So … I’ve lost my tagline temporarily … because what I do from now on will no longer be ‘art textiles from the Isle of Tiree’ – though Tiree will always be a huge part of my heart and I’m sure will echo into my work for a long while yet.
But here I am, on the mainland, in Swansea, South Wales, in a new place and a rented home, rootless. Alan is Welsh, of course, but I’m a mixture of Scottish, Irish and Cumbrian – though I have learned that Cumbria is known as Yr Hen Ogledd (the Old North) of Wales.
It’s been a strange year, with so much uncertainty, decision-making, absence, then packing and the logistics – and emotions – of leaving a ten-year home and going into a furnished rental. Some of my equipment and most of my materials and books are in Northumberland (where I’ll be spending some of my time as well – another story). But I have a loom or two here, an almost working wheel, and enough fibre and yarn to be going on with. And I went to the West Wales Wool Show yesterday and came back with some Llanwenog yarn and some fibre – locally raised Shetland and overdyed British Jacob in autumnal colours. Just as on Tiree, there are a lot of sheep in Wales, and some unique breeds that I’m looking forward to learning about.
Newly made rolags blended with several colours of dyed Jacob fibre from Ewe Spinning Me a Yarn, ‘bramble’ coloured Merino/Zwartbles blend from John Arbon‘s ‘Harvest Hues’ range and some little bits of silk and locks from my treasure trove. I’ll be making more of these and taking them to Northumberland where my working wheel is living just now; I can’t wait to be spinning again.
Every Sunday I get an email newsletter from Andy Ross at Global Yell in Shetland. Today’s included a post about research into linen making in Shetland and there was a photo of a little book with a linen cover – ‘Songs of the Spindle and Legends of the Loom’.
This sounded irresistible and I went looking for it online, discovering there are a few copies for sale in antiquarian bookshops and each one is too rare and costly to contemplate. I did find treasure, though.
The whole book has been digitised and is in the California Digital Library and so available for all at The Internet Archive. It’s full of poems and prose about spinning and weaving, with delightful illustrations and woodcuts. You can really get a sense of the physicality of it even through the screen. There’s a page-turning mode so you can view the pages close up, including the tactile linen cover, and there are various formats to download.
There’s a review of the book in the Spectator Archive. This is a charming extract:
I found a quirky personal connection as well. As the review in The Spectator mentions, the linen of the cover was spun and woven in Langdale, and the first illustration in the book is a view of the Langdale valley. And one of the reasons I’ve been so quiet here is that we have been away for a while, setting up Spinners, a holiday flat in Grasmere, just a few miles from Langdale. The view in the book is almost the same one we chose for a kitchen splashback at Spinners!
As I virtually ‘thumbed through’ the book (isn’t it interesting that thumbs are also digital), I saw that the foreword was by a man named Albert Fleming, who had facilitated a revival of spinning and weaving in Langdale in the 1880s. I hadn’t known anything about the textile history of Langdale before today, but when I’m next in Cumbria I’d like to try and find out more about this. I’ll leave you with a couple of lines quoted by Albert Fleming that really resonated with me – does anyone know what this is from?
It takes the ideal to blow an inch aside
The dust of the actual
Late, but I hope not too late, my attempt at Racing Stripe for the Web Spins Challenge, working through the book Spin Art by Jacey Boggs. Racing Stripe consists of spinning a singles yarn while letting an existing yarn wrap around it in a controlled way.
I had this small arty batt carded and for the wrapping I chose a variegated cotton yarn that would sometimes contrast and sometimes blend in.
The spun singles. I ‘lost’ the striping yarn a few time in the fibre, especially to begin with. My batt was only carded once and was quite textural so I went with the flow as I drafted, resulting in some thicker parts with less wrapping and some thin, heavily wrapped sections.
I plied it – it’s supposed to be a singles but I wanted to see what would happen. It will find its way into a weaving sooner or later.
A few months ago I went on an art retreat with my spinning wheel and tried out a few of the techniques in Jacey Boggs’ book Spin Art. Since then I haven’t had time to pick it up again or practise what I learned, but Monika of red2white and Marian of Florcita are just starting a new challenge, Web Spins: ‘The aim is to improve our basic spinning and learn new spinning techniques to be able to create various types of textured yarns’. Slow spinning – one technique a month. Sounds perfect.