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Ickworth Wool Fair  30th – 31st May

Took the Fibre Workshop out for a trip to the second Ickworth Wool Fair, held at Ickworth Hall, Bury St Edmunds on the 30th and 31st May. Our second outing touting our fibrey goods for sale.

Took a frantic few weeks of dyeing, carding, spinning and knitting building up to a crazed demented level of panic by Friday and screams of “I’m not ready”… however, a deadline is a deadline and we were all good to go resplendent in our new gazebo.

IMAGE here

A bit worried about the weather – sunny but windy on Saturday and very wet and very windy on Sunday – gazebo does not like wind.  I think we tested it to its limits.

The Wool Fair was relaxed, but busy and packed with loads of stalls and attractions.  The Fibre Workshop stall was really busy and I only got to take a brief dip into the things on offer.  I managed to catch the tail end of Sean the Shearers Sheep Show giving his very funny shearing demo and dancing sheep display (a bit risque but very very funny).  Other country traditions and entertainments, included morris dancing, archery, and a singalong with whatserface from Frozen (wow! ear bleedingly loud and shrill singing!).

Lots of lovely things to buy in the main marquee,  highlight was Native Yarns, natural dyed yarns based in Suffolk.  Sue was great to chat to, her colours were gorgeous.  Great for beautiful handknits, felted items and hanspun yarns (prices and quality variable from rock bottom up to stratoshperic – still can’t get a handle on how to price yarns and knitted items). Had a fascinating chat with Orfordness Shepherd, Andrew Cappell, who had some White Faced Woodland and Manx Loaghtan fleece and carded batts. Also represented were Gedgrave Wensleydales, also of Orfordness.

Sadly not a lot of fleece or fibre to be drooling over, which was a little disappointing as I was hoping to come home with some goodies to spin.  Mostly rare breeds in natural colours.   And only one place to play with and buy spindles and beautiful colourful batts – yes it was the Fibre Workshop.  So I managed to virtually sell out of my batts and spindles. Which was a great boost to my morale – yay people liked them!

All in all I met lots of really lovely and interesting people including the lovely folks from Bury Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.  They all had matching aprons – now there’s an idea to take back to the Guild…

Thoroughlyy enjoyed it and will definitely go back again next year.

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clematis montana inspired experiment with low immersion kettle dyeing

We have this huge rambling clematis that is busy swamping the woodshed.  Its currently smothered in blossom.  The other evening the sky was actually clear (yipee the cloud was absent), the sun was setting and giving this gorgeous soft light that just sets colours vibrating,  and on this occasion the clematis was just lit up.  I hadn’t noticed how fantastic the colour of the central stamens were, this amazing citrusy yellow green.  Just beautiful against the soft pinks and whites in the petals.  I took this photo (doesn’t do it justice but you get the picture):

Clematis blossom May 2015.
Clematis blossom May 2015.

I was inspired to dye up some roving.  This needed soft soft gentle.  So I went for a low immersion kettle dyeing (short description below).  And, as I wanted to keep colours (pink and green) relatively distinct with little blending (so no browns please!) with some areas of fibre undyed, I was really tight with the dyes.  Just enough.  So happy with the result:

Clematis BFL roving
Clematis BFL roving

I think next time though the green needs a bit more yellow in it and I may have been a bit too tight with the dyes as there is a bit too much undyed fibre for my liking.  But on the up side minimal blending so no browns.  Can’t wait to spin it up.  I don’t have any specific ideas for it yet, so it will go in the stash.

Hey ho, its back into the studio i go as theres more preparing for Ickworth Wool Fair next weekend.  So not ready.

NB. Low immersion kettle dyeing is a technique for multi-coloured dyeing that can give a greater amount of control over where the colours go but can also give some awesome colour blends (or not).  The basic technique is to proceed as for kettle dyeing but the water is kept to a minimum, only a few centimetres, just enough to allow the dye to move through the fibre where it is placed. The more water the more movement of the dye and the greater the blending.  The temperature is kept low, no boiling bubbles allowed!  Colours and shades can be built up by applying dyes in succession to give some really complex and interesting results.  Or a horrible sludgy brown mess if it goes wrong….that could be a great future post “when dyes go bad”…

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Louises Shawl is done

I finished Louises Shawl!  Even got it posted and all the way to New Zealand in time for her birthday.It was a pleasure to make for her and an even greater pleasure to gift it.

The shawl is a crescent shape, knitted with a really simple stocking stitch body but with a beautiful fancy pants lace border.  DSC03970small DSC03956smallcropThe lace border has neat shaping that continues the crescent shape to points.  

Louises Shawl

I knitted it using 3.5mm needles to give a good open stitch on the fine hand spun single. It turned out really well.

If you like it the pattern for Louises Shawl is available for sale at The Fibre Workshops Ravelry Store (Click Here ).  A good substitute yarn would be a fine cobweb or lace weight yarn.  Please contact me if you would like hand spun yarn in a specific colour.

