About this blog space

This blog space is a place for me to primarily put all my wool gatherings, adventures, experiments. I am now a mum of two astounding daughters, and I used to be a DIY musician and co-ran a tiny independent label (Slampt), so this punk can-do attitude plus feminist analysis and Art school experience somehow informs my wool work! I am also deeply moved by GREEN, trees, weather, colour combinations in nature, and texture. I aim to source wool from round the corner or at the very least UK grown and processed, and to create no toxic waste. This means I get to see sheep as often as I can, sometimes at wool fests.
I am on Ravelry and Etsy as FatHenWildWool and Facebook as Rachel Holborow.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

my 40th Exhibition: a blurry video, including yarn, artwork, knitting etc.....

this video was taken on Marc's phone, so is not of the highest quality! But it is the only document of the "exhibition" I had at home for my 40th birthday, of some things I've made in my 40 years. Including Slampt artwork (the record label I used to co-run), other prints and paintings, some plant dyed wool tops, and many yarns I've handspun.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Eco dyed batts:spun!

So recently, apart from all my massive work and family responsibilities ( challenging and rewarding, but leaving me little WOOL TIME), I've been spending what time I get developing my fibre eco dyeing and having fun with my NEW Ashford Drumcarder combining the lovely fluffs into delicious, and often "Art" batts. I've been finding it hard to resist spinning the fibre, and mostly haven't managed it, although a little has made it's way into my Etsy shop....
 The top yarn here is something I'm going to knit into "Tree of Life" mittens, along with the bottom yarn (when spun). My aim was to make a wintery sky inspired yarn, to back the tree. A friend of mine had given me a non-specific wool fleece, with short bouncy fibres (and a fair few doublecuts...) from her own flock. I'd  been gradually dyeing it up, using the woad urine vat method, and docks,  nettles, onion skins etc... I took approx 100 grams ( the Tree of Life pattern says you need "2 skeins" of a fingering/sock weight but doesn't specify how much each skein weighs...)of blues, yellows, green-yellows, greys and browns, and combined the bouncy fibres into 2 batts, which faded from blues on one side to yellows on the other, with greys and browns inbetween. The resultant batts were squidgey and bouncy, and mostly lovely to spun, which I did short draw. i say "mostly" because I did have to remove a fair few double cuts along the way, even though I'd been careful to remove any I could prior to carding. Not much of a price to pay for free fleece?(not that I'd generally put such a fleece into my "For Sale" Batts...)
However, the finished yarn is lovely to feel and behold! Bouncy and soft and the colours glow wonderfully together. If only I could knit with it now! (but I will have to wait until I've finished spinning the Black Hebredian first (also full of double cuts;) ))
"Thorn Rose" is the yarn I'm spinning for light relief , which may eventually be used for some socks (which I am currently obsessed with knitting. ALL OTHER PROJECTS ARE ON HOLD whilst the magic of socks grips me.) It's the pink one in the middle and was such a tasty batt to make: All eco dyed wool and silk fibres, all UK grown wool, with some more fun things like recycled sari silk fibres and bamboo fibre added in. It's lovely to draft (I am spinning it in chunks, from the fold, longdraw) silky smooth with texture and colour variation. N.B. that green is from privet....
I happy to find that most of the wool fibre I'm working with is bought, and grown, locally (North of England) some of it Yorkshire, some from just down the road. Hooray!

Some gorgeous fibres that have made their way into the shop (for now....) include curly silky Wensleydale locks and a few 50 gram Art eco batts.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hot Box Natural Woad Dyeing

