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I have been rather caught up with fibre matters recently and somehow have put off writing for longer than intended. I have just finished a set of towels  two for my daughter who wanted grey and pale blue, and finally three for us which I will not end up giving away as presents!  They are all pure 2 ply linen woven in a  traditional Swedish Drall from the 8-shaft Pattern book. I photographed them straight of the loom and they have not been hemmed or finished.

Apart from weaving I have been spinning some Cheviot tops to knit a cardigan. I have discovered that it is more difficult to spin than raw fleece as it slips through my fingers too fast!  I have almost spun a kilo and during that time have improved but the first skeins are thicker than I intended. I wanted to knit a classic lace cable cardigan from Lace Styles edt Allen and Budd, but found my tension was too thick and I didn’t like the texture at all. Over spun and overplied. I have wasted 8 oz but will use it for something else (like weaving!)

Unfortunately now I don’t think I will have enough to knit the cardigan but I will have to order some more tops or find another pattern with less cables and fiddly bits. The latest yarn is coming out approx 4 ply/DK at 13 wpi. It feels a lot woolier and softer.

The spinning made me yearn for more colour. I have enjoyed natural dyes but wanted to try Acid Dyes as I would be able to play around with mixing and experimenting at will rather than hunting for plants.

My daughter gave me a starter pack from Kemtex which included the Primary colours Red, Blue and Yellow plus Jade and Brown (though I havn’t tried the last two yet.)

 I bought two great books for the dyeing novice and collected pots, jats and measuring cups and spoons in readiness.

These are the books which I bought and which have  helped me to understand colour mixing. I can appreciate the need to measure everything and to keep accurate records so that colours can be repeated BUT I got carried away and started dyeing small quantities of yarn completely mesmerised by how easy it is….though much much more tricky to repeat

                                                                                                                                                                                   

It felt like a mysterious world of alchemy and I was cautious due to my difficulty with precision and patience. I want the end result too much. Weaving and spinning are really helping me to enjoy the process i.e. warping and carding. rather than feeling these are chores to be got through to enjoy the real business!!!

Here are my results. It is not a real colour wheel and even now I can’t remember what colour   came from what….but I have got the basic principles and will calculate properly next time. It’s  just so exciting to realise that I can create whatever I want…including the elusive duck egg blue, which failed to appear this time!!!!!! and which my daughter-in-law eventually (when I have found it) wants together with a brown to weave into a window seat cushion.

As a  result of my dyeing experiments I have 3 pots of dye mixed in the primary colours all made up and sitting on a kitchen shelf. I have been mixing small amounts, dyeing some fleece and spinning and blending. I am at the early stages but my heart fluttered with anticipation when I produced this!!!

The blue is definitely of the duck egg variety!! Stupidly I didn’t record how I got there  but it was an unlikely mix of a mauvy purple (which involves red and blue!) and some yellow which found the blue and greenified it all !! I know that’s not good enough but its given me confidence. I think I learn by trial and error or perhaps just by my mistakes!

As an aside we went to Dungeness last week, a cold and desolate spot which harbours migrating birds, a mini steam railway and a hideous nuclear power station, and where Derek Jarman the film director used to live. The wind was howling and blowing masses of lichen around. It grows profusely here, so I gathered a bagful, bought it home and sampled a little for dye.

I had hoped it would be green or blue but the yellow ochre shade is interesting and I will use it.

Once I have recovered from my excitement I want to think about a weaving project using all this colour  in a creative and purposeful way. I haven’t woven much handspun and would like to produce something a little more even and less home made looking than I am spinning at present (that sounds daft but I know what I mean!) So I think it will be more productive to dye some purchased undyed yarn until I progress in the spinning stakes!

What shall I weave next? This is a pathetic dilemma . Is it a question of being spoilt for choice or are there logical paths to follow? I am not weaving to sell I don’t have to concern myself with the market. It is not Christmas so I don’t need to make gifts. I have a new wider loom. I have a stash of 2 ply linen. I have some dyed handspun. I don’t feel justified in ordering more and more yarn , weaving is an expensive interest!!! The linen asks to be made into towels, tablecloths, place mats and garments. The problem is that I don’t really need or use some of these things. So then I start telling myself the importance of heirlooms etc!!  I love Swedish  weaving. I love Malin Selander and I was given a second hand copy of her book Weaving Patterns.. There are evocative memories for me of contemporary design of the late 50s and 60s

This pattern caught my eye, It is a tablecloth which is recommended for the oblong table! Just the job. I have the linen. I have the loom. I have decided……..

.I spend a lot of time reading other peoples blogs, weavers, spinners, designers, and really admire the ones who are more like artists with their use of colour, often using the camera and photographic images to inspire. I have rather enviously seen how weavers in the US seem to have a much wider access to yarn stores than we do here. I also feel limited by budget, not by anyone else but myself. I sense that weaving and spinning have the air of an  addictive behaviour and I must feed my habit wisely and not be profligate. I understand the healthy balance of finding commercial outlets to do this but I do not believe there is a profitable market here for the things I am making  at the moment.

