From fleece to finished

I caught up with the Felty Folk again this week, I had arranged to meet up with Neeva, and got more than I bargained with:

In the tree

I will tell all in my next post, and meanwhile…

Last weekend I took part in a challenge to take a sheep’s fleece to a finished cardigan in one day. I’m a member of the Tweed Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, a nationwide organisation of guilds, who meet up regularly to do workshops and talk about hand made textiles. I don’t do much spinning, and I’ve only just started dyeing, and I go along and knit and crochet mostly, and every time I go I learn something new, it’s very inspiring. This is where I learned needle-felting.

We set ourselves this challenge and held an Open Day to showcase our work over the last year.

10:15 am – we pulled apart the clumped together pieces of Charollais/Welsh Mountain fleece and started carding:

Separating and carding the fleece

Carding combs out the fleece so that the fibres are running parallel. This is one of the traditional ways of doing it. Or you can use a drum carder:

Using the Drum Carder

Obviously, this speeds up the process. Then it is pulled off the carder ready for spinning:

Removing the fleece from the drum carder

Here is Jenni spinning one of the first slivers of wool:

1st lot of wool is spun

It was going to take a while before we had the first ball of wool, as spinning just gives one strand of wool, and yarn is made stronger by plying several strands together. We were making yarn with two plies. This would normally involve spinning two bobbins of wool, then plying the two strands together through the spinning wheel. So we had five spinners going as fast as they could. Anne-Pat knew a different technique: Navaho plying. This involved winding some of the spun wool from the bobbin around the wrist, and plying it against the remaining wool on the bobbin:

Navaho plying1

It was a bit of a mystery to me, but impressive:

Navaho plying2

Jenni started winding up her plied wool from the bobbin:

Winding a ball of wool

10:45 am – we had our first ball of wool!

1st ball of spun wool

This could get one knitter started, but there are five basic parts to a cardigan, so we needed several balls of wool to get five knitters knitting. I was the third knitter to start one of the front sides:

Ruth knitting

As you can tell, I was concentrating hard, I’m not a fast knitter, and I was struggling with great long heavy metal needles which I had borrowed, because when asked to bring size 9 or 10 needles along, I brought the metric sized needles 9 – 10  mm. The thick chunky needles I brought were way too large, I was forgetting that the Guild ladies are “old school” and they meant old UK needle sizes. I mainly knit with my lovely Knit Pro interchangeable circular needles, which help to speed me up a little bit, although I don’t exactly knit like the wind. Unlike Anita (left), who knits for a living, and finished off the back part (started by Barbara – second left) in no time:

Fleece to Jumper

She uses the super speedy tucking the needle under the arm technique which has always felt uncomfortable to me, and I can’t do with my circular needles anyway. So as you can see there was simultaneous carding, spinning and knitting happening, until we were sure there was enough yarn to feed all the knitters and finish the garment.

1:45 pm – the first piece of the cardigan was finished

2:15 pm – there were enough pieces finished to start sewing them together

Sewing up the pieces

2:40 pm – I finished my piece. Yay!

Front side of cardigan

I had misinterpreted the pattern a little and created a buttonhole every ten rows, when it should have been ten rows between each buttonhole. There were supposed to be six buttonholes, and there were eight by the time I finished!

2:50 pm – the last piece was done

Last piece finished

3:15 pm – the cardigan was ready!


Anne-Pat had also crocheted a little flower to go on the cardigan while she was waiting for the last pieces to be knitted. Is there nothing Anne-Pat cannot do?

It was quite incredible just how much labour goes into making one small garment by hand from scratch, it took eleven of us five hours.

We were all too tired to finish of the neckline and sew on the buttons, so Anne-Pat took the cardigan to finish off at home, so it probably took six hours in all.

Have a look at the other lovely work on display by the Tweed Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers:

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We usually meet up every last Saturday of the month (although this June and August are exceptions), at the Community Wing, corner of Sprouston Road and B6398, Newtown St Boswells, Scottish Borders; 10 to 4.

Our next meeting is going to be a Rag Rug Weaving workshop, with one of our members leading, Janis Embleton on Saturday 18th June. Guests and new members are welcome, there is a small charge for guests.


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