Category Archives: information sheet

Sheep Shearing in the UK

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Following on from my previous post – the video of shearing a shetland sheep in USA – I thought I’d add a couple of my old photos of sheep shearing, taken about 30 years ago!  I can’t remember where I took them – somewhere in South Wales.

 

 

These are scans of the A6 sepia postcards I published of the original photos – which is why they aren’t very sharp.  The sheep were being sheared in a field, and they were penned to make it easier to do the shearing as quickly as possible.

I did a search for shearing in the UK, to get a bit more info on when shearing is done here, and found this useful piece, oddly enough, published under the name of Sheep Shearing in the UK by Indie Farmer.

 

 

These are a couple of colour photos from that site.

And this is the first part of the blog – written in July 2014

The sheep shearing season in the UK (roughly mid May to mid July) is pretty much finished now, so farmers will be pleased that one difficult and time consuming job is over for another year, and the sheep will be happy to have got rid of their thick fleeces in this hot weather.

Shearing requires both skill and a lot of hard, physical work in hot summer conditions.  Some farmers shear their own sheep but many, especially those with large flocks (anything over a few hundred sheep) hire specialist shearing gangs to do the work for them.  Shearing gangs typically have three to eight members, and travel the country going from farm to farm, shearing every day during the season.  It is a hard life but pay can be good, about £2 a sheep and a good shearer can shear 200 sheep per day.  When the UK shearing season is over, the shearing gangs often travel to other countries where the shearing season is at a different time of year, in what is known as ‘the shearing circuit’, travelling from the UK to Norway, the USA, the Falklands, New Zealand, Australia, and pretty much anywhere that you can find plenty of sheep!  It is a very tough, hard working and hard drinking lifestyle, but it’s a good way to see the world, have fun and make some money.

Wool used to be where the main profit was in sheep farming, with meat as a useful sideline.  Many of the great Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built using the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords still sits on a ceremonial Woolsack to represent the importance of wool to the economy in former times.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being a very minor sideline.

It’s always useful to know a bit more about where your wool comes from!  Especially for spinners who are carding and spinning the raw fleeces!

PS. PLUG!

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pair of standard hand carders – 72 pt

I sell hand carders that can deal with raw fleeces and all types of wool fibres – and also are quite useful as brushes for sheep and other animals if you are tidying up your stock for Agricultural Shows.  The current listings can be found if you click on the links below.

Listed on julzcraftstore.com here

USE THE COUPON CODE  customer10%off  at the checkout to get 10% off your order.

Listed on etsy here

Listed on ebay here

Sheep Shearing Video

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Just thought you might like to see how sheep are sheared – for those of you who’ve never seen it!  Shearing is done very fast, and doesn’t hurt the sheep, if it’s done by an expert – and the fleece is rolled up to be processed and, hopefully sold.

This video comes from a farm near Niagara Falls, New York, who actually specialise in Shetland Sheep.  Shetland Sheep are the smallest of the British sheep breeds. They are bred for their wool, which is very soft and fine, a delight for handspinners. Shetland Sheep are very hardy, and easy to care for. They are ideal for families with smallchildren, handspinners and breeders.

The original post can be found HERE.

 

Review: Anni Albers On Weaving

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A 52 yr old book by an iconic weaver has been republished – I haven’t yet got a copy, but at least I have a review for those weavers and artists who might be interested!
“Albers began her artistic journey by enrolling in the Bauhaus as a painter, but she was pressured by administrators to focus on the more “womanly” activity of weaving.”
Published on Friday, October 27, 2017 – by the American Craft Council
Anni Albers Black Mountain
Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College in 1937.

Courtesy of the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

Few craft books have had as inauspicious a start as On Weaving, by Anni Albers. When she was offered the opportunity to write an essay on handweaving for the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1963, Albers (1899 – 1994) was well-established globally as an innovative weaver who had transformed the ancient craft into modern textile art. That commission planted the seed for her book, which was published in 1965, but its arrival disappointed many craft-minded readers, who were frustrated that only a handful of weavings were illustrated in color. Over one hundred weavings, examples of masterworks ranging from the ancient Peruvian to Albers’ own, were reproduced in dull monochrome.

