Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Christmas present

Our son's partner is interested in learning to knit, as well as make better use of her sewing machine, and so I decided to spin some yarn for her Christmas present. It's great to have such fun making a present for someone.
I know that she likes pastel colours, pinks, mauves, blues and turquoise greens in particular. Having carded the above batt of merino some weeks ago I thought it may be a good choice for her to use in a project. It looks go bright, maybe even a little garish, so I thought of plying the multi-coloured singles with a strand of the blues below. This would also mean I could produce twice as much yarn and increase the possibilities of the end product.

I spun a small sample of the blue and plied it with the other colour mix as well as a sample of the mixed colours plied with knitted itself.

I wasn't sure that I liked the marled yarn (on the left)that came from using the blue plied with the colours, rather less feminine and the colours seemed 'less vibrant'. I decided to ply the mixed colour with itself and this is the resulting 100g.of yarn.

A little bird told me that the recipient's hot water bottle had split and decided that the yarn might just make a great cover and so found a co-ordinating HWB and some bamboo needles (I'm told they are allowed on flights!).
All I have to do now is write a pattern for the project and if she likes the idea, maybe she will while away the time on the flight to Australia later in the month.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Not at a loss for things to do.

I have knitted the above items in the last couple of months, mostly from wool tops that I have dyed. The mauve stole was from carded fleece bought in Australia ten years ago. The last is the initial tension trial for a cable knit cowl. I have finished the cowl it was intended for but I will post that later as I've not yet taken a photograph.
Cables seem to feature large in fashion knitwear at the moment and I used to dislike cable patterns, stopping to pick up the cable needle frustrated my urge to get on with the project. Now that I can see the varied options I am more enthusiastic about the possibilities.
Having recently tried on a number of knit-wear items, from a very popular high street store, finding them to have a knitting fault in prominent places, I have decided that I should spin sufficient yarn to knit one myself. How long will it take? I have to get the fibre first, dye and then spin it. Shall I go more chunky than I usually do? The knitting would take less time, especially if I want to wear it while it is still fashionable. Something soft and snuggly is my aim!
I have embarked on a project/investigation, of my own, into the ways of using and combining, spaced dyed tops, hand and drum carded fibres and the results achieved.
The cowl mentioned above is part of this.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

First Weaving

Last month I led a weaving workshop for Bedfordshire Guild of Weavers, Spinner and Dyers and wasn't sure how the participants would receive it because non of them had woven before.
We used rigid heddle table looms, many of which were over 30 years old, and this meant that my hubby and I spent many hours checking them and making sure they were all in good working order. The last thing I wanted was for the equipment to let us down or make the weaving more laborious than it needed to be. The aim was that everyone could produce a wearable wild silk scarf. The yarn used had been hand dyed the month before.
The photograph above is the result of one members weaving started at the workshop.
If no-one else finishes their piece I consider the workshop a success, because Carol, the weaver of the above scarf, wants to weave more and is looking to buy a loom of her own. Carol dyed the silk at home using natural madder and still has some left to begin her second project. Very well done Carol!
I hope that, at next Tuesday's meeting, I shall see more from the workshop.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Fibre to Yarn

It's such a long time since I posted. I have been busy but didn't find time to post about my activities.
I thought I had posted this entry several days ago but my internet connection must have broken just as it was downloading!!
I have spent a great deal of time dyeing woollen tops, roving, both to use myself and to sell to other spinners and crafters. Knitting certainly has had a revival and members of the Bedfordshire Guild of Weavers Spinners, and Dyers have managed to drum up interest in our crafts, so much so that our membership has doubled in less than two years. (I think this statement is accurate) The result being, I have been able to sell my hand dyed tops to other members as well as at a Ravelry event held in Flitwick Village Hall in August.
The photo below show two spirally wrapped rovings which I acid dyed in similar colour ranges, next to which are the prepared fibres, stripped lengthwise from the roving and a skein of yarn similar to, what I hope will be, the resulting yarn

This photo is of a scarf knit in a Shetland pattern, inspired by an Online Guild WSD workshop, using a yarn prepared in the same way as the one above.
A couple of weeks ago we spent time with our son and girlfriend in Warwick, site seeing and looking for craft supplies. This led to me having an idea for dyed yarn which involved me having a knitting machine to make the process practical time wise.
I had the idea one day. The next day:- I met a potential customer, at local event, she told me that she had a knitting machine to give away a.s.a.p. She is having a hoard clearance. We were asked to go the next day to collect the machine! An omen or not? I am to have lessons from someone who attends the same line dancing group as myself!
Since last posting I have knitted a number of items which I willl post when I have taken photos

