english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Spinning Your Own Yarn

Creating yarn

I have an article in the April issue of Seamwork, released today.

The article is a guide on creating your own yarn, and includes stages from buying and washing a fleece, carding and spinning fibre, plying spun singles, and washing your yarn.

That’s a lot of information to squeeze in. If anything is unclear in the article let me know. I’m only a beginner, but I’ll try to help.

Creating yarn

You can read the full article here, or download the magazine from the Seamwork website.

Oh, and I also pop up in another article in this month’s Seamwork! Nicki has written a great article about her #oneyearoneoutfit project, & I’m included as one of the participants.

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

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Liberty Linden Sweater Dress in Bruges

Linden Sweatshirt Dress in Liberty Fleece

Now that winter has returned, I’ve gone back to making Linden Sweatshirts! (Last year’s Lindens are here: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4).

Linden Sweatshirt Dress in Liberty Fleece

My mom bought me this Liberty fleece from SewBox at the Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show in Birmingham during November, as a birthday gift. I didn’t have a particular plan for the fabric but thought I’d make a Linden rather than risk a new pattern with Liberty fabric. I only had one metre of fabric but this fleece is very wide and once I’d laid out the pattern pieces it was clear I had more than was needed for a sweatshirt.

Linden Sweatshirt Dress in Liberty Fleece

To make the dress I used View A of the Linden Sweatshirt (size 0), and simply extended down the full length of the fabric, shaping in slightly near the hem. I used the Linden View B length sleeves. As with my previous Lindens, I cut the neckline band approximately one size larger to ensure it would lie nice and flat.

Linden Sweatshirt Dress in Liberty Fleece

Due to the thickness of the fabric, I folded over once at the hem and bottom of the sleeves and sewed two rows of stitching to secure.

Linden Sweatshirt Dress in Liberty Fleece

These photos were taken during a recent long weekend in Bruges, down a quiet street. In fact the whole of Bruges was quiet like this (making it the perfect blog photo location!) – until Saturday when many more tourists descended. Ignore the creases in these photos, I’d been walking around in the dress all day, and had it screwed up under a coat and scarf – temporarily removed for blog photos.

Linden Sweatshirt Dress in Liberty Fleece

I’ve got another Linden to blog soon, but am planning to try out Paprika Pattern’s Zircon as an alternative sweater / sweater dress next.


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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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Acid Dyed Self-Striping Sock Yarn

Naturally Dyed Yarn

At the most recent meeting of my Weavers, Spinners and Dyers guild, we tried out acid dyes in addition to the natural dyes I previously blogged about. Led by fellow WSD member Rachel, I took the opportunity to dye some white yarn to make self-striping sock yarn.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Acid dyes work with protein (animal) fibres and with nylon (as it’s also a polyamide), but not cellulose (plant) fibres. The yarn I was using was a wool and nylon blend. Acid dyes can be purchased with or without the acid already included. We used Kemtex and Colourcraft powdered dyes, and added white vinegar (citric acid is an alternative option) as our acid.

When mixing the powdered dye with the acid you only require 5 gram (approximately one tea spoon) per 100 gram of wool for a strong colour, so a tub of the powdered dye goes a long way. (Rachel recommended 1.5 – 2 gram of dye for medium colours, and 0.5 gram for pale colours).

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

In order to make a four colour self-striping sock yarn, we each started with 100 grams of white sock yarn, wound into a skein approximately 6.4 metres long, and secured with figures of eight ties every 50cm. (Rachel advised that, when knitted up, this would equate to approximately 2 row stripes of each colour at 64 stitch rows on 2mm needles).

While our skeins were soaking in a bowl of water, we prepared four dyes in separate containers (plastic cups in our case). As only 5 gram of dye is required per 100 gram of wool, we only needed one quarter that amount per dye colour (which equated to approximately one quarter of a teaspoon). One full teaspoon of white vinegar was added to each dye (it’s best to err on the side of too much rather than too little with the acid), and the cups were topped up with enough water to cover the wool.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Once the skeins were thoroughly wet, they were squeezed dry, and then divided equally between the four containers. With such a long skein it’s easy to mess this bit up, so it’s worth taking care to ensure that you have the colours in your preferred order and don’t splash the dye. You also need to make sure that you don’t end up with a white section of yarn at the ‘joins’ between the four colours.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

The skeins were left to soak in the dye for ten minutes, after which we carefully removed one quarter at a time from it’s container and wrapped it individually in clingfilm. Once all four sections had been individually wrapped in clingfilm, a final layer was wrapped around the whole skein.

In order to fix the colour, the skeins then had to be heated. We did this by placing the clingfilm wrapped skeins in a steamer on the hob for thirty minutes. This heating can also be done in the microwave or oven, but there’s a much greater chance of burning your wool…

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Once removed from the steamer, I left my skein to cool overnight before rinsing it in cool water and then giving it a wash with some wool soak. I didn’t getting any colour running when I washed it – which confirmed that the dye had taken – although there was a very strong smell of vinegar!

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Finally, I wound the yarn into a ball. It’s now waiting for me to choose a suitable pattern and knit it up.

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Some guild members used an alternative method to dye fleece for spinning. They prepared the dye in the same way, but then applied it to their fleece using syringes or paint brushes. The fleece was wrapped in clingfilm and steamed in the same way to fix the dye. When dyeing fleece you don’t need to worry about leaving white patches, as these will blend in and lighten the yarn once it’s spun.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers