Having been involved with the Homegrown Homespun project and feeling that this is the start of something very exciting we have been making small changes here that we hope will lead to some larger ones down the line
We have always used British Bluefaced Leicester on our spinning workshops sourced in the UK but not always directly from farmers. To be honest, I didnt know how to go about it. Farmers se t their fleeces directly to the Wool Marketing Board or had them spun into yarn, it was difficult to catch them at the fibre stage. They were probably there all the time, I just couldn’t find them.
I joined a Zoom chat hosted by Kate Makin from Northern Yarn, somewhere we have been teaching weaving for a long time. Zoe from the Woolist as well as Maria Benjamen from Dodgson Wood were there explaining how they were moving things on for British Farmers so that their wool is valued and used.
This is something that we feel very strongly that we would like to support. We have a way to go, but by eating the elephant a bite at a time were hoping to get there in the end.
Our aims would be
1 To use different breeds on our different spinning workshops, direct from farmers
2 To change over time to natural dyes. We have a large stock of dyes and we feel that sending these directly to landfill is wrong so we will continue to use them as ethically as possible.
3 Our yarn at the moment is British Yarn spun in Peru by small producers and women led cooperatives. We need a high twist yarn for our weaving workshops (we dont use nylon). If the possibility of having this yarn spun in the UK becomes available we will look into it. At the moment this isnt an option but as the infrastructure is built we hope it will be.
These changes will take time but we are excited to be making a start and I’ve the next few weeks we will keep posting about our plans
We were invited to join in with this fascinating project (see previous post for more information to provide half term heritage activities for the volunteers who come each week to weed the flax field.
This was the plan we started with, which began on Monday with a spinning workshop. The weather was absolutely perfect and we enjoyed spending the day spinning, some learning to spin, some returning to it. The plan was that the yarn that we spun would be dyed by Justine from the Wild Dyery using natural dyes and then woven into the banner that would be the entrance to the flax field.
It was such a special week. For us, we know the benefit of these crafts on people’s wellbeing, we see each time we take a workshop that people fall in love with the craft or connect with it. At Blackburn that happened again, there were people of all ages and backgrounds who were able to share their experiences, their family’s history of weaving. Some people had never spun or woven before and to hear the words ‘this is just so exciting’ and to know two of the volunteers have gone on to find spinning wheels is fabulous.
We each took a section of the workshops, I led the spinning, Jessamy the rigid heddle weaving and Sofia the frame loom letters.
The woven banner consisted of six lengths of woven fabric and 18 handwoven letters sewn together for the completed piece. This was unveiled on a chilly summers day and covered by BBC Look North West and Radio Lancashire.
The banner will be displayed for the fortnight Textile Biennial in October in Blackburn. We will give more information nearer the time about where exactly it can be seen
joining with North West England Fibreshed & Patrick Grant
We are so excited to announce that we will be involved in the British Textile Biennial celebration with Patrick Grant and Justine Aldersey Williams from the Wild Dyery
The initiative involves planting a field of flax for linen and woad, a natural dye for indigo in a disused field in Blackburn in order to produce a pair of jeans. This would then be used as a starting point for a prototype to be upscaled and the jeans to be produced by Community Clothing, a social enterprise organisation. You can read more about it all in North West Fibreshed’s blog here
The jeans will be made in October during the Textile Biennial celebration but on the week commencing the 31st May to the 4th June we will be creating a banner at the entrance to the field during the Homegrown Homespun Half Term Workshops
At the beginning of the week we will take our spinning wheels up to Blackburn and teach groups of volunteers to spin – anyone with experience of learning to spin will know how this often goes. For a banner though, imagine the texture that will be created with those gorgeous lumpy skeins.
The yarn will then be dyed by Justine with natural dyes along with donated T shirts and other fabric which will be incorporated. On the Friday we will then use our looms to weave the banner which will adorn the site. It promises to be a great week, covid permitting.
We will also create tapestry woven letters to spell Homegrown Homespun, the theme of the project. It’s so exciting to be part of this at the beginning of something that could be amazing.
For more information about the Textile Biennial, take a look here
Each one of us is a set of shifting molecules, spinning in ecstasy
It’s that moment when there are a few butterflies in your stomach. A germ ( or a caterpillar) of an idea. Could we actually start filling our calendar with workshops….and if we did, would anyone come?
Well we have booked in dates for the next few months at our favourite venues and people are joining us to weave! Covid pushed us to try new ways to work, to learn and help others to learn and so we are taking those forward with us in these new baby-step times.
