This time last week I was spending a lovely day with my friends from the Durham Guild working on my weaving at Saltholme RSPB Reserve on Teesside as part of their Woolly Weekend. It was one of those days that will stick in my memory, not just because of the crafts and fibre events but because of the people.
I sat next to a small boy for a while who was being guided to complete a piece of weaving by the talented and lovely resident weaver on the Saltholme staff. He was fully engaged in the task in front of him and was loving the experience of producing something tangible as the fabric took form. His guide admired his work and said it was material, “just like the material of your T-shirt, but not quite so fine”. As a retired primary school teacher I recognised the look on the boy’s face. It made me fill up (I can be a bit soppy!). It was the look of a “penny-drop” moment, one of realisation that he understood something for the first time, a classic “Ah-haaaaaa!” moment. It was joyful.
Children don’t realise where things come from; don’t know how something is made; are not aware that their surroundings are manipulated by humans……and why would they? It is the job of the teacher to help them sort out the links. This little boy suddenly realised that his T-shirt was indeed woven, and he pulled it out in front of him to have a closer look. The beaming face was such a reward! Saltholme’s staff member did a marvellous job! It is moments like this that feed the Durham Guild members’ need to promote the crafts they love. And it isn’t just the children who reward us like this.
These two ladies waited patiently for the children to finish their pieces so they could “have a go” during our demonstration days at Beamish Museum at the beginning of the summer. They took their small piece of weaving away with as much delight as the children did!
One little boy, about 5 years old, watched me spinning at Beamish. He became very excited as the wheel started up. The bobbin, to him, seemed to disappear as it was going so fast! It was lovely to see. He and his class of school friends had never seen a fleece before, nor did they realise that the piece that they were feeling was full of fibres that eventually became the yarn that made their clothes. The whole process had been a mystery up until that point…if, in fact, they had ever thought of it at all before! Lovely moments.
I have been thinking lately of my own love of all things crafty….and in particular, my love of Fibre. I have always done crafty things – made my own clothes, done crochet and knitting, made things for myself and as gifts. I have never really contemplated why it gives me such a lift, and why it has become so important to me. One of my none-fibre-addict friends told me last week that I “would be alright in a zombie apocalypse” as I knew so many traditional crafts! This made me chuckle as I’d rather not be in any situation where my sock-knitting skills would be needed by survivors of such an extreme!!
However, I have been thinking of how traditional crafts are everywhere, and becoming more important to other people too. Which is a very good thing!
I saw a set of ancient spinning whorls in a Glasgow Museum recently, and was compelled to photograph them. They are beautiful! I can’t walk past a craft/wool store without stepping inside. I admire the beauty of spindles, knitting needles, stitch markers, sheep-sentries used as door stops, the feel of wool that I can’t resist! A lovely fibre-friend of mine managed to obtain an ancient yarn swift….it had been hiding in her father-in-law’s garage and was discovered today. She was quick to tell me about it, and I was quick to be envious!! Fibre “things” are just wonderful aren’t they?
Yes, I have to admit…… I am becoming quite an addict! There is no cure that I know of…..but there are worse vices to have for sure.
I never intended to take up spinning, or weaving for that matter, but the people of Durham Guild have welcomed me in with open arms and have been so willing to show me how to improve my skills. I still regard myself as a novice but I love it. One thing for sure is that belonging to a Guild is brilliant. Guilds are full of people who love the crafts, who love fibre art and who want to promote it. It doesn’t matter if you are not skillful, they are so happy to share and to teach. Guilds are not elitist in the slightest. I would encourage anyone even slightly interested in traditional crafts to find their nearest and join up!
Rigid Heddle Weaving
At Saltholme I acquired a full fleece for myself, as their Woolly Weekend included sheep shearing demonstrations. Finding the sheep pen close to the visitor centre we found the shearer was busy with traditional clippers when we got there, helping a Hebridean sheep part company with its winter coat. The Hebridean is a small black sheep breed with fierce looking horns. She was being held gently and the shearing was taking quite a while…but the fleece was gorgeous.
Unfortunately that fleece had been reserved already. Thankfully I was able to watch as a sister sheep was shorn beside her using electric clippers – taking a fraction of the time and I was happy to buy it there and then. Warm weather has allowed me to wash this and I am part way through carding it…..along with more fleece….ready to spin, ply and then make up into something! I am excited to follow through from sheep to garment. I will wait to see what the yarn turns out like before deciding what to make. What a delightful process for sure!
