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.
This year I didn't get to take a course at the Association Summer School because I was of course teaching... in the past I've used the week to really get immersed in something brand new, and enjoy creating something with none of the pressures and distractions of being at home.
So I decided that I was going to treat myself, and used my teaching fee to go and learn how to do something new. I'd heard great things about West Dean College so I browsed their list of Short Courses, and found myself a course on contemporary quilt making at the start of December.
I know my way round a sewing machine, and have helped a friend make a couple of quilts, but it's something I wanted to learn more about, and I fancied the more freeform approach, because I am very much of the "what's the worst that can happen" frame of mind when it comes to making creative decisions. I tend to feel my way through a creative project making decisions as I go rather than do a great deal of planning. In day to day life I will plan everything down to the last second (you should see my Christmas holiday menu planner), but somehow when it comes to making things I am happy to just have a go and see if I can make things work.
I had the best time.
If it wasn't for the horrible train journeys (fingers crossed medical stuff gets sorted out so that I can go back to driving early in 2019) it would have been the perfect holiday.
This was the corridor to my bedroom.... there were tapestries from the 1700's on the wall, a marble staircase... I could go on. It felt like I was staying in a country house.... because I was staying in a country house!
The food was absolutely wonderful, the biggest problem was that I wanted to eat all of it! To the point of sitting looking wistfully at the pudding display and being genuinely sad about only being able to find room for one of the selection.
During lunch breaks you can walk the grounds and gardens. It being December they weren't at their best, but walking in to this greenhouse was like entering in to a tropical jungle!
The course was taught by Abigail Booth from Forest + Found, and was truly excellent.
Abigail introduced us to the principles of the style of quilt making we were using, but then was quite content to let us go our own creative ways. Of the 6 of us on the course we all produced very varied quilts by the end of the 4 days. Three were very unstated affairs in blue and white 2 using Japanese style fabrics, one using old clothing. One was closer to a more traditional quilt, but still took the sew it together and don't be afraid to fiddle around to make it work principle, and one really embraced the idea of using a quilt to make a piece of art and used the fabric in a collage style to create an abstract landscape.
As ever, I wandered my own path, and turned my mountain of colourful fabrics in to something of a trip down memory lane. The centre is a tea towel I bought on a trip to Scotland when I was going to teach a workshop at Grampian Guild (that workshop became the start of my book, so is one I always remember very fondly).
From there I did something that bears a passing resemblance to log cabin, but without worrying about the length of the bits of fabric. The quilt uses some of the wax resist pieces of silk I made at Summer School 2015 with Isabella Whitworth, I also used pieces of the naturally dyed eco printed silk from Summer School 2017, and some of the scraps of a large piece of fabric I screen printed and then messed around on using some Procion dyes. It also uses some of the cotton I ice dyed and turned in to pyjama bottoms earlier this year, and some of the cotton I eco-dyed that also became pyjama bottoms. From Summer School in 2019 I bought some little bundles of fabric from Textile Traders adding in some more batik fabrics and some Ikat. There are a few pieces that I dyed with Montgomeryshire Guild earlier this summer when I shared some of the eco dyeing skills I'd picked up in 2017. I also used the scraps from various sewing projects, some Liberty lawn, and some Liberty linen, along with raiding the scraps bin from Mum's bags and needle cases. I even managed to use up some of the silk I bought back from my gap year trip to Thailand in 2002. The only fabric I bought specially were a few charm packs with small amounts of lots of colour.
The end result....
It is definitely not to everyone's taste, and I think a few of my course mates were utterly horrified at my freeform approach to colour and pattern. The quilting is a little erratic in places, going by train meant I had to borrow a sewing machine, and we had many disagreements as I battled with a large quilt on a small machine.
Abigail hand quilts all her work, but I am a realist and know that my speed of stitching would have left me going home with work still to do, and I was keen to avoid that, so the majority is machine quilted, with areas that are hand stitched using hand dyed silk threads.
The back uses up the larger pieces I had leftover, and revealed that Liberty lawn hoovers up loose dye. One of the staff at Westhope kindly bought along some bits of Batik she'd dyed and never used. I knew all my fabric had been washed, and wasn't going cause any problems, and therefore never even thought about any dye run off as I used the donated pieces. Luckily it pretty much only ended up sucking in to the cotton lawn, every other bit of fabric is exactly the same colour!
The quilt has been on my bed every since I get back, and I still can't believe that I made it. It contains so many happy memories and fabric that reminds me of places and people.
