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Wool vs Acrylic

For years I’ve been making dolls out of Acrylic yarn and I’m sure many of us have. Doll and toy making was traditionally done using the scraps and left over yarns we had left over from our precious makes.

It made sense to use cheap yarn for a doll.

Last year I began experimenting with wool for doll making, then with my final uni project I decided to make these dolls using only natural materials. There was one test I wanted to do to compare Acrylic to Wool, but it meant making and destroying two dolls, plus although in theory I knew what they said about the results I wasn’t sure. Today I did the test… I’m shocked!

Anyway before that test, here are some reasons to use wool in doll making over acrylic…

  1. Natural. Wool is completely natural, sheep eats grass – sheep grows wool – sheep is warm in winter – we cut wool – sheep feels cool in Summer – we use wool – sheep eats grass – and so on and so on. No chemists or scientists involved.
  2. Biodegradable. Prince Charles did a similar experiment to mine, but he also tested how quickly wool would disappear back into the earth. He buried two jumpers, one wool, one synthetic. Six months later he dug them up. The synthetic jumper was intact, but the wool jumper had disappeared. In this plastic heavy world, this should be reason enough.
  3. Renewable. Like being a natural source, wool is also renewable. The sheep doesn’t just have one coat, but a continuously growing fleece.
  4. Breathable. Wool wicks moisture away from the skin making your body less clammy. Ok, so it might not make that much difference to doll making, unless you’re a little kid who takes the doll to bed with them. Nothing worse than waking up with sweat sticking a doll to your face.
  5.  Keeps you warm… or cool. Wool keeps you warm when you’re cold and cools you when you’re too hot. Again, a nicer toy to hug at night than a plastic doll.
  6. Machine Washable. Yep, the yarn I use in my dolls is treated to be machine washable.
  7. Stain resistant. It has an outer layer that prevents stains from being absorbed and it’s anti-static properties mean a lot of dust and dirt simply don’t stick to it.
  8. Odour resistant. When it wicks away sweat, it also absorbs the molecules of odour.
  9. Better sleep. New research has shown sleeping with wool bedding or nightwear leads to a better nights sleep. Another reason to take the doll to bed with you.
  10. Healthy skin. Again, research is coming out that shows the benefits of softer wools on skin.

Finally, wool is flame resistant. What does that mean?

Watch this video…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrWRpTA54_4

Shocked?

One important message to come from my final project is the importance of making dolls and toys out of wool, but as I researched a wool to use I found little on offer. Ok, you can buy browns and pinks and mustards, but skin tones are not really covered by wool suppliers.

That’s one thing I’ve been looking at with my dolls and what to do after university, perhaps I could produce 100% British wool in skin tones for doll making, the video has shocked me enough to realise it’s got to be done.

See also:

 Woolmark – benefits of wool

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/02/how-prince-charles-set-fire-to-a-pile-of-jumpers-and-buried-othe/

Benefits of sleeping with wool

Benefits of wool on skin

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Updating the doll – EPY week 4

This week has been very productive. I’ve been contacting yarn suppliers and mills, spent a whole weekend dyeing wool, applied for a grant to do some market research and finally am near the point of having a finished product.

Well, I say a finished product, but…

I want to re-create the idea of the knitted/crochet doll. Normally made from scraps of yarn, under stuffed and often rather sad looking.

There’s a lot of parents at the moment, choosing handmade dolls over the plastic commercial ones. I’ve also come across a growing number of mothers wanting to make their own dolls for their children. I still have my handmade Cinderella doll from when a was very young, she’s in need of a little repair here and there, but she’s lasted far longer than any of the commercial dolls I had (and I had a lot of dolls).

There is something magical about having a doll specially made just for you, and something magical about a mother making the doll for her own child, whether the child is male or female.

These days we are also aware of the benefits of natural materials, the benefits of supporting local people and keeping out carbon footprint as low as possible.

This is where my plan gets exciting. Can I make a doll using local supplies and natural materials?

So here are two dolls…
The doll on the right is made from Acrylic yarn, spun in Turkey I think, filled with polyester, clothing is made from cotton and acrylic yarns.

The doll on the left is my newest doll, still waiting for some clothes to be finished.

