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Fibre and Friends

Fibre and Friends

It’s been a while since I published anything, as I have been going through quite a difficult time.  But I was determined to finish the year with a blog, so this one is a bit of an amalgamation!  Way back in April, I was lucky enough to be invited on a day trip to Wonderwool 2022 by my friend Debbie.  I hadn’t even heard of Wonderwool when she invited me, but when she told me all about it, I couldn’t wait to go!!

For those of you (like me) who have not heard of Wonderwool, it is an annual wool and natural fibre festival that is held in The Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd, Builth Wells, Powys, Wales.  It was first held in 2006, ‘to promote the market for Welsh wool and add value to product for small wool & fibre producers in Wales’.  The festival has grown over the years, and ‘covers everything from the start to the end of the creative process’.  There are exhibits of sheep, raw and hand dyed fibres, yarn, embellishments, equipment, dyes, books and also finished textile art, craft, clothing and home furnishings.   Basically, it’s a felt and fibre artist’s dream come true, where like-minded people can find almost anything they need, and it instills a feeling of excitement, much like a child in a toy shop (at least that’s how I felt!) Because of the covid pandemic, it hadn’t run for a year or two, but this year was to be the first event since the pandemic, so there was great anticipation of the resuming of this popular event.

 

Around the same time, I had been looking for a carding machine, as I wanted to start making my own wool batts to spin.  Just before my friend invited me to Wonderwool, I had found a lovely Pat Green Carder for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and I had decided to purchase it.  However, the lady selling it (Mary Rogers) lived in Birmingham, England, so I was trying to work out when I could make the drive up to Birmingham to collect it.  As it happened, Mary told me that she was planning to go to Wonderwool, and could bring the carder with her!  Fantastic, I thought… this is definitely meant to be!!  Don’t you just love it when things just fall into place?!

 

Having made all the arrangements, Debbie and I took the drive up to Builth Wells for the day, and boy, was I totally inspired!  When we walked into Wonderwool, I can honestly say my eyes must have lit up!  I really did feel like a child in a sweet shop!!  There was stall after stall of beautiful fibre, yarn, and all things sheep (not to mention other types of fibre, including alpaca, angora to name a few)!!  What struck me first, was the wonderful array of colour.  There were exhibitions of different fibre craft, demonstrations of spinning and weaving, with exhibitors from all over the UK.  We also had the chance to talk to a range of like-minded people, who were happy to share their tips and techniques with us.  Wow, what a wonderful time we had!

 

One of the exhibitors we spent time talking to, was a lady by the name of Edna Gibson, who explained that she had spent time living in Japan being taught the wonderful art of Kumihimo, an umbrella term for several kinds of Japanese braidmaking that were unknown outside Japan until about 30 years ago.  Edna told us that she was instrumental in introducing Kumihimo to the UK.   The term Kumihimo is a composite of two words, ‘kumi’ meaning coming together or group, and ‘himo’ meaning string, cord, rope or braid.  Whilst most of us will have  heard of Samurai,  I didn’t realise that the Samurai armour plates are laced together with cords, traditionally Kumihimo braids, which are also tied around ‘obis’, the sashes used on kimonos.  Edna explained that she was taught Kumihimo by a very skilled Japanese person, and brought her knowledge back to the UK.  The looms used for Kumihimo are known as ‘dai’ or ‘stands’, and are usually made from either wood or bamboo.  All the dai are set up with carefully measured threads (as many as 80 strands of fine silk are wound on each bobbin or ‘tama’).  The weighted bobbins are lifted and moved in specific repeated sequences  to produce each type of braid. Traditionally, silk was used to make braids but today, braiders also use artificial silk or rayon.

  This is my friend Debbie, with the lovely and very knowledgeable Edna.

This shows the two types of dai used.  Apologies for the poor quality of this photo, but it was taken from one of the information boards Edna had put up…

  The top photo shows braiding on a ‘Marudai’ and the bottom photo shows braiding on a ‘Takadai’.

Edna’s braiding…

 

As you can imagine, it was hard not to go on a full-out spending spree at Wonderwool!! There were so many beautiful fibres on offer, not to mention everything else!! I haven’t crocheted for many years, but was inspired by a beautiful pattern, by Janie Crow called ‘Mystical Lanterns’.  I ended up purchasing both the pattern and the yarn!  It’s a work in progress, but I’m enjoying the process!

