Hand Spinning News
Have you heard the one about the ram with no ears? It's not a joke but a ghost story.
As I write this we're heading rapidly for Midsummer Night, a magical and dreamy time, but we have to think ahead with pattern suggestions, so the patterns and finished projects in this issue are warmer items like cowls and scarves.
Wonderwool seems a while away now, but last month's issue was short on reports of the Welsh weekend because they hadn't appeared by then. Below are three stories of this year's event which may whet your appetite for the events yet to happen this year.
Read on for all of this and the rest of this month's curated collection of spinning-related news, views and reviews; patterns, pointers and finished projects. This is the full issue for June 2018.
Photo right: Ancient colour. Cover photo Julian Mora, via Unsplash.
In the news
North-east wool mill shines light on history of estate tweeds
'Estate tweeds' are part of Scotland's social history. Tartan was banned after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Estate owners chose tweed designs for the staff belonging to their land. The fabric was weatherproof and the colours chosen to blend with the local land.
This chronicle documenting the tweed designs was first published in 1968 and has recently been updated and relaunched by the current chairman of historic mill Johnstons of Elgin.
A royal tradition
The baby blanket used by Kate and William when they presented their most recent tot to the world continues a family tradition. Queen Elizabeth II was the first to use the 'Nottingham Lace Knitted Baby Shawl' from G H Hurt and Son when she gave birth to Prince Charles.
The blanket retails at £69.95 and is obviously machine-produced.
For a similar look, handspun and knitted, how about this pattern for a Royal Look Knitted Baby Shawl
Repurposed Victorian mill is spinning cotton once again
With clinical whiteness and modern machinery, this renovated Tameside mill is a far cry from Blake's 'dark satanic mills'.
The four storey mill was built in 1885 (long after Blake died, which probably invalidates that reference) and stood empty since 1955.
It's so good to hear that the mill is once again being used for fine cotton spinning once more rather than developed into flats. The firm is employing 40 people to produce 16-20 tonnes of yarn a month.
This is a detailed and interesting story. The video at the top of the page is difficult to reach behind the ads, but is worth the perseverance. It shows the machines carding, spinning and weaving the cotton.
Wonderwool Wales 2018
Suzie bravely booked herself onto a coach trip for her first Wonderwool experience and thoroughly enjoyed it, "I was amazed by the number of ridiculously talented people there were in one place and felt quite overwhelmed".
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From the Blogosphere
Woollinn - A Yarn-Fumed Overview
I'm fascinated to read about this particular show in dispatches from a number of fronts.
If you're in Northern Ireland or the Republic, or enjoy travelling over the water, you'll be interested to read about the Woollinn show.
LB Handknits says that she doesn't "actually remember very much of it" due to lack of sleep, yarn fumes or perhaps seeing her own designs on display.
Her pictures give a very good overview and include a worthwhile picture of the noble Countess Ablaze's flamboyant headwear.
She provides links to three other notable yarn shows in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Sweater from scratch!
This is Freyalyn showing off her 'from scratch' jumper
Graduated colours look really good in stranded knitting. I'm not sure that this is truly graduated yarn, or four different shades, but they were made by blending two different colours of naturally-dyed fleece that Freyalyn picked up at Edinborough last year. The pale blue was "stuffed in the indigo vat to exhaust it".
Despite the lack of planning, care and attention (that sounds mean, but you'll understand if you read the post) I think the result looks amazing.
It's always such a joy to see combing in progress. To see the discreet locks turn into one big combed afro and then pulled into nests which are so much more crimpy and airy than commercially-processed top.
Janelle bought the fleece this year from Maryland Sheep and Wool festival. The donor was a sheep called Tamarind.
Besides combing, she has also tried flick-carding the locks. In a later post she has spun samples of the different preparations using different spinning techniques and has yet
Oenology and yarnology: pairing with surprising symmetry
There was a National Wine Day? I see that it's a US invention. How selfish not to dub it International Wine Day!
This post is tongue-in-cheek but very creative. It pairs the qualities of some wines with the properties of some of our favourite fibres.
Japan's Classical period featured stunning natural colors and dyeing techniques.