A new expanded edition, released earlier this month by Princeton University Press, replaces the earlier version’s 112 black-and-white plates with radiant color weaving reproductions. That alone is a reason to rejoice. The afterword by Nicholas Fox Weber, a writer and essayist who runs the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, is another illuminating addition. And if craft is a means of exploring the world for you, this travel guide beckons.

Even with its photographic shortcomings, the original On Weaving found an appreciative audience not only among crafters, but also among lovers of modernism. Albers began her artistic journey by enrolling in the Bauhaus as a painter, but she was pressured by administrators to focus on the more “womanly” activity of weaving. The book offers Albers’ memory of moving past the initial frustration:

In my case it was the threads that caught me really against my will. To work with threads seemed sissy to me. I wanted something to be conquered. But circumstances held me to threads and they won me over. I learned to listen to them and to speak their language. I learned the process of handling them.

This excerpt is marked by recollection, but the book is much more than just an artist’s memoir. On Weaving presents a taste of an artful retelling of a life, but it also reads on occasion like an encyclopedia article – appropriately, given its origins – and serves as a tribute to the ancient Peruvian weaving tradition that most inspired Albers. In all, On Weaving presents Albers as a daredevil artist, experimenter, and educator, often in tandem with her renowned husband Josef, himself a painter and educator. The preface makes clear that Albers considered her life to be first and foremost a creative provocation, a meandering adventure interlacing warp and weft, hands and mind. Albers writes, “Though I am dealing in this book with long-established facts and processes, still, in exploring them, I feel on new ground…Thus tangential subjects come into view. The thoughts, however, can, I believe, be traced back to the event of a thread.”

The fact that Albers frames a thread as a happening, a process-initiator instead of solely material, signals that this 52-year-old book is as fresh and vital as ever. It reminds us that craft materials matter as more than raw objects. From Albers’ perspective, materials are alive and on the move, speaking to us, demanding attention. Threads can take us anywhere.

The History of Weaving in India

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This is a fascinating and well researched article I found this week on “International THE NEWS”.  I have just added the links and some pictures.

It’s one of those pieces that you find out stuff you never knew, whether or not you are interested in history or weaving – smile!

Weaving history

271282_9853525_magazineJanuary 22, 2018.  By Pooja Dawani

The Indian sub-continent has a rich and ancient history of textile art and exports, with the heritage spanning almost 5,000 years. It’s been found that fabric-making was an important part of people’s lives even at the time when the Indus Valley Civilisation flourished.

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Excavated ruins of Mohenjo-daro, Sindh province, Pakistan, showing the Great Bath in the foreground. Mohenjo-daro, on the right bank of the Indus River, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first site in South Asia to be so declared.

The excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro reveal that the spinning wheel or the charkha was an essential part of the sub-continental household. Other than practices of resist-dyeing, hand-painting, and embroidery, the Indus Valley people were masters in the art of weaving.

The Vedic Aryans and the Buddhists who settled in this region after the Indus Valley Civilization also used the charkha. The entire cloth-making process which was done by hand, involved great skill and the sub continental textiles were unrivalled for their excellence. Foreign travellers like Marco Polo (1288) and Tavernier (1660) wrote in detail about the excellence of the subcontinent’s cotton fabrics and there are many accounts of our textiles being exported to trade centres widely separated geographically, like Rome, Zanzibar, Java, Bali and Egypt.

When the Mughals ruled the subcontinent, hand spinning and weaving continued to be an important occupation and the era brought in use of gold and silver brocades, fine-figured muslins, fabulous weaves, printed and painted fabrics, exquisite carpets, intricate embroideries and endless variety and designs being produced on a mass scale.