These show some of the exhibits on show at Wonderwool.  Hopefully, my scarf will turn out as lovely.

 

There were so many exhibits and stalls, too many to include here, but this will give you a flavour of a few of the exhibits on show…

  To be honest, I was so busy choosing fibre to purchase, I didn’t take any photographs of the actual stalls!!

 

At the end of the day, I met up with Mary and her friend, to collect my drum carder.  It was lovely to share a coffee and a chat with her, and she was able to share the history of the carder with me.  We parted the day friends who share a passion for fibre, and agreed we would definitely meet up again at next year’s Wonderwool!  We shared a ‘selfie’ before we left…

 

As I mentioned, I haven’t posted for a while, due to going through a very difficult period in my life, which resulted in me not having the energy or inclination to do any fibre craft whatsoever, so I had not actually even tried out my new carder until quite recently.  But when I felt able to resume my spinning, I found it really helped me in a very mindful way.  I particularly found that spinning brought me a sense of calm and peacefulness, with positivity and joy.

 

My first project was back in October, hence the autumnal colours!  I put together a collection of merino fibre of different colours, with one part of bamboo in a dark shade.  I weighed the fibre first, as I wanted to make two batts of fibre that I could spin ready to weave with.

 

Having never used a drum carder before, this was all experimental but in the end, I was really pleased with how it turned out…

I didn’t want to blend the fibre too much, as I wanted to have the different colours come through when I spun it.  Also, I’d heard about people ending up with ‘mud’, so that was something else I wanted to avoid.  Having blended my fibre to reflect my need, I then proceeded to spin it….

This shows the difference when using a flash (on the left) verses no flash (right).

Once I had filled my bobbin completely, I proceeded to wind it into a ball, so I could ply it from both ends of the yarn.

This is the finished yarn, once it was soaked to set the twist, thwacked and dried…

  I’m quite pleased with the results.  I also feel that my spinning has improved a bit since I posted on her last time!  I’m looking forward to weaving with this yarn over the Christmas holiday period.  Hopefully I will be able to show you the end product in my next blog!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2023, from Lisa and Alex 🙂

 

Magazines

Magazines

The Other Ann had posted about a challenge in a magazine she gets. Inspiration Magazine. https://www.inspirationsstudios.com/product/inspirations-issue-116/ it’s a needlework magazine. It looks really cool. So, I thought it might be an idea to ask people what magazines they read for knowledge and inspiration. Everyone seems to really love the Christmas beetle brooch. So I thought I would edit in the price for the kit, $129.00.  I am assuming that is Australian dollars.

I read Filz fu4n. the guild subscribes and there is an English supplement available. https://www.filzfun.de/magazin/en/

Wild Fibres is another interesting one. Lots of interesting articles and pictures.  https://www.wildfibersmagazine.com/

I look through Ply https://plymagazine.com/ and Spin-Off https://spinoffmagazine.com/ magazines at the Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild too. They don’t do felting but I spin and there are lots of colour inspirations.

     

 

I would love to see Felt Matters but can’t bring myself to pay $65 for a digital and $81 for a printed ( 4 per year) magazine.

I like to leaf through unrelated magazines too when I see them. art quilt magazines are inspiring. They are good at showing you how to break down and simplify a picture. Nature magazines of course are great for inspiration. I have an old National Geographic magazine that talks about wool. It’s packed away but I found a picture

 

So tell us which magazines do you read to learn, and/or get inspired.

It’s That Time of Year Again

It’s That Time of Year Again

You may be thinking No, it’s not Christmas time yet. I am still enjoying cooler days with amazing trees putting on a show. And you’re are right it’s not Christmas time. It’s getting ready for sales time. and that means making dryer balls and soap for the guild sale and the Log Farm Market.

I don’t have a booth this year at our Guild sale, https://www.ovwsg.com/sale/ instead, I am joining the co-op booth where members who only have a few things to sell can put things and the guild takes a small commission.

The Log Farm where we do the Farmers’ Market has a small store, https://thelogfarm.com/karens-kountry-market/ that is open through the lead-up to Christmas. They want dryer balls and soap.

So off my son and I went to find the Corriedale wool and the soap I know I bought and the bag with the pantyhose/nylons/stockings( depending on where you are from).