St Abbs Wool Fair visitor
Giant Knitting at St Abbs
Felted Vessels – Durham
Durham Guild patchwork house at Saltholme
Making Felt at Saltholme
Children peg-loom work
Rigid Heddle Weaving
Durham Guild members get all over, and do all kinds of things. Workshops recently have included making felted-vessels. We helped children make felt at Saltholme, along with peg-loom weaving. If you visit Saltholme don’t forget to look out for the crafted house made of samples created by the Guild. We have demonstrated at Beamish, at Broome Hill Farm, at the World Heritage Visitor Centre in Durham and members have visted St Abbs Wool festival, Woolfest in Cumbria and Edinburgh Yarn Festival…..and more. Fibre is addictive!!
The Durham Guild meet every month and we have open days for spinning and weaving but everyone is welcome at any event …..come and see us, join in, stay a while and chat…….I hope you do as I am sure you will love the people, the crafts and the fibre as much as I do.
Saturday 17th June saw our usual “Guild Day” enhanced by the inclusion of an Indigo Dyeing Workshop run by the wonderful Cia Bosanquet. Setting up was exciting as it looked complicated and technical although just about all of us had seen Cia’s work before so were very keen to learn. There was a positive “buzz” in the air, especially when the workshop folders appeared on the tables!!
After talking us through the contents of our kit we began designing and preparing the materials for dyeing. I hadn’t realised just how tough this was on your hands as it all needed tying very tightly – but it was worth it as you will see! We were eventually set to soak our items before they entered the dye. Totally exciting stuff!
Learning about the Indigo itself was intriguing and should you want to learn more please have a look at this link “Indigo”. It was most fascinating to watch our work disappearing into the vat…and watching it turn green! Not at all what was expected! Cia explained that the blue colour appeared when the material was exposed to the air and it oxidised. Cia had clearly spent such a long time setting everything up for us…including swatches of fabrics, different yarns and tiny labels to identify our work from others. I watched others binding materials with tiles and pieces of wood. I chose a corrugated tube to bind my piece of silk to – it was simply too hard to imagine what the end results were going to be like!
Sure enough, once out of the vat and on the towels outside (it was a stunning day!) the materials turned the most glorious shade of blue! Some went back in for another “dip” after 10 minutes to increase the intensity. Looking closely at the images above you can see what a “hodge podge” of things we used!
It was pretty challenging getting the tightly tied string, stitches and raffia off our creations but it was so worth it! There were lots of “ooohs” and “aahhhs” as some delightful fabric emerged; clever patterns developed from the tiles used; weirdly beautiful swirls from the tubes and ropes! I can safely say that everyone was delighted with the products! Wow!!!! Simply Wow!!!
Durham Guild would very much like to thank Cia for working so hard on our behalf, and for making the day so wonderful.
There is little nicer than good company, good conversation and working with your hands. Our group is growing (four new members signed up on Saturday) and is such a lovely bunch of crafty people. The Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers are not at all elitist – some people think you have to be highly skilled just to come along but there is nothing further from the truth…..this is the place to learn, to be encouraged and to share talents and skills. A more welcoming group of people I have yet to find. So, if you would like to learn more and help us promote these traditional skills…and have a lot of fun too then do please come along.
Our Exhibition is now open at the Durham World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, 7, Owengate, Durham DH1 3HB
1 – 31 may 2017
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” Easy!!
No one was allowed to reveal or discuss their work until April this year. (See previous blog post)
Sadly, during the project, Anne Reay, our second volunteer, tragically and unexpectedly passed away and so we are dedicating this Chinese Whispers project to her memory – an amazing, bubbly and talented Guild member who is sadly missed.
So….here is the full reveal! We would love you to share this blog with anyone interested in textile arts and traditional crafts and as such we would encourage you to post links on social media too!
Launch Night 1st May 2017
The Beginning of the Journey:
Daily Bread, Durham Cathedral.
We were asked by the World Heritage Visitors Centre if we could choose an image from the Durham World Heritage Site as our starting point. Ideally, we would have like to have had a photo of the window in situ, with the surrounding stonework but unfortunately we were unable to achieve this, so we opted for buying a photo of the window instead. If you get a chance, please go and see this beautiful window in the Cathedral as this is the image I had in mind as our starting point. The window was designed by Mark Angus and was dedicated on 2nd May 1984. The design is based on the image of the Last Supper – The table (in red) with the apostles(multi-coloured) connects heaven (blue) and earth(green), all surrounded by God (Purple). The glass used was from Hartley Woods of Sunderland. You will notice we have thirteen frames, which represent the thirteen places at the table and so the journey begins…..
