Alysn Midgleow Martin Workshop

So after my last post about working alone, I was plunged into working among a group. I attended Alysn Midgelow Martin’s personal statement workshop at Art Van Go in Hertfordshire. I had a five and a half hour drive through rush hour and fog and stayed in a Bed and Breakfast with a shared bathroom where you weren’t allowed to use the bath but hey, no pain no gain.

My chosen statesman of ‘creative minds are rarely tidy’ I found online under quotes from Winnie the Pooh (it’s always nice to have a few quotes under your belt and I love AA Milne). Imagine how flabbergasted I was when I discovered it was said by John William Gardener (sometimes also credited to Carl Gustav Jung, but on further investigation this seems incorrect). Just glad I didn’t credit it to Winnie the Pooh.

Faced with a room full of ladies who had City and Guilds certificates all over the place, I have to admit, I did feel incredibly intimidated. I started to miss my little room on my own, but how do you inspire and bounce ideas if not with other people. I was just out of the habit of it all.

We started with monoprinting on paper.


Then stamping and embossing with heat tools



We burnt brass and stainless steel with a camp stove burner to create colours in the metal


We painted lutrador (a polyester material, feels like thick paper) with silk paints, attached it to metal and then machined our saying over the top of it. Then we heated the Lutrador to distress it and create this effect, which I really like


On Friday we were told to put it all together. This is where I struggled. I was in good company though, quite a few of us did. We had lots of samples of processes – to do what with? Alysn was a very helpful, hands on and generous teacher, offering loads of tips and encouragement. But if your head is empty, then it’s just empty.

So here is my finished piece. The big reveal. I cannot believe I’m putting this out there but here you go.


I can almost hear the quizzical looks on faces. D’you know it wasn’t the best in the class by any stretch, but it wasn’t the worst either and for someone completely thrown in the deep end its alright. Will it be going on a wall anytime soon – I think not.

But I had a wonderful time away, I learned loads of processes that I plan to experiment with using my new heat gun(!!!) and did something that frightened me each day. And that’s what’s it’s all about.


Is it always healthy to work alone?

I was privileged on Monday to be able to go to work with my friend Paula of Paulafingers Contemporary Ceramics. Paula has a studio in Liverpool and it was interesting to be able to work in a space that wasn’t connected to a house, like mine is.

While Paula’s studio is a space surrounded by other artists, often they work outside normal working hours and so Paula, like me spends hours working alone.


This isn’t always helpful as it can be difficult to keep perspective over the things we produce. Is it any good? How can it be improved? How much time should be spent creating and how much time on social media or networking? Hours of mulling these feelings over can leave you feeling frustrated and short tempered rather than having a sense of achievement.

So it was a real treat to spend time together, bouncing ideas off each other, comparing work practises and techniques.

Paula has created a collection of knitting bowls in pastel shades that hopefully will be ready soon. These slipcasted bowls have a section for your yarn to pull through will move with the ball. Here’s a sneaky peak of what’s on its way.


Creative Textiles class at Knit Wise

Well I see the NHS claiming that the Flu jab program for this year is a success and having had the combined flu and pneumonia jab this week I can only think this is because it’s killing people before they can get the flu!

Anyway, a few days off wasn’t so bad, it certainly got the creative ideas flowing.

As spinners, we end up with lots of fibres knocking about, some we know what they are, some are all mixed together so there is no chance of working it out. As dyers, some of those may have been mistakes, strange shades or partly felted mishaps.

Some of those can be recycled. Monday morning was spent with Jess and Erin, two lovely girls who are taught by their mum. They came along to make felt and dye fibre and before we knew it, three hours had gone by. They worked so hard and their felt balsa, pictures and hand dyed fibre was gorgeous. Now it’s dried, I will pass it on, but I’m very tempted to keep it.


So with some of the other bits and pieces, fibres, threads and handspun experiments I wanted to be able to use those little bits and pieces to create something new. Add in some handspun yarn, bondaweb, sewing machine threads and you end up with an abstract piece


But what do we do with all these experiments? We might love the things we create but how to use them? Well, on the Creative Textiles morning at Knit Wise, we can look at how to use our work. The first item we’ll attempt is abound book cover with our piece on the front.

The beauty of this class is that it’s an ongoing process, we come each week and just add a little bit more to our worK. We can keep sketching for ideas, then put those ideas into work and end up with something we’ve made. Whether it be a book cover, pin cushion, needle case, whatever takes our fancy.

We can mix ‘new’ experimental ways of creating our work, using tyvek, bondaweb and heat tools and mix them with traditional embroidery methods.

The class is £4 and is on every week from 10-4, newbies and experienced members most welcome. Why not come along and join me? Otherwise I’ll be sitting on my own (but at least I won’t be at home doing the ironing)

Sketching for Inspiration

Sketching, I believe is an important part of creating. And because I believe it I usually have a sketchbook or notepad in my bag at all times. Most of them end up something like this


A great place to store a shopping list. If I’m feeling very creative it might end up like this


A holiday list. With bunting.

