The winter blahs!

Winter is, I think, getting to me.  Earlier this week there were signs of spring, and I managed a walk with my daughter, taking some pictures of lovely spring flowers.


Since then the weather has been cold and grey, and then the snow arrived. 

I’ve been feeling the need to counteract the colourlessness of the continued winter.  At this point if someone handed me a pot of multi-coloured paint and a brush I’d go round the house frantically painting blocks of colour onto plain walls.  Instead I’ve been grabbing lengths of tops from my supply, pots of food colour and large bottles of vinegar and been combining them with abandon.

A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested dyeing in the oven as a way to prevent the tops felting/compacting too much.  So these were dyed in my largest Pyrex dishes with foil on the top.  I found 150 degrees centigrade to be a good temperature, putting the prepared tops in to the cold oven, turning it on (it’s a fan oven), then turning off after an hour and leaving the wool in the oven for about an hour – or overnight in one instance – while it cooled a bit.  The first batch was very successful, the second I didn’t manage to work the colour into the wool enough.

The first batch is on natural white Shetland:




Overdyed fawn Shetland:


Overdyed humbug blended Shetland (the humbug blended tops are looser than the single colour tops, which I find makes them harder to dye):


Leicester Longwool rainbow dyed in two batches on a stove-top:


I have plans for the longwool.  I need a new handbag and think a woven bag with a mass of locks near the top would be totally impractical and completely mad (and a good test of light-fastness of food-colour dyed wool).  I need to finish a few more projects off though before I start on that one!

Purple Paradise

What a terrible name for a shawl.  The name is derived from the names of the tops I handspun and I’m now weaving into a shawl.

One of the yarns is a 2-ply Blue Faced Leicester, that I spun worsted style from hand-dyed tops called Violetta.  The other is a single of Corriedale spun long draw from hand-dyed tops called Birds of Paradise.  I spun these originally nearly 2 years ago!

I’ve tied a 100” (2.5m) warp onto my 16” rigid heddle loom, set at 7.5epi.  I’ve warped up nearly the whole width, leaving just one eye on each end of the loom without a warp thread.  When it came to warping up I wasn’t sure the thread was going to be robust enough and I want to minimise warp threads getting broken.  The rigid heddle has slots and eyes, threads in eyes experience the most stress and wear during weaving. Threads at the selvedge often get drawn in and therefore also experience more stress and wear than other threads.  So I wanted to avoid having a selvedge thread that would experience further wear from also being in an eye.

To further help with wear I’m keeping the tension as low as possible and winding the warp on regularly.  As for an earlier project I’m winding paper onto the front roller when advancing the weaving.  This is helping to keep the tension on the weaving even across the whole work.

I’ve woven about 18” so far and it’s looking good.  The weft thread is fairly slubby, but that’s making the weaving look very interesting.  I’m not too sure how the woven fabric will behave when it’s off the loom as the weft is a fairly active single, so it may collapse.  I’ll have to see what happens!

Here’s progress after tying on the warp and weaving a few picks:


Crepe Yarn in Progress

It’s been a while since I last made a blog post.  Various reasons, including the continued poor weather.  Even though it’s now March and the crocuses and the early daffodils are up, we are still having cold, snowy, frosty and grey days.  Sadly this makes taking pictures tricky.  However, the sun finally came out briefly yesterday afternoon, so I’ve been able to take pictures of work in progress.

A few weeks ago I received a lovely spinning book for my birthday.  It’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson:


Yes, I did just grab that image from the preview on Amazon’s site.

The book’s absolutely brilliant.  Full of inspiring techniques and ideas for yarn constructions I’ve not come across before.  I love the clear diagrams that show the construction of a yarn at a glance.  My first project inspired by this is a 3 ply yarn, with a construction similar to a cabled yarn.  It’s called a Crepe yarn.  2 singles are spun in one direction, then plied.  Then a second single is spun in the plied direction and plied with the original 2 ply.  Are you still following?  No? The “at a glance” diagram would really help here – which is one reason the book is so brilliant.

I’m spinning this with a thick single from my dyed BFL (the pinky/orange one), here it is a few weeks ago:

and two thin singles of natural white Shetland.  I was aiming at a Bubble or Rickrack Crepe yarn, but I don’t think there’s enough difference in the thickness of the singles.  At the two ply stage I have two almost full bobbins of yarn.  However, I don’t have enough bobbins for the wheel I’m using for this spinning, so have wound the 2-ply off into skeins:


As there’s a lot of unbalanced twist in this 2-ply, the skeins are a little like super-scrunchies.  I’m sure there are good reasons not to handle the yarn-in-progress in this way, but I’m afraid I don’t know them (a little knowledge at this stage may be a dangerous thing).  At the moment I’m working on the second white single.  When I ply I’ll put each skein onto my swift and ply from the swift and a bobbin.  I’ve not done this before!  It could all turn into a huge tangle of wild yarn!

New spinning related addition

My almost ex-husband (I’m in the process of divorcing) has taken to bargain hunting in his local auction house.  Since we’ve separated he’s bought himself a spinning wheel (as a project) and started pointing out interesting spinning related items to me.  He spotted a spinning chair and asked for advice on a price.  He won it (on a commission bid) and I’ve just bought it off him.  He made a small profit on the transaction (probably enough to pay for a tea next time he visits the auction house).

Anyway here’s the chair:


The carving on it is very pretty (and the reason I ended up buying it).  However, the construction is a little rough and one of the legs is wobbly and may have been broken at some point.  There are also paint splashes on it.  I’ll probably end up taking off at least some of the stain (it’s worn away in places) and then refinishing.  I’m not at this stage quite sure how I’ll finish it.  I’ll have to keep the dark finish in the carvings and perhaps have a lighter finish on the flat surfaces (and probably the legs).

I’m not sure I’ll ever use it as a spinning chair.  It’s astonishingly uncomfortable to sit on, but it may prove to be the right height for the children to sit on when they are spinning.