1: Beyond the Window
I have lived in Durham City for over 28 years and am very fortunate to be able to walk into the city from my home across Prebend’s Bridge and through the Cathedral. So, over the years I have seen this beautiful window in all season and all spectrums of light and shade and after all this time its beauty does not diminish. It is always a joy and so uplifting. Having seen the window over so many years I didn’t want to replicate it as I couldn’t possible have done it justice, so I allowed my imagination to flow, which then gave me the inspiration of transforming it into a garden by using the various elements and colours from the window. The table becomes a footpath and the 13 ‘heads’ become flowers. I used other colours from the window for the flowers in the grass, the grass and the climbing plants, the sky and, of course, the walls of the Cathedral became the archway into my garden. The wet felt is handmade, with needle felting and hand embroidery to embellish the piece.
2. The Yellow Brick Road
Anne Carrington Reay
I remember when Anne first saw the picture she said “I wonder what is through the arch and round the corner – it has to be The Yellow Brick Road” and that was the start of her project. She made three sketches before deciding to use the journey into the dark forest and to recreate it using wet felting, needle felting and embroidery, most of the fleece was hand dyed to achieve the colour variations required for this piece of work. I know Anne loved the challenge of doing it and she would have hoped people will enjoy seeing it, as much as she did making it. Bill Reay.
I knew that the medium I wanted to use was knitting with hand spun and hand dyed yarn but I didn’t want to just copy the picture I had been sent. So, I began to think about how I could take the various elements of the picture and rework them in a more abstract way At first I thought about using blocks of solid colour to represent the different elements of the picture in much the same positions as they were in the original – a band of blue at the top, a strip of grey below etc.
I had clearly been turning these ideas over in my head before I went to sleep one night because the idea of dividing the allotted square into four equal quarters same to me in a dream. I don’t think of myself as particularly susceptible to the influence of dreams but I do dream quite vividly and I can often recall quite a lot of what I have dreamt when I first wake up. However, this is the first time that I can recall basing a decision about how to go about something on a dream. I knew that the first three elements of the picture that I wanted to represent were the tree, the cornfield, and the wall. I had some naturally dark brown yarn for the tree, some grey in different shades for the wall and some white Shetland dyed with weld to represent the cornfield. The fourth panel proved a bit trickier. I did have some pinky blue yarn that could have represented the sky but it didn’t tone very well with the other colours, so I decided to use some of Jenny Howe’s “Shap Summit” to represent the leaves on the trees. The stitch pattern for the trees I borrowed from a pattern for a wedding pillow which I had seen a friend knit. The stitch patterns for the other quadrants I got from my 1975 Introduction to Knitting published by Marshal Cavendish. The cornfield was done in “Wheat ear rib”, the wall in “Brick Pattern” and the leaves in “Embossed leaf pattern”.
Inspired by botanical shapes and warm Autumnal palette, I have echoed this in a landscape of deep vegetation encompassing a long road, it being tickled by shafts of light from the remnants of a dazzling hot summer.
The work I based this piece on had brought to mind the transition between day and night. I carried that thought one step further and envisioned a rising full moon. Samhain (Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year) was the obvious next step for me and into that I wove the modern spinoff; Hallowe’en.
My tapestry is based on the previous image. Maureen’s piece is of a dark, gothic landscape where purple and yellow are her dominant colours. I wanted day to follow night with a linen warp in white with only two colours present which were black and yellow. Black represents night and yellow the sun. The fibres used are mostly paper yarns. With the tapestry being very loosely woven, I have hand embroidered the seed heads in black cotton.
