Well here we are in 2017 and a Happy New Year, if it's not already too late to say that. As usual for the time of year, there are many blog posts and articles about looking back over the previous year, plans for 2017, trying new things and maintaining your wheel. As if all that isn't enough, this time we also have a spinning singalong.
I'm keeping the snow on the title up there (despite the fact that the spinner in the cover photo looks a little underdressed for such weather) because we've had a little flurry this week and there could well be more.
The cover photo is a painting on mica called 'Two women spinning white threads', taken from the New York Public Library Digital Collections. Mica occurs naturally in thin transparent layers, particularly in the subcontinent, so although it's difficult to paint on, it was natural for Indian artists to use it as an alternative to the European paintings on glass (to my mind a nicer alternative). They tended to paint scenes depicting professions or life generally, possibly for the tourism market.
This is the free, edited issue for January 2017. Scroll to the bottom to find out how to receive a longer version of HSN a couple of weeks earlier.
Photo right: Mushroom dye, Leena, Riihivilla.
In the news
Spinning spider silk is now possible
A team of researchers from a Swedish university has produced kilometre long threads that resemble real spider silk. Their process mimics as closely as possible the way that silk is produced in a spider's backside.
There are two videos on this page, one showing the silk being 'spun' in a collection bath and the other shows the silk being reeled after being drawn out a bit from 40 micrometers down to 15 micrometers.
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2016 in review
Ella Gordon has had a special 2016 with the emphasis on her designs. She was chosen as the patron of Shetland Wool Week and her Crofthoose Hat as the official pattern.
Her collection of 2016 review pictures is here
Josiekitten has had a dreadful life event to deal with and as a spinning blogger and generally lovely person she has been in my thoughts.
At the start of the year she made a number of crafty resolutions and looks back at how she did. Her successes include pattern designs and spinning for the competition at Fibre East.
New year's post
It's fabulous when something handmade gets a lot of wear.
Regular correspondent Rachel's 2016 included lots of making with an emphasis on spinning and knitting.
These are her hand-dyed Cheviot socks, which she lists as her most worn item of 2016.
A year in review
This yarn is navajo-plied, with a fourth beaded thread added at the same time.
It's part of Hazel's year in review, during which she took part in Open Studios. She says that with an audience, the plying was even more hair-raising that it would have been normally!
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From the Blogosphere
About that sail
I've been feeling inspired by these Handstories pictures made by Hazel.
One particularly pertinent point that she makes is that she feels afraid to use special things. There's a picture at the start of this post of some wonderful fabrics, knitted, woven, some vintage, some dyed or handprinted.
She cuts and hand stitches the fabric with beads and other things to make pictures with stories and much thought behind them.
I particularly like this piece, see if you can spot the orca in the background cloth. There are many more interesting pieces to be found on her blog.
This 15 minute video contains vintage footage filmed at a demonstration studio in Georgia shearing, scouring, carding, spinning, dyeing and weaving just as their settler ancestors would have done.
It's an absorbing watch, I particularly enjoyed the scouring 'production line', the use of the Great Wheel and the very practised use of the hand carders.
The film was made over forty years ago and funded by the US Information Agency to help preserve the appalachian traditions. With thanks to the1764shepherdess for sharing.
St Distaff's Day
Each year I only remember St Distaff's day when I read about events that have already happened.
This article about a meeting in Chehalis in honour of the fictional saint has more details than I've heard before, including the "games and other shenanigans", such as wives dousing their husbands with water from the milk pail.
A Spinning We Go!
ewespecial also writes about St Distaff's day (aka Roc Day) with two poems, no less.
She casts a little more light on those pails of water. I always thought that the term 'spinster' came from the fact that the woman left unmarried would be lacking wifely duties and therefore spend more time spinning - but no - there's a more detailed explanation which you'll find within this post.
The Big Cloth (An Clo Mor)
Settle back with a cuppa for five minutes of restorative calm.
This is a beautifully-produced film about the production of Harris Tweed; we meet the people, the sheep, the landscape and watch the processes, all with a restful soundtrack and no speech.
With thanks to Jillian Moreno for sharing.
Elecampane as a dye plant?
This flower looks familiar, and indeed it is said to be common throughout England (Europe and America). Plus seeds are available for growing as a dyeplant.
Leena has come across what could be a myth. She has found a very old recipe for making a blue dye from the root of this flower. It appears that many people have copied this information without trying it, and finally she's found a more recent reference from author Su Grierson, who tried it but failed to achieve the blue.
