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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?

Group Order of Sanjo Silk

Group Order of Sanjo Silk

The January Meeting of our local Weavers and Spinners guild had a Zoom presentation on silk from the owners of Sanjo Silk (B.C. Canada). They talked about the different types of silk, about some of their acquisition trips to buy silk and showed us some of what they had in their store.  It was all quite inspiring with the silk giving lots of ideas for future spinning or projects.

1 web page of Sanjo silk showing some of the silk they offer (Fiber, Yarn and cool odd stuff)

After the meeting, there was an inquiry if there would be interest in a group purchase to reduce the cost of shipping. Their website offered free shipping over $200.00 Canadian (before taxes). There was another discount if we had a higher number too, but we doubted we could spend that much.  We had a small number of enthusiastic shoppers express interest and our new Yarn Convener set out to organize our shopping.

We perused the website www.sanjosilk.com/  and selected our drool-able lists. We then added the costs up and each sent our list to Deborah. She collected our payments, tallied the master list and sent out the order. She organized it all through E-Transfers, (I had never sent money by an E-Transfer, it was all very exciting!) She even organized E-refunds when we had collective spend enough for a further price reduction!!

Deborah had some cool stats that may interest you.

After not very long a LARGE box arrived! Deborah did a sort of the loot into each of our lists then dispersed it among the group.

2 the box arrives!!

3 our combined loot out of the box

I had a specific interest in my acquisitions; I was interested mainly in some of the colours that silk comes in besides white. I chose 3 options for further investigation. (Tussah, Muga and Eri)

4-5 Mr. Mer helps me set up for the fibre photoshoot

The Peduncle tussah silk was a silvery brown. This is fibre from the pediculus (foot) of the cocoon.  On their website, it is described as Pewter in fibre form, with a stunning lustre of Brownish-grey. It was the least expensive of the three coloured silks I selected at $11.25 for 50g. I am sorry I did not get more it would be exquisitely blended with fine dark wool.

6-7 Peduncle tussah silk

The Golden Muga silk was a blond colour. This one was described as “liquid gold”. They did warn that there is a lot of natural variation between batches they receive. The differences are caused by variations in diet and environment for the silkworms. They suggest you get enough for an entire project at once so you don’t have variations within the colour range by getting different batches. This one was $16.90 for 50g. I think I would like to see what variation is available so may order again and hope to get it from another batch.

8-9 Golden Muga silk

The Red Eri Silk was a Fox colour orange/gold.  Their website described it as a deep Orange-butterscotch, soft Luxuriously lustrous and long staple-length fibre, prepared in a thick roving. I am wondering if Mrs. Mer would like some of this blended with another fibre for her hair and possibly some fishy body highlight.  This was $18.80 for 50g.

10-11 Red Eri Silk

While browsing I spotted the oddest looking “cocoons” I have ever seen, full of little holes and in a golden colour. I had to add them to the list! They were listed as Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia. They further explain that this is the outer part that attaches to the tree branch. The strong gold colour is from the Sericin, if it is removed the silk will be a pale yellow. It was suggested that you can “soak your cricula cocoons in water (with a dash of pH-neutral soap); reshape them, enhancing their dome shape with your fingers; let them dry. Or iron them flat for use in 2D projects”.  My brain immediately started thinking about a top for Mrs. Mer!! I am sure that you will think of much more exciting things to try with this cool cocoon attachment! A bag of 5g (a large handful) was $7.00.

12-13 Gold Cricula Cocoons (wild) from Indonesia

The next two selections were similar to each other.  The first was 100% Silk Carrier Rods (7 casings for $6.00.) the description was that “they’re actually part of the silk-reeling process. These carrier rods are stiff, strong, and smooth. Some are straight, some curved – they’re very sculptural. And they dye beautifully. (Also see our Silk Casings, which are thinner and finer.)”

14-15 Silk Carrier Rods 

Yes, I got the bag of the 100% Silk Casings too, they were priced at $6.00 for 14gr. Their description was; “Although these curious items look a bit “insectoid”, they aren’t. They are bi-products of the silk spinning industry. Each one is unique. They’re similar to the Carrier Rods we also carry, but they’re thinner, finer, and more pliable. Some are ridgey and corrugated, some are not. Each package is a variety of shapes and configurations. Use them for jewelry, to embellish art pieces, or just enjoy their stunning good looks.

