Saturday, 30 March 2013

Multi-tasking Beetroot

Yesterday I rinsed out my first experiment solar dyeing with beetroot
With the more traditional methods of dyeing beetroot usually gives tan or brownish shades, so I was really pleased with this vibrant warm brickish red.  It is more intense than in the photo. I was inspired to go down to the local greengrocer and buy 3lbs of fresh beetroot to try a larger batch.

But - what about the golden rule? Which golden rule? My golden rule of natural dyeing, which is - if you can eat something, dont dye with it, eat it!! Which really means, only use the parts you cant eat as dyestuff.

So, as well as preparing a bigger solar dye jar of beetroot dye (that's a 2 litre jar and contains 50g wool tops and 50g silk caps) ......

....... I have made 10 jars of beetroot chutney - yummy!

Here's my recipe for beetroot chutney:

Cook 3lbs (about 1350g) beetroot whole, in 2 litres of water for 1 hour. leave to cool, then peel the beetroot. SAVE THE COOKING LIQUID AND SKINS FOR THE DYEBATH.

Peel and chop 3 onions, place in a large pan with 450ml malt vinegar, put the lid on the pan and start to simmer. Peel and chop 8 apples and add to the onions. Add 250g demerara sugar, 2 tsp sea salt and 1 tbs grated fresh ginger and continue to simmer. Cut the peeled beetroot into small dice, add them to the pan and simmer gently for an hour, stirring occasionally.

When the chutney is nearly ready put the clean jars into the oven at 100 degrees for 15 -20 minutes. Then fill the jars with the hot chutney and put the lids on tightly.

If you want to learn how to do the solar dyeing - you'll have to come to one of my worshops! It will probably also appear as a chapter in my next spinning book, which I am working on.
in the meantime, you can freeze the beetroot  cooking water and skins!

Pavia corso di filatura marzo 2013

Mi sono stata molto bene a Pavia!!  I had a great time in Pavia!!

Entusiasmo e la piacere di lavoro insieme - qui i 'allievi' stanno cardando un bellissimo vello di Shetland. La maggior parte del temo ero troppo impiegnato del insegnamento per fare delle foto!
Lots of enthusiasm and the pleasure of working together - here the 'students' are carding a beautiful Shetland Moorit fleece. Most of the time I was too busy teaching to take photos!

Era un corso base - (sabato) la preparazione della lana sucida, filatura col fuso e (domentica) filatura col filatoio. Tornero' per un corso di approffondamento...
It was a beginners' course - (saturday) preparation of raw fleece, drop spindle spinning and (sunday) spinning wheel basics. I will be going back to do a more advanced course....

Certo, una visita in Italia dovrebbe includere andare al pizzeria...
Of course a visit to Italy must include going for a pizza ...

Ho trovato Pavia  una citta molto bella
I found pavia a lovely town
17 gradi nel sole!! 17 degrees in the sunshine!!
ponte coperto - covered bridge
lavandaia - washerwoman
veduta dal ponte coperto


Strada Nuova

castello viscontino

prato del castello

Elisabetta in castello

Naviglie Pavia - Milano
Certosa di Pavia

laCertosa era chiusa - the Certosa was closed!
Grazie alle donne di Cuore di Maglia per la loro ospitalita al knit cafe al Bar Swing
ma sopratutto ringrazio dal cuore Elisabetta, Mari e Claudio Bernuzzi per tanto!!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

This week's spinning

I've been spinning three different yarns from the batts I posted last week
 top left: natural grey Blue Texel
top right: grey Blue texel overdyed
bottom: grey Blue Texel overdyed, plied with dyed silk

Here they are a bit closer

I'm planning to knit Kate Davies' Scatness Tunic so the yarn needs to knit up to the same tension as Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Jumper Weight. I've used lots of their lovely yarn in other projects so I'm confident that I've got the thickness right. Although the Blue Texel fleece is not as fine as a Shetland the yarn has the bounce and grippiness needed for the stranded colourwork fair Isle style knitting. I'm going to need a large quantity of the natural grey for my main colour; so far I've spun eight skeins, three more to go. All the contrast colours will be spun from dyed fleece, mainly reds and purples, not all Blue Texel but similar in handle, some natural black Zwartbles and I'm sneaking in a bit of silk too!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Quasi pronta per la partenza!! Pavia here I come!

