DIAMOND JUBILEE YEAR Buckinghamshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers
FROM NETTLES TO SOY SILK
VISIT TO THE COTSWOLD WOOLLEN MILL IN FILKINS
HIGH LOFT SILK SPINNING
10 OXFORDSHIRE ART WEEKS 11 FORTHCOMING EVENTS 12 FULL CIRCLE 14
Dear Members ‘Behind the scenes’ work in preparation for our Diamond Jubilee Exhibition is moving on apace. We decided to cancel the Garden Meeting at Audrey’s on 2 August and use it as our Exhibition Preparation Meeting. This will give us time to discuss final arrangements, finish the bunting, make up kits and whatever else is needed. We are hoping to re-schedule the tea party in Audrey’s garden as it would be a shame to miss out on that. It is always such a lovely afternoon. This Summer will see us again at a number of our usual outside events demonstrating our crafts. We are also hoping to do some impromptu spinning/knitting at the Memorial Gardens in Amersham when they hold Sunday concerts.
60th BIRTHDAY EXHIBITION by Gilly Pusey 20 and 21 September 2014 Thank you to everyone who has signed up to help at the exhibition in some way. We are very grateful for all offers and if there is anyone who has not yet decided what they can do please look at the rotas at the next Guild meeting and ask a committee member if you are unsure about what you could do. We are applying for a grant from the Chiltern District Council Community Grant Aid Scheme and have been advised by our contact that we could receive approximately ÂŁ1000-ÂŁ1500, if we are successful. This will not only benefit the exhibition, but the Guild as a whole for some time to come as it could lead to other grant opportunities, and raise our profile within the community. Have you finished your triangle of bunting yet? Please give them to Adelheid as soon as possible so we know how many we have and what is still to do. Perhaps you could make one at the August meeting? Or maybe make something for the sales table? If you need some ideas see what other members are doing. A lot of small things that visitors could buy as gifts, or children, would like would be ideal. Now is the time to promote the exhibition to family and friends and any group you think might be interested. It is coming up fast so it's full steam ahead to work as hard as we can to make it a truly memorable weekend.
YOUR GUILD NEEDS YOU!
FROM NETTLES TO SOY SILK by Alison Jolley Teresinha Roberts came in May to give us a talk entitled ‘From Nettles to Soy Silk’. I thought I should find this interesting as the only plant fibre I have spun so far is flax, many years ago, although I have a stash of sample packs just waiting for the moment. I know a little about other plant fibres, for example in ‘Great British Railway Journeys’ Michael Portillo visits Dundee and speaks of the Jute industry which used to be the wealth of the city, and doormats are made from coir, but that was about the limit of my knowledge! I was therefore looking forward to meeting Teresinha and learning more. Teresinha told us that she comes from a long line of textile workers, weavers from Thuringia who emigrated to Brazil in the 1850s, and both grandfathers were tailors. She herself trained as a biologist and has written a field guide to southern Brazilian birds, as well as working in the Amazon forest. After coming to England she became interested in natural dyes, and started growing them on her allotment. This led to growing flax, and after a few failures – there are several forms of flax, and the plants grown for fibre are not the same as those grown for linseed oil or as garden plants, although they all have a wonderful blue flower. She finally tracked down some seed in Holland, and now grows and sells them herself. In fact, all of one crop of fibre was bought by a museum in Ireland which was having exactly the same problem sourcing material for a flax display as she was! Which is a bit like sending coals to Newcastle as Ireland once had a massive industry. To produce the fibre, which is formed up the whole length