The Knit 1 Bike 1 Charity Auction

Knit 1 Bike 1 Charity Auction

Janet gets home from the Knit 1 Bike 1 journey

The Knit 1 Bike 1 exhibition has toured Scotland for two years now.
It is a yarn and fibre chronicle of Janet’s knitty 800 mile cycle adventure round Scotland. The art work Janet created is now being auctioned as she does not want it to become a thing in the attic.

Everything from the Glenfinnan Viaduct to a cooked breakfast is being auctioned.  50% of the proceeds will go to the charity Labour Behind the Label. Thanks to Create With Fibre Community on Facebook for helping to choose the charity.

  • So here is how it works:
  • The auction will run from Weds 23rd May till 5pm on Tues 5th June 2018
  • 50% of the money raised will be donated to charity.
  • Those with winning bids will be informed on the evening of the 5th June if possible.
  • The items will be displayed here and in the Create With Fibre Community on Facebook.
    You can:
  • email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.  (copy and paste email address)
  • Or phone her on 01292 550393.
  • Or can give a written bid at the exhibition itself.  (Final exhibition Dalmellington ayrshire 23-31 May 2018)
  • Janet will update people regularly with how much is bid on each item, in the Create With Fibre Community on Facebook and on this blog.
  • Postage at cost will be added to the price bid.  If more than one item is won,  postage will be charged at cost for the total number of items rather than per item.
  • If you are outside the UK and want to know the postage cost email Janet before bidding.
  • The wininng bidders will be informed by email at the end of the auction.

Item number one:  The Isle of Mull Ferry. 

Reserve price £5  plus £2.95 uk p&p
email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Janet travelled on a number of ferries and this was one of them.  the Isle of Mull was very welcoming and hosted two Knit 1 Bike 1 workshops, one at Tobermory and the other at Loch Don.  The crocheted ferry is crocheted around polystyrene and comes with a crocheted ‘sea’.  Approximate size of actual ferry 14 inches35cm long, 7 inches/17.5cm wide. 8 inches/20cm tall.

The Isle of Mull ferry. Crocheted in cotton mix yarn with a multi yarn ‘sea’

Item two:  Strawberry sponge cake

Reserve price £5 plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

At a Knit 1 Bike 1 workshop for Mallaig knitters, there was more cake than you ever saw!    A strawberry spongecake was the centre piece and the group challenged Janet to crochet it.  It comes complete with a stiffened plate and is stuffed with sheeps wool.  approximate size 7 inches/17.5 cm across

strawberry spongecake, crocheted to celebrate the yummy one at the Mallaig workshop

Item 3:  A cooked Breakfast reserve price £5 plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Eventually Janet learned that cheap food was to be had at truckers stops and community cafes.  The cooked breakfast at the truck stop Newtonmore was amazing – so she crocheted it.  It comes attached to a crocheted and stiffened plate so can be hung on the wall if desired.  approximate size 8 inches/20cm across.

crocheted cooked breakfast on plate. Can be hung on the wall!

Item 4:  Empire biscuits and gypsy cream 

reserve price £5 plus 2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Janet does not usually eat cake but on this journey she ate a lot because she got so hungry!  This celebrates all the wonderful tea shops and their cakes, especially Powmill milk bar near Kinross.  Each biscuit is approx 3 inches/7.5 cm across

empire biscuits & gypsy cream Powmill milk bar

Item 5: packet of smoked salmon reserve price £5 plus 2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Janet hates waste and when she saw a packet of smoked salmon at the side of the road she just had to crochet it!  It was quite a challenge to do so, especially the writing and the actual salmon inside the packet…  suitable for hanging on the wall.  approx dimensions 7 inches/17.5cm x 5 inches/12.5cm

packet of smoked salmon, as found at the side of the road

Item 6: Montage of tree, tent, bike and road, with rock and dry stone dyke/wall  reserve price £7 plus 2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

having camped about a third of the time on this trip, janet grew to love the tent.  This celebrates the atmosphere of the journey and comes complete with midges on the tent.   The bike is mostly knitted, the rest crocheted.   The bike is attached to the tree and the tree to its base.  The tree is stuffed with sheeps wool, the tent and rock with foam.  approximate size including road (which doubles the length of the piece) is 30 inches/57cm wide, 14 inches/35cm deep and 9 inches/22.5cm tall.  there is a metal stand under the base with a spike which goes up through the tree.

tree, bike and tent at the side of the road, complete with midges.

