Saturday, 20 August 2011

Catch Up Time

What a long time it's been since I last posted.  Things have been even more hectic than usual. 
Meantime, I went to an amazing workshop at An Lanntair - our local arts centre in Stornoway.  The workshop was called "Design in Tweed" and it involved handlooms, lots of different colours of yarns, CAD and also learning the proper way to write down weaving patterns. 

There were seven of us on the course and there were two two day courses held that week, both were fully subscribed.  Our trainer was Sam Goates ( who has masses of experience in the textile industry as a designer and weaver and has an enthusiasm for her subject which is positively viral!

For me it has opened up a new world of trying out patterns on paper, saving up for CAD software for myself and meeting a new network of contacts.  Thank you Sam, hope it won't be too long before we see you back for some more workshops.

We've also had the South Harris Agricultural Show since my last blog, which was a great event.  The sun shone, the midgies were away picnicking elsewhere, and the show was well populated with attractions and those enjoying their day out.  Above is a picture of one of the regular attractions - the Drakes of Hazard (  These are a group of Indian Runner ducks who are guided through an obstacle course by very talented and entertaining sheepdogs.  Their wrangler, Mark Wylie, provides a hilarious commentary and there is opportunity for audience participation too.

Another amazing attraction was Ben Potter who was displaying his Birds of Prey (   He has several different birds which he introduces and then they fly free over the arena.  The bird pictured above is a sea eagle, and it made a truly magnificent spectacle as it swooped in over the loch at Leverburgh.  Though we do have sea eagles here in Harris and have seen them at a distance, this was the first time most of us had seen one close up.  Not a bird to get on the wrong side of methinks!

Back to the loomshed after our day out, and finishing off a hand-spinning order for a local company.  This was a lovely cheviot ram who turned out to be a bit more kempy than I originally thought, but the yarn has a great character, and I hope I have produced something that will weave nicely in the Hattersley loom.  It's also been great to get some practice for our own hand-spun harris tweed which will be lurching into existence within the next few months.  The picture shows the hank of hand-spun being wound onto a cone on the Munty.
For those interested, I have discovered that for handspun yarn, the Hattersley is happiest with around a 12 or 12.5 Gala cut count.  Hands up who doesn't know what Gala cut is?  Well historically it is the yarn count used for Harris Tweed, though I think maybe it is being superseded by Nm to bring it into line with other textiles.  Anyway, 1 cut gala means that 200 yards will weigh 1 pound. Not metric I'm afraid, which will immediately alienate all readers under 40 years of age! However, with the aid of a calculator, it's not rocket science to convert it all into metres and grammes if you wish.  The easiest way to find the count of handspun is to measure its length, then weigh it as accurately as possible.  Divide metres into grams and this will mean you can work out the Nm, Tex or whatever you wish. 
For the 12 cut gala you are looking for around 4.8 metres per gram.  the average Ashford jumbo bobbin will take around 300 g of 12 cut and this will measure about 1.5 km.  The longer the length you have to measure, the more accurate the average count will be.

Here's one of my new linens - a thick and thin weft one woven on the very smallest shot wheel I have.  The thick linen is from Jos Vanneste in Belgium and is soft and smooth - almost like the fibres haven't yet been spun.  We find they need a good close warp to keep it all together, but once it's done and washed, it gives a gorgous almost boucle effect, very 1960's little Jackie O suits.

Introducing son of Mr Four-Horn, caught on camera in the distance.  He is coming on well and we have high hopes of him both in the horn and breeding departments.

And finally, Tilly the cat has found a roost in the loomshed.  I knew the warping mill would come in useful!