english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Sheepy Events

Harcourt Rare Breeds

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to take part in a few sheep/wool related events due to being a member of the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

A couple of weeks ago, I spent Bank Holiday Monday visiting Harcourt Rare Breeds. The Harcourt flock is split over two sites, with one of those sites relatively local to me in Market Bosworth, and the other in Harrogate. The Midlands flock is housed in the ‘back garden’ (fields behind the house) of owner Shaun, so it was very kind of Shaun to welcome some members of our Guild into his home for lunch, and into his garden to meet the sheep.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Suitably enough, to reach Harcourt Rare Breeds we traveled through the parish of Sheepy, which contains the villages of Sheepy Magna and Sheepy Parva. As you can guess from their name, Harcourt specialise in rare breed British sheep, including Border Leicester, which look like overgrown rabbits due to their  upright ears, and Leicester Longwool, which have a beautiful long silky fleece.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds sell both fleeces and prepared yarn. Since I still haven’t (nearly) finished preparing the last fleece I bought, I instead came away with three skeins of Leicester Longwool yarn. Shaun also gave each of us a goodie bag of fleece! I selected Leicester Longwool fleece, and you can see the before and after shot of the fleece and prepared yarn from the flock below.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

There are quite a few lambs in the flock currently, and one came into the house to visit us to our delight.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

The next outing we had as a Guild was to visit Wooly Week at Sandwell Park Farm. I wasn’t aware of the Farm before but will definitely visit again, it’s located in a restored Victorian farm, with lovely walled kitchen gardens, a tea room, and a number of rare breed animals.

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Shearing demonstrations were taking place throughout the day, and my Guild were attending to demonstrate the process of preparing the fleece to produce yarn. The rare breed animals on the farm include a couple of sheep from a traditional breed (pictured below, the name of which I’ve forgotten) which malts its fleece, rather than requiring shearing.

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Finally, last weekend my Guild ran a Back-to-Back Challenge at Lickey Hills Visitor Centre. My understanding of the history of the Back to Back Challenge, is that the initial inspiration for the challenge is the Newbury Coat. In 1811, in the village of Newbury, a Baronet allegedly made a large bet that a local mill owner could produce a tailored coat in one day. In thirteen hours and ten minutes, those involved sheared a sheep, washed, spun and wove the wool into cloth, the cloth was then scoured and dyed, and finally tailors cut and sewed the cloth into a formal hunting coat. The Baronet sat down to dinner wearing the coat at the end of the day.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

The original Newbury Coat challenge celebrated contemporary developments in mill machinery, but in 1992 the Back to Back Challenge was created to raise funds for charity by producing a hand-knit sweater from a fleece in a day (I believe the World Record is less than 5 hours). Official Back to Back Challenge entries need to follow set rules, so our Guild Back to Back challenge was more informal. Rather than starting by shearing a sheep, we started with a local Romney fleece, unwashed but pre-sheared. Participation was open to all interested members of the Guild, with everyone contributing depending on their skills/preference, including carding, spinning, plying, and lots of knitting. My spinning skills are still very basic, so I carded until yarn was available and then mostly knitted.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

We didn’t quite complete a full garment during the day (our event took place from roughly 09:30-05:15), but we got very close, with just a little knitting and seaming left to do to complete an adult’s oversized cardigan, from a pattern designed by a member of the Guild.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

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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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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.