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Archive for the ‘spinning’ Category

As a knitter, I’m somebody who likes to plan ahead. I knit numerous swatches; I try out new techniques and compare them with firm favourites; I take gauge measurements; I sketch and calculate. I knit up accordingly. This doesn’t mean I always get it right, but that’s okay. I will have learnt something new, and I can use that knowledge when planning the next thing. But in the last couple of years or so, I have been exposed to other methods of working. A more carefree and let’s-see-what-happens approach. A good example, and great inspiration, is the work by Rachael Matthews who runs Prick Your Finger.

Rachael Matthews Shamanic Bed for Creatives

Rachael Matthews’s Shamanic Bed for Creatives

Rachael’s Shamanic Bed for Creatives contains a cornucopia of textile techniques. Hand knitting, machine knitting, crochet, darning, and who knows what else, all find their way into the shamanic bedspread. Ideas come into her head and these magically flow into her hands and make a fabric, as she comes up with them. Some of these will work, and others will not. Knitting and crocheting allows one to shape the fabric while making it, this in contrast to woven fabrics, where one has to cut and sew to shape it. In addition, knitting and crocheting can easily be undone without loss of material. It is possible to use the ripped out yarn and try again. So if an idea doesn’t work, then it’s a lesson learnt that can be put to use straightaway. It’s even possible to start something without knowing what the end result will be, like Rachael’s Explosion Jumper.

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Embroidered Cushion Cover, exploring Jamieson & Smith Heritage yarns

I find this way of working, when it comes to knitting, quite a challenge. With decorational techniques (for want of a better description) I struggle less with this approach. For instance, the embroidery on the cushion cover pictured above was done free-style, without any planning whatsoever. Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@tomofholland) will have seen the doodles I occasionally post. Embroidering this cushion was like doodling with needle and thread.

Slowly but surely, I’m opening up to allow my knitting also to be more free-style, and less planned. It’s a shift in thinking that wakes me up, and it allows me to use my knowledge of techniques in a different way. It started with a simple bath mat. Having worked with Sue Craig on the Knitting The Map project (more on that in a later blog post), I had developed an obsession with stripes in garterstitch. Rachael selected eight shades for me from Prick Your Finger’s carpet yarn range, reminiscent of Bauhaus colours.

knitted rug in garterstitch by tomofholland

Knitted bath mat in garterstitch

Although I had made a lot of doodles (none of them larger than approximately 4 x 7cm), I didn’t plan anything before casting on. Yes, I knitted a swatch to select the right needle size for the fabric I wanted, but after that I just started at one corner and came up with the patterns and colours as I went along. I only decided on the construction after knitting the bottom strip. It was a departure of the planned object, the self-imposed constrictions and the letting go of expectations.

inspirational craft books

Inspiration for creative knitting: C Nieuwhoff: Anders Breien en Haken; M McNeill: Pulled Thread; M Walker Phillips: Creative Knitting; M Stove: Creating Original Hand-knitted Lace; A Sutton: British Craft Textiles; S Read (editor): Wild Knitting; E Mairet: Hand-weaving Today

These are just some of my books in my craft library in which the author in some way or other speaks about, or shows, how to let go of the regimented way of working, but instead letting materials or techniques guide the way. The compendium by Ann Sutton is a showcase of British textile artists working with a huge variety of techniques. Wild Knitting shows that knitting doesn’t have to stop with jumpers and socks. Margaret Stove shows how to create your own lace patterns, after explaining how lace stitches work together. Moyra McNeill and Constance Nieuwhoff both use traditional techniques in new, sometimes unexpected, applications. Ethel Mairet talks about letting materials and colours speak for themselves, and she often used simple techniques to show these off.

It all seems to come together in Mary Walker Phillips’s Creative Knitting. A weaver by trade, she became a very accomplished knitter with a sound knowledge of knitting techniques; she also spins and dyes. She explains how she uses vastly different materials, from artificial straw to handspun linen, and how these have an influence on the techniques she uses. Mostly her art pieces are wallhangings, casement curtains or other lacy structures, incorporating pieces of mica, pebbles, or beads. I find these pieces particularly inspiring at the moment.

Lace sample in handspun Rough Fell 2ply yarn

Handspun Rough Fell 2ply yarn and lace sample

The lace sample above was a quick study in mixing and matching lace stitches, using handspun Rough Fell 2-ply yarn. I like the contrast between the kempy, hairy and wire-like yarn, and the lace stitches, which are more usually executed in, for instance, a fine and soft Shetland yarn. This is just a starting point, and I will be creating more samples of both yarn and stitches this year, and be guided by my newfound approach to creative knitting. And in true Rachael-style, I don’t quite know where this will lead me, but I’m excited to start this journey and will be reporting back on my blog.

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Post-script (added 1 March 2014): perhaps my view on how Rachael appears to create her work was somewhat romanticised and simplified in my head, so please check out the comments on this post below, where Rachael has responded to my writing.

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Having just returned from a three-week holiday, I had plenty of time to look back to 2013, and look forward to 2014. Last year has been amazing, and I’m sure this will continue in the new year!

Looking back

Darning

Darning at Wool House, Somerset House

I was invited to darn at Wool House, Somerset House, as part of the very successful Campaign for Wool event. I had a great time, and Wool House put my darning sessions in the “best bits” list! It was super-busy, and I think I have enthused quite a few people about darning, and also explain why I like using 100% wool products.

Hope and Elvis Darning Workshop

2013 also saw the first of my day-long darning workshops. I went to Hope & Elvis, lovely Louise’s great studio. It’s stuffed to the gills with vintage fabrics, blankets, threads, scraps, books and any tool you would possibly need, so it was a lot of fun to explore various darning techniques. You’ll be pleased to hear I’m returning there in April.

ShetlandWoolWeek Darning at Jamieson & Smith

Last but not least, my darning skills took me to Shetland! Here’s a picture of my darning class at Jamieson & Smith. I had a great time, I met so many amazing people, with amazing skills. I left a few loose ends on purpose, so I have a good reason to return.

Knitting

Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches Lace

Early last year I exhibited at Prick Your Finger. My Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches explored many different knitting stitches and techniques, some old and rare, others common and much-used. It was a good way to learn about different techniques, and investigate them in detail.

Altered Kasha Cardigan for Wedding Outift

Rosemary had seen my Curiosity Cabinet, and thought I’d be the ideal person to take on a commission for her wedding outfit. I gladly took this on, and I knitted a Kasha Cardigan for her, with some alterations: a different collar, and three-quarter length sleeves. It was a great project to work on, and Rosemary has been wearing her cardigan many times since.

Aleatoric Fair Isle Swatch

Last year I also explored stranded colourwork, and in particular the Fair Isle tradition. Together with my comrade in wool, Felicity Ford, we devised a method to learn more about Fair Isle patterns, which took away some of the hurdles we often face when trying to knit Fair Isle. Using rules we made up and some dice, we left pattern and colour selection to chance, based on John Cage’s compositional concepts. We called this Aleatoric Fair Isle.

Spinning

Diamond Fibre Mill spinning

Other highlights include my visit to Diamond Fibre Mill, where I met Roger, who runs this small independent mill, specialising in worsted spinning, and who owns his own flock of Romney sheep.

timbertops chair spinning wheel

I also became the proud owner of an original Timbertops spinning wheel. A chair wheel no less. I haven’t had a chance to write about this yet, so keep your eyes peeled for a blog post in the near future.

Special mention

And if all that wasn’t quite enough, Kate Davies, Felicity and myself curated Wovember 2013 to celebrate wool in all its myriad forms. We posted features about growing, harvesting, processing, working, and wearing wool. I did many more things last year, so these were just some of my highlights.

Looking forward

Plans for 2014 are forming in my head, and amongst others, I’m looking forward to releasing my first cardigan pattern, using Foula wool. A bit later than expected, but it’s important to me to get everything right. I will continue working on the Aleatoric Fair Isle swatches. I’ve also taken on a very special visible mending commission to repair an upcycling attempt gone wrong. As previously mentioned, not only will I return to Hope & Elvis for a darning workshop, I will also run a Darning Master Class at Unravel at Farnham Maltings. More classes and workshops are in the pipe-line, so keep an eye out for them.

Scotch darn on sock

2014 will also be the year of exploring. I did some free-style knitting before Christmas, and I found it very liberating. I found some good books on the subject, and I have also been inspired by Rachael Matthews’s approach to making, and in particular what became her Explosion Jumper.

