07 November 2015

My introduction to weaving

Ahoy hoy. So it's about time I showed you some of my recent makes. Well, my crochet's going verrrrrry slowly at the moment. I'm trying to knuckle down and carry on with making my large scale crochet artwork collection that I eventually want to show in galleries etc. The thing is, it takes a lot of time to make each of them, and as it's lots of geometric panels they're not great blog content until it's all finished.

But recently, you'll remember, I bought a loom (of the Rigid Heddle variety). I got it from the Bristol Wool Fair, and it's made by a company called Ashford Wheels and Looms. A few weeks back I started playing with it, and I just so happened to have a week off work where I mostly just tried to learn the basics of how to use my loom. Fortunately, the Ashford website has some really great videos of how to get started setting up your loom, which is good as it's quite fiddly. But once you're all set up and ready to go, it's nothing but fun!

Doing your basic plain weave is the obvious place to start, it's a good way to learn basic weaving techniques and is pretty relaxing at the same time.

The basic premise of a loom is that you have the warp (the vertical threads attached and wound onto the loom at the start) and the weft (the horizontal threads that you weave across/in and out of the warp). For my first project I used some brown and blue variegated yarn that came with the loom, and I switched between blocks of colour on the warp so you get these stripes going down the length of the work. Then I just switched colours occasionally on the weft and that's how it gets this kinda checkered stripe look. If you were more mathematical about it and used more solid colours this is (in principle) how you would get plaid type effects.

So, first piece of weaving done. What I love about all crafts is that whatever you make, it's all good experience as you learn from your mistakes. With this one I learnt how to control my tension a bit better and that you need to be careful with your edges - too tight or too slack and the work will stretch in or out. But mostly, just spending time watching the way the threads move and how the loom acts is how you kinda figure it out and suddenly it starts to make a lot more sense.

Onto the second piece. I enjoyed the blocks of colours on the first piece but wanted to try and develop a bit from plain weave.

I took a look at a few videos on YouTube and decided I would try making something using pick-up sticks. Pick-up sticks are basically a bit of wood (or a long knitting needle) that you put under certain warp threads so that not every thread is covered/worked by the horizontal weft threads. I went through my wool stash and picked out some nice soft variegated yarns that were of the same weight, and got cracking. After a bit of weaving, I noticed how these warp threads that I was 'picking up' were making the grey warp threads visible on top of the work, which was interesting but not what I thought was going to happen. Then I looked at the underside of the work...

...which looks much cooler. On the back of the work I was effectively making what I later found out were called 'floats'. As I liked this effect I carried on going with it......but then, oh no, I ran out of yarn. Despite learning from my first piece of weaving where I made the warp threads too short, this time I made them long enough but didn't have enough weft yarn to get to the end of it. Unfortunately it was too short to be the scarf I wanted it to be, so it'll just have to be a table runner or something (who am I kidding, it'll probably just end up being put away in the wardrobe).

Right, what to do next. Although YouTube can be a great resource, it only goes so far. I decided that really I ought to get a book so I could learn more techniques. I decided to get the Weavers Idea Book as it's specifically written for the Rigid Heddle loom. Just flicking through the book gave me loads of ideas, but I decided I needed to keep to simpler weaves to start off with (I still can't work out how the diagrams for lots of patterns in the book work, need to study it a bit more). I decided to try some pattern work with weft-faced weaves, and, as shocking as this may be to traditional weavers, I used some acrylic blended with a small amount of wool. I mostly did this because, as you'll know, I'm a big fan of acrylic and I wanted to see what it would look like when only a minimal (if any) felting/shrinkage is possible.

Personally, I love it. It really reminds me of Native American weaving, even though that was completely unintentional. As my second scarf was too short, I went the other way with this one, it's ridiculously long! I made it for one of my best friends who just got married, so I guess if I wanted to be sappy I could say its a scarf long enough for two. But if we're being sensible, it's one of those sort of wide long scarves that you can wrap around multiple times to get that big cosy scarf look. As for using acrylic, well as I thought it didn't felt or tighten up much, but as I'd been quite tight with the weave it didn't really matter much. I gave it a wash with some wool softener to try and make it a bit more comfortable, then packaged it up in some dinosaur themed wrapping paper (most appropriate), and handed it over at the wedding.