So, for weavers, over the next 6 months we will continue with our Weave a Scarf workshops but also have Pick Up Stick classes, Warping workshops and more.
For Spinners we have workshops from complete beginners through to more experienced classes and also project classes. So here’s what’s coming up
So, something for everyone. If you’d like to have more information, click on the workshop name or you can message me. If you’d like a workshop on a subject you don’t see here, let me know and I can try and create one – if you want to learn it, chances are someone else does too.
Navajo or chain plying is a really useful tool to have in your spinning kit. It might seem a little complicated at first but with some practice and patience (isn’t that always the case?) you’ll find you’re getting into the swing of things.
Navajo or chain plying is plying from one bobbin, different obviously from traditional plying which requires two bobbins on a lazykate and a clear bobbin on your wheel. With your single yarn you create a loop, attach it to your leader and chain your single to create a three ply yarn. If you are a crocheter, you will already be familiar with the chain technique.
Why is it worth learning?
When you’ve been spinning for a while, you’ll find with the best of intentions you end up with leftover singles on your bobbins. Unless you intend to have hundreds of bobbins, you’re going to want to find a way of using that yarn up. Navajo plying will help with that, you can collect small amounts of plied yarns to use up as edgings in your weaving, or in scrappy blankets, as accents in your sock knitting, in toes and heels.
Another really useful way to use this technique is in maintaining defined colour stripes in your work, whether that be weaving or knitting.
Long strips of hand dyed fibre are everywhere at yarn festivals and it’s something we love to dye too. Sometimes there will be large blocks of colour, sometimes small ones and you might like just to spin away without thought – nothing wrong with that but what if you want to keep those colours true without any blending?
If you separate your fibre into thin strips and spin each one from top to bottom, trying to maintain your drafting and then use Navajo plying this will definitely help you to do that.
Navajo Plying v Traditional Plying
Experiment 1 – Singles spun and Navajo plied
I decided to try three different techniques with one strip of hand dyed fibre. I dyed the fibre with large colour bands so that I could get quite a bit of spinning done in one colour before there was a change.
With my first bobbin I spun a single that was around 24wpi with an aim to get a 4plyish yarn at the end. Because of the nature of Navajo plying, the chain will produce a three ply yarn so that would be something to take into account when you begin to spin and how much meterage you need for your single. As this was only an experiment I didn’t overly plan
I plied my singles using the technique, taking care that when the colour changes happened, I chained quite small to keep the colours seperate. While the colours were solid I did large chains. I then knitted a square with the yarn which looked like this
Experiment 2 – Traditionally plied in strips
For the next square I took my fibre and divided the strips in the same way as I did with experiment 1, but this time I spun each strip on a separate bobbin. I took care to spin with the colours the same way round so each bobbin would ideally look the same.
I spun in the same way, aiming for a 4ply plied yarn. As I’m only human though, my drafting wasn’t always exactly perfect and I will insist on watching the TV while spinning so can easily get distracted. As a result, the plied yarn didn’t match up exactly and the knitted swatch looked like this
The blocks of colour are there but there is heathering where the colours are mismatched, known as barberpoling. I don’t dislike this, I think it looks quite nice
Experiment 3 – spinning any which way
So for my last swatch I spun however the fibre came to me, there were bits where the fibre hadn’t split off perfectly, some I spun in a strip one way, some in the other way. I spun two separate bobbins and plied them together. The resulting swatch looked like this.
Spinning is all about choices and knowing different having plying options gives us just that. The three swatches side by side show just how different those plying methods make the yarn. None are wrong, but you might like to use them in different ways.
We decided to focus on worsted spinning this week at Spin Club. Its my go to style of spinning and it was great to have the opportunity to delve into it a little bit more.
As is always the case, many different spinners will have their take on what is the definitive description of a technique. On my spinning workshops I teach worsted spinning to the beginners because I think its the easiest place to start.
Worsted spinning is a combed preparation of fibres so that they are all aligned in the same direction. This means that there is less air in the fibre making it hard wearing with a good stitch definition if you knit it or sheen if you’re weaving.
The technique is called short draw drafting and I’ve seen it referred to as inchworm drafting too. You take your fibre between your hands and draft a small amount of fibre apart, not allowing the twist to run into the main body of fibre. You then slide your pinched fingers over that twist.
Some writers feel strongly that true worsted or woollen spinning can only come from prepared fibre and not mill prepared top. I think thats probably true in the strictest sense of the word but I would still call short draw drafting with top worsted spinning.
