Monday, 9 December 2013

Spinning Sunday

With the weather being very slightly milder, conditions inside the Community Centre in Llanfair were very slightly better on Sunday, although it was still very cold.  Unfortunately, the storage heaters have not yet been repaired after last year's floods.  (Not to be confused with this year's floods, which fortunately did not get this far inland.  Some of the poor souls in Rhyl who were forced to leave their homes last week are still in temporary accommodation.  At least we didn't get the 19ft tidal surge they did on the east coast of England.)

Rather more light than heat
However, clothed in thermal underwear and thick woollies, and fortified half way through by an excellent festive lunch at the Black Lion across the road, we stuck it out and had a good day's spinning.  Our newest members are really getting the hang of things, and we were delighted to welcome back one of our founder members.
Four important stages of hand-made textile work:  sorting the fleece, spinning, knitting - and drinking tea.
We will be back in Llanfair after Christmas if the heating is fixed.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Monday, November 25th.

Another month, and another evening meeting under our belts.
Despite a bitterly cold start to the day, temperatures were almost mild by the time we arrived for our regular evening session.  Nevertheless, the warmth of the Capel was very welcome!
Our three new spinners are getting on famously, and are probably hoping that Christmas will bring a few gifts to complement their new hobby.  Hilary kindly gave an ad hoc tutorial on spotting problems with fleece (before you waste a lot of time trying to process it into spinning condition), and we didn't leave an awful lot of bits on the floor!
Thanks to Val for another delicious cake.
See you in a fortnight in Llanfair?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Three new spinners

We are very pleased to announce that our three novice spinners have all now "got it" and are spinning away like crazy.  No more lumpy-bumpy thread, but a nice even(ish), fine(ish) yarn.  Next step: plying!
We had an excellent meeting last night, with almost everyone present.  With two old members rejoining numbers are now about as high as they have ever been, and there are rumours of more interested persons out there.  Please come along to our next meetings if you're reading this - we will be in the Community Centre in LlanfairTH on Sunday, November 10th., and back in Abergele for our evening meeting on the fourth Monday of the month (for details see the Calendar of Events page)

busy hands drop-spindling and crochet-ing

a well stocked library table

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A busy weekend - Sunday.

We are not really gluttons for punishment, but we are gluttons for spinning.
After going down to Llanidloes for the All Wales meeting yesterday, we had a whole day spinning today.  This was a chance for our three newest members to have a real go at getting to grips with the basics, with considerable success.  Everyone went home with a hank of proper handspun yarn of their own making.  Congratulations to them, and we hope they will keep up the enthusiasm!  Thanks to Hilary and Krithia for helping with the teaching.
I forgot to take any photographs, but then I was busy teaching too....
We put our new vinyl banner up outside, and people saw it, and came in to find out what was going on.  So, who knows, we might persuade more people to take up spinning and weaving.  The more the merrier.

A Busy Weekend - Saturday.

An action packed couple of days this weekend:  on Saturday four of us went down to Llanidloes for the All Wales Meeting of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and on Sunday we had a Spinning Day in the little Community Centre in LlanfairTH.
The All Wales Meeting takes place every two years, and is a great chance to catch up with friends & show off our work.  We take over the Minerva Centre in the middle of Llanidloes, and set up our displays in the front showroom.  Each Guild has a generous space to fill with textile pieces made over the previous 24 months.
Sorry - not hung very straight.

A closer view of a Hilary's beautiful lace shawl..

..and a delightful "baby bag" from Kate.

Some of the work on display was quite spectacular.  Unfortunately the lighting wasn't of the best which made photography tricky.

Unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits - and, for the first time, Cake!
The Guilds are also set a "Challenge" (as opposed to a competition) on a given theme, to be assembled on a single A1 board.  This year's theme was "Four Seasons":  some chose a single season and some, like us, chose all four to inspire small textile pieces which were then assembled into a coherent whole.  Due to a combination of circumstances, many of the Abergele members were unable to participate this time, but those who could, did.

An amazing variety of work was produced:

As usual we had a very tempting set of trade stalls, where all manner of spinning, weaving and dyeing stuff was on display, together with ethically source textiles from the far East and West.

