Friday, 15 September 2017

Perth Festival of Yarn, and a bit of dyeing

So it was Perth Festival of Yarn last Sunday, and this was my stall. I was really pleased with how it looked.

In fact, I was really pleased with the entire show. It was excellently organised, laid out with masses of space around each table, there were tables rather than stalls so you could see across the whole room, and the venue itself (Dewars Centre in Perth) was good too - catering worked well, there was never a queue for the loos, and plentiful parking.

We had originally planned just to visit, spending a night in Perth, visiting the show in the morning to see if it would work for us next year, and a leisurely drive home in the afternoon. But I was offered a table a month ago, and it seemed a shame to turn it down. And then, of course, our accommodation cancelled on us a week out due to flooding, so there was a panic finding somewhere else. We ended up with an 'ecopod' at Whitemoss Lodge B&B. Incredibly peaceful and quiet, and only 20 minutes drive from the show.

On the way up to Perth last Saturday we managed to get up to Stirling early enough for a visit to the Wallace Monument. Mark climbed it (at £10 a go, I decided that as I'd done it when last in Stirling for Knit Camp of most unblessed memory was recently enough) whilst I sat with the pupz at the bottom, observed some owls and birds of prey, and watch a re-enactment of the Battle of Stirling with two re-enactors and a very big claymore.

It was a very long and tiring drive home on the Sunday evening, with the weather too bad to allow me to snooze, so I've booked the accommodation for three nights next year. The organiser's planning a two day show next year; let's hope I get a stall. 

And I sold out of Copper on fibre completely, so this is a bit more. 

This is Warrior Scarlet on black bfl/silk and plain oatmeal bfl - I've had a request to take some tomorrow, when I'm teaching a workshop over near Blackpool. 

No rest for the wicked, or even moderately naughty; I'm teaching nearly over on the West coast tomorrow, then we're trawling over to the East coast to finally catch Propagansey near Robin Hood's Bay on Sunday.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Dyeing fleeces from Orkney

I bought a few samples of fleeces from Orkney last year, on the recommendation of someone who'd seen the sheep in question and recommended them to me. It's a small handspinner's flock run by Orkney Shepherdess, with some interesting cross-breeds and generally lovely wool. She also sells by part fleece, has them well photographed and described on her FB page, and is well worth an investigate.

So I posted on FB earlier this year that I was planning to buy a few bits and pieces, and a friend in the US asked if I would dye some up for her and post them on. So here's the stuff that I've dyed - mine hasn't been fully scoured yet.

A large cardboard box arrived at work a few weeks ago, smelling of sheep. They're used to me at work now! All the wool inside was packaged like this, clearly labelled and bagged, and a photograph of each sheep attached. Really nicely done. 

And this is how White Tag's fleece looks like scoured. She's a Cheviot/Shetland, and whenever I've come across wool from this particular cross it always seems to get the best of both breeds: crisp, nice and white, with a good handle and surprisingly soft. 

Rosie is a Texel/Cheviot/Shetland cross - very similar, perhaps a tiny bit softer. This is her second clip - I bought a small amount last year so I knew it was nice. I have a bag of this too.
 This is Rosie's wool, dyed in midnight blues. As you can see, it's kept the fleece structure well, though it's open enough to process for spinning beautifully.
 And this is White Tag's wool, dyed in greens and blues. There were suppose to be golds in there too, but the greens decided to overwhelm the dyepan (sometimes happens when I'm trying for intense colours) so I had to add a little of Daisy's fleece in golds). Again, this has held structure through careful scouring and dyeing, but will open up to carders or combs perfectly.
There's a last little bit of fibre in the pans at the moment, for Perth Festival of Yarn next weekend. I've had a couple of requests in, and as I do my tops dyeing 300g or 400g to the pot, I might as well do a few other colours while I'm at it. And at this time of year I'll get it dried in time for labelling.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Perth Festival of Yarn and Bakewell Wool Gathering

Just come back from a wonderful week in Somerset and Cornwall, and things are suddenly happening.

There was no wifi in our field above Zennor - just lots of wind and rain and even more wind and perhaps a gale or two - so I had to toddle down to the Tinners Arms or the cafe in Zennor to communicate with the outer world.

On one such trip, I was delighted to get an email from Perth Festival of Yarn, to let me know I've got a last minute stall there. So an extra show for Freyalyn's Fibres before Bakewell Wool Gathering in October. 

