If you've not received your club parcel yet you may want to skip this post and come back later when your fibre has arrived.
There are lots of new fibres in the club parcels, so It bought some video clips to give you some ideas on where to start would be helpful.
I recommend starting with the Tussah Silk. I like spinning it with a short forward draw from the end of the top, that way you get a super shiny yarn.
If you want to see step by step instructions on how to attach a leader to your bobbin with a loop at the end then the blogpost is here.
The other way to try spinning silk is from the fold. You can use a short forward raw as before, or try doing a point of twist draw.
Viscose is shiny fibre like the silk, but much more slippery. Try spinning the silk first!
You can use a short forward draw to keep it smooth and sleek.
Close up of the yarn spun from the fold, and the effect it has on the appearance of the yarn.
For the Baby Camel, check the staple length, that's what will catch you out after spinning 2 long staple fibres.
You can spin it with a short forward draw, and it will also work well as a thicker yarn. Don't be afraid to use a good amount of twist with this short stapled fibre.
And here are the fibres in the parcels this month.
Tussah Silk in the Antilles and Violet, Viscose in Fog and Shell, and Undyed Baby Camel.
The club is full for this 3 month block, but I will be doing it again in the summer, and spare fibre from the parcels will go on sale in the shop in 1 months time.
Tussah Silk is one of the more textured form of silk, if you're interested in knowing more about silk then I wrote a summary here a while ago. Viscose is an extruded cellulose fibre, it's also sometimes called Rayon. Celulose fibres are dissolved using chemicals, and are then extruded out in to very fine filaments that make up the fibre. This Viscose is made in China, but is purchased through a supplier who is committed ti ensuring environmental good practise. Both fibres were dyed to Okeo-Tex 100 standard in Italy. Baby Camel comes from the undercoat of young camels, and is incredibly warm and fluffy, most of the fibre comes from the Bactrian Camel (the one with 2 humps), and is sourced from China, Tibet and Mongolia.
The busy months keep on rolling round. It was lovely to meet so many people at Devon Guild, and even better I got to take a few days off after the workshop exploring Exeter. I can thoroughly recommend it as a pace to spend a couple of days. The cathedral is magnificent, the museum delightful, and the Underground Passages were fascinating.
I've been spending quite a lot of time on the computer this month doing lots of very dull behind the scenes work. The end is in sight however, and the work now should hopefully minimise a lot of the routine tasks I'll need to do in the future.
The Non-Wool Club is nearly full, but I can still squeeze in a few more spaces, you've got a couple more days to sign up as I shall be starting to pack up the fibre next week at which point subscriptions will close. I'm also in the middle of transitioning the existing monthly clubs to a new payment system. The Gradient Club members are in the process of swapping over, and I'll be moving on to re-organising the Time Travellers club soon.
I've also been dabbling in a new fibre craft. Tapestry weaving and woven wall hangings seem to be everywhere at the moment, and they're a great use for odds and ends of fibres. This cloud shape uses a frame loom from Weft Blown. I used lots of spare pieces from the Colours of Cambria packs, and some undyed Cambrian wool. Sometime I spun a length of 3 or 4m and used that to weave, in other places I used pieces of unspun combed top.
I've also had a go at making a more traditional wall hanging.
These little hangings are great fun to make, and really not that hard. I used a small frame loom I bought from Ebay for around £12. The rest of the fibre is a selection of colours from the Superfine Merino & Silk (Paradise, Thyme, Cinnamon, Fog and Cappuccino) with a piece of Silk Chiffon Ribbon (colour way Moss).
If you're on Instagram then take a look at the hashtags #wovenwallhanging and #weavingloom to get lots of inspiration.
If you want to have a go and don't know where to start then I used YouTube to teach myself most of these techniques. This playlist is really clear, she also explains how to make a loom using a picture frame and nails if you want to go down the DIY route. This playlist is another good one to use.
If you're coming by the stand at Wonderwool I expect there might be quite a few of these on display!
If you don't want to get sucked in to the rabbit hole of yet another craft then we're having a lovely time over in the Ravelry group doing an informal lace knit along, or crochet along if you prefer. You can pick any pattern so long as it has yarn-overs, and use any yarn, does't have to handspun, or Hilltop Cloud fibre.