Another fixture for the "All Wales" is the guest lecture, given this year by Jim Gaffney of Textile Traders .  Jim and Diane travel all over the far east to buy traditional, hand-made textiles, and Jim told us about their memorable trip down the Silk Road from Turkestan to China.  Despite knowing only a few words of each of the languages (and no Russian) they made friends along the way and found local artisans keeping old traditions alive in each country.  Jim bravely allowed us to pass his precious hats and fabrics between us, and even to walk on the felted carpets designed for nomadic yurts.  The beauty of the work was quite astounding, and the lecture provided a real high point in an excellent day.

"Thank you very much" to all the organisers, and here's to the next meeting in 2015!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

failure to "save"

For some reason, the "save" button isn't working on the side of the blog.
This is what should be in the Stop Press box:

Our meeting schedule has changed. From October 2013 we will be meeting twice a month: once in the evening in Capel Mynydd Seion, Abergele, and once in the daytime in the Community Centre, LlanfairTH.
Evening meetings are 7-9p.m. (Fourth Monday of the month). 

Daytime meetings 10a.m.- 4p.m. (Second Sunday of the month).

PLEASE NOTE: not the third Monday and first Sunday, as previously thought.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Missed it again!

I have just read the excellent account of National Spinning In Public Day by the Llyn Guild (see blogs on the right of this page).  I am ashamed to admit that the Abergele Weavers and Spinners have missed it Again. Actually, I can't remember seeing anything about it earlier in the year and so had completely forgotten it existed.  Unfortunately, as Helfa Gelf (the North Wales Open Studios Network) is on during weekends in September my attention has been there rather than anywhere else.
Next year.... we must do something about it.  Someone please remind me!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A new year, and a new start

We held our AGM yesterday, and voted to have our evening meetings once a month in our new home in Abergele.  We will be having a regular full day meeting once a month in our old home in LlanfairTH. as well, so are looking forward to a stable and busy future.
We were delighted to welcome four new members - this must be a record for a single meeting!  Three are complete beginners, which is wonderful, and a sign of the interest in handcrafts nowadays.
Here we and they are, hard at work in our new venue:

Spinning wheel in action

- and spinners in action

The essential component of any meeting (apart from the people and the spinning wheels).

Monday, 22 July 2013

A new venue?

After much searching, we have found a new venue..... back in Abergele as befits our title.  It wasn't easy to find the ideal combination of room size, access, carpark (essential with all that stuff we carry around) and suitable dates.  Despite A Politician's remarks about a broken society, there are an awful lot of community groups around in this part of the country, all busy meeting and doing, and a lot of them do it on our traditional meeting day! 
In the past we met on a Wednesday:  one evening a week, and all the other Wednesday afternoons. Since the Guild was founded in 1985 we have used a variety of meeting places from schools to community halls, not forgetting the hairdressers' training salon at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan and that Church hall with the hole in the roof! 
In a break with the aforesaid tradition, we will be now be meeting on the fourth Monday evening of each month (unless there are major unforeseen hindrances).  Our new venue is the Hall beside Capel Mynydd Seion in Abergele, on Chapel Street.  I will publish a new link, with a map, shortly. 
Our first meeting is our AGM, so strictly speaking not "public".  However, I hope that we might offer a taster session to potential new members in the second half of the evening.
In the meantime, we are trying to reconstitute our "Summer Tour".  This was a fixture during school holidays, when members invited each other into their homes on Wednesday afternoons.  When we moved our meetings to LlanfairTH we were able to use the Community Centre all year round and so the Summer Tour went into abeyance.  I am very grateful to those members who have volunteered to offer hospitality, particularly as my own house is too small for me to reciprocate!  As the Tour takes place in members' own homes, it is open only to members and their invited guests, and could be on any day of the week:  I will not be publicising it widely on the internet. 
We have had a lot of enquiries from potential new spinners over the summer, so perhaps the Abergele Guild is heading for a new era with a new venue and new members?!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Natural dyeing day.

On Sunday 14th. July we were Bryn's guests for a dyeing day:  the glorious weather allowed us to spend the entire day outside, where Bryn and Krithia set up a table of pots, pans, gas burners and assorted kit.  We brought our own fibre, already mordanted with alum, and Bryn and Krithia provided red onion skins, madder, logwood and rhubarb root (a mordant and a dye).  A lively breeze made for some entertainment with the gas burners, but there were no actual disasters.  After simmering the fibre in the dyepots (and making sure that the madder didn't get above 60deg. C) we tried the effects of "moderating" the dyes with vinegar or ammonia - with some interesting results.
We were surprised to get such a rich brown from the red onion skins - apparently a yellow or a green are more common.  The madder yielded a beautiful light purple, but then we realised that we had used soft water - hard water is recommended if you want the true madder red.

