Thursday, 31 July 2014

Finger Weaving Class

I spent Monday and Tuesday in Carol James's class on Finger Weaving. I saw her on. BBC program demoing Canadian belts years ago and wanted to learn.
Here is one of her belts
And here are my two day's worth of samples! I worked very hard as did every one else in the class. Total silence, no chat at all. And sore backs all round. I also have a belt started. I shall continue working on it on the plane to Sweden and on Anne's Island next week.
The food has been very surprising. Lots of first rate fish and seafood. Tempura with prawns in a Japanese shack, scallops last night. Breakfasts in the hotel are extortionate so we ate in a cafe the first two days but then got to a supermarket and I have just had muesli with strawberries for breakfast. Debbie and Rosie have done their usual stunt. They rushed off at 0730 to get their weaving finished by 0900 when the tutor is going to start them on a major project. They are doing a three day course on colour and have learnt a huge amount.
Now I must go. I promised to try and get some bread this morning. We are making our own sandwiches. Everything opens today, the Vendors Hall, the exhibitions and people will pour in. Tonight is the catwalk show, the start of Convergence proper.

Sheep Show at Malvern

Every year there is a Sheep Show in the UK and every second year, it is held at Malvern in the Three Counties Showground. It was held yesterday for the day and Linda Scurr arrived at 0800 hours to collect me and  we had arranged her fleeces at 0830 and were eating breakfast in the open in brilliant sunshine.
Linda eating a bacon buttie for breakfast.
Then we inspected every sheep pen. There are frightful modern-bred monstrosities which look like dogs but then there are my favorites too.

A couple of Hampshire Downs.
Most of the sheep breeds had a display of spun yarn though some of it was only good for Brillo pads. The above is Wensleydale which is good. The lady who is usually present on the Leicester Longwool stand (one of my favourites) was not there but those who were took my name and email so I have hopes. I bought some pink and white stuff two years ago which was very greasy but came up magnificently when  washed thoroughly.

One problem I did solve was that of the swift purchase. Hedgehog Equipment were at the show and had a Glimakra swift for sale. It looked exactly like the one which gave me 25 years of usage so I decided that it would probably outlast me and bought one - £48.00. So I have saved £250! Well that is one way of looking at it.

By two, we were hot and tired (it was a very hot day) so we retired to my garden which is a mile away and sat and gossiped till it was time for Linda to go back and collect her fleeces.

Today I must do some gardening but I hope to wind on the Newbury Coat warp. I have lots of plans but must finish this bit of weaving first.

Monday, 28 July 2014


When we took the ferry to the Åland Islands, I was suffering from jet lag. Anne had organised a cabin for us all so I slept most of the time. This time was different. Yes we had a cabin but most of the time was spent. In what they called the nightclub, this being 0900 hours start time! Anyway the place was at the back of the boat and so we could watch us threading our way through the Islands round Stockholm. There were four large car ferries in a line with about a mile between each and the route was so winding that so the next boat would be hidden then suddenly appear passing behind an island. There were loads of pleasure boats under engine and sail, small car ferries of the take four cars at a time sort, dredgers, bigger local ferries and us. The weather was beautiful and there was so much of interest to see. I have loved places like this always. Malvern is no good to me at all, it is far too far from the sea. And anyway only ports are real places. Every where inland is a sham.

So a lovely finish to the holiday. We got into Stockholm at1630 so it was a long trip. Taxi to the airport where we are hanging about until our plane leaves for London. The staff are issued with scootery things on which they buzz along the corridors.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Last Day in Åland Islands

We have had a good day, a white tailed eagle on our land scowling at the other birds fishing in the shoal, two heron, a flock of grebes on said shoal. A trip to a Russian fortress built in early 1800s was not very interesting but the suggested walk round the fortifications was. A bit up and down vertically!

I took this photo to show how shallow the soil is over the solid ground. The soil and roots have just peeled away from the rock.

And here are clumps of conifers growing in little pockets of soil.

A dressed maypole

Some of the maypole decoration

A smaller maypole. These are shown because Kirsten said they were well-known.

An orchid - not a good photo but you get the idea.

And at last, some Aland sheep, pure white, pure black and mottled.

