Creating colour

The sun was up early this morning, so I put some wool in my solar ovens. I used my usual natural dye materials; walnut leaves, fennel flowers and leaves, onion skins, and avocado peels.

The onion skins I started the day before.

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By the end of the day there was a bit of colour showing.

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Here is some grey yarn I dyed on the weekend with onion skins.

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I will leave the wool in the ovens for another day to deepen the colours, then they will be ready to spin!

Finally…classes

I have finally started offering hand spinning classes. Now that I have a space that I share with other artists, I feel comfortable inviting people to come and learn the beautiful skill of creating yarn from wool!

So if you are visiting or live in La Serena, and you would like to learn how to hand spin, click on the classes link on the right, or visit our page Creatif.cl

Classes can be in English or Spanish, and there are a lot of other classes too, like ceramics, weaving, painting, paper mâché, and yoga…so many!

Sheep shearing at Hacienda El Tangue

The IV Region, is not known for its sheep, and when people see Chilean wool it usually comes from the South. Patagonia is full of sheep, most of them merino. The wool I use for most of my spinning comes from my sheep, which are basically for meat, similar to Oxford and Suffolk breeds. So I was very surprised when I heard there was a flock of merino sheep about an hour drive from my house, at the Hacienda El Tangue. I didn’t want to visit without contacting them, so I had put off going.

But then I heard of a small craft fair being held at the hacienda; an event organized by El Tangue and Innatura, a vegetarian restaurant located in La Serena. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see some sheep, so this weekend with my family, we drove to El Tangue.

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El Tangue is twenty minutes south of the seaside town Tongoy, and as well as the craft fair there was horse riding, trekking, BBQ, vegetarian food, and (most importantly), sheep shearing!

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Sheep waiting to be sheared

The building where they shear is tall, dark, and impressive, made of wood and a thatch-like material. I talked to the man who classifies the wool, and he said that at the moment there are 8000 sheep and they are sheared between October and November. The wool is classified and pressed into bails ready for sale. Information on the internet, from 2009, says they had over 10,000 sheep, shearing 600 a day with 4.5 to 5.5 kilos per fleece, making 12 bales a day.

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Fleece sorting and pressing, bales at the back

I asked about buying some wool but, all of the wool is sent to the south of Chile for processing and export.

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Sheep after shearing where they are checked and given worming medicine

My family and I watched them shear along with other visitors. Here is my video of the shearing.

The shearing demonstration was scheduled for 10am till noon, we saw them shear at 1.30 and there were still people arriving to watch. It was Saturday, their day off, and they weren’t being paid for the demonstration. So the shearer may not have been working as fast as a work day, and may have been a bit grumpy.

I was fascinated by how he moved the sheep, something I can’t do when I shear. I loved being there. I loved the smell of the lanolin, the sheep and the metal grease, the cool dark air compared to the sunshine outside, the rolls of soft greasy wool. I could have stayed there all day.

But unfortunately, the rest of my family is not so obsessed with wool, so with two sleepy girls we drove home.

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And the weekend continued with more surprises; as I wrote this post on Sunday, it was raining outside. In fact it rained for most of the day, rare for November. The rain is great for the plants, not so great for my laundry, which I had to wash, and had to peg out, rain or no rain. Although my girls said they didn’t mind if they stayed home from school because of wet uniforms…they are so thoughtful.

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3er Observatorio Cultural; their third, my first

Their third, my first

This is a cultural gathering of artists and crafters. I will have a stand and be giving free mini-classes to kids on how to spin wool with a drop spindle.

There will be lots of beautiful hand made objects and free classes, and good vibes, and kids, and fun!

Oh, and I am so excited!

Stitching, something new

I love colour. I love coloured wool and yarn. I love all the beautiful ways yarn and wool can be used to make art, (except maybe crochet, I just can’t get my hands to work comfortably in this medium, sorry).

A couple of years ago I learned some stitching techniques with my mother-in-law. I liked the idea of sitting and stitching and I loved how variegated yarns looked in the different stitches. However, when I used my own hand spun, the yarn wasn’t consistent enough to look nice, and so I put the stitching to one side.

While I was in Santiago having my eye examined, I found a small shop that sells stitching kits. Esterillas is located in Pueblo del Ingles, and has a great selection of stitching yarns, patterns and kits. They range from small, child friendly kits to complex pillows and floor coverings.

I bought two simple kits, made with thicker wool, for my daughters. My youngest jumped right in with her cousin, and my oldest daughter says she will try it…soon.

And for myself I bought a more complicated pillow cover.

Flower

I am not sure if I am using the correct stitch, some look the same at the front but the back is worked differently. But I love the colours and watching it grow.

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The best part is I can see how very simple designs can be made beautiful depending on the yarn. I used some of my solar dyed yarn, (the pale yarn) in a simple square pattern and I really like the effects. Reminds me of geological maps.

Squares

With what I have learned I am going to spin and dye some wool for stitching. I think my spinning has improved enough to use, and the subtle changes in solar dyeing will look great.

Pale colours

I feel like I am at a point when I have to make decisions.  What direction do I want to go with my animals and wool; production or teaching, to earn a living or to educate.

I don’t really have to make any decisions, nothing has happened that demands change, but I feel things moving and I am not sure which way the compass will point.

So while I am thinking, here is a picture of the wool I dyed last week in the solar oven.  Very pale colours, but they look pretty together and I think when it is spun it will be a bit stronger.

 

Pale colours

The Carded batt is the onion skins, next going clockwise is the avocado skins, then the ivy and then the eucalyptus leaves.  In the middle is the original white wool.  Very subtle, 🙂

And here is a some knitting that I am doing for my daughter.

Fingerless mitts

I had better get knitting if they are to be a birthday gift!

Is it really weaving?

I have been weaving!  Well I think it is weaving…I am not sure.  It depends on who you talk to.  The finished fabric looks like weaving, there is a warp and a weft, but the warp and weft are put on the loom at the same time with one continuous thread.

What I am doing is Continuous Weave, or Triangle Loom Weaving, although I am actually using a small square loom.  (I do have a large triangle loom as well).

Square loom and wool

This all stared a couple of weeks ago when I joined a weaving night class.  The company my husband works for runs about 20 different courses for family members.  These courses are free and range from gardening and cooking through painting and sewing.

I signed up for the weaving class.  The young woman who teaches the class is the same woman who dyes and sells yarn, Huella Indigena, which I mentioned in this post.

Woven squares with my hand spun and yarn from Huella Indigena

We began the class with square looms because they are small, use minimum yarn, (great for hand spun), and are quick to finish.  The square looms can be warped like a frame loom with the nails or used diagonally like a triangular loom, (as in the pictures).  Then, by joining the woven squares we can make different things; ponchos, sweaters, blankets.

The idea of the classes is that even with a small amount of time we can make objects, (for ourself or for sale).  Depending how quickly students learn we may use different looms, but the teacher does not want us to learn so many techniques that we never finish a project.  I can sea the reasoning behind this because some looms can take a long time to warp.

Front of small poncho made with six squares

Back of poncho

I have made one small poncho with six woven squares.  The wool is hand spun and dyed from my sheep, (see previous post).  Picking up stitches and knitting the neck is a nice way to manipulate the poncho so it is more than six pieces of fabric sewn together.

I am really enjoying the class because I get to chat with other women who enjoy crafting and yarn.  And when a group of women come together, we not only share ideas about design and technique, but also give each other support in the trials of our daily lives.