Saturday, 1 September 2018

Greenfield Valley Heritage Craft Day

Our last outside gig of the season, and a rather quiet one compared with Gwrych Castle (3,000 visitors there, and we probably spoke to most of them).
The Greenfield Valley between Holywell and Bagillt is chock full of history, from Basingwerk Abbey at the bottom of the hill to St. Winefrede's Well and shrine at the top, with many old industrial sites inbetween.
Greenfield Heritage Craft Day was held in the old farmstead, which has been lovingly restored to include not only the house and barns but the gardens, waterwheel, smithy and piggery.  There are real live animals, including real, live (sleeping) pigs, sheep and a questing duck.
We had a lovely welcome from the organisers, who lent us a gazebo (ours is temporarily out of action) and allowed us to park our cars close to our pitch - always a blessing when you have loads of awkward stuff to carry.  The weather was warm and overcast, but there was no wind - which is also a blessing, considering how floaty and flappy textile things can be.
Sadly, there were not many visitors:  another event was taking place up the road in Holywell, with major attractions including a Beatles tribute band. How could we compete with that?
However, although the quantity of visitors might have been small, the quality was high and we had lots of interest in our display and activities.  Ann demonstrated weaving, and carded colourful rolags with the children for Betty to spin into bracelets and bookmarks.  Some folk were even brave enough to have a go with drop spindles (thank you to our Woodfest Wales friend for these).
The lovely blacksmith on site made yarn threading hooks for the three of us - very kind indeed.  We were even supplied with cups of tea and coffee by the centre staff, and the gardeners gave Betty some seeds of Dyers' Rocket.  Betty also made some impressive nettle string under instruction from the "monk" in the white gazebo (just visible in the photographs below).
A nice little corner for our stand, with a view to the gardens and the monastic gazebo.

Thanks to Ann for loan of her smartphone to take the photographs.


Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Gwrych Castle Medieval Weekend, August 18th. & 19th. 2018

Another action-packed weekend for the Guild at Gwrych Castle in Abergele.
Val, Betty and Alison entered into the spirit of the "Medieval" theme, and demonstrated low-tech. spinning for two days with scarcely a break for meals.  Our stand was in an excellent spot up on the terrace, right on the itinerary of the Castle Tour, and hundreds of people stopped to talk to us.  We lost count of the number of times we had our photographs taken, and were very grateful not to be out in the blazing sun.
We had a beautiful variety of naturally dyed fleece and dyeplants for the public to see, courtesy of Val, and we kept to our drop spindles in accordance with the period (no modern spinning wheels with carbon fibre bearings for us this weekend!).  Betty came to join us on the Sunday with the star of the show - a Great (or Walking) wheel.
There was hardly time to look round the rest of the event: re-enactment of medieval living and armed combat, plant sales in the formal garden, birds of prey, horses, traders....
Many thanks to the Gwrych Castle Trust for inviting us.  Have a look at their website and try to support their events if you can - they have just bought the castle and need all the help they can get.

Entering into the spirit of the thing.

An elegant demonstration of long draw spinning!
Perhaps we should make some medieval-style hangings to disguise our gazebo next year.


Woodfest Wales, July 2018

Val writes:
"Woodfest on the 28th and 29th July this year proved to be as popular as ever for both Abergele Guild and the public alike.  On Saturday, Jenni, Kate and Val spent a relaxing day talking to the public, demonstrating peg -looming and spinning. Other Guild members attended on the Sunday. A gentleman from Huddersfield made a generous donation of hand made drop spindles for the Guild to use . The wood turners from The West Riding obliged in turning Val's 4 year old seasoned piece of Sweet chestnut wood into a beautiful and useful spindle whorl and she was very grateful. Jenni left her peg -loom weaving for the Sunday Guild members to continue with. Alison called in to see us, having set up on Friday. Thanks to everyone for a great weekend."

Alison adds:
"Thanks also to Betty and Krithia, and Gill Linskey from Clwyd Guild, who flew the flag for us on Sunday (but didn't take any photographs?)."

Images copyright Alan Hill 2018

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Sunday Wool Combing

We had another excellent meeting on Sunday, August 12th. - lots of attendees and a demonstration, by Bryn, of English wool combs.

