Friday, 15 July 2011

The people inside The Book of Forgotten Crafts Part 3...

This is the last of my posts about a book I bought called The Book of Forgotten Crafts. When I bought the book, I realised that I knew some of the people inside it (which was a new experience for me!) so I decided to blog about each of them.

Part 1 was all about local oak swill basket maker Owen Jones and part 2 was about wooden bowl maker Robin Wood. This third instalment is about Jane Meredith, who is a multi-talented fibre artist living in Herefordshire.

Here are some of Jane's pages from the book...
Dyer and felt maker

Jane runs plant dyed wool courses from her home by the river Wye and also teaches feltmaking, hand spinning and weaving using a peg loom or a Brinkley loom. I was lucky enough to go on one of Jane's three day workshops with my Mum in July 2007 and we had a great time playing with rainbows of lovely naturally dyed wool!

On the first day we dyed up mountains of fleece in an array of bubbling dyepots, many of which were full of plants from Jane's amazing dye garden (I'd love to have my own dye garden one day!)...
One of the other flower dyepots

We labelled each piece of fleece with a peg, which was marked with the mordant used and the name of the dye plant...
One of the flower dyepots
This helped us to identify which combinations produced which results and we each put together a sample card to take home.

The dyed fleece looked lovely hung out to dry...
Dyed wool drying line 1

Jane also prepared an indigo dyebath for us to try, which resulted in a lovely washing line of blues and greens...
Indigo drying line

On the second day we used some of the fleece we'd dyed to weave a woolly mat on a peg loom. Peg looms are very simple, but can produce lovely results, especially if you're weaving with beautifully textured, curly fleece...
Peg looming in progress

Wool on the peg loom
Mmm... curls! :)

The third day was spent doing a variety of things. We could have a go at feltmaking in Jane's kitchen...
Making felt in Jane's kitchen

Or weaving with a Brinkley loom, which is another simple-but-effective kind of loom. The main element of this loom is the ingenious heddle, which is turned over after each row of weaving to raise and lower each set of warp threads so that the weft threads can pass between them...
Mum's shed

Putting the warp onto the Brinkley loom is great fun... it's fast, energetic and involves the use of a broom handle! I love the results you can get from this kind of loom. You can go for a full-on, fleecy texture sensation, like my friend Liz did with hers...
Close up of Brinkley loom scarf

Or use yarn for the weft, which results in a more sedate, lighter and smoother fabric...
Close up of Brinkley loom weaving

A few people also had a go on a drop spindle and I think it was through watching Jane spinning alpaca fibre on her spinning wheel in the evenings that I became interested in learning how to spin :)

The venue for Jane's courses is so lovely, right next to the river Wye...
Basket of curly grey wool

View from my bedroom window

It was a fantastic few days! :D

If you'd like to see some more photos from the workshop I went on, the full set is on Flickr here.

If you're interested in trying a plant dyed wool course, check out the workshops page on Jane's website. Or if you're at a fibre festival of some kind, keep an eye out for Jane's colourful stand, where you're likely to find her demonstrating how to use a Brinkley loom, like she was at Woolfest this year...
Jane Meredith weaving
(Jane's got a handy list of diary dates for shows and talks on her website here).

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Royal Norfolk Show 2011...

I love a good agricultural show, so when I realised that the Royal Norfolk Show was on during the week we were on holiday in Norfolk, I didn't want to miss it! We'd been once before, about five years ago (although we can't remember why we were in Norfolk at the time...) so we knew it was a good show and the 2011 event didn't disappoint! :)

We entered the showground right next to the sheep area, where some Norfolk Horn sheep were being judged by a smart looking man in a bowler hat...
Norfolk Horn sheep line up 2

Some of the competitors had smart headgear too (the handlers, not the sheep - although the sheep's horns are pretty smart-looking!)...
Showing Norfolk Horn sheep

I really like Norfolk Horn sheep and they're a very rare breed, so it was great to see so many of them on show in their native county...
Norfolk Horn

While we're on the subject of sheep, I'll share some pictures of the various different breeds that were on display (you knew there were going to be lots of sheep photos, didn't you?!). I always seem to gravitate towards certain breeds... such as longwools, primitive breeds, naturally coloured and rare breeds. Texels, Beltex and other more commercial breeds don't usually get much of a look in from me!

I tried to photograph some breeds that I'd never seen before, such as these Shropshire sheep in the Rare Breeds Survival Trust tent...
Shropshire sheep 2

And this cuddly-looking Hampshire Down sheep wearing a rug...
Hampshire Down sheep in a rug

There were also Oxford Down sheep, which were very friendly...
Close up Oxford Down sheep face

Lots of coloured Ryelands...
Coloured Ryeland in a rug 2

And the friendliest Greyface Dartmoor, who came over for a tickle from Ade and stood there being stroked for ages with the happiest look on it's face!
Greyface Dartmoor tickle 1
What a sweetie - we didn't want to leave it! I think Greyface Dartmoors always have a friendly and/or slightly comical look about them :)

My disorganised photography means that I can't remember if these sheep are Castlemilk Moorit or Soay...
Soay sheep 2
I'm ashamed to say that I can't tell the difference even after looking in all my sheep books! I'm going to say these are Soay though, because I don't think Castlemilk Moorits come in such a dark colour. Let me know if you can shed some light on the differences between the two breeds!

This one's definitely a Wenseydale...
Wensleydale baaa

But I'm struggling to tell apart my photos of Leicester and Lincoln Longwools. These two could be either... or both!
Longwool sheep 1

Longwool face

I'm very interested in Lincoln Longwools (since I'm from Lincolnshire and I like sheep, especially ones with long curls!), so I enjoyed seeing the display of woolly produce that had been put together using fleece from the Risby flock of Lincoln Longwools...
Lincoln Longwool products on display
There was a basket full of colourful balls of yarn, some bunting knitted from the yarn, felted flowers made from dyed fleece, an impressive felted union jack flag, a lovely sheepskin and bags of raw fleece and processed fibre.