Sketchbooks scare me, I’m much happier throwing dyes in a pot and spinning or felting to create than actually drawing something that (horror of horrors) someone might see. And yet, when I do attempt to draw and return to those images sometimes years later, they evoke feelings and emotions that don’t come with a photograph.

So I’m trying to do it properly this time and to that end, I’ve got my copy of Creating Sketchbooks by Kate Greenlees out of the cupboard and have been hitting Pinterest by the minutes.


I came across textile which is a great resource for all textile artists. There is an article by Bren Boardman which goes through a mind mapping approach for sketchbooks. I would wholeheartedly recommend reading it

So with that in mind I started with a photo of these seed heads. These were growing outside our local retirement apartments


I found out that they are Rudbeckia or Black Eyed Susan seed heads. These happy little yellow flowers can be used in dyeing, producing a range of browny tan shades which is perhaps something I could think about for a project.


I may not use it at all, but the sketching process certainly got the ideas flowing. It takes time, but I’m going to be making more of an effort to sketch regularly in the future….

I’m hosting a loosely termed Knit’n’Natter at Knit Wise in Ormskirk. It’s a weekly event, Thursday mornings 10-12. I’d like to welcome all kinds of crafters, but one of the things I’ll be encouraging us all to do is keep a sketchbook, then we can discuss inspiration and ideas and try and get some sparks going. It would be great to get a vibrant group together, so if you’d like to attend, I’d be happy to see you. I’ve even baked a fruit cake


In the meantime here’s some links for sketchers

A return to blogging. Part 5

I’ve had a hiatus from blogging for a while.  Looking back, this has been a pattern in my blogging history, when things in life got too busy, overwhelming and messy, blogging goes out of the window because I want to be positive in my posts.

Also, because my blog is about spinning, I’ve tried to keep it specifically to that subject which has been limiting because, as friends and fellow spinners know – I don’t knit!  I know!!!

My journey into spinning came via creative embroidery, machine embroidery and wall hangings.  I wanted to produce my own textured thread to fill huge canvas and so I learnt to spin.

I LOVE spinning but i also want to be true to my other loves as well and embroidery is a great love too.

So this week we’ve had our Spin In where spinners come along, bring their own wheel and we spin together.  It’s held on the last Saturday of every month, 1-4pm and it’s a lovely afternoon.


Everyone is invited to the Spin In, some great ideas are hatched and the ladies are lovely (as you often find in the textile community).

But, also this week I spent a bit of time creating a collage.  I’d like to return to embroidery so I’ve made a concerted effort to keep a sketchbook.  Will post more on that in another post.

So here’s my first collage piece in years



At the time of starting it, I didn’t think it would be anything I would bother with, purely an experiment but I’m really pleased. And now I’m sorry I didn’t stretch it, I’ll have to do some research to find out how to finish it off


So, what I’m trying to say is that I will be expanding my blog posts to cover more of what I do, spinning, weaving, embroidery, if it’s textile, I’ll be doing it. I’ll aim a post a week – remind me now, you know what I’m like!

Pushing out of a Purple Patch

The second Lazykate Spin In was just wonderful, we almost couldn’t fit everyone in! It was a cathartic way to spend an afternoon – with others who share a passion.


We did allow a crocheter and a feltmaker in, and there was drum carding too so if you’d like to pop along next time and you do something slightly connected to spinning, we’d love to see you.

Colin and Carole from The Wool Boat popped over to say hi and take some Lazykate sock yarn to sell on board. These photos are courtesy of Colin. Take a look if you get a chance of where the boat is, they’d give you a warm welcome



During the course of the afternoon, it was brought to my attention how much purple tones there are in my Dyelots and I must admit, I LOVE dyeing with purple, violets and lilac. I love the way the shades mix, they’re usually rich and deep and when they are spun, they’re so versatile.




So I removed all purple dyes from my basket and chose colours that wouldn’t normally be my first choice. I picked deep red and mixed it with gun metal. It’s important when dyeing to think about the use of the yarn or felt. It’s amazing to pick lots of vibrant and funky shades and stick them in a pot and see what happens, and it’s good to do this now and again to experiment. Even if you don’t dye for a specific garment or project, you do have to be aware whether you will ever use a fibre that is so shocking you’d never wear it in a month of Sundays.



I’ll report back on how it dries- off to mix some greens!

The next Spin In is the 28th of June which is Woolfest weekend and as the majority if us are heading up to Cockermouth on Saturday we’re postponing until the 26th July. Hopefully see you then!

First Woven Handspun!

A few posts back I posted photos of handspun yarn I’d spun to use in my first attempt at weaving.


Although I was incredibly excited about starting weaving, I felt overwhelmed with the whole weaving process, it’s a pretty full on skill and I didn’t want to be a butterfly- fluttering around many crafts and not becoming proficient in any.

