Sunday, 1 December 2019

Leiden, the Textile Research Centre, Historic textiles...

A month after the event, some assorted photos of my visit to Leiden for the Knitting History Forum's event on the Texel Stocking, several trips to the Textile Research Centre, and a wander around Leiden.

There was a fascinating exhibition on socks at the Centre, tying in to the conference which was mainly about the Texel Silk Stocking project, which I got a good wander around on the Friday afternoon on our day of arrival. On the Monday afternoon (nearlyeverything in Leiden is closed on Monday) I spend several hours sewing labels on new arrivals for the collection, and gawping in wonder at the Leiden Hat and a tiny fragment of carbonised textile from Catal Huyuk.

I also spent the entirity of my Sunday in Leiden at the main museum there. Excellent collection of Egyptian stuff, a good cross section of European stuff, lots of Roman things (as you'd expect given Leiden's geographical position), and a really good timeline of the area from the Ice Age to early Modern. A special exhibition about prehistoric Cyprus too.

I was perhaps a little too tired to make the most of it. In October I'd had something on or been away for nearly every weekend, and it all got away from me somewhat. A November catching up with myself was rather necessary (and probably why this post didn't even get done until December).

I am currently in the throes of churning out a handful of hats with either carousel horses or unicorns on them - fun, but time-consuming. We were at a wonderful and touching gig in Halifax's Square Chapel last night, O'Hooley & Tidow, and this evening we're off to the very different Peatbog Fairies in Settle Victoria Hall. I'm knitting and spinning quietly this morning, enjoying the morning when I get the sun in our living room.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Carousel cap, Edinburgh and archaeology.

So this is the Carousel Cap I was working on the other week. I'm really pleased with how this has come out, especially fabric-wise. The J&S Supreme blooms beautifully with a bath in very hot water and a good rub on itself. The BFL/silk shines against the matte of the Shetland. This one is being traded with a friend; I've already got an offer of a bottle of nice gin in exchange for another one but with unicorns instead. (I think I want one with unicorns too).

Last weekend we had a furiously fast visit to Edinburgh, staying in our usual flat on Easter Road, and wishing we'd brought the dogs too this time. The flat is dog friendly, albeit on the third floor, which is why we chose it originally. (We've been going to it since EYF in 2016).

The main reason for going was the Late Prehistoric Group's conference on Crafting Identities on Saturday, but I also really wanted to see the National Museum's Wild and Romantic exhibition. We scorched up the motorway and the A7, getting there for not long after 11, and after dumping stuff in the flat (uncleaned, but we get leeway as we've been going so long) charged up the hill.

Excellent exhibition. As you'd expect really. A wonderful overview of how Scotland's become regarded as the wild and romantic country par excellence since the 18C.

There was clothing, in good enough light and in a small enough case that you could get a really close look.

There was a very old suit of tartan that is supposed to have been booty from Culloden (very small, and different tartan/fabric for the hose and jacket), that wonderful 18C wedding dress that's been worn by every bride in the family since it was made, and I subscribed to the crowdfunder when it was replicated in a day at the museum earlier in the year), and various jackets and costumes right up to the 'classic Victorian Scottiana'.

And some of the random stuff was interesting too. More than one of the cartoons satirising Scotland from the mid 18C to the early 19C showed Scotsmen like this - tartan or checked jackets but a plain plaid/kilt, yet now we think of the jacket/top being a plain wool and the kilt always tartan. 

I could have spent far longer at the exhibition, but we had to meet someone off a train. And then we were tired, so went back to the flat for lots of tea. And a yummy meal at the Mash Tun just downstairs - local, good value, excellent food, lots of gin and whisky.

After the conference on Saturday, which was all day and such a pity to be inside on such a gloriously clear and chilly Autumn day, I met Mark at the Deacon Brodie's. It was furiously cold and breezy (Mark had bought me a beautiful Black Watch blanket as a late birthday present, so I wrapped myself in tartan wool and was happy) and this was the view back down the Royal Mile, all the way to the Firth, the last of the orange sunlight just catching the top of St Giles.