We found the wool and the pantyhose but no soap. We dragged out the big boxes of wool. One has all my dyed wool in it. I will need that for making soap. I am sure there is soap in there somewhere but that’s enough searching. I will go buy more soap. I will find the other stuff eventually and it doesn’t go bad. The other good thing I found was a box of frames. I hope to get a few things framed for the show too.

On to making dryer balls. Here is one leg of dryer balls ready to go to the washer and dryer.

And this is what they look like after I got them all done.

Monday evening I took my bag of dryer balls to the guild with me and with the help of another guild member( sorry I do not remember your name, sometime between 2 and 10 years of knowing you I will remember it) They were all removed. this means untying the knots between each ball that are now tight and pealing them out. they are stuck pretty good.

Now I am putting them into the pantyhose again so they can have another trip through the washer and dryer to get rid of their fuzzies from being stuck and peeled out of the pantyhose the first time.

After another trip through the washer and dryer, I will need to bag them, put a topper on them, and then label them with a unique number so they can be tracked in the co-op booth. and I then need to make the soap too. and I haven’t started that so they will have to be another post.

 

 

A little spinning

A little spinning

I really haven’t done much of anything since I did the jellyfish. I did go to help with a Demo at the Almonte Fiber festival last Sunday. It was so lovely to get out to an event and a demo. I have missed doing both of these the last couple of years.

I am sure Jan will show you many pictures of the event as she is the official photographer. So I will only show you my end of the display table. well for the first half of the day. Then the other felter left and a weaver arrived and my end of the table worked better so I moved to the other end of the table and didn’t take a picture. Jan will have. Yay Jan!

It’s messier than I remember someone must have been looking at it. That’s a good thing. and then of course I put my spinning down in the middle of it and took a picture.  The basket and flax and silk and cotton are Bernadett’s and were not quite that hidden from the front.

 

At the demo, I was using my drop spindle. I spun up some rolags I made with Wool from Bernadette and some saree silk.

That’s really all I have done lately. So here are some of the rolags I have left and some of the spun yarn.

 

These are two I spun earlier that still need plying. It’s fun to see how the different colours of sari silk affect the same colour wool.

Next, it’s the green wool, with different sari silks.

 

That’s it for now. I hope to do some felting before my next post but you never know it might be more spinning.

 

 

 

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

It’s summer time here in Ireland and the living is, well, slightly more laid back than the norm.  Having decided to metaphorically kick off the shoes for the month of July, I thought it might be nice just to “see and share ” rather than “do” and this forms the basis of my post.

Before I start on the main focus of this post (my holiday in Italy),   I just have to show you a beautiful piece that totally blew me away.  Before heading off, I visited Dublin’s Botanical Gardens.  Founded in 1795, it is an oasis of calm for any visitor and I would highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.  While there, I noticed that there was a patchwork exhibition happening in one of their exhibition spaces.  This piece just caught me, so I want to share it with you.  The artist is Ethelda Ellis and the piece is called ‘Aoife’s View’.  The curator told me that Ethelda is a medical doctor by profession.  If you would like to see more of Ethelda’s beautiful creations check out her blog: http://ethelda.blogspot.com/

Now, to the Italian holiday.  We headed to Como mid-July and, in spite of the heatwave, spent our time sightseeing and eating!  Our base was Como which is to the north of Italy, right beside Switzerland.  Lake Como is totally dwarfed by the Alps – a really beautiful place.

We called into the Cathedral, the Duomo which was magnificent internally and externally.  I reckon that to appreciate all its beauty would take months observing 24/7!  I want to share with you a small area of a tapestry which was made in 1610 and which underwent restoration in 1990.  It was impossible to get a good photo of the entire masterpiece as so much detail would have been lost.  So I settled for a little!

One of our tours took us to the tiny picturesque village of Orta which is situated on Lake Orta.  It was recommended that we visit the interior of the local church which was situated at the top of a steep street.

My journey was interrupted by the sound of a piano recital and when I investigated I discovered a rather special textile exhibition happening in the same building.  The works exhibited were by Sergio Cerini.  The artist merges his early experiences in the Italian high fashion industry with his current artworks, producing beautiful pieces which are in essence a mix of paper mache and textiles.  The description does not do justice to his widely exhibited pieces and he was reluctant to allow me to photograph his work.  He did, however pose in front of one of the pieces and others can be viewed on his Instagram page @sergiocerini

Since the 1800s, the city of Como was historically the main producer of Italian silk.  When ultimately production was outsourced to China, the area was in danger of losing connection with its cultural heritage.  The large factory was bought by the Hilton hotel chain.  These photos show early paintings of the factory, what it became at the height of the industry and where it is now (apologies for the reflection on the glass):

 

Rather than allow the old machinery to be lost to history, a wise decision was taken about 10 years ago to set up an Educational Silk Museum to preserve these beautiful machines.  Along with displaying the machinery, some of which dates back to the nineteenth century, the museum offers interactive videos and exhibits of high fashion clothing.  Unfortunately this section was not open during my visit but I thought it might be fun to show you some of the many machines featured.  So please, grab a cuppa, sit back and I hope you enjoy the show.  I have included captions for ease of reference.

 

A SHORT UPDATE ON MR. MER

A SHORT UPDATE ON MR. MER

I was surprised (and pleased) at the interest in the crown needle post I just did. It is a cool little needle unequally suited to shallow detail work. Its low barb number, having only 3 in total all by the tip, does make it a slower needle but it’s not always a good idea to be in a rush.

The “not in a rush” has been impressed upon me again this past week as I shifted from needle review to a photo re-cataloging project for my husband. Nothing big, or heavy like arranging just the correct angle to capture in photographs his collection of Anvils (he is down to 3) or forges (he has 2, both on the back patio)!

What I was working with were Many, Many, Many tiny light objects. Unfortunately, I needed to sort through all of them, then spread pre-specified groups of them out to photograph.  The best spot to work for light was on the bed by the window. This put me in a working position of standing and bending forward. That is precisely the same position that I used to work in, which did not go as well as I had hoped. (Neuropathy is a neve yelling at you. It can scream –searing pain, it can lie to you –give false information, or it can refuse to talk to you –numbness or lack of proper function) the type of nerve and the location of its irritation give the location of where their displeasure is felt.  A nerve once annoyed can hold a grudge =this means if you irritate it then re-irritate it, it usually will take longer to forgive you and heal after each re-irritation.

I got help yesterday and am well over halfway on the first part of the photography project. Unfortunately, my leg is still intermittently lying to me even this morning, so no standing photography or poor ergonomic felting until that stops.

SO my plans for today’s blog are a bit on hold. I can bring you up to date with the project I had started with Mr. Mer. “The Quest for Hair”!  I have reminded Mr. Mer that Twist Fiber Festival in Quebec is only a few weeks away (Aug. 12th to 14th) https://festivaltwist.org/en/twist-fibre-festival/ .  If he would like to accompany me, he would have an even bigger selection of long locks to choose from. (I hope I can find vendors with 9 to 12-inch die or undyed locks that would be fashionable for a modern Mer person.) He seems very smitten with some of the locks from Bernadette’s stash but I think I can persuade him to wait till just after Twist.

Mr. Mer would like to send his thanks to Bernadette who raided her stash to help alieve his follicular challenges.  This is some of the fibre he has sorted through;

long fibers greens yelows long fibers Greens Purples long fibers with ruler1-3 sorting through the fibres from Bernadette

He has collected a small bag of fibre that he hopes goes well with his Northern pike lower half.

Mr. Mer (Merman) holds bag of long fibers in shades of green4 Mr. Mer’s Selection

Once he has a bit more he will have to decide on the hairstyle he wants. I am suggesting long since It would flow wonderfully as he swims. (vary Fabio if you are old enough – think historically inaccurate romance novel covers with beefy guys with long hair).  If he spends a bit of time online, he may find the Drummer Toll Yagami, from the Japanese band called Buck-Tick. He has an extra-long Mohawk hairstyle, it’s terribly impressive! I am not sure the ingredients to keep a Mohawk up would work in water. I may have to investigate if Mr. Mer seems interested. (There may be some Magic Mer hair gel I don’t know about.)

I got up extra early to work on my blog post and look who I found doing research on my computer! (Why does my computer freeze when I use it but he can spend all night browsing?)  I will show you what he was up to.

5 Compilation of research by Mr. Mer

Mr Mer thinks he should keep researching. It is a big decision and he is a bit overwhelmed with all the options! For now, he is on his way back to sitting in his project bag, clutching his bag of fibre, in deep contemplation.