So, woad, what a fantastic quirky gift from Mother Nature...A leaf that yeilds a beautiful blue, but only if you hit upon the right alchemy...
This is my most recent method, involving that most maligned (because of the stink) of all waste products, WEE.
So first of all, fill a vessel with wee, let it sit, somewhere where it won't be disturbed or fiddled with for a least two weeks, until it stinks. You want the smell to make you gag when it gets you in the back of the throat. Then (if you're using powdered woad) add 2 teaspoons to approx 5 litres of gone off urine. With leaves, you just want to fill up your heatable vat (I use a big stainless steel pan) with as many leaves as you can and then pour the urine over them.
Then the method is the same: heat your vat with woad in to just slightly steaming point then PUT IT INTO YOUR PREPARED HOT BOX! This is the marvelous part of it for me, as I had to think it up myself!
I couldn't work out how I could keep my woad vat at a steady temperature, perhaps for several weeks, as I had no greenhouse, and our stove is never on constantly, as our house is too cosy, and doesn't need constant heating, even in the depths of winter. Then I remembered the hot box principle: Basically, heat whatever you need to keep at a constant temperature up to the temp you want it to be at, take it off the heat source, and then insulate it so that the heat stays in it. In my case, the most easily available insulation source was fleece (My house is literally full of the stuff). So I put a layer of it ( 2-3 inches)on the bottoms and sides of an old cardboard box, then placed the heated pots (in my case) with the woad urine vats in the hot box (see photo above) added a cosy wool covering to the pots, and shut the box up. I discovered that this will stay warm for approx 24 hrs, and then you just heat it up again to slightly steaming point, and put it back in the hot box again. Probably after 3-4 days the woad will have dispersed enough and the vats' oxygen reduced enough for you to begin dyeing. You should be able to tell because the vat will look greenish. If there is a blue scum floating on the surface you may need to add more gone off urine. I keep my wool fibre in for 24 hours to absorb the vat fully, and then I air it by pulling it carefully out of the vat on a stick and watching it magically turn blue in the Air! If it's too pale, I repeat the process and usually after 3 or 4 days it's a lovely mid blue. See above photo.
The important thing is too keep your vat at a steady temperature, although too cold is more easy to rescue than too hot, which can give you greys and maroons rather than the magical blue you are after.
I rinse my woad dyed wool in luke warm vinegar water to help it bond to the fibre. Then air it until I wash the smell fully out! The smell will always lingre a little, but generally only when the fibre is wet....
 You can top up your vat every few days with urine until the woad is worn out. If you have more woad, you can keep it going for weeks, but your family may not be impressed with the smell of you heating up the vat everyday on the stove.....

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A thneed's a good thing that all people need!

So you do some experimental knitting with an experimental handspun yarn, and what do you get? A Thneed (copyright Dr Suess, but no truffula trees were harmed in the making of this garment..).
 The yarn is a singles of  various blended baby batts, mostly made up of a combination of greens (which I got from secret santa via  UK Spinners, cheers!) and reds with occasional luxury and texture from added silk throwsters waste. I'm interested in how the contrasting colours of green and red interact when blended together, and this was a chance to really dive into that. I also took the chance to experiment with a core spinning technique called wool chrysalids, which you add as you spin your singles, and make puffy gorgeous lumps on your yarn. I loved doing them, and wanted to particularly draw attention to them as they were knitted into the piece. As a result, and also to feel free and have some fun, I joyfully knitted this cowl/ hat/ headband/snood ie THNEED  improvising stitches as I went along. It's knitted in the round, starting with a multiple of the number of stitches you need for feather and fan to repeat (twelves?).I wanted a kind of rippling effect, so started with a quite regular feather and fan pattern, which then evolved into a more exagerated and less regular pattern, with sections where I wrapped the yarn around the needle 2, 3 or 4 times for big, holey  bumps in the texture. There is also a section in the middle which is just plainly knit, and from time to time to emphasise the chrysalids I would knit them purl, so they poked out a bit, wriggling a long like caterpillars.
 The only difficultly I encountered with this free form, responsive (to the yarn) knitting, was that after an exhilarating section with lots of yarn overs in I would have to remember to decrease in the next two rows or so, as I wanted to keep the garment in a rough tube form rather than turning fully into a funnel.
 It's very warm and cosy to wear as a head or neck garment. And I've named it "Hills and Gills".

Sunday, 24 July 2011

TDF Finis: Coils!

The week started great with me spinning plenty of dyed by me high twist singles in a pleasing pinky, golden colourway. But then it came to actually plying the coiled yarn, which was excruciating. Hard to work out which way you hold the yarns... Hard to find the right yarn to ply onto... Hard to not get completely twisted up into knots...Hard to work out the right way to ply it...Well, this was my Tour de Fleece Challenge...
In the end what worked best for me after much fiddling about was: using an old singles, spun in the same direction as the high twist singles I was going to coil with and wound onto a spindle, which I could dangle between my knees. This spun around merrily as I coiled away, with the high twist singles on a lazy kate a little to my side so as to not tangle with the spindling singles. The spinning spindle took off some of the excess twist ( sometimes too much, making yarn fall apart!), so the resulting coiled yarn will not be too kinky once it's rested FOREVER on the bobbin.