Writing this is my last job for 2019, after I hot publish I'm off to cook tea for my group of local spinning friends, and then have a couple of weeks with no work planned... there may well be sewing.
The past few weeks have been really busy, not with work, but with pleasure. November and December are always my quieter months, people are buying presents for others rather than fibre, and guild don't tend to want workshops because of concerns about poor weather, and December is when many hold their AGM.
All that means I get to go and do some nice things, because I have a bit more free time.
So at the end of November I took myself down to London for 3 days for some Christmas treats. I spent a lovely evening walking round Kew Gardens looking at their Christmas light display. At the start of the evening it was horribly busy, but by 8pm everything had got much quieter, and it meant I could stand and enjoy the lights. My photos are generally pretty dreadful, and utterly fail to do justice to the experience.
I also spent a whole day at the theatre watching Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, which was incredible, but a very, very long day watching Part 1 in the afternoon and Part 2 in the evening.
It feels like winter has been here for a very long time already... This was 9th November, when an unexpected snowfall put pay to my plans to go to guild that day! This is the main trunk road that runs past our house, and it caught the council out, because they'd not been out with the gritters or the snow ploughs.
Progress on knitting and spinning hasn't been very share worthy this month, lots of Christmas presents have been finished off, but they need to remain secret, and are generally of the useful sort rather than particularly inspiring! However I did go to Ruthin Craft Centre to see the textiles by Neil Bottle. The friends I went with weren't huge fans, but I really enjoyed the exhibition, the digitally printed fabrics glowed in a way that you just don't get with printing on paper. I'd have happily given any of them wall space if only any of them were small enough to actually fit on my walls!
The adjoining gallery also had an exhibition focusing on calligraphy and lettering that was equally stunning and filled with many treasures to explore. If you're close enough to visit I can recommend going, and the adjoining craft gallery is filled with many lovely handmade items that would be great for presents.
It's taken me a while to get round to writing this post because I did go on another holiday at the start of December... which was oh so wonderful. However, that deserves it's own post, and I have jobs that need to be done, otherwise I won't be taking any time off over Christmas! Look out for some new fibre in the shop shortly.
I wrote a version of this post last year, but thought an update would be timely!
Buying gifts related to someone's hobby can be tricky, but here's a few suggestions that should suit all sorts of budgets.
Firstly, if your spinner has a favourite dyer then don't be afraid to send that dyer an email with a budget and ask them to put together a parcel of fibre related treats for you. They'll be happy to help, and will be able to give the spinner something new to try, but also check their previous orders to see if they have any colour preferences.
I'm always happy to help people out in this way....
However, if you leave it too late (because the postal system has it's limits), then a subscription to a fibre club is an excellent present. You can set up a gift subscription to my Time Travellers Club really easily, just tick the "This is a Gift" box and the system will do the rest. You an choose to let the subscription run for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months, and the payment gets taken every month rather than 1 large sum up front, so it's a nice way to spread the cost out. So long as you order before the 23rd then the first parcel will be sent during January. A 100g subscription in the UK for 3 months works out at just over £30.
You won't get a fancy gift card through the post, so you might have to get creative with the way you hand over the present, but I'm sure if you pop in to a local shop you'll be able to find a nice card to write in.
If you're after stocking fillers then there are many lovely things that will make a spinner smile.
If you want to buy something a bit larger, then Akerworks bobbins are just the sort of treat that someone might really love, but struggle to justify (if you're outside the US then be quick, as they're made to order, and they'll have to make the postal journey. Don't forget to factor in any customs duty, you'll probably end up paying an extra 20% plus £8 handling once the parcels arrives in the UK.
I wrotea blogpost about why I love these bobbins, if you're wondering about why they're so good. Make sure you check the type of spinning wheel first.
If they're a spinner they're probably also a knitter or a crocheter. In which case an organiser for their needles or hooks is a lovely present. Or you could go for a case to hold their hand carders together.
There are lots of lovely bags and cases in the Quince Pie etsy shop.
Alternatively if they're a sewer then how about a handmade pin cushion, or a deluxe stitch ripper.
The Wood Beach Etsy shop is also filled with orifice hooks, niddy noddy's and yarn bowls, all of which make excellent gifts.
Now for the books.... books make excellent presents! Check the spinners book shelf first, as they may already own some of these.
Where possible I've linked to the Book Depository as they're a UK based company who pay their taxes, and usually price match Amazon.
The Spinners Book of Yarn Design If you only own one spinning book this should be it!
