White Rabbits!

Oh my, it’s October. Summer seems to have gone in a blink. But this is because it’s been very busy. There’s been:

  • Open Studios
  • Tour de Fleece (I didn’t quite manage to spin every day)
  • Impromptu Home Schooling (for just 10 days when our relationship with my son’s school hit a brick wall)
  • Coach trips to the beach
  • Lots of walks
  • A weighted warp loom on display in a Viking exhibition
  • Knitting art yarn on trains
  • Spinning at Cambridge Rock Festival (where I discovered the music of Doris Brendel)
  • Panicked buying of school uniform. Almost every item for my oldest has to have the school name and logo, even the socks for PE (which was the only item I was confident on the sizing for)!
  • New schools for both children
  • And sunsets!

Now suddenly it’s October! The nights are longer than the days and I have to admit it’s no longer summer. We’re nearly 4 weeks into term and we’ve just had a lovely weekend (though there does seem to be rather a lot of homework). We visited the lovely Anglesey Abbey today to see their Dahlia Festival. It was muddy underfoot but a kaleidoscope of colour as always.

How’s your summer been?

Open Studios

The first weekend of Open Studios was brilliant. A vibrant show from four textile artists and a very busy time with lots of visitors. Here are a few pictures from the show:

If you are on Facebook, then The Silk Spinner’s Studio has posted more pictures of our show.

We are open again this weekend (8th & 9th July) from 11am – 6pm both days. We are at Harlton Village Hall, Coach Drive, Harlton, CB23 1EN. We are number 137 in the Cambridge Open Studios guide. Come and see us!

Open Studios and Tour de Fleece

I’m taking part, once again, in Cambridge Open Studios. I’m exhibiting with three other textile artists at Harlton Village Hall. I wrote a piece about us a couple of weeks ago on the Creating Space blog. Today was our first day and we will be exhibiting tomorrow and next weekend as well.

It was also the start of the Tour de France, and therefore also the start of the Tour de Fleece. I missed it last year – but this year I’m back in the saddle and managed to do some spinning during our Open Studio:

And now…

I’m not quite sure what’s happened to the last two months. I feel like I’ve blinked and been whisked from Easter to the school’s Whitsun holiday! I have a number of projects in progress (more on those soon).  However, last night I decided to get the dye pots going:

Two slow cookers ready to begin dyeing.
When I bought the slow cookers I intended one for dyeing and one for cooking dinners. After a few months where the second one hasn’t been used once, I decided that I would use both for dyeing!

A little while ago I bought some commercially scoured and carded batts of Shetland. These sounded just the thing to include in my spinning kits (I’m currently writing the instruction booklet). However, when they arrived I was exceedingly disappointed. I’d not noticed that the website said that they “may contain vegetable matter”. Sadly they did contain VM, and rather more than I thought was acceptable. However, as the warning was there I didn’t feel I could return them. So they’ve been sitting in my lounge looking like an expensive mistake.

It struck me recently that they could be dyed and then re-carded, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I split the 200g batt into two halves and dyed each half.

After drying I was interested to see the patterns on the batts (this may be something to try with better quality batts prior to felting)

I separated one of the halves into sections of different colours and put it through my drum carder to make 5 small batts.

I’ve been able to remove larger pieces of VM when I see them and more has dropped out during the carding.  There are still pieces of vegetation in the batts, but they are significantly better than before.

In my last post I introduced my Etsy shop. My food-colour dyeing kits are now also being stocked in my friend’s organic food shop. So, if you are in the Cambridge area or passing junction 11 of the M11, then you can see the kits in person at Organic Health in Hauxton*. The shop is a lovely stockist of hard-to-find organic food and special diet (including vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, soya free, egg free and wheat free) food. It also stocks ecological cleaning products and a range of natural toiletries. The shop’s open on Thusdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9am-5pm.

* Organic Health, Church Rd, Hauxton, Cambridge, CB22 5HS

To boldly go…

As I started writing this post I thought about calling it “Enterprise”, which immediately made me think of the Starship USS Enterprise and to “Boldly go where no man has gone before”. In reality I’m going to boldly start selling my craft kits online via Etsy. My shop Crafty Fibres is live and I’m adding my dyeing kits to the shop with their various flavours (Shetland tops, BFL DK yarn, Cheviot DK yarn or Falkland Island Merino 4-ply yarn). I am currently working on other kits and will be listing these as they become available.