 I am still exploring  new techniques and learning so much as I go.Improving my spinning skills, and finding that I can make coloured yarn opens up possibilities which will not require vast amounts of money. I feel more self reliant. I just wish I had discovered weaving  or it had discovered me a long time ago .

I have been ‘resting’ as they say, but in reality only from the discipline of blogging not weaving. I am ready to re-enter the weaving world . A quick overview of the last few months then.

I had the break as I seemed to have over committed myself and had rather a lot on!

First my husbands 70th birthday. A fantastic day and a garden full of old friends and non-stop music. all live and made by our kids, grand kids, old friends and neighbours.

Then I had promised to make my  niece’s  prom dress. She chose a beautiful Vintage Vogue pattern which was a nightmare to make and involved yards of fabric.

Then time seemed to slip away, but I began to muse and plan and work out whether I should invest in a new loom. My Bergman functions OK and has sentimental attachments but it is not perfect. She is old and a bit rickety. I have been very impressed by the blogs written by Louet Spring owners. Finally in November I contacted wonderful Don Porritt who was incredibly helpful and fair with prices and shipping and I placed an order for an 8 shaft Spring 90.

Then I had to be patient as the factory in the Netherlands had just sold the last one and had to make another run. This took me until December. Then it snowed here and in Netherlands. In deep snow 2 weeks before Christmas a carrier drew up outside and delivered my loom beautifully packed on a pallet (which was not wasted but chopped up for the woodburner. The pallet not the loom!)

While waiting for the delivery I completely revamped my weaving room/hut/ex-garage  but transformed into  weaving studio!!! I have always allowed things to be stored in this space,musical instruments,bedding,camping gear, which reduced it to store room while I longed for’ a room of my own’.

I now have two 8-shaft looms and an 8-shaft table loom. I have my sewing machine and overlocker ready for use, and I have organised,de-cluttered and cleaned. I do not have any misconceptions that it will remain like this as I function a bit like a tornado when creating. I wish to reform this state (one day) I even have hooks with scissors hanging in size order!!!!

My lovely new loom can be seen standing naked in the background.

I have woven some towels for Christmas presents but was so pushed for time I forgot to photograph them.

And from the other direction….

 

 I even have enough space for a chair and all my books and for my ‘quiet time/meditation each day. I have great difficulty with this discipline but its something which I believe is important and which I want to incorporate into my weaving day.

I have been quite active on the weaving front, though because I wasn’t writing my blog I kept forgetting to take pictures.

I managed to weave an  11 metre length on the Bergman to make a jacket. I found this very exciting and it opens up many doors of possibility in the future. I copied a favourite Chinese type jacket which had worn out. I used some greeny silk noil and natural   the threading was a simple crepe weave to avoid any prominant pattern .

And the last thing I wove on the Bergman which was a linen runner in Snail Trail and  Cat’sPaw Overshot….

 

This was a gift for my second son Luke and his wife Tess. They have just moved into a cottage near Rye and it was a housewarming present. Tess got much pleasure from placing her bits of collected Poole pottery on it as it reflected the blue which I had used. On the strength of all this she has asked me to weave some tweed curtains for the dining room.

 

Those are the washing instructions pinned to the bottom!!!! I should have woven it much longer but the loom was playing up and I was getting skips , Christmas was on the horizon and I became restless and wanted it finished. Can’t wait to try again on the Spring. I forgot to mention that weaving on a new contemporary loom is like the difference between driving an old banger and suddenly being given a brand new Mazda or something similar. Possibly not so quirky and temperamental but does the job without faults and is so dependable and smooth to work with.

Having said that I am determined not to allow my Bergman to languish. I love her personality and it was her presence which led to weaving  and all that goes with it.

I wove some towels in Swedish Drall in linen for presents, and my daughter wants some. I have found a wonderful source for linen (thank you Dot) and have just run out of white half way through winding the warp, so I will be able to share pictures of a dressed loom next time. I am just waiting for the post so that I can get going.

 

A short break!!

I have not woven anything for several weeks. I feel bereft. Other interests and duties are taking priority temporally. I have decided to take a short break from blogging. Not writing regularly causes guilt and anxiety (pathetic is it not) I value the blogging community very much. So…while busy NOT WEAVING I will have a short interlude. But I will be back!!

So what am I doing. First of all I am now feeling energetic enough to garden. For the 18 months since having a new hip my mobility has not been brilliant (good for weaving though) The garden has looked sad and unloved. Derry has made me two raised beds so that I can grow some vegetables. Our soil is sandy with hundreds of stones…we are near the sea. All goodness leaches out. So I have filled the beds with compost and manure, a purpose made environment.

We inherited an old greenhouse when we came here 14 years ago and already battered it had become unusable. An eyesore. My good husband (though not a natural do-it-yourselfer) has repaired all the broken panes. I am growing seeds and potting up and really enjoying myself. I am hoping for a cucumber, and tomatoes under glass, and mainly salads outside.

The primroses and daffodils are making it a real Easter garden at the moment.

Second interuption. My neice has asked me to make her prom dress ( a strange new US custom that has crept into English society!!!)  I foolishly agreed. We went to buy a pattern. She has excellent taste. She chose a Vintage Vogue circa 1956.