On the spinning front I want explore more lace-weight spinning, using wool from both classic breeds (Shetland), and unexpected breeds (Rough Fell.)

Last but not least I would like to explore more mending techniques, and in particular learn more about darning and repairing woven textiles. And I still have one or two jumpers to complete…

darned jumper

 

I don’t know about you, but I think I have plenty of things lined up, and it will be my pleasure to share them with you and write about them here.

Happy New Year!

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A couple of weeks ago I returned from Shetland Wool Week. I was invited to run two darning workshops, and to present the works-in-progress of the Aleatoric Fair Isle project I’m working on with Dr Felicity Ford. I have met so many amazing people, seen impossible feats of spinning and knitting, and enjoyed the landscape.

Hanging out with Felicity, who’s a sound artist, it may come as no surprise that apart from all the woolly wonders, I will now forever associate two songs with Shetland. The first one was recorded in 1960 for an oral history project for the School of Scottish Studies. The interviewer asks Rosabel Blance to talk about her own composition Da Spinning Sang (the spinning song.) He is clearly fishing for an answer with deeper meaning, but Blance is very matter-of-fact about it. But then she sings it and really, no explanation was ever necessary:

Taese da Shetlan oo till it’s clear an fine / Lyin laek a clood wi a silver shine

(tease the Shetland wool till it’s clear and fine / lying like a cloud with a silver shine)

But that’s enough poetry for now. Here are some pictures I took during Shetland Wool Week, in no particular order:

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The view from our log cabin – we stayed at Nortower Lodges, and we couldn’t have wished for a better cabin.

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The view from Fort Charlotte, in the centre of Lerwick. Luckily most days the weather was much nicer than these two pictures would have you believe.

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Felicity helping out participants of our Aleatoric Fair Isle workshop. Rolling the dice and following rules to create Fair Isle swatches proved controversial in some quarters, but I think we all had a good time in the end.

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A fine Shetland Ram at the Flock Book Ram Auction. In order to prevent an ever dimishing gene pool within their flocks, sheep farmers sell off their rams, and buy new ones frequently.

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A visit to Jamieson’s of Shetland‘s mill in Sandness. One of many banks of spinners; in many ways a very different affair from Diamond Fibres Mill, which I visited recently. Jamieson’s spin their fibres with the woollen method, resulting in a lofty, warm, yet light yarn, very suitable for Shetland wool. Diamond Fibres on the other hand, specialise in the worsted spinning method, which is much better suited for longwool (like their own flock of Romney sheep) and this makes for a smooth and lustrous yarn.

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The Textile Museum has a working loom, as found in the traditional crofts. Until my visit, I never knew that Shetland once was also famous for their tweed fabrics.

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As part of the Flock Book Ram Auction, there was also judging of the best rams. Here are the Shetland hot shot rams, all together in a special judging area. The atmosphere was palpable and tense, as a price-winning ram means a lot to the owner.

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And here is your good self. Elizabeth Johnston, spinner and dyer extraordinaire, showed me how the Shetland lace spinners managed to get such exceedingly fine yarn. After three hours of blood, sweat, tears, and some rather flowery language, I managed to get some extremely fine yarn. Elizabeth told me that I had started to understand the technique, but that my thread wasn’t near fine enough… The aim is to make a single ply the thickness of six individual fibres. This will then be used to make a two-ply yarn. I will keep on practising!

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This delapidated croft was not far from our lodgings, so we passed it every day.

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I also ran two darning classes. A drop-in session took place at the Shetland Museum and Archives, who helped organise Shetland Wool Week, and who invited me to come over in the first place: so a massive thanks to them for making this visit possible. Secondly, I ran a darning master class at Jamieson & Smith, pictured above. More thanks due here, as they kindly provided Felicity and me the yarns for our workshops.

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Susan Freeman found a new application for the Scotch darning technique. As you can clearly see in this picture, you can make pockets! I think I will have to add a fountain pen pocket to one of my cardigans.

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And here is a beautiful gift from Diane Houdek, who came all the way from America for Shetland Wool Week especially. A small box with teeny tiny wooden reels of darning silk. What a magnificent addition to my collection of mending ephemera!

