Life at the moment seems to fall in to 2 categories, those with too much time to fill, and those with no enough time. It could be argued that those with too much time to fill need to find themselves an all absorbing hobby (I could gently suggest they try spinning!). At present I am firmly in the category not enough time to fill.
I am fortunate in that I can carry on with my business pretty much as normal, a few potential issues got side-stepped by some forward planning I did at the beginning of March when I could see the storm clouds building. The good weather has also dragged me out in to the garden more than usual, with the feeling that I should appreciate the sun on my back and soil that isn't like a quagmire.
But at the end of March I ordered myself a new loom. I've woven on a rigid heddle loom for years now, and have always been very content with what I could produce. But with the dyeing of warps came the discovering a whole new skill, and a thought of "I'll take a look at some 4-shaft table looms at Wonderwool" turned in to a clicking of a button, and a new Erica 50cm 4 shaft loom was now mine.
I put the first warp on last Friday, rading the stash for something I had in a sensible quantity, and that I had no fixed plan for. Despite winding the warps for the shop for a few months now I made a right mess of winding this one!
The usual case of "it's only for me, and it doesn't have to be perfect" combined with more haste, less speed. Yes, winding it from skein to ball would have been a very sensible idea, and maybe picking a bouncy merino wasn't my best plan either. By the end of the warp the inconsistencies in tension were causing real difficulties, and thank heavens it was only a 2m warp to mess around with.
This was fresh off the loom... and it is a very dodgy looking piece of cloth!
Thankfully fulling is a great leveller... though also revealed another newbie mistake as the sett was far too dense for this thickness of yarn, despite what it looked like on the loom under tension. However, it's still usable, and will be chopped up to make a project bag.
At the very end I let myself mess around with the thing that I'm really looking forward to exploring most on the new loom.... twill!
I didn't bother changing the sett (density of the warp threads) for this, so it's not very technically correct, but I just wanted to experiment with how the process works so that I can do it better when I tie on a warp for this technique properly. I used some hand-spun skeins of Shetland for the weft, which pulled in dramatically when fulled the cloth (it's also possibly overfulled because I still need to get to know our new washing machine), that really hid a lot of the twill pattern.
Inspired by the feeling that I was flailing around in the dark to a certain extent I bought myself a subscription to the Jane Stafford online guild, which I can't remcomned highly enough. I now have a lighted candle to at least let me see where the door is, even though I am definitely not capable of walking through it!
After much video watching I've put on a colour and weave warp in 2/8 cotton to weave some tea towels. My warp still went a bit squiffy towards the end (more haste, less speed, think before rushing to a fix for a problem...), but is so much better, andproved that counting isn't my strong point. The warps I wind to dye are all in one colour, and set up in a way that are quick to count and check ( 3 cones of yarn, 150 ends, I count in groups of 30!). This warp has lots of changing groups of colours, and each section contains a different number of ends. So no, it's not an optical illusion, the 2nd group from the right is bigger than the others. I was already doing some fudging maths because my reed doesn't quite allow me to get the 18epi sett called for in the pattern instructions, and is only just wide enough, so that extra number of ends sent things really awry as I was threading the reed. However, I improvised, and the middle stripe, and the one to the left is threaded at 20epi, and it's only for tea towels, so all will be fine!
I'm doing this first towel just using 1 colour because never having woven on cotton as well it seemed to be a bit ambitious to immediately launch in to a true colour and weave of getting the weft to match the warp pattern. However, that will come next!
All of this rambling is just to say, take pleasure in getting things wrong, the mistakes teach you what not to do the next time. And then the satisfaction of getting it right is all the sweeter.
I heard the cuckoo in the valley this morning as I was letting the chickens out. Then as I was eating breakfast we spotted a Swallow. Now I'm just awaiting the arrival of the House Martins and it will start to feel like summer.
Mind you, I've seen the weather forecast for next week and I'm not getting to excited, my tender plants will be staying safely in the greenhouse for a while longer.
