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!

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.

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…

 

 

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

A Crocheted Jacket to go with the Skirt

A Crocheted Jacket to go with skirt.

Finally!  Having handspun yarn for a skirt, I was thrilled with the handwoven, simple, above-the-knee skirt.  The yarn was spun from Hebridean fleece carded with all the leftover coloured bits from the workshops I teach.  There was not enough of the yarn left to crochet a jacket to go with it.  So having raked through my stash, I combined that yarn with some grey handspun alpaca and a commercially carded and handspun black Shetland/alpaca mix.  That yarn had been hanging about for a while, so it was a good plan.

Making the Jacket
The jacket was created by crocheted a chain long enough to go round my hips.  Then working UK double crochet (that’s single crochet if you are in the USA) one row of each colour in turn.  At the armholes I split it and crocheted the fronts then the back.  Joined the shoulders and went back to crochet the sleeves in the round , directly onto the garment. 
A tip for crocheted the sleeves of a garment without a pattern.
To make sure I got the two sleeves the same, not only did I write down what I did, but also crocheted the shaped part of one sleeve, then the shaped part of the other before finishing the bottom, straight section.  Just in case I put the project down for a while and forgot what to do.  It is of course possible to compare the two, but easy to end up one stitch out and end up with them different sizes.
Finishing
The jacket was finished by crocheting a wide band up the front in the grey alpaca.  Button holes were made a couple of rows from the finished edge. And then, a row of double crochet and one of crab stitch up the front, around the bottom edge and the sleeves.
Buttons
The buttons were made from some of the left over skirt fabric, and bring the outfit together nicely.  Button blanks 15mm size were bought on Amazon but you can do this round any button with a stem. 
Cut a circle somewhat wider than the button.  If using handwoven fabric, you may want to add an iron on backing to the fabric.  The one I used is a cotton one.  Stitch a running thread round the edge of the circle, then gather the stitching firmly around the stem of the button.
The Create With Fibre Community – our Facebook group – has lots of tips, chat and sharing.  Why not join us?
 
AND if you sign up for our newsletter you will get a free copy of Janet’s article on sorting and washing fleece.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

crocheting the glenfinnan viaduct

UPdate:  It took several months to complete the Knit 1 Bike 1 artwork after Janet returned home from her ten week bicycle and art tour. The first exhibition took place Oct – Dec 2016 at the textile tower house hawick. Here is the completed crocheted Glenfinnan Viaduct, with the train on top.    Whilst transferring to the new blog, this post was updated to include photos of the construction and development of the viaduct.  Getting it to stand up independently was the hardest thing and Janet’s hubby Lee was technical advisor and engineer, finally sorting it with medium tensile fence wire!

On the date this post was first written, the Sunday Post newspaper came to photograph the crocheted Glenfinnan Viaduct.    Here’s what she wrote at the time – it seems weird now that so much has happened since, all the art work is pretty much completed and the first exhibition has taken place.  Here is the Viaduct in the exhibition.

It was not finished by a long shot but with a big push this week, all three sections and 21 arches will now stand up.  Have stuffed it, stiffened the legs with Paverpol and used alloy rods threaded through to get the curve.  The curve will be more accurate once it is attached to the base. It had to be in three sections that velcro together due to it being 12ft/4m long.   Now to crochet the base, some mountains and of course a train for the top.

Can you spot the knitted Brompton bicycle like the one I cycled round Scotland on in the photo below?

Janet posing at the end of our street(!) with several onlookers whilst the Sunday Post took her photo.

The Viaduct was actually held up by tent pegs at the rear, although it did stand up when it was finally completed.  it was months of work.

 

 

 

Crocheting the train at the pub in a campsite.  It was so easy to do compared to the viaduct itself.

The base and arches drying in the garden.

 

 

The first few arches.   They were now 3 dimensional but I still had no idea whether the plan would work out.

Crocheted sponge cake

Cycling langholm to kirtlebridge today – 15 miles. Finished crocheting the sponge cake from Mallaig knitters group today. They definitely get the prize for best spread!

the final touches – and a plate will be added to this on returning home.