Saturday, 28 June 2008

Woolfest 2008

3 members of the woolcraft group, Anneruth, Eileen and Verene, made it this year to the Woolfest in Cumbria. It was an early start and a late finish of the day, and it was worth every ounce of it and it was still not enough time to take in all the wonders of Woolfest.
Check their website ( for full details about this unique Festival of Fibres and its fans.
We felt so lucky that it is within a one-day-return-trip driving distance of Glasgow!

The gist of our experience:
wonderful hands-on down-to earth people with a creative vision and a re-generative mission, especially those who have farms or small holdings with animals. The warmth and wonder of people and their projects on show or on sale was truly astounding.

Our highlights of the day
  • The 'Big Bash' workshop

Experiencing and learning traditional Gaelic Waulking Songs with Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh, the Gaelic Waulking Song Group. Sitting round a long table with a dozen or more women - first observing this old practise of fulling the finished woven Tweed cloth and then learning about its history and practise, before getting a bash at bashing the cloth. Dry, of course, not wet in amoniac as it ought to be! Please go and read about the practise and the group on their website. You can also hear and see a few snippets of the workshop from today on our own youtube channel.

The women of Sgioba Luaidh Inbhirchluaidh have a most refreshing down to earth way of introducing , teaching and performing. And the costumes of pinnies and scarves, and sackcloth decor makes it even more looking authentic, esp when they tell about actually having shrunk a cloth in Auchindrain. The rhythm is hypnotic and healing. That the words of the song lines are the usual blurbs of romance and robbery, doom and gloom, doesn't matter as the refrain to them sung by the group are rhythm sounds. The 4 beat 'bashing' and sunwise circling of the cloth is transforming all. What a great way to connect with other women and with one's work! Me wonders: how about writing song-text which is telling present day dramas and stories...?

Been asked whether they would like to connect up with Galgael in general (other work-songs! boat songs esp.) and with us (woolcraft) in particular: Sgioba would love to :-). Now I can't wait for this to develop...

  • Egyptian Landscape: tapestry from the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre

Talk by Hilary Weir, OBE, chairwoman of he Exhibition Trust gave an in-depth talk with slides on the second generation, relating to us the unique story of this most remarkable art and craft project in Egypt. Again, you go best to their website to learn more about a project that brings to life true community and art in craft.
Here is a quote by the inspirational founder of this community of weavers, spinners and dyers, who all get paid regardless as to whether their tapestries get sold or not:

"I had this vague conviction that every human being was born an artist, but that his or her gifts could be brought out only if artistic activity was encouraged from early childhood by way of practising a craft... The creative energy of the average person is being sapped by a conformist system of education and the extension of industrial technology to every sphere of modern life."

It was a priviledge to touch and feel these intricate tapestries - cotton or wool - and it would have been eeven more of a priviledge to be able to buy one...

More tapestries can be seen on our Woolfest 2008 photoalbum, along with many more pictures we took at Woolfest of the wonders we found there. Why not take the slide show now?

Now, how to choose more highlights from this basket of plenty?
The animals! The real stars! On whose backs and bones grows that wonderous fibre called wool. Be that now sheep or goat, alpaca or yak. Well, the latter we did not see. but we learned more about rare breeds again, and their keepers and guardians.

Here are the curious looking freshly shorn alpacas, and the also curious looking local sheep, the characteristic Lakeland Herdwick. We met a wonderful woman who owns 600 or them and who showed us how to spin thick junky rug wool on a small (= normal) wheel and bobbin, and how to make firm rugs out of it then on peglooms, and as well as soft cushions.

Whilst Verene took a liking to the bold Herdwick (having a go at spinning the wool) inspite of learning about French Merino earlier on, Anneruth fell in love with the delicate North Ronaldsy (and could not resist buying the last fleece!). Both breeds are just so right for the land they belong to - the latter to the Orkney Isles.

Then both of us got carried away buying yet another fleece in the fleece auction: a beautfiul white medium stapled cross breed. What were the names of the breeds again?

We hopefully made a contact for John Maclean from Iona who is looking for a weaver who could weave somethng stylish from his Hebrideans.

Eileen's second day with the woolcraft group, and what a day she has had... check the photoalbum to meet 'Josephine' and her family, a new friend she came away with from the day

.......... to be continued..........



