We had our annual Christmas Party on December 11th. There were 12 of us there as some members were unwell or understandably nervous about mixing in groups. There was plenty of food to share, Christmas music and lots of chat! We would like to wish all members and friends a Happy and healthy Christmas and we hope to see lots of you back next year. It is the AGM on 8th January so Covid permitting we will meet then.
What a great day we had! We welcomed friends old and new, and lots of visitors too. Altogether we had 63 visitors, maybe a record. There were delicious homemade cakes (how lovely to be back meeting face to face with coffee and cake to share). We taught people how to spin, use a spindle, explained about preparing fleece with combs and carders and asked everyone to look at our competition pieces and vote for their favourites. The theme was The Great Escape. Well done Rachel for winning, Carolyn for being runner up and myself (!) for being 3rd.
There were weaving demonstrations too and a display of some of our work as well as an exhibition of work including knitted garments and eco printed ones too. We had displays from our workshops with patchwork knitting and 3D ply split braiding samples.
We welcomed Cathy Brain with all her information and amazing locks from her Leicester Longwool prize winning sheep. We also welcomed students and tutors from Birmingham City University (BCU). They had a brilliant display of their work and were all wonderfully enthusiastic as they explained how their textile pieces had been made.
There were all sorts of goodies for sale on our sales table, including hanks of multicoloured sock wool individually dyed by Rachel and lovely little handmade cases for keeping your sets of sock needles tidy and safe, made by Carolyn.
I'm sure there are all sorts of things I've forgotten to mention, so do have a look at our gallery for lots more photos from our Open Day. www.flickr.com/groups/birminghamwsd/
Our next guild meeting is on December 11th . It is the last meeting for 2021 and is our members Christmas Party. See you there!
I didn't really know what to expect from this workshop so I went with the required materials of wool in different colours but a similar thickness and suitable knitting needles to go with it and then hoped it would go well! There were 13 of us in the main room all spaced apart and doors and windows left open. There was another group of members in the smaller room who were not taking part in the workshop and some people outside who were being more cautious. I was prepared for this as it can be a cold room even in normal times! (t shirt, woolly jumper and thick woolly coat). I took some handspun and hand dyed wool - small amounts.
Fiona started by showing us some of her knitted garments including blankets, cushions, shawls and bags. They were beautiful - she must have spent hours knitting them. She makes her own designs and sells the patterns and she has a new book being published in January about patchwork knitting. She showed us a video of her cast on method which gives an elastic edge and then we watched how to make the basic square, with decreases in the centre of the rows which makes a mitred diagonal line when completed. We also had printed instructions and everyone worked at their own speed to complete their square, some people using 2 colours to make stripes. Then Fiona showed another very clear video about joining the squares. I was able to follow the instructions as long as I was concentrating!
Everyone was enjoying the knitting and getting enthusiastic about their work and what they could make in future. We are looking forward to the book and I think many of us will be buying our own. We could see lots of possibilities to use up small quantities of yarn which all knitters seem to accumulate. We worked all day and I think some people would have stayed past 4 o'clock if they could!
Here are some photos of Fiona's work and our samples. Fiona was an excellent and inspiring teacher and was able to give very clear instructions. We all succeeded and no-one felt they had failed.
Also on Ravelry as Fiona Morris
Our first meeting after the summer break was a workshop with Julie Hedges. 9 of us gathered in the schoolroom with windows and doors open. There were a few other members who came for a chat and worked on projects in the main room. We brought our own refreshments as the kitchen is not being used yet.
These are some of the vessels we made. The brilliant ones on the bottom left are Julie's! We didn't finish them as there was a lot of work involved so we took them home to complete. Top right shows how Julie taught us to start with a triangle shape. These were our practise samples. She had pre-prepared all the cords so we could begin straight away. During the day she showed us how to make the 4 ply cords with a cord winder. We have a guild cord winder for anyone who would like to borrow it for a small monthly fee and deposit. We used a tool called a gripfid to split the cords and to pull the cords through the gap. Its a bit like a rug tool or the one you use for progging with rag rugs.
I thought it was going to be very complicated but I managed to follow the instructions well. Julie was able to give us all help when needed as it was a small group. Everyone did well and I will add some photos of our completed vessels in due course.
