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

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.

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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