Saturday, 31 October 2009

More on Etsy

There are now 7 of my Christmas Sparkles Handspun Falkland Wool hanks on Etsy - . Still have four more to measure and hank and another five to dye after the weekend.
They are great to knit with - very soft and bouncy. I shall be putting them in my loomshed for sale next week, so now is a good time to purchase.....
Weather is good today though rather hazy. Hoping to get some autumn gardening done this afternoon - pruning, weeding and tidying. Hope it doesn't rain!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Dyeing Monday

Yesterday I was dyeing in the morning - Monday is a good day for dyeing as I can keep an eye on the washing in the washing machine and drier and do something else at the same time!

Here is some of the yarn I have ready for measuring, weighing and Etsying....
Two more are on Etsy today, and hopefully more will follow.
Today the weather is awful - gloomy and rainy - real November weather even though it's only the end of October. Even the hens are looking dismal, whilst no-name turkey is looking very spiky round the nether regions. This is the sort of weather that makes me want to stay in by the fire and get on with the spinning whilst watching an episode of CSI Season 1 which arrived from Amazon via the postie this lunchtime. However, this afternoon is the first session of "After School Club - Arts and Crafts" at the local school so I will have to pull myself together before then!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Potatoes and my Etsy Shop is now Open again!

At our craft fair and flea market yesterday in Tarbert, someone brought along a box of potatoes that had been grown by the pupils at Seilebost School in South Harris. I couldn't resist them and this is what I brought back with me. Seilebost is on the machair (a light sandy soil which is flat and is populated by hosts of beautiful wild flowers in the summer) and because it such a light soil the potatoes grow very evenly and don't have knobbly lumps sticking out of them like those we grow in a rocky soil. You can even see the sand still clinging onto the potatoes. The pink ones are "Rooster" variety, and the others are "Golden Wonder". We had some roosters for lunch today and they were beautiful. Thank you Seilebost School!

This afternoon I decided to open up my Etsy shop again - after having it closed since before I went to Japan in March! So to celebrate, I've put on two hanks of Christmas Sparkles handspun, hand-dyed Falkland wool. Hopefully this is just a start. There are 5 more hanks ready for measuring and weighing, and four more ready for dyeing.

And finally, remember the 2 shades of green, yellow and natural linen I collected from the mill a couple of weeks ago? Well, at last here is a picture of it. Rather natty if a little optically challenging! There are 43 meters on the roll, so I'm busy sending out swatches to my regular customers. I will have it on Etsy at some point, but meantime, if you are interested in any, just drop me a line:

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Hebridean Tweed

Although I love almost every thing about my work, one of the most enjoyable things about designing and weaving cloth and hand-spinning yarns is that sometimes I get to see what it being made from them.

Today I had a lovely surprise to receive this picture of a cushion made from my Hebridean Tweed. The Gaelic saying embroidered into it is translated as: "whoever burns his bottom must sit on it".
The maker is Deirdre Nelson - . Deirdre completed a residency at Taigh Chearsabhaigh in North Uist a couple of years ago which culminated in an auction of fish which had been knitted during her time on the island. She has some great ideas and is always up to something exciting. I'm pleased to say that Deirdre has worked with both my linen and now with the Hebridean Tweed. She has an interesting blog at which I'm going to add to my followings.
Weather good today - plenty of sun and no wind. Long may it last! Sorry to the folks on the East Coast who have not had it so good.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Lucky Dip

I've been snapping away with the camera over the past week, so here are some of the results, in no particular order.

To start with - hand-spun falkland wool (roving from blueface454 on Ebay) spun by me into a thickish soft single and then twisted with a fine lurex thread to stabilise it all. Then dyed by me with landscape dyes. Here is a ball of it wound up and a little tension square I knitted to check out tension, length and needle size etc. This particular one had the shades - Maize, Alfafa, Saltmarsh and Coral.
I've got quite a few hanks hanging up drying waiting to be measured and re-hanked, with different dye combinations. For anyone who hasn't knitted with handspun before, this is a very comfortable one to use and knits up light and airy with just a hint of sparkle to chase away those winter blues that will be with us very soon. Hope to have these on Etsy within a few days but will blog when they are in.

Next, it's no-name turkey. At last a picture of him/her looking very much like a turkey now. It is still living in the hen house with the hens but is growing at a rate of knots and we will soon have to think about clearing out the turkey shed as it has a larger pop-hole.

Now, here's a shot of a buzzard sitting on a pole outside the house looking menacing. It has been hanging around the croft for days terrorising everything feathered and small and furry. Even Heather the little dog has looked a bit worried at times. The guinea fowl are always on the look out for predators and make a terrific noise whenever they see it so the hens and chicks dash for cover. So far no-one has been caught.

