Art Yarn and Ribbon Bundles

Recently I was looking through some shops on Etsy when I came across a shop selling art yarn and ribbon bundles.  They looked so lovely.  I was really taken with them and thought it was a good way of using up some of my stash.  (The Etsy shop that gave me the idea was based somewhere in Europe so I wouldn’t be taking any of her business.)

The art yarn and ribbon bundles consist of handspun and hand dyed yarns, hand painted recycled sari silk, lace, burlap ribbon, eyelash yarn and organza ribbon.  They can be used for so many different things:  Crafts such as collage, felting, scrapbooking, embroidery, embellishing, tassle making, braiding, card making, toy making, spinning, crochet, knitting, weaving, jewellery making and many others.  They would be excellent for stylish gift wrapping.  The colour coordinating fibres in each bundle can be used all together or in any combination.

They look so gorgeous wound up together, though, that you might just want to look at them.

I had a lot of fun choosing the colours and textures for each bundle and I’m really pleased with the results.  However, they were far more time consuming than I had imagined, so I probably won’t be making up any more.  There are just two of each bundle in five different colour schemes.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

You can find them in the Art Yarn/ Ribbon Bundles section in my Etsy shop.

 

Felted Spinning Fibre

This week I had my first dyeing disaster.  I have had many occasions when yarn or fibre has emerged from the dye pot looking completely different to what I had intended but this has always been either a nice surprise or something that can be easily rectified by over dyeing.  So this week I was dyeing four lots of spinning fibre and three came out perfectly, but the fourth (a blue faced leicester and silk fibre) felted really badly for some inexplicable reason.  Well, I say inexplicable but we all know it’s because I overcooked it!  (Next time I will use a thermometer. Probably.)  I initially thought the fibre was destined for the bin, as I couldn’t even pull pieces off it so drafting was definitely out of the question, which would have been a shame as the colours were perfect.

So what to do?  Well, I could have used it for a felting project, either on my felted art pictures or on a nuno felted scarf.  Or my favourite idea, at that point, I could prise the fibres apart width ways and make it into a cobweb felted scarf.  Before starting any of these projects I thought I would first try to see if there was any way to revive the fibre and still use it for my original spinning project.

I have to warn you that I did not exactly treat the fibre in the way I normally would and I’m sure a lot of people will be horrified by this, but I didn’t really have a lot to lose.  Fortunately, it did work out very well and I didn’t damage my carders.

First I pulled the mangled, felted fibre out width ways as far as I could (it was still all in one long piece as I was unable to pull it apart lengthways)  and I carded the end off and rolled it into a rolag.  I spun this first rolag before bothering to make any more as it was quite hard work and didn’t want to go to all that effort if the finished product was not going to be up to scratch.  It spun up very well; a few tiny bumps occasionally which I could twist flat with a finger and thumb or just pinch off.

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Disaster averted, I continued to card all the rest.  To keep the variation in colour I tried, where possible, to only card each section twice.  I wanted to avoid the colours from completely blending together.

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The singles were not as smooth as I would normally expect Blue Faced Leicester and silk to be but once plied they became much better and I don’t think anyone would suspect its origins and journey to that point.  The real test will come when I have knitted it up but so far it’s looking good.

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So, felted spinning fibre can be revived and spun.  Obviously it would be preferable to treat your fibre better and not to felt it in the first place.  It would save time too!

My Majacraft Aura

Our antiquated boiler has given up and we need to replace the whole central heating system (not something you can avoid when you live in a 1930’s house in Cornwall – not that it gets that cold here but the houses all suffer from the damp without some background heating during the winter months) and the ten year old car is not going to go on forever.  It’s great for taking the kayaks to the beach but you wouldn’t trust it to get you to the Lake District and back!  I have been dragging my heels on both counts as it will involve a large loan.  So I might have been a bit rash this week.  I was extolling the virtues of the Majacraft Aura (I blame Ravelry) when my husband said: ‘Just buy one, you know you really want one.’  So I did!!!

