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A few of my collection of wheels (a wheel would be lonely if it were the only one!)

A few of my collection of wheels (a wheel would be lonely if it were the only one!)

January 2023 still is having its way with changing my plans so I will just have to acquiesce and make new plans more in line with the year’s decrees. I am still working on my vocabulary note, I can’t show you too much about my big Christmas present yet, since my desk is trashed as I try to move furniture and upgrade my office to better function. I am also debating which of my flock of wheels (is it a flock? or should it be a whirl or maybe a herd of spinning wheels? Maybe it’s a flurry, let me check with google, silly distractible brain!! Worse google doesn’t know!!! Let’s say it’s a whirl or a flurry, since when you get one, usually more follow.)

The plan, (barring more changes) for next Monday’s guild social, is a “meet the wheels” afternoon and early evening. We have a good number of new-ish spinners who began their journey just before or during the plague. Those of us with wheels who are willing to let others try them will bring one (or maybe two) to the social and introduce them to the curious spinners. I wish I could take all of mine outside and get a group photo, but it’s snowing and there are stairs to navigate. So that may be a photo shoot to do in the spring or summer possibly with a bit of carrying help.

My first wheel was found in an antique store on Bank Street. It was under $150.00 Ashford traditional wheel with 1 bobbin and a 1 or 2-speed flyer. I think I upgraded to the 2-speed. It was a bit overpriced, but it hooked me on spinning and started the collection. I have had a number of Traditionals over the years. The oddest was from the Stittsville flee market. I was cruising the outside parking lot stalls and spotted the wheel so stopped to check it out.  The wheel was very wobbly and may be warped, and the maidens (the part that holds up the flyer and bobbin at the front of the wheel) had been painted to the point they didn’t turn to get the bobbin out. Hummmm. The frame seemed loose too, that will just need an allen key to fix. Worse still someone had taken city of Ottawa fence paint, brown, to the whole wheel!! Poor thing.  (It looks like the brown colour that taking lots of leftover paint and mixing it together makes.)

The vendor rushed over excited by the prospect of a sale. “Oh do you like my antique wheel?”

Poor vendor, he really doesn’t know what is about to hit him. I replied going into educational demo mode, “Well, it’s an Ashford traditional wheel. It is sold out of New Zealand, as a kit spinning wheel. They were making them to help home production of yarn during world war II. I was on their website last night, you can still order one today and they make replacement parts!” I took a breath and his face looked a bit deflated. “The wheel may be warped,” I spun the wheel showing the large wobble, “the Maidens are stuck and won’t rotate to remove the single bobbin, it should have 3 bobbins and a lazy kate when it was shipped.” He looked a little more deflated when I looked up.

“So, you know what it is?” he said.

“Oh yes!” I stated with enthusiasm, “They still sell parts! If the wheel is warped I can order a new one, I may be able to get the maidens loose if not I can order a new mother of all,” pointing out the parts which would include the base where the maidens sit as well as the maidens. “So, how much are you asking for her?”

“Would $50.00 be too much?”

“No, that seems fair, I should be able to replace anything that isn’t working.” He looked relieved and took my money.  As I put the wheel on my shoulder and turned to go. There were two glaring women standing behind me…. I am not sure if they wanted a wheel to put as a decoration on their porch, or were actually spinners who just missed out on a good deal.

I wandered around the market with my wheel looking for an allen key. Then remembered I had one in my change pouch…. I found a quiet spot put the wheel down dug out the key and tightened all the frame joints, then gave the wheel a spin….. Oooh, it spins true!!! No more wobble! Now if only I can get the paint loose from the maidens and around the bobbin. I spent some time when I got her home working to loosen the maidens with success. She spun like a dream but was the ugliest wheel I have ever owned. I think I traded her to Elizabeth for the same make of wheel but one without paint (it looked better with the looms).

The guild has a couple of Ashford Traditional wheels. They have been good teaching wheels. I have found that mine always reminds me of a golden retriever of wheels. “Is that fibre? Can we spin it? Aww, Please?” They are fabulous sit-by-the-window-and-spin wheels, but with their Saxony-style shape (Flyer beside the drive wheel) they don’t fit quite as easily into and out of cars, so I probably will not bring mine next week.

1)  2003 one of my Ashford Traditional wheels (on loan to another guild member) and my Lendrum folding upright wheel (it has a broken peg  underneath that I cant fix so wobbles from side to side as she spins.  The wheel still spins well even with her drinking problem.) there are sample scaines hanging off the lendrum.1)  2003 one of my Ashford Traditional wheels (on loan to another guild member) and my Lendrum folding upright wheel (it has a broken peg  underneath that I can’t fix so wobbles from side to side as she spins.  The wheel still spins well even with her drinking problem.)

Wheels come in many shapes and sizes. You can divide them into spindle wheels (they have a spike to spin off like the sleeping beauty wheel) and flyer wheels (that’s the Rumpelstiltskin straw into gold wheel). We can then further divide the flyer wheels into the upright-shaped “Castle” wheels or the more horizontal-shaped “Saxony” wheels. There is a third group of flyer wheels called “Direct drive” wheels. They don’t have a drive band but they are usually small and portable.  I have a few wheels in each category.

