Tuesday, 20 December 2011
I think back to those people who have had enormous influence over me, things they have said, things I have seen them do and how I view them. I was very struck by one of my first teachers telling me that she sees things in numbers: if she is planting a flowerbed she will see 7 tulips, nine daffodils, three iris and twenty-one crocus. When that is sorted in her mind, she will move on to the subtlties of colour, texture, spacing and timing of flowering. When I repeated this apparently bizarre account to another weaving friend, she said: "Well, don't you see it like that?!"
No, I certainly don't! But I wonder now about how I do see things, and if I was planting that same flowerbed, how I would visualize it right at the beginning? And I realise that I see things initially as textile, or aspects thereof. I look at a catkin and see a braid, I look at bourgainvillea arch and see a shawl, in silk. I look at a painting and my brain automatically begins to translate it into cloth, yarn and dye. A flower will be a subtley shaded, naturally dyed fleece; a skyscraper will be a repp woven mat; popcorn will be a textured yarn.
I like to do everything from scratch and, stupidly, feel that if every aspect of an item hasn't been produced from the raw material (scoured, carded/combed, spun, dyed and knitted or woven) by me, it has somehow failed a test I set myself. I am, however, realising that if I want to produce more textiles, I need to give myself permission to use commercially spun and dyed yarn - after all, I have no problem with my friends and colleagues using these 'short cuts.' And the skills of dyeing and weaving are valuable and satisfying in their own right.
A very happy celebration and 2012 to you all
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Friday, 2 September 2011
Sunday, 14 August 2011
The picture shows some of the resist effects: white on blue, and mordant resists with weld and madder
Sunday, 10 July 2011
Thursday, 30 June 2011
Monday, 27 June 2011
I had a fantastic time at Devon Weavers' Workshop, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, learning all about lampas. Jette Vandermeidan is certainly the best tutor I have ever had, and I've had the benefit of doing classes with some of the most highly regarded in the world! So, I am really enjoying the workout my poor old brain has had - doing two seperate warps that sometimes interlock and sometimes don't, each capable of weaving two structures and all the possibilities that offers, has been a bit of a shock to the system! Pictures when I am happy with the samples.
Yesterday I travelled to the other side of the moor to teach a dye workshop at Organic Arts. We had a fantastic time, got lots of colour from the plants growing on the farm and I was pleased to have a squizz at the new dye garden. I have given them some madder and Japanese indigo, so hopefully that will get them off to a good start. Wonderful to see how the dye garden movement is taking off in this part of the UK.
We dyed with weld, madder, woad, oak, ash, beech, willow, nettle, onion skin, and then overdyed some of the yellows and the madder with woad to get purples and greens. Fantastic! And the weather was wonderful, too.
The caterpillars are growing away, doing their thing quietly. I have high hopes that my Eri eggs will hatch and give me the option to continuously brood this species, as their silk is good. They eat evergreen pivet, so I can feed them all year round.
The plan for this week is to get lots of dyeing done for a school fair on Friday - my little gradaughter's school, so all the stops pulled out, and to make a start on an exhibition project. Will also need to fit in gardening, washing, housework, etc, so don't expect to hear from me for a while....
Sunday, 19 June 2011
On the silkworm front, I have some S.Ricini cats coming along nicely and some a.pernyi getting very fat...The Eri moths are mating and laying so I hope that I can continuously brood this variety but we will have to wait and see how it goes.
I'm hoping the rain will keep away long enough for a jaunt round some Open Gardens this afternoon, my reward for spending yesterday doing a stock-take at the studio!
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
This morning the vat is cold but still at pH 11, so I will try again but it won't be till this evening. In our south west facing, double glazed conservatory, it may well warm up by itself during the course of the day.
Monday, 30 May 2011
This afternoon I made the vat according to Garcia (his proportions, my quantities):
1 teaspoon of indigo - I used Pure Tinctoria powdered extract
2 teaspooons of calcium hydroxide
3 teaspoons of fructose
The teaspoons were level and the vat is a large Kilner Jar.
