We had our annual Christmas Party yesterday and although a few people were sadly unable to join us because of ill health, there were 18 of us to sit down for our Bring and Share lunch. I am always surprised that we have a lovely and varied selection of food even though we don't plan 'who is bringing what'!
This was followed by an after lunch talk by Teresinha, one of our guild members. She talked about her life story, from when she was born and grew up in Brazil and how she came to meet her husband and came to live in England. It was interesting to hear that she was the first person to leave her village by aeroplane and that she was worried about going to Heathrow when she expected to land in London - but eventually she was able to find out that Heathrow was the airport. She told us how she learned to knit in Africa when she went there with her husband for his work. She was taught by local women when she needed an activity to save her from boredom. It took ages to learn as she had to walk several kilometres from their isolated village to see them and then go back frequently when she was stuck! She included plenty of humour and anecdotes and everyone was thoroughly entertained - thank you Teresinha.
Rachel brought wool and patterns and ideas for making Christmas decorations and we spent an enjoyable afternoon making gnomes - I think most people made these - although there were lots of other ideas and some members took away patterns to work on at home. Thank you Rachel
And finally here is Gemma's gnome!
Wishing all our members and readers a Happy Christmas and see you in 2024
November was our leather workshop. This was a great session enjoyed by 10 of our members given by Deborette Clark of B18 Leather. We were busy all day and everyone went home with a beautiful finished pouch. We were taught how to cut our leather, use tools to groove it and make holes to sew and how to glue and paint it. They were all really different! We could choose our own paints and colours and designs, with lots of ideas and samples to choose from Deborette. Also we were given help when needed.
The Secret Life of Hats was the rest of the title for this fascinating talk by Giulia. She had come from Leicester where her business is based with lots of hats and flowers and full of passion for her craft. She makes all her hats herself by hand and there were 27 of us listening to how the hats are all bespoke and can be made however the customer asks, and to whatever budget they want!
She said there were not many individual hat makers left or places to study to learn the art - it may be a dying art. Guilia told us how much she loves making them and how she doesn't make more than one of any hat. She has trained in Venice (she is Italian and certainly loves to talk quickly) as well as Switzerland and here in the UK.
She loves the finer detail of the hats and silk flowers (these are all individually crafted by Giulia) that adorn them and admits to enjoying the 'fiddly stuff'. She found she loved making them and was good at it when she was asked to make a hat as part of a costume. She worked in theatre for some time but preferred couture hats and so she began her business. She as won awards and recognition for her designs.
She was asked about her customers and how much the hats cost. She explained that the customer sets the budget and she works within that. Her customers want them for weddings. Ascot etc. She said that people can sometimes be shocked when she tells them the price, but she says her materials are all expensive (no order costs less than £40) and the hats can take 5 full days to make. Even so she says she is poor but happy!
She demonstrated how she makes a leaf and the heating tools she uses. This took 10-15 minutes and it would only have been a very small part of a flower to decorate a hat.
Giulia was a brilliant speaker, full of life, lots to say and beautiful hats to show. And we wwere allowed to try on her hats and lots of us did -pictures below!
Our first meeting after the Summer break was a Learn to Spin Day for members and visitors. We were delighted to welcome some visitors and even more pleased to enrol 2 new members to our guild. Welcome to Beth and Cristina. It was a great turn out of our members too even though some were at the Knitting Convention and others were on holiday. As usual I forgot to count but there must have been around 20 members.
Carolyn and Gill helped visitors and members to use a spindle and Gemma taught several visitors to spin. It was lovely to see the pleasure on the faces of new spinners!
Here are some photos from the day.
What fun we had at guild today! 12 members brought in their spinning wheels and members and visitors had a try on each one. I had no idea we had such a variety of different wheels belonging to our members. Not only was it useful to try out different wheels, but new members and visitors could 'try before they buy'. As members moved around and tried the different wheels, everyone chatted about the pros and cons of each wheel so it ended up as a social occasion too, with lots of chat about spinning and much more. This was such a good idea and very successful.