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook For the spinner who loves learning more about sheep and the quality of their wool
Yarnitecture For the spinner who wants to get better at analysing the sort of yarn they are spinning, and be more in control of the results.
A Guide to Spinning Hand Dyed Fibre My own small book, ideal for a spinner who likes working with hand dyed combed top.
Non-spinning books, but interesting for anyone who has a love of textiles.
Women's Work- The First 20,000 years.
The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History
The Human Thread
True Colours: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments Not a technical how-to book, but a lovely look at people around the world using natural dyes.
Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments and Results This one is pricey, but is probably the best science-based natural dyeing book I have ever seen. If someone is in to natural dyes, then this is a book they need to own.
Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece If they use synthetic dyes then this is probably the best book there is, though I really disagree with the way she applies to dye to fibre, great for yarn dyeing detail though. Unfortunately there's a big gap in the market for good books dealing with synthetic dyes, and fibre dyeing is particularly poorly covered.
A subscription to Ply magazine would also be a lovely gift. If you're outside the US then it may be better to buy a subscription from one of their stockists.
Finally, if they spin the chances are they wear a lot of wool, and that eventually leads to bobbly jumpers. This tool is what I use to revive my hand knits, I've linked to Lakeland, but is available on Amazon, Ebay, or various other places.
So spinners, what goodies would you like to receive in your stockings this year?
This is the second post in a series, highlighting bits of equipment that I love. I have paid for all of these items, they're not ones that I have been given. If I've bought them at a show I may have received a slight trade discount, but it's never been one I've asked for, and in all cases I've been prepared to pay the full price. If you're not a guild member it can sometimes to be hard to get a sense on what it's really like to use a piece of equipment. I'll be scrupulously honest, if I like a piece of equipment I'll say so and explain why. If other options are available, and I've tried them I'll explain why I don't like them.
Bobbins usually come along with any wheel you purchase. It used to be you were stuck with the bobbins that came with your spinning wheel, or would have to ask a wood turner to make a copy. However, the new 3D printing technology now means it's possible to step outside of the ones made by the manufacturers.
I've owned a Schacht Matchless for a number of years now, I bought it second hand and it came with the standard 4 bobbins. I wanted more bobbins to allow me to spin for a bigger project, without having to stop and wind off singles on to storage bobbins. Schacht bobbins in the UK are eyewateringly expensive compared to the bobbins of other wheel manufacturers. It's got slightly better now they have the brown plastic ones, but they're still a lot of money for a piece of moulded plastic.
I'd come across Akerworks bobbins on Ravelry, and thought how great they looked. Then I costed out buying them... with the exchange rates of 8 years ago it came out at the same price for me to order 3 bobbins from Akerworks as it was to have 3 original wooden Schacht bobbins, even taking in to account international postage and customs fees.
As a bonus they would be in the colour of my choosing, and they'd be lighter (better for spinning fine yarn), and they would breakdown and be easier to store when not in use.
If you have a wheel with slightly less eye wateringly expensive manufacturer made bobbins then Akerworks probably are more expensive, but they are lovely to use and definitely easier to store when not in use.
The ends are 3-D printed and then rotate and click on to a shaft, they spend a lot of time testing bobbins, so they're a really good fit on the flyer shaft, definitely no rattling!
Because the ends have missing sections the bobbin is really lightweight, which makes it much easier to spin finer yarn as the bobbin has less momentum. You also get the very cool effect of seeing your yarn build up in layers of different colours.
If Akerworks aren't in the budget then there are now quite a few open-source files to 3-D print all sorts of spinning wheel bobbins. You can either look for a local Makerspace with a 3D printer, or there are companies that will print files for you on places like Etsy, or there are links on Thinngverse to companies who will print the files.
The final round of the latest 3 month block of this club was posted on Monday, so should be arriving with UK members on Wednesday. As ever, there are spoilers below, so if your parcel hasn't arrived yet, you may want to come and read this later.
This is the final round for this club, and I'm going to put it on pause for a while, December and January are always more complicated to mange, even if I'm working suppliers quite rightly give their employees time off over the holidays, so it's simpler to take a break. Meanwhile, the Non-Wool section of the club is stuffed full of lots of fibres, so there's plenty to experiment with.
The extra fibre from last month is now listed in the shop, should you want to spin a larger amount.
The November light wasn't being helpful as I filmed the videos using my limited technology, so you may find it helpful to go through the playlist archive and look at some of the videos I've filmed when the Viscose and Cotton have featured before as they will show a better close up of my hands.