We've had poultry drama over the past few days... I came home from Devon to discover that Trotty had completely gone off her legs. Still bright and bubbly and wanting to stuff herself with tasty treats, but completely unable to walk. Two weeks in the house and she gradually got better and is now back out with the main flock. Unfortunately one morning we found the other newest chicken, Pippa, looking very unwell and she died a couple of hours later. The day before she had been running round with the flock very happily, but they're very good at disguising illness. Clarissa the duck has also been causing trouble (again), in addition to having escape skills that rival the Colditz prisoners, she tried to lay her first egg and couldn't, requiring an emergency trip to the vet and a paraffin enema. She's currently making her disgust at all things human known by absconding as soon as it gets light and spending all day as far away from the garden as possible. Sigh, that duck....
Yesterday was St Davids Day, the patron saint of Wales, so I celebrated by going for a bit of a jolly over to the coast, and had a thoroughly Welsh lunch out. It seems insane to say that 1 month on from my last blogpost I still don't know what will be happening with Brexit, and for now all I can do is keep on running the business as normal. I plan on sending out the Time travellers Club as early as possible to avoid any hold-ups at the ports, and also to make sure you don't get charged tax twice when you receive your parcel. I am still hopeful that this whole process will be halted and that common sense will prevail.
I do love seeing what people do with my fibre, and I know from so many people how inspired they get by the work of others. Over on the Ravelry group we have a thread that is just devoted to the sharing of pictures. There's no chat in the thread, so it's the perfect place to browse if you're short on time.
Asa think you for sharing the photos I do a random number draw every 3 months, for gift certificates to the online shop. We've just got to the end of the time period of the current thread, so I thought I'd share a few of my favourites here. Clicking on the images will take you through to the Ravelry project page.
Another busy month. January is always time when I play catch up after the Christmas holidays, and the weather over the past week has been somewhat chilly... so much so that I have a rather fetching chilblain on my toes after several very cold dyeing sessions. Thick Alpaca socks and insulated snow boots clearly aren't enough for my ice block feet, so I've just ordered a pair of silk liner socks to see if that will help.
I've also kept up my resolution to try and make time to get away from work. We went back over to the coast to finidsh a circuit of geocaches we started over the Christmas holidays.
I've also been back over at Westhope College learning how to weave baskets using rush. I've been wanting to do this course for 18 moths, but a combination of the courses being fully booked, or not coinciding with when I was free has meant that I've been waiting for a while. It was definitely worth the wait the wait, and I've come away feeling inspired to have a go at doing a bit more.
The tutor, Rosie Farey, makes beautiful miniatures, but in true Katie style I decided to go big! And then had a bit of an anxious moment when we couldn't get my basket off the mould...
I was teaching myself in the middle of the month, and had a great time at East Sussex Guild, who looked after me spectacularly well. Next weekend I'm down in Devon, and have got a few days off planned in Exeter after I finish teaching, so if anyone has any suggestions for things I should go and see or do please let me know!
The next shop update is almost completely dyed, so should be live in the shop either at the end of the week, or maybe next week when I get back from Devon. I have also started dyeing for Wonderwool Wales, and plotting some new stand decorations!
Finally a note about Brexit, because I have been getting a few worried emails from European customers. It takes a lot to get me angry, but I am furious about the whole situation. I have no idea what will be happening on 29th March, and unfortunately until our politicians make some decisions I have no way to plan for what will happen. For now, all I can say is cross your fingers that those in power will stop being cowards, and stand up to say what a stupid decision it would be to leave the EU.
I'm still making plans for the future though, because I am determined to still be here, and I will get your parcels to you somehow...
One of the things I wanted to do by cutting back on show commitments was to explore new ideas. So I'm pleased to say that the Wool-Free club will be coming back!
It's going to be set up to work for those of you who like to create blends, and those of you who want to try spinning fibres like cotton, ramie, linen, and bamboo by themselves. It also means that I will be able to offer more choice of non-wool fibres in the online shop.
And finally, I hope that I've always tried to make this clear, but if I haven't I am sorry, and will try harder in the future to do better. All are welcome here. Whoever you are, providing you are respectful, and kind to others, you are welcome in the comments here, on my Facebook page, my Instagram feed or in the Ravelry group or when I meet you in person. I will not tolerate racism, or discrimination of any kind, and expect those who share my space behave in the same way.