Slowly the hills are turning more green, but it always take a while here. One of the joys of looking at the hillsides at the moment is that you can spot all the apple trees that are part of the hedgerows. The Hawthorn has it's buds, but the May isn't quite ready to impress us yet. Last autumn we bought an ornamental Hawthorn that has red flowers so I am looking forward to seeing that.
I'm still working full time (in fact more full time than usual to keep you all supplied with materials!) but there have been a few bits and pieces I've finished off this month.
The warp I wound for the indirect warping on a rigid heddle loom tutorial has now been woven. At the beginning of lock down I bought myself a new loom as I fancied having a go at weaving more complex patterns with finer yarn, so a 4-shaft lout Erica is in the middle of being assembled.
I've also been quilting.... I bought the fabric for this on my last escape from Wales before the current time of great uncertainty. It was meant to be a present for my Aunty for her birthday in the autumn, but I decided she should have it sooner. The centre of each square uses an elephant print fabric because she loves them, and I then spent the day wanting mourn The Stitch Festival in London creating a palette of Fat Quarters, starting off with some amazing wax print fabrics in bold reds and blues. The back was a piece of eco-dyed fabric, using madder, onion skins turmeric(this isn't a true dye, but the backs of quilts don't get much light, and the fabric was mordanted properly so it might stick around for a while), and some leaves from the garden soaked in iron water.
I've also finished off this quilt, which is perfect Quarantine sewing because there is no precision or planning required.
It’s a completely improvised design, with bits of theory from both of Rayna Gillman’s books, and some bits and pieces I picked up at workshop I went on last December.
I’ve had a tea towel from Herdy that I’ve always loved too much to actually use, featuring a beautiful wood cut of the stages of wool processing. I cut that up in to panels, and then just sewed together scraps, some of them are from fabric I’ve printed myself or dyed, others leftovers from other projects.
The back is another piece of eco-dyed fabric, using some leftover cochineal from a skein of silk I dyed, and the madder from the previous quilt, and some birch bark. Then the cochineal and madder got thrown on to the quilt and bundled up for some more eco printing. I soaked the leaved in copper water this time, and there's a vague hint of their impression, but not as precise a print as I get with iron water.
I got the Procyon dyes out and dyed a bundle of fabric to go with my picture, one of them has already been used in the backing of the quilt above!
For May we're getting ambitious and packs of fabric and Procyon dyes have gone out in the post... we're going to have a go at doing a full workshop on colour mixing via Skype.
On the business front things are carrying on normal here. Our post is still being collected from the doorstep, though the delivery speed is erratic at the moment. Royal Mail are doing an excellent job, but sometimes things are taking longer than the amazingly quick speeds we've all become used to. I have good supplies of lots of fibres, including the supplies for the Time Travellers Club for the next 2 months. My suppliers in Italy are now dispatching orders again so there are regular supplies of Superfine Merino & Silk, Cotton and Ramie arriving. The Tour de France has been delayed until September... but the Tour de Fleece is going ahead in the traditional July time slot, and over in the Ravelry group we decided that we'd take part as normal, and we could always do the whole thing again in September if the race manages to happen. Please do come and join us.
This weekend should have been the weekend of Wonderwool Wales... which is understandably not happening. Or at least not happening in person.
Over on Facebook there's a really active group where vendors will be posting all weekend, sharing the things they would have bought with them, or over on Instagram you can follow the @wonderwoolwales account for selected highlights, or the #virtualwonderwool for images posted by the exhibitors.
As many of you have noticed I've already been listing all the stock I'd dyed specially for Wonderwool, in fact there's not a lot of it left! What I have got lots of however is all the lovely Tussah Silk, Ramie, Cotton and other commercially dyed fibres. I've also just unpacked a box filled with Superfine Merino & Silk, so will be getting that online as quickly as I can package it up.
I've also tidied through the stock room, as that's another task I normally do before Wonderwool and pull out all the odds and ends that have accumulated over the year. They're now in their very own virtual sale box.