Now I have a Majacraft Aura.  I can’t believe it is actually sitting in my house.  Since spotting one of these being used in a market in New Zealand I have coveted one.  It is a carved work of art (a seriously expensive carved work of art) and I just love it!  It has beautiful markings in the wood and is signed by Owen Poad.

My Majacraft Aura (well actually all of them) is made from New Zealand Rimu and has a bamboo wheel.

My Aura spins beautifully, the treadles are really smooth and the adjustments are infinite.  I’ve only just started to experiment on her but in theory she can spin art yarn, lace weight yarn and anything in between.  Although it’s probably not the best time to try out a new technique such as cable plying the first time you are using a spinning wheel that works so differently from any other you’ve ever used!  My cable plied Corriedale turned out OK for a first attempt and the hand dyed BFL given to me by Ruth Robinson from The Wheel Ewe is spinning up quite nicely:

 

It will be far easier to take the Majacraft Aura to my spinning guild as it folds and has a handle.  But I might be a bit precious about it and worry about it getting damaged.  Also, I have always had the cheapest wheel at the guild which I am totally fine with and it might be a bit embarrassing to turn up with the most expensive wheel.  But I might get over that.

Now I’m not going to be spending as much time spinning on my trusty Ashford Kiwi I might finally get around to decorating him (not entirely due to feeling guilty at replacing him).  Previously I was too busy spinning on him to decommission him long enough to paint.  I won’t be going overboard with that.  I’ve decided to paint the wheel in an off white and then I’ll paint ferns onto the treadles and behind the kiwi, (again in white) to keep in with the New Zealand theme.  When he’s up and running again after his overhaul I think I will put the super flyer on him and leave him set up ready to ply anything I’ve spun on my Aura.

The Aura is almost too beautiful to use.  Almost.

 

 

Knitted Handspun

A few weeks ago I handspun a skein of Blue Faced Leicester and promptly forgot where I had stored it.  Consequently, when I spun another one this week it was a different weight entirely.  The first one, which later turned up, was definitely an aran weight and the second one a double knit, so when I come to knitting it into something I will have to be a bit creative!  Despite the difference in size, I am really pleased with how they turned out.  They are every bit as soft as merino, BFL is tougher, it has an incredible lustre that is missing from merino and it is British.  I still have plenty more breeds of sheep fleece to try but I know I will use BFL again.

I hand painted these two skeins in the same pale lilacs, blues and greens so that they can be used for the same project.   What project that will be, is yet to be decided.  At the moment I am just enjoying looking at them.  They are very pretty – and shiny.

Earlier I handspun some pre-dyed Corriedale fleece into a double knit in shades of pale pink, dark pink, salmon and cream.  Corriedale is very fine and soft (not quite as soft as merino) and these colours have worked well together. So I decided that this handspun wool would be knitted up into something for myself.  It was a bit of a dilemma deciding what to make from it and a curly scarf Rustic Potato Chip won out, but I will probably spin up more to make some gloves or a hat, or both.  Probably both!  (Assuming I ever finish the scarf.  It is really easy but really time consuming with lots of short rows.)  This was a free pattern from Ravelry.  I might have said it before, but I love Ravelry.

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I also knitted some fingerless gloves this week, not with my own handspun but at least they have been finished.

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Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.

Hand Dyed Yarn

Another new section in my shop: Bramble Patch Hand Dyed for natural yarns hand dyed in my studio in Cornwall.  When I dye fabric and wool for my own use I rely on completely natural dyes from my garden and kitchen and I know that I may have to re-dye them if they fade .  But the yarns in my shop need to be colour-fast, so I have used commercial acid dyes for these.  That sounds scary but the only acid used is a couple of tablespoons of distilled vinegar.

