Dyeing Picnic July 2018

Well, we couldn’t have asked for better weather, considering the torrential downpours and buffeting winds of the last two years- no tying down of the gazebo and getting members, dressed in raincoats and wellies, to sit on chairs holding down the flapping side panels .

Although the sun didn’t appear till later, there was a warmth and calmness to the day even though the results of the dyeing weren’t always what was expected. We all put it down to the water!


This time we were looking at substantive dyeing; dyeing without any mordant.

A little more information about the two types of dyeing with plants can be found here .

Familiar things on the list –

Some things  not quite so familiar –

And three from our earlier in the year  talk  by Cathy O’Brien

The parmelia is found on the uplands, mainly on drystone walls; xanthoria is found on old trees; the cladonia, we’re not sure which one as there are so, so many, was found in the carpark by the beach! Some lichens are rare and are protected, so if you fancy trying this out, check first.


The dyepots were set up……..there were more but I got over-excited and missed a few.

These were brought up to boiling and then strained

Yarn was added

You might notice from the last photo that not all the dyebaths had been strained before adding the fibre. This was comfrey and quite a few hilarious minutes were passed trying to get the leaves out.However, one must note,  even Harris Tweed  cloth and garments have the occasional bit of vm in there so we are in good company!

One of the dyebaths was elder buckthorn bark to which was added soda ash.  Skeins of yarn were added and this will be fermented over 3 to 4 weeks. This solution can’t be boiled as the wool will simply disintegrate.

elder buckthorn bark


Jean had prepared some examples of what we could expect


The skeins, once removed from the dyepots were rinsed and hung out to dry in the glorious sunshine.

Some of ours did not achieve the same vibrancy as the examples. The xanthoria parietina should change from pink to blue as it oxidises in the air, and ours wasn’t quite there, even though several people said they could see it (Specsavers comes to mind).  And our woad, well, what can be said? Quite a failure! But that sparks an idea perhaps, for next year!

One strange result was Mary’s labels. All started off white and look how the different dyes were taken up



There are many books about natural dyeing. The go-to book, of course, is Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour

More about natural dyeing can be found here 

And, if you want know what flowers you can grow for dyeing, with recipes, look at this book


Thanks to Alan Silverside  for the most wonderful photos of lichens at Last Dragon Lichen

Thanks also to Hazel and Gwilym for donating the aronia berries at Aerona

Thanks to Ann Shingles for the use of her home in a beautiful location,

Thanks to Jean Rickford who has to plan, provide, manage,and organise our day (and us). She does it superbly ,too.




Show & Tell- Equipment

Well, it was that kind of session, with a lot of  ooohs! wows! what a good idea! not seen one of those before! how does that work? and so on…..

One of the first oohs! was the introduction of a Country Spinner- I don’t think many had seen one in real life and we were taken aback at the size of the bobbin and orifice


There were a variety of carders, hand carders- flat versus curved-


and very handy covers for them to protect the tines


Drum carders, Classic and Barnett


A variety of equipment, besides the carders, was  displayed to show how to blend fibres-

Blending boards- handmade at home and much, much cheaper than buying  readymade ones. Fibre is pressed into the board using a wallpaper paste brush. Small rolags made using large  and small knitting needles.


Homemade hackles with 6″ nails on one and metal Affro combs on the other and a selection of pottery and shell dizzes with a bead hook to help initially pull fibres through the diz.



There was a lovely warping board made by a member’s husband, who can turn his hand to anything


This a is a mudag, sometimes called a creelagh or murlagh. It is a basket once made in the Scottish Highlands but this was made by a Yorkshireman! It was used to hold fleece prior to spinning. The unusual shape meant fleece could be carded into rolags and placed by the fire  so the heat on the lanolin in the fleece would help with the spinning.


There were handy, handmade travelling, spinning machines- a rakestraw, and one made from a piece of wire


Here is  a Navajo spindle, the size of which brought a great big wow! It had to be about 4 foot in length, definitely not suitable to use whilst travelling!


Handmade Lazy Kates were in evidence


swifts, antique metal and wooden


Most of us have this type of ball winder

But just look at this beauty!


A lovely little weaving/darning tool and just look at the price!


I think this member’s husband should go into business with this Andean plying tool he made.


I’d never seen one of these before- a sailmaker’s palm


And here is a selection of items, not equipment, that members brought in to show us. Each one had a precious story behind it.


Thank you to all who brought in their treasures and made this such an interesting session.


Small Loom Weaving

A pleasing turnout for this session. We also welcomed three new members (** see below re membership/workshops) to our small Guild which is very good.

There were a few different small looms being demonstrated on.

There was a short  demonstration of basic pin loom weaving. This is a very quick and simple way to do small patchwork pieces that can be sewn together to make larger pieces.

There is a basic pattern on the pin loom .

then there are other patterns such as a herrringbone

One of the good things is that as you weave, the bottom of the warp fills up as you weave the top bit. You can easily make a 6″ square in 15 minutes! It’s also something you can put down and pick up at any time without worrying where you’re up to!

You can find tutorials at the Fibre Factory website  ,Work for Idle Hands here and Donna Kallner website

For more complex patterns, Weave-it Weaves can be downloaded here.

Mary demonstrated weaving on the inkle loom. She told me that her husband had made this  in hardwood for someone who then decided they wanted it in softwood. Thereby Mary inherited this by default and had to go to the library to learn how to use it. I think she’s mastered it well!

