Saturday, 15 July 2017

Workshop at the Old Kennels in June

Workshop June 2017
The Old Kennels

The Old Kennels - the conservatory and the gazebo.
Thursday 15th June and Friday 16th June 2017

This two day workshop on Swedish Band Weaving provided the opportunity for a small group to learn how to weave patterned bands using a double slotted heddle and backstrap. The Old Kennels prides itself on organising courses which have a small groups of participants so that tutors can tailor the workshop for individual needs and skills.My workshop has nine participants and filled very quickly.

Day One

  • Learned how to set up a backstrap and rigid heddle in a good weaving position.
  • Start to weave a selection of heart and flower patterns or knots and meanders.
  • Started a band neatly.
  • Learned how to add in a new weft thread.
  • Gained a good understanding of the pattern draft and weave structure.
  • Examined a range of different woven bands from Sweden.

Day Two

  • Opportunity to weave more patterns of choice.
  • Learn how to make a warp and thread the heddle.
  • Learned how to finish a band neatly.
  • Examined different ways of finishing bands such as decorative tassels and knots.
  • Learned about lettering and started to weave a letter.
  • Learned how to design a decorative border.

The setting is idyllic and the weather was very hot indeed. We started the workshop in the conservatory but soon moved outside to the gazebo.

Inside the conservatory
One of the delights of the Old Kennels are the alpacas and the cats.

Unfortunately, it was too hot for the alpacas to stay outside.  However, Christine managed to take this lovely photograph.

Some of the newly shorn alpacas.

One cat in particular liked to feel part of the workshop. Sylvester was quite a character.  He would leap onto the work table and find the place where he would be most in the way.  He then would fall instantly asleep!  He was the most restful cat I have known.

The best place to sleep

All the heddles were ready warped so that the group could begin quickly.  I demonstrated how to start the woven band and the first few picks.  Then everyone could have a go.

Demonstrating the start of the band.

We had a break and then on return it was to find Sylvester stretched out as usual.

An even better place to sleep

The booklet to accompany the workshop gives lots of patterns for hearts and flowers.  We started with hearts but everyone soon moved on to the pattern of their choice.

Following the pattern.

The first two hearts
Lunch was amazing.  I am pleased that we were only there for two days as the food was plentiful and very very tempting.

After lunch and for the following day, we moved outside. Having the opportunity to work outside was great.  The gazebo offered shade from the sun but was also cool.

working outside in the gazebo

On the second day, Christine started to weave letters and produced quite a long piece.  Unfortunately I was so busy I did not have time to take many photographs and it was soon time for the workshop to end.

A sample of work at the end of the first day.

I managed to get together pieces of work from day one. People who had never tried this type of weaving before managed to complete many designs.

Looking through the brochure made me keen to try an attend a workshop next year.

Take a look at some of the wide variety of courses that they provide at this lovely venue.
The Old Kennels at

The Old Kennels,
Devon, EX14 4RW
tel. 01823 681138

Thank you to all the participants and to Christine for sending me some of her photographs.  I hope that you all had as much fun as I did.

Online Band Weaving Workshop with the Braid Society

 October 2017

Do check out the details for the online workshop in October.  The details are on the home page of my blog.

My travels around the Baltic region have shown me the colourful heritage in many countries. I would like to share some of the lovely patterns with you in this online workshop.

The workshop will be spread over three weeks and will be open to anyone who has joined the Yahoo group, Braids and Bands. All the patterns will have 13 pattern threads.

If you are a member of the Braid Society, there will be a fourth week with more complex patterns.  Do think about joining the Braid Society.

Happy Weaving

Susan J Foulkes July 2017

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Chinese Whispers and Beamish Open Air Museum.

After being inspired by The Quilters Guild project of the same name a few years ago, Durham Guild decided to produce work for this exhibition beginning in December 2015 when 12 members of the guild signed up to produce 12 images using fibres and/or yarn.

The task was simple enough…..”A completed textile of 30 x 30 cm to fit a frame of 50 x 50 cm, based on a photograph of the preceding piece within 6 weeks –  sending a photograph on to the next volunteer in line” The really hard part was not talking about the work for over one year!  The unveiling of all the entries was a very moving occasion. No-one had any idea of what to expect. The links between one picture and the next are shown in the captions to each of the items.  This challenge was so inspiring.

The results are stunning and the exhibition is a great testimony to the skills of the Guild members.

Do go to the Guild site at   where you can see close ups of all of the items and a full description written by the members who produced them. The year long creative journey is very moving.

The Heritage Centre is near Durham Cathedral and is a busy tourist centre.

