Monday, 31 December 2018

Last year.

Bit of a sod, really.

In January, we lost my precious girl, Lunil. Her back legs gave way over a weekend, and only left us two days to say goodbye. She was only 11.

But life went on, and Hector the elegant blond lurcher carried on with us. It was very strange being in Wales for Wonder Wool with only one dog. But we had a good tome in Edinburgh in March, visiting Holyrood, walking lots, and seeing Tidelines for the first time. 
This was a very hot day in May, walking back from Ilkley over the Moor. This is one of the ancient art worked stones up there. 

  I seemed to do more teaching than usual this year. This was the spot we stayed again when I did a weekend's workshop for Grampian Guild at the end of June. More baking weather. 

In July we went to Scotland again, for the final Runrig gig. And then Arthur came to us; another rescue, private this time. He came called Thor, but he's got bigger, fluffier, and turned into an Arthur. 

Back to Scotland in October for the big AOUB independence march - flailing against all the horrible politics going o this year. 

But we're here at the end of the year, and I'm spending New Year's Eve quietly spinning. Hang on to the good things, and be kind to each other next year. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Sweater from scratch!

Remember this - couple of lumps of naturally dyed fleece I bought at Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2017?

Which I then played with on one of the drumcarders and made these?

And then I spun it up into this yarn. Under this is about half a Portland fleece, which I dyed bright blue with indigo and spun up to match. It's all a heavy fingering weight 2ply yarn, all spun quickly and long-draw on the Suzi Pro. This was all done a bit quick and dirty, and I made no organised notes on wpi or even length of each skein. 

And this sweater was designed completely on the fly. I worked out how many stitches to go round me with lots of space, cast on - and didn't realise there was a twist until I'd done about five rounds of the corrugated rib. Oops. Couldn't be bothered to unravel, so I just knitted over it. You can't really tell.

I pulled the colourwork patterns out of Pearson's Traditional Knitting, and centred them on front and back. The armholes and neckhole were steeked. I didn't bother sewing the steeks back - as you can see I crochet-reinforced the edges before cutting, but have just left them free inside the sweater.

Really pleased with how the colourwork looks - two shades of blue (the pale was a handful of Mule fleece I stuffed in the indigo vat to exhaust it), yellow, two shades in the middle and one madder-red. 

When Mark took this photo for me, a couple of days after Wonderwool as we were walking along the Wye valley from Builth, the green in my hair was still quite rich. It's faded quite a bit now. But I'm really pleased with this sweater. I've washed all my winter woollies and put them away, but this one's staying out. 
And there isn't even any green in it! Hector was watching ducks I think. 

Shows 2018. So far...

Failing miserably at regular blog posts this year. So here's a couple of photos of the stand at Wonderwool Wales this year. I was really pleased with the way it looked. 

And this was exactly a week later - Wharfe Wool Fair, in Ilkley. We came back from Wales a day earlier than usual, but it was a lovely little show. Lots of friends and catching up. I also taught a short workshop on Visible Mending too.

This was what I ended up with after teaching at North Cheshire WSD Guild a fortnight ago. I'd had a cough for a few days, but luckily (and with the help of vast amounts of tea and cough-sweets) my voice held out. But I did manage to forget a spinning wheel, even though I'd brought the basket with all the Majacraft bobbins and tools. 

But the workshop was my How to choose a fleece and what to do with it and didn't really need a wheel. I'd brought a selection of five very different washed fleeces and one unwashed Jacobs, so we discussed and handled all the fleeces, I demonstrated washing, combing, carding, spun quick samples on my spindle (of course I'd brought a spindle) and it went very well.

The Guild also hit my fibre rather more enthusiastically than I was expecting, so an emergency dyeing session of blue and purple had to happen the following Sunday.

And this was the Saturday just gone - Leeds Wool Festival at Armley Mills industrial museum. We rather baked in the room my stand was in, but it was a very successful show for me. I saw lots of friends, made new ones, discussed how to use a slow-cooker, did someknitting, had gin from the Gin Palace, and we were home and packed away by 6 that evening!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Where and when in 2018!

Somewhat late for the Where and When Freyalyn's Fibres will be this year, but better late than never!

I will be at Wonderwool Wales on 28/29 April, in the heart of Wales. There will be the usual fabulous conglomeration of wool, yarns, brilliant colours, amazing animals, crafts, demonstrations, garments and tools, in one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles.

The following weekend, Saturday 5 May, I will be at Wharfewool in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, both with my stall and teaching a short workshop on Visible Mending. Please see the website for details.

Saturday 5th June is Leeds Wool Festival, a one day show at Armley Museum in Leeds. This is the one where the vendors are tucked among all the amazing exhibits of one of the country's best industrial museum, in what was once the largest woollen mill in the world! With added alpacas to pet and take for a walk, Luddite demonstrators, and possibly the best cake stand of any wool show anywhere. (And I hear rumours of a gin palace - luckily I get driven to and from this show...)