Item 7: seals on rock  reserve price £7 plus uk 2.95 p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Janet went on a boat trip from Plockton to see these seals, sitting on a rock out at sea.  They come with a background of the Isle of skye and a crocheted sea base.  The seals are attached to the foam filled rock, the Cuillins are stuffed with sheeps wool.  approximate size of whole piece is 20 inches/50cm wide and 12 inches/30cm deep

seals on rocks with the Isle of Skye in the background with crocheted sea

Item 8: sheeps head reserve price £5 plus 2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

having found a sheep’s skull on the beach, Janet decided to crochet a new sheep’s head using the skull.  the horns are crocheted with a mixture of hand spun Blue Faced Leicester wool and silk, the head with a cotton mix.  apporximate size is 6 inches/15cm wide and 7 inches/17.5cm  long

Item 9: limpets and mussels on rocks

reserve price £4  plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

There were many beaches on this journey, on the West coast, on islands and then on the East coast of Scotland.  Collecting shells on the way inspired these crocheted pieces of shells and seaweed on rocks, with a crocheted, textured ‘sand’ base.  Stuffed with sheeps wool and crocheted with a mixture of hand dyed, hand spun and New Lanark wool with some cotton mix and other yarns as well.  Each rock is apporximately 6 inches/15cm across

Item 10: Mobile library reserve price £5 plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Mobile libraries are just so Scottish and are to be seen throughout rural Scotlan and the Islands.   This one was spotted on the Island of Arran and the books can be seen through the open door at the back.  It is crocheted from a cotton mix yarn with a piece of shaped foam as a filler.  the wheels are also crocheted and then stiffened.   Add knitted road as an additional bid below.  No additional postage charge if purchased along with this item.   Approx size length 10 inches/25cm, height 5 inches/12.5cm, width 4 inches/10cm

A mobile library

Item 11:  mobile bank reserve price £5 plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

mobile bank on knitted road

mobile banks are another feature of rural Scotland and this one was spotted at Kilmory on Arran.   Just as well as Janet did not see another bank for many days.  With no mobile or internet signal in the area, she was able to withdraw money by using a bank card as ID!  Add knitted road as additional bid below.  No additional  postage charge if purchased along with this item.  Approx size length 10 inches/25cm, height 5 inches/12.5cm, width 4 inches/10cm

Item 12: Knitted road  reserve price £3 plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

the knitted road goes with the mobile library and mobile bank and can be bidded on along with either or both.  Or on its own if you like.  It is knitted in New Lanark Aran/sport weight yarn with a crocheted border in handspun yarn created by an elderly Swiss woman in the 1970s.   The bends are made by knitting a series of short rows.  Length approx 5 feet/1.5m

mobile bank and mobile library on a knitted road

Item 13: knitted and crocheted dandelions

reserve price £5  plus £2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

Dalmellington Knit n Blether and other knitting groups helped to create the flowers in this exhibition, just like the ones found on the verges throughout Scotland.  These ones are knitted and crocheted.  The stems are made from pipe cleaners.  height approx 6 inches/15cm

knitted and crocheted dandelions

Item 14: knitted bluebells and foxgloves with bee

reserve price £5 plus 2.95 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

The local knitting group helped to make these flowers as above and the bee is a cute addition.  The stems are made from pipe cleaners.

Height approx 9 inches/22cm

knitted bluebells and foxgloves

Item 15: knitted worms reserve price £3 for both plus £1 uk p&p

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

as a rescuer and lover of worms Janet re-homed lots of them that were stranded on the road during the Knit 1 Bike 1 journey.  She just had to knit some therefore!    These are made using a technique called knitted I-cord with Rowan yarn.   they are about 4 inches/10cm long.

Knitted worms

Item 16: two knitted caterpillars 

reserve price £3 for both plus £1 uk p&p

these cute hairy caterpillars measure approx 3 inches/7.5cm and 4 inches/10cm respectively.  they are sold as a pair.    they are the kind of caterpillars that romp across the road in front of you when cycling!  The smaller one is donated by a member of the Dalmellington Knit n Blether group.

Item 17: Crocheted spider £1.50 plus £1 uk p&p

Another of the wonderful insects seen on the Knit 1 bike 1 adventure.  it is so easy to spot small creatures from a bicycle.  approx dimensions

Item 18: the Glenfinnan Viaduct  Reserve price £20 uk p&p £10

email Janet on mail@createwithfibre.co.uk to make a bid.

