It feels like the greyest time of year, but in a perverse sort of way I always look forward to January. While the weather is usually pretty dreadful, it''s the time when I get back to work after a break.
It's the time of year when I finish off the plans for the year, all my show applications for 2018 are now submitted, the last workshop slots are filled. It's also when I start making fibre plans. I come back to work with new ideas for different bases, and other new ideas to put in place.
It's also when I re-boot my knitting and spinning. I've usually spent the back end of the year making gifts for others, so often get the luxury of starting new projects.
During the holidays I balled up all the small skeins of Superfine Shetland I've spun over the past few years. These were leftover bits and pieces from Bach Packs, which have been discontinued, so it was time to turn them in to something!
Over the holidays I messed around with some stitch dictionaries, and did some swatching...
and am now turning those balls in to a slightly bonkers colourwork jumper.
It's not been done with any great amount of planning. I worked out the gauge from my swatch, measured from a jumper, and did the maths to get a stitch count. Some of the colour combinations are more successful than others, but I want this to be a fun, no worrying project, so I've decided to just embrace them.
I did a provisional cat on, because I can't even decide how I want to do the edgings. They might be ribbing, or I might do some sort of turned hem...
I normally work top down, but I'm going bottom up with this, delaying the decision about how to work the sleeves for as long as possible! I could go very traditional and work steeks, or I could stop at the armholes, work the sleeves, then put them all on one needle and work raglan decreases. At the moment I'm leaning towards the steek option, because I've never used that construction method before....
I may even go completely freestyle and not make the sleeves matching!
It's also the time of year when I look at the business samples. I like to work with my fibres, it means I can tell you about them with an informed viewpoint. I also like to have samples on display at shows (Did you know that there's a whole page devoted to the samples I make?)
The next big sampling task is the Tussah Silk... I'm lacking in woven samples at the moment, and weaving is a great project to show off the whole palette of colours. So I spent last night playing around with the sample cards, and constructed a huge gradient from the 38 colours that will be the permanent palette..
Not a very good photo, given it was taken at 9.30pm, but I hope it's going to look stunning. It's going to be a huge colour and weave project requiring some maths! There will be 6 ends of each colour running the length of the warp, and then I'm going to be weaving the weft in the same colour pattern.... Not sure how wide the weft stripes will be yet, maybe wider than the weft stripes. I probably won't know until I start weaving.
Best get spinning!
We're now at nearly 500 posts in the Big-Stuff SAL in the Ravelry group, and have had quite a few finished objects, and people starting on their second project. I've finished my jumper... but haven't managed to take a photo. Must do better! I think I need one made completely from my own fibre, so the next batch of Cambrian Wool Sweater Packs I dye... one is going to be mine!
I think that little lot should keep me busy for a while, particularly as there are some behind the scenes projects that I need to think about more before I can share them with you!
Before Woolfest Mum and I took a trip back over to the Peak District. We lived on the edge of the National Park for 25 years, but we've now been away for long enough that it's like being a visitor, and you notice all the things you take for granted. We stayed with my Aunty who still lives on the edge of the Park, we'd gone over to visit the new RHS Chatsworth garden show (which was a big disappointment), but the day before we went to Haddon Hall.
My highlight of the hall was a small room with some tapestry hangings. The wonderful thing is that you could get up close and personal to them. They're not behind glass, so you can really see the detail of how they were made. I only had my phone with me, and the light levels were low to preserve them, so the quality isn't great... but you can see how certain areas were woven using silk to catch the light and act as highlights. You could also see where repairs had been carried out at various stages, such as the red darn on the right.
The colours have lost their vibrancy, the yellow in particular has faded, hence the number of blue leaves... They would have been green by using a blue dye like woad, that was then over-dyed with a yellow dye plant such as Weld.
And here's the real tragedy. These tapestries survived because they were forgotten about. Haddon Hall wasn't lived in for nearly 200 years. In the early 1700's the family abandoned it, choosing to live in a more comfortable, modern property. They were bundled up, and put in to a tower for storage, and there they stayed until the 1920's when the then Duke started restoring the hall.