Then a long gap until Perth Festival of Yarn on 8/9 September in Scotland (this is the one I got into at the last minute in 2017, and had a wonderful time). This is a show that's bursting forth into a two day show after a couple of years as a one-dayer, and this will be amazing. Wonderful suppliers of wool, fibres, yarns and all sorts of things, mostly from all over Scotland but some of us from the North of England too. The plans for this year's show are amazing.

Bakewell Wool Gathering in Derbyshire comes up next, 13/14 October. The Peak District is one of my favourite parts of the world, and in October it will be lovely even if it rains. It's a small but very carefully curated selection of suppliers, and within walking distance of Bakewell town centre and its pudding shops!

And last but not least, I hope to be at Kendal Wool Gathering this year, but applications have not yet closed so we won't know for a while.

As for this year's teaching, I will be at North Cheshire Guild on 26 May - How to Choose and Prepare a Fleece.

On 16 June I will be looking at Blending Colours and Fibres on Drumcarders and Handcards at Eden Valley Guild.

The first weekend in July I will be up in the North again - another visit to Grampian Guild (second year running) with a two day workshop, this time looking at dyeing fibres on day one and all sorts of ways to spin it up on the second.

For all these workshops, I will of course bring my handdyed fibres, so if you would like to come and have a look please get in touch with the Guild secretary and see if you can visit.

Please feel free to contact me for more details about my workshops.

Hope to see you at a show this year.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Brian Close collection, now at Yorkshire Cricket Club

Today there was a lunch at Headingley to thank the donors who have made it possible for Dad's collection to be part of the archive and museum at Yorkshire Cricket Club. I went with Mum, Lance (who has come up from Tunbridge Wells), and Mark. 

There was a lovely talk and slide show by David Warner and the chairman of the archive, and I wasn't the only person shedding a bit of a tear. 

Random photos: 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Possibly the best fun you can have with wool!

I'm sure some people will disagree, but there's not much to do with woolly crafts that's more fun than differently coloured nice fleeces and a drumcarder. I love blending on a carder (or with handcards, for that matter) and it's always vastly popular when I do this during a workshop.

So, here's some naturally dyed Shetland wool I picked up at last year's Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  As it's been maturing in the fibre stash behind the telly since then, I thought I'd try and do something with it before this year's show.

When I do natural dyeing myself I tend to dye yarn rather than fibre; wool tends to get more handling/movement with natural dyes than synthetic, and it's much easier to felt loose fleece than yarn. But this fleece has been dyed very nicely, it's still in the original fleece/lock structure and pulled apart easily. 

I did wonder whether to hand-card it and allow the natural variation of depth of colour in the fleeces to give a marled and variegated look to the final yarn. But then I had one of the drumcarders downstairs from another project yesterday, so I decided to play.

And here we are! Two batts of the original red, two of the original yellow, two of a perfect in-the-middle, and one each of a colour between those. Eight altogether.

I didn't do any weighing or formal measuring. Each colour was quickly done on its own into four small batts just to open it up. Then those batts were each split into four and recombined into four again. blending the single colour evenly.  Two of each of those were put aside into the four outside batts in the photo above.

That left four batts, two of each colour, to mix up. I do this by splitting each batt into four strips and combining them by proportion. Much easier than trying to weigh accurately.

And, of course, you get such a lovely heathery quality of colour when you dye in the wool and then blend, rather than dye the spun yarn. Not that there's anything wrong with flat dyed yarn, but it's different.

Now - what shall I do with them? I feel in a bit of a spinning mode tonight.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Can we start the year again?

It's been a bit of a horrible week and a bit so far, and very little creative has been happening.

I put a new neck on my Lopi tree sweater - the i-cord is much neater than the ribbing. The cuffs have the same, as will the bottom when I get there. It's rather in abeyance at the moment until I bring myself to finish it.

This fell off the needles the other day, and I'm rather pleased with it. It's Woolly Wormhead's Scourie pattern which I've already done as part of a kit from Ripplescraft. I did it in exactly that blue and gold originally, but I thought this might look rather interesting in a long gradient yarn. This was spun up from some of the sponsored yarn at last year's Spinzilla, and has come out well. But I don't need more hats, and it's a bit bright for me, so it may end up being sold on the Air Ambulance stand at Fibre East. Unless someone makes me an offer!

The colourwork sample is me trying out yet more yarns for Kate Davies' The Oa, from last year's Islay collection. I adore this design, but I'm of the opinion that Kate's otherwise wonderful yarn, Buachaille, is a tad heavy for colourwork. That's my opinion only, I hasten to add. I've tried various yarns without success, but this might do it. It's a non-superwash sockyarn in the shop stock, a blend of wool and alpaca; it's a natural pale grey, soft, but some long fibres and a nice halo. The blue is dyed with Saxon indigo. The top half of the sample is better - blue background, and on 3.25mm needles - the lower half is on 3.5mm and it's a tad too drapey.

