Joining the Modern Age

It’s been a while since I was on this here blog…but I do have a good reason – honest! I have been busy joining the ‘modern age’!

As a lady who spends her time knitting, spinning and weaving, I don’t normally have much time, or need, for techno stuff and have never really been that bothered about it. However, I recently decided to get a bit jiggy with all this modern hoo-haa mallarkey and opened an Etsy shop…which led to me having to learn a great deal of new skills pretty flippin’ quickly. Not only that, but in order to remain current and ‘with it’, I have had to invest in some new tech and learn how to use it.

It has not been pretty!

For example…I bought myself a phone, that I think has an app for launching rockets into space on it somewhere, and when I got it home and started putting it together it gave instructions which went something like ‘place the sim card into x slot’ etc…well, I couldn’t find the sim card for love nor money! So, I took it back to the shop…and the lady behind the counter showed me that the sim card was already in the phone…and then she put the battery in for me…and then she showed me how to turn it on, in case I had a problem with that as well. After that it only took me about 3 hours to figure out how to actually phone someone on it!

I can just about use it now….but really I would rather be knitting, spinning or weaving..

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There is a silver lining to this though…one thing about having an Etsy shop is that I need to stock it and ‘keep it fresh’, so I have a REALLY good excuse to sit down at my wheel, loom or with my needles and make stuff – bliss!!

Why Do I Spin?

I was asked a question on Ravelry the other day, which made me stop and think…the question was ‘why do I spin my own yarn?’

To be honest, I was quite taken aback to be asked this – and judging from 99.9% of the replies to this question from other Ravellers, I was not alone in being surprised. There were also a great many answers from other spinners…which ranged from ‘its meditative’ and ‘its relaxing’ to ‘it allows me to make exactly what I want’ and also ‘its cheaper’. But why did I start spinning?

It started last year, when I was looking for some yarn to weave with. Something a bit mad and funky to use as a focal point in a shawl. I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t find it, and I spent a LONG time looking…I found something similar but it wasn’t right, so I decided that I may be better off learning how to spin and producing my own yarn.

After putting out a request for a spinning teacher on Ravelry, I was lucky to be contacted by a lady who lives just up the road who was willing to teach me (and for that I will be eternally grateful), and it just kind of snowballed from there. My early attempts were a complete monstrosity, but I hung in there and soon got the hang of it and started to use my own yarn in my weaving and knitting. It was a revelation!

I firmly believe that using a handspun yarn in a project gives it a bit of an edge. Most of the yarns can’t be replicated, so each item is a true original piece, and there is something about the texture of a handspun yarn which I think is beautiful….and, yeah, it is meditative and relaxing once you master the foot and hand co-ordination and get into the rhythm of it. I can also make yarn exactly how thick I want in the colours I want – what’s not to like?

But then, I also started thinking about my stash of yarn…there is very little in there that is from one of the major yarn producers such as Debbie Bliss, Wendy, King Cole or any number of other firms…nope, most of mine is from independent hand-dyers or from people who farm their own sheep/alpacas and then get the fleece spun up in a textile mill. I just like the uniqueness of it all…and, as I don’t tend to knit jumpers, I don’t need to buy a bazillion balls all in one yarn which can get expensive (mainly cos I am a yarn snob, and don’t tend to buy acrylic yarn)

As an example, earlier this week I made up a ‘Frankenskein’ yarn out of some odd bits and bobs that I had left over from other projects…I just spun up whatever came out of the box regardless of colour and then plied two bobbins of yarn together….the result is not something you would find in a bricks and mortar yarn shop…and I like that..

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….So, I guess I spin because I like unique yarn that tells a bit of a story.

 

 

Spinning up a Storm

I have started to spin up all the goodies that I bought at Wonderwool last weekend..and having great fun in the process 🙂

I have been experimenting a bit with the yarns, and the first one I am going to share is a ‘Frankenskein’! It is spun from random merino tops, picked at random from a bag and then spun into a couple of singles before being plied….and I am really pleased with it:

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I love the random colour combinations after plying!