The first fibre to start off with is Viscose. This will be most like any other fibre you will have spun before, it has a similar feel to silk, with a moderate staple length. Viscose is a wood pulp based cellulose fibre, it's manmade, but still biodegradable. You'll sometimes see it referred to as Rayon. In essence, if you spin this like silk you won't go far wrong!
For maximum shine spin straight from the end of the length of top, you ca use a plyback test to check your twist levels. If you find it too slippery, then switch to spinning from the fold, and this may give you more control.
This Viscose is made in the EU, so it's production will have complied with EU regulations on water disposal, and worker health. There are some concerns surrounding the environmental effects of the production of this type of fibre, but this supply is one that I believe you can trust to be responsible.
The next fibre to have a go with is cotton. This is a very short stapled fibre, and you will need a lot of twist to make a successful yarn. It needs to be spun finely, fat cotton yarn is made by putting multiple strands together. If you try to spin a thicker single the short stapled fibres will not have enough twist.
You can spin using a short forward draw, or just relax, let the twist do the work, and try a form of long draw. If you own a quill this is the ideal fibre to spin on it, or if you have a very fast spindle, takhli or similar.
Our final fibre is probably going to be a marmite fibre... you will either love this fibre or hate it!
Silk Hankies are also known as Mawata, they're made from a whole silk cocoon stretched out over a square frame. If you look closely you might see the holes in the corners. The same technique also produces a fibre known as Silk Caps... for future reference you can treat them just the same as hankies.
The first step is to peel off a single layer, look closely at your stack of hankies and you will see a rolled edge. Pull off what looks like a single layer, then double check to make sure it's not 2 hankies stuck together.
Once you have a single hanky, poke a hole in the middle and stretch it out in to a thin strip. You are aiming to do most of the drafting before you start adding twist. The individual fibres are so long that drafting once you have some twist in the mix can be very hard work. If you find that you have got a slightly thicker bit you can ease out some fibres, but you will need to have your hands really far apart.. no further... no further still!
If you like step by step instructions then this article from an old edition of Knitty might help.
Not everybody enjoys spinning hankies, they are hard on the hands, and some people who only like smooth yarns aren't fond of the texture. The long staple length means you can leave it as a single, or you can use them for plying.
Alternatively, if you decide you hate this fibre all is not lost! They are versatile beasts and can be used for other things.
If you have a blending board or drum carder and like creating textured batts then take some scissors to your hankies and card them in, they create fabulous texture. You must cut them up first though, otherwise they will wrap round and round your drum and you will never bet able to remove your batt!
If you want warmth, then you can knit straight from the unseen silk hanky. You still have to do the stretching stage, but no i=need to add twist. They would be amazing as lining mittens. Here's a pair made by the Yarn Harlot, and more details on how she did it here.
Finally, if knitting or crochet aren't floating your boat, then you can also weave with them, and the fabric they make is stunning.
Again, you still need to draft them out, but once that was done I just used my fingers to push the strip of fibre through the shed, and then beat lightly. Use a fine yarn to create a weft faced fabric. The result is very sturdy, I turned this in to a pair of cushions in 2014, and they're still on my sofa, and have been sat in by dogs on many occasions!
I love seeing what people make with my fibres. It pushes me creatively to try new things, and gives me new ideas.
I'm not using Instagram very much at the moment, but if you use the #hilltopcloud I will still see it.
As a side note, the only medium I use for customer service is email. You can use the contact form on this website, or the email address on your order receipt. If you contact me using social media the first thing I will probably ask you to do is email me. I often don't see a social media message for a number of days, but check my email at least a couple of times a day. You will get a much quicker response if you send an email. This also means I can work out who you are, and give you an accurate response. Your social media handle isn't usually a lot of help when I am trying to work out which one of the 100+ Time Travellers Club members you are.
If it's a non-specific question, such as wondering how to spin something, then please come over to the Ravelry group, you can ask the opinion over 1000+ fellow Hilltop Cloud spinners, and as there's never just one right answer that can only be a good thing. It also means our discussion is searchable, can be referenced again in further conversations, and will benefit more people.
Going back to the original point of this post... Pretty pictures of lovely things.
These have all been shared in the Hilltop Cloud Ravelry group, in the 3-monthly prize draw thread. All you need to do is use the current thread to post pictures of spun skeins of yarn, things you woven, knitted or crocheted, and you could win a £25 gift voucher to the shop.
