Monday, 23 October 2017

Shetland Wool Week day 7: An idyllic day in Unst: Tuesday 19 September

We got up to a brilliant sunny but windy day. I decided that some washing was in order. Pegging this on the line was challenging, needing 3 pegs forced down on each item and as I left the line it was all horizontal. It would be a good drying day.
I had received emails from two local people, Cheryl who I had met in a photography workshop last year and Minnie whom I had known from spinning etc for several years. We hoped to meet both during our time in Unst. 
We managed to get to Victoria’s Vintage Tea Rooms for coffee. The cakes as always were delicious, do fit in a trip there if you are ever that far north and below is just a quick snap as we arrived. As a treat we bought an Unst Calendar for next year, the added bonus being that I will not make our own and they are all pictures of Unst - that will be a real delight for 2018.



We were, of course, off to Norwick beach - one of our favourite beaches in Unst. Michael walked up the road to look for birds and I went on the beach to take pictures of seaweed. After a break for lunch, made in the camper van there was time for more of the same! 


I did tear myself away to finish a little textile project, lacing my boots with their new inkle woven laces in black and gold cotton to match the original stitching on the boots.  I am very pleased with them and in fact they got many favourable comments later in the holiday. It was a surprise to be stopped in the street and someone pointing to my feet and then after some more pointing and attempt at speaking a common language the lady and I managed to have a conversation about the laces. She knows they are woven but the ‘inkle weaving’ might have been a step too far!


The day got better, we stopped in Skiboull Stores for some provisions - pear tart, 2 delightful fair isles mugs for morning coffee when we get home etc and who should come in too, but Minnie. We missed each other in Shetland last year so we had a bit of catching up to do but things soon turned to spinning and natural dyeing. We hoped to meet up on Friday at the Heritage Centre when I would go along in the afternoon to meet local spinners and knitters who meet there in the summer at that time. 

What a super day it had been, great scenery, great seaweed, great cake and catching up with friends. We slept well. 



Monday, 9 October 2017

Shetland Wool Week day 6: A rest day in Unst : Monday 18 September


We had been travelling for 5 days so deemed today a rest day. We were not tempted to do otherwise as it was a bit wet outside first thing. We did not move the van all day. 
I decided that complete rest could well result in a migraine so set to on getting to the final draft stage with a month's long online textile workshop  ( on getting a professional finish to garments) that I am working on to be delivered in November. 
Image of section of workshop 


This is my first venture into this sort of thing, although in the past I have written stand alone teach yourself units - but that was in A level Chemistry and not a textile based subject. It will be interesting to see how this goes. 
By lunchtime it has stopped raining and brightened up. However, I was determined to get the new laptop talking to the wi fi in the hostel. Eventually  it worked, failure at first was operator failure and lack of familiarity with the newish laptop. 
It was very nice to walk round the sound to the north east and surprised to see a loch behind the shore. I just stretched my legs and took photos of sea based things, seaweed and fishermen's bits for the colour and texture- part of today's textile interest. I took a couple of other photos unique to Uyeasound, more on one in a later post. Michael walked much further looking at birds and was surprised and delighted by an otter that ran across the road from the sea to the loch. When he looked it obviously has a well worn track from the beach. He watched it for a couple of minutes while it swam away into the loch. 
We can fully understand how important this area was in the past due to the long area of sheltered sea. It is good to see there is still fish based industry of a sizeable nature still here.(1) 
In the previous post this can be seen  towards the right of the photo showing the sound. In the past herring were a big catch in this part of Unst and herring girls followed the shoals, some going down to Gt Yarmouth and Lowestoft - what a small world it is. 