Tomorrow we leave at 0700 hours to catch the ferry to Stockholm, then a plane to Heathrow. I will sleep at Ruth's house tomorrow night and take a train home Tuesday morning. I have yet to pack but I never spend more than fifteen minutes packing. What is in my room has to be packed or thrown out.


Saturday, 26 July 2014


Some of the family were revolting today. We (I was one of them) did not see any profit in getting into a hot car and driving to somewhere where the view was not as good as it is here. So we all stayed at home and variously went for walks, rested, admired the view and brought our Convergence notes up to date. As well as keeping an eye open for yachts under sail, fish eagles and shoals of fish. It is Saturday and there is usually at least one yacht to view. At the moment there are two and a noisy motorboat.

We have been arguing about birds today. There are sea birds in plenty and a pair of eagles but previous few land rids, a pair of blackbirds and that is all. Which is very surprising because a lot of the ground cover is blueberries and there are masses. So where are the grouse, the pheasants, the quail? There are not even any corvids although I would expect to see hoodies here (hooded crows to the English). Possibly we are too near the open sea and they are all inland. But there is no birdsong.

Current textile problem which I have been investigating is whether to buy a nice Schacht umbrella swift for £300 or not. Arguments for are it is a Schacht and therefore will work as it says, my old wooden one saw more than twenty years of service before collapsing into an unrepairable state, my new one is a light weight wire thing which cannot handle the handspun skeins I have been loading it with. Against it costs £300.00. And will I last long enough to get my money's worth out of it? I have found a UK supplier and will make my mind up before I get home. I have a lot of skeining and ball winding to do on the Newbury Coat fabric and, if I am going to get one, it would save a lot of trouble to get it now. The problem is that the weft warn is all in balls and I have to make these into skeins to dye them blue. Then I have to wind the skeins off on to shuttles. I use a ski shuttle for handspun fabric like this. I think I have decided to buy one! I will ask for the delivery time.

The other thing I have done is to buy some addons for iweaveit and look up the manual. Now I need to practise with it. I could do with a printed copy of the manual but I will do that at home.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Annual Viking Market

In the north of the island, they hold a three day Viking market once a year so we went. All the Vikings were dressed in thick wool robes and very hot. The temperature was more than 28 degrees C. But lots of things were happening.

Viking woman with skeins of natural dyed yarns. Madder and cochineal at the front bottom, then birch, then indigo (centre) and a Swedish tree (left and right) then at the top, various mixtures. Alas she was from Sweden. Quite a lot of the smallholders were from other parts of Scandavian including two Norwegian ladies who told me that there are lots of Viking markets in the UK, including at York which they attend. There are others in East Anglia and the North East. They were a bit astonished that I had never attended one but I pointed out that theVikings did not get to Mercia and all the local re enactments were of the Civil War.

Viking tents. People were living in these with everything in period.

A basket maker.

Lanterns for sale. They hold a candle. The near transparent wrap around cover is tanned salmon skin! I found several stalls with Inkle braids and skeins of wool but none were from Aland. There was someone with interesting bales of fabric for making Viking clothes but, on inquiry, that was imported from India. I did see a floor loom but it had been converted into a set of stocks!

So I only bought one thing which was very unexpected. I came across a stall selling leather ties, like ribbon so you can lace up the neck of your Viking robe. They had a wide range of colours and I bought for - guess what?- bookbinding. They are perfect for wrap around and tie book covers. I refused to buy any yarn because none of it was from Aland. I really thought there might be a warp weighted loom. There were lucets for sale and card weaving braid kits.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Extreme Weaving

I remarked this morning that I should have brought a loom because it was the perfect place to weave. Anne thinks this should be called Extreme Weaving and that I should aim to weave at Everest Base Camp. Well it was a spectacularly good day.

As evidenced by the photo of the neighbouring island which was claimed by Anne this morning when she landed on it. We have all been out to inspect it this evening although there is a fast current this evening. Other things seen

A fish eagle eating lunch. We saw him catch it. There was a shoal of fish out there and all the birds were stuffing themselves. The eagle was at extreme range for my camera.

A tiny conifer growing in a rock cleft

A slightly bigger conifer in a rock cleft. There is so little soil here that the bigger ones have nowhere to root and just fall over. Oddly enough there were no conifers except some very low junipers on the little island but lots of deciduous trees, rowans, birches and what looked like a beech. Local flowers are campanula, thistle family, flowering sedum, armeria (pink sea thrift) and loads of lichen everywhere.

