Tag Archives: spinning

M is for Merino Wool


MThanks to the A-Z challenge, I would never have known what a merino sheep looked like if I hadn’t needed to write about something beginning with M!

Merino wool is the most popular wool fibre used by spinners, as it is consistently good quality.  The sheep are bred from an original Portuguese strain, and are mostly farmed in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.

This is short video made for the WoolMark Company following a “single piece of fleece in pursuit of its family. From the shearing sheds of the Australian outback, to the ancient weaving mills of Yorkshire, discover how modern technologies and age-old techniques combine to transform fleece into fashion.”



pure white merino wool fibres for spinning - otherwise known as 'tops' or 'roving'

pure white merino wool fibres for spinning – otherwise known as ‘tops’ or ‘roving’

Of course, I sell merino wool fibres for spinning, you can find my listing both HERE on etsy and HERE on ebay – both listings are current at the time of writing, but may not be current if you are reading this a few weeks from now, altho’ they will be relisted.

creamy white merino pre-felt

creamy white merino pre-felt

I also sell some beautiful white and black pure merino pre-felt, which can be used for felting projects, both for pictures and 3-D items like hats.


Merino wool is becoming very fashionable for sports clothing, as it holds the moisture without being uncomfortable, and at the same time provides insulation for cold weather.  I have nothing to do with the Woolpower company, but I was impressed that they gave a full page over to talking about Merino Wool, so if you want to learn more, this is their link – and for more technical information on merino wool this is the wikipedia link.


How Ancient Weaving Techniques Save the Earth

scarfcopysCopied from the Huffington Post: Article Published on 13 March 2015

This is a long but fascinating article about the regeneration of a community in Peru, by going back to the traditional methods of vat dyeing with natural plants, and spinning and weaving their own alpaca wool. 

Chinchero, Peru (photo credit: Natalie Deuschle)

The rainbow was born in the town of Chinchero, Peru, according to Incan mythology. Today, when the weavers of the area gather to dye wool in vats of boiling water, myth seems to become reality. The women wear bright red jackets as they tend to the vats, samples of already dyed wool are laid out — from blue to saffron to purple — and a weaver stirs a pot of deep moss-green wool with a long wooden pole.

Chinchero is situated in the central Andes, a short distance from Cusco, on the way to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. It has developed into a tourist hub, although the community remains seemingly untouched by time. Quechua, the language of the Inca people, is spoken by many of the inhabitants, and the town still commands the vistas that long ago earned the region the moniker “the cloud kingdom of the Incas.”

Peru hosted the 20th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change late last year, and was the backdrop for far-reaching negotiations among more than 190 countries about the impact of climate change. And Peru is also home to the small-scale but powerful work being done by artisans like weavers in Chinchero, especially in terms of how their work supports and preserves the biodiversity of the region.

Today a dyeing workshop run by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC), a group that supports and promotes traditional weaving and spinning, has drawn more than 100 people to the area to master the centuries-old traditional technique of making naturally dyed wool. Participants tend the vats of boiling water and work with the dyestuff, which includes chillca flowers from the nearby mountains, used to produce the color green; shapy, a vine that makes the color pink, collected from the jungle beyond the neighboring community of Accha Alta; and the insect cochineal, which feeds on cactus and is ground to make the color red.

“They have been there since 4:30 in the morning,” explains Peggy Clark, director of the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, a group that supports the global handicraft market, including the weavers of this region. “It is physically difficult, labor-intensive work, a community effort — but really peaceful. Time slows down over this whole day. It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing.”

Sallac Village, Peru (photo credit: Natalie Deuschle)

Until recently, many of the ancient weaving customs of Chinchero, which are rooted in the stunning biodiversity of the area — from natural dyeing to harvesting alpaca wool — had all but disappeared for decades, during which chemical dyes and machine weaving pushed out the old techniques.

Now, however, natural dyeing and traditional weaving methods can take some of the credit for having brought an economic, environmental, and social renewal to the region. The textiles produced in Chinchero are sold globally and are on display in museums around the world, and that’s partly thanks to one woman, Nilda Callañaupa.

Traditions Lost

Forty years ago, Chinchero was home to a young girl, whose job it was to tend sheep as they grazed. As the many hours of the day passed on the hillside, she spun wool as she watched her animal charges, as girls her age were expected to do, producing usable skeins of wool. The wool was used to make the textiles that were an important part of the community — as blankets, clothing, in farming, and in sacred rituals. And as the girl spun, she became entranced with the act — so much so that she found herself dreaming of spinning as she slept each night.