This dress is much more fiddly than expected. The skirt is massive and will require yards of dress net. I have half done the bodice. Its got those little covered buttons and rouleau loops at the back!!

So I can’t concentrate on warping and weaving just now. But when I do it will be yardage for a summer jacket.

Third event. I am trying to organise a 70th birthday for Derry in the garden for end of May. Not enormous but our 4 children  and families and a few old friends from his gigging datys. All are musiciens of some sort or another, so music will range from be-bop to ceilidh!! I will have to invite the neighbours to keep them on board.

And lastly we have been heavily into the Swedish writer Henning Mankell after watching the Swedish series on TV starring his wonderful detective Kurt Wallander. Depressed, impetuous and very human. So enthralled we are going to South Sweden in 3 weeks to follow his trail. (I know he is only a literary character) but there is such a sense of place…southern Sweden Skane, and Ystad!!! We are flying to Copenhagen, then the train over the bridge into Sweden, hire a car and Bed and Breakfast. Hope I might see some weaving en-route. Sadly Margaret Bergmans area is north of Stockholm so will have to wait for another visit.

So happy weaving and spinning everyone and I will return in the summer.

 

I waited and waited and then a knock at the door and the box and the packaging and fitting it together. Its a Rose by Majacraft all the way from New Zealand. It is so pretty. The wood feels warm, the wheel turns so smoothly. At first I just produced twisty harsh overspun wire, which was disappointing as I had become quite efficient on my antique wheel. I restrained myself from using the smaller whorls with high ratios and found that the 6.1 and 8.1 were fine for my early stages. It is such a pleasure to spin with it, though I have much to learn about the ratios and speeds. This was one of my reasons for choosing this wheel and for investing in another wheel at all. I have something which will challenge me and inspire me for years to come.

Here she is…

And another picture ……..though this was Day 1 and I was finding my feet (or hands might be more appropriate )

This is opening up another creative door to me. I  am falling asleep at night imagining things to knit and projects to weave. The downside is that spinning is quite a slow process and it will take me weeks to produce enough yarn to make anything

 A real advantage to the Rose over my old wheel is its silence. I was unable to sit and spin in the evening as it was accompanied by squeaks and rattles. and now I can use evening time to accumulate the raw materials of fabric production.

I have enjoyed my Christmas present spinning books and want to put techniques into practice. One of my projects is a beautiful lace and cable knitted cardigan from” Lace Style” by Pam Allen and Ann Budd.  It uses Sports weight which I think is the equivalent of a light double knitting wool. So I have just spun 200gr of 11 wpi . It could be more even but I am pleased as a starter. I may buy some ready dyed Merino Tops for this project though as it will not need all the carding which is not my favourite task

  My first Rose spun skein weighs 200 grms.The cardigan needs about 800 grms of shop spun yarn. I don’t really know how handspun compares, though I think yardage is probably more crucial.

I am unsure whether to buy ready made yarn  or make my own at the moment, but its a great situation to be in. So many choices.

I am quite happy just to pick the skein up and feel it at the moment!! It is spun from a long stapled lustrous fleece that a friend gave me. I recently bought a Shetland fleece which I was trying to spin last night. It is really difficult. A bit like cotton wool its so soft!

In my weaving career, all of nearly 2 years I have never woven a wool warp or used a plain tabby threading. I have been  carried away by twills and intricate patterns. Spinning will be pointless if I am unable to weave woolen cloth. My longterm goal has always been to weave yardage to make clothes. The use of wool and the amount required for the warp has inhibited me and I have stuck to smaller projects, scarves, towels and cushion covers. Inspired by Rose I selected the homespun made and dyed with garden plants last year. I was  going to knit it, but it is rather too thick for two colour work. It. was my first spinning attempt and the variation in diameter and twists is erratic. 

So I made the decision to weave it.

This is just a reminder of the yarn. It was dyed with onion skins, golden rod, lichen (from fallen trees), some naturel brown fleece and heather. It varied quite a bit in diameter and evenness, but overall was about 11wpi. It is a 2ply.

My next task was to work out what I could actually make with it. I weighed it and and found I had 600grms.  I weighed 25grms and measured the length. This gave me 43 mtrs /25grms, though overall this may not be a consistent amount. Calculations are not my strong point but I reckoned I had about 1032 mtrs to play with.

I have never used the full width of my loom before either. It is 24″ (61 cms) I decided to weave a full width shawl. Here are the calculations.

Warp width.   24″ (Apologies for mixing metric and Imperial but the loom is old and only understands old-fashioned measurments. Like me)

EPI  11. I only have a 12 and a 15 dent reed. Settled for sett of 6 because the maths was easier!

I decided to use a plain weave as the handspun did not need a pattern to show it off and plain weave will use less yarn than a twill.

24 x 6=144 ends

Warp   3.00 mtrs   including take-up, fringes and shrinkage.

I wound the warp using random stripes. Some colours were in short supply, particularly the onion skin orange and the natural brown so I used them in the warp and left some pale yellow and light brown for the weft.

