Hints and Tips

Unwashed Fleece Health and Saftey

This guide for handling of unwashed/unscoured fleece is for those of you unfamiliar with the risks

Guide for users of unwashed and unscoured fleece

Bring in the professionals!

Article by Lesley Fidler.

It is a weavers’ maxim that ‘weaving is what comes off the loom, cloth is weaving that has been finished’. In this context ‘finished’ doesn’t mean fastened-off, but refers to treating the fibres so they hold together. I like to weave with commercially spun and dyed Shetland wool that I buy from Fairfield Yarns, Co-operative Buildings, 131 Rochdale Road, Heywood.  (The shop only opens on Fridays, but it makes a grand day out combined with coffee in Hebden Bridge followed by a trip to Bury Market for lunch).

For smaller pieces, I can put my weaving in the washing machine to get a nicely fluffy, fulled fabric. But when I decided to make 6 yards of 31” wide double-weave fabric for curtains, I realised that even if I could stuff it all into our washing machine, I couldn’t dry such a big piece without twisting – that was if I could find somewhere to hang it. Plus I didn’t feel like explaining a flooded floor and clogged lint filter to my husband.

I remembered reading an article in The Journal about a rug for a vintage car that had been commercially finished and I tracked down W T Johnson & Sons in Huddersfield. They were exceptionally helpful and friendly on the phone. When I went, Alan Dolley the company’s technical manager saw me personally and set up a customer account for me. So, I handed over a bundle that represented hours of work and knew that whatever happened to it, it would be better than I could do at home. Alan agreed. My ‘It’s for dress-making’ (the curtains idea had been abandoned and that piece had now been joined by a couple of other lengths as well) was translated into ‘For apparel: Light scouring’. A couple of weeks later, I collected my drapey, smooth cloth from the friendly receptionist who had taken the trouble to phone me to say it was ready.

My work has lost nothing at all in width, but although I carefully sewed a firm fabric border to the ends of one piece because it is touch-and-go whether I can get my long coat out of it, this had been chopped off to give a straight edge. However, there is no obvious shrinkage in length – apart from the trimming (and I am so pleased I did not see this happen!): my pattern squares are still square. It is far smoother and finer in feel than the pieces that have been through the washing machine (and which did reduce in size) and when held up to the light there are no gaps. So I really do have cloth.

And the cost? Well, Johnsons work by weight and length. My 14-15 yards weighed 3.8kg (the double cloth is, obviously, double the weight) and I was invoiced the bargain price of £1.50/metre for 13.6 metres which came to £20.40 plus VAT = £24.48. Even more remarkable, as an account holder my invoice only arrived after I had collected my cloth and it gave me a full month’s credit terms.

The bonus from my visit was my chat with Mr Dolley in which he showed me some of the company’s luxury output.  I saw what was apparently ordinary men’s suiting but in which platinum thread had been used for the pinstripe, I handled other fabric costing several hundred pounds per metre and made my first hands-on acquaintance with quiviut. For all sorts of reasons, I can thoroughly recommend an encounter with this friendly, specialist business that is just on the southern edge of Huddersfield town centre.

The finished cloth

Cloth finished professionally

In this photo, the piece with smaller squares went through the washing machine. The larger squares in that photo were the ones that were professionally finished.

The piece with smaller squares went through the washing machine. The  larger squares in the photo were the ones that were professionally finished

Calendar of Dyeing

Article by Laura Rymer

At the Christmas Guild meeting last year, Santa gave me a Dyeing Calendar.

Each month there is an inspirational picture of the dyestuff and the results achieved.

I set myself the challenge of keeping up with the calendar and where possible, attempting to try each monthly dye process in turn.

I though it would be fun to share my experience and results in the newsletter each month. Maybe you had a similar calendar and want to share your results too.

January – Onions

I had been collecting onion skins with a view to doing some dyeing and I had sufficient to make a dye pot; the calendar spurred me on. My onion skins were brown to give an orange dye, but you could use red onions for a pink/purple dye.