Red onion skins - which gave a deep brown dye on this occasion.

An amazing deep, deep purple from logwood.

Red onion skin dye!

Beautiful natural colours: logwood, madder (a lovely violet on this occasion as we used soft water "by mistake"), rhubarb and red onion skins.
As a bonus, Bryn had taken inspiration from India Flint (link to India's blog on the righthand side of this page) and prepared some mordanted fabric for us to try "bundle dyeing":  we carefully placed rose petals, red Kentish cob leave and fragments of dyed fibre on the fabric and then rolled, sprayed with water, rolled and sprayed until we had bundles of stuff which we secured with rubber bands.  Bryn kindly steamed the bundles and returned them with instructions to leave them for three months before unwrapping!  Can we wait that long?  (My bundle is quietly cooking inside a plastic bag on the dashboard of my car, and the colour is gradually leaching through to the outside of the fabric.)
Many thanks to Bryn and Krithia for making the day such a success, and thanks to Bryn for allowing us to share her lovely garden.  Congratulations to our newest recruit for picking up the techniques of handspinning so quickly!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Woodfest Wales, 2013

We were at Woodfest Wales for all three days, and had a great time.
Five of us shared the duties over three days, and brought our own hand made textiles, fleece, dyed and spun yarn to enhance the "core" display of spinning and weaving equipment.
The weather was good, and brought out the crowds - most of whom passed through the Education Tent where we had a good pitch which was easy to see and had plenty of room for people to stand and watch.  Lots of interest, lots of intelligent questions (and hardly any silly ones!) and lots of chat.
Adults and children alike were fascinated by the process, although some of them think that the drive band (the bit of string which goes round and round) is the yarn that's being spun.  They don't think that any more, though!
One or two brave souls had a go themselves, and one lady mastered the art of the drop spindle in seconds having struggled at home on her own for years.  People came from far afield, from Mid-Wales to Cheshire and the Wirral, and we dutifully passed on details of their local Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.  We may even have gained some new members ourselves.

The only downside of being so busy at a big show like Woodfest is that we don't really get much chance to look round it ourselves, but most of the usual suspects were assembled including bodgers, chainsaw carvers, pole climbers, ferret handlers, Shire horses, carriages....... makers of furniture, clogs, baskets, mirrors... the list goes on and on.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Abergele WSD flock visit

Making history for our Guild, we got out in the field with the Shetlands whose fleece we've been spinning for the last few years. Jenni's flock was excited to see us, too. Perhaps it had something to do with the interesting buckets of feed she was bringing them. For once, the sheep flocked towards the people, providing opportunities to examine the lambs, depth of coats, stroke their hard heads and hear about the lambing statistics this year. Lambs were strong and showed all the colouring variations of their type:  panda-eyed Yuglets, tan Moorits, dark Gulmogets with white bellies, a Mirkface with a white stripe and dark patches on the face. Then there were the rams, tan Moorits with surprising black depths to their fleece.

Walking the fields in bright sunshine and long views down the valley, it was great to be listening to the sheep and dogs. Back indoors there was an impressive display of rosettes and show photos,and a welcome tea.  


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Some new links to inspect.

For those of you who don't do Facebook, or who haven't realised that by clicking on the "Home" button on the top right of our Facebook page you can see some interesting extra stuff: will take you to the blog of Tom, an expatriate Dutchman living in England.  Believe it or not, he darns things.....but he also knits, and his blog has lots of links to follow.  He writes about the Sanquhar glove pattern, which our late member Jean de Salis used to knit.  Jamieson & Smith, well known to all I'm sure.  - fairly obviously, a week's festival of wool in Shetland.    Textile artist - you  may have seen her exhibition in Ruthin Craft Centre some years back.
Have fun (and watch this space for a report of our visit to Jenni's flock of pedigree sheep)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Sunday Spinning, May 12th

A small but select gathering on yet another cold, wet Sunday.  Lots of spinning and chat, and lovely cake (thanks to Jenni & June)

Jenni & Bryn getting some work done

Jenni plying yarn from her own sheep on an Ashford "Joy" wheel

Bryn's plying on an Ashford traditional wheel. (Bird's eye view - stray toes removed with the clone brush)

Krithia spinning Shetland fleece, also on a Traditional Ashford wheel

Superwash marino for a baby's shawl on Alison's "Traveller" wheel

A portion of gorgeous red silk on Betty's beautiful wheel. (I think it might be a Timbertops???)