The Viaduct is the centrepiece of the exhibition.  It consists of a crocheted, 21 arch viaduct in three sections which velcro together.  This is on a crocheted grass base, with a spike stand going from under the ‘grass’ and through every second leg of the viaduct.  There are also foam filled mountains at either end.  Length 14feet/4.2m;  height 12 inches/30cm. the train is velcroed to the top and velcro attaches the mountains at either side.  when dismantled the whole thing fits into a large stacker box.

Glenfinnan Viaduct with train

Knitting the Enchanted Mesa

The Enchanted Mesa is a knitting pattern by designer Stephen West. And over at the Create With Fibre Community on Facebook, we decided to have an Enchanted Mesa Knitalong after Beata showed us her lovely creation.
It is surprisingly easy to knit, with just enough interesting stuff going on to make it also great fun. The ‘interesting stuff’ in this case is the fact that the shaping is done entirely by knitting short rows, hence the wonky shape. Don’t be fooled by the strange sleeves, it is very comfy to wear too.
This was a stashbusing project. My stash is enchanted too, actually. It is all handspun and mostly bits and bobs. And despite several stashbusting projects, the pile of yarn is not getting any smaller! So far the tally is:
six handwoven cushions
a knitted mini skirt
Dinky loom squares that will eventually make a jacket. Total so far about 30 squares
a half finished shawl

It is only one largeish bag of yarn, how can it not be smaller?!
Anyhow, Mesa here are the yarns chosen for the Mesa

yarns chosen for the Mesa

A few more were added enroute and black shetland/alpaca, spun and now used in several projects was chosen to separate the colours.  But not one single ball of yarn was completely used up in this project.  And hardly  any in the other projects either.  See what I mean, enchanted stash!

The neck is done first, then the short rows begin.

The neck and first part of the shoulders are knitted in merino and silk, spun from commercial roving, with the black  in between as above.  The fun started when I let go of worrying about how the colours would work out.  If you have selected them before hand, it just seems to work and I make a lot of things this way.

portable knitting!

this is easy to knit in groups or when out and about, as once you get the hang of the short rows you don’t need to think too hard.  It went with us on the train to Carlisle at Christmas and I picked this book up in a charity shop.  Great holiday!  The shiny part is random stuff spun for demo purposes when I taught some of our many courses.  That is why I end up with such a random stash.  And maybe why quantity doesn’t reduce.  Hmmm…  The multicoloured stuff is Icelandic roving, spun then dyed.  The stuff you get as a ‘wheel’ and are supposed to knit with.  Far better if spun first.

the body is taking shape

you can see how it now goes down one side more than the other.  You catch up with the other side later.  More leftover yarns from spinning courses and retreats… The black in between worked well to give the colours definition.

the Mesa is easy to try on as you go

It is rather like a shawl jumper combo, this.

This was a quick knit and great fun.  It is also comfy and easy to wear.  Success!

how to choose a fleece for hand spinning

This is a question that crops up a lot in the Create With Fibre Community on Facebook so I thought I would talk about it in more detail here.

Fleeces, like sheep come in many varieties.   The British Wool Marketing Board classifies them and grades fleeces in the UK and there are most probably equivalents in your country if you live elsewhere.  The BWMB have published a very good and inexpensive book, The British Sheep and Wool Book,  which lists the main breeds available in the UK and this is most helpful if you want to learn more.

To some extent, the principles  described here apply to pre-prepared fibre too, although the type of prepararations you want to buy, carded fibre or combed tops is also a factor and will depend on how you want to spin it and whether you like spinning from tops in the first place.  More about that another time but just don’t get too hung up on it, try something and se it it works.   Here we are talking about wool from fleece specifically.

BTW, If you sign up to the Create With Fibre e-zine, I will send you a FREE copy of my article, ‘Sorting and Washing Fleece’.   This is re-produced with kind permission of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.  Visit their website to find you nearest Guild.  Guilds are wonderful and your best source of real life information about working with fleece.

sorting fleeces at the BWMB in Irvine Scotland

Staple length/lustre

If you are unsure, buy

something with a staple length of 8.5-14.5cm/3-5 inches. It will do for pretty much anything and be the easiest to spin.

