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.