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The fleece in this picture was chosen as the Champion fleece during a fleece-judging competition. The fleeces are judged on, amongst others, resilience, crimp, uniformity, and presentation. Readers of Jane Cooper’s excellent blog Mrs Woolsack’s Blog, may recognise this fleece. Incidentally, Jane also maintains the Woolsack website. Woolsack was started as a Cultural Olympiad Inspire project to make British wool cushions as personal welcome gifts from the people of Britain to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The Woolsack website now lists and links to information and sources of British wool products from spinning fibre to dyed knitting yarn and woven fabric.

Oliver Henry, Jamieson & Smith

Here you can see me with the fleece judge himself: Oliver Henry, who is the Master Woolsorter at Jamieson & Smith.

The keen observer will be wondering where that second song comes in, that for me is so inextricably linked to Shetland? Well, as part of Felicity’s lecture Listening to Shetland Wool, she composed a song, which she performed at the end.

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Here she is, performing it in the Jamieson & Smith shop. Sandra Manson and Adam Curtis are listening intently. As Felicity was fine-tuning the song during any spare moments we had at the lodge, I can sing it from start to finish. It has proved to be a great success, and indeed, it has found its way to the internet. One word suffices, as Oliver Henry said: BRILLIANT.

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Last week I wrote about my visit to Diamond Fibres. As we hadn’t finished our job, we went back last Friday. On our first visit Roger had given me a lot of information, so I took this chance to clarify a couple of things. Unfortunately I didn’t take any new pictures, so I’ll keep it brief.

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two gilling machines on the far left, the top of the combing machine at the right. Click on the image to see a larger version

After the wool gets carded, the carded fibres land from the back of the carder into a belt, with a funnel at the end and a number of rollers. These compress the continuous carded batt into untwisted sliver, which ends up in a big coil in a “can;” a large open-topped casket, so that you can move the delicate sliver to the gilling machine.

You can see two gilling machines at the far left in the picture above, one of which shows its feeding belt. The can goes underneath this belt and the sliver is fed into the gilling machine. The gilling machine will add some twist, but more importantly, it has rows of combs hanging down. These will align the fibres so that they lie parallel to each other. This first machine has the tines of the combs quite far apart (seven to the inch.) The sliver comes out at the other end and ends up in another can. This get’s moved to the second gilling machine, shown at the far left of the picture. This one has finer combs, with the tines spaced closer together (ten to twelve to the inch.) To align of the fibres even further. Again, the sliver is caught in a can. Once sixteen cans have been filled up, they go the combing machine.

The combing machine will only comb out noils (small clumps of short fibre), in order to end up with a very smooth yarn. It also adds a bit more twist to, what is now called, combed top and it gets wound onto the biggest bobbins. These then go onto the big machine in the middle of the picture above, and from there on, the process continues as described in last week’s post.

Any readers who enjoy preparing their own fibres for spinning will have noticed that the process of aligning the fibres and combing out the noils is reversed when you process fibres by hand. When preparing your own fleece at home for worsted spinning, you usually skip the carding altogether. The locks go straight onto the hand-combs, and you comb the fibres first to remove the noils. Once this is completed, you pull off the fibres with a diz (a small flat object with a small hole in it) to produce your combed top. Some people add some twist to this, by carefully winding it onto a make-shift distaff – this could just be a large knitting needle. Others leave the combed top as is.

Another thing I learnt is that Roger’s spinning machine is a flyer spinner (as I noted in the previous post, just like a spinning wheel at home), as this is more suited for longwools, the type of wool Diamond Fibres specialises in. As the pencil roving is drafted out to be twisted into yarn it is guided around the flyer a couple of times before it winds onto the bobbin. This will make for a smoother worsted yarn as it will help “tuck in” any loose fibres.

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The yarn is twisted around the flyer before it goes onto the bobbin.

When spinning woollen yarns, where the fibres are more jumbled up, the spinning machine has a ring, rather than a flyer. You can see the woollen spinning preparation beautifully explained in the following Wovember blog post with the ring spinner here.

If you’re curious about hand combing at home, then I can highly recommend the following set of videos found here (link to the first of four videos.)

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Last Friday I jumped at the chance to accompany my friend Sue to visit Diamond Fibres, a small independent spinning mill specialising in worsted spinning for knitting yarns.

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The Diamond Fibres Mill at Diamond Farm

After Wovember2012, I had a greater understanding of how fleece gets turned into yarn, but to see a mill for real was an unexpected pleasure. The mill is owned by Roger, who used to work in The City, but he quit in the 1980s to start the mill.

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Roger tweaking the spinner

There’s a lot to do  before you get yarn, and Roger does it all at his farm: fleece sorting, scouring, carding, combing, spinning, and skeining. It would probably take me a few visits to see all the machines working, as they’re not all continuously in use. Here’s an account of the process, as I remember it from the overload of information Roger gave me.

He stores his fleeces and does the sorting in an the oldest building at Diamond Farm: an old barn, probably dating back to the 14th century.

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The old barn where Roger stores and sorts his fleece

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the beams and rafters of the old barn

Once the fleeces have been sorted and graded, the wool gets scoured to remove dirt, suint and lanolin. This is necessary to ensure a high quality yarn. If there’s lanolin or or sticky stuff in the wool, then this gets transferred to the equipment, and soon fibres will start to cling to it, messing up the intermediate steps in the processing.

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Wensleydale wool drying, there’s approximately 17kg of wool on the drying table.

Once the wool is picked, it gets carded to loosen up the fibre mass. The carding machine is just a big version of a drum carder:

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Sue and Gill are picking wool to feed into the carder

After the carding, the wool needs to be gilled: the jumbled up fibres get disentangled and gradually more lined up; if I understand it correctly, this produces sliver. Unfortunately the gilling machine was not in use, but you can see some pictures of it here.

The sliver then gets combed, which is done rather differently than when doing it by hand.

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Roger explaining the finer points of combing

The sliver is fed into the combing machine at the back, 16 strands at a time.

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the sliver feed seen through the opened hatch of the comber

These slivers then get combed by a top comb and a bottom comb.

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the top comb

The bottom comb was difficult to photograph, but it consists of a roller, with rows of tines on it, each row of tines smaller than the previous one. When the sliver has been combed, you get combed top. The combed top gets put onto huge bobbins. From there on, the spinning process itself starts. The combed top gets drafted into pencil roving.

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the machine that makes pencil roving from combed top

The bobbins with pencil roving are moved to the spinning machine, where the roving gets pulled through a series of rollers. Below you can see Blue Faced Leicester on the large bobbins.

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Bobbins with pencil rovings are drafted by the rollers.

The rollers perform the same action as a handspinner does with drafting and feeding the fibre into the yarn. Twist enters the roving by means of a flyer, just like a spinning wheel. To facilitate the yarn being wound onto the bobbin, the bobbins rest on felt discs, which slow down the bobbin’s speed relative to its flyer:

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Bobbins and flyers threaded up

If the bobbin rotates too fast, the yarn can break, so some bobbins need to be kept in check by means of an additional brake. You can see them in the picture above. They’re the pieces of felt clamped into place right next to the naughty bobbins. Although the bobbins with the single yarn spin around at an amazing speed, can you imagine that the large bobbins with the pencil roving will take a whole three days of spinning before they’re empty?

Seeing that Roger has a flock of around 110 Romney sheep, it won’t surprise you to hear that Romney longwool is his favourite fibre to spin. It has a nice lustre, it’s strong, and yet soft enough for a jumper; a good all-rounder.

Knowingly and unknowingly I have been knitting with yarns spun up by Diamond Fibres. It turns out that the Wensleydale I used to knit a hat from, as reported during Wovember2012, was spun by Roger.

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Deepest Darkest Romney teamed with my handspun Possibly Romney from the M25 yarn

The picture above shows my Romney and handspun combination jumper I’m working on. Alas, it’s on hold right now as I have a number of commissions to complete before I can return to personal projects.

And you, too, can get your hands on some yarn made with care, showing off all the good qualities of Romney fleece, spun up by a Master Spinner. Prick Your Finger sell his DK weight Romney in deepest darkest brown, and also a beautiful steely grey.

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Post-script added on 18 August 2013: I have been back to Diamond Fibres, and got a few of the finer points clarified. You can read about it here.

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Who knew that spinning is so addictive? Since I last wrote about spinning yarn, I have managed to do a great deal more:

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A selection of hand-spun yarns, all from rare British breeds

As you will find out, I have learnt a lot whilst spinning up these yarns, not least, that I really enjoy spinning and preparing my own fibres. So, let me take you through my latest skeins:

First up, a selection of Herwick yarns. Herwick is a very hardy sheep breed, and is native to the Lake District. They have a very distinctive face, and their woolly coat is perfect for the rainy and windy conditions of their natural home. It contains a lot of kemp (white brittle fibres) and hair (dark smooth fibres) as well as wool fibres. The large amount of kemp and hair means rain runs off their coats very easily. It also means, that resulting yarns can be very scratchy and are usually used for hardwearing carpets. This fibre was generously gifted to me by Vicky from Eden Cottage Yarns and she got the fleece from a Herdwick shepherd in the Lake District.

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Herdwick in all its glory! From left to right: woollen 2ply, felted woollen single, worsted 2ply

However, if you first comb the fibres, it is quite easy to separate most of the wool from the kemp and hair. The combing waste can then be carded. This means you can create some very different yarns, all from the same sheep. It’s amazing! You can see this in the picture above: on the right, a yarn made from the combed top, worsted spun, then plied. As I had a lot of combing waste, I could try out some different things. The skeins on the left and in the middle were both spun from carded fibre, and I made my first attempt at longdraw drafting, to create a woollen yarn. Admittedly, this is easier done on a spinning wheel, but it can be done with a spindle, and I kept the beginners technique of “park-and-draft” in mind for this, which is one way of achieving this. For the longdraw, I built up a lot of twist in the leader, then parked the spindle between my feet and slowly let the twist escape between my drafting fingers and run up into the rolag. Granted, this is not something to do for a long period of time, as it’s not a very ergonomical method. Then I finished the woollen singles in different ways. The skein on the left is a standard 2ply, the skein in the middle was felted by agitating the skein in hot soapy water and shocking it in a cold bath, followed by some wacking against the rim of our bath tub.

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Mixing breeds: top-to-bottom shows Herdwick 2ply, Herdwick plied with Lincoln, Lincoln 2ply

Another thing I tried was plying a fat woollen Herdwick single, with another classic British sheep breed: Lincoln. Lincoln is a typical longwool sheep, with lots of lustre. Longwools often don’t have any hair or kemp mixed in at all. Such a contrast to the Herdwick! I found the Lincoln quite a challenge to spin, as its staple length is quite fenomenal!

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Lincoln fibres lashed onto my wool combs

Not only does it show some resistance to being twisted, the staple length was very long, and my spindle didn’t allow me a lot of time to draft, before I had to set it in motion again. Also, the plying was a challenge, and the end result in the skein above is an unintentional bouclé. A second skein turned out better, and it shows off the lustrous quality of the Lincoln fibres:

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Shiny Lincoln yarn

But this is not the only longwool I played with. I also still had rather a lot of Wensleydale!

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Wensleydale longwool in natural colours.

I tried out quite a few things here, and this time, I struggled with the commercial preparation, as it is very slippy, and again, my spindle worked against me. This didn’t stop me from trying an intentional bouclé, made by plying up a S-spun and a Z-spun single. You can see it in the white skein, and in the grey skein on the left. I’m not so keen on how it came out, but I think there is still lots to be learnt about the amount of twist I put in both singles and the plied yarn. To be revisited in the future. The grey skein on the right, however, I really love. It’s a cabled 4ply. My singles were Z-spun, then I created two 2ply yarns with an S-twist, and these got plied together with another Z-twist. Again, there is still lots of improvements to be made on the amount of twist at the various stages.

After struggling with all the longwool and its slippery nature, I had to put aside the dark-brown Wensleydale as I wasn’t quite sure on how to improve. And I’m glad I did, as a few weeks ago Cecilia Hewitt, her husband Graham, Felix, Prick Your Finger‘s Rachael and yours truly all met up and we had a great time spinning and chatting and drinking tea.

Cecilia explained a lot of things to me about spinning, and when working through my Wensleydale, I learnt about pre-drafting compacted fibres, checking the amount of twist you’re putting in, and last but not least, how a spindle that spins longer could help me deal with those long, slippery Wensleydale fibres! I’m very grateful for the bottom whorl spindle she gifted to me, as I really enjoyed spinning with it.