The doll is made from Bluefaced Leicester wool, from UK sheep and spun in Yorkshire. I couldn’t source any light flesh coloured pure wool, hence the weekend spent in my kitchen dyeing wool. He is filled with British Lambswool.

All of his clothes are 100% wool, and even the pipe cleaners in his arms come from a small local factory in Huddersfield.

But why go to all that trouble for a pure wool doll?

Well…

  1. Wool is naturally flame resistant, it’s harder to ignite than many common textile fibres. Even if you hold a flame to the wool it doesn’t melt. Not that you were planning on buying your child a lighter, but it is reassuringly safe.
  2. Wool is biodegradable, and I don’t mean it will disappear in a thousand years. If you bury the doll, he will naturally decompose in a matter of a few years, slowly releasing it’s valuable nutrients back into the earth.
  3. Wool is a renewable fibre, just sun, water, grass and good old mother nature (oh and a sheep or two) and you’ll have another fleece to make another doll.
  4.  

    Bluefaced Leicester Wool is considered one of the finest fibres of British sheep breeds, it’s a long wool fibre which gives a soft smooth feel to the skin.

  5. Wool absorbes moisture, wicking it away from the skin and evaporating into the air, making sleeping with the dolls more comfortable and less prone to clamminess.
  6. Wool is an active fibre that reacts to body temperature, it helps you stay warm when the wether is cold and cool when the weather is hot.
  7.  

    Because of wools moisture absorption ability is doesn’t attract static, making it less likely to attract dust and lint. Wool also has a natural protection that helps prevent stains from being absorbed.

  8.  New scientific research is being done to show the health benefits of wool with amazing results, wool bedding and sleepwear appears to promote a better nights sleep, and new research is showing that wool nightwear is helping people with skin conditions such as dermatitis. A good reason for taking the doll to bed with you.

     

    Add these reasons to the fact that the materials for the doll have all been produced within a 60 mile radius, mostly from small businesses, and you can see the benefits this doll can bring.

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Knitting and the Planet

A question given at Uni the week was this:

How can textile ecology impact on your specialism?

My specialism being knit, although I like to believe it’s spinning, How can how I knit or make yarn impact on the planet?

All the way home and much of today I’ve been thinking. Is it possible to produce a knitted item without impacting on the environment?

University doesn’t seem to give me time to really explore the questions it raises, I don’t have the time to create a large item, but perhaps a hat or a pair of gloves.

A basic knitted hat, bought in a high street store would set you back £5-£20 depending on the quality and materials used, but the processes that hat goes through to be made has a high impact on the planet.

Cheaper items are rarely 100% pure wool, most often acrylic, so not only do we have the cost of producing the wool but also the costs of chemically producing the acrylic.

The process to make the yarn goes through similar steps as it would hand spinning wool, just a faster process.

Electric trimmers to shear the sheep, if the wool is British it might be shipped to China or India to be processed and made then shipped back to the UK to be sold. The wool would need sorting, washing, carding prior to being spun and plyed. If the yarn is dyed (most likely) it will be dyed using chemical dyes which again effect the environment and in severe cases contaminate the water. The hat is designed and knitted on machines, hand finished, labels attached, sealed in a plastic bag perhaps then boxed to be shipped to the UK.

The process could be improved by using British wool and a UK factory to prepare the fiber instead of shipping it abroad. I could be knitted in the UK and packaging could be improved.

My question is though, could the whole process be done without machines, waste water, chemicals and even travel costs?

1. Sheep – Could I have sheep? Well, not really. My little council flat has a nice garden but it they ask enough questions just to have a cat. I can just see their faces if I ask if I can have some sheep in the garden. An alternative is to buy the fleece straight from a farmer. Although most British fleeces go to the British Wool board there are still farmers that see fleece as a waste product. Many of these fleeces though are mixed breeds and the quality of the wool might not be suitable for clothing.

There are some good fleeces oout there and Ebay have a regular supply of sheep owners who have a small collection of pure bred sheep. As much as I moan about British alpaca I admit I have an alpaca fleece. I bought it for £5, it’s nice quality, clean, hand sheared on a farm in South Yorkshire and sold to a woman who decided she would dye the fleece and make a lot of money. Realising how time consuming this all was she gave up and I bought it to save it from being put in the bin.

Well I have my fleece, £5 spent and a 1 hour car trip to collect it.


