Processing local Shetland fleece and an apology

Hullo, it’s been a while and I’m genuinely sorry about that. It’s been a really busy year: last winter my slowly-developing hobby of mending stuff and stitching stuff turned into preparing for and then teaching several workshops on ‘Boro and Visible Mending’, all while prepping for and then teaching two spinning workshops at ANWG 2019 (the Association of NorthWest Guilds Conference) in Prince George. And last month we had a wonderful, WONDERFUL holiday in the southwest US; I will try to put some photos up on the travel blog but fibre takes priority and it has been a very long time …

Knowing I’m looking for good double-coated fleece to investigate the spinning and weaving of medieval Greenland (I am still looking), someone (Pat M.) gave me a local Shetland fleece. The tog, the long outer coat, is not long enough for my purpose, but it’s not a bad primitive breed fleece. There’s some scurf, which is normal for primitive breeds: their fleece stops growing in late summer, so over the winter any dead skin just sits there whereas on a modern sheep breed with fleece that grows continually the fleece continually lifts the dead skin out and away. This is what that looks like on the shorn side of the raw fleece.rawscurf

Primitive breed fleece also has a break point, a weakness where the new spring wool fibres continue on from the fibres that grew the previous year. This is the point where, if the sheep are allowed to roo (shed their fleece naturally), the old fleece breaks away and falls off the animal. The shearer has to wait for the rise, the growth of the new fleece, because the oils that accompany the new growth lubricate the shears. This means a clean sheep is shorn under the break point of the fleece, which means there’s a little bit of new wool that will break away naturally from the fleece to become nepps and other undesirable things in your yarn if you don’t get rid of it before you spin. It’s often a slightly different colour; in the photo below you can see some darker wool to the right, on the cut surface; that’s the short dark new wool I don’t want. washednewgrowth

So how can I get rid of it without hunting over the shorn side of the fleece to pick or pull off every bit of offending wool?

Comb it.

This is what combs excel at, sorting good from bad. When you comb all manner of undesirable stuff is trapped in the combing waste, from short proto-nepps to vegetation. Spin your combed wool worsted style, reasonably thin, and the tightly-packed aligned fibres doesn’t leave much room for vegetation: a constant rain of rubbish falls as you spin hand-combed top, all stuff you don’t want in your yarn.

But you do have to wash your fleece for this to work otherwise the lanolin and suint will hold all the rubbish in the wool. Grease fleece also tends to be sticky (the older the stash, the stickier it gets as light fractions in the lanolin evaporate away) which is not good for combs.

Here’s one of my Valkyrie Fine combs loaded with some washed Shetland, butt/shorn ends nearest my hand.
lashedon

And here are the results of the first pass of rough combing. I’m not doing the classic English woolcomb comb and plank to evenly distribute fibre lengths, this project doesn’t require it. I just want parallel fibres and less rubbish. Note the bushy clump of short dark wool – combing waste – left in the top comb, the one that was first loaded. The comb below that (I only have two hands and one is holding the phone!) has the longer wool transferred by the combing process.

1stpass

I do four passes, four transfers from comb to comb. In terms of fibre alignment I start with butt|tip, that becomes tip|butt, which becomes butt|tip, and finishes tip|butt, which means when I take the fibre off the combs and coil it into a little nest, the tips are the last thing to come off the comb – and this is the end that I start spinning. So this prep will be spun tip to butt. That means I’m spinning against the lie of the scales on the fibres, but with the taper (finer to thicker) of the fibres.