They were put in to a stable block for storage, before being taken to be restored, and made ready for rehanging. But tragically one evening fire broke out. Many tapestries were nearly complete destroyed. Thos that survived were now in pieces, they all have burn patterns along the fold lines. Some were salvaged, and stitched on to backing cloths, and are now on display again. On the top photo the finer threads are from the more modern restoration.
I'm not a textile historian, but I did love trying to work out how these were made. To my eyes it look like they were woven sideways, with warp thread running across the fabric when they're hung for display. They're a very weft faced structure, with the warp being completely hidden.
They were made by expert craftsmen, a drawing would be produced, and taken round for the nobility to choose from. So in the case of some of the Haddon Hall tapestries other examples are in royal collections in other European countries like Sweden.
Back in March I set the members of the Hilltop Cloud Ravelry group a challenge. I called it In5pire.
The group has always been focused on sharing what we make, so I wanted to do something to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Hilltop Cloud that was all about sharing, making, and was something that anyone could join in with.
The challenge was to take one of the images I put together on a special Pinterest Board, and to use one of them as the start of a design process. They could create whatever they wanted, but they had to document their progress!
58 people took part, and an amazing 21 got their projects finished by the June deadline. There were art yarns, gradients, lace weight, cabled yarns. Some designed their own patterns, others ventured in to free form knitting and weaving, other used classic pattern drafts.
The one common thread were the set of inspiration images, na that they were all using Hilltop Cloud fibre.
If you have some spare time then it's worth browsing through the thread, or if you just want the shortened version this link just shows posts containing photos. It's well worth looking through.
After a short delay, while I travelled up and down the country teaching, I finally managed to sit down with Jill Shephered aka. wriggglefingers (who rather handily is also a spinning tutor, and used to teach Design in schools).
There were prizes on offer, not for the most technically difficult project, but for the one we felt showed the most evolution, the most problem solving skills, and the most thorough testing and documentation. It was really tough as so many of the entries had done an amazing job.
In the end our winner was this shawl.
It was designed by Anne-Lise. She had already spun her yarn before the challenge started, but the motifs used in the shawl went through a huge number of changes while she settled on the right combination.
From her project notes-
My inspiration is this one, which inspires me because it is both nature and culture, new and ancient, it is still here and at the same time lost to us. I will try to incorporate those thoughts into the design.
April 20, 2016Have been swatching.
Barbara Abbey tells us in her book “Knitting Lace” that she has collected old, as in 1850’es old, knitted lace patterns for a long time, and in this book presents the ones she likes the best. She says many are very old, but she never once mentions her sources. I have found a very nice edge pattern in the book, which is presumably from a very old source. I have no way of finding out. It might be from Weldon’s Practical knitter, or from Miss Lambert’s “Knitting Book”, or it might not. I found a similar, but also quite different edge in Barbara Walker’s treasuries, where it’s called a Portuguese edging.
I swatched both edgings to see if the yarn liked them. They are both garter stitch, and I tried that, and then I tried st st, and the pattern definitely wants to be garter stitch.
None of the patterns were really completely as I wanted them (odd holes and weird beginnings), so I have been spending the day trying to cook up my own version.
I found a nice way that fit the number of rows I needed, but I want to let it rest over night to see if I really like it…
May 10, 2016Swatching the body stitches, I was thinking about other historical evidence in Wales, going further back.
Romans, certainly. Roads and forts. I swatched the “Roman stripe” pattern from Barbara Walker, the yarn liked that a lot. I also swatched two other patterns that looked promising, a brioche stitch and something I thought might look like stone walls, but they didn’t work at all.
Vikings, certainly. Raids and stories… We could let some cablework symbolise the Vikings, and as they would have been using arrows to defend themselves, it fits well with an arrow-and-cable combination. I swatched and found that it would be nicer with a 3-braid than a 2-braid, and I will probably add some purled sts on either side of it to make it stand out better. But the yarn liked it a lot.
