Copper Sulphate and frustration with Internet claims!

I am trying to produce Copper Sulphate and am getting increasingly irritated by some claims on the Internet, including one woman who posted that ‘her liquid went bright blue instantly’! I fail to see why a chemical reaction should occur more quickly in some places than others.       (Even Jenny Dean, the doyenne of natural dyeing, says it takes 7 – 10 days.)  In order to get this amazing response she had taken some copper pennies, and put it in water , ‘with a dash of vinegar’ ! Up goes a pic of a brilliant turquoise! Similarly regrowing spring onion roots did not mean ‘I need never buy them again’-  in fact I found sticking them in water more effective for keeping them alive and simply cut the tops of when I want some. My succulent wreath was not ‘covered in a fortnight’ either. Even accounting for climate difference it appears that plants grow like the Triffids in some quarters. I put my wreath in the sunniest part of a south facing garden and feed it regularly, it IS showing signs of growth but no, it was not ‘covered in a fortnight’ as some sites would have you believe. Yes, I have taken into account all of the variables, but none of them would account for such amazing differences in performance.  Now come on, lets be realistic shall we?

This is day three of the Copper Sulphate production…..I will post up some REALISTIC results. For the record, Dean recommends 50% water and 50% white vinegar…quite how the blogger got such amazing results with a weaker solution is beyond me, particularly as the pennies shown contain less copper!

Stained Glass Offcuts Patio Set – Stashbust project Number 22

OK, as I was kindly given the off cuts from a stained glass maker I decided to use them up on this patio set. I was given it from Freecycle, in somewhat grotty condition. One of the chairs was broken, it was rusty and the previous lady had tried removing the terracotta tiles, leaving a broken and uneven surface. I was up against time with this project, as I have had two weddings to cope with, and it has not been a good summer.It needed to be done quickly before the weather set in and I didn’t want it left till next year. Therefore I had to rush out and do a bit here and there whenever I was free and the sun came out!   (which isn’t very often in the UK!)

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The first thing I had to deal with was the broken chair. The pin had broken and got wedged, and there was no way I would be strong enough to take it out and re pin it. It took it to our local ironmongers who said they couldn’t do it, and the suggestion was a blacksmith! Now I can’t afford a blacksmith, and all I wanted was the pin removed and a new one put in. I took it to my son in law who owns a building firm and he did it in a few minutes! You just needed the right equipment! The set is caste iron and I can barely move the chairs, never mind the table. The next step was to spray paint the metal. I decided that brush painting it was too fiddly and time consuming. I removed the worst of the rust first and bought a black metal spray paint.

The next problem I hit was the fact that the surface was now uneven, so I concreted the top ( son in law grumbled it should by so many millimetres thick, it was too late by the time I found out, I had just levelled it off! This was the hardest part for me, I am not a concrete person!

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The chairs did not need levelling, so I felt I was over the worst!

Over the year I had periodically tumbled some of the off cuts to smooth the edges. I now had to rearrange and recut some o they would fit the table. I stuck the glass down with PVA glue after much deliberation on the best glue to use. Previously, when I had used PVA under glass it had dried in a puddle which could be seen. What I did learn doing this, however was to leave the glass for at least a week, as I could see that it wasn’t dry underneath. I couldn’t see that with opaque mosaics. I learnt from this to leave the tiles MUCH longer than I have done in the past before grouting. It did eventually dry clear and I had none of the issues with tiles coming off that I usually have when I grout.

The next job was tiling the chairs. I realised I would see the terracotta tiles would show through the glass, so I tried spray painting the seats with the same black metal paint. However this didn’t work, as when the light shone through the glass it looked a different colour with the backdrop. Going back to the drawing board, I went to get some concrete coloured paint – baulked at the price, I only needed a small amount – so instead mixed some outdoor white paint with black acrylic to get an approximate grey. This was then painted on! The next stage was to attach the tiles as before.

After that came the grouting – I chose commercial black grout, that wasn’t too bad, just a lot of elbow grease to remove the grout haze and polish it up. I had included some glass I had frosted as an experiment, but on average the clear glass looked better and was easier to clean.

Finally…all that was left to do was the paint around the sides to mask the edges of the grout and provide continuity. I sanded down any rough patches first and cheated by spraying the paint on with a mask over the top and back. The odd bit of touch up and voila!

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I estimate the total cost for this project was under £20 ( $ US 30 ) The main cost was the metal paint, some makes were very expensive and I shopped around. I anticipate having to respray it every year in our climate, and I have even splashed out on a cover the protect it from our great British weather! The only issue I have now is finding any time ( and sun)  to sit down and use it!  I also have to tidy up my patio before winter sets in! I will power wash it next spring. The woman who helps with my garden suggested doing a matching mirror as a backdrop! It wont be this year, that’s for sure!