Thinking upon my, flutter or flurry or whirl of wheels, I should select a couple that would be available but also they may not have seen. I think the ones that would be most beneficial for other spinners to try would be; the Louet S40 “Hatbox” (Louet made a commemorative edition a few years ago so you can again get parts for the old ones!). The Road Bug wheel by Murlen tree and probably my Alvin Ramer Kick spindle (it’s like a tiny grate wheel but a lot slower but also more portable).

The Louet S40 “Hatbox” arrived one day at the guild while we were still at the old location on Chapple Street in Ottawa. There were 3 of us drooling at the cute little wheel that fits in its own box. That is why it’s called the hat box and not by its actual name S40.  One could not get it to spin, (there is a trick to that) which left two of us in serious want of a hat box. The other contender was finding spinning more difficult from health problems so we decided that if she didn’t want it anymore she would sell it to me at the same price as was being asked. Which eventually happened and the wheel came home to meet its new wheel friends.

Being a direct drive wheel the flyer drive ring must sit against the drive wheel or the flyer doesn’t turn. If you spin and pull the yarn to the side away from the wheel, you also pull on the flyer and lift the drive ring off the drive wheel. Lifting the flyer Stops all rotation of the flyer and thus the spinning. So spin directly in front of the orifice or towards the side with the drive wheel.  It comes with three small bobbins. Along with the flyer, they are stored in the lid of the wooden top of the hat box. It is a single treadle with a nice heal-tow action.

2)  2010 Spencerville Demo Ann has an Ashford Traveler.  We are separated by one of my floor inkle looms.  I am spinning on my hatbox wheel. (We were in an unheated, dirt floored, arena. Not the heated building we were expecting.)2)  2010 Spencerville Demo Ann has an Ashford Traveler.  We are separated by one of my floor inkle looms.  I am spinning on my hatbox wheel. (We were in an unheated, dirt-floor, arena. Not the heated building we were expecting.)

This was one of my main demo wheels for years. Before the introduction of the commemorative reissue a few years ago, it was very hard to get replacement parts. The tensioner, to keep the flyer leaning into the drive wheel, had long ago been replaced by an old shoelace. It worked but, occasionally at a demo, she would randomly and holey unpredictably go from silently happily spinning and being ignored by passersby to suddenly screaming at the top of her lungs (yes I am sure this wheel at least has lungs). This tended to gather a large crowd to see what I was killing in the corner. She would again shift back to a mild happy spinning wheel persona and happily demonstrate spinning fine lovely yarn. (I think she just didn’t like being ignored by possible admirers.) I did eventually get a replacement for the old shoelace and she has not screamed at anyone in ages. (I rather miss her occasional screams).

The road bug wheel is made by Murlen Tree, in Vermont, USA. Mine arrived many X-mass mornings ago and was quickly put together. There was a bit of a wobble in the wheel but it spun beautifully. I borrowed my father-in-law’s computer and sent an email to the company asking how best to adjust it to reduce the wobble. (This was early X-mass morning so I did not anticipate a response until at least after Boxing Day.) The return email was back within about an hour with apologies and suggestions for fine-tuning. He suggested I get back to him if I had any further problems. WOW. What a company!  I sent back an apology for interrupting his X-mass morning and thanked him for his suggestions.  It has also been a fabulous demo wheel.

3)  Road bug at the Richmond Fair, wheel is sitting on a rubber-backed mat on top of a tarp on wet grass, covered by a tent. 3)  Road bug at the Richmond Fair, the wheel is sitting on a rubber-backed mat on top of a tarp on wet grass, covered by a tent.

4)  Road Bug spinning wheel in a under bed box at a rainy demo in Manotick.4)  Road Bug spinning wheel in an under bed box at a rainy demo in Manotick.

5)  Another rainy demo, this time at the Richmond Fair. Spinning with the road bug in an Ikea under bed storage box to keep it off the wet ground. (trundle box is visible behind the chair under the table.)5)  Another rainy demo, this time at the Richmond Fair. Spinning with the road bug in an Ikea under bed storage box to keep it off the wet ground. (trundle box is visible behind the chair under the table.)

I have trundle boxes for each of my travel wheels. It’s a folding plastic box with 2 wheels and an extendible handle. There is room to put the little wheel, hand cards, and fibre (or a bit more fibre if I’m spinning and shopping at a fibre festival!). If you are considering spinning in public or are demoing, a trundle box can make transporting your wheel and spinning equipment much easier. If you have a larger wheel, one of the folding camping wagons is a good acquisition to move your wheel, small loom or felting supplies.

6)  My spinning spot with the trundle box up on the window ledge, the Road Bug on a small rubber backed mat and a green uncomfortable hospital chair.6)  My spinning spot with the trundle box up on the window ledge, the Road Bug on a small rubber backed mat and a green uncomfortable hospital chair.

