Archive for February, 2011

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 .

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