Tour de Fleece 2017

And they’re off!

Well the spinners started yesterday but I was up in sunny Anglesey for a couple of days and so missed the first day of spinning as I was driving home again.

As usual we have a small but friendly team of cheerful spinners on Team BarberBlackSheep – the lovely members of the group have already kicked off in style and produced some beautiful singles yesterday from various BBS fibres as well as those from other dyers and fibre suppliers. It’s so nice to spin along in company and it’s always good to see pictures of what we’re all doing! If you think you’d like to join us this year, it’s not too late – hop over the Revelry group and pitch in! You can spin anything you want (but please note only BBS fibre is eligible for the randomly-drawn prize I award at the end of the tour).

For myself I’ve been caught up in lots of non-spinning stuff recently so I’ve only just got myself sorted out with my first TdF spinning fibre today. We discussed the popular “Combo-Spin” technique a few weeks back which involves spinning sections of fibre in a random order to make a variegated yarn which could have a certain amount of planning in its design or be completely down to chance and how your fibres turn out. It’s a good way of putting together those one-off skeins that somehow wheedle their way into our lives but stubbornly resist getting involved in a project because of being just 100g or 4 oz or so.

I decided to put a BBS “spin” (see what I did there?!) on it by spinning random chunks of my Haunui/Merino batt sets together to combine.

When I designed the forerunner of these multi-colour-packs aeons ago it seems – the SweaterBox batts and then the Three Of A Kind batts – I put in the listing that they could be spun in several ways including being spun in random sections. I’d always intended it as an option for you … but haven’t got around to doing it as a project myself.

I don’t actually need a sweater quantity just now (a quick look in both fibre and yarn stash reveals enough sweater-possibilities to last me till Doomsday!) but I do want to try it so I’ve scaled it down for an amount that would work for a shawl or perhaps a hat/mitten set or something.

I found an image I liked that served as a starting point (I can’t copy it here without infringing copyright unfortunately but the general principle of using images to inspire colour combinations is very useful for a starting point that you can bend to your own tastes.

I’ve made up half-size batts picking out colours from both the Josie set and the Passiflora set pictures above. Which gives me a colour combination like this.

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My intention is to spin randomly for one ply and then to use another ply of undyed Black Haunui to create a random barber-pole yarn. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of barber-pole yarns as they are but they do usually knit up beautifully in plain knitting. I have the idea of how this works in my head – the proof will be in the making though! I’m literally nailing my colours to the mast by telling you before I start!

The possibilities for scaling this up into sweater quantities are pretty much limitless, either by combing more batt sets or by using multiples of the same colour way. I’d love to see if other people use this idea for Haunui / Merino batts too – if you do, please post pictures in my Revelry group so we can all see!

Fresh Starts

I’ve had a little time to catch up with myself in the couple of weeks the shop has been shut. A little time to spend with family and the rest of the time to dye up some things for the next shop update which will be tomorrow – Monday 15th August – in the evening UK time … because I still have an awful lot of things still to do to get it ready!!

Just a hint of what will be coming; I’ve now washed and dyed all the 2016 clip fleeces from my purebred Gotland sheep. Tomorrow will see me editing the product photos I took yesterday – there are 36 colour batches to choose from, there’s a lot of shiny colourful fleece in my house just now!!

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I don’t know what other people grow in their polytunnels – for me it’s a really useful place to dry batches of wool when the weather outside is either to windy or too rainy for it to dry there!! This summer has been patchy, some gloriously sunny days interspersed with a few damp drizzly ones. I’ve changed my dyeing studio set-up slightly this summer so that I can dye whenever I want or need too now which is fabulous and the polytunnel extends that “all weather” dyeing capability. Makes life a lot easier!!

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I’ve also got Haunui New Zealand Halfbred back in stock – I love this wool so much, it’s hard to describe all the things I like about it. Anyway, this time around I have not only got my regular mid micron Haunui tops that I dye and use for blending into my batts but something really special.

