Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Winning Team....

For the last three years the SpinDyeWeavers have demonstrated at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show.  The first year we were in the Wessex Marquee along with a lot people selling stuff, it wasn't very good for us and we didn't think that we fitted in.  So last year we moved to the Action Crafts Marquee which was much more us and to our surprise we won Second Place in a competition that we didn't realize we were in - so as you can imagine we were rather gob-smacked.

Last year we didn't have a real purpose other than too promote spinning and to show how the fleece of the sheep in the show rings ended up as sweaters and other knitted things.  So this year having taken on board some of the questions posed to us last year we came up with a new focus.  British sheep breeds and natural dyeing.

As spinners we are naturally concerned that some breeds of sheep are endangered and one, the Boreray is on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's critical list. That means that there are less than 300 breeding females.  But where to start?

One of the groups favourite books is Beautiful Sheep, known  as the 'sheep book of porn' because many of the rams shown in the book are rather well endowed!  So last year we bought the Beautiful Sheep Postcard Book and began to collect a samples of fleece from each of the 30 breeds shown in the book.  It was these knitted samples that were going to form the basis of our display for 2013. 

We felt that it was important to use fleece samples as it would give us insight into the breed characteristics and the handle of the fleece which you wouldn't get from just buying commercial top or yarn.

Thus far we have all but the Galway, Border Leicester and the Wiltshire Horn and quite a few others that weren't in the book (can't quite believe this but yesterday we were offered Wiltshire Horn, so only two to go!).  This of course doesn't fully represent all the breeds in the UK - as there are 86 distinct breeds of sheep in this country and many many more from overseas, but we are well on the way!

This year we won first prize and we have a shield to keep for a year and here is the winning team together with the Mayor of Gillingham.

This post has ended rather abruptly as my PC crashed and over the weekend the hard drive has been wiped and the system completely re-built thanks to Nico at  http://www.ekonnic.com so now I am able to get back to normal life with PC.......

Friday, 16 August 2013

Silk the final frontier....................

Like many spinners I started with an easy fibre - I think my first spinning was done with a Portland fibre and plied with Corriedale.  Also like most new spinners it was thick and tin and over twisted and under plied - but it was my very first yarn and I was proud of it!

Time moves on and your spinning improves, as does the variety of fibres spun - recently for the SpinDyeWeavers display board I have been helping out by spinning some British breeds and dyeing using nature's harvest.  All this has been great fun, some fleece is a joy and some you can understand why they make carpets................  but they are all different and were and still are bred for a particular purpose.  For the natural dyeing I used a Cheviot (mainly because it was the cheapest British fibre available from World of Wool) and it is rather coarse - well it is a Hill breed, with a fleece designed to keep out the wind and rain and rather more important to keep the sheep warm!

Well after all this I decided that I needed a treat and perhaps a bit of luxury, pampering in fact.  So I delved into my stash and found a 25gram samples of silk that I had dyed back in May 2011 using Procion MX Dyes.

The brown was gifted, but the turquoise I still had, and here it is spun up

What an absolute delight it was to spin - Demelza definitely a wheel for silk, a double drive and crossed on the flyer to get more twist - this is so fine I could do cross stitch with it....

This, not very good photo of the crossed yarn on the flyer, shows Lavender's Blue being spun.  Well I just had to experiment with dyeing more silk - this is Tussah silk (that's wild silk where the grub is allowed to live) which I dyed in the oven, using Landscape, Saltmarsh, Dusk and Sun Orchid....

The colours were inspired by the lavender growing in our garden which the bees love.....

A Tussah Silk Moth - isn't it beautiful, so more colourful than the Bombyx Mori?

Here's some more dyed silk, again Tussah (I like the idea that the grub gets to become a Moth!)

Which I call Mr Tangerine Man

Spinning Tussah silk is very different to spinning Mulberry Silk (or the silk from the Bombyx Mori moth where the grub is smothered before it can eat it way out of the cocoon) very smooth and soft and spins up like a dream, you hardly have to draft at all!

This I called Golden Rain, again oven dyed (at the same time as Lavender's Blue, so two for the price of one) with Landscape Broome and Dusk and spun cobweb


Another thing with silk that makes it so rewarding is you don't need vast quantities - all these are 50 grams and produced enough yarn for a shawl - so luxury at a bargain price!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Great Expectations, unfulfilled..............

Imagine a chocolate coated Bond - no not the Martini drinking spy, but a sheep, whose fleece is chocolate in colour and has worn a coat to keep the fleece clean and free from debris.................

Bond is an Australian sheep created when Thomas Bond mated a Saxon-Peppin Merino ewes to stud Lincoln rams to improve the wool. I don't need to go into the background you can 'Google' Bond sheep and get all the same information as me!  Anyway we don't have Bond here in the UK, so of course it became a must have fleece!  I wanted to find out what all the hype was about, especially as I had never spun from a coated fleece, so last year I ordered a kilo of fawn Bond as part of a group purchase organised through the UK Fleece group on Ravelry.

It has been a long wait and along the way the SpinDyeWeavers had the opportunity to purchase a chocolate fleece.  Then it failed to arrive in the UK, then it was in Amsterdam and finally after 4 months at sea the fleeces arrived - I arranged to collect at Fibre East along with my Fawn - excitement was growing.

Last Saturday was the day - we spread out the fleece, its a phone photo so not the best, but take my word it was a big fleece 3.4kg and not cheap................

It was divided up between the six of us and it did involve a lot of crawling around and I believe that some derrieres were a trifle stiff on Sunday! 