There’s a lovely orange Etsy badge in the menus which also takes you to my Etsy shop (it clashes brilliantly with my purple theme here!)

I also have a business website Crafty Fibres, where I’ll keep you up to date with my enterprising endeavors.

A Felted Single

Even though I’ve now been spinning for seven years, I have avoided spinning the simplest of yarns – the plain single. I have spun singles – coreless-corespun and thread wrapped yarns are both singles.  But I’ve left the plain bulky single alone.  Until this week.

One of the recent braids I dyed was very slightly felted (just slightly) and as a result I didn’t want to spin it too fine.  (It was the first one I dyed in the slow cooker, while I was still getting the timings right, and may have been handled more than usual.) I wanted to spin it chunky so that I could use it as a weft for a cushion.  And felted to give it the extra strength needed for such an item.

After spinning the resulting skein was incredibly twisty:
twists

I gave it a bath in very hot soapy water, moving it around lots. I shocked it by plunging it into very cold water (and then repeated between the hot and cold a few times). I also tried thwacking the skein onto the draining board – but found that was an excellent way to make the kitchen look like it was raining inside and get me covered in water. I finished by rinsing the soap out in changes of hot and cold water.

After this treatment the skein was completely different:

skein

skein2

skein3

Not a twist in sight.

Getting There…

When I moved, the large table that used to be in my kitchen (bought to give lots of space for everyone’s creative endeavors) became the “work” area in the lounge. With space for my PC and the old laptop for the children (and possibly a Raspberry Pi with monitor, at some point). I also intended that my 4-shaft table loom would sit on the end. Since moving, the loom has been sat, folded and wrapped in bubbles, against the wall at the other end of the table. This week I looked at the bits and pieces scattered over the table and realised, with a little tidying, the space was enough!

The following day the loom was carefully extracted from behind a box of books and some magazine files (I’m still a little short on book cases) and put into its rightful place.

Bubbles:

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Unwrapping:

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All tied up:

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Removing the ties:

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The castle is upright:

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Adjusting the tension:

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Where am I?

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I felt an immense sense of calm (possibly helped by the beautiful harp and piano music I’d just discovered: “Stanze” by Ludovico Einaudi and Cecilia Chailly) as I adjusted my weaving stool, unwove a couple of picks of the existing weaving (in the process discovering that my note that I was on pick 83 of the pattern repeat was wrong, as there are only 82 picks) and started to weave away…

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Hello loom, it’s nice to have you back.

Adventures…

I had a lovely time launching Crafty Fibres and my dyeing kits at Textiles East.  I learnt an awful lot, from planning ahead so that I had a float and something to put it in, to how to make my stand look more appealing (over the weekend I think I rearranged it about 4 times)!

onstand

corner

It was a great experience and I will be doing it again.  However, my next adventure is to open an Etsy shop, where initially I will be selling the dyeing kits.  And then onwards to July, where I will be taking part in Open Studios with 3 other spinners and artists as Spindependence – collective.

Textiles East

I’m excited (and rather busy).  At the end of next week I’ll be at Textiles East selling dyeing kits!  Supplies are arriving (a box containing lots of tubes of food colour arrived today and packaging boxes are due to arrive tomorrow).  I’m busy writing instructions and taking photos!

You’ll find me on FibreTastic’s stand in the retail hall.  Textiles East is at Swavesey Village College Friday 17th and Saturday 18th February.  More details can be found on their website

textiles east

The Creating Space Blend

Sometime ago (May 2014 in fact) the group I’m part of came up with a blend of fibres to see what we each would do with it.  We blended Polworth, Camel and Seacell together (well, World of Wool did the blending for us, but we chose the fibres that went into it).  I’ve eventually got around to dyeing my 200g in my new slow cooker with “black” food dye.

creating

As you can see the dye didn’t create black (I would have been disappointed if it had).  Instead it’s split, allowing some of the component colours to be taken up by the fibre at different rates.  So, though there are areas of black, the fibre is predominately greeny-blue and dusky-purple.  The seacell, being a cellulose fibre has also remained undyed.

The fibre has become very flouncy (erm, that’s fluffy and bouncy in my head) and I’m looking forward to spinning it.  I’ll either spin a two-ply or a four-ply (possibly cabled), though I’ll see how the singles spin up before I commit to anything.  I think this is heading in the direction of something lacy and shawl like.

It’s been cold and frosty this week, as the frost on this primrose shows (taken after a cold walk to drop youngest off at school):

primrose