Archive for the ‘Diary & News’ Category

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

2011 – What Next?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

At the start of the new year and as I gradually feel more settled here in our new home, I have begun to ask myself what I plan to do with any free time I may have and which new craft projects I’d like to embark on. I have to admit that there are times when I find it difficult to motivate myself to start dyeing again. I don’t produce items for sale and, with the exception of yarns dyed for my own personal projects, most of my dyeing is done as experiments for whatever article or book I am working on currently. As I still have so many naturally-dyed yarns waiting to be used, I feel reluctant to add even more to my stock, especially when I recall how much I gave away when we moved.

My main interest has for some time been the textile traditions of the past and I am working on some more Anglo-Saxon style dyeing experiments. I realise this is a very loose description, as what I have been doing is considering the colour range that might have been available to ordinary people living during the Anglo-Saxon period, particularly those who may not have had access to alum mordants. So I shall be writing more about this at a later date.

I have also decided that it is about time I learned some new skills, as well as trying to improve some old ones. As I am so interested in the textile skills of the past, I plan to teach myself card (or tablet) weaving and with that in mind I’ve purchased a book to guide me through the processes involved. I also hope to improve my spindle-spinning and my naalbinding techniques. As an added encouragement, for Christmas my friend Chris Dobson, who shares my interest in ancient textile techniques, sent me some lovely wooden weaving tablets, together with a shuttle and a beater, and also a bone naalbinding needle.  So, having committed my intentions to print in this post, and with the equipment I need ready at hand, perhaps this will give me the incentive I need to get started. Indeed, as the photos below show, I have actually managed to thread my tablets ready for weaving, using blue and tan yarns dyed with woad. Now I must follow the next pages of instruction and actually do some weaving! (Thank you, Chris, for getting me started!)

Of course, when the weather improves we shall begin to make some changes here in the garden, probably starting with two new beds for herbs and dye plants and we also plan to plant some roses. I do miss my old garden, especially when I think of all the hellebores and bulbs that will soon be flowering there. But I have already noticed some bulbs beginning to emerge from the ground here and we have created some spaces for hellebores too, so eventually this new garden should hopefully bring as much pleasure into our lives as did our garden in Shefford.

On a personal note, our daughter is expecting her second child in early March, so I am also knitting one or two items for the baby. As these will use up only a tiny part of my yarn stock, I suspect I may also need to embark on other knitting projects – perhaps more cushions? – as the year progresses.

Tablet weaving set up on our old Italian fruitwood chest

Tablet weaving set up on our old Italian fruitwood chest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer view of the tablets threaded ready for weaving

A closer view of the tablets threaded ready for weaving

Thanks and Good Wishes for Christmas and 2011

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

2010 brought many changes in my life and also the long-awaited reprint of “Wild Colour”, this time in a new, revised edition. Once again, I’d like to express my gratitude to Mary Walker, who arranged the Facebook page for the book, and to all those who supported our efforts to persuade the publishers to reprint “Wild Colour”. Having tried unsuccessfully myself so many times, I know I could certainly not have achieved this on my own. So sincere thanks to you all.

As the holiday season approaches, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and all the very best for 2011.

Findon Church

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

As we gradually explore the countryside around us here, one of my favourite places has been the area near Findon church, which is separated from the village by the A24. This means that to get to the church one either has to cross the A24 on foot or drive out of the village and over the main road to the country lane that leads up to Findon’s Saxon church of St. John the Baptist. It is very unusual for a village church to be cut off from the village in this way but its isolation does give the church a particularly tranquil and peaceful setting, especially as the church is approached by a quiet narrow lane with trees on either side. The views over the countryside are spectacular and it is also along this lane leading to the church that I have found some interesting specimens of fungi and some wonderful old trees, including a walnut tree.

Findon church is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 but an architectural study of the building shows evidence of a Saxon church which predates the Norman record and was probably built around 900AD. In 1120 the Norman parts of the church were built and in 1254 the church had its first recorded patron, Reginald de Northank. The early patrons were the owners of the manor of Findon, until 1506 when Magdalen College Oxford took over the responsibility. In 1949 the patronage of the parish passed to the Bishop of Chichester.

In 1867 a major reconstruction of the interior of the church was carried out by Sir Gilbert Scott and this included the tiles on either side of the altar, which were designed by William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The entrance to Findon Church

The entrance to Findon Church

Findon Church tower

Findon Church tower

The interior of the church

The interior of the church

Some of the William Morris tiles in the church

Some of the William Morris tiles in the church

A lichen-encrusted headstone in the graveyard

A lichen-encrusted headstone in the graveyard

My new “den”

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Before my summer house (or, as my two-year-old granddaughter calls it, “Namma’s Wendy House) becomes as cluttered and untidy as my workshop at our old home, I thought it would be a good idea to make a photographic record of it in its tidy state. Not that I intend to fill this new “den” with disorganised “stuff” but somehow these things just seem to happen.

The first photo shows a very useful plastic garden storage unit, left behind by the former owners of the house. This has turned out to be the ideal place for storing all my dye equipment and dyes etc.

As the other photos below suggest, I haven’t spent much time in my “den” yet, so everything looks much tidier than I am accustomed to. I can’t imagine the tablecloth will remain on my dyeing table when I get round to some serious dyeing and the new heat source will certainly soon be as stained as all my old ones.

 

Storage unit for my dyeing equipment etc

Storage unit for my dyeing equipment etc

  

 

My spinning area

My spinning area

This shows the spinning area from a different angle

This shows the spinning area from a different angle

My dyeing area, complete with shiny new heat source, as yet unused.

My dyeing area, complete with shiny new heat source, as yet unused.

Area for relaxing (particularly popular with my granddaughter)

Area for relaxing (particularly popular with my granddaughter)