Thursday, 8 February 2018

Possibly the best fun you can have with wool!

I'm sure some people will disagree, but there's not much to do with woolly crafts that's more fun than differently coloured nice fleeces and a drumcarder. I love blending on a carder (or with handcards, for that matter) and it's always vastly popular when I do this during a workshop.

So, here's some naturally dyed Shetland wool I picked up at last year's Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  As it's been maturing in the fibre stash behind the telly since then, I thought I'd try and do something with it before this year's show.

When I do natural dyeing myself I tend to dye yarn rather than fibre; wool tends to get more handling/movement with natural dyes than synthetic, and it's much easier to felt loose fleece than yarn. But this fleece has been dyed very nicely, it's still in the original fleece/lock structure and pulled apart easily. 

I did wonder whether to hand-card it and allow the natural variation of depth of colour in the fleeces to give a marled and variegated look to the final yarn. But then I had one of the drumcarders downstairs from another project yesterday, so I decided to play.

And here we are! Two batts of the original red, two of the original yellow, two of a perfect in-the-middle, and one each of a colour between those. Eight altogether.

I didn't do any weighing or formal measuring. Each colour was quickly done on its own into four small batts just to open it up. Then those batts were each split into four and recombined into four again. blending the single colour evenly.  Two of each of those were put aside into the four outside batts in the photo above.

That left four batts, two of each colour, to mix up. I do this by splitting each batt into four strips and combining them by proportion. Much easier than trying to weigh accurately.

And, of course, you get such a lovely heathery quality of colour when you dye in the wool and then blend, rather than dye the spun yarn. Not that there's anything wrong with flat dyed yarn, but it's different.

Now - what shall I do with them? I feel in a bit of a spinning mode tonight.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Can we start the year again?

It's been a bit of a horrible week and a bit so far, and very little creative has been happening.

I put a new neck on my Lopi tree sweater - the i-cord is much neater than the ribbing. The cuffs have the same, as will the bottom when I get there. It's rather in abeyance at the moment until I bring myself to finish it.

This fell off the needles the other day, and I'm rather pleased with it. It's Woolly Wormhead's Scourie pattern which I've already done as part of a kit from Ripplescraft. I did it in exactly that blue and gold originally, but I thought this might look rather interesting in a long gradient yarn. This was spun up from some of the sponsored yarn at last year's Spinzilla, and has come out well. But I don't need more hats, and it's a bit bright for me, so it may end up being sold on the Air Ambulance stand at Fibre East. Unless someone makes me an offer!

The colourwork sample is me trying out yet more yarns for Kate Davies' The Oa, from last year's Islay collection. I adore this design, but I'm of the opinion that Kate's otherwise wonderful yarn, Buachaille, is a tad heavy for colourwork. That's my opinion only, I hasten to add. I've tried various yarns without success, but this might do it. It's a non-superwash sockyarn in the shop stock, a blend of wool and alpaca; it's a natural pale grey, soft, but some long fibres and a nice halo. The blue is dyed with Saxon indigo. The top half of the sample is better - blue background, and on 3.25mm needles - the lower half is on 3.5mm and it's a tad too drapey.

The other sample is a quick check of needle and pattern for Karie Westermann's Purslowe, in a skein of Blacker's Tamar lustre blend that again, oddly enough, is the same colour as the background. It would fit in with both Karie's Thing of Paper KAL and the Blacker pre-EYF kal.

Really can't face the dyepots just yet, though I'm getting on with organising this year's workshops and woolshows, and will be doing a post on what Freyalyn's Fibres will be up to in 2018.

And this is why I want the year to start again; my beloved Lunil was put to sleep last Monday. This is my last photograph of her. My precious girl, I've barely been parted from her since she was six weeks old. There is a huge hole in our family.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Last year's last spinning (and more swircles)

Bit of a challenge here. I was offered this fleece to spin earlier last year, while it was still on the sheep, for the cost of a small sample of yarn back to the owner. It was unusual, and I'd been interested in spinning the fleece since I'd discovered these two lambs existed.