I have looked at my Convergence notes and written up the trip for out Guild Newsletter. And made todo lists.

And every evening we get one of these about 1030.



Wednesday, 23 July 2014

More Enjoyment

I was asked for a photo of me in a canoe so I got some from Derek

Madi and me in our canoe.

All of the canoeists approaching the neighbouring island.
Today we went to a castle which has a museum attached and was reported to have a craft fair. This turned out to be a mistranslation and it was really demos of crafts, black smithing, rope making, boat building. And paint making. This was highly entertaining. And it is the making of the Cherokee Red colour that a lot of houses are painted in. Apparently it goes off fast so you decide you are going to paint the house next week and start boiling up at once. The ingredients are various and obtainable on the islands. Copper leftovers from copper mining, oil(should be linseed but that is expensive so they use fish oil). Flour, must be rye!!, various poisonous chemicals. Stir well over a wood fire until it boils and thickens. They were doing this in a very large pot, I guess forty or more litres, and the wooden spoon was several feet long. And it was very smelly.

There was someone spinning and we saw a two shaft floor loom doing a rag rug. Counter march. It had four treadles so it must be possible to add another pair of shafts.

Note the rather nice stove on the left, we have two in our house, and a sauna which was used this morning.

Spun yarn at the show.

House painted in Cherokee Red.

And a sunset. The sun does not set until 1030 and if you look at the sky at three am, there is red in the sky.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Today some of us got up ever so late, after 9am. First walked, then paddled the canoes round a neighbouring island. We would have landed and taken possession for the Queen but the coast was very rocky and we could not see where to tie up the canoes or pull them out of the water.

By carto Mariehamn which has a population of ten thousand and is the biggest place on the island.

The Main Street in Mariehamn. The weather is marvellous and half the passerbys were eating icecream. Apparently that is the norm here which is why it is so popular as a holiday place. We visited craft shops (well what else) and I found local yarn.

They have their own breed of sheep here, Aland sheep, and the pale brown (natural colour, undyed) is from them. There were a lot of different colours, greys, shades of brown and white. But no black in the pile. Elsewhere I found some local spun yarn which had been dyed. The dyed yarn was all two colour and unusual mixes. I surreptiously found a loose end and can say, yes this will work as a warp. There are several craft shops in Mariehamn. Tomorrow, we are going north to the castle where they are holding a crafts day with demos and stuff for sale. That should be fun. I was in a shop called SALT today and could see an eight shaft floor loom. They would not let me near it!! Never mind, better luck tomorrow.

We visited this ship, Pommern. Commissioned in 1923 and taken out of service in 1939, it was the last big sailing cargo ship in the world and did the Australian run. It is enormous. Four masted, lots of space for cargo.

Alex trying out the wheel.

Back to our house which is so beautiful, I cannot see why we are bothering with towns.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Åland Islands

The view from my hotel bedroom in Stockholm

We were roused by Anne at 0530 this morning and by 0630 were eating breakfast in the ferry port cafe. The car ferry runs to Helsinki, stopping at Turku and Åland Islands. It was a large ferry with twelve decks and it was full! The trip to Åland Islands took five and a half hours of which the first three and a half were taken up working our way through the Islands round Stockholm.

Above are two car ferries going into Stockholm between some of the islands. Once at Marienham we picked up a hire car and drove into the hinterland, picked up the house owner who led the way to our house which is on the most western point of the islands and is extremely remote. Our gate is a good eight km from the house! We have 2.5 miles of Coast line! ISo we are substantial landowners, except that it is all pine trees and sand.


The house itself

The view from one of the verandas.

A very stunted pine tree about six inches across. There is masses of lichen and an awful lot of rock. We have a rowing boat and two kayaks.

Åland Islands are very odd politically. They are in Finland but they are a demilitarised, self governing unit. So they have their own parliament and issue their own stamps. Enter my son-in-law, Derek, who is a stamp collector and started collecting the island stamps several years and has been corresponding with the Chief Post Mistress. Which is why we are here. I did not know that till this morning. We have to do a royal visit to the post office. The islands try to be self sufficient and I am sure I have read about the spinning here. Certainly there are lots of sheep. Tomorrow I shall set out to view the three yarn shops. I should say that the total population of the islands is about 50,000 people, less than Worcester(93,000) or all the Malverns (71,000). They have got more land though.