I also put together some mixed bags of fibres that were sold last weekend, and for each bag that sold £10 was split between Refuge, Air Ambulance Wales and Meals for the NHS. There's just 2 left, but I know someone will buy those over the weekend, and these charities need funds now, so I made the donations this morning. There were 40 bags, so I had a total of £400 to donate. Each charity should have got £133.33 which is a very untidy sum, so I decided to round it up to £150.
Stay Safe everyone. Keep staying at home. Look after one another. Ask for help if you need it, and when help is offered accept it in a gracious manner.
Be kind. Do what you need to do to get through this.
Oh what a strange month it has been....
As I was travelling back from London at the very beginning of the month it was just as the first Corona Virus cases were confirmed in the UK. In the following week I had a trip out to the dentists, and since then I've been at home.
My March workshop at Pembrokeshire Guild has been rescheduled for next year, as has one at Abergele Guild in May. If you are a guild who is on my waiting list for workshops next year please be patient, I don't want to start making any bookings until I know how many workshops will need to be rescheduled from this year.
In many ways I am extraordinarily lucky. I work from home, and can carry on doing so. Our post is collected from our doorstep at the same time as we get our daily delivery, I am very used to staying at home and enjoying my own company. If anything staying at home has actually meant I've been having far more conversations with friends and family. I had video chats with textile friends on 3 nights last week, and we played Trivial Pursuits with my brother and his wife. at the weekend with them safely in their living room in Sheffield, and us in Wales.
We also have ample outdoor space on our doorstep, and a garden to enjoy. I spent last autumn squelching around in the garden planting tulip bulbs. I'd held off planting them in the hope the soil would dry out a bit, and the rain would stop, but it never happened, so I ended up just digging holes and plonking in bulbs and hoping for the best.
At the beginning of March, just before it became apparent just how serious we needed to be taking things, and before any government advice about not travelling came in to play Mum and Dad went up to Scotland for a holiday. They stayed in a little cottage looking out over a loch.
There was a resident Pine Martin who showed up every evening at dusk. Unfortunately Mum washed her phone in the washing machine just before they left, so the photos aren't great. However they had a lovely time getting out in to the hills.
Whilst they were away I was at home working... and painting
After a dreary wet winter I was clearly desperate for some colour when I made the paint choice. It's a beautiful sunny mustard yellow that looks warm and cheery even when the weather outside is grey.
To add to that I also got another quilt project finished.
It's a Jelly Rainbow Quilt from Ruby Star Society and is made from the recommended fabric, because just like with spinning and knitting, sometimes it's nice to do a project where someone else has made all the creative decisions, so all you have to do is sew.
The back however.... I did get creative with it.
The Speckled Fabric is really beautiful in a lovely range of colours, and just a subtle hint of bling from some of the metallic speckles.
I hand dyed some pieces of silk noil, and used them together with a few fragments of eco-printed silk noil.
I also got a jumper finished, this used some Whitefaced Woodland that was spare from the Best of British Club a number of years ago. I spun the fibre as part of the Tour de Fleece last year, and then combined it with some yarn spun from batts that a friend carded for my birthday.
In essence the pattern is Flax Light from Tin Can Knits, but I modified it to do a turned hem and cuffs, and left off the garter stitch panel that runs down the sleeves.
The chickens have been loving the warm dry weather, and have been getting in to all kinds of mischief. I have replanted a set of wallflower plants at least 3 times!
The bees have also been enjoying the warm weather. Four of our 5 hives have come through the winter with a laying queen, which is a personal best for us. This was filmed a couple of weeks ago.
I suspect most of you are aware now, but Wonderwool has been cancelled for this year. Sad news, but very necessary. I've been busy uploading all the stock that I had already dyed, so the shop is nice and full with lots of things to choose from. On the weekend of Wonderwool itself there will be a #virtualwonderwool happening in Instagram, so be sure to get involved.
There's also a new Facebook Group for traders ti share what they were going to be bringing, so do go and take a look.
