Category Archives: workshop

Blending beauty

We had a fabulous workshop recently (apologies for the delay in this post, by the way, but work just gets in the way), with Jill Shepherd. Blending on the drum carder – and what fun we had!

The day was full of colour and texture, starting with us having to make a choice from this fabulous selection:

and thinking about contrast and textures (sparkly bits and silk, anyone?). We spread our choices out,

and then the fun began:

Along the way we were shown some useful tricks, like taking the fibre off the drum carder with a pair of chopsticks:

And we had some lovely blends to take home and spin up:

Thank you, Jill, for a great day!

A weaving workshop

As a Guild, many of us weave. We don’t necessarily bring looms to meetings, and we don’t always have weaving workshops – though there have been a few lately. Our most recent meeting was one, and this time looms were not needed. We were weaving bags on boxes.

The boxes had to be quite substantial because – as you can see – they had to withstand the pull on the warp….

Wine boxes – or in this case, a rum box – are ideal!

Then, once warped up, you can begin weaving.

There were quite a variety of approaches:

and everyone had a distinctive take.

There’s a lot to get done in one day, and hopefully some finished examples will be brought along to our next meeting, but here are some which were finished beforehand to demonstrate what can be achieved:

and how about this cutie?

(And apologies for the delay in posting, caused by a perfect storm: a combination of work, illness and computer problems, and huge thanks to Ramona for taking the photographs….)

Being free

The September meeting was a workshop with Bee Weir, and was very well attended: freeform knitting and crochet.

Bee’s own work is inspirational, and after some minutes spent fondling and examining and ooohing and aaahing (and buying things), we soon settled down. We’d been asked to bring along a selection of miscellaneous yarns and needles and hooks:


and soon started work on our ‘scrumbles’. These are small pieces of freeform work which will eventually be pieced together to make something: a garment, perhaps, or a bag, or a cushion. They should be no bigger, apparently, than your hand, and we were all working away very quickly.

We started with a small square, then picked up stitches on one edge in another yarn and knitted a ribbed rectangle. Then, in another yarn, came a crochet triangle or, for those of us who don’t crochet, one in knitting. And then stitches were picked up for another – and so on.

working away

Bee gave us two vital tips: first, and especially if you anticipate making a garment, stay within one colour scheme, mixing and matching textures; second, ‘go as mad as you like’ within a manufacturer’s single range, as the colours generally tone. Yes, you are ‘going mad’, but you are doing so in an intelligent way: it’s not just grabbing anything and incorporating it. Scary!

Bee also pointed out that repeating a couple of the yarn choices with different textures can give a piece a balanced look – and recommended making lots of scrumbles and then piecing them together rather than one at a time.

Here is an assortment of some of our scrumbles at the end of the day:

scrumble central

many with embellishments for added interest (or as a useful covering for anything we weren’t quite happy about).

And here’s a gallery of the work we produced on the day, plus a detail of one of Bee’s bags (the last one, with the curl). Just click on an image for a slideshow:

Huge thanks to Bee for a fabulous day – so enjoyable!

Felting the landscape

The felting workshops that we have always get the imagination going, and this year we were doing felted landscapes. People had been asked to find a photograph of a landscape they wished to try and convey in felt, and came along with images from a variety of sources.

felt this!

This astonishing aerial photograph by Yann-Arthus Bertrand fascinated one of our felters, while others had found pictures in magazines or in their own collections.

There were some examples ready to inspire us, with their felted alternatives,


and soon people started building up their felted pictures (after they’d created some prefelt as a base, generally), keeping their chosen images to hand.

building up

(the finished version of this is in the gallery at the end of the post).

Everyone was felting away, sprinkling water around, rubbing their felted surfaces, and checking their images were being reflected in their felting.

in progress


And the results? Fantastic.


No apologies for having few words and lots of images here – check out the gallery for more. Just click on an image for a slideshow – and huge thanks to Jean for an inspiring workshop!

Spinning to the crimp

We had a very intense workshop this month – Spinning to the Crimp, with Alison Daykin. It wasn’t actually something that any of us had done before, and it was fascinating (and baffling, at least at first). There were plenty of wheels assembling,

wheelsand we were all discussing the fleece samples we’d been asked to bring and speculating about what the workshop would involve…

This became clear as Alison took us through assessing a fleece and measuring its crimp. We were making all sorts of systematic judgements which would be used to enable us to spin according to the crimp of the fleece, and which would guarantee a level of consistency.

fleece assessmentOne important snippet was to judge the crimp before washing the fleece.

The bottom one has been washed, as had most of our samples, and it’s easy to see how much easier it is to actually see the crimp on an unwashed fleece, let alone count how many crimps per inch it has.

crimpThen we got on to the maths (eek), and began with talking about spinning wheel ratios. This was a bit embarrassing, as it revealed how few of us actually knew or remembered what the different ratios of our wheels were, but Alison was able to show us a very simple technique for working that out on the hoof, as it were:

spinning wheel ratios?You mark a spot on the wheel and turn it slowly, noting how many times the bobbin rotates (on this type of wheel) before the spot on the wheel comes past again.