Mr Mer with his bag of fiber ready to go back to his project bag and think

6 Ready to go to his project bag and have a think.

After all his research and contemplation he will likely want eyebrows and ears too! I will keep you updated on his progress.

 

Have fun with fibre and keep felting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wash a fleece with me

Wash a fleece with me

***This post should have been published yesterday but somehow the scheduling didn’t go through, apologies for the delay!***

The days are so much longer here in Scotland. When blessed with sunshine (which happens more than you’d think), this is the perfect time of year to wash fleeces.

I recently bought a Leicester Longwool fleece from a small farm that specialises in conservation of this rare breed. I’d bought from them before, so I knew I’d be happy with my purchase.

Now, for those of you who live in a house with a garden, washing raw fleeces might not be a somewhat mammoth task, but I currently live in a flat. Some creativity was in order.

I’m lucky enough to have a very generously sized kitchen, which is where the beginning of the processing begun.

part of a shower curtain is laid on the floor

I laid down this piece of shower curtain on the floor (it’s a leftover from my dyeing setup, I used the rest to protect the wall when working). I can already tell you I was naive and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

a bag with a fleece in it, with Muriel written on the outside

Here is the fleece, ready to come out and play. Muriel is the lovely sheep who grew the wool, she was so named because she mewed more than baah-ed 🙂
This fleece is around 6.5kg. You can already see where I was getting at when I said I was naive, don’t you?

Muriel's fleece is on the floor, ready to be unrolled

The owner of this flock was kind enough to send me some very good written instructions on how the fleece was rolled, and how best to unroll and wash it.

Leicester Longwool fleece on the floor, with human foot nearby for size comparison

If you’re laughing at my tiny plastic protection right now, I don’t blame you. I laughed too! I photographed my foot so you could have an idea of scale. Oh boy.

Time to sort the fleece according to body areas and discard the bits I didn’t want, which in the case of this particular fleece wasn’t much.
Sorting the fleece this way helps me know which parts will be more useful for different purposes. The wool on the back of the sheep (which you can see in the middle) will have better curl definition, and the bits near the rear end will be coarser and less curly. There’s a use for each part, but I want it separated so I can work quickly once it’s all washed.

I must give credit to the shearer, he did a stellar job. I had hardly any second cuts (tiny bits of wool you get from when the shearing machine goes through the sheep a second time, to even the “haircut” out). This person was definitely removing the fleece knowing it was to be used by a crafter, which I greatly appreciated.

closeup of the fleece with very dirty tips and extremely white cut ends

Have you ever wondered about how dramatic a Before and After can be in washing fleece? Here’s your answer. The end bits have been subjected to the elements, the part nearer the animal is pristine. Once I’m done, I hope it’ll look mostly like the white bits.

Next, I carefully roll up the fleece into sections to soak.

a rolled up section of fleece, ready to be soaked

What one does next with a fleece depends on personal preference. I like to soak it in cold water and change the water often, until most of the lanolin (the natural oils the sheep produces to protect its coat) is washed off. Once that’s done, I use very hot water a few times, and then add detergent to it. Once the water comes out mostly clear, I’m done. All that’s left is to rinse it, lay it flat to dry and then play with the lovely curls.

two fleeces soaking, one dirty and the other almost clean

Notice the huge difference! The one on the right already has some detergent in it, the left doesn’t as it still needs a few more cold water soaks.

I’m sure some readers will be worried about processing a fleece indoors. Allow me to share what I did to stay safe and clean:

  • Firstly, I purchased the fleece from a trusted high-welfare farm, which means the sheep are kept happy and are constantly monitored for health issues (thus ensuring the wool isn’t contaminated with pests or other nasties)
  • The fleece was always handled with gloved hands and I never touched other surfaces whilst doing so.
  • I never ate or drank whilst processing the fleece
  • Once I was done separating it into sections, they went into plastic bags and all surfaces were thoroughly washed, even the ones that the wool never touched, such as counters
  • The bathtub was thoroughly washed and sanitised before being used by humans
  • (Finally: if you have pets, make sure they stay away from raw wool! My cats are abnormalities and didn’t care one bit for it, so they stayed away on their own.)

On my next blog post, I’ll share how the fleece came out once dry and the locks separated.