The pH was 11, as recommended by Garcia
Within 10 minutes the vat had gone from grey through green to yellow
By 25 minutes, there was blue foam forming on the top and a coppery scum developing - much like my rising levels of excitement!
After 30 minutes the foam had turned dark blue
Left: Vat at 25 mins, Right at 45 mins containing cotton
At 45 minutes, the vat should be ready, according to the instructions. The pH was still 11 and remained at that level throughout the dye session.
I put in a cotton wool ball and a piece of cotton in the vat which now had the sherry colour that one expects from woad
The first dip, airing
Third dip for cotton and second for linen
All in all, very successful and the vat is by no means exhausted, so I will go on until one of us gives up! What I'm not sure about is how to revive such a vat - there's no problem with reviving more usual vats. I warm them up, correct the alkalinity and put some reducing agent in and they come round. This will need some experimentation, I think
Sunday, 22 May 2011
I have moved one lot of moths from the breeding cage - they have all sacrificed their lives for the future generation as is the way with moths - and put the eggs in a quiet place to hatch. I will have to transfer a bumper population of a.pyrni into the mating cage, though some are already enthusiastically creating the next lot of babies! It never ceases to amaze me how powerful the mating urge is but I suppose if you only metamorphasise in order to produce fertile eggs, it wouldn't be much use to spend your short life with a headache...As the photo shows, the male is in great demand! Not sure if you can see from the photo but he has three ladies in the queue!
Friday, 20 May 2011
Saturday, 7 May 2011
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
There is so much to say that I think it will gradually emerge over the next few postings, but I had the opportunity to meet two of my dye extract suppliers, Andi from Renaissence Dyes and Patrick from Coleurs de Plantes, and even better, to go to Coleurs de Plantes premises and see for myself the care that is taken in producing these extracts - no synthetics used, just plant material and drying techniques. I watched Yoshika Wada make resist paste from rice bran, tried to see Michel Garcia's indigo vat but the crowd was too deep (got the recipe, though!), have a tiny piece of silk dyed with shellfish purple extract during a demonstration with Dr Takako Terada from Kwassui Women's University in Japan, made a piece of marbled indigo on silk...some much to do and so nice to meet up with friends old and new, and put faces to people only known up to now online.
Friday, 22 April 2011
Our trip to the Netherlands was great and we produced some fabulous yarns in the Whacky Fibres workshop in The Hague. There are lots of pix and information on the Creative Spinning blog, www.creativespinning.wordpress.com, should you wish to have a peep. In Zeeland, Alison and I had the opportunity to do some design work with Helen Melvin's landscape felters and we all thoroughly enjoyed both the process and the outcomes. As usual, it was lovely to meet old friends and make new ones, and I was particularly delighted to see that two of my students from last year had really made use of those workshops to create some wonderful items - their development was also evident in the yarns the created this year. I am not going to name names - look at the blog and see if you can tell who they are!
This morning the first two silkmoths of the year, a. pernyi, have appeared, a male and a female. So I am hoping for a positive outcome, although they are not yet making any great effort to mate! They are very close though, so fingers crossed. Might have some baby caterpillars when I return from France next Sunday - there is someone at home to do the necessary feeding should they get on with it.
France - ISEND, the International Symposium and Exhibition of Natural Dyeing. This is something I have been looking forward to for about six months. If you want to see why, go to www.isend2011.com. The only downside is that in order to catch the plane to La Rochelle, we need to get up at 4 am on Sunday morning - still, we should miss any bank holiday traffic!