The second yarn was spun after a play on my new drum carder (aka Fenella Fellorick). I took a selection of fibres in various shades of blue, along with white, grey, black and yellow and carded them into batts ready for spinning. The spinning was left as a single…mainly cos I love knitting with singles:

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Again…I love the way the colours merge together

In all I spun up 5 skeins this week, some of which are 2-ply chunkier yarns and a couple of them are singles, but the weather being so rubbish – cos I have a week off work – has meant it has been a problem setting them and also photographing them. This weekend is supposed to be a bit better weatherwise, and if it is I will be sharing more of my yarns with you 🙂

The Sun Has Got It’s Hat On (fingers crossed)!

I am keen to start experimenting with dyeing yarn, and with this in mind I acquired a Solar Dyeing Kit when I was at Wonderwool at the weekend.

The thought behind this form of dyeing is to allow the sun’s heat to do all the work of dyeing the cloth/fibre….over a period of months. Think of it as slow-dyeing!

So, earlier this morning I had a play with my kit. Thankfully, after reading the instructions I realised that the jar the dyestuffs go in doesn’t have to go outside, and that a warm, sunny, windowsill would do. I  put some rusty nails and some Persian Berries at the bottom of the jar, followed by the fibre – which is some undyed White Eider fleece – then made up a muslin bag of Logwood chips to go on top of the fleece. A mordant of alum and cream of tartar was then blended and added to the jar which was then topped up with warm water…and placed on a warm, sunny windowsill (in my studio).

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Great colours within 5 minutes!

I was quite impressed that ‘something’ appeared to happen straight away. The bottom of the jar went a vibrant shade of orange and the top of the jar turned a slightly less vibrant orange…which was interesting, as the colours I chose were to produce a green and purple fibre. However, I have just had a quick look at it and after an hour or so, the sunny side of the jar is turning purple and yellow, with the intense orange still at the bottom – its fascinating! I am looking forward to seeing how the colours develop over the coming few months.

In the meantime, I am going to give my studio window a damn good clean…its filthy!

 

It’s Christmas (kind of)!

Today I woke up in a fit of excitement!

For today is Yarnmas, aka Wonderwool Wales, and its one of the highlights of my yarny year. It’s held not far from where I live…and, luckily, today the weather wasn’t too bad, which makes a nice change.

I went with my Dad, who does a sterling job as my porter – although, he is quite fascinated by all the yarn and people, so he doesn’t mind too much…well, that’s what he says.

There was a bit of a mishap when we arrived, as those of us with pre-paid tickets were left queuing to get in for a long time, whilst people buying them on the door were going through much quicker. Around us tempers were starting to fray BIG time, until finally someone came along and sorted the problem out…and then we were in!

I dropped off my donations to the Welsh Air Ambulance stand…and then I was like a kid in a sweetie shop. I made my way around the hall looking out for the odd bargain, and was soon shopping in earnest. I have plans to start a venture selling my hand-spun yarn, so I was mainly looking to buy fibres and bits and bobs for spinning instead of actual yarn, and I was  spoiled for choice. Lots of independent producers and dyers were there and the choice was amazing…here is the spinny stuff that I bought:

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Lots of colour and texture!

I think it’ll keep me busy for a while!

I also got spoiled by my Dad…I have been hankering after a drum carder for quite some time, and jokingly told Dad that I wanted one for my birthday….well, he only went a bought me one! I am beside with my excitement about this little beauty:

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Just looking at the photo of it makes me happy!

Not only that, but I want to give dyeing my own yarn a go, so he also bought me a solar dyeing kit (which SHOULD work in the Arctic region known as  Mid-Wales), as well as a package of natural dye materials:

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I’ll be experimenting soon….

How lucky am I? Not only that, but he is not making me wait for my birthday in a few weeks, so I can use them straight away…which is fab, as I have a week off work now so I can have a play with my new toys and fluff…I have a feeling that I will be happily covered in a fine halo of fluff all week 😉

I had a brilliant time, and will definitely be going again next year…and Dad, if you are reading this, then thanks! You are the best Dad in the world 🙂

 

On the Tidy Side

This week is proving to be quite a busy one at Fat Lady Towers!

Remember I was trying to reduce the stash to help raise funds for the Welsh Air Ambulance? Well, that took a whole day! However, the result of the stashdown is two bags of yarn, as well as a few books and magazines that will be donated to a good cause…and a much more organised stash of the yarn that is staying with me.

