Diary Working with Wool, Wool and People

A Yellow Day – Dying with Onion skins

On Wednesday, 4. February I run a wool dying workshop with onion skins with Bettina Holland, a 2.year student. Myself, I am new to natural dying and find a fascinating process as the is always a “surprise” element in there! I love dying with onion skins as it is so simple, no mordants maybe a bit of pre-soaking with vinegar and the dye bath can be tipped out to water plants and in an ideal world the exhausted skins could go on the compost! We used a rather large pot and there for ended up with a fairly pale color. When I was dying wool skeins and flees last summer at home, I used a smaller domestic sauce-pan and archived a strong burnt orange colour.

Dying with Onionskins

We dyed skeins of wool and unspun fleece. I also put in a small skein of pale indigo dyed wool and it came out in a gentle mottled and variegated tone.

As fascinating as the dying processes are I intent to keep to a very selective range. I am interested in Woad and Weld, blue and yellow and there for green as almost human input to the natural sheep fleece colours.

This year I intend to plant in gardens of some of my supportive friends around Penzance some Woad and Weld, in order to experience the effect of working with fresh plants rather then with powder.

The dying process opens of new avenues for exploring textures and carding dyed fleece with undyed fleece.

In the carding waste was for example, some reddish brown Alpaca and I carded it with white and greys, mixing the silky soft alpaca with more wire wool! it gives a very unique yarn and it is interesting to spin.

Diary Working with Wool

Making skeins

Making Skeins

i spend the morning spinning with this almost white fleece, I don’t know what breed it is as it comes from the carding waste. It has a beautiful lustre when it comes of the cob ( the cob is the wool which comes of the spindle). It was very still and quiete in the studio, the 1. Years are going through their induction phase.

Later on I wound the yarn from the cob into skeins with the help do a niddy noddy. When I mentioned to my partner first that I needed to use a niddy noddy, he thought I was joking and making it up.

Mine came from Carol Grace, retired Textile lecturer and it is a very useful tool to wind yarn into skeins when no helping “arms” are around.

The skeins are the next step of preparation for dying the yarn.

The Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Cornwall is holding coming Friday an Indigo Dying day and I will attend.

It is quite humbling for me to see the fruits of my labor, by Friday , I will have 5 skein of whitish yarn. I didn’t clock the time, because being with the spinning, the process, the hand movements, which slowly but surely becoming more familiar is what holds my fascination. The feel and the texture of the fleece and  the still lingering smell of sheep bring the origin of my material back to me. The memory of an  afternoon spend on Bosigran farm, even though we had missed the sheering, the sheep and billy goats were still about.

Working with very little processed wool feels like going back to a source material, something basic and still so  essential ……

How does one give a reflective commentary about a meditative and grounding experience? It has to be experience, to be embodied , become part of life………………

The studio is deserted, students gone home, it is still, I can hear the traffic, the late afternoon light begins to fade, I long to be outside with my spindle……..

Diary Working with Wool

New Nalebinding needles made in Newlyn!

Couple of weeks ago I had meet by chance Justin Duance and his wife Poppy Treffry in Truro. I was working with my hand spun wool and the nalebinding needles. Justin is a jewellery maker and Poppy a textile designer\ maker! both very well known locally in Penzance/ Newlyn.
My work triggered their curiosity and we talked about old techniques and hand making.
I told them that the needles I was using where bought on Etsy, one set from Norway and the other one from North America and I hadn’t found any made in the UK. Also how much I would love to find someone locally who could make needles for me from sustainable woodb(local or reclaimed).
Immediately Justin offered very kindly to have a go, he would have the right wood and the machinery in his workshop. Very gratefully I accepted his offer!

So yesterday I went over to his workshop; I had made 3 cardboard templates and was really exited!
Justin had a piece of yew tree wood and first cut a smaller needle based on my Norwegian needle, I had made it a bit longer and bigger. He cut it out and with the sander brought it into shape !
I then sat down at his workspace with files and sandpaper to finish it of and when it was smooth enough Justin gave it a polish with some Teak oil.
Then Justin cut a thin and longer needle and I finished it off!
It was very satisfying it work with Justin, someone who understands what I am aiming for and how important the aspect of collaboration with local people and using local materials is for me.
I feel truly blessed to have given this opportunity and Justin invited me back to do some more !

Diary Working with Wool

Working with Raw Wool

Today is my 2. Day on my residency at Camborne College. I will keep a diary throughout my time here.
I appreciate so much to be given the chance to share my passion about wool,particular local and British with the students on the BA Conteporay Creative Pracises.

Friday, 10. Oct 2914
I am officially here now, with tag, email and internet log in!
Monday was my first day and I arrived with 6 sacks of wool!
The wool ranges from a Shetland fleece, I was given earlier this year for my birthday ( in conjunction with a lovely old spinning wheel), fleece from Bosigrian Farm on the North Coast of Penwith and carding discharge from the Natural Fibre Company in Launcton. Along side a big bag with spindles, carders and a niddy noddy ( skein winding tool, no joke! ).
Today, like Monday, I am washing the Shetland fleece, bit by bit, soaking with laundry detergent, rinsing, putting into a washing machine to spin and let it try.
In between I have picked out some fleece and I am carding it “in the grease” meaning unwashed. This is a very new experience for me, my hands love it, all the lanolin!
Today I will try to spin some of the raw wool.
The whole process give a strong in depths feeling to the material.
My thoughts wander to times when this was nessity for clothing people…….. Every piece of clothing we wear, starts with a spun thread….

The Joy of Stitch

Poetry

Sometimes I see something in this strange digital world and it feels someone has put into words,

what I feel. There is a sense of recognition and knowing.
These words   from Toko-Pa and the image from Polina Yakovleva went straight to my heart:

Lightening Fires of Affection

So many of us are out at sea, looking for home. We try this way and that,

battling the endless march of adversaries, led by cynicism and apathy.

We fight them with every poetry we possess. We are gentle. We yield.

We get back to navigating our crafts.

Every once in a while, exhaustion can turn into despair.

The tiny flame, which takes our every resource to shield,

blows out on an unexpected gust.

Even then, lightless and alone, some of us remount our enterprise.

It helps to think of more than ourselves.

It helps to see the earth workers, the artists, the mothers,

the lovers, the singers, the poets and dreamers as threads in a web.

By ourselves we are fragile strands, songs with no listeners,

but together we are a relentless network.

Wherever there is depression,

there is colour made vivid by the grey.

When I feel this fog rolling in on me,

I light fires of affection in the hearts of others.

I tell them in tangible ways

how the life they live makes me live mine differently,

how precious and important they are to the rest of us.

That fire then becomes like a beacon which burns through

the grey and which I can sail towards.”

Toko-Pa Turner

Artwork by Polina Yakovleva
Artwork by Polina Yakovleva

 

http://toko-pa.com/2013/10/18/lighting-fires-of-affection/.