of the stem, the plant has to be wetted so the softer parts begin to be rotted away, called retting, then the hard fibres themselves need to be softened by being beaten and broken up, called hackling, before being combed out preparatory to spinning. The spun yarn is then woven into linen, the botanical name of the flax plant being Linum usitatissimum. Teresinha went on to tell us about other plant fibres. Apparently over 30% of all fibres used by man come from cotton, with just under 40% of all fibres coming from natural sources including other plants, and therefore a very small percentage comes from animals. Evidence of the use of plant fibres 4
goes back many thousands of years. As well as flax and cotton, other plant fibres are nettle, also called ramie, which is processed like flax; hemp, for which you need a licence if you want to grow it in Britain as it is from the cannabis family; kapok, a lint fibre like cotton where the short fluffy fibres come from around the seed (£10 notes are made from cotton); and fibres from leaves, yucca, pineapple, phormium or New Zealand flax, and banana, which is used to make manilla envelopes. And then there are the hard fibres; coconut or coir, which is good for ropes as it resists water while hemp and jute rot; and sisal, a fibre which is stripped from the agave leaf still with its pointy needle attached ready for sewing. All these fibres are obtained directly from the plant in fibrous form, but now other plant fibres are being produced by processing and breaking down the plant material, and then extruding it through spinnerets to create the thread. Although they are technically plant fibres, chemicals and industrial processes have been used in their production, so it is arguable how ‘natural’ they are. They include bamboo; banana from the trunk of the tree, which dies having produced the fruit; tencel, from birch or oak bark; seacel, which also contains seaweed; and soy silk, a by-product of the tofu industry first produced by Henry Ford in the 1930s. I thought he made motor cars! This talk was full of facts – I only remember some of these because I write them down - but Teresinha produced them in such an entertaining and lively way that I came home determined to spin that collection of plant fibres I have on my shelf; and speaking to other Guild members as we looked at her samples over tea and biscuits, we agreed that we must ask her back for episode two, ‘From Angora to Yak’, and discover about all those animal fibres out there waiting for us. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
KNITTING AND SPINNING GROUPS We have groups for knitting and spinning. The spinners meet on Mondays and bring their wheels and spindles. Knitting is on Thursdays, but you can also bring crochet, weaving or embroidery or whatever else you are working on. The groups meet in alternate weeks at 7.30pm in the Pottery Room and if you would like to come along please contact Gilly or Martina for the dates. 5
CATERING ARRANGEMENTS FOR OUR 60th ANNIVERSARY by Marjorie Waye Thank you for your catering donations already entered on the list which has been circulated at our monthly Guild meetings. Now that Chiltern District Council has expressed interest in advertising our event, catering may be more challenging. Is there anyone who is particularly good at making:
home made soups quiches
scones, cakes - small and large fruit pies and crumbles puddings
If you are unable to cook or bake anything, but would still like to contribute you could just make a donation as there are plenty of things we have to purchase. Our Celebration Party for Guild members and guests will take place after 5pm on Saturday. A small team will organise catering for this separately to include afternoon tea, celebration cake, drinks, etc. Please remember that an ‘all day’ £5.00 voucher will be available for each day at Reception. The menu will also be priced separately for morning coffee, lunches and afternoon teas. Thank you for your continuing support.