We'd planned to go up and visit the show as visitors, but I'd sent an email enquiring about vending for next year and they kindly offered me this year too! Better check the dyepans.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Fungus inspiration!

So the fungus-inspired colourway of the last couple of weeks now has a name: Versicolour.

I've done a couple more now, one on white Southdown (crisp and bouncy) and one on oatmeal BFL (the colours more muted and subtler than on white).

It's very different from my usual dyeing, but this has been popular enough that I think I shall keep doing it, even if I can only do this one 200g lot at once in a dyepan.

Anyway, while I had the dyepans out I did a quick bit of Nightfall, over both black and oatmeal BFL/silk. Someone had contacted via Etsy regarding this colourway, so I put all four up on Etsy and she bought the one she wanted straightaway. The other three are still up there.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Last week's inspiration...

So last week's sudden excitement over dyeing fibre to match a rather gorgeous photograph of multi-coloured and curvilinear fungus has turned into this:

There's 200g of a gradient in each of these braids,and spun up they are going to mimic the colours in this photograph pretty well. Knitted up into a shawl, either a plain centre-increase garter stitch triangle, or something with wide sweeping Old Shale, it will imitate the fungus beautifully.

This is what it looked like in the dyepans. Nothing like my usual technique, and more time-consuming and fiddly than normal. But I got the exact effect I was aiming for, so all is good. 

The current five sets I have are all spoken for; if you're interested,
leave a comment. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fungus as dyeing inspiration

Spotted this on Twitter this morning - on the @planetpics feed. Isn't it glorious? I'm planning to dye this at the weekend on white fibre, so that it can be spun out and knitted straight into a shawl - either a hap or a plain triangle.

Can anyone who wants some please comment, with your Twitter handle, so I can work out how much to do. It will be over white Blue-faced Leicester tops.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Grampian Guild - teaching in the Far North!

So, the weekend before last Mark and I went up to Aberdeenshire, to teach a workshop for Grampian Guild that has been three years in the organising. It's a long way to go, and more than a night's accommodation, and has taken some sorting to find a date.

We had vile weather for the drive up on Friday last (23) until North of Stirling, and equally vile when we returned on Tuesday, but the weather up there was remarkably good. We'd been booked at the apartment at Wark Farm and it was wonderful; so peaceful and still, and full of rarebreed sheep and cattle. (Very tasty sheep and cows too - there is a farmshop with their own meat). Mind you, we had to keep a beady eye on the pupz. And there was plenty of space to unload the vast amount of equipment and fibre I ended up bringing with me.

This was a view we had to stop at on the way up - Cairn o'Mount.

Of course, as usual, I failed completely to get any photographs of the workshop. We were in the village hall at Chapel of Garioch. But it was an agreeable and hardworking group: we spent Saturday working on handcarding rolags and spinning long-draw. This is my original workshop, and one of my most popular ones, being developed and growing all the time.

The second day was supposed to be looking at combing wool and spinning worsted-style. But we started off with an ad hoc fleece and wool discussion, as everyone brought out all sorts of breeds and wools and fibres for examination and discussion. I think we all learned something. I demonstrated carding with the three sets of combs I'd brought, we played with the drumcarder, did worsted spinning, some people went back to yesterday's long-draw woollen spinning, and generally had great fun.

This was just down the road from the village hall, and I managed a quick visit on Saturday morning. The Maiden Stone.

The Monday was my day off before we went home (Mark and the pupz having been pottering around for the two previous days, which I think largely involved the country park at Alford - livestock-free and lots of lawns for Hector to speed around).

We tried to find the Whitehills stone circle, but failed completely to find it in a forestry area. But look at these: flowers in logs! Rather magical.

And then we all climbed Mither Tap, the last outcrop of the Cairngorms as the drop down to the East and the North Sea, and part of an excellent leisure area run by the forestry lot.
We came home a longer route, as neither of us have ever been over the Tay Bridge or the Forth Road Bridge. So we did this time. Even if it was raining and raining and raining.

I am very lucky that I can visit such a wonderful part of Scotland (and not one we'd ever visited before) while sharing my skills and love of wool. Let's hope I can go back.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Dyeing workshop at Eden Valley Guild of WSD

Once again I've taught a workshop that had some fabulous results, and once again I failed completely to take a photograph.

This is what it looked like before we started:

I had nine people doing the workshop 'Dyeing Repeatable Colourways', and after not long at all those pristine sheets of newspaper were covered with fibre and yarn, clingfilm, splashes of dye, discarded gloves, and lots and lots of pots.

