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.
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.