End result of the process is below, fibre ready to be removed from the comb with an array of combing waste below.
results

I saved all the waste. In earlier times very little wool was wasted. Combing ‘waste’ was further processed to be spun as weft in fabrics to be fulled, or even plied for use as warp in sturdy coarse fabrics.

waste

I lashed handfuls of the waste, which contains many fine and short fibres, onto my Valkyrie Extra-Fine (three row) combs. Some of the scurf you can see below will be lost in the combing process, some will be left behind in the waste from this process, and some will end up in my yarn. Over time movement of the fabric and washing will break it down.

wastelashedon

The result after two or three passes is shown below. I just pull this off the combs and put it in a bag to be spun from handfuls, semi-woollen.

wastecombed

And the end result of the process. Yarn! Mini-skeins of single. Incipient weft and warp straight off the bobbin reveals its fibre content and spinning style.

spunyarn

Nests of combed, aligned fibre, a bag of combed, sort-of-aligned fibre, and the yarn shown above after steaming to set the twist (can you see that the warp is now on the left?). Next stage will be to needle-weave a tiny sample on a piece of card or other tiny loom to see if I like the way it looks as fabric. I had hoped the weft would be slightly darker than the warp… I’ll keep you posted.

yarnset

The Cassimere Insanity Part II

The Cassimere Insanity Part II

Just a warning that this turned out to be a very long post. I could have said more, though, so it could be worse.

I need to know more!

This is how my everyday insanity progresses. I find something interesting, I ask myself questions about it, I look for answers, I find fascinating nuggets of information that give rise to more questions … and before I realise it I’ve dug myself into a hole so deep that if myth were correct I’d see stars in the sky at midday.

Yerbury’s Patent contains very general information. As a hand spinner I have specific questions that it doesn’t answer.

What was that ‘Spanish wool’ really like?

“soft, good wool, all Spanish or a mix of Spanish and English”
By 1800 Great Britain was importing 5 million pounds weight of fine merino wool each year from Spain. In Sheep and Man Ryder states that the name ‘merino’ was first applied to the sheep in the 15th century, but the breed type can be traced to at least the 13th century. There is evidence of fine-wooled sheep in Roman times, including textiles from 1st-century Italy containing fibres of 16-24 microns. So it’s not unreasonable to assume that by the 18th century ‘soft’ Spanish wool was similar to modern Merino, which is roughly the same range. At some point during all this research I found two manufacturers selling cassimere fabric for re-enactors. I ordered samples from both, but only that from Kochan & Phillips resembled my memories of the fulled cassimeres in the V&A. Sean Phillips kindly advised the use of fine merino, so I used 16 micron merino for this project, which on reflection was almost certainly finer than necessary.

fibre preparation

How were the wools prepared for spinning? Warp for traditional broadcloth (Yerbury’s ‘Common Cloth’) was combed, and probably spun with some type of short forward (worsted) draw for strength, while the weft was carded and probably spun softly woollen to encourage fulling. Yerbury’s ‘New Invention’ has warp and weft spun in similar fashion, and worsted yarns don’t full well, so they were probably woollen or semi-woollen spun. But from hand-carded wool or drum-carded wool?  Lewis Paul’s spinning machine invented in 1738 drove rapid development of carding technology, and in 1775 Richard Arkwright was able to patent a carding machine fundamentally similar to modern drum carders that produced continuous lengths of roving.  Only 10 years later Arkwright was unable to prove his invention had been unique – which suggests there were other carding machines in use at the time – and his carding machine became common property. Yerbury seems the type of man who might well have taken advantage of new technology, so I felt it was reasonable to spin from drum-carded fibre. As I was not spinning a soft and lofty yarn – this had to be strong enough for a singles warp as well as weft – I eventually found it more convenient and faster simply to spin my modern merino ‘top’ (traditional top is produced by combing, but most commercial top we buy today is pin-drafted from carded fibre) from the fold.

spinning and preparing the yarn for weaving

One fundamental assumption based on my general research into historic textiles is that cassimere, like most fine historic textiles, was woven from singles rather than plied yarns; the samples I’ve seen do seem to be singles.

What grist was the yarn for this ‘superfine’ cloth? Superfine by contrast with earlier cloths, so what were they? Textiles and Clothing 1150–1450 speaks of coarse as fewer than 10 ends/cm, good middle quality 12-13 ends per cm, and fine as >18 ends per cm. The authors are writing of archaeological finds, so that’s in the finished cloth. What did it look like before fulling? Crumbs. There’s an entire research program for me right there if I have time. Fulled broadcloth was roughly half its woven width (hence the name: it was broad on the loom) so roughly half that epi?  Sean Phillips discussed cassimere specifications with me, and his suggested grist of 9,000- 10,000 yards per lb (ypp) was similar to what I’d found mentioned elsewhere.

I looked at twist angle in the Kochan & Phillips sample – which was thoroughly fulled – and concluded that I couldn’t conclude anything useful from it, even with a microscope and Mabel Ross to hand.

So I sat down at my Majacraft Rose and started spinning fine singles in the standard clockwise direction. Skeined a sample  – a known length – off the bobbin, weighed it, calculated yards per lb. Fail. Try again.  This was not an easy grist for me to maintain: the fibre was so fine it was easier to spin a finer yarn. If I stopped paying attention the yarn would become too fine; when I then tried for thicker it would be too thick.

FindingGrist

But I persevered, wound a decent sample on a control card to sit by the wheel for quick comparisons while spinning and, more importantly, wound off samples and checked the ypp regularly throughout the spinning process. I spun and I spun and I spun and I looked at the yarn I was spinning – so much finer than any handspun wool I’d woven before – and wondered whether it would weave. I am not an experienced weaver. I didn’t want to spend weeks spinning something I couldn’t make into cloth! I stopped spinning, wound off into skeins, steamed them to set the twist and sized them with gelatine to further hold the twist. I don’t have my notes for this to hand so I can’t remember the exact strength of the size, for example, but I have found a picture of one of the cassimere warps drying after sizing in what I call The Sizing Room (everyone else calls it the bathroom).

sized warp

The skein is spread evenly on the chopsticks so as few threads overlap as possible. If necessary I will cut tight skein ties to spread it more widely, as fewer ties are needed once a sized skein dries. I do not mess about with it any further: too much handling will increase the fuzziness despite the size. The milk bottle supplies enough weight to eliminate pig-tails and straighten the yarn, but not so much as to risk stretching it. The plastic separator increases airflow around the two sides of the skein. I try to remember to rotate the skein once or twice to minimize pooling of the size at the bottom of the skein, as this glues some of the threads together; it’s not a fatal flaw but pulling them apart is unnecessary stress and can create fuzz. I am all about preventing fuzz.

weaving

I remember thinking it was a good sign that the warp beamed on my Ashford table loom with no trouble at all.

Cassimreweavesquare

The 45° angle shows I tried hard to beat square!

It wove like a dream. On reflection I should have sett it slightly tighter for a slightly denser cloth “well struck in the loom” as Yerbury phrased it but at this point I had no idea how fulling would affect it.

I wove to the end of the short sample warp, cut it into six pieces, blanket-stitched the cut edges with more of the singles as thread (in case cotton sewing thread interfered with the wet finishing of such small samples). A soak in hot water followed by hand washing removed the size and allowed the fabric to find its shape, which was lovely. Light and warm. But nothing like Yerbury’s cassimere: fabric isn’t finished until it is finished. Wet finished.

finishing

Yerbury’s cassimere was to be “smartly grounded at the fulling mill by a quick motion”. Fulling has two purposes, the first being to remove any fats and oils used in processing the fibre for spinning. We’re talking serious oils here, such as rancid butter and fish oils used to grease wool for combing, but fortunately these combine with the ammonia compounds in stale urine to become soap that not only scours the cloth but lubricates it. This aids the second purpose, which is to work the fibres together, starting the process of interlocking wool scales that leads to felting. The fabric thickens, becomes denser and less flexible, also more resistant to wear, and for centuries it was a normal part of the finishing of wool fabrics, converting wide bolts of relatively thin plainweave broadcloth into narrow bolts of water-resistant warm hardwearing fabric. The picturesque ‘waulking’ of cloth in Scotland is fulling by hand, suitable only for relatively small scale fabric production. The Romans relied on slave labour walking in place, trampling the fabric in tubs of ankle-deep urine. Water-powered fulling mills had been in use since the 12th century in medieval England: a stock mill imitated the action of walking feet with wooden stocks driven by a waterwheel working either horizontally or vertically. Modern fulling mills are rotary, uniformly processing immense lengths of fabric. I knew without even asking that no commercial fulling operation could do anything with my tiny samples!

I first tried fulling my sample as I’d fulled wools before, working it by hand on a flat surface. Always in the warp and weft directions, never on the angle as that will deform the fabric. The result was nice to the touch, but far from even and both thicker and less dense than seemed right.

From left: cloth off the loom; washed; fulled by rubbing

loom,washed,firstfull

So I imitated a vertical fulling mill with a wooden mallet wrapped in plastic. The remaining three samples were wetted, lightly soaped and then fulled by incessant (or so it felt) tapping with the mallet on our kitchen counter. It worked. It more than worked, it made a lovely fabric, dense and light and very different from the hand-fulled sample. If you’re at all interested in fulling, you should try this technique.

So that will suffice. What next? Raise the nap: brush to raise fibres from the surface of the fulled fabric. In times past teasels mounted in wooden frames might be used for this, and it was skilled work. I used a nailbrush and would not call myself skilled, but the fabric developed a lovely soft halo of fibres.

After the nap was raised it was sheared or cropped. Shearsmen were probably the most highly skilled of all the craftsmen involved in this process, able to crop a uniform finish by eye on yards of fabric using huge steel shears. Fabrics were often napped and sheared repeatedly to obtain the smoothest possible finish.shearman

Fortunately I had tiny shears (my embroidery snips) to match my tiny piece of fabric.

shearing

I love this piece of fabric. It’s delightful. Not as densely woven as the 18th-century swatch I saw in the V&A, but still cassimere. It’s light, warm and the singles woven in twill structure make it remarkably stretchy. But each time I handled the swatches I ended up admiring the second one, the plain washed fabric. Still flexible, but soft and smooth with a lovely drape. I wondered what it would feel like as a larger piece. I had more fibre, I could find out. For speed I spun the singles for this fabric from the fold and thinner, which I found easier. Roughly 11,000ypp, roughly 13 yards spun per 5 minutes while watching tv, so could have been faster.

The full set of samples from the first cassimere warp: from right, loom state; washed; fulled by rubbing; fulled with a mallet, no further finishing; mallet-fulled, nap raised; mallet-fulled, nap-raised and sheared. Plus my control card and a sample skein spun for the second cassimere warp.

FirstCassimereResults

I spun, I skeined, I sized as before. I wound a shorter but much wider warp and wove it off sett at 48epi (it wrapped at 72). Soaked in hot water, washed and ironed, it had a subtle sheen and draped beautifully.

Cassimer2

By the twentieth century it seems from catalogue descriptions of fabrics and garments that almost any wool twill could be described as a cassimere so, while this isn’t Yerbury’s patented cassimere, it’s still a cassimere.  And once I’ve spun the current big bag of silk, I’ll be spinning to make more of it.

The Cassimere Insanity Part I

If you’re visiting because you’ve heard about my article A Brief History of an 18th-Century Woven Cloth: Cassimere in the Winter 2019 Spin Off, welcome.

Honestly, that’s what it is, insanity. I just didn’t realise it until I’d dug the hole too deep to climb out:
I had to keep going all the way to the other side.

I am deeply curious about how yarns were spun in England before the Industrial Revolution. In the Middle Ages England was the leading producer of woollen textiles in Europe: across a wide swathe of the country you can still see the ‘wool churches‘, magnificent structures paid for by the profits of the medieval wool trade, which is to say people buying and selling wool fibre, yarn and fabrics. ‘The medieval wool trade’ … four words that encompass centuries of skill needed to breed sheep producing different types of wool, to develop the hand spinning, dying, weaving and finishing skills to spin the different types of yarn needed to create different cloths that could then be finished to create some of the most beautiful and desirable fabrics known in Europe at that time. In England at that time skilled hand spinning was so fundamental that we have little information about how fibre was spun except in illustrations: everyone knew how to spin, so there was no need to document it. Nonetheless surviving fabrics can tell us something about the fibres and skills used in their construction.

the beginning

In 2014 I was invited to be one of the spinners demonstrating techniques at John Styles’ ‘Spinning in the era of the spinning wheel’ workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum Clothworkers’ Centre in London. Historians and fibre arts handworkers met to discuss the making of an array of fabrics from the V&A’s immense collection. One of the items on display was a book of fabric samples, ‘T.350-1989: Bound sample book containing different types, qualities and colours of cassimere or kerseymere cloth.’ I’d first seen cassimere (also known as kerseymere) mentioned in Kerridge’s Textile Manufactures in Early Modern England as a cloth invented by Francis Yerbury and patented by him in 1766; I remembered it because of the name, which I had read somewhere is thought to have been derived from ‘cashmere’ to reflect its softness, and because it had never occurred to me that a fabric could be patented. And now here it was in front of me, or at least examples of what were known as cassimere in 1795.

25.Cassimerebook27.CassimereSample

Note that my finger is NOT TOUCHING anything.
It’s hovering about 1cm above the fabric to give some idea of scale.

I was entranced. Moths and time had removed some patches of the surface fibre from one swatch (the one I photographed), revealing the twill structure and the beautifully-spun yarn. There were many other wonders spread out on the tables, but I left the workshop determined to find out more about this thing called cassimere. Kerridge focuses on the history of textile manufacturing, not the textiles themselves, and mentions cassimere again only as being responsible for bringing weavers into employment in large workshops, which was “possible because the looms were narrow and necessary because the weaves were new and intricate [compared with earlier standard weaves].”

The search for information

The internet rapidly made clear that cassimere/kerseymere continued in production until the 20th century and beyond, but also that these were very different fabrics from that patented by Yerbury… Aha! The patent! We were now living in Canada, so I couldn’t just pop down to the British Library in London. I emailed the Business & IP Centre asking if there was any way I could find a copy online, and will be eternally grateful to the  staff member who noticed I was writing from Canada and sent me a PDF.

Yerbury’s patent YerburyPatent1766-1

Page One of Yerbury’s patent.

Greetings from the 21st century, Francis. But I wish you’d given me more information! The meat of the patent is on pages 2 and 3, where Yerbury’s ‘New Invention’ is contrasted with the ‘common method of making cloth’. In short:

Common cloth warp is spun with a lot of twist, the weft with as little twist as possible and about 2/3 thicker than the warp, and the two should have different twist directions in order that they interlace tightly when woven. The fabric is a plain weave and the final fulled cloth is thick, water-resistant and durable.

Yerbury’s new Invention warp and weft are spun in the same manner “nearly about the same degree of smallness, weight and twist”. There is no specific weight or thickness of yarn but it should be spun from soft, good wool, all Spanish (i.e. merino) or a mix of Spanish and English. He describes two kinds of cloth distinguished in the weaving; one is clearly a straight twill, right or left; the other “quilled in the weaving with a flat whale [wale]” defeats my current understanding. According to the Google Books preview of The Dictionary of Fashion History, Beckinsale’s The Trowbridge Woollen Industry mentions only twill weave for cassimere.

Yerbury developed his new ‘cassimers’ fabrics to fill a niche in the market, which at that time was virtually crying out for lighter wools suitable for wear in warmer climates. But on the third page of his patent he mentions another reason for devising an innovative fabric: not only was the common cloth “hot, inconvenient and heavy for the summer wear at home and warmer climates abroad”, but it “hath also been introduction of many slight and whimsical things from our great rivals in trade the French”. In other words, the French were saying rude things about heavy, traditional English broadcloth.

So this is how I discovered cassimere. In Part II I’ll tell you how I found more information and began spinning.

 

 

Slow stitches: visible mending

Over the last few months I’m finding a routine, a pattern to my days. Paying work begins first thing in the morning and continues until my conscience is clear. Spinning and weaving (other than tapestry weaving, of which more anon) are also daytime occupations. In the evening I sit in my comfortable chair wearing two pairs of glasses (my bifocals plus reading magnifiers) with the floor-standing task lamp lighting the sewing in my lap as I stitch and think about the life cycle of fabrics.

The time and skill needed to make handspun yarn into handwoven cloth means that fabric and clothing was once precious, something that could be measured more accurately by the days, weeks and years of the makers’ lives than by the retailer’s arm length (the ell) or measuring tape. The increasing interest in boro/boromono, chikuchiku, and other visible mending techniques pays lip service to this, but I think fashion and the stitchers working with new fabrics, even buying fashionably-distressed new clothing in order to repair it are missing one of the points: their stitches are adding value by creating something beautiful, not by repairing something too precious to discard. I am genuinely looking forward to repairing something made from my own handmade fabrics, but in the interim I’m repairing things that are precious for other reasons.

sweathsirt

I bought this (black!) sweatshirt as a souvenir at Flag Fen when it was still an active Bronze Age archaeology site in the early 1990s. I wore it regularly, until the ribbing was losing its structure and holes were appearing in the fabric. When I picked it out of the workclothes pile to wear in the garden about 6 months ago I realised it had become precious to me as a reminder of a past time and place, so I put it to one side for repair.

I chose a red handspun mulberry silk for the repairs to reflect its new-found value, to match the logo, and because the red looks wonderful against the faded charcoal greys.
An embroidery hoop holding the fabric straight under light tension made it easier to follow the lines of the knit fabric and maintain even stitching. Magnification is essential: I can’t see to stitch this with reading glasses alone!

hole

With the fabric under tension it’s easier to darn the hole with sewing thread matching the fabric colour and the parallel lines of the knit fabric are clearly visible. Think of the lines of the knit fabric as the warp on a loom, with the red silk needle-woven as if it were weft.   Plain weave weave is over one, under one. A 3/1 twill is over 3, under 1. The repair at top left was done freehand, without the embroidery hoop, as evidenced by the way I lost count of the overs and unders. I love the sense of movement, though.

With patience and good light it’s possible to needle weave complex patterns over the darn:

morecomplex

anothre

That’s a diamond twill somewhat flattened by the difference in ‘weight’ between the silk and the knit fabric rib.
I tried several methods to restore some elasticity to the flabby over-stretched ribbing, but none were successful so I resorted to reinforcement and decoration with a mix of running stitch and chain stitch.

cuff

I may add some of this to the sweatshirt neckline, but then again I may not. It doesn’t need repair.

My vintage (made between 1971 and 1984) denim jacket had some intrinsic value: I paid hard cash for it at a flea market. There are several posts about my stitched repairs to the yoke, starting here. A couple of weeks ago I added a skull-and-roses on the main back using my hand-cut stencil and Japanese Indigo leaves. Even a pass through the ‘delicate’ cycle of the washing machine to wash out the hydrogen peroxide neutralising the bleach (highlighting the skull) and washing out the leaf juice revealed more weak points in the fabric: more opportunities for repair!

jacketback.jpg

The edges of the cuffs and facings range from ‘showing wear’ to ‘disintegrating’. I trialled an edging of Palestrina stitch in the same red silk I used for the sweatshirt; it works but is a little less even than I’d hoped on the disintegrating edge. It might have been better to encase the cuff in another fabric and stitch that, but for some reason I can’t explain I feel that would be the wrong thing to do on this jacket. I will try to come up with a better solution, though, because the facings are just as worn. I do know that I don’t want vertical scarlet lines down my front, so even if I use Palestrina or some other ‘blanket stitch’ it won’t be red silk.