Monday, 9 August 2010

Bad manners

As a child I was always taught that it was bad manners to make a noise while eating.
Since raising silkworms I have read many times that during a visit to a silk farm you could actually hear the worms eating. I have never heard this sound, until recently!!
For the last four weeks I have been feeding 140 silkworms which hatched unexpectedly because I didn't get the eggs into the fridge quickly enough after they were laid and shown to be fertile.
When they are first laid the pin head size eggs are white and almost invisible on kitchen paper. Within a couple of days the eggs start to darken - if they are fertile - then they are stored in the fridge, as they are supposed to need a cold period before they will hatch. Mine hatched in double quick time, probably due to the extra hot spell we had a month ago.
I have never reared so many caterpillars at one time, my poor old mulberry trees have lost a lot of leaves, but I started collecting them from the bottom of the branches which needed pruning anyway so the lawn mower could get under.
Last week, each time the caterpillars were fed, I heard the noise written about. I guess 140 mouths chomping on the freshest, crispest mulberry leaves is the difference. Our sons girlfriend likened it to the sound of rice crispies when the milk is poured on.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

I love making books

This book was made at about the same time as that in 'Scraps of brown Paper'.
I had bought a notebook with a plastic cover to keep craft notes but the cover annoyed me and the corner broke off so I decided to make it more personnal and good to handle.
I cut and covered a large cardboard envelope to make a new cover for the notebook and then used a 3D card envelope/package that had been used to send me a book.
I brayered ink from a 'rainbow' ink pad onto pieces of brown paper that were to cover the cardboard glued them onto and around the cardboard. I added a card 'pocket' to the inside back of the cover so that the back cover of the notebook could be slotted in. This means that the outside cover, should it wear well, can be used again when the notebook is full.

I decorated the notebook and cover with my favourite wild flower rubber stamps from Graphicus. Today, I added butterflies to the decoration in 'honour' of the butterfly count sponsored by Marks and Spencer.
At the moment only cabbage white butterflies are visiting my garden and other years we have seen peacocks and tortoiseshells. I think that next year I will rear some from Worldwide Butterflies and hope to help increase the population.

I dyed some more wool roving yesterday. This time it was superwash merino and I made an effort to use new colour combinations.
Now, I have to think of interesting, exotic and decriptive names for the colourways with the hope that someone will be enticed into paying money for them!!! Any suggestions?

Friday, 30 July 2010

Feeling proud

Several months ago I agreed to write an item for the Journal of Weaver's Spinners and Dyers about Fibre Reactive Dyeing. (
I have been dyeing silk and other fibre and yarn with these dyes for several years and thought I'd like to share my experience.

When the Summer 2010 issue had been published I was very pleasantly surprised to see a photo of my weaving on the cover. I had sent photos of the process and finished spun and woven items but never dreamed of my work being shown on the cover. My photos were obviously of a better quality than I realised. I often get things out of focus but maybe so do professionals!!! There are also several photos of my finished work inside the magazine.

Most of my clothes are cotton or linen and I don't enjoy wearing synthetic fabrics, woollens irritate my skin, so I only work with wool for someone else.
Yesterday, I decided to dye some woollen fibre with acid dyes, some of which I have had for years. For this I used the microwave as it's too hot to stand over a heat source at the moment and the time taken to fix the dye is shorter.
Next I am searching for some new colour combinations as I so often realise that I have returned to old favourite combinations like purple, blue and green.

Some time ago I posted about a shawl that I was weaving for our younger son's girlfriend to wear to her sister's wedding. I have a photo of them at the wedding but must get a close up of the shawl.
They have bought a lovely thatched cottage and begin moving in this weekend. What an exciting time for them. Perhaps in the not too distant future a shawl for another wedding day will be needed!!!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Scraps of brown paper

I use brown paper to separate the layers when I wind a warp onto my loom. After a time it becomes torn and distressed, waste material as far as a weaver is concerned, but, for a paper crafter a useful resource. The distressed look is good, has charm and character and can be a useful way to recyle 'materials'.
Since childhood I have been interested in making books and now because of my interest in card making using rubber stamps, embossing powder and all manner of colouring mediums, I have started to make spiral bound notebooks, shopping list booklets and all manner of books in which to record my craft notes/processes etc.
The pictures here are one of my latest 'creations'. I love red and I am always very pleased to see fields full of red poppies at this time of year. This inspired my to make the 'Poppy notebook cover'.
The cover is made from recycled boxes, which once held such things as photo paper and printable labels or a book ordered on the web, covered with brown paper and decorated with a rubber stamps on the poppy theme, hitherto unused. The fastening is two recycled leather buttons with a silk twisted cord.