I had been nervous of using wool due to stretching . I must thank Dot here http://fibre2fabric.blogspot.com/  who reassured me in her post and actually gave me the confidence to continue warping. I also used her tension making method hanging milk containers half full with water on the warp as its beamed!!! It works and I will definitely use it again as I have never had such a perfect warp before !

 

Then I started weaving!  5ppi gave me a loose plain weave, but I presumed there would be a fair amount of shrinkage and I wanted a soft shawl. Compared to all the fiddly things I have woven before this was so fast and within 24 hours it was finished!! I used two shuttles alternately mixing the colours so that i could absorb a random mix in the weft.

I had just enough yarn at the end though I was literally searching for lengths on the floor and hidden away in plastic bags!!! I had considered using a dummy warp as I realise this saves precious handspun, but I am afraid I didn’t have the patience to try it. I have wasted a fair amount but I have the shawl I planned so I can live with the waste.

When  the shawl first came off the loom I was pleased with it though it was quite loosely woven and harsh.

 

I handwashed it, rinsed it in conditioner (we have hard water in Hampshire)  and spun it in the machine. The weather was OK  and I dried it outside. I steam pressed it and was delighted with the finished product.

The finished shawl is 21″/54cms. I lost3″/8cms through shrinkage and draw-in.

It is 82″ long plus 5″ fringes..

 I have completed a  soft handspun, handwoven shawl (hand dyed as well!!)

 However I think  the most important thing me is that I have learnt that I am able to weave handspun and wool  and now I can really design some yardage for dressmaking. Possibly not a tailored jacket to start with but a loose unfitted jacket in a weave with a closer sett which I can cut and sew.

I am still waiting for the return of my laptop. I am struggling to write on a laptop with some letters missing  (or refusing to work without strange alternative instructions) Images are just too difficult to sort, so I have decided to post and keep my fingers crossed for the return of my pink Dell.

Christmas seems a long time ago. We squeezed 14 people into our tiny house for 3 days…..and everyone managed to remain cheerful and constructive. 7  grandchildren ranging  from 2 to 16 and our 4 adult kids and partners!!! I managed to pass on responsibility to our sons (who are all excellent cooks of varying styles!) and we completed festivities on new Years Eve singing  Auld Lang Syne and rushing outside to view fireworks zooming up into the night sky and listen to the ships on Southampton Water blasting their horns.

My pastel scarves were well received.

I haven’t  got photos of the other recipients, but here is Francesca Louise (Weze) modelling hers.

I managed to collect a library of textile books. The most inspirational being:

  • The Intentional Spinner by Judith McCuin
  • Spin Control by  Amy King

They have provided me with an excellent home education spinning  course, which I needed desperately, to move me on from a somewhat haphazard spinning style with no real comprehension of how to control output. Now at last I understand the difference between woolen and worsted spinning and the relationship between wheel ratio and twist and draw in and diameter.

I also received a box of naturel dyes including Alkanet, brazilwood, Dyers Greenwood, walnut husks, Madder, Logwood chips and Sanderswood. I can really play with these.

Since Christmas the weather has decided to mimic the Arctic and it has snowed nearly everyday. The UK is unable to cope with this and we have run out of  grit and salt for the roads and the shops have been devoid of food. I have a  good store cupboard and have rather enjoyed making split pea soup and rice pudding…..when we could find milk. I came home jubilantly the other day clutching the last cabbage in the shop. Thus avoiding of scurvy by the narrowest of margins.

I bought a great knitting book called Knitting Tams just before Christmas . It gives detailed instructions for knitting Tams…or berets in my language. I think fairisle knitting and small hats will be a good vehicle for practising using homespun and dyeing. I already have over 500gr of dyed yarn, but it is rather thick, somewhere between worsted and bulky. I  knitted a tam without doing the patterning and using larger needles to get familiar with the shaping. It is wearable, in fact I have worn it in the house during the coldest days recently (believing most heat is lost through the head!!)

The next task was to gather together some fingering/4 ply equivalent and try fairisle. I got in a bit of a muddle with shaping and counting stitches, and hadn’t got the appropriate 40cm circular needle. I made do with a set of 4 double pointed needles of which one was old and blunt. No buses in the snow and I didnt,t want to risk driving, so couldn’t buy the correct tools, howeverI am pleased with the result and will now try to spin the correct weight and dye some lovely toning colours.!!

It has been too freezing cold to leave the warmth of the house and heat up my weaving studio. That sounds so posh usually it is referred to as ‘Deb’s hut’!!  I brought my spinning wheel into the house and focussed on cracking the ‘intentional’ bit of spinning. I have learnt so much and my yarn is becoming more usable and pleasing. I noticed that my lovely antique wheel was getting very worn where the drive band runs round the wheel. I also began to yearn for more flexability.  The wheel ratio is 12.1 which produces a lovely default yarn but reading the books I realised that modern wheels have more adjustments through whorl sizes and flyers. I also dropped one of the original bobbins on our wooden floor and broke a piece off. I made a decision. buy a new wheel.