Have you ever washed a fleece? How did your experience compare to mine? Let me know in the comments.

Drum carding to blend and mix

Drum carding to blend and mix

The spring destash was going to provide me with a lot of winter combings from spinning projects.  I comb long locks and keep the residuals for this purpose.  I also have left over bits of prepped wool that wouldn’t fit on the bobbin, plus samples and other miscellaneous interesting fibers. These are set aside and kept in the black hole loving referred to as ‘the safe place’ only to be discovered once a year during cleaning.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and it was time to take full advantage of what spring can be to drum card outside after what was a disastrous weekend for so many people in this area.

I pick through the different colours and group them in ways that work together.  I liked the way the green, purple and blue shimmered in the sun, so started working with that blend first. 

Once through the drum leaves clear definition of colour and texture of some of the locks.

There is extreme inconsistency between the two batts and they need to be divided and put through the drum carder again to even out the blend.  I weighed them and was pleased to find they weighed 36.5 gm and 37 gm, so splitting them would work perfectly.  I split them and reweighed the bundles and found they now weighed 38 gm each.  Think I might need a new scale, but close enough for right now.

 

Twice through the drum and the blending is a bit more consistent, but not so much that the locks are getting taken apart.  I can still see one or two bits in the blend, so that’s good for these batts.  They are an overall single colour, but you can still see the individual bits that go to make the whole picture.

I tried to use two different terms here, mix and blend.  For me a mix is a thorough incorporation of the different fibers into one homogeneous mass. A blend is a more gentle suggestion that the fibers and colours work together, but remain individual.

The next batt was a mix of red, blue and purple.  This had bits of different breeds of wool; some merino, some suffolk, some unknown, as well as some silk in red and purple which will give a slight shimmer.  I really wanted to thoroughly mix the colours the way I would mix a dye to get a homogenous result.  Sounds easy enough, but it’s not.

This is the first pass through the drum to show how the colours stand out from each other.  The purple is gone, but the blue and red are clearly defined, some of the silk is blended, but some was very difficult to mix in.

After five passes through the drum carder I had to take a break and modify my standards; this is not the result I wanted, but it will have to do.  I enjoy seeing the colours that compose the overall result, but I wanted a thorough mix just to be able to say I did it.  The wisp of fiber in the center is for contrast to show the before and after of mixing.

There were also several bits of noils and knots some roving that was left.  It was piled into the drum and run through just to see if anything interesting would pop up.  This is really bottom of the sink sort of colours.  I was really pleased with the result!

Reminded me of the Prairies in the spring with crisp blue skies, dry grass, pink clouds.  I might need to take a class from Ann on how to do landscapes in felt.

 

 

 

Spring and cleaning and de-stashing and rediscovery

Spring and cleaning and de-stashing and rediscovery

Spring means many things, but it always reminds me of our Ottawa Valley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild foray into growing our own flax, aka ‘The Flax Project’.  Its hard to believe it was over two years ago, nearly three, that a group of us tackled the happy adventure of trying to produce our own flax crop, not once, but twice.  It brought back memories of warm spring days planting and weeding, hot, hot summer days of staking and weeding (the one constant was weeding), days of harvesting, drying, retting, seeding, rippling, scutching and all those lovely bizarre words to describe specific processing of flax. Flax is grown and harvested in a community,  but it is customarily spun in the winter when there is no other more pressing work to do.  I find it very dusty and messy fiber to spin, or maybe I just don’t like doing that part without the shared company of fellow fiber lunatics.

So while I was clearing out bits and pieces of unfinished projects, I found my share of the flax and tow.

 

I also found loads of other flax that had been spun over the years.

Most have been left as singles and is ready for weaving.

Some I boiled as an experiment.  Flax will lighten in colour if you boil it.  It also softens significantly and your house will smell like hay soup.

Some came to me bleached, so I gave that a spin.  It was extremely soft.  My concern is for the durability of anything made with prebleached flax fiber.  Woven flax is renamed linen for those of you who didn’t know, and linen fabric is incredibly strong, and long wearing.

There are two down sides to linen; one is that it wrinkles.  I like the wrinkles of linen, especially jackets and trousers, but some people can’t stand that characteristic.  The other is its tendency to fade.  Linen will take colour but over time it will lose that colour and move towards white.  Again, I like this in linen, and it takes ages for this to happen.  A bright, bright blue will mute over years and acquire a vintage look that can only be seen in linen.

