I have been interested in textiles from an early age, having been taught knitting and dressmaking by my mother. I learned to spin on a weekend course at Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre in North Yorkshire in 2006, having found the course on the Field Studies Council website whilst looking for the tatting course which ran at Juniper Hall, my local FSC centre.
The result of that weekend was that I came home with a second-hand Ashford Traditional wheel and Lazy Kate. I had been told about the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers whilst on the course so when I got home, I looked for a local guild. OK, so Croydon in Surrey is not very local to Lewes, but having been born and bred in Eastbourne I’m a Sussex girl at heart and the East Sussex guild had the best programme in the south east. So, at the beginning of 2007, I joined the guild.
What I like most about our guild is the range of the programme and the skills of its members which they are always willing to share. If you want to know anything about our three crafts you just have to ask anyone and if they don’t have the answer they will point you in the direction of someone who can help. I particularly enjoy the workshops. From dyeing to basket weaving and various spinning techniques with a range of fibres, I’ve enjoyed them all and learned so much from excellent teachers.
A skein of silk Jenny has spun for this year’s silk scarf raffle
I don’t seem to find much time to spin but I have spun enough yarn from merino tops to knit a waistcoat. It was going to be a cardigan but once I started knitting I realised there wasn’t enough yarn for sleeves so it became a waistcoat. I’ve spun a Texel fleece but haven’t yet knitted it up. There are various fleeces in the spare bedroom waiting to get on my wheel. My ambition is to spin a Shetland fleece fine enough to knit a ring shawl!
Our weaver members are still hard at work creating their handwoven silk scarves for our 2015 raffle. Today we meet Dot, who is one of the weavers in our silk scarf team, and gain an insight into her weaving process.
Dot first learnt to weave at school in Australia. She took up weaving as a serious hobby 30 years ago and is “still learning”. Dot has been a member of the East Sussex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers for 15 years; she also spins and, during the Summer months, can be found dyeing wools and silk in her garden.
Handspun silk ready for the loom
Weaving silk scarves is Dot’s favourite weaving item and she especially enjoys the planning of a new project and redeveloping ideas and processes. Over the years, Dot has woven a few scarves for the ESGWSD Exhibition and keeps keeps copious notes to see how the project works out and believes this is very important.
Here, Dot has used 64grams of silk for the warp on her scarf. The weft used is silk (60/2 times, 2 different colours). The pattern used for the weave is “Plain Weave” at 20 ends per inch (epi). The scarf edges on the warp are the same colour and the rest of the warp is threaded randomly, she uses a floating selvedge to give a neat edge to the scarf.
The loom set up and ready to go
Starting to weave
Our Guild members are hard at work preparing beautiful, handwoven silk scarves to be the prizes in our raffle at our 2015 exhibition. Here’s the story so far!
Glorious colours of silk were given out to more than 30 spinners, who were asked to prepare and spin a singles yarn strong enough for use in the warp and to set it in the hank. Some of this work was done collaboratively at the monthly Guild meetings, some at home in our members’ own time.
A wonderful selection of well-spun yarn appeared – beautiful mixtures, as well as plain colours.
A group of our weavers met and had the daunting task of sorting the spun yarns into ‘scarf kits’.
Kits were given to some of our weaver members, who have been asked to use the handspun yarns to produce a warp-faced fabric, weaving them together with a very fine commercial silk.
The scarves are on the looms and weaving is underway!