Autumn is firmly upon us. Some trees are nearly bare and I've hardly noticed the leaves changing on some. I could really do with a weekend at home, as before Edinburgh we were charging around to Durham and Grasmere. But this weekend (in fact, ridiculously early tomorrow morning) I'm off with a friend to Leiden for the Historic Knitting Group's conference. Which is going to be vastly interesting, and I should manage to get visits in to the Textile Research Centre (normally closed on Friday, but we have contacts!), plus the Weavers' House on Sunday afternoon, and hopefully the Archaeology Museum in Leiden on Sunday morning. Our flight home is late on Monday, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed we can manage the Rijksmuseum on Monday.

Phew. And then I'm teaching at York Guild in a fortnight and need to knit up a beaded yarn I spun weeks ago before that. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Knitting at the Wordsworth Trust, teaching at Durham Guild.

It has been a very long weekend. We had a desperately early start on Saturday morning, got up to Durham in plenty of time for me to teach a colour blending/drumcarding workshop at the Guild, then whizzing down to Settle for a concert at Settle Victoria Hall with Kris Drever, and home at midnight. 

Then we were off early on Sunday morning, up to Grasmere where I had a lovely few hours in the library at the Jerwood Institute, Wordsworth Trust at Dove Cottage, in a talk and workshop by Esther Rutter. Esther has recently published This Golden Fleece, and has been giving talks and workshops around the country. This one was looking at the magnificent 19C gloves, typical of Westmoreland and the Yorkshire Dales, in the Wordsworth collection. There were about twenty of us in the group, and we got to look at wonderful things.

These were on the shelf immediately behind my chair. I nearly fell off it! 

These are a few pages, with sewn in samples, from Wordworth's niece's commonplace book.

The Wordsworth Trust is rightly proud of having nearly all the papers and the family documents in the area where they were written, and around the places they were written about (instead of tucked away in the British Library in London).

There is a selection of knitting sheaths/sticks in the collection too. 

And the gloves! Beautifully detailed gloves. I've seen photographs, but it was amazing to see them 

A hand-knitted rug/blanket, dyed with natural dyes, made for William himself. Much brighter on the back, it was on display until the 80s and has been rather light-faded. One particular square looked like it was knitted in stripes of browns from the right side - on the reverse it was much darker and in shades of purple, so probably various yarns dyed with logwood that looked much the same when new. 
And after this we were provided with yarn and needles and handouts, and we all started knitting a version of these gloves ourselves. Esther had not only brought all the samples that she knitted as she wrote her book, she'd done an excellent handout for the gloves. I got most of my ribbing done, but I have to finish the Carousel Cap first.

And then I met up with Mark (who had been pottering round the village while I was busy, and we walked around the lake with the boyz. Arthur was utterly delighted at being able to play in the waves (it was windy) and launched himself into water with gay abandon.


Posing. (There is a stick just out of shot.)

There were supposed to be photographs of me teaching at Durham on the Saturday, but Mark hasn't sent them to me yet. The workshop went really well, and I've already been booked for next year. It was very strange actually teaching there - I must have walked past St Oswald's Church Institute dozens of times on my way up to the library from my college, back in the 80s, but I can't say I'd noticed it. (They didn't buy much fibre though.)

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Britspin 2019

This year, I've managed to get organised enough to take part in the Britspin event. I failed completely last year, and had to make do with watching vicariously from the sidelines.

I've joined The Towpath Twizzlers group on Ravelry, having a tenuous connection to the canals by living very near the Leeds-Liverpool canal and walking and running along it with the boyz often. In fact, I did that today; I was out between five and six, with the sun setting and a clear transparent blue sky. At seven it started chucking it down, but I was inside baking by then and it didn't matter.

So I have been organised, and started some serious fibre-prepping for a change, instead of a random dive into the wool piles. This first photo is 80g of some of my own dyeing, Summersky, dyed on pale grey Shetland top. I've split it in half lengthways, pulled it off into staple-lengths, and then wrapped each piece around a Sharpie pen to make what could either be called a dense rolag or a loose puni. There are two matching halves here, if I remember which end to start from. (The little coil in the middle is a small part that I didn't process). 