I was offered a choice of both fleeces when I picked it up in September. Sadly, they'd both been a victim of last year's heavy rain, and were pretty felted. They'd also been shorn just after the rise too. Not the owner/shepherd's fault at all, just weather. I've had a couple of other fleeces last year that have suffered in the same way, from different parts of the country, and different breeds.

This is the fleece raw:
Soft, lovely wool, but felted almost into a blanket in places. It washed up into a creamy white with a few beige-ish streaks.
At which point I had a think about how to prepare. Normally I'd have carded a fleece like this, but with the semi-break at the rise, and the felting at the butt end, there was really no option but to hand comb it on my 2-pitch Viking combs. I also have a bit of a dodgy elbow at the moment (mouse at work, I think), so found it really painful to comb, so I trained Mark!

Actually, he really rather took to it. I demonstrated a couple of times, passed it over, and he sat there combing the chunks I was separating out of the fleece for him. I ended up still pulling it off the combs (he was a little over-enthusiastic and pulled chunks off). 

And this is what it turned into - 63g of a light 3ply yarn, about 135m.

And the breed? Hebridean.

Of course, everyone knows that all Hebrideans are black. You used to get Hebrideans in all sorts of colours, like Shetlands. Manx Loughtan sheep, too, once came in all sorts of colours, not just the moorit they're known for now. In the 19thC both breeds were bred for just one colour and that's what stuck. So rare white sheep do pop up in purebred flocks of Hebrideans, and this was one of them.

It would be interesting to compare to this year's fleece, if the sheep are still around and I can get hold of it. I'm not sure whether the extreme softness is due to the colour or the fact it's a first fleece - probably a bit of both.

This is another photo of the yarn with the last day's project - three Leicester Longwool 'swircles' and the leftover yarn.

I was involved in a project last year that was researching the extant Tudor-period caps in Europe, how they were made, and what wool they were likely made from. It involved me sourcing yarn for and knitting lots (and lots) of these swircles, a 5" diameter dense circle knitted outwards, which were then fulled/brushed/cropped to produce a piece of napped fabric to compare against the surviving caps' lining.

They're hard on the hands. 2.5mm dpns, and the yarn (both the stuff I've bought and more I've spun from specific breeds) is dk-aran weight, to make a solid fabric even before finishing.

The last three from this longwool breed went missing just before they were needed. Naturally, they've turned up just as I was finishing these this afternoon. Drat.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year, new start

So the blog has been abandoned since September - and after the fungi-inspired dyeing I had such hopes of keeping up a weekly posting schedule. Ha ha ha!

This was the last little bit of dyeing I did. A work colleague has been covetuous of my tassled hats recently, and asked if I'd knit her one. I don't mind doing this occasionally, but I didn't want to knit it in thinner yarn or spend much time on colourwork. So I found Rowan Superwash Wool in a funny beige shade going cheap at Hobbycraft a day or so ago. (It was the only wool they had).

And the request for the hat was purply-blue 'ombre' through to jade. This was knitted yesterday - starting at about 2pm and the i-cord being finished just after the end of the year. I put the tassle on this morning.

And this was my spinning equipment purchase for myself just before Christmas: a hepty spindle. I came across them on Sarah Swett's blog and as she does vast amounts of spindle-spinning, I thought they'd be rather good. They're made by her son Henry, who is a boat-builder, and are only made occasionally. I was surprised when I came to the top of the list  as quickly as I did.

It's a lovely thing - seven-sided so it doesn't roll off tables, sturdy hook, and this one's made of sapele wood. Spins fast and long, exceptionally well balanced, and can take a well-packed cop. Very pleased.

So the intention is to try and blog a couple of times a month, covering things I've made, dyeing I've done, shows I'm doing. At least I'll remember I've done it then.

And we're about to watch a bit of Wolf Hall - worth the BBC licence fee on its own. Perfect historical and dramatic telly. Spindle and wool out, I think.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Perth Festival of Yarn, and a bit of dyeing

So it was Perth Festival of Yarn last Sunday, and this was my stall. I was really pleased with how it looked.

In fact, I was really pleased with the entire show. It was excellently organised, laid out with masses of space around each table, there were tables rather than stalls so you could see across the whole room, and the venue itself (Dewars Centre in Perth) was good too - catering worked well, there was never a queue for the loos, and plentiful parking.

