Monthly Archives: March 2016

All For One!!!

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The fibre community in action, eloquently described here by Sarah. x

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The Beginning

So I started to spin a few years back now. I plodded along with YouTube as my best friend spinning on a basic wooden drop spindle. All the pretty fibre came from the USA, it seemed and I had no other spinning connections.

This was a sad fact for me, as I have a strong love of hand dyed yarn. I love the effort WAHM’s put  into their products, I love the way they can take an idea and run with it and make something that far passes all expectations.

So last May I asked for a spinning wheel for my birthday, which is exactly what I got. A little Kiwi 2, called Betsy. I bought it from wingham wools and got a gift voucher for fibre. So I was off, spinning away on my beautiful wheel.

It was at this point I started to meet new people who…

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First Blogaversary

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First Blogaversary

A year ago today I published my first post on Story Skeins. It seems like a good time to reflect on some favourite posts.

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One of the things I did before going public with this adventure was to put a few posts on my brand new blog explaining who I am, what I’m doing and why. But there was something I forgot to mention when I posted about the birth of story skeins. I forgot to mention how much I resisted doing any of this! I don’t feel like it’s something I tried to create. Story skeins was an idea that came into my mind fully formed and refused to go away. I did have dreams of making yarn for people. But I really didn’t want to be seen or known. Given how much of myself I put into each creation, as I mulled over in “The Story So Far …“, it felt like too much of a risk. But the more I tried to ignore it, the more insistent this idea became.

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One of the things I definitely wasn’t going to do was to run a monthly club. It seems ironic, then, that my monthly Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club has been one of the most successful aspects of Story Skeins’ first year, both creatively and financially. It was another of those ideas that arrived complete and refused to be ignored. It has been very satisfying to mark the passing of the year, to create my own memento of my first rolag club, and to work with so many talented creators.

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Many more opportunities to interact with amazing creators have come via skill swapping. It has just occurred to me that I could add their contributions to my yarn blogs, but for now here are my contributions to an amazing year of swaps.

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And, of course, I have loved making every skein. I have loved playing with new and unusual fibres, as in Kiss From A Rose, and the super-luxury blends used in  The Walk to Weyland’s and Arctic Equinox. My favourite textured skein was spun for a non-spinning friend who won a beautiful set of rolags: Oh! The Places You’ll Go. I’ve made flower yarn and beaded yarn and yarn kits. I’ve seen my children inspired to take up the blending board and create: Singularly Cheerful and One Sky, Many Stories. And I have enjoyed writing the mini stories. Despite this being the aspect about which I have the least confidence, I really cherish the part the word-images play in practising mindful creativity: Abstract ExpressionNebula.

However, if I had to identify one high point of the year, I couldn’t do better than those times people have been inspired to create something out-of-the-ordinary as a result of engaging with the kind of process that I promote through my own work. They’ve earned their own tag, called art inspires art. I hope to see lots more of this as we embark on the second year together.

March Rolag Club: Carling Sunday

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March Rolag Club: Carling Sunday

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Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!

This month we are Celebrating Carling Sunday on the 13th March

“Tid, Mid, Miseray, Carlin, Palm, Pace-Egg Day”

So goes the Northern saying, which helps people remember the various Lenten Sundays. Tid comes from the Te Deum hymn, sung on the 2nd Sunday. Mid and Miseray are from the Mi Deus and the Miserere Mei, sung on the 3rd and 4th Sundays. Palm Sunday is the 6th Sunday in Lent and Pace Egg refers to Easter Day, Pace being a corruption of Pasch, from the Latin and Greek root of ‘Easter’. And that leaves us with Carlin.

Many people will know the 5th Sunday of Lent as Passion Sunday, but in certain areas, most particularly the North East of England, it became known as Carling, or Carlin, Sunday after the peas which were traditionally eaten on that day.

No one seems to know why this food became associated with this festival. Carlins probably originated in monastic gardens, and pulses formed a large part of the monks’ diet. Pea dishes were often eaten throughout lent as a good (and ‘approved’) source of protein. There are lots of myths and stories about the carlin pea and how they became associated with the northern regions. Here is a typical example:

Carlins are said to have rescued the people of Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the civil war. Newcastle, a royalist city, had been under siege by parliamentarian allies for four months and food supplies were becoming exhausted. Legend tells of a cargo ship from europe which managed to evade the blockade, and whose cargo of carlins saved the people from starvation.

