Friday, 1 October 2021

Using up yarn.

 Last year I went through  my stash of yarn.  It has reached mountainous proportions.  I found a collection of tussah silk yarns left over from a weaving project.  The amounts were too small to make a scarf but i thought that i would make a neck shawl.

I  used to crochet a lot but weaving took over.  I found my set of crochet hooks and the old copies of Mon Tricot that I had kept from the early 1970's.  I had previously sorted these and threw a lot away.  On looking through the issues I had kept I found that I had crocheted many of the items in them. I was particularly fond of shawls.

I made this shawl a few years ago. I used a whole cone of acrylic textured yarn.  

This time I was crocheting something much smaller.  I found a pattern I liked.  Originally I had crocheted this in blue wool - so many years ago that I no longer have it.  

I loved my circular shawl, but this time it was going to be much smaller - a neck scarf. 

It is lovely and feels so soft.  It is now cold enough to wear it. 

Looking through the old copies of Mon Tricot there were some quite amazing items.  Crocheted bikinis anyone?

A local shop sells vintage clothing and their window display are beautiful.   A few weeks ago they actually had two crocheted bikinis for sale.

Actually I have to confess that I took a selection of some of my old 70's garments into this shop to see if they wanted any of them.  They ended up as part of the window display. These bright hipster flares were all the rage. I cannot believe that I actually wore them in public!

Fortunately shawls do not seem to date quite as much fashion items.

Susan J Foulkes  October 2021

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Old textiles and memories

Last month I redecorated my weaving room. I repainted all the walls.  This necessitated taking everything off the shelving.  It gave me a good opportunity to reorganise all my 'stuff'. Now my weaving room looks brighter and all the shelving units have neatly labelled transparent boxes.  For the first time I know where everything is!

Of course I found treasures that I had forgotten.  One set of items was the old crocheted and embroidered textiles from my grandmother. She died when I was six months old so I only know of her through my father talking about his mother. She had been injured in a munitions factory accident during the First World War as a result of which she had hearing difficulties and was lame. My grandfather was gassed in the trenches and suffered for the rest of his life with complications from this experience. 

She was widowed in 1936. She crocheted, knitted and embroidered constantly.  My father remembered as a very small boy being taken into town on a Saturday.  She liked to visit Bold Street which in the 1920's was a fashionable and expensive shopping area of Liverpool. The posh dress shops and fur shops were here. Of course she could not afford any of the goods but she liked to see what was fashionable.  She would stand in front of a dress shop and examine the lace or crocheted collars and cuffs on dresses. To  my father's great embarrassment, she would take her crochet hook out of her handbag and proceed to copy a motif or design she liked. 

Here is my dad.

My father developed an interest in craft, probably through necessity. He could embroider, sew and mend. You know the phrase a  jack of all trades and master of none – well, Dad was a jack of all trades and a master of many. He knew the shoe and leather industry – so when my brother and I were young he would mend our shoes. When I needed a satchel for school, he got the leather and hand stitched one for me. He was excellent at wood work and made a lot of furniture for the house. He could do beautiful woodwork and marquetry. He made me a wonderful dolls house and when I was given some Pelham puppets for Christmas and birthday presents, he made me a theatre.  This was an amazing piece because it had removable wings so that scenery could be changed.  The curtains were made from an old scrap of red material.  He found a length of curtain rail and made the curtains to open in the centre when a cord was pulled - just like a real theatre. The best thing was that it could be folded flat for storage - very necessary in our small terraced house.  I had four puppets - a cowgirl, a Tyrolean girl and dog and cat.  This stretched my playwriting abilities somewhat! 

In my bedroom there was a small rug which he had designed and made.  It had a picture of his dog - an Airedale terrier on a green background.   After the war, he enrolled in night classes to learn about house painting, electrics and plumbing. Not for a job - he was a shoe salesman.  He could lay concrete paving and he built a brick coal store for the house and used to do all the house repairs. He would mend clocks and always serviced the car. When money is tight ,then make do and mend is important. Nothing was wasted. 

My mum could knit and sew and was an excellent cook. It is not surprising that I developed a love of  making things.

I had kept my grandmothers small sewing box which disintegrated a few years ago. In tidying my  room, I found  my grandmothers crochet hooks and old cottons, some of her embroidery and crochet work and other memorabilia which I thought I would share.

The oldest item probably belonged to her mother or grandmother.  It is a printed cotton square, a memento of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition held in Manchester in 1887.  This exhibition was open for 166 days and 4.5 million paying visitors attended. 

Here is a close up of Queen Victoria

In her sewing box there were many examples of her crochet work.  They are yellow with age and some are simply scraps but I could never throw them away. Some of them look as though she was trying out motifs.  I wonder they were copied from shops in town.

The centre set of pieces has a small item which looks as though she was trying to crochet a picture of a tank. Here is an early photograph of her. She was very patriotic and took my father to London for the Nov 11 Remembrance Day processions. 


