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Tapestry Weaving Talk

January 27, 2017

For our last meeting we were lucky enough to be joined by Stephanie Edwards from the Mid-Herts Guild who gave us a talk on tapestry weaving and displayed her impressive portfolio of work.

She started by giving us a list of all the things that are not tapestry yet are commonly called tapestry, it’s more extensive than you’d think.

The talk she gave was based on a beautiful tapestry which she had created on the theme “Fabric of Life”.  She displayed this tapestry, and showed us photos of the stages of the development and composition of its construction. The tapestry was woven for an exhibition and was inspired by the wonderful work done by the charity Recover in Welwyn Garden City. She invited our comments on the images, and explained what the images represented to her.


She said that when deciding on an image she asks herself the question “What does it actually say to people?”  She encouraged us to consider using anything for inspiration to design a tapestry – a rusty pipe, photos, furniture, stuffing, anything that catches the eye.

She mentioned various techniques that can be employed to give different textures/effects; for example:- hatching, tufting, double sumac.  She also named many designers who had influenced her work both in the UK and abroad, and it was especially interesting to hear that she had been to Peru and studied under Maximo Laura, whose work is world-renowned.

We’re now looking at next years programme to see if we can squeeze in a one-day workshop with Stephanie – we’re sure this would be popular with the guild!

Drop spindle evening

December 8, 2016

Back in November we had a drop spindle evening, something that some of us in the guild had some trepidation about attending. Though most of us spin it’s a wheel orientated group and not many of us are proficient with a drop spindle.

We started by each talking about our current experience with top whorl, bottom whorl and drop spindles in general. Susan and Ashley then gave us demos of each and a talk on what you would use and how the weight affects what you spin.

We then had a go…

There were moments where the ‘drop’ in the name became a real thing!

Plus we were lucky enough to be joined by Tammy who we met at Festiwool,  she brought along her wonderful collection of spindles, including turkish and supported spindles. They were much admired! Tammy also gave us a demo of supported spindling and showed off her handspun cotton:

We then had a go. Not with cotton fibre, just wool. It’s like learning to spin all over again! Very tricky but very addictive.

Thanks to Susan and Ashley for stepping in at short notice, and thanks Tammy for opening up a whole new rabbit hole of stash.

In other news: the planned Nuno Felting workshop has moved from January to Saturday March 11th. Sorry for any inconvenience to those who’d already signed up.

Our Christmas party has been and gone – this years Secret Santa was lots of fun! And didn’t involve everyone having to put together random bits of stash into a competition item. We’re all grateful for that.

Merry Christmas and see you in the New Year!

Festiwool 2016

November 15, 2016

Saturday saw us pack up our wheels and looms and head mere minutes down the road to Hitchin Festiwool!

We set up in our little corner to show off all the things we’ve made. Sheila’s woven jacket and bag and Maggie’s amigurumi being highlights.


As most of the guild did their shopping and spinning downstairs, the weavers were busily setting up the weaving workshop upstairs.

We had nine adventurous souls who’d signed up for a weaving taster session, and they got to try everything from simple backstrap and inkle looms through rigid heddle and on to eight shaft looms.

It was a very hands on workshop:


A case of so many looms – so little time!  Thank you students for the enthusiasm for trying something new, and thank you teachers for making it possible to run the workshop by loaning looms and expertise.

If you missed the chance to try out spinning and weaving this time around then don’t worry as the next workshop will be our Four Corners day on Saturday 18th February – more details in the New Year.

Our next meeting will be all about drop spindles (top whorl, bottom whorl and supported spindles – bring one if you have one!) on Thursday 17th November.

Festiwool and Weaving Workshop!

November 5, 2016

The guild will be demonstrating spinning (and probably felting and weaving too) at Festiwool next weekend – Saturday 12th November.

We’re also running a weaving taster session offering beginners the chance to try narrow band weaving, rigid heddle weaving and shaft loom weaving. Limited number of spaces so please do book on the Festiwool website if you’d like to come along.

Natural Dyeing – Mordants and Modifiers

October 3, 2016

A couple of weeks ago in the last throes of summer we had a Natural Dyeing Day lead by guild member Susan Dye. She had prepared a challenging programme that would lead us to examine 3 dyes, 3 mordants and 2 modifiers leaving us all with 27 samples to take home. Phew! Lots to do then!