We had originally planned just to visit, spending a night in Perth, visiting the show in the morning to see if it would work for us next year, and a leisurely drive home in the afternoon. But I was offered a table a month ago, and it seemed a shame to turn it down. And then, of course, our accommodation cancelled on us a week out due to flooding, so there was a panic finding somewhere else. We ended up with an 'ecopod' at Whitemoss Lodge B&B. Incredibly peaceful and quiet, and only 20 minutes drive from the show.

On the way up to Perth last Saturday we managed to get up to Stirling early enough for a visit to the Wallace Monument. Mark climbed it (at £10 a go, I decided that as I'd done it when last in Stirling for Knit Camp of most unblessed memory was recently enough) whilst I sat with the pupz at the bottom, observed some owls and birds of prey, and watch a re-enactment of the Battle of Stirling with two re-enactors and a very big claymore.

It was a very long and tiring drive home on the Sunday evening, with the weather too bad to allow me to snooze, so I've booked the accommodation for three nights next year. The organiser's planning a two day show next year; let's hope I get a stall. 

And I sold out of Copper on fibre completely, so this is a bit more. 

This is Warrior Scarlet on black bfl/silk and plain oatmeal bfl - I've had a request to take some tomorrow, when I'm teaching a workshop over near Blackpool. 

No rest for the wicked, or even moderately naughty; I'm teaching nearly over on the West coast tomorrow, then we're trawling over to the East coast to finally catch Propagansey near Robin Hood's Bay on Sunday.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Dyeing fleeces from Orkney

I bought a few samples of fleeces from Orkney last year, on the recommendation of someone who'd seen the sheep in question and recommended them to me. It's a small handspinner's flock run by Orkney Shepherdess, with some interesting cross-breeds and generally lovely wool. She also sells by part fleece, has them well photographed and described on her FB page, and is well worth an investigate.

So I posted on FB earlier this year that I was planning to buy a few bits and pieces, and a friend in the US asked if I would dye some up for her and post them on. So here's the stuff that I've dyed - mine hasn't been fully scoured yet.

A large cardboard box arrived at work a few weeks ago, smelling of sheep. They're used to me at work now! All the wool inside was packaged like this, clearly labelled and bagged, and a photograph of each sheep attached. Really nicely done. 

And this is how White Tag's fleece looks like scoured. She's a Cheviot/Shetland, and whenever I've come across wool from this particular cross it always seems to get the best of both breeds: crisp, nice and white, with a good handle and surprisingly soft. 

Rosie is a Texel/Cheviot/Shetland cross - very similar, perhaps a tiny bit softer. This is her second clip - I bought a small amount last year so I knew it was nice. I have a bag of this too.
 This is Rosie's wool, dyed in midnight blues. As you can see, it's kept the fleece structure well, though it's open enough to process for spinning beautifully.
 And this is White Tag's wool, dyed in greens and blues. There were suppose to be golds in there too, but the greens decided to overwhelm the dyepan (sometimes happens when I'm trying for intense colours) so I had to add a little of Daisy's fleece in golds). Again, this has held structure through careful scouring and dyeing, but will open up to carders or combs perfectly.
There's a last little bit of fibre in the pans at the moment, for Perth Festival of Yarn next weekend. I've had a couple of requests in, and as I do my tops dyeing 300g or 400g to the pot, I might as well do a few other colours while I'm at it. And at this time of year I'll get it dried in time for labelling.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Perth Festival of Yarn and Bakewell Wool Gathering

Just come back from a wonderful week in Somerset and Cornwall, and things are suddenly happening.

There was no wifi in our field above Zennor - just lots of wind and rain and even more wind and perhaps a gale or two - so I had to toddle down to the Tinners Arms or the cafe in Zennor to communicate with the outer world.

On one such trip, I was delighted to get an email from Perth Festival of Yarn, to let me know I've got a last minute stall there. So an extra show for Freyalyn's Fibres before Bakewell Wool Gathering in October. 

We'd planned to go up and visit the show as visitors, but I'd sent an email enquiring about vending for next year and they kindly offered me this year too! Better check the dyepans.