Friday, 27 June 2008

woolcraft log 27-6-08

Who was here today?
Anna, Anneruth, Eileen, Laryna, Naomi, Sarah, Verene. Later in the afternoon also Hazel come along again.

Today we welcomed Eileen from Paisley, who got started with wool fibre handling and carding.

Naomi had a new idea for the strap for the book cover: crocheted! And it worked! Elastic and firm with double woolen mill yarn:

Sarah came with one or two dozen blue knitted squares and Naomi showed her how to cast off.

Anna came with her two joined-up pegloom weavings as planned: shrunk and slightly felted in the wash, as planned. She was so pleased with it she wants to buy it - once Laryna has shown her how to put tassels on - which was another finishing off project for today.

Whilst Naomi did the strap crocheting Verene explored and demonstrated how to make the felt balls Naomi wanted to make since she joined up with us in the PI event.
Laryna progressed further on the rug, which now got pulled round the frame again, and looks like aiming for over a meter soon.

Anneruth brought 3 new Blackface yearling fleeces, freshly clipped at the Pentland farm on Midsummers day. She had gotten 6 fleeces - 3 for Heather in Edinburgh and 3 for herself and Galgael. Last Monday Heather and her had been sorting and 'skirting' them in the sunshine, that means to remove the very dirty bits:

There was no time today to bag the fleeces properly, as a lot of time was taken up by other business, including planning the trip to the Woolfest tomorrow. We very pleased that Eileen wanted to join Verene and Anneruth in this once a year 'outing'. Others would have oiked to come but for various reasons had to sigh and say: 'Next year'..

Hazel came by later in the afternoon, and started to look at crocheting or knitting a hat out of the single chunky Jacob thread, to be ready in time for the River fest.

(remember to check here for more photos)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

woolcraft log 22-6-08

Today we were:
Flora, Naomi, Laryna, Mary, Anneruth and Verene

Remember the Hebridean felt-piece as base for the Barmaddy comments book cover?
It is now been needlefelted upon:

and we were brainstorming as to how it best can be fastened upon the book and still stay the rough and ready look that has been requested. Mary showed us a beautiful way of making a spiralling cord (using various warping threads) on a piece of cardboard:

or it would look prettier than simply elastics?

Flora finished off the double knotting of the little sunrise wallhanging (and now Anneruth needs to find a nice stick for the hanging), and then joined Laryna and Naomi with the neverending teasing and carding of white washed wool for the rug weaving.

Verene and Anneruth went into the wood workshop to make some 'cross sticks' for warping of one of the little school weaving frames, and then Laryna and Anneruth set up the loom with a 2m woollen warp (50 threads width to ca 20cm).

This little weaving project should provide opportunites for folks to weave little purses with different wools (such as the ones we got given from the woollen mills as well as our handspun), which could also be wet-felted later and/or needlefelted upon.

(remember: more pics in the June Album)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

visiting a craftfair in Corbenic

This Saturday Anneruth visited a very nice and very inspiring craftfair in the Corbenic Camphill Community (near Dunkeld).

The video and the pictures should speak for themselves : just click on the links...

- and tell the story of the story telling tent, the felted gnome stall, the weaving and craft workshops, and much more.

These delightful gnomes are the work of a Ductch artist, inspired by the book and art works of Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet

This is one of the felted wallhangings made in the Crafts workshop where everything is being made from silk painting, over felting to different styles of weaving.

The best thing was the storytelling yurt, with the felt panels depicting both scenes of the local area and from stories, and the storyteller with her songs and harp (see picture on top of this post here)

As said: have a look at the photo album
and let the pictures speak for themselves.

Friday, 13 June 2008

woolcraft log 13-6-08

Who was there?
Anna, Laryna, Janna from Czechoslovakia/Glasgow (friend of Laryna), Naomi from Cardonald (who got 'hooked' when at the May Reschuffle she made first moves on the big frame loom and with felting loose rainbow spheres for a mobile), Flora, Mary, Ruth, Verene

A big crowd today huddled up in the small bothy, some a little bit later than others, to explore and get on with various new and ongoing projects:

Anna stitching together her two woven pieces and then take it home with her for the next stage: the washing and shrink-felting, to even it out etc.

