Midsummer Crafts: of Foxes, Honey and Buzzards

Hey everyone, June has come and gone, July is here and summer is in full swing. It’s been a busy period and it’s been a bit ago since I’ve come here and talked about what I’m making in my craft corner, and what I’m up to in general so I thought I would do a midsummer craft update!

The arrival of June has meant the arrival of summer weather. It’s been a lot warmer and drier than it was in May. I couldn’t complain as I can’t remember the last time I was able to wear so much of my woollen knitwear up until the start of June but when the change came it was well and truly time to pack them away. The birds seem to be catching up with what was a lean spring and I have been hearing chicks calling from the nests in the trees through my open windows. A couple of of our balcony-visiting birds are busy with their second brood. Wildflowers have popped up everywhere and in the garden my peppers have started growing the first fruits and my pumpkins started flowering! We did not miss summer’s call over here!

You may or may not have noticed I’ve taken some time off social media. My initial plan was to just hit pause and stay off for a couple of weeks and then come back, but now that I’m on the other side of those I’m not so sure what I want to do.

And in those weeks that I wasn’t scrolling the timeline? I read books, crafted things familiar and new, planted a garden on my balcony, went for long walks through meadows and woodland, read about costume making, read about folklore, textile history and folk crafts and wrote a lot. I fell and let myself fall in multiple niche knowledge rabbit holes and interests and all around have been having a good time with it. The biggest difference I noticed is not so much that staying off offered extra time, it freed up head space for lack of a better word, which enabled me to write more, have deeper and longer conversations with others and with myself, and to follow those niche interest holes on a whim. Above all I’m shocked by how easy it was for me to stay off once I deleted the apps of my phone. That said it was not a magic swish through my life; it did not cure the worlds problems, my own problems (darn it, still got back aches) and a day still only has 24 hours. Yet, if I return to the timeline I think I will hit the pause button more often in the future.

On the Needles

After I finished my Nordic fluff monster cardigan, my main knitting project was my Foxtales yoke jumper. I knew I wanted to make this jumper as soon as Weichien shared some sneak peeks of the project while she was knitting it back in September last year. I showed you a start of a sleeve a while back. I’m making this with stash yarn so I’m combining all sorts of different yarns. The pattern is knit bottom-up, so it was a fun waiting game to see how the yarns would combine together!

I had planned to ignore the hot weather and keep on knitting for autumn-winter this summer but June came out with summer weather blazing and it’s been a very hot month already so basically summer has convinced me to amend that strategy somewhat. For now the plan is to go through with the colourwork allover I’ve been looking forward to start for weeks, but just knit on that when temperatures permit and knit on smaller projects when temperatures get silly.

In that vein, I’ve been working on a new project: a new pair of socks! This one was unplanned and kind of an emergency cast-on to deal with the tropical heatwave we had mid June when I wasn’t feeling like having an almost entirely finished jumper draped over me. It’s my first pair of socks knitted in self striping/patterning yarn and it’s been really fun watching the patterns and colours emerge. It is also my first plain sock with no bells and whistles (my other socks have all had colourwork) and I’m going to try a different heel type so I’m really excited. It’s been the most perfect project to get me through a week of ludicrous temperatures so that is definitely something I’ll keep in mind for this summer and beyond if I ever need an emergency project again.

Honey

In a broader sense than textile crafts, I’ve been making things and expanding from familiar waters into new horizons. Fermentation and brewing is one of these crafts that caught my interest recently. This is perhaps not completely surprising, as it matches up well with my growing interest in gardening and growing things. As I’ve been reading more about gardening, almost naturally following from that, I’ve been reading more about preserving, fermenting, working with herbs etc. Following from that I fell into a rabbit hole about brewing with herbs (I think it started with dandelion mead) and it seemed like a really neat way of trying out fermenting and dipping into brewing beverages. A couple of weeks past and the interest stayed so me and my partner decided to go for it.

