in December 2016 I decided to launch Create With Fibre Community on Facebook, as a way of connecting with others who love fibre and yarn. It means people who have come on a course, bought my books or one of our looms can get on going support. But lots of others have joined it as well, from all over the world. People have fun, learn and connect and I have just loved seeing it happen. So gaining our 500th member just five months later was really a red letter day for me. The most popular thing has been the videos I do especially for the group – about twenty so far, all of which are now saved as a group resource.
I have made real life friends through it too and I am not the only one. Hubby Lee and I and visited Sarah at The Camping Barn in Cumbria England when we were on holiday. We arrived on our bikes to shrieks of delight and ‘you made it!’. And ended up staying for her friend’s birthday tea. It would never have happened without Create With Fibre Community.
Sarah sells balls of her own limited edition yarn, spun especially for her. it is a blend of Gotland and Hebridean lambs wool and very yummy.
We are excited! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before really. I wanted to do simple weaving, anywhere. Something that takes no real brainwork, and does not go wrong if you do it in a coffe shop, on the train or at a craft group whilst chatting to friends.
I don’t like the ‘pin looms’ that are available, with pins on all four sides. They are slow and hard to use in my humble opinion and the results are not great.
I wanted something that anyone could do, and would appeal to people who have never woven, knitted or crocheted. But would also appeal to seasoned weavers who want a small, portable project. And to knitters and crocheters who want something portable to take to their yarn group.
So we have created just that. Small, square looms.
We named them ‘Dinky Looms’. I am in a weaving frenzy doing squares in whatever colours I fancy. They can be joined together to make something larger, or they can just be coasters.
The squares are quick and easy to do. You can weave on them pretty much anywhere. In a coffee shop, on the train, at a knitting group or Guild. No existing skills needed. But also fun if you do already have textile skills. Its official – weaving is now portable, fun, easy and can be done almost anywhere. And you can put your weaving in your handbag as these looms are just 125 cm/5 inches square.
This is the time of year when many spinners wash fleece. First sunny day and out it goes to dry. It surprises me how many people are not confident so here are some tips.
Spread the fleece out on an old sheet and ‘skirt’ it. That means you take off a strip all the way around the outside.
Be firm and discard everything that is not top notch quality. Any bits that are soiled, have marking colour on them or hay seed/debris.
Put what is left in a bucket(s) to soak. You can just use cold water if it is freshly shorn and leave it overnight. Two buckets are enough for many fleeces but you can always process a bit at a time.
If it is not freshly shorn, it will benefit from a hot wash. Put it in a bucket with hot water and about 20ml of washing up liquid. Leave to soak.
Whichever method, it will then need rinsing. Match the water temperature and leave it to soak for an hour. Repeat. Water does not need to be totally clear. Spin dry in a net bag/old pillowcase and spread out to dry.
If you sign up to the Create With Fibre newsletter, I will email you a free copy of my article on sorting and washing fleece. Http://createwithfibre.co.uk
April 2017 has been a busy month – nothing new there then!
A knitting and spinning Retreat at Higham Hall in Cumbria, English Lakes. This was a new venture. Although I regularly deliver courses for Higham, this was the first Retreat I have done there and I am sure it will not be the last.
An absolutely brilliant time and Higham let us use their sitting room with it’s wood burning stove. We were knitting, crocheting and spinning. Not all at once you understand but people chose what they wanted to focus on. We did a wee project as usual. this time it was mug hugs or cosies.
And courses for Wigtown and Eden Valley guilds of weavers, spinners & Dyers this month too. An ‘Improve Your Spinning’ course at Wigtown and Silk Spinning at Eden Valley. We stayed in the Lakes for a few days and had the very great pleasure of visiting the Camping Barn near Keswick and having a good old knit, natter and cake eating afternoon with Sarah and her friends!
There will be another Retreat at The Old School in October 2017 by the way… They of course are our regular Retreat venue. Only four rooms, but they can accommodate a couple of camper vans and day places are available too.
Hot news! Lee (illustrious and darling Hubby) is now making blending boards. In our humble opinion many more expensive ones are overly fancy for the job they do. Ours are simpler and therefore cheaper.
People tried mine and they wanted one. I still don’t have one, because every time he makes me another, someone buys it.
So as of yesterday, the garage is his workshop. And blending boards are officially for sale at £69 including postage. There may be a wait of a week or two as he has been very busy.
Watch this space for our weaving frames, two piece and hence easy to store scarf looms and other products soon.
Stash busting, de-cluttering and dieting seem to be seasonal phenomena.
Here’s how it goes. Binge eat/buy in December then shed the excess £s/lbs January to March.
