Spinning for Pots

I confess I have not been able to make much felt this month, I have started a new bag using some gorgeous Gotland hogget (1 year old) locks that have that beautiful graduation from black to white that is characteristic of Gotland lambs wool. This lamb wasn’t shorn in its first year so the locks are unusually long for “lambs” wool. More on that bag in a later post.

I have been spinning, this is 2 skeins of merino “singles” that I dyed after spinning:

And here they are plied together, I am liking the berry colours but struggling to decide which pattern to use it on, I am thinking a pair of gloves but I found several patterns in a crochet book that I like….

This was some core spun art yarn, that I am planning to use for some twining (weaving):

On top of this pot:

This pot was a bit of a learning curve from a glazing perspective, as you can see, the holes I carefully created should have been cleared of glaze before firing. I have managed to fix it with a tile drill but would have preferred the smoother edges of glaze at the edges of the holes.

I have been making quite a lot of pottery this month, including several lidded pots, all of which were the subjects of some glazing experiments…..

This one has 3 different layers of my favourite glaze combination (it gives a bluey-purple through to crimson red colour with pretty pink spots) with some wax over red underglaze:

This one is a type of scraffito, where you paint on layers of different coloured clays and then scrape areas aways to reveal the layers underneath. The colours in this photo are not very accurate, they are actually black, lemon yellow, brick red and cream:

This shallow bowl with a cat design was another experiment, to see if I could paint with coloured clay slip (a watery version of clay). I painted the image on clear plastic sheet in black and let it dry so the colours would not mix but that caused all sorts of problems, not least, the black slip cracked and broke up making it very difficult to add the other colours. The bowl is not a total disaster but I have some other ideas on how better to approach this technique in future.

Getting in a Spin

Creative Fibre in New Zealand are hosting a series of workshops next weekend, one of which is a beginner’s spinning workshop with Pat Old. She is quite the celebrity in NZ spinning circles but I’m not sure if that is also true internationally…. have you heard of her before?

I dithered about signing up for this class because one of the prerequisites was that you need to bring a wheel in good order, bobbins and lazy Kate. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to learn to spin and buying all that equipment up front was quite an investment, so I put out some feelers to see if anyone had a wheel they would like to sell. I was (and still am) keen to make art yarns so was ideally looking for a wheel with a jumbo flyer. It took a few weeks of asking around but a friend from Auckland Fun Felters came through for me, she had an Ashford Traditional and best of all, it was already fitted with a jumbo flyer! 🙂

I took delivery of my new toy at the end of May and have been watching far too many Youtube videos ever since 🙂 These are my first efforts….

Autumnal colours spun from a Merino art batt full of textured bits and pieces, probably a bit ambitious for a first go but I was pleased with the results:

Aoifa says it makes a very nice pillow…

After reading Ann’s post on FFS a few weeks ago I had a shock of inspiration and added some orange to the singles I planned to ply post dying with purples and blues:

This is the plied yarn:

After plying I had some “single” left over on one of the bobbins so thought I would have a go at chain-plying (apparently it’s not very PC to call it Navajo plying any more). This method produces 3-ply yarn and in theory you can line up the colours on a gradient dyed yarn so you loose the stripy, “barber-pole” effect. I succeeded in places but definitely need more practice!

I am really enjoying spinning with Polworth (a Merino-cross breed that is better suited to the wet NZ climate), it is a lovely, soft wool. I crocheted this cowl but was not keen on the hot pink.

So I over-dyed it with blue:

One month into my spinning journey, a beginners class in Auckland came up so I toddled along with a friend (Margaret) who was curious but not really interested in taking up spinning (she couldn’t knit or crochet). They gave us some mystery brown and white wool to play with, I am pleased with the results but it is very coarse, too coarse for anything wearable so I am crocheting it into a bowl.

Margaret ended up buying the wheel she had been practicing on in the class (from the same person who sold me my wheel, I am starting to imagine Shirley has a house full of wheels that she has to climb over to move between rooms) 🙂 Margaret is also learning to crochet now she is enjoying spinning – another convert to the wonderful world of fibre!

