Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recycling Insulation!!

My Mum has an elderly friend who buys readymeals made my a local company that delivers to her door. To insulate the food they package it with this - WoolCool, insulation made from wool.

Sheila never knows what to do with the packaging once she has got her delivery. The WoolCool is expensive and the p&p is expensive accordingly. Usually she would just throw the packaging away, but luckily for me Mum suggested she donate it to my spinning and felting efforts, so I have just been given a load of free fibre!!

The wool is clean - no dags or anything, except a bit of plant matter here and there - but uncarded. The fibres are quite short as it's off-cuts. It's all natural colours, with everything in there from white to black. It's coarse but not unpleasant. So I am experimenting with it...

^ Thick and knobbly yarn spun for Mum to try rug-hooking or peg-looming with

I suppose it's good that wool is now used for insulation, as otherwise it would just get thrown away - apparently it is now actually classed as a useless animal by-product!! What waste! So at least it is getting used. But there are still so many things it could be used for before being put to insulation. Even if it isn't nice enough to wear as clothing, it could be used for furnishings, rugs, bags, slippers, stuffing for soft toys...and then used for insulation when the item was worn out. But at least I now have my hands on it and can try making some woolly wonders.
On the plastic bag around the wool, it says "it is totally sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable". Well, they got the last two right, but sustainable? Really? Last time I looked current global meat (and therefore by-product) production was absolutely UNsustainable, and we are heading for a future where people will have to settle for eating less meat and meat production methods will have to change drastically.

So, I'm happy, I've got wool ^^. But it makes me sad how a useful commodity - a commodity on which so much of our civilisation has been built! (Just look at Britain's medieval wool economy!) - is wasted, or at the most mislabelled and used once, still probably destined for landfill.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yarn Design

I've been carrying on with spinning the yarn for my Blue-Faced Leicester wool jumper.

The first sample I spun was a little bit on the thick side, so I went on to spin a skein slightly thinner (below right). I spun it kind of worsted-ish, spinning with the fibres in a straight line. It's a lovely yarn, still a little thick in places, but fluffy and soft.

^ Newest yarn concoction on the left

However, it is a bit loose. The commercial yarn I'm trying to imitate is quite springy, and so this required me to change the way I was spinning. I change to woollen-ish instead, this time folding the roving in half so the fibres were also bent in two, and spinning from the fold. I find this makes it a bit easier to control thickness and doesn't blend the lovely oatmealy colours so much. It also produces a more dense and springy yarn, although it isn't as soft as the worsted-y one - I still need to find the perfect technique, or maybe I'll just alternate worsted and woollen throughout the jumper...don't know how this will work. But I'm really enjoying spinning a little every evening now (seems a more attractive prospect now autumn's on its way - didn't really want to be spinning wool in the summer!) so I am on my way...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Nasty Experience

Yesterday I had my first ever allergic reaction. And unfortunately it was to my own bees!

Dad and I went up to treat with Apiguard and put some solid floors on for the winter. Both of the colonies we looked at were doing great - lots of fliers still out foraging, huge populations but still plenty of room for them to be comfortable...all was going fine until we lifted the first hive up so I could slip the solid floor in underneath...

I have to say here that no, I was stupid enough not to wear gloves. Those bees had always been pretty docile, and the only gloves I could wear were sticky and horrible, so I thought I wouldn't bother. Big mistake! And I have swollen up pretty badly in reaction to stings in the past, to the extent where a doctor gave me an epipen, but I have always ignored her advice to "get a new hobby".

I don't know what made the bees unhappy, but as soon as I went to slip on the solid floor I was engulfed in a stinging cloud of them. I walked off quickly to try and get away from them, but there were still quite a few determined to make sure I stayed away from their home. I got stung 10 times - mostly on the hands and wrists, once on the head through the top of my veil! I've been stung worse than this before - 12 stings all up my legs one time - but never in such quick succession and in such a concentrated area. So my body reacted pretty badly.

I began to feel dizzy, my vision was going black and pixilated at the edges, and I started to find it hard to breathe. I sat down to try and stop myself from feeling dizzy, but it didn't work, and I still couldn't catch my breath. Eventually I started to feel nauseous - actually a relief, because it seemed to make my breathing calmer. Poor Vicky and Dave, the friends whose garden we keep them in! I ended up vomiting on their lawn, but atl least after that I began to feel better. The most stupid thing was that through all this my biggest fear was "oh God, I really do NOT want to have to stab myself in the leg with an epipen". Such a wimp!

Today I feel fine. Hands pretty swollen and itchy, but not as bad as they were last night, when I couldn't take the top off the peanut butter jar and appeared to have no knuckles, just podgy flesh. Feel a bit rough but I feel more sorry for the bees. When a bee stings you, it can take her two days to die, her insides falling out of her abdomen...I tend to try and squash bees that sting me to put them out of their misery, but I didn't yesterday. Poor bees.

But oh well, Mother Nature gave me what I needed - not only did my body manage to take care of itself, but I got a real stinger of a reminder to respect my bees for the beautiful and ferocious animals they are.