Small Weaves

First of all – a very happy, colourful and creative 2017 for everyone!

My parents gave me some money for Christmas “to buy something nice”.  At our last craft market of 2016 I had seen a fellow stallholder using a little square loom and was intrigued. My not very mathematical head would most certainly struggle to figure out how to set up a really big loom but something small and simple could be fun. The woman I saw using her little loom recommended “Wild Colours”, a company based in Birmingham UK which specialises in Natural Dyes and, amongst other things, sells Hazel Rose Looms in various sizes. I ordered a 3.5 inch quilt weavers loom which arrived in time for Christmas and it got me going. Here are my first results.

2017-01-05-001-coasters-1024x683Coasters from Herdwick wool bought in the Lake District last summer.

2017-01-06-001-683x1024Squares from Shetland Wool. I want to sew them together to make a cushion cover but needed to order more yarn to complete the project. Once finished I will post a photo (provided it looks presentable).

p1040698-1024x684And another set of coasters. Herdwick weave and Shetland border before (front) and after (back) washing and blocking.

I would like to felt the squares after weaving. Maybe I make a slightly bigger loom myself to get squares that are still large enough for coasters after felting. And I want to try out different yarns. There is certainly room for experimentation and improvement. The weather being rather gloomy at the moment makes it easy to spend time in my workshop.

p1040951-684x1024

Happy Winter Workshop Time

After a busy summer season with guests, friends visiting, craft markets and work on various little projects around house and garden, I was looking forward to having more time in my workshop. In wet and windy weather as well as on crisp sunny days, it feels like a real privilege to be able to retreat to my cosy shed, spread my stuff and start playing. I would like to come up with a few new things for next year’s markets to enhance my own creative repertoire, keep the locals interested and provide something new to discover for everyone.

Some people are natural crafters and makers. Everything they make just looks perfect and neat and very inventive. The Twisted Yarn (her posts are absolutely delightful and always make me smile) is one such natural and I love her work. I am definitely not a natural but I am learning by making, benefitting from all those generous people who share their tips and tricks online.

2016-11-23-001-crochet-bowls-upcycled-tins-pin-cushions-1024x683Some of the things I have made recently. Upcycled biscuit tins, pencil pots and gift boxes, small crocheted bowls, knitted napkin rings, purses, fingerless mittens and wristwarmers, felted sheep and keyrings, pin cushions and Christmas decorations …

In the past I had “painterly periods” in which I experimented a little bit with water colours and pastels but I haven’t touched any colours for years. Thinking about new products for the markets, I thought I would like to have a go at making paste papers. After some inspirational research online I made a start yesterday. These are my first results.

2016-12-03-1024x683Maybe a little “chaotic” but I quite like them, whether they get used for anything or not. Will definitely do some more and see where it takes me.

p1040279This autumn and winter has been rather nice so far, frosty and not too windy. We even had a day or two of snow! Change is forecast for the next few days. Time to go back to the workshop.

Workshop ready to move in

About one year has gone by since we started to play with different ideas (sizes, design, location) for a smallish workshop shed for me. Finally, it is finished and I moved in not only with my materials for crafting but also with possessions that haven’t had a home for the past 5 and a half years.

A space can look rather beautiful without anything in it. However, I am not a minimalist which makes maintaining the clear and open feel of the 14 square metre room unrealistic. This year’s market season begins in April, so I have to get making – a real pleasure in this on sunny days light flooded little space.

 

From the people for the people – Thom Feeney’s simple and uplifting idea

The crisis in Greece has been going on for a painfully long time. I don’t know enough about all the ins and outs of the situation to give a sound analysis, which most likely is not needed now anyway. Today I read in a friend’s blog about a crowd funding initiative set up by London shoe seller Thom Feeney to raise 1.6billion Euros to save Greece.

Reading about his thoughts on the Greek Crisis touched me immediately and made me aware how much I am caught in the same limiting thinking of reprimanding, blaming and punishing that doesn’t lead anywhere.

This simple idea breaks out of all that and has the potential to get things flowing again, for Greece and for Europe as a whole. 3 Euros or 2.26 pounds donated by every European would raise the money needed, he claims. What I like about the idea is the positive attitude and energy it radiates, an energy that has the potential to make something seemingly impossible happen. All this underlined with the sense of humour and lightheartedness that I love about Britain and british people.

There are 64 hours left to reach the target of raising 1.6 billion Euros. 1.769.030 Euros have been raised so far. Still a lot to go but worth trying, I think.

If you like, take the time to read about his initiative here: https://www.indiegogo.com/greek-bailout-fund.html#/story and make up your own mind.

Also worth reading: an article in the Guardian about the fundraising project.

News from the Workshop

Well, my workshop/studio does only exist as a plan on paper at the moment which means I spread my stuff all over the house and outside when I am working on something. Ten days ago we had a lovely sunny day and I had the house to myself, just right for a dyeing experiment with onion skins. This project has been in the pipeline for some time. My partner and I diligently collected onion skin when cooking, so that I had a substantial amount ready to use. The book on natural dyes I bought several months ago suggests to use 100% dyestuff, meaning the same weight in onion skins as the weight in yarn or fleece. Jenny Dean, the author of the book A Heritage of Colour – Natural Dyes Past and Present also writes that dyeing with onion skins doesn’t require an alum mordant to achieve colour fastness. I wanted to try that out, because I think it’s desirable to keep the dyeing process as simple and environmentally friendly as possible. For my dyeing experiment I used spun white Cheviot wool and white and grey Cheviot fleece. I used only about half the weight of onion skins in relation to wool because my two pots weren’t big enough for more skins. Because I didn’t mordant the wool first and onion skins are food safe I could use my normal kitchen equipment (colander, pots, tongs). I need to get a few second hand pots, saucepans etc. for further experiments.

2015-04-30 001 Dyeing onion skin (800x533)In the collage above you can see from left to right: White yarn soaking in water to “open up” the fibres, onion skins simmering in two pots for about 45 minutes, white and grey fleece soaking in water, centre image: the dye liquid after straining, bottom row from left to right: yarn and fleece simmering gently in the dye bath for approximately 45 minutes or longer, dyed white fleece drying, dyed grey fleece, dyed yarn drying on the washing line. Onion skin dyeing is particukarly straightforward and pleasing. The colours can range from vibrant yellows and oranges to rusty brown. In my case the result on the white yarn and fleece was a lovely mixture of yellow and orange shades. The grey Cheviot fleece turned out as a warm brownish grey with some orange tips at the staple tops. I liked the colour and blended both fleeces on the carders into rolags to spin. I am someone who has to try things in order to know whether something works.

P1560698 (800x533) P1560815 (800x533)This is what the yarns looks like. Expert spinners among you will notice that my yarn is rather chunky and uneven. I haven’t mastered spinning very fine and even yarn yet but in a strange way I like its chunkyness and texture for my projects.

The second image shows the blended yarn knitted into a rectangle. I am going to make another purse from it, this time with black cotton lining and a black zip. I will show you the finished article soon.

And what happened to the dyed white yarn?

P1560808 (800x533) I knitted it using a very simple pattern to make this small purse.

P1560809 (800x533)At the end of last year I found some lovely fabric squares in a haberdashery and quiltmaking shop in Inverness. One has a pattern with cats, the other in the same colours a pattern with paws. When I saw it, I knew it would go perfectly with onion skin dyed wool and I think it really does, doesn’t it?

P1560812 (800x533)Thanks to a generous friend who lent me her sewing machine I could sew the lining which was then handstitched into the purse. I took extra care that the stitching thread doesn’t show through the wool.

And finally, the button. The purse has a rustic look to it and I love wooden buttons. With all these storms in the winter (even today it is very windy) lots of trees had come down in our local woods which provided me with some suitable branches to make toggles from.

P1560705 (800x533)Using my Swiss Army pocket knife (a much loved and used present from my parents on my 12th birthday more than three decades ago), I made three toggles. The photo shows the very first stage. From back to front: Birch, Heather and Pine. For the purse I used the Birch toggle, thinking that the colour matches the off-white tone in the lining. I waxed it with beeswax to give it a smooth finish and because I really like the natural smell of beeswax.

One question that remains is the colour fastness with unmordanted wool. In the first wash after knitting the pieces I noticed a slight bleeding of the colour, not a lot and hopefully only happening in the initial wash. I will mordant some wool in the  near future and will do another batch with onion skins to be able to compare. If there are any dyers among my readers, what are your experiences with colour fastness and mordanting?