7)  Chesterville Spin in, 2013 Kick spindle in front of Road Bug7)  Chesterville Spin in, 2013 Kick spindle in front of Road Bug

The last spindle wheel I was considering is called a kick spindle. Mechanically, it works like a Great wheel since it uses a spindle. Unlike my diminutive great wheel which has a ratio of 80 to 1 (that means one rotation of the big drive wheel turns the spindle 80 times) its ratio is much slower. There are quite a few makers of Kick spindles,  but they are not common. You can occasionally see them on Etsy or Kijiji. I found mine for sale on Kijiji and rushed out just at the end of a very large snow dump, before the roads were completely cleared. I only had to get to a town just south of Ottawa but saw many cars in odd parking spots off the sides of the highway as I slowly got there. The poor driving was worth it to bring home an Alvin Ramer made kick spindle.

8)  Farm show demo 2013m sitting with my Right foot turning the large drum, which runs the spindle. 8)  Farm show demo 2013m sitting with my Right foot turning the large drum, which runs the spindle.

 9)  Jan is sitting in the corner of the hospital room, listening to audio books, while spinning on the road bug wheel.9)  Jan is sitting in the corner of the hospital room, listening to audiobooks, while spinning on the road bug wheel.

10)  This is the Kick spindle I switched to part way through Glenn multiple times in hospital. 10)  This is the Kick spindle I switched to partway through Glenn multiple times in the hospital.

I had been taking in the Road bug and was sitting with him while he slept. He said he would start to wake up, hear the wheel making its whirring sound, know I was there and go back to sleep. One very early morning at shift change a new nurse rushed in to check the machines, muttering “it doesn’t usually make that sound!!” I stopped spinning and she seemed to notice the wheel and me, sitting in the corner of the room, she had run past me so I don’t know why she didn’t notice a spinning wheel. While Glenn found the quiet sound of the wheel soothing, it seemed to have distressed her. Therefore, I switched to my kick spindle, which is, basically, silent.

11)  Road bug in one of Glenn‘s hospital room, sitting on the window sill out of the way11)  Road bug in one of Glenn‘s hospital rooms, sitting on the window sill out of the way.

12)  A different hospital room, the same wheel and trundle box sitting on the window ledge.12)  A different hospital room, with the same wheel and trundle box sitting on the window ledge.

 13)  During the various hospital trips and stays I also found out you can spin fully gloved and gowned with a drop spindle.13)  During the various hospital trips and stays I also found out you can spin fully gloved and gowned with a drop spindle.

I spun in the coffee shop in the hospital while Glenn was in surgery and had patients, nurses and a couple of doctors come over while I was stress-spinning, and tell me how relaxing it was to watch me sitting by the window spinning.  This may be a good spot for spontaneous spinning, it helped me calm down while waiting and it also calmed those around me. It has been quite a few years since I have been spending time at the hospital but I still have my emergency spinning bag hanging on the back of the door.  It has a couple of spindles, in case anyone wants to join me spinning, and some good fibre. Glenn has not been hanging around at the hospital since these trips quite a few years ago, but it’s good to have a spindle ready just in case his body changes its mind.  (I have also taken felting for hospital appointments but I can’t find a photo of them.)

Looking through the photos I found another “meet the wheels” guild day in 2014 shortly after we moved to the new location. I seem to have brought the Road bug, Hatbox, Kick spindle and the Cowichan wheel (Indian head spinner) from B.C. I tried out a Majacraft Aura and enjoyed its smooth spinning. I hope to find an affordable, lonely, second-hand Majacraft Aura or Suzi at some point.

 14) My Cowichan and Road bug wheels with a spinner trying the latter.

15)  I am trying out a Majacraft wheel. the wheels moveing from left to the right is Majacraft Aura, Ashford Joy, Louet S40 Hatbox, Cowichan or Indian Head Spinner from B.C. and Merlin tree’s Roadbug.  Behind the wheels is the Alvin Ramer Kick spindle, sitting on the chair beside me.15)  I am trying out a Majacraft wheel. the wheels moving from left to right is Majacraft Aura, Ashford Joy, Louet S40 Hatbox, Cowichan or Indian Head Spinner from B.C. and Merlin tree’s Roadbug.  Behind the wheels is the Alvin Ramer Kick spindle, sitting on the chair beside me.

Learning to spin has taught me how to draft fibre, how to comb and card fibre into various fibre preparations and has given me the opportunity to spin different types of fibre and blends of those fibres. Coming from a spinning (and weaving) background I think this has helped me in my felting endeavours. Spinning also keeps your Fiber-hoard in check if you do a bit of Over-shopping. But I will warn you that the acquisition of “A” spinning wheel can lead to the acquisition of More spinning wheels!!

If you are curious you can find out more about two of the wheels that are still in production below, you will have to be lucky and catch a Hatbox or a Ramer Kick spindle secondhand. Both are fun and worth trying if you get the chance. Have fun and keep felting and maybe try spinning if you have not yet had the opportunity.

https://www.themerlintree.com/tmt_003.htm

https://www.ashford.co.nz/products/spinning/category/spinning-wheels

Twining with a little help from my friends

Twining with a little help from my friends

Happy New Year!!

November and December were incredibly busy but I am glad to say things have calmed down a lot in the last 3 weeks. The Christmas markets have closed and I have nearly finished writing the first draft of the much requested tutorial on how to make vessels with feet and lids. The lidded vessel pictured below is the main example I will demonstrate how to make in the new tutorial (with a few others for alternative methods to make lids etc):

A purple and orange felted vessel with a flared foot and a lid with a handle

I just need to write one more section, then edit and proof-read it. I hope to make it available in my Etsy shop in a couple of weeks.

Other than this purple vessel I have only managed to complete one piece of work between the markets, fairs and writing the new tutorial….

Back in September I was core spinning with the intention of using the yarn to experiment with adding twining to ceramic pots, you can read the post about that here.

This is the ceramic pot I made, after drilling out the holes I unintentionally filled with glaze. Drilling the holes has made the edges a little untidy but at least I can now get my yarn through them 🙂

blue and green ceramic bowl with holes around its top edge

I used paper yarn for the warp by threading equal sized lengths through each hole. I really like working with this material for the warp, it is stiffer than wool yarns and you can open it out to decorative effect.

Ceramic bowl with lengths of paper yarn threaded through the holes

Once all of the holes contained a strip of paper yarn, I cut 2 metres (6 feet) of a pretty boucle yarn to use as my weft. I folded it in half with one side longer than the other, this is so that when the yarn runs out while you are twining it only runs out on one side making it easier to add a new length of yarn.

Before looping the yarn over the first warp strip, I twisted the bottom of each pair of paper yarns to help hold them in position for the first few laps with the weft yarn. For the next pot I will try tying a knot in each pair of warp strips to secure them as the twist tended to come undone while I was twining, I really needed an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while laying down the first layer of yarn.

Floki was only too happy to “assist”….

Ragdoll kitten looking at camera
“What do you mean, that’s not really helping?”
Ragdoll kitten rolling on his back while pulling and chewing on the yarn
“Your tension is way off, let me help…”

Even with Floki’s assistance the boucle yarn proved to be too fine for the space between the holes in the pot. I could have used 3 or 4 threads to bulk it up but it had proved so fiddly trying to hold the warp strips in place while twining the first layer I couldn’t face the prospect of trying to do that with 8 strands in the weft so I had a rummage in my stash and found some chunky grey yarn to use instead.

Same pot but with 5 layers of chunky grey yarn woven between the blue warp uprights

At this point I introduced some of my hand spun yarns, starting with the grey core-spun yarn from September (they are the grey bulges you can see at the top of the woven section) and then a yarn with colourful pink and blue beehives.

Woven part has doubled in size and now has bulges of yarn at the top in pink, blue and grey

Happy with the height and shape of the weaving, I tied each pair of warp strips to secure the top of the weaving and opened up the paper yarn before trimming the ends.

Ceramic vase base with grey weaving above and topped with strips of blue paper protruding from the top of the yarn

It reminds me of a blue cornflower.

Same vase as above but photographed from the other side

How has the start of 2023 been for you?

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 🙂

 

A new spindle

A new spindle

Both Jan and Bernadette have told you about our guild sale and exhibition. Now it’s my turn. I didn’t have my own booth this year so I got to wander around and fill in and help out wherever I was needed. It was really nice to not be assigned anywhere and just enjoy the show and chat with everyone after not seeing so many in person for a couple of years.

I am not a big spender at these things. I look for new fibres and add-ons and how people are combining things. Then I  go looking for the ingredients to make my own.

The one thing I do buy is spindles. I bought a new spindle from Judy Kavanaugh. https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/JudyKavanagh  She makes all kinds of tools and patterns.  This one is a bedouin-style spindle.  It has 4 arms and is a top whorl spindle instead of a bottom whorl spindle I usually use.  The wood is beautiful.

 

Bedouin Spindle

People kept asking if it was a Turkish spindle but you can’t take the arms off this one and you don’t wrap your yarn around them. this is the other way up so you can see the wool cob on it. The angle makes it look small.

close up of the wool yarn on spindle

I am enjoying spinning on it. and that brings up to the other things I bought. I bought 2 batts from Bernadette. I like to buy them from Bernadette because she isn’t recarding wool tops. She is using wool she processed herself and it is really nice to spin.

blue wool batts for spinning. a bedouin spindle

The Darker blue is what I am spinning on my new spindle and it’s marked as mixed fibre. It’s soft and a little shiny.

The brighter blue I am spinning on another spindle.

bright blue wool batt and drop spindle close up of yarn of a drop spindle

The wool is much spongier and I have lost the label but I am betting it’s Coopworth. It’s very nice to spin too.