Yesterday we had another fantastic day experimenting with natural and acid dyes in Sarah's garden. First we should thank Sarah and Peter for getting out furniture, stoves, dyeing equipment (there's lots) and putting up canopies so we could have a great day sheltered from the sun or rain. As it turned out we definitely needed shade as it was so hot!
Sarah had 6 pots going at a time on her camping gas stoves outside, with natural dyes in them and everyone was encouraged to bring small skeins or fibre to make samples from each. These needed to have been pre-mordanted with alum (for most of the natural dyes) for good dye take up. There was walnut, wellingtonia, weld, apple leaves, lichen, artichoke leaves, annatto berries, indigo, sweet woodruff, logwood and cochineal. We made a huge variety of colours - natural dyes can be as bright as acid dyes. See photos below.
We all brought a contribution for a Bring and Share Lunch, lots of home made salads, quiches and wonderful strawberries and some delicious cheese scones I am told.
Rachel taught ways to use acid dyes on skeins of yarn for sock making. She showed how to dip and dye several colours at once and also how to paint the colours directly onto the wool. (Photos below)The wool was then steamed inside plastic wrap or bags in Sarah's fish kettle for 30 mins to set the colour. We then had to refrain from opening them and seeing what they looked like as its better to leave them to cool overnight before unwrapping.
Tina showed us how to add dyes to yarn cakes. These are just balls of wool wound on a wool winder into 'cakes'. I had a go at this and it was great fun. I steamed the cakes and took them home to dry and they look lovely - all ready to make some very colourful socks. They are superwash merino which I've never used before and it feels perfect for socks. The method for adding the dye was to roll the outside in a dye and then add other colours to the inside with a syringe.
Everyone was hot and tired at the end of the day but went home happy with some great samples to use. I'm sure Sarah was even more tired, but I think she was going to relax with a swim in her pool and then it was 'leftover food' for tea, so hopefully no more work! Thank you Sarah.
Yesterday was our annual guild Open Day. We were pleased to welcome more than 40 visitors and friends to see our exhibition of work and watch demonstrations of spinning, dyeing, weaving and carding. Many of you had a go at some of our crafts and we hope you enjoyed it and would welcome any new members into our group. Lots of you enjoyed home made cakes and drinks and bought items for sale from our sales table.
This is always a great day for us to show off what we do and to chat about our crafts. Some of us made entries for our annual guild competition, which, this year was entitled 'Hand Coverings'. Everyone who came was invited to vote for their 3 favourites and this year the competition was won by Rachel, with Gemma and Sarah coming second and third. Do look at the photos below to see our entries and winners.
It was a tiring day for our organisers and members, so thank you to everyone who helped in so many different ways.
Saturday was our workshop with Sarah Cooke, entitled Weaving with Waste. (https://www.sarahcooke.co/) We had a late start as Sarah was stuck in traffic on the journey but Sarah gave us extra time at the end so everyone was able to finish.
It was an inspirational day, with Sarah bringing everything we needed. She started by talking about how she came to be teaching this workshop. She became interested in using waste and was then asked by the Journal if she would like to write an article about her work. She was delighted and this was printed in June 2020. After this her work became known and she began to teach and deliver workshops.
She brought 12 simple frame looms with her so the workshop was accessible to everyone, experienced and non-weavers alike. She showed us some of her work, including art pieces beautifully framed, bags, hangings and table mats. She also brought boxes full of waste for us to use for weaving. This was the exciting part, with everyone itching to choose something. There were all kinds of plastic, cables, vegetable netting, plastic film from the back of printed photos (Asda rubbish which was destined for the bin!), ribbons, cords, beads and lots more. Sarah said it was all waste of some kind, some donated, some picked up from the street, some salvaged or begged from shops.
The actual weaving was very simple and everyone was able to warp the looms quickly following Sarah's clear instructions. The warp used any knitting yarn as there needs to be a stable warp on which to weave some of the more unusual waste yarns. We then were allowed to choose our waste to weave the weft. The width was around 30cm max, and the length could be slightly longer, although we didn't have enough time to make more than a 30cm square.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day and loved my final piece of weaving. The range of samples were all really different and I think everyone was happy with their final piece. Some were going to be hangings, some bags and one was a book cover. Actually I enjoyed it so much that I spent Sunday turning it into a bag! Its almost done now and a picture will soon be added. Some people bought a kit consisting of frame, pick up stick and shuttle so they could continue at home. Those with rigid heddle looms could do the same thing, a little quicker, at home.
