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.

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…

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!