The combs themselves, apart from being vicious in appearance and in fact, are beautifully designed for the job.  The accompanying stand is elegant and sturdy - which is obviously important as you don't want the combs shifting unexpectedly when you're using them.
Bryn gave a clear and well organised demonstration of the techniques required to produce a sliver of fine, combed yarn suitable for worsted spinning: starting by separating the locks of clean fleece and spraying with a mixture of olive oil and water; through loading the comb in its' stand, heating the second comb and then transferring the fleece from one comb to another in a series of elegant movements!  The combed fleece is then removed, "planked", returned to the comb and drawn through  the hole of a diz into a long thin strand of fibre.
Fascinating to watch, and - I am sure - very satisfying to do.

Planking the fibre.

Using the diz.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Dyeing with Buddleia

More news from Val:
"Hi .... the picture shows gold dyed wool, alpaca and mohair fibres which were simmered in a slow - cooker with 15 Buddleia flower heads and no mordant for 4 hours.  A mixture of white, purple and magenta flowers were used. All have the same deep yellow center.
Alongside, the same three fibers but with copper sulphate as the mordant, double the previous amount of flower heads, also slow-cooked for 4 hours produced a medium brown on the alpaca and mohair and very dark brown on the wool.
The next experiments will be with alum, iron and also blooms that have 'gone over' (turned brown)."

Thank you very much, Val - what striking colours.
Sadly, my own Buddleia isn't producing many flowers this year so I shall have to leave them for the butterflies.  It will be interesting to see how the 'gone over' flowers perform in the dyebath (and what they'll smell like!).

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Calon Wlan at Hafod y Llan, Saturday July 14th.

Kate writes:

"A beautiful day for a trip to Beddgelert - sun, spinning and just me! For those of you that know me I usually have 3 children in tow. But not today, today it was just me and my wheel. Of course joined at the event by lovely and well organised Edith and lots of other keen wool enthusiasts. 
We set up our little stall and wheels in the cow shed, started spinning and waited for the crowds to find us. A steady flow of people wandered around the different stall which included some gorgeous needle felted creations, saori mor, gull skull designs and lots of fleece for sale. 
Lots of people stopped for a chat and to find out more about what we were doing. Edith sold some hand spun wool and we both enjoyed the day. 
A good opportunity for buying local fleece and sharing ideas with like minded people.
Word of mouth will help spread the word about the aims of Calon Wlan here in north wales and make it grow."

 All photographs copyright

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Natural dyeing "show and tell", and a P.S.

Bryn writes:
"A brilliant display of natural dye plants, sample cards and fleece was set out by Val on Sunday. Shirley's ice dyeing samples of yarn and textile, and Edith's fleece and yarn completed this large exhibit. 
   Val took us through the choice of mordants, methods and selection of dye vessels. Solar pots of walnuts, and ideas for fomenting vegetable prunings in buckets of water were described. This was an all-inclusive talk by a very experienced Dyer.  
   Thank you Val, it was not to be missed."

Val adds:
"You might want to mention on the blog that further to our dye Show and tell, I have had great results with Buddleia flowers and will bring fibre samples to show on Monday evening. I would urge other guild members to have a go especially as no mordant is required.
Best wishes
Val "

All images copyright 2018

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Ice dyeing

We are having a dyeing "show and tell" at our next Sunday meeting, but had a taster in advance at our  Sunday meeting on June 10th.  In view of the weather we're having the moment, ice dyeing seems a really good idea.
The full method is given below - thanks to Shirley for all of this.

The dye+ice on fabric

The results!

Shirley writes:

Materials Needed:  A range of natural fabrics such as cotton and silk.  I did use some synthetic and they came out well too.
I used plain fabric except for a couple of pieces that were left over material from curtains.  Experimenting is part of the fun of it all.

Equipment:  One rack (as used in baking but note that once used with dyes cannot be used with food again), a cat litter tray or an old washing up bowl.
A bag of frozen ice (much easier to buy from the supermarket).  A vessel such as a bucket to hold the soda ash.  Dylon cold water dyes (easily accessible in Wilkos, Stermat).  Gloves.  Spoon.  Soda Ash.  
A suitable tool (old wooden spoon or a stick) to stir the soda ash into water.  A mask – wear when mixing the soda ash and applying the dyes as they are in powder form.

Method: Using gloves and wearing mask put 1 cup of soda ash into one gallon of water, stir until dissolved. 
Place the fabric into the soda ash water and soak for 30 minutes.

