in my life. But then when I got them home I wasn't entirely sure what to do with them. Over the years I've filled them with various different things, including dried herbs and flowers, and Christmas decorations, but it never seemed to be the right thing, so I gave up and put them away in storage.

But while I was renovating my craft room I found a pile of them in a cupboard, and thought now was the perfect time to use them. And I finally found their new home with my huge stationery sticker collection. You see I also have a problem with buying and not using stickers, especially because I put them away somewhere safe, and then forget to use them. I was so happy and excited about this exciting mashup, that I got started on this project straight away. I separated my stickers into different collections and then got to work.

First up was my apothecary jar sticker collection, which was quite serendipitous...

Next up was my collection of cat stickers. And because I am a crazy cat lady, I do have a lot of cat stickers.

And then of course there is my book sticker collection, which usually includes also cats, tea pots and flowers...

And I also have a huge collection of nature stickers including leaves and mushrooms and cute woodland animals, so they also had to find an apothecary jar of their own...

And don't even get me started with my Scandi christmas themed stickers, which I also have a lot of. I mean who can resist stickers featuring hot chocolate, snowflakes, reindeer and gnomes...

And then there's all my witchy stickers. You put moons and starts and cats and other witchy things on a sticker, and it's like take all my money...

And with all that done, I have a whole set of apothecary jars filled up with lots of beautiful stickers. I laid them all out along the windowsill behind my computer desk in my craft room. And now whenever I'm at my desk I can look up and see both my beloved apothecary jars and stickers.

Already I've found that I've been using my stickers more often now that I can see them. I hope to decorate all my diaries, journals and notebooks with my beloved stickers from now on. Do you have something small like apothecary jars and stickers that bring you joy? I'd love to find out.

Have a wonderful day

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky

Carrot Forest Sampler Cross Stitch Project Framing

Hello friends,

Last year I finished the Carrot Forest Sampler cross stitch project from Owl Forest Embroidery (if you want to see more information about this project, please check out the original blog post here), and one of my tasks over the Christmas holiday break was to finally get around to framing it, and then getting it up on the wall in my craft room.

The size of the project was a little weird, so it took me a couple of months to track down a frame that would fit it. I ended up finding an old wooden picture frame at one of our local second hand stores, but it wasn't in a colour that I wanted. So the first task was to sand the picture frame down, and then paint it using some white chalk-based paint.

After a quick sand down, it was time to paint the frame with an undercoat. I unfortunately, however, chose an undercoat that took 5 hours of drying and curing, so I had to wait until the next day before I could paint it with two coats of the white chalk paint.

And finally when the paint was dried and cured, it was time to frame my cross stitch project using my pretty newly painted frame. I used the same framing method that I used for the Christmas Cross Stitch project last year, and you can find the information to do that here.

And now that it's done, I'm really happy with the finished project. The carrots in the Carrot Forest Sampler really pop against the black aida and the white picture frame, and the white rabbits make a cute feature.

And now my Carrot Cross Stitch Sampler hangs on the wall beside my beloved Mushroom Sampler by CutePatternsByMaria on Etsy. One day I'll share with you about my Mushroom Sampler, as it really is a beautiful project to work on, and to have on your wall afterward.

The next couple of weeks are busy for me, as I am in the middle of renovating my craft room (and moving my office into it when finished), painting our woodshed before autumn, and my parents will be staying with us when my dad goes into hospital for knee replacement surgery next week. I hope to keep to weekly blog posts, but if that doesn't happen, I will get back to it as soon as possible.

Have a wonderful day.

Julie-Ann

Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

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