Woolfest 2008

Although I’ve already posted today, I wanted to write about the Woolfest before I go away or the memory will have faded. It’s a wonderful show – a combination of all the elements of fibre arts – from the animals who provide the wool to the rainbows of fleece and yarn on sale, from tools and books and dyes to so much exciting felt, knitting, crochet and weaving that you hardly know where to look next. It’s small enough to wander round twice or three times in a day, discovering new things each time – and big enough to provide a very satisfying variety of experiences. I met up with my Mum and my friend Julie and we had a lovely day.

I’ve just picked out a few things to share that were highlights for me…

Helen Melvin of Fiery Felts had curtained her stand with beautiful lengths of cloth, dyed by mordanting and then rolling up with bits of earth and flowers and leaves. This view is of the back – some of these were nuno-felted on the other side.

cloth by Helen Melvin

The Hebridean sheep (these are from Heathland Hebridean in Kent). I bought some of their lovely dark fleece to try dyeing it for felting.


These graceful alpacas from WhyNot Alpacas of Sedbergh – I love their just-shorn textures and the range of colours.


These amazing clothes, modelled by young women from Estonia, Slovakia and Cumbria, in a youth project called "From Sheep to Dress" – clothes made by hand, from Estonian Native Sheep wool, by girls from Saaremaa Island. There’s a bit about this (and some of the other exhibitions) at knitonthenet, and I found an image gallery on the web as well.

From Sheep to Dress

Finally, the gorgeous display of dyed hemp yarns from the House of Hemp.

dyed hemp yarns

I tried to be restrained but I did add a few lovely things to my stash as well as the Hebridean fleece: some beautiful undyed alpaca rovings in four different shades, a tiny skein of purple hemp yarn, some space-dyed knitting ribbon in rusts and pinks and bronzey greys, Liz Clay’s book on Nuno Felt, and a small felt-rolling mat from Jenny Pepper’s stand.

Provisional dates for next year’s Woolfest are 26th-27th June 2009 – it’s in my diary already 🙂

And now I really must go and think about what to pack!

TIF Challenge March 2

It’s April already and March has… gone – I’m not sure where. I don’t really think I’ve risen to Sharon’s challenge to pay attention to the tiny details during March, but as the month dashed on I thought about dots and spots and decided to try a small piece of shibori, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I tied some buttons into hand dyed muslin, bound some points around them and then bound the ‘tail’ at intervals. I soaked it in soda solution for a while…

tied fabric ready for dyeing

… then dyed overnight in Procion MX marine violet…

dyed fabric ready to untie

… and ended up with this …

shibori fabric

It was exciting to see what emerged, and I’m glad I managed not to abandon this month’s challenge altogether. Shibori is definitely something I want to explore and learn how to do properly. It was magical – and fun :-).

beautiful and useful

Just some things to share that have caught my eye over the last few days…

Ann Wood’s birds (and ships and spiders and horses) are always a delight but something about this arrangement of birds in progress just made me catch my breath this morning.

Which reminds me, if you like arrangements you’ll love this Flickr pool (found via Ana Ventura’s Papéis por todo o lado).

I’m still finding my way around our new camera so I was grateful for a series of tutorials for point and shoot cameras by Ellie Won (Kitchen Wench) (thanks to Magpie Ima for sharing this). I now understand a lot more about white balance and exposure compensation than I did, and I’m looking forward to learning more!

Finally there’s lots of thought-provoking stuff at Greensleeves: Sustainability in the Fiber & Textile Arts by The Worsted Witch. A lot of the things I use for art (Procion dyes, for example) or am tempted to try (like Lutradur) are, I think, derived from petrochemicals. I worry about this. But then, how many air miles does cotton clock up to get to the UK? I really appreciate sites like this that make it easier to get information about environmental and ethical issues for the choices we have to make.

safe crafts and summer challenge

Today I finished the summer challenge I’m taking part in with the Embroiderers’ Guild – we have an online Members’ Forum and a few times a year there’s a swap or a challenge – this summer it was both, as we had to make a mixed media piece for our gallery, and an ATC along the same lines to swap. This was my piece for the gallery, it’s a collage of yarn, hand-dyed scrim, silk paper and buttons on the sponge printed background I mentioned in a recent post. It was inspired by the sight of my dyeing experiments blowing on the washing line, and all the colour studies I’ve been doing for OCA Textiles 1.

mixed media collage
A Good Dyeing Day

I also spent a lot of time (too much) today, trawling the web for safe, quick, funky crafts to use at the Youth Club where I run an art/craft session. Most of the kids who come spend every evening on the street, many have a short attention span, they’re boisterous and occasionally aggressive, they’re about 13-16, and most are boys. We don’t have a huge adult to child ratio – sometimes just me and one helper in the craft area, so anything that require needles or other sharp tools is too risky. Plus we can’t do anything too messy, both because of the limitations of our space, and because the kids are easily excited and prone to decorate each other with whatever is to hand! They love little kits from the excellent Yellow Moon – tiny boxes and picture frames to decorate, anything with funky foam, miniature mugs and candles to paint – and I’m always impressed by the way these bring out their creativity. But I do also like to offer them more open-ended activities sometimes (though they prefer the kits!). I’ve decided on rolled paper beads for this week – and while I was looking at paper crafts I found a great listing at Craftzine, linking to tutorials on Flickr and elsewhere. How generous so many people are with their skills on the Web.

One thing I really want to do more of with these kids is recycled crafts, but I need to train myself to plan ahead and get people at church to collect things for us. Alan does his best to amass a goodly number of beer bottle caps and lemonade bottles during the average fortnight, but I’m glad to say he doesn’t quite generate the amount we’d need, all by himself!

a good dyeing day today

Actually, yesterday and today, since dyeing isn’t a process to be hurried. It always amazes me how the alchemy takes place and this…

dyed fabric in tray

becomes this…

dyed fabric drying

and then this…

ironed dyed fabrics

and then – who knows? could be a skirt… or a quilt…

though today was not a good quilting day. Suffice to say there was much too much unpicking of stitches involved. And tearing of hair.

Why is it that on a practice piece everything flows along without mishap but when it really matters (that would be my City and Guilds assessment) the opposite is true? I’m not being perfectionist about this, but I really don’t think I can hand in something that looks as if a demented ant did the quilting. OK, deep breath, good night’s sleep, try again tomorrow…