I’ve got some of the finest micron Haunui (that’s 23micons) that has been gilled with Grade A mulberry silk – the resulting tops, well it’s like sticking your hands into warm soft clouds! As you can imagine it’s a dream to spin and the dyed tops shimmer with the colours on the silk. It really represents the immense care that goes into producing Haunui wool from the breeding and care of the sheep right through to the processing of the finished fibre – I think this is the nicest fibre I’ve ever dyed.

I really hope you’ll have fun trying out these new luxury spinning fibres! The first batch is going into the shop update tomorrow. It’s impossible to truly capture the shimmering beauty of the silk and wool in photographs but here is a tiny taste.

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I’ve also got a small batch of regular mid micron Haunui that I’ve dyed in mirror gradients. The narrower length of Haunui tops and its versatility as a finished yarn just lends itself to the ever popular gradient fashion – you have the choice of spinning it as a gradient or mixing it up for barber-pole yarns or random 2-ply or fractal spinning with a little extra processing. I love dyeing these and they never quite turn out exactly like another I’ve done previously!

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I really enjoy listening to podcasts when I’m working and there are some excellent knitting and woolly ones out there to choose from. So I was very grateful that Louise Scollay of the KnitBritish podcast agreed to road test my new yarns and the first part of her knit sampling (on the Hafren yarn base) is included on the latest episode 64. I just need to add the info that the Hafren yarn isn’t actually from my own sheep flock, it’s spun from Welsh Mule sheep farmed in Mid Wales which is where I’m also based of course so it’s a yarn local to me. One of the other yarns Louise is hopefully going to review in due course is the one that’s from my own flock.

If you’re new to podcasts generally then maybe you could try them out and KnitBritish is a great place to start, Louise has her knitterly finger right on the pulse of the yarny world and along with some of my other favourite podcasters has a beautiful speaking voice that’s wonderful to listen to. Lots of people listen whilst they knit or spin but podcasts are also a brilliant way of learning about new things and interesting goings on in the fibre/yarny world whilst you get on with (quiet!) household chores or routine work or even whilst you’re out and about if you listen on a mobile device.

Not in shop news but a commission I was given lately was to dye some beautiful handspun for a friend of mine. I wouldn’t normally accept a challenge for business like this because there’s too much room for mishap. Yarn dyeing and fibre dyeing both have their different challenges and with dyeing yarn as semi-solids in repeatable small batches you have to be meticulous about weights, measurements and note-taking to reduce the variables. (all that beautiful hard work someone else has put in combined with bulk dyeing and permanent dyes – yikes, it’s scary!). However this is a good friend and we’d discussed it carefully and with a bit of lateral thinking I was able to work around my limitations and it’s good to push yourself every now and then.

I love the colour she chose from some new shades I’m hoping to introduce to the range soon – a soft sky blue I’ve called Halcyon. I thought you might like to see it drying on the line. In this photo it looks similar to Squill but it’s a slightly more smokey shade. We’re both very pleased how it turned out and I can’t wait to see her finished sweater.

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Over in my Ravelry group I’ve done a little tweaking of threads. We’ve a brand new chat thread – the old one was very long! It’s always interesting to hear what people are getting up to in their spare time and see photos of their crafting or travels or pets. With members from all around the globe it gives a window into another person’s world which is one of the nicest things about online communities I think.

Sadly I had to say goodbye to my most loved sheep last week. She was the very first Gotland I bought in 2006 and gave so much love and fun over her life as well as a few stressful times to keep me on my toes! I’m going to miss her so much. But in the vein of fresh starts and being positive, having said goodbye to a few older faces in my funny mixed fibre flock this year it’s giving me ideas about who we could invite to join us and increase the variety of fleeces… Who knows!

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Spring into Colour

I’ve got a new wool blend to go in the shop later on today. As you know, I’ve been importing and selling Haunui New Zealand Halfbred since 2015 and enjoying dyeing and blending it as well as selling it in it’s beautiful natural shades.