There have been a lot of pre-wound warps going to new homes over the past few days, and lots of people will shortly be trying to put a pre-wound warp on to their rigid heddle loom for the first time.
Most of us who started out with rigid heddle looms have probably only ever used the direct method of warping, but it's just as simple to put a pre-wound warp on your loom. There are lots of resources on the internet, a few You Tube videos, but not very much by way of step-by-step photo tutorials, which is my favourite way to learn because it makes it very easy to follow the instructions as you work, without trying to pause a video, or wish it would get to the point, or go a bit more slowly.
This is my method, it's largely the same as the one in Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom (UK Book Depository link, they're a great alternative to Amazon for books, or see if your local independent bookshop can get you a copy).
First un-chain your warp. You need to identify which end has "the cross". This is a criss-cross pattern put in as the warps are wound which hold the threads the correct order and stops them getting tangled. In the photo above it's on the right hand side, the end also has more ties, including one around the cross itself, and one in the loop above the cross. Do not cut any ties until you have assembled all your equipment.
I recommend using lease sticks. These are sticks that you are going to insert either side of that cross to hold your threads. If you are only doing a narrow warp with bulky yarn you can get away with just using your hands (but you are then attached to your loom until you have completed the warping process.
You need 2 smooth sticks of some sort. I have some dowel, but you can use bamboo canes or flat pieces of wood (the slats from blinds work well).
The first step is to identify the 2 loops either side of your cross. Pull each of the ties in that loop in opposite directions and it should open up. (This is easier when you can do it with 2 hands and don't need one hand to hold the camera!)
Once you've opened up your loops slide in a stick, one on each side of the cross. Then attach your sticks together in some way. You can drill a hole through your sticks/dowel and thread through some string, but a loosely wrapped elastic band also works, though you do need to leave enough space between the sticks for the yarn to slide.
Only once you have done this can you remove the ties. Be careful... you only want to cut through the ties and not the strands on your warp.
Start to spread your warp out on your lease sticks, and work out where you need to start threading your heddle in order to wind your warp on in the centre of your loom. To do this check how many ends your warp has, and divide it by 4, we'll call this number X. Fid the centre of your heddle, and count along X slots. This is where you will start threading your warp through the heddle.
The exact method of the next step will now depend on the type of loom you own. If your loom has a removable apron rod (the piece of dowel held in place with texslov cord that you warp your yarn around when direct warping) the next step is simple.
If you have a loom with a fixed apron rod (eg Ashford looms), you can either modify your loom to make it removable, or will have to cut the loops open and tie your warp in place on the back beam just as you would normally do on the front beam. This last method will increase your loom waste, and will require care if you want to keep your colours in your warp aligned.
To modify your loom you'll need to remove the plastic rods holding the rod in place, and replace them with texsolv cord, this seems to be nigh on impossible to find online in the UK at the moment, but have a search, you may have more luck than me!
Slide your back apron rod out of the loops on the texsolv cord. If you can, leave the loops open, it will make it easier to slide the rod back in place once your warp is looped on.
You're now going to thread each loop through a slot in your heddle, and slide it on to the back apron rod. The cross will keep the threads in the right order, just make sure you are not pulling a loop from the next group pf threads as you work. If your warp is wool and has got slightly fuzzy as it's been dyed and rinse you may need to give the threads a good wiggle to work them free.
This is fiddly to start off with, the process is easier if your lease sticks are wide enough to rest on the frame of your loom, or you can come up with a way to tie them in place. Once you can slide your apron rod in to a second loop of texslov the whole process become much more stable. Keep going across the whole loom, threading loops in order, making sure not to miss out any slots.
Once you're done your loom should now look like it does when you use a direct method of warping.
Loops of yarn around your back apron rod, and 2 strands of yarn through every slot, and the remainder of the warp dangling off the loom. You are now safe to remove your lease sticks (the eager eyes will spot something odd going on with my sticks and that some threads aren't wrapped around them properly.... safe to say warping is a job that requires 2 hands and not 1 hand for your loom and the other for the camera. Bad things happened that required a little bit of resolving, fingers crossed it won't cause issues as the warp is wound on, make sure your lease sticks are attached together firmly!)