The photo below shows the Palestrina stitch cuff with a different repair strengthening worn areas of the fabric body.

cuffandline.jpg

People on Facebook have asked how I do this. It looks impressive but is very simple provided you’ve got magnifying glasses and good light: I’m simply backstitching a single strand of embroidery floss down the ‘ditch’ in the twill. Just for fun here’s a X80 view of the stitches and the ‘ditch’, which on this – the good or blue side of the denim – is created by the weft revealed as it passes over one warp thread: on each side of the ditch it dives under three warp threads. The diagonal results from the shift one thread to the right (in this photo) in each successive weft pass. The weft is white, the warp (the long verticals) was once dyed blue with indigo, but the surface of the cotton and its embedded indigo wore away leaving only indigo dust embedded in the crevices of the fabric. The needle in the photo is only embedded in the backstitch position to give you the idea: I confess I usually stab-stitch the backstitch for more accuracy when I’m working it.

detail

This is what it looks like over a larger area. I started working only with blue to maintain the sense of blue in the jacket fabric, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to change colour across a wider area. The white fuzz is in an area where the warp has been worn away to reveal the weft. In a small area like this I re-create the ditch lines with backstitch holding the weft threads together but if it’s any larger I add a backing fabric for strength, especially on the shoulders or other areas subject to stress. The visibility of that particular fuzz is annoying me, so I will probably go back and needle weave some darning structure under the backstitch to add structure before trimming some of that fuzz away.

multicolditch

 

me

Now with added nettle! (a quick update)

A heads-up for anyone interested in bast fibres in general and nettle in particular: Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa and I are seriously investigating nettle fibre. I’ll be focussing on retting and other techniques that might have been used in northern Europe, as well as the splitting and spinning techniques used to work with ramie in Asia.

We’ll be recording some of our work on the Coastal Fibres blog. Come and visit!

longstripscraped.jpg

The four fibrous strips of a nettle ‘skin’ stripped away from the pith and scraped clear of most unwanted plant material.

 

CMYK blending: how to find and make the colours you need.

I had intended to post this as part of a “I can’t believe it’s April” post, but it’s better that this stand alone for people who might be interested in the class I’m offering on the Cowichan Hand to Hand Fibre Arts Workshops Weekend. I posted a brief teaser on the event website; here are more of the samples I’m preparing for the workshop.

I’ll show you how to use hand cards and/or combs and 5 shades of Ashford Corriedale to begin produce a range of colours, talking about combing and carding technique as we work. I’ll also show you how to use the Andean plying method to quickly produce short lengths of sample 2-ply.

img_4944.jpg IMG_4950

I’ll then talk about a quick and easy way to find a range of colours that work well together, and how to start creating those colours using only the wool we have to hand.
img_4960.jpg

I hope to have some samples to show you how some of these colours work together when I see you at the workshop.

 

Time for boro (sort of).

Five weeks pass in the blink of an eye, or so it seems. But not without tangible results. Some I can’t talk about because they’re for an article for Spin Off.

But I can talk about more boro-style patching. I have a Real Japanese vest/waistcoat/thing, purchased online for a low price because it had a damaged collar (which I regarded as an advantage because I wanted something to patch. We both win!) The vendor supplied a piece of Japanese indigo cloth and sashiko thread which I used to repair the collar. After about a year of frequent wear holes appeared on the back and on edge of the front facings. Time for more repairs! I dug out my stash of precious Japanese cotton scraps and started. I considered complex sashiko stitching – I need a lot of practice to gain precision and accuracy – but decided I wanted a faster repair. IMG_4846

IMG_4959.JPG

The reverse of the front is more worn, so the patch extends further on the underside, hence the tiny blue stars on the original fabric.

IMG_4848

img_4953.jpgVarious shades of blue embroidery thread in blocks of stitching. I included one of the remaining fragments of my favourite fabric, and left a circle clear of stitching for a semamori motif. Semamori are amuletic patterns stitched onto children’s garments that lack the protective line of stitches down the centre back. I decided that as the damage affected the original seam a semamori was deserved. This is handspun cotton, but I’m not happy with the thread – it should be thicker, easily done – and the quality of my stitching, so I’ll take it out and try again.