Wild Chalk: a celebration of the natural world of the South Downs

The South Downs are home to the Southdown breed of of sheep, the wool from which can be used for hand spinning. So to support the local Shout Downs national park and sheep farmers I joined several other members of my local spinning group, Woolly Umbrella, and took my skills (basic as they are) along to Wild Chalk. This free event, organised by the South Down National Park Rangers, was held in East Brighton park. Our part was to demonstrate spinning wool and encouraged people to have a go. I took along several drop spindles and a sack of washed fleece. Others brought along a spinning wheel, drop spindles and needle felting to share, plus an exhibition with some beautiful examples of naturally dyed, handspun wool. Most people were spinning the local Southdown fibre but mine, to my shame, was Texel cross Southdown.

As you can see children and adults alike really loved to watch, and most of them tried spinning from fleece to some extent or other.

I practised with a newly acquired Turkish spindle and using the Andean Plying technique even produced some reasonable 2ply.

This latch hook rug is progressing towards completion

After several years of picking it up and doing several rows and then forgetting it, I have finished going the rug. Yesterday I coated the back in dilute Copydex glue to lock the loops in place. It was a truly messy job. The Copydex was old and so had some lumps I had to try to avoid. It also send to set almost immediately unless I mixed it into the water very quickly. However this generic solution beat paying the high price of the recommended latex backing product.

The Copydex liquid dries clear.

Is saw this idea suggested on a blog and it seems to have worked fine. It took a while to dry though, so I think I diluted the glue to much. Finally, by this morning it’s safe to move, and hasn’t run into the front pile as I feared it might.

The back after it has dried

I have to see on the edging tape and then it’s done. I considered adding a Hessian backing but decided it might spoil the overall softness of the rug. I also wondered if friction with the rough Hessian might draw the wool fibres through to the back.

I’ll see how it wears. I can back it later if necessary.


Recent reviews of ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’

cropped-img_9164About ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’.

‘An outstanding read’

‘Here’s a new hardback book that’s packed with all the information a machine or hand knitter would wish to find.’

‘You’ll have no regrets, as this will be your best ever buy as a machine or hand knitter.’(Guild of Machine Knitters newsletter February 2019)

 


‘Vikki Haffenden outlines the necessary knowledge, especially of stitch construction – the basic necessity for knitting by all methods’.

‘Throughout the book the author uses very clear diagrams and photographs to explain stitch patterns, techniques and equipment’.
(Annec Cartwright in Slipknot, newsletter of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, June 2019)


 

I cannot tell you how much I adore this book’

‘Thanks to your work my eyes are open to the possibiliites of working on fresh and modern projects without having a background in fashion or textiles’
(Turtlemelon crafts, via Instagram)


 

 

Saving £50 by DIY tensioning an old Lazy Kate

For a while I’ve been annoyed by the fact that bobbins jump around on my Lazy Kate when I’m plying yarns. I’ve got an Ashford one that the bobbins lie horizontally on and another on which the bobbin sit upright, and neither are very satisfactory. Various versions of a beautiful, tensioned Lazy Kates passed infront of my eyes as I visited various shop sites, but eventually my careful nature asserted itself and I decided I would be able to do this myself. More trawling t’internet followed and finally I had gathered a few ideas for both style of equipment. So I grabbed my little Dremel tool and got started.

First was the upright bobbin version. I drilled a guide hole and screwed in a small eye loop just off centre front. Next I did the same with a small hook, but offset to the other side of centre front.

A piece of fishing wire makes an excellent brake band – same as on my Ashford wheel. Join this to the eye hook, and the other end to an elastic band that goes over the hook, and your done. Shorten the elastic band as necessary, or better still add a brake band spring at the other end. I have some on order for this very purpose.

Some tweaking if wire length and elastic band strength has given me a tensioned Lazy Kate for about 50p.

The tall Lazy Kate was a little more effort.

However, as you can see it’s much the same set up. Fishing wire brake bands go over the larger whorl and are held in place by eye hooks on one side and open hooks with elastic bands on the other. Springs will help even the tension and fiddling with the elastics lets you tension each bobbin independently. This is useful for fancy plies.

I’m still tweaking, but pleased with the result.


Featured

Hello, and welcome

Vikki_2013smallTurnedThis blog covers many aspects of textiles, but its main focus is on knitting; both hand and machine. You will find discussions on Creative Machine Knitting along with instructions for using machines, machine accessories, repairs, tips and techniques. As the blog has grown it has embraced other aspects of textiles.

Amongst my personal interest in textiles, I am also involved in ongoing, textile-related academic research.

 

Food colour dyeing

Today I wanted to dye some of my hand spun wool yarn a bright green. No natural dye I have would do this, and I didn’t have any green acid dye, (or any acid dyes at all), so I decided to use food colouring. I already knew that food colouring works as a fibre dye but did not realise that it was an acid dye, (thank you Google) so works best on wool, silk and other protein fibres that will dye with an acid dye. Acid dyes are not acid, but they require an acid such as vinegar or citric acid to attach themselves to the fibre.

Initially I’d intended to use liquid food dyes but discovered I have either thrown them out or someone had used them up, so had to resort to the paste colours I used to use for sugar flower modelling. These seemed to work fine and are quite intense, if a little harder to dissolve, (I had to squash some lumps against the side of the jug). I may use them again as they are just sitting in the cupboard at the moment.

So to prepare the yarn I soaked it in a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water for about 30 minutes. This did two jobs at once, soaked the fibres to remove trapped air and added acidity. I could have added vinegar to the dyebath instead.

Meanwhile I put some water to heat on the stove and mixed the bright leafy green I wanted from my stash of food colouring dyes.

I mixed the food colouring paste with hot water in a small jug, and added a teaspoon of salt, (this helps to level the colour and increase its take-up), stirring them well until the liquid was clear, then added this to the pan of water that was warming on the stove.

When the dyebath was ready I removed the hank of wool from the vinegar and water soak, gently squeezing it to remove excess liquid, and immersed it in the dye. The temptation to stir the yarn into the dye bath is always with us, so I gently prodded it below the surface and walked away and left it. It took about 20 minutes of gentle simmering, turning the yarn very gently once, to achieve the colour I wanted.

Because I liked the colour so much I decided to dip a second hank quickly into the dyebath so I got very pale green and then, having rinse it to check the colour, I trailed half the hank into the dyebath again and let it stay in there until it became darker. This gave me a dip dyed, ombre yarn in tones of the same green.

Post-dyeing rinses brought the brightness down a little on both hanks, but overall I was pleased at how little colour came out. I rinsed quite hot; wool can take high heat and won’t felt, as long as you don’t agitate it or put it straight into cold water. The important thing is to have the rinsing water at a similar temperature to the dye bath. Wear gloves to protect your hands during these hot rinses. To save energy you can slowly decrease the temperatures through the rinses. Never let the tap run onto the wool or it is likely to felt.

Because it was a lovely day today I hung the hanks out in the garden to dry, but you can spin dry them as long as you put them inside a mesh laundry bag or a calico bag.

Both yarns were handspun with a bouclé effect. The dip dyed one took the colour less well partly because it was from a different fleece, and partly because it should really have had an additional scour before going into the vinegar soak.