A Tale of mother love

A squirrel has made a nest in the soffits of our garage (a small hole had allowed access), and lately we have heard the thunderous sound of feet pounding up and down inside the spaces – probably the young squirrels playing. Yesterday I was pottering about under the big apple tree that stands near the garage. The squirrel emerged and climbed up on the garage roof. Instead of immediately raiding the bird feeder as she usually does, she hung around, ran up and down the ridge, looked into the little hole and generally looked anxious. After a while a little face appeared at the hole – a baby squirrel. He seemed nervous, made a few attempts to get out and onto the roof but couldn’t manage it. The mother encouraged him by letting her tail down to brush against him, and again showed him how it could be done. Eventually he climbed out, but shook like a leaf and pretty quickly disappeared inside again. He had another try, and this time the adult squirrel dropped down to the ground and seemed to be hanging around in case he didn’t manage the little twist to get onto the roof and fell down. Then, she was back on the roof, encouraging him with her tail.

Next, a complete surprise. She came down into the apple tree, right down to a branch in front of me. She sat full on towards me and fixed me with her beady eyes. ‘Please move further back, you’re frightening him,’ I’m sure she was saying.

So I did. I moved back a few paces. Again the little fellow tried to get out of the hole, and this time he managed to get up onto the roof. Then came another surprise. The mother squirrel suddenly pounced on him, and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck. There was quite a scuffle. Mama squirrel then carried him in her mouth up and over the roof, down the apple tree, across the ground, up the the fence, along the fence (balancing hilariously on the narrow top) and then up into my neighbour’s huge willow tree, where there are several dreys.

So what was that all about? Did she think it was about time he started finding his own food, which wouldn’t be so easy in a garage? (Don’t forget the handy bird feeder.) Had something spooked her? Is she getting ready to start another brood in the garage?

I must go and stop up that hole, because I think the thunderous noise of squirrel feet has ceased.

The look that squirrel gave me completely crossed over the divide between animal and human. It was quite a moment.

Don’t insult my yarn!

I’ve been sorting through my fibre stash, which includes some half-spun projects. In a bag I found one loo roll tube with a single wound onto it, and two small batts, one of which was stripped down to a roving. I’d obviously planned a three-ply but got bored… Now, in the past I did often spin my singles s (anti-clockwise) rather than z (clockwise), for no particular reason. Squinting at the spun single on the tube I thought it was s-spun, so that’s what I did with the next two (which spun up really quickly – have I got faster?). When it came to plying I obviously plied with z twist. Then of course I discovered that the first single had been spun that way after all. In other words I was plying two s singles with one z single.

I have done this before, deliberately. It’s meant to be a good way of creating a more hard-wearing 3-ply suitable even for socks. I had seen this described as ‘gimp’ yarn, and I thought this was a description of the method. I now discover that it’s really a less than flattering term for things that are imperfect. I believe in the USA it’s used as an insult for people who limp or who are different in some way, and it has some less than savoury sexual meanings. So although previously I might have called this my gimp yarn, I won’t now and I hope you won’t either!

This yarn is quite soft spun, so I wouldn’t use it for socks. It might be quite nice for some mittens.

Sarah Anderson, in The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs calls this ‘opposing ply’.

Walking on the Wye

I took a short walk with a friend yesterday along the bank of the river Wye. It was so good to see spring really getting going. We saw violets: purple as below, white, and some a bit inbetween, but I didn’t think to photograph the more interesting ones. They didn’t seem to have any scent.

The lesser celandines mixed with violets were very pretty.

Wood anenomes are rather a favourite of mine.


This is the latest yarn from my carding project. I love this colour, which I think of as verdigris. That’s the green bloom on copper roofs. I’ve always pronouced it ‘ver-di-griss’, which I suppose is how my parents pronounced it. I was prompted to look the word up, because I’ve heard other people say ‘ver-di-gree’, as if it were a French word (in which case, why don’t they say ‘paree’?). Anyway, it turns out that the word is derived from the medieval French phrase ‘verd de Grèce’, meaning ‘green of Greece’. So it’s nothing to do with grey (‘gris’) at all! I’ll keep my old-fashioned pronunciation.

Out of the dyepot

That’s the fibre I dyed in the oven, retaining quite a lot of water in the pan. I’m pleased with it. After a period of blending and drumcarding, I’m now fixated on barperpole stripes.

Yesterday’s clue that made me chuckle: ‘Two tunnels under a bridge? (8)’. Answer: nostrils!

I’ve learnt something new

I no longer want to use a lot of clingfilm when I’m dyeing fibre, and so I have switched to dyeing in a pot on the stove. This produces nice results, but doesn’t enable me to control the dye effects easily. I had a moment of clarity when I remembered seeing images of dyed tops in rectangular roasting pans. Of course! I had a go yesterday. The wool is still drying, but here’s how it started.

Although the colours have blended, there will be definite stripes. What I did was to thoroughly wet the fibre and then pour the liquid dyes over (rather than dry powder as I have often done before). I covered the pan with aluminium foil and cooked it at about 150℃ for an hour.

I had left quite a lot of water in the roasting pan with the wool and dyes, and I think this has led to the degree of blending. Next time I will pour out the excess water before I add the dyes.

What to do with a gradient

There’s no doubt that dyeing and spinning a gradient is a lot of fun. I dyed this braid on the stovetop.

Then I spun and made a 2-ply yarn: just under 100g of soft merino. This would be very cosy against the neck. Perhaps a scarf, or a cowl, or a shawl? Or what?

A search for ‘gradient’ in projects on Ravelry brings up a few tops and jerseys, some socks, mittens and hats, and an awful lot of shawls. I have knit quite a few myself, ranging from an incredibly warm Daybreak to a little whisp of cashmere lace. Are they worth it? Useful? I don’t know, but I still enjoy knitting them and that’s probably what I’ll do with this gradient.

Another gradient I dyed recently is destined for a different end.

I have decided to undo the gradient and mix up the colours for a good old barberpole yarn. I split the top vertically so that I can make a 2-ply yarn. One single will be short random sections of the colours mixed up. The other single will have longer sections, and I think I’ll keep a repeating pattern with this one. I should end up with a striped yarn with some variation.

I’ve been spinning an awful lot as I wait for my vaccination and the end of lockdown. Listening to audiobooks goes really well with spinning. I’m now on book 4 of the DCI Daley series by Denzil Meyrick. Good tales, brilliantly read by David Monteath.

Hitchhiker 2

This is the second time I’ve made the hugely popular Hitchhiker scarf, and both times with handspun. There’s something very pleasing about handspun garter stitch! The scarf wraps around the neck very satisfactorily too.

Although you are meant to continue to increase until you have 42 (hence the name) points, you can take a view on whether to start the decreases sooner than that or perhaps keep going. My previous Hitchhiker has 37 points. It’s made from slightly thicker wool, and I must have been getting nervous about running out.