More about my very useful yarn meter. I've been winding up yarn for the next warp and have had the meter plumbed into the Munty cone-winder so I know when I've got sufficient. It's great and hopefully will save me loads of time and lead to greater accuracy and less wastage. That's the theory anyway! My loomshed could really do with a tidy as well.

And to finishe with, here are the yarns for the new linsey-woolsey. The blue and white are 10lea linen and the brown and grey are Hebridean 13c. The cloth is going to be exactly the same as the one that's in the loom just now - 12 x 12 Herringbone. I've got the yarn up on the creel and if I can find time to start the warp today I will. It's been busy with visitors both morning and afternoon - the season is longer this year I think.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Clocking up the miles - in more ways than one!

Just back from Carloway having delivered a large sheet of Borve, Harris Cheviot sheep's wool to Harris Tweed Textiles. It was supposed to be around 30kgs but I think it was more than that. We have our fingers crossed that there is enough crimpiness to hold everything together on the carders now. Steve the Mill Manager said he was going to get started on it next week - so good luck guys!

The dogs were good on the journey (which takes about 1.5 hrs each way) as they always are. Here's a piccie of Pippin to show how big he's getting. One ear is fully vertical now and the other one is on its way up. He looked so cute with the floppy ears but I guess now he's growing up cuteness is not going to be high on his priority list. He is nearly the same size as Bramble and judging by the size of his feet, is still going to put on some inches before he's finished.

When we got home there was a US parcel waiting for me. Great excitement - the yarnmeterI ordered only a few days ago. It was up and running within minutes.....

I have been looking for a small portable yarn meter for ages and ages - when I'm spinning wool for sale people always want to know the yardage as well as the weight as you can work out the thickness of the yarn from that as handspun is generally not a standard gauge. Also, when making up yarn packages for the warping creel, it would be good to know how much to wind onto the little cones so I don't either have knots in the warp because I've underestimated, or loads of part-empty cones hanging around because I've over-estimated. Now, at last my problems are at an end! The principle is to wind the yarn round the wheel (which is 18 ins circumference) and wind it, thus rotating the wheel and clocking up the yardage on the number counter. To get yards you divide by two. Simple!

The meter came from and the service is terrific. Nadya was so helpful about air mail postage etc. If you look on the web site there is a wee video to show how it works, but its such a simple idea and soooo effective. Thanks Nadya. Another plus is that the figures on the counter are big enough to see without having to keep bending over, so even my old eyes are not strained! If only the mobile phone companies and packaging printers could take a leaf out of this particular book...

To close the blog today here is a picture of my new linsey-woolsey. Remember the rusty orange and sand linen stripey warp? Well, this is it on the loom with a weft consisting of 2 shots of brown Hebridean and 2 shots of grey Hebridean.

Now, this wasn't what I originally planned - when I tried thebrown on its own it looked a bit odd and I was a tad disappointed with the result. Maybe too much contrast between the brights and the dark, or maybe something else was affecting the look of it. Anyway, decided to add in the grey too and, whilst it will not rock the universe, it is a very pleasant, understated and distinctly tweedy effect. This makes me think I should be considering a matching plain tweed using both grey and brown Hebridean - maybe alternate ends in the warp and with a plain brown weft, or as 2 ends grey 2 ends brown in the warp with a 2 and 2 weft as well which would make a tight little checkerboard effect that would look peppery from a distance and hopefully match in with the linsey woolsey.

Anyone who has any thoughts on this, please do not hold back - I need all the help I can get at this stage of the show!

Now to do some weaving and play with my new yarn meter...........

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Past Week

Goodness me! It's a week since my last blog and its not because there is nothing happening at Scalpay Linen. In fact its been quite an exciting period as regards planning and production and I've been a bit pre-occupied as a result. However, I have managed to grab the camera at various stages, with some jolly results.

The new warp is now on the beam (see below) and is just gorgeous. I'm busy tying in and am hoping to have a little bit of weft in by the end of the day if all goes well. The quality of the yarn is stunning - wet spun and very glossy. I can't wait to see the finished linsey woolsey.

We have had quite a bit of rain and wind this week - with an amazingly warm and sunny day on Thursday. There were a lot of rainbows too and I managed to capture this one for you to see...

