So much to do, so little time

So what is your biggest challenge with yarn and fibre crafts?

  • How to follow a pattern?
  • how to get knitted and crocheted garments to fit?
  • warping the loom?
  • cutting your weaving?
  • getting the thickness of yarn you want when spinning?
  • All of the above??

Or perhaps, like me its actually finding the time to make things and having the focus to do it.   Here’s how it goes for me: I resolve to start knitting, spinning, weaving or crocheting once I have completed my work day; fulfilling orders, planning spinning and weaving courses and Retreats etc etc.   Then – oops – there is more to do so I will sit down and knit, spin etc when  dinner is made/the dishes washed.  Then…just check the emails first.  …Get wood and light the fire, and so it goes on.

So finally, time to sit down, hooray!    But as soon as you begin to relax, something happens.  All the things you forgot to do start to pop into your head.  Put the bins out, make lunch for tomorrow, phone a friend…and up you get before they go out of your head again.    Or horror of horrors, by this time one of the kids has got back out of bed.

this bunting is a quick Christmas make.  If you have existing bunting, remove it from the hanging ribbon, string, turn it upside down then attach it again.  Voila, Christmas bunting!

The solution to the ‘before I forget’ thing is to have a notebook within reach.  Then, it’s easy!  Simply decide which project to focus on.  Or do you want to read that book?  Ahhh, not so simple after all!  And you forgot to make a cup of tea you had been looking forward to.

I will pick up project number one, a shawl for a friend’s birthday and  resolve to work on it until it is finished.  Then remember the baby bootees are rather more urgent and also smaller so wouldn’t it be better to get them finished first.  Just focus until they are done.  But I have second bootee syndrome.  Yes, its related to second sock syndrome but I may just be the only person who suffers from it with bootees!  And now, of course the phone rings and after chatting for half an hour (lovely, but I forgot to take my knitting with me when I answered the phone)  and I am nearly out of time.

So here is the solution!   Yes, really.  Let yourself off the hook here because the reality may just be that you don’t have much time for knitting, crochet, spinning or weaving right now.  Do ten minutes a day/at a time instead of trying to carve out large chunks of time.  It is amazing how much you get done in ten minutes a day.

Another quick make, wee crocheted baskets, each containing a Ferrero Rocher or similar chocolate, or if you are sugar free, a walnut works well. this is now available as a Ravelry pattern.

And the secret is this:  there may well be more than one ten minute slot a day.   it is amazing how many ten minute slots there seem to be, once you stop trying to carve out those non-existent larger chunks of time.  Those who have done my spinning courses or read the ‘How to Spin’ book will be familiar with the ten minutes a day them for spinning and many of you have  and got in touch to say it was a revelation!

I spin ten minutes in the mornings and treat it as a meditation but what if you did something else for ten minutes in the afternoon or evening?  It is so much easier to find ten minutes than an hour.    So I am off to knit for ten minutes, see ya!

 

Knitmas is coming…

What are you knitting for Christmas?  I am, as usual overambitious.  It seems like there  is plenty of time for the three scarves and several hats I want to make but then suddenly the time always seems to run out.  Then I am knitting morning, noon and night to get things finished, giving Unfinished Objects as presents to be continued in the New Year, and coming up with other solutions.

these Squash blossom book marks  created by Bonnie Sennott are a quick knit, using a free Ravelry pattern if you are running out of time.  I have knitted rather a lot of them, aren’t they great?

Zuccini flower book marks are quick knits in time for Christmas
Beaded French knitting jewellery is another quick make for Christmas

Need ring-fenced knitting time and cake?

Enter Knitmas.  It is our first Create With Fibre Christmas event and we are excited!  Come along and work on your Christmas knitting in front of the log fire.  On the afternoon of Monday 4th December, we will congregate at the old Black Bull pub Dalmellington Ayrshire.  This is a small event with only 20 tickets on sale and there are 9 spaces left.

The Black Bull is a 17th Century coaching inn, which is now the quirky and unique home of our friend and sometime Create With Fibre helper Jane.

  • We will knit in front of the log burning fire and eat cake.
  • There will be a goody bag for everyone
  • £1 from each ticket will go to labour behind the label.
  • There will be a free mystery mini workshop.
  • McHatties Yarns will have their designer yarns for sale
  • Create With Fibre surprise goodies will be available.

So bring  your knitting, wear your best woollies and don’t eat too much lunch before you come!

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

A Special Retreat and Some Sheep

Ryeland Sheep & Fleece
Ryelands are one of the oldest British sheep breeds and have been in the UK for hundreds of years.  Their legs are covered in fleece as well as their bodies, which along with their cute noses, gives them the distinctive ‘teddy’ appearance.  They are great mothers, good for both fleece and meat and rarely suffer from foot problems.  They can have either coloured or white fleece.  Wow!
The wool is great for spinning or needle felt.  it has a rather unique ‘crispy feel to it without being at all scratchy and will not pill or felt easily when made into knitwear.

One of Jacqueline Bonner’s Ryeland sheep

The Best Wool for the Job

I think that imported Merino is over rated as a spinning fibre, although its availability in as coloured tops makes it a good choice for UK based feltmakers who do not want to work specifically with indigenous fleece.   If you live in a country that produces it in larger quantities such as Australia or New Zealand, it is a good choice for you of course.    And there are breeders this side of the Pond of UK version of the breed, called Bowmont.  Although Merino type wool is soft it is prone to felting, hence its popularity with felt makers.  it is lovely for babywear if the parents don’t mind handwashing.  But Ryeland is a good all rounder and I love its ancient roots as a breed.

An Exciting New Retreat for Textile businesses

Janet has launched her very first Retreat specifically for those with a yarn, fibre or fibre animal business.  She has provided 1-1 mentoring for many years and this is something she is really excited about.   The Retreat will take place at the same amazing venue as the Create With Fibre knitting and spinning retreats.  So the views, food, wine, woodburning stove and time to spin, knit or crochet will all be there.  At the same time, we will talk about the business dilemmas and plans we have.  There will be 1-1 time with Janet and also a chance to actually get down to the nitty gritty and do some work on those plans.  Together we are stronger!

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.

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…

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!

Spinning and Weaving Courses Chez Nous

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.

To see the current course list, visit Create With Fibre.

Victoria on a one to one spindling lesson

Knit 1 bike 1 Update

The Knit 1 bike 1 book was published in May 2016.    Get your copy here. 

The work for the exhibition was completed September 2016.

The project has been featured on Radio Scotland three times, TV Border and in many newspapers and magazines.

And the first exhibition took place at the Textile Tower House, Hawick Oct-Dec 2016.  They loved it and declared it their ‘feel good exhibition of the year’.

More dates are now planned:  

The Carnegie Library Ayr, 1st – 10th April 2017

Stair Community Centre Ayrshire 21st – 24th April 2017

Heartfelt Dalmally Oct/Nov 2017 dates to be confirmed

Dumfries Museum 21st Nov – 9th Dec 2017

There will also hopefully be dates in Dalmellington where I live, that is being worked on at present.

Janet gets home after her 10 week woolly cycle round Scotland
A book signing at the local Chemist’s shop

Duns – and I am home in 11 days!

Home in 11 days time and having a ball.  Visit to The Border Mill in Duns today.  They process alpaca on a small scale for producers. Bought some wonderful fibre and they also sell yarn.     The White Swan at Duns is lovely.  Plain but homely which suits me fine with the most awesome of pub meals in their humble bar.

Alpaca dries at The Border Mill
Yarns and fibre for sale at the Mill