Fifth-generation master dyer Sachio Yoshioka has no time for chemical dyes, and has donated a number of traditionally-dyed samples for posterity at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
"I was so amazed to see what fabulously rich and varied colours could be achieved by the use of natural dyes", said Rupert Faulkner, senior curator.
This is a beautiful and fascinating video, and well worth settling down for the 15 minutes that it takes to watch.
Thanks to ewespecial for sharing the video. The link below goes directly to the film, make sure you have it switched to the highest definition.
If the magic of indigo dyeing inspires you, also see the tutorial about shibori dyeing below Tips and Tutorials.
Wee dye test
The wee in the title thankfully means small. After cooking artichoke hearts, Goldilox noticed that the water was a very rich colour, and tried dyeing the knitted sample (alum-mordanted).
The next wee test is to find out how light-fast this lovely grey proves to be.
Dyeing wool with birch and plum tree leaves using alum mordant at various concentrations
Fran accidentally used double the amount of alum crystals when mordanting some Shetland wool yarn, and noticed that the result was "far more impressive" than usual.
Her imaginary friend speculated that she might have previously been "spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar" which led Fran to calculate the costs, environmental and financial, of doubling-up, and to run some proper tests.
A spinner's view of cotton crochet thread
It's interesting and educational to dissect commercial yarns and threads.
This article may be of more interest to newer spinners, as it goes into some very basic spinning concepts, but it's interesting to see how these different crochet threads compare.
Dyeing with dandelion leaves
This is such a beautiful yellow that riihivilla compares with weld. Surprisingly she used more leaves than flowers.
She discovered that "dandelion contains many flavonoids which also act as dyes, including luteolin, which is the same dye as is also in weld". As it grows so prolifically in our gardens, verges and meadows, it's surprising that dandelion is not used for dyeing more often.
Introducing limited edition norfolk horn yarn
I've been following Jenn's endeavours for some time, and included some of her blog posts here. She wrote a couple of articles about the Norfolk Horn breed (here and here), before spinning and knitting some, sourcing fleece, watching it being sheared and taking it to the mill for processing.
Full marks to Jenn. It's British rare breed wool and she's taken care with her own environmental policy and those of her suppliers. (See her Instagram feed for a picture of her on her bike headed for the post office.)
Hot versus cold alum mordant for wool before dyeing with dyers chamomile
Fran has a dilemma. She has carried out an experiment involving cold and hot alum mordanting and found that the colour is better when the mordant bath is heated. She doesn't like to use the extra energy, and is feeling that she'd like to use something more natural.
She explores just how 'natural' alum crystals are, while carrying out this experiment, and gathering and using chamomile flowers.
Wool Exploration: Dorset breeds
The Wool Exploration continues apace. 'Dorset Breeds' includes four breeds; Dorset Horn, Dorset Down, Poll Dorset and Portland.
This KnitBritish post contains extracts from Deb Robson's Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook as well as information on where to buy yarn and fibre for spinning from these breeds.
To some people 'wool' means acrylic yarn, and it's going to be difficult to persuade those people that paying several times as much for yarn that isn't machine-washable is a better option.
Nylon gives us strength and durability. Superwash yarn can be washed without shrinkage by coating it with a polyamide.
But if we were to call acrylic and nylon 'plastic' then that would certainly put these cheaper, washable yarns and even our wool/nylon sock yarn in a different light.
What are the alternatives to these fossil-fuel derived modern materials? Sian Modine explores on the realgoodyarns blog.
Lake County Metroparks Farmpark holds annual sheep shearing weekend
Here's an eye-catching idea for anyone holding a public event with shearing / spinning demonstration.
Lake Metroparks Farmpark dye a sheep in rainbow colours using Kool-aid and the coloured fleece is shorn and spun on the day (see the thumbnail photograph). It's no doubt much more attractive and fun for kids and us big kids.
The reports from this year's event don't include a picture of the coloured sheep, but I found this picture from last year's event. Confusingly it's labelled 'before shearing' but it certainly looks like a shorn sheep to me. What do you think?