Anne showed us how to weave on the Zoom Loom

Can’t remember the name of this modern version but we used to do it on a wooden cotton reel with four nails stuck in the top, sitting in front of an open fire, listening to the wireless…..oh, those were the days…….. and it was called French Knitting then!

Just a few of my more rustic ones

After a busy morning and lunch, some relaxed knitting and spinning whilst others carried on weaving.

If you decide you want to get your own pin loom, they are easy enough to make. If you do decide to buy one, be selective- some look very nice but are expensive, others are more basic/rustic but work just as well. If you want to join an online group, there are many. I joined this facebook  group and also got my loom from Julie Kernow who is Admin on that page. She has some for sale now.

Here are just a few things I found online that can be made from pin loom squares- there are many more inspirational items out there. Click on an image for a slideshow.

Just a few more photos from the day.Click on a picture for the slideshow

If anyone wants to look into small looms further, here is a link at aLoomaNation with downloadable manuals and patterns.

*Reminder that the 21 June session is ‘Show and Tell Equipment’. Please bring your unusual, or handmade, or exotic, or strange, or even weird equipment to show us!

**Unfortunately, we have to limit the Dyeing Picnic in July, and the Nuno felting in September, to existing members only.



Mapuche Weaving


A couple of weeks ago we saw Liz Beasley of Ananuca visiting us at the Guild to show us how to do Mapuche weaving. Quite a few of us do weave but this was something quite different.


She started by giving us a brief background to her involvement with it and the people of S. Chile


Some of you might have seen them in action last year at Wonderwool:


I particularly like the handmade looms- they just pop into the forest and cut down suitable branches! Spindles are handmade often with clay, potatoes as the weight as strong yarn is needed for weaving their blankets, rugs and ponchos. They spin sheep’s wool and use plant dyes.



We first warped up our looms- an old picture frame-


Plastic tubing-


Another picture frame-


Two small willow wands were cut to divide the shed-


String heddles were made-



Then the weaving began-




Those of us used to working on rigid heddle looms found that with Mapuche, the weft needed to be pulled tight across the warp in order to create a good pattern. Some of us rigid heddlers started a new weave to achieve a better pattern.  Mapuche weaving patterns are warp based. Most of us worked on a simple pattern like the last photo. Some were more adventurous like the first few. Liz showed us some source books with the most intricate designs and like a lot of indigenous peoples, many communities have their own designs. They often tell a story and spiders (natural spinners and weavers!) feature strongly.

Liz gave us a comprehensive set of notes on  all the processes of mapuche weaving she had covered in this workshop- warping up,dividing sheds, creating string heddles, preparing the weft, creating a shuttle, weaving using the sheds, creating a fringe and for those who might be more adventurous, How to Build a Mapuche Loom!

Below are just a few pics of Liz’s weaving.


We want to thank Liz for a great session and would recommend anyone to take one of her workshops.

Spinning and weaving

March meeting was spinning and weaving or bring your own craft.

There was a mix of crafts from knitting weaving spinning and a bit of carding. More pictures on our Facebook page.

We are a small group with a variety o f skills from experienced Spinners and weavers to new Spinners. It is lovely to have such a wealth of experience and knowledge that people are willing to share.

Hopefully the second Beast from the East won’t cause too much disruption. Keep warm and happy spinning.

Lichen Dyeing Talk

On the morning before Cathy O’Brien from the Gwynedd Guild of WSD came to talk to us about lichen dyeing, there was some bantering about the pronunciation of the word: was it ‘litchen’ or ‘like-en’. No consensus was reached it has to be said, both sides stuck to their guns!

We had been looking forward to her visit and were not disappointed.

First we were given a brief historical perspective of dyeing including the Romans and the manufacturing of the very secretive Scottish ‘cudbear’, plus the term ‘crottle’ which is a Gaelic name for lichens. Here is a link if you wish for more info about cudbear.

She led us through her own journey in researching lichens and dyeing after a visit to Tenerife  where she learned of the role of that island in exporting lichens for use in dyeing. One of the ones that grows there like a weed is roccella . Unfortunately for us it doesn’t grow here in the UK (unless you know better!)

Lots of examples were on display, both fresh and dried and Cathy  talked us through recognition, collecting and drying before explaining the different methods of extracting the dye: boiling method, ammonia method, together with photo-oxidising dyes. This was accompanied by photos, notes and examples of yarn she had dyed.

Cathy is still on her journey experimenting with lichen dyeing but was happy to let us join in and share her knowledge. If anyone decides  to have a go at this a reference book and magnifying glass are recommended as some lichens look very much alike and others are protected.

You can find out more here

Pamphlet guide info here and here 


Thanks to Cathy for an inspiring talk!

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Wool and Fleece Fair / Ffair Gwlan a Cnu

At the beginning of February a really great day was held in Penygroes celebrating all things woolly.  There was everything from fleeces to felting:

and slippers to Saori weaving:

People were selling, demonstrating and talking about their passions, fleeces were for sale and there were exciting discussions about taking this event into the future.  The Llyn and Gwynedd Guilds were represented and we happily spoke to many visitors. A  lot of the people who came to the Fair had no idea that so much was going on in the area.

Here are some more pictures from the day!