I have also been playing with making slubby and chunky yarns and then dyeing it:

I found a few books on spinning at the library, the first one I read, Hand Spinning by Pam Austin was a bit disappointing, it didn’t cover anything I hadn’t already learned from watching YouTube videos. Frustratingly it mentioned a limited selection of art yarn types but didn’t offer any information on how you might spin them.

I found Spinning and Dyeing Yarn much more useful, jam-packed with technical, how-to information and lots of drool-worthy photos of beautiful yarns by different artists to give the reader inspiration and something to aspire to. For me, I was very taken with the art yarn chapter – I had no idea there were so many different species of art yarn and for each one there is at least one page explaining how to create it yourself.

I have only just started reading Yarn-i-tec-ture but I find the concept behind it intriguing, that you can spin a yarn with exactly the properties (stretch, warmth, shine etc) and colours you want…. Can’t wait to see if it delivers on that promise 🙂

I had to share these with you, there are several of them along the Wellington waterfront, they were very popular for selfies so I only managed to get photos of two of them but they are so cool I just had to share. Something for me to aspire to on my learning to knit journey! 🙂

Following several requests, I have posted my Concertina Hat and Snail Hat tutorials on Etsy. If you enter code FAFS30 (before the end of July) you will receive a 30% discount at check out. Alternatively, if you prefer a more interactive learning experience, the full online course, including the “taking it further module”, will be starting again in October, for more information and to sign up for notifications when registration opens please follow this link. Or for the bag class this link.

Something for the garden

With the weather warming up, we have been looking for some garden furniture ever since the most severe lockdown restrictions began to lift in September, but almost all of reasonably priced wooden furniture has sold out and no-one knows when more will be delivered. Living at the bottom of the world has its advantages but access to products and materials while shipping containers are in disarray all over the planet due to the pandemic is not one of them. Most imported items, from cars to sofas, have been subject shipping delays of a year or more.

We ended up settling for a garden lounge set that isn’t as comfortable as some of the display sets we looked at, the seats are a little too long in the base but that is easily fixed with some additional cushions. I spent this weekend making a set of cushions and some matching fabric coasters / “wrist-warmers” for the the chairs.

Cushion covers are very easy to make and a great beginner’s sewing project so I thought I would share my method with you. I hope this isn’t too patronising for the more experienced sewers among you.

  • I started by cutting 2 squares of fabric, the same size as the cushion inserts, plus a 1cm ./ 0.5″ seam allowance on all 4 sides. A 60 cm sqare cushion needs 2 pieces of fabric measuring 62 x 62 cm.
  • Placing right sides of fabric together I stitched along what will become the bottom edge of the cushion cover, leaving a 1 cm seam. If the pattern on your fabric has a right way up, making sure this seam is on the bottom will ensure your zip is out of sight on the finished cushion.
  • Press the seam open with front of the cushion facing towards the table (I was lazy and pressed it open with my fingers rather than getting the iron out, as you can probably tell from the crumpled state of my fabric! 🙂 ):
  • Lay the zip, right side down, so the teeth line up with the line of stitching. Pin into place and using a zipper foot, sew down both sides of the zipper tape. Tip – the zip does not need to be the full width of the cushion, I think the zipper looks more professional if it stops an inch or two before the edge of the cushion. You can cut the nylon zips to make them shorter if you have one the right colour but it is too long.

Sew across the bottom of the zip so the zipper will not be able to run as far as the metal staple.

Using a seam ripper, remove the stitching holding the two sides of fabric together, stopping approximately 2 inches before each end (and before the line of stitching you placed across the zip).

Open the zip enough that you can easily pass your hand through the hole.

Fold the 2 squares of fabric so the right sides are together again, pin into place and stitch around the 3 reamining sides, leaving a 1 cm seam allowance from the edge.

Open the zip the whole way and turn the cover the right way out, I like to use a chopstick or pencil to push the corners out so they are nice and square.

Insert your cushion and close the zip! et voila!

I also made some fabric, wrap-around coasters to protect the arms of the new furniture from the condensation cold drinks often shed in our warm, humid climate. I started by making a sheet of felt and cutting it into four rectangles.

Then, using the chairs as a guide, I cut out a rectangle from each end so they would wrap around the arm either side of the upright piece of wood.

