Browsed by
Category: Spinning

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

11-16 shots from the week 2 social

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Making a heather, tweed blend

Making a heather, tweed blend

The saga of our group silk purchase continues.  I was part of the purchase along with Ann and Jan.  I am a silk junkie so had to be very, very careful this time.  I only purchased some really new-to-me silk called peduncle.  As described by the vendors – “This is one of the most unusual spinning fibres we’ve ever encountered. It looks like pewter in fibre form. It has a stunning luster, and the brownish-grey colour is breathtaking. Peduncle tussah is fibre from the pedunculus (foot) of the cocoon, which is the little stalk the silkworm makes to attach itself to a tree branch.”  “Like all tussah spinning fibre, this one has “tooth” that makes it easy to spin. It’s a rare and spectacular spinning fibre.” I’ve been clearing out my stash and found a wonderful bag of grey with globs of coloured wool and thought it would be a perfect time to give tweed a chance.

I needed to do a test spin of the silk on its own to see how it feels, to be sure it would work with the wool.  I wanted the colour, but I wanted the lustre and strength too, so two small samples were done.  One is pure silk and one is a mix of silk and some wool.

Peduncle silk with a little skein of two ply silk

Close up of peduncle silk two ply

Close up of the silk/wool blend

 

Because I tend towards very, very bright colours working with heather tones is going to be a real challenge for me.  But I have been asked by a couple of people to at least give it a try to find some sort of earth tones that are complex to make into a yarn.  So this is my first shot. I dug through my stash and found a large bag of gorgeous wool, unknown breed and origin, but washed and ready to go.  It even had interesting colours added to the wool.

The best part for me was that the wool was washed.  This was a major time saver for me, especially at this time of year.  The colours in with the wool are some of my favourites, little bits of teal, brick red, olive green and the occasional dab of yellow or hot pink.  I was certain the silk would really work well with this mix.  The wool was teased apart into gorgeous clouds of wool. And then run through the drum carder for a preliminary mix.  This mix was weighed into 250 gm lots, that were split into 16 units, mixed and recombined into a final group of 16 batts.  This would give an even colour blend, but not a total mix.  The batts were only put through the carder four times.

I decided to keep things as simple as possible and weighed 250 gm of the wool blend to which I added 25gm of silk.  I’m saying this is 10% silk.  I suspect the percentages are not accurate, but so be it.

It’s really easy at this point when you need to add a weird weight to just divide the roving into equal lengths to suit your purposes.  In this case, I was going to do half of the 16 batts with the silk and the other half without, so I divided the silk into eight equal lengths.

I started the blending process on the drum carder and was surprised at what a difference adding the silk didn’t make.  I really thought there would be much more lustre, more glow.  I was certainly expecting more bang for the amount of work going into this.

These are examples of the two final products.  The top batt is 10% silk.  It is slightly more brown, and that’s about the best that can be said for it.  The batt at the bottom of the picture is the original before adding the silk and it has a slightly more blue tint, which I like.  I am not giving up on this silk.  While stash diving I found some other earth tone wool.  The strong pewter-tone of peduncle really is great and I want to find the right wool to pair it with.  I’m sure it’s out there. Experiments are always a way to learn something, so they are never a waste of time.  I never knew that making a really dynamic heather/tweed could be so challenging or so interesting.

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!

The Sheepish door

The Sheepish door

Preamble:

As you may have noticed Ann, Bernadette and I, all belong to the same local guild. The guild has both a studio and a classroom located in Heartwood house,  which is the umbrella organization that is Home to 22 Non-Profit & Charitable Organizations. The building we are now in was formally a Giant Tiger store with an attached strip mall and apartments above the mall.  Heartwood house purchased the building in 2012 and renovated space for each of the various groups. We all moved in at the end of the summer of 2013.  (It was a huge move for the library but that is another story.)

With covid, part of the time the building was closed and no groups could use their spaces. As lock-downs eased, a few people (masked) were allowed into the various spaces (the number depended on the size of the room).  We are one of the groups that have been hit hard by the restrictions. Ann and I with help from other members have been keeping the library books circulating (knock on the window and pick up your books by the side door) each month but the weavers have only started to work on the studio looms in the last couple of weeks. We have moved our Monday night socials to Zoom which is fabulous for the easy Commute but not quite as much fun as chatting in person.

Heartwood House has noticed that, with fewer people in the building, the groups are not interacting with each other as much as they would normally. They came up with a plan for festive door decorating and asked the groups to participate. They would bring Coffee and muffins or pizza for lunch to those that did add festiveness to their door.

At our December meeting, the Heartwood house liaison asked if anyone would be willing to decorate our door. I was going to be going in to work on the library anyways so figured it would be reasonable if I volunteered so no one needed to make a special trip in.

The instructions were to decorate the door, something festive. I wanted to represent the main interests within the guild so Weavers, Spinners and Felters (we have basket makers too but I did not have anything in the way of basket-making supplies to represent them. Sorry!!!)

I have never worked in a regular office environment or lived in a cubical world for work so I have never tried to decorate a door before (or a cubical). I had seen two other doors under construction, one was a fireplace with a Santa the other was an upside-down reindeer. Both used construction paper, card stock, stickers, and there was even a garland. The office for Heartwood house had a couple stocking up and looked like something else would be added later.