To celebrate Carling Sunday, your rolags are inspired by purple, the traditional colour of passion,  and the rich greens of the pea plant. Your handspun mini skein was inspired by the colours of pea flowers. I have included a recipe for carlings, and though I tried to source some pea seeds, it seems you can’t, so I have included information on how to adopt this variety. Your tea reflects the themes of Passion Sunday, and the unfortunate after-effects of eating large quantities of pulses … Finally we have two guest makers this month. Jennifer from Forest Valley Designs has made the unique stitch markers, and Becca from Get Hooked Crafts has made the stunning WIP bags.

I hope you enjoy it all.

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“Passion” and “Greens” rolags, inspired by Carling Sunday.

In this box you should find:

  • 20g rolags in “Passion” – 77% Bluefaced Leicester, 11.5% Bamboo, 11.5% Faux Cashmere and a hint of angelina.
  • 10g rolags in “Greens, shoots and peas” – 84% Merino, 16% Ramie and some wool neps.
  • The story of Carling Sunday
  • A handspun mini skein in “Pea flowers”
  • Tea in ‘Love’ and ‘Stomach Ease’ blends.
  • Stitch markers from Forest Valley Designs.
  • WIP bags from Get Hooked Crafts.
  • A recipe for carlings
  • Adopt the carlin pea
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“Pea Flowers” handspun mini skein.

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Stitch markers by Forest Valley Designs

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WIP bag from Get Hooked Crafts

 

There are several recipes recorded for the carlin pea. I have also discovered that the day after Carling Sunday was known as Farting Monday, so don’t say I didn’t warn you! Though I did include some Stomach Ease tea.

 

Carlings

225g dried green peas

50g fresh breadcrumbs

1 onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon mixed herbs

Salt and pepper

25g butter

Soak the peas overnight in cold water. The next day, drain and put into a large saucepan. Add 750 ml water and bring to the boil. Boil steadily for 2 hours until the peas are tender. Leave to cool. Mix with the breadcrumbs, onion, herbs and seasoning to make a stiff mixture. Shape into cakes and fry in the butter until brown.

Reference: Cattern Cakes and Lace by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, Dorling Kindersley 1987

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The carlin pea in flower.

 

Book Review: Women’s Work. The First 20,000 Years

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Book Review: Women’s Work. The First 20,000 Years

Women’s Work. The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times.

by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

As I write this, it is International Women’s Day. It seems fitting to study and celebrate women’s contribution to society from the earliest times.

Of course, the first and most obvious question is “How do we define women’s work?” and this is exactly where Barber’s book begins:

For millennia women have sat together spinning, weaving, and sewing. Why should textiles have become their craft par excellence, rather than the work of men? Was it always thus, and if so, why?

Barber refers to a hypothesis by Judith Brown entitled “Note on the Division of Labor by Sex.” During her research, Brown had concluded that the extent to which a community relies upon women to provide a type of labour depends upon the compatibility of that labour with the necessity of childcare. Brown’s observations were that women’s work held certain characteristics:

  1. It does not require unbroken concentration
  2. It tends to be repetitive
  3. It is easily interruptible
  4. It is easily resumed once interrupted
  5. It does not place a child in danger
  6. It does not require the worker to range far from home.

I am sure everyone reading this who has experience of combining work and childcare understands this list! (As an aside, we find later in the book that this definition meant that doing the laundry was men’s work in ancient Egypt, due to the danger posed to children by the Nile-dwelling crocodiles.) None of this is to put women or their contributions in a box. As a former physicist, I know exactly what it’s like to be working in a male-dominated environment. It is simply to explain how women came to take the roles they most often performed in early societies.

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Barber is an academic with a special interest in archaæological textiles. She has written academic texts, but this book is aimed at a general audience and her writing is as engaging as it is informed. Archæological textiles is a small and difficult field of study, due to the fact that materials such as wood and fibre are rarely preserved in the archaeological record. One of the fascinating things Barber does is outline all the other pieces of evidence that can help fill in the picture of our rich textile heritage. For example, she looks at language development, noting:

One doesn’t have a term for something one doesn’t know yet, so if an ancient term for something exists, what the word signified must have been a known entity.