In other words, our hard earned cash eventually ends up in the bin or charity shop. Duh. And it is hard to value things you feel guilty about. So the ‘punishment’ is to say ‘I am not buying any more fibre or yarn until I have used this lot up.’
Ditch the guilt though, there is a reason why you have not used it. You don’t like it, don’t know how to use it or are scared you will ‘spoil’ it.
The money is gone and guilt will not bring it back. So just spluge and have fun with it. A freeing experience that will liberate your fibre and yarn work and unstick you. Try these strategies:
Give it to someone who can use it. Then it is no longer wasted.
Use it with gay abandon, randomness and don’t worry what matches. Intersperse with one or more grey tones to bring it all together but don’t bother what clashes it will add interest.
If the colours really don’t go, put it all in a dyepot together. Add some blue, grey or black dye and it will all coodinate beautifully.
Weaving is great for using up yarns fast. Use a grey, brown or black warp to bring the colours together. A fine warp combined with wefts of different colours and textures works well.
Saturday was the Scottish Smallholders ‘learn to weave’ day at the Carrick Centre Maybole, Ayrshire Scotland.
What an enthusiastic bunch of people and what lovely weaving. It is great when folks just plunge in and have fun with the colour and texture. I always get design ideas from what people do, especially on beginners courses.
And now I am planning a further ‘weaving for all’ course, like the one I did in Hawick. This means beginners can come along and so can those with more experience. The more experienced can work individually on whatever they like and this formula works really well. Several people signed up straight away on Saturday.
The rigid heddle loom is my passion. I get excited about colour and texture and they are ideal for that. You can create lots of patterns on them too of course.
Warping these looms is relatively simple once you get the hang of it and does not take too long.
First clamp the warping peg to a table. Put a weight on the table if necessary so it does not tip over (hence pig in photo)
Position the loom with the front facing the peg. Clamp it on too. The distance between the loom and the peg will be the length of the warp, minus about 60cm/2 feet of wastage.
Put the yarn on the floor behind the loom. Tie the end to the back stick. Put the heddle in the ‘neutral’ position in the loom. This is the middle position, neither up nor down.
Use a reed hook to pull a loop of yarn through the heddle. Pull on the loose end until it is long enough to drop the loop over the peg. Do not pull it tight or the warps are likely to pop off the peg or pull it off the table.
Pull another loop through the heddle and repeat. Continue till all the slots you want to use are threaded like this.
Tie a spare bit of yarn round the warps for safety. Remove them from the peg and cut the end of the loops.
Wind the warp onto the loom, keeping it under tension and as tidy as possible. Insert pieces of paper between each layer of warps as you wind them on. This prevents one layer from embedding itself in other layers, which can make the warp uneven. Pages from magazines or flip chart paper work well.
Engage the ‘elbows’ to tilt the back of the loom up slightly, if using an Ashford knitters loom.
Take one of the warps out of each slot in turn and thread it through the neighbouring hole.
Tie the threads to the front stick in groups of four or so. Tie in a single knot first.
Go back along the threads, tightening each group in turn and tying in a half bow. Tightening them all at once like this helps to get an even tension.
Put the heddle into the up or down position. Insert a piece of folded paper or some card into the ‘shed’ or space between the warps. Change the heddle position and insert a second piece of card. This card covers the knots when you wind the warp on.
Weave a ‘header’ with waste yarn. Do three shots of weaving, leaving loops at the sides. Beat all three shots down together. Repeat this once more.
leaving loops at the sides enables you to pull the header out easily afterwards. This is not part of the weaving, it is there to even out the gaps between the groups of warp threads before you start the actual weaving.
One of the things I love to do most is have people to visit. We live in a plain wee street in a lovely bungalow in a simple Ayrshire village. Our back garden is a real surprise, as we grow a lot of veg in a relatively small space and are actually WWOOF hosts too. (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
Simple living has always been a part of what we do and we decided years ago that living in a village was more sustainable and a better life than being in the hills (as we were previously). So we have a modern, well insulated bungalow, solar panels, a wood burning stove, grow veg and live in a place with three buses an hour, people around during the day and hills in every direction. Yes, we still have the hills. You can set off and walk in any direction from here.
So it makes perfect sense to have ‘cosy courses’ in our living room. People love them and the numbers are smaller – often 3 or 4 people but certainly no more than 5, depending on what it is. Hubby makes soup for us and we eat around the kitchen table.
The most recent course was a ‘flexible’ two day spinning course. Beginners on day one and improvers on day two. You could book for one or both days, and all levels except complete beginners can come to day two.
Local accommodation is available and we also have a spare room where you are welcome to stay. You can have a wee peek at our house here we are air bnb hosts.
Oh and we also do one to one tuition, anything from half a day to two days and stay the night! Your very own micro retreat chez nous, in other words.