shuttlesEvery now and again I’m lucky enough when a friend or colleague (or both) shows me something fibre- or craft-related that belonged to a relative, or was made by a relative. Fibre-crafts and social history, the perfect mix!

Today I held a drop spindle and some weaving shuttles that had been brought from Cypress in their grandparents’ luggage, together with some home-produced, homespun silk, not to mention a wooden hand reel fsilk.jpgor catching the evening meal. All were at least eighty years old.

I was a bit nervous at first to take hold of the drop spindle, but when I did, the first thing was to run my fingers along the grain of the wood and smell it. Just like an old church, or the Guild room – wood, wax polish and plenty of human usage! The silk had no smell, just sheen and body, and plenty of promise. There were also several reels made from bamboo (grown in the village), wound round with handspun cotton. Enough to write a book on? Definitely!



Tukidale is just one of the many sheep breeds I’d read about in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook – a publication that should come with an addiction-warning. After some research into which interesting fibres I could either find locally or import legally, I was amazed to find there is a Tukidale breeder in South Australia. Not only that, buttukidale less than 10km from home.

I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to try a “carpet wool” for myself, and perhaps introduce it to fellow Guild members. There must be some interest in a hard-wearing yarn for bags, rugs, tapestries, etc?

A short drive along one of those winding, Hills roads (a careful-what-you-have-for-breakfast-and-don’t-read-anything-if-you’re-a-passenger road) I was lucky enough to get the last fleece they had, although could have waited (eagerly) until the next shearing in September. I also learnt heaps about the breed in a very short time.

With long staples, minimal dirt and a large micron, this should be easy to clean. Spinning will be another matter; there doesn’t seem to be any information online about this particular breed, although some pictures of Scottish Blackface appear similar. Just have to get on and spin some…

Pomegranate II

Where does all the red go from the peel? Having been more successful with the betel nuts after an alkaline soak, I decided to try with pomegranates. A colleague had supplied me with heaps of peel, which were then dried off in the food drier; it’s getting coolealkaline soakr and damp at the moment, so I wanted to avoid the harvest going mouldy.

A jam jar was filled to about a third of the way up with dried peel broken into small pieces, then water was added to within an inch from the top (to allow for bubbling, etc.) and then a good spoonful of bicarb. The colour came out shyly over the first few hours, but after a whilcottone and with a bit of stirring….. treacle.

What with a host of other projects on the go, I actually forgot about this for a day, and couldn’t do anything until the third day anyway. A small skein of scoured cotton was added to liquor in a larger jar and left for a day (or two?). For the sake of speed, I gave the skein a wash in laundry powder (which made it go darker at first), then rinsed until clear. You can see that it produced quite an acceptable colour.skein

I didn’t want to leave wool soaking for so long in the liquor – pH10 – but then tossed between an alkaline soak and an alkaline boil and which would be the most damaging. Boil it was – for about twenty minutes. The colour isn’t all that bad, but the damage caused doesn’t really make the risk worthwhile. Maybe like a home perm.