Using one hand to add tension to the warp, and the other to turn the back ratchet, slowly wind your warp on to the loom. Add packing paper or cardboard strips to stop the warp threads overlapping one another and causing uneven winding. Cut the figure of eight ties as you wind.
Eventually you'll have wound all your warp on to the back beam and be left with the loops that are attached together at the other end of the warp. Cut the ties holding these loops, and cut the loops themselves open. Now take one of the pair of ends that is going through each slot and transfer it to the next hole.
You're now ready to attach your warp on to the front apron rod. You can do this by tying directly on to it, but I prefer to lash it on, as that creates less loom waste, and I find it easier to adjust to get an even tension. To do this take a small bundle of warp yarn, fold the end back, then tie an overhand knot creating a loop. Repeat across all of the warp, then take a length of strong smooth, non-elastic thick thread or string (linen or crochet cotton is ideal) and pass it through the first loop of warp yarn, then take your lashing thread and pass it round the front apron rod, pass the thread through the next loop of warp yarn, and then back around the apron rod. Repeat until all the warp is attached, you'll need to keep pulling the yarn through the loops as you work.
Now ease the lashing thread through all the loops until you have a similar tension, and tie off both ends around your apron rod. Tighten the tension slightly and ease the lashing thread until all your loops feel like they have an even tension.
You're now ready to start weaving!
Dyeing for Wonderwool is still continuing apace. Who knows what situation we will be in come April, but for now I am working to the plan that we will all be gathering at the end of April, and if not, then there will be lots of lovely fibre ready for the online shop, and I'll be able to take a bit more time off than Would normally for a few weeks.
February has been an extraordinarily wet month here with nearly as many inches of rain as there were days in the month, and one day when we got 3 inches (7.5cm) in a single 24 hour period
Combined with some ferocious winds it's left us feeling a bit battered, but everything is still standing, a few things are a bit damper than normal, and it's amazing what a couple of days of sunshine can do for the spirits!
The bad weather, and the fact that the DVLA are still processing my driving license has meant for a rather dull month. I taught a workshop at Avon Guild, but requiring a chauffeur meant I won't able to extend my stay and explore the local area as has become my habit when travelling to different parts of the country.
However, at the end of the month I had a pre-planned trip to London to do lots of lovely textile things.
It's a long time since I went to a fibre festival as a visitor, so a walk around The Stitch Festival was really lovely. It's different enough to the fibre shows for me to really enjoy seeing new things and getting new ideas. I ended up with lots of fabric to make a quilt for my Aunty, I had a plan in mind, and if you want to mix and match lots of fabric nothing beats seeing it in person specially when you're trying to match a specific shade of red!
It was lovely to be in a warm and indoor venue, with loads of extra seating, though after the spacious aisles of Wonderwool it did feel a bit claustrophobic in the main shopping area. I fell in love with the beautiful dried flower embroideries by Olga Prinku.
On a making front, I sewed myself a new skirt using some Liberty Chambray that was excellent for swooshing around London in. I have also managed to finally put up some beautiful prints of the textile art created by Rachel Wright. Though changing around pictures has led to the discovery that there is none of the paint left I used in my living room, which has left some great big nail holes on display. I'd been thinking about changing the wall colour anyway, so have just bought a huge tub of yellow paint... really yellow.
A trip to London also meant a visit to The Fashion and Textile Museum to see the exhibition on 50 years of The Designers Guild, which provided lots of colour inspiration, but sadly very little by way of textile inspiration. It felt a little bit like walking through time capsules of their showroom displays, and very little information about the textiles themselves.
If you are in travelling distance of London however I can't recommend the Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles exhibition strongly enough. So many beautiful pieces, and lots of detailed information about them. Plus the Two Temple Place venue is an absolute delight.
Many of the photos don't do this exhibition justice, but I have tried to make sure I took photos of the captions, which should follow the photo of the exhibit itself.