All the hand dyed yarns newly introduced into my shop are in a soft merino 4 ply or sock weight and are 400 m long.  Kammneves is a rainbow coloured merino yarn.  I have used two methods of dyeing Kammneves but have used the same batch of dyes so the colourway is exactly the same.  The one pictured above has been hand painted while the other two were kettle dyed.

Koswik is hand painted in fabulous bright greens and yellows like a forest and Koswik law is kettle dyed in the greens and pinks of exotic birds and flowers in the rainforest.

I just love these hand dyed yarns.  In fact once I had taken all my photographs I had second thoughts about selling them especially the hand painted version of Kammneves.  I shall try to resist temptation but if it doesn’t sell soon you might see me down on the beach with a beautiful rainbow coloured, hand dyed, lacy scarf!

 

 

How To Wash Wool

Why buy items made from wool or spend hours making things from wool when it is so high maintenance and there are so many synthetic ‘easy care’ ready made items of clothing/ carpets/ rugs out there?  Well, the manufacturers of the synthetic products have done a really good job of advertising those products and they’ve made a lot of money.  But I think more and more people are becoming aware of the short comings of these fabrics and how good our natural fabrics actually are.  Maybe you can’t just throw your handmade woolens in the washing machine and tumble drier – or can you?   I’ll come onto that in a minute.

Why Wool?

Wool is actually quite awesome.  Completely natural and renewable.  Anything you wear made from wool keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer.  It does not need washing nearly as often as any other fabric.  Even socks can be worn for several days without washing as long as they are aired at the end of each day, and your wool carpets will not need a coating of chemicals on them to resist the dirt.  Wool does that anyway.

Wool has a memory;  it’s elastic.  It takes dyes easily, even completely natural ones and it already comes in a range of colours straight from the sheep!

There are literally hundreds of breeds of sheep all of which produce wool with different characteristics.  Some produce really fine soft wool to make baby clothes from (obviously, that’s not why the sheep produce fine wool), some produce wool that is suitable for outer clothing like coats while others produce wool which is really tough and can be made into bags, rugs and carpets.  The others fall somewhere in between.

Caring for your woolens:

So, first of all what to wash it with?  You could use just water!  What you must not use is your standard chemical laden biological detergent, however tempting that maybe.  Biological detergents contain enzymes which eat and destroy wool.  So, unfortunately, you do need a special cleanser made for wool – they have a woolmark symbol on them:

If you don’t have any in or don’t want to buy one just for your woolens just use water; it should work fine.  There are lots on the market such as Eucalan Lavender 100ml No Rinse Delicate Wash.   I use  NIL Ecover Delicate 500 ml which has the woolmark image on the front.

Can you put your woolens in the washing machine?  Well, yes and no.  It depends.  (Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)  Some wool is ‘super-wash’ treated.  Most shop-bought wool garments will be super-washed and can be put in the washing machine.  But always put it in a netting laundry bag first to stop it stretching.  Many people also partially tumble dry these items on the lowest temperature setting.  Personally, I have never been brave enough to do that so couldn’t recommend it.

Also, some sheep produce wool that does not felt easily, such as wool from the Perendale sheep, so items made from their wool should also be fine to put in the machine without it felting.  Oh yes felting.  You know the ‘felt’ fabric we’ve all used (especially as children) to make small items or to add decorative applique to things because it does not fray.  It’s the same thing (in fairness nowadays most felt is synthetic but traditionally and in my house felt is made from wool) and you don’t want your gorgeous wool jumper turning into that!  Most wool will felt, though, if you subject it to too high temperatures, sudden temperature changes, or just by agitating it.  This sounds scary but is actually a really good excuse to do less.