Very short fibres, ie less than 5cm/2inches long are harder to work with unless you know what to do.  Having said that, there are some lovely fleeces in the Shortwool and Down Catetory.  For example, Oxford Down and with a little practise you will enjoy them, as they are soft and crimpy.

Very long fibres, ie longer than 17cm/6 inches are also harder to work with and you need to have your hands a lot further apart in order to draft them.  NB you don’t need them closer together to work with short fibres, you can just draft differently by using extended draw (long draw in the US) or long draw (English long draw in the US) techniques.

if you want something warm and woolly, choose short to medium fibres, if you want something with more lustre or hard wearing, choose longer fibres.   But really,  most people don’t pay too much attention to that unless they are spinning for socks or something, so don’t get hung up on it.  What do most of us do?  See a fleece we like and buy it.  Then spin it and decide what to do with the yarn afterwards.  Simple. Its a hobby after all!

Fineness or coarseness of fibre

This will depend on the type of project you want.  Coarser for durable  such as rugs and bags.  Examples are Devon, Herdwick, or for something a bit softer try Scottish Blackface.

Finer where you want something soft, such as a good Shetland.   And do check out how often the finished item is likely to be washed, if it is something that will be washed often and you are buying wool as pre-prepared tops, merino is not great, unless you buy Superwash merino as pre-prepared tops.  it is Teflon coated to prevent felting during washing but it does still need careful handling.

A Scottish Black Face Tup or ram.

For frequent washing and softness Blue Faced Leicester is good but really is best bought as tops unless you want to spin a curly yarn, because  it has such tiny curls.

And there are lots of Medium fleeces that are good for most things.  Jacob, Shetland again,  Cheviot, North Country Cheviot (actually a separate breed) Texel, Zwartzbles…the list goes on.  The good old Mule is nearly always brilliant for spinning.  This is a cross between two breeds and each area tends to have its own favourite cross.  Here in the West of Scotland it is normally a Blue Faced Leicester tup crossed with a Black Face ewe.

Sorting a Zwartzbles fleece

The younger the animal, the finer and softer the fleece.  And individual animals vary too.  Which is why the Wool Marketing Board tends to grade by the fineness of the actual wool rather than by the breed of sheep.

So the best advice? Have a go and have fun with it, don’t get bound up in rules and trying to figure it out.   You could also do worse than buy my book, ‘How to Spin Just About Anything‘ which has loads more about wool, other fibres and how to spin them, along with over 140 photographs.

‘How to Spin Just About Anything’ a great source of info

 

So much to do, so little time

So what is your biggest challenge with yarn and fibre crafts?

  • How to follow a pattern?
  • how to get knitted and crocheted garments to fit?
  • warping the loom?
  • cutting your weaving?
  • getting the thickness of yarn you want when spinning?
  • All of the above??

Or perhaps, like me its actually finding the time to make things and having the focus to do it.   Here’s how it goes for me: I resolve to start knitting, spinning, weaving or crocheting once I have completed my work day; fulfilling orders, planning spinning and weaving courses and Retreats etc etc.   Then – oops – there is more to do so I will sit down and knit, spin etc when  dinner is made/the dishes washed.  Then…just check the emails first.  …Get wood and light the fire, and so it goes on.

So finally, time to sit down, hooray!    But as soon as you begin to relax, something happens.  All the things you forgot to do start to pop into your head.  Put the bins out, make lunch for tomorrow, phone a friend…and up you get before they go out of your head again.    Or horror of horrors, by this time one of the kids has got back out of bed.

this bunting is a quick Christmas make.  If you have existing bunting, remove it from the hanging ribbon, string, turn it upside down then attach it again.  Voila, Christmas bunting!

The solution to the ‘before I forget’ thing is to have a notebook within reach.  Then, it’s easy!  Simply decide which project to focus on.  Or do you want to read that book?  Ahhh, not so simple after all!  And you forgot to make a cup of tea you had been looking forward to.

I will pick up project number one, a shawl for a friend’s birthday and  resolve to work on it until it is finished.  Then remember the baby bootees are rather more urgent and also smaller so wouldn’t it be better to get them finished first.  Just focus until they are done.  But I have second bootee syndrome.  Yes, its related to second sock syndrome but I may just be the only person who suffers from it with bootees!  And now, of course the phone rings and after chatting for half an hour (lovely, but I forgot to take my knitting with me when I answered the phone)  and I am nearly out of time.