“I am proud that I learned skills and knowledge from my Chincero grandmothers and their ability to lay out and weave complex designs, carrying on ideas passed from their mothers and grandmothers,” says Callañaupa, now 54 and founder director of the CTTC. ” … I saw how my grandmothers took strength from their Inca rituals and ceremonies, especially those connected with weaving and spinning.”

As that girl spinning on the mountainside grew older and her interest in weaving became a passion, she noticed that the traditional methods of dyeing wool and weaving were disappearing from Chinchero. The techniques, handed down orally over the years, were not recorded in writing, and the younger generations showed greater interest in leaving Chinchero for the cities of Peru than in learning from their elders. Textiles were still important to the community, but cheap chemical dyes, acrylic yarn, and machines were being used more widely by the weavers.

“The textile process was poorly managed,” says Callañaupa. “The younger generation was not working with the same attention to quality as the elders.” The growing tourist market had created a demand for simple, quickly produced designs and products of lesser quality: belts, bags, friendship bracelets from exotic, “foreign” lands. Commercially produced synthetic dyes were bright, cheap, and easy to use (natural dyeing is a much longer, more expensive process), and the weavers in Chincero were rapidly abandoning the traditional methods.

Beyond the degradation of quality that such developments implied, Callañaupa saw the loss of the connection between nature and culture looming. The ecosystem management systems that went along with the old methods (sustainable use of plants, animals, water, and land), developed over thousands of years, were becoming lost — and the ecosystem was suffering.

It’s a phenomenon that occurs far beyond Chinchero, in fact. As Greenpeace reported, the textile industry’s impact on the environment in terms of water and land use, energy efficiency, waste production, chemical use, and greenhouse-gas emissions is alarming. Groups like SlowColor are trying to tackle this problem, as their website explains. “SlowColor rejuvenates centuries-old fabric dyeing techniques and handlooming traditions, protects the environment and creates fabrics that are healthy for life. SlowColor connects artisan to audience, tradition to global market.” And in the highlands of Peru, these are precisely the methods advocated by Callañaupa and the CTTC.

Returning Home

As a teenager, Callañaupa became close friends with an older woman of the community, who taught her how to weave in the traditional ways. Callañaupa’s love of learning led her to become the first in her community to go to university, then on to study in the United States at Berkeley — and she took her spindle with her.

Callañaupa easily could have made a life for herself away from Chinchero. But after earning graduate degrees, she returned to the lush valley of her youth, with a commitment to researching and revitalizing the ancient weaving and dyeing techniques of her elders.

It was a calling that led Callañaupa to establish the CTTC in 1996. In addition to holding periodic dyeing workshops for weavers in the region, the Center runs programs for youth and elders. “Not only do I hope that young people will continue their traditions but I would like to see Inca children today experiencing the joy, sense of identity and accomplishment that spinning and weaving can bring to their lives,” says Callañaupa.

In a relatively short span of time, this community, in which it seemed that the ancient ways would be lost forever, has reclaimed its roots — and the change has gone beyond the weaving.

When you walk through Chinchero, perhaps through the Sunday market where many textiles are sold, many of the townspeople are dressed in traditional garb; as recently as 10 years ago, this wasn’t the case. It was Callañaupa and others in her community who encouraged the community to begin dressing as their ancestors had, as a way of strengthening their connection to the old ways — to strong criticism at first.

It seemed, Callañaupa explains her book Textile Traditions of Chincero, “that what I was doing seemed to be going backwards in our history because traditional clothes were used by women without education, and educated people should change. Many women and girls received strong criticism, but we have already overcome that complex phase of unwarranted embarrassment.”

It has been, in fact, by “going backwards” that Chinchero has not only survived but thrived. The old weaving techniques, once scorned, now have great value. More young people are staying in Chincero and making a living from weaving, as opposed to going to the cities and facing an uncertain and potentially dangerous future. Women are now economically empowered, which has a net positive effect on their families and the community as a whole.

“We Are Helping the Land”

Although preservation of their ecosystem is not the main objective of the Center, their work has had a positive impact on the land in any case. “By giving opportunity to the weavers,” Callañaupa says, “that creates income for families, so they don’t need to overwork the land for income [from agriculture] … we like alpaca wool, so we are raising more. When they graze in the open air, they fertilize the land. In some small scale, we are helping the land.”

Water use is an important part of the picture, too. Any dyeing process — whether it’s with synthetic or natural dyes — uses large amounts of water, so to be environmentally responsible, there has to be some awareness of where the water comes from. The region of the CTTC is part of an innovative watershed services project that is protecting Lake Piuray, a major source of water for Cusco and Chinchero. This project is backed by the national water regulator, SUNASS, and executed with the funds of water users, via the Cusco water company (SEDACUSCO). Such a collaboration is unique, and has generated enthusiasm among the various actors and the desire to replicate these kinds of win-win projects throughout Peru.