Anneruth brought in her little rigid heddle loom with the finally finished silk warp, to cut off the last 2 pieces: a handspun-silk scarf and a little handspun piece to be a wallhanging (alpaca with madder, birh and onion dyed wool effects).

And Verene brought in her first piece (the big one) of her knit-felt bag in progress. Then, after some jewelry balls felting, Verene proved to herself that she can spin after all! :-)

Friday, 6 June 2008

Rock around the croft

Tonight, as always on the first Saturday in June, was the famous auld Govan Fair.
Read about its history here,
and bear in mind hence the great responsibility now resting on our, the weavers, shoulders! Or should we rather say the many threads we hold in our fingers?

This year Galgael won the first prize yet again with their "Rock around the Croft" float. A must to watch on youtube now!

Watch out for the rocking horse mascarading as a Blackface sheep (with Hebridean wool as his head!) - see it close up here with Laryna and watch out for it being rocked with Martin as his rider in the float when you watch above youtube broadcast of the "Rock around the Croft" float :-)

And also watch out for Marie rock'n'rolling spinning on the spinning wheel we got given last year from the Hebridean Sheep Society at the Woolfest!

Whilst everyone of the Galgael family got ready for the float

Hazel (who by the way knitted these Elvis Presley bonnets you see on Ian's and someone else's head on the float), plied the fine thread she spun last year and will knit some sheep from it...

woolcraft log 6-6-08

Who came today?
Anna, Laryna, Olivia, Ruth, Samantha, Sarah, Sarah-Jane,

Sarah-Jane seems to have had the final breakthrough and can now spin the most beautiful thread as well as sing (that was most beautifully anyway!! )
Watch it live right here:

Olivia (her friend and fellow art student) who had come along too today got stuck into wet-felting the basis for the book cover for the Barmaddy Comments Book. We started from scratch, teasing and carding the Hebridean wool,

then layering it on a piece of prefelt, pre-fulling and the fully roll-fulling it in the workshop later.
You can see here pops having a good time with yet another beautiful girl of the woolcrafters' Friday morning at Galgael.

For the bookcover the next step is to make an apt needle felted decoration. Sadly Olviia will be on vacancy in the US when the piece she felted is dry. But she vowed to have a go at a needlefelt piece when she gets back in autumn.

Shaun's partner Samantha joined us today and - as a real Govanite women should - took to weaving! And not only was she satisfied to learn the plain principle of weaving on the rug-practise strip on the big frame, but she also wanted to experiement with in-laid patterns, and here is the first of her two hearts: the blue one.

And taking about blue: here is Sarah knitting blue after at last finding a shop with wool (can you imagine: superstore Lewis let her down!)

Meanwhile Anna finished weaving her second patch for the seating cushion. Now, apart from sewing it together, the challenge is how to use it as a seating cushion without getting the white Blackface-wool kemp onto one's clothes ! Sarah made a couple of good suggestions... more about them when we try them out....

Sunday, 1 June 2008

visiting Argyll

In the context of Galgael's developments at Loch Awe, Anneruth visited Argyll this weekend. It was glorious weather and so good to get out of the city. Coincidentally, in the nearby Kilmartin heritage centre, Jae Ferguson, a local spinner and woolcrafter, held a 2 day spinning workshop. Anneruth was allowed to peek in in the last hour and admire the skills 8 or so local women had gained over the weekend, thanks to the very good tuition received. It was a great athmosphere there amongst the women in Kilmartin house, with all the wool and all the spinning wheels! The wool came from Jae's sheep, Jacob / Shetland crossbreeds, which leads to a longer stapled wool than pure Shetland and is thus easier for beginners. It was good to see that everyone spun straight from the unwashed raw fleece! Jae gave Anneruth a wee bag full of that wool - which is now being spun here in Penicuik into some fine dark moorit knitting wool. The rest will be used for felting.

It seems that the women there met through a felting workshop by Liz Brown in Kilmartin, and that they are now meeting regularily to further explore felting.

It was very inspiring to make contact with the crafters and also later to pass through Ford where one of the women keeps her Alpacas, which just this weekend won first prizes.

That is just it, isn't it... to laze in the sun embedded in green and watched by the ancient hills....
Like here in ancient times, like in the Himalayas in ancient times where these gentle creatures come from, and taking like a duck to the water in Alba..