Monday, 19 November 2012

Now Something Completely Different

Last Saturday's meeting of Bedfordshire Weavers, Spinners and Dyers was a rush weaving workshop led by Felicity Irons ( The picture above was our raw materials.
We started our first project by weaving stays in the middle, then adding 2 lengths of rush which we wove around the stays.
The round mat was the result of our labours before lunch, after which Felicity showed us how to make the angel fish, in preparation for the windmill bag. I'm afraid my bag or pot pouri pouch is not finished yet but it will be .. soon.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

All colours are there

There is a tendency for all of us to use dye colours straight from the pot, without mixing and creating new shades, unless of course there are small quantities of liquor left at the end of a project. It is time consuming and expensive to make your own shade cards. This year I am working with two Weavers, Spinners and Dyers guilds to produce, hopefully, the shades that can be produced with all 16 of the Texere Acid Dye range. Hundreds of skeins and many cards to file the colours have had to be made and distributed, but later this month the project will be close to completion. Fingers Crossed!!! Above are photos of the first batch of samples, waiting to be threaded on to the file cards. Don't they look great! It seems a shame to split them up.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Latest Projects

The project above is intended to be lightly felted so the slipper socks can be worn over my normal thin ones when demonstrating, weaving or spinning at home in colder weather. The yarn was spun from alpaca,wool and nylon tops bought at Woolfest and I am hopeful that I will be able to wear this mix as a garment without my skin being irritated. I am knitting to illustrate an article I have been asked to write about dyeing for socks and it was great to have two less bulky projects to take with me on holiday. Well, actually we were dog sitting while our son and new daughter in law went to Florida.
The next socks are merino and nylon, dyed to create self striping yarn, again to be worn as over socks, but created to illustrate the article.
The next two weeks are going to be quite busy, eye test on Thursday, manicure on Friday - a first for me - meal next Thursday evening, pre Friday's wedding. Our eldest son is getting married, so we will have another new daughter-in-law by the end of the month. Exciting times!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Holiday Projects

Well, it seems that summer is here at last! I feel as hot as the colours of my yarn. We are off for a couple of weeks holiday and dog sitting near Leamington Spa. So I need some projects to take with me. I managed to visit Woolfest in Cumbria last month and just had to buy one or two fibery things.
The skeins of yarn, destined to be a scarf and felted bag, are pure British Wool from a supplier who only sells at shows - a great excuse to keep going. Ally Pally, Kniting and Stitching show next. The wound balls are handspun from tops consisting of Alpacca, wool and nylon and should make me a great pair of socks, similar to the ones I have posted before.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

That time of year again!

Usually each May I rear a batch of Bombyx Mori silkworms and this year is no different, it just happened later than usual. I have to watch my mulberry tree in early May to see if there are any leaf buds showing. That is the sign to put eggs to warm so they will hatch 10 days to 2 weeks later. The weather conspired against me and I realised that was was going to be unable to rear a pure strain of Bombyx mori in time to take them to Hatfield House Living Crafts event, So.. I ordered some medium sized silkworms from an online company along with some ready made artificial food for them to eat. Problem solved! Now I am also hatching some eggs in order to take them to Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in 2 weeks time.
This photo shows all stages of the silkworms life cycle. On the right are the eggs which should hatch in another week. In the middle are cocoons spun by the caterpillars taken to Hatfield House. For the first time I had caterpillars spinning at a show and people found it fascinating. In the container with some leaves are small caterpillars. The brown objects in the middle are chrysalis which I took from their cocoons. In the two round containers on the left are mating pairs. The two moths at the top and the one in the centre are males awaiting hatching females.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Silk Tops

After spinning my own dyed silk bricks for several years I have become dissatisfied with the lengths of the fibres in the brick. It seemed to me that there were/are more batches of shorter and varied length fibres that were making the dyeing process difficult, caused by wastage because fibres along the length of the brick were breaking away, making it look very untidy and fibre loss.
At first, because I had spun little silk over the winter, I wondered if it was my technique at fault. Then I had reason to spin a brick that I had dyed some years ago. I found the fibre to be of a more consistent length and could control the style of yarn more easily. So, I hadn't imagined the change.
After trying two or three bricks I ordered silk tops. I spun a sample un-dyed and found the fibres to be more consistent and it was much easier to control the style/smoothness of yarn. Maybe I had hit on the solution to being disheartened about spinning my favourite fibre. Then came the test dyeing the tops.
I wound the very long length, 100g, of fibre on my niddy noddy just as I do with woollen yarn, put 4 figure of eight ties in the skein, soaked and dyed it.
It took less time to soak than a brick of 125g. First plus point. There was less fibre disturbance through the processes of dying rinsing and drying - second plus. It dried quicker because I was able to hang the length of tops across my dryer- third plus. Spinning was much more satisfying because I could spin a smoother,finer yarn without having to deal with batches of short fibres - plus four.
I have spun 100g of the 200g dyed and I am vey pleased that I can now resume a relaxing, satisfying process that I had enjoyed for so long.

I have woven several silk items since my last post and I am waiting for a bright, dry day to take photos. As soon as I have managed this I'll be posting again.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Another First

At the weekend I finished knitting this triangular shawl. It is my first completed project having spun the yarn on a drop spindle.
I have been drop spindling on and off for years but have never attempted, let alone completed, a project before.
Inspired by my friend Martina, also a member of Bedfordshire Guild Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, who carries her drop spindle almost everywhere and uses her spinning wheel rarely, I decided that I must complete something.
I began last autumn. I dyed 200g of wool tops with acid dyes and began to spin with the beautiful drop spindle bought at Fibre East last summer. Well, you can't spend over £30 on such a tool and just admire its beauty! It's so much more satisfying to make use of it.
The skeins above are the result. I was a little frustrated by the weight of plied yarn I could get on my spindle but next time I will follow Martina's advice and use a larger spindle on which to ply the singles.
The pattern is a free one from Ravelry 'Azzu's Shawl' published by Emma Fassio. Thank you Emma. I increased the number of rows, and therefore the width of the shawl, to use as much of my yarn as possible

Friday, 24 February 2012

The socks are finished

Hi there,
Our son's wedding has delayed my posting the finished socks.
I am quite pleased with the results of the project. Machine knitting with a double 4 ply yarn to be able to knit two perfectly matching socks seems to be a way forward.
I did knit the first sock straight from the dyed piece but it knitted with a texture and I was not entirely comfortable with that in case it meant uneven knitting which affected the wear and tear of the fabric.
One the first sock was knitted I skeined the second half of the yarn and steamed it. The resulting sock fabric was much flatter, looking much as you would expect from a washed skein of yarn. The sock in the front of my picture is the one straight from the dyed length.
I washed the finished pair and there is very little obvious difference between them, so maybe the skeining was not absolutely necessary.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Socks again

Frustration has set in because I am unable to get on with spinning and weaving since I hurt my back during the Christmas holidays. I probably have plenty of projects to get on with, but which one inspires me to start?
Having bought a quantity of sock yarn at Alli Pally last autumn I have decided to make use of it and try something which comes a a result of my dyeing some self striping yarn for cushions last February, self striping, hopefully, sock yarn. Again I have used the knitting machine to knit up 100g of the 4ply Bluefaced Leiscester and Nylon sock yarn. First I wound 2 balls of 50g each. Then knitted them together using alternate needles on the machine. This time I mastered the cast on and nearly a neat cast off.
After thoroughly wetting the yarn overnight I used acid dyes to colour it, put it to set in a steamer kept for dyeing and when thoroughly cooled, rinsed and hung it to dry.
I wonder how many machine needles wide it needs to be to make one hand-knitted row? I know 30cms is needed to handknit one row but I will need to experiment to get it right on the knitting machine. At least I can have a colourful time trying.
I wonder if I could sell such things on Ebay or an Etsy shop?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Personnal First

I have just finished a challenge I set myself back in August.
I was at the Association WSD Summer School in Musselborough and just had to buy something at the suppliers' fair. One stallholder had some dyed tops in colour combinations that I loved. I don't usually wear wool but have been searching for sometime for a 'woollen' fibre that I can wear close to my skin without irritation. There seemed to be little available that I hadn't already tried. What to choose? I decided upon something in merino and nylon, great for socks! I do wear woollen socks over my cotton ones when I am demonstrating weaving or spinning as I hate wearing shoes for this.
The yarn was spun soon after summer school but other things had priority.
I also wanted to see if I could produce a yarn similar but different to commercial ones that are self striping.
I separated the length of tops into its shades of pink, mauve and grey and then into two batches of equal weight so that I could spin the yarn in two skeins, one for each sock. I spun the colours in turn until the batch was finished, then Navajo plied each bobbin full of approximately 50g. I have found it easier to spin thinner singles lately and the yarn on the bobbin was going to give me a thinner yarn than I really wanted, so 3ply it was meant to be. I was able to keep the colours separate without any marling so I was confident that the stripes would be fairly well defined.
Two skeins of yarn spun, they were duly washed and dried, lovingly stroked and put with other skeins awaiting attention. They stared at me for 3 months! Then...
Over Christmas to New Year holidays I have found the time to tackle knitting the yarn.
Having worked out Wraps per inch, knitting a swatch with suitable needles, I had to find a pattern. Nothing I had was 100% suitable. So, I delved into 'The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook', measured my feet, used their charts, adapted numbers of decreases/increases to suit and knitted my socks. They are comfortable and I am pleased that the stripes are comparatively even, sock to sock. I will not use their method for an hourglass heel with such thick yarn another time, as there seems to be lacy holes where three stitches are knitted together, but hey-ho! a girl likes to wear lace now and again! They will be keeping my tootsies cosy in the evenings now that winter has found us.