And then we were off. It’s all in the rhythm of the treddling, really – getting the speed right to ensure that the yarn being spun was the most consistent possible, going by the fibre itself and allowing that to determine the yarn. Interesting, and completely the opposite to the instinctive way most of us spin, though we were assured that this technique very soon becomes equally instinctive, as it were. Fascinating and, as one person said, ‘insprational’. But there are other reasons to seriously consider spinning with the crimp. As another spinner said, ‘I can spin very fine yarn consistently already, but this will really help when I want to spin thicker yarn’.

Incidentally, several of us had brought samples of longwool fleeces – Wensleydale, Teeswater, Lincoln Longwool – which were wavy

wavy fleecerather than crimped, and which were definitely not the best fleeces for this technique. But – speaking personally – we still learned a lot about the best way to prep and use these fleeces.

A lovely day, and very many thanks to Alison for a great workshop.

Yellow and blue make a whole range of greens

Our July meeting is always notable – it’s the dyeing picnic, when we get together with a whole load of pots and pans and buckets and plastic bags full of dyestuff and skeins and – well, that’s the general picture. And it’s fun. Huge amounts of fun.

This year the theme was ‘yellow and blue make green’. There were various things which would produce yellows – tansy, onion skins, gorse flowers,

gorse flowersmeadowsweet, willow leaves, heather tips, carrot tops, St John’s Wort and even some begonia flowers – and the aim was to dye our skeins in those and then, after lunch, overdye them in an indigo bath.

We mordanted our skeins first, and soon we were producing a good selection of yellows. Some people decided to do space dyeing, putting only parts of their skeins into the dyebath,  while others opted for dyeing the whole skein.

IMG_3112The skeins were rinsed off, and here you can see a good range of yellows:

yellowsand then we broke for lunch.

I know it’s not strictly dyeing as such, but the plate lunch is such an enjoyable part of the dyeing picnic, that we have to have a full-size pic:

puddings!And when we’d recovered from that lot, we went back outside for part 2.

The indigo bath.

skeins going into indigo

It’s quite fiddly, using an indigo bath when there are so many people involved. But we all understand the need not to disturb the water and thus oxidise the dyebath. In the words of Jenny Dean in Wild Colour, ‘It is crucial not to stir or agitate the vat, or to allow the fibres to drip into the vat. Oxygen will be introduced in this way, and the effectiveness of the vat will be reduced, eventually becoming useless’. We became much more hushed and noticeably calm and gentle around the indigo vat.

The magic of the colour as you gently slide a skein out and see the it change is always enthralling.

Coming out of the vatIt goes blue as the oxygen hits it…

skeins dryingand because our skeins were yellow and being overdyed, we got some fabulous greens:

greensQuite magical.

Here’s a gallery of the day; just click on an image for a slideshow as usual. You’ll notice that some people chose not to overdye all of their skeins, and that others had multi-coloured skeins or, in one case, some fabric samples. Typical of the variety we get at the dyeing picnic. Such a shame that it’s a whole year until the next one!

(The burnt orange of some of those skeins on the drying rack was from some astonishingly effective onion skins. Amazing!)


Inkle looming

We haven’t had a weaving workshop for ages – but that changed on Thursday 23 April, when Fiona Nisbet came over to lead a workshop on inkle loom weaving. Lambing often means that out spring workshops are a bit lighter on numbers than they would otherwise be, but there were still a good number of keen weavers or potential weavers. Fiona has led workshops with us before, so we knew it would be good!

First, we were introduced to the basics of using an inkle loom.

inkle loomSeveral members already have their own, but others were either completely new to weaving or had not used an inkle loom before. Though they only produce comparatively narrow strips of woven fabric, these are ideal for things like bag handles:

inkle woven stripas here, where the inkle strips make a long handle on a handwoven bag and add to the whole in a most attractive way. But Fiona also introduced us to other, wilder, ways of using an inkle loom – for instance with wire:

inkle loom wire weavingwhich was something of a Marmite technique, with some people absolutely loving it and others feeling just as strongly the other way.

But this was all very well – how about working? Fiona gave us a great tip about colour selection, which would also help with choosing colours for stranded knitting – wrapping the colours round a piece of cardboard, secured with sellotape. For weaving, you can also use this to work out the relative amounts of each warp thread, the balance between them and the pattern you want to make:

IMG_1959Choices were made, and people soon got on to the fiddly process of warping up:

eekThe choices people made were so varied, with all sorts of yarns – the smoother the better, due to the extra fuzziness which can be created by the up and down movement of the warp – in use, from cottons to ribbons to ones with sequins:

IMG_1984Then Fiona explained how to actually weave on the inkle loom, creating the shed,

starting to weaveand we got down to it.

weaving(Admittedly this was from one of our experienced weavers, but the rest of us can catch up at home!)

Here’s a gallery of the day with some of Fiona’s lovely examples to inspire us, as well as our own work. Just click on an image for a slideshow.


And our next session is on bags (a show and tell, with spinning and weaving and knitting) which is a perfect follow up. Our show and tell meetings are really inspirational, so bring along as many types of bags as you can and tell us all about how they were made – wonder how many will have inkle-loom-woven handles?