VISIT TO THE COTSWOLD WOOLLEN MILL IN FILKINS by Adelheid Jenkins One cold and rainy day in February my friend Lindy and I decided on a day out to a place that Alison had recommended to us. We drove out to Burford, Oxfordshire and turned left at the main roundabout to arrive at the Cotswold Woollen Weavers in the village of Filkins a few minutes later. Before even starting to look at the main attractions - the weaving shed, museum and shop - we made our way to the cafe to have a warming cup of coffee and to share a piece of cake. We then walked across the court yard to the large barn which houses the old weaving looms and big baskets full of bobbins, bits of fleeces, and also bags of assorted pieces of woven cloth samples for sale, of which we bought some. A large floor loom is still set up as if the weaver has just popped out and will be back in a few minutes to continue his work. There is an office full of old textile sample books from the 19th century and ledgers and old order books from years gone by. And everything can be touched. Upstairs there is a loft full of sale items that would delight any school class of children who come here to learn about the history of wool and weaving in the Cotswolds and then want to spend their pocket money. After looking around the big barn we went back to the cafe for a very lovely lunch served to us by a very friendly gentleman. Afterwards we proceeded to the shop which, I am afraid, for me is the best part of any day out! We had a lovely long look around the shop, full of knitted jumpers and cardigans - Lindy bought a really gorgeous Fair Isle one in the sale - and beautiful tweed jackets, coats, suits and skirts. There was also a wonderful selection of blankets in lots of different colours. I bought a really lovely green Oxford check one. When we had spent most of our money we decided to go home. Lindy and I really enjoyed ourselves that day and I will definitely return, perhaps even take my husband next time! 7
HIGH LOFT SILK SPINNING by Gilly Pusey Priscilla Lowry had come over to this country from her native New Zealand to give a series of workshops and we were lucky enough to book her for a Silk Spinning day. Priscilla started by advising us on the set up and oiling of our wheels. Then we got straight on with the best method of spinning Bombyx and Tussah silk tops. We learnt to tell the difference between them by feel as well as sight. Bombyx was finer and smoother than Tussah which helped to visualise how they would look when spun. Priscilla prefers a long backward draw which works very well. We were encouraged to spin from thin to thick. It is essential to spin the right type of yarn depending on what the silk will be used for. Throughout the day Priscilla talked about the history and production of silk including the life cycle of the silk moth. She has a special interest in medieval history and lectures on the subject at university in New Zealand. She was a mine of information on silk production from past to present, throughout the world, and has travelled extensively for research for her books and lectures. The different kinds of silk we tried included mawata caps, throwsters waste, noils, laps, cocoon stripings and silk tops. They are all produced in different ways and we learnt where each one came from and what use they are best suited for. All of these needed their own method of spinning and the end results were quite different. 8
Priscilla actually cut the tops into 2 to 3 inch lengths and spun them from the middle to make a hedgehog yarn! (see picture page 8, bottom left)
We also had a chance to see some of her hand knitted silk jumpers, as well as some upcycled and quilted jackets. All designed by her. A very talented lady. I will certainly be putting all I learnt into practice.
Priscilla is a wonderful teacher, so passionate and interested in her subject, and you can't help but be inspired after a day with her.
OXFORDSHIRE ART WEEKS by Alison Jolley On May Bank Holiday Sunday I had a lovely day out visiting an exhibition in Ewelme as part of the Oxfordshire Art Weeks. These take place every May, with South Oxfordshire, North Oxfordshire, and the City of Oxford having a week each. This year Mary Lowry was weaving and exhibiting her scarves and stoles with three other craftspeople at Ewelme Pottery, so off I went. The Pottery is owned by Harriet Coleridge, who makes cheerful and useful mugs and dishes and other forms, with glazes ranging from painted birds, animals and flowers to more abstract shapes and colours. There were also paintings by Charlie Baird, and some wonderful woodcarvings by John Parrey of flying fish, grotesque birds, and other monsters. There were two which really appealed to me, of a giant bird dressed as Henry VII, and a cormorant whose outstretched wings made a cloak about him. Sadly both pieces were beyond my budget. Mary was in the pottery at her portable loom, weaving one of her wonderful scarves, and accompanied by the most laid-back cat I have met for some time. I donâ€™t think she was getting much done as there was a steady flow of visitors interested to talk to her about her work. Having chatted with her and then with the wood sculptor for a little, I went i n t o t h e g a r d e n . Yo u m a y remember it was a beautiful sunny day, and the garden was just coming into Spring flower. The pottery and garden are set on the hillside overlooking Ewelme church, with the Medieval Almshouses and village school next to it. These were founded by Chaucerâ€™s granddaughter, Alice de la Pole, and are 10
still in use today. And to add to my pleasure, you could buy a cup of tea and Chocolate Cake – for charity, so the calories don’t count. So I did, and walked slowly round the garden, just enjoying it all. Visiting craft exhibitions and engaging with craftspeople at work is one of the pleasures in life, so although the Oxfordshire Art Weeks have now ended for this year, the Buckinghamshire Open Studios are just beginning, so do go and visit some; and there might even be chocolate cake.
