Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I was reading on a friend's blog the other day about the importance of lifelong learning. Having just decided to make at least part of my living from textile arts it is something I have been thinking about quite a lot recently. It would be quite easy for me to decide that I need to start making money as quickly as possible and to churn out a whole load of sock and mitten patterns as fast as I can -sticking to what I know. On the other hand the textile world is moving so fast that we are swamped with so many patterns and things to do with our time that I don't believe I will continue to have enough to offer unless I seriously invest time in developing my skills.

Over the last few months I have been conscious of this but have been working in a rather haphazard, opportunistic way. I'm thinking that I probably need to be a little more structured. Atfer all, my whole working life has had a structure around it - one I might not have particularly liked, but a structure nonetheless. I have a feeling that now I am working in a different way, with only myelf to answer to I need to create my own structures or I am liable to spend my mornings in my dressing gown watching Jeremy Kyle and sitting up until 4 in the morning just to finish off that design idea....

What I think I would like to do is to sign up for a structured course of study on something relevant to the textile arts so if anyone has taken a course that they have found worthwhile I'd be really grateful if you would mention it in the comments.

In the meantime I thought I would show you some of the things I have been learning recently. I have been very lucky in joining the Mid Hertfordshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who are a wonderful group of very knowledgeable people who are very keen to share their skills with lots of hands on sessions. With their support I have used a spinning wheel in public for the first time, at the Living Crafts Show at Hatfield House in May and have become a lot more confident in working from raw fleece.

Here is some Corriedale, Shetland,Merino cross from Woolfest a couple of years ago which I washed by bunging a few handfuls in a lingerie bag and putting in hot water and washing up liquid.

The locks have prettily bleached tips and plenty of crimp.

I opened them up with a flick carder and spun and plied them on a drop spindle.

This is the finished result - some bouncy soft yarn perfect for mittens, cowls and hats.

 The thing that particularly appealed to me abut this way of approaching a fleece was that by taking a small amount at a time, putting it in a bag with a flick carder, a couple of drop spindles, a nostepinne and a small niddy noddy I had a portable spinning project where I could take the washed locks all the way to finished yarn.

Enthused by this I also got my hands on some very pretty merino shetland in a grey with white tips. Above are the washed locks and below is how they look after a few flicks with the carder.

The fibre is very easy to spin and produces a lovely heathered grey single.

What new skill have you learned today?

Friday, 24 August 2012

It's been a while....

I've just realised that it's been almost a year since I last blogged here. There have been so many changes in my life in the last year - some good, some not so good that it is difficult to know where to start so I thought I'd start again where it all began - with the knitting!

You may be relieved to know that knitting and spinning and quite frankly anything that involves wool has never been far from my side. I have decided that I would like to make textile arts an even bigger part of my life than it is at the moment and to see how far I get in making a living through my skills. I am aware that I may never become a wealthy woman this way but that has never been one of my goals. I may need to diversify occasionally to make ends meet but life is too short to waste wishing I was doing something else!

Watch this space for details of classes I will be teaching in the near future!

This summer I have spent a lot of time on the Isle of Wight, making the most of living in my late father's house before we reluctantly sell it. We have filled the house once again with laughter and bustle culminating in the marriage of two dear friends who proved that you don't need loads of money to have a beautiful wedding as long as you have friends, tin cans, buttons, a pirate and a whole lot of love.

Spending time on the Island, showing friends around and catchng up with old friends and neighbours has made me think very hard about where in the world I want to be. I feel very strongly drawn to coming home to the Island but would miss my friends and connections in London terribly too. In the meantime I have been travelling around the Island gathering inspiration for a few patterns which I hope to share with you as the year goes on.

More shortly...