2. Shearing – The fleece I have was hand sheared with hand clippers, no electricity used. This is an old way of shearing and rarely used. I don’t know how I feel about hand shearing, using electric clippers is a smoother way of shearing and I think the sheep appreciates it. For that reason I think I will forgive any sheep shearers that use electric.

3. Skirting – Ideally this is done outdoors. It’s where you open up the fleece and seperate the sections. It also lets you pick out some of the larger bits of waste from the fleece. The neck and belly is often softer and used for finer products, back used for rougher projects, but this all depends on the breed.

I would do this by hand on the floor or table if big enough and with a bin liner for a base to clean up the left overs. Fleece I don’t want to use can be left for bird nests and given back to nature.

4. Washing – You can wash a fleece in a top loading washing machine, but most UK machines are front loading. Hand washing can be done with hot and cold water and a little detergent. In “Three Bags Full” (1) Judith MacKenzie describes a process from New Zealand where hot water resources were scarce. Fleece was fermented in cold water. This technique uses the natural soap (Suint) found in the fleece and cold water. No chemicals or hot water needed and even better, the water is kept to use for several months. On a down side the process is very smelly, so I would need to do it in a garden and since my garden isn’t fenced in and the fleece is left for several days I might find someone has kicked over the bucket of fleece and I lose the whole project. This might be where my parents garden comes in handy. The great news is that rain water works best for fermenting.

5. Carding/Combing – Any day now I have a pair of beautiful English combs arriving through the post so I can make my own tops (not particularly relevent to tell you that, but I’m excited). There are people who claim the mechanical process of carding wool damages the fiber. Norman Kennedy, in “From Wool to Waulking” (2) suggests the heat and stress put on fiber from modern mechanical machines weakens and breaks the fibers making the yarn weaker than hand carded fiber. This is something I would like to look at.

I have both a drum carder and hand carders and could hand card the wool, once I get my combs I can also produce worsted as well as woollen yarn. It’s a time consuming process, and the drum carder makes it a quicker process but it doesn’t use electricity.


6. Dyeing – I like chemical dyes, but for this process I want to find a natural dye that is environmentally friendly. Many mordants give off toxins that are harmful, but the natural dyeing process can be used without mordants. There are also plants/vegetables like rhubarb that act as both a dye and a mordant. Even with natural dyeing the water has to be heated and simmered.

Solar dyeing on the other hand uses cold water and the heat of the sun to dye wool. Mother Earth News has some easy step by step instructions on dyeing this way.

7. Spinning – Very much the easy part. Do I spin worsted, woollen or semi-worsted? long draw, short draw? Do I ply it as a double, a nice round three ply or cable it?  Am I wanting thin yarn for a shawl or thick? What about art yarn (although isn’t all handspun yarn an art form?) Boucle? Thick and thin?

These are the easy questions.


8. Finishing – Final washing of the yarn, can I avoid using hot water? perhaps I could try solar washing like the dyeing process. I could try brushing the yarn.

9. Knitting – Of course hand knitting will be the way to knit the hat. A plain hat or a bit of cableing to show off the yarn? How about a button made from a slice of found tree branch?


10. Labeling – What kind of label would suit an item made in this way? No plastic bags, or colour printing. What about a simple brown label tied with string?

What I thought was going to be a diffiuclt if not impossible process actually could work. With the right resources (outdoor space) and equipment that I already have on hand I think I could actually produce an item using no chemicals, electrical equiptment or waste.

The question is though, would this work?

I’m estimating, all in all this is one months worth of work. Fermenting and dyeing are slow week long projects, but the other processes are time consuming – very slow. If at the end of it I was offered £20 for a hat I think I’d be a bit miffed. The price would be higher than normal, but the story behind the hat…Wow. Would people pay for that?

(1) Three bags full by Judith MacKenzie – http://www.interweavestore.com/three-bags-full-dvd

(2) From Wool to Waulking by Norman Kennedy – http://www.interweavestore.com/from-wool-to-waulking-spinning-wool-and-creating-cloth-with-norman-kennedy

(3) http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/solar-dyeing-zmaz83mazraw.aspx

See also: https://mozfiberlife.wordpress.com/fsm/

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Buy British – British Wool Marketing Board

I bought the odd fleece or two in the past, but it’s been one fleece at a time, just what a hand spinner can manage.