16 Silk Casings

From the meeting, I remember they described both as waste products of the silk reeling industry. It is good to have what was considered waste be available to us, I am sure we will find a use for it! I had considered from the web picture possibilities for horns but I don’t think I have enough of the ribbed shape to do that. It is still weird and will likely percolate many odd ideas in the future. In the meantime, I will just enjoy their oddness and may add a few to my demo stuff. Oh, note that they have been cut off so the length of the fibre if separated would be short.

Lastly, I did get a white silk blend with Linin, I think this was a mill end, 97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen (trace amounts). The mill that made this has some debate as to exactly how much linen is included but it will be 3% or less. I seem to have a section where I can’t feel or see anything that looks like Linin. Oh well, it is still gorgeous! The Erin is a shot-stale fibre because the silkworm is not killed but allowed to break and leave its cocoon,( aka; Peace Silk). This fibre has been prepared using a woollen prep. It is described as having a soft and lofty character. It is also described as similar to cotton sliver fibre prep. 100g bag (about 3.5 oz.) was $15.60

17-18  97% Eri Silk and 3% Linen

If we order again, I may try a similar option of 65% Bombay Silk 35% Linen (flax) Spinning Fibre, it was slightly more expensive but had more Flax fibre content. That one is 100g for $19.00.

It is nice to have a selection of fibres to inspire you, or have just the right option available as you are in the middle of a project and just need a bit of something. Being part of a guild and thus easier to organize a group order (we saved a lot on shipping and got a bit of a discount too!) was a great help. Deborah did a fantastic job getting us all organized. I hope we did not overwhelm her and we can try this again!  I would like to be able to shop locally (we should be out of partial shutdown by the time I post this, I hope!) but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the bits of fibre shopping we are able to do and live vicariously through looking at each other’s acquisitions.

Did you have a flash of inspiration looking at casings, cocoons or rods? Are you thinking about foxes after looking at the photos of Red Eri Silk?

Now a word about felting

Remember if you are wanting to felt with silk it is not as narcissistic as wool, so it won’t want to stick to itself the way that wool does. Using a tiny wisp of wool over the silk to help lock it in place or blending it with wool as you are preparing your fibres will help it stick. Silk can be used to add a lustre or pop of colour amongst the wool.  Ann has applied it on the outer surface of vessels then used a razor to save back the wool and expose more of the silk to great effect. I have used silk fibres mixed with other fibres like alpaca or Icelandic tog as part of the outer coat of some of my animal sculptures to keep the hair/pelt from felting or matting to the body.

If you are going to be working with silk it’s a good idea to start moisturizing your hands a few days before you start. I also use extra-fine files for my nails. Silk, even though it is reluctant to felt when you want it to, will cling to your fingers and anything else you didn’t want it to stick to.  Bernadette, who also posts blogs here, has done a lot of spinning with silk and silk blends she may have some good suggestions for you about keeping it under control!

Have fun and keep felting!

A bit of this and that

A bit of this and that

‘Tis the season to show off trees! I’m no exception, so here is my contribution.

A few years ago I had the idea of creating a portable Christmas decoration to sell in my shop. I wanted something small, cute and as eco-friendly as possible. The solution? Needle felted mini trees.

The trees

Needle felted miniature Christmas trees by Eleanor Shadow

I think they’re rather fun, even if I do say so myself. The colours are bright and who doesn’t like miniatures?

Each tree has a wire frame to ensure stability. I needle felt the the larger components (tree trunk, copse and base) around the wire and the rest is made separately and stitched onto the main part.

It’s quite fun to felt the baubles, I used to take small amounts of differently coloured wool with me to doctor appointments and such and, whilst waiting, I could get 4-5 balls created. It was also a great conversation starter.

To finish things off nicely, I glue the whole ensemble onto a sturdy piece of locally sourced wool disc and, as they say, Bob’s you uncle.

They’ve been quite the success this year, I’m down to the last one at the time of writing!

Wreathes

Another holiday idea was to create a wreath that could be used over and over again. Have I mentioned I like reusable, eco-friendly things? 🙂

I had some needle felting foam that I regretted buying. It wasn’t the best quality foam and I found out I hated using them, so they’d been languishing in my stash for a couple of years. I didn’t want to throw it away. One day it dawned on me: I could cut and use them for something else.

Needle felted Christmas wreath by Eleanor Shadow. It has a donut shape with felted balls and a red ribbon wrapped around it. It has a green ribbon bow at the top.

I love these wreathes and each year I look forward to hanging mine in my front door. They’re not huge because I had to take the foam’s original size into consideration but isn’t it cute?