Aside from this I have been bat mad busy with building (the new Fibre Workshop is well underway – so exciting – more on this soon) and getting stock together for Ickworth Wool Fair at the end of May.  As if that wasn’t enough, I got fed up with forcing my wheels to take bigger art yarns and decided I needed a new wheel for jumbo yarns.  I can’t afford a new wheel so I’ve been building my own with bits and bobs.  Will give you more on that later. Meantime, enjoy the spring.

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Swopsie daisie I got me some Castlemilk Moorit Fleece

Top result from Mondays Guild meeting (Mid Norfolk Association of the Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers). Got my hands on some gorgeaous Castlemilk Moorit fleece – a great swop for the last of my chocolate brown Alpaca fleece with Liz (check out Lizs’ facebook page click here ). Castlemilk Moorit is a primitive type rare breed, quite small but has no kemp. It was developed in the early 1900’s as a parkland sheep by crossing Shetland and Manx Loghtan ewes with a Mouflon ram. The fleece is always moorit (brown or fawn), with white underparts and is rated quite highly. This stuff is quite tight, fine and soft with a beautiful lustre to it. Its naturally lighter and the tips and darker at the base and has a staple length of <2 – 7 cm.  The picture is of the longer staples.

Castlemilk Moorit Fleece
Castlemilk Moorit Fleece

So this gorgeous fleece is going to need a conventional woollen approach (rolags and long draw). Which will make is super speedy to spin up. I have it earmarked for my next pattern design project – a very chic V-neck jumper knitted topdown. I might blend it with some alpaca I have in similar gingery tones or I could ply it with it. I can see an afternoon of happy experimentation and sampling coming on. More on this to come methinks. Swoping fleece is a great way of getting some beautiful rare and unusual fibre.  Its good to pass around some of what you have that is more than you need.  Its a great way to build up a bank of fibre ‘credit’ and good will amongst your peers.  I recommend it. It was a good meeting with Liz using us as test mob for her latest workshop on Broomstick Crochet.  Although I am not a crocheter (is this the correct term?) myself it did give a lovely open looped pattern that I liked. I think it would work well as a panel or feature in a knitted piece. In the meantime still ploughing away through sisters’ birthday shawl. One quarter of the way through the lace edge, taking so so so very long, treacle time. Better pull my finger out thought it needs to be in New Zealand by May 8th.

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self striping batt on my drum carder

I’ve been busy in the studio getting very obsessed with colour gradients on the drum carder.  Normally with stripes on a drum carder you feed the colours in separately in thin bands.  Which is fine as long as you want distinct colour changes.  But the down side is that the stripes don’t hold together and can separate out.  And you also get that distinct colour change.  What if you want a gradient in colours with a nice blending and a batt that holds together? The technique I’ve been using is one I learnt of Esther Rogers (Jazz Turtle Creations You Tube video here: In this technique there are two steps.  First, feed the colours onto the carder in layers in the order you want your colour transition to go.  Here’s one:

Layers in stripes step 1 layers
Layers in stripes step 1 layers

Step two.  Pull of this layered batt and then split it into two along the length of the batt (watch Esther’s video if this isn’t making sense).  Then take one of the pieces turn it on to its side so you can see the coloured layers and spread it out abit so its the full width of the drum.  I also pull it out a bit lengthways to make it nice and thin enough to feed easily on to the drum carder). Then simply run it back through and you get a lovely gradient like this: Holkamgradientbattoncarder You can get some really cool effects.  Here are some of my more recent attempts. battgradientpeacock1battblosssompink1battgradientholkham2 Go on have a go its fun.

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Have been working on that red alpaca.  I decided to spin it up before hitting it with more dye to get the shade of red I wanted.  I decided to go for a fine low twist single because life is too short and precious to spend it spinning up that much yarn and plying it.  Its for a delicate lace shawl so skewed knitting wont be an issue neither will be heavy wear.  Although alpaca can felt and look a bit ‘grungy’ (you know like dreadlocks) I don’t plan to give this the full fulling treatment so its a risk that I am prepared to take.

So this is the full bobbin

Alpaca lace weight single on bobbin before dyeing
Alpaca lace weight single on bobbin before dyeing

as you can see its not red but I am chuffed with it look how fine it is (does that make me special – erm no).

Aplaca laceweight single
Aplaca laceweight single

I then skeined it off (its just under 600m).  I dyed it again this time going to 2% DoS and heres what we have to work with now thats better.

Alpaca laceweight single full red
Alpaca laceweight single full red
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Depth of Shade

I’m working on a shawl for my sisters birthday. She loves red. I’ve just dyed up some gorgeous alpaca fibre. I was supposed to be going for a deep vibrant blood red. Hmmm.  Pictures come out pink rather than the salmony red it actually is but you get my point I think. DSC03651 Clearly I messed up! I got my fibre weight wrong – serves me right for not paying attention – which completely messed up my ratios! Oh yes, I’m one of those tedious people who takes the scientific approach to dye stuffs. No longer do I slap in about this much dye for about that much of fibre and see what happens (although I do still do this sometimes because it’s fun).