Excellent and enjoyable workshop. Next month its something completely different with a patchwork knitting workshop led by Fiona Morris
At last we are allowed back in the meeting house with Covid rules in place. It was so good to be back and chat with our friends. There were 18 of us and the weather was good so we could make use of the lovely garden. We brought our own refreshments as the kitchen is out of bounds at present. We have 34 members signed up in our guild and 2 new members this year. Wecome Gill and Jo! We love to have new members. Our speaker couldn't make it but never mind as we found lots to talk about! One of our new members had an impromptu spinning lesson using the guild wheel - a Louet Victoria wheel -and the rest of us were spinning and knitting.
I brought some madder roots dug up from my garden. Lots of members took some away and I hope they will grow although it might not be the correct time to replant. I've found them to be a bit of a thug and they were slowly starting to take over my garden so I've done my best to remove it all and replant a small amount in a pot. Members who took just the root - they need washing, chopping and drying in the sun and can then be stored for a long time.
We now have the summer break and meet again in September for a ply split braiding workshop with Julie Hedges. Those not wishing to join the workshop are still welcome to come along with their own projects.
Have a good summer and see you in September (or in August if you have signed up for Summer School)
Saturday June 12th was a special day for our guild. At last we were able to meet face to face again! Thank you Sarah for again offering your garden for our Dyers Picnic. This is a biannual event and we had a few changes to make it Covid safe. Rather than the usual bring and share lunch we each brought our own food and drink and the weather was kind so we spent the day in Sarah's garden.
Members took part in natural dyeing and acid dyeing. Rachel led the acid dyeing and some of us used long skeins of sock wool to dye in various different ways. Some people chose to dip their wool into 4 different pots, others painted theirs in rainbow colours. The skeins were wrapped in clingfilm to be microwaved later. They have to be left to cool completely and not unwrapped until the next morning (very important!) I hope everyone followed these instructions and were not too impatient to check out their results!
Sarah used her dyeing equipment and gas stoves to dye with a large variety of natural dyes in the open air. We used daffodils, madder, lichen, wellingtonia bark, cochineal, logwood, onion skins, avocado pits, birch bark, annatto and indigo. One thing that was very noticeable this year was the difference in dye colours on different fibres. Some wools were noticeably better in dye take up. Gemma's Corriedale produced lovely clear colours while my Leicester Longwool was much paler. Sarah's wool blanket squares were also excellent. Birch bark is meant to give a pinkish colour but we only got dull yellows. I spent ages chopping and soaking and heating it but wasn't very excited about the results. I found some old birch branches on a walk and spent a lot of time scraping off the bark. Maybe it was too old to be useful.
I don't know about you but the months seem to be whizzing past for me! How can it be May already? We have a holiday booked in Norfolk soon - I'm soooo looking forward to it.
What's been happening this month at guild? Our guild challenge was the focus of our zoom meeting on Saturday. The challenge was THE GREAT ESCAPE and what a variety of entries we had. Also our members must have been working really hard because the standard was super high! Rather than talk about all the entries here, you can see and read about them on our instagram page. See link on our home page.
The online guild workshop for May is nalbinding led by Jeanine. A few of us have been trying this and we have all found it quite challenging! It seems to be the start that is the most problematic. I have spent hours trying to work it out and finally I have mastered it although my efforts are far from perfect. I watched videos and listened to instructions and tried to follow pictures and it was only because I refused to be beaten that I got the idea. If you are wondering what nalbinding is then read on. Its the most ancient form of knitting found on remnants of garments on bodies from a very long time ago. Its a bit like knitting, a bit like crochet done with a nal, a wooden or bone needle that looks a bit like a darning needle. It is made with lengths of wool which must be joined as you work. It needs to be wool so the joins can be felted and nalbinding cannot be unravelled like knitting and crochet which is both good and bad! (mistakes are hard to undo and the finished piece can be cut/ put down and wont unravel)
Our next meeting will be the Dyers Picnic on June 13th. Its always a good day in a member's garden and now we are allowed to meet face to face with a few precautions so that is exciting.
Last Saturday we had a talk by Sarah May Johnson who describes herself as an artist, weaver and designer. She showed us some of her work and explained a little bit about how she gets her inspiration. She might start with a particular material that fascinates her or a theme, often nature, or a technique which she wants to explore. It made me think about how I start a project. Its usually because I see a picture and I love it! Then I try and work out how I could make it to suit myself with materials I already have. I'm trying not to buy new stuff so that's always a challenge. Then I might make some samples and if I like them enough I will start. Sarah May's work was beautiful and intricate and we all admired it. She was an excellent and interesting speaker.