Durham Guild also has a Facebook site here:

Durham Guild at Beamish Open Air Museum.

The display moved on to Beamish Museum for the three days the Guild was demonstrating traditional skills.The Durham Guild of Spinners Weaver and Dyers had volunteered to dress up and demonstrate at Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham.  I had never done anything like this before and it was so much fun!.
We were given the Band Hall  for the exhibition and demonstrating.

Here is a sample of the wonderful response to the Chinese Whispers challenge but do visit the wordpress site for a full viewing.

Part of the Chinese Whispers display.  The miners banner on the wall shows the Big Meeting.

Just to give you a background to the museum here is the web link.

The Band Hall was hung with banners from the mining villages. These banners are still treasured by the villages in Durham and are proudly displayed in the amazing processions for the Durham Miners Gala held every year in July. The next Gala, the 133rd,  is on July 8th.  The bands start playing in the processions and as one of the routes is very close to where I live we can hear them in the house.  I love going to the Gala Field later in the day.

I had not visited Beamish for a number of years and I was amazed at the variety of activities on offer.

Our role for three days was to demonstrate the traditional skills of weaving and spinning.  I took along my little box loom to do some patterned band weaving. We all had to dress in costumes issued by the costume department of the museum.  It was great fun dressing up!

Dressed in costume at Beamish Open Air Museum

The day was punctuated by rumbling and clattering from the road outside the hall. There is a trolley bus for people to ride around the museum.  A horse drawn cart and steam engine also went past at regular intervals.

The steam engine

The traditional horse drawn cart

We settled in for the day. 

Some of our spinners
I was amazed at the number of visitors from abroad.  This is not so surprising really as I always visit this type of museum when on holiday.

The first wave of visitors
One table was set up with small peg looms so that children and adults could have a go.  This was very popular.  Crafts can be taught even if there is no common language.

My small band loom with a Sami band.
I took several warped heddles and managed to use weave two complete warps during the day.  The picture here is from my third warp.  It is a Sami band pattern from Kautokeino in Norway from the end of the 19th century. The pattern is from a small booklet printed, I think, in 1946 which contains patterns for 8 bands. All of the patterns are from original bands woven in the second half of the nineteenth century. This was very kindly sent to me by a Guild member who knows how much I love Sami band weaving.  Thank you.

Happy weaving

Susan J Foulkes

Thursday, 15 June 2017

More handtowels on four shafts.

Delicate handtowels on four shafts

The pattern for these handtowels is known as 2 fold Ms and Os.

This pattern is from the wonderful book  Margarite P Davison  A Handweaver's Pattern Book on page 56. This book was first published in 1944 and was the first book about weaving that I bought. My copy is old and well used and used to be in the library at Edge Hill Teacher Training College. When I trained s a teacher, crafts were still considered important and I remember in my college large floor looms in the corridor as well as in the craft room.

Here is the weave drawdown for the pattern for these handtowels.

You can see how the Ms and Os are outlined in blocks of three by the blue warp and weft.  The weave structure makes these towels shrink in the wash but although they appear very delicate they are excellent for drying hands.

Warp and Weft

Total number of warp ends is 572
Width at reed  59.75 cm   23.5 inches
Warp sett is 24 ppi          12 reed with 2 ends per dent
Weft sett is 30 ppi

The warp  is 16/2 cotton and the weft is 16/1 linen in two colours blue and white. I use Swedish cotton and linen made by the same company so that the colours for the different yarns are the same.

Colour order for border  

white  10       10      8     8     10
blue          2         4     2     4        2

then the pattern threading is as follows

white  22
blue          2           18 repeats    then 22 white.  The order for the border is now reversed.


I use 12 rows in plain weave - for this threading true plain weave is not possible.  Then weave approx 1.5 inches in pattern to fold over to form the hem.

Weaving the towels. 

I made enough warp for three long handtowels.  

Tying the warp onto the front beam

This is a two shuttle weave using the 16/1 linen

close up of the weave structure on the loom
The weave structure is quite open as you can see from the photograph.  The weft sett is 30 ppi.  It is important to weave the design square even though the warp sett is only 24 epi.

 This photograph shows one end of the first towel.  I have woven extra blocks in white linen for the hem.  The coloured thick thread is the division between this towel and the next I am weaving. After I have taken the finished weaving off the loom, I cut each towel at the place where I used the thicker yarn.  I always turn up the hem and iron it as soon as possible after cutting the towels apart. I pin, then tack the hems in place before sewing them on the machine.


I always machine hem the towels before washing so the measurements include the hem.

