Tuesday, February 23, 2016

After the Sulk

So, after my previous posts on how much I was in love with my Loom, we recently fell out... BIG TIME :(

I'd just started a new project, and as I was tensioning it all after winding on to the fabric beam, something snapped, and it all unravelled into a pile of sadness on the floor. 

I was having a particularly black day at the time, so this didn't cheer me any. 

After a quick inspection, I got straight onto the phone to Ann at Spinwise. I ordered a replacement ratchet and pawl set, in metal, (as opposed to the flimsy, plastic one that was on there) and when that arrived I got it all fixed and retensioned. But, whilst re-assembling it, the warp and fabric beams both developed splits (insert a few choice swears here).. GGRRRR! ! !

So I fell out with it for a bit, hahaha :P

Apparently this is a common problem with Kromski Harps... not that it made me feel any better!

Last week, I decided to stop sulking and just get on with weaving something so I could use the warp up and get cracking on a new project, as I got some lovely new heddles for Christmas and my Birthday...

So this piece of fabric is called 'After the Sulk' and it was very quick, as it's a plain weave. I just used some black aran for the weft, as I'd used some rather bright hand-dyed aran for the warp.

It grew really quickly, and once I'd taken it off the loom I was unsure of what to do with the fringes, as I felt knotting them would not do the piece any justice.
After much deliberation, I decided to twist them, in pairs, then hand-felt them.

For those of you wondering how to to this, I made a little video tutorial :)

Once both sides were done, I trimmed them so they looked a little less straggly. Took me about two hours to do it, over two days as it's quite labour intensive and hard on the hands!

The extra time I spent finishing the piece was totally worth it, and I am thrilled with the result!!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Road Trip to a very special Laundrette

This week I went on a most excellent adventure with some of my Spinzilla 2015 team-mates to the Haworth Scouring Company in Bradford, the largest commission wool scouring company in the Northern Hemisphere.
This was a proper treat for all of us, and as Curtis Wool Direct were our team sponsor, we got a personal tour by none other than Martin Curtis himself.

Scouring is the process by which raw sheep's wool is cleansed to prepare it for a wide range of textile uses, and the plant in Bradford takes it through every stage, with the utmost care and attention. Not only to the wool itself, but they also care greatly about their impact on the environment, as this plant has the capacity to process up to 1 million tonnes of wool per week. Every stage is monitored, and most of the by-products are reused which in turn reduces the
amount of waste that needs to be dealt with.

This conveyor belt is where the wool starts its journey onto the scouring line, it's separated and fed into it's first bath. The water temperature, pH and detergent levels in these baths are constantly monitored...

They have a team of scientists on site that keep them in line :P

Look how dirty the water is after it's first dunking !!

This is the water after it's last wash...

.... much better :)

After it's last wash, it's fed through the dryer (where the temperature is closely regulated) and then the wool is hand sorted, to check for all kinds of impurities.

You should have seen the big pile of metal (barbed wire etc) that had been
pulled out at this stage!

This stage in the tour was *extremely* dusty, and Martin showed us a room that was set aside just to collect this extracted dust, which is then being sold on to be spread on the local fields... nothing is wasted! 
They re-purpose the suint too... some going to cosmetic companies, even some to feed prawns :D

A Woolly Storm!! 

These blending bins fill up with the scoured, blended and dried wool, which is fed through pipes and then through a rotary spreader which fills the bin evenly and helps to evenly distribute the fibres...
These fibres then go on to be packed into 330 kg bales, marking the end of the line for some of the wool, as these bales will then go on to their new homes :)

Bales and the machine that makes them

These bales then get sorted into orders and covered in different final layers of packaging as per the customers preferences... 
These then get shipped out to customers who have their own carding facilities.

After our tour of the scouring plant, we moved onto the carding plant, and to be honest this is where it all gets a bit haaaazy for me, as I was mostly off with the fibre faeries, being seduced by all the beautiful mountains of floof :D

This is the first carder... huge, noisy and A M A Z i N G

The fibre sliver that comes off this carder is worsted, and this then gets transferred to other machines that keep refining and combing until it's all processed into the type of combed tops you can get from the various fibre merchants we all know, and love :)

A 10kg bump being made...

We were treated to a fabulous lunch and Martins son, Adam, transformed a little corner of the conference centre into a little shop for us. 

It was a truly awesome day, and I cannot thank Martin, Adam and all the people involved, that made us all feel so welcome at Haworth Scouring, and a special shout goes out to all the very conscientious forklift drivers, hehehe :)

We all learned so much, and it was really something else to feel the heat and smell the smells of it all. It's so important that this manufacturing process continues to thrive and succeed, and I for one will continue to support UK wool manufacturing in any way I can. 
Yes, you may pay a little more for it, but by buying British you are supporting a proud textile heritage and also a hardworking bunch of people; from the farmers who keep the flocks, to the awesome chap who picks the barbed wire out of the freshly scoured fleece to stop it jamming the rest of the production line :)

Martin Curtis (far left) and a few of the members of Team Handspinning News UK

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


I've just finished spinning a HilltopCloud BFL Gradient, gifted to me as part of a secret Santa. I started it on a day when I was battling the Dog, and needed something to immerse myself in.
I am not a huge fan of BFL, not because I find it difficult to work with, it's just a bit smelly, especially when it warms up from handling.

At the time, I had no idea why I was drawn to it, but on reflection, it's not difficult to see why I was.

It was about control.

The top, once shaken out a bit, opened up into 4 distinct pieces, which I then split and weighed, making sure I had around 50g x 2.

Once I was happy with the balance, I predrafted (left on the pic) a whole strip out and started spinning.
After finishing the two bobbins of gradient, I just knew I wasn't going to be happy leaving them as a 2ply, so I spun up some delicious Polwarth/Tencel in a steely~blue colour to add in, to add shine and help make the yarn more robust.

The Polwarth/tencel went a very long way, as I only had about 35g of it, and still had a little left after plying the two 50g bobbins of BFL. 

Once I finished plying it, all that was left of the BFL gradient was about 6 inches of one single.

I really enjoyed this project, it was a real test of my spinning with regard to evenness and constistency... or to put it another way, my control over the fibres and my wheel.

This project has helped me realise that I can sometimes default to controlling behaviour in certain situations, which in itself is a little worrying, haha, but not so bad when directed at creative endeavours, especially when it works out like this has.

I think all of us have a little Control Freak somewhere inside of us though?