So here is the solution!   Yes, really.  Let yourself off the hook here because the reality may just be that you don’t have much time for knitting, crochet, spinning or weaving right now.  Do ten minutes a day/at a time instead of trying to carve out large chunks of time.  It is amazing how much you get done in ten minutes a day.

Another quick make, wee crocheted baskets, each containing a Ferrero Rocher or similar chocolate, or if you are sugar free, a walnut works well. this is now available as a Ravelry pattern.

And the secret is this:  there may well be more than one ten minute slot a day.   it is amazing how many ten minute slots there seem to be, once you stop trying to carve out those non-existent larger chunks of time.  Those who have done my spinning courses or read the ‘How to Spin’ book will be familiar with the ten minutes a day them for spinning and many of you have  and got in touch to say it was a revelation!

I spin ten minutes in the mornings and treat it as a meditation but what if you did something else for ten minutes in the afternoon or evening?  It is so much easier to find ten minutes than an hour.    So I am off to knit for ten minutes, see ya!

 

Knitmas is coming…

What are you knitting for Christmas?  I am, as usual overambitious.  It seems like there  is plenty of time for the three scarves and several hats I want to make but then suddenly the time always seems to run out.  Then I am knitting morning, noon and night to get things finished, giving Unfinished Objects as presents to be continued in the New Year, and coming up with other solutions.

these Squash blossom book marks  created by Bonnie Sennott are a quick knit, using a free Ravelry pattern if you are running out of time.  I have knitted rather a lot of them, aren’t they great?

Zuccini flower book marks are quick knits in time for Christmas
Beaded French knitting jewellery is another quick make for Christmas

Need ring-fenced knitting time and cake?

Enter Knitmas.  It is our first Create With Fibre Christmas event and we are excited!  Come along and work on your Christmas knitting in front of the log fire.  On the afternoon of Monday 4th December, we will congregate at the old Black Bull pub Dalmellington Ayrshire.  This is a small event with only 20 tickets on sale and there are 9 spaces left.

The Black Bull is a 17th Century coaching inn, which is now the quirky and unique home of our friend and sometime Create With Fibre helper Jane.

  • We will knit in front of the log burning fire and eat cake.
  • There will be a goody bag for everyone
  • £1 from each ticket will go to labour behind the label.
  • There will be a free mystery mini workshop.
  • McHatties Yarns will have their designer yarns for sale
  • Create With Fibre surprise goodies will be available.

So bring  your knitting, wear your best woollies and don’t eat too much lunch before you come!

Are you a textile artist?

Ever dreamed of turning your  textile love into a business? Sounds amazing, huh?
The reality can be a little different however.
Which is why Janet of Create With Fibre has decided to add to her business mentoring service by offering a retreat for those with a textile business.

weaving with primary school children

It can be hard to turn your passion into a business, because its not always how you thought it would be.
Working out what to charge, asking for money for your work, how to earn enough to pay the bills…if you are just starting out there are systems and accounts to worry about, too. The reality may be that you will only spend half of the time actually doing what you love.

A book signing at the local Chemist’s shop

Or you may be struggling to come up with a money-making idea to even start your business.
And if you were used to having work colleagues and now work from home, it can feel isolating. Lots of us dream of working from home, right? In reality it can be challenging.
Especially when the rest of the household go out in the morning and your day starts with a mountain of dirty dishes.
Of course, it can be wonderful working for yourself and doing what you love but only if you know how to make it work. Time out to focus on your business can really help give you perspective. A chance to have fun and relax whilst sharing with others who know what its like.

And 1-1 time with Janet to think about your business. And time to really focus on planning and action. All whilst having fun in a 4 star guest house, with beautiful views, a woodburning stove, and likeminded people.
And why Janet? She has spent over 20 years earning her living as a textile artist. And has mentored others individually for much of that time. In fact many of the UK textile artists you may know have been helped or started on their business journey Janet. If you want to know more, visit the createwithfibre website

A Special Retreat and Some Sheep

Ryeland Sheep & Fleece
Ryelands are one of the oldest British sheep breeds and have been in the UK for hundreds of years.  Their legs are covered in fleece as well as their bodies, which along with their cute noses, gives them the distinctive ‘teddy’ appearance.  They are great mothers, good for both fleece and meat and rarely suffer from foot problems.  They can have either coloured or white fleece.  Wow!
The wool is great for spinning or needle felt.  it has a rather unique ‘crispy feel to it without being at all scratchy and will not pill or felt easily when made into knitwear.