This post is a bit backward because I bought the wool first and the spindle second. The new spindle is more exciting to chat about so it got top billing. It really went like this. I started to spin the bright blue batt first. Then I decided that a blue spindle that Judy had for sale really was calling my name. When I went to get it, someone had already bought it. You snooze you lose. then standing there chatting with Judy I saw her spinning on a Bedouin spindle and gave it a try and decided it was just as well the other one was sold. I picked out the lovely one at the top. So then I abandoned this lovely fibre and started spinning on my new spindle with the other batt.

All in all, I think I was very restrained in my buying. There were so many pretty things I could have bought.

Here is a picture of me spinning at the show. And yes I really did chop my hair off. It was time for a change and it will grow again.

28 Ann took her new spindle for a spin!

 

 

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.

 

Getting in a Spin

Getting in a Spin

Creative Fibre in New Zealand are hosting a series of workshops next weekend, one of which is a beginner’s spinning workshop with Pat Old. She is quite the celebrity in NZ spinning circles but I’m not sure if that is also true internationally…. have you heard of her before?

I dithered about signing up for this class because one of the prerequisites was that you need to bring a wheel in good order, bobbins and lazy Kate. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to learn to spin and buying all that equipment up front was quite an investment, so I put out some feelers to see if anyone had a wheel they would like to sell. I was (and still am) keen to make art yarns so was ideally looking for a wheel with a jumbo flyer. It took a few weeks of asking around but a friend from Auckland Fun Felters came through for me, she had an Ashford Traditional and best of all, it was already fitted with a jumbo flyer! 🙂

I took delivery of my new toy at the end of May and have been watching far too many Youtube videos ever since 🙂 These are my first efforts….

Autumnal colours spun from a Merino art batt full of textured bits and pieces, probably a bit ambitious for a first go but I was pleased with the results:

Aoifa says it makes a very nice pillow…

After reading Ann’s post on FFS a few weeks ago I had a shock of inspiration and added some orange to the singles I planned to ply post dying with purples and blues:

This is the plied yarn:

After plying I had some “single” left over on one of the bobbins so thought I would have a go at chain-plying (apparently it’s not very PC to call it Navajo plying any more). This method produces 3-ply yarn and in theory you can line up the colours on a gradient dyed yarn so you loose the stripy, “barber-pole” effect. I succeeded in places but definitely need more practice!

I am really enjoying spinning with Polworth (a Merino-cross breed that is better suited to the wet NZ climate), it is a lovely, soft wool. I crocheted this cowl but was not keen on the hot pink.

So I over-dyed it with blue:

One month into my spinning journey, a beginners class in Auckland came up so I toddled along with a friend (Margaret) who was curious but not really interested in taking up spinning (she couldn’t knit or crochet). They gave us some mystery brown and white wool to play with, I am pleased with the results but it is very coarse, too coarse for anything wearable so I am crocheting it into a bowl.

Margaret ended up buying the wheel she had been practicing on in the class (from the same person who sold me my wheel, I am starting to imagine Shirley has a house full of wheels that she has to climb over to move between rooms) 🙂 Margaret is also learning to crochet now she is enjoying spinning – another convert to the wonderful world of fibre!

I have also been playing with making slubby and chunky yarns and then dyeing it:

I found a few books on spinning at the library, the first one I read, Hand Spinning by Pam Austin was a bit disappointing, it didn’t cover anything I hadn’t already learned from watching YouTube videos. Frustratingly it mentioned a limited selection of art yarn types but didn’t offer any information on how you might spin them.

I found Spinning and Dyeing Yarn much more useful, jam-packed with technical, how-to information and lots of drool-worthy photos of beautiful yarns by different artists to give the reader inspiration and something to aspire to. For me, I was very taken with the art yarn chapter – I had no idea there were so many different species of art yarn and for each one there is at least one page explaining how to create it yourself.

I have only just started reading Yarn-i-tec-ture but I find the concept behind it intriguing, that you can spin a yarn with exactly the properties (stretch, warmth, shine etc) and colours you want…. Can’t wait to see if it delivers on that promise 🙂

I had to share these with you, there are several of them along the Wellington waterfront, they were very popular for selfies so I only managed to get photos of two of them but they are so cool I just had to share. Something for me to aspire to on my learning to knit journey! 🙂

Following several requests, I have posted my Concertina Hat and Snail Hat tutorials on Etsy. If you enter code FAFS30 (before the end of July) you will receive a 30% discount at check out. Alternatively, if you prefer a more interactive learning experience, the full online course, including the “taking it further module”, will be starting again in October, for more information and to sign up for notifications when registration opens please follow this link. Or for the bag class this link.

More signs of getting back to normal; in-person socials week 1 and 2

More signs of getting back to normal; in-person socials week 1 and 2

As you saw last post, the Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild is starting to do some of our per-pandemic activities. We have had our first Demo since 2019, we are starting to organize in person workshops, the guilds library is back to having members borrowing in-person and we have had our first two socials in-person at the guild studio. This last is the topic i would like to chat about with you today.