I also inherited some of her remaining crochet hooks.  They are very fine indeed.  The items at the top are a rug making tool and a hook for doing up buttons on boots. 

In 1936 my grandfather died in an accident so my father had to leave school and get a job to support his mother. In 1938 she took my father on a day trip to London to attend the Aldershot Tattoo.  I have the official programme and the travel booklet.  The trip was organised by a local newspaper.  The booklet lists all the passengers, what meals they had, the coach trip in London and details about the Tattoo.  The train seat numbers and coach numbers were carefully listed so that everyone knew what the arrangements were. 

My father and his mother and a friend set out from Lime Street Station in the centre of Liverpool.

The official programme is 36 pages with lots of information about the day. Here is the foreword to the tattoo.

 When war was declared my dad joined the Coldstream Guards and saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Yugoslavia.  At home, my grandmother embroidered this small cloth.  I still have the booklet which contained the iron-on pattern.

I was searching through my box of cloth to find some early pieces that I made. To my surprise I came across a plastic bag full of more crocheted items from my grandmother.  These are bigger pieces and completed table mats, embroidered cloths etc.  One piece is of particular interest.  

It is a triangular piece about 20 inches along the top edge.  Can you see the words For King and Country in the centre?  They are surrounded by flags. 

During the war, self help and craft skills were encouraged.  Many people are now familiar with the poster 'Make do and mend. ' 

She kept  the original Ministry of Information booklet from 1943.

Here is a page from the booklet. 

The details about new life for woollen goods is fascinating. 

Redecorating my room became more than just tidying and sorting.  It became a trip to my family's past and thinking about how a love of crafts can be passed on. Yes, I did learn to crochet - but that is another story.

Susan J Foulkes  September 2021

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Cushion covers for new chairs

Over the past few years we have commissioned some beautiful furniture from Forest Edge Woodcrafts.  Gerrit Rietveld produced some amazing pieces of furniture which can be copied once for personal use. The 1919 Rietveld buffet is simply stunning and the Steltman chairs are beautiful.

Martin wanted a couple of chairs for the kitchen/dining area but the design he liked had no instructions and we have not found any examples in museums in the Netherlands. Jamie from Forest Edge Woodcrafts,  was set the problem of making a chair. Fortunately as he had made Rietveld furniture before, he had gained useful insights into how these iconic pieces of furniture were designed and assembled. 

Here is a detail of a corner of the chair.  It was originally made in 1925. 

The back and seat of the chair are bent to shape.  This was an extremely difficult task but makes the chair more comfortable. 

We wanted a cushion pad for the seat in navy blue.  I wove the material and decided to try to make them myself.  This was a mistake.  I can manage simple sewing but a fitted cover with piping was a new departure.  I watched several videos on YouTube and through that I would be able to manage.  I wove a long piece that would do for the top and bottom of the cushion pad.

The cover is woven in 16/2 cotton for plain weave at at 22 epi.  I then wove a narrow length for the piping cord edging and the side panels.  I thought that it would be useful to add in two pale blue ends in the warp to indicate where the material could be trimmed into a strip for the piping cord.

The process of making took much longer than I anticipated and was much more difficult. I started by  making one cushion cover. I measured and cut accurately but assembling the pieces was not as smooth as the YouTube video had shown. 

My effort was ill -fitting

The corners were particularly difficult.

It was the corners that I found most difficult and I was rather disappointed with the result.  I decided not to risk the second cushion to my inexpert sewing but took the remaining material to a stall in our local Indoor Market.  This indoor market was established in 1851 and is less than 10 minutes walk away. 

The Market Hall entrance in the Market Square. 

The market is an absolute gem!  I had recently bought curtains and purchased the foam inserts for the cushions from Stitches Textiles.  I was delighted to learn that she also makes cushion covers.  The second cover was ready in a few days and I collected it this morning.  

professionally made new cushion cover 

The corner is so neat!

The difference is wonderful.  I think I will have to weave some more material and have a second cover made. 

Now we have a comfortable corner.  The mug mats that I wove on the wonderful Weave-Along with Tien Chiu and Janet Dawson in overshot are just the right colours.  Here is the link to the blog showing all the patterns I wove.

Happy Weaving

Susan J Foulkes  August 2021

Thursday, 1 July 2021

The Joy of Sacks (part 2)

 Weaving these samples is getting addictive. There are other projects which need to be tackled but these are so enjoyable to weave.  Fortunately I am running out of some colours so I feel that I have made some inroads on my stash.  One more white warp should be enough. 

The designs are from the Thrilling Twills by Ingrid Boesel.  I got the CD when I bought my beautiful Megado 32 shaft electronic dobby loom.  Some of the first items I wove were a set of samples on a cotton warp using some of the 32 shaft designs.  

More Rustic Linen Sacks.

I am using these files again for the linen sacks I am weaving.  The Thrilling Twill collection is now available as a free download for either Windows or Mac. 