I couldn't resist this photo of the bus stop - how useful to have a pair of wellies to use! 
Uyeasound bus stop


(1) It seems that in 2007 when a new pier was built, 30 people were employed by two fish farms in Uyeasound.  More recently one of the farms has been sold by the family that have been running it 24/7 for 47 years! They were raising about 275,000 fish which equated to approx 1000 tons of salmon a year. Today, business seems mainly to be raising the salmon and the area is good for this as the farms seem to avoid the detrimental 'sea lice'. I will wonder when I next buy my Shetland salmon whether it was alive and well when we were looking out at the sound. Scotland is the third biggest world producer of salmon and quite a lot of this comes from Shetland and the other islands. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Travelling to Unst- day one to five of the 2017 Textile Experience


I am going to try and keep up with this textile journal of our time in Shetland rather than write it weeks or even months later. I will therefore summarise the last 5 days in one post. As in previous years I will concentrate on textile items but also describe non textile things that are 'special'. 
We arrived at 17.30 this afternoon having travelled 820 miles which includes 3 sea journeys, the longest being 200 miles on the Aberdeen to Lerwick ferry last night. We decided this year to come up from home the west of England route involving the M6 so that we could meet friends in Cheshire for some catching up. The M6 was so busy,  so was local traffic in Cheshire, and we had forgotten what that was like. It is bliss to live in rural Norfolk. 
We are sitting having a cup of tea overlooking a very calm and peaceful sea, the sun is out and the light is wonderful. It is a superb evening. 
Image of uyeasound looking west


 In terms of textile interest it has been action packed! On Thursday morning I visited Metropolitan Machine Knitting to collect 2 garments I had lent for a fashion show for Tony Bennett, a wonderful Machine Knitting designer and tutor from Australia.( One  of these items is described on my website under machine knitting- it is the Grigna Cardigan; I have yet to post about the pink jacket! )  I have been on two of Tony's  courses and learned so much- his finishing is fantastic. I was sorry not to have been  on the course he was running last week but I was able to see him and 6 colleagues from previous years who were doing this new course! I resisted the temptation to buy any yarn and instead chose 10 'old' magazines ! The old ones are far better than the newer ones and if I ration myself to one every other day I will make them last 20 days! Then it was on to Little Moreton Hall to meet a Cheshire WSD friend. We took time to go into the long gallery and reminisce about Alsager WSD exhibitions that we held there. The room is as long as a cricket pitch, if I remember correctly, and we always tried to make sure that each member of the Guild had at least one item in the exhibition, and most people had many more than that. We tried to make it an educative exhibition with information that onlookers would find interesting whatever their knowledge of WSD. Those truly were the days! We enjoyed showing our wares, demonstrating and interacting with the public and feedback was always great to read. That evening we caught up with another WSD  member from the Guild and we were able to discuss ideas for next year's National Exhibition to be held in Glasgow in July. 



As for my textile ' doings' I  have started to knit another shawl by Donna Smith, from Kate Davies' Book of Haps. It is called Houlland and after 2 trial pieces I felt I had the pattern in my head for the edging, which has 63 repeats. I am using a knitting belt for this as the pattern involves garter stitch and am very pleased with the tension. ( see blog post of 30 October 2016 where I discuss tuition with Hazel Tindall with a knitting belt last year during Wool Week) 
Image of knitting the edge


The yarn is from my stash and is Many a Mickle lambswool in laceweight. I guess it is about  30 years old but I still love the colour. As for spinning, I have not brought my wheel this year, but a selection of drop spindles including some medieval ones. On the ferry last night, being National Spin in Public Day, I decided to continue to spin with Boreray (1)as it seemed apt to do so. I am spinning it quite fine and intend to make it into a lace bookmark. A wool week participant from last year who was in the Design  class with Nielanell with me was also in the ferry lounge with us and we naturally got chatting. She was accompanied by a Canadian friend who I tried to convince to have another shot at spinning with a drop spindle. She had had a bad experience ! I hope to see more of her  during Wool Week and help her on her drop spinning journey! 
Image of drop spinning on ferry


Apologies for the quality of this photo, I only had my iPad with me and the lighting was not ideal! 

We are aiming that tomorrow is a rest day, to me that means doing Textile things. I have already been out photographing the tide line as there has been a high tide recently, great for textile inspiration. 

(1) Boreray is the most vulnerable of all the rare breeds. This fleece came from a Norfolk flock which is being kept to help maintain the breed. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Natural Dyeing with a plant of your choice



This was the third of three workshops that I led at Designer Makers21 this summer. This workshops is really special to me as after it the dyers are well on their Dyeing journey.
In workshop one we had learned how to scour, mordant and dye with different concentrations of a powdered dye. Then this was followed by a workshop where we used the three core dyes that were so important, historically, to local dyeing- Madder, Weld and Woad - and then got their secondary dyes too. (See previous blogs for more details and images.)
For the third workshop each of the participants arrived with scoured and mordanted yarn the along with their soaked plant material. Our aim of this workshop was to get a set of six colours from the basic dyebath using additives and over dyeing so each member went home with their unique set. There was  a choice of 7 plus  treatments for each plant dyed skein so decisions had to be made.
There was much excitement and discussion about which plants had been chosen and which ones might be used at home after the  day. 
While the plants were cooking up and yielding their colour we looked at examples I had taken ' for ideas'  and more importantly learned how to make up the additive solutions, how to use them and how to store them safely at home. 
What a busy action packed day it was. Unfortunately I only took a few photos. 
This is a plant dyed skein, complete with additive and having been heated up. From memory (?!) I think the additive was copper. 



Everyone appeared to be very conscientious taking notes and had leaned from previous sessions that adding yarn  'labels'  was a big help in identification later. 
These are the colours a member obtained from eucalyptus leaves- fantastic. 


All the dyed sets were quite different and it was a real joy for me to see how far each person had got since the start of the workshops. We are keeping in touch and more is planned later - watch this space. You can never stop learning about natural dyeing! 



Saturday, 26 August 2017

Supporting Rare Breed Sheep



Knettishall Fair, in Suffolk,  was held recently. It is a day event held every other year and there are a number of 'country based' stalls and activities, the aim being to provide a nice day out for the visitors and raise awareness (and some money) for Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Knettishall Heath is interesting;  it is a really special area of open Heath in 'the Brecks' area of Suffolk just south east of Thetford ( 1) 
The Rare Breed Survival Trust had a largish marquee and were happy to house members of Diss Weavers, Spinners and Dyers along with their own activities. 
I volunteered to go along, I love the Heath and it is nice to give something back to organisations such as these and have a thoroughly great day interacting with the public I thought long and hard about the best use of my time on the day that would complement the Rare Breeds message. So I decided to take:
The Pansy  jacket - hand spun Jacob (2) fleece knitted  from Becky Whatley in Diss. The detail is yarn dyed with cochineal, the lighter pink being dyed with the exhaust of the first bath. The jacket, being knitted in an aran weight yarn took about the whole of a fleece. Visitors find this information both interesting and helpful to know. 
The general view of the Rare Breeds Marquee - taken before the visitors arrived- shows the Pansy Jacket on a mannequin at the front. 


The Skaw Hat - which was knitted in hand spun  Shetland (3) from Shetland! I then naturally dyed the yarn inspired by seaweed on Skaw beach, the most northern beach in Scotland. The pattern was designed by Hazel Tindall, a true knitting genius. The hat was knitted for Shetland Wool Week 2014. 

I love this hat and more details  of the dyeing can be found here in posts August and Sept 2014 if you are interested. Comments often include ' don't the colours go well together' - they do when they are naturally dyed. There is often surprise about the colours of the seaweed and also the colours of the hat. It is nice to show that natural dye colours need not be 'mud coloured'. 


Sample Bookmarks
As many of you know one of my passions is fine lace knitting. These bookmarks are all in Norfolk Horn (4) fleece- now my local fleece! The yarn diameter is 0.15mm- I know this as I have measured it with a stage micrometer on a microscope. 
The bookmarks show how changing the needle size has a dramatic effect on the overall look of the lace. 


SO, what did I do as an activity ( other than talking!) ? I spun quite finely Boreray Fleece on a top weighted drop spindle rolling it up my leg! This is the rarest of the rare breed fleece.(5) My aim is to knit a bookmark with this too. 


The sun shone, there was great camaraderie in the gazebo, visitors were interested and for many their awareness of different 'wool' (and just how fragile some of the breeds of sheep are ) was increased. All in all a thoroughly great day out. 


