Sunday, 22 February 2015

A fair, a talk, some wool and a bit of spinning

Unravel - a the knitting fair

Yesterday I went to Unravel at the Farnham Maltings with a friend form my Guild. They have this annual knitting event with a lot of stalls selling wool and accessories, a few courses and talks.

It is a full day, your senses are overloaded and when you first arrive you walk around in a sort of trance, picking up wool here, gazing at colours there and trying to see everything all at once, through the many, many people who are all there, doing the same thing.

So, we walked through the great hall first. Stopped at length at the John Arbon stall as he had a lot of fibre there this year, and you can usually grab some sort of bargain if you root around the offers in a large tub to the side. He had some very good fibre on show, superwash wensleydale was my favourite - in fact gotland and wensleydale wool are by far my all-shining fibre favourites at the moment - loose locks (both), a strong hairy fibre (wensleydale), and they can have the most beautiful silvery greys. It was great. I got some bags from the big tub, and we went on our way through the hall.....

The wool

And what was next - well, there was the Little Grey Sheep stall with bags of gotland fleece just waiting to be felt and adored. I bought 1 kg of this fleece - extravagant I know, but I already have a spinning project on the go with grey wensleydale so this will fit very well with that in the ply. 

There is just so much stuff at Unravel, and you can get a bit carried away. Room after room of dyed yarn. I have to say I find quite a number of the stalls are repetitive, there is only little variation on the theme of dyed yarn, but luckily there are also stalls with buttons, some with vintage woollen mill items and rug wool, and some with natural wools waiting to be dyed. And that was where Texere fitted in - they had the most beautiful singles wensley dale wool in large hanks - so there is the theme again, the strong yarn with a great soft lustre. I went back there in the afternoon and bought around 1 kg of that too!

For lunch we went into Farnham via the New Ashgate Gallery of craft. It is a fine little gallery with some good things, a bit of jewellery, ceramics, prints and paintings. There were some Barry Stedman pots there so I got to see what his chunky work is like, and some nice glass things.

After lunch we went to the Craft Study Centre to see the historical exhibition of students' work, FARNHAM TEXTILES 1949-2015: Celebrating sixty-six years, which was a mixture of books showing systematic approaches to dyeing with synthetic dyes and small displays of finished items, including a lace shawl that was in the most intricate work I have seen in a long time. There was also a pleated and heat-set scarf in the manner of Reiko Sudo (might have been hers, but I didn't check the list and there was no label) - good to see in reality what you otherwise see in photos.

A talk

.......Then back to the Maltings to buy more stuff - shawl pins and that wonderful wool at Texere, and then on to sit in on a lecture by Alison Ellen, the knitwear designer. This was an inspiring talk - on how she works with colour in her design. She really only covered those basic techniques that have been tested in assignment 2 of the course, but here it was shown in practice. If I take a couple of things from the talk that I will think about more in my own work it is her treatment of colour proportions derived from photographs, say, using a theme (her examples included green, but she also covered reds in another image) - and sampling using first simple stitches and then gradually working up more samples to play with the idea. Her language also showed how reflective she is about her work. She used the term 'cloth' about the knitted fabric. OK, that may sound obvious, but when I have been making knitted garments, I use the word 'knitting' about it, or a 'knitted' thing, but that slight inflection of the word changes things I think. knitting is a cloth-making process and by showing how it makes a fabric, a certain value is giving to it that elevates it and gives it a certain value. She also spoke about using rhythm and repeat in her colour designs, and thinking about slight variations derived in the dyeing process as 'syncopations'. Again that musical reference, but an interesting dimension to thinking about the work of what design can do. Alison Ellen is a true craftsperson and I think her designs for hand knitted garments are of a quality rare in the knitwear world.

And a bit of spinning

Obviously with such a full day there was not a lot of time to rest when I got home. However I knew what was in those bags and I wanted to bond with some of it straightaway. The wensleydale yarn was washed and hung to dry in preparation for dyeing some day. It is a very strong yarn and has a heavy body to it - I suspect it will hang well. It deserves a special pattern so that project is still to come. But as I alluded to I have some dark gotland lambswool on my spinningwheel destined for a project with some paler wensleydale, so I pulled out the darker strands of the new fleece and am now spinning it into the lambswool with some interesting green-black silk to create a bit of interest - a very slow project done on the side or when I have a moment of longing for spinning. Oh, it is a delight to spin a beautiful fleece - I spin from the grease (i.e. unwashed with the lanolin still in) or from commercially prepared rovings (I don't care too much for carding, there is just not the time and it is one preparation step that industry has made so much lighter). I don't mind the slight odour of urine and sheep, in fact I find it  comforting - it is almost the closest I can get to the nature of the animal without rearing it, and that is a gift from nature in the process of making.

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