In total fairness we all got two bags, the not so good stuff and the better - well Sunday I sat down to sort though my share and I really thought that there had been a mix up and I had got two bags of the 'not so good', but not the case - so all my great expectations were dashed....

I did expect some felting from the coat, but quite a lot is very felted, bent right over and bleached - which according to Judith McKenzie this could be because the coats weren’t change soon enough.

A goodly part of the fleece looked like this and when you pull a lock this what you get

You can see how dry and brittle the tips are and when you flick them they just break off! Remember this is from the better bag!

There are some locks which do live up to expectations, but not a lot (and these were on the top of the bag!!!)  However, in these locks  there is a lighter part running through the fleece! This lighter bit breaks as you pull the locks and would indicate that the sheep was stressed at this point (again as per Judith McK).

The shorter hairy fleece is quite coarse and not what I expected from a 25 micron fleece. There are a lot of second cuts, some VM and fleece encrusted with poo!

When in comes to preparing the fleece the felted ends make pulling the locks very hard which means there is a lot more waste than I normally get with a fleece - all this and more!

These are the two sample skeins that I have spun - the top is from the shorter locks and is quite coarse, the other from the longer ones, softer but there isn't much of this.............

At the moment I don't know whether I shall even bother with the 'not so good' fleece, if the better was so disappointing I am sure that the other lot will be even worse!

I have come to the conclusion that we are completely spoilt with Yvonne Hoskins's beautiful fleeces - yes they aren't coated so there is a bit of debris, but she skirts her fleeces so well that there is no poo and the quality is second to none!

At Fibre East I talked to Michael Churchmouse and he told me I would be disappointed with the Bond and he was so right - from now on I will stick to good ol' British fleece

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The perfect drying/dyeing month.................

I can't believe that it is Woolly Wednesday again... Another month gone, albeit a gorgeous one weather wise!  The Tour de Fleece and France is over and most of Team Blissful Woolmakers made it to the finish line and prizes were awarded!  With the weather so very hot we felt that it would be unfair to Molly to spend days in a hot caravan, so we stayed home until Fibre East.  Last year Fibre East was practically washed away by monsoon rain and people moaned, this year it was sunny and very hot and again people moaned!!!!!  I was very good and spent very little, well I was a volunteer, so not a lot of shopping time!

July was certainly a productive month - all my fleeces are now washed and I have started a fleece book, grandly named Fleece Book Volume One, in which I have a lock of washed fleece and very soon a spun sample for each fleece.  I still have to wash some BoDo which is a Bowmont/Dorset X and rather lovely. Also I have finally got my one kilo of Fawn Bond, ordered nearly a year ago, but well worth waiting for.....

I am currently sorting the locks as there is a surprising amount of colour variation from the palest fawn to quite a deep fawn almost light tan/brown - very difficult to describe - but lush!  The crimp is amazing and impossible to capture on my camera.  There is also a chocolate bond currently sitting by the door waiting for Saturday's meeting of the SpinDyeWeavers when we will split our booty!

Perhaps not the dark chocolate I pictured more milk chocolate, but again a gorgeous fleece which is going to complement the fawn!  I see some colour work on the horizon...

But more than anything else July has been a silk month.  Inspired by some gorgeous spinning and colours by LindaCC on Ravelry.  I have spun camel and silk before and loved it, but looking through my spinning book I hadn't really just spun pure silk, it was always with something rather than standing alone. Remembering that many moons ago I had experimented dyeing silk with Procion Dyes I dug out the samples and these were the results!


I wanted more so I dyed some silk, from my stash.  There are two types of silk available to the spinner - Wild or Tussah silk and Mulberry silk and here are the first samples that I dyed, from right to left, Tussah, Mulberry and Silk Hankies

The 50 grams of Tussah Silk (orange) then became Mr Tangerine Man, 456 yards with 48 wpi.

 2 plied

I loved the Mulberry silk sample so much that I dyed another batch - the skein looks like molten gold and I can see a shawl in this colour.

I found that Tussah silk takes the colour better - this I call Lavender's Blue as I took inspiration from the lavender plants in the garden

It is dry now and my fingers are itching to get spinning...................

Friday, 2 August 2013

Before there was chaos!

A while back I re-organised my craft room from this

to this

Really all I did was remove the books and replace with yarn and fabric - was OK for a while and I have moved things around, acquired more boxes and lots more fibre, yarn and other spinning things!  So the situation was that I could get to my PC (just) and anything else required a major expedition into the unknown.

It fact it had got so bad that I couldn't even get up courage to take a photo - so there is no before picture!  In front of the bookcases was an area of floor completely invisible under my stash......  Plus I had no idea what was in a particular box or basket - looking for anything could and did take hours, and that is hours that could have been spent doing nice things like spinning.....................

So a couple of weeks ago I sat down and drew out a room plan.  From this it was obvious that the big desk (so necessary for an academic career) was completely dominating the room.  Clearly things had come to a head, and a major change was needed - lots of storage and a smaller desk!  A trip to Ikea was required! I now have 36 spaces for boxes and things, a smaller desk and a nifty storage area for my loom!

What followed was two weeks of sorting, scrapping and re-packing and now I have space - there is a floor and I can move round the room.  All my yarn and fibre is neatly stashed in boxes which are labelled!  In theory I should be able to find anything (well within reason) in a matter of minutes!

My desk

a hidey hole for my loom

This corner was where my desk used to be....


and thrifty reuse of the old bookcases - with lots of baskets and a few books!

In the middle of all this we went to Fibre East (as volunteers) and had a whale of a time - but I was very good and didn't add much to my stash, but did get to collect my fawn Bond and the chocolate Bond for the group - more of that when I have recovered....................

Related Posts with Thumbnails