FORTHCOMING EVENTS 2014 Gilly and Alison will be spinning at the Open Farm Sunday on 8 June at Field Farm, Lewknor. As part of their education primary school children are invited to the farm to learn about alpacas. Alison spun some skeins from their fibre and knitted a scarf so that the children can see the process from animal to garment. Open Studios starts on 7 June 2014 and there are some interesting items on the Amersham Art Trail. Marjorie’s studio will be open until 22 June 2014. Woolfest, Cumbria opens its doors on 27 and 28 June 2014. This is followed by Art in Action at Waterperry from 18 to 20 June 2014. Guild members have been invited again to demonstrate at Hazeldene Farm near Chesham on 6 July 2014. Fibre East in Bedfordshire takes place on 26 and 27 July 2014. Heritage Day in Old Amersham is on 7 September 2014. Ashridge Country Fair at the Monument is held on 14 September 2014. The most important event this Autumn is of course our Diamond Jubilee Exhibition on 20 and 21 September 2014. Please come and join in any of the demonstrating events this summer. 11
FULL CIRCLE by Beverley Thompson Emma Price’s journey into textiles was inspired by her love of spinning, weaving and dyeing. She has always had a strong connection with Wales and saw her first spinning wheel at the age of 16 when she visited her mother’s cousin in North Wales. At 18 she acquired her first wheel and at 21 got a spinning chair. She taught herself to spin and even in the early stages she only wanted to work with natural fibres. As a child she always wanted a sheep skin rug – but it had to be “perfectly right”. She showed a hand-spun/woven man’s shawl, made in Assam from raw silk. Well travelled, mainly in India, she felt that there were elements of the shawl that represented her journey from where she was then to where she is now. Emma’s previous profession was as an accountant. Good at maths (dad was an accountant) she achieved a degree in Accounts/Finance. Despite being well paid, she found the work boring. She was a member of St. Martin’s Vauxhall City Farm Spinners, and to alleviate the boredom of her day job she enrolled on a tapestry course. Soon after, she got the opportunity to travel to India and booked a ticket, travelling around the country for 3 weeks. Within six months of her return she gave up her job and bought an “Allaround-the-world” ticket to search for spinning wheels. In Kashmir she saw some exquisite wheels with walnut carvings and had one made for her in walnut wood. She paid a lot of money at that time, about £400. On her departure the wheel was not ready… She eventually received it, some four years later, with a note stating that the price for shipping had increased and could she send it by return… Needless to say, she did not! Based on her travels around India, she got the impression that spinning was seen as a “low caste” occupation. Looms and weaving equipment were very much in evidence, unlike spinning wheels. Upon returning to London she did another hard stint as an accountant to pay for her travels, a pattern which she repeated over a period of 10 years. With a group of spinners she travelled to India with flat-pack Ashford spinning wheels and set up a cooperative to help young girls move off the poverty line. The aim was to empower them to have a sustainable industry and spin at home. Emma found that the enthusiasm amongst the girls/women soon dwindled and following one of her return trips from England, some of the wheels had pieces missing and some wooden equipment had been used as firewood. She soon learnt that the people saw no value in the machines and the co12
operative couldn’t be maintained as the factory production line system was preferred, even though they were paying double the average wage. She was head hunted by FabIndia (www.Fabindia.com) and worked for them in Delhi for several months. This allowed her to travel all over India and she ended up buying raw silk, waste silk product that had been “thigh spun”. She showed a piece which had been made into a throw and dyed with madder. Emma fell in love with an Indian, but the relationship did not last and she returned to the UK with her son, Harry. She went back to college and enrolled on an embroidery course followed by a foundation course. She moved away from textiles to fine art. This course gave her a sense of play/ experiment and the opportunity to explore materials and ideas. Emma showed an item that drew a lot of comment. She described it as a conceptual knit, from her love of knitting socks. It was made out of over 100 needles in once piece and was created for an exhibition. One of her friends likened it to Emma’s cyst