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New Scarf – New Skills : The Results

February 23, 2017

It’s been a very busy week for us in the Guild. Last Thursday was the showdown of our New Scarf – New Skills competition, swiftly followed on the Saturday by our annual Four Corners workshop – more on that in the next post.

We had nine entries in the scarf competition, which is nearly half the Guild and we would have had more but for unforeseen circumstances.

All the entries were so different, and everyone produced a full sized scarf – no doll sized entries after all!

Helen S learned filet crochet, she made almost 20 samples before starting the scarf to learn the technique and decide on hook size and yarn combination. The pattern is a traditional Baltic narrow band weaving pattern that she turned into a filet pattern.


Kathy is one of our newest members and this time last year hadn’t learned how to spin yet! She entered her knitted scarf from her own hand spun yarn, having done all the fibre prep too.


Madeleine’s entry was her very first nuno felted item, she used dyed merino wool and then added colour with sari silk waste.


Claire’s woven scarf featured decorative needle felting as her new skill.


Sheila’s chenille scarf was another woven entry, this time with pattern added by using pick up sticks on a rigid heddle loom.


Nicky knitted this scarf from her own handspun that she colour blended the fibre for. She was inspired by the four seasons and tried to reflect this in the colour blending. Her new skill was learning to knit cables.


After exclaiming over everyone’s work we all awarded points to choose our winners. As it turned out second and third place were tied so a Judges Decision was required after all to separate them (thanks Brian and Elizabeth for making the difficult decision!)

Third place went to Jan for her felted scarf, her new skill was nuno felting (she’ll be an expert by the time we have our nuno felting workshop in March). Jan enjoyed making the scarf and used needle felt embellishing for the first time.


Second place was Maggie, she set out to improve her drop spindle technique, she wanted to spin laceweight yarn which she then knitted in a lace pattern. We’re all impressed as she said it was tough!


Our undisputed winner was Helen G who managed to squeeze in five techniques. Spinning, weaving, felting, hand sewing and needle felting all in one scarf! Her new skills were colour blending with a drum carder, weaving handspun yarn and felt resist. Also she says she learned the skill of working fast, after all the spinning (long draw for speed) she woven 6′ of cloth in four days! Quite some effort and a well deserved first prize!


Here are our winners modelling their creations!


Thank you to everyone who took part. We’ll let you know about next years challenge in September!


Book now for Four Corners

February 4, 2017


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.