Once of the more popular blends has been the Haunui/silk batts I did at Christmas. Haunui goes beautifully with silk and so with that in mind I decided to try an experiment.

Last time I headed up to North Wales I made an impromptu stop at a mini mill based there which wasn’t that far out of my way. The owners showed me around and I had a lovely couple of hours talking fibre and fibre animals. Because I just had a small test batch of fibre we blended it then and there on the big industrial carder which was rather exciting for me – a monster machine at around 8ft high it was a far cry from my little hand cranked Ashford drum carder!

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I was really grateful to them for taking time out to spend with me and help me. The resulting fibre is gorgeous to spin because it’s carded sliver and has 20% added tussah silk. This is a very small batch and unfortunately was expensive and as such really isn’t economic to produce commercially – this was more about experimenting and playing for me!

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The sliver is much thinner than the normal tops I dye for the shop which in itself presented a new challenge for me. They’re between the thinner Haunui tops and pencil roving in dimension and I decided the best way was to wind them into hanks like pencil roving to keep them stable during the dyeing process.

They took the dye beautiful thanks to the lovely wool and the added silk. I’ve dyed each 50g hank in separate colours to give as much choice as possible given the limited edition nature of this blend.

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I’ve left them in the hanks with several ties on to keep them neat – you would probably be best to wind them into a loose ball prior to spinning to keep the fibre ordered. This won’t take a minute (the length of the sliver isn’t excessive) and will save any frustration from tangles!

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I spun up a skein myself, dyeing it after for a semi-solid look – it was beautiful to spin. I’ve chosen to spin mine as a more bulky yarn and it’s lovely lightweight and springy. But equally you could maximise the yardage by spinning a fingering or lace weight yarn instead or by plying it with something else or two of the colours together for a barber pole yarn.

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I’m not sure what I’ll make with mine – I think I’ll probably combine it with some undyed Haunui perhaps in grey for stripes. It’s begging to be something squishy and cosy to be worn next to the skin!

I’ve also got a batch of BiffleRose blend – this is my Bluefaced Leicester/Rose Fibre/Faux Cashmere blend and it’s just heavenly to spin and dye. There’s just a few colours but mostly 2 of each braid.

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Whilst I was taking photos of the fibres I couldn’t help noticing some of the lovely colours coming through in the plants in pots outside my door.

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So much more beautiful than anything I could ever dye. But so inspiring!

The new fibres will go in the shop at barber-blacksheep.co.uk later on so keep an eye on the website and the update thread in my Ravelry group! Remember this isn’t something I will be repeating so if you want to try it you’ll have to snappity-snap it up now!

Handcarding a gradient from batts

This is another post taking a closer look at ways you can use BarberBlackSheep Haunui/Merino batts. Previously I showed how you can use them for wet felting and embellishing using the Turning Leaf colour way to make some autumnal leaf decorations.

Today I’m looking at how you can use the 5 batts in the colourway and blend them with hand carders to smooth the transitions for a seamless gradient yarn. You can do this on a drum-carder too and I’ll do another post on that in due course but I’d like to start with hand cards.

This is partly because it’s a really adjustable way of smooth colour transition but mostly because the majority of spinners are more likely to have hand cards than drum carders. Not everyone can justify the extra expense of a drum carder or has the space for one but most of us can stretch to a pair of hand cards and they range in price from very reasonably priced basic ones to super soft and flexible deluxe ones so there’s something for everyone.

I’m not going to repeat the actual hand carding technique. If you’re new to hand carding or need to “brush up” (!) on the process you can take a look at this blog post I did on hand carding rolags a while ago.

I apologise for the photos not being particularly beautiful – today it has rained nonstop here in Wales and was so dark and overcast that I had to use studio lights and white sheet as a background. It’s less than ideal but hopefully you’ll see the process clearly.

I’m using my Still Waters colour way – a wool blend of 35% Haunui New Zealand Halfbred/65% Merino.

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I’m using them in the colour sequence I pack them in but you can arrange the colours in the order that pleases you best so take your time moving them around before you start to decide on your sequence.

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I’m creating one gradient for a singles yarn that I will then Navajo Ply for even colour changes. If you wish spin yours the same way or make a singles yarn or a single that you can ply with another single for a barber pole yarn, carry on like this.

If you want to spin a 2-ply yarn but with the same colour changes you’ll need to start by dividing each colour into two – it’s probably easiest to do this directly along the fold line in the middle and make a “mini batt”. Then you need to do the following process twice; first with one group of 5 mini batts and then with the second group of 5.

Starting with your first colour, unroll the batt and split off one third.

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Take the larger section and put it to one side – this is your beginning point and it’s ready to spin. I just wrap it back into a little nest to keep it together. Taking the second colour unroll the batt …

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… and split that into 3 equal sections. At this point I should say I’m just eyeballing the quantities – the more you do this the more accurate you get and it doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect. But if you’re worried about not getting the right amounts then you can use digital scales (you’ll need them to weigh down to 1 gram)

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Set aside the batts and strips you aren’t working on – it helps to have finished sections on one side of you and the ones still to blend on the other. If you can have a spare surface or a basket to place the finished nests in that helps to keep them in order ready for spinning too.

Take one section of your first colour and one of the second and divide each strip into 4 pieces.

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Now arrange them in three groups:

a) two pieces of Colour 1 and one piece of Colour 2

b) One piece each of both Colours 1 & 2

c) one piece of Colour 1 and two pieces and Colour 2 like thus …

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The amounts of fibre in each of the three groups will almost certainly be too much to card in one go. Remember the rule that less is always more with both hand carding and drum carding – you get better results if you don’t try and cram too much fibre on in one go. So working methodically and keeping the groups separate, split the group into half again or even further if that’s easier.

Here I’m working with Group A. I lay some of the first colour on the carder, then some of the second colour, then top it with the remaining piece of the first colour again.

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Blend the fibres by hand carding two or three passes as per your normal technique or following the method in the link at the beginning of this post. DSC_0030

We’re not making rolags with this technique however (although if you prefer to spin from rolags you can absolutely do that instead). Lift the fibre from the last carder as usual so it lies on top of the teeth.

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Then starting at one of the shorter sides roll the little wad of blended fibre so the fibres lie parallel to each other.

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… which gives you a small “sausage” like section of fibre that is almost like a chunk out of section of roving.

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We’re now going to attenuate and pull the fibres out just the same way as if you were pre-drafting fibres for spinning (which is in fact all you’re doing!) So you want to hold your two hands sufficient distance apart to allow the fibres to slip past each other as you gently pull them out into sliver. I can’t show this because I don’t have three hands – which of course on the whole is a good thing but less so when you’re trying to take photographs of making things by hand! You’ll just have to imagine my right hand drafting the fibres back in this photo.

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Now you have your little section of sliver you can roll it up into a little nest and put it next to the first colour. Continue with the remaining section of Group A and then do the same with Group B and Group C. You’ll have a gradient of nests reaching from one “mother” colour to the next like this.

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Pretty huh?

If you think at any point that there is too big a jump between shades it’s the simplest thing in the world to smooth out – you simply take the two nests and remove a piece of each and re-card them together to make yet another transition shade. I told you it was versatile!

Now you’re going to do the same thing with the next two shades. Colour 2 was split into three pieces. We just used the one piece up, the second piece you’re going to set aside as the “mother colour” which is spun as it is and now you’ll take the third piece ready to blend with the next section. Divide Colour 2 into four pieces ready and taking Colour 3, split it into three strips to repeat the same process.

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2 x four equal pieces in 3 groups. Split as necessary and blend. Roll sideways and draft into sliver. More pretty gradient nests …

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Keep doing this with the 4th and 5th colours. Remember that the 5th colour you’ll split it into a 1/3 and 2/3 like you did with the first colour. You can in fact make a never-ending gradient by carding a third of Colours 1 & 5 together to join the gradient back in a loop or alternatively you can tack another gradient set on in the same way – lots of my Haunui/Merino batts colour ways compliment each other so you can make an amazingly long gradient yarn this way if you choose!