What I’m talking about specifically in this case is Depth of Shade (DoS). DoS is the intensity of the desired colour you want your fibre. Strong and vibrant or something more pastel or somewhere in between? The main thing is the more dye you use the higher the DoS. So DoS is determined by the ratio of dye to fibre (I’ll do the maths stuff in a bit).

DoS is always talked about in terms of percentages so strong and vibrant will be a higher % and the more pastel you want to go the lower %. The highest DoS is 3%. A good bright colour is generally about 2% DoS. Pastels are achieved at about 0.5% or lower. Here’s my bible when it comes to DoS (ref: Deb Menz’s Color in Spinning Interweave 2005 – awesome reference book):

0.1%  pale pastel

0.2%  medium pastel

0.5%  deep pastel

0.75%  light medium

1%  medium

1.5%  deep medium

2%     deep

2.5%  deeper

3%     very deep (intense)

But, some dyes do not exhaust themselves at >2% DoS (exhaust means when all the dye has been taken up by the fibre and the water is clear, turquoise never seems to exhaust whatever I do, magenta is another one). This means that some dyes can be used at lower % to achieve the desired colour depth. This is good to know, because, if you are like me and like to be as economical in my endeavours as possible (I won’t say cheap) it means that armed with this knowledge this saves on wasting precious dye powder and wasted water/heat and time rinsing out said precious dye down the drain from your gorgeously dyed fibre. And flushing toxic material down the drain is a no no never! Sadly there are no short cuts to knowledge with this one it will have to come with experience of the particular dyes you use (note to self: this is why we keep notes and samples).

I hope that helps? On to the science bit – you can go now if this isn’t going to interest you…

So Dos is determined by the ratio of dye to fibre in grammes or oz. So we can say that 3% DoS = 0.03g dye per 1g fibre. Alternatively, and this is the more likely scenario. “I want to dye Xg of fibre to X% DoS how much dye do I need?” You can work this out by:

Dye weight  = % DoS x weight of fibre

For example,  I’ve got 25g of fibre and I want a good deep red so I’m going to want a 2% DoS:

0.02 * 25g = 0.5g of dye So 0.5g of dye will produce 2% DoS on 25g of fibre. Y

ou will probably be asking how do I do this with spoons, the answer is you don’t if you want to repeat yourself and have good consistent results. I use scales for most of my dyeing. The reason is that different dyes have different densities – this is why some dye colours fill up their packaging containers more than others – you aren’t being cheated it’s just that some dyes are ‘heavier’ than others. With a spoon this means that your measurements will be off – a teaspoon of dye X will be heavier (i.e. it will contain more dye powder in a volume based measure like a teaspoon) than a teaspoon of dye y which is less dense… Put another way one teaspoon of dye X will weigh more than one teaspoon of dye Y.

I should stop now. I’ll come back to this in another post. But, you ask, what about the unred fibre, I’m going to spin it up and then dye it again, this time making sure I got my measurements right. I will let you know how it goes.

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Welcome to the Fibre Workshop

I’ve been thinking about blogging for some time and, recently being given the luxury of a bit of free time, now seems to be the time.

Also, my significant other suggested that it might be time for me to seek a wider audience for my obsessive compulsive talking about yarn.  Yes, I had noticed the glazed expression as I excitedly rub my latest experimental efforts all squooshy and mooshy in his face.

So fibre is a big subject, what do I talk about?  What do you want to know?  I’m already feeling the pressure to come up with something good.  I suppose a good place to start is a list of the three things I’ll be talking about:

  1. Spinning – I spin. It’s a compulsion.  It’s my greatest pleasure (almost).  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but it’s always, always completely absorbing.
  2. Adventures in colour – I dye my own fibre and undertake intrepid experiments in colour and texture. Getting batty with the carder.  Sometimes it comes out awesome other times not.
  3. Knitting – I knit mostly from my own handspun yarns so experimental is the key word here. Sometimes it turns out good sometimes it goes wrong.  I think I must knit every project three or four times over before it’s finished.  I will be talking about my adventures with needles.  Recently I’ve got into top down construction and that, my friends, has been a revelation!

From the list you’ve probably noted that I am somewhat of a control freak.  I like total artistic control when it comes to the yarn I use for my projects.  This often comes from a picture in my head of what I want to end up with and the only way to do that is to start with the raw material.  I will be taking you along with me in my adventures in fibre.  I make mistakes, many and often, but that’s the wonderful nature of experimentation, there is always something to learn and sometimes it’s incredible.  I hope to pass on what I learn from those experiments in fibre.  In the meantime you might like to look at some of my projects on the projects page.

I can’t wait to get started but I’ve got a workshop to build, a batt of gorgeous purples, greys and black BFL/Alpaca/Seacell batt that I’ve just taken of the carder that just needs spun into a corespun yarn and then there’s that red alpaca lace shawl for my sisters birthday that I really, really need to crack on with…..

I will get back to you and tell you about it later.