My best buy is the alpaca fleece I bought from someone who had the idea of buying it to dye and make money, but when it came to it she realised it’s a lot of work. She was happy to see it go for £5 and I was very happy to receive it. Unless I go down the machinery route I’ll never need more than one or two fleeces at a time, besides, I don’t have the room in my little flat. However for those who want to buy in bulk, the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) is the place to go.

Bags of fleeces stacked high
Bags of fleeces stacked high

The wool is sent in by farmers across the country, there are drop off points across the country, and they take all fleeces and no minimum. So even if you only have one sheep it’s worth taking the fleece here to get a good price.

A wool grader sorting the fleece
A wool grader sorting the fleece

The fleeces are graded and sorted, then wrapped ready to auction at their fortnightly auction in Bradford.

The huge warehouse
The huge warehouse

Here’s the video.

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Huddersfield University Textile Students Final Year Show 2015

Today I was back at Uni for a preview of the fourth year students final work.

I don’t really know what I was expecting since I’ve never been to a student show before. Some work I looked at and thought Eh?, others Oooo!, and some Ahhhhh!
Our task was to write a review on three pieces. They had to be different in some way (i.e style, technique, like/don’t like) Obviously I was more interested in the knit projects, but there were many others that took my eye.
In the end I chose three that I classed as ‘Marmite’ projects. Projects with a love/not love style to them. In one sense they’re not different, but in another, each one brought first an Awww (cute) or Hmmm (Not sure Hmm), followed later with an Oooohhhh, Hmmmmm (deeper thinking Hmm).

1. The one I liked then loved.

Eve Cavell

Willkommen.

The ‘Willkommen’ collection is inspired by a dark illustrative story conceived by the theatrical nightmare of historical entertainment.

The augmented illustrations that exist somewhere between horror and humour allow for a surreal yet recognisable twist of humanity and nightmare that has been evolved into a collection of wearable art.

Willkommen is a collection focused on empowering fashion to exist as a purer expression of self-being, through eccentric aesthetics and the ideals of A-Gender clothing.

www.evecavell.com

Instagram; @evecavell

DSC00808

Ever since we did the Grayson Perry assignment I’ve tried to look at things longer. Instead of walking through a gallery and nodding to things I like I’ve also stopped to look at those I don’t like. My eyes are opening to the story behind the image.

In this case I have seen Eves’ work before and liked her style. Her pen and watercolour images are funny with just the right touch of wickedness plus they connect to my inner goth.
The project is based on nightmares and horror, with a touch of humour. Like the poltergeist films where the clown, created to be funny, becomes one of the scariest parts of the film. DSC00813

Her images are based around a circus theme, a story of characters in a circus of nightmares.
And suddenly I’m in her world, loving the heavy glaring almost monster like men in their oversized sweaters, although I don’t know the story, I feel as though I can see it.

The presentation did the project justice, golden brown copper piping holding amazing knit samples made on the Brother knitting machines.

The colour scheme was subdued almost pastel, but (if this is possible) the dark side of pastels. Oh yes, everything nice like clowns, ringmasters, jugglers, but with a little amount of horridness.DSC00809

I loved the idea of drawing on white leather and the brass frame looked fantastic.

The knitted techniques used were complex and appealing, there were a few samples that showed the knitted techniques and thought process on them, but these seemed a bit lost amongst the sketches. It could be that an overuse of drawings could hide the importance of the knitted structure. I found myself taking time to look at the drawings and admiring them more than the knit – which is a worry when Eve is trying to show her textile talent.

DSC00807DSC00817

I liked the way she kept her journals, writing in her own hand rather than typing out words, yet she took time to imagine how things would look on the page before writing.

I finally found sense in having designers I like and am inspired by, her journals felt fresh and uncluttered, but helped link her final ideas to her thought process.

Is this the type of show I want to present?

Although knit is my specialism I am not sure I see myself making final pieces like this. I want to know the techniques used and be able to use them in my work, but I see myself doing something different.

I love the presentation of her work and hope when it comes to my turn I’ll be able to show my ideas in as clear and pulled together way as she has. I’ve taken some ideas from her way of presenting knit samples and will put some thought into my research journals (which over the first year has gone from what is research to I need to do more research).