You don’t need me to keep waffling; you know where you’re going now. Here are the rest of the pictures though.

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Wooo… lovely long gradient nests waiting to be spun up.

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It’s super awesome fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed this gradient tutorial and that it’s inspired you to have a play with making your own gradients. You can do this with so many fibres, not just my batts. Keep experimenting.

The more blends you do between shades, the better and smoother your gradient colour changes will be. The closer the colours are the smoother they’ll be too so if you’re working with colours that are contrasting in either hue or value (in terms of light and dark) you might want to do extra blends on the transitions. Remember that at this “nest” stage it’s still really easy to adjust this though by carding two transitions together.

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Don’t forget to post pictures of your BarberBlackSheep Haunui/Merino yarns in my Ravelry group if you’d like to show them.

Happy spinning!

Berry Nice

January seems to me to be the low point of the year; Christmas and its bustling activity is over and we’ve still a long slog to pull out of Winter and darkness before Spring returns. However it’s also a good time to make new plans, mend and make things and generally start over with a brand new year. I usually do make resolutions of some kind and write them down. It’s interesting to look back at the end of the year and see which (if any!) I’ve achieved.

So it also seemed like a good idea to think up some new colours for the shop too. The past few days has seen the launch of four new sets of Haunui/Merino batts over in my Etsy shop.

By far the most popular (it’s already sold out twice!) is Sloe Gin. It was in fact inspired by some silk I dyed quite a while ago and I wanted to repeat it in batt form. The teal shades are not dissimilar to the colour of blackthorn leaves and the middle blue shade is like the dusky colour of sloes that still have their bloom. The purple shades are like the very delicious fruit liqueur we make each year from them – and Sloe Gin as a drink is ever popular with spinners anyway!

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I’ve also been wanting make a colour way based on some slate chips I picked up in Anglesey – the slate quarries of Snowdonia have some beautiful shades including some really stunning purples that are easy to wear and use in interior decoration. This is how Welsh Slate turned out.

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I tend to wear colours like those above as well as neutrals. I like to accent them with sharp pops of colour and it’s nice to make accessories in these shades. So here is Winter Berry, soft but zingy.

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And then after a discussion in my Ravelry group, I added another colour way today. I’d ordered in quite a few shades of red a while back intending to do a SweaterBox collection in reds and also had some in stock from the August Build a Batt Box based on poppy shades. I Heart Red is an ombre gradient of warm deep reds. I was tempted to call it Holly Berry but we’ve already got a bit of berry action going on with the other colours. All the same, it’s a nice cheery berries-inspired set!

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I keep having new ideas so hopefully can bring you some more colours in the coming weeks as well as some new exciting ideas hopefully. In the meantime you can purchase these along with some of the autumn colour ways in the shop linked at the beginning of this post or via the shop page at the top of the blog.

Hope you’re keeping warm and dry this damp winter. Thank goodness for hand knits and wool!

Just Felt Like It

Recently I wrote about creativity and how seeing what my customers do with the fibres I sell often inspires me in return. I really want to show you some of these examples; it’s just been a question of finding time to sit down and write them, take photos and ask permission from others for using their photos. But I thought I’d start with this one first of all because I can tie it in with another set of blog posts I’d like to do on things you can do with the Haunui/Merino batts I make.

Merino is well known for being pretty much the best wool for felting with, it’s fine, felts quickly and easily to a hard sturdy but smooth soft fabric and is available in a vast range of commercially dyed colours. It’s easy to manipulate for fine detail in pictures, blend for complex colours and mould for intriguing structural shapes. And it’s readily available from multiple sellers around the world. It’s not the only wool or fibre suitable for felting however. the majority of 100% wool will felt given enough time and vigour although some felt more readily and some you’d be there an awfully long time and still not end up with great felt. As with any variety of wool, each has it’s own merits and that’s one of the glorious things about wool – there’s really something for everyone out there!

