Christmas Crafts

Story book coverI can’t believe I have not posted here since January 1st! In my defence I have been rather busy this year with my new children’s illustrated story book ‘The Thirsty Flowers’ which finally arrived at the end of November – just in time to make a few sales before Christmas. Although the story was written some years ago and was broadcast on BBC Radio’s ‘Listen With Mother’ programme this is the first time it has appeared in print and I have updated the story a little. It has been delightfully illustrated for me by a very talented young art student and, like all my books, the net profits will be donated to a children’s charity. You can read more about the book on my publishing website at ‘Silverburn Publishing’.

Fir cone table decorationWhilst I have been busy with the book I have not had much time to spare for my weaving or other craft work but I have not been entirely idle and, in this run up to Christmas, I would like to share with you some of the Christmas decorations I have made. These use all natural plant materials, with the exception of ribbons and the few silver ‘berries’ on the table decoration (above).

Home made holly wreathI have often in the past made my own wreath but in recent years have bought them to save time, however they seem to get more expensive every year and, since I have all the necessary materials in my garden, it seems rather silly to buy when I can make.  All too often the shop bought ones include artificial add-ons which to me rather defeats the Yuletide idea of ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly….’  I prefer the real thing!

Hanging firconesThese hanging cones use Cotoneaster berries rather than holly and were adapted from an idea in ‘Landscape’ Magazine, which I have mentioned before on these pages. I hung them at my French Window for the photo but they now hang from my dresser in the kitchen.

I have only recently returned from about six weeks touring through France and Spain (where our daughter lives) and all the fir-cones used were collected on my travels so the decorations also make a lovely reminder of our holiday. I have several more cones left but have run out of time now I think – ah well, there is always next year. In the meantime I wish seasonal greetings to all my readers and end with the promise that I will try to blog here more regularly in 2017!

What Are Those Numbers?

If you find this as confusing as I do maybe this article will help!

The Sweaty Knitter, Weaver and Devotee of Other Fiber Arts

Have you ever found a cone of interesting yarn, looked insConesCottonide the cone, read “8/2 cotton,” 10/3 linen or “10/3 wool” and wondered what those numbers mean? It’s the yarn or thread count. The yarn count or thread count is the number of yards of that specific yarn needed to make up one pound of a particular sized fiber (“YPP”).

HandbookThe Handbook of Timesaving Tables for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (Bettie G. Roth & Chris Schulz, 1993), sets out the yards per pound of various fibers as follows:

840Cotton, spun silk, rayon and acetate
300Linen, hemp, jute, ramie & wool (cut system)
560Worsted wool (spun system)
1,600Wool (run system)

A. Explanation

  • #1 cotton = 840 yards
  • #2 cotton (2x yardage and 1/2 diameter of #1) = 1,680 YPP
  • #3 cotton (3x yardage and 1/3 of diameter of #1) = 2,520 YPP
  • #8 cotton…

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Side by Side

For my next exhibition pieces I returned to my Big Beastie loom, now installed in our new conservaroom, alias my studio (or playroom, as my husband calls it). Having cut off the two cushion covers that I had worked side by side (see here and here to view) I pulled down the warp and tied it off again on the bottom beam as there was still plenty of the original linen warp, with a 6 epi sett, to go at. I didn’t want to work to the full width of the warp as this would be too big and take too long – I could complete more work more quickly if I wove smaller pieces, so once more I decided to work two pieces side by side, but not a matched pair this time.

It was design time again. I had inspiration for one piece from a strange source. One of our neighbours often clears out scraps of wood from his shed and gives it to us to burn on our multi-fuel stove and one day, amongst a bag of firewood, I found a painted cut-out of a crescent-shaped ‘man-in-the-moon’ with a hanging loop as if it had been part of a child’s toy. I decided to simply draw round it and incorporate it into a design for a hanging suitable for a child’s bedroom. The colour scheme spoke for itself and I already had suitable colours.

The second design gave me a little more pause for thought. I decided I wanted to try weaving something sideways. This is an accepted technique in certain circumstances, especially if the design incorporates a lot of long vertical lines as it is easier to do these horizontally. Finally, after searching through various pattern books for inspiration I decided on a simple zig-zag pattern with vertical bands incorporated in the design. Choosing a colour scheme was the next problem, but I had plenty in stock to choose from without the need to buy new.

Here are the two pieces being worked side-by-side on the loom, remember the one on the right is sideways on:

Two tapestries, side-by-side

I call the moon tapestry ‘Goodnight’. Here is another picture of it nearly finished. There is only the top triangular pattern left to do, to match the bottom.

Goodnight nearer completion

For the finishing touches there will be a tassel from the tip of the moon-man’s hat and tassels hanging along the bottom. Woven tabs at the top will loop over the hanging batten. The finished piece will be approximately 16 x 14 inches, while  ‘Zig-Zag’  will measure 22 x 14 inches.


The Return of The Beast (Part 1)

In 2008 my husband and I had sailed our 33 ft yacht, Red Dawn IV, from where we keep her in Essex to the Brest Classic Boat Festival in Brittany, France, which is held every four years.  She had been accepted as a classic boat, having been designed by Maurice Griffiths, a popular designer around the 1960’s and a long time editor of Yachting Monthly magazine.  All participants are requested to produce a ‘Toile de Mer’ which must in some way represent the boat and her home port. The  Toile has to be produced on a board to a specified size. This is the design my husband came up with, the left-hand side being an outline of the boat, her class (a Barbican 33) and her designer (Maurice Griffiths). The right depicts our home port with the county coat-of-arms, and in the middle is her name over a depiction of the sun rising over the sea:

Toile de Mer

Why am I telling you this? Well, for my first project on my Big Beastie loom I planned on working a pair of cushion covers for the boat, side-by-side so that I could be sure they matched properly and based on the middle section of the Toile design. Having fiddled around with Big Beastie for some time I eventually managed to get the tension adjusted reasonably satisfactorily and decided it was time to start the project.

The first problem was finding appropriately coloured yarn. I had been gradually building up a collection of yarns suitable for weaving, buying from Ebay amongst other places, but apart from a small ball of a nice golden-yellow for the sun I had nothing else suitable. When I have a colour in mind I like to see before I buy so I scoured the local yarn shops and quite a number further afield, all to no avail; I could find nothing with the correct intensity of colour. I even bought some undyed rug wool and had a go at dyeing it myself, but even after putting it through a dye bath twice I was still not getting the required density and richness of colour and was at risk of causing the pure wool to felt!

Then I discovered Texere Yarns on the Internet. They have a vast selection of yarns, including an Axminster Rug Wool selection in a wool/nylon mix. The colours they stock do vary according to availability but I was able to get more or less the colours I had in mind from them (it is always something of a compromise). I bought a navy blue, royal blue, light blue, as well as red and orange and in August 2013 I set to work. Here you can see the work in progress, which you will recognise from the blog banner above:

Cushion Covers side-by-side

I had bought the loom already warped up with a linen warp and a sett of approximately 6 epi so this formed the basis of the weaving. The finished size of the cushions would be 50 x 30 cms.

To be continued….

(In the meantime if you would like to know more about Maurice Griffiths and the Barbican 33 check out The Eventide Owners Association website here.)