So that's my weaving so far. I thoroughly enjoy it - whereas the lovely wife thinks it just looks like a massive headache, I personally love the challenge of it. I've got a long way to go to advance from being a beginner, but I'm gonna keep at it (not that it'll ever overtake my love for crochet).

That's all for now, I'll have some crochet for you soon...promise x

01 November 2015

Made by Hand Cardiff

So this weekend, craft came to Cardiff. I went to this event last year (but didn't blog about it cos I was being lazy). But this year I took my camera and a wallet full o' cash, and headed to the Made by Hand fair.

The fair takes place in City Hall.....which probably says it all really, this is high end stuff! I love going to craft fairs of all types and all sizes, but I really enjoy this sort of fair as its great too see what's being made at the high end of the craft market (even if I can't afford a lot of it).

So in we go. Basically the fair's split across two floors, with workshops and other stuff held in the commons chambers. Most of the workshops were either sold out or for children only when we went on the Saturday. But that wasn't too much of a big deal, there's still plenty to see and one of the great things about this fair is the makers are often demonstrating how they make their items at their stalls.

Anyway, one of the first things that drew me in this year was a little haberdashery stand (I didn't recall seeing this at last years event). The stand was a joint effort between Bunyip beads and buttons and Ottons Haberdashery.

They had a wide range of beads and buttons, but what made them great in my eyes was that they had a very well chosen selection, lots of interesting beads that you don't see every day. I obviously couldn't resist these geometric beads so bought some of them with a few other bits and bobs.

Ceramics plays a big part at these sort of fairs, and Made by Hand doesn't disappoint in that respect. On entering the first hall you are greeted by some huge pots, they're too rich for my blood, but that doesn't mean that the artistry behind them can't impress the hell out of me.

There was in fact so much ceramic work on display, and all of such high quality, it's almost hard to pick a favourite. These ceramic lamps by Alison Graham Ceramics were particularly impressive, I love the effect the lights have on the colours of the glazes.

But, if I had to pick my favourite ceramicist of the fair, it has to be the lovely people of Snail Pottery

When I first saw their work, I had to double take. I asked how on earth they manage to make such intricate pottery with so many holes without them breaking constantly? The answer, a lot of practice, and even then it's 50-50 if it comes out of the kiln intact. The couple on the stall were both lovely and took the time to engage properly in conversation with me. I was so impressed with their work I just had to go back and buy a small piece at the end of the day. Below is the one I got.

What next, let's have something completely different, how about some animals by tea party at the zoo?

Now, I'm a bit of a sucker for anything laser-cut, laser-cut animals even more so. The maker Hannah Lago was really pleasant to meet. I just asked her a quick question of if it was ok for me to take photos and from there we went on to have a good ol' chat. Seriously, go check out her lobster comb - THAT'S RIGHT, I SAID LOBSTER COMB!!! And this was my only other purchase of the day, who doesn't love a crocodile necklace?!

Ok ok, I hear you, "come on one man crochet, show us some textiles!!". Well don't you worry, there was plenty of that at the fair too, and of course, all top notch high end stuff!

There must have been at least a good 4 or 5 stands with weavers on them, a couple even had their looms present. I particularly enjoyed the colour combinations on display at the stand by Pick One (and by a dude as well, big you up sir!).

I spotted these little pieces of crochet that were being displayed by Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre.

Now although it was being displayed by the Arts Centre, I'm not exactly sure who it is that had made them, I couldn't see much information about the display, and it seemed to be a combination of crochet combined with ceramics...but what I do know is, crochet + Roald Dahl = win.

So that's crochet and weaving, better get some knitting in there too then. This years 'Made by Hand Craft Excellence Award' went to Sian O'Doherty....and I can see why.