Other wools that are often used for wet-felting are the British breeds Bluefaced Leicester and Shetland, New Zealand breed of Corriedale and of course the Swedish breed Gotland which I keep here in Wales. And there are other suitable wools and fibres. Dry felting or needle-felting gives an even wider choice because of the way the fibres are mechanically locked together with barbed needles rather than by using water, heat and friction as with wet felting.

I’d seen comments about felt made with the beautiful Haunui New Zealand Halfbred wool I now stock but as a handcraft fibre it hasn’t been marketed specifically for felting. Although the breeders gave me useful feedback on this aspect, I realised I would have to experiment with it myself and make some test pieces before being able to offer advice to customers on using it for felting. Although the majority of my customers are spinners, I do have some felt-makers who buy fibres from me too and in a couple of instances where someone mentioned they were purchasing specifically for felt making I asked if they’d be kind enough to give me some feedback which they both did along with permission to use their photos.

The following waistcoat is nuno felted onto silk and includes “Still Waters” Haunui/merino gradient rovings in its fibre content. Nuno-felting is a relatively modern technique that involves felting wool fibres onto fine gauzy fabric such as silk chiffon or cotton muslin. The supporting fabric doesn’t felt itself but the fine fibres of the wool work themselves into the fabric weave and anchor themselves as they felt with each other. This adheres them to the non-felting fabric and draws it together into attractive puckers and gathers as the felting wool fibres contract and shrink. It makes a strong but lightweight fabric suitable for delicate garments. This piece was created by Faith Jenkins and you can see more of her absolutely stunning work on Facebook where she is known as The Artful Felter.

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And I think this is a separate piece of work but also by Faith using Haunui/Merino rovings in its construction.

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photos courtesy of Faith Jenkins

This next item is a wrap made by Gaynor Graves. She also used a combination of wool fibres and silk to achieve a light drapey fabric but using the more traditional method of wet felting the fibres to themselves rather than nuno-felting. She described her method of making this delicate “cobweb felt” in her email to me. The fibres were drum carded to make them smooth and achieve fine, even layers ready for felting. The one layer is of 100% Haunui NZ Halfbred natural undyed wool and the other layer is Rose Pouchong from my Tea Garden collection – this is a blend of merino, BFL, alpaca and silk. The leaf detail surface decoration are made from both Haunui and from hand dyed Tussah Silk from one of my Build a Batt Boxes (and I’m thrilled to see so many different BarberBlackSheep fibres in one item!) Gaynor tells me her aim is to make as light a fabric as possible without actually having any holes in it and her patient prep work on this paid tribute to this aim – you can really see how smooth and fine it is.

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Photos courtesy of Gaynor Graves

Gaynor gave me her opinion of straight Haunui as a felting fibre which was really interesting and useful. She said that the Haunui was really light and airy by the time it had been prepared on the drum carder and was harder to get wetted out than the merino and also takes longer to felt fully than merino. But the resulting fabric was soft and she thought that it was well worth the extra effort with the final result of the finished product.

The projects from both these dedicated felt makers really gave me food for thought and definitely left me wanting to try felting with Haunui and Haunui/merino myself. Mostly I’m a spinner but I do occasionally dabble in amateur felt making and I’ve always loved textiles in any form – I just feel drawn to textiles as a medium. I do have a large-scale felt project planned with Haunui forming large parts of it but that will have to wait for sufficient time and space to work on – in the meantime I will probably conduct test pieces which I may well show you – if they work OK!

But with the beautiful felt garments I’d seen and all the autumn colours appearing about me, a couple of weeks ago I had an idea and reached for some Turning Leaf Haunui/Merino batts and spent a happy afternoon playing with them.