The yarn was an assortment of woollen spun skeins produced during practice for my Foundation Certificate in Spinning course.


175 g of Onion skins (at least half the weight of fibre)

180 g of Woollen spun Ryedale and Hampshire Down yarn washed, rinsed.

Mordant – not required as onions are a substantive dyestuff

The onion skins were put in pot, covered with water and boiled for one hour –

 Pan of orange liquid

Meanwhile; the yarn was put to soak in some water.

Surprisingly the pot did not smell unpleasant or of onions as it stewed. 

Pan of brown liquid with onion skins in

After an hour the onion skins were strained through a colander leaving a rich orange dye bath behind. This was left to cool overnight.

The onion skins were composted.

Pan of brown liquid with yellow yarn

The pre-soaked yarn was drained and added to the dye bath.  The pot was gently bought to a simmer and left for 30 minutes. Skeins of yarn were removed at intervals from 30 minutes to 1 and half hours to give a variety of shades.

One skein (Ryedale) dyed particularly deeply.  I think there was sufficient dyestuff left in the pot to run a second batch of fibre and achieve some lighter shades.

Pan of orange yarn

The skeins were hung on the line to dry on a frosty afternoon

Skeins of orange yarn on a washing line

The Onion dyed yarn

Skeins of orange yarn

Useful Weaving Resource Tip


Interesting and often useful and inspiring YouTube channel is Old Curmudgeon.  Following too many hours looking for weaving videos to watch, I stumbled across Old Curmudgeon (real name Andy).

What a fantastic resource!

Some of the videos are 'A-Z How To' for a complete project whilst others will be a thorough and in depth 'How To' of a particular aspect of weaving or simply something to inspire.

He is a very capable weaver but doesn't shout about it.

Well worth taking a look and he has lots of weaving videos to choose from.


Julie Whittingslow

Supported Spinning - My Journey to Laceweight Yarn

Whilst waiting for some hints and tips from our wonderfully talented Guild members I thought I’d try a spot of supported spinning.

I understand supported spindles come in all types, shapes and sizes but I settled on 2.  I thought I’d try a Russian spindle and a Tibetan spindle. I also purchased a matching bowl all made by J.A.G Drake and available from Adelaide Walker in Addingham.

One full spindle, one empty spindle with a bowl

I’d heard starting off can be a pain but this was ok for me. I typically start my drop spindling by hanging the hook on the fibre and twisting until I get a decent length to secure around the spindle shaft. I more or less did the same thing with the supported spindles.

Keeping the spindle moving – tick
Drafting out fibre – tick
Keeping spindle moving whilst drafting out fibre – no tick!

Despite the above, my park and draft is getting a good workout as this is all I can accomplish at this early stage of supported spinning. My longdraw technique is also coming on BUT my yarn falls apart or breaks. I am trying to think about my twist and my light handling of the fibre supply keeping the spindle moving and there are moments I feel like an expert as I spin and then butterfly my lovely fine yarn around my fingers before making a neat cob on the spindle shaft. It is shortlived! My spindle (as it can’t be me!) decides to remind me that it is a sophisticated piece of equipment which needs attention and the fibre joins in for company!! I need twist cries the fibre! I need smooth motion bellows the spindle. I need Prosecco weeps the spinner.

I have to say despite the above I persevere and in all honesty am beginning to enjoy it.  I set myself a challenge to spin 15g of fibre (mostly Shetland) and to try and spin thinner each time. I also throw in a spot of natural dyeing using Avocado skin and stone!  My samples started at the equivalent of 360m/100g and my last sample (merino) was spun at the equivalent of 800m/100g – YEAH!!! 

Six skeins of yarn

My tips are:

Practice spinning the spindle without fibre

use rolags where possible

keep your rolags light and fluffy

have the lightest touch when drafting back

be prepared for wastage

keep Prosecco chilled!

Close up of a brown skein

In addition, if anyone has any spinning, weaving or dyeing tips - please feel free to share

Thanks in advance

Web manager - Bradford Guild