Spring 2022

February saw Guild members meeting in person at the Methodist Church in Diss after a period of two years, due to the pandemic. During this time Guild members participated in Zoom meetings, met up in various members’ gardens during the summer months and have kept in touch via the wonderful, monthly newsletter that Pam and her daughter Kathryn produced.

However resuming our monthly meetings again in February was wonderful and we were pleased to see current and new members. Everyone who attended bought something to the ‘show and tell’ that they had been doing during the last few months. These items included knitted and woven items, hand spun yarns, felted bags as well as embroidery using threads dyed at the Indigo workshop held last Autumn. Members were particularly interested in the hand spun yarn, dyed using purple basil, which Karen showed us.

March has seen Diss Guild participating at the Makers Festival along with five other regional Guilds. The Norfolk Spinners Weavers and Dyers had a stand for three days at the Forum in Norwich and volunteers from the Norfolk Guilds helped to man the stand and demonstrate a variety of skills. Members from our Guild demonstrated back strap weaving, Inkle weaving, weaving on a four-shaft loom, stick weaving and spinning. Mary’s Covid coat was exhibited at the stand along with Pam’s hand spun, hand knitted angora scarf and Anne’s hand spun, natural dyed, knitted and felted bag.

Mary’s coat, which used hand spun, natural dyes and different knitted patterns, was much admired. Mary gave an interesting talk to the Guild at the March meeting on the different knitting techniques used, the natural dyes and mordents she used to dye the fleece and hand spun yarn. She went on to describe how she assembled the coat once she had knitted her samples. Mary bought a wonderful array of knitting pattern books to show us and to explain where the patterns came from.

Summer 2019

We have had a very busy summer 2019, and the website fairy has fallen behind in her updates. July’s meeting was about spinning cotton, and most members attending had a go, although they all agreed it was very different and considerably harder than spinning wool.

August’s meeting was somewhat larger than normal as we welcomed Amanda Hannaford to talk about her experiences teaching spinning cashmere in Afghanistan and yak in Tibet. She illustrated her talk with hundreds of wonderful pictures of the people she met and the places she went.

While Amanda was visiting, some members had a chance to learn from her at a workshop focused on english longdraw. After first carding our rolags, we then went on to spin them. Despite several attendees never having spun longdraw before, by the end of the session, everyone had managed at least a few good drafts and were prepared to go away and practise at home.

Amanda also spent the day with us at the RBST wool day at Melsop Park Farm, showing us what to look for in a raw fleece, and examining and commenting on examples both from the farm and brought in by local sheep owners. Many of us came home with some wooly stash enhancement.


RBST East Anglia Wool Day. August 31 2019

Saturday August 31, 10:30-16:00

Melsop Farm Park, Ellingham Road, Scoulton, Nr Watton, Norfolk
NR9 4NT website

Event page on Facebook


Connecting Wool Producers with Spinners and Weavers and discovering how we can promote wool from East Anglia.

If you’re a wool producer, come and find out the real value of your fleeces! If you work with wool, meet wool producers and buy rare breed fleeces.

£12 admission – includes entry to the park, buffet lunch and talks from the Rare Breed Survival Trust.

This year we are excited to announce Amanda Hannaford will also be speaking.

Amanda Hannaford has had 35 years experience as a handspinner, took her Asscociation Certificate in 1997 and a City and Guilds Stage1 teaching certificate 2000. She has been teaching ever since and has travelled all over the UK, Europe and more recently to Afghanistan and Tibet to share her knowledge. When she first started hand-spinning, there was very little in the way of ready-processed fibres available to the public, so naturally she used the fleece that were available locally in Cornwall. Therefore she has had many years experience in skirting, sorting and washing fleece for hand spinning. She has had many beautiful fleece from a wide variety of breeds through her hands, as well as the not-so-nice, and occasionally the downright awful that is only fit for the compost heap or bean trench. When she visits us Amanda hopes we will provide her with several different local and rare breed fleece that she can open out and discuss with us, explaining the good and bad points of each fleece through a spinner’s eyes. She can point out exactly what a handspinner would look for, how they best like the fleece to be presented and what they might make from its fibre.


Tickets are £12 per person and booking is essential. For more information or to book, contact Mary Watkins at: marydoddswatkins@hotmail.com

Payment by bank transfer (details given upon booking) or cheques made out to RBST East Anglia Support Group

April 2019 – Natural Dyeing workshop, and needle felting

This month we moved venue to Mary’s garden so some members could enjoy a natural dyeing workshop run by Kally Davidson. Kally brought along samples of yarn she had dyed from plants she found in Mary’s garden on a earlier visit, as well as some other examples of her work.