The new thread is just starting up, and the winners from the last thread were picked at the end of the month. Here are my selected highlights!
If you want to know more about any of these pictures head over to the thread, and most people have links to their stash pages, or project pages.
In total there were over 80 posts in the thread this round, so I really do urge you to go and take a look at all the finished items, picking out a small handful to share here is always such an impossible task!
I've managed to take some photos of some spun skeins of my new Heather Silk.
As ever, with this style of blended fibres taking photos is rather tricky, because the multi-tonal effect really plays tricks with the camera sensors. Add in the high shine you get from mulberry silk, and you end up with a very large number of rejected photos!
For each colourway I spun 2 different samples. One was spun using my normal silk draft. Straight from the end , with a moderate degree of twist, and then plied to balance. It creates a smooth, very shiny yarn with excellent drape, and huge amounts of lustre. The other sample was spun using the style advocated by Sara Lamb (author of The Practical Spinners Guide- Silk). This sample was spun from the fold, using small chunks of fibre, with as much twist as I could bear to put it, and then plied with lots and lots of twist. This yarn will be harder wearing, more resistant to abrasion, but isn't quite so shiny, and doesn't drape quote as well.
If you'd like to know more about twist levels in silk then I wrote an article for the Fine edition of Ply magazine a few years ago, and also shared some close up photos on the blog.
If you prefer videos over words, then this video, filmed for last months Non-Wool Club should help.
In addition to effecting the structure of the yarn, the spinning technique also has an effect on the colour. The silk is made up of lots of very thin streaks of different colours .
When you draft straight from the end of the fibre you draft in fibres from multiple streaks of colour. When you draft from the fold you sometimes end up pulling in fibres from just one colour. Spinning from the end produces a yarn where the colours are more blended together, as the act of drafting carries on the blending process. Spinning from the fold produces a yarn where you get more flecks of yarn that are only a single colour.
In the photos below the yarn on the left was spun from the fold, the yarn on the right was spun from the end.
Hopefully if you've been wondering about how this fibre spins that might help answer some of your questions, and help with your design making process if you've already bought some of this fibre.
Firstly, Happy Third Not-Brexit Day!
And with it comes my only bit of public information, make sure you are registered to vote. You can do it online, and is something you need to do if you've recently moved home. If you are a student you can register at your home, and university address, but you should only cast your vote in one location. Being on the electoral register doesn't require you to have a permanent residential address, and you can also do so anonymously if you feel your safety is at risk due to being on the electoral register.
The weather in December can be grim... if you know you are likely to be put off heading out in the rain and cold, then register for a postal vote.
For anyone not in the UK, this is good news, as it means my parcels will carry on going to you in a seamless manner. It also means I can carry on importing fibres from Italy for the next few months and not need to increase prices due to import duties and increased courier costs.
I'm very pleased about this, because I have some new Italian fibres, and I can now carry on expanding the range. These are pure Mulberry Silk, created just like the blended wool tops that we are now all very familiar with. They draft beautifully, and turn in to yarn with really subtle variation, but not so much that they will swamp a lace pattern. The first 3 colours are now in the shop in 50g, 100g and 200g size options.
I've just finished spinning some samples, so keep an eye out for a blogpost in the next few days showing what happens to these fibres when they're turned in to yarn.
We had a lovely time at Bakewell Wool Gathering, with lots of people going home with some fibres they'd not tried before.
Apart from that I've had a very quiet month, there's been the usual autumn cold that wiped me out for a few days. I only managed to squeeze in one shop update due to getting the 12 Days of Christmas parcels ready. They've all gone in the post now, with just a couple of the Mulberry Silk option left if anyone is still wanting a Christmas and New Year treat.
If you're thinking about making your own version (maybe as a guild Christmas party activity?) then I do have some spare bags, and they're now available to purchase.
I do however have a shop update that is in the drying shed right now, and that should be going up in the shop tomorrow. It's not been all work though, I took myself off to Erddig whilst waiting for a sewing machine to be serviced, and had a lovely day. There were apples, spinning wheels, and gardens. I can recommend a visit, I'll be going back with Mum in the summer when the gardens will be in full glory, and all of the hall will be open.
On a personal creative note, this month has mostly been about getting a head start on my Christmas crafting. A few lucky people still get hand made gifts, which sadly means I don't have any photos to share.
There is a handspun jumper that is nearly off the needles though, so fingers crossed for next month.