This was designed as a recording/planning book for another weaver who also likes red. Some of the notebook pages are for inspirational sketches, others for weave draft planning and some for project notes. It is removable and can be replaced in the future by a bought shorthand notebook.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In the Mean Time

A new warp for the loom, along with it's weft, can take several days in the planning, preparation, dyeing and spinning. So
I am keeping busy with another project.
Rainbows are loved by everyone it seems and scarves with rainbow coloured warps are no exception. I have trouble keeping one for myself! It's also a great way to use up small amounts of dyed yarn.
Is it BRIGHT or is it bright?

The weft colour I have chosen, for the first of three scarves on this warp, is bright red and it does look a little bright but I do quite like it - cheery.
The next will be woven with a navy and the third.... still to be decided.

Once the loom was threaded I remembered a tip given me by my orriginal weaving tutor, Mike Halsey.
Tension of the warp threads is important to the weaving process. Slack threads can be caught by the shuttle and cause faults in the woven pattern but with 24 or 32 threads in each inch it can be a trial to get them all the same tension.
When the warp is tied to the front apron, there are gaps in the groups of threads and these need to be closed before weaving the 'real' cloth begins. It can take inches of weaving to achieve this unless..... you weave 4 or 5 rows tabby with a thicker thread, without beating them in place.

Once these rows are pushed into place the gaps close and any slack warp threads are shown up. Small discrepencies may need no more attention, especially on a woollen warp, but larger areas can be seen easily and dealt with, as can be seen at the selvedges of this warp.

Monday, 12 April 2010

One thing leads to another

Last weekend I was asked by our son's girlfriend if I could shorten the dress she had bought to wear at her sister's wedding which is about three weeks away. I replied in the affirmative.
When the dress appeared I became rather nervous. Satin, more expensive than I could afford, beautifully made and required all of my dressmaking skills to alter well. Would my sewing machine tension behave? Had I got a fine needle? I have been making clothes since the age of 13. Why was I so worried? could I have forgotten/lost all my dressmaking skills while I have concentrated on weaving?
The photo of the dress on a hanger doesn't do it justice. There is a slit in the back seam and the hem and facing are mitred. Our son thought I'd just fold, turn and stitch but I explained calmly that a good job required more time and they would not be taking away the dress that evening.
After three days I used all my courage, marked the hemline on dress and lining, zigzagged at the cutting line, machined up the lining and created the mitred corner to turn up the dress. The worst thing was cutting away the corner of fabric. What if I'd sewn it wrongly?? I don't like pressing satin because it could watermark, but I was saved this disaster. The last task was to hand sew the hem... what a relief. The job was done.
As I was working at this task, and considered the event it was to worn at and the fact that our weather is not too kind at this time of year, my thoughts turned to the beautiful colour of the satin and the colours I liked to see with this purple, cerise, plum, raspberry and lilac.
Today, I have dyed some silk fibre and yarn in those colours.

There is a breeze and the silk lookes a mess but is drying reasonably quickly. Maybe, I will be able to spin some of it tonight!
The result of these endeavours may be ready sometime next week, along, I hope, with a photo of the dress owner modelling.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Winding bobbins for weaving

The number of wooden bobbins needed when weaving has been discussed on online groups that I belong to. I wonder why people use them at all.
When weaving with a boat shuttle I use paper to create the core of a bobbin. This way you can wind more yarn on each bobbin because you do not have a thickness of wood and so need to wind fewer bobbins for each project. You can also afford to leave any left over yarn on your paper bobbin and store it until it may be needed again.
To create the core, cut an oval/egg shape from a sheet of paper. I usually use waste from my printer or unwanted leaflets if the paper is not very shiny.
The shape must not be wider than the width of the aperture in your boat shuttle and should be wide enough to wind round the spindle of your bobbin winder several times. I find A5 paper just the job.

When I am ready to wind I, first of all, curl the paper around the winder spindle as tightly as possible and hold it in place while introducing the end of the yarn to be wound under the spindle and wound paper.

The way the yarn is wound is very important. Otherwise the yarn may not run off smoothly and cause problems when weaving.
First wind the paper core and then the yarn across the tightly wound core to keep it in shape.

Next, wind a small but smooth bead of yarn at one end of the bobbin, without winding too near the end, and then another bead near the other end of the paper bobbin.

Wind smoothly and keep an even tension on the yarn as you wind.
Fill the space between the two 'beads', but do not wind higher than them. Build up at each end and fill in the centre without any yarn 'falling' over the edges, as this can cause problems when it unwinds during weaving.