Place the grill on top of the bowl/cat litter tray.  Take the material out of the soda ash water and wring out the excess.  Then fold or scrunch the material as you please and place on top of the grill.
How you arrange the material is up to you and it is good to experiment.

Now cover the material with ice.  Then using the spoon take a half teaspoon of one colour and sprinkle over the dye in a way that pleases you.  Go on to your second colour in the same way.  Use as many colours as you would like.  Best not to put too many colours in one area as it will turn to a muddy colour.  Some say it is best to use three colours.  I can’t remember exactly how many I used but I did keep them separate though it was nice to see the colours blended where they met.  In the pictures you will see how I covered my fabrics with the ice and dyes.

Stand back and wait until all the ice has melted.  Then, using gloves, rinse out the material until the water runs clear.
You can then use this material for projects – such as book making or a needle case and as a base for machine embroidery.

Have Fun.

Abergele Hospital FĂȘte, June 23rd.

Val writes:

A very pleasant afternoon of spinning and talking to the public was enjoyed by Jenni, Betty and Val on Saturday at Abergele Hospital Fete. This was in aid of The League of Friends. Our host was Mary Lyneham. 
This is a popular annual event and was well attended. The glorious sunshine and a relaxed atmosphere was enhanced by the music of the Silver Youth Band. They were very interested in Jenni's spinning when they came over for a chat. Plenty to see including ample cakes,  excellent variety of plants for sale, local crafts and also vintage fire engine.

Photographs copyright A. Hill 2018

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

How to be in two places at once?

Our recent Sunday meeting in Betws yn Rhos coincided with a gig demonstrating spinning and weaving at the Rhosesmor Heritage day.  Those of you who know the area will realise that Betws and Rhosesmor are about 20 miles apart, but our Guild has expanded in number recently so being in two places at once is perfectly possible.
Ten members met in Betws and had a good day doing their own textile-y thing (photographs, anyone?), or so I'm told.  I was in Rhosesmor with Val, and we had a really good time.

Rhosesmor is a small village in the hills above Holywell, with houses scattered widely across common land overlying the old lead mines.  The Heritage Day was the culmination of a National Lottery-assisted week at the primary school, with events for the local schoolchildren and public.  Ysgol Rhos Helyg is well appointed, as they say, with gardens, allotment and a timber round house complete with stockade - this week it was also home to a fascinating Celtic (Iron Age) living history demonstration.  I could have spent all day there.....
The Abergele Guild "pitch" was in the school hall with the Heritage collections (horse brasses, memorabilia, model farm to name but a few).  Thanks to Val we had a fine display of naturally dyed items, which generated a lot of interest.  We did a lot of talking to the public, of course, but managed to get quite a bit of spinning and weaving done as well.  We were also well entertained by the history videos, the children's choir and a group of local folk singers who rounded off the day in fine style.
"Thank you very much" to Penny and her team for inviting us (and for the free cups of tea!) - we hope to see you all again next year.

Alison caught standing to attention after limbo dancing under the table to put up the  insurance certificate.

 Val looking very relaxed, waiting for the crowds.
A somewhat overexposed shot of the dyeplants and samples...

...and a much better photograph of the table.  Thank you, Val.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Navajo plying and fancy yarns workshop

A very brief note as I'm a bit pushed for time (if anyone wants to add to this, please feel free - just email me at the Guild address with your comments).
An amazing day on Sunday, May 13th., with Chris Jukes and Anne Campbell learning some foolproof ways to produce a bit more than your average 2-ply yarn.  Not only 3-ply chaining, but 4 and even 6-ply - useful for our own handspun and also for jazzing up commercially spun yarns.  And then learning how to do a straightforward wrapped yarn.
Loads of people doing yards of spinning, lots of new members, cake...... what more could you ask?

This is from Di Bruce:

“As a relatively inexperienced spinner I gained both practical and inspirational skills from Chis and Anne’s workshop. I learned about the benefits of using navajo plying to quickly produce yarn with only one bobbin, as well as how to produce funky art yarn from core spinning and wrapping techniques. I became immersed in experimenting with colour and texture like never before in my spinning and came home with samples that are already urging me to raid my own stash with more confidence and creativity. Many thanks to the providers and organisers for making this possible. No more drooling at the yarns on Etsy....instead I will produce my own!

