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’.
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 🙂