I was hoping to add a photo of a swarm of bees in our garden - my husband is a beekeeper, so insects are a bit of an obssession in our household. Whilst writing about ISEND, I saw him put on his hat and veil and he said one of the hives had swarmed and were in the medlar tree - this is the third time this week, despite him checking twice a day for any emerging queens. By the time I got the camera - on my desk next to the computer - and out into the garden, about 2 mins, literally, they had gone. There are a few stragglers circling the tree but where the bulk have disappeared to who knows where. I daresay there'll be a phone call from a neighbour any minute now! It is very, very hot for April and we are hoping that the weather doesn't repeat last year's performance when the bees were active very early in the season but then came the rain, the flowers were either knocked down by the heavy showers or never came to anything and the poor old bees suffered. The poor things are under enough pressure from disease, climate change and lack of awareness of how crucial they are to the survival of human life on this planet - they deserve to have a great year. All our hives are in fine condition at the moment, hence the populations swarming to start new colonies and some we have on a nearby farm are producing a wonderful honey flow already.
I expect this is the last you'll hear from me until after ISEND.
Have a fantastic Easter - be sure I will!
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Sunday, 20 February 2011
I had a most enjoyable day at Bicton College on Tuesday, teaching natural dyeing to a very nice group of ladies, amongst whom were two who preferred to weave. So I turned up with looms, hot-plates, dyes, fibres and all manner of 'stuff' - think I will have to get a bigger car! We dyed with saffron, cochineal and indigo thought the modifying was a bit disappointing - I think in my desperation to ensure everyone had a decent colour from the pots, I probably used more dye than necessary. Very bad practice environmentally but worry not, we saved all the dye liquor for the ladies to use later.
Carol and Mair produced some fabulous weaving and I am fantasizing about a Bicton wall-hanging, incorporating lots of plant material from the gardens, though I expect one would have to fight the horticultural department for some of the best examples! I was presented with the most beautiful bouquet that I am still enjoying - thank you all, especially Gill.
On Thursday I hosted a Peter TAvy Guild inbetween day at Duchy Square and visitors to Laura Wall's wonderful art show (Love at the Seaside, www.Laurawall.com ) were somewhat taken aback to find the gallery full of ladies spinning. Laura herself popped in to change some paintings and she was very pleased to see us. We had a lovely day and I achieved one of my 'must get round to it' jobs of spinning a fair amount of last summer's silk harvest.
On Friday my good friend Archie Dickens, another silkworm fanatic, came to see me and we had a very absorbing time going through the suppliers websites, and choosing the varieties we will keep in 2011. I have my fingers crossed that my cocoons will have survived our very cold winter - they are in a fridge in the garage and I hope the fridge will have stayed above freezing.
Next Friday is Textile Friday at Duchy Square so if you are in the neighbourhood of Duchy Square (www.duchysqare.org ) and you enjoy textile talk, come and join us. We are there from 10-4 and will be delighted to see you
Thursday, 3 February 2011
Claire bought me a Cotswold fleece, obtained from a farmer who doesn't do anything with it, regarding it as a waste product. It looks gorgeous - what do I mean by that? It is filthy - sheep live in fields and don't have access to regular wash and brush-ups, so that is to be expected. Vegetable matter attaches itself to the fibres, occasionally small insects (dead, usually!) are to be found lurking in the locks of wool, and quite often the remains of normal biological processes are attached to the rear end of the fleece. And it usually smells of sheep - an acquired taste. It is possible, and quite straightforward to buy ready processed, clean wool top to spin so why on earth would I want to use the raw fibre that needs to be scoured, dried, combed or carded according to the fibre type and intended spin? Masochism?
I love fleece, and I particularly love the qualities that remain in the fibre when it has been prepared by hand. The fleece I work with is generally from a breed I can identify, will have come from a local farmer, is intended for an end product for which it is entirely suited and will require skill and patience to turn it from smelly, mucky fleece into gorgeous yarn. The preparation and spin I use will be chosen to retain the particular quality of the wool and the skills I have developed over 30+ years will show me when it is appropriate to stick to the traditional preparation and spin, and when 'breaking' those rules will give something truly unique and wonderful.
I am going to put my fleece in a bucket of water to soak, and dream about what I shall do with it when it has been scoured.....
Thursday, 27 January 2011
I have been dyeing with some eucalyptus bark from Spain and have got some lovely browns, reminiscent of the colours from walnut.
Links to sites I enjoy
- Creative Spinning