Easy Peasy One Skein Colinette Giotto Scarf- Stashbust number 21 -free pattern

I had to run up a scarf quickly for my daughters wedding, both daughters got married within three weeks of each other! I was wearing a Lagenlook dress and just wanted something for the neckline. This pattern is versatile, you can increase it width ways and have a shorter scarf , or you can omit the fringe. If you are doing a fringe I suggest you set aside enough yarn early on so you can then knit without worrying about it.I usually measure how much yarn it takes to do the fringe right at the beginning and then double the amount. In this case I made the fringe alternatively short and long, to reflect the Lagenlook effect. This is a very versatile pattern. I used size 6.5 mm needles.

Yarn –  Colinette Giotto I hank.

Tension – Not important.

Cast on 15 knitways ( can be varied)

Rows 1-2 Knit.

Row 3 Purl one .( Wrap yarn twice round right Hand needle purlwise, purl one) to end

Row 4 Knit one.( Slip two loops off of needle and knit next stitch) , repeat to end .

Row 5 Rep row 3.

Row 6 Rep row 4

Rows 7 -10 Knit .

Repeat pattern rows 3-10 to desired length.

Add fringe if wanted.DSC_0005

Blankets for Kitty Cats -Stashbust project number 20


Good Lord. I was at the Cats Protection Garden Party when somehow or the other I ended up being persuaded to crochet some blankets for sale. It seems the crochet ones are more popular  than knitted ones. I was puzzled by the fact that apparently there is only 1 person who could crochet! As I have a thousand balls of yarn upstairs I really had no grounds for refusing….however I did reflect on my fate. Here I was, a granny, in my retirement crochet blankets for cats! How did it ever come to this! I have been churning them out for the Christmas Fair, which of course occurs in October!

Introduction to fish leather

I have just come back from Iceland where I bought some fish leather. I found out about it just before I went as I saw it edging a felted bag someone had made at my spinning group. At first I thought it was snake. I would never approve of killing an animal for its skin, I was shocked to see they still sell real fur there. If I wore fur back in the UK I would get a very frosty reception, I can’t recall the last time I saw it sold. Even charity shops can’t sell fur these days as no sensible woman would be seen dead in it.

However this looks like a nice medium and it strikes me as very green to use the skins of the fish to produce products rather than throw them away. I didn’t  know if fish leather is produced in other countries than Iceland but apparently they are looking at developing this in Nairobi, where it makes excellent use of a material that is normally discarded and is obviously suited to developing countries. I see great potential for its use worldwide..Now I have to decide what to do with it. I bought two skins by accident, I was engaged in conversation. Had I known I was buying two I would have got different colours. I have never tried making anything with this before so when I do it will be an experiment. In the meantime I have started a Pinterest board to post up ideas.  I have thought about using it for applique either on felt or heavy material, and the idea of making a bracelet sounds relatively easy. As I have never tried making anything in leather I probably need some patterns.  If any of you have used fish leather please let me know, and tell us how you got on with it.DSC_0001

Natural Dyeing with Onion Skins and Black Beans

Gosh, it has been ages since I posted anything, not because I have not been doing anything, my two daughters got married in quick succession…three weeks apart! However, just prior to that I did some dyeing with onion skins. The first batch was with red onion skins, no mordant. The second was with ordinary onion skins, again no mordant. DSC_0241 DSC_0231

I have heard you can get a bluey green with red onion skins but I was unsuccessful. The second pic is slightly more yellow than in real life because of the sunshine that day!

Black beans
Black beans

Determined to try and get a blue I then experimented with black beans. Now the first thing I did was that I boiled the beans, and used an alum mordant. The result was that it produced a pale grey turquoise, on the top of the picture. However I also cold dyed some silk ribbon with the same mix and they came out lilac. I then read that you shouldn’t boil the beans as that DSC_0264

produces a grey so I didn’t and got a rather dull colour bath, actually the same as before.

It looked so boring I wondered if a spot of tin might brighten it. The colour change was quite spectacular. DSC_0263

That said the change in the actual fleece was a marginal improvement on lilac (to the left above). I then tried a copper mordant, which made no difference whatsoever. However I made a fresh batch of dye, and added copper to the dye batch and got more of an olive green (to the right). As you can see all three colours are quite pretty, but none of them are blue! I gather you can get a good blue if you use Superwash wool, but it strikes me as rather counter productive to use commercial yarn. I found it difficult to get a deep colour but was quite happy with the outcome. Now it was interesting that wool and silk produced different colours from the same dye pot. It seems to me that both the chemical composition of the yarn and the ph of the water are fairly critical. That may explain why, when I have read threads about black beans used in dyeing, there seems such a variation in colour. I could try using distilled water, I used rainwater that had run off the roof, and that might have altered the pH. However buying distilled water in sufficient quantity could prove problematic. If I accidentally gather rain water straight into a container, rather than a run off. I could try to see if that made any difference! The breed of sheep were2015-05-22 08.06.16

Portland, a rare breed. Here is a not very good pic of them being sheared. I was mortified when a horn came off of one of the lambs during shearing. it bled an aweful lot but was reliably informed that they grow back!