So, there we have all the elements, now I can begin knitting!
Of course, things never go smoothly, and it was lovely to see how the design evolved. The finished shawl just spoke to me of Wales, in a way that I can't really put in to words.
I know Anne-Lise is currently working on writing up the design, and I think I will need a version of my own.
I knew it was going to be hard to pick just one winner, so also said that there would be a runner-up prize.
This Rose Quartz inspired a lot of people, but Carrie's interpretation in to weaving was stunning.
Her pattern draft, the manipulation of the silk & kid mohair skeins she spun to match the colouring, the use of a sparkly fibre at the edges, it all makes for a beautiful project.
A few other projects also caught our eye...
There was also a random prize, and it was won by Kate. Her free-form weaving was a really strong contender in the judging, and has definitely inspired me to actually do something with those old pictures frames I'd been saving for just this purpose!
I can't think of a better way to bring the end of my 5th anniversary celebrations to a close. I love what I get to do on a daily basis because I love seeing how my fibres get transformed. Fibre can be beautiful to look at, but until you turn it in to yarn, and then turn that yarn in to stunning, useful objects it's not reached its full potential.
If you joined in the challenge, thank you so much. Even if you didn't finish, thank you for sharing your knowledge. If you didn't join in, do go and read the thread, click through to the project pages, favourite the ones you like, and leave some comments.
Oh, and watch this space... apparently they'd like to do it again in a little while!
While the last post was an overview of everything Summer School related, this one is a bit more about me and what I did during the week.
I was lucky enough to spend the first part of the week on the Wax Resist on Silk Course with Isabella Whitworth. Theoretically this is well within my comfort zone, I spend all day applying colour to fibres, and do have a reasonable eye for line and pattern. The course was so much more than I had ever hoped for though. Just far enough outside my comfort zone to stretch me creatively, but close enough to my existing skills to make it relaxing.
The biggest learning curve was undoubtably the wax element of the course. In essence it's a form of batik, which is definitely something I'd never done before. Our first test piece was all about learning how the wax behaves with the variety of different tools.
Isabella has a fabulous collection of brushes, traditional cantings, and other found objects all of which can be dipped in to the wax pot and used to make a mark. It quickly became obvious that learning to draw recognisable shapes in 2 days was not going to be my forte, so instead I focused on the more abstract mark making and went with what I know, which is colour!
In my second piece I focused on 2 brushes whose mark I liked from the test piece, and instead got to know how I could build up layers of colour. This piece is actually made up of a series of gradients washed on to the silk in layers.
In this technique you alternate making wax marks with applying a wash of colour, then add more wax to preserve the colour of the previous layer, then add another wash of colour. Repeat until there's no more space! The error with this piece was to start off too dark with my first colour wash, it left me nowhere to go as there's only so much dye the silk can soak up.
I then moved on to a scarf... I've only got this photo of it as it's now living with wriggefingers.
Same principal, different shape this time, lots of overlapping wriggly circles made using a pastry cutter. This time I started off light, so there are a huge number of colours in this project progressing from pale yellow, to orange to deep red, then a final unifying layer of chocolate brown.
For my final piece of work in the class I didn't want to do a scarf like everyone else. I am not a silk scarf wearer, and instead I fancied having something I could use as art. So 4 individual panels were stretched out... lacking in creative juices that afternoon I decided to go for a classic spring, summer, autumn, winter theme. Each panel started out with a very pale layer of colour, each one unique, but I made sure to share some of the colours with other panels so they all tied together.
I carried on adding wax and colour until the silk was full. Then came the scary moment; covering up all that colour with a layer of dark browny/grey. I caused a few panic moments amongst my class mates, some of whom thought I should stop at the colourful stage, but I think I made the right decision!
What I loved about this course was the speed at which your could develop an idea, with every piece you could see how it linked to the last one. It's not something I get to do very often in my other creative outlooks, they're all much more slow speed crafts, you don't get the same ability to test and change ideas.
