english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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August Sewing Zine Vlog

August Sewing Zine

I’ve uploaded a new vlog about what I’ve been up to this month, including the tweed and tartan weaving course I attended a few weeks ago.

View it below or via my YouTube channel:

Mentioned in the vlog:

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers summer school

My weaving tutor, Jan Beadle Textiles

Closet Case Patterns, Ginger Jeans

#ogdenidaswap2019

True Bias, Ogden Cami

Opian, Pilatus Swimsuit

Guthrie & Ghani shop opening in April 2013

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My First Weavers, Spinners, & Dyers Summer School & First Woven Scarf

Handwoven tartan scarf

In the last few years, I’ve become fairly involved with the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. I sit on the General Purpose Committee (since 2016), produce the Association’s monthly newsletter and manage the social media accounts (including the Instagram account). The Association has a very traditional structure where membership is to a local guild (I’m a member of Birmingham Guild), with local guilds affiliated to the Association (not the easiest when you are newsletter editor but only have one contact per guild). Within Birmingham Guild, I’ve recently jointly taken on the role of programme secretary with a fellow guild member, and am helping (in a very small way) with preparations for the region hosting a biennial conference in 2020.

Handwoven tartan scarf

Given that I am so involved with the Association, it dawned on me the other day when someone asked me, that I can’t really remember why or how I joined! I think I must have found out about Birmingham Guild online when looking for craft groups meeting locally & decided to give it a try. I know that I kept going because I felt welcomed and part of the group right from the start. The women (predominantly, there are only a couple of men) at my guild are a really fun and inspiring bunch, who I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I do think one of the best parts of getting older is becoming a member of an increasing number of groups or communities.

Handwoven tartan scarf

I’m sure most members of the Association would think of themselves as either a weaver, spinner or dyer (or a combination of the three). I like to try all three crafts during workshops, but I’ve never really taken up any as a hobby. I’ve never felt that I needed to, I’m happy to be involved and to just be a dabbler, but it was exciting to attend a week long weaving course last week and to find it completely accessible and enjoyable – and a potential new hobby. Obviously, I am always open to a new hobby!

Handwoven tartan scarf

The Association coordinates a summer school, organised entirely by volunteer guild members, every other year. As a member of the GPC I receive lots of updates during the planning stages, and this time around it proved too tempting to resist applying when booking opened. I was one of 194 students, with 40% of us attending for the first time (in contrast, Sally, a fellow student on my course, had been a student at nine summer schools!). The course I picked was Weaving Tweeds and Tartan with tutor Jan Beadle which was taught over five full days, with talks, exhibitions and other evening events making up the remainder of the seven day summer school.

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

I’ll blog separately about the course, but one of the pieces I came away with was this finished woven tartan scarf. We started by selecting the colours for our tartans early in the week, from the selection of wool yarns Jan supplied, made a decision on the pattern repeat, prepared the warp threads, wove the fabric, and finally finished by creating plaited tassels. The width of my scarf on the loom was 12.25″ but once off the loom, relaxed and washed , it is around 10.5″, and over two metres in length. The weaving of the scarf was completed within a day, with approximately half a day before to prepare the loom, and a few hours the following day finishing off (trimming and plaiting the tassels).

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

Once home, I washed the scarf by hand, air dryed it, and gave it a good firm press with a hot iron and lots of steam. The wool used isn’t super soft, but it’s soft enough (for me) to wear against the skin. Obviously it’s not quite the same when you haven’t got a teacher in the room to ask for help, but the whole process of weaving, and preparing to weave (definitely the more complicated part), this scarf felt completely accessible and repeatable. I’m currently considering buying a loom similar to the one I used on the course, but in the meantime I have two woven samples, also created during the course, which I am planning to cut and sew with. I have over two metres in total (narrow width) so plenty of fabric to play with if I can decide on a pattern or two.


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A Year in Colour Exhibition

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

During 2015, my Guild ran a year-long natural dyeing project with Winterbourne House, a local museum.

Each month, the gardeners at Winterbourne provided plant material (flower heads, bark, leaves, etc.) which the guild tested for their natural dye properties.