There are some photos below of Sarah May's work. The first one shows how she developed the theme of 'Coal, Cotton, Canals'. She imagined cotton fields, coal seams and long canals and these were the colours that came into her mind and how she interpreted them as lines in her drawings and weaving. She uses colour wraps to try the colours together and then these may be saved as pieces of art in their own right. The second one is one of her finished pieces. She started working on this theme for the National Guild Exhibition last year which was cancelled and then liked it so much that she continued to develop the idea. The exhibition is postponed until next year and so she may yet use them. I also made something for the exhibition and it makes me smile to think how completely different my work is from Sarah May's!
Then she went on to talk about choosing colours. She showed us a colour wheel and talked about complementary colours which are opposite each other and analogous colours which are next to each other. Also a triad of 3 colours can look good too. She had balls of wool to demonstrate what she meant. It certainly made me think about colour choice and I know some of our members have already experimented with the ideas. The colour wheel is above on the right and it shows how you can choose colours in different ways. On the left is some experimental work with combining colours using the colour wheel. This was made by Gemma in our guild immediately after the talk - she was obviously very excited about the idea!
This month I have been knitting a new fairisle sweater for my husband. I have already undone about 4 inches because he didn't like the colours (I did but I suppose its not me wearing it!) and it was a bit big when I washed it. I always meticulously measure my tension samples but I can almost guarantee that it will be slightly different when I start to knit the actual garment. I wonder if other people have this problem too? The colours I am using I already had from a previous natural dye project so now I've ended up buying some more natural shetland tops to spin so that's my resolution out of the window already.
Yesterday we had a zoom talk from John Parkinson of iinouiio. This stands for It is not over until it is over. It was a great talk and he was an interesting and passionate speaker. Passionate about his business and determined to make it work. We also loved his Yorkshire accent! The business is a family business based in Yorkshire and they recycle used clothes into new fibre and yarn - also known as shoddy. He told us a little about the history of shoddy which has its origins about 200 years ago. At that time it was much cheaper to make shoddy cloth as they saved on the costs of new fibre and dyes. This is obviously where the meaning of the word shoddy originated, being thought of as inferior. Nowadays much of the cost of new cloth comes from the processing and it is considered environmentally friendly to use recycled materials - how things change! There's lots more about how the business has evolved and the products they sell on their website. One more thing to say - I love the names of their colours, eg Granny's Best Mash, Singing in the Blues, Daybreak in Dewsbury and lots more! The photo shows women sorting clothes a long time ago!
Weaving talk on 10th April
Our next talk, again on Zoom will be about weaving, yarn wraps and tips for choosing colours, given by Sarah May Johnsonn. (Our meetings will continue on Zoom until July as far as we can plan anything at the moment) Sarah is a professional artist and freelance designer. She has some beautiful textile pieces on her website. The photo shows a handwoven sample in teal yarn and brass wire made by Sarah.
What a yuck day it is today -weatherwise I mean. Cold, wet and windy so I am going to write the blog instead of walking or celebrating Valentine's Day! Too old for that anyway.
If you read last month's you will know that I was combing some Romney fleece and wondering how much tops I would make from 1150g. Well now I know because I've finished. I had 470g of good stuff and 650g of waste, so just over 40% useable. That means I could start on my Christmas sweater..... except I decided that I would try and improve my spinning first to make it more consistent. I can spin well but I know its not always a consistent thickness and it helps to knit a garment if your yarn is the same in every hank, so I am working through Katie Weston's 'Spinning for a Purpose' . I was pleasantly surprised to find that I can do most of the lessons well. I was interested in her way to measure thickness (you need to pay for the workshop to find out all about it). I haven't finished it yet so it may be that its going to get super hard -will let you know next time.
My last news is that I have completed my jacket which I started during the first lockdown. It is called Yell from Marie Wallin's Shetland book. Its not made with the Jamieson's Spindrift but I used the natural dyed shetland yarn I made in the online guild workshop with Marja Heuvelman in 2019. It was called Natural dyeing for a painter's palette. My yarn was much finer than Spindrift so I had to change the pattern a lot. (now you know why I need to take Katie's workshop!) I absolutely love Shetland and all things Shetland. I'm so looking forward to going back there, probably not this year, but soon. Its the wildlife I love most but the wooly stuff comes a very close second.