Saturday, 3 February 2018

Some of us have been busy...

We usually have an informal "show and tell" at our meetings, although we don't actually call it that as some people get very shy and develop acute stage fright at the very thought.
At our last meeting in Abergele Jenny P. made use of skills learned in Katie Weston's workshop, and produced a very superior cable yarn.

We were also delighted to see work by Val and Alan:  Val's chunky handspun, twined baskets made with aforesaid handspun, and Alan's amazing pinloom weaving, also made with aforesaid handspun.
Val says " if anyone asks, the cape was made from 1,100 yards of hand spun yarn. The brown is Zwartbles shearling, and the yellow is Jacob, white wool dyed in June with Weld and Alum.It was woven on a 5' square continuous weave frame, by Alan. It has a split front and buttonhole modification as part of the design. It has been fulled, also by Alan who has made a large button from Yew wood to fasten it. The cape weighs 1305g and is both warm and soft to wear."  

....note also the Amazing Abstract Weaving on the right of the picture -  another piece of work by Alan. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Plying workshop with Katie Weston (Hilltop Cloud)

On our first Sunday meeting in 2018 we were delighted to see Katie Weston once more, this time for a workshop concentrating on that all-important step in yarn production - plying.  
Katie took us through all the stages of producing a consistently plied yarn, and provided excellent, clear tuition at each point of production.  We learned the difference between freshly spun singles and yarn which has been left to rest on the bobbin, and the usefulness of obtaining a "ply back sample" from the freshly spun yarn - and the importance of keeping it for reference!  We also discovered the miraculous regenerative powers of warm water on tired singles.
Katie touched on the use, or otherwise, of counting treadles while spinning and plying: those who already do it will continue, and those who don't need to won't. 
We plied our own yarn, and Katie's, and other people's (a bit daring); learned or revised "Andean" and chain (Navajo) plying; and finally some of us had a go at making a cable yarn.
This really was a brilliant day and we all - beginners and more experienced - learned a great deal.  Now we have no excuse for producing  underplied fluff, or overplied rope.....
Thanks to all who attended, and those who helped organise the day, and of course especial thanks to Katie for yet another excellent session.
Freshly spun and plied Blue Faced Leicester - the same fibre in each hank, but each hank is unique.

A simple way to demonstrate plying twist.

All agog...

Taking into account the importance of ply when knitting - twist will affect the drape of the finished garment, and the number of plies in the yarn will influence the effectiveness of lace or cable patterns.

Chain plying

Katie in action...
...And the traditional cake - sorry, biscuit - picture

Saturday, 9 December 2017

STOP PRESS : Sunday 10th December meeting cancelled

With great regret, we have cancelled Sunday's pre-Christmas meeting in Betws yn Rhos in advance of the predicted heavy snowfall.  Although the main roads are clear (at the time of writing) the side roads are treacherous with slush and ice, and may be under several inches of snow by the morning.
It's a great shame, as we always have a great time with a shared meal, raffle and quiz - not to speak of spinning, chatting and keeping nice and warm.

So, sorry folks, and I hope to see you all in the New Year - Happy Christmas!


Friday, 13 October 2017

All Wales Event, Llanidloes, 2017

The biennial meeting of all (well, most of) the Welsh Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers is always a great chance to meet up with old friends and catch up with what we have all been doing for the last couple of years.
The meeting is held in the Minerva Centre - an ex-car showroom in Llanidloes.  Over the years, the exhibition space has developed from an echoing cavern, still smelling faintly of motor oil, into a very nice venue indeed.  This year we had the benefit of a new permanent partition dividing the trade area, and a spanking bright new sink and drainer for washing up (and for textile workshops of course).   The Guilds' Challenge this year was on the theme of "Sea and Sky", and as usual the variety and standard of work was excellent.  I am pleased to report that our contribution, co-ordinated by Jenni Frost and based on a piece woven by her on a peg loom, stood out proudly from the others.

Val and our contribution to the Guilds' Challenge.

Bryn and Jenni arrived at the crack of dawn to set up the display of work, and Bryn very nobly put on show the files and folders from her recent Certificate of Achievement in spinning.  Congratulations to her for her excellent work and well-deserved result.

Bryn and Jenni with their display of our work.

In the afternoon, we were treated to a fascinating lecture about historic Welsh textiles from Louise Mumford, Senior Conservator at the National Museum of Wales. Louise had the privilege of conserving the "Llan-gors Textile" - a fragmentary piece found in the sediment of Llangorse lake, near Brecon.  This amazing fabric, based on fine linen at 23 threads/cm., was scrunched into an amorphous lump and dropped into the mud about a thousand years ago.  After it was found in 1990, Louise it was who unravelled it piece by piece, recording every step of the way.  More information at
Back to the present, and a final look around the trade stands (selling all sorts of desirable stuff from dyed fibre to fine fleece and equipment) and a last cup of tea before heading homewards into the setting sun.
Thanks to all who took part, especially Hilary Miller and her team of helpers, and Jenni and Bryn for our display (and Alan for the photographs).