One of Jacqueline Bonner’s Ryeland sheep

The Best Wool for the Job

I think that imported Merino is over rated as a spinning fibre, although its availability in as coloured tops makes it a good choice for UK based feltmakers who do not want to work specifically with indigenous fleece.   If you live in a country that produces it in larger quantities such as Australia or New Zealand, it is a good choice for you of course.    And there are breeders this side of the Pond of UK version of the breed, called Bowmont.  Although Merino type wool is soft it is prone to felting, hence its popularity with felt makers.  it is lovely for babywear if the parents don’t mind handwashing.  But Ryeland is a good all rounder and I love its ancient roots as a breed.

An Exciting New Retreat for Textile businesses

Janet has launched her very first Retreat specifically for those with a yarn, fibre or fibre animal business.  She has provided 1-1 mentoring for many years and this is something she is really excited about.   The Retreat will take place at the same amazing venue as the Create With Fibre knitting and spinning retreats.  So the views, food, wine, woodburning stove and time to spin, knit or crochet will all be there.  At the same time, we will talk about the business dilemmas and plans we have.  There will be 1-1 time with Janet and also a chance to actually get down to the nitty gritty and do some work on those plans.  Together we are stronger!

Yarn and Fibre Festivals

Knitting is the new black.  You heard it first here.

Take the UK. A few years ago, North of Watford, there was Woolfest, the Massam Sheep Fair, Wonderwool Wales and not really much else.

‘Herdies’ or Herdwick sheep at Woolfest

Now, even here in Scotland – where perhaps the midges, and a national population of only 5.3m (to give that some context, the population of London England is about 8.7m)  would, you’d think cause slower growth – there are lots and lots of fibre and yarn festivals.  but we make up in enthusiasm for what we lack in numbers up here in the North of Britain…

So then there was Shetland Wool Week.   Then Edinburgh Yarn Festival,  and now… Perth Festival of Yarn is in its second year.  I have not been there before but am so looking forward to teaching at it in September 2017.   There will also be a Create With Fibre stall at the Festival and Lee will be selling his amazing Dinky, Midi and Scarf Looms and blending boards.  He is having trouble keeping up with demand actually but promises he will have some on sale there!

Woolfest in Cumbria in the North of England continues to thrive and I volunteer at it every year.  Just love their sheep and spinning focus of course.    The Rheged Centre, also in Cumbria now has a wee wool festival in the spring.    They showed the film Yarn in the Rheged film theatre.   I totally love that movie by the way…

As the knitters, spinners, crocheters, felt makers and weavers just keep growing in numbers,  the yarn festivals are multiplying.  All are busy and there are many, many more that I have not mentioned.

Here are my wool festival highlights this year:

Janet teaches spinning at EYF

Courses at Yarn Festivals

Lots of you come to the courses at EYF and all of their courses have filled up fast.  In fact, the second year I taught there, they started out by asking me to do two and I ended up doing five courses.  I did get to have a very quick tour round the Festival in the last 20 minutes and yes, it is surprising what you can buy in 20 minutes…  Like all of the Festivals, EYF is unique and in particular it has a very international clientele.  There were people on the courses I taught there from New Zealand, Russia, Norway, Poland and more.

And I volunteer on the Woolclip stall at Woolfest most years, (the only year I missed was when I was away doing my Knit 1 bike 1 project) and I just love Woolfest, the Woolclip and all of it.  So glad to do my bit there.  The Woolclip is the cooperative that organises Woolfest and also the shop.  Higham Hall sometimes have courses in conjunction with Woolfest and I have taught a couple of those over the years too.  Along with all the regular courses I have done there over the years, and the recently added Higham Knitting Retreats.

So this year, check out Perth festival of Yarn.  I will be there both days and am teaching spinning, crochet and weaving.  Can’t wait.

Spindling Changes the World…

Spindling is a game changer if you are a textile artist, spinner or yarn enthusiast.    The reasons are this:

It is portable.  So although it may be slower by the hour than wheel spinning, (although more about that later, it is actually faster than you think) it is faster by the week.  whilst your friends chat at the spinning group they have to get up and leave their spinning wheel.  You on the other hand can wander about and take your spinning with you.

