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.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Wensleydale Socks: Or: How I learned to face prepping a long lustrous fibre.

Well ofcourse socks (for husband), and ofcourse plant dyed by me. And a new woolly fibre adventure: Wensleydale.
Wensleydale Yays: long lustrous fibres
                             lustre brings out the colours beautifully
                             takes up the dye magnificently
                             highly local to me (bought this fleece at Masham Sheep Fair)
                             hard wearing fibre, yet soft and silky (good for socks...)
                             is an incredibly beautiful fibre, with it's long curly locks...

Wensleydale Boo: Prep! Actually this is not all bad, BUT it takes a long long long time to do.

Prepping Wensleydale: You must wash it carefully, and slowly. It kind of matts often anyway before you even get it off the sheep. Natty dreds indeed. Be GENTLE.
Dye it really slowly and gently (see above..)
And then there is the fibre prepping bit... Wensleydale is too long for a drumcarder OR conventional carders. It will wrap right around your drumcarder and cause you much to curse about, like a bent awl. Those gorgeous fibres can be over a foot long...They also need to be teased apart (hand picked) anyway, before any more prepping can be done. If you wish a  textured yarn, maybe with some gorgeous curls pointing out, just do this much prep, and have lots of fun spinning it. If, however, you wish to spin for socks for your husband's birthday, you need to open those locks further, so you can spin a lovely straight yarn...
I flicked the locks open with a small carder, although many spinners use "flick carders" for this task. More like "combing" the fibres, half on and half off the carder. DON'T fold the fibre (unless you want difficult to draft lumps). It is a far remove from making a rolag, you are just aligning the fibres in a roughly parallel way, and getting rid of any snarls and knots you can.
I took this long and involved process as a chance to play around with blending the colours of some of my plant dyed Wensleydale fibres. I chose a slightly limited palatte, in the blue, yellow, brown spectrum (hmmn, don't normally use "brown" and "spectrum" in the same sentence, but it's a metaphor. I am a dye poet...). I thought "combine as many colours as I can get away with for a manly sock...". Greens and oranges and greys sneaked in. I had a great time with colour, trying out colour blends I wouldn't normally.
Something that seems to be important to me when blending colours in a multi hued arrangement is to have "quieter" areas - greys, paler colours, and "louder" ones with more saturated and intense colours. It works like an abstract painting: how you place the colours and their tones together in the piece gives the eye places to rest and reflect, and places where it is having a visual adventure. ( I know this seems like a lot for a couple of  humble socks, but honestly, these things MATTER to me...(sort of) if you're gonna do it, do it the right way for you....) Ofcourse it is a debatable point whether or not a visual adventure is also a soul adventure, but I know where I stand on that discussion.

After much prepping, the fibres were spun up and chain plied back on them selves. I didn't, after all that careful blending and ordering, want the colours to be muddied by careless (some might say "random") plying, as might occur in a 2 or 3 ply. It has to be 3 ply. We are talking socks, here. A chain ply does, ofcourse, give you a faux 3 ply with TOTAL colour control.
What else? Oh, colours: Blue: woad, home grown, fermented in the wee hot box. (see other blogs).
Many browns/oranges/rusts, these from eucalyptus, madder over some brown shetland, purple onion skins.
golden tans: plain onion skins. Greens from birch leaves + alum over dyed with woad. A bluey gray from woad. Mustard yellow... er, can't remember...rhubarb root? Sure lots of other things sneaked in, too.
Some of the brown sections are so complex and delicious, that these photos just don't do it justice.....

I am officially jealous of my husband for owning these socks. He did say " They're too nice to wear" for the first few days after his birthday. But he has succumbed to the full tactile/visual experience now, and they are regularly seen on his feet.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Whittling a birch twig crochet hook

As post Christmas austerity set in, I found myself one evening whittling this crochet hook from a birch twig I found whilst scavenging for kindling.
 Rosie (Age 6) has been hassling for a rug for since the summer, when she moved in to her new room. I realised that all our "decorating budget" was more than gone. However, I did have an overly large stash of yarn and could just about crochet. I did however, need a larger crochet hook if I was going to make anything rug sized. Hence 40 minutes of whittling and sanding by the Morso one evening.
I have never made a crochet hook before. I don't even do much whittling. However, the nice thick birch twig was just asking to be a crochet hook. I found myself slowly shaping the tip, once I'd got most of the bark off, and had dealt slowly, but forcefully with a side twig's knot. The groove of the head was important to get right, as that is what keeps the yarn in place comfortably as you crochet. I didn't bother with sanding and finishing the far end of the hook, as I wasn't really planning on sliding any yarn along it, and that has worked out fine, so far. I spent ages, it seemed, in sanding the head and groove of the hook, but this was the place where the yarn would need to slip along most in the crocheting process. I have, in the the process of making the rug, needed to slightly resand the groove of the hook, as it has worn a little, leaving a "catchy" patch, which tugged the fibres out of the yarn slightly.
Turns out that birch is a good twig to use for a crocet hook as it has a relatively slender heart wood and is not hollow (like, say willow would be). It doesn't seem to matter (working at this scale, anyway) that the hook is rather bumpy and twig like. Perhaps straightness is not necessary in a crochet hook?
I used my little Opinel knife for the whittling process, and caught the shavings on the hearth, and put them in the fire...
My husband now believes we'll be okay when Armageddon comes. He believes I can whittle us a new life from birch twigs. Bless.