As usual we had a houseful at Christmas, and limited space in our little cottage meant that my wheels were rather neglected. I did however convert my new sister-in-law to spinning!
My little brother got married in September, which is one of the reasons why my autumn was so hectic!
I spent most of my holidays sewing.... I finally finished the red flannel shift dress from a pattern I drafted at at workshop at Westhope College. I have no decent photos... because it's Wales in winter. It never got light, and I lack the selfie magic!
All through the holidays people were opening their 12 Days of Christmas parcels. It was such good fn to open a parcel every day that we're doing it all again for the Tour de France... so if you missed out on a 12 Days of Christmas parcel, maybe you can join us for this project.
I also got out and about nearly every day during the holidays. We explored new places, and did quite a bit of geocaching.
On a dyeing front, I've been back at work for a few days now. Nearly everything that I sold out over the holiday has been restocked, and the first hand dyed fibre of 2019 is drying as I type. Look out for a shop update in the next couple of days.
The latest edition of Ply Magazine has been one of their most successful so far... it's all about socks. So the next couple of updates will have a bit of a sock focus in case you fancy trying out some of the techniques. I stock 3 different sock- specific blends. Pure Southdown for those who like the all-natural option, Superwash BFL & Ramie for those who want to machine wash and have improved resistance to felting but don't want nylon, or Superwash Cheviot, Silk & Nylon which is my personal ultimate sock yarn; machine washable, with nylon so I don't wear a hole in 2 months. Sound intriguing? You can buy copies direct from Ply (including a digital edition, or there are numerous world-wide stockists.
Over the next couple of months I'll be visiting a couple of guilds. I'll be at East Sussex Guild on 19th January giving a talk, and will also have some fibres with me. I'll also be at Devon Guild on 9th February, talking about dyeing techniques, and will have the shop with me again. Visitors will be made very welcome so if you're in the area please come along.
So far I'm managing to stock pretty well to my resolution of rounding up all the things that have been happening in the valley over the past month. Maybe this is the secret to New Years Resolutions, don't make them at New Year.
Of course this post is a bit later than usual, but that's because I took my holiday for the year up on the Northumbrian Coast. It was beautiful, and windy, and just what was needed. As usual I'll be working pretty much up until Christmas, and then taking some time off over Christmas New Year to spend time with family, do lots of cooking, and mess around with some non-Hilltop Cloud projects.
As we're talking about Christmas, here are the dates by which you need to place your orders-
Wed 5th Dec; Cyprus, Malta, Asia, Far East, Eastern Europe, Caribbean, Central and South America
Sun 9th Dec; Greece, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand
Wed 12th Dec; Canada, Czech Rep, Italy, Poland, USA, Finland, Sweden
Sun 16th Dec; Rest of Europe, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, UK
Parcels will be going out as normal throughout the holiday period, on Monday and Thursday mornings, and I plan on sending both clubs out before Christmas.
I've also made a start on dyeing the special fibre I posted about last month, and even managed to twist John's arm in to supplying me with a further 10kg. The first batch went up in the shop with the latest update, and I will be dyeing small batches for every update until I run out of base. This fibre is special, because every step of the way is done with such care and attention. First the flocks that supply the fibre are specially selected, the fleeces are first graded by the sorted at the south Molton Wool Marketing Board Depot. It then goes through a secondary grading process to remove a further 20% of any kemp and coarse fibres, or ones with too short a staple. It's then scoured, and finally combed by the team at John Arbon textiles, and combined with 20% Mulberry Silk. At the moment it's the most expensive base that I stock, but with good reason, you can't produce a base like this cheaply.
This is also the month we said good-bye to Otis, my trusty ex-BT van has carried me around the country to shows and workshops for the past 5 years, but he was getting older, and with my decision to do fewer shows I no longer needed such a large vehicle. Our space at Wonderwool Wales has already been confirmed, and will be the only show in 2019 where I will be taking a full stock of fibres. Wonderwool is by far the most shopper-friendly of all the shows, with wide aisles, generous stand sizes, and a level floor. If you've never come then it's well worth the trip.
Did you know that there's s sharing thread over in the Hilltop Cloud Ravelry group?
And as a reward for sharing your photos there are random prizes on offer?
The current thread is here, all you need to do is post a picture of spun yarn, or a finished object.
Here's a few highlights from the last thread, that really do deserve to be seen by more people, they're stunning!
