Archive for the ‘Diary & News’ Category

Alpaca Scarves

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

My most recent activity has not involved any dyeing. Instead, I have been spinning alpaca fleece from Sussex-bred alpacas and then knitting scarves from the beautifully soft hand-spun yarn.

The alpacas have been bred at Hartfield, East Sussex by Caroline Vickery, who together with her mother, Beverley Vickery, has a prize-winning flock of over 50 alpacas, whose natural fleece colours range from white, tan, dark brown to black. The fleece can be supplied in its raw state, just as it comes off the animal, or as washed and carded fleece. I prefer the washed and carded fleece, which is soft and wonderful to spin, and I have enjoyed experimenting with stripes or plying two different colours together to create a marled effect.

As the photos below show, the alpacas are charming, friendly, curious creatures and clearly thrive in the Sussex Weald. For further information look at the website or enter “Alpacas at Wealden Sussex” into your search engine.




The photo below shows some of the scarves I have knitted. Now I just have to sell some before I start making more!


2012 World of Threads Festival in Canada

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I have been asked by Dawne Rudman, Chair and Festival Curator of the World of Threads Festival 2012, to bring this event to your attention.

The World of Threads Festival is a leading international showcase for contemporary fibre art and calls for submissions are now being made. The four categories are:

1  Artwork and Interior Gallery Installations

2  Outside Environmental Installations

3  “Fibre Inspired” Exhibition

4  Proposals for Independent Projects

Anyone interested in being involved in this festival should look at the website ( for further information.

A new book from Helen Melvin

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

In an earlier post I wrote about some of Helen Melvin’s booklets on different aspects of natural dyeing and I was delighted to notice that she has added another title to her list. This latest one, “Colours of the World – Eco Dyeing”, deals with mordanting and dyeing using methods which include cool mordanting, solar dyeing, patterning with rust, water bath dyeing and fermentation dyeing.

As usual, Helen offers some interesting ideas for experiments and writes in a way which is sure to leave dyers keen to embark on colour discoveries. The photos of the dyed materials add to the impact of the book, which should be of interest to both new and experienced dyers. It has certainly inspired me to experiment with some of her methods.

This is Helen’s new booklet which, like all her others, has a beautiful hand-painted cover.

For more details and to purchase a copy, click on the link to Fiery Felts, under the heading “Useful Websites”.

Findon Sheep Fair

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Findon, the village in West Sussex where I now live, has its own Sheep Fair, which takes place every year on the second Saturday in September. Findon Sheep Fair can be traced back to the 13th century and is run entirely by volunteers, who do an excellent job. After a few bleak years following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, when no sheep were actually allowed at the fair, Findon Sheep Fair has gone from strength to strength and is an important event in the village.

There are many sheep sections and also some other animals and birds of prey. In addition to the animal attractions, there are sideshows, food stalls, a craft marquee and a fun-fair, so there is plenty for all the family. This year I joined other members of the West Sussex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and we demonstrated spinning in the craft marquee.

One of the main attractions of the fair is The Sheep Show with its dancing sheep. (Yes, these sheep can really dance in a sheep-like fashion! If you enter “Dancing Sheep” or “The Sheep Show” into your search engine you will be able to see the dancing sheep for yourselves.) The two photos below show the sheep during their performance.

This year children from the local school were invited to show sheep. This photo shows some of the younger competitors leading their sheep around the ring.

Below some more sheep parade round the ring.

Jacob sheep in their pen

Shetland sheep

And last but not least the local Southdown sheep

Musings on my inactivity

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

It seems such a long time since I last posted and I have still not managed to get down to much dyeing. The reasons for this are various: I have been spending a great deal of time with my granddaughters and this leaves me with little energy for much else. The time and energy I have remaining have been devoted largely to developing our new garden. I am also finding it more difficult to get used to not having an area in the house dedicated to my dyeing activities and it seems such an effort to set things up unless I have a real incentive. Sadly, this incentive seems elusive at present.

However, last week I spent a day here with Sussex basketmaker Jackie Sweet, experimenting with using natural dyes on basketry materials and I hope to write about this as soon as I have some photos to show the results, which were encouraging.

A little while ago I also completed my latest set of experiments following what I loosely call "Anglo-Saxon methods" and now I need to take some photos so I can write more about this. Basically, these experiments tested the classic dyes, madder, weld and dyer's broom, plus some tannin-rich dyes, using only mordants and other materials generally regarded as being widely available at the time. The results were interesting and suggest methods possibly of interest to today's dyers.

Otherwise we have done a little more exploring locally but, as my increasing problems with arthritis mean I can't walk any distance, this has been frustrating for my husband, who loves walking. I think these physical problems also have an impact on my lack of incentive to do much dyeing, as the effort involved can be too much at times.

This photo shows the tower of Sompting church, near Worthing, which is the only example in England of a type of tower known as "Rhenish helm". The church is set in a lovely spot not far from the Downs and even with the scaffolding is well worth a visit.

PS Milly’s Doll

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

This is the doll I've knitted for Milly, so she has one rather like her new baby sister's doll.

I hope Milly will approve of her!

A new arrival

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I'm afraid I still haven't managed to do much dyeing since we moved to West Sussex but I have found time to knit some items for my daughter's second child, Isabella, who was born on March 19th and is a sister for Milly. The photos below show:

1. A small blanket for the pushchair. It was knitted in a mixture of wool, silk and cashmere in a soft grey colour and decorated with a few crocheted flowers.

2.  A (rather scary?) monkey, knitted at my daughter's request.

3. A doll that granddaughter Milly has rather taken to, so I'm now knitting one for her as well!

All the coloured yarns have been dyed with natural dyes, of course!



Tablet Weaving Improvement?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I have been trying to follow the advice on tablet weaving, given to me in comments from some experienced weavers. The problem seemed to be that I had been approaching tablet weaving in rather the same way as I approached tapestry weaving in the past, so I had left the weft far too loose and not pulled it in tightly enough. Clearly this was incorrect, so I've been trying to make the weaving much tighter.

I hope the photos below will show some improvement in my technique, although I can see that there is still room for further improvement.











Fungi in unexpected places

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

We spent last Christmas Day with our daughter, her partner and our granddaughter, Milly, and pride of place was taken by the Christmas tree, which Milly proudly helped to decorate.  After Christmas, the tree was planted in the garden at my daughter's house, where we hope it will thrive until next Christmas. To help the tree settle into its garden site, Milly likes to regularly water it to make sure it doesn't dry out.

As I accompanied Milly on one of these watering sessions, I took a closer look at the area where the tree has been planted and to my surprise I found two different fungi growing in considerable profusion nearby. I can't believe that, without my noticing, these fungi have been quietly growing so close to places I visit so regularly. I suppose the lesson here is that I need to be more observant and appreciative of what is around me!

Milly watering her Christmas tree

This is Milly watering her Christmas tree. 

 Unexpected fungi growing near Milly's tree

  Some unexpected fungi growing near Milly's tree.

 More fungi growing near Milly's tree

More fungi near Milly's tree

Tablet Weaving Progress

Monday, February 7th, 2011
I hope the photos below will show that I am making some progress with my tablet weaving. The yarns I am using are all wool and dyed in woad. The tan colour was achieved from the same leaves previously used to make the blue woad vat. I saved the squeezed-out leaves and then simmered them for about 30 minutes to extract the tan dye. Then I strained off the dye liquid, added the unmordanted wool and simmered gently for about half an hour.
I have been using Candace Crockett's book "Card Weaving" as my instruction manual and, apart from one or two sections at the beginning where the illustrations and the written instructions don't seem to "match" completely, I have found this book generally very clearly laid out and the instructions easy to follow. I suspect that any problems I may have had initially were probably because my experience of weaving is so limited and nothing could be taken for granted. Although there is obviously much room for improvement. especially in achieving straight edges, I must say that I am surprised at how much I am enjoying this weaving process, especially watching the pattern develop.


A closer view of the weaving
A closer view of the weaving