Before the pandemic struck, we use to meet on Mondays (once a month for the guild meeting and we had socials in the studio on the rest). When the plague struck it took us a bit of a learning curve to transition to using Zoom for both meetings and then socials. The library was unable to Zoom. So, when there was no shutdown, we collected requests, pulled, bagged and had books ready for picked up and dropped off at an external door near the studio. (A bit more work for the librarians but it kept the books circulating.)

We tried a number of things to keep the guild active and connected during the pandemic. I started weekly posting of old photos going back to 2002, we most recently were checking the files from the early part of 2018 (so i hope the pandemic dosnt go on too much longer i am running out of photos!! Good thing we are starting to make new photos!). The Guild had Zoom based study groups on various topic to try to make up for the lack of in person workshops. Our Program team found cross Canada and international speakers for us that were a fabulous addition and would not have been an option in-person (so the effects of the social distancing were not all bad).

We have struggled with technological options as we change from zoom to the long-waited-for in-person or ideally, a combination of in-person and Zoom. Ideally we would like to have some way for those members who live farther away or can not travel at night to participate in both meetings and socials. We also want to take this opportunity to investigate what works and may be applicable for the first in-person/zoom guild meetings coming up in September. This gives us the summer to run through options and try problem solving so the on-line participants can feel included. With the meeting program it will be more watching and less input from the audience ether by zoom or those present. So, not quite the same as a social but it should give some feed back for those organizing the meeting.

Two weeks ago we had our first in-person social. It was a good turn out, we had 9 in person guild members, with a mix of masked and unmasked participants as well as 10 on line members. For technology we tried Ann’s laptop with its build in mike and camera.

1 Ann’s laptop running Zoom

Pros; One person could talk to the zoom group
Cons; the mike did not pick up other conversations away from the lap top. Only one person in front of the lap top could hear or communicate with the zoom group.

A few more shots of what we were up to in-person. I had brought my in progress needle felted Iris (its in photo one), there was a lot of spinning happening, as well as some innovative options for plying. The bulldog clips and basket were ingenious. We could not find a lazy kate in the studio so we improvised with two magazine holders and a chopstick for another spinner.

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2-8 a few shots from the fist social since we shut down at the beginning of covid

After chatting with the zoom participants it was decided that we needed to up grade the audio. I volunteered my x mass present of a video recorder with external mike for next week.

Week 2, we had Ann’s Lap top but now added my video recorder with external mike and my tripod.

Week two had a reasonable turn out, a bit less than week one with 8 in-person and 5 zoom participants (ginnypigs). this week we had spinning, fiber prep(Hackles) and felting, Ann this time since i was playing with the camera and Vid recorder. First we tried the external Video recorder/mike with Ann’s lap top then with the guild’s old lap top. (option 2 did not work since the Venerable old laptop did not recognize the vid recorder/mike it was too new)

The vid recorder has a zoom feature! which i discovered was vary slow and disturbingly jerky DRAT! I could zoom in but getting there was not fun to watch. So the concept is correct with a vid recorder and external mike but this particular one may not be the best choice (if i need to zoom in on anything).

9 Vid Recorder/ mike and Ann’s Laptop

10 the old laptop could get on zoom but the video equipment was to new for it to recognize

Pros; improved sound, more flexibility as to what the zoom members can see. smooth rotation from one spot to the next with the tripod having vertical as well as horizontal adjustments.
Cons; The mike works well so can pick up conversations that you may have thought you were having only with the person sitting beside you.

We wanted to try another experiment to see if we could get the zoom participants more than one view of the studio. To do this we signed into zoom from both the old guild lap top that runs the library programs (its ancient and i was not sure it could run zoom) and Ann’s computer. Unfortunately we quickly discovered that our internet bandwidth is vary low….. there was a lot of temporary freezing, but using two cameras gave the zoom group more options to see what was happening and from 2 perspectives. We may be able to do something about the bandwidth, we will investigate that further later.

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11-16 shots from the week 2 social

We had a bit of show and tell, Ann got a new aperen!

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17-20 Ann’s post appocolips apron. there were a few of us who want to look this up!

This configuration of hardware seem to be a big improvement from last week. The zoom members could see better what was happening and chat amongst themselves as well as have limited chatting with those at the social. I think our next option to try is to add the speakers the library purchased for use with viewing the guild videos. (The library also got headphones for when someone wanted to watch videos in the studio while someone else was weaving. The headphones would not be helpful in this instance.)

21 this is a big improvement over week one

Just when you thought i had forgotten about felting except for that brief glimpse of my iris in-progress, i have a few shots to update you but its Ann’s felting this time not mine. i had taken a couple shots of her background when i was at the farmers market buying her wonderful tasty chocklet chip cookies.Because i was curious i thought you mite be too, so i took a peek at the back of her back ground too. i had some quite fabulous video shots of Ann working on adding the moon to her background, unfortunately the Video was live feeding to zoom so i could not take a screen shot for you. i hope the shots i got with the camera will give you a sense of the intensely deep dark colours she is using.