The weather is fantastic, hot with a breeze and good visibility. Lots of strange sea birds. The owners says we will see hares and foxes herein. Only one serious defect. The nearest grocery shop is 30 km away. Anne and Derek rushed off over an hour ago to buy food and I do not expect them back for a bit. No pub visiting or fish and chips here. And I need an ATM of which there are two on the islands, both in Marienham, which is fifty minutes drive away! Clearly forethought is required in planning.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday Dublin

It is 0530 am and I am having croissant and tea in Dublin airport! Weird isn't it? Got to Logan Airport in plenty of time, plane to Dublin on time, slept a bit but flight time is only 5.5 hours. Plane for Stockholm leaves in an hour. I remembered as I queued at the cafe that Eire uses Euros and scrabbled in a bag for a purse full of them. When I get to Stockholm, I will have to buy some kroner otherwise I will not get to the hotel.

Yesterday morning I listened to the juror of the Catwalk Show as she walked us round the entries. Very interesting, just as keen on neatness and tidy seams as Daryl Lancaster but with more emphasis on fashion. One piece was dismissed as 'verging on costume' which was true but it was nice. There were pieces there which were appallingly finished inside. Gill Arnold would never allow that. Altogether worthwhile.

The day before, Friday, I attended a class on network drafting from Robyn Spady who is a good lecturer. She does network drafting quite differently and I understand it much better. Like turning drafts, it pays to do it with graph paper and pencil. It teaches me a lot about what is going on.

Still no decisions as to major projects. Rosie has a challenge in September which is 'green'. And I have a wish to do some pleated double weave which I saw in the new book by Stenton. That means completing the double weave on the Louet which has been there for four years. I need this loom back in use because it has two warp beams.

So the order is

- wind on, tie on and weave small Newbury Coat this week. Time will be spent dyeing weft. I have quantities, several kilos, of white weft and I do not want to dye it all. The Guild in the shape of Yvonne Withers. Thinks we could sell the yarn to members if it was white and ready to dye.

- wind Tencel warp (before next Saturday) and tie it for Ikat. I want to try out some ideas. This job has to be done this week because the Guild Dyeing day is next Saturday and I am taking the Burco Boiler for an indigo vat.

- weave up Louet which, as I recall, is very slow. There are two layers of Tencel 30/2. I need about ten sections, each six inches long. That is sixty inches and, if I work hard, I might get twelve inches a day done.

Then I mount the warp for the green pleated scarf on the Louet and weave it.

All to be done before August 16th when I take the TGV to the South of France along with the entire family. TGV = train grand vitesse. And is it fast!!

I am slowly conquering iweaveit which is on the iPad. I need to buy some addons and will work on it this week. I want to design a piece of reversible tweed. Debbie Richardson, by the way, has a stunning reversible coat woven of double faced cloth in Tencel. But writing lists is the most important thing.

No photos today. I am sitting in a cafe and the idea of digging out camera, cables and rigging them is too much.

I can say I enjoyed Convergencec. I have come away with a lot of ideas especially about colours picked up from Rosie and Debbie. Lots of meals out with pleasant people. Now off to catch the next plane.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Weaving courses

Yesterday I attended two classes, one on turning drafts and one on Tied Weaves. The Turning Drafts one was interesting. I turn drafts by telling Fibreworks to do it. It was a revelation to have to do it by hand. I got it wrong first time round. The Tied Weaves was by Robyn Spadywho provided a great handout and talked very well. Later on in the day, I listened to John Marshall talking about his judging of the yardage show. It sounds to me as if it is the luck of the draw whether you are accepted or not. He took 22 out of over 50.

The pieces were hung from a balcony. The photo above shows mine on the left and Cally Booker's on the right.

All the swatches are shown above.

In the evening, Rosie and I went out to supper with Linda Bowden who is the saganishiki expert. She and her husband have a rented place in Jamestown - and this is the view from their patio!! We sat there drinking wine and admiring the view, then went for a seafood meal. Great. I ate bluefish on the grounds that I had never tried. I prefer scrod. And of course we discussed textiles.

So now another day and another two classes.



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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.