To explore the varied colours that can be achieved through the use of mordants and modifiers, eights small skeins of wool were treated with each dye (the first seven of which were pre-mordanted with alum):

  1. basic colour;
  2. light fastness test (kept by a window after dyeing);
  3. acid modifier (vinegar);
  4. alkaline modifier (diluted washing soda);
  5. iron modifier (created by soaking rusty nails in water & distilled vinegar);
  6. Over-dyed with madder;
  7. Over-dyed with woad;
  8. copper mordant (in place of alum).

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

The results of the project are on display in the Coach House Gallery at Winterbourne until 25th April.

Alongside skeins showcasing the colours achieved from each plant material, the exhibition contains a selection of projects created by talented members of my Guild. These projects showcase weaving, spinning, dyeing, knitting and felting – and the wool and silk used in the projects was also largely dyed with plants from Winterbourne garden.

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

I took part in a couple of the monthly dyeing sessions during 2015, and made a small contribution to the exhibition – a handful of knitted chamomile flowers included in the display below.

Winterbourne houses the national collection of anthemis (a genus which includes dyers chamomile). Yarn dyed with chamomile from the garden was used by Guild members to knit and crochet the flower heads below. The knitting and crochet patterns used were also designed by Guild members.

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

The exhibition is only small, but well worth a look if you’re local, and could be followed up with a visit to Winterbourne or to the neighboring Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which is a favourite of mine.

Carolyn, who led the project, blogged the results achieved each month on a dedicated blog.

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

P.S. If you live in the UK and are interested in trying weaving, spinning or dyeing, you can check if there’s a guild local to you using this online search.

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

A Year of Colour Exhibition by Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers


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Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Last Saturday was the annual Open Day of the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, where I am a member.

The open day includes an exhibition of items produced by Guild members which have been woven, spun or dyed. The Guild are a very talented group and I snapped a few photos of some of the items on display, in between helping out.

Dyeing

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Weaving

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Spinning

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

The open day also included a teacosy contest for guild members, with tea cosies needing to contain a woven, dyed or spun element. The first and second place winners are in the top two photos below. I didn’t enter anything this year, so will have to make up for it in next year’s competition.

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

As at all Guild meetings, there was plenty of homemade cake and tea available.

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

And, temptingly, there was a sale table where you could buy items made by Guild members, including dyed roving and yarn, knit and woven accessories, clay buttons and yarn bowls, and wooden looms. I was manning the stall in the afternoon which was pretty dangerous for my wallet, but was relatively restrained. I came home with some dyed DK yarn, and selected some lovely clay buttons and a yarn bowl which my Mom bought for my upcoming birthday.

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

If you live locally, the Birmingham Guild 2016 programme has been announced and is looking good, with upcoming spinning and weaving workshops, plus there are guilds across the UK.


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AGWSD Trade Fair, Where I May Have Bought My First Fleece

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

As I’ve mentioned previously, I recently joined the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. Last week the Association of Guilds held their annual summer school. I didn’t attend the summer school, but I did attend the open day held last Saturday, where visitors could drop-in to shop at the trade fair and to view the work of summer school attendees.

The work on display included work by students on the Certificate of Achievement, which has been run by the Association since 1989, the syllabus of which includes weaving, tapestry weaving, spinning, natural dyeing, and synthetic dyeing.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Work by students of the summer school courses was also on display; the results of the shibori class are pictured below. I love the shibori cat lavender bags.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

There were even more gorgeous things on display at the trade fair, and I did arrive home with a full shopping bag. I’ve listed a few of the vendors whose stalls I photographed below.

Beautiful weaving yarns from Weavers Bazaar

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Garments and covered buttons woven by the three UK Saori weaving studios. Saori is a Japanese style of free-form weaving which I’d love to try.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Beautiful fibre, ready for spinning, from Hilltop Cloud.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Natural dye supplies and felt and slate buttons at Fiery Felts. I bought some ground madder which I’m looking forward to trying out for the first time soon.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Ceramic and wooden buttons and beads by Stitchwort Handmade, which is run by a member of my guild. I bought some white and blue ceramic buttons, which I have already put to use on my refashioners2015 project;)

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Wool, fleece and knitted socks from the wonderful John Arbon Textiles, who operate out of a mill in Devon.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

Textile Traders, based in Shropshire, who specialise in handmade fabrics from Asia. I bought a couple of small pieces of fabric which I’m planning to use to embellish garments – perhaps as a yoke or sleeves.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

The Nepalese Textile Trust were selling textiles woven from the Himalayan giant nettle.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

In addition to the main trade fair was a fleece fair run by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, where I bought 1.5 kg of Blue Faced Leicester fleece.

The Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Summer School 2015

My fleece is pictured below. It was recommended to me as a good choice for a newbie to carding and spinning. It could be a very long term project, but I’m excited about working through the various steps to turn this fleece into a finished garment. I’m not thinking about what finished garment it might become at this stage, as I want to see how I get on and how much usable yarn I can produce.

Blue Faced Leicester Fleece

In order to turn this fleece into yarn there are quite a few steps that I need work through: washing, carding, spinning, dyeing (optional, I fancy dyeing it, but I’m also interested in seeing the natural blended colour I can achieve through carding and spinning ), and finally knitting. I’ll be blogging my progress as I go along.

Blue Faced Leicester Fleece

I’ve made an initial start on washing the fleece. It’s not obligatory to wash a fleece before carding, but I didn’t fancy carding it without washing as I didn’t think it would be especially pleasant. The fleece was quite greasy (a mixture of lanolin and sweat), contained clumps of dirt (or worse…) and lots of twigs, and – unsurprisingly – smelled really strongly of sheep!

At the suggestion of a member of my Guild, I’ve tried a traditional method of washing fleece in rain water (known as the fermented suint method). The fleece needs to be left in rainwater in a covered contained for 5-7 days, ideally kept lukewarm. If the method works successfully a scum appears on the top of the bucket and it apparently smells very strongly of sheep. I’ve split my fleece between two buckets and popped them in the bottom of my grow-house, where they will hopefully get a bit of warmth. If I’ve had no luck in a week’s time (or if it comes out looking no cleaner than when it went in) I’ll try washing it with some gentle detergent instead, but I thought the traditional method was worth a try given how gloriously simple and natural it is. Wish me luck (and clean fleece)!

Blue Faced Leicester Fleece


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Fabric Scraps Weaving & Elsewhere

Fabric Scraps Weaving

This is my first attempt at weaving, using a children’s loom kit and off-cuts from recent sewing projects, retrieved from my scraps bin. The children’s loom only allows for a small number of warp threads so I’ve made a larger loom and I’m planning a larger weaving with my naturally dyed yarns.

Fabric Scraps Weaving

Elsewhere

♥ Are you joining in with Heather’s Sundress Sew-along (01st July – 31st August)? You can sew any sundress, who could resist!

♥ I’m also planning to take part in the Sewcialists Lingerie Sewing Month during July.

♥ And… the International Anna Party taking place on Instagram (17th – 18th July). (P.S. Elle now has a blog – yay).

♥ I love the crafty merit badges released for Fancy Tiger Crafts’ 9-year anniversary.

♥ Oh wow, Yoshimi made parasols!

♥ Shenmue 3 is going to be made! I didn’t think it would ever happen. Show their Kickstarter campaign some love.

♥ Fringe Association have a 3rd hatalong, with a lovely free pattern Hermaness Worsted by Gudrun Johnston

♥ I’m still rewatching this retro Game of Thrones video game that never actually existed, Gamey Throne, via Ashens. I’m also playing the Telltale Games Game of Thrones game and loving it.

♥ Woolful is hosting a Knitalong for Hannah Fettig’s new book, Home and Away. My copy just arrived and I can’t wait to get started. I think I’m going to start with Hancock.

♥ Andi Satterlund’s new collection Quiet Days is beautiful. I love the Conservatory Cardigan and I didn’t know I needed a vest until I saw the Nosegay Vest.

Wool People 9 is out. Gyre is just lovely.

♥ Do you follow Harry on instagram? I love his illustrations so was very excited when he illustrated me. I’m wearing my Clemence Skirt, with cacti illustration.

Illustration by Harry.jpn
Illustration by Harry.jpn