A colourful mystery if not a colourful dye recipe. If anyone has succeeded in a blue from the root, or knows any more about this, please let me know.
Will food coloring dyed yarns fade?
I've featured articles about using food dyes, in particular, some by Rebecca from Chemknits.
One of her most frequently-asked questions is whether the dyes are light fast.
Her answer is thorough, and she has also made a video so that you can see some examples.
Disappointed with the brown colours she received in a surprise pack, goldilox decided to blend them with various cream and white fibres. She ended up with two blended shades which she used to make a striped version of Isabell Kraemer's Llevant.
"I don't think this is ever going to be my favourite sweater" she says, but "I really like this pattern - fairly simple, but with a nice bit of detail at the neck, and 2 little buttons at the back."
Click through for pictures of the fibre, work in progress as well as the finished jumper.
Customised wheel ideas
Louise of Spin City recommends customising your wheel, which I'll wholeheartedly go along with.
Some wheels lend them to customisation and some come in unfinished wood, which is ideal if you want to give it your own personal touch.
She has collected together some examples, focusing on the Kromski Fantasia.
The earliest European civilization was all about purple yarn
In early civilisations, purple was a rare and prized colour.
This is a fascinating story of an early city built on purple yarn and dye from a surprising source. Jenn's telling is entertaining, I wish I could hear her relate it in one of her videos but at least when I read her posts, I hear her voice in my head.
Anatomy of a spindle wheel head
Yes, an anatomy lesson. This article is far more interesting than it may sound. Great wheels and charkhas have a spindle as opposed to the flyer that we're probably more familiar with. They have a very high ratio (size of the drive wheel compared to the whorl on the spindle) and the speed of the spindle can be further increased with the accelerator shown in this diagram. These parts can be missing on old wheels.
Even if you're not looking to buy a great wheel, this may be relevant because 'quill' spindles with or without accelerators are available for some brands of modern spinning wheel.
Spinning song from world war one
During World War One, many things became scarce, including knitting yarn, and so out came the spinning wheels. (There's a link in this piece to another article about the groups that were formed for this purpose).
The New Zealand Spinning Wheels blog has discovered this rousing song from Britain by Jane Morrison. The dedication is "to patriotic school girls" and the lyrics have been written to be "suitable for singing on Declaration Day".
If you read music, the sheet music (originally costing one and six I notice) is available as a scan (vocal line / lyrics / piano accompaniment). If you don't read the music then the words are printed within the blog post.
According to this post, it was sung recently at a New Zealand SWG's Christmas Party! There are pictures but unfortunately no video or sound recording.
New year, new start
Sara has always been a worsted spinner, but hasn't been happy with her yarn. But a recent book has changed her life as a spinner.
She is trying something new, a semiwoollen draft and likes the results.
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Tips and tutorials
Caring for woollens properly is so important for us spinners because of the natural fibres we use and the time we put into making.
Anne has prepared for the new year by making a batch of wool soap. If you're interested in performing a bit of alchemy in your kitchen, she's given full details and plenty of tips.
I've no idea how easy thes ingredients are to obtain in the UK or your part of the world, but if you do try any of this, please write about it or let me know.
Tying loose ends
Are your bobbins full of short amounts of singles?
Kate Larson suggests making a 3-ply scrap yarn. The picture shows a skein of her New Year's Day yarn made this way.
Kate points out that 3-ply yarn is consistent and round and she likes the effect of plying singles that are not the same gauge. She also describes her method of joining a new single when one runs out.
Five good reasons to buy and use mini wool combs
We generally go for a pair of hand carders when we begin to process (or blend) fleece.
Carders prepare wool for woollen yarn (bouncy) but for worsted yarn (smooooth) the proper prep is with combs.
Mini combs are a first step towards the large, lethal big ones. This article on the Interweave site gives five good reasons (and one bad one) for buying the small combs.
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Social media followers will know that I've been trying new designs for Yvonne. When I first started, well over a year ago, I said "I can't draw", I drew stick sheep and it was lots of fun. As the drawings became more refined, the stick sheep really didn't work. The expressionless faces were part of the joke to start with but that hasn't been working for me recently either.
So I still can't draw but now we have a (hopefully) more interesting colourful look, and there's lots of room for me to experiment with facial expressions. Let's see how this goes.
OK, you'll be able to tell *your* great-grandchildren that you watched....