22-24 Ann’s background for her little night landscape (front and back)

i hope if the groups you belong to are also struggling to figure out a blended in-person and zoom experience for  member we can share our attempts and figure this out. Please share suggestions of things you have tried. What worked what didnt?  in the meantime have fun and keep felting!

 

PS my computer had blue screened after a couple updates to software so its out to the computer doctor and looks like she will live with a minor surgery  (bigger C drive) and a good internal cleaning. maybe i should not felt on the desk right above the computer? in the mean time i am using Glenn’s computer which lacked programs i usually use and I lost half my pre-typed blog since he only has open office not word and if froze in stead of saving. i expect to have this up and ready to go hopefully before 2am (i did rewrite the second half twice and had to do some sneaky work arounds to get the photos! ooh i am looking foreword to my computer back! i hope she will let me felt in the office still!

 

Second Quarter Challenge 2022 – I can’t do that

Second Quarter Challenge 2022 – I can’t do that

As soon as I saw what Lyn was setting as our next Challenge I thought “but I can’t do that”.  I have always stumbled when trying to understand Design because, although I can see pattern in a lot of things, I fail entirely in translating what I see into my work.  I am very literal in my thinking, and when I see abstract pieces (usually “modern” embroidery pieces) based on images of say, a broken brick, or the reflection in a window, or a rusty piece of metal, or a “fractal”, I think to myself “yes, very clever, but why?” and “what would I do with it?” and “I can’t see that on my wall” (and just occasionally “I wouldn’t give that house room!”).   This is why I tend to make my pictures or 3D sculptures as realistic as I can.

I was going to just not bother with this Challenge, and then I remembered that some years ago I had attended a course on Design – I had forgotten all about it and it is relevant to this Challenge.

In August 2015 the Association of Guilds of Weavers Spinners & Dyers included in it’s week long residential Summer School syllabus a course by Alison Daykin – “Design for the Terrified” and I was lucky enough to be allocated a place – most courses were usually over-subscribed.  Here is the introductory list of available courses from the brochure for you to drool over!

The course was described as offering “help to ‘painting and drawing challenged’ weavers, spinners, dyers, or other textile practitioners, in understanding Design and using this in their chosen medium”.  The brochure went on to say: “This course will provide simple, but effective guidelines in design, without the student feeling overwhelmed by theory. The tutor will also leave plenty of room for participants to express themselves in their chosen medium.

“By the course end students will have at least one sketchbook and understand the basics of: colour studies; textural studies; shape; line/stripes.

“Students are encouraged to make samples appropriate to their own textile skills. They may choose to bring their loom or wheel with them, or to develop further sketchbooks if they prefer.”

Frankly this description of the course frightened the life out of me and I nearly didn’t apply, not least because I would be foregoing the chance to take the offered very interesting felt making course. (It’s headline description was “… an ‘adventure with fibres and fabrics’, combining colour, texture and layering to produce felted fabrics for decorative purposes or garments” and that was what I was most interested in at the time.) However after exchanging a few emails with Alison, and reading the three blogs which she sent out about the course I decided to bite the bullet.
The first blog post puts emphasis on your “Inspiration” and resulted in a further flurry of emails with Alison, since I had no idea what it meant or what my “Inspiration” should be in this context. She basically said that I should pick a subject which I found really interesting. I was undecided whether to plump for trees, which seemed a very big subject, or sea shells – almost as big but of which I had recently started a collection. In the end I went with sea shells.

Sea Shell collection with Sea Urchin “
skeletons”

The second and third blog posts and a “round robin” email from Alison encouraged us to bring along as many different types of art media as we might be able to lay our hands on, including different types and colours of paper and “mark making” equipment. In addition we were asked to only bring one image of our inspiration, but as many copies of it as possible. (As I hadn’t been able to choose just one shell my image consisted of most of my collection, which also included sea urchin “skeletons”.) We would also need to take a notice board (if we hadn’t already made a mood board – “Er …. what’s one of them?”) so that we could pin up various bits and pieces as we went through the course. We would also need the equipment and materials required to make samples in our chosen technique. As I didn’t know which shell would be my inspiration the “materials” consisted of most of my stashes of fibres, fabric & yarns!
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the saying “everything but the kitchen sink” – very apt, my poor car was groaning when I set off with all this stuff plus clothes etc., and I had yet to fit in the friend I was giving a lift to, plus all her stuff and her walking aid. (She was still a bit frail after an illness.)

The Summer School was based at Moreton Morrell Agricultural College in Warwickshire, where (after we got lost twice on the way) I met Alison and the rest of the class members. There were weavers, spinners, an embroiderer and a felt maker – me.
Alison showed us her own work, and took us through her process for designing woven fabrics for specific purposes, showing us her mood boards and pictures of finished fabrics “in situ”. Here is a much abbreviated view of how she followed one inspiration from an image of ancient ruins to cloth samples.