Our next treat is a visit to Jenni's flock of pedigree sheep, and then we meet again in a month's time for more spinning, weaving and cake.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Abergele Guild is on Facebook!

I tried to think of a snappy title for this post but failed, as you can see. 
Despite reservations (do we need a blog and a Facebook page?  do I really want to spend even more time on the Internet than I do already?)  we have decided to join Facebook.  The link to our nice new page is at the top of the Links section on the right.  You may also click here while this post is in view, although of course it will work its' way down the screen and eventually fall off at the bottom. I haven't discovered how to put one of those blue Facebook buttons on this (Google) blog, but maybe there's a way.
The page has been running for 24 hours, and has already attracted a lot of traffic.  The poor old national Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers had only had 15 "likes" in three and a half months when I visited their page yesterday - if we carry on at the rate we are doing we will pass that in less than a week.  However, I hope that people visiting our site will also see what the Association are up to on their page.
So we hope that our venture into the world of social networking will raise our profile and that of our craft, and may also attract some visitors - and even some new members?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Friendship Day, Sunday April 14th 2013

Our Friendship Day was held in the Memorial Hall in LlanfairTH., on a day of gales and driving rain.  The weather really has been terrible this year!  Despite the storms most of our members managed to attend, and we had a number of visitors as well.  Tea and cake were available in huge quantities, so some of us saved our lunches till later.  We all managed to do a fair bit of spinning, and with a good variety of yarns on the bobbins our visitors had a good opportunity to see what we do with our time.

Fibres from "Mam a mi" (with my apologies for the glare off the polythene bags - I think the sun might have come out briefly!)

Thanks once again to Kath of "Mam a mi" for bringing her wonderfully dyed fibres for us to treat ourselves.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Fine felt scarves

Here is the first photograph in what I hope will be a fine collection of scarves made in Helen Melvin's workshop:
Sherry B.

and some more:



Friday, 22 March 2013

A Grand Day Out.

Thank you very much to the Ll┼Ěn Guild for their hospitality in hosting a "sampling day" provided by Wingham Wools.  A little group of Abergele spinners travelled to Penygroes yesterday (thanks to Hilary for driving!) in the bitter, bitter cold, and we had a very good time.  Wingham's sampling days provide a wonderful opportunity to test-drive fibre before buying - and what an excellent selection there was:  from finest cashmere to recycled plastic bottles, via merino, silk, yak, many British sheep breeds and goat - (very hairy!).  It was lovely, too, to meet up with old friends whom we hadn't seen for years.

(photo to follow - the uploading mechanism appears to have stuck)

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Sunday March 10th: silk and fine felt with Helen Melvin

Another excellent workshop, this time with our very own Helen Melvin, who showed us how to use "prefelts" to make beautiful textiles.
Helen has evolved a very effective technique using a variety of silk fabrics, commercially made prefelt and other bits and pieces which she dyes with her own natural dyestuffs to produce the most beautiful range of colours:

The prefelts, which as the name suggests are pieces of partially felted merino fibre, are manipulated, cut and reassembled with layers of silk. The assemblage is then carefully hand-felted using olive oil soap solution.  Stitching and other embellishing techniques can be used to finish.  Helen is making a line of "wearable textiles" to complement her bags and landscape pictures, and her work can be seen at Fiery Felts .
We all made at least one piece of colourful fine felt - it was lovely to have the opportunity actually to finish something! And I, for one, am very pleased to have been introduced to the use of fine plastic dust sheet instead of net to hold the pieces in place while felting.


Monday, 11 February 2013

Spinning Workshop with Ann Campbell, February 10th

Another excellent spinning workshop with Ann Campbell - this time in the smart new Sports Pavilion in Betws yn Rhos.  Thanks to Jenni Frost for arranging the venue.  Ann covered lots of topics on an individual basis, from basic skills to fancy yarns.
Thanks to Jenni also for the delicious cake, and for the photographs.