Very quick mohair beanie- free pattern -stashbust project number 19

I am not doing very well with my stash reduction… fast as I am doing it I am adding more with my spinning, in fact I reckon it is accumulating! I honestly don’t need any more clothes, but needs must……………..

I had less just  than a full ball of mint coloured mohair so made this up very quickly to try to use it up.  The pattern is a very simple lace stitch. To start cast on sufficient stitches to go up the depth of your head. ( This is knitted sideways.) I used 5mm needles, again you can make this using a variety or yarns or needle sizes depending on the lace effect you want to achieve, obviously if you use a heavier yarn you will need more than I used for a light mohair. This pattern would not be suitable for a very thick yarn though as you need to gather it.

simple ladder lace – Cast on 32 sts – or required number of stitches in a multiple of 4 .2015-05-25 06.16.18 Knit 2 rows Knit pattern row: K4, (YO, K2tog, K2) repeat between ( ) to end of row. Repeat the pattern row until it is at desired length to go around your head. Knit 1 row. Cast off.
Sew the two short ends together to make a tube which fits over your head. Then do a running stitch through the top of the tube and tighten the yarn to make a tight gather. Finish off by securing the sewing up thread neatly on the inside.
I found this to be quite versatile, it could be slouched down ( depending on how many stitches you cast on) or the top could be turned back to make a cloche shape. The fact it is mohair helps it retain the position you put it in..

Installing a Top Bar Hive

I have wanted to try a top bar hive for some time. I find the lifting with a National really heavy, and the weekly inspections in May are almost impossible now. The woman who does my gardening gave me a swarm the other day and it transpires that they are thinking of getting rid of their bees because of complaints from the neighbours. Now I have some sympathy for the neighbours here as although they placed the hives on the roof of the garage it was very close to their neighbours patio. Even though, in theory, the bees should stay at hive height they often got blown down into the neighbours garden.Add to that several swarms this year, one of which inconsiderately installed itself on the neighbours swing and the  scene was set for conflict. So I gained a swarm and installed them in a Nuc, but my original hive was overfull and needed splitting to prevent swarming. I placed some brood, stores and bees in the National Deep temporarily while I wait for a new queen to arrive. She is due Tuesday. I bought a Top Bar hive off of them and today was spent, amoung other things, trying to adjust the comb to fit from a National to a top bar. The only way we could think of doing this was by cutting the comb out, and tying it to the top bar. This took some time and was a messy business. Now in theory a Top Bar hive should be much easier to manage. I am not sure I am too keen on the Natural Beekeeping method of simply accepting swarms as a normal part of beekeeping, I will have to learn how to manage the hive to minimise that risk, I have neighbours to think of as well!

On a second matter, as I am writing this I have noticed that I keep getting my spelling of amoung underlined in red. Now, I have always spelt ‘amoung’ as ‘amoung’ rather than ‘among’. I also have no intention of changing. Similarly I have always said ‘whilst’, spelt’ yaught’ as ‘yaught’ rather than ‘yacht’ and still refer to a Parliament of Magpies as the correct Collective  Noun. I keep being told that this spelling is archaic. Archaic it might be but it is within my lifetime, so its not THAT archaic. I was at school in the UK during the fifties where we were fed a constant diet of classical literature. Apparently the spelling of ‘amoung’ as ‘amoung’ was in popular use up until about the 1920s. Bearing in mind most of my teachers would have been taught then, and the books we read were classics, it is hardly surprising I was taught it was well!

I was somewhat irritated to come across a post of someone saying that the reason why ‘amoung’ was spelt as ‘amoung’ was because the reader was either ignorant or not a Native British speaker. I am highly educated, was born at Henley on Thames and I will warrant that I was speaking English before the person who wrote the post was even born. Even more infuriating I once had a paper  for publication returned from the referee (who was American) complaining about the ‘peculiar use of the English language’. It had in fact been checked by my son who proof reads for academic journals. The criticism went down like a lead balloon, I had difficulty not writing back to give that individual a piece of my mind. I have a Grammar School Education, a Grade A  ‘A’ level in English language, a Masters in Ethics and Law and no one had criticised my use of English before!

As for the Parliament of Magpies, I was taught that this Collective Noun came from the Interregnum in the UK  (1649 -1660 ). We didn’t like being a Republic!  Magpies lining up on a branch looked like a bunch of Puritans dressed in black and white. So I am afraid I have no intention of changing just because someone else has. It is amoung, whilst, yaught and a Parliament of Magpies! I like Collective Nouns, I have always thought you should have a Brace of Dentists, a Mass of Priests and so on….inventive suggestions for other Collective Nouns would be welcome!