Barber starts way back in the Palæolithic (the old stone age) and describes the oldest known (at the time of writing) fibre artefact: a cord twisted from three two-ply fibre strings, dated to around 15,000 BC and yet easily recognisable to any spinner today.

Barber skillfully crafts her story, not only chronologically, taking us from the stone age to the bronze and then iron age, stopping off at civilisations such as the Minoans, the Egyptians, and the Mycenæans, but she also divides the chapters by topic. She takes us through different kinds of societies: hunter-gatherer, horticultural, early urban manufacturing to iron age industrial settlements. She covers fascinating areas of interest to textile historians: the function of cloth and clothing, its symbolism, elite textile production, textile myths and what we can learn from them about the women and their work in those societies. As an added treat, her book is liberally illustrated throughout with drawings and photographs of textile artefacts, archæological sites, patterns, techniques, motifs and more.

Reading this book not only greatly expanded my knowledge of the rich historical context of the craft I have chosen to work in, it also made me proud to be part of that unbroken tradition, of the craftswomen who could take the simplest tools and materials, and create something that we need and use every day of our lives. And as I write this blog, with my enthusiastic seven year-old singing to me, eager to show me that she’s learnt all her words, I also feel connected to all those souls who have combined the nurture of children with work, either necessary or fulfilling or both, and I’m proud of that tradition too.

Every Good Thing

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Every Good Thing

Background:

I was sent a braid to spin for a swap. I wanted to do something really special with it so decided to ply it with a luscious blend from Countess Ablaze:

The supplied blend was all light and brightness and fun, fresh colours. The darker blend was deep and subtle and more mysterious. They seemed like two sides of the same story, and as I wanted the yarn to arrive as a Mothers’ Day gift, so the story came about.

Story:

1. The Light: “Nurture”

Watching them breathe whilst they sleep.

Sleepy eyes and rosy cheeks when they wake.

Joyful cuddles and time together.

Precious moments, rushing by too fast.

Playing in the park: candyfloss and water slides.

Making daisy chains in the sun.

Bedtime stories.

Sleep.

2. The Dark: “Indulgence”

Having a day all to myself.

Dropping responsibility and embracing freedom.

Staying up late and sneakily raiding the chocolate stash!

Because I’m a grown-up (so they say) and it’s allowed.

Doing something just for me. Just because I want to.

And looking forward to being with them again.

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Information:

Title: Every Good Thing

Composition: Fibre supplied

Weight: 200g / 13 WPI / DK

Length: 468m / 512yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: February 2016

Skein code: 0086

Fibre:

  1. Unknown blend – Looks like Merino, Silk & Angelina.
  2. “Gothika” – Merino, Black Bamboo & Rainbow Trilobal.

Source:

  1. Spin City
  2. Countess Ablaze

Status: Swapped

Unlocked

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Unlocked

Background:

I love spinning gradient yarns, and had another chance to indulge this hobby for a skill swap with a very talented knitter. As the yarn was created the colours spoke to me first of metal and then rust, merging into the colours of dusky rose petals. The gradient fibre set, from the very talented Hilltop Cloud, was called “Padlock”, so I named the yarn “Unlocked”.

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Story:

Leave the shelter of the homestead – hearth and warmth and family – and step over the threshold. Survey the garden wilderness, full of hidden nooks waiting to be found.

Follow the path as it slowly becomes more and more overgrown. As what was open and passable becomes a natural obstacle course of leaves, twigs and fallen branches.

A dead end? But, not quite hidden, a door, and hanging from it a rusty padlock hinting of past treasures once hidden from uninvited guests. Unused and ineffective now, you push the crumbling timbers of the door. Hinges squeak, grumbling at the call to action, and finally the sight, hidden for so long, comes into view: twisted, overgrown and thorny, but in bloom!

The rose garden is rediscovered. 🌹

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Information:

Title: Unlocked

Composition: 50% Merino, 37.5% BFL, 12.5% Silk

Weight: 140g / 18 WPI / Sockweight

Length: 600+m / 650+yd

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: March 2016

Skein code: 0090

Fibre: Merino, Bluefaced Leicester, Mulberry Silk.

Source: Hilltop Cloud gradient set: “Padlock”

Status: Swapped

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