7. Dandelion by the road in Spring
When I received the photo of Cia’s work I immediately thought of seed heads. My husband, Desmond, always thought that dandelions had a poor press. They are very early flowers, and give colour after a dull, grey winter. Dandelions seem able to grow in any soil and almost to colonise the road or pavement. I had a photo I had taken of a dandelion by the road and I also used a conventional botanical drawing of the flower – in bud, in full flower, withered and the seed head. I then needed to see what I could produce in felt, which was my favoured medium. I started to make a piece of wet felt with the main items, bud, and flower, dead-head and seed head, located where I wanted them. Once the felt was dry, I backed it with a piece of fine cotton and added some detail with machine embroidery. I used needle felt to create the seed-head. I also used some glass beads to indicate the seeds in the dandelion “clock”. Making a felt of a very precise botanical drawing was a challenge, but so far it has been recognised by people who see it. I hope you (the visitor) enjoy it and that you review your opinion of the humble dandelion. Hand-made wool felt, some needle felting, machine and hand embroidery.
8. Abstract Dandelions
The photograph I received appeared to be a representation of dandelions , in flower, and gone to see, made of felt. I decided to reproduce the entire image, but in a more abstract manner – roughly matching the colours and their locations, but not attempting to recreate the specific shapes. I was very keen to use the technique of modular knitting, as I had not used this technique before, but had seen several lovely examples created by other Guild members in the past. Hand-Spun, hand-dyed (natural & acid dyes) and natural-coloured yarn.
9. The Oak
Looking at Linda’s tapestry of knitted squares of greens and browns, I saw an aerial landscape of green fields, ploughed fields and woodland. Working on my tapestry in November I thought ‘autumn’ and called my piece The Oak. Woven tapestry technique with wool from the famous McKay’s Carpets, who were based in Durham City.
I was inspired by the beautiful shape of the oak leaf in Image 9. When I think of leaves and trees I think of Autumn, my favourite season. The colours are stunning, so I included these and the fascination leaf shapes in my design. The yellow sections were woven on a small loom and stitched together. The sky and the tree were woven directly into the background fabric. I embroidered leaves on muslin independently, stitching them onto the design at the end.
11. Looking Forward
In January I received a photograph to inspire my contribution for this exhibition. I liked what I saw. The Autumn colours were vibrant and the composition of the tree, leaves and sky was varied and textured. The sky, particularly, captured my imagination and combination of white, grey and blue conveyed a windy autumn day, scattering the leaves in the myriad of colours. Influenced by the onset of spring and the emergence of snowdrops in my own garden, I thought I’d like to swap the autumn landscape for early spring, with its promise of new life and hope. the Autumn design had a yellow background, which made me think of a newly harvested field, with the remains of stubble before the field was ploughed and re-sown. Spring brings new growth and I started to think of a hawthorn hedge, with the green buds punctuating the blackness of winter branches. Perhaps I could make a view from the garden with cultivated spring flowers in the foreground. The original autumn sky did not need much amendment, as spring and autumn skies in the North East can be very similar! In February, I completed my knitted contribution. After collecting and preparing my materials, using mainly hand-spun wool. I found that each day’s knitting started with the pulling out of most of the previous day’s work – I love knitting – it is so easy to undo! I enjoyed breaking a lot of rules, which I would normally employ in my usual role as a garment maker – not finishing ends in perfectly, stranding over many stitches deliberately to make the fabric pucker and create a 3 dimensional effect, using intarsia and fair-isle techniques together – it was very liberating! My main wish has been not to let down my fellow guild members who took part in this project. Many are far better artists than I am. I regard myself as a craftsperson tasked with bringing design to life.
What stood out for me looking at Jean’s image was the ploughed field. It got me thinking about how diverse fields can be, not just because of what grows in them but what life they sustain. It isn’t until we have a bird’s eye view that we can fully appreciate how stunning our countryside landscape is, with its huge diversity of colour and texture, and how it brings home to us how comparatively insignificant our individual space within it is. I have used every type of yarn I could think of to replicate the huge array of colour and texture – pure wool, alpaca, mohair, bamboo and mixtures of these with silk and cotton etc. To add interest and colour I am including a foreground strip, illustrating a small number of plants we might see at ground level.
We wish to thank :
Weavers Bazaar who kindly supported the project with very generous funding to enable the Guild to purchase the picture frames. Weavers Bazaar is “an artist’s palette for weavers” and their online shop can be found at www.weaversbazaar.com
The World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, Durham for hosting our exhibition, and whose staff have been wonderful. Please do visit their website here.
Mark Angus for his inspirational work and lovely contribution to our brochure for the event. His website can be found by clicking here.
Bill Reay – for generously donating his time, for supporting all of us and for working wonders displaying the exhibition – we couldn’t have done this without you!
On Saturday 15th April our Durham Guild meeting stopped mid-spin to experience the “Big Reveal”!
