Saturday, 10 October 2015

Day 31 Creativity - The East Anglian Linen Industry

This is about beginnings and endings! I initially planned to write a blog post a day during August about the different things I do – hence Creativity 1 – 31. It has taken me longer than a month – but hey never mind there had to be time for the actual creativity. I aim from now on to write one or two posts a week…  I never expected to write this post – and have abandoned what I intended to write about – as I have become interested in the past and finding out more about the local linen industry.

Since moving back to East Anglia I find myself next door but one to Flax Farm and 200 yards from us is an area which the map called Flaxlands. This is intriguing.
On discussing this with a member of the local History Society, I was told the flax was at one time grown and retted here and taken to the workhouse to be spun and there was a lot of flax.
So I was even more intrigued when an email dropped into my inbox saying that Rickinghall Further Education Group ( a village half a mile from me by quiet roads) was having a series of lectures on Looms, Linens, Woollens and Worsteds - a History of East Anglian Textiles. Unfortunately I missed the first two - due to being on holiday in Scotland so last week was my first attendance.
Wow, this was fascinating. It seems that mainly hemp was grown not Flax in South Norfolk and North Suffolk. Lots of references were made so I have lots of leads to find out more.
On a practical level I remember spinning flax - turned out it was 2004. So I have found the flax I spun from and the linen thread I spun. Much bleaching was needed - I boiled in soda , several times, to get this silken looking thread.

(The spun thread is about a mm diameter, quite thick for me!)

I was very lucky to be able to attend a workshop by Riitta Sinkonen-Davies who was a great patient tutor. She was chosen to weave the Rochet Rowan Williams wore at his inauguration as Archbishop of Canterbury.
I remember it was not easy to spin - mainly because I wanted it fine I guessed. It involved a distaff and a bowl of water on my lap.

I also found out examples of hemp and flax both in the natural 'yarn' state and bleached. The hemp is more 'rustic'. The joys of having a good stash!

Needles to say I have more flax to spin and am going to have another go. But not in public in the class! Spinning flax needs concentration and no audience for the first few hours if I remember correctly.

Rita's website is a delight.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Day 30 Creativity - Solar Dyeing, some of the results.

I set up the initial batch of solar dyeing as Day 10 Creativity here, this was on 13th August. I added some more dyeing as mordanted yarn and jam jars became available.
It is nearly 2 months since the first batch and some of the later ones seem to have taken over in terms of their 'readiness'.
I am gradually opening the jars, rinsing and drying the skeins.
So here are the results from the first lot of opening:

From the inside outwards:
Rosebay Willowherb - this is virtually orange. It is a very good shade and dyed quickly. I had never tried it before. The idea came about during a conversation with a local ' mature' farmer and his wife reminiscing about natural dyeing. The lady had not used meadowsweet but remembered using Rosebay Willowherb. I will try more of it next year - it's a local plant and seems at it's best here in the late summer verges.
Dahlia flower head - the dahlia flowers in my garden are pink - and huge and it has given a good yellow. I have lots of flowers but unfortunately in terms of available local yellow dye it is superseded ( read on!)
Tansy - I had only dyed with dried Tansy before and was not excited by the colour. We have lots of Tansy in our 'new' garden so I was hoping for and expecting a really nice yellow. Instead it is a very consistent beige - not unpleasant but not as exciting a colour as the Rosebay Willowherb
Golden Rod - this is a fantastic yellow, limey green yellow. Dyes quickly and is very consistent. We had lots in the garden - in fact it is not quite over yet. Will definitely use this again.
So, all in all, a worthwhile experiment.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Day 29 Creativity - Little Travel bags with Big Memories

When I travel I seem to have a collection of leads that seem to tangle! There's the phone charger, the iPad charger, the 3G mobile charger and so it goes on.
Given that neither weight nor room is usually a big problem when I go away, as we usually go in our lovely camper van.
This is an opportunity to have individual hand made bags. This also solves the problem of locating the correct lead easily.
This one (phone charger bag) has pull ups , that I made on the inkle loom while on Mull.

And this one has kuminiho braids, with wire crochet over tiny stones picked up from Iona.

The material from both of these is from a remnant of curtains which were in a favourite room in a previous house.

This one was not made by me, but part of a Christmas hand made small bag swap organised a few years ago by the Online Guild of weavers, spinners and dyers. It was handwoven in hand dyed fine cotton & lined with silk and made in Germany. Again nice memories when I use it.

The next to be made is one for the camera battery charger.... This at the moment is horror of horrors in a plastic bag. I had some great ‘view from the bedroom’ images on holiday in South West Scotland  so think one of those will be inspiration for a bag for that.  I am still  currently absorbed - in my spare time- in the colour work design for a knitted hat.