She then started us off on our own design journey. Alison suggested to me that I should pick my favourite shell from the picture of my collection and make an enlarged drawing of the shell, both in monochrome and in colour and using different media. I had a go at this, although my drawing skills are minimal. This was before she had found that we would be able to have access to the college’s print facilities, where we could get photographs printed, and colour and monochrome photocopies made on a copier, which was capable of enlarging. We all made great use of this facility – zeroing in on just part of our inspiration image and having multiple copies made on different colour papers as well as plain white – which enabled us to speed up our progress through the stages of the design processes that Alison had mapped out for us.

One of the “tricks” which Alison showed us was to take two images, cut (or tear) them into strips (leaving one side of the paper still intact, and then to weave the two images.  This did produce some interesting results.

We also cut strips across an image and used this to reference yarn (in my case fibre) wraps. Using this method enabled us to achieve a colour swatch giving combinations, quantities and placement of harmonious colours.

Showing the progress from picture strip to felted swatch

Once we had all played around with these ideas for a day, we were encouraged to get on and start creating samples in our chosen techniques, keeping in mind how we might use the finished work. As I was interested in making felt for clothing and accessories, I had brought with me copies of designs from specific sewing patterns and tried to pick the patterns that would best suit. I had by this time branched out to using as inspiration two different Sea Urchin skeletons, one Cone shell (and when no-one was looking I did a bit of crochet based on the end of a Conch type shell).

As you can see, I’m still leaning towards the literal/representational side of designing.

Alison also encouraged us to take our cameras and go out around the college grounds and look for more inspirations for design. At this stage we had all got used to looking beyond the obvious and came up with some unusual images. This was the one I chose to do something with – don’t ask me why – it’s just a picture of the wood surround (and my toes) to a raised flower bed outside the portacabin which was our workshop, where we all congregated for coffee, snacks and chat.

Being full of enthusiasm for the project, I cut down the photograph to a corner and then cut out the image of part of the surround.

which I then had enlarged and with several copies started to develop the design

This is the design I finally ended up with.

There are five versions in this picture, the basic design on top with four colour changes of the small “pops” of colour.  And here is the jacket pattern and a tracing of the design.

The last day of the course was mainly taken up with visiting the rooms where the other courses had been taking place for a grand Show & Tell. To this end, we had packed up all our equipment and materials and set up our notice boards and work tables as displays of what we had been doing. Here are mine

And here are some of the displays of other class members’ work.  Not all of them I’m afraid, I had camera shake by then so I’ve only included the less blurred ones.

The whole Summer School experience was great, with evening entertainments, a fashion show, a display of entries for the Certificate of Achievement “exams”, a traders’ market (I spent too much money as usual) and a trip to Stratford Upon Avon for a tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Theatre with a chance to see some of their costumes “up close and personal”. 

We inhabited a bubble, with little contact with the outside world.  (There wasn’t even a signal for our mobile phones, short of climbing a hill and standing in the middle of the road.)  A wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed revisiting it.

I am afraid that by the time I got home again I reverted to type and have not made any fabrics, felted or woven, from any of the designs. I just did what I usually end up doing after returning from a workshop – I put everything away and forgot about it! So I still don’t have a 2nd Quarter Challenge piece to show you; though as a result of writing this post and after seeing some of the pieces which FFS members have posted, I do feel better about the possibility of designing from random observations and images.

I am looking forward to seeing what the next quarter’s Challenge will be.

Doing a little spinning.

Doing a little spinning.

I’ve been doing a little spinning. Spinning on a drop spindle is a wonderful thing to do. It fits in a basket or bag or even your purse and you can do it anywhere and anytime you have a few min.

I got 3 lovely little batts of mixed colours from Bernadette. I don’t think they were any particular breed of sheep, just sheep. I thought they were pretty. I thought I had pictures of all 3 but I don’t. I do still have one left, I took a picture of it for you.

I am quite please with how it turned out. There are about 42 yards(38.4 meters) in the skein. I guess it’s not too bad because someone wanted to buy it. I didn’t really want to sell it so I put I high price on it. Someone recommended once that when you are not sure you want to sell something, price it so that you won’t wish you hadn’t sold it.

Not long ago when I was at a new little fibre sale I bought some Blue Faced Leicester top. I wanted to try something different, I spin mostly Merino or Corriedale. I am always using BFL locks so I thought it would be fun to spin some too. I found this lovely lustrous BFL/silk mix.

Here I am pre-drafting it a bit. I had compacted a bit in my basket. it wasn’t felted and would probably have been fine but I loosened it up anyway. Thanks to Jan for this picture and the last one.

I spun up so easily. I use a sort of long draw, most of the time. Isn’t it pretty?

 

 

I made a center-pull ball. I use my deligan spindle as a nostepinne to make the ball, a dual purpose tool.

 

Now, onto the plying, always so much faster. It only took 15 min I would think.

   

 

and finally in a skein. It is very shiny. I am sure the silk is helping there but is well blended so you can’t pick it out. I am guessing there are about 40 yards(36.5 metres)  as it is about the same site as the other skein. I have 2 more slivers of it about the same size. I am not sure what I will do with them.

 

 

It was a nice change from little pictures. But I will probably do another one next week. I am enjoying them.

 

 

 

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