Friday, 24 August 2012

Opening Statement

Firstly apologies for not updating the blog last week: I was away - not with the fairies but with best buddy Frances exploring the West Country, and trying to steer well clear of anything related to computers.  Everything else, though, we enjoyed in abundance:  good friendship, tea & cakes, Gertrude Jekyll gardens at Hestercombe and Barrington, a boot full of willow collected from Musgroves, and local cider and cheese – a winning combination.  We also enjoyed our first go at using a peg loom, weaving the rug opposite in the hotel room over 2 evenings. 

We certainly got some strange looks from chamber maids and hotel staff coming in with a peg loom and leaving skeins and balls of wool around the room as we worked.  It took just a couple of hours on each of two evenings to complete this, our opening statement in rug-making terms. I could never see how a peg loom could work, until we lifted the first set of pegs and slid the weaving down the warp threads.  Even then it didn’t seem real.  Would this really hold together?  As you can see it certainly did, and now I can’t wait to make a bigger one, perhaps even using some of my mega yarns. 

This small but epic production is on a linen warp and comprises fleece from a sheep called Noggin, sadly now in the Great Sheepfold in the Sky.  It represents the whole gamut of fibre preparation from washing and carding the fleece to spinning, plying, dyeing and weaving.  My Noggin rug yarn was dyed with plant dyes only.  If you’re interested, from top to bottom (up to down) they area;  exhausted woad; exhausted Brazilwood; woad over weld, dyers’ greenweed and exhausted dyers’ greenweed, Brazilwood, woad, pear leaves modified with iron water, Golden Rod, Golden Rod with pretty exhausted woad, medium-exhausted Brazilwood and exhausted woad. 

It’s given me encouragement to get plant-dyeing again before the dyers’ greenweed and Golden Rod are completely over in the garden, so I’m busy washing fleece on sunny days – a beautiful Leicester cross with lustre picked up from The Farm Animal Sanctuary stand at Fibre-East.    I’ve already got a haul of my own madder root, grown from seed and left for Jenny Dean’s suggested 3 years before harvesting. 

My bedtime reading in the hotel, after excited bouts of weaving, has also inspired me onwards. It was from Jenny Dean’s blog: the three entries on Anglo-Saxon dye experiments, in which she used only plants, including to produce the alum mordant replacements, and came up with a fantastic array of colours.  From a kitchen now scented by coloured willow, plants cut for dyeing and yarn waiting for its transformation, here’s wishing you all a similarly colourful and productive week ahead. 

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