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Friday, 29 July 2016

Blending Wool Colours on Hand Carders


"This old fleece is terminally grim, Beaut.  Get over your hoarding issues and chuck the thing out." 
My companion, Elinor Gotland, was staging an intervention rather than supporting my search for inspiration and getting vexed at my disappearances under the spare bed. I called back up from beneath it.
"That's the Welsh Mountain X Dorset Down fleece I used last year for exhausting Japanese Indigo vats. Never was soft and the long soak in alkali has done it no favours.  I knew I kept it somewhere because I was sure these varied blues would be perfect for sky colours. Remember that book, Knit the Sky?"
"I remember telling you this fleece was NOT suitable for knitwear."
"Never mind how harsh the wool is, doesn't matter if you're spinning the sky as art."
Elinor kicked a heap of fleece off the duvet and jumped down, one small sheep and her forceful opinions landing on my prostrate rear end.
"Art?  My cotted rump.  Not another one of your so-called wool works.  Which lucky relative is going to have a sky blue objet de laine foisted upon them?"
I rubbed the offended part.
"Ooo, those hooves could do with a trim. Sharp as your judgements. I know my sister was really pleased to be given the Harp wool work, because it's up on the wall in her hall."
"Be honest, Beaut, it was just too big to stick on the fridge door."
I shoved a long lost pillowcase full of grey fleece in her general direction and felt gratified to hear a muffled bleat.
News of Art Challenge Wales had reinvigorated my flagging artistic morale.  Open to everyone to enter and held last Saturday, just along the coast in Porthcawl, the challenge was to create a piece of art in public on the sea front, between having your canvas stamped at 9am and handing it in to the Grand Pavilion at 5pm. Here are my sister, daughter and niece, enjoying aesthetic sustenance while better breakfasted artists 
sallied past.  My plan was to spin yarn in the colours of the sea and sky.  At 9.46am with the tide full in, I loaded grey and blue locks onto a hand carder.  OK, overloaded, I know I always put too much wool on, which makes heavy work of carding a fat rolag.  Checking the horizon for colours, I dragged away at the carders til I had eight rolags ready to spin longdraw - artistically irregular.



Because the colour changes in the rolags had spun into a single of continuously shifting hues, even Navajo chain plying often mixed shades up within one stretch of yarn. Winding the plied yarn straight from the bobbin round a driftwood stick displayed the broad effect of my colour choices, in a blurred fashion up close, better from a distance.  So, call stick number one Impressionist and try not to panic about the time, 11.15am already.  With the tide turned and the waves much further down the beach, I only made five rolags for the second length of yarn, less focussed on sea greys and more on sky blues.

The frame, which had been stamped for me when we arrived in Porthcawl, was a gnarly piece of driftwood which had already been drilled in the privacy of my own garage.  Six pairs of holes to take copper wire fixings, to be twisted through beach pebbles with holes.  I managed to shatter one stone while curling up the wires, but Pip averted crisis by nipping down to the beach to find shells with holes instead.  
Here are the first two yarns, safely in place by lunchtime.  The sun shone for much of the afternoon in a deeper and deeper blue sky. Keeping to just blue and white wool on the carders gave much crisper colour changes, accentuated even more by the stronger contrast of adding darker blue to the rolags.  The afternoon yarns looked quite different to the morning blends, effects I shall try to bear in mind next time I am carding dyed fleece to make yarn for knitting.  Guided by the falling
tide, only four, three, then two rolags' worth of yarn had to be spun, so all my six sticks were wrapped in yarn shortly after 4pm.  Handing it in at the Pavilion, I realised my thing didn't stand comparison with the proper art on canvas, but I really didn't mind, being most satsfied with my 'Driftwood Tide'.

Elinor Gotland sauntered down the headland to meet us.
"Sky Tide would have been a better name, Beaut.  At least you've got that awful fleece out of your stash - and that blue sky art foolishness out of your system."
"Oh, I'm still blue sky thinking, Elinor.  Might go Yves Klein
abstract with pure indigo next."
My companion looked around at my family, put her head in her hooves and groaned.
"That sister of yours has been encouraging you again.  She's such a bad influence."

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