 DSC00810 DSC00811

2. The one I thought was cute, then saw the bigger picture

Megan Dodds  |  Little Homes

BA (Hons) Surface Design for Fashion & Interiors  |  2015

A project inspired by the increasing issue of gender stereotypes and idea of gender neutrality in child’s play combined with the quintessential familiarity of the idea of ‘home’.

‘Little Homes’ investigates, and working alongside Fourdot Ltd and Applelec, proposes a series of functional and inspiring lighting products for children and the home. Full of creativity, they’re designed to encourage storytelling and fuel imaginative play, creating an interactive and sensory experience to intrigue your child’s curiosity. Through the ability to pick and mix panels forming the light’s façade, they can create unique combinations to discover their own little world.

http://www.megandodds.co.uk

At first glance I saw Megans houses and thought, pretty and walked on. Then I looked again.DSC00834

Yes, they are beautiful.

Yes, they make nice lights.

But they are so much more.

They are welcoming, interactive play scenes for imagination (something that computer games seem to be stealing from growing minds).

DSC00835

They are well thought out scenes that allow story telling through play.

The square lamps illuminate and cast pictures and shadows on walls and surfaces to make even bigger play areas.

There are little clear pieces with fish on that can be added to the waves of the sea. Children can make characters to expand the story and have endless adventures.

But it’s more than that…

Doc 10-06-2015 13-0113Doc 10-06-2015 13-0114

Something I’ve been exploring myself through my doll making recently is the idea that dolls are for girls. Who says so?

The idea of pink being for girls and blue for boys has been around far too long. Megan explores the idea of gender stereotyping through toys in some well presented books. Why can’t girls have blue rooms?

WP_20150610_003My latest patterns for the My Little Crochet Doll have been aimed towards boy doll ideas. Cowboys and Spacemen. But hang on, even I label them as cow BOYS and space MEN. As though the careers go to the boys and the ballet outfits go to the girls.

This stereotyping is ingrained into our beings from such a young age that we don’t recognise it as a hindrance.

Does is go even deeper, are we damaging children or rather not allowing children to reach their potential by forcing children into a mould?

WP_20150610_005These are questions raised by Megan through her work with the little houses. How can we create play as a gender neutral place?

Can we create toys that are beautiful, useful, simple and allow children to grow?

The presentation was in a smaller space than the other two I chose, but the space was used to it’s potential and perhaps more room would give a different feel that wouldn’t work so well.WP_20150610_002I really enjoyed the books that came with the presentation. The smaller ones (shown in these images) show photos of children using the light as it should be whilst the other book was an explanation on her research into traditional play (pink and blue separation).

The light was made using lazer cut pieces in wood and perspex, painted or dyed I’m not sure, but a simple and effective way to let light through.

It looked as though the panels could be taken apart and put together, thus adding to the possibilities and allowing a child to chose their own panels for the lighting. However the wood chosen looks fragile. I don’t know how strong this would be if taken apart several times.

I linked closely to the thoughts behind this project, as someone looking into toys and gender (or why can’t dolls belong to boys) I found it very interesting.

I also found myself returning to something that I love… toy and doll making.

This morning I was handed some results from my last assessment, there was the suggestion that my work looked commercial rather than my own designer maker style. That’s quite something for those who remember my posts when I first started Uni. I spent some time wondering where I was heading.

There is a part of me that feels lost. In a way I feel as though I don’t quite know what I am about, while everyone else seems to know. I’m sure that’s not true and we’re all feeling lost, but I wonder whether I’ll ever get back to making dolls. There are so many things at University that I want to try out. I want to master all the knit machines and computer programmes they can throw at me, but in my almost addiction like need to learn, I worry that I will lose the things I love.

3. The Marmite one – I like it, but don’t like it.

Amy Rowson-Jones

2015

Made in Britain

 BA(Hons) Textile Crafts

 Led by a passion to source and produce within the UK, Rowson-Jones has combined local heritage and natural materials to create a garment which holds its own story. Each material has been carefully gathered within Yorkshire, with the use of hand picked berries from Hanging Stone Road, Huddersfield, beautiful alpaca yarn from Summer Wine Alpacas, Holmfirth, preserved cotton from the original Belle Vue Mills, Skipton. Made up of both rainwater and Hedera helix, the natural ingredients and dye process have resulted in the garment to be one of a kind. The jumper has been crafted for a high-end unisex market.