There are some great resources if you want to research all about it and you can decide what you believe to be true. Whatever is right for you, whatever works for you is right in my book
Mabel Ross’s book The Essentials of Yarn Design is a wonderful read and for such a little book has so much information.
The Spinners Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson, a great resource
The worsted edition of Ply magazine, this issue is from 2014 but you might be able to pick one up as a back issue
Suggested by Kate, Spinning Bear, The Spinner’s Book of fleece by Beth Smith is a good recommendation which I don’t have but will need to aquire immediately.
Happy worsted spinning everyone. Next week we will be looking at woollen spinning and preparations so I hope you can join us live, or catch up on igtv
Thank you to everyone that joined us for the first Weaverbirds Spin Club. We were ridiculously nervous but a couple of minutes in and it was fine, the time flew.
It’s interesting to hear other’s experience of spinning, how they spin their fibre and the wheels they prefer. Shared experience while we can’t be together is great on Instagram and hopefully it won’t be too long before we can spin with others in person.
In the meantime, I’ve been making a couple of spinning videos for beginners, just a few minutes long to explain the very basics and making plans for more spinning workshops both recorded and on zoom.
This week we’ll be talking about worsted spinning at Spin Club, it’ll be great if you could join us. If you have any questions you’d like to ask please let us know and we’ll do our best to answer
You are cordially invited to join Heather and I for an hour of spinning each Sunday at 3pm
3pm – early enough for you to grab an hour to yourself and late enough to have a little something to celebrate the day! Could be a little glass of white or a large velvety hit chocolate with all the trimmings!
We’re meeting on Instagram live and we’d love it if you’d join us. Feel free to message any questions or hello’s.
One of our aims as new spinners is to be able to spin super fine yarn. We berate ourselves because our yarn is thick and chunky. Once it is thinner, it’s over spun or has little piglet tails. We’ve reduced our tension. How can we stop this happening?
There are a few ways that we can stop our yarn running away with us once we’ve been able to master our drafting technique. Cross lacing is one method.
I first came across cross lacing on the instagram page of the technically brilliant Bren Boone of Snerbyarn. Her spinning is so consistant and beautiful and she credits cross lacing as one of her methods. Here’s a little video which explains how it works
Thin, fine yarn requires much more twist than thicker yarn. This is why when you are a beginner spinner and your brain is overwhelmed with all the things you have to remember -drafting, (and I mean at all – never mind drafting evenly) treadling without sliding the wheel across the floor or allow it to spin the opposite way etc etc, you will find your thick yarn overspinning again and again.
This is one of the reasons why once we can spin thinly we tend to stick with it. Thin yarn requires more twist and therefore is more forgiving. There is more time for us to treadle away, allowing twist into our yarn while we watch the telly before it becomes horribly overspun. But sometimes we might like to spin a super thin lace yarn and our wheel just seems to run away with us. That’s where cross lacing comes in.
What is cross lacing?
Cross lacing can stop there being so much draw in, slowing the wheel down and allowing all the twist that we need without over twisting.
You do this by tracing your single across the bobbin hooks, from one side to the other. Or if you have a slider style flyer wrap your single over the metal rods of the flyer.
Have a go of this simple method and see if it makes a difference, I noticed an improvement immediately and I hope it helps you too.
How did we get to 2021 so quickly? It’s a complete mystery and yet here we are. So what’s new for Lazykate in the year ahead?
When I first thought of having a textile business more than 20 years ago, my aim was to grow natural dyes, spin and sell my yarn. Such a labour intensive process would not have been sustainable at that time, the internet was very much in it’s infancy and I had to contribute to our family with my part time job in a bank.
So buying in fibre and dyeing with acid dyes was the way forward for me to be able to make steps in my dream of my own business. I started with dyeing fibre for other spinners along with patterns designed by my mum and things grew slowly from there. This was the Eliza Scarf kit, the first kit I ever sold through etsy in 2008.
Lockdown has given us all a chance to think and maybe use the opportunity to make changes or rethink how we operate and although we can’t completely change hour working practises we can certainly start with tiny steps to achieve a change in the long run.
So this year, we will be making steps to reduce our packaging and to move further with our greener choices, resusing and recycling where we can and encouraging our workshop attendees (in person and online) to use materials they have.
With that aim, we are expanding our online and inperson courses, teaching people to weave, weave yarn and cotton, create new patterns in our pick up stick workshops, dye their own yarn and spin locally sourced fibre. That’s the plan, covid19 permitting and we’re pretty excited about it.
We realise that there is a long way to go and our steps are indeed tiny but Rome was not built in a day and hopefully when we look back in a year we will see how far we have come.