Also, any spare headspace was taken up with Spinning and Dyeing classes, family and other responsibilities (not necessarily in order of importance).

So when Heather, The Inquisitve Weaver turned up with a beginners loom that looked like this, small, easy with (relatively) instant gratification, I was hooked and booked!


Heather talked me through everything, we warped the loom with the chosen colours, I had no clue what to expect so I was completely in her hands


What is it about just looking at colours that makes your mouth water?!!

After a little while and some basic instruction I was on my way. My finished fabric looked like this


And my scarf looks like this


It still needs washing just to finish it off properly but I couldn’t wait to share. It’s a very simple beginners scarf but I’m incredibly pleased and because I’ve been able to take baby steps into the weaving process, I feel able to take the plunge into a table loom. I can’t recommend it enough.

If you fancy coming and having a look at the Beginners looms, Heather will be at the Spin In this Saturday to demonstrate how it works.

Yew Tree Farm
96 Grimshaw Lane
L39 1PE

1-4pm. £4

Bits and Batts

Teaching spinning is a wonderful thing, you get to meet people with a like mind, some wild some wacky, some who will go on to become good friends.
All who begin spinning by leaving little bits on the floor.

Many ladies who spin will be troubled by the wasted fibre, they want to bundle it up and take it home and……well, they don’t know what. So they like to be assured that it will not go to waste. And it doesn’t!

I spent Tuesday afternoon with Heather, The Inquisitive Weaver, her drum carder and blending board. What a wonderful way to use up lots of fibres that could have ended up discarded.


Yep. Bags and bags if fibre just waiting to be loved.



First it was putting colours together and at first we played it safe, using tonal shades that worked together well but soon we were flinging everything in there, experimenting like mad

We ended up with a collection of shades that are destined to be woven.


My own favourite is this, my hand dyed Eliza fibre, carded together with Angelina fibres and Banana fibre, I’m so looking forward to seeing this woven.

The day was finished off at the Knit Wise Knit n Natter where there were knitters, crocheters, spinners and Heather with her teaching loom. Between tea time and 9pm, she wove enough cloth to make this little dog scarf, so imagine what can be done in a day!


Remember that it’s the 1st Spin In on Saturday at 96 Grimshaw Lane, Ormskirk, Lancs, L39 1PE. 1pm till 4pm. Bring your wheel and spin together for a couple of hours. Tea and coffee and cake for our local artisan baker. £4. Looking forward to seeing (anyone to be honest – it is Wonderwool after all!)

Weaving Yarn finished.

Right- the yarn for my weaving is all finished. My inspiration for the garment was from Sarah Lamb’s Spin to Weave.


So in my head and also I the dye pan, the shades I chose were slightly more subdued than the shades I ended up with! Still I’m happy with the and looking forward to seeing them as a piece of cloth.


So I’ve kept a sample of each of the singles to see how they would work together, as before Sarah’s is somewhat more subtle. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of slap in the face shading now and again!



Now that my yarn is all prepared I can move onto something completely different. Boucle.

Spinning to Weave with The Inquisitve Weaver

A couple of posts back I blogged about my Navajo plied Nimbus fibre, which after spinning extremely thinly, I had a major rebellion, shoved it in a basket and moved on to something less, well, tightly pinched. The photos of the Navajo plied Nimbus are just a couple of posts down.

I’d planned to spin for Yarndale, starting with this Juniper yarn, but then, I was asked by Heather of The Inquisitive Weaver to take part in her Rigid Heddle Weaving class. The class is being held here at my house in Ormskirk on the 24th of May but Ginny( my Lazykate partner and also my mum) and I are taking part in a trial run day on the 7th.

Heather weaves these wonderful bears and rabbits called Loomies. I love her weaving and hope some of her talent will somehow drift over to my end of the table.


I can’t tell you how excited I am to be doing this. I’ve longed to weave my own handspun yarn, I have a loom, albeit an ancient specimen, I’ve done a little bit of preparation. I even have the Craftsy class on weaving. Somehow though, life and spinning takes over and I forget what I’ve learnt.

So the Juniper Yarn, well that’s going to be my first weaving yarn.


Thinking if which fibre to compliment it, I spun the rest of the Nimbus fibre, not with Navajo plying, just plain plying which I loved doing because I didn’t have to think so much, and not thinking is fine with me. I think they go together well.


So, what to add a bit of zing? Well I love Spin to Weave by Sara Lamb, the colours she uses in her weaving bring the garments to life.

I would definitely recommend her book if this is something that has even mildly interested you, you will be hooked.



So, I dyed this fibre with the intention of zinging up the other shades. It’s certainly bright enough, perhaps a little to shocking, but only time will tell. I’m spinning it up over Easter so I’ll post the progress….


Super zingy – no filter, just pure sunlight.

If you’d like to come to Heathers Rigid Heddles Loom classes, they’re purely for beginners, go to her facebook page to find out more. <

The Inquisitive Weaver

Back soon.