Scoping out the Neighbours, their doors in progress;

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I thought about it for a while and decided on sheep, with a star/comet. Maybe some snow? And some pine trees? As a composition, a door is a tall skinny vertical space. I like long horizontal compositions. Oh well, fewer trees and make it a taller tree. Let’s start on the star! Ann will recognize the cookie-cutter snowflake I used for the star shape.

a quick cookie-cutter shooting star!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

(Oh no! The book I was listening to ended so on to the next audiobook)

I used some of the World of Wool, core wool that I had hand-carded and really cheap felt from the dollar store. (This is not the even cheaper felt that may be made of coloured dryer-lint held together with cheap glue.) Other than being extremely thin, it wasn’t too bad to work with. I embedded it into the wool I was adding into the cookie-cutter from one side then the other. I used both the single 36T as well as the 3-needle handle that seems to hold T40’s in it. I focused on trying to get the edges firm but should have spent more time establishing the crispness of the edge shape. My poor little star is looking more like a flower.

OK, now let’s look at the sheep.  I kept to the same fibre, made a body, with handspun yarn legs, and felted feet. Hum….. needs a head.   I sculpted a head with ears and felting from the back and sides of the neck attached it to the body.  I like the head so much I made 2 more of them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Ok, we have the Felters represented!

At this point the plot of my book got distracting and there may have been a break for YouTube,  so I missed the photos of spinning woollen (I usually am a worsted or semi-worsted spinner) while hoping I could make Fluffy Yarn.

For the spinners, I made lengths of mostly lofty 2 ply which I sewed onto a cardboard shape for the sheep body. It was the inside of a Ritz cracker box and worked very well. Sewing the head on was a bit more challenging but I used a curved mattress needle into the center of the poor sheep’s neck and tied it on through the back of the cardboard. I think she turned out to be quite a nice sheep!

For the weavers, I considered a cast-off fragment of weaving I had salvaged from the studio fibre-garbage-bucket. However, it was blue linen and not white like the other sheep. I did not want the weaving sheep to feel ostracized from the flock. So back to the cardboard Ritz box and cut out another sheepish body shape. I had scored some loom waste (thrums) at some point over the last year or so. The warp is a similar colour to the wool I have been working with.  I wrapped and taped down on the back yarn over the sheepie shape on the diagonal. If I had done a square or rectangular sheep body it would have been much easier! But it would not look very sheepish.  I used a long blunt needle and wove through the warp I had just taped down. After the weaving was done I stabilized the edges and sewed on the head.

I used some of the 2 ply I had spun to make the legs and attached them at the back of each sheep. Now I was all set to head in and decorate the door, well except for a quick stop at Dollerama on the way in for a few more decorating options. (Please don’t be out of Cardstock!!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yeah!!! There was cardstock, wrapping paper, glue, foam double-sided tape, wooden snowflakes! I also brought more wool, a foam pad, yarn, as well as thread and needles in case I needed them.

Our door

Now the door. With the depression for the window, I wanted to have the cardstock as a base layer.  I held up the first blue piece and liked the effect the edge of the door gave. It looked a bit like a matt.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I had to do a bit of trimming so the door handle would fit!

Lise, one of the guild weavers, was in weaving and held up one of the wrapping papers I had selected for the sky. We both liked the effect with the blue background.

14 transparent wrapping paper over cardstock

Ok, I know what we are doing for the sky, now let’s look at the snow for the bottom half of the door. This would have gone a bit more smoothly with just one more hand but Lise had already finished up her weaving by then and had headed out. Oh well, I managed to get 3 hills in my snow.

15 snowflakes in the sky and snow on the ground

I opened the solid green paper and found Christmas trees on the inside….. well I guess I could just use that side and make a forest but the trees are a bit small.

16 Surprise! it’s not solid green on both sides

You can imagine my surprise when not only did my solid green have trees but the solid brown has a grid on the inside!

17 Oh my the brown paper isn’t brown on both sides either!

My idea was to make a pine tree-ish shape on the side and have the sheep beneath that. The brown was to be the bark and trunk of the tree. So I squished and folded it length-wise to give it a bit of 3D.

18 a bit of 3D in the trunk

19 background and tree started

It’s still looking a bit pathetic, better add more green bits. I did debate with myself if I should put the trees on the outside rather than the solid green.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

23 I need a few more embellishments!!! It must be more festive!!

Perfect!! Can you guess what I am making this time? I have the wooden snowflake, some fine wool yarn, a bit of wool and a T36 needle!

24 Ah! much more festive!!

Can you see where I put those festive items? No? Maybe a bit more close-up will help!

25 sheep in their festive attire!

Yes!! I made Festive sheep Bonnets or maybe they are hats? I will have to ask Ann what kind of festive sheep attire she has for her sheep. If she doesn’t have festive hats maybe we can start a new sheep fashion trend!!!

26 Festive Felt Sheep

27 Festive Spinning Sheep

28 Festive Weaving Sheep

Now I need a bit more bling, let’s add more of the wooden snowflakes

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While I have been setting this up, one of the Guys that works in the Heartwood house Office stopped by to check out how it was coming. He really liked the sheep but said I should put pillows at the bottom of the door in case anyone fell asleep while they counted our sheep! (These must be super strong sheep if they can put you to sleep with only a count of 3!!)

32 all done ready for tomorrow!

All done now off to home and back tomorrow to work on the library.

When I got in the next morning the snow had melted!! The sheep were in a pile at the base of the door! Now I see why we needed a pillow!! (for the sheep!) It must be the unseasonably warm weather that has made the snow unstable and melt. Change of plan, fix the door then work on the library!

33 the snow melted and I had to put it back on!!!

I think I got the middle snow hill upside down but it still looks good (I was rushing!! )

Our Neighbour’s doors

Here are some of the other groups’ doors

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I did get a small pizza for lunch (which was delicious) and got some work on the library done. There were a lot of people from the other groups throughout the day checking out each other’s doors. It was a fun event and I think they may do it again next year.

I still have more library work to do before the end of the month and hopefully some felting too! I hope all of you are having fun felting and are enjoying the festive season.

%d bloggers like this: