Olympic Cushions for Woolsack

I have finally and belately got to work on my Woolsack Cushions.  The Woolsack project  at http://www.facebook.com/groups/woolsack2012/ aims to:  … “make a cushion from British Wool as a personal gift for each athlete competing in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games”

Getting the loom empty was the first challenge, knitting a lace shawl for a new baby in the family ate some more time, but finally I’m properly underway. SOme of the wool is shetland contributed to the Woolsack project by a smallholder near Buxton, the bluey grey colours are especially nice.  The dark brown is from a huge Zwartbles fleece ( nice pictures at this site http://beechhay.com/sheep.asp ) and the white from shetland and various unknown breeds of sheep that I had samples of.

Rosie "minding" the cleaned Zwartbles fleece


Washing the fleece is the first step – not helped my Rosie who thinks that she is so beautifully colour coordinated with the Zwartbles wool, that it’s HERS!





New weaving for Woolsack Cushions (top)



But I finally parted Rosie from her woolly bed, and got weaving, the pattern is supposed to be a little more star shaped, but we’ll see how it washes. And whether it looks better from the top or bottom. I’ve roughly 2 cushion lengths done now, 2 or 3 to go and hope to get them to the Cheshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers stuffing event.



The underside of the woven cloth



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Fame at last :-)

Cheshire Life published their interview with me in the November 2011 issue and it’s online now at:

Thank you Cheshire Life, Emma and Kirsty!
And of course “Made by Hands of Britain” who suggested the piece to Cheshire Life.

(ps You can see my commercial blog and rugs at “Made by Hands of Britain”  http://www.madebyhandsofbritain.com/makers/christinejordanhandwovenrugs )


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A rug in Schloss Ringberg

Last week I Schloss Ringbergwas lucky to go to a EPTA meeting hosted by the Max Planck Institute at Schloss Ringberg. We had 3 days of pulsar astronomy discussions, but we also managed to fit in a tour of this castle. It’s a fascinating place, built as a personal project and obsession by Duke Luitpold in Bavaria (Herzog Luitpold in Bayern), and his friend, the  artist, architect and interior decorator, Friedrich Attenhuber, from around the 1920s to 1970s.

The architecture is a mix of whatever styles caught the pair’s imagination and the art work is sometimes rather creepy, but the furniture  and  fittings (all designed  by Attenhuber and created locally and in Munich) were fascinating.

 Rug at Schloss Ringberg

Rug at Schloss Ringberg


One piece on the tour caught my attention enough that I went back for some quiet time alone to figure out its construction. The rug looks simple enough at first glance, geometric patterns in black and white, with turquoise edges. I assumed that it was loom woven, but on inspection, decided that it was another example of the tapestries that cover every available wall in the castle (at least all those nor covered by paintings). The rug is around 6ft (1.8m) wide and about twice that long, it would have required a very large loom if woven, so perhaps that it why it was made as a tapestry.

turquoise rug yarn

turquoise rug yarn

The yarns seem to have been spun from natural coloured dark and light fleece, with a section dyed in turquoise (to match the furniture, ceramic room stove, handpainted wall papers and paintings). The turquoise may have been dyed over a speckled greyish white wool as the colours are very uneven.

Looking carefully rug detail 2 - schloss ringbergat the rugs construction, I could see the slits left between the blocks of dark and light weave.

You can also clearly see from these  pictures how the weaver carried the coloured yarn a step into the next block at regular intervals, a nice addition to the pattern and an improvement on the construction of the rug, since it closes the developing slits and keeps them smaller. (I’d still have doubts about the durability of this piece for hard use on a floor).rug detail 3 - schloss ringberg


In the next pictures you can see the carried over stitch reappearing again in every pattern block to keep the vertical slits small,  and also the variation in colour in the yarns, which makes me almost certain that the rug was woven with undyed yarn spun from a dark coloured fleece. You can also see that the dark blocks are each woven from a different piece of yarn, in a classic tapestry technique.

rug detail 1 - schloss ringberg



rug detail 4 Schloss RingbergOn the left, see the way the dark colour varies between one pattern section and the next.