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Wensleydale lace-weight yarns. Left: plied from a centre-pull ball, right: plied from two separate balls

As you can see, I managed to get some really nice lace-weight yarns. I tried two different methods of managing the two singles for plying up. I tried using a centre-pull ball, neatly wound up on a nostepinne. I didn’t enjoy the process of plying from this and you can see that in the left skein: it’s a bit hard and wiry. In fact I got so frustrated I just had to stop and wind the two ends of the centre-pull ball into two separate balls. Lo’ and behold, the skein on the right looks much more relaxed and happy and you can feel that difference, too.

Meanwhile I have combed the left-overs from the Lincoln, and carded some Shetland fleece, so I will soon have more spinning to share.

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Dear readers, I can’t believe it’s already mid March! I have so much to share with you, that I’m not sure where to start. So, in no particular order I shall mention some of the highlights of the last few weeks and the coming few months.

First of all, a few announcements on upcoming classes and workshops:

Sock Knitting

Whenever I run a darning class I show my hand-knitted socks that I have darned. For all of you who have asked if I will teach sock knitting, I can now say: yes I do!

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My first sock knitting class is in April, run over three consecutive Sundays (14, 21, 28 April). I will expect participants to do some “homework,” but as this involves knitting, I think it could be worse. You can book here and find more details. This class is aimed at the confident beginner, who already knows how to cast on, cast off, increase and decrease. Learn to knit in the round, turn heels and graft toes.

Darning

Darning is really taking off, and I will be doing quite a few events in the next few months, spreading my love for darning and mending.

First of all, I will be at Wool House at Somerset House, London, for some drop-in darning this weekend (16, 17 March) and a darning class on Friday, 22 March. All for free! Wool House showcases some different uses for wool, and promises to be spectacular.  Check all Wool House events here, including my darning activities.

Secondly, I will be doing my regular Super+Super HQ darning class on Friday, 10 May.

TOM SAYS DARN IT

You can book for this event here. And for those of you who wonder: although these techniques are used for knitwear repair, no previous knitting experience is necessary.

Still there is more! Third and fourth mention go to two one-day darning workshops. These run from 10am-4pm and are a more informal affair. I will introduce the concept of Visible Mending, show examples of various techniques, and then we’ll discuss everybody’s repair needs. Then we will all just pick up needle and thread and start mending!

I will be at Hope & Elvis, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire on Saturday, 4 May. This event is now sold out.

I will be at The Stitchery Studio, Glasgow on Saturday, 18 May. Find details here to sign up.

And more…

Yes, there is still more to share! I will just give you some glimpses of what has kept me so busy in the last four weeks or so. I will expand on all of this in my next few blog posts:

The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches was exhibited at Prick Your Finger, London:

cabinet

Crafty Magazine interviewed me about The Curiosity Cabinet of Knitting Stitches. It’s a new magazine and it will also feature male crafters, because we do exist!

I have been bitten by the spinning bug. I went to the spinners meet-up at The Green Centre last Friday, where Sue Craig is leading the Knitting The Map project. The aim is to prepare, spin, dye and knit a 1792 map of Brighton; known as Brighthelmstone at the time. I spun up some Lincoln longwool, which I combed myself:

LashedOn

When I went to Prick Your Finger last weekend to collect my Curiosity Cabinet, we had a right spin-off, as Cecilia Hewett was visiting, and so was Felicity Ford. You may have read her three-part spinning story over on the Wovember blog. She gave me some invaluable advice on how to spin Wensleydale wool into a lace weight yarn:

spinning

I have also been knitting a jumper, mixing some amazing deepest, darkest Romney from Prick Your Finger with some of my first handspun:

photo

And I haven’t even started taking pictures of my machine knitted swatches. My friend Amy Twigger Holroyd, who runs the fashion label Keep & Share, and who is working on amazing PhD research, invited me round to her studio for an introduction to machine knitting. Despite my initial prejudices, I really enjoyed it! I hope to do more in the near future.

And more darning. Yes indeed! If all this wasn’t enough, I went to the first Brighton Repair Café a few weeks ago. The Repair Café Foundation was originally founded in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, but has gained huge momentum and has gone global now. I first heard about it at the MendRS Symposium and I was so glad to see that we now have one in Brighton, too.

I think I’m done sharing for now. I hope to see you at one of my sock knitting or darning classes or at Wool House. I hope you have all been creatively occupied, too, with exciting new projects!

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