I spent hours on the Internet and gradually evolved what I was looking for. A wheel which would last me for years, was aesthetically pleasing, and which could offer a good choice of ratios. It also needed the potential to add to its capability. I wanted a Lendrum or a Majacraft Rose. There are very few suppliers in this country as neither are made here. I rang  round. Nobody had either. They would let me know. Then by chance I came across a small firm called Hedgehog which make Drumcarders. They are agents for Majacraft. I rang. I was told they had a consignment waiting at the dock from New Zealand. Two days later they contacted me again. There was a Rose and it was mine if I wanted it.

I ordered it 5 days ago. I am looking out of the window waiting for ParcelForce. They are probably stuck in a snow drift drinking cups of tea. The anticipation is killing me.

My next post should be about the arrival of The Rose!!!!

Happy Christmas

My resolution to post more often has failed. My dear husband has fallen over my lovely pink Dell laptop and shattered the screen. At the moment I am plugged into the TV!. I can use his but it is broken as well and is very slow. I am getting a ‘little man’ to come and collect it to sort it out.

So have a lovely Christmas and I will keep up with posts but will not write for a few weeks!!

I have repeated my long gaps between posts for which I apologise. The longer I leave it the harder it is to write anything. I am making a New Year resolution. To post at least twice a month however short. This keeps me in touch with the weaving  blogging community which I value and very much enjoy being a part of.  So there !! Now stick to it Deborah!

 I have not been idle  though. I have  been totally immersed in weaving some Christmas presents. My  London-based daughter is moving flat from dull South London to the East End on the border with up- market Islington, though really its Hackney. It is a much more vibrant area and near her friends, who are all involved in the rag trade or design world.  It is also close( dangerously close) to the Handweavers Studio and in September (way back now!) we went there together and I bought some 2/16  Mercerised cotton in sort of Neopolitan  ice cream colours lavender,grey, cream and  pale blue.  My daughter persuaded me to buy the colours. The yarn has a lovely silky sheen and the colours looked beautiful together.

 When I got home I decided that the weight and delicate shades which were way outside my usual palette  were demanding to become something rather special. All I could come up with were a series of  dressy scarves for my daughters-in-law and  my sister for Christmas presents.

I am still fascinated by the different threading possibilities in weaving.  My Art school trained daughter keeps telling me to keep things simple and to rely on colour, but I am continually drawn to try out a new pattern. So,  still in thrall to my threading compulsion I have woven 3 scarves each on a separate warp with different threadings and tie-ups. Not economical I know but fun! I have used Stricklers book on 8-shaft patterns.

Scarf 1. This one is for my sister Judith who lives in the depths of mid-Wales where  she and her architect husband are designing , converting and building an eco house. They do not dress!!!! So I will present her with a scarf for evening wear in pastel shades!!!!

 I used a pattern from the 8-shaft patterns, No 94. It is a point twill from “A German Weaver’s Pattern Book 1784-1810” by Christian Morath. This fascinated me. I love the idea of  re-creating an old pattern. It also had the possibility of 2 different treadlings on the same tie-up. The main pattern is made up of small diamonds with the alternative at either end. I imagine it was used on self coloured linen originally.

The epi was 36 and I used all 4 colours in a striped warp. I tried each colour for the weft but finally decided on the silver grey. The blues and pinks were too pretty pretty for me! I realised when  I started weaving that the grey stripe plus the grey weft rather dulled the other colours but the finished scarf is quietly ‘eveningy’. I think I will insert some lavender and pink beads into all the fringes. 

Scarf 2. This one is for Weze (Francesca Louise) D i L Number3!  It is 84″ long and the stripes are wider. I omitted the grey but used it as weft. Using the 8 shaft book this is pattern 160.  It is a point twill “seperate-leg M and W” I like the way the pastel shades blend into each other.

 

Scarf 3. This one is for D i L number 1, Julia! She is a conservationist and allotmenter and bird watcher. She rarely dresses up!!  I was running out of yarn so mixed the warp and found I had to add some white cotton as the cream ran out on me. The weft is grey and still 36 epi. The pattern is 189 a Herringbone Plaid.

As the twill diagonals travel across 2 warp threads at a time the sheen of the mercerised cotton reflects the light and gives the impression of silk ( I like to think!)  The colours are in fairly wide blocks and give a hint of change in the warp but it doesn’t come out well in this image.  It is still on the loom and about 72″ long.

Here are the first two scarves hanging not very professionally They still need the fringes finishing

There isn’t time to weave any more  before Christmas so DiL 2 Tess will benefit from a bought present and my own daughter Zoe is getting a loom from me once she has moved into her flat. This isn’t really a Christmas present but something she would love. As she is single has no children she misses out on grandparent gifts and I both want to give her something special as well as create a weaving friend!

Next topic. Spinning.

 I borrowed a Hedgehog Drum Carder from the Guild for a month and managed to prepare a bagful of fleece. It made me feel a drumcarder would be useful though I don’t take my spinning as seriously as my weaving. I also wondered whether I should have a modern wheel as my antique wheel makes a noise and may be worn. It does spin a fine thread which I like. I was interested  to read Dot’s post  this month  fibre2fabric.blogspot.com     about her antique wheel . It has many similarities to mine  I would love to know more about my wheels age and history.

This is my spinning wheel.

