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!