                        before washing                               after washing
length              80 cm   31.5 inches                         65 cm   29.75 inches
width                58 cm  23 inches                            53 cm    21 inches

Close up after washing
Here you can see how the design puckers up creating a lovely surface texture. There is some shrinkage.

I washed two handtowels by hand and the third in the washing machine.  I wondered whether there would be any difference in the shrinkage.  The measurements were the same.  However, there was an odd difference which I was not expecting.  The hand washed towel was slightly yellow.

Two towels, one handwashed and one machine washed.
I first thought that it was the machine washed towel and that there had been  a slight colour issue in the wash but it is definitely the handwashed towel that is not white.  The effect might be difficult to see in the photograph. I have no idea why this should have happened.

Of course I also wove a tag for hanging the towels.  Here is the pattern.

Draft for hanging tags.
I used 16/1 linen for the pattern.  There are 47 warp ends.  The width of the tag is  13 mm.

Linen hanging tag on the hem
I like to sew the hanging tag along the hem.  It is very firmly attached.

Two handtowels

This is a lovely light hand towel but excellent for drying hands.  It would make a pretty guest towel.

Susan J Foulkes

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Textile Museum in Prato Italy

Museo del Testuto

Prato is a much overlooked holiday destination as it is near to Florence.  A short train journey takes you to Prato, a lovely town which is Tuscany's second city.  It has a connection to textiles dating back to the 12th century and is still involved in textiles today.  Of course it has a textile museum to celebrate this connection.

I love visiting textile museums. There is always something new to learn about textiles and this museum was no exception.

The Museo del Testuto was founded in 1975 but is now housed in an old textile factory.  The building is impressively large.

The internal courtyard

Here is the museum entrance. As usual there were many school children on visits to the museum.

The museum entrance

Inside the entrance there was a small but well stocked shop.  The books and materials were very tempting but had to wait until I had visited the museum itself.

The museum shop
The museum has a collection of ancient textiles as well as modern.  Their extensive archive covers contemporary fabrics from 1976 to the present day.
There are four main rooms.  The first is full of ancient textiles and the light levels have to be kept low to preserve the fabrics. There is a large area of materials and processes. There is a hall of Prato City showing how Prato became involved in textiles and what the processes were. Textiles from the 12th century until 1950 and finally the Prato Hall and the fashion system which covers the changes from 1960 to 2000.

It is quite a story. There are many old pieces of weaving equipment some of which seem to be in use, presumably for demonstrations.

An old loom

A warping frame

Materials and Processes.

One area was particularly impressive. the materials and processes were very well displayed and presented.  I have not seen a better example of interactive displays which are so informative.  the notices were also in English.

Nowadays, people do not know where nor how material is made. The boards were very useful but even more impressive were the handling samples.

Here you can seen a small part of the collection of handling samples.  Every material seem to be represented even artificial yarns.

It was here that I learned something new.  I had no idea that yarn could be made from the Broom plant, yet here it is in its raw form and with a sample of material.

The broom material, yarn and raw fibre.
A cloe up of broom fibre and yarn.


 Dyeing was also explained with impressive detail.

Cloth finishing

One process which is often overlooked is that of cloth finishing.  Again, there were a selection of fabrics showing the effects of different types of finishing process. I learned a lot from this section.

There were also a few colourful sample books on display. I would love to have access to their archive collection!

If you ever visit this part of Tuscany, do go to this museum.  It is a treasure house.  The town of Prato is overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, Florence, but a day trip there has made me want to see more.

I came home with a couple of books from the museum.

This book about tartan is in English and Italian.  It was published for an exhibition held in the museum.  It has an interesting historical background about tartan. The section that I was most intrigued with is about tartan as an inspiration for contemporary fashion design.

The other book is about Prato - its history and the stories of the people and places.

I am so pleased that I found this lovely book thanks to a very helpful assistant in the shop.

The town museum in the Palazzo Pretorio itself was stunning and delightfully quiet after the crowds in Florence.  The Palazzo Pretorio was the old city hall in the  town centre. It houses the the Civic Museum of Prato, which was reopened on September 2013.  The art collection was wonderful and beautifully displayed.

Here are the web addresses if you want to find out more.

Museo del Testuto Prato

They also have a YouTube presence.

Museuo del Palazzo Pretorio

We had a lovely holiday in Florence in March which is a jewel of a city but Prato was a revelation.

Happy textile adventures!

Advance Notice - Free Online Workshop on Band Weaving October 2017

In October  I will be presenting an online workshop for the Braid Society. Details have been posted in the Braid Society Newletter in June. This workshop is open to all.  However, you will need to join the Braid Society Yahoo group Braids and Bands if you want to take part. Check out the Braid Society Home page for details on how to join the yahoo group.