What was this all about I hear you say? Well….let me explain…..
Many moons ago members of the guild saw a ‘Chinese Whispers’ exhibition where items were crafted based only on inspiration drawn from the previous person’s work – clearly each piece was a step apart from its predecessor and a number steps from the original art work. It was decided that Durham Guild would attempt their own Chinese Whispers sequence and guild members set about building an exhibition to be displayed in the World Heritage Visitors’ Centre next to Durham’s Cathedral.
The original inspiration had to be something from the World Heritage site and Angela chose the “Daily Bread” stained glass window within the Cathedral. This window, dedicated on May 2nd 1984, depicts an abstract representation of the Last Supper. It was gifted by the staff of the Durham branch of Marks and Spencer, commemorating the company’s centenary. It is an example of the strong links between the Durham community and its Cathedral. And so the work began…..
The window was designed by Mark Angus who was thrilled to discover his work had been our guild’s inspiration. His work is amazing – http://www.markangus.com Do take a look if you have a few moments!
The anticipation to see the work was palpable on Saturday, especially as no one had seen the original image, and members had only ever seen a photograph of the previous work on which to base their piece! Each of the 13 frames were kept hidden – none of us knew what to expect. (Big thanks to Weavers Bazaar for the support with the frames!) Angela gave us an overview of how she had picked the stained glass window, why she chose it and then revealed her own work. We were not disappointed!! Wow!!
What a wonderful piece of work!
Just stunning!! And this is just the first! With 11 more to go the room was electrified by the prospect of what would be next………
……we were not disappointed. But….. I am going to keep you all in suspense as the exhibition opening is on the 1st of May 2017 and I don’t want to spoil it by letting all the secrets out of the bag at once!
Do come along to the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre in Durham city, on the approach to Palace Green and the Cathedral during the month of May. All 12 wonderful pieces will be on display for the entire month!
Our Spinning Open Day had been eagerly anticipated and guild members arrived early to set up the hall at St Oswald’s in Durham to be ready to celebrate the lovely art of spinning fibre.
By 10 a.m. we were organised with a circle of beautiful spinning wheels and tables of work samples for visitors to view. There is little nicer than the hum of voices, chatter and whirring wheels! Everyone was engaged in conversation and the production of lovely yarns for most of the day. We only stopped to continue the conversations over a shared lunch.
It was especially nice to welcome a family to the hall where their young daughter showed a keen interest in joining the guild and having a go! As a teenager her enthusiasm was lovely to see and it illustrated just how popular traditional crafts are becoming. It is heartwarming to think that such crafts won’t be disappearing any time soon! It will be great to have new members to join out throng!
Visitors came along and tried out wheel spinning and spindle spinning – there is always someone happy to teach whoever wants to learn! Guild members too tried out new equipment including blending boards and drop spindles. If you are in Durham on a guild Saturday (usually the 3rd weekend) you will be made most welcome – don’t be afraid to open the door and come in!
After an effective and interesting AGM on the 18th February 2017, we had been promised a presentation tour of Harris by Diana Barclay and Ann Evans after their various trips to the Hebrides. This tour included an array of wonderful materials and artefacts for us to look at and examine.
Both Ann and Diana had been on Harris at the same time and they were able to share their experiences in a lively and stimulating way – so much so that I really wanted to book my flight to Harris that afternoon!
The talk included much about the weaving and textile industry and its history but also included information about the way of life on the islands. Apparently the children’s playground on Harris has a sign to tell children they must be in by 9pm each night, and that the park is closed on Sundays! Ann informed the group that “nothing was ever busy…so if you want a real rest this is the place to go!” It sounds wonderful, as did the comments about the whisky distillery! Definitely a place I would like to visit.
Diana kindly brought her copy of Ian Lawson’s wonderful book “From the Land comes the cloth” along for us to see. This is so much more than a ‘coffee-table’ book as the images are just amazing. It is expensive and not stocked by local book shops because of it, however it is stunning. The images are beautiful and reflect the colours of the landscape so well. They clearly show how inspiring the place is, not just for the weavers but for the artists also!
The presentation included information about local artist, places to eat, the use of Gaelic and the terrain. Certainly as good as any tourist information centre….and we had personal photographs, wools and fibres, weaving samples and made up items. Fabulous!!
Thank you so much Ann and Diana for such a great presentation!