This is a very generous offer. There are 4,000 designs to explore from 5 to 32 shafts. 

I like the circle pattern.  There are a number of different circle patterns in the collection.  I wove the material for several linen sacks using it. I decided to change the pattern slightly. 

Here is the first pattern I wove. It is a 16 shaft pattern.  I added two additional shafts for the plain weave selvedge. This is the pattern with warp circles.  FO62  On the PCW weave program it is easy to change the face of the weaving.  

Here is the same pattern after I changed the face so the circles are formed by the weft. You can see the floats between the circle rows. 

Here is the material. You can see the longer white floats between the circles. 

I revised one of the other patterns. Again, it is on 18 shafts with two shafts for the plain weave selvedge. 

This eliminates the longer floats between the rows of circles by adding an additional pick which goes over two and under two warp ends. 

Here is the finished cloth. 

Here are pieces that I have washed and ironed. 

I like the three colour design.

I have woven the material and made 12 small sacks for the workshop next year.  I will need to make a few more but here is the work so far. 

Here are the sacks tied with a sack knot.  I made the ties from bamboo tape using a lucet. #rusticlinensacks  

One design that I really like is the feather/leaf pattern.  I used this for my peacock scarf which I described in my blog for 1st January 2016.  Here is a shortcut to the post. 

Here is a close up of the scarf.

Here is the drawdown for 16sFO55. I added two additional shafts for the plain weave selvedge. 

I am reorganising my weaving room at present and decorating it at the same time.  This entails moving the shelves, painting then moving the shelves back again.  I have managed two of the four walls so far but the next two have the most equipment along their length so it will be some time before it is finished.  It is not a large room and I have a lot of equipment and books.  I am trying to fit my weaving around the work.

Happy Weaving
 Susan J Foulkes July 2021.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

The Joy of Sacks (with acknowledgement to Terry Pratchett)

I have been trying to use up some of my stash.  I bought a selection of tow linen 6 some years ago to weave sauna towels from a pattern by Malin Selander.  However even with a cottolin warp the towels are very rough.  I decided to weave small tow linen sacks to hold my lucet. My design had twill stripes in 16/2 linen used double on a twill background in red tow linen 6.  I started by weaving small samples to check on the sett. 

Sacks for Lucet 

Warp: 6 tow linen in red and 16/2 linen in blue and red used double.

Weft: 6 tow linen in red

Warp order:  8 red 16/2 linen doubled; 16 red  tow; 12 blue 16/2 linen doubled; 16 red tow

12 blue 1/2 doubled; 16 red tow; 8 red 16/2 linen doubled. 

                                  before washing           after washing

20 epi sample width              4  in                        3,68 in

                      length            14.25 in                   13.25 in

18 epi sample  width            4 7/8 in                      4 in

                       length          14.75 in                      14 in

16 epi sample  width            5 3/8 in                       5 in

                       length           14.25 in                     12.5 in 

Here are the three samples side by side.

Here the samples are on top of each other so that you can see the differences in width using the different setts.

Sett: 16 epi made a firm fabric, 18 epi  was better  with a good twill line,   20 was too loose.

Second design using a plain weave background

Three samples later I decided upon the sett but then thought that the twill stripes would look better when contrasted with a plain weave background. 

This time I used natural tow linen and 16/2 blue linen for the stripes. Here are the little sacks. 

I enjoy a challenge and decided to weave more strips of material to make larger sacks to hold equipment for a workshop I will be running next year. 

My loom needed a workout so I chose a pattern using 24 shafts with an additional 2 shafts for the plain weave border. 

Sett: 21 epi  to allow for twill pattern and  plain weave areas.

9 reed threading is 2 2 3

Warp and weft = 6 tow linen.

Warp: natural with two ends of 16/2 linen at selvedge

Weft: 6 tow linen in a variety of colours.

Number of Warp ends = 210 plus 4   ends of 16/2 linen.

The first warp was in natural tow linen. 

Here are three finished bags with hanging tags and ties.

I have definitely experienced the joy of weaving sacks.

I have put on a white warp and wove material for four sacks.  I cut them off and washed the material because I wanted to see how the pattern looked when the material was finished. 

I used four patterns in 16 shaft point twill with two additional shafts for the plain weave border. I reduced the sett to 20 epi which seems fine. the recommended sett for this type of linen is ds12 for lace, 16 for plain weave and 20 for twill.

Here are two patterns on the loom.

Here is a close up of the circles pattern.  As you can see I made a mistake early in the weaving. 

Here is another pattern before finishing.

The measurements were length: 59.5cm and width: 30 cm.

After washing the length was 56cm and the width 28cm. Here is the same diamond pattern after washing. 

The four different designs were interesting to weave. I am looking forward to finishing this warp and trying out new patterns and different coloured wefts. 

If you are not familiar with the works of Terry Pratchett you have a treat in store. Going Postal, chapter five Lost in the Post - in which Stanley experiences the joy of sacks. (page 134).

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes             May 2021