Click on the photo to go the Ravelry project page to find out more details.
You can browse the rest of the thread here, and do come over and share your creations in the current thread.
October also became known as the month with the cold... It circulated the whole household, in fact Mum is still suffering. My fibre was at Bakewell Wool Gathering, but I was away at Lakes & Lancs Guild teaching. If you're in that area and aren't a guild member, then I can thoroughly recommend going along to a meeting to see what being a guild member is all about.
I also squeezed a couple of shop updates in, and have finally been able to get to grips with a sewing machine and some fabric I bought on my holiday in America last year.
I spent yesterday at Westhope College learning how to take patterns from existing garments without unpicking them... now I just need to get my sewing skills up to scratch so I can replicate a couple of my favourite garments!
We had some lovely warm summer days which have really helped to set the bees up for winter. They were buzzing all over the Mahonia bushes while I was at work in the dye studio, which is such a cheery sight.
My aunty was here for 2 weeks as well so we took her on a day out to see the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter. sadly this is closing on November 17th, but if you can manage to get over before then I can really recommend it. I'm just sad that this piece of Welsh history is going to be lost from public display. My Aunty used to work in the garment factories in Stoke on Trent when she was younger, and while she was staying with us we showed her this BBC programme which features modern women going and working in a clothing factory through various decades.
The final part of the month has been focussed on getting the final details arranged for the 12 Days of Christmas parcels. The first batch are now ready, and will be going on sale soon. I'll be making the announcement on my email newsletter, so if you're not already subscribed then head over here. Once the first batch has sold I will be making up a second smaller batch, so keep your eyes peeled!
So what will November be bringing...
I've already got the first part of a shop update dyed, so it won't be too much longer until there's some fresh fibre in the shop. Next weekend is also my guild Open Day. If you're in the area then there's lots to see and do, it's free entry, and there will be quite a few stands selling goodies, I'll have fibre at reduced prices as I sell off all my show stock at the end of the year. I'm also doing a bit more teaching at Pembrokeshire Guild, and then I get to go on holiday at the end of the month. If you're in a guild and considering making a booking I'd urge you to get in touch sooner rather than later. My diary in 2019 is now full, and I only have a few vacancies left in 2020.
I also have a very special parcel that is waiting for me... 10kg of double sorted John Arbon BFL & Silk. I couldn't get any of this fibre last year, so am really pleased to have some available this year. I'm currently weighing up the possibilities of how to dye it...
September, as predicted was a little bit insane. The trip to teach at Bradford Guild was lovely, held in the Industrial Museum, which I am determined to make a trip back up north to visit, the bits I glimpsed as I took everything to the guild meeting room looked fascinating.
Then there was my brothers wedding, when we seemed determined to suck al the bad luck away from the bride and groom... an extra drive back to Wales for a lost bag, and a malfunctioning lock on the hotel room seemed to ensure the actual day went smoothly, and was a real delight. I have hardly any photos, there were 2 professionals circulating nearly the whole day, so I put my phone away, and enjoyed the only occasion when my extended family is likely to be in the same place at the same time.
Then to finish off the month we went to Yarndale, unfortunately not such a good weekend. Our spot by the open shutter meant the wind blew through the stand all day, and then the rain shower that arrived unexpectedly at 3pm meant a very quick dismantling of the table of yarn bowls because the rain was blowing in through the door. The other end of the stand was something of a stygian hole, so to be blunt, fibre sales were disappointing, despite 5 portable lights attempting to illuminate things. We love Yorkshire, and love visiting Skipton. Eating our fish and chips by the canal on Friday evening as become something of a tradition.
With all that in mind it seems like now is a good time to break the news about shows for next year. We are cutting back on the shows we attend. In the case of all the shows we're choosingn not to apply to exhibit it's for a variety of reasons, partly financial, and partly personal. It's in no way a reflection of the show itself, just a case of us wanting to switch things up a bit, and making the decision that is best for Hilltop Cloud. We are planning to be at Wonderwool Wales, and Bakewell Wool Gathering. At the moment it seems unlikely that I'll add any other shows to the mix, if you are in the north of the country then I will have a stand at the Association Summer School in York on Saturday August 10th, and you will be able to buy my fibres in person at the Trade Fair, and come to see what we've been doing in the class I've been teaching.