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Because these batts are of a high percentage merino blend I knew they’d felt quickly and well, that I was going to do more with the felt after the wet stage and because this was purely decorative and not for garment use I could afford for this to be a very lightweight and fragile fabric so I did just two layers of fibre and lightly felted it in bubble wrap only – to what most people consider pre-felt stage. This is the half-felted fabric that you can then cut out and shape before felting onto your final piece so that it adheres well but has defined edges and colours.

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I aimed for vaguely leaf shapes and sizes but not worrying too much about the shaping at this stage and once each piece was done it was shocked by throwing onto a hard surface and several dunkings in piping hot and very cold water baths to thermal shock and tighten the felt a bit. They were then put out to dry.

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A week ago I felt like doing some non-spinning fibre crafts again and so pulled out my embellishing machine I bought some time ago but haven’t used much (that means “at all”… ;0) and spent a happy afternoon chopping up bits of silk throwsters waste, sari silk, synthetic organza and embellishing them onto my little pieces of felt along with wisps of hand dyed mulberry silk and coloured wool. I then threaded up the sewing machine and stitched free form lines suggestive of veins in stylised leaf shapes. I finally cut them out to trim away the excess fabric.

I’m really pleased with how they turned out. “Not bad for a beginner!” as our Phil would say! It got rather addictive actually so I can see myself doing more things like this during the winter months. I just need to sort out better lighting in that room…

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I think one of the things I love best about hand-made items – and this is especially true of textiles – is how tactile they are. When something is made by a hand it somehow wants to return to it and there appears to be something that emanates from it’s aesthetic that attracts us back to it. Time and again when I show something to someone that has been made by human hands the first instinct is for them to reach out and touch it – not to look, to touch. Whether it’s the limestone walls of my hand built home or the smooth lines of a wooden bowl hand-turned by my friend Matt or the polished unyielding but gentle curves of metal forged by my blacksmith friend Chris. Folds of hand spun fabric, lengths of hand dyed tops, hanks of hand spun yarn… And felt – formed, shaped, melded by hand – is no different.

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So thank you ladies for inspiring me. Perhaps some more people might be tempted to try making felt of their own? If you’ve experimented with Haunui or Haunui/Merino batts why not drop me a message, comment or PM via Ravelry to show what you’ve made to inspire us all!

Fall in Love with Autumn @ BarberBlackSheep

Are your ready to snuggle up in wool blankets and hand knits, pile some pine cones up and make a log fibre, toast some crumpets and open that homemade jam?

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Are you ready to search out your chosen seasonal colours, dig out those patterns you’ve been saving all summer when it seemed just too warm to knit and dust off your favourite knitting needles? Is your spinning wheel begging to be fed with all the fibres of the season and pleading to be oiled and loved back into service?

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Are you ready to fall in love with Autumn @ barberblacksheep…?

It’s an open secret that this is my absolute favourite time of year. I’ve been limbering up to this since the first hint of coolness in the mornings from mid August when chillier nights mean heavier dews at dawn. Once the angle of light changes and brings on the sleepy golden glow something comes alive inside of me.

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Over in my Ravelry group for the past 2 weeks we’ve been having an informal Autumn Spin-a-long. It’s not a competition, just a chance to stash bust some fibres ready for those hand knits and hand woven items we’d like to make (and wear!) in winter. It’s always fun to have a bit more incentive to do this as well as have some company. There are some lovely yarns being made from BarberBlackSheep fibres – I’m really enjoying it!

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I’ve not got much production spinning done; lately I’ve been working on some seasonal samples for new Haunui/Merino batt colour ways and they’re almost ready to hit the shop. These are the new 5 batt sets I’ve made as a development of the original Haunui Gradient packs I blogged about in June. By cutting out the final gradient carding and hand dizzing stages I’ve been able to offer them in a more versatile form as well as increase the pack size and lower the £/100g – I believe that’s something of a win-win situation! ;0) So the new Haunui/Merino batts are now upped to 150g for just a couple of pounds more which gives a greater range of options for spinning as well as giving more yardage and value for money. You can still create gradients by carding in-between shades yourself but also spin separately them for colour work. Some of my customers use them for wet-felting too.