We started with a health and safety briefing which was taken quite seriously when it involved a cautionary tale of pets interacting with toxic substances and having to be rushed to the vets for treatment. Wear gloves. Don’t breathe the fumes. Cover dyebaths so small, inquisitive creatures can’t get to them. Read the safety leaflets and store your chemicals carefully.

The mohair yarn was pre-mordanted with alum or copper sulphate or iron sulphate. The alum left the yarn white but with a different texture, iron left it reddish and copper a light green.

We then had to make the dyebaths, the madder was easy as this was a prepared powder, but the weld and dahlia dye had to be extracted from the plant material first.


From there the skeins of yarn went into the vats, to cook gently:

In the afternoon we split the skeins into the groups, unmodified was hung up to dry, whilst we then prepared the acid and alkali modifiers. We used citric acid and ammonia as the modifiers, adding these to the dye baths.

We did experiment a bit, adding more acid or alkali when not a lot seemed to be happening.

We found the acid seemed to strip away the colour, whereas the alkali deepened the colour for some. Some quite dramatic effects with the dahlia and madder especially.


Top row is unmodified, left to right 3x madder, 3 x dahlia, 3x weld each with the alum, iron, copper. Second row is acid modified, third row is alkali modified.

At the end of the day we had some more cake (thank you everyone who brought food) and divided up the yarn and displayed it beautifully:


Thank you to everyone who came along, Claire for hosting us, and Susan for giving us the benefit of her experience in natural dyes.

New Scarf – New Skills Competition

September 11, 2016

A quick reminder of this years competition: New Scarf – New Skills!

The Rules:


  1. You must make a new scarf.
  2. You must learn something new in the process.
  3. Scarves can be of any textile construction.

The new skill could be anything you’ve not done before, from a new fibre or a new drafting technique if you’re using handspun. Use of a new yarn or weave structure if woven. A new knitting/crochet stitch or technique. If felting: a new type of felting or embellishment style. If sewing then things like using a new fabric, new stitches or new  way of hemming would all count.

And finally:

4. There is no minimum size of scarf.

Scarves could be suitable for anyone from adult to barbie doll. Hopefully this will allow everyone to take part regardless of the amount of time or materials they have available to them.

Judging will be on February 16th 2017.

Our next meeting is on Thursday 15th September and will be preparation for our Natural Dye Workshop the following Saturday. Hope to see you there!

Autumn Term Show and Tell

September 10, 2016

And we’re back! Where did the summer holidays go?

We had a lovely first meeting, it’s always great to catch up with what everyone has been doing and welcome any new members who want to join us.

So lets get on to the pictures, firstly remember the unfinished bunny that Esme was working on? Done! Here’s the before and after shots so you can see the difference.

She’s also been working on a range of pictures – seascapes are Esme’s favourite:



The large picture is a combination of wet felting, needle felting and embroidery, whereas the two smaller ones are needle felted only.

Lynda made a blending board, for the grand sum of £32! She bought the carding cloth from Wingham Wool Work, 30cm x 30cm at 72 tines per inch. That’s where £30 went. The other £2 was on the bolt attachments, the wood was free!


Lynda says the hardest part was stapling in the cloth, she used a heavy duty stapler to do so. The board can used at different heights and angles thanks to moveable rear support and bolt attachment, and she uses a dog brush and dowelling to blend and then remove the fibre.

Hilary is quite a new weaver and has been exploring all the things her rigid heddle loom can do. The pink sampler is showing the colour and weave patterns when alternating warp and weft colours

The long grey sampler is what she made whilst watching the Olympics, trying out different types of yarn, and methods of manipulating the warp and weft. We really liked the use of ribbon knitting yarn from those fluffy scarves a few years back. Plus producing honeycomb on a rigid heddle loom is great work!

Sheila brought in a wonderful jacket and bag that she had woven and sewn. The jacket is made from worsted wool warp and Shetland weft, she used an interlocking 8 shaft twill for the fabric. The sleeves are knitted in the Shetland. The frog closure was made by circular braiding on an inkle loom, and the buttons are self covered.

Not satisfied at making an adorable jacket, Sheila then used up the leftover fabric to make a matching bag! The straps are woven on an inkle loom. The lining is commercial fabric, and the inkle straps are lined with ribbon.

Fantastic work everyone!