Follow my journey on Instagram @arowsonjones

Most people would assume this would be my favourite project in the show.DSC00863

I liked it and it’s something that’s close to my heart and something I’ve been wanting to explore a lot more.

This idea of locally sourced yarn is something I am passionate about as a spinner and knitter.

I remember the first time I bought a ball of wool I could trace all the way back to the sheep and the sense that I had found something so precious will stay with me for a long time.

I still have one of the balls of wool I bought that day. It’s from a sheep called April who lives in a field just outside of York. Her owner sheers DSC00866the sheep, washes the fleece and even spins it herself. Talk about locally sourced, that ball of wool has yet to leave Yorkshire!

You can’t get better than that.

The wool though is rough, too rough for garments next to the skin. Well, of course it’s rough. It’s British wool. From British sheep.

And that’s where I don’t like this project so much.

I love the idea of locally sourced and one reason is that it often helps local people, people who need local buyers to help keep their livelihoods going.

I often hear people talking about the dreadful situation we’re in by allowing our garments to be produced overseas. Tales of factories being closed down as products are outsourced for lower paid workers, often leading to bad conditions and dreadful disasters where factories are so badly managed that they collapse.WP_20150610_014

This is one of the main reasons I suspect, that people are choosing locally sourced over overseas products. I hear people talking about their favourite yarn companies telling me how it’s a local company, until I point to the small print on the label that says, produced in Turkey.

Our once large spinning mills are now museums struggling to survive with the small funding they receive and my county is littered with once thriving factories.

Sourcing locally keeps what workers we have left in business and is important.

WP_20150610_012Amy’s fibre was locally sourced, the berries for dyeing were hand picked locally, the water used was rain water (even the tap water was seen as unsuitable for this economical jumper). Everything was done to give you the impression of local, economical, resourceful, community, traditional back-to-basics way of making. Made in Britain.

The fibre (because technically it isn’t a wool) was spun in a factory outside of Yorkshire.

While there are many hand spinners in Yorkshire who would have happily hand spun the fibre, keeping with the tradition that Amy seemed to aim at, she chose to machine spin the fibre.

I love the concept (am going to say that a lot!)

I just don’t think it hit the mark.

The natural dyeing process is a good idea, but I think (and might be a bit harsh here) it could have been better. While the jumper is aimed at a high end market it looks muddy, almost dirty in colour. Part of that is the inconsistency with the dye. darker and lighter in parts.

This might be because the yarn was dyed in a skein and not dyed accurately. If the dye had been added prior to spinning the fibres they would have blended more evenly and given a more consistent colouring. There’s a part of me that wishes she had just left the yarn in it’s natural state. A lovely white alpaca was sourced, so why dye it grey?

I love the concept.

Okay, here it comes…

My pet hate.

Alpacas are beautiful animals more related to camels than sheep, so produce lovely soft fibre that is a pleasure to spin and knit.

Alpacas are not British.

I’d like to say I refuse to buy alpaca from British farms, but last year I was offered a real bargain, a whole fleece for £5 and I couldn’t turn it down.

Alpacas are native to Peru, where they have a wonderful system that means every alpaca owner, whether big ranch owner or small farmer in poverty gets the same fair price of his fleece based on quality of the animal. Buying Alpacas from Peru supports the small farmer who relies on us for his livelihood. Without us, without the alpaca trade, he would not be able to support his family. It’s that important.

As much as I hate losing our trade to overseas I hate the idea that we are in return taking trade away from Peru farmers.

And I have another pet annoyance.

Alpacas are not cheap. Really not cheap. While you can often pick up a sheep for £10 Alpacas will cost you between £2,000 and £3,000. This is not a project for the poor! To have alpacas in the UK you need some money behind you. The field, food, vets are just one of the many costs.

As someone who is working with Leeds Poverty Truth and Churches Action on Poverty I cannot buy British alpaca fleece from a rich owner, knowing I am taking trade from a poorer owner in Peru.

I say again, I love the concept, but for me it missed the mark.