The rug stands out in contrast to the intricate picture tapestries hung on the walls of the castle (according to our host, these were woven in Munich). I would love to know more about it. The design is strong and simple, and it demonstrates all the standard tapestry techniques. Perhaps it was made locally, maybe even constructed from hand spun yarns from the local sheep or goats. Even the turquoise dye is attractively uneven. The colour match to the furnishings is excellent as you can see from the chair in the first picture, but turquoise is notoriously difficult to do well and early turquoise dyes could  fade  badly (though this appears the same front and well finished back)SL-runner

There are runners on sideboards and chests which maybe from the same source. I was told that the castle has a lot of pieces in storage, with no room for display. There doesn’t seem a lot of information here, and there’s definitely a place for more research!



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Summer School Sampler

Finally (I hope) here’s something about the weaving that I’ve been doing with the remains of the warp from the Summer School.

Here’s one of the more interesting weave structures  from the echo twill threading.
Towards the end of the week we were exploring “trompe as writ”, which is where you pick a twill, and treadling to the same pattern as the twill lifts.

For example, using a 3/2/1/2 twill, the 8 lifts are:

  1. 1 2 3 6
  2. 2  3 4  7
  3. 3 4 5 8
  4. 2 5 6 7
  5. 3 6 7 8
  6. 1 4 7 8
  7. 1 2 5 8

So “trompe as writ” for a straight twill threading  – 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3  4 5 6 7 8. would mean to make the lifts as above (1->8 repeated). But we had some network twill, and moving twills eg threadings 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 4 5 6 7 8 6 5 4 3 2 1 2 3 4 3 2 1  (M’s and W’s) so we did the lifts in that order, to make quite complicated patterns from very simple threadings.

Random treadling on echo twill threading

With the left over few feet of sampler, I devised another lift pattern, random lifts. I wove a few picks (2, 3 or 4) following the 3/2/1/2 lift pattern, then tossed a coin. If it came down heads I continued in the direction that the lifts were going ie 1 2 3 followed by 4 5 (6) (7), tails meant a reversal ie 1 2 3 followed by 2 1 (8) (7). This was starting to show some interesting effects especially in the network threading and the echo twill. I think in a finer yarn this might make a fine and very subtle fabric perhaps for a vest or jacket.



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After the Summer School

The best laid plans …..

Summer School was so intense, then family problems came along (my Mum is ill) and the blog never happened.

So, belatedly, here’s a summer school summary:

The first challenge was warping the table loom ready before I left, I’ve done a weekend course with Janet before and what she likes to do is give you a warp pattern with several sections, each different, so this was typical, around 3 yards of cotton, 250 ends, 3 different threadings across about 15 inches. I took real care with this, no shortcuts or “that’ll do” –  it had to be beyond criticism, and finally I had an absolutely immaculate warp, beautifully even tension, lots of packing sticks, perfect threading etc……. I then had a quick panic – would my rather large home made and definitely not folding loom, fit in my new micro sized car. Phew, it would. So on Sunday I was off heading North, not too long a journey, (around 220 miles) mostly motorway and main roads – around 4 hours of driving plus a short break. It rained.

At QMU, the organisers Doreen Marsh from Scottish Fibres and members of the local guild, got everyone settled in in time for supper then there was a short “meet your tutor” session and an early night. The University is only around 4 years old, and the residential blocks just a short walk from the main study building. The student rooms were very small  – about the size of our bathroom 🙂 including a minute en-suite.  Not brilliant, but just about OK. We had all our meals provided (plus coffee and biscuit breaks) , and the cooking was mostly excellent especially the veggie options).

QMU in the rain

QMU in the rain

On Monday we got started, did I say it was still raining.

Janet is a very rigorous teacher and her aim was not to tell how to weave patterns from books, but to teach us how to design them from scratch (for 8 shafts). She went straight into a seriously technical lecture, which suited the way I think, but threw some of the class a bit!

Finally she let us get weaving. our first threading was for block weaves. With 4 shafts doing one weave and the other 4 doing something else. A bit like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. We did twill blocks, double weave blocks, satins and more. and kept on doing different block combinations for the next couple of days.

Twills and Blocks

Twills and Blocks


One interesting thing from Janet’s teaching, is that while you’re weaving particualar patterns designed for the threading on the left hand side of your loom, all sorts of serendipity happens in the the middle and right hand sides.