Gia' pronta per la partenza di mercoledi per il mio corso di filatura a Pavia, 23 & 24 Marzo.
In valigio - fusi, cardatori, fibre, libri, bobine, pettine.....e tanto altro! I filatoi sono gia' arrivati a Pavia!
Questo corso e al completo, ma spero poter darvi subito i dati dei  miei prossimi corsi in Italia. Mi manda un messaggio se vorrei sapere quando i dati sono confirmati.

Almost ready to leave on wednesday for my next spinning workshops in Pavia, Italy. In the bag - spindles, carders, fibres, books, bobbins, combs...... and much more! The spinning wheels have already arrived in Pavia!
This course is fully booked but I hope soon to be able to give dates for my next courses in Italy. Send me a message if you would like me to let you know when dates are confirmed.

Friday, 8 March 2013


Look what happened when I got my drum carder out....
This lovely Blue Texel fleece from Strathearn Fleece and Fibre.....

.....became lots of lovely easy-to-spin batts. It almost seems a shame to blend the fabulous colour variations in this fleece but I want a large amount of solid-colour yarn as the background colour for some fair isle knitting. I'm planning to knit Kate Davies' Scatness Tunic. It needs quite a fine yarn, so far I've spun 6 batts into over 900 metres of 2-ply, I  need about another 300 metres of the grey, then I can start spinning the contrast colours.

here's some fleece I dyed with different flavours of Kool Aid drink powder. I dyed white shetland fleece and grey texel in each of the colours
I carded the greys and the brights separately.....
I think the dyed grey wool is really pretty
but maybe the dyed white wool is a bit 'candy floss' for me
lots of colourful spinning to come!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

six spinners spinning....

This weekend's beginners' spinning workshops brought six new spinners together. We met up in the village hall in Blackford (Perthshire) and immediately appreciated the newly installed heating system - it was a lovely sunny morning but chilly outside.

We had a bit of a chat about wool and breeds of sheep, and then got started with a lovely Texel cross fleece which was produced just five miles or so from where we were working on it (from Strathearn Fleece and Fibre). We sorted the wool into four different qualities - after a bit of touching and feeling everyone was able to tell the difference, although they had all looked a bit puzzled at first.

I showed them two different methods of preparing wool for spinning - combing and carding, explaining that they are used to prepare for two distinct styles of yarn. As they worked, they agreed that combing was easiest, but when I explained that carded wool is much easier to spin than combed wool everyone willingly prepared a good supply of carded wool.

In the afternoon  we spun the carded wool using drop spindles. I had brought along four different styles of spindles, and Reiko had brought a fifth type, a turkish spindle, so there was plenty of variety to try. As usual we started with the park-and-draft method, some then went on to spinning standing up with the spindle hanging free. Eventually everyone got on to plying their handspun yarns, which is when I remembered to take some photos!

They look very serious, because they are concentrating, but we had a lot of fun too!!

Everyone had got the hang of using the spindle by the end of the afternoon, and went home with a skein of their own handspun yarn, and a great feeling of achievement.
Keep practicing ladies!!

On Sunday Lynn had an individual session, learning how to use a spinning wheel. Having looked at a Traditional, and a Traveller she opted to try out an Ashford Kiwi, and she got on very well with it. By the time she was plying her Kiwi-spun yarn in the afternoon I could see real progress in the quality of the yarn she was producing, and she was pleasantly surprised by how much she managed to spin in the time.

I really enjoyed the weekend, meeting a group of lovely ladies and helping them to start their adventure of learning to spin. I look forward to meeting each of them again when they are ready to take another step on that journey.

For an update on forthcoming workshops I have planned click the Workshops tab above. Come and join in - its always fun!