Do consider joining the Braid Society. The Newsletters and the journal Strands are excellent. Becoming a member has additional benefits.  Don't forget the International Conference to be held in Kyoto, Japan in 2019.

Joining the Yahoo group Braids and Bands

Braids and Bands is a discussion group moderated by the Braid Society and primarily exists to provide members with information about Braid Society activities. Non members of the society with a genuine interest in braids and bands are also welcome to join this group. Members can ask questions about any narrow ware technique, or share details of their latest project.  There is a presentation on the home page which gives step by step guidance for joining and using the service.
You do not need to be a member of the Braid Society to join the Yahoo group but do consider joining the Braid Society.  It will bring extra benefits such as a wonderful journal  Strands and contact with a knowledgeable group of people who are willing to help with any queries about narrow wares. Another advantage is that the online workshop will have additional material for Braid Society members only.

Further details about the workshop will be posted on my blog and on Braids and Bands.  The workshop will be spread over three weeks and will give examples of band patterns from countries around the Baltic.  The fourth week is for Braid Society members only and will have additional patterns and information.

An inkle loom, a standard heddle or a double slotted Sunna heddle can be used, if you want to join in. Notes will be available for download and queries will be answered on the Braids and Bands Yahoo group. On previous online workshops, useful tips are contributed by many people taking part. We all learn from each other.

I am busy weaving the samples for the online course at the moment and I can promise you a colourful journey!

Susan  J Foulkes  May 2017


Thank you Moni, for recommending the book the Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo.  I have just received the copy I ordered and I am delighted to find that it is a history book.  It is based on an astonishing cache of over 150,000 documents which came to light in 1870.  It paints a portrait of medieval life in Tuscany.  What a lovely find.

Susan J Foulkes June 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

Knitting and Stitching Show Edinburgh April 2017

The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show,  is a wonderful place to find yarn and creative ideas. I visited Edinburgh last month and went to the show there.

It was held on the Royal Highland Show Ground near the airport.

There was a free shuttle bus service from the city centre which was very efficient and packed with women of all ages excitedly talking about craft.

I wanted to buy some wool in a specific range of colours.  I usually buy online from McAree Brothers in Edinburgh and I sure that they would have a stand at the show.
The first place I went was to see this display of knitted and crocheted pieces.  I had been speaking to someone on the bus who had helped with this wonderful project.  The Butterfly Garden and Enchanted Wood was made to raise money for a hospice. The helpers had a wonderful time making it and putting it together.  It certainly attracted a lot of attention.

A vegetable patch

I love the sheep and shepherd

I arrived at the show early so that I could have a good look around before it got crowded. This standwas very colourful and was from Latvia.  Their shop is in Riga so it is definitely on my list of places to visit when I go back to Riga next year. On my last visit the National Museum was closed after a fire so I was unable to see their collection of woven bands.

A Latvian stand selling mitten kits

The kits for the Latvian mittens were very stylish and beautifully presented.  I am sorry that my photograph does not do it justice.  I forgot to take my camera so i was relying on my phone. Traditional Latvian knitting is so densely patterned with lovely symbols.  Each of the kits came with a description of the pattern and the area from which it originally came.

I found McAree Brothers but although the stand was well stocked I could not find the combination of colours that I needed.

There was plenty more to see and do.  There was a selection of workshops and talks to attend.  The workshops had a lovely way of advertising their content.  A display on the wall showed examples of items  that you could be making- including a pair of knickers.The workshop spaces were very well organised.  As a visitor you could see in to the workshop space to get a feel for the class.

I went to every wool outlet but still could not find my colours.  I did find an excellent pom pom maker which I bought.  Many belts from Sweden use pom poms to weight the ends.  Although I can make them in the conventional way I liked the simple but effective design of this device. to make a number of pompoms at the same time. I have tried it and it works very well.

making pom poms the easy way.

There was plenty of knitting on show and being demonstrated.  I like the broom stick knitting so I asked if I could take a picture for my blog.  She is not a demonstrator but a visitor like myself who wanted to have a go.  She attracted quite a crowd!

There were some delicate and intricate samples on display.  An inspiration to skilled knitters.

There were many stands selling wool and I visited them all.

Guilds and Societies also were represented.  The stand from the Edinburgh Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers had two spinners working away at their wheels.

I had a great day out.  I had never visited the show in Edinburgh before and it was great to see that it is as well attended as Harrogate and London.

Her are some web addresses if you are interested.



McAree Yarn

Happy Weaving and if you can, do go to the Knitting and Stitching Show. It is great fun. It is on in October in London, November it moves to Dublin and finishes in Harrogate in late November 2017.

May 1017