Life must look very different if you have a much shorter or much longer lifespan than ours. I did enjoy drawing Crow attempting to hang off the young and bendy branch.
If you like Yvonne, click the image to find her page, you can use next and previous to explore more cartoons, and join the mailing list for a regular digest email.
Keeping this wheel spinning
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Sometimes just a picture is enough
This tentacle-y finished project is 'Octopus'. I love the concept, perhaps more of a standalone roll-neck than a cowl.
Babylonglegs used dyed fibre from Freyalyn. The colours in the fibre appear to vary quite widely, but the way it all blends in the yarn and in the finished project is fascinating.
Jenn has designed this shawl for a wedding, as the title might suggest. She's chosen two lace motifs that seemed appropriate, Marriage Lines and Holland Lace.
Jenn made this one using a two ply handspun yarn from a BFL sparkle blend.
She gives the pattern, written and charts, on her page.
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A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.
Blish by Norah Gaughan
A cross between a sweater and a poncho (Swoncho?) it's a top-down, seamless pullover featuring some cabling.
The pattern has sizes XS through to 2XL . It calls for one to two thousand yards (depending on the size) of aran weight yarn, 8wpi.
Crochet beverage cozy mitt by Jennifer Gregory
Just because it made me laugh out loud! If you enjoy a beverage on-the-go or at outdoor events, this could be for you.
There's a man's and woman's version. The pattern is given on this page along with a shed load of video tutorials. I've no idea how practical it is - if you make one, let me know.
With thanks to Knithacker for sharing
Zoom Loom Color Block Potholder by Jane Patrick
Earlier on we talked about the Zoom Loom (small square pin loom). Jane Patrick has used 18 squares to make this felted pot stand.
The fibres we use as spinners tend to be easily feltable, so deliberately achieving the felted finish should be easy.
Humankind scarf by Matthew Spiers
This is the crochet man, wearing his Humankind scarf. It has a paper-doll-chain feel about it. I like muted colours rather than the bright colours Matthew favours; I wonder how that would look.
His comment about dictionary.com's word of the year at the end of his post (just before the pattern) is very poignant.
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Knitting patterns that pair perfectly with hand-dyed yarn
You may dye your own yarn, or spin indie-dyed fibre.
gradients are popular, and the effect will be different depending on your row length. As an alternative to a dyed gradient, you can make a gradient from a series of colours, maybe overlapping one colour to the next. This is demonstrated in at least one of the patterns here.
This is a nice selection of patterns, there are a couple that I'm considering.
Alpine Cable Pullover by Alexandra Tavel
I've recently been enjoying knitting with a very bulky yarn and big needles.
This jumper is fashionably oversize and is made in a 5-6 WPI yarn, using 10mm needles. It's rated 'intermediate', but I think this is due to knitting in the round and picking up stitches (as well as the obvious cabling).
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17 - 19 February, 2017, Farnham Maltings, Hampshire
A three day festival featuring a programme of bookable workshops. Over 80 contemporary and innovative producers and makers selling yarn and yarn related accessories
Edinburgh Yarn Festival
10 / 11 March 2017, Edinburgh Corn Exchange
(classes 9 - 12 March)
A celebration of all things related to yarn, wool, knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving and felting. A fantastic market place with around 100 selected vendors, great workshops and a host of other attractions
22 & 23 April 2017, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells
Promoting wool and natural fibre production and its use.
Exhibitors and trade stands covering all aspects of felting, knitting, weaving, spinning, crochet and textile art with raw materials, equipment, books and finished products for sale. Competitions and a range of hands-on workshops.
A list of accommodation and camping in the surrounding area is available on the Wonderwool website.
Fri 23 and Sat 24 June June 2017, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Woolfest was founded to provide a showcase and a celebration of the best of wool and wool crafts.
The event is all about creativity and design with beautiful quality, amazing colours and skilled craftsmanship.
British Wool Show (formerly British Wool Weekend Show)
Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July, Thirsk Rural Business Centre, Blakey Lane, Thirsk
Supporting the Campaign for Wool.
Exciting treasures to discover; wool from fleece to finished items and other items you will need to spin, weave, knit, crochet, hand dye, cross stitch, embroider or make felt.
23 and 24 September 2017, Skipton Auction Mart, North Yorkshire
For you if you love yarn and are passionate about all things woolly. It aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity of wool, cotton, linen and silk fibres in all their forms
Happy spinning and don't be a stranger!
Shiela Dixon - Editor / curator
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