Her knitted lampshades are beautiful. Her work is machine knitted and she had her machine their with a sampler on it...always good to see (I'm tempted to have a try on a knitting machine one day, but I have a feeling we wouldn't get on).

Their were a few machine knitters at the fair, but Sian's work definitely stood out in my opinion, she's got some brilliant pattern and colours going on.

But hey wait, there's more. Off down the corridors of city hall, you could also find the 'International Cambrian Wool Challenge Exhibition'

Challenging designers and makers to use one type of pure wool, there were certainly some interesting pieces to see. This large wool canvas with digital print on it by Allistair Covell certainly stood out.

But it wasn't all big pieces, this necklace by Kimberley Jones was a nice well crafted piece in my opinion.

But this woven rug by Nicola Gates was my favourite of the exhibition, I love the slightly trippy pattern, and with the white wool pillows around it it really commanded your attention.

So that's pretty much it, a damn good day out in my opinion.

Coming up next, some stuff I made recently *shock horror*. Yeah I know I haven't posted much of my own making for a while, but it doesn't mean it hasn't been happening.

Laters x

28 October 2015

yarn travels: Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show Exteter

Ahoy hoy. Soooooooooo, it may now be nearly a month ago, but after the otters and the luxury camping, we also popped along to the ICHF Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show in Exteter.

It was a bit of a last minute decision to go to this event, I was just looking for stuff to do in the Exeter/Devon area and stumbled across it. I've been to a fair few of these types of shows before, but they're always good for a day out and to pick up some crafty supplies.

One of the first things we came across was this amazing display of embroidered birds. Every single one was of brilliant quality, and there were loads of them.

They were made by a lady called Carole Checketts in the 60's and 70's!!! (how she kept them all in such perfect condition for over 4/5 decades is beyond me). The birds were donated to the National Needlework Archives which now displays them at shows such as this.

This jeweled toad on knitted rocks was particularly good. I think the thing that impressed me most with this work was the fact that everything appeared to be anatomically correct (or at least giving that impression), and if you've ever tried sculpture of any kind you'll know how difficult that can be to achieve.

After marveling at this display for quite some time we moved on, but there was still more crafty artworks to see.

This quilting work by Jill Packer on the Contemporary Quilt stand was right up my street. I love the colours she used as well as the aboriginal style to the work.

And this piece of needle embroidery was pretty amazing too. I can't remember exactly which stand it was on, but there were some ladies there doing this style of cotton embroidery - they must have the eyes of hawks to be able to do such tiny and intricate works.

So they're my highlights of the artwork on display, on with the show. Now I knew before going that this was going to be predominantly a stitching and sewing show, so it was mostly catering to that kind of crowd. If I'm totally honest, I found a lot of the stalls there kinda 'twee' and a little bit boring - lots of 'cross-stitch some cats in a basket' kits, that sort of thing. But saying that, there was plenty of other good stuff to be had.

There was a fair few wool stands about, mostly your usual traders at these sort of shows but still a good choice of yarns. I picked up a few bits and bobs, but there was one other craft that this show excelled in....

BEADS!!! I'm not joking, there were loads of bead stands, and most of them were of really good quality with good prices.

What really impressed me was the fact that most of the beads/jewellery stands also had a really good selection of clasps/chains/findings that you would want for beading projects. I picked up a good amount of memory wire and various chains to add to my stash.

I know that a lot of this stuff is the sort of thing you can get online, but I'm the kinda person that likes to see what I'm buying, which is why I love going to shows like this and stocking up. For example, I managed to find some neon seed beads on one stall, but people and the internets definition of 'neon' can vary, so not only can I be sure exactly of what colours I'm buying, but it also means the lovely stall holder can show me a pack of them that I hadn't seen which cost nearly a fiver less. Obligatory haul picture coming up.

So overall, a pretty good show. If you're after more woolly stuff you'd probably be better heading to one of the various knitting and stitching shows, but for general crafty goodness this doesn't disappoint.