An excellent workshop. Thank you Sarah.
Here are Sarah's samples and close ups from them. The green one is made from pea and sweetcorn bags! Can you tell which one is made from fruit and veg net bags?
Here are some of our works in progress
And here are some of the final weavings
There were 13 of us on Saturday for Sue Kimber's Art Yarns Workshop. She had braved the snow and driven all the way from Kent with her husband. She told us she lives in a shepherd's hut without electricity and running water. There were lots of reactions to this from wanting to live there to being horrified. I was one of the latter. She has a small farm with sheep who are all named.
She taught us how to core spin, make boucle yarns, tail spin and more. It was a great workshop and Sue was a helpful and expert teacher. As you can see we all came away with various art yarns in lovely colours, especially Gemma who made loads!! Now we need to decide what to do with them.
There were more members who came to chat and just watch the workshop
Saturday 12th February brought the long awaited and several times cancelled talk from Dr. Anthea Harris-Fry from the Kidderminster Carpet Museum.
She explained that the museum had been set up 10 years ago with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. They were allowed enough money to run the museum for 3 years and since then they have been largely staffed by volunteers. Anthea has been there since 2019 and she came partly because of her keen interest in history.
We were treated to a short history of carpets with pictures shown to us on a screen. Surprisingly carpets were not meant to be walked upon in the past as they were much too precious. A painting by Holbein shows Henry V111 with a carpet draped over a table. It is a Persian carpet of vivid colours. Similarly a painting by Teerlinc shows Elizabeth 1 standing on a carpet of rush, so we know that only very wealthy and high status people would have carpets in those times.
From about 1735 there was a market for carpets in Kidderminster. At that time carpets would be hand made in flat weave, made in a similar way to how we weave on our hand looms at home today. Carpets were reversible and tufted soft carpets were not made until the 19th century. They would have been small, hard wearing and made in small geometric patterns, used for stairs and hallways.
From 1857 carpets were made on power looms after America brought a new steam loom to show at the Great Exhibition in 1851.
We learnt about William Morris and his company designing carpets in the late 19th century and onwards and then lots more about modern carpets and contract carpets. Contract carpets are big business now and we saw lots of examples with some very modern and spectacular designs. They are designed for a specific space such as cruise liners or hotels.
One fact I found interesting was that Wetherspoons have a different carpet in each of its pubs - each one is unique and is designed to reflect something local. Having been in the local Wetherspoons a few times at Kings Norton after one of the walks I lead, I was surprised that I had never noticed the carpet! I was told by Sarah that there are boats on the carpet so I will definitely look down next time I go there.
Sadly there are are only 2 carpet making factories left in Kidderminster now. One of them, Brockways, makes carpets from British Herdwick wool, which is good to know.
Thank you Anthea for your very interesting talk, any mistakes above are mine, so I apologise in advance! I am inspired to go and visit the carpet museum now and see all these carpets. I know some members have already visited and found it fascinating.
I have now visited The Museum of Carpet - It was definitely worth it! I also had one of my train adventures and found it was very easy to get to Kidderminster. The best part of the visit was seeing and hearing the carpet machines in action and listening to Jed talking about the Axminster loom. A word about Jed- he worked on carpet machines in Kidderminster for all his working life and now he has returned as a volunteer at the museum. He is a mine of information and anecdotes about carpets and machines. I also watched the Wilton loom working. It was very loud and I would be surprised if the factory workers didn't have hearing loss as they were given no ear protection until the 1970s. I watched how they worked and eventually worked out the difference between the 2 types of carpet. I won't attempt to explain as the best way to understand is to see for yourself. The 3rd kind of loom was the Dobby Loom and this makes flat weave carpet in a similar manner to my Louet 4 shaft at home. It was set up for double weave and this was interesting as I am going to try this myself - hopefully!