Washing wool is really easy:

  1. Pour slightly warm water into the sink and add a cap full of wool wash.
  2. Drop your wool item onto the top of the water.
  3. Go and have a cup of coffee or catch up on your emails for twenty minutes.
  4. When your wool garment has sunk to the bottom, you know it has absorbed enough water and cleanser.
  5. Drain the water and refill with water of the same temperature to rinse without agitating your woolen. (Some wool cleansers do not even require rinsing.)
  6. Rinse once more then drain.
  7. Very gently squeeze out the excess water.
  8. Roll your wet garment up in a towel and squash to remove as much water as you can.
  9. Gently pull your garment back into shape and air dry flat, out of direct sunlight.  I have a Leifheit 72408 Mesh Clothes Drying Rack Sensitive Air which is a folding, pop-up net hoop which is very good for this as it can be rested across the bath.

Remember to make sure it is completely dry before packing away as wool can feel dry but still contain over thirty percent water!

Moths are attracted to wool so you do need to protect your woolens from attack.  Traditionally cedar chests or cedar lined drawers were used to store items to prevent insect infestation and this is still the best method today.  Most of us don’t have cedar chests of drawers, though, and have to resort to sealing them in plastic bags.  I really don’t like plastic but it is very effective in keeping out moths.  It also doesn’t hurt to have a few draw string bags or bowls of wood shavings impregnated with drops of lavender or cedar essential oils nearby. Just like our grannies used to do.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I only recommend books or products I use personally and believe will be of value to my readers.

Handspun Yarn

I’ve been busy with my new Kiwi spinning wheel for the past couple of weeks and now find it easier to use than the borrowed one I had been using.  It is costing a fortune in fibre but I’m finding it a bit addictive and it’s not leaving much time for knitting or sewing!

I’ve put another section in my shop: Bramble Patch Handspun for my handspun yarn.  The first item in this section is ‘Avalow’ which means ‘apples’ in Cornish.  I have used shades of salmon, mulberry, green and pink to create this apple coloured skein.   It is handspun from soft corriedale fibre which has become even softer and fluffier after washing.

Corriedale wool is perfect to be worn next to the skin and can be also be used for children’s clothes.  As it is a natural wool which can felt, it does need to be hand washed gently in cool water.

I shall be adding to this section over the next few weeks.

 

 

My new Ashford Kiwi 2

My new spinning wheel has arrived.  An Ashford Kiwi 2 with a super flyer!  I’m so excited.

I learnt to spin (badly) on a drop spindle a couple of years ago but wasn’t interested in using a spinning wheel.  I had an image in my head of the pictures from fairy tales of huge room-filling, ornate wooden objects in dark wood that just did not appeal.  At some point I spotted a more modern wheel and fully intended to buy an Ashford Kiwi 2 the last time I was in New Zealand as we would be driving right past Ashford’s shop in Ashburton.  Before we got there, we met a lady in a market in Raglan who was spinning on a beautiful modern upright spinning wheel that looked like a carved work of art.  She told me that what I really wanted was a Majacraft and so a seed of doubt crept in and I didn’t buy my new wheel at that point.  Once home I researched further and discovered that she was right; I did really want a Majacraft.  Unfortunately, they are a tad pricey.

Then I discovered that Ashford have brought out a super flyer to go with the Kiwi 2 for making art yarns.  My decision was made; back to my original choice.  I would buy the Kiwi 2 which will spin most of the yarns I want as it is, with a super flyer for chunky art yarns, and a high speed adapter for fine yarns.  The day I decided to take the plunge and order it,  I noticed that a couple of shops had dropped their prices, probably due to the drop in the New Zealand dollar combined with the strong pound.  Then I discovered that a lady called Jane Deane who lives in Tavistock in Devon (and who conveniently was visiting our local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers this week to give a talk on dyeing) also now sells Ashford products.  She managed to get me a really good deal on the Kiwi 2 and all the extras, better than the larger companies and said she would deliver it too!

The traditional spinning wheel I have been borrowing from the Guild has been fun to play with but it’s not really designed to make art yarns, so I am really looking forward to using my new wheel.  I just have to put it together now…

 

Disclosure:  This post contains links to products, websites or patterns.  I do not receive any reward for mentioning them.  I only recommend items I use personally and think will be of interest to my readers.