Whilst I was sorting the stash I thought I may as well continue to have a flippin’ good clean of my workspace….and that has taken three days. Still, I am now sat here typing this in a serene and tidy room as opposed to the complete mess it was earlier in the week…all of which has not left much time for getting anything made.

I did have a skein of my hand-spun that was crying out to be made into a scarf though, and I finally managed to get it off the needles and blocked earlier today…

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Its full of colour!

The yarn was spun from a combination of lots and lots of remnants of merino, lambswool and recycled sari silks that I wanted to use up. I just tossed them into one of my beloved plastic buckets and spun up whatever came to hand. Once the yarn was spun it was knit up into an asymmetric triangle on large needles, with the odd ‘point’ added to give it a bit more interest. I am really pleased with the results 🙂

Well, its not long to go until Wonderwool (three sleeps….not that I’m excited or anything), and I am planning on treating myself to some more lovely fluff to spin up…I will definitely be sharing my new stash with you soon – watch this space!

Flower Power

Good grief! Where did last week go? I spent a chunk of the week in a different city for work…which meant I didn’t get much time to do anything yarn based 😦

However, crochet is fairly portable, so I managed to squeeze in a few flowers and leaves in order to make a necklace.

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I like to make them a teensy bit 3d!

I  love making floral necklaces….back in the day, I used to do a fair bit of patchwork and quilting, so sitting down with a needle and thread is something of a treat. I find sewing quite relaxing as its quite meditative and it focuses your attention…if it doesn’t grab your attention then it hurts your finger with constant stabbing…

…and a sore finger means its painful to do any knitting, weaving or spinning 😉

 

 

Humble Huipile

 

I weave in the freeform ‘Saori’ style, which allows weavers to express themselves. Each piece of fabric made is completely unique and a work of art…well, back in the depths of last year, I was weaving away at a length of fabric in shades of grey, black and brown with hints of blue and yellow thrown in to liven it up a bit…but when I finished it, I was unsure what to do with it.

Well, that particular problem was solved this week when I sat down, cut it up and sewed it into a top:

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ViviLnk

 

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ViviLnk

 

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ViviLnk

I am pleased with how it turned out…even more so when my good friend, Naomi, said that it reminded her of a ‘huipile’. At first I had to look up what she was on about, and when I read that they are a traditional South American garment comprising a square cut blouse that is hand woven and heavily decorated with embroidery,  I was thrilled with the comparison.

However, the comparison has left me with a dilemma! The fact that the original ones are woven and then embroidered has got me thinking that maybe I should weave another piece of fabric, turn it into a top and then embroider it……I am quite excited about the prospect of doing that 🙂

 

Going Round in Circles

Despite the fact that I have been shovelling chocolate into my face like a woman possessed this Easter, I have also been reading up on, and researching, my latest weaving obsession…

Yup, ever since I saw some wonderful weaving done on a circular loom on Pinterest – aka The Rabbit Hole of Lost Time – I have been wanting to get my hands on one. I just never knew where to get them from…until I found one on a search for a new reed for my loom the other day. So, as well as the reed I was after, I ordered one of the circular looms too..it arrived a few days after the reed (not sure why), and it was love at first sight!

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I was quite excited about it, so I warped it up straight away and had a play on it with a bit of my hand spun yarn…

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Alpaca warp and my  hand spun in the weft

…it was a very interesting weave to do, but I am planning on doing some pretty wacky things with it.

This is because I came across some fabulous free downloads on the Woolwench blog. She has some great ideas on how to get the most out of the loom and she does some incredible things with it (she was one of the co-creators of it).  The downloadable e-books also showcase other fibre artists who have made some fantastic items with it, you should check out the website as its very inspirational. You need to sign up to get your hands on the downloads, but if you don’t want to do this, the gallery of her work is amazing.

For now though, I have just finished winding some linen into a ball and have chosen some beads from my bead stash to do a bit of weaving with…..I can’t wait to see if what is in my head can form on the loom…..just off to give it a go!

Oh, and if anyone knows where I can get my hands on a triangular loom, I will be eternally grateful!! 🙂