Covid enabled me to join a most remarkable group of flax enthusiast started by an extremely generous woman in Europe.  Her name is Christiane; she was gifted a large quantity of flax from a lady called Berta.  This was from Berta’s dowry.  Christiane decided to share it with other interested spinners and reached out on social media.  I asked for two stricks.  A strick is what the finished combed flax.  It is usually very fine, has little to no straw and is very tidy, ready for spinning.

Well!! You can imagine how this took off.  In the middle of a pandemic.  People desperate for knowledge, information, something challenging, interesting, contact with the rest of the world…this took on a life of its’ own.  Much of this flax was grown, processed and stored pre WW2.  It was of historical significance, to be part of that is pretty inspiring.  Christiane knows what she has and rose to the occasion.  She was gifted more dowry chests, documented more stories, and sent out more flax to more and more enthusiasts.  She also sent out hand woven linen, patterns, she wrote articles, held workshops, taught about the history of flax production in Europe, specifically Austria, helped flax lovers from all over the world to connect with each other. The project became massive.  She now has help to manage the administration of this mammoth undertaking.

Thanks to Christiane I now have suppliers of flax in Egypt and Canada and my treasures from Berta’s flax plus a community world wide I can go to if I run into problems and need answers.

Egyptian flax – over a meter long

But the question I’m sure many of you have is can flax be of any use to felters?  Yes, I think so.  For binding felt books, for embellishments, for stitching, linen backing on a felted image, dry felting onto a linen fabric (not sure, but the fabric is durable), there must be elements of cross compatibility.

The season for demonstrations is coming up and it looks like this year we can actually go out into the community again.  I am looking forward to taking along a fully dressed distaff with some gorgeous blond flax, blowing in the breeze, a little water bowl for dipping near at hand and inspire awe in the local population, that humans can make thread out of grass.  Okay, not awe, but maybe some curiosity, I’ll take curiosity.

An interesting felt sample

An interesting felt sample

I’ve been running a felt study group and I wanted to share one of the more interesting samples I did in the group.  I had some white welsh mountain sheep wool. I have no idea where I got it it was raw and I have had it for years because I didn’t know what to do with it.

By Vertigogen – woolly sheep, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4875408

This is the description from Wikipedia with them giving credit to Morris, Jan (2014). Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 53–57. ISBN 978-0-241-97024-9.

The Welsh Mountain sheep is usually white with a white face with no wool on forehead or cheeks and white legs with no wool below the joint. Females are polled but rams usually have curved horns, although some are polled. The fleece is thick and moderately long and the tails are not normally docked.

Breeders give a high priority to hardiness, milking ability, mothering quality and lamb survival. (Lambing percentage can be 130%, which rises to 180% under favourable conditions on improved pastures.[2]) It was not always thus; the 18th-century English agriculturist Arthur Young described the Welsh Mountain sheep as “the most despicable of all types” and a judge at an agricultural show in the 1880s described it as “a diminutive ill-shapen animal with its shaggy coat more reminiscent of hair than of wool”

I had a shoebox sized amount. As you can see not the nicest looking stuff, a bit like a horse’s mane.

I washed it in a laundry bag with some dish soap.

It took 2 washes but it came out a lovely white, white horse but white.

The locks average about 10 inches long.

 

I weighed out 25 grams and divided it into 4 and carded it into little batts. Each batt would be one layer of the sample.

The samples were all laid out 10×10 inches for easy calculation of shrinkage. At this point, I was skeptical that it would felt at all, it is so much like stong, straight hair

The piece was rubbed and rolled to felt and then rolled on a textured mat and scrunched for the fulling. Throwing doesn’t work well with such a small piece.

Much to my surprise, this is the final result. It’s a bit wonky but that’s down to my hand carding

It’s about 40% shrinkage and it is rock solid.  The most I got of any of my samples. It is rock solid. I tried to felt it more but it wouldn’t budge.  All the samples were made with 25grams of wool. It makes me wonder about people that say they get 50% shrinkage on their felt protects. Are they measuring differently or are they using very thin layouts?  I could see this felting more if I used half the amount of wool. so if I made a sample 20inches by 20 inches with the same wool I would get a higher shrinkage rate. What do you think?

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