The other sample is a quick check of needle and pattern for Karie Westermann's Purslowe, in a skein of Blacker's Tamar lustre blend that again, oddly enough, is the same colour as the background. It would fit in with both Karie's Thing of Paper KAL and the Blacker pre-EYF kal.

Really can't face the dyepots just yet, though I'm getting on with organising this year's workshops and woolshows, and will be doing a post on what Freyalyn's Fibres will be up to in 2018.

And this is why I want the year to start again; my beloved Lunil was put to sleep last Monday. This is my last photograph of her. My precious girl, I've barely been parted from her since she was six weeks old. There is a huge hole in our family.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Last year's last spinning (and more swircles)

Bit of a challenge here. I was offered this fleece to spin earlier last year, while it was still on the sheep, for the cost of a small sample of yarn back to the owner. It was unusual, and I'd been interested in spinning the fleece since I'd discovered these two lambs existed.

I was offered a choice of both fleeces when I picked it up in September. Sadly, they'd both been a victim of last year's heavy rain, and were pretty felted. They'd also been shorn just after the rise too. Not the owner/shepherd's fault at all, just weather. I've had a couple of other fleeces last year that have suffered in the same way, from different parts of the country, and different breeds.

This is the fleece raw:
Soft, lovely wool, but felted almost into a blanket in places. It washed up into a creamy white with a few beige-ish streaks.
At which point I had a think about how to prepare. Normally I'd have carded a fleece like this, but with the semi-break at the rise, and the felting at the butt end, there was really no option but to hand comb it on my 2-pitch Viking combs. I also have a bit of a dodgy elbow at the moment (mouse at work, I think), so found it really painful to comb, so I trained Mark!

Actually, he really rather took to it. I demonstrated a couple of times, passed it over, and he sat there combing the chunks I was separating out of the fleece for him. I ended up still pulling it off the combs (he was a little over-enthusiastic and pulled chunks off). 

And this is what it turned into - 63g of a light 3ply yarn, about 135m.

And the breed? Hebridean.

Of course, everyone knows that all Hebrideans are black. You used to get Hebrideans in all sorts of colours, like Shetlands. Manx Loughtan sheep, too, once came in all sorts of colours, not just the moorit they're known for now. In the 19thC both breeds were bred for just one colour and that's what stuck. So rare white sheep do pop up in purebred flocks of Hebrideans, and this was one of them.

It would be interesting to compare to this year's fleece, if the sheep are still around and I can get hold of it. I'm not sure whether the extreme softness is due to the colour or the fact it's a first fleece - probably a bit of both.

This is another photo of the yarn with the last day's project - three Leicester Longwool 'swircles' and the leftover yarn.

I was involved in a project last year that was researching the extant Tudor-period caps in Europe, how they were made, and what wool they were likely made from. It involved me sourcing yarn for and knitting lots (and lots) of these swircles, a 5" diameter dense circle knitted outwards, which were then fulled/brushed/cropped to produce a piece of napped fabric to compare against the surviving caps' lining.

They're hard on the hands. 2.5mm dpns, and the yarn (both the stuff I've bought and more I've spun from specific breeds) is dk-aran weight, to make a solid fabric even before finishing.

The last three from this longwool breed went missing just before they were needed. Naturally, they've turned up just as I was finishing these this afternoon. Drat.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year, new start

So the blog has been abandoned since September - and after the fungi-inspired dyeing I had such hopes of keeping up a weekly posting schedule. Ha ha ha!

This was the last little bit of dyeing I did. A work colleague has been covetuous of my tassled hats recently, and asked if I'd knit her one. I don't mind doing this occasionally, but I didn't want to knit it in thinner yarn or spend much time on colourwork. So I found Rowan Superwash Wool in a funny beige shade going cheap at Hobbycraft a day or so ago. (It was the only wool they had).

And the request for the hat was purply-blue 'ombre' through to jade. This was knitted yesterday - starting at about 2pm and the i-cord being finished just after the end of the year. I put the tassle on this morning.

And this was my spinning equipment purchase for myself just before Christmas: a hepty spindle. I came across them on Sarah Swett's blog and as she does vast amounts of spindle-spinning, I thought they'd be rather good. They're made by her son Henry, who is a boat-builder, and are only made occasionally. I was surprised when I came to the top of the list  as quickly as I did.

It's a lovely thing - seven-sided so it doesn't roll off tables, sturdy hook, and this one's made of sapele wood. Spins fast and long, exceptionally well balanced, and can take a well-packed cop. Very pleased.

So the intention is to try and blog a couple of times a month, covering things I've made, dyeing I've done, shows I'm doing. At least I'll remember I've done it then.

And we're about to watch a bit of Wolf Hall - worth the BBC licence fee on its own. Perfect historical and dramatic telly. Spindle and wool out, I think.