The people who own the Risby flock seem very inventive in the ways that they use their sheepy products and promote the breed. You may have seen the amazing Lincoln Longwool wedding dress that they made using fleece and wool from their flock in the news a couple of years ago. Maybe we'll get over to visit them sometime when we're in Lincolnshire... I'd like to have a play with a Lincoln Longwool fleece! :)

Anyway, there was life outside the sheep tent, so I dragged myself away to check out the rest of the show. We saw rabbits...
Pink eyed rabbit

Interesting looking chickens...
Fancy chicken faces

Traditional looking chickens....
Black and white chicken

Chickens with scary looking legs...
Intimidating chicken legs
These were HUGE and had very intimidating looking spurs on!

There were some stunning Arab horses...
Black Arab

Some handsome heavy horses being shown in-hand...
Grey heavy horse 2

And lots of heavy horses in harness...
Chestnut heavy horses and carriage

Bay heavy horses pulling waggon

Including the Co-operative Funeralcare team...
Co-op horses getting ready

There was a fantastic vintage fairground with a carousel...
Vintage carousel

I love carousel horses...
Carousel horse head 1
I'd like one of my own if I had space! :)

In the woodland crafts area we saw Owen Jones, the oak swill basket maker who lives just down the road from us in Cumbria!
Owen's stall 1
I blogged about Owen a few weeks ago and mentioned how I most often bump into him at shows and events, rather than in the area where we live. The Norfolk Show will take some beating for the furthest flung place we've seen Owen - I think it confused him for a moment when he saw us! :)

Also in the woodland crafts area were some people from nearby Holkham Forge, doing a demonstration of blacksmithing...
Holkham Forge demonstration

The things on display at their stall were very well designed and beautifully made, such as this metal railing...
Holkham Forge railings

And all the smaller items, like hooks, pokers and pieces of artwork...
Holkham Forge stall 2
I fell in love with the patterned hare at the top of the picture and had to bring it home with me!
Metal hare 1

It's really beautiful...
Hare ears
I just need to find a home for it on a wall somewhere now!

If you'd like to see all my photos from the 2011 Norfolk Show, check out the full set on my Flickr page here. :)

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lifeboat museums in Sheringham...

When we were on holiday in Norfolk recently, I noticed that there are lots of places for lifeboat fanatics to visit... such as the RNLI lifeboat stations dotted along the coast, the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum at Cromer and various other private museums and visitors centres.

Ade's a bit of a lifeboat and fishing heritage fan, so when we were in Sheringham, we decided to check out The Mo, which bills itself as 'a place of people and boats' and has an impressive historic fleet of lifeboats.

It's quite a modern museum, with a glass frontage looking out over the sea and a viewing tower perched on top of the building...
The Mo

We admired some of the old wooden lifeboats...
Manchester Unity of Oddfellows lifeboat

Enterprise lifeboat

And then checked out the old photos in the 'social history' section upstairs, including this slightly random one of a woman with a goat-pulled cart...
Goat pulled cart
Looks like a great way to travel! :)

On one floor was an area dedicated to the 'Sheringham Shoal', which is a wind farm currently being built off the Norfolk coast (due for completion in 2012). There was an interactive display where you could try generating some electricity by cranking a handle.

I managed what I thought was quite a respectable 84 watts (enough to power a light bulb)...
Kate power

But Ade blew that out of the water by generating enough to power a TV using only one hand!
Ade power
I think I need to find a way of hooking him up to the national grid... :)

We bought some lovely prints of old railway advertisement posters in the shop on the way out, which feature 'East Coast Types'...
East coast types prints
There's the Lobsterman at the bottom, the Broads Wherryman (looking dapper in his cap) in the centre and my favourite, the Scottish Fisher Lass at the top. They're by artist Frank Newbould, who designed lots of railway posters in his bold, colourful trademark style. We haven't got room to put these prints up at the moment but couldn't resist buying them! We might live somewhere with more wall space one day...

When we came out of The Mo, the weather turned a bit bleak so we nipped into the Fishermen's Heritage Centre, just around the corner.

The building has lovely cobbled stone walls inside (a typical Norfolk building feature) and I liked the display of wooden fish hanging from large metal hooks against the wall...
Wooden fish 1

I also liked the huge (about 3ft in diameter) ball of discarded fishing rope and nets that was stuffed into a cubby hole...
Net and rope ball
It looked like a giant ball of marine litter yarn!

One of the most entertaining things in the Fishermen's Heritage Centre was a photograph of one of the lifeboat crews, complete with a caption listing all their nicknames...
Lifeboat nicknames
The Grice family seemed to have the most inventive monikers, with Butterballs Grice, King Kong Grice and TaRaRaBoomdeay Grice all getting a mention. We both felt a bit sorry for Dogless Farrow... :(

One the way back down the sea front, we noticed that the sea wall has been decorated with murals depicting what life was like for fishing families in the past.

I particularly liked the sections featuring the women's work, such as mending nets and knitting clothes for the family...
Net mending wall painting
'When fishing boats came home, a mass of nets would be laid out on Beeston Hill, and afterwards, when they were dry, wives and daughters would mend them in their yards.'

Knitting wall painting
'Sheringham's fishermen's wives were renowned for their gansey (jersey) knitting skills, knitting "in the round" with vertical patterns. If lost at sea, and the body found down the coast, a Sheringham fisherman could be identified by his gansey and bought home.'

We didn't have time to fit in any more lifeboat excitement on this holiday but there's plenty left for next time we visit! :)