Those of us participating in the workshop were given small pre-mordanted skeins of yarn and were told to go around the garden collecting plant matter to layer in the jar with our yarn. Once we were finished, the jar was filled with boiling water, and we were told to leave it in a warm place for as long as we can manage before we get impatient and want to peek!

We also did some more instant gratification dyeing, and made dyebaths from ivy and applewood from the garden, as well as flowers brought along by participants, including daffodils, dandelions, and marigolds. We experimented with removing the green parts of the flower to see if it made a difference, and Kally explained how colour can be modified by using iron or copper. We all had a wonderful day and learned so much.


Those not participating in the workshop also had a great time. They stayed inside out of the rain and learned about the Bugs and Blossoms project, which is part of the Waveney and Blyth Festival, and aims to promote awareness of our native insects and plants, many of which are under threat and in decline, and to encourage people to notice, care and take positive action. Diss Guild members will be creating a textile based exhibit, making bugs and blossoms encompassing a variety of media and techniques. Work was started on making needle felted bugs and blossoms.

March 2019 – Favourite ways to prepare fibre for spinning

Members shared their ideas on fibre preparation, including opinions on scouring and/ or washing fleece prior to spinning. Some members preferred to spin “in the grease”, but it was generally agreed that excess dirt and
chemicals needed to be removed. Some of us like to use washing up liquid, others use anitbacterial handwash.
Mary had attended an AGWSD Summer school on fibre preparation, and had a comprehensive file of tips and techniques. Mary ran briefly through what to look for when choosing a fleece. The “Ping” test is most revealing.
Various methods for opening up fibres were looked at, flick carding, combing with a dog comb or dog brush etc.

February 2019 – Cables and colourwork

The first half of the meeting was spent discussing proposals for the Association AGM. After this was dealt with, we moved on to fibre!

First we discussed cables; different ways to work them, including without a cable needle, and mock cables, and how working cables at the selvedge of a piece of work gives a nice neat edge. We also talked about converting celtic knots into cable patterns. Slightly unrelated to cables, but still on the theme of threads crossing over one another, we discussed sprang and looked at a wonderfully stretchy bonnet that had been made from handspun using sprang.

After this, conversation moved on to colourwork. Two colour knitting using two hands was discussed, as well as different ways of dealing with floats in knitted colourwork. Then we talked about different ways of using colour in our knitting, pairing a very colourful space dyed yarn with a neutral to showcase the colours, samples of all these techniques were passed around.

2019 Norfolk Maker’s Festival

As in previous years, when it was named ‘Maker’s Month’, guild members attended this event to demonstrate our crafts.

On the opening day of the event, the RBST brought along some rare breed sheep to demonstrate sheep shearing. February is a little chilly for naked sheep, so some of our members kindly provided them with coats, sewn from fabric handwoven by the public during previous years’ events.

We demonstrated spinning, weaving, and kumihimo alongside the four other Norfolk guilds, and at times our stand was completely surrounded by interested members of the public.

There was also a gallery area displaying the work of local fibre artists, including some pieces by guild members.

It was a very enjoyable event, with lots to look at and so many different people to talk to, and we look forward to participating again next year.

September 2018 – Fancy Yarns

Kim Morgan from the Saori Shed in Diss gave a wonderful talk and demonstration on how to make fancy yarns. She begun by showing how she uses the drum carder to mix various types of fibre, ‘sandwiching’ the lumpy stuff between layers of smoother fibres before feeding in. Then she demonstrated how she spins different yarns from these batts, showing how to make a corespun yarn, and various ways to ply the amazingly textured singles this makes.

She brought along many examples of different art yarns, some of which had been woven in the Saori style.

Thank you Kim for a wonderfully interesting and inspirational talk!

 

 

How to use a drum carder: Part 3, blending fibres

This tutorial was originally published on vampy.co.uk all the way back in 2009, and has been updated slightly for use here.

This tutorial will show you how I use my drum carder to blend different colours and fibres to make batts. If you don’t already know how to use your carder, check out my first post on the subject about the basics first, as it contains a few tips on how to get the best from your carder.

In this tutorial I am working with commercially dyed merino tops, and sparkle in the form of trilobal nylon (sometimes called firestar) and angelina. Any commercially prepped fibre can be used in this way. If you are wanting to blend any fibres with raw fleece, it’s easiest to first prepare the fleece as shown in this tutorial before moving on to blending.

I won’t be talking about colour or fibre choices, simply the mechanics of using the carder to get the results you want. There is plenty of information online about which fibres work well together, and the book ‘Color in Spinning’ by Deb Menz contains great in-depth information and explainantions about colour theory and selecting colours for your fibre.