This pile of stuff is about 600g of a blend of Manx/bamboo (about 80/20, I think). It was a one-off blend that Adelaide Walker's did last year, and only did it once; this is the last of it. I love it, the bamboo gives a lovely silver shimmer to the moorit-coloured Manx wool, though I have blended it further on the drumcarder (hours on Sunday afternoon, listening to Skipinnish and Runrig).

The plan is to spin a fine 2ply yarn from the two fibres above and knit a sweater - either a plain garter stitch yoke in the colour and the rest in the plain Manx, or a Fair Isle patterned yoke. I won't have to spin all the Manx if that's the case, as that will only need about 300g or so for a whole sweater. But we will see.

Now this stuff below, processed in the same way as the Shetland above, as about 50g of white BFL/tussah blend dyed in Away Wi' The Fairies. 

I may or may not get round to this - it's a quick drumcarded gradient blend I whizzed up on Sunday afternoon too. This may be spun, or I may leave it as an example of what can be done for next weekend's workshop I'm teaching on colour-blending. 

The advantage of processing the tops into the 'rolags', fauxlags as some people call them (cringe), is that I can spin these long draw into a woollen-type yarn, and far faster than other styles of spinning. A woollen-type yarn is much lighter and airier than a worsted-style one, and better for knitting (IMO, of course). If I was processing fleece, of course, I would be using hand-cards and making proper rolags, but I haven't got around to actually pulling out any washed fleece. 

I may be desperate enough for some other movement with my arms and shoulders in a day or two that I would welcome the chance to do something other than spinning.

My Timbertops Leicester wheel is out of action at the moment, but all is not lost! The Manx will get spun up on my Majacraft Suzi; it's my workhorse wheel and, as this is the biggest job, it needs consistency. 

My Haldane Lewis wheel will come out for, I think, the Summersky Shetland. It's got five bobbins, so I should be able to spin all the singles before plying.

The Away Wi' The Fairies may end up being spindle-spun. We will see, but I do want to do the Spring Challenge on both wheel and spindle to see exactly how well I can do on both. This challenge involves seeing the total amount of yarn that can be both spun and plied within an hour,

I don't work Fridays anyway, and I have booked Thursday off work. Let's see how much I can do!

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Masham Sheep Fair - a Grand Day Out!

Nothing like a day out with Mark and the boyz. Especially if it doesn't rain. I have a list of twelve things to complete this weekend, and I only did two of them yesterday. We were planning to go to Masham tomorrow, the Sunday, but the forecast is appalling. So we toddled off there today, and didn't get rained on.

We had lunch at the Kings Head.

This lot were very friendly - Suffolk rams and big enough not to be bothered by Arthur and Hector at all. I think that's my hand lower right. The lad in front had a very open face and was quite happy to accept scritches on his head.

Mules, I think. Very nice wool.

And Blackfaces of some form, very smart in their yellow showing dye.

Today was the main day for commercial showing, so the all the main breeds were here - BFLs, Wensleydales, Mules, Down breeds, lots of Texels. Rare breeds tomorrow, so sadly we'll miss them this year. Mind you, if the cycling even hadn't caused the Sheep Fair to be knocked back a week, we'd have missed the whole lot anyway, as it usually coincides with Yarndale.

I had an early dive into the fleece tent, as there had been too many people walking back down to cars, as we were walking up, clutching more than one fleece under their arms. I succumbed to a small BFL (lots of ringlets, it will be lovely dyed up and in little bags), and a Kerry Hill (I bought one from the same seller last year, and was really pleased with it. It may even be the same sheep). 

I was a bit extravagant and also bought a sheepskin from one of the stands in the square. I haven't got one in at the moment, and I wanted one for my chair in the sitting room. They're also extremely useful camping, or anywhere where you're going to be sitting outside. This one's a fabulous limestone-grey Herdwick, so nice and bouncy too. 

More slippers have been felted and will be need to be documented. Back to the weekend's list, I think. 

Friday, 27 September 2019

Ready for Yarndale!

All set up and ready for Yarndale tomorrow morning!

Not quite used to the decadence of doing a major yarn festival from home. No strange beds, no money spent on acommodation, and if we forget anything vital on set up (we didn't this time) it can be fetched the next morning.

So there we are, all set up. Hope to see some of you tomorrow or Sunday.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Birthday post!

Today is my birthday, so I thought I'd seize the opportunity of a new year and do something with my blog again. There are also several fibrery things on the horizon which could do with noting down and putting out into the world too.

I have Yarndale in just over a week's time. I seem to alternate years with Yarndale; it's not the most successful show for me (well, it is predominantly geared up for knitters and crocheters rather than spinners and felters), but on the other hand it's only half an hour away and no overheads are required. This year was almost an accident - I decided to apply on the spur of the moment, actually the day after applications closed, but much to my surprise I got in! So dyeing has been happening, both fibre and sock yarn.

A few new colourways as well as the old favourites. The top middle of the fibre photo is Northern Lights - that's one I've had right from the beginning. Always amazes me when it's spun up - in the fibre it seems to be mostly primary colours, but as you attenuate the fibre and spin into yarn the oranges and greens and purples appear as if by magic. There's a whole spectrum hidden in there.

The colour tucked away on the right in this photo really needs one of its own in proper light - it's me having another go at getting a good Brandywine colour - trying to achieve the colour of a still river running off moorlands, deep peat brown in the shadows and deeps and copper and gold over the shallows.

From underneath the drying rack.

I had today off work, planning to get all the dyeing labelled up. It hasn't happened, but I had a lie in, a trip to Hobbycraft to sort out the last bits of stuff for the weekend's workshop, and two lovely walks with the boyz.

This is the same colourway over two different wools (both coloured). It was very similar to the sunset from Baildon Moor this evening (I've driven up and watched a couple this week, as it draws back towards 7pm, with the skies being so clear and Autumnal.)

I'm teaching a new workshop for me this Saturday - Felted Slippers. These are my samples. I really ;would recommend not doing more than one pair in a day if you're not used to it; hands tend not to work properly the next day, which can be rather alarming until you remember why. Numbers went up after I'd stocked up on supplies, so a bit of swapping around may be required. But it should be great fun - water and soap and wet wool splashing everywhere! 

In November I'm teaching a workshop I haven't taught for ages - Spinning and Knitting with Beads. I have various beaded yarns in my box of teaching samples, but I've lost one of the little knitted shawls I had for this workshop, so I needed to replace it. This yarn is spun from a blend of Manx and bamboo dyed in my Selkie colourway, and is threaded with tiny golden seed beads. It will be knitted up into something plain, open and garter-stitchy, so the beads show through on both sides.

And in October I'm up at Durham Guild, doing my Fibre and Colour Blending workshop. That one's always fun to do, as I basically do a bit of talking, then a bit of demonstrating, wave some samples around, then stand back and let people loose on the drumcarders. This is good example of what can be done. The braid at the top of the photo is my Away Wi' The Fairies colourway, done on white BFL/silk. But it wasn't a single length of braid so it was intended for me from the start. I took half of it, broke it up into chunks in the constituent colours, and then blended each colour into its own little batt. Not only are the colours gorgeous in their own rights, the fibre has been opened up into something even easier to spin, the silk has been blended evenly with the wool, and each colour will go beautifully with the others as they all have a tiny amount of all the other colours within them. They are magically heathery close up. (They've already been spun and plied into a fingering weight yarn - they are destined for a carousel hat).
It's been a busy year so far - I've already taught at three Guilds, plus the workshops at Wonderwool and the wool shows I've done. Next year is already well underway in the planning - I am teaching spindle-spinning at Wonderwool again (by popular demand!!) and there is the possibility of something foreign and archaeological happening next September. 

But there we are. Now, can I continue the momentum?