That's all for now, peace out x

23 October 2015

The Ark

Hey hey hey. So, following from the mass of otter pictures, here's a post about where we stayed during our trip to Devon - and it is kinda craft related.

*A quick note first though - this is not a sponsored post. I know a lot of bloggers do this (and kudos to them, I don't have anything against that), but I wanted to show/tell you about this place cos it rocks, not cos I'm being paid to.*

Ok, so you know how I love camping, so rather than staying in a hotel we decided to do some 'glamping' (although I do hate that word with a passion - lets just call it posh camping).

We stayed in this Safari-type tent called 'The Ark' at Leewood which we found through Canopy and Stars. Although 'Posh Camping' can be a bit on the pricey side, we got a bit of a last minute deal meaning it didn't cost us much more than a hotel would.

The tent was huge, with everything you would need already provided. Set on a lovely farm just through a quiet village, it really was a good place to get off grid and relax.

As you'd expect from 'posh camping', everything you would need was easily to hand. As well as the tent being full of items to make a cosy night in (blankets, a variety of chairs, books and games, wood burning stove, etc), the kitchen area (pictured above) also had everything you would need for proper comfortable cooking. They also had a variety of cast iron pans and trivets so you could do proper campfire cooking - I cooked us a hearty spicy beef stew with jacket potatoes, perfect camping food.

But, the main allure of this place for me, was the fact that it is really heavily orientated around craft and creativity.

Almost everything in the Ark is handmade or reclaimed. The bed itself is actually a custom made 'super kingsize' bed, and the quilts were hand sewn by Nick's (the owners) mother. Quilting is one of those crafts that I really appreciate, even if I don't do it myself, as you can see the hours and hours of work it must take to complete something like a blanket.

The site also hosts a variety of workshops (although as we were there for only the one full day we didn't really have time to take part in any), but it was great to see the hand dyed and spun wool for sale along with other local produce. The owner Nick was really nice (and an artist herself) and took the time to tell me more about the workshops even though I couldn't attend any (drawing, painting, spinning, dyeing, weaving and woodworking to name just a few of the workshops). They even grow specific plants and flowers on the farm that are used to dye the wool they use in the classes. It seems that this creative family has made a real creative hub, and evidence of that is everywhere. Anyway, more about the tent.

As well as the impressive bed quilts, there were crochet items absolutely everywhere. The first thing I spotted was this little crochet mat by the log-burning stove, and from there I just kept looking and found more and more pieces of excellent crochet.

Nick's mother is obviously somewhat of a crochet machine, as there was a huge variety of items, from small pieces like this table doily...

....to larger pieces like the crochet blankets (there were quite a few of them as well). I can see how most people would just see this as 'oh that's a nice touch', but as a crocheter myself, I was blown away by the amount of effort that had gone into making this place have a handmade home feel to it.

Even the hot water bottle covers were crochet! It seemed everything had been thought of and lovingly crafted to make this place a real gem.

One of my favourite moments of our time at the Ark was sitting on this rocking chair on the porch, supported by this lovely comfy crochet cushion, doing a little crochet of my own, while the local chickens came clucking along.

As well as all the amazing crochet, all the little touches really added to the charm of this place, any place that frames a variety of knots is cool by me.

I was particularly impressed by this little mushroom felted onto a pocket on the inside of the tent. Every where had little items of crafty loveliness, even the compostable toilet in the woods had little knick-knacks to keep you interested while you 'do your business' (there are normal toilets too - if you don't like the feeling of the wind on your butt).

We absolutely loved staying at the Ark, and I think the next time we're down that way we'd definitely go there again and stay a bit longer to take part in some of the workshops. It is a working farm so there are plenty of animals to see (and fresh eggs from the chickens was a bonus). There's also a Cattery on site too and we managed to see a few pretty kittys (including one that seemed to love licking the window). So if you're after a crafty peaceful getaway, you can't go wrong with this place.

That's all for now, coming up next - what we got up to on the way back from Devon!