Thursday, 1 November 2012

Wovember 2012

We're really happy here to be supporting Wovember, the campaign to celebrate wool, wear it as much as possible and apply pressure on the fashion industry to list woollen garments correctly.

Dr Kate Davies and Dr Felicity Ford, the originators of the campaign feel that to list this garment as woollen is misleading to say the least, and yet when searching for woollen jumper, this is where Asos will take you.  Yet this garment has only 5% wool.

This inconsistency confuses people, but more importantly, it devalues wool as a high quality product.  In their own words 'Wovember aims to reinstate the true value of those terms by linking them with the animals and people who raise, produce and process our WOOL.'

So take a look at their site and get behind their campaign, you can sign their petition here to have woollen items listed correctly, just as Champagne has to be, or Melton Mowbray pork pies!!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Burscough Fibre Fest

The first Burscough Fibre Fest last Sunday was a huge success.  Thanks to Colin and Carol from The Wool Boat for all their hard work and excellent organisation.

I saw Carol at about 8.30am and I have to be honest, she looked like she was going to have a little bit of a breakdown, at one point she shouted 'never again' but by 11.00am there was a huge smile on her face and I heard her say "yes, we're already planning next year......"

                Carole on the left smiling, the lady in the middle possibly needing medical attention

It was wonderful to meet spinners and knitters from all over the country, some who said that they have to spin alone because there are no groups for them to go to.  If you spin alone, why not go to your nearest Knit'n'Natter?  Knitters are always happy to meet spinners and usually will want to have a go at spinning on your wheel, before long you may have a few of you spinning together.  I'm happy to come and visit a Knit'n'Natter, send me a message or a comment and if you're near enough, I'll pop over.

Joy and me spinning away.  Joy, from the West Lancs Niddy Noddies brought along all manner of fibre, fleece and garments.  There were many people who were interested in fleece preparation and a few men who would like to learn to spin, more because of the mechanics of the wheel rather than a love of fibre.  Who cares what your motivation is?

Feltmaking was very popular too and Nic from Feltipedia brought along felted slippers and bootees, cobweb felt scarves, which are incredibly beautiful and pumpkins.

Nic and I will be exhibiting together at the Winter Arts Market at St Georges Hall in Liverpool on 7th/8th December.  We're also planning a childrens craft club so if it's something you could be interested in, please let us know and we can tailor things according to the childs age.

So, all in all, a great day, looking forward to next year already.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Just a little post today, it's very unusual for me to post twice in a week I know but I have an interview in Handspinning News which I'm really excited about.  I got a new photo out of the box and everything.

Sheila Dixon who produces this newsletter is a tireless supporter of spinning and everything connected to it, the letter includes news, interviews, free patterns, dates for courses, workshops and events.  It's definitely worth subscribing to and I'd say that even if I wasn't in it!

I posted a photo a couple of weeks ago of some BFL/nylon fibre, it was a huge surprise to me how beautifully the dye took to the fibre and I love it.  It's now spun and I'm still as pleased.

It was very easy to spin and although the photo doesn't really show the sheen in the fibre, it's definitely there.  I could have been dedicated and gone outside to photograph it, but it is a filthy filthy day here so kitchen table it was.

If you've seen BFL/nylon or merino/nylon and held back from ordering it, I'd say give it a go, it's well worth a punt.

Monday, 15 October 2012

It's been all go this week, apart from the two days I spent in the Chester Hilton (!) which were wonderful.

Other than that it's been full on with dyeing, spinning losing fibre.

I can't believe that I've lost a box of fibre.  I'm at a loss to know how I've managed this as I live in  a house the size of a Borrower's shed. My only hope now is that I will stumble across it while looking for something else that I've lost, it's incredibly frustrating especially as I'm trying to build up stock at the moment.

Sunday sees the first Burscough Fibre Fest,

Burscough is a little village in the North West of England, it's a canal village on the Leeds Liverpool and the wharf is a relatively recently renovated development of stables that were used for canal horses.

The finished wharf is beautiful and houses shops and a restaurant but also hosts markets and events for the local community.  It's here that Colin & Carol from the Wool Boat are hosting their event.

There'll be local yarn shops, indy dyers and feltmakers and spinners too, it's open at 10am - 4pm and a free event so please pop over if you can and say hello.  I realise that the readers from the US, Australia and Eastern Europe may find this difficult but I will think of you fondly and post pictures!

My Eliza yarn is featured in Knit Now magazine this month, I haven't been able to get hold of a copy as yet but believe me as soon as I have it, I'll be posting a probably substandard photo of it.  I'll be very excited and unbearable to live with as the fame messes with my head.

It's still raining pretty much constantly here as it does but we had a couple of hours yesterday to walk the dog and pick Haws from the Hawthorne tree for Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Haw-Sin sauce. My husband was highly amused to be invited to go with me to pick Haws but readily accepted the invitation.  Hugh says that the sauce is sharp, I'll be sure to post our opinion.

Picking Haws?.......



Thursday, 4 October 2012

Despite the rain, which has been in turns constant and erratic I've managed to get the damson inspired fibres dry.

These fibres are a Bluefaced Leicester/nylon mix and I have to be honest when I say my snob radar was alerted at the mere mention of the word nylon, there may have even been a sneer.  But, having mislaid a whole box of fibre (how?) I came across the BFL/nylon and gave it a go.

To say I love it would probably be an understatement.  The dye has taken to the fibre beautifully, the sheen, almost sparkle is bright and cheery.  Nylon adds a stretch for sock yarn and I would adore socks in this fibre, if anyone's offering. 

These two images show the different way the fibre shows up in these two dyelots

These deep aubergine shades almost hide the sheen of the nylon, but it is there, just more subtle than perhaps this one, where it is obvious.

I can't wait to see these spun up, or felted, imagine the effect of the nylon through the felt?  There are 300g of the deep aubergine fibres, which I've named Juniper available at the website.  The others, are for an exclusive dyelot available soon.  (Probably by the next blog post).

Monday, 1 October 2012

Damson inspired autumn

Although I hate the thought that winter is just around the corner, I think that autumn is my favourite time of the year, the trees are full of fruit, plums, damsons, apples, blackberries, elderberries, all the fruits I love, most of them being suitable to dousing in gin and leaving on a shelf for a year or two.

The winter brings on thoughts of rich sumptous colours, scarves wrapped up to your nose, rouched socks while you're drinking a hot chocolate.

So, inspired by an afternoon damson picking, my blog today consists of a recipe for damson cheese which is much, much easier than jam (which I find just a little bit intimidating) and new damson fibres for winter spinning.

We nipped down the canal on Saturday afternoon to a damson tree that can only be reached by dinghy for our annual damson gin trip.  The fruits were a little bit down this year, it could be because of the rain or perhaps the tree was having a quiet year.

We then became completely entangled with a rope-around-the-propellor issue and we're saved by a local fisherman/bargee/good samaritan with a pen knife who led us to the most amazingly laden tree that's fruits were partly on the path and so easily accessible to anyone passing.

I couldn't leave all those damsons there without asking the owner of the tree, but she wasn't interested in them as she was painting her living room.  Well as we say in our house, you snooze you lose.

So here's the recipe for damson cheese

1)  Wash damsons well.  Cover with water and stew well
2)  Rub flesh through a sieve leaving the stones and skins behind
3)  Measure pulp. Allow 450g/1lb sugar to 450g/1lb pulp
4)  Put pulp and sugar in a pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
5)  Bring to boil and simmer gentlry until a spoon drawn across the botton of the pan will leave a
     clean line
6)  Pour cheese into prepared and sterilised jars.
7)  Cover with waxed paper discs.  Cover with a clean cloth until cool and then put on jam pot covers.
8)  Store for at least a year before eating

Or, if you're us, eat within a week or two and  give a couple of jars away.

The other half of this are the damson/aubergine inspired fibres.  I've dyed a range of fibres, from Bluefaced leicester/superwash to Merino to Bluefaced Leicester/nylon (which will be great for handspun socks) and some silk blend will be on the way too.  As usual, as I'm dyeing them I always want to spin them so we'll have to see how many of them make it to the shop.  Here they are in the pot

 and drying on the line, (there was a very confused window cleaner).

There'll be a shop update in a few days.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

This is a really exciting post, because we're very happy to introduce our new pattern,

The Little Blue Holly Cushion

This pattern was inspired by the Little Blue Holly butterfly, it's designed to fit a 12" cushion insert and has a button flap back so it can easily be removed and cleaned.

We've used undyed sock yarn for this pattern because we love the shade of it and we used handspun for the actual butterfly.

The pattern includes full instructions along with a chart and is suitable for an intermediate knitter.  It's available from our website and also on ravelry.

We really hope that you enjoy knitting it, and that handspinners will incorporate their own handspun yarn in the design. If you have any queries, please get in touch and we'll do our best to help.

Friday, 21 September 2012

I haven't blogged for a little while, partly because the school holidays made any type of routine difficult and partly because there wasn't really a lot in my head, but I'm back in the saddle again and so here's a short recap of some of what's been going on.


I had a mixture of workshops over the summer, including spinning at Knit-Wise in Ormskirk and also Wickerwool at Cedar Farm in Mawdesley  and feltmaking and we did children's workshops at Knit-Wise

Children's workshops of layered felt balls went well, young girls, hot water and craft knives did fill my heart a little bit with dread, but all went well and no limbs were lost.  Or even maimed.

The kids seemed very happy and one or two came back for two classes so I was very pleased with that, return visitors are always welcome.

Sophia with her excellent earrings

I was very impressed with the girls and how they handles themselves with a tricky bit of work.  They were extremely independent, required no assistance and sliced through those dense fibres without a second thought.

When I wasn't subjecting other peoples children to dangerous activitIes, my own was on an activity day on a high wire, (very pleased I wasn't there to watch).

She's now at the point where she is helping out with the dyeing for etsy and came up with this colourway which I absolutely love and which sold pretty quickly, there's just one left, although we'll be doing another dyelot very soon.

It's always nice to dye with other people (who wants to die alone?).  But it's always good to see what other people choose, especially children who have, or seemingly have no inhibitions.  This dyelot for instance wasn't a first choice of mine but sold immediately

I think that's the balancing act of being a dyer, it's important of course to follow your own instinct, but at the same time not to be so set in your ways and to be a bit 'out there' sometimes.  To be braver with choices of colour.

We spent time foraging for sloes and damsons for Gin and collected quite an amount (a good kilner jars worth anyway).

But, along the way also came across this

This is wild sorrel and the trustworthy advice from John Wright, Hugh FW's forager says to wash it and eat it in an omlette. He also said that ate in reckless amounts can cause vomiting, muscular twitching, convulsions, renal failure and cardiac arrest.

Unsure exactly what a reckless amount was, (isn't one man's reckless another man's run of the mill?) I put about a desertspoon into my omlette.  I admit it was mainly egg but I still counted it as one of my five a day and I lived to tell the tale.

Finally, I promised to put a very very easy biscuit recipe on here on account of my nephew George, because he ate them, despite them containing oats.  He didn't know that and we're all not going to tell him.... because we count them as one of our five a day too.  Well, don't you?

Crunchy Oat Cookies

75g porridge oats
50g plain flour
50g margarine (I used butter because as we all know marg is evil)
50g granulated sugar  (not even caster sugar - bonus!)
1 level tablespoon golden syrup
1/2 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1)  Mix together porridge oats and flour
2)  Melt butter in a large pan with sugar and syrup
3)  Stir bicarbonate of soda into mixture in pan
4)  Add flour and oats and mix well
5)  Make walnut sized balls of mixture and place them, well apart because they will spread, on well 
     greased baking sheets
6)  Bake in a moderate oven, Gas 4, 350F  180C for 11 to 15 minutes, take them out while still gooey
7)  Let cookies cool slightly on baking sheet before removing them to a cooling wire

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

It's been a busy few weeks, what with Woolfest, custom orders, shop orders, fairs and life in general, so I haven't posted as often as I would have liked.

Woolfest was wonderful as usual, things had been changed this year and I know from Ravelry that there was a lot of upset about stallholders not getting in which must have been very disappointing, but, I thought that the change of faces was refreshing.  I really enjoyed seeing new stalls and ideas.  I'm not sure about the larger companies being there, no names of course, but for me, Woolfest is about the indie dyer, the smallholder, the feltmaker, and that's what makes it special.  I hope it's not a trend.

I watched a demo by Alison Yule from Pure Tinctoria, her dedication to saving water and the environment is infectious and I've been inspired to take up natural dyeing again.  I talked to Alison about the faff (sorry natural dyers) that was involved before the powders were available but now it's so much easier, I'll be doing some experiments myself, starting Monday.

Over the last week, I've been watching Felicia Lo's Spinnning with Dyed Fibre class on Craftsy.  Felicia is from Sweet Georgia, a fibre company based in Vancouver.  I've followed her blog for about 5 years and it's been great to see her class.  As a dyer, I've developed my own ways of doing things, never really being sure if there isn't a 'proper' way to do it, but you know, it's all ok!

Felicia explains how when you buy that bag of dyed fibres there are different ways to deal with the colours you're faced with, and how each method you use will affect your finished garment.  I'd definitiely recommend it and I've been so impressed with Craftsy I'll probably take another class too!

One of the methods used by Felicia is also used here by Carol using Lazykate Seraphina fibres, she's sent a collage of her yarns

I love what Carol has done, taking a randomly dyed fibre and created a balanced even yarn. I can see it making a gorgeous shawlette for the autumn.  (Can't believe I've even said the word) See more of Carols creations here

Back in my own etsy shop, I'll be posting new niddy noddies, fibres and yarns over the next couple of days so keep a look out if you're after a Wrathall special niddy noddy! My poor etsy shop looks devoid of love and items!

Until then, if I see you at the Ormskirk Craft & Vintage fair, give me a wave (the forecast is for rain again)

I tell you I was tempted forget all my principles and nick one of the fur coats from the stall behind me!

Speak soon x

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Handspun for Embroidery

I'm always interested in, the newsletter run by Sheila Dixon that contains all the handspinning information that you'll ever need.  She manages to find all the little interesting nuggets from the web to keep all us handspinners up to speed.  This month was very interesting, being introduced to Liz from Dragonflylotus Handspun Thread, who spins handspun for embroidery.

I was first inspired to try spinning after attending a series of workshops by a textile artist in Liverpool called Ann McTavish, who is unfortunately no longer with us, and information about her and her incredible work is sparce on the internet.  There is one piece that I found, this work, called Redemption which is on display at the Liverpool Cathedral

 Ann's work used the most incredible yarns, and was the reason I wanted to create my own, so I'm really interested to see handspun used for embroidery  It's good for us all to keep our options open too, as spinners and remember that our yarns can be used in many different ways.

If you don't already subscribe to handspinner, then whyever not?  Here's the link

On the subject of using fibres in alternative ways, Sue Bentley from Lynwood Crafts on etsy is also a hand embroiderer and produces innovative and original wall hangings.  This particular hanging, Daisy Meadow, uses these Lazykate Hand dyed fibres in the sky. 


It's a really beautiful piece of work, using these Tabitha fibres

take a look at her work on etsy, I'm sure you'll find it inspiring.

Speak soon

Monday, 4 June 2012

Do your own Dyeing!

So the last few weeks have been filled with spinning, spinning and a bit more because my wool is now on sale at Wickerwool at Cedar Farm Craft Centre in Mawdesley, Lancs.  If you live in the North West, a visit to Cedar Farm has got to be on the top of your list of places to see.  I've put a link cos you know, I do love a link.

As all knitters know, it's very important to be able to squeeze the yarn, some of you may want to smell it. Although I know you probably don't admit that to many people. So I'm really pleased to have the wool out for people to see it.

What we all love is a feast for the eyes and inspiration and there's plenty of that at cedar farm, including Vintage Fair, Farmers market, artists and crafts people, and a coffee roastery for all your caffeine needs.  And then there's my wool if you're passing and fancy a squeeze.

The Food Shop  
The Potting Shed
Ruth at Wickerfish, where Wickerwool is based

As all knitters know, it's very important to be able to squeeze the yarn, some of you may want to smell it. Although I know you probably don't admit that to many people.  What we all love is a feast for the eyes and inspiration and there's plenty of that at cedar farm, including Vintage Fair, Farmers market, artists and crafts people, and a coffee roastery for all your caffeine needs.  And then there's my wool if you're passing and fancy a squeeze.

I thought I would post some info about dyeing with acid dyes.  Lots of people ask me about it, and there are very easy ways to begin without having to go to huge expense.