Typically our weaving days started at 9am after breakfast, and finished around 5pm. Supper was at 6pm, then you could continue with weaving if you wished, until they threw you out and locked up around 9pm. There was network access available This was a bit hit and miss, in theory all universities now have a scheme called eduroam to let people from other uni’s log on as a visitor to the local WiFi. In practice, this only seemed to work after 7pm it was also firewalled on ports that I needed to use to check in to work. I did wonder if they locked the whole WiFi  while students were supposed to be working to stop them using it during class time. The wired access was OK – but that was a different login and I was too mean to pay the extra tariff for it.

I’d previously looked up the different folk music sessions in Edinburgh, and on monday I dashed for a bus and got to Sandy Bell’s at a bit after 9pm. (The rain had paused for while which was lucky as I spent quite a while wandering the streets of the Old Town clutching a page of directions. )
This is a very famous pub in the old
part of Edinburgh, it’s quite a tourist attraction and has musicians every night. I was aiming to just look in and have a listen, but there was small group playing and room for one more, and they kindly let me join in – so I had a couple of hours of music there. The etiquette of sessions is complicated. Not all sessions are open (some are gatherings of people who will welcome visitors, some are more a performance sponsored by the pub to entertain tourists and even though they appear the same – you can’t join in unless invited. The session in Sandy Bell’s was said to be open to visitors with caution, so it was good to be asked to sit and join them. They even ousted a tourist from his seat so that I could sit 🙂  There were even enough tunes played that I knew well enough to join in, though they also played some scottish stuff that I didn’t know at all. I rushed for a late bus back to the college and fell into bed around midnight with twills and tunes rushing through my head. (This was the time that I started to notice the rather unpleasant smell of my new room – traced to the en-suite but never got rid of in spite of pleas for it to be purged with strong chemicals)



Threading draft

Threading draft

By wednesday, Janet decided that at least some of us had exhausted block weaves, so we cut  off the weaving we’d done and started rethreading in another set of patterns. 🙁

Now we got started on the next set of lessons, network twills, echo twills, 8 shaft twills, “trompe as writ”  (echo twills look interesting – a bit like shadow weave in twill.)

8 shaft Twills

8 shaft Twills

Thursday night was again free later on (they scheduled something every evening, but these mostly finished by 9pm) and I went in search of a pub called the Antiquary just off the centre of the City. I took the car this time and managed after some navigating around diversions and road works to find it – yes it was still raining). This was a bigger session with excellent players, 6 fiddles, a guitar, bouzouki, fretless bass, whistle, bodhran, and me on concertina! I had a lovely evening and because Edinburgh in August is full of tourists for the festival, all these sessions have an audience (something that our local session doesn’t get) so we got a free drink and the occasional round of applause or request for a tune.

On friday we carried on with our 8 shaft twills, and also tried some other
weaves some looms that the tutor had brought along already threaded for trying some other weaves.

Looms are Leaving

Looms are Leaving

We had to get packed by saturday afternoon but I was pretty burnt out by then and didn’t do much.  On Saturday they also held a suppliers fair, so we could get a good dose of retail therapy. I would have spent more but the weaving supplier I was buying some bits from only took cash and cheques … and cash always feels worse than using a credit card!

Sunday was time to set off for home, uneventful journey but wet (in fact it rained pretty well the whole week, which may be why scotland didn’t see the riots that happened in other UK cities, a downpour seems to put off looters quite effectively.)

Both DH and cats seemed happy to see me back. DH said that the cats had been yelling at him all week, and how much did I usually feed them (more than he does, it seems!)

2 hungry cats with their catnip mouse - a present from Edinburgh

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Preparing for Summer School

Next week I’m going back to school and I’ll try and record my progress.

Every year the Association of Guilds of Weavers Spinners and Dyers runs a summer school and this year it’s being held in Edinburgh, I’m treating myself to the class on weaving techniques on 8 shaft looms with Janet Phillips as a tutor. (Also I don’t have to cook, clean house, feed the cats or worry about the day job at Jodrell Bank Observatory for 7 whole days ….bliss!)

However, I have to arrive there on Sunday, with my loom already set up and ready to weave following detailed notes sent out by Janet some months ago. There is never enough time, but I finally got the loom ready at the weekend  (after a week’s delay to rebuild a broken bit or 3)! I seem to put up endless pictures of loom threading, so I’ll skip that bit this time even though it seemed to take all week.

Loom warped ready to go

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