We then crossed over the river, and went to look at the Costume Display at the National Theatre, where I completely failed to take photos, but rather handily put us next to the Skylon bar where we had an evening of cocktails, with the most fabulous service from the waiting staff, and a view of the river Thames.
Last month I teased you with some weaving photos of the hand dyed range of warps I'm working on. These won't be going in the online shop until after Wonderwool, but I have updated the website to include all the technical information you might want know about them.
From the very beginning of my business I've always wanted to see what people make from the fibres they purchase. Every 3 months, in the Ravelry group, I host a prize thread where you can win gift certificates just by posting pictures of spun yarn, and the things you have made from your handspun yarn.
The thread is one that's just filled with pretty pictures, there's no extraneous chatter, which I hope takes the pressure off posting. No need to worry that someone will say anything negative, or or that your post will get ignored when everyone else's gets loads of reactions. It's not competitive, it's just a place to enjoy the beauty of things made by hand.
The next 3 month round is already up and running, and I'd love for you to come and join us.
Here are a few of my personal highlights from the last round. The photos should link to the appropriate Ravelry pages if you want to find out more about a project or a skein of yarn.
It's been a quiet month. A minor relapse of my Menieres disease has meant I've not been able to drive, which isn't really an issue when it's the holidays, but does start to become a little bit tiring when you want to get back in a normal routine. Things are looking better health wise though, so hopefully I'll be back to being independent soon. The quicker they can develop real-world safe driverless cars the better so far as I'm concerned!
So as a result there haven't been any exciting trips, or exploring of new places, I've been busy getting lots of work done, making plans, and enjoying the signs that winter will be coming to an end.
My sewing has been of the secret variety, which means it needs to stay under wraps for a few months. I have also transformed an Ikea table cloth in to a pair of dungarees, but alas there is no photo of me wearing them. I have managed to finish a shawl that I started during some mammoth train journeys back in November. This was a handspun skein of Yak, Alpaca and Silk, one of the very last braids that still used Royal Baby Alpaca, before I had to switch over to Baby Llama. There's still some of the Llama version of the blend in the shop, and it's lovely, but I'm very pleased that the next batch of this base will be able to go back to using the softer Royal Baby Alpaca, because it spins and knits up so beautifully. The Baby Llama is nice, but is a slightly higher micron count.
I've also managed to get 2 skeins spun as part of the Hilltop cloud New Year Stash Clean I'm hosting in the Ravelry group. The aim was to take the oldest fibre in your stash and turn it in to yarn... no excuses allowed!
These 4 braids had been staring sadly at me every time I opened up my fibre storage box, so I'm very please that they're now yarn.
I've also been developing new ideas. I'm teaching a workshop at Oxford Guild later this year, and we'll be spending some time dyeing weaving warps. I've done bits and pieces of this before, but when I'm teaching I like to be pretty well practised at a skill so I know exactly why I'm recommending a particular method (the photo above is from a test that doesn't work!). One of my good friends is an experienced weaver and is testing the finer warp for me, and was bemoaning that this sort of hand dyed warp is really hard to get in the UK. So after she gave the test warp a glowing review I've taken the plunge.
There will be hand dyed gradient warps available on the stand at Wonderwool, and in the online shop shortly after that. I've started off with a 2/20NM Tussah Silk lace weight (1000m per 100g). This one will be for the weavers with multi-shaft looms as it's a bit fine to use successfully in a rigid heddle.
There's also a 2/8NM Tussah Silk fingering weight (400m per 100g). This will work on both multi-shaft looms and rigid heddle looms. And finally a 2/7NM BFL fingering weight (350m per 100g). Again, this will work on all loom types.
I'm going to do a consistent warp size for now, with each warp designed to produce a generous size scarf/small wrap.
This was a test of an ombre gradient dyed on the 2/7NM Tussah Silk, woven on my rigid heddle using a 10 dent heddle, the weft is some alpaca fingering weight that I unearthed from the deep stash!