So the new colour ways are:

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

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Turning Leaf

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Woodsmoke

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Josie

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The small knitted samples show a gradient made from each of the shades but I’m sure you can think of many other ways of combining these colours!

They will be in stock shortly – hopefully early next week once I’ve made up a few sets of each.

I’ve also been making a Pinterest board for inspiration for this theme and to pin any finished yarns and item pictures onto.

Better fetch those marshmallows out of the cupboard and get toasting! Pumpkin soup anyone…?

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The Haunui Wool Story

Some of you have been aware that in recent months I’ve been stocking a fantastic range of natural coloured wool tops called Haunui New Zealand Halfbred. So far only the Haunui Longwool range has been available here in the UK via Wingham Woolwork in Yorkshire and I dyed and sold some of this last year when I first set up BarberBlackSheep. But I really wanted to work with the finer micron count strain of New Zealand Halfbred that John and Fiona Gardner have selectively bred for many years on their sheep station in the foothills of South Island, NZ.

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Summer Weaned lambs (2)

Haunui New Zealand Halfbred met so many of the criteria I was looking for when searching for a good all-round wool to stock and after a lengthy sampling and selection process and with a good deal of helpful advice and support from the Gardner family I placed an order earlier this spring and my first Haunui parcel left beautiful New Zealand entrusted in the capable hands of Ian the mailman…

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…and a couple of weeks later landed in the similarly beautiful daffodil be-decked Mid Wales via the friendly paws of Mark our local postman (who finds it terribly amusing that he has to regularly deliver wool to someone called BarberBlackSheep…)

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So in recent weeks I’ve been selling a selected range of 8 shades of this beautiful wool prepared as combed tops.

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The fibre itself and the way it’s combed mean it’s a butter smooth spinning experience and can be spun in different ways and for a variety of yarns and garments. I’ve had really favourable feedback from the first customers to use these tops; it’s lovely to hear that other people are Haunui fans as well as myself.

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I’ve also been using it hand blended with dyed merino in a range of Haunui/Merino batts in a variety of repeatable colour ways. Check the shop for current stock.

I’m always looking at new ways to combine colour so expect more to follow!

Haunui New Zealand Halfbred is not just a wonderful wool to spin and knit with. A major reason I wanted to use it is because it is grown with tremendous care by the Gardner family.

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They take immense pains to produce the highest quality wool, not just for hand spinners around the world but also with their other flock of coloured Merinos, they supply superb quality wool to the high end fashion industry in Europe.

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Their exacting standards and attention to detail have allowed them to maintain a position at the forefront of the textile industry and yet still retain a really hands-on, individual approach to their livestock and also to their customers. It’s been an absolute joy to work with their wool as well as deal with them personally and I feel it’s a privilege to be able to bring the fibre from their family-run farm to spinners here in the UK and Europe more readily and to use it in my own work.

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Sometimes I get asked how to pronounce Haunui – I’m not a New Zealander of course but I believe the correct way to pronounce it is Haw-noo-ee. Give it a try!

I’m always fascinated by the stories behind crafts, especially where textiles and animals are concerned, so I have an especial interest in learning about other fibre producers and their animals. I thought others might be interested too so with that in mind I asked Fiona if I could interview her about her sheep and business which she kindly agreed to and the latest edition of the British spinning journal YarnMaker Magazine published by Dorothy Lumb includes the first part of this interview.

It’s now available from the directly from the Editor (see the linked website for details) or from the stockists listed. You can buy single editions from any of the stockists or subscribe annually from the YM website – one way of ensuring a regular spinning-related treat (and guaranteeing Part 2 of the Haunui Wool Story!)

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2016 edited to update info:

Both Part 1 and Part 2 of the Haunui Wool Story are now published. Contact Yarnmaker in the link above for back issues to read these articles.