I still feel there's something I'm not getting about coiling, and it's really intense work too, with limited application of the finished yarn! Great for viewing and fondling but no use for soft fluffy or flowy items. Could it be used for rugs? or bags? I may try it as an initial panel for a bag, or maybe a knitted felted pot Dragonarse style....

I also had a couple of days this week where I was SEPARATED FROM MY SPINNING WHEEL! As a result I took my spindle about with me to 2 parks, and on a train journey too. Plenty of Spinning in public oportunities... I was sampling some yak down that I picked up from Willo Alpacas at Woolfest which is gorgeously fluffy and very short stapled...Not really worth rolaging or any other prep unless you wanted to mix it with another fibre. The lady on the stall actually recommended mixing it with another fibre slightly, which I tried initially with Moorit shetland, but I preferred it without. I think if I carry on spindling it, it will be fine, but it may not stand up to the faster pace of the spinning wheel so easily...
The last photos are of me spinning on the last day of the TDF in my yarden and the final complete TDF stash.

 I loved doing the Shetland Wander last week, but also had the chance to sample fibres and methods I might not usually try, with the other yarns.
My husband curiously didn't seem to notice I was taking part in the TDF.. I said to him," You'll be pleased to know that the Tour de Fleece finishes today." He said "Why? you spin every day anyway...."

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Tour de Fleece week 2

In the end I've spun one ply of  different moorit shetland shades, and one ply of  blends of  naturally dyed + tussah silk and a slight dash of copper triloban. The overall impression is one of coppery brown ( the colours are slightly browner than the way the photos are showing up) with orangey yellow, pinkish, greenish sections: Natural dyestuffs used include Eucalyptus ( my first time dyeing with it as loads of Eucalypts had a bad winter round our way and lots of friends are getting the dead areas lopped off, to my benefit : Thanks Jo, Sam and Theolyn!), lac, madder, goldenrod and indigo. The skeins are still drying, but weighed 92 grams when finished, so I must've lost a fair amount of fluff on the way as it weighed 98 grams before spinning.... Certainly the moorit I prepared was horribly flakey, which I felt the need to tug out as I went along, in truth it was a pain to spin, and a lesson learned. I will not buy flakey fleece ever again. ( I didn't check this one properly...Serves me right)
However, that prepped by me moorit was only a quarter of the total yarn, my blended batts were delicious to spin, as was the commercially prepped moorit, and I mostly spun the yarn from the fold longdraw, except where flakes hindered me.

I do love the colours and how they work together, I expect they will give a "heathered" textile when knitted up, a kind of brown with largish flecks. ( I am currently hoping to venture into a Jane Thornley inspired freeform shawl in autumny colours...)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Tour de Fleece week 1

Goodness me! Such a week of spinning and allsorts going on in the family! Ill girls (hand foot and mouth! 5 ulcers on the tongue sound like fun?), birthday girls, party time, last week of steiner school Summer term ( an intense time of festivals and plays and celebrations ). I also read "The Journey" which promises to be life changing and discovered that maybe what I really want to do is free form knitting!

And aside from all that I spun one of the hardest yarns I've ever spun! On the face of it not so hard: I was just using the scraps I got from UK Spinners Scrap Swap into a rainbow sequence and then Navajo plying it. I slightly struggled with spinning from the fold longdraw, which got so much more natural and easy as I went along, but the major problem was that I was using SYNTHETICALLY dyed fibres! I really struggled with enjoying the colours because they were so bright! No doubt there were other more esoteric reasons bubbling under in my subconscious too... But here it is: Sea Rainbow, because it has a tendency towards Sea colours with a rainbow above and below the seascape. It's the yarn for one sock, there's another similarly sequenced equal amount of fibre (80 grams) awaiting spinning, for the other sock. It worked out well for what it is, and my spinning is good, but it was such a struggle!

Anyway, I need a break from these bright colours for now so I've drum carded and started spinning something I'm calling "Shetland wander" a combination of natural moorit Shetland fibres and naturally dyed (by me) British wool fibres in oranges, pinks, random dashes of other colours with some tussah silk and copper trilobal fibre for a bit of bling lift: It's a relief  to spin it, but I can't seem to resist longdraw at the moment, partly because it's a whole body activity....

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

King Sun for Solstice

This has been our recent Nature Table ( a Steiner tradition for bringing the seasons into the house (ours is a shelf)). The main feature of it is the figure of King Sun, who is a little dry felted chap. He has pipe cleaners as a skeleton for his arms and head shape but otherwise is just made of wool scraps needle felted together.You have to make sure the bottom is well felted and sturdy, so he can stand up. Sometimes I add a pebble to weight it but didn't this time.. He has a copper crown in this representation, which seemed highly appropriate to me: it's just a scrap of copper electrical wire made ziggy zaggy, although Mr Pexton in the hardware shop cut his finger getting the wire out of a thicker one for me. Apparently pure copper wire is hard to come by these days...
The butterflies are also dryfelted, and seasonal Brimstones and Blues, which I often see walking through the Allotment to school. The fire is just wisps of wool tops as flames.
This Summer solstice time of the year has "St John's festival" in the Steiner tradition, which at our school is a high energy run or walk for each individual between or over flame. I feel this as a cleansing, and the children are encouraged to throw their grumbles and gripes into the fire as well. It also acknowledges the individual as part of a group, similarly to the twelve candles of  whitsun.
St John is John the baptist, he of the severe wandering and asetic life. I myself see this time of year as being characterised by male energy such as the Holly King / Oak King celtic pagan legend, and it's also lovely to see bright firery colours amongst the blooms of the season. The blooms are (or symbolise) perfectly the Airy nature of  summer, where all is most "out There". We all find ourselves a bit scatty and "air heady", and young children often "excarnate" letting their energies float free of the physical body, but also seem to find it excruciating to sit still, the want to zoom about like all the animals, like the pollen and insects floating free in the air.
Colours of the season: yellow, red, orange, bright pink, pale bright blue, green  and maybe some earthy brown, so we don't float right off!
Symbols: Zig zags, spirals, golden suns, white doves
I made the King Sun figure as part of a Seasonal workshop I was hosting, which was wonderfully inspiring. I felt blessed to be in room with so many women given just the space, materials and opportunity to create amazing seasonal characters.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Ethics and natural dyeing; complexity

Top: Cumbrian Blue Faced Leicester wool locks, cleaned with eco washing powder, by me, then dyed with wild harvested Horseradish, onion skins from the wholefood shop, and madder from?
Bottom: Blue Fcaed Leicester, some commercially processed, some by me, as above, dyed with black beans from? onion skins, goldenrod from UK, and indigo from?

Recently received "Eco Colour" by India Flint in the post: Sustaining soul food for the natural dyer who is trying to pick the most ethical way through to coloured fibres. Afferming and at times eye opening, it's wonderful to come accross a person who makes an ethical approach into an Art via spirit and joi de vivre.
Helped me to focus thoughts feelings actions I've been having about my dyeing works in that I've realised using "findings of the forest floor" is the most comfortable path for me to amble on. Whether I can "give it up" to my results being entirely happenstance remains to be seen.
Methods I question as to being comfortable for myself which India uses: Uses of found metals as mordants/resists: I'm happy with copper (probably beneficial to a body), and possibly iron if dye dregs are thoughtfully treated, but I'm seriously unkeen on Aluminium (surely a link to alzheimer's?):The use of a microwave: I'm never happy with irradiating anything, it's a crime against life itself! Not to mention the high probablity of leaks right into your living space. And then there's Microwave disposal when it's done, it's all too much!
What was really useful was her critiquing of the Logwood and Indigo industries: I guiltily admit to uninformed use of Logwood!(see earlier blog). It is nourishing for me for someone to turn the ethical spotlight onto the natural dye industry, and then prove it's how unnecessary compromised ethics are so eloquently with her wonderful colours. I also love that she questions the use of synthetic dyes so completely: You've probably heard the discussion: Q:Plant dyes are not permenant, so why waste your time using them? A: Some are very long lasting, but ALL dyes fade anyway, as we know from experience (and indeed on my own pootles around Ravelry etc I've certainly noticed complaints of synthethic dyes running, fading and even changing colour!)
Regionalism is also an approach close to my heart: blues from local cabbages just seems so much kinder than indigo from who knows where flown accross the world to my dye pot. 