My only regret is that I didn’t circulate to view the lovely yarn produced by others from the varied stash we were offered during this most enjoyable workshop. 

For me the sun shone both outside and in this Sunday.”


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Friendship Day, April 8th. 2018

Our Friendship Day dawned fine and sunny, and grateful thanks are due to all the people who gave up the chance of a day in the garden to come and visit us in Betws yn Rhos.  We were delighted to see so many visitors, and particularly pleased to welcome several new members.
The hall was a hive of activity with spinning wheels whizzing and portable looms.... looming.  Once again, Chris Jukes-Bennett brought her stunning collection of drop spindles and demonstrated her supported spindles.  She also gave some useful tips on chain plying (a.k.a. "Navajo" plying) - I for one had never thought of trying it with a drop spindle.  We are looking forward to a full workshop with Chris in the near future.
Our display of work was bigger and better than ever before, with an emphasis on weaving.  The Guild Challenge on the theme of "triangles" attracted a modest number of entries, but the standard was very high.
A  new feature this year was a table displaying artisans' books, including Bryn's work for her Certificate of Achievement, which was universally admired.
As usual, there were plenty of opportunities for some retail therapy - from our own stash-and-equipment sale to the professional trade stands.  Thanks to Kath and Annie of Mam a Mi, Krithia of Anvil Pottery, Barbara Ennis and Kathryn Parry for providing such lovely things to tempt us.  And of course there was Jenni's now-traditional Tombola, which attracted a lot of business - one very lucky young lady won three prizes!

Many thanks are due to those who worked so hard to make sure the day ran smoothly.  Special thanks to Bryn and Jenni for all their hard work beforehand, during and after the day,  and - on the day itself - to Margaret; to Val and Edith on the sales table; Alan, Betty and Di in the kitchen, and all those who stayed behind to clear the hall and sweep up.

Before the crowds arrive...

Display of work, including Triangles.

.. and the usual Cake Picture.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Poppy Factory is now closed.

Thank you once more to all who contributed to our .... contribution ... to the Wonderwool Wales Curtain of Poppies.  We have made four and a bit "strings" of red poppies and of white.  They are remarkably difficult to photograph, but here's the best I can do.  Perhaps someone will take some pictures at Wonderwool later in the year.

Thanks to Margaret, Bryn, Di, Val and Sheila for their hard work.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Notes from the Poppy factory

 This year being 100 years since the end of the First World War, Wonderwool Wales has initiated a Centenary Textiles project.  The aim "is to produce a Community Textile Installation", with members of the public making textile poppies to commemorate those who died between 1914 and 1918.  The Abergele Guild has been working away, producing not only the traditional red Remembrance poppies but White Peace Poppies as well (which remember everyone, including civilians, who die in all conflicts past and future).
Patterns are provided for knitting and crochet, and for "cutting out" fabric to make the flowers:  and we are being very helpful (!) and attaching our poppies to i-cords of green wool.  The resulting strings of poppies will be posted off to Abergavenny for JaneVeevers to assemble into a curtain with all the other contributions from across the country.   (If anyone is tempted to start a poppy or two after reading this, please note that Jane wants everything to reach her by the end of March, in time for Wonderwool in April.)  All details are on the Wonderwool website, as per link above.

Bryn will be happy not to be knitting any more poppies  after this....

Alison is assembling the other various offerings - a glorious mixture of textile techniques - looks a bit like a poppy tree this way up.

It's a little difficult to photograph two 2-metre-long strings of poppies, but I hope you get the idea...?
Many thanks to Bryn, Di and Margaret, and (in anticipation) to those of you who have made poppies but haven't given them to me yet!


Thursday, 1 March 2018

Monday meeting again

Just in front of the weather ... front... we made it to Abergele on Monday evening.  Warm and cosy with lots of tea and cake, and several visitors keen to learn more about spinning and weaving.
Diana, who hasn't been weaving for very long, brought in a very nice piece to show us (the colours are a little subdued in the photograph).
She writes:  "Here is a photo of my throw....woven on my Saori Piccolo with a pre-wound lavender cotton warp,and yarn from charity shops....mostly acrylic I think.
I am glad I shared my you a warm feeling when people give nice feedback! I learn a lot and get inspired from others’ work too...and that is surely what membership of a guild is all about."
Well said!

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.