I've also wound on a test of the BFL warp, this is dyed in repeating stripes, so there will be subtle bands of colour running across the scarf with slight feathery edges. This one is still on the loom, but it's looking very pretty.
I've never wanted to start selling yarn as well as fibre, because there are already many people who dye yarn very well, and even though both processes seem like they should be the same, the reality is that dyeing yarn and dyeing fibre are two different beasts. Warps however, behave very much like a length of combed top, so all my dyeing skills transfer really well to this.
Dyeing for wonderwool has already started, as there's only 80 days to go, but there still should be lots of new fibre popping up in the online shop over the next month.
It's very rare for me to dye my fibres using a recipe... I have a very small number of instructions written down, but generally I enjoy the creative problem solving of continually coming up with new colour combinations. However, doing that means I need to have a really good understanding of my own palette of dyes, and which colours to use, and how much to use of them. I generally dye with pure primaries (red, yellow, blue, turquoise, magenta), but also make use of pre-mixed browns, a black and a grey, and also use a violet, orange and green. My palette of dyes isn't as small as some dyers (who only use primaries and black), but pretty small compared to others who use a lot of pre-mixed colours.
Familiarity means I know my particular set of colours really well, and can usually nail the colour I am after on the first attempt. When I teach dyeing workshops I'm often asked how I know which colours to use, and in reality there is nothing that beats practise. You can do this by creating a recipe book or sample cards, but this can be time consuming and expensive in terms of materials.
I also recommend a couple of games to people who want to create a better idea of colour sense, because I do firmly believe that it's something you can teach yourself to be better at. Blendoku, and I Love Hue both use similar principles of arranging coloured tiles in to the correct order. They're really handy for developing ideas around colour combinations, contrasting colours and the effects of adding tints and shades.
Now my Mum knows that I have an interest in colour, and in textile history, so she bought me this for Christmas. It's a 1951 recipe card for the use of acid milling dyes on yarn, together with details of the lightfastness, wash fastness and any particular notes about the individual dye colours. There's a few instructions here that would definitely not be recommended for the home dyer, bichrome is another name for Potassium Bichromate, which is a known carcinogen.
This website doesn't render very well, and unfortunately the pictures and text have ended up overlaid, but there's plenty that still readable and it tells the story of ICI and the British Dyestuffs, who are sadly no longer producing dyes in the UK. I found copying and pasting the text in to a word document made it much more legible.
One of the many reasons I will be watching nervously over the next few months is to see how the British Government handles the integration of the chemical industry. EU legislation means we know that the chemicals we can buy, and that are used to make just about everything are safe. Whilst we were part of the EU any chemical registered for sale here could be sold throughout Europe and UK companies can buy chemicals from Europe on the same basis. All testing is in the public domain. The government has decided it no longer wants to align us to those standards, that means UK manufacturers will face added expense to sell their chemicals in the EU, and from a dyeing perspective means any EU suppliers will have to register their products with a UK agency in order to sell in the UK. In short... the whole thing is an absolute shambolic mess, and instead of cutting the red tape that was promised by Brexit it's going to lead to increased costs, lower safety standards, and shortages. This twitter thread from an expert in the chemical industry makes for chilling reading.
In to a new decade.... and no, we are not having the argument about either it is a new decade, the 3rd number in the year is different, so we are in to a new decade.
The last 10 years have seen much change for me. New place to live, brand new job, but bizarrely the last 5 have felt very stable. I've built the business in to a place that pays me a steady income, I've got a pretty good work-life balance, and I get to do it whilst living somewhere beautiful. Next year Hilltop Cloud turns 10, and that feels like something to celebrate... I am open to ideas!
Earlier this morning I tidied up the pile of yarn that was freshly spun and waiting to be put away. Skeins of handspun seem to be magically breed round here. Finishing knitting and weaving projects always feels like something to celebrate, but somehow without noticing the skeins of yarn just seem to finish themselves, and before I know it are threatening to cascade off the shelf that is their temporary home. Tidying up meant going through the stash boxes as I also wanted to find some skeins of silk for a workshop I'm teaching next weekend.
and oh dear god.... I so need to find a way to knit faster! There are so many lovely skeins of handspun that I really want to use. It also revealed that I have a worrying obsession with dark brown fleece, a tendency to spin them at fingering weight, and a habit of not bothering to measure yardage, or even label the skeins so I know what exactly it is!