Sometimes, if you talk about the "ethics" of something people will start pointing the finger at you, and try to prove that you are unethical because of some crime once commited. I write this blog post in the spirit of one searching out a path less travelled, who does so because that feels the most sound path to travel. I'm sure there will be many false turnings, and perhaps some unforseen difficulties ahead, but the path of Adventurer in Ethical Colours for Wool I claim as mine to tread! I aim to get better at it one step at a time...

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Solar dyeing and tour de fleece

What a wonderful thing a sunny half term is: it has meant that I have been able to indulge myself with solar dyeing some wool and to "get in training" for the Tour de Fleece on Ravelry. I am slightly part of Team UK and our set training this week is to spin and ply a Chain Ply yarn, of whatever length. I took this as an excuse to blend some delicious baby batts on the mini drumcarder ( from predyed merino, recycled sari silk, a dash of soya fibre and red angelina) and then spin it from the fold. Halfway along I felt the urge to try spinning from the fold LONGDRAW, which I managed with ease. That's never clicked before, but I think the fluffy batts helped with that. I was really pleased with the resulting squidgey yarn, something I don't normally manage when Chain Plying. Although in the begining I didn't manage to put quite enough twist in for it to hold together in the ply, I soon worked that out. So there is a funny improvised patch in the middle of the yarn that I will probably cut out when I come to knit it.
 My treadling is improving, as I could go really SLOW when I needed too for the chain ply action.

 The fantastically warm sun in our backyard has meant I've been able to do some SOLAR DYEING which I love it's so easy and you don't use up any energy except your own (slight) and the abundant sun's. For the bluey greys and pinks I used lacs and black beans, put in a plastic bag ( NB No holes!)  after mordanting with mouldy rhubarb stems (oxalic acid). I dribbled patches of  lac dye directly onto the wool in the bag, then patches of black beans too. I topped the bag up a little with some water, so the wool was covered, and tied it tightly. I put it on an old baking tray and sat it in the sun for 2 days. One of the advantages of solar dyeing is that you have much less chance of felting, it's also really unmessy. I've had great results with doing it in jars too. Inside the containers it gets really hot: steam results! I've used a photo of the jars, as it's much more photogenic than an old plastic bag....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Fleece Swap cobweb weight

Phew! I've been testing my limits with this yarn: It's turned in at 26 Wraps Per Inch officially a cobweb weight, and it's spun from a Blue faced Leicester  X (mule) wool fibre prepared by Someone? in the UK Spinners Ravelry Fleece Swap into a fluffy batt with a little bit of slubbiness. I was sent 50 grams of this in the Fleece Swap and I've only spun about half that. It was lovely to spin, but why did I choose to spin it so fine? Well I was testing out my smaller whorl on my Traddy flyer, and with the fibres of this batt being so long it worked out I could do this with it. ( The ratio was 12:1). It's silky and shiny. I'm hoping to spin the rest of it sometime, but colour is calling me right now....

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Dyeing, dyeing, dyeing

Somehow it always seems wrong to write dyeing, the "e" really feels like it shouldn't be in there. But hey, the vaguaries of the English language....

 Anyway. Done alot of dyeing. All onto Blue faced Leicester. All with natural dyes using mordants such as vinegar, lemons, alum: From top base of golden rod overdyed with lac and madder. Nettles, black beans and onions. Lac, onions and cutch. Onions, beans, golden rod. Beans with alum. Cabbage and onions and dandelions. Will write more about some of  these sometime soon.........

New fleeces!