100 Percent Wool
I can't recommend this exhibition unless you happen to be in Berlin. The information appears to be 'entry level' but their aim is a very worthy one; "to develop a stage where people can learn and connect to traditional agricultural practices together".
Having said that, it's very hands-on and looks like a good family visit. Who wouldn't want to go climbing on that huge sheep, with a long drop and only a sheepskin rug to break your fall? Health and Safety - go and do one!
The exhibition continues until November 23, 2018.
Spinning to match a project
There are many considerations when you want to spin for a project that lists commercial yarn in the pattern.
Jillian Moreno gives her thought process with an example in which she tries a couple of drafting options and knits swatches.
Just as we\re enjoying Summer, the 'first fall' Knitty is out. This is Jillian's KnitySpin column from the new issue.
Natural dyeing with onion skins
It's a little disappointing to see that the colour from red-onion dyeing isn't dark red like the onions themselves, but these are still strong colours and can be varied with mordants and modifiers.
Crafternoon Treats gives good step-by-step instructions as well as details of the modifiers you can use.
Jumpers from triangles
If you're a fan of interesting constructions you'll love this.
A very long time ago, Hazel received some basic guidelines for creating a jumper by knitting triangles. She has made a number since, and there are quite a few pictures in this blog post.
This really isn't a tutorial but if you are an experienced knitter and enjoy making it up as you go along, there is enough information here to try the technique.
I don't think the construction of Camaro is the same as Hazel's triangle construction above, but by a complete coincidence I also noticed this blog post from Tanis.
It's fascinating to see how the same pattern can be varied.
The way of tea
At first glance this 'yarn' looks a surprisingly attractive brown, given that regular tea has been used to dye.
Read closer and you'll find that the 'yarn' is cut and spun paper - known as 'shifu' I believe.
The tea has different but equally interesting results on cotton, merino wool and silk.
Thanks to Jean Betts for an inspiring read.
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Places to Visit
Chiharu Shiota: Beyond Time
artist chiharu shiota has devised an awe-inspiring, site-specific installation for a chapel at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park made from 2,000 balls of woollen thread
'Beyond time' has a network of white wool emerging from a wireframe piano, representing an organ which used to be there. The threads make me think of the music flowing from the piano, the papers are pages from services which have happened in the chapel.
It's not obvious but the large picture at the top of the page is actually a video, which is worth watching.
For more fine art, also see 'half oot afore i' da left' below '2018 events'.
Tips and tutorials
Free Pattern and Tutorial: 'Fmelted Plarn' coasters
These coasters started out as the modern evil that is plastic bags. They were cut into strips and joined ('plarn') and then crocheted.
'Fmelting' is somewhere between felting and melting. The process turns the plarn into a firmer plastic, which, like felting, can still show your stitches, depending on how far you choose to take it.
This tutorial is courtesy of Crochet is the Way, shared recently by the Recycled Into Yarn website.
What's that fiber? The identifying trick every fiber lover should know
Here's a chance for us all to put on our safety glasses and white coats and pretend to be real scientists.
Do you have a skein of mystery yarn that no longer has its label?
Hayley DeBerard gives details of the fibre burn test. She held a game of "What's My Yarn" with some colleagues and shows us the results.
Portable spinning wheels: 4 tips for traveling with your wheel
If you like to take your wheel with you but don't have a large 'station wagon' like the one in this picture, then you'll need to investigate the options for a portable wheel or maybe even an electric spinner. You'll also need to consider your tools, and whether you can improvise some of those.
Elizabeth Prose gives some useful tips.
Roving reporter: carded clouds fiber prep
Carded cloud is not a very common commercial preparation. You may have made something similar yourself if you've scoured / dyed some fleece and lost the lock definition, or teased it out with your fingers. It is sometimes made commercially where the fibre has been picked and scoured but not fully taken through the carding or combing process.
Kate looks at the options for dealing with such 'unprepared' fibre.
How to organize your stash: real tips from real crafters
There are some genuinely useful storage suggestions in this article, from "real crafters" (which implies that the people who usually write for the Lion Brand blog... aren't).
One contributor comments, "once I decided to stash my yarn beautifully, it started to feel like I was shopping at home!"
This is not just a handy chart that you might want to bookmark, but LBHandknits also chats about the potentially-confusing topic of yarn weights.
The magic of shibori dyeing
The crochet squares that make up this pillow have been shibori-dyed. This article gives three different ideas for clamping your fabric to resist the dye in interesting patterns.
Why there is sheep's wool grease in your breakfast cereal
As is often the case with news headlines, I think this one could be misleading.
It suggests that they simply mix the lanolin into whatever they make cornflakes from, but it seems that the lanolin is a source of vitamin D, which is extracted from the lanolin.
"While lanolin might sound off-putting, there is actually a good reason it is in the food we eat", says Alana Mitchelson.
It may raise questions for vegans.
Good thing she stopped him before he got to the pasta sauce part.
A tricky subject. Ands it's for each parent to decide how best to tackle it. Except for Crow, who shouldn't be allowed to raise chicks.
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.
Jigsaw - online
Thank you very much if you've had a go at any of these on your computer or tablet, particularly to the one or two people who've written to tell me that they've enjoyed them.
I've set them up with 35 - 42 pieces, just the right number for a coffee-break challenge and you gradually reveal the cartoon.
Keeping this wheel spinning
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Exciting new online tool for inkle weavers
Annie MacHale reviews the Inkle Loom Pattern Editor created by Jeff Bigot of France, which she helped to inspire.
The pattern editor is an online tool so it's accessible to pretty much everyone.
Sheep and Man by M L Ryder
This is a review of a book which was first published in 1983. It's a huge book about the history of man's relationship with our woolly companions.
Many thanks to woolwinding for sharing this, she has posted some interesting pictures from the book and lists lots of the facts that she's learned.
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Sometimes just a picture is enough
Hap from foula wool
This hap is in the process of being 'dressed' on a board. The yarn is naturally-coloured Shetland wool, produced by a small business on the Islands.
It's good to follow the construction of the shawl in Hazel's notes and pictures.
Colours of Northern Ireland has been making these handmade journals. "Everyone who hand-spins and hand-dyes their own wool will know the 'itch' to want to make something with it."
They won't take an extraordinary amount of yarn, and these ones feature a cute handmade ceramic button.
Topcoat is so beautiful!
We tend to wax on about the soft and squishy but puffintoad comments that the coarser 'tog' or outer part of the dual-coated Icelandic fleece is "so beautiful!"
Hand spun and knitted jacket
Certainly not understated is milancorinne's hand spun and knit jacket. I've no more details but it certainly makes a statement.
Yak/mulberry silk roving
A bonus sexy spindle shot shows Yak/silk mix being spun. It's not the first time that blend has been mentioned this month. I wouldn't have thought that the short and long fibres would draft nicely together, but taraworkmantulley says that it's "a beautiful project to spin"
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A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.
Prairie Park by Jess Gagnon
This pattern from the latest Knitty shows that you don't need to spin a sweater-quantity of yarn to use your handspun in a jumper.
Most of the yarn here is a commercial yarn. The front panel and other details incorporate handspun yarn in similar fibres and thickness.
Computational knitting tools
This is not so much of a pattern as a pattern generator, or rather a collection of pattern generators.
Jhadur is working on a collection of tools which produce a knitting pattern from a picture that you upload. Already available are a tool to produce a shadow knitting pattern from an image, and another to produce shapes when knitting in the round. There are a couple more tools in progress.
The link below goes directly to the collection of tools and there's a blog post about the Polygonal knitting tool here
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Undamo Cowl by Sarah Jordan
We've seen earlier this issue how beautiful stranded colourwork can look when worked with graduated colours.
Sarah Jordan designed this pattern in collaboration with Marian of Marianated yarns. The one in the picture uses one of Marian's mini skein sets with one contrasting skein.
To use your own yarn, it calls for 450 - 500 yards of DK (11 wpi) yarn.
Deschain by Leila Raabe
The lace pattern here is striking and the shape is very attractive by virtue of being drapey rather than figure-hugging.