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Another busy weekend, September 17th. & 18th.

This time we were in and around the Conwy Valley spinning and chatting to the public.
On Friday evening Val, Alan and the CamperVan pitched up at Gorjys Music Festival in Caerhûn and were joined on Saturday by Betty and Alison.  We all had a good time, as usual, explaining about textiles in general and spinning in particular.  It was interesting to meet a different set of folk from the norm:  we are often demonstrating at "country" or craft events where many visitors are already interested in spinning or weaving - or sheep.  At Caerhûn, they come for the music and are sometimes surprised to meet handspinners.  We had a great display of handmade items for visitors to look at, thanks to Val and Alan and their pin weaving frames, and Val had brought naturally dyed fibres, equipment and lots of other things all carefully labelled.  Betty and Alison brought themselves, and their spinning kit.
Alison was driven away by the midges in the evening, but everyone else stayed for the music under the stars.

And then on Sunday, many of us joined the joyful throng at Pensychnant Conservation Centre & Nature Reserve, just outside Conwy itself, for their first Wool Sunday.  This was a spectacularly successful event and a chance just to sit, spin and natter to friends.  Tea and cake, talks and walks, stalls and a whole marquee of things.... a butterfly release.... sunshine.... what more could one ask?  Thanks to Jenny Pritchard and her friends at Pensychnant for the organisation.  More details about the Centre at

Monday, 21 August 2017

Gwrych Medieval Fair, August 20th. 2017

(two posts in a week.... very unusual!)

We go to some interesting places in our lives as spinners, weavers and dyers:  Gwrych Castle is one such, and it's getting more interesting all the time.  The castle was built in the early 1800s in "mediaeval" style, but later fell into disuse.  In the 20th century it became increasingly derelict but in 1997 a Trust was formed to preserve the site and as much of the castle as possible.  Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust now has a 25-year lease on 5 acres of the site, and runs several public open days a year.
Their Medieval (no "a" for some reason) Fair is becoming an annual event - we were there last year, on the terrace with Val and Alan and the trusty camper van to which we tether our stand.  Unfortunately Val and Alan were away this year, so we apologised to the Trust and said we could attend only if we had somewhere to hammer in tent pegs to secure the gazebo.  They promised us a nice spot on the main field with the re-enactors.  However, following a freak gust of wind on the Saturday, several traders were forced to leave taking their twisted and wrecked tents with them -  leaving a prime pitch for us, right in the middle of the action next to the mead seller, with the best of the sunlight all day (until it rained, but that was much later).

Jenni and the display in the gazebo.

The "authentic" side of the field, demonstrating living in the early Middle Ages,  armour and clothing from the Wars of the Roses (and knightly children's games).

The other side of the field, with lots of interesting things to buy - and the most futuristic "gazebo" ever?

After seeing some very anachronistic stuff at the recent Conwy Tournament, I suggested that we might just demonstrate things more in keeping with the mediaeval period - one thing led to another, and here are Jenni and I all dressed up:
Photograph courtesy of Noël Carter.
Jenni has her beautiful (expensive?) top-whorl spindle, and I have my handmade clay-weight-on-a-stick.

We had a lot of compliments (Making an Effort is obviously a good thing) and several of the serious re-enactors came for lessons in drop spindling and braid weaving.
As always, there was lots of interest from members of the public. There was also, as there sometimes is, a fair bit of confusion between "spinning" and "weaving", which we were able to put right.  And some folk genuinely do not know that wool comes from a sheep and cotton is from a plant, and that they are not the same thing at all.  We like to think that we were able to explain the differences and send everyone on their way fully enlightened.
Betty joined us in the afternoon, but by this time I had forgotten about my camera - so no more photographs.  Not even of the genuine Viking cat - a grey and white Norwegian Forest Cat sitting in a harness, graciously making friends with all and sundry.  I want one.  But I would need a mortgage.
The weather was kind until the last hour, when it tipped down and everyone scurried to take down their dripping tents without shooting too much water into their luggage.  Jenni now has the job of drying our gazebo in her barn.  And I have discovered that a) it's easy to work in a long skirt if you hitch it up, and b) linen and ramie dry incredibly quickly.
Many thanks to Mark and Robin for inviting us, to our fellow participants for their interest and welcome, and of course to Jenni and Betty for their sterling work on our stand.