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:

tools

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!

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Spinning with a dinosaur

Internationally, Worldwide Spinning in Public Day is in mid-September. We’ve spun in public then, have roasted and/or frozen and/or been blasted by wind, spoken to a few interested people or seen virtually nobody – and so we’ve changed: we spin (and do other woolly things) in public in August. There are more people about during the summer holidays, and there is generally less chance of frostbite. We get all sorts of attention. This year some of it came from a large dinosaur.

Honestly, it did. Evidence:

what????

Admittedly, it wasn’t a real dinosaur – but still, bet that doesn’t happen at many other SIP events. It does at ours, because thanks to one of our members and her very supportive friends, we’ve been spinning in public at the brilliant Greenwood Forest Park near Caernarfon. This is our second year there, and yet again we had good weather: remarkable in a summer noted for storms and flooded-out festivals.

We also had a lot of visitors, trying their hands spinning on a wheel,

having a spin

drop spindling,

drop spindling

finding out about natural dyes,

dyes

and, most successfully with younger visitors, using a peg loom:

pegging away

This was popular throughout the day –

pegging audience

an inspired thought by one of our members gave many children and young people something woolly they could make and take away. Hopefully we’ve got some new addicts out there – and, who knows, maybe next year we’ll get the dinosaur hooked too…

Here are some more images from the day. Just click on an image for a slideshow. Huge thanks to everyone at Greenwood for making us so welcome, to Ramona for organising it, to all the members who participated – and to all our brilliant visitors!

 

Dyeing with leaves (and all sorts of weather)

The dyeing picnic this year was – um – let’s just say that we had every sort of weather possible except snow and thunderstorms. It really didn’t look promising at the start,

weather

as a few intrepid dyers gathered under the gazebo (the slightly less intrepid sheltered in the house for a bit). Our theme this year was dyeing with leaves, and there was a selection of leaves and a few prepared extracts for us to play with:

dye materials

Many had to be chopped, and soon we were all busy either chopping

chop chop

or attempting to shelter the stoves from the wind, which was blowing a hooley and seemed determined to blow out the gas burners. It did not win!

Yarn was soaking and soon the first dyepots were on: gorse with a copper solution, tansy with no mordant (and no picture, either) and fuchsia with vinegar as a modifier:

They were followed by privet with copper, blackberry leaves with alum, dock with copper, birch with alum, birch with copper, and finally, comfrey with copper and iron, from solution. We also had some crack willow in solution.

There were signs that the weather was improving and, dyebaths bubbling nicely, we broke for lunch. Lunch and the meringues from heaven:

yum

They’re traditional, honestly. You can’t dye anything at all without meringues. Really.

So what did we get, apart from sticky hands? The weather had indeed improved enormously; the sun came out, waterproofs could be dscarded, and though the wind hadn’t dropped, it did perform one very useful function: drying our skeins really quickly!

a few skeins

The pink, incidentally, is the fuchsia, and those are handspun skeins. Below are some commercially spun ones, which took the dyes differently (more thoroughly, generally, which is probably down to commercial scouring – but fuchsia here turned out khaki).

browns

It was a lovely day, weather or no weather. Here are some more images.

Thanks to Ann for her hospitality, and to Jean for the workshop, for all the hard work and the inspiration.

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,

examples

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.

landscape

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!

Workshops work

Our April meeting involved a show and tell, where members brought in some of the things they had either done in the workshops over the previous year, or which they had gone on to create after being in the workshops.

Many people had a go at weaving a beret (it was something a member had been seen doing at the dyeing picnic, and she was inundated with requests to demonstrate, resulting in a workshop). Here’s one, in pinks:

beret

The focus on weaving – a bit unusual for us, but it shouldn’t be – had continued with one of our regular ‘spin and weave’ sessions deliberately focusing on it instead of spinning (well, as well as spinning, of course – details in the previous post). There was lots of inspirational work, and among which was some purple saori-style weaving… well, here it is, off the loom and made into a jacket, incorporating felted panels as well:

wow

There was more weaving, too, of a more classic style:

IMG_4892

Let’s have a closer look:

IMG_4893 IMG_4894

as well as knitting:

IMG_4895 IMG_4898

and felting, reminding us that the next workshop is on felted landscapes. The felting workshops are always very popular, and there’s a list of what to bring along on the Events and Meetings page (click on the menu at the top). So here’s some inspiration:

gorgeous!

That’s 19 May, in case you were wondering how long you had to decide which landscape you were going to immortalise in wool!

 

Bring your looms!

Firstly, apologies for the delay in this post – deadlines, deadlines and work, work, work.

For our March meeting, which was a ‘spinning and weaving’ session, we decided to focus on the weaving. After all, we are the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and many of us have looms which we barely use, don’t use as much as we’d like, or are unsure of how to use. So we decided that it would be a good idea to encourage people to bring along their looms.

And they did! We had everything from a small, school-style loom,

small loom

to an assortment of planks which, when assembled, turned out to be a ladder loom:

ladder loom 1

One member was doing some almost saori-style weaving,

purple haze

while others were taking a more classical approach,

orange delight

Here are some more pictures from the day, including progress on the ladder loom; just click on an image for a slideshow. oh – don’t forget that the May meeting is an ever-popular felting workshop; there’s a list of things to bring on the ‘events’ page.

 

 

 

The wisdom of knitters

Our February meeting, sneaking in at the end of the month, was a knitting one – an ‘open forum’, led by one of our members who is a sensational knitter:

knitted lace

It was full of tips and hints and suggestions. And reminders: like when you are working with handspun, don’t just knit a tension square (we all do, don’t we?) but wash and block it too.

  • For a neater buttonhole, one where you have to cast off stitches on one row and then cast them back on when you come back, use the ‘backward loop‘ cast on. It makes a neater finish. It’s also useful where you have to cast on stitches elsewhere in the body of whatever you’re knitting, too.
  • Are you running out of yarn, want to avoid joining more in the middle of a piece and wonder if you’ve got enough to get to the end of a row? Spread your knitting out, gently put the yarn round the whole thing twice, without pulling. If it reaches, you’ve likely got enough.

socks

  • How about socks? knitting them from the cuff down? Cast on with a larger size needle; it gives a bit of extra stretch on a cuff which could easily be too tight.
  • Also, try casting on one stitch more than the pattern says, and when you come to that point on the next row, k2tog. It gives a smoother edge, or you can knit the tail in with the first stitch of the next round. Both of these help you avoid the ‘little step’ effect.

And then we had a mattress stitch refresher. Our forum leader advised using the half-stitch method; it certainly gives a smoother finish (on both sides – if you follow the link, it’s the second of the two examples). Needle in, up two, then across: someone said that ‘ladder stitch’ would be a better name.

matress stitch

There were so many new ideas, reminders of techniques we had once used but had fallen out of the habit of doing, interesting tips and tricks. Then we were asked when we started knitting, and how. Almost everybody, except one, had learned to knit as a child or a teenager (that was another one only); five to eight was the general age bracket. Four people were even taught at school. One of our longest-serving members knitted socks during the war for sailors, and recalled going to collect the yarn. She remembered it very clearly: the wool they had to use made her hands sore. And her grandmother had knitted for a living.

It seems appropriate to be publishing this post on International Women’s Day, especially in the light of the reminder that so many British women in the past knitted for a livelihood, not for pleasure. We are lucky. And lucky to have had such a lovely day, talking about it.

patchwork