In the second half of the week I took part in a rigid heddle class with Dawn Willey. This class was far more technical, and was focused on setting up a rigid heddle loom to use 2 heddles. That means you can weave a cloth that is much finer, but also means you can some more complex weave patterns such as double cloth, twill and many more, particularly if you add in pick up sticks and a heddle rod.
The first sample was strips on the same warp at standard, 1.5 and double density. I was using a 8 dpi heddle, with a 10dpi heddle as my second heddle, that's why there are the vertical lines, I had to miss out every 5th slot and hole in that heddle as the dpi's need to match. A second 10dpi heddle is now ordered and on it's way to me.
So in this sample from left to right we have 8epi, 12epi and 16epi
In the next sample we explored more of the complex weave structures, starting with double cloth. In this technique you effectively work 2 layers on the same loom independently. The top colour is worked on one set of warp threads, the bottom colour on another set, and you end up with two layers of cloth. These can either be completely separated, or bound together at the edges depending on how you twist your shuttles at the end of each pick (line of weft).
I also got to have a go at doing twill, this weave pattern creates diagonal lines running across the cloth, and revealed a complete lack of ability to count to 4...
I still have the remains of the test warp on my loom, and a few more techniques I didn't manage to do whilst at Summer School. Now all I need is a time machine so I can sit down at my loom and try them out.
I've not been at home much in August... here's what I was getting up to. It's a long post, but I crammed a lot in to 10 days away from home.
So as I mentioned in the last post, February has been stupidly busy. Partly because I've tried to fit a 31 day month in to 28 days... February is just plain sneaky like that. You get to the 25th, think you have loads of time left to get your monthly jobs done, and before you know it March is arriving!
However, I have actually finished off quite a few of my personal projects. The mountain of grey yarn (nearly 1kg) is now spun, and will be next on the needles... well once I finish the cardigan it will, though the end is in sight, there are two sleeves that are joined to the body.
The combing is also finished, and is now on the wheel being spun as a lace weight. In fact, that's nearly finished, a lovely combination of well prepared fibre and having a fast ratio is making it a quick spin.
There must be something in the air regarding white lace as the results for the Longest Thread competition were released overnight. For a first attempt I'm pretty pleased. Fifth best for a wool thread spun on a wheel is pretty good for a first attempt, particularly on a wheel that's fundamentally unsuited to this sort of spinning. I love my old Matchless, but for spinning a very fine thread you need lightweight bobbins, and mine weigh nearly 100g. I blogged about spinning for the contest here.
Another finished thing is my weaving, it's off the loom and has been fulled. Woven wool cloth for clothing needs to be fulled, or felted. It makes the cloth better structurally by sticking the wool together. It will mean it wears better and won't go baggy.
Now I am a naughty weaver and don't sample...
So this, which was lovely, but not suitable for clothing as it was still see-through,and very mobile, became this...
Still recognisably the same cloth, but it shrank rather more than I was planning... that floor length pinafore dress, is now going to be a shift dress. Sometimes you just go with the flow!
As for my other unfinished tasks, I have a whole weekend with no other distractions planned. A group of us are taking over a Youth Hostel, where I plan on doing little else other than spinning and eating.
The sun has been shining for the past couple of days. In a way it's been lovely, I've actually been able to dry some fibre outside for the first time this year. However, it's also revealing the state of the house after several months of winter...
When you rely on wood as your source of heat you're continually bringing the outside in to your house, add in all the fibre from the business and all my personal crafting and the floor is awash with mini tumbleweeds... When you only ever see the floor in half daylight you tend not to notice them, but when sunlight blazes in through the windows... ooh boy. We won't even mention that the windows themselves are now revealed to be utterly filthy.
No point in getting too concerned though, there's at least 2 more month of proper winter living, and everything will only get covered in dust again if I clean it now.
Instead there was a compromise, a quick whizz round with the hoover to pick up the worst of the grime, and a tidy up of all the stuff that gets scattered around the place.