How very exciting! I've had some new fleeces given to me AND swapped some via the UK Spinners Ravelry swap.
I got given 2 black hebredians and one white mystery fleece, which I'm slowly processing, and in the swap received some black Alpaca, mule (BFL x), coloured wensleydale and moorit shetland. So far i only have spun a little of the hebredian (to sample it) and the black Alpaca.
The Hebredian was lovely and soft and bouncy and I made it into rolags and longdraw spun it. The Alpaca was such a different story though. It's really short staple and slippery with no crimp, so in the end I spun it from the fold on a 7:1 ratio, slow draw in. It's come out uneven, and a bit ropey, but I suspect it will drape well: Hebredian bottom: Black Alpaca top.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

spinning, carding, plying release.

The above pix are all of a yarn I recently spun for my good friend Cath's birthday. It was a big release making it, as apart from colour scheme it was a blank canvas for my imagination to run free.
I've been working on stuff for the York Steiner School Craft group, as we've got Spring Fair coming up, and also being quite specific about what I want the outcomes to be for what I spin, so it's lovely to let my hair down and have some fun with a yarn.
We started a Family Spinning Group at Grace and Jacob (Walmgate, York, Last Saturday of the month), and Fiona, the shop owner, let me loose on her drumcarders last time, so I made the batts that much of this yarn was spun from.Only once blended. Lovely fluffy, squidgy big batts, one made on a Louet, the other on a Barnett. (Think I prefered the Barnett, as it was easily adjustable and had smaller springier teeth. I suspect a more even blend will be possible with it than the big industrial teeth of the Louet, but would probably need DAYS of time and KILOS of fibre to play with to really be sure...)
Cath is fond of pinks and reds aswell as black, so I spun up a squidgy thick thin single and thought I might ply it with a thinner single of naturally black shetland. However when it came to it I decided on gold stitching thread, mostly because I wanted an exagerated "bumpy" plying effect, but also a bit of "bling" that might pull the at times disparate colours together; black might be too bold and distracting from the colour graduations too, especially when knitted up. A warm colour of a quite intense saturation seemed the thing. (I did unfortuantely run out of the gold, and had to use a very similarly toned brown, and then pale pink to complete the ply. The brown works better than the pink in my view). Cath was, in her words "delighted" with the yarn.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Hard corespun (hardcore)

Ah, reminds me of back in the day, when I was in a punk band, rather than now when I'm a grumpy hardcore Mum. Hardcore? You know the score!
Oh how I struggle with corespinning....
But this one turned out pretty successful.....Floofy and gorgeous.
I made it like this: Blended moorit shetland fibres with recycled sari silk, red angelina, a dash of purple and red merino; then I got some old unused commercial sock wool in orange brown and white, and put it through my wheel taking much of the plying twist off; then I "corespun" the fluffy blended batts onto the opened up sock wool back in the direction it was originally plied in. This has quite a specific action, I kinda teased it onto the core to keep it floofy, rather than sorta wrapping it around, as I have before. I also decided that as I've a always had such unwanted ENERGY in my corespun before to not "Ply in the direction the yarn was last plied in" as all authorities seem to suggest, but to do something else, that actually made sense to MY spinning brain instead, and this worked the best... I tried plying it with a commercial sewing thread after, to "Trap the fibres" but that didn't work out, probably because I'd taken too much spin off the original core.
NB I had to use small very fluffy bits of batts to get it fluffy enough.

Natural Multnomah Finished!

Well I finished this a while back, but I've not been blogging recently... But Hey I'm so proud, dispite the minor mistakes....
Something I'm really proud of is that it's made entirely of PLANT DYED wool fibres SPUN by ME. Most of the feather and fan pattern (a new one for me, and I'm a  uh, fan) was dyed by fibre artist Helen of My Heart Exposed from her Folksy shop. She (and her daughters) are really inspiring plant dyers. I want her to write a book so I can learn much more about plant dyeing...
The rest of the yarn was plant dyed by me, one ply mainly greens, the other purples to oranges to greens to pinks, and I love the shifts. It's really subtle, but striking, even at Wonderwool it was noticed, and that was Thee Place to Wear Your Handmade Shawl. My only regret is that a tiny portion of mystery fibre near the neck is scratchy, but not so bad. Hey, I'm just amazed I can do this, from dyeing, to spinning, to actually Knitting A Lace thing! Next stop owning and shearing sheep ( my pal Cathleeds is threating this as a reality....) Thanks to her for taking us (incl kids) to Wonderwool. Also loads of thanks to Helen for her fibre and just being an inspiration generally....