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.

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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…

 

 

Eight shiny new weavers…

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.

  1. 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 weaving on the looms
Lots of fun and chat

How to warp a rigid heddle loom

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)

Attach warping peg to table

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.

Winding the warp round the peg

Pull another loop through the heddle and repeat. Continue till all the slots you want to use are threaded like this.

The slots all have two threads in them at this stage. There are no threads in the holes yet.

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.

Threading the holes in the heddle

Tie the threads to the front stick in groups of four or so. Tie in a single knot first.

Tie the threads round the front stick with a single knot.

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.

Tension the warps and tie each group firmly with a half bow.
The warps tied on to the front stick

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.

Insert a strip of paper or cardboard into each shed.

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.

Weaving the header with waste yarn
Beat three shots of the header down at once, then repeat.

You are ready to weave!