My first batt is for a swap partner who previously won some batts in a competition I ran. She asked for another batt that would go with these existing batts so she could use them all in a project together. I decided to go with deep reds and black, with a little yellow, and lots of gold sparkle. I wanted the batt to be fairly well blended, but not a completely even colour all over. Here are the colours I decided to use:

2

(as an aside, the table I use for my carding in these pictures is a knitting machine table, it’s exactly the same width as the carder, and has space either side for my fibre and tools…and it cab easily fold down so it doesn’t take up too much space)

Once you have picked your fibre, you need to get it ready for carding. My eureka moment with this came when I realised that commercial tops aren’t a long sausage of fibre as I’d originally thought, but are in fact a flat sheet of fibre, folded or rollled up. To spread the fibre out to run it through the carder, you just need to find the join, and flatten the fibre out:

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This will give you a lovely sheet of fibre with all the individual fibres running parallel. Place the fibre in the feed tray of your carder:

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You will notice that the fibre doesn’t reach the edges of the tray. This is where your other hand comes in, as well as using it to gently guide the fibre into the tray, you can also stretch the fibre out so it fills the full width of the drum. Once you’ve got it started, it will continue to follow the same path, so you’ll only need that hand to guide rather than spread the fibre too. Remember not to pull on the fibre, just hold it gently and guide it along as it gets pulled in.

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I normally use around a 30-50cm length of tops at a time…shorter if I want a more blended batt, so I can get thinner layers of different colours.

When you’ve finished with the first section of tops, repeat the process with your other bits, alternating colours each time. When you come to add sparkle, you won’t need to use anywhere near as much as you would do wool. In this batt I put in 3 or 4 layers of gold trilobal nylon, using about this much each time:
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Even this fairly small amount adds a lot of glitz to the batt…here it is on the carder:

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After a few layers of fibre, the carder will start to look full, the fibre on the main drum will be getting close to the top of the teeth. In fact, it’s nowhere near full, it just needs squishing down. Run a bristle hairbrush over the drum while turning the handle, and this will compress the fibres and allow you to add more. The below pic is of the drum before and after going over with the brush.

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Keep adding more layers in different colours until you’ve used up all your fibre, or until the drum is so full that even brushing it won’t allow you to fit any more on. My carder will hold up to around 110g, though I try not to make batts much larger than 80g.

When removing the batt, use your doffing tool to free a small amount fibre each time, working your way along the space between the teeth until the whole batt is no longer joined.

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Take the fibre, and roll it up away from the join. If you keep your hands close to the drum when rolling, there shouldn’t be any stray fibre remaining on the drum.

The batt currently looks a little messy and not that well blended, so it’s time to recard it to even it out. Tear a thin strip off the edge of your batt:

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The strip should be about 1/3-1/2 the width of the feed tray, or less if it’s a very thick batt. Take the strip and pull it apart from side to side, to thin it out, and make it the full width of the tray:

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Recard this strip as before, gently guiding it in with your hand while you turn the handle.

Repeat this process, tearing off strips and spreading them out, then carding them. When it’s all done, remove the batt:

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This is the effect I was looking for…blended, but not uniform, so the final yarn has patches of different colour. If you want a uniform batt, then repeat the stripping and carding process again until you are happy with the result. If you are blending different fibres (such as wool and silk), you will probably want to do 3 or 4 passes through the carder in total to get a smooth blend so you don’t come across patches of a single fibre when you are spinning.

For the next blend, I wanted to make a batt that faded from one colour to another across its width, with a little sparkle added. Here are the colours in the sequence I wanted:

a1

When I first started carding, I would have torn off thin strips of each colour and laid them side by side on the drum. While this works, it’s fiddly, and you don’t get a nice shading from one colour to the next….so these days I use the below method instead.

Card your fibre, as above, in layers. Start with the colour you want on one side of the batt, and work your way through them. I split each colour of roving in half, and put a small amount of angelina fibre inbetween the two layers of the same colour…green angelina with the green shades, blue with the blues.

When your batt comes off the carder, it should look something like this, a solid colour each side, with layers of other colours in between:

a4

Now you have to recard the batt to get the colours running across it.

As before, tear off a thin strip from one side of the batt. This time, rather than spreading it out flat, turn it on its side, so the layers of colour are running from one side of your strip to the other:

a5

Repeat for the rest of the batt. Don’t worry too much if the colours don’t match up exactly from one layer to the next, this is what gives the final batt the shaded effect. When you’ve finished, your final batt should look something like this:

a6

I hope this gives you some inspiration and the confidence to try making your own batts. Don’t be afraid to experiment with colours and textures, you may come up with something you really love!

Links to the rest of this tutorial

Part 1: The basics

Part 2 : Carding raw fleece