 

All I know is that it belonged to my great-aunt who lived in New York and wove on what is now my   Bergman loom. She would have been working around 1930-1950s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the flyer with 7 hooks. Similar to Dot’s and over a similar distance 6.5 cms. The bearings at either end of the flyer are leather

 There was one bobbin with the loom and I have 3 more made by a woodworker but not as beautifully as the original. Importantly they work OK.

This is the footman attached to the metal hooked crank and shows the peg in the upright attached to the wheel.  This is much simpler than Dot’s

 

 

 

 

The treadle is plain and functional It is at present attached to the footman with a bit of old string! I will improve this!!!!

 

 

To finish…my mother-in-law left bags full of  knitting yarn when she died several years ago. I have saved it all and it takes up a lot of space. I decided last week to convert it all into a blanket.  Mother- in- law would approve , she never threw anything which might be useful away, and saved all ‘money- off vouchers’ and bought endless things she didn’t want because tgey were reduced!!!. I can sit in the evenings by the log burner and crochet as many stripes as I can manage. Its a good alternative to pastel weaving!!

The longer I have put off writing this post the harder it has been to get started. I seem to have left it for too long. It is not that I  haven’t been weaving, but a writing paralysis (or possibly a mix of procrastination and lack of discipline) have overtaken me.  I have kept up to date with everyone else and enjoyed tales of summer, family visits and some wonderful weaving.

I will start with my heddle saga. As you are aware I have a 1950s Bergman 8 shaft loom. It has hundreds of string heddles which I guess are original. They are hand made and vary in size. I was attached to them as I felt they were true to the age of the loom, and because I have been very much a learner weaver and was just thrilled that I could produce lengths of cloth. I put up with the non-standardised, annoying bumpy sheds which I was living with. I re hung all my shafts, carefully measuring to get everything even, and balanced the lamms and treadles. I was able to use cord without splashing out on Tex-solv Eventually after seeking advice and putting decisions off I contacted Don Porritt up in Yorkshire who supplies all weaving needs and takes enormous care in making sure you get what you need. He sent me a sample heddle as he had not met a nine and a half heddle on a countermarch before and thought I had got the size wrong. I t was far too long and I bought 600 of the shorter ones. Now that I have got a selection fitted it makes the loom look so much more efficient. I have woven 3 scarves, nothing complicated but an opportunity to get the feel of Tex-solv. Wow…what a difference. Now I am putting on another bath mat as the first one skipped so many ends due to the uneven heddles and I want to get it correct this time.

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The first thing I tried after spending ages threading the heddles onto the shafts was a wool warp. Not the most  sensible plan  but I loved the colours and conveniently forgot about problems with knitting wool. I managed 3 scarves one tabby, and two twill. The tabby worked OK but I really wanted the warp stripes to show and the twill covered then up. However the heddles were so wonderful…….never take good heddles for granted. I even enjoy looking at them, all hanging neatly, all tense, all perfect.  They deserve better than a soggy  wool warp.  Of course it streatched, not at first but gradually so that by the last scarf  it was almost unweavable.        

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This wool was bought for machine knitting and though some of the colours  the blues and the purple would have been passable , the greens were extremely elastic and it was difficult to find an even tension across the warp.

 

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I also miscalculated the epi and the twill diagonal is too shallow. never mind this was more about new heddles and the scarves will keep me warm in the winter!!!!!

 

I have continued scouring the countryside for plants which will give up their colour I have tried stinging nettles and scraped a lot of lichen off a fallen oak but it only produced a brown derived from the bark and the thin layer of soil which the lichen was attached to.

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I am quite attached to my growing pile of handspun so I have proudly  placed the skeins dyed with stinging nettle on the top!!

Apparantly if I had soaked them in the dye pot over night I would have got a greener shade, so I am inclined to have another go.

 

 

 

I had a hip replacement last year and though the pain has gone I am still not walking as well as I would like. I am having difficulty keeping my pelvis leval.  It drops on the affected side. I have been going to a physio which has improved things but I felt something was amiss. I saw the Consultant three days ago and he said he was sorry but the nerve supply to two inner muscles protecting the hip joint, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus have obviously been damaged during surgery and he feels that they probably wont improve and that I will need to continue walking with my stick. This happens to about 1% of hip patients. Before surgery he explained possible problems and side effects and I signed a bit of paper agreeing that I was happy with the risk.. I was sure that it wouldn’t happen to me!!!! In a way I’m glad he has recognised the problem as 6 months ago he was telling me to keep on with the exercises. When I get tired I limp and this gives me back ache……but I will carry on with physio and strengthen the muscles that are OK.

Rather than hang around I will get this posted and then hopefully get pulled along in the slipstream of everyone else.

I havn’t  written a post for several weeks. I have been busy with family visits, going away, weaving and going to a dying workshop.I have also finished reading War and Peace which has taken me 3 months though it was the most brilliant experience, a bit like being present at a huge panorama on a wide  cinema screen. I have nearly finished Dostoevsyy Crime and Punishment, which I am finding incredibly modern and realistic about the workings of our inner conflicts and confusions.