Basket of fibre being a case in point... I swear it's breeding in there. I've definitely spun and knitted up more than I've purchased in the last year, yet somehow it still takes up the same amount of space if not more. Of course, in my head, the braids of fibre that I dye myself and end up keeping don't really count. Spares from the fibre clubs are the worst culprits. They're club colourways, and while I've never said that club colours are exclusive to the club, I always feel guilty about selling the spares... so instead I keep them, particularly if it's a colour or base fibre I'm in love with.
However, a bit of forceful stuffing in to boxes, and things are no longer looking quite so untidy. I just about managed to avoid getting distracted by the other contents of the boxes as well. It doesn't help that every project I'm working on right now is tending towards the epic scale. All started months ago, and all so close to being finished, but not quite there.
Case in point, I started this cardigan before Christmas. It's Kate Davies Northmavine Hoody, in handspun Hannui, some hand dyed, but mostly in natural colours. It's a beautiful pattern, but is in fingering yarn on 2.5mm needles, which means it's not exactly a speedy project!
The sleeve has had me stalling for weeks now, it doesn't help that there are 5 balls of yarn to wrangle, and you're changing colour 6 times in the space of 10 rows. However, I just got a present that should make yarn wrangling easier.
My very own posh project bag made by Mum. The fabric is one I've long adored, but it's eyewateringly expensive, and we've been trying to find it as fabric by the metre instead of pre-made in to cushions for years. I also got a matching homemade cushion, but there are leftovers of the fabric, so I think Mum is making more bags like this one.
The smaller 100g balls fit in to the outside pockets so I can use them as centre pull balls without having to constantly untangle the yarn rolling around on the floor. The big 200g ball of grey fits in the inside yarn pocket, and the cardigan body now fits in the bottom of the bag, instead of being shoved under the chair waiting for me to finish the arms.
Another big project is combing a Merino/Wensleydale fleece, again, it's so nearly done, but combing is such hard physical work that I don't feel like doing it after a big day dyeing. It's coming up beautifully though so I can't wait to spin it.
Of course, first I need to finish yet another big spinning project. An entire fleece destined for a Blank Canvas jumper. This got put in to time out this autumn as I'd failed to get the first couple of bobbins to match the sample. Closer examination, and the passing of several months, makes me think I wasn't as far out as I thought, and it will probably be close enough. Only 2 more large batts to go to get this one done... Though there's already another spinning project on my Hansen mini spinner, and of course, that's equally large...
The current weaving project is the most epic of the lot. I've been weaving this since the summer. So far there are 2 lengths done, and only one short piece left to go. In total it will be enough for a floor length pinafore dress, which is a huge amount of fabric to weave on a rigid heddle, there's 7m so far.
The next piece will be much smaller as I'm nearly finished with the coloured yarn I'm using. In fact, the quickest way to get this finished is to get the final warp on the loom, so enough talking about it, and time to get it done, I'm off to do battle with the warping peg!
The loom has been busy over the past couple of weeks.
As many of you know I weave quite a bit, but I'd definitely not class myself as a weaver. I know just enough to realise how little I know! All my weaving is on rigid heddle looms. They're a fabulous piece of kit, they produce lovely fabric very quickly, and are capable of some quite complex weave patterns, as well as plain weave.
I started out on a 10 inch Schacht Cricket loom, then upgraded to a Krmoski Harp 24 inch which I hated (poor quality ratchets for tension, and it never felt sturdy enough). Last year at Wonderwool I treated myself to a Schacht Flip, again in 24 inch. It's wide enough to weave comfortably at, and produces fabric of a reasonable width to make clothing without too many seams.
This was the first thing off the loom. Every year our guild holds a Christmas challenge. We all get 100g of the same fibre, and sent away to make something from it. At our Christmas meeting we share the results.