After much head scratching, some consulting of my Ravelry stash pages and a small amount of swearing I think I managed to straighten out my Bond from my BFL from my Romney.
I worked like a demon just before Christmas to get the shop filled up with fibre, which, combined with my 2 short holidays at the end of November and beginning of December didn't leave a lot of time for fun...
However, a couple of weeks off were a chance to recharge, make new plans, and create new things.
As ever the beach provided a much needed burst of colour.
We also went for a walk round the Charles Ackers Redwood Grove near Welshpool, and explored the Leighton Estate, go and read the Wikipedia page, it is an astounding example of Victorian cash splashing, the house below is just the Poultry House built for his daughter who had a hobby collecting ornamental fowl.
Christmas is always a bit hectic and cramped so knitting tends to be of the simple sort, and I didn't get any spinning done either. However, during the daytime I did keep myself busy with this.
I started on the Friday 20th December and finished sewing the binding on Sunday 5th January. Mum had bought the centre circular panels because she couldn't resist them, so I offered to turn them in to a quilt for her. Like the one I made at Westhope it features several hand dyed or hand printed fabrics, and uses up some oddments from another large quilting project that I'm working on with a friend and some scraps from Mum's project bags and needle cases. There are many things that aren't technically correct about it... but there are many things that I love about it, and sometimes you have to make the mistakes to learn how to do it differently next time.
The back uses a border panel from the same range as the front circles, again because Mum fell in love with it. I also had a go at one of the techniques from a book I'd got from Christmas and turned some offcuts in to a strip that runs the width of the back.
There were two circular motifs leftover, so they got turned in to cushions. To give you an idea of scale the sofa that this fills is the larger size Ikea Ektorp that comfortably seats 4 people... You might say that this is a project that suffered from idea creep!
I did get a bit of spinning done before Christmas, I snuck in a head start on the spare fibre from this years 12 Days of Christmas , and turned it in to 11 skeins of Aran weight yarn. Rather handily the stash tidy has revealed a couple of further candidates to go with these skeins so there might actually be enough for a jumper.
I also got a jumper finished off, but my usual talent at taking selfies means this one of currently picture-less despite having worn it for most of the holidays. The same applies to the wool dressing gown I sewed for myself. The family have taken to calling it my Harry Potter robe... however it is beautifully warm with a real comforting weight to it.
I've got a busy time ahead in the next few weeks, I'm teaching a silk spinning workshop at Tawe Guild, and a plying workshop at Bristol Guild, and am finishing off writing an article for Ply Magazine. Fibre clubs will be going out very soon to make sure they get in to Europe before January 31st.
Hopefully I'll get some more concrete details soon about what will be happening with the VAT I currently charge to European customers. If the transition agreement goes through it seems likely that I will carry on charging VAT at my end, and you won't have anything to pay when you receive your parcel. If it doesn't then you will now pay the cheaper VAT free price, but will probably have to pay a charge at your end to receive the parcel. Customers in Norway have always had to do this, and they either place an order that is small enough to fall below the threshold where taxes are charged, or place a really large order to minimise the impact of the administration fee you may be charged. Most club parcels are likely to be unaffected as they will fall below the threshold in most countries.
As before I am currently waiting to see what happens, but if you do end up double paying VAT over the coming months please let me know and I will refund the VAT you have paid to me.
The turn of the year also means starting preparations for Wonderwool . This will be my only large show for 2020, so if you want to see my fibres in person then I recommend you make the trip in to Wales at the end of April.
Hilltop Cloud- Spin Different
Beautiful fibre you'll love to work with.
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Dugoed Bach, Mallwyd, Machynlleth,
Powys, SY20 9HR