We also managed to get a picture of the white naked neck chick - Meryl. Still not sure whether its a "he" or a "she" but its very glamorous.
One morning I got this photo of the full moon against a lovely pink sunrise. It was such an atmospheric effect!
. During the week we went to both the mills - the mill at Shawbost aka Harris Tweed Hebrides, where we picked up the green checked linen. Wow, its great. Very soft and drapey. Our finishing guru at the mill, Donald, said it was the best yet and I had to agree. Think my warping is improving in leaps and bounds (at last!). Haven't got a piccie of this linen yet, but I will get one and add it into the blog asap. We also dropped off the yellow, brown and turquoise linen to be finished.
We called in a the Carloway Mill, aka Harris Tweed Textiles, who have been struggling a bit with my Hebridean fleeces. They have a whole cupboard full of it cleaned and teased, but despite trying with both their carding machines, its not carding up at all well. So the only solution to this problem is to add some other fibre to bind it together. This was a bit of a depressing thought since my unique selling point for the new Harris Tweed that we are developing is that it is to be made from wool sourced locally - ideally Hebridean Sheep wool. However, the best laid plans etc. etc. so whilst retaining the concept, we have somewhat tweaked the details.....
In South Harris there is a flock of Cheviot sheep which are of exceptional fleece quality. If you follow Calana Crafts blog (see my link list), you may recall that Joan had some of this spun up as knitting wool a few years ago, and marketed it very successfully as locally grown. After a hurried phone call to Borve to check that Richard still had his clip on the premises, he has agreed to supply me with about 30kgs of greasy cheviot which the mill is going to dye brown and then blend with our Hebridean to produce a yarn which will still be locally produced, though not pure Hebridean. However, it will probably be softer for the addition of 10 - 15% of Cheviot. Interestingly, we had provisionally pencilled in an approach to Borve to see if we could use their fleece next year for spinning and dyeing to give us a wider shade palette (assuming that our cash flow holds up). All that remains for me to do is get an exemption from the British Wool Board to enable me to get the fleece direct from the owner rather than go through the Board, which is the usual procedure in the UK, and we will be hopefully then be ready to roll...
Now, I'm normally a pretty laid-back individual as a rule, but I must admit that this was not an easy problem to sort out. Lots of thanks to everyone who has helped us - Steve at Carloway, Richard at Borve, the Wool Board office, Lorna at the Harris Tweed Association who has been very supportive, all our Hebridean fleece suppliers on Lewis without whom we would not have got this far, and my O/H who is always the epitome of common sense!
Now its back to tying-in and winding bobbins.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Wet & Windy

Today the weather is just horrid! The wind is blowing from the North at about force 8, but it was stronger in the night, and its been raining continually for over 24 hours now. Yesterday I struggled up to the shed and replaced the reed in the loom with the 2 ends per dent one and started to thread it up into a 12 x 12 herringbone. But it was so cold and dreary that, even with BBC i-player relaying my favourite radio programs from last week, I couldn't work up much enthusiasm. Must get out the long-johns and padded boiler-suit now that winter has arrived. Two days running we have had intrepid parties of visitors in the loom shed - cheerful and uncomplaining despite the climatic conditions. Well done them, I say.

Here's a photo of the new warp half-way finished on the warping mill. The yarn is some of the new consignment from NV Jos Vanneste SA in Belgium. It was expensive yes, but is a very high quality and qualifies me to use "Masters of Linen" labelling, which is always worthwhile. Wet spun, beautifully dyed and in my view well worth the hassle in arranging overseas payments etc. with the bank. I always thought that part of the benefit in belonging to the E.U. was that trading between member countries would be as easy as trading within the UK. Of course, that doesn't take into account the banks! Why can't we use online banking like we use Paypal? At the next European election I will pledge my support to the party which sorts this out!

After that wee rant, back to the warp. It's going to be 55 yards on the mill, 10lea and as already mentioned 12 x 12 herringbone. Back to 19 shots to the inch with a Hebridean 13c weft. I think it is going to look just amazing. I shall be trying to use up all my existing stocks of Hebridean yarn to make way for the Harris Hebridean which will hopefully shortly emerging from the Carloway Mill ( and can't be mixed as that will be used for Harris Tweed.
Now this photo above is of the linen I've just finished - remember the one a while ago that I couldn't decide what weft to use? Well, I finally settled on a sequence of 14 shots brown, 14 shots yellow, 14 shots turquoise and 14 shots yellow. And, it has worked out very well - so well that some of it is ordered already even before it goes to the mill for finishing! The turnaround warping worked out nicely and its good to see a larger pattern on my cloth for a change.
It's single width - about 30" and will be available for £20 a metre finished, so if anyone would like to pre-order, please drop me a mail
The hens have started moulting and we're down to half a dozen eggs per day, but they've done very well over the summer so I guess they deserve a rest. End of term report on ducks and guinea fowl - could do better! Too much friskiness, not enough egg laying! No-name turkey is growing up fast and turning into a jolly little addition to the poultry house. We think its a female, so now we're looking for a young stag to keep it company next year.