This year we used some Alpaca Supreme from John Arbon. I dyed it, then spun it as singles, planning to use it for an attempt at Collapse Weave. I like to use the guild challenge as an opportunity to try out something new, and this is a technique I'd not done before. It's by no means perfect, but I know where I went wrong for my next attempt. Mostly that I need far more twist in my singles as the scarf hardly collapsed down at all. You're meant to get a fabric that is very pleated, mine just has a slightly rumpled look!
Straight off the loom it looked like this. So did collapse, but nowhere near as much as it should have done.
This project was done much more quickly, just 1 evening in fact.
It's something I've wanted to try for a while following on from a discussion on Ravelry, wondering what would happen if you wove with unspun silk hankies.
I don't actually like spinning with hankies that much as I find them tough on my hands, doing the pre-drafting is fine, but I then find it hard to draft any further for diameter control whilst spinning. As a result I've been after an alternative use of them for a while. I also dislike the stop start nature of having to pause to pull out more hankies, I tend to get in to a zone when spinning.
I was slightly concerned the fabric wouldn't be very hard wearing due to the lack of twist, but the long staple of the silk, and using a finely set warp seems to have prevented that from happening.
It's made a beautiful fabric.
The warp was some grey laceweight on a cone I bought cheaply a while ago, put on doubled in a 12dpi heddle. I then pulled off the hankies one by one, pulled them out in to strips just like I'd do if I was spinning them. The instructions here work well. After that I just wound the strip of hanky round my hand, and used my fingers to push the strip of fibre through the shed. Winding it on to a shuttle didn't really work because it's such a short strip of fibre. When I got to the end of the length, I pulled out another hanky, overlapped them slightly and carried on. I did full (felt) the fabric slightly once I cut it off the loom by using alternate dunks in hot and then cold water.
50g gave me enough fabric to make 2 large cushion fronts.
My little (well not so little really) brother has just moved in to his own house. He's finally got a place of his own instead of having a room in a shared house.
I thought I should make him and his girlfriend a present, but I am short on free time at the moment, so a knitted blanket was out!
However, at Woolfest this year I had seen some very nice woven placemats, where instead of using yarn as the weft (the strand that goes across the width of the cloth), the weaver had used thin sticks.
Mine are a decidedly more rustic version, but do have their own charm.
The sticks came from the lane behind our house. The trees we cut down 2 years ago, that had formeerly been a hedge, are now growing shoots from the base. Stripped of leaves, and left to dry they worked perfectly.
They'll certanly insulate the table from anything hot, and worst case scenario, everything in them is natural so should they find their way to the compest heap they'll slowly break down and leave no trace.
I had a length of warp left, because I didn't meassure and do sums, so that was just woven using some more linen to make a table runner to match the mats.
I have been on a real weaving kick for the last few months, while my knitting activity has slowed dramatically I am turning lots of my yarn stash in to lengths of cloth. In reality it just changes where I store them, but it makes me feel better about buying more fluff!
However, in the last week I have actually turned some of the lengths of cloth in to actual items.
This was a piece of cloth I wove over the Christmas period. It was from a Smorgasbox by the lovely ladies at Nunoco. I loved the combination of colours but couldn't work out how to use them in a knitting project. Instead they went on the loom as a warp, and I used a plain brown as the weft. Originally I thought I might use it for a skirt, but it's a bit bright for me, and I also underestimated the felting power of merino. This halved in size when I fulled it...
There was a bit of fabric leftover so I turned it in to a case for my kindle. I made it up as I went along, so as a result you don't want to look too closely at the finishing! However, there's a layer of plastic between the outer and the liner so it should protect the screen nicely.
This bit of weaving was more recent. I'd turned some of the yarn (my Manx Loaghtan, Plums and Blackberries from the BoB club in October 2012, and Strata on Shetland from Manda crafts) in to a smaller set of cushions as a present for my friend Katharine. I'd still got some yarn left so I put a random warp on the loom using odds and ends of cones from other projects, and then just alternated the 2 yarns. This cushion is for Mum as it matches her red sofa very nicely.
I have something a bit more experimental planned for my next weaving project... we shall see how it turns out!