This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts highlighting bits of equipment that I love. I have paid for all of these items, they're not ones that I have been given. If I've bought them at a show I may have received a slight trade discount, but it's never been one I've asked for, and in all cases I've been prepared to pay the full price. If you're not a guild member it can sometimes to be hard to get a sense on what it's really like to use a piece of equipment. I'll be scrupulously honest, if I like a piece of equipment I'll say so and explain why. If other options are available, and I've tried them I'll explain why I don't like them.
I am a bit of a Lazy Kate zealot. It's always on the equipment list for the spinning workshops I teach, and I emphasise that the "built-in" Lazy Kate with most spinning wheels, is not a Kate, it is simply bobbin storage. A good Kate needs to be separate from your wheel so you can position it to the side and ideally slightly behind you. Techniques like chain plying are made so much more difficult if you're trying to pull the single up past your moving knees and then guide them back to the orifice.
In it's most basic form it can be as simple as a shoe box and some knitting needles, add in some plastic bags below the bobbins to act as resistance, and you actually have a very functional Kate. If I'm just doing a plain 2-ply I am content working with a non-tensioned Kate, but if I have a choice (and cough... I seem to have ended up with multiple choices), I will reach for one that is tensioned every time.
In my possession I currently have...
- A handmade upright Kate in the style of this Ashford one. This one gets used pretty regularly.
- An arched Schacht Kate. I really dislike this one, and never use it, I only still have it as it came with my Matchless spinning wheel.
- A flat base model like this one (though not this exact Kate, but it has upright spikes, and the same tension mechanism). Again, it came with a wheel, I don't use it.
My favourite, and the one I use most is this one by Louet.
It has all the features I look for in a Lazy Kate, it's simple to set up, has the ability to add slight resistance to the bobbin rotation, and will take all of my many different sizes of bobbins, and the many I've come across in workshops. It definitely takes, Schacht, Ashford, Majacraft, Louet, Woolmakers, and Hansen.
This versatility is one of the reasons I love it, a kate that uses 2 upright posts either side of the bobbin support always runs in to trouble with differing length bobbins.
It's a Kate I often take with me to workshops and usually end up lending out. During my course at Summer School numerous people borrowed it, and all were amazed at how well this really simple design works. I think a few were planning on adding it to their Christmas/Birthday list. It's not cheap...and of course the exchange rate of the Pound against the Euro hasn't helped. I suspect if you knew someone who was handy at wood working, and was capable of adding an embedded threaded tension knob it wouldn't be hard to make your own version.
The right kit really can make all the difference to how easy it is to do a task, and particularly for something like chain plying, a lazy kate that offers the Goldilocks sweet spot of resistance to the bobbin rotation is absolutely key. I've tried other kates that use a piece of string with a spring in the groove of the bobbin (in the same way as you brake the bobbin using Scotch tension), and I find that it's either got too much resistance so I'm jerking the bobbin to pull off the singles, or there's not enough resistance to prevent back spin. To add resistance for this model you just alter the angle of the whole Kate by turning the black knob, adjusting the angle, and then tightening it again to fix it in place. Minimal resistance happens when the Kate is nearly horizontal, with the resistance increasing as you bring the spikes closer to upright. I think this shape of kate has advantages over an arched kate because the singles running off a bobbin are never rubbing past or over another bobbin.
It's set up so you can use it with 4 spikes for smaller size bobbins, and then turn it over and relocating the spikes in to the 3 holes for larger size bobbins. However, in my experience I tend to leave it set up with the 4 hole configuration, as it will still hold 2 large bobbins.
So far I've not found a make of bobbin it won't hold, it even works with bobbins that breakdown like my Akwerwork ones, that don't have a flat surface on one end. The only model I can't remember testing it with, and confirming the fit is Lendrum.
The other bonus is of course it's size... if a 4-ply yarn is on your spinning list you can just use a single Kate. When I'm not using it the whole thing gets folded flat and then slid under the sofa.
If you're in the UK there are a few stockists of Louet products, the following list the Kate on their websites, other dealers may be able to order it if you enquire directly.
-Weftblown (not in stock currently, but they will order it in for you)
- The Threshing Barn (Janet doesn't yet operate a webbed shop, so you will have to see her at a fibre festival, or ply phone tag to order it over the phone)
- Hedgehog Equipment (Again, Sarah doesn't run a web shop, but you can order over the phone).
The full list of Louet dealers is on the Louet website.
Hilltop Cloud- Spin Different
Beautiful fibre you'll love to work with.
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