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.

Weave, weave, weave…

Right now, weaving is the new black.  So many people want to learn.   So here is a spot of advice: don’t buy the largest loom you can find, thinking it will ‘do you’ for longer and save you buying another. 90% odds that not only will you have no dining room any longer (unless you have dinner round it) you will also rarely if ever warp it up ready to weave.  It is too daunting.  And my take on it is this: you can weave pretty much anything on a ‘rigid heddle’ loom.

A folding Rigid Heddle Loom

It will fit in a cupboard. You can sit in a chair and weave with it propped up on a windowsill, they are designed like that,  and simply weave panels if you want something wider.

The range of patterns that can be done is awesome.  Check out The Weavers Idea book by Jane Patrick.  It and other books especially for rigid heddle weaving are what you need.  Sarah Howard wrote a lovely book called ‘Wear Your Weaving’ which shows how to create garments using narrow panels.  

And if you just want to have a go, you can even weave around a cardboard box.  We have a FREE e-course ‘5 days to become a weaver’ which shows you how.   Check it out here and get our free e-zine at the same time.   Https://createwithfibre.co.uk

Hubby has been making our newest products, the ‘Dinky Loom’ and Midi Loom.  They enable you to do the simplest of weaving with tiny scraps of leftover yarn. I am making squares for a woven jacket.

Squares woven on the Dinky Loom

They are so quick to do and portable enough to take anywhere.

The dinky loom in action

 

 

Teaching spinning, weaving and knitting is what we do…

Was just looking through the diary for 2016 and it hit me.  I have taught a lot of people.  When we started this in 1994, I had this vision of growing spinning, weaving, knitting and all things fibre and yarn all over the UK.  Kind of like planting seeds.  Well it is happening!  So I am blowing our own trumpet just a tiny bit here, just because what we do is not always evident.

Having taught many of the people who are now in their turn teaching spinning, I can see it.  Some of them have quite high profile businesses now, and some of them I have gone on to work with in partnership for many years.    See the current courses on our Create With Fibre website.

Then I realised.  I have taught over 750 people this year.    The 750 has admittedly included about 200 new weavers at two larger scale events:  A music festival  commissioned us to teach weaving all weekend, and a primary school who had me there for two days teaching nearly all of the classes….But all of the rest are in relatively small courses.  sometimes, like this week,  I am teaching three courses in a week (weaving wednesday, Indigo dyeing Thursday and beginners spinning on Saturday this week).

Often there are courses for one of the Guilds of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.   Last weekend we were at East  Central Guild, and before that Eden Valley.  The beginners spinning is one of a series of special courses for Dumfries & Galloway Guild.

Then there are the courses for Councils, youth groups and voluntary organisations.  At the moment, a series of several weaving sessions and a wall hanging project for Maybole 500, which celebrates the town being 500 years old.   These  have been many and various over the last couple of years.  A tipi making project with ten different youth groups (that one went on for months), and weaving projects with a number of schools for example.

weaving with primary school children

And I teach at other locations.   This year I have taught at Higham Hall    four times, weaving, spinning on a spinning wheel, spinning on a hand spindle and a fibre and yarn retreat.  They have already booked me for next year if you fancy a retreat…  The workshops for Scottish Fibres  have gone on for years.   Two a year usually, although this year we have added in extra ones, one on spindle spinning and one on weaving.   And we do them at yarn festivals too.  Look out for us at Perth Festival of Yarn this year.

Beginners spining for Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Then there are the fibre and yarn Retreats at The Old School.  They are completely awesome.  Only in February/March and October/November each year, because The Old School gets very busy and cannot fit us in at other times.  So who wouldn’t want to come on an exclusive Retreat at a 4 star, rather special, quirky and unique guest house?  With wood burning stoves, panormic views and each of the four bedrooms a whole, lovingly restored classroom.    Did I say it has 9.8 on Trip Advisor and a Taste Scotland award?

Oh, and I do a few ‘cosy courses’ courses here at my home each year.   We are just about to launch our 1-1 bespoke retreats at our place, so it is an exciting time.

nattural dyeing course chez nous

Yeah, like I said, courses are what we do…

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500 and growing

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 and her friends at the Camping Barn

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.

 

What is a Dinky Loom?

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.

Weaving on one of our Dinky Looms

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.

Join pieces together to make scarves, cushion covers or wall hangings

Sorting and Washing Fleece

Sorting a fleece

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

Wash fleece in buckets

Higham Hall Knitting and spinning retreat

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.

mug cosies was the project this time.

 

 

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.

Busy busy spin spin…

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.

    Blending board

Stash busting special

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:

  1. Give it to someone who can use it. Then it is no longer wasted.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Amazed how far these leftover yarns went. Still enough for more mug mats…