Archive for January, 2010


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.

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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!!!!

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