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Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour, watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615 to 1618, and others

Emperors Akbar and Jahangir took personal interest in developing the crafts, and the fabrics from this region became even more exquisite and ornate.By the 16th century, foreign traders including the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British had begun to come to India from the West and by the 17th century, the English traders had set-up the East India Trading Company with the main object of importing Indian goods including textiles. With this fascinating background, it is no wonder that modern day Pakistan, like neighbouring India and Bangladesh, still has a huge industry centred on textiles.

 

The textile sector in Pakistan contributes about 10 percent to the GDP which for 2016 is stated as about $283.70 billion. So the total size of the textile sector comes to about $28 billion. The sector contributes nearly one-fourth of industrial value-added and provides employment to about 40 percent of industrial labour force. Textile exports for Pakistan are valued at around $10.29 billion.

Even though the last decade saw the textile industry of Pakistan flounder in the face of incessant power and gas cuts, the textile industry seems to have bounced back as bank advances to the sector were record high in 2016.

Under Textile Policy 2015-19, Rs64.15 billion will be spent to increase the exports of textile and clothing items from the existing $13 billion to $26 billion by 2019. Pakistan is the fourth largest producer of cotton in the world and holds the largest spinning capacity in Asia after China and India.

A recent report issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reveals that year-on-year growth in textile sector advances has been Rs90 billion in 2016 in contrast to the net retirement of Rs30 billion in 2015.

Pakistan FashionWith this resurgence of the industry, recently a lot of interest has been shown in reviving the craft of Pakistan textile art. This year’s Fashion Pakistan Week Spring/Summer Show also focused on the revivalist trend of ethnic crafts and embroideries, and many designers retraced their steps and went back to their roots in search of design inspiration.

Focusing on reviving old art forms that are indigenous to the region and using them in modern designs, not only helps empower the craftsmen who have been trained in centuries’ old crafts by their forefathers, but also promotes the previously disappearing native crafts that are threatened by extinction otherwise.

Pakistan is home to many beautiful crafts like woven textiles and embroidered products from Swat and other regions. While weaving is carried out in many major cities, Swat in particular is a long established weaving centre whose blankets are mentioned even in early Buddhist texts. Or the embroidered textiles and leather crafts from Balochistan which are used to make shawls, caps, vests and an assortment of dresses. In Sindh, different types of woven textiles are a common sight in the cities of Hyderabad, Khairpur, Hala and Thatta.

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Sindhi ajrak

Ajrak, a unique pattern produced in Sindh is printed on shawls and caps and has become a unique symbol of Sindhi culture. Similarly, phulkari from Multan, block-printing from Lahore, chunri, and rilli work are all artful displays of the rich heritage of Pakistan.

Some local brands have invested in bringing these traditional textile designs into the mainstream.

One such revival story is that of the hand-woven khaddar, which had all but disappeared from conventional fashion.

Khaddar is a natural fibre cloth made out of cotton, silk or wool and has a long history in the sub-continent. Khaddar’s revival in India was advocated by Gandhi who envisioned the versatile fabric as a panacea to India’s poverty and the cloth became the symbol of nation’s struggle for freedom.

In Pakistan, the revival of handloom weaving can be principally credited to a local start-up, Khaadi. The brand has been chiefly responsible for ushering in the ‘khaddar culture’.

Despite being a major producer and exporter of superior quality cloth for decades, the boom of fashion in the country is a fairly recent phenomenon and Pakistani designers have caught the eye of many outside the country. Brands have played a vital role in transforming a manufacturing focused textile industry to a more holistic market that also encompasses a focus on retail and fashion. Although developing rapidly, these two areas are still in their nascent stages it promises to blossom into something befitting our splendid legacy.