The pattern calls for linen and it also works well in cotton as seen in this lighter coloured version made by Tanis.
If you were spinning and didn't want to spin cotton or linen, which fibres would you choose? My thoughts are a wool/silk mix, perhaps using a more robust wool such as Blueface Leicester (BFL).
Misty Mornings - Celtic Knot Cowl by Tessa D'Achille
This looks as if it could be a tricky knit, but the pattern does include "tons of pictures to help you along (especially with the celtic knot)"
That's balanced by the fact that the spinning will be quick and it's made on large needles. This calls for just 300 yards of super bulky yarn (5-6 WPI)
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Commuters can knit a scarf in under five minutes with the amazing pedal-powered 'Cyclo Knitter'
Commuters can keep warm as they wait for their train, and make a scarf at the same time using this pedal-powered knitting machine.
It was designed by student George Barratt-Jones.
Thanks to Knithacker for sharing.
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Woolly Worstead 2018
Saturday 16 - Sunday 17 June 2018, Weavers' Workshop, Dilham, Norfolk
Sheep-shearing demos, crochet, knitting, spinning, weaving, felting- demos and "have a go", alpacas and donkeys to feed and pet.
Fri 22 and Sat 23 June 2018, 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)
Friday 10 and Saturday 11 August, York Auction Centre, Murton Lane, Murton, York, YO19 5GF
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.
Southern Wool Show
Saturday 1 September 2018, Newbury Racecourse, Berkshire
Plenty for knitters and crocheters, feltmakers, weavers, spinners, dyers, and lovers of all things woolly!
Perth Festival Of Yarn
8 and 9 September 2018. Dewars Centre, Glover St, Perth
Bringing together independent dyers, farmers, knitters, spinners, felters and weavers. In 2018 nominated for the best yarn festival in the UK. Vendors' gallery marketplace, over 70 vendors, keynote event, social events and classes run over the weekend.
Shetland Wool Week
22 - 30 September 2018
A busy week dedicated to celebrating Shetland wool and textile heritage.
Includes classes, talks, drop-ins, art. See website for the full events listing.
The Wool Event, Masham Sheep Fair
Saturday 29 Sep and Sunday 30 Sep 2018, Masham Town Hall
Craft market and fleece stalls, specialising in British wool to compliment the sheep-related events that fill the square of Masham over the weekend.
29 and 30 September 2018, 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.
Bakewell Wool Gathering
Bakewell Agricultural Centre Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October
An event for wool lovers in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales.
There will be exhibitors, demonstrations of fibre crafts and a fleece stand selling plenty of local fleece.
West Wales Wool Show 2018
Saturday October 6, Queen's Hall and Plas Hyfryd Hotel, Narberth, Pembrokeshire
A celebration of all things woolly. From beautifully hand crafted items, clothing and footwear to knitting wool, fleece and all the equipment needed to make at home. Demonstrations run throughout the day with stall holders sharing their skills and knowledge with visitors plus wool skill workshops such as felting.
Kendal Wool Gathering
Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of October
Kendal Wool Gathering mixes demonstrations, fun activities and displays, all connected to the cloth on which the townâs wealth was built.
Stands and stalls representing all aspects of commercial wool products, including carpets, looms, spinning wheels and crafts will be on display at a large unit at Kendal Leisure Centre. Outside there will be livestock, walks and talks. Linked fun events take place throughout the Kendal.
Nottingham Yarn Expo
Nottingham Conference Centre Goldsmith Street Entrance, Nottingham. NG1 4BU
Workshops Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 November. Market place Sunday 11 November
A final word of thanks to everyone who blogs, writes articles or posts pictures on the subject of spinning, knitting, crochet or weaving. This newsletter wouldn't exist without people writing interesting and useful things.
If you don't already do it, do consider keeping a blog. There has been a move to platforms like Instagram and some users do add a little commentary beside the picture, but it's really good to see more pictures with notes, tips, whatever you want to write.
If you do keep a blog, or if you read a particularly interesting blog or website and you're not sure whether I already know about it, please write and tell me about it.
It's always good to hear from readers for any reason (or no reason!)
Shiela Dixon - Editor / curator
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