Sewing

It wouldn’t be a post written by me without some sewing fun. I felt brave and bought some jersey knit fabric to make a Stasia dress by Sew Liberated. You might know a lot of sewers avoid jersey due to its stretchy nature. My previous experience hadn’t been the best but this time I was determined to succeed.

Fun fact: despite my determination, for some reason I didn’t make a mock version of the dress beforehand. I just moved on ahead directly to cutting the good fabric!

The consequence of this is that my sleeves ended up a bit shorter than I’d wanted, so I think I’m going to cut them and create a ¾ sleeve instead.

Eleanor Shadow shows off her Stasia dress in yellow jersey fabric.

Can you tell I’m so happy with the result? The black dots and stripes on the fabric are just so cute to me. My poor mother still wonders how I ended up going from wearing just black to being obsessed with mustard yellow, but here we are.

Yellow Stasia dress. Pattern by Sew Liberated, made by Eleanor Shadow.

That’s it for today. Can you believe it’s already December? This is my last post for the year, so I wish you a great New Year, filled with fibre and other fun stuff. See you in 2022.

Upcycling a cotton warp

Upcycling a cotton warp

A few weeks ago our guild was offered the estate of one of our more noteworthy weavers.  She had stipulated that all her weaving supplies and equipment were to be sold and a scholarship be set up to help educate and promote weaving. We were deeply saddened by the loss of this talented woman, who was also a great resource for our guild.  Her generosity set a high bar for all of us.  I did participate in the fundraising efforts and purchased a cotton warp to encourage me to get back into weaving.

There was only a small problem with the warp; it no longer had a cross.  The cross in a warp helps prevent the threads from tangling.  This was going to be a huge challenge but one I wanted to tackle along with two other learning challenges.

Because I am self-taught there are huge gaps missing in my weaving knowledge.  Some are very basic techniques.  I desperately wanted to learn how to make a weavers knot.  This is a knot that almost everyone involved in fibre seems to know how to make.  Not me.  I wanted it to become muscle memory, so I wanted to make lots and lots of knots.  Then when the need arises it will be so easy for me to just – poof – make this non-slip permanent tiny little fastener.

Now comes part two of my learning challenge – reusing a threaded warp.  If a weaver is careful and doesn’t remove the remnants of threads from the loom, and if they are long enough, they can be used as a labour-saving tool when threading through the heddles.  The heddles are the little eyes on the loom.  Threading heddles is a bit like threading very big needles and I really don’t like doing it.

I had preserved the previous warp.  I knew it was narrower than the cotton warp I wanted to add, but I didn’t know how many threads were in the cotton warp.  There is only one way to find out, count them.  There are 225 threads by the way.

So I estimated I would need to add three inches of cotton on either side of the existing warp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then came the knots.  First I just did overhand knots, but I really didn’t like them.  They were thick and didn’t look like they would pass through the reed with ease.  Then I started working on the weavers’ knots.  Online demos are really interesting, but by the time I got back to the loom I’d forgotten how the loops worked and which way the thread wrapped around and it was all very frustrating.  Finally, after a bit of digging, I found a printable diagram and that worked like a charm. My biggest concern is that I may not have a true weavers knot.  This works, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

weaver’s knot

overhand knot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to thread the cotton through the heddles and Because the cotton along the sides was going to be a little shorter than the wool cotton combination in the middle I added a bit of an extender, sorry I didn’t get a picture of that.

And then it was time to start gently getting everything through the reed and the heddles. This was all done very slowly and carefully so that none of the threads would break.  The weaver’s knot worked like a charm.  The overhand knot was a bit thick and need some gentle nudging to make it through, but all in all, it worked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the cotton was safely warped on the back beam it was a matter of untangling the threads and winding, untangling and winding.  At some point, I was very tempted to just chop it all off the loom and throw it out.  It was really getting to be a terrible mess, so discouraging.  Then I would look at the back of the loom and see how ordered it was.  Everything was coming together as it should, everything was aligned and going onto the beam the way it was supposed to, so I would take a break and come back to it a little later.

And then fairly quickly it was all done.  I was a little surprised and definitely delighted.

 

All this time I had no idea what I was going to do on this warp, not a clue.  Maybe make a table runner or some cushion covers.  I have some really nice linen to use, some great thick and thin cotton or wool.  Then last night it came to me. This lovely textured cotton warp with all its thick bits and thin threads, its ideal length of 4.5 yards (4 m) precise width of 18 in (45cm), it’s ability to take colour like a sponge will be perfect for the recycled kimono project!!  Can hardly wait to get started.

 

 

 

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