 There just hasn’t been a quiet moment to sit down and concentrate.  I have also been experiencing frustrating problems with the behaviour of my computer. First ‘h’ got stuck and I discovered that it is one of the most vital letters in the English language. There can be no which or what or where without it. My husband got so irritated with my bad temper that her gently detached the letter off the keyboard (which I hadn’t dared attempt) blew on it and wiped it  and replaced it. Success. So that good. But then I found I couldn’t upload images in my WordPress blog. (This is nothing to do with aforementioned sticky letter) I have scoured the Internet  but don’t actually understand the solutions. I may have cracked it by allowing  pop-ups, but now I’m worried that this may open the gate to wicked and destructive virus’!!!!  If anyone has had similar difficulty I would be grateful if you could share your answers.

Now a quick resume of my recent activities….

I attended a Dying Workshop run by my local guild two weeks ago. It is an annual event and when I tried to get my name on the list at first was told apologetically that the same people go every year and are becoming quite advanced so it wasn’t really suitable for a beginner. A few weeks later the tutor contacted me to say several people had dropped out and would I like to come along!!! We were sent a length of challis (nun’s veiling) to divide up into sample pieces. Each had to be labelled before the day. I didn’t read my instructions until late in the evening before and found myself over sewing edges and marking (with cotton bows) each square to differentiate them from everyone elses as I couldn’t find a permanent marker!

There were about 12 of us and it was a wonderful day. We had 5 dye pots on the go, Brazilwood, Coreopsis, larch cones, Weld and an Indigo vat. People who had been before came with their samples already tied Shibori style. I was satisfied just to try the colours. I found that I missed out on some of the overdying but tried the iron bath to sadden the colours. We only used one mordant, alum which seems the safest and the easiest to dispose of.

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I realise that I could have got a green and a purple by overdying in the Indigo vat, but I am pleased with my first attempts and definately inspired to do some on my own.

One of our members has just written a beautiful new dyeing book “Natural Dyes” by Judy Hardman and Sally Pinhey, published by The Crowood Press.Judy joined us in the afternoon and we were able to buy it at the workshop and it has reinforced the dye bug even more!!

It has also got me into the idea of planting a dyers garden again. A friend has sent me a madder root to plant and a packet of woad seed. I already have by chance a large amount of Golden Rod which I had failed to appreciate was a potential dye plant and not a weed. This is a picture of the Golden Rod behind a lavender bush.

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I picked an armful of  just opening flowers and chopped them up small. At first the colour seemed rather insipid but after boiling, simmering and steeping and straining I found when I introduced the mordanted yarn it took on a lovely strong primrosy yellow. I then prepared some saved onion skins (saved over several weeks) and I was amazed at the strength of the colour. At last I am motivated to spin a quantity of yarn. I have no handspun stash so will have to work hard to keep up with my new obsession.

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I am definately improving my spinning skills though I still find the art of intentionally creating a particular yarn impossible. I just spin. But I hope this will develop with time.

I want to dye with stinging nettles next, but where are they when you need them. There are none in my garden. I have seen some by the roadside but imagine they might be full of lead which may effect the colour. After nettles I thought tea would be an easily sourced producer of colour.

 

 I have gone fron the sublime to the ridiculous as far as weaving goes. I decided to try out a heavier warp than usual and grabbed some thick white and black cotton to make a bath mat. I followed the example in The Big Weaving Book (I still feel supported by texts and pictures) I really didn’t take enough care over the warp or tie-ups and there are rather a lot of pattern misses. I also tried some rag rug tecniques at the end.

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I feel that this another tecnique to try. There are some beautiful simple rag rugs in this summers Vav magazine. I can also see the creativity in dying materiel to order and to match other things. It has opened up more possibilities and shown me the huge potential for the looms flexibility in design and use of materials. 

 

 

 

Being mindful of the pleasure I am getting from playing around with different tecniques and being wary of wasting money when not necessary I decided to weave small. I am weaving some Overshot bookmarks from the book “Overshot is Hot” The epi is 30 and the warp is 2/16 cotton. The weft is a mixture of 2/16 Cottolin and a thinner cotton.

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The purpose is actually to try out my new tie-ups. Daft to do this with such a miniscule warp but never mind! When I started weaving last year I was impatient to find out whether the loom worked and I didn’t measure things accurately. I would like to change everything to Tex-solv particularly the heddles which are the original string heddles now streatched and uneven. I have recently bought loom cord for the treadles,and I have recut these and burnt the ends to prevent fraying.

 I was unable to decide what to do and contacted Dot.http://fibre2fabric.blogspot.com Dot has been incredibly helpful, sending me samples of heddles and tie-up stuff.I am so pleased that she is feeling better having been feeling so unwell for so long. I have been able to try it out and as I was expecting from  Trapunto( http://trapunto.wordpress.com) her advice suggested that the holes in the treadles are too too small for Tex-solv. This doesn’t worry me as I like the cord tie-ups and I am not limited to the Tex-solv gradations when adjusting.

I rang Don Porrit who has been completely unobtainable for weeks, but discovered he was at the Guild Summer School most days in Lincoln. He suggested I sent a few of my string heddles and he will assess the Tex-solv size I need. Then I need to decide how many. I have a 24″ weaving width and 8 shafts. I think probably 700 will be enough.