I cut a slightly larger rectangle of fabric and trimmed it so it was about a cm wider than the felt shape (see the piece on the left) before using fabric glue to fold over the edge of the fabric and tack into place on the felt.

Once the glue had dried, I stitched around the edge of each shape before attaching a piece of velcro to 2 tabs on each coaster and wrapping around the arm of the chair.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of the summer sitting in our “granny and grandpa” chairs on the veranda now 🙂 Fingers crossed the chickens don’t roost on the chairs and poop all over my new cushions….

Going Dotty

A few weeks ago I was indulgently scrolling through Pinterest, as you do, and came across a ceramic vase with a pretty, colourful pattern around its rim.

This inspired an experiment to see if I could achieve a similar efffect in felt…..

I made a collection of cords in different colours, cut them to rougly the same length and sandwiched them between 4 layers of wool tops.

These were felted to the prefelt stage before cutting into strips and laying out on 2 more layers of wool:

Then covered with 2 more layers of wool before felting to the firm prefelt stage.

I wanted to shape it into a bowl, so draped it over a hat block and rubbed it vigorously to make the sides shrink onto the shape of the block,

The colours from the cut ropes were already migrating through even after a few minutes of rubbing.

After lots more rubbing and a trim it was holding it’s shape well.

I had always intended to shave the finished bowl bring out the colours in the spots but found shaving hasn’t made that much difference to the colour intensity of the spots:

Before shaving
After shaving

I am really pleased with the colourful effect from this experiment and will persist with the shaving.

Auckland Fun Felters

The last few months have been life-changing, first moving to New Zealand in March, two weeks in quarantine, buying a new home (complete with 12 chickens), starting a new job, adopting two kittens and finding Auckland Fun Felters (AFF) the wonderful felting activities on the North Island.

Don’t be fooled by the cuteness, when they aren’t sleeping they are tiny little terrorists!
Aoifa (pron eee-fa) – giving us her sternest look
Floki
Aoifa “helping” to unpack the studio

AFF are affiliated with Creative Fibre, I first found Creative Fibre online before we left the UK and confess I was worried when I read their interests lean heavily towards spinning and weaving, having belonged to a Spinners Weavers and Dyers group in the UK where felting was a dirty word and the committee behaved like felt-makers were contaminating the purist application of spinning, weaving and dying I was a little hesitant about joining.

I am so glad I took the plunge and went along to my first meeting in May, AFF are true to their name and such a fun group of ladies, and everyone is obsessed with felting and the associated skills. I immediately felt like I had come home 🙂

Each meeting involves a show and tell and announcements of upcoming events we might be interested in, at my first meeting that was Woolfest in Kumeu (held annually north west of Auckland). I arrived after lunch and most of the crowds had already been and gone, it was rather lovely being able to get to all of the stands without having to fight my way through:

You can just about make out the AFF stand to the left of the door in this photo
Having been deprived of hugs and cuddles for so long during lockdown this stall naturally pulled on my heart-strings
I couldn’t resist buying a bag of Gotland locks from this stand

Back to the AFF show and tell, Lynn took us through a collection of gorgeous items our members had made:

Isn’t Lynn’s waistcoat stunning?
These eco-printed tiles were inspired by Fiona Duthie’s Creative Sparks video

These tiles will be crochet together to make a blanket that will be raffled at next year’s Woolfest:

I managed to make one during our session on Saturday, the only rule is that that the design had to use just straight lines, I can’t tell you how desperate I was to add a red dot to the middle, some of my triangles became a little curved during fulling too:

After the show and tell, Lynn demonstrated how to make silk paper using spray starch:

These elegant little bags are an example of what can be made with the papers:

Another benefit of belonging to this group is the extensive library, including the back catalogue of my favourite magazine, I think I have died and gone to heaven!! 🙂

And just to show what a small world this is, I discovered Robyn (a fellow FFS member and a former student of my hat class) is also a member of AFF! Robyn is working on a blanket square for her own personal blanket.

That reminds me, lots of keen felters have been asking when the concertina hat class and the felt bags classes will start again, I am delighted to announce the next iteration of both classes will start on 19th August (registration will open a couple of weeks earlier on 4th August). If you would like to receive a reminder when registration opens please email teri@teriberry.com saying which class you would like to join.

More information about these classes can be found here:

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