We decided to start with mead (or mede as it’s called here) as it seemed the most accessible beverage to use as a starting point, but who knows if it works out ciders or fruit wines might be in the future as well. Surprisingly you don’t need all that much to try brewing your own mead and getting what you need is relatively easy to find. For a basic mead you only need honey, water and yeast. You can go all out with additional stuff to add flavour but it’s not needed. For now I don’t feel comfortable enough (mostly not knowledgeable enough) to use foraged stuff, so we just added some oranges and left it at that. Now we just need a some patience. The fermentation process usually takes between 6-9 weeks and then it’s ready to drink, though for taste it it’s better to bottle it up and let it age further. As it ferments, gasses escape from the airlock, and especially in the first week it was a tiny storm coming up out of that bottleneck. We are a little over halfway now and have been living in the company of a cosily bubbling bottle in our kitchen making it permanently feel like you enter a mysterious wizards lair when you come in to make your breakfast.

It will be a bit before we can taste our first sip of home brewed mead and judge our efforts, but in terms of learning it has been a really good experience. If anything it has made me more confident in wanting to experiment with and learn more about preserving and fermenting.

Spinning

In the meantime I’ve been steadily spinning on. As I’m taking a break from social media I’m not really participating in the Tour de Fleece as a communal event, but I’m sort of low key keeping up with it and trying to put a little extra effort in spinning the coming weeks. A bit like just a giant 3 weeks long solo time trial, or maybe a solo long distance bike tour! I’m working on my first wheel spun skeins; spinning up everything I’ve left of the bag of grey fibre so I can use the finished skeins together in one project. I’m hoping I get enough yardage for a bigger project but I’ve zero experience to go by so we’ll see. I’m spinning up the singles first, and I’ll ply them when I’m running out of bobbin space.

I’ve heard the summer’s call of my spindles enticing me to come play with them some more again after my initial star struck few weeks where I focussed on getting to know my wheel better. I started spinning a pretty orange tweedy fibre blend that I got as birthday present. It came as a combed top, which I turned into rolags on my diy blending board. I haven’t spun much on it yet but it’s spinning up nicely so far.

Stitching

Been embroidering a bit here and there too; cabins in snowy woodlands and bees in wildflower meadows in perfectly imperfect wonky beginner stitches. I’m quite possibly the slowest wonky stitcher in the world but I’m having fun colouring with thread. For these two hoops I used repurposed fabric from the lining of a dress I made at the start of my sewing life. I think this will be a nice craft to do during the height of summer, unbothered by a swath of fabric covering you. I started the woodland snowscape in the midst of spring and finished it at the end of May, incidentally we had an unexpectedly cold spring, and only progressed into an extraordinarily hot summer when I started stitching wildflowers…coincidental? Or might I have unlocked a weather related superpower? Time will tell.

In the cards

I picked up an interest in weaving in the past few weeks, particularity tablet (or card) weaving. I suppose it was inevitable at some point that my interest in all things textile and craft related would eventually bring me to weaving. I think I’ve mentioned before how in the past I used to be involved in the living history and re-enactment sphere. While I was a (new) knitter and sewist at the time my admiration for the craft and admiring the art of skilled weavers it did not yet translate in an interest in learning the craft myself. A couple of years later and that has completely turned around. So over the past few weeks I’ve been researching tablet weaving, watching videos and tentatively dipped my toes in trying it for myself.

I don’t have a loom so I’m using the back strap method, the tablets I’m using are just playing cards in which I’ve punched some holes and the shuttle I’m using is two playing cards taped together with a cut indent on each side. So I’m learning on a shoestring and if the interest sticks I can invest in better materials later. The thread is some cotton from a set of tiny 10 gram balls that I found in de depths of my yarn stash in colours I would not necessarily choose if I were weaving for a project but it’s perfect for learning. I’m definitely a massive beginner and half of the time I do not understand what I’m doing exactly and what other weavers are doing seems at least in part magic to me but I think that is pretty much also what I felt when I first started learning to knit and saw others knit allover cable sweaters. So fingers crossed and onwards we struggle!

Hope you’re all well and until next time!

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