Black leading a fireplace

The weather has been quite wet this week. Thankfully, we avoided the flooding that cut off villages and washed away roads and at least one bridge in dales to the north of here, and we haven’t been evacuated like the poor people of Whaley Bridge a mere 50 or 60 miles to the south. But it has been too wet and thundery to do much outdoors. Instead, I cleaned the carpet in our spare bedroom. That meant clearing out all the furniture temporarily, which brought the fireplace into focus.

It looked a mess. The paintwork has seen better days and the cast iron parts that haven’t been painted, like the grate, front bars and ash pan cover, were rusty. While the carpet was drying, I decided to clean up the removeable ash pan cover for a start to see if it was worth doing any more.

After attacking it with a wire brush in the drill, and then lots of elbow grease and wire wool, it looked a lot better. I popped out to buy a tube of old-fashioned black grate polish – thanks to the popularity of cast iron wood-burning stoves and fancy barbecues the stuff is still available, albeit no longer called black lead. I polished up the ash pan cover with it and achieved a subtle, gunmetal gleam that reminded me of my grandmother’s range.

Polished ashpan cover

Shiny ashpan cover, rusty front bars

There was no doubt about it, I was going to have to tackle the front bars too.

Polished grate

All shiny now

The bars took longer because they’re fixed to the fireplace so had to be de-rusted carefully by hand, using wire wool only, to avoid dirt going all over the newly cleaned carpet. (Memo to self: next time, do the dirty jobs before washing the carpet.) I reckon the whole job, including the ash pan cover, took me five hours.

Now I need to decide whether to strip the gloss paint off the rest of the cast iron fire surround, de-rust and polish that too, or just repaint it. I worry that so much black will look out of place in a bedroom that’s decorated in pale colours. Also, I discovered that no matter how long I buffed the ash pan cover for, some black still comes off it if it’s rubbed with a clean cloth. I suspect that the polish contains powdered graphite.

Maybe it’s not a good idea to have a fireplace in our spare room that could deposit black on guests’ clothing. The fire surround is very plain with no surface detail, so nothing that a gunmetal gleam would enhance. It presumably once had tiles around it to provide some embellishment, but I’m not sure I want to go down that route as any colour I introduce will only limit future decorating options. For now, I’m going to leave it as it is. It looks a whole lot better without the rust anyway.

Tombola hats

I should have finished my St Rémy jumper by now but I’ve been distracted by hats. A friend asked if I’d help her knit some to give as prizes in a tombola at a local beer festival this autumn. She had chunky wool for them, and I jumped at the chance to knit something quick instead of plodding away at stocking stitch on 3.5mm needles.

There was yellow and blue acrylic yarn that looked, near enough, like Leeds United’s colours. I’ve made a couple of supporters’ hats with it.

LUFC hatsWith the remaining yarn, a plain black and a white/grey/black variegated yarn, I’m knitting two-colour brioche.

Brioche hat in the roundI’ve never done brioche in the round before and I’m finding it plain sailing.  Instead of having to remember where I am in a four row sequence – rows 1 and 2 in each of the main colour and the contrast – there are only two rounds, one in each colour. But you do have to remember whether to leave the yarn to the front or the back of the work at each changeover.

I haven’t worked out yet how to end this hat, but there’s plenty of time for that. Brioche, like the similar fisherman’s rib, is slow to grow.

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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