Start of with a steel pan.  The pans that I used I got from car boot sales.  I didn't find them hard to come across and were relatively cheap at £5.  If you can't find a second hand one, George Weil offer a 12 litre stainless steel pot for £45

For quick and easy dyeing, acid dyes are a great way to get started.  These dyes are fixed with vinegar so you'll probably be able to get going by just visiting your kitchen cupboard.  A small pot of acid dye will cost you around £5, George Weil is a good supplier, as is Art Van go,

For your first attempt, you need to remember to be careful because you are dealing with chemicals, so use your common sense.  Put down newspaper, wear gloves to protect your fingers from the dye.  Don't use any implements that you would use to cook with and don't cook your tea at the same time as you dye!

Choose your colours, pick just one to start with if you like.  You can go into a lot of measuring/ weighing and worrying but we want stress free dyeing for our first attempt so I suggest fill your pot with enough water to cover your yarn, drop in a big glug of vinegar and put your yarn or fibre in.  Sprinkle a little dye over your fibre, not too much because you only want enough dye to colour your fibre, not have tons left over in the pot.

Your pot may look like this

Turn the heat on, and bring the temperature of the pot up to just before boiling and then let the dye 'cook' for about 20 minutes.  Then you're done.  Simple as that.

Let your dye pot cool and then hang the fibres over the line, you might use a chopstick or two to help you lift it out.    When it's dry you can start to spin or felt with it, it really is that easy.

If you have dye left in your pot, don't worry at all, there will probably be enough vinegar left in to fix the dye, so put some more fibres in and give it another go. This leftover dye water is called the exhaust.  This second dye will be must paler and totally different than the one you started with.

You really want to throw the dye water away when all the dye is out of the water, then in reduces the impact on the environment.  You must throw the dye water into a drain, don't put it down your sink.  Although it's a fun thing to do, remember to use your common sense all the way through the process.

At this stage, it's very much suck it and see, so just give it a try and enjoy it.  I'm sure you'll love it once you get going and then you can try different ways of dyeing, mixing different colours, etc.  This is just to get you going, and I'm sure once you get started you'll be completely addicted. If you have a go, let me see your images and inspire others in the process.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Inspiration 2

It's been a bit of a crazy bank holiday weekend and I'm surrounded by a million and one things that need doing (you know how it is) but I wanted to post some inspirational things that I've come across recently.  First is this quilt that I've been meaning to show for quite a while.

This quilt was a wedding present for Sam and Aime who married in October last year and moved onto our boat, saving us from another freezing winter in the process.  It was lovingly crafted by Jbid Neary, a close friend of theirs and keen knitter and spinner.  The finishing on it is so professional that I'm in awe every time I see it.

It's been lined and backed and in either corner there is an embroidered message,

I think it's the most romantic thing I've ever seen!  If I could stick it up my jumper and steal it, believe me I would!

I thought that the wool's that Jbid had used although not handspun would suit handspun down to the ground and we're always looking for ways to use up our little bits of yarn that are left.  So, this quilt is what led me to the Beekeeper's quilt which in turn led me to Myra of Knit-Wise's Baker's quilt, which is coming along nicely (slowly, with me being the slowest knitter in the West)

From this.....

to this.
You know, I'm not sure Jbid has anything to worry about in her World Quilt Domination, there's definitley a whole lot of work to do but I'm enjoying it.  And I believe that's what's it's all supposed to be about.

Second inspirational item comes from Carol Hodgson from Etsy.  She bought some of my Florence fibres, a Bluefaced Leicester/silk mix and has spun them up.  I've never spun this myself and I'm thrilled to bits how it looks.  Carol, obviously a very experience spinner has done a fantastic job


It's gorgeous non?  Well if you're inspired by Carol's inspiration, this yarn is for sale, it's called Lavender's Blue, 4ply yarn, enough for a shawlette for the summer, gloves, hat or scarf.  I'll be dyeing more fibres in BFL/silk for Carol so I'll be posting those too, can't wait to see how she spins that one up!

 So, if inspiration is slow in coming, remember that other people's is infectious, and that's what we need sometimes on a miserable Monday morning.  I'll just get the caffeine on and I'll be on my way!