This workshop involves consideration of measuring small amounts of dyes, and how to record a particular colour/range of colours in order to duplicate it on another occasion. Which means you have to take into account the amount of fibre and strength of dye too.

It was all rather fun, and some fabulous dyeing was done. Because Cecilia had very kindly offered to bring her spindryer from just down the road, I didn't have to bring mine, so the freshly dyed yarn and fibre could be spun out and hung out for display. I brought one of my 'vintage' clothes airers to hang things on, and indeed it looked lovely. But I was far too busy supervising the four large pots steaming away, and getting very hot and bothered, to get round to taking a photograph. (I've seen some of the dyeing since, on FB, and it's lovely)

Mark came with the pupz, planning a day out walking on a mountain somewhere. But it was bucketing it down all day, so in the end he just took them down to Glenridding and they pottered around in the rain for an hour or two, before he mopped the pupz up, stuffed 'em in the car, and came back to Mungrisdale.

I did bring all my fibre as people had asked me to do so, and it was rather nice to see it all spread out like this.

So, I've just had a weekend at home. This Friday we'll all pile into the Disco again and drive over 039 miles up to Aberdeenshire - I'm doing a two day spinning workshop at Grampian Guild of WSD. Not somewhere I've taught before, and I'm looking forward to it tremendously.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Leeds Wool Festival

This Saturday just gone was one of our favourite wool shows of the year, Leeds Wool Festival in Armley Mill. Beautifully organised, with a select gathering of vendors tucked in amongst all the exhibits.

We're all given a table each with the instruction not to block the gangways - as you can see, I was in the corner of the Tailor's Shop, so I took full advantage of all the space! And we had a nice corner behind too, for all the bags and boxes.

It's too long to leave the pupz at home on their own, and they can't come because the parking is not nearby, so Mark brought everything in with me early on and then went home for the morning. Of course, the morning was extremely busy. Lots and lots of people through the door first thing, including a Scottish contingent which included Jeni Reid, KnitBritish, and Old Maiden Aunt! I was appearing on other people's Instagram feeds before the day was over.

The day was very successful for me,and the Shetland 2ply yarn took a tremendous battering - the dark green is nearly cleared out!

The weather was excellent, the WI were providing excellent cakes and food, and there were alpacas on the lawn.

And we were home and unpacked and feet up by not long after 6pm. Lovely friendly little show - did I see you there?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Full Circle colourway

Full Circle has been one of my most popular colourways recently, and I keep meaning to keep one of the sets for myself. And failing. So this time I had a not quite 300g lump of Captain Poldarles fibre (John Arbon) that I dyed up just for me.

So I spindle-spun all the singles. I tend to use my spindles in pairs these days, which works well for handdyed yarns. A matched pair of spindles and coloured top split down the middle as near as perfect as possible does lead to singles that will almost always match. It's very satisfying to spin consistently enough to achieve this. It's about a week's worth of spindling, and I didn't take it to work so it's only a couple of weekends and a few evenings. 

Quite a bit of spindling can be done while I'm walking the dogs. This was taken at the far end of the nature reserve, when I'd just finished the second orange spindle and was about the start the first purple one.

This is the next spindle along - both oranges and one purple done. The orange singles were spun on a pair of Bosworth spindles, and you can see the purple is about to go on a pair of IST ones.

 And this is all six spindles full! The last two aren't the same make, but are nearly the same weight (in this case, all six are between 26-28g). One's a Dragonfly, the other's a Grafton, I think. The bag is made from a gorgeous handwoven scarf given to me a few years ago; too short for a scarf, perfect for a bag with secret pockets and a fringe!

The singles were then wound off from the spindles into a ball, each set together, so it's ready to wheel or spindle ply straight from the ball. This has to be done carefully, so you don't end up with odd little pigtails, but it does give you the opportunity to cut and paste if the colours don't quite match up.

And this is the yarn plied. Because I spindle-spun the singles, it was much easier to make it a fine high-twist single. This had to be balanced by lots of twist in the plying. And yes, I just about managed to get it all one of my standard Majacraft bobbins. At the moment, the 2ply yarn looks like a scrawny and underplied thread!

And here it is after a very hot and soapy wash, a good spin, an equally hot and slightly vinegary rinse, and another spin. The plies have plumped up, relaxed and bloomed, which has the interesting effect of making it looked slightly more twisted. All the green in the colourway has vanished inside the skein, and won't come out until I unwind it and see what I'm doing with it next.