A History of Shawls

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This is a really interesting piece I found recently, by Jen of Roving Crafters written in 2016 – I’m not sure if she is still blogging as it seems she was having problems with her eyes in the last post I can find on her site – but there are plenty of free tutorials and other interesting pieces on rovingcrafters.com, and if you want to read the original of this unashamed copy click HERE

Venetian widow, Cesare Vecellio, 1585-90

Technically the shawl as a garment and as a word comes from 14th century Persia. They were woven rectangles worn over the shoulders and made from kashmiri goat. That’s significant I think because Kashmir was a major trade center. Knowledge and supplies and all sorts of other goodies coming out of India had to go through Kashmir to get to the western world. In fact I personally believe its very likely that the shawl as a garment originated in China, was adopted by India, and from there passed to the weavers in Kashmir (but I can’t find any sources to back that up).

From Kashmir, shawls spread to southern Europe and North Africa. Ethiopians took to wearing large rectangular shawls that can be wrapped around the body once and then over a shoulder.

Ethiopian boys in traditional shawls
16th century French pine figures of female saints wearing blue shawls

Manila shawls took Spain by storm in the 15th century.  These were square pieces of woven silk with hand embroidered designs. They seem to have picked them up from the Philippine islands (again I’m saying the shawl is a Far East garment) and once the Spaniards had them, they went to the New World.

All these early shawls were woven. They were made in whatever fiber was on hand; silk in the east, cashmere in the near east, wool in the New World. They were square or rectangular in shape and usually large enough to wrap and fold around the body.

Decorative lace shawls seem to have come into fashion in the early 1800’s. The earliest styles were made on tambour or other netting with intricate designed stitched/embroidered on that base fabric. This seems to be when shawls became circular and triangular.

Hand embroidered Spanish blonde lace on ecru silk net, circa 1830’s.
A French fashion plate displaying a shawl of black Chantilly lace, circa 1865.

Then the knitters and crocheters got into the business of shawl making. That’s when the styles and shapes of shawls seems to have really exploded. Knitters in the Shetland Islands started making haps,

Jessie Thomson knitting by her fireside at Lower Huyea, Haroldswick while wearing a hap shawl. circa 1930

knitters in America made sontags,

The “bosom friend”, aka sontag from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, 1860.

crocheters in Ireland made collars,

Irish crochet collar, circa early 1900’s

and so on.

Up through the 1920’s shawls and stoles and wraps were worn by ladies in English speaking countries of all economic levels. Wealthy women wore creations of handmade lace and silken embroidery. Working women wore cheaper, machine made imitations. But all women had a shawl or two to dress up and cover up.

Not so today. Today its a rarely seen specialty item. For those of us who do wear shawls there is a dizzying array of styles and shapes and choices. And isn’t that just wonderful? We get to borrow on all these traditions of shawl making and invent some of our own. Shawl patterns can be found big or small, in every shape, in lace, cables, and color work. You could spend a lifetime making shawls and not explore everything.


The Twelve Days of Christmas – Lyrics (Part 3)

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This is the third part of my little series of the Twelve Days of Christmas – see my previous two posts – part 1 & part 2

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Just before I go on – I want to wish all my readers – and my many followers a very

MERRY CHRISTMAS
and I hope you have a peaceful time
over the holiday period!
And – to let you know that my Etsy Shop will remain open and that for almost the Twelve Days of Christmas (which is normally taken to be the period from Christmas Day to Epiphany 6 January)  

from 25 December to 3 January

there will be 10% OFF all listings

new etsy banner

As this is a very well known Christmas Carol, I was assuming that most people knew what I was talking about – but a couple of people have asked me for the Lyrics, and it makes a lot more sense if you know why various sections have been picked out to talk about the symbolism of the birds mentioned.  They are copied in full below.  Of course, they are repetitive, because the Carol is sung in the form of a game, adding an extra line each time, and if you want to know a bit more about the history of the Carol and the changes made to the Lyrics over the centuries there is a very informative page on Wikipedia.

12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree1

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree1

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree1

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree1

On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree1

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

THE NEXT EPISODE – PART 4 – WILL BE ABOUT THE THREE FRENCH HENS