I've had a few ideas floating around for new projects, so hopefully by removing the workload of a couple of shows, I might be able to bring some of them in to fruition!
My final show for October is Bakewell Wool Gathering. This is a lovely smaller scale event, held practically in the centre of Bakewell. Then to finish off the year, my own guild is hosting an open day on 10th November. As it's my final event of the year I will be offering reductions on the remaining show stock. It should be a really nice day to come along and chat to some fellow spinners and eat cake!
My work plans for the month didn't end up going to plan... the fibres I'd expected to dye ended up being shuffled down the dyeing list. So we shall see what this month brings! I've already got the first shop update of the month part dyed, so I'm hoping to be able to list lots of new fibres later this week.
I've also got something that I'm working on behind the scenes as a bit of a Christmas treat.... Watch this space!
Around a year ago I wrote a blogpost about the packaging that use.
I've always tried to use packaging responsibly, from the very first day when I set up the business, and have always tried to make sure that you receive fibre in the best possible condition. If I put fibre in a piece of packaging it's because I think it needs to be there. Tissue paper might be more recyclable, but it's fundamentally useless at doing anything other than looking pretty.
As a small business I've always been limited by what packaging products I can buy. I might buy in relatively large amounts, but I'm no where near large enough to be commissioning custom designed packaging.. Finally however the packaging industry seems to be catching up and there's now a huge amount of biodegradable items on the market! Of course newness of products, and limited availability means that nearly all these items are more expensive, but for the most part it's not by a vast amount. One thing that's become very clear when I compare my accounts, everything I buy is costing more than it was 2 years ago. I didn't pass on the postage price rises in April this year,so I suspect that I will need to charge slightly more for postage once I swap to using all the new packaging.
I've used biodegradable mailers for a long time, but I'm now using ones that are biodegradable, and made from recycled material. The first orders using these mail bags went out this morning, and as I run out of stock of the other sizes I will gradually switch over to using them.
If you get one of the new bags the biodegradable additive means that they are not recyclable, they need to go in with your normal waste. If you have a compost heap you can also add them to that.
I've also been on the hunt for a more environmentally friendly version of the clear grip seal bags that I use, and finally one exists!
These are still re-usable, but I can also heat-seal the top, meaning them can go through the postal system with no further packaging. These pair of bags have been travelling backward and forward through the UK mail system a few times to check how they stand up to the abuse of the postal system. They're still waterproof, but are now biodegradable so will break down in to compost. The outer is made from renewable wood pulp starch. These bags will compost, but I'd recommend including them with your regular rubbish because a household compost heap will take a while to break these down.
Once they arrive you can tear off the top, off over the pretty contents, and still use the bag for your own fibre storage.
I also did this to one of them....
Finally, I'll also be swapping over the cellophane bags that I use for things like Gradient Packs, and any other form of fibre that uses lots of small chunks of fibre. I can now get a clear film bag made from cellulose film (wood pulp from managed plantations, which again means they're compostable.
A few fibres have already been sent out using these bags, because I have ordered more bags than you can imagine to work out the size and type that works best!
I do sill have quite a decent stock of the old bags, but if you get one of the new ones, it will have this sticker on the seal.
You won't see all of the new packaging all at once. If I still have a few hundred bags left then it would be just as damaging for me to throw them away as it would for me to send you the fibre in an old style bag that you can then reuse.
The only form of packaging that will remain as non-biodegrable plastic is the small label bands I use on the fibre. I have tried other versions, but when you rummage around in a sack of 50 braids to find the right one strung labels tangle up, the string rubs on the surface of the fibre, and the hole in the card breaks. Card and staples cause similar issues. Some dyers individually bag every single braid, but I'd rather go the route of a single small piece of non-biodegrabale plastic, than use large numbers of bags, particularly because so many of you order multiple braids of fibre. I'm very limited in storage space, so can't hang everything up, so my labelling solution has to be robust.Eventually I suspect that tyvek wristbands will be made out of a new material, but for now it's just a case of waiting for the manufacturers to catch up with consumer demand.
We'll still be doing our bit to re-use or recycle the packaging that comes to us, there are 3 of us working from home, and we often don't fill our 240L rubbish bin when it's collected every 3 weeks, so I think we do a pretty good job.
Hilltop Cloud- Spin Different
Beautiful fibre you'll love to work with.
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