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 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!
We will add tiny needle felted sheep and boots now. Boots because Maybole was a boot making town too.
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.
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:
Give it to someone who can use it. Then it is no longer wasted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My love of the simple yet versatile rigid heddle loom just grows and grows. So when I saw a wee facebook post with a picture of some woven coasters I thought ‘me too!’. how could I have forgotten about making these?
So resolutions about completing UFOs in time for Christmas were abandoned. I teach rigid heddle weaving a lot. Twice a month or more and all levels. So there are often bits of leftover warp. They are saved but not often used up.
Leftover yarns were used for the mug rugs.
So mug rugs help on two fronts:
1. By weaving mug rugs with the remaining warp it is not wasted.
2. Any bits that are cut off can be used for the weft, or actual weaving.
So all those loom leftovers (thrums) plus the ends from knitting projects and the bits of yarn people leave on my spinning wheels after spinning courses are incorporated into these coasters. They tell a story!
How To Make Them
Use a 7.5 dent heddle ( 7.5 slots and holes to the inch/2.5cm. If using leftover warp from a project that used a different sized heddle, replace the heddle and simply re-thread. I don’t get too fussy about this project, it is just a bit of fun.
If the previous warp was wider, more than one rug can be woven at the same time.
Leave a few warps un threaded between each one and just throw them over the back of the loom. 10cm/4″ sqaure is a good size for the coasters. I hemstitched at the beginning and end. Visist the Create With Fibre Community Facebook group to see my vidoe on hemstitching. Lots of useful tips, chats and live videos are available through the group so it is worth a look.
With a narrow project like this, there is no need to bother with shuttles. Simply wind small amounts round your hand or work with smallish balls of yarn without even doing that.
To change colour, overlap the old with the new in the centre not at the edge as usual.
It took 2 hours to weave and hem stitch 6 coasters.
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.
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.
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.
There is something about creating your own clothes from scratch. I mean really from scratch. This handwoven skirt started life as a Hebridean rare breed fleece. Hebridean is the blackest of black in colour. The only fleece that is truly black as opposed to nearly black
It is a double coated fleece with longer hair fibres and shorter fuzzy bits, making it interesting to spin. It also smells nicer than pretty much any other fleece so if you are a fibre sniffer it is for you!
So to begin with I carded the washed fleece with lots of coloured waste that was left over from workshops. I accumulate lots and always save it. Most was leftover ends of tops but there was a bit of silk too. Spinning it long draw waa a breeze and made sure the bits did not work their way to the back of the rolag. It took me ages mainly because even at that stage it was scary to think of cutting the hand woven fabric. But eventually you just have to, unless you want to weave scarves and towels for ever.
The fabric was woven on a 24″/60cm rigid heddle loom using a 12.5 dent heddle. This is the only loom you ever need in my opinion and i am passionate about them. I used a sewing pattern to cut the fabric but made up my own version of the pattern first, using an old sheet. and changing the size. The lining is red satin.
Woven and knitted samples for the skirt. The knitted sample was disappointing so the decision was taken to weave the skirt on a 20″ rigid heddle loom with a 10 dent heddle. The samples were woven with 7.5, 10 and 12.5 dent heddles.
The handspun yarn on the loom. It was made from Hebridean fleece carded with all the coloured bits left over from Janet’s many spinning workshops.
A Butterick pattern was used. This was the wrong size so it was enlarged and a new pattern constructed using an old sheet. This can now be adapted for any skirt I make in the future.
The skirt fits well, the fabric is durable and it has been worn lots.
So here I go again. Teaching weaving at Hgham Hall Bassenthwaite Lake near Cockermouth. Having warped all ten looms on on Monday for the Catstrand course Hubby and I warped them all again for the Higham course. Well we didnt really need them all you understand but then i thought i may as well warp one for myself. And take a couple of spares in case of last minute bookings. And one as a demo for techniques…you get the picture. And it only takes a few minutes to warp one of these looms.
So then I got an insatiable urge to weave some log cabin. Rigid heddle looms are mind boggling because just by warping in two colours you can create an almost infinite number of patterns. In fact just by weaving log cabin there is infinite variation. So i warped my larger, 20″/50cm rigid heddle loom at 10pm because all of the others now had a plain warp on them. The scarf was woven with New Lanark yarns. These are spun at the Museum mill in Lanarkshire Scotland and they now have a wonderful range of yarns and colours.