Finally a little bit more weaving history. I bought Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes, a lovely book of small overshot designs collected by the Rhode Island Guild. It has some weaving history which includes the period when my great aunt and my Bergman where active 1930-1960. I was thrilled to find the illustration of a letter from Mary M Attwater to Bertha(1938) mentioning Mrs Fulleylove (my relation) I have no idea what the loom is which is mentioned but it does connect me to those eminent weavers, and makes me even more respectful of my quirky old Bergman!

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I haven’t written a post for a while but its been a busy time. I have had several gifts to weave which has given me a focus for things to make, and I think I have released myself at last from the Overshot bug which had be in its grasp.

The world around me is  experiencing great undercurrents and eruptions. Our government,which is nominally Labour but which has drifted into a superficial imitation and mimics the Tory Party has been caught with its fingers in the till. The expenses scandal has shocked the electorate and Gordon Brown is not able to handle it well. This has been closely followed by local and EEC elections in which public anger has brought in the BNP (British National Party) a group of nasty racists. Added to that we have had child abuse horrors in Ireland in which my Church( I am a catholic)  is heavily implicated, through refusal to face up to sexual abuse and a past assumption of power and fear of scandal.

This has led me to start reading some excellent  Theology books on Feminism in the Catholic Church and I am having a creative and exciting re think about myself as a woman and how that relates to Theology and religious language and liturgy. So weaving has actually not been my only activity over the last few weeks.

My sisters daughter was married this weekend in Wales. I realise that she is actually my niece but we seem to have failed to establish these familial relationships and I have never thought of myself as an aunt.  Because it was a long and difficult journey for wedding guests the couple said they did not expect presents. As they and most of their friends live in Scotland  it was quite a trek back to parents home for the celebrations.This was complicated by the fact they are living in a caravan on 10acres whilst they renovate a derelict farm. There is no house for the wedding and a marquee was erected for the reception meal. Portaloos set up in a row and either camping in a very wet field or B and Bs!. We all floated around in our wedding finery plus Wellington boots! 

I felt this called for something handwoven from the heart ,  so I decided to ignore her expectations and try out Huckabuck for a set of tea towels. I wove them in Cottolin and used a design in  ‘8 Shaft Patterns ‘ ( p205 672) .It was lovely to weave and I was delighted with the finished product. So were the bride and groom who were touched by a handwoven gift. It is so lovely to enjoy the creation of something and for it to be received in the same spirit. I suppose there is something very personal about hand crafted objects, both in their attractiveness but also in the time and care invested.

 

For some reason I am having difficulty uploading images this morning, so this post may come with stupid layout.

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I take my words back eventually the problem has gone away and I have an image and I can write around it!!!

Its still refusing to work properly and I am attempting to get Support help which is proving impossible.

This is a close up of the pattern. I was pleased with it and felt it was exactly right for tea towels as well as being attractive and a new threading for me. I want to try out all the pattern possibilities, an impossible task I know!!!!IMG_2632

I can’t text wrap either!

I used a plain white Cottolin warp and wove each towel in a single colour, choosing red, black and ecru, which was quick and easy. It provided me with a lovely regular weaving rhythm and the warp stayed beautifully tight and even.

A different story warpwise appeared with two scarves I wove next for my sons who were moaning that I never made them anything. I am trying to make use of yarn that I have collected over the years most of which is wool I bought when I was an avid machine knitter. I wanted scarves to be soft and to have that thing called ‘drape’. So  mixed some off-white mercerised 2/15 cotton with a thin 2/25 Italien wool, both of unknown make or content. I have wanted to experiment with block twill and I vaguely copied a scarf in the Interweave scarf  book (p30)

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The different yarns had different tendencies to streatch and I have learnt the reason for the invention of the secional warp beam! I had a wavy surface to work on, the cotton remaining taut the wool going soft on me. I managed but it was not fun and I had a continual tussle with tension and also maintaining the correct tension on the tie-ups and suffering erratic sheds as a consequence.. We learn by our mistakes!

What mistake? Well I failed to take into consideration the different qualities of the yarns and sort of hoped for the best. I could not fit a second beam (as far as I know) on my Bergman due to the way the warp beam is arranged quite high up leval with the shafts. The warp comes from under the beam over and under the back beam to runback through the heddles. It is also quite hard to find a position for a raddle which is the reason I have reverted to pre-sleying which was I believe the method Margaret Bergman envisaged for this loom.

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This is just a close-up of the first scarf. The white mercerised cotton is very shiny and takes on a silvery hue when the light catches it. The rather sombre grey has flashes of red and mustard yellow.

The second scarf is much more flamboyant (for a younger more flamboyant son!) I started weaving in the red and mustard and felt it was too garish as well as looking a bit like a Scottish tartan. I toned it down by having fiery ends and what appears black and grey blocks. I decided it looked like red hot coals and cinders…..a volcano perhaps!!

I am not sure what I am attempting next. It will be something which gives me a delightful and constant weaving surface!!!  It will also be something which takes me somewhere new and through which I will learn….and be challenged. There will come a time when playing will stop and I will embark on that length of cloth which I can make up into a wearable garment!!