Sunday, 25 September 2011

Heathery Hedges

An unexpected benefit that I have noticed about the creative processes I have been going through this year is that it has strengthened my connection to the natural world. I find myself driving or walking along and noticing colour in a much more immediate way. Much of the yarn I have been spinning recently has been inspired by what I see around me every day. I am blessed to live in a very beautiful, rural area where the immediacy of the elements heightens my perception of my environment. The air here is clear and clean and the quality of the light is excellent.

A few weeks ago I was driving up the lane to Misty Cottage when I noticed the evening sun shining on the heather.

It was an obvious starting point for a yarn colourway - well, two actually. One of the heathers is a vibrant colour and the other a pale lilac. I couldn't decide which to try so I had to do both. Luckily I have got a good stash of merino in various colours which, before I succumbed to the call of the wheel, were intended for needle felting projects.

I didn't want too much of a barber pole effect so I Navajo plied them, which basically is a way of plying the single to itself rather than spinning two bobbins and plying them together.

This method is based on loops and is very handy for the impatient spinner or for when you haven't got enough fibre to spin more than part of a bobbin. If you want to learn how to Navajo ply there are, of course, some excellent tutorials on You Tube. This one is my favourite and has been posted by those clever people at Interweave.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Me and My Trusty Traveller (part 2)

So, who or what is my Trusty Traveller?

It is, of course, my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel. I chose this wheel for several reasons -

1. It is made by Ashford who have an excellent reputation for all things spinny.
2. It is relatively compact and can therefore fit into Misty Cottage.
3. It is available as a double treadle model so I don't have to work in a one-sided way with just one leg doing the work.

Having made this decision, I rang the lovely people at Wingham Wool Work and placed my order. A mere 48 hours later, as I brought the children home from their music lessons on a cold, crisp, sunny, January morning,

 there by the Misty Cottage front door was an enormous box. A few hours and a fair amount of head scratching later, my Trusty Traveller was assembled and ready to go.

Initially I spent quite a while just treadling to get used to the feel of the wheel and then had a go at spinning a Jacob fleece that I had been given and had been using for stuffing dolls and fish. As any spinner will tell you, my first yarns were 'novelty' in the extreme! Tight and chunky. However, spinning is highly addictive and the more you spin, the more control you gain over the fibre and the wheel, so it wasn't too long before I was producing usable (thought not saleable) yarn.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Me and My Trusty Traveller.

Misty Cottage Crafts began when my, now 9 year old, twins were toddlers.

Back then, as part of my Waldorf Steiner Kindergarten teacher training, I had to try my hand at all sorts of crafts - wet felting, needle felting, knitting, crochet, willow work, puppet making etc. I quickly realised that creating and crafting made me feel good. The process brought me an inner feeling of peace which was the perfect foil to the demands of life at home with young twins.

I began by making all sorts of things for the children, crowns, Waldorf dolls, felt fish, bags and purses etc. which I sold at local craft fayres.

I had to sell some of what I made for two reasons - 1. there is a limit to how many crowns two children need and 2. it brought in some money so I could buy what I needed to make something else - or more of the same as I can be quite obsessive!

I found that I enjoyed working with wool - I live surrounded by sheep and have done for nearly 20 years here on the edge of the moor, so I think woolliness has become part of what 'home' is to me.

I love the idea of working with the 'descent into matter' - to take some fleece and to tease it into a big fluffy cloud, to bring order to it through carding and to bring all that nebulousness down into a condensed, strong, practical and hard wearing material like felt or yarn.

I resisted the call of the wheel for a while - why would I want to spin? I'm not an avid knitter though I enjoy it from time to time. Wouldn't I just be creating yet another stash in my tiny home? But as with so many things - resistance is futile! Watching people spin and hearing the faint whirr and click of the wheel was mesmerizing and soon my hankering for a wheel was becoming unignorable. However, it all seemed unattainable as wheels are so expensive and not what I could justifiably term a 'necessary expense' in a home with two small children and one small income ... BUT ... I have been blessed with a mother who understands the creative drive, the overwhelming hankering for making and the obsessive nature of her daughter!