removed at a recent operation! It was described as a piece that will never finish. Another piece of conceptual knitting with two ends represented a flock of sheep. Guild members could knit on it and add a comment in a diary. The piece has accompanied her on her travels around India. Emma’s sister and brother-in-law own a farm with Clunt sheep and she started to spin the fleece by hand. As she always wanted a wool shed, they decorated a container where she was able to set up an open studio. At the moment she is working on getting her products into shops and a local shop in Kenilworth is interested in selling her wool. Following this very interesting talk, Emma handed over a variety of different sized bowls and support spindles for attendees to try their hand at. 13
MEMBER PROFILE: Adelheid Jenkins My favourite craft is still - even though I love other ones knitting. I learnt to knit at school and at home from my Mum. My Aunties were always knitting when I was a child and wool, or at least yarn, was always around me. The first proper item I knitted for myself was a jumper (right) which I started and finished within two weeks knitting on the bus on the way to and from college. Since then I have pretty much knitted all the time, though at times I wasn't in the mood for knitting and stopped for a year or so. I had also learnt cross stitching at school, so when I came to England I got into that. When I was having the children I would knit little jumpers and things for them, but I was never, alas, artistic enough to knit anything without patterns. But luckily there are sooo many lovely books and patterns out there, and now with the internet, it is so easy to find patterns by great wool companies that don't even cost anything. When I went back to work after having the children I worked a lot of nightshifts, which were ideal for taking my knitting with me, though some nights were so busy, we never got breaks, never mind time to knit. I knitted for a wool shop in Northwood, and sometimes the shop owner would ask me to knit an item with some fancy new art yarn, but I always liked good old plain wool. About 12 years ago on a holiday in Yorkshire we saw a second hand spinning wheel for sale in the Wensleydale longwool sheep shop. Laurie bought it for me and said "even if you never learn to spin it will look nice as a piece of furniture". My mother-in-law was less than impressed, but on a day out with a friend she came upon a few of our Guild Ladies spinning at Chenies House. She picked up a leaflet and the rest, as they say, is history.
I joined the Guild that October, but it took me another year and a half before I really sat down and got the knack. Since then I have enjoyed most trying out different types of fleeces and fibres. I absolutely love carding wool or hand combing longwool and Alpaca! I find it very calming! Over the last year or two I have been spinning a lot more ready dyed and prepared tops which are usually handpainted. I love knitting scarves and stoles for family and friends as gifts and also to order. I don't tend to sell work, but I am hoping to sell a few bits at our exhibition. I really want to learn to knit socks for myself and perhaps Laurie too. I use normal knitting pins, but love knitting with bamboo. I have used circular needles, being born and bred German, but I prefer normal knitting needles. I have also tried broomstick knitting, but I actually like knitting with fairly thin needles, size 4 is my favourite, but I have used size 2mm for a doily I knitted for a friend at least 20 years ago! I have a large stash of yarns and wool and love fibre! You could call me a Woolaholic!!! (which Laurie frequently does!). I hope to leave knitted blankets, cushions and scarves behind as a kind of legacy! Just to say, I was here!!!
2014 Guild Programme 5 July
Show and Tell
Exhibition Preparation Meeting
Talk ‘Creative Crochet’ by Hilary Turner
Workshop ‘Creative Crochet’ with Hilary Turner
20/21 September Diamond Jubilee Exhibition 4 October
Speaker from the Association
Basket Weaving Workshop with Alison Jolley
Meetings are held in Barn Hall at the Amersham Community Centre at 2 for 2.30pm. We always have a sale table where you can bring and buy and we serve tea and biscuits after the talk.
Alison Jolley firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Allen email@example.com
Ian Slaney firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheila Cruickshank email@example.com
Margaret Baker firstname.lastname@example.org
Gilly Pusey email@example.com
Martina Müller firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Slaney email@example.com
Marjorie Waye firstname.lastname@example.org