Th important thing to remember is that the wound bobbin should be firm and slim enough to rotate freely in the shuttle. The wound yarn should not protrude below the bobbin when in place on the spindle. It's so easy to wind on just that little bit too much yarn!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

More Natural dyeing

I have been trying out some more natural dye extracts. I do like the gentle, somtimes subdued shades obtain with natural dyes but the results are not predictable as with synthetic dyes and that frustrates me somewhat. The time taken to get results is much longer too and I'm not sure how I feel about using them. I have enjoyed my experimentation though.
The first photograph shows shades obtained using 'Teal' which is an unknown formula and I am pleased with the range. The orriginal colour is on the left, then modified with, citric acid, soda ash, a paler shade of the orriginal and on the right the pale shade modified with iron.

This picture shows skeins, top to bottom, dyed with rhubarb root, the exhaust of the rhubarb dye and fustic. Fustic gave a very bright yellow. The dye comes from the heartwood of the dyer's mulberry, a large tropical tree from America.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Natural Dyes

Members of The Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers are taking part in a natural dye workshop this month. I am taking part, as I have been thinking for some time that I should know more about this subject. I have amassed a stash of chemicals for such a project over the years, as periodically I decide to work with natural dyes.
I have been nervous about their use and somewhat disheartened years ago when a spinner/natural dyer asked me to weave with some of her yarns. They were not very light fast and so the idea of natural dyes was rejected.
My main inspiration for starting to take time to use natural dye extracts, at this time is, my friend and fellow member of the Bedfordshire Guild, Jenny Dean. In the recent past she has dyed skeins of silk for me to weave into scarves and her knowledge on the subject is vast. She is a great support and adviser to me on this adventure. Thank you Jenny.
I have used three extracts so far, madder, Red Lac and Golden Doc, with the idea that the handspun yarn dyed with these could be used in a knitted item - but for whom? I cannot wear wool and I'm sure my dear hubby won't want anything in pink.
The skeins in the picture from left to right, Blue faced Leicester fleece and wool roving, type unknown, have been dyed with 5% madder, Golden dock, Red Lac and were previously mordanted with alum.
The process of bringing the mordant bath to the boil and simmering the dye bath seems to have changed and improved the yarn. It is a great deal more open and fluffy than the undyed. When I have spun more I must take a photograph to compare!

I have been busy.
The above skeins are spun with Merino roving, the colours blended with the Beds Guild WSD new drum carder. I have been practising with it so I can show other new guild members how to use it most efficiently. The small skein was spun straight from the batt of blended fibre and I have more to spin. The larger skein is a fancy yarn created by introducing slubs of the individual colours to one bobbin of the 2ply yarn.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Trials of the drum carder

Well, where has the time gone again?
The Bedfordshire Guild of WSD bought a Louet drum carder last year and I am trialling it so I can instruct other members to use it efficiently. I love colour blending and spinning with colourful fibres to produce individual yarns. First of all I rainbow dyed some silk fibre to spin and then decided as most member work in wool, I would have a go at carding several shades of Merino together to see the results. There has been little waste of fibre but, apart from the silk, I have not spun the Merino into a yarn.
Above are the resulting Merino batts. I'm not sure about the lime green!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

First card of 2010

I made this card last week for my childhood friend who I have not seen for 50 years. We keep in touch at christmas and her birthday is January 8th. I always thought it a shame to have to celebrate her birthday so soon after christmas and was glad that mine is in the middle of summer so the presents were spread during the year.
I used one stamp, the crocus, which came to me last year as a freeby with an order from Graphicus. I thought that the handpainted yellow flowers would be cheery at a time when so many of us are/have been snowed in with difficulties getting from place to place. Vivienne I hope you had a wonderful birthday.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Well - a month since I last posted.
Christmas was very enjoyable with family around, so as they have received their pressies I can show the decorated boxes made to hold them. I didn't manage to photo them all before they were given and these pictures were taken after Christmas day.

The box on the left was covered with brown paper, coloured with the direct to paper technique, stamped and embossed with copper powder. It was made for Son no.2 girlfriend, as a jewelry box to hold a beaded necklace and earings made by me.

The gold box in the centre was given to my dear hubby filled with his favourite fudge. The decoration on the top is an Elusive Image stamp of Christmas Roses.
The right hand box has a removable fence on the outside. The box is decorated with tree, leaf and flower stamps, again from EI, to represent a country farm. Chris is threatening that he will have a pig to rear as soon as he has a garden of his own. Inside, as a 'joke' present we bought farm animals, including parent pig and piglet. I also made a 'put it together yourself', pig sty from corrugated card sprayed black and shredded straw coloured paper for bedding.