Archive for August, 2009

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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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