And after the dyeing process, there is the matter of the waste water. As SlowColor’s Tricia O’Keefe says about chemical dye use, “What happens to the after you’re done dyeing? Where are those chemicals going? That is a huge issue … the thing about the natural dyes is that you could completely recycle that water.” In using natural dyes over synthetic, Callañaupa and her weavers are ensuring that toxic chemicals are not released into the environment via the run-off water.

The use of natural dyes over chemical dyes, the preservation and promotion of biodiversity in the indigenous plant and animal species that are vital to the weaving, in the bigger picture of recovering centuries-old environmentally friendly methods of weaving, has made the Center a model for climate change mitigation.

Callañaupa’s work — which preserves and respects the ecosystem in which it exists — means that the ancient ways can work; in fact, they may do the best job at strengthening communities and improving livelihoods. This is vital, says O’Keefe. There is a trend of “migration from rural to urban, and then into urban poverty, because what skills do they really have once they get [to the cities]? … What’s happening to the land they’re abandoning?”

Opportunities offered by the CTTC offer a positive scenario both the region’s people and the land. “It’s great in Peru that this is happening,” says O’Keefe. “It gives people at least a choice … If you want to stay in your rural village where you grew up, you actually have something sustainable to do that. If you want to go study computers in the city, you can do that. There are choices.”

As the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise‘s Peggy Clark describes the reasoning behind her group’s support of Callañaupa, “One of the things that people think is that environment is separate from economy, so there’s not enough support and investment to move the needle and make a difference. The only way to do that is to broaden the tent.

“Not only does [the work of the CTTC] make sense at a policy level or an investment level, it makes sense at an individual level. Like with Nilda and her family: they are preserving the natural environment as well as finding ways to create products from their environment for their livelihoods. They can send their kids to school, they can support their families.”

Later this year, world leaders will gather in Paris for the next COP to find solutions for dealing with climate change. They will come by airplane and limousine, and they will fill the finest hotels. While they negotiate and debate, in a “cloud kingdom” across the world, a group of weavers, led by one woman, will be doing what their ancestors did for centuries, weaving stories of sustainability and solution, using the astonishing biodiversity of the region responsibly and with great success. As Callañaupa says, “It is becoming clear that the survival of diversity contributes to the valuable storehouse of world resources.”

“Artisans are often the stewards of the natural world,” says Clark. “Often in traditional ways … they are working in their communities with products that are from their environment, be it fibers from leaves, bark from trees, or natural dyes from difference sources. So they are invested in ensuring that those resources will always be there.”

In the introduction to one of Callañaupa’s books, Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands, anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author, and photographer Wade Davis writes: “These textiles are sacred cloth, woven from the threads of memory by Andean hands that are at last firmly in control of their destiny. Each tells a story, and each story is a prayer for the well-being of the people, the land, and the community.”

Callañaupa’s work means that we can produce goods that have global value in a way that doesn’t ruin the soil or deplete the water table or poison the air. We can engage the youth in our communities in healthy, life-affirming activity, and we can reward their efforts with a sustainable livelihood.

And while the leaders convene at COP, Callañaupa and her weavers will be creating art — each piece a “story” — that preserves and promotes the biodiversity that sustains us all, one thread at a time.

This report was filed by Ann Clark Espuelas.

Gallery post: some of the stuff I sell


dec cal pic


Today’s assignment on the  blogging101 course was to try out a different kind of post, and I have been intending  to put together a page that shows the type of stuff I stock, for spinners, weavers, felters, knitter, quilters and other crafters – so, why not use the exercise for this purpose!  This is the first Gallery I have ever put together and its rather random in nature, I could have put them together in categories, but, I haven’t – not this time.  I also intended to link the listings on etsy and ebay to each picture – but not this time. If you want to browse the listings, click on the personal links underneath my photo on the right hand side. If you want to buy direct see this page, if you want more information on anything contact me here!

If you want to buy anything, please do, smile, I  sell worldwide.  To see the captions and find out what the fibres are,  just hover over them.  I think it turns into a slide show if you click on any of the images.

SHOW & TELL – your chance to share your work with others

decorated fantasia spinning wheel

decorated fantasia spinning wheel

I just got an ‘annual report’ from wordpress on this site, and the most visited pages are the SHOW & TELL FEATURES – especially the one on decorating KROMSKI’S FANTASIA SPINNING WHEEL. Click here to see it.