(1) it is an SSI site and gives one the feeling that you could have been there 4,000 years ago and the landscape could have been very similar ( except the parking places, loos, picnic tables etc.) It is said that the landscape was created in the Bronze Age and the area does have much geological and archeological interest too.  It feels a special place to me and I am fortunate that I am only half an hour away. 
(2) Jacob has progressed from being  on the RBST watchlist 
(3) Shetland has also progressed from being on the watchlist
(4) Norfolk Horn is in the minority (1500-3000 registered adult breeding females) 
(5) Boreray Is in the vulnerable category 

More about Suffolk Wildlife Trust http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/
More about the Rare Breeds Survival Trust  https://www.rbst.org.uk/




Sunday, 20 August 2017

Dyeing 'the rainbow'



Last weekend saw the second in a series of three workshops I was leading, at DesignerMakers21 (1) in Diss. I was very much looking forward to it, especially as a new workshop space had been created and we we're going to be the first people to use it. 
As always the participants came well prepared having had 'prep' to do after the first session. 



The plan for this was to obtain yellow by dyeing with weld  and have the experience to work with plant material which would take time. Next we would dye with madder  to give us red. Using madder has some similarities to cochineal from last week. However, this red needs more care and skill particularly with a thermometer to get a rich red. Finally we would dye with  indigo to give us blue. (These three dyes are very much dyes of Norfolk's rich textile heritage and I have written more about them in the post of 
14 May 16).

Making good use of the walled  garden during the day



The result was the three primary colours and the secondaries between. A lot to take in, in one day. All members obtained such strong rich colours, the results were glorious. 

Final Colours - natural dyes! 



We ( Michael and I ) had a great time. Natural Dyeing with us is quite scientific in terms of procedures and we like to include theory ( e.g. of how indigo works) as we know this helps to get good results. Comments from the class indicated that they enjoyed the day too. It is such a joy to have a thoughtful, questioning and enthusiastic group. A participant had to pull out of these workshops  (breaking her arm badly ) but she popped in to see us at just the right time - some delightful indigo dyed silk as slight compensation ! 



So, workshop three to come in September - more choices and more glorious colours! 

(1) do visit DesignerMakers21 if you can. It is home to a number  permanent and very skilled  designers and makers covering a range of crafts- in the very best use of that much maligned word! www.designermakers21.co.uk 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Indigo Dyeing in Carleton Rode


Undeterred by the weather forecast  a group of friends met in my garden to 'do indigo dyeing' last week. We had plan B and plan C in case the dire forecast was true! The order of play was for an explanation of how the indigo vat works then a demonstration of how to set it up. I firmly believe that if 'learners' understand the reason for each stage in the process, see it being done and then do it themselves they are far more likely to be motivated to do it beyond the workshop and have the confidence to do it too. 
Of course getting great results helps too. 
So this was plan A. The weather held just about and everyone got great colours from their first 50g of stuff in the bath. Needless to say all involved were well  prepared and had brought a variety of fibres, colours etc to try. 


How much equipment do dyers need? Just getting started.

Wonderful rich indigo dyed fibre and fabric started appearing, and kept appearing. Indigo appeals to the full age spectrum, the grandchildren were excited on Sunday and  us  ' more mature' types  were also excited today; but the difference was that everyone today had made their own vat. 


The washing line got filled ! Job done - more confident indigo dyers and what a lovely day it was too. Fine cake, happy and enthusiastic people, a variety of conversation topics and a fascinating activity providing lovely take home bags. What more could one want? The weather did not kill our day, despite the threats of the weather forecasters. Well done everyone!  
Weren't we lucky ! The next day was VERY wet, just the day for re skeining  and labelling the yarn. 
There's more about indigo, madder and weld- three traditional Norfolk Dyes on my blog post of 14 May 16. It includes historical details and brief details of the science of indigo dyeing. 

PS I rarely get a chance to 'do' the Dyeing when running a workshop but dipping needed demonstrating. You can't waste an indigo bath can you, so here is my variety of fibres from the day.