However, I enjoyed the concept and it brought me back to my love of wool. The same teacher who suggested I was turning to designer maker also suggested I made yarn for my project. I wanted to, but couldn’t quite see the idea in full. I’ve spent my year listening to designers I like, and looking at trends of the season and I panicked thinking while others are designing garments and fashion, my hand made yarn would look like a poor effort. It just didn’t seem to be what ‘they’ wanted.

I feel lost because I’m not following my passion, I’m trying to fit into what I think is required.

I might not have liked how the concept turned out, but it got me spurred into action. I need to return to my first love, finding locally sourced British wool, from British sheep, spun or dyed in traditional ways.

All images are my own

Type in italics is the individual students statement from the University.

All student work can be seen on the textile blog: http://textiles-hud.tumblr.com/

My Little Crochet Doll pattern can be found at: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/my-little-crochet-doll

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Which Felting Needle do I use?

Here’s a little problem.

There are so many felting needles out there, and some come in fine, medium and hard sizes rather than gauge sizes. What does it all mean and which one should I buy?

Well, here’s some help.

I have sourced as many felting needles as I could find, each different and some hard to get hold of.

They are now available in my Etsy store at only £1 each (postage £1, no matter how many you buy)

I’ve also made a wee video showing what each needle does so you can make the most from your felting.

Just a reminder, my shop is at

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/bettyvirago

 

The needles used are:

White – 19 gauge triangular – for coarse, heavy fibres
Orange – 32 gauge triangular – for medium grade fibres
Black – 36 gauge triangular – suits most work
Yellow – 38 gauge crown – for doll making
Blue – 38 gauge star – for faster working
Green – 38 gauge triangular – an all purpose tool
Red – 40 gauge triangular – for fine, delicate work
Brown – 46 gauge triangular – great for 3D work
Pink – 32 gauge reverse – for fur
Purple – 40 gauge reverse – for detailed fur

I’m also doing a trial pack offer of all ten needles for £8. That way, you can experiment at home and choose for yourself.

Hope that solves your felting needle questions.

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Magic Fairies

One brilliant subject we’ve been getting into at the Saturday class is needle felting. We started off with pictures but soon worked our way to brilliant needle felted fairies.

Normally in our classes we pick something to make and we all make it, but we’ve decided to give another way of working a go. So we’re having felting workshops. All the felting stuff will be available, we’ve become so big that we’re moving across into the sewing room to accommodate everyone.

I’ll have something I’m working on and you’re welcome to join in with that, but if you have something you want to work on, maybe even work you’ve started at home, then you’re free to work on that with our help.

The new rota is soon to be written up and I’ll put it here when it’s done.

Anyway,

I’ve just finished two fairies for someone who wanted guardian angels for two little children. Here they are.

DSC00090DSC00093If you are in Leeds and fancy coming to one of our felting workshops email me and I’ll send you details.

 

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Salvation Army Yarn and Beanie pattern

I’ve been thinking for ages that I should raise some money for the Salvation Army by creating a yarn for them. So using the colours on the Army’s flag (yellow, red and blue) I came up with a yarn using blends of the three colours in 100% merino wool from New Zealand.

Here’s the result.Salvation Army wool

It’s already available on my Etsy shop at £5 for a 20g skein. Does that sound a lot? Well, the wool being 100% wool, from small farmers and shipped to the UK doesn’t come cheap. It’s sorted in Huddersfield by a small family business, then hand spun by me on an Ashford traditional spinning wheel. When you think about it, the price for wool like this isn’t too bad.

You’re not only supporting a worldwide charity in doing some amazing stuff, but helping local businesses survive.

Alongside the yarn I’ve made a little pattern for a simple knitted beanie. It’s got the words Salvationist or Salvation Army written across it and is just the thing for those cold nights caroling.

Salvationist

The chart that comes with the pattern has a complete alphabet and space for you to write your own phrases, I might make one for Brian with the words Band Master on it… then one for Colin with the word Major… Thankfully my corps is small so I’ll be done by caroling 2014.

Anyway, here’s the pattern… Salvation Army Beanie

Hope it’s just what you need for the coming winter months. A 20g skein should do 2 hats at least.

Even if you don’t knit, you might know a Salvationist who does, what a great Christmas present.

If you need more than 20g or can’t see any on Etsy, just email me at bettyvirago@gmail.com