Many moons ago, I was taught spindling, backstrap weaving and Andean Braiding by a Canadian called Ed Franquemont.  He is the father of Abby Franquemont, who is still spindling away and whom many of you will have heard of.    Ed was a spindler through and through.

At one point, he and others fundraised to buy spinning wheels for the community they were working with.   They returned there a year later to find no one was using the spinning wheels but were back to handspindles.   Why?  the spindles were ‘slower by the hour, faster by the week’.   You could spindle whilst doing other things.   You produced more and were not stuck at home on your own.   And that is the essence of spindling.

Sadly, Ed is no longer with us but the time I spent learning with him will always be special.  He was also an archaeologist and worked with communities in Peru.  He gave me one of the Peruvian spindles made  in a community he worked with.  I still have it and treasure it greatly.

Being a keen spindler, I often spin a lot of yarn whilst on holiday, wating for trains, cooking, you name it.  These  Entrelac socks are made with spindle spun Blue Faced Leicester yarn.    The toe, heel and strip around the ankle are made from commercial sock yarn (pink in photo).   Partly to add durability but partly just because it needed using up.

Spindle spun entrelac socks

The thigh roll, the kick and the wrist distaff

These amazing techniques are what make it possible to really get up speed on a hand spindle.   There is a myth that you need a special gadget in order to kick a spindle.  Well you heard it here, all you need is a pair of sensible shoes.

Simply grip the spindle between your feet at the widest point and flick the right foot back to kick the spindle clockwise.   I do lots of free videos in our lovely Facebook group, Create With Fibre Community.  Check out the spindling one here.    You will have to join the group in order to access the videos, then click on the videos tab to see them all, or do a ‘search in group’ with the word ‘video’.

Using a wrist distaff

And here is a FREE excerpt about spindling from Janet’s book.  

A summary – some tips for spindle spinning

  • Practise pre-drafting fibre and then twirling the spindle with a piece of scrap yarn. Do each of step until you are confident before attempting the next one.
  • If you struggle to join on the fibre, just tie a piece of yarn onto the spindle and tie this around a small amount of fibre, or make a loop, thread a small amount of fibre through it and double it back on itself. This can be done at any stage not just when joining fibre to start a new bobbin.
  • Take your time. Pre-draft the fibre then spin the spindle to insert the twist.  Then stop, sit down and wedge the spindle between your knees and draft some more rather than doing everything at once.
  • If you get in a muddle or the spindle is spinning too fast for you, stop by lowering the spindle onto the floor. This will give you time to draft without the spindle spinning.
  • If the yarn is getting over-twisted it is important to stop immediately or it will just get worse.
  • To ply, wind two lots of singles yarn into a double stranded ball. Put this in your pocket and then ply from it.
  • Remember to go clockwise when spinning and anticlockwise when plying.
  • Refer to the section on plying yarn on a spinning wheel for some extra tips.

You can check out the book some more on the Create With Fibre website, and can also find out about Janet’s courses and retreats there.

The Wonky Weaving Project

This has been so exciting and I love projects that emerge and develop as they grow.  We are working in Maybole, South West Scotland.  I was asked to do a weaving project to celebrate the town’s 500th anniversary as a Borough.

The weaving on one of the eight rigid heddle looms

The organisers were enthusiastic about the idea of a weaving project because this like many, was a weaving town. They wove Ayrshire blankets here and there were also many home weavers if you go further back.

But get this: the weaving riots in Maybole were just about the worst anywhere. Far more so than the oft talked about Paisley riots.  The riots were about mechanisation and factories destroying the livelihoods of home weavers. Difficult times.

So the group involved in this project  wanted to learn to weave, create  a wall hanging and learn a tiny bit of history at the same time.  And they have been amazing.  Only two had ever woven before.  They range in ages from 14 to 80-something and only a couple really knew each other. Weaving has brought them together.

The weaving is all done and now needs to be put together.  We did it on ‘rigid heddle’ looms but pretty much any loom will do, including a frame loom like our very economical Create With Fibre midi frame looms of course.

I call it ‘tapestry type’ weaving. It is not true tapestry, you can see the warp in places especially when we add those lovely bits of curly fleece.  Far easier and faster too.  We created slopes, curves  and texture and somehow the eye sees a landscape. And ‘wonky’ because of all those curves and wonky bits of course!

The finished weaving will now be backed and hung

We will add tiny needle felted sheep and boots now. Boots because Maybole was a boot making town too.