I love the idea that something posted over a year ago is still getting visitors and inspiring others.  There are several other SHOW & TELL posts – to access them, please see my new SHOW & TELL ARCHIVE PAGE.

I have constantly asked my customers to contribute to this feature, but somehow they are either too shy, or too busy,or feel its too much work!  Please don’t  let that put you off!  I will publish all contributions, whether you are just starting up or a professional – tho’ I reserve the right to edit your contribution slightly – and will give you a chance to publicise your work and for others to contact you if you want them to.

There is no time limit on this – just send me something any time you feel like to julz@julzweaving.plus.com, OR fill in the form on the CONTACT ME PAGE Please include as many pictures as you want, with some brief paragraphs about yourself and your work. Whist this opportunity is specifically for my customers, past or present – and future – I would also be interested to hear from people who just have something they’d like to share, and if its relevant in any way, I will put your contribution up too.

If you’d like to look at my current stock, please see the right hand column, underneath my photo, where the personal links list all the sites I sell on –  clicking on these links will give you a chance to browse. I am also aware that you may not currently be registered with any or all of these sites, and to make it easy for you to order at any time, and especially when you want to order various items spread across the sites, you are welcome to put in an order direct.  Please have a look at the BUYING DIRECT PAGE at the top of this blog.

HAPPY NEW YEAR – Hope to hear from you soon!

julz signature



OK – I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Royal Mail at the moment – I was always against privatising it – and the privatisation process was botched, what ever Lord what’s his name has just announced in his parliamentary review!

white merino

100 gm of white merino tops/roving

As I post quite a lot of parcels, I have been very irritated over the past year at the changes Royal Mail have made to the cost structure.  They have restricted the sizes and increased the rates.  That’s actually meant that, as I sell quite a lot of wool in fibre form – for spinners to make into yarn – I have had to change the way I sell it.  I used to be able to stick it into a plastic bag, in its natural “ball shape” and go down to the post office and pay £2.20, if I remember rightly, to post whatever size it was, and I could send up to 750 gm for the same price.

a pair of carders used for preparing wool for spinning

a pair of carders used for preparing wool for spinning

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t annoyed when another of my popular items – carders for spinners – happened to sometimes weigh under 750 gm and sometimes just over 750 gm and I could never tell what bit of packaging made the difference! (About another pound or two in postage costs!)  Customers would get annoyed when they thought I’d overcharged them postage, and I’d be miffed if I’d set the price too low and made a loss!

When they changed the small parcel rate to 1 kg for £2.80 (2nd class), I no longer had a problem with the carders, but the wool ‘roving’ was a nightmare, as the box size was only 8 cm high.  That meant I could only send balls of wool for the medium parcel rate (£5.20) and tried every which way to avoid this, as sometimes the cost of the wool was only £3.

I tried to flatten the parcels, even bought a food vacuum machine, but the wool was either too compressed or not compressed enough.  I tried selling smaller amounts so I could fit them into the large letter rate,  which was fine for very small amounts, but if the letter was just over 2.5 cm thick, I then had to pay small parcel rate anyway!  (They put everything thro the size slots at the post office!)

Recently they have increased the height of a small parcel to 16 cm – for me that means that I can now post the 100 gm balls of wool, but not the 200 gm balls, cos wool is springy and however hard I try to tape it all up, it parcel seems to grow on my way to the post office – smile!  So I stopped buying in large quantities of fibres.

In fact I stopped selling altogether for a while, for a combination of reasons.  When I started selling again this October, I found  that there is a collection point for a private parcel service just a few more miles away than my local post office.  They don’t have such restrictive sizing for their parcels, and so the problem was solved.  I’ve just put an order in for a whole bale of white merino tops ……

I do still post most of my parcels through the post office, not only is it convenient, but I actually believe in giving local businesses my custom, and making an effort to ‘USE THEM OR LOSE THEM’.

weaving accessories, just a set of sticks measuring just over 61 cm long!

weaving accessories

I was in a hurry on Friday, and had several items to post, so I took them all down to the local post office.  I did have my doubts about one parcel – a set of weaving accessories that weighed under 1kg, but was just over the 61 cm allowed for medium parcels.  I thought I might just get away with sending it 1st class medium (£5.65).  It was carefully measured and pronounced too large for that rate, and I’d have to send it by the Parcelforce – express 48 (hrs) service – £11.99!

So I went home, got online, booked the parcel into the private courier service, printed out the label and then took it up to the drop off point.

COST:  £2.78! (plus a little extra petrol)