WOOLAPALOOZA 2018 This May bank holiday weekend was perfect for Woolapalooza which took place in the lovely Airfield Estate, Dundrum, Dublin.  What wonderful weather and what an appropriate venue for a couple of days packed with all things woolly.   I attended to help out all the dedicated members from the Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who had a stand. The day was full of activities for the whole family including sheep shearing, sheep dog herding demonstrations, acid and natural wool dyeing and dye plant walks. There were also farm animals aplenty, both real and make believe.  If you’ve never been to this event and never experienced Airfield Estate, don’t miss it next year.  I’m certainly going back for another wonderful experience.... Read More

Spinning Coils

Spinning Coils For the past few days, I’ve been trying to master spinning coils. There are tutorials on You Tube of different methods of spinning coils, but my favourite explanation is from an article in Spin Off magazine by Jacey Boggs. For my first attempt, I used hand dyed commercially prepared merino top. You want your fibres to be rather short for the thick and thin single. You spin this first, using strips of the top about the thickness of the thumb and spin these on a slow speed preferably with a large orafice. You will make the slubs, or thick sections, by pinching the strip of fibre with the thumb on your drafting hand and giving it a little clockwise twist. Then where it thins out, pinch the fibre, draw out the fibre and spin a thin section. The thick sections won’t have a lot of twist, but will stay together. You can get by with some overtwisting as this is what you want for the coils. When the bobbin is full of the thick and thin single, you will finish the coils by plying with a strong thread. This should be the same colour as the single, or a complimentary colour. I used silk for my plying thread as it is very strong or you can spin your own laceweight single. The plying is where the coils are created and this process took a lot of practice until I got it right. Hold the plying thread in the left hand and hold it straight out from the orafice. At the same time. hold the thick and thin single at... Read More

More Natural Dyeing at Meet the Wool

More Natural Dyeing at Meet the Wool I have been doing more natural dyeing, using up some materials left over from the dyeing and spinning workshop. There were flowers from meadow sweet, chamomile and ragwort which I had picked over the summer and then frozen. Since they had thawed, I decided to make use of them in dye baths. The wool was mordanted first in alum and the dye baths prepared, soaking and then boiling the flowers. The chamomile dyed a pale yellow. For the meadow sweet, I added copper to the dye bath and it produced a golden yellow. The ragwort bath was modified with iron and produced a dark green. During the workshop Clare had chosen Madder root for one of her dye materials and when she was finished, I saved the leftover dye bath for a second dip. This time instead of bright orange/red, I got a paler orange/peach colour. There are so many natural materials available in the countryside and eventually I’ll try most of... Read More

Natural Dyeing and Spinning Wool for Beginners-Workshop 28/29 October

Natural Dyeing and Spinning Wool for Beginners-Workshop 28/29 October There was lots of activity here at Alder Cottage on Saturday and Sunday as three ladies worked hard at learning to spin and dye wool. Clare, Karen and Susan didn’t hesitate at handling raw natural dye materials and feeding the sheep. After being presented their 2 skeins of wool mordanted with Alum, each lady chose 2 dye materials from an assortment, some of which I had collected in advance from the fields, roadside and my garden. Some of the plants, seeds and bark had to be soaked overnight before being used. The materials which could be used immediately were powdered madder root and powdered henna. We got started right away with these by making a dye bath and heating it to extract the color. Then we dropped in the wool and let it simmer for about an hour. The best part was extracting the wool from the dye baths and seeing the results. It’s hard to imagine getting such lovely, vibrant colors from such dull looking material. While the pots of wool and dyes were bubbling away, we learned the basics of spinning at a wheel. Each lady got their turn at the picker, carders and spinning wheels. There was lots of laughter and also some frustration, too. At the end of day two, everyone was tired but proud and satisfied with what they had accomplished and learned. The final results were surprising as well as lovely and should make for some nice knitting. The materials used for the colors in the featured image above were, from top left corner: ladies mantle flowers, madder overdyed with ladies mantle, henna,... Read More

Autumn Workshop for Dyeing and Spinning

Autumn Workshop for Dyeing and Spinning I’m organizing my third autumn spinning workshop for beginners this year. One day just hasn’t been enough time for students to practice much on the wheel, so this year’s will be held for two days….28th and 29th October. Also this year I’ll be showing how to dye wool using natural materials. On the first day, each student will choose his/her dye material and will prepare the materials. We will also be going over the basics of carding and spinning on the wheel. The second day will be spent dyeing each skein in the chosen material and spending most of the day practicing on the spinning wheels. Should be lots of fun for me as well as the attendees. More details are on my workshop page. In addition to getting organized for the workshop, I’ve been watching the lambs grow up. All three are healthy and already growing nice fleeces for next year. I’ve also been going on long walks in the forest with the dogs. The weather has been pretty good and I get ideas for colours for the yarn. This week I saw an unusual fungus growing along the edge of the path. Haven’t tried to identify it, but the orange colour would be great for yarns in autumnal colours. My new washing/dyeing shed has been busy, too, as I’m trying to get all this year’s fleeces clean and ready for the wheel. My least favourite job, but must be done. So, I’m up to my eyeballs with... Read More

Cragganowen Spinning Day 2017

Cragganowen Spinning Day 2017 Yesterday I attended the 2nd Annual Cragganowen Spinning Day. Craggaunowen is a 16th-century castle and an archaeological open-air museum in County Clare, Ireland so it is a very appropriate venue for the ancient craft of spinning. The day was held inside the castle which provided just the right atmosphere. The women who attended traveled from as far away as Blarney to join in the spinning, sharing, and of course, laughter. We had quite a few interested visitors who were also able to observe weaving on a simple loom. The wool hanging on the wall are all dyed with natural plants. I attended last year and am already looking forward to the 3rd Cragganowen Spinning... Read More