 This is the yarn I spun on holiday in Wales, once Wonderwool was out of the way. It was a series of batts I made up from black and white Shetland tops and some angora fibre. Tightly spun on my Suzi, with the accelerator head and baby bobbins. Each ball is a single, which I wound off into a centre-pull ball and plied on itself.

This is it plied, the other week. I had to run it through twice the first couple of balls to get it sufficiently high-twist. Again, before it has a hot bath it looks like garden twine. Not a trace of the angora yet. 
And now here it is, washed. Very hot water, washing-up liquid, equally hot rinse. I'm intending it for weaving, and you can see the angora just starting to think about making a halo.  The green is BFL I spindle-spun at the Tynedale Spinners' Gathering last Saturday, plied on the wheel. 

So there we are, a bit of yarn biography. I just have to work out what to do with them now. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Wonderwool 2017

So there we are, another Wonderwool rapidly disappearing into the distance, just a few memories and a lot less wool to show for it. We drove down to our lovely little cottage at Llangammarch Wells on Thursday afternoon, unloaded our seriously stuffed Discovery then, and reloaded the stall things on Friday afternoon. This was the empty space that faced us:

And this was what it looked like a few hours later. I was rather pleased, even if I say so myself. Especially the tree at the back! (This was a printed fabric panel from Ikea, and doesn't it look like a real tree? People saw it on IG and Twitter and came to see how I fitted a fir tree in!)
Normally I share a bigger space with another fibre-supplier, but this year we decided to have a space each, and I'm really pleased with how it looked now I had three walls to cover. The stapler-gun came in very handy. And now I have to finish that Welsh wool quilt hanging on the left wall.

I taught a workshop at the Wonderwool Woolschool both days - Chain-Plying. There were only a few people each day but that was just as well, as it meant I could really pay attention and help people get to grips with it. I got good feedback.

This is a new line this year - limited edition grey Shetland yarn, a 2ply coming up in a fingering weight, in eight colours. 25g skeins, which gives 114m, just perfect for colourwork. I shall dye up the remainder for Tynedale Guild's Open Day on 20th May and Leeds Wool Festival in June, and then that's it.
The sock yarn took a bit of a bashing too. I actually remembered to take a photograph just before end-of-show-packing-up, to see what colours I need to dye. Lots of blues and greens needed, plus some warmer colours and bright mixes. I did a few more Full Circles on various wool tops this weekend just gone, and yarn will be dyed next weekend.
And after Wonderwool, as we've done for a couple of years previously, we now stay in Wales until the following Saturday. It's one of our favourite places in all the world! We went walking (this is us with Cecilia and Graham Hewitt at Elan Valley), toddled around Builth and Brecon, had lunches out, paid our annual visit to Penderyn Distillery (buying gin as well as whisky this year) and just rested and had a wonderful time. 
I also managed to get quite a bit of spinning done, just for me. Having had to bring my wheel with me, I got some serious use from it. I meant to cast on a hat using the new Shetland yarn to show with the yarn, but that only got cast on on the last evening. 

So now we're home, and the dye-pans are hard at work again. As mentioned above, the next shows are Tynedale Spinners' Gathering and Leeds Wool Festival. See you there?

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Dyeing and dates for 2017.

Oh dear, this is rather late for my first post of 2017. But it's been a slow start, fibre-wise, and trying to find time to fit everything in isn't easy.

I have a new fibre blend for this year - Northern Isles. It's a mix of Manx, Shetland, and Gotland, with a touch of tussah silk. It's a warm grey gold colour, with a sheen from the silk, and a lovely soft hand with a deceptive bit of texture and bite. It's just as good as I hoped it would be. This is it above, dyed in my Littleheart colourway; given the reception, I'd better dye a bit more!

I dyed up a big Gotland x Shetland fleece at the weekend, and I'm teaching this weekend (drumcarding at Tynedale Guild), but more will be done.

This year's shows are:

Wonderwool Wales 22-23 April
Tynedale Spinners' Gathering, 20th May
Leeds Wool Festival 3 June
Bakewell 14-15 October (now confirmed)

I'm also teaching a dye workshop at Eden Valley Guild in June, plus a couple of other